I worked for a global company for many years where I met a lot of interesting and diverse people. It was a melting pot of cultures, beliefs, and attitudes that, more often than not, made the work exciting and engaging.
During the interview process for this company, I met with several people, including HR reps, my potential manager, a couple of leading executives, and a young guy in his 30s whom I was told I would be working with closely.
I thought all the interviews went well except for the young guy. He was tough to read. He had a mid-sized build with black greasy hair and a pale complexion. His eyes were small and beady, and he spoke in a monotone voice that hinted at a sustained nervousness. Had he worn glasses, he would have been the dictionary definition of a computer geek.
I did my best to soften him up with a periodic quip or lighthearted response. I wanted him to know that, while I was immensely capable of doing the job, I was also an easy and likable guy to work alongside.
Needless to say, I made little headway with him other than somehow realizing that we were both fans of Monty Python.
I was eventually hired and set to task in the marketing department. The 30-year-old ended up sitting in the cubicle next to me so, like it or not, we would be interacting daily.
This guy kept to himself but over the course of a few weeks, I gradually made headway with him. I learned that he had a girlfriend (absolutely shocking given his interpersonal skills), that he had a master’s degree (not surprising given his level of competency), and that he was heavy into jujitsu (baffling since he came off as clumsy and uncoordinated).
But the biggest surprise with this guy was revealed itself one afternoon when we were walking into the parking lot together. As we approached his vehicle, I happened to notice a bumper sticker on his back window. It was the relatively common oval that runners place on their cars that usually say “5K” or “10K.” (I always laugh when I see the people who place the “0K” sticker on their car.)
However, in this instance, the sticker read “70K.”
I pointed at the sticker and snidely asked, “What’s that all about?” He incorrectly assumed I was talking about the stormtrooper decal adjacent to it, so he responded that he was a bit of a Star Wars fan. I corrected him and pointed at the 70K sticker, again questioning the validity.
“Did you actually run a 70K race,” I asked.
“Not recently,” he replied. “I did one about five years ago but I’m thinking about doing another next year.”
“Hold on!” I snapped. “You ran a 70K race? That’s like 40 miles.”
“43.5 actually,” he said sheepishly.
Now, I’m a runner; I’ve been running for years. I run almost every day and pride myself on my ability to go for a good clip when needed. With that said, the longest run I’ve ever been on was 17 miles – and I was wrecked the next day (that 17-mile run was supposed to lead up to a marathon, but cancer put an end to that dream).
A marathon is 26.2 miles. A 43.5-mile race is not quite double that distance, but it’s close.
I stood there flabbergasted, partly because I’d never met anyone who’s run that far and partly because the human standing next to me did not appear anywhere capable of the physical or mental demands of an ultramarathon-level race.
For a moment, I thought he might be lying, but after a flurry of probing questions, I determined that his story was legit.
My opinion of this young man changed dramatically after this revelation. And I learned an important lesson: Most people have hidden talents lurking beneath the surface. Sometimes you just have to dig a little to locate them.
In this week’s feature, “Champions,” Woody Harrelson stