Twenty-eight years ago, in a moment I will never forget, I felt stupid for complaining about bad days that weren’t bad days. I felt fortunate to have Jock Fritz as my boss who very clearly showed me the difference.
He stood at the side of my cubicle until I looked over and noticed him.
“Go to Chuck’s office… now,” he said in a matter-of-fact style.
He was Jock Fritz, unflappable under pressure, smart and a master salesman/listener/boss.
He was 34 years old and he was there because he was a co-owner and had earned his stripes at another Detroit media outlet. Jock was a smart general sales manager who understood and enjoyed people.
I stood up and walked towards Chuck Fritz’s office. Jock followed closely behind.
“This isn’t good,” I thought. No niceties or friendly banter, plus I was being escorted into the presidents’ of the companies’ office.
As a “new business specialist” it was my job to sell radio advertising time directly to business people in metropolitan Detroit. In my previous two years at the radio station, I always sold some air time every week.
But, I didn’t make any deals in two weeks. Two looooooong weeks.
Were they going to let me go because of two bad weeks?
As I approached the door, Jock said “Go in and sit down”.
Two old metal chairs were facing each other in the cherry wood-lined office of Charles D. Fritz.
White hair, 6’2’, and 230 pounds, 63 years old, covered in a 3-piece suite, Charles Fritz looked like the stereotypical owner of a white collar company. He was stoic, strong minded and the captain of the ship they called: WXYT AM 1270, a vibrant talk radio station.
In the far left corner, Mr. Fritz sat behind his desk, leaned back in his chair and watched as his son had a meeting with me.
“You’re here in Chuck’s office because I wanted to talk to you behind closed doors. He paused—a long pause. You are upsetting the staff of this radio station with your negativity.”
“I… um… didn’t know…”
“I know that you haven’t sold anything in two weeks. The whole radio station knows you haven’t sold anything in two weeks.”
“I didn’t tell anybody that I didn’t sell anything over the past…”
“You didn’t have to tell anybody. They could feel that something is wrong with you. You have been complaining and not pleasant to be near. What’s wrong with John? they’ve said to me. Is he OK? A couple of employees asked me if you’ve had a loved one die. People are uneasy because of the negativity coming out of your mouth and that anger is disrupting my employees. I won’t have you doing that.”
He looked at me waiting for a reaction.
“I’ve been having a string of bad days that just aren’t stopping,” I replied as tears welled up in my eyes.
Here it comes, I thought, the “We are letting you go” part of the meeting.
“John, I don’t think you know what a bad day is,” he said.
“I’ve had 14 bad days in a row,” I said with a touch of retort in my voice.
“Do you know how I got this scar?” he said as he pointed to a very faint scar starting above the hairline and going all the way down to the bridge of his nose.
“No. I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you know?”
“Well, employees don’t normally go up to the boss and ask how he got the scar on his face,” I said bluntly and without sarcasm.
I was sure he was going to fire me, so I had nothing to lose. But, I wasn’t going to be a smart Alek.
“So, ask me,” he said.
“How did you get that scar on your face?, I said meekly.
“Now we are getting somewhere. Let me tell you about a real bad day. An idiot driver ran a stop sign, slammed into my car, killing my high school sweetheart. They took me to the hospital for surgery, called Chuck and my mom. When they arrived at the hospital they were told that I only had a 15 percent chance of surviving.”
I cried as he spoke.
“I remember the surgeon said that he couldn’t stop the massive internal bleeding coming from my ruptured liver and that my parents should come into the room to say goodbye”.
I cried more listening about my boss’s real bad day.
His sweetheart died and he was about to die.
“I was taken to surgery, blacked out and they miraculously were able to stop the bleeding. That was a bad day. Do you understand now what a bad day is, John?”
I felt stupid for complaining about bad days that weren’t bad days. I felt stupid for spewing anger to the staff of the radio station. I felt fortunate to have Jock Fritz as my boss.
Jock continued, “Every day is a good day John. Every day that you are alive is a good day, John. Here is one hundred dollars. It’s noon on Friday. Leave the station now. Go buy yourself something nice and come back on Monday with a smile on your face. You will have a good day on Monday, right John?
Jock Fritz, on that day in 1987 taught me the difference between a good and bad day.
It is now 28 years later and Jock is having another a good day. I don’t have to call or email him to know what kind of day that he is having.
So, are you having as good day?
Photo credit: Jock Fritz, 2015