Cam just about swallowed his tongue. “You were the chief information officer of Maritime and Son?” he asked incredulously.
“No, sir, I was not.” “But you just said…”
“I said CIO, not chief information officer. Really, Buck, do I look like the type?” And here came the rippling, deep laughter that I loved so much. “I was the clear insight officer, is what I was. Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds contrived, but William Maritime himself gave me the title, Buck, and that was back before those kinds of titles were trendy. So I wasn’t about to argue, and you wouldn’t have neither.”
The name of William Maritime got Cam’s attention, and for good reason. Maritime, known as Pops to his friends, was a business legend and a builder of fortunes. I was fortunate enough to have connected with him personally just before he passed away. In retrospect, my brief meeting with Pops had been the most valuable afternoon of my life. “My job, Buck, was to keep the company awake, alive, and alert to the world outside the walls of the Maritime empire. ‘The only way to change the world is to be fully in it, my young friend,’ is what Pops said to me when I first joined on as an intern in my last summer as a graduate student. So, I tried to live fully in the world—to watch, stay awake, pay attention, and try to extract meaning and significance from everything I saw. Then I’d go back to the company and share what I’d learned. I became what you might call the corporate anthropologist, the applied futurist. Once upon a time, I explained to Farber here that I’m a sign reader. I take the lay of the land and all its inhabitants runnin’ around it, and then try and see things, with as much clarity as I can muster, from their perspective. That’s how you keep learnin’ and that’s how you get and keep a radical edge in your business and in your life overall.”
Cam raised an eyebrow. “And they paid you for that?” “Mucho dinero, Buck. And worth every shekel, if I do say so m’self. Which I do.”
“Let me get this straight,” he said with not a little bit of skepticism. “You’re telling me that Mr. Maritime paid you a small fortune to what? Observe things?”
Smitty winked at me from behind his yellow shades. “I never said small.”
“Not that it really matters, Cam,” I said. “But Smitty’s done all right for himself. Now do yourself a favor and just listen to him for a minute, will you, please?” I could feel the stiletto heels of impatience tap-dancing on the back of my neck.
“All right, then!” crowed Smitty as he clapped his hands together. “Let’s start with the basics. First of all, you have to do what you can to learn from the great ones. Make sense?” Cam nodded. “To tell you the truth, back when I first started working at ILGI, I listened to a ton of sales training
audios—Hopkins, Waitley, Gitomer, guys like that.” “Excellenté. Courses can help, but did you know that
Farber here is one of the great ones?”
Cam looked at me and I looked at Smitty. I could feel my face reddening. “Well, that’s nice of you to say, Smitty, but I’m not that special. I’m just trying to…”
“Hush up,” he said, “and let me finish.”
I sat quietly in the glow of the unexpected and deeply satisfying compliment.
Smitty pointed out toward the beach. “See that tourist with the high-top sneakers? Also one of the great ones. The lady with the mouthful of cheese Danish at the table over there? A great one if ever there was one.” He jabbed his finger through the air at every person walking by on the boardwalk. “Great, great, great, great.”
And I swear he’d still be sitting there great-ing away if Cam hadn’t reached out and snatched Smitty’s finger in his hand.
“Okay, I get what you’re saying. We’re all great ones,” Cam oozed in a cynical, syrupy voice.
“Yeah, I knew that,” I mumbled.
“This ain’t no platitude, boys.” I noticed that Smitty had made me a part of his audience. “If you assume that you can learn from anyone—if you assume that you must learn from everyone—then everyone becomes a great teacher for you. Even if someone’s a slime sucking scumbag of a leech, they qualify for greatness if you can learn something from them.”
“Okay then,” said Cam. “I’m a kick-ass 26-year-old sales executive. Let’s see what you can learn from me.”
That got my goat right in the sweets. “Let’s get clear on the concept, Cam,” I growled through my teeth. “I’d like you to see what you can learn from Smitty, not the other way around.”
“Bad Farber!” Smitty admonished in a dog trainer tone. “He’s got a good point. No doubt that we all have much to learn from you, Buck, and I’d love to hear your whole story sometime in the very near future.”
“For right now, though, Cam, I got something that’ll help both you and Mr. Farberacious here to become CIOs yourselves.”
“Sounds cool to me,” I said. I always found Smitty’s perspective refreshing and surprising. To him, good advice was everywhere; you just had to be alert enough to notice and care enough to ask yourself the right questions about the nature of the world and its inhabitants. A sudden smacking pain on my right ear jolted me back to attention. “Yow! Jeez, Smitty, what the hell’d you do that for?” I yelped, palming my ear. He had slapped me on the side of the head with a small spiral-bound notebook, which now lay innocently on the table in front of me.
Smitty laughed, which really ticked me off. “Aw, c’mon now, Stevie. That was just a friendly little WUP upside your head. We all need that from time to time, don’t we?”
“Yeah, well, I read ‘A Whack on the Side of the Head’ a long time ago, Smitty.” I said fondling my ear, more from shock than from pain. “But I don’t think it was supposed to be taken literally.”
“Whack, wup, smack, all the same idea. We gotta keep ourselves from falling asleep at the wheel. Sometimes literally, but, you’re right¯o, Farbo, I was just makin’ a point in my own impish but endearing sort of way.” He picked up the little notebook—aka weapon—and dangled it in front of Cam and me. “This ain’t a notebook; it’s a WUP.”
“A WUP,” I repeated. Cam let out a deep sigh and looked at his watch.
“Yup, a WUP. Stands for Wake-Up Pad, and it’s the most important little life shifter that you’re ever gonna find, if you use it right. Matter of fact, if you don’t use it right it is just another notebook. But if you do,” he leaned close to Cam, “it’ll bring you more money than you have ever made, my young Rock-a-fella.”
“Explain,” said Cam with slightly more enthusiasm than he’d shown so far, which wasn’t saying much.
“In a minute,” he said and then looked my way. “And you, Farbio, are takin’ up the call to change the world for the better, eh?”
“Good! But you know what?” He waggled his WUP. “You ain’t gonna get nowhere without the wisdom contained in this little puppy right here.”
“Smitty. C’mon,” I said, awakening the skeptic within. “I don’t see what difference a notebook is…”
“It’s a WUP!” he boomed. “A Wake-Up Pad. Here, take it.” He shoved it at me. “Open’er up and look at what’s inside.”
Okay, I mused, there’s got to be something really extraordinary in this thing. Starting to feel a little jolt of anticipation, I slowly turned the card stock cover to reveal the first page of Smitty’s WUP. It was extraordinary.
[Note: I’m excited to share my second book, The Radical Edge, in serial fashion here on SteveFarber.com! We’ll post one installment a week until the very end of the book. You can go back and read from the beginning here. If you ever get impatient and want to scarf the whole thing down at once, you can always just pop over to Amazon and satiate yourself.]