A long time ago when I was young(er) and foolish(er) I had a job interview that I can recall with unsettling clarity. The reasons for which I can remember this interview are varied – and no doubt one of them is so that I can tell this story (so that you can learn to be more wise than me)1 to illustrate my shortcomings and for you to really wonder how on earth someone could act in such a way – ever. Another reason for my vivid recollection could be to ensure that I learn something (likely many things) from that debacle and to make sure that it is never repeated.
This interview happened to be for a respectable company in Utah and the position was very appealing – especially to a young, recently returned missionary who had a just recently been married, and who was now expected to be the breadwinner for his family by gaining a solid employment to support said family. This particular position offered reimbursment for college tuition, as well as a very competitive wage, benefits package, and was very flexible. Basically, this was a college student’s dream job.
The department supervisor (not the direct supervisor for this position) was someone that knew our family growing up, and had been my primary teacher in earlier years. The fact that this former teacher of mine would suggest me for a position under his general supervision speaks volumes to his patience and discernment (he knew that I needed his help more than he needed mine), and maybe just a bit to his desire for self inflicted punishment, given the relentless barrage of pre-teen angst and immaturity that he was exposed to week after week in Sunday school. To this day I wonder how he managed to survive that class. It must be known here (back to the interview) that my older brother Colby was currently working in this department and had established some credibility and dependence for the Alexander name.
The time for the interview came, and I arrived and went into the supervisor’s office, and there sat the two individuals that I needed to convince. I needed to convince them that I was the best one for the job, that I was the worker they needed, and that I would bring whatever they were looking for to the table (this is a typical job interview approach right)? Keep in mind – again – before I describe the train wreck, that I was young(er) and foolish(er) than I am now, and that this was in all reality my very first real job interview ever. Apparently I had previously convinced myself that the best approach to this interview was to wow them with my abilities, my confidence, and my charisma because what happened has no other explanation.
The one supervisor knew me, and by knowing me, knew a little about what some of my strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and potential was/were, but the second interviewer (the direct supervisor) did not know me at all, and his only impression(s) of me would be what he gleaned during the interview itself. He (the one who did not know me) started asking me some questions, and I answered them boldly, confidently, and assuredly telling them that I was the best candidate for this position that they would ever hope to find, even if they searched the whole earth – literally. Other questions were asked to which I responded in the most self-confident way that there never has been, could be, or would be a better candidate for this or any other job at this company in any department, ever. At this point, if you asked the supervisor what he thought or how he felt about me (as the candidate) he would likely say something like “well, he is pretty sure of himself, let’s see what he says when I ask him about his weaknesses” – so that’s what he did. He asked me what some (plural) of my weaknesses were to which I replied frankly “I don’t have any of those”. This brought a chuckle (likely a nervous, I don’t believe this is really happening but I’ll still giggle due to sheer panic) from my former primary teacher, and a simple smile from the interviewer, but he pressed me and asked a bit more firmly “what do you think some of your weaknesses could be”? My reply to this day makes me cringe; I said “well, if I had to list a weakness, it might actually be that I don’t have any weaknesses”.
What happened next is easy to guess. The interviewer said, thank you, indicated that he would let me know and saw me out. I was (at that point in time) thinking to myself ‘nailed it’. It wasn’t even until my primary teacher friend asked me if I was crazy (the actual language that he used in not suitable for this blog) that I even thought twice about it. He then proceeded to give me a lesson on ‘real life’ where it is sort of important to not act like a 7 year old when you are in a job interview. Then I got nervous. Nervous enough that I started to wonder if ‘who I knew’ and was enough to overcome ‘what I knew’.
It was. I was miraculously given the job and was able to keep this great job through that tricky college/early family stage. This proved (for many other reasons) to be a huge blessing in my life that, including some that are still being realized today. I think I was even able to successfully parlay my childish, immature behavior into an actual strength for the department, and I think I was even able to convince the direct supervisor that I wasn’t a complete idiot….maybe. I honestly don’t know what he would say about me if you asked him today – or if he will EVER be able to forget my interview. I think maybe he went against his instinct and really did hire me out of sheer pity hoping for the best. Or, he might have said something to my friend (the non-interviewer former primary teacher) like one assistant coach said to the other in Rudy (the movie) “if you want him – he’s your problem” thinking to himself that it might be entertaining to watch me explode with incompetence.
