Monday, August 22, 2005

Hard Ass

I have a friend, S (his real name, or at least the first letter of it). I have known him more than 12 years, since I have been in Japan, in fact. He is one of those somewhat needy friends: Bad things just seem to happen to him, at least in his own mind, and he is constantly assuming that he is a victim of something. There are too many examples, and anyway, I don't want to diss him too much, and prove him right!
Anyway, he called me last Friday, at work of course, and needed a favor: His friend from Oregon had moved back to Japan, and needed help finding a job. I knew why S was asking me: I have been reasonably succesful on the job front, and he has not. He changes jobs pretty much every two years, for whatever reasons, which of course involve a fair amount of victimhood and being wronged. I shouldn't be so mean, I guess, since I have in a lot of ways just been lucky. The thing is, he says I have been lucky, which kind of pisses me off, because even though it is true, it is also true that I have made things happen for myself.
Anyway, to tell the truth, I really didn't want to help his friend. I mean, what do you say to someone who calls you at work and you have a conversation like this:

'Hey, can you please help my friend find a job?'
'What kind of job?'
'Oh, uh, something about electronics.'
'Uh...S, I need more than that.'
'He needs a job, man, and I just want to help him.'
'But I can't help him if I don't know what he wants.'
'Semiconductors, I think.'
'Uh, ok. I know two people who have contacts in that industry, so I will look them up and send you their details. What's your e-mail address?'
'My computer broke last year, so I don't have e-mail.'
'Fine, how do you want me to get this information to you?'
'Can't you just tell me now?'
'I don't have it now.'
'Oh...can you send me a fax?' S loves faxes. In fact, he faxes people rather than phoning them. It is annoying, but his insecurities are pretty much all he has, and he thinks that he can't bother people with phone calls. He is also notriously cheap (with reason--he is also poor), so it could be that paying for a one minute fax transmission, and hoping for a 20 minute phone call, that he doesn't have to pay for, is the strategy.
'Yeah, fine, I will fax it,' I said, my heart definitely not in it. In fact, there is no way I would send S my other friends' contact information straight, which meant that I had to call them up and set it up, which I really have no desire to do for someone I don't know.
To make a long story short, S called me yesterday, and wanted to know where the contacts I had promised were. I told him straight out that I really had no desire to participate in a wild goose chase of introducing his friend who maybe had semiconductor exeprience to my friends who maybe know someone with a job. I told him to have his friend send his resume, so that I had some idea of what I was dealing with.
Back in the days when I first got here, and I was publishing a small publication in Tochigi, I helped everyone, really went out of my way to help strangers. The thing is, I committed to more than I was really capable of. I generally delivered, but was often not happy about it. This time I just said 'no, I am not going to go out of my way to help someone unless they are clearly committed to helping themself.' That was part of what had ticked me off before: The recipients of my efforts often didn't thank me, or thanked me by throwing away what I had given them. When my son was born, I said to myself, and to the community, actually, 'I can't spend my time and energy in this way anymore. I quit.'
So, what to do in this case? The guy actually has a lot of experience, and if his Japanese is good enough, is probably pretty employable. I told him that I would introduce him to my LinkedIn contacts with conditions: That he answer some of my questions, and that he meet me. S is a bit of a loser, and I don't feel like introducing him or his friends to my professional network unless I can personally vouch for them. S I wouldn't introduce: He has clearly shown that his ability to get along at work is limited.
Tokyo is a big city, one of the worlds biggest, but it is also a small town. I am not going to help someone get a job somewhere only to have them make me look bad (this has happened).
I think this guy is for real, and that makes me a little happier to help him. He answered my questions, and was really quick in putting his details into LinkedIn. I will meet him next week and decide if I feel like introducing him to any of the people in my netowrk or not.
When did I become such a curmudgeon? My wife would say that I have grown up, doubting that it was true.
Yesterday I took my son out to find interesting things in the neighbourhood, which is one of his assignments for the summer. For me, I was really methodical: I first taught him how to use the digital camera; I made sure that we had a pen and paper, in case we needed to take notes, and was very good and focused on what we were supposed to be doing.
These are my challenges: Focus, preparation, and follow-through. That is a lot of challenges. But more and more, I am finding that without these things I can't successfully get anything done.
So, I told this guy what was in scope and what was out of scope, what I needed him to do, and what I was willing to do. When I caught myself starting to make a promise, one that he would perhaps not even be grateful that I had made, I stopped: If he needed help, I could think about offering then, and only if I am satisfied when I talk to him next week that he is not a loser.
My son and I found the Utsunomiya University Riding Club stables. We took a picture of the horse in his stable, which you can see, and I made sure that we wrote down his name (Aregura). We wrote down the official name of the club, and looked for someone to speak to, but no one was around. On our way home, we drew a map of the way we got to the club. There didn't end up being enough room in the workbook for the map, but that is good: Having more than you can use is something that I learned the value of when I was publishing my little rag. Holding back isn't my natural inclination, but I am learning...slowly.

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