Saturday, May 14, 2016


For a short time I was on the other end of the hiring perspective. All those Craigslist ads, instead of responding to them, I was now creating them, receiving resumes, interviewing.

My qualifications to hire someone came from many years of experience when evaluating talent. I have a pretty good sense of people suitable for a given task, so long as I myself am familiar with the basics of a job. 

The economy was still (is?) in its recovery phase, and whether the actual unemployment rate hovered near 10% or a sweeter spot, it was clear a great many folks needed work of some kind. 

Tall, thin, fresh faced, a white kid complete with tie wandered in to ask for an application. I was at the bar, and I watched his gait. His youth made him unsure, his relative height made him aware he was easy to spot. We made eye contact. 


His mouse-colored hair was short and cropped high and tight. His smile pursed closed.

He didn't drag his feet. +1

White. -1

American. -1

Youthful. +/-

Gavin even before I gave him more than a passing look was already behind by a point. I gave him the application, alerted him to the positions open, and instructed he could take it home and deliver the application back complete at a later time.

Not dragging feet meant he could move, and I was all about moving in this little struggling restaurant. You simply had to move. Nimble. Agile. Get tables turned over, cleaned, and ready for the next guest. For the business to succeed, at least in theory, we had to turn over the entire house 3 times a day. That meant, assuming as many customers, we had a front of the house fast enough. Gavin appeared fast-ish.

My hesitation came with his being a white American. I'd worked for too long with them, knowing their moods and relative entitlement with regard to employment. They lingered. They gossiped. They loafed. They were unappreciative.

Not a day later, Gavin returned. Tie again. Though the application and adjoining resume seemed to be in order, he was hesitant.

Um, he uttered politely, I checked that box. He pointed. 

It was the felon box. I never even bothered to look at the application format (a stupid oversight), and so indeed there that box was and so was his mark.

Before I could muster a response, Drugs, he said. I was arrested recently for drug possession, and I am on probation

I turned the application over. I told him I didn't fucking care. I told him I was offended for him that he had to share anything like that with someone like me, and he didn't even know me. I told him it was no ones business. I also said I hated all drug laws. I continued my rant about the uselessness of police.

Employees and the owners heard me going off, and they suspected this new kid and I were getting heated about something. Out they came. 

I was hot.

You're hired, I blurted at him.

Gavin smiled wide. 

Gavin was all of 19 years old. Already he had a permanent mark on him, and for no good reason. I wasn't about to let him go without at least a solid chance.

To their everlasting credit, the owners allowed me to hire whomever I wished ... trusting me completely. 

It turned out to be another fantastic decision on both our parts. Gavin wasn't just good, he was great. He performed every task flawlessly, and when he didn't he took criticism well, adapted, and kicked much ass.

When the restaurant was hit with a rush, Gavin was able to be flexible and roll with the insanity. He never stopped moving. I never had to worry about turning my back on him. He handled money with ease. He cleaned. He helped everyone who needed him. The servers loved working with him. 

I knew he appreciated my confidence in him, and that also impressed me. It isn't often people appreciate the chances others take on them. And especially younger folks have trouble seeing that bigger picture. Not Gavin.

Taking away Gavin's intelligence (very smart), his relative privilege (white, male), he had something so few have: GRIT.

Grit is a kind of passion. It is independent of native intelligence. Intelligence can get you a long, long way, but if the person lacks that fire, that go-and-get-it-ness, not a lot comes from intelligence.

Trust me.

I've seen it a thousand times, and especially during my teaching career. Super smart students fucked their gifts away on partying and general stupidity. The other students who were not as smart but who worked twice as hard ended up killing it, getting into great colleges and universities ... while the clearly smarter kids sunk in the mire of sloth.

Gavin is this week's lesson. Be Gavin. Be appreciative. Don't drag your feet. Work harder than everyone else. See the bigger picture. And, for god's sake, wear a tie.

And I mean it.



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