Quite some time ago—it feels like a decade now—I was in the middle of applying for a job, convinced that I would work for someone else all day long and then write all evening. At my third interview for this admin job, a panel (yes, a panel) of people asked me where I saw myself in five years. They asked me my personal goals. I anticipated these questions; I answered. They nodded along as I talked about wanting to connect people, to move up into a liaison position with their company, and wanting to write a book–during my personal time, of course.

I wasn’t sure why they were nodding along. Even I didn’t believe myself at this point.

There was one last interviewer who would be along to interview me separately, as he was unable to attend the panel interview. I’d heard numerous times from the others that this guy was difficult–but I never heard resentment over that, so I assumed his difficult nature simply meant he had higher standards. I was also told he had a thick accent and could be hard to understand.

At the end of the panel interview, the Difficult One showed up to collect me. We went to his small, sun-filled office and sat down.

“I don’t have much to ask you, really,” he said in a slight Middle Eastern/South Asian accent, so slight that I had no problem understanding him. “It’s all right here on your resumé. But they want me to be a part of the interview process.” After a moment, he said, “I do have one question.” He set my papers aside, “What are your dreams?” he asked.

Of all the questions! I looked over his shoulder to the window and the sunshine, and thought about writing a book. I willed myself to keep it together. I spoke, cobbling something as an answer, hoping my veneer would hold up. Whatever I said, I tried to align it with working this job, though I did add more writing to the list this time. At least I believed it more than whatever I’d said before.

The Difficult One then delved into a story about his life. He’d told this story before; he could tell it succinctly. He told me of his childhood in Pakistan, of being old enough for college and deciding to work alongside his classroom studies so that he had practical experience. The entire time, his coworkers would say how organized the businesses were in the United States, how they had better equipment, better systems, better facilities, in fact, the best of everything. He dreamed of moving to the United States and being the head of supply and demand at a top company. He came to the U.S., and worked at one company, then another. He kept working his way up. Then he applied for a job at the best company he’d researched. At the interview, he’d quoted the six figure purchases he’d done annually. They took that into account, and said that here at his dream job, he’d do seven figure purchases, and do them all the time. His eyes widened. The possibilities! Though the job was his dream, it was a step backward. He took it anyway, and he worked for eight years to get to the same level he’d been at with his job at the lesser company. And now here he is, 20 years later from the kid who dreamed of working for the best, and he lives his dream.

I smiled. We chatted about his story. And I asked, “What now? Do you have a new dream to chase down?”

He said, “Bigger purchases. We do contracts into the millions. I think we can get into the billions.”

I liked this guy. The Difficult One knew what he wanted in life and he went for it. And his goal wasn’t to be rich or famous. He wanted to run the show in purchasing. He wanted to lead. He wanted to be the best.

bookWhy was I applying for this job again? Oh, yes, because they would give me money so I could give it to bill companies. They said they’d call me by that Friday. They didn’t.

It seems to have made a very big difference for me.

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon… with more to come.