“If you really want to be a waitress, then you should work at being the best [darn] waitress in the world. Otherwise, find yourself another line of work.” So said Lee Iacocca’s father Nicola to a cranky, rude restaurant server. The elder Iacocca landed at Ellis Island from his small hometown in Campania, Italy, in 1902. He was 12 years old — poor, alone, and scared. A hard worker from day one, he became an entrepreneur in many fields — starting out as an apprentice shoemaker — and admonished his son Lido “Lee” to be the best he could be.
I was reminded of the Iacocca line about finding a job where one’s passion lies by a friend recently. I harkened back to my admiration for Lee Iacocca and my unexpected switch from Japanese cars to Chrysler products (two, precisely) in the 1980s. I had read his autobiography when it came out in 1984 and decided to reread it now 40 years later. The cold, dark days of a Mazama winter are a perfect time to tackle the stack of bedside books.
There’s a legal term — “mens rea” or “state of mind” — that is required by law to convict a defendant of a crime. Establishing the state of mind of an offender when the alleged crime was committed is among the elements required to prove guilt at trial. I wondered what my state of mind was when I was enamored with Lee Iacocca and his rise to fame — first, his prominent role in the development of the Ford Mustang and later his success in bringing Chrysler Corporation back from the brink of bankruptcy (after being fired by Ford).
I have not finished the reread, but have cherry picked the pieces of Iacocca’s life and mind so far that I do admire — one is the merit of hard work. My paternal grandparents were immigrants to this country. They came from Austria-Hungary to work manning the coke ovens in Montana. They were dirt poor and didn’t speak the language but made their way through the belief that hard work would pay off. In the same way, my mother’s grandparents immigrated from Norway and found their way to Wisconsin where they purchased a few dairy cows. They, too, had the hard work ethic and lived honest lives. I was doubly endowed with the work ethic “gene.”
Before Iacocca’s book, I read “Going Infinite,” the story of crypto tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried. Having little understanding of cryptocurrency, I was intrigued by how this 30-year-old guy become a billionaire many times over in the world of digital currency. I still have only limited knowledge of how it all worked, but it is fair to say that Bankman-Fried and his cronies also worked long, hard hours. They made billions of dollars and lived lavish lifestyles but ended up being charged with fraud — Bankman-Fried facing years in prison.
Suffice it to say, hard work must be preceded by “honest.”
I have written before how fortunate we are to have two libraries in our small communities that offer us the world beyond the valley through books. If the temperature reaches the predicted lows this next week, it’s a good time to visit the library and find a good read.
Two friends who follow this column online commented on the game board subject. A former co-worker from Port Orchard wrote, “A new board game that one of my sisters gave all of us a few years ago is called ‘See What I Mean?’ You either use the photos they provide to decide the catch phrase or use your own photos.” Sounds interesting. A classmate from Miles City, Montana, wrote, “If you were here, we’d break out one of my two favorites, Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble.” How fun that would be!
A reader wrote that Mensa (those folks gifted with an IQ of 132 or more) holds a four-day board game judging marathon every year since 1990. Mensa members and their guests evaluate a pre-selected lot of games and choose the five best new-to-market games. They are awarded the coveted Mensa Select seal (the Michelin star of board games). Last year’s winners were: Trekking Through History, Mille Fiori, Gartenbau, Akropolis and boop.
The games are awarded the seal for being original in concept, challenging, and well designed. In addition, they provide “a high value for the price, are easy to comprehend and play, and prove highly entertaining,” according to Mensa Mind Games judges. Maybe worth a try?