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What a smiley face taught me about my career

Introducing Jerry

I’d like to introduce you to Jerry. You can see his picture here. To you Jerry looks like just a smiley face, but for me he’s a lot more.  I’ve taken Jerry to every desk I ever had, and now that I’m moving on to another company, he’s coming, too. You see, Jerry taught me more about business, myself, and God than anyone else ever could. I’d like to share his story.

Just a little over five years ago, I started my very first corporate job at a place called Mannatech.  I was hired as a temp in the call center taking  French calls.  Not too long after I started, the whole call center got “quality training”. We learned how to be pleasant on the phone, practiced etiquette, and were given a smiley face – to remind us that we always needed to smile when talking to the customers.

Smiley Faces Don’t Work on Me

Those who know me will tell you that I’m much too cynical for a smiley face. I thought it was a dumb idea to say the least. But, nonetheless, something told me to hold on to Jerry. So while the other representatives threw theirs away, I kept and named him. I just randomly picked Jerry – there’s no one in my life with that name; he just looked like a Jerry. So I wrote on the back of him, “My name is Jerry,” and just waited to figure out what he had to offer.

I don’t know exactly how to sum up my time at Mannatech – without writing a book. Emotionally it was a roller coaster. I had days, or months where it was miserable. There were other times that it was amazing and inspirational. Both the customers and the company were factors in my drift from one end of the spectrum to the other on any given day. Mannatech taught me a lot about how to learn.

So I could recount all the times that it was the company’s fault, or I could give you countless horror-stories with the customers. None of that really matters, though. It’s not about who hurts you, or how you’ve been hurt. It’s about how you choose to react to it. I didn’t need a smiley face to teach me how to talk to customers. I needed a smiley face to help me respond to life’s difficulties. Or better yet, to life.

One day, while I was dwelling on how to deal with a rough day, I wrote on the back of Jerry: “I’m smiling because…”

And now I need a reason. Any reason would do; with it being an exceptionally rough day I decided to start small: “I’m employed.”  That was good enough. I could deal with my troubles because I had that one reminder.  But let me tell you, every time, no matter how small or large – silly or serious, I wrote on Jerry when I was reminded of something good at my job.

Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

Mannatech was just filler in the recipe I had written for my life. Nonetheless, it filled up a lot of time over five years.  Here’s a snapshot of the five years I spent at Mannatech:

  • A no-refund policy for two and a half years and a million customers, many who wanted a refund
  • Expansion into nine new countries
  • Website redesign, launch of a new CRM, and launch of a new product line in the same day – and the 6 months of crisis mode thereafter
  • A product line being on recurring backorder for six months
  • Going to Australia and New Zealand to train customers and representatives – only to come back and be put on the phones
  • Mannatech being sued by the attorney general  and the customer response for six months after
  • Hurricane Katrina: Customers recounting the deaths of friends, losing their checks, their jobs, their livelihood
  • A nine-month web site redesign project
  • Launching a third website redesign

So yes, it was a very hard five years at Mannatech. But then there was what I had to deal with in my personal life:

  • Near bankruptcy
  • Three trees falling on my house
  • Two floods: one with the water main breaking, the other forcing us to remove all the carpet
  • Breaking my leg: two surgeries,  2 months in a wheelchair, 4 months with a cane, physical therapy
  • Breaking my arm
  • Rejection: by the FBI, 3 police agencies, the CIA, the US Air force, and seminary
  • Having my heart flipped completely after a 3-year struggle where I opposed ever having kids
  • A changed heart for children and then the pain of infertility

So who was Jerry to me?

Jerry was a reminder of the choices I made in my life. Not the big, life changing choices. Not the choices I made in my marriage. Jerry reminded me that I could choose to recognize the blessings in my life. His smile was simple; when he smiled, it meant something was still okay. Every time I had a difficult day, I wrote on his back a reason for him to be smiling. And then, every time I had a horrible day, I read it.

So, below are the reasons Jerry smiled at me. You’ll notice a few themes; God blessing me, the customers appreciating me, and the triumph over my life circumstances. I didn’t need a reminder of how to smile; I needed to know why to smile.

