Know Your Limits
February 23, 2016
Everyone has that great place they worked during their career. I am lucky enough to have many. But for every job, do you know your limit?
WINDY CITY APPRECIATION
I especially loved working in radio in Chicago, side by side with the best radio people in America. Most importantly, I always felt that it was a good fit. I always felt at home there. Never felt like an "outsider" in Chicago, as I have felt that feeling in other places I have lived through the years. These are folks at the top of the industry and their game, and I loved that.
Fast moving, tough, real. Their sense of humor is literally the best in the world. The people in Chicago are quick, they are smart, and they are damn funny. They get things done. They are the best there is.
From the newest intern to the greatest veteran at the station, they are simply the best. I am so proud that of my full radio career, 12 entire years of it was in the major market of Chicago, working on two tours of duty with the best people, many of whom I call friends to this day. The first time, I arrived there on my 22nd birthday. The second time back in Chicago, I arrived 22 years later, at age 44.
THE "44" CONTROVERSY
On my first week, someone asked my age in a staff meeting. I was 44. One of the sales persons at the station pulled me aside privately after the meeting and told me that spiritually and numerically, the 44th year is a critical year in the development of humans and has great meaning. She told me that since I arrived there at age 44, great things would happen there for me. This caught me off guard, and admittedly kind of freaked me out, because I had never thought of it in terms of numerology. But it was weird. The 22/44 thing. Same town. Same station. 22 years later and now 44. Bizarre.
She was right. Great things happened. While I like to think of it as a great staff pulling together and doing amazing things as a team, I never did much research on that "44" thing, but it makes perfect sense.
"44" ... coincidence? Maybe. I can tell you that it was a mix of the most intense and difficult work of my career, right alongside the greatest rewards for that very same work. I literally never worked so hard.
But I never felt so rewarded for such hard work, either. I worked for a fantastic company there. If someone asked me today, "Where did you work hardest in your career"? That's easy. My answer is: Chicago. Literally, at the end of the day, you would look up and go "Oh wow, I have a train to catch" and keep working all the way out to the suburbs on the train, fighting the crowds the entire way. Something was ALWAYS going on.
In short, I loved it. The song "My Kind Of Town" that Chicago is always "pulling your sleeve" to return home, is true. There may be songs about New York, but for a guy growing up in the Midwest, Chicago was all that and more. It was an amazing place - in people, things accomplished, lifelong friends, you name it. I still feel so close to the city and its people that I could return at any time, and feel right at home again. But, as you'll see, something got in the way.
LIZ, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE
My assistant Liz, who I love dearly and worked closest with, probably saw it coming first. Every year on November 1st, I would lower the blinds in my office and completely close the windows. My office became an office without windows through the winter. I just couldn't take it -- looking out at the gray skies, the snow, the cold, people getting blown down the sidewalk in the freezing wind. It was too much to bear.
On May 1st, the blinds would be raised again for glorious spring and summer. Six months I had a window, six months I didn't. People thought I was crazy, but Liz knew what was going on and the countdown to the move south began. As the years ticked by ... seven ... eight ... I got more and more unhappy with the winters to the point of despair. One year, in a snowstorm, I slogged to the train with the loop gridlocked from a foot of snow. Forget trying to drive across town.
Arriving at Union Station exhausted from a mile-and-a-half hike in a foot of snow, and with visibility maybe 200 feet with massive wet snowflakes, commuters were huddled around a TV where news crews were live at Midway. A 737 had attempted to land in the snowstorm, sliding off the runway. It went through the airport fence and onto the intersection at 55th street and Central because of the snowstorm we had just hiked through. I was nearing my limit.
Waiting for the train when it's minus seven and wind chill of minus 20 stands out. I tried everything. I couldn't get warm. I was taking three hot showers a day, one in the morning and two at night. This was a regular ritual for half of every year.
Spring always seemed like it was two weeks long. Summer another five weeks, max. In the summer, people would say "Ugh, it's really hot out there," but I would walk outside and think "man, this feels great" as people were fainting from the heat.
For as much as this felt like home in every way for me, the weather might as well have been like being on Mars to me. No heat in the winter. Freezing AC in the building all day long in the summer. Who controls these things? I drove Liz crazy with building maintenance up in my office constantly, looking at the thermostat.
MAN UP OR GET OUT
Lifelong Chicagoans couldn't understand it, told me to "Man Up", but I could not get past it. It was the gray skies and cold temperatures of winter in the Midwest -- a totally natural thing -- that finally did me in. It affected me like a giant weight pressing down, smothering me. Some people called it "Seasonal Affective Disorder." I called it cold.
I had hit my "limit." I'm not saying it's "bad;" no judgment here - I'm just saying I couldn't hang with those hearty individuals any more. It's just one more thing that I can admire about the people of Chicago. Their ability to take that weather day in, and day out, all winter long. I'm a bit envious, actually, but peace out on those winters.
By year eight, I had made my preference known: Please send me where the palm trees grow, I beg of you. When my boss offered me a position in Florida while at a company meeting in California, I was so happy that I told him I would go straight there, not even stopping back in Chicago to get clothes. It was the fastest escape known to man. One day I was in Chicago, the next I was gone and headed straight south, prompting folks to say. "Was it something we said?"
The day I left Chicago in February it was 14 degrees, I will never forget it. With the pedal to the metal I headed straight south and started to thaw out in Georgia. We crossed the Florida state line and it was bright sunshine and 72. Finally. I was nervous, but the Florida staff was warm, inviting, friendly, and exciting. It was time for a hot new chapter, and we went on to even greater things in the Sunshine State.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS AND WIN
By knowing your limits, you can build your perfect career that can last for years and years. What are your outer edges? Where are your limits? Know them, and always be successful. Know your limits, what you can and will accept. Do what you love, love what you do, and the universe comes to you.