Vocation

Category Archives: Vocation

Stop Selling Sugared Water

Who among us could live without computers? It seems they’re everywhere – in our studies at home, on our desks at work, in the library, the bank and even the cafe. We get pleasure from them, we swear at them, we need them.

But it’s only a recent thing. Just 3 generations ago the Chairman of IBM declared there is a world market for only five computers. As recently as 1977 the President of Digital Equipment claimed there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home!

The revolution was brought to us in large part by Steven Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. Steve Jobs was just 21 when he and Steve Wozniak invented the Apple Computer. Until then computers were a monstrous mass of vacuum tubes which took whole rooms. Then the two Steve’s managed to take that mass of tubes and incorporate them inside a box small enough to sit on a desk.

Jobs and Wozniak offered their invention to Atari. They weren’t interested in big bucks – all they wanted was a salary and the opportunity to continue their work. Atari knocked them back. They offered it to Hewlett-Packard, but Hewlett Packard knocked them back. It seemed Jobs and Wozniak alone could see the possibilities. So Jobs sold his Volkswagon and Wozniak sold his calculator, and with the $1300 that gave them they formed Apple Computers. The company was named Apple in memory of a happy summer Jobs had spent working in an orchard.

The rest is history. By all accounts Steve Jobs is a visionary, and spurred on by that vision he built a successful computer company. But Jobs soon discovered that if his vision was to reach fruition they needed greater management expertise. So Jobs approached John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. There was absolutely no reason why Sculley should leave a highly paid position in a world leading company to go work with a bunch of computer nerds in a fledgling industry. Not unsurprisingly he turned Jobs down. But Jobs wouldn’t take no for an answer. He approached Sculley again. Again Sculley turned him down. In a last ditch effort Jobs passionately presented his visionary ideas to Sculley and he asked Sculley a question that forced him to accept.  The question was this: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Indeed Jobs and Sculley did change the world.

Jesus comes to us with the same question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Most of us spend our lives making sugared water, going to work to accumulate more possessions and perhaps finding space for God and the world in our spare time. But Jesus had a vision to change the world. His was the vision of the kingdom of God and he calls us to place it at the center of our lives, to make it our reason for existence (Matthew 6.33).

 

Source: information on Jobs and Sculley from “silicon_valley_story” and “ideafinder” websites.

Sir Michael Costa

Sir Michael Costa was a great orchestral Conductor of the 19th Century. It is said that one day he was conducting a rehearsal in which the orchestra was joined by a great choir. Midway through the session the piccolo player stopped playing. It seemed innocent enough – after all who would miss the tiny piccolo amidst the great mass of instruments blazing away? All of a sudden Sir Michael stopped the entire orchestra and choir. “Stop! Stop! Where’s the piccolo? What’s happened to the piccolo?”

We may sometimes feel like that piccolo player – that we don’t have much to offer, that if we stopped our ministry no one would notice anyway. Yet the Great Conductor notices, and needs us to complete his orchestral masterpiece!

Sylvester Stallone’s Amazing Story

Sylvester Stallone shot to fame in the movie Rocky. But Stallone’s own story is as inspiring as that of the character he plays. His slurred speech and snarling look are the result of a facial nerve that was severed during his birth and his early years were spent bouncing between foster families in the infamous Hells Kitchen area. An outcast at school thanks to his facial deformities, he was sent to a high school for troubled kids and voted “most likely to end up in the electric chair”.

After school Stallone went to beauty college, but left to turn his attention to acting. He didn’t meet with much success. He worked at a deli  throughout most of his twenties and before Rocky made him a star was so broke that he was forced to sell his dog, to which was so attached he was in tears, for $25, to sell his wife’s jewelry and ended up living in a bus shelter.

His break came when he went to a boxing match in which an unknown underdog Chuck Wepner took the world champion Muhammed Ali to 15 rounds. Stallone went home and in three days wrote the first draft of Rocky. When he started hawking it around to the studios there was immediate interest. They saw the script as a great vehicle for a big star – names such as Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds were thrown around – and offered to buy the script. But Stallone wasn’t selling, not unless he was given the lead. The studios kept offering more, on the condition Stallone didn’t act in the movie. Each time Stallone refused, even when $325,000 was put on the table, the highest amount ever offered for a script. Despite having just $106 in the bank Stallone wouldn’t give up.

“I knew that if I took the money I’d regret it for the rest of my life,” said Stallone. “And the picture was about taking that golden shot when you finally get it.”

The studio eventually gave in, buying the script for $35,000, with Stallone  to work as a writer without a fee and as an actor for award wages. Stallone got the lead role and the movie was reduced to low budget production.

The rest is history. Rocky was a massive hit, won an Oscar for best picture and Stallone became a star.

 

Sources: boxing-mobthly.com, chicagonow.com, imdb.com, nndb.com

Christ is with Us

The great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King was a person with tremendous courage. He endured vilification, beatings, imprisonments, death threats, his house was firebombed, and as we all know, he eventually was assassinated.

So what kept him going? It was his strong sense of God’s call upon his life. King was just 26 years old when he was appointed leader of the civil rights campaign in Montgomery, Alabama. Apart from terrifying threats from the Ku Klux Klan, King was harassed by police. Arrested for driving 5 miles per hour over the speed limit he was given his first stint in jail. The night after his release he was at home when the phone rang. “Nigger”, said a menacing voice on the other end, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.”

King was unnerved and very afraid – for himself, for his wife and for his little children. Shortly after the phone call he sat at his kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. “And I sat at that table” he said, “thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me at any minute. And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted and loyal wife, who was over there asleep…And I got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I was weak…

And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over that cup of coffee. I will never forget it…I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage…And it seemed to me at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.’…I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone.. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.”

Three nights later the menacing threat made in the phone call came true: a bomb exploded on the front verandah of the King home. Thankfully no one was hurt. But King was able to get through it: “My religious experience a few nights before had given me strength to face it.” Time and again throughout his ministry Martin Luther King returned to that experience to strengthen him as he faced terrible difficulties.

Mr Holland’s Opus

The movie Mr Holland’s Opus tells the story of a musician who struggles to find success in life. Mr Holland dreams of composing a magnificent symphony that will be played by orchestras across the world. The problem is the real world presents him with bills that have to be paid. He takes a job as a high school music teacher, figuring that after four years of teaching he’ll have saved enough to quit and do nothing but compose music. He absolutely hates teaching, but when his wife unexpectedly falls pregnant the savings earmarked for a life of composing have to be sacrificed to a mortgage. Throughout the course of the movie we see a remarkable change in Mr Holland. He comes to love teaching. He finds ways to inspire his students to love music, but not only that, to find their self confidence. This becomes his passion and his source of fulfilment. Thirty years pass, Mr Holland is about to retire, and his dream of becoming a famous composer remains unfulfilled. On his final day as a teacher he packs up his desk, and heads for his car. On the way he hears music coming from the auditorium. Intrigued he goes to see what’s happening. He opens the door to find the auditorium filled with his students from the past 30 years. They’re playing a piece of music he wrote. It’s a concert in his honour. One of Mr Holland’s former students delivers a speech:

“Mr Holland had a profound influence in my own life, yet I get the feeling that he considers the greater part of his own life misspent. Rumour had it that he was always working on that symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr Holland isn’t rich, and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our own little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he has achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life.”

I Love My Garbage Man

I had been working much too long on this job. I guess things could have been worse. I certainly wasn’t doing hard labor. But going door to door asking questions as a representative of the federal government wasn’t the most satisfying position either.

It was August. It was hot. I had to wear a tie.

“Hello. My name is Bob Perks and we are doing a survey in this neighborhood…”

“I’m not interested! Good bye!”…slam, lock.

You can’t imagine how many times I heard that. I finally caught on and began with “Before you slam the door, I am not selling anything and I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and the community.”

The young woman inside the doorway, paused for a moment, raised her eyebrows as she shrugged her shoulders confused by my rude introduction.

“Sure. Come on in. Don’t mind the mess. It’s tough keeping up with my kids.”

It was an older home in a section of the valley where people with meager income found affordable shelter. With the little they had, the home looked comfortable and welcoming.

“I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and family. Although this may sound personal I won’t need to use your names. This information will be used…”

She interrupted me. “Would you like a glass of cold water? You look like you’ve had a rough day.”

“Why yes!” I said eagerly.

Just as she returned with the water, a man came walking in the front door. It was her husband.

“Joe, this man is here to do a survey.” I stood and politely introduced myself.

Joe was tall and lean. His face was rough and aged looking although I figured he was in his early twenties. His hands were like leather. The kind of hands you get from working hard, not pushing pencils.

She leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the cheek. As they looked at each other you could see the love that held them together. She smiled and titled her head, laying it on his shoulder. He touched her face with his hands and softly said “I love you!”

They may not have had material wealth, but these two were richer than most people I know. They had a powerful love. The kind of love that keeps your head up when things are looking down.

“Joe works for the borough.” she said.

“What do you do?” I asked.

She jumped right in not letting him answer.

“Joe collects garbage. You know I’m so proud of him.”

“Honey, I’m sure the man doesn’t want to hear this.” said Joe.

“No, really I do.” I said.

“You see Bob, Joe is the best garbage man in the borough. He can stack more garbage on the truck than anyone else. He gets so much in one truck that they don’t have to make as many runs.”, she said with such passion.

“In the long run,” Joe continues, “I save the borough money. Man hours are down and the cost per truck is less.”

There was silence. I didn’t know what to say. I shook my head searching for the right words.

“That’s incredible! Most people would gripe about a job like that. It certainly is a difficult one. But your attitude about it is amazing.” I said.

She walked over to the shelf next to the couch. As she turned she held in her hand a small framed paper.

“When we had our third child Joe lost his job. We were on unemployment for a time and then eventually welfare. He couldn’t find work any where. Then one day he was sent on an interview here in this community. They offered him the job he now holds. He came home depressed and ashamed. Telling me this was the best he could do. It actually paid less than we got on welfare.”

She paused for a moment and walked toward Joe.

“I have always been proud of him and always will be. You see I don’t think the job makes the man. I believe the man makes the job!”

“We needed to live in the borough in order to work here. So we rented this home.” Joe said.

“When we moved in, this quote was hanging on the wall just inside the front door. It has made all the difference to us, Bob. I knew that Joe was doing the right thing.” she said as she handed me the frame.

It said: If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Martin Luther King

“I love him for who he is. But what he does he does the best. I love my garbage man!”

Source: Bob Perks Copyright 2001. Used with permission