I didn’t start working at Mannatech to fulfill a life need. What I realized was that, by working at Mannatech, my life’s needs were fulfilled. I had spent a lot of time trying to leave Mannatech – I never realized that Mannatech wasn’t filler for my life, it was a crucial ingredient. Your job is not a stepping stone; it is a road – a highway for the rest of your life.

Sure, life sucked sometimes at Mannatech. But sometimes it didn’t.  So what did I do with a sometimes sucky job? Did I get angry, curse my coworkers and bosses? Yeah, regretfully I did.  Did I pray for them? Yeah, I did that, too. Did I recognize that no matter what the deal was, it was still okay? Yes – but not because I could, because Jerry helped.

Where’s Your Ridiculous Smiley Face?

So here’s the thing: do you have a Jerry? What do you have that keeps you going? Business is tough. Life is tougher.  What do you have that reminds you of the blessings your job has given? What do you have that gets you to the next day?

I have Jerry. I looked at him every time work hit a low point. I wrote on his back every time work took me to a high point. I’m still not in seminary. I never got into law enforcement. Five years later, Israel is just as far away as it was then. But I don’t care; I don’t focus on the job I want as much as I do on the job I have. Jerry taught me that I’m blessed today – not tomorrow or yesterday. After I got an amazing job at Children’s Medical Hospital, Jerry reminded me that I’ve always been blessed.

Did you know that you’ve always been blessed? I would forget. But every time I forgot, Jerry reminded me. Every single time. Jerry was my reason to keep working.  Sure, this is my handwriting – but understand this, it was the circumstance that made me write it.   Get yourself a Jerry to remind you how great your job really is.

In five years, here’s what I found written on the back of Jerry:

jerry-back.jpg

In case my handwriting is tough to read, here’s that list of why Jerry was smiling at me:

  • I’m employed
  • If I curse in French, only three people will understand
  • Someone believes in me
  • I’m not a hurricane victim
  • Because of Jerry
  • Cheezits
  • I can always hang up (from when I was still taking phone calls)
  • Life has a bright side
  • Voodoo may not work, but I can pretend
  • Miracles happen
  • The dumber they are, the more job security
  • God has always given me the opportunity
  • It’s not over
  • This isn’t it
  • Life is so much bigger than me
  • I really can go far
  • Some Associates do appreciate me
  • God really has sent me far

Is there a smiley face in your career?

6 Comments


  1. //

    Dude – that was awesome. I’m glad someone(thing) was there to keep you from going postal on those rotten days.


  2. //

    This is an interesting read and very insightful. Thanks for not shooting up the place..lol

    Thank you again Paceaux


  3. //

    Wow – nice recap. And based on some of the obstacles you’ve faced personally over the last few years, sounds like it’s a good thing you’ll be working at a hospital.

    We’ll miss you – you’re a true talent and a truly fun person to work with.

    bd
    @bdunc1


  4. //

    Probably the best article I’ve read, EVER. You’re truly the most talented and smartest person I’ve ever met. I’ve learned so much from you and it’s going to be hard without you, but I too will make my own Smiley Face. You have made an incredible impact on me as well as many other people you have worked with, whether you want to admit it or not. And your post will stick with me forever. High-five to you and take good care of Jerry :)


  5. //

    This is awesome. I’ve shared it with the rest of my team at work (we are Quality Analysts for a tech helpdesk) and i sent it to a friend of mine who is the call centre manager. Hope you don’t mind!
    There is a message in here for everyone who thinks they have a “sucky” job.. who work in call centres or anywhere else for that matter. You should consider publishing this and more!

    You were an asset to Mannatech and we really appreciated you when you were here. I’ll never forget you and Jerry!


  6. //

    Thanks so much for serving the Mannatech family. The independent associates like myself do appreciate you. I can only imagine what it’s like to be in a call center where a lot of people call in just to complain. Those that are satisfied are often silent.

    Thanks for your story about Jerry. You are inspiring others to make the most of any situation. May God bless you in the next step of your journey.

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