The point of telling this story was to highlight a character trait that was lacking at that time – humility. And, if I’m being completely honest (and I am trying to be) – I think the lack of this trait (in it’s purest and truest form) really was and still is my biggest weakness – or at least one of them. Somewhere, Dan Morgan is nodding his head in approval of that last sentence (Dan Morgan is the name of the unnamed interviewer above).
I worked at that company for 5 glorious and frustrating years. My recollection of those 5 years was much more frustrating until about a year ago, when I started to see those years ‘as they really were’. 2 I am able now, to look back at the lessons learned with great satisfaction and intense joy. I had only missed them before because I wasn’t looking.
My lack of humility sometimes let’s me think that I am pretty hot stuff. That I am doing pretty darn good, and things are looking up for me. This pride progressed to the point where (2-3 months ago) – I was sure and confident in my status that I was ready to see ‘things as they really are’. This thought occupied my mind for weeks, and I let it consume me until one day when I woke up very early, headed to the temple before work, all the while expecting to see ‘things as they really are’.
What I had in my mind was the veil becoming completely invisible if not removed altogether, allowing me to (as others have) view the beginning from the end in all it’s glory, the heavens and the earth, all the angels on both sides, the sealed records, the lost records, the locations and history of the lost tribes. I thought I would meet and shake hands with everyone in heaven including all my heroes from the Book of Mormon, chat with the 3 Nephites, have them explain and expound the scriptures to me, essentially viewing anything and everything that I have ever wanted to and go home feeling pretty much satisfied with having achieved my objective which was seeing things as they really are. That’s a normal expectation right?
The most amazing thing occurred that day, and has continued to occur over the past several weeks. I have been shown ‘things as they really are’ just like I asked. I did indeed see things exactly how they really are, things as they have always been, and things as they always will be. They had always been there; I just wasn’t looking in the right place. I was looking ‘beyond the mark’. 3 I sat down in the chapel that day (at the temple), for the 5:30 AM session and pleaded again to be shown ‘things as they really are’.
When I opened my eyes, to my disappointment and amazement I saw the organist playing the piano (I was on the very front row not 5 feet from him). This man – this amazing man – had physical deformities in his hands, and his legs, but had somehow roused himself out of bed pre 5:00 AM, got himself to the temple, dressed himself in his white clothing, and was playing the organ (with the foot pedals) despite the obvious and audible physical pain it caused him. I saw this amazing man serving prideful people like me, who come to the temple seeking answers, in the truest sense of the word. I saw him, and immediately knew (and realized) I was receiving a very real answer to my prayer in the very moment is was being offered, because that humble example of Christ-like service, from an anonymous organist, is a very real example of ‘things as they really are’. I was humbled.
I wish my pride stopped there – it doesn’t, but thankfully, neither do the lessons that the Lord gives me to help keep my pride from running amuck. I have seen things with my very eyes, that provide me with an ever-burning testimony in my bones of ‘things as they really are’. I have been shown (per my request) people on my street, in my neighborhood, and in my ward who are literal shining lights in a world of darkness. Shining lights that I (in my pride) had overlooked previously. I have sat in jr. primary (as a substitute teacher) and heard angel voices singing the most glorious primary songs – and felt the spirit as strongly as when the apostles teach. I have seen how the simple and weak things of the world are the mightiest of all – because of their humility, and because of the power of the spirit that they invite. I have seen these people every single week in church, serving, loving, and happy. I have seen ‘things as they really are’ over and over again – and I love it.
I used to feel like I was pretty hot stuff – but I realized (today again) that in my pride – I exclude myself from the joy and simplicity of truly powerful humility. This humility is now the strength that I seek. It allows us to feel closer to our Savior and his atonement, which will in turn lead us closer to others through service.
1 Mormon 9:31
2 See Jacob 4
3 Jacob 4:14