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Persistent execution…

by | Dec 12, 2020 | execute, Nat King Cole, Persistent

You’re going to think all of my time as a “customer” was doing deals with vendors, and that is not far from the truth.  I came of age as custom software turned out to be more complicated and expensive to write and support than “standard” packages… and also led to the next most expensive part of IT – taking “standard” packages and customizing them into what you actually needed in the first place 😉  And we were “early” to the “cloud” part of computing, but with varying levels of support from my boss, and my VP, where again… I was in the middle… 

Both had made their reputation on Unix based systems provided to us by Sun Microsystems, as it was really riding the whole client-server from mainframe transformation.  They both bet big on it, and it had paid off, with one now being the VP of our area who also had responsibility for the Mainframe.  It was starting to use a “new” technology – storage that is actually managed and configured… by someone else.  The idea was they could monitor, manage, and configure it better than any local engineers we could hire and train.  As a business idea, it was compelling, but my boss was focused exclusively on risk and control, and was adamantly opposed to it. 

Nat was now starting to really ascend the charts as a singer, and selling more and more records for Capitol.  He had the chance to record with fantastic orchestras of Gordan Jenkins, Nelson Riddle, and many others, and was sought for tours and Vegas stands typical of that era.  He was even offered a weekly program on the new growing medium of television, and produced some amazing programs in 1956-7. However, as a tool of advertising, the people who controlled the purse strings quickly closed ranks, and no sponsor would underwrite the program.  Even with Persistently high ratings, and the very first African American TV host, it still failed within a year, and he signed off… but even that he did with his characteristic style and grace. He actually decided to end it, not waiting for NBC.

If you have seen The Green Book, you get a taste of the other issue he dealt with, and he had to work through repeatedly in town after town, even being beaten by White Suprmisists in Birmingham.  He tried to rise above it, and that actually got him in trouble with the Civil Rights movement who didn’t think he did enough with his popularity.  He literally was in the middle and that meant mostly he was not satisfying anyone.  And yet, he continued to record many of the standards we still go back to, with his natural grace and charm.  And… his Persistence meant he simply would go on other hosts’ shows and wow audiences, and rise above all of the controversies… mostly. 

In my case, it was easy to see the vice I was in the middle of by now.  While they had worked together for all of the time I was there, they both bristled at the style and substance of what the other did… and I was shot at by both no matter what I did.  The VP in particular was very good at working the sales rep from the cloud storage group to really “help” me choose his preferred answer…. even as my boss was directing me to absolutely NOT go in that direction.  Running an analysis with data in this particular case was interesting, but I was struggling to get the answer to “come out right” 😉  There was no good answer.

My savior, again, was the Sun Sales rep, who was forthcoming with data:  the new series of storage they were selling had significant reliability concerns.  That allowed me to get either side of the vice to agree that reliability was our most important selection criteria, and with a few tweaks, that swung the answer to the “outsourced” storage.  I pulled it off, had a momentary laugh about again cheating the system, and also realized my days were numbered staying in the middle. 

Persistence is knowing what you are about and being able to stick with it when the times are tough.  And it is difficult mostly because it is rarely a win-win situation, no matter how hard as you work for it.  Nat was able to continue growing his career, but also realized that the support from either “side” was never solid.  Artists were starting to demand change from the stage using their popularity, something Nat wouldn’t do… and his white audience didn’t want to be seen supporting strife and change, foreshadowing our ongoing challenges. I think his songs after the TV program, while some of his greatest, are also soaked in pathos.  

Many people have had to make tough decisions, some particularly difficult during this last year.  I ache for those in leadership positions where no good answers ever exist… and yet decisions have to be made.  If that is you, I have you literally in my prayers nightly.  And if that is not you, then find those around you that are… and support them.  A kind word, helping them do something difficult, or just listening (from yesterday).  Oh, and help with this, my favorite Nat song, derived from the great poetry of Rudyard Kipling, and penned by the Tramp…. Smile.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile, and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

 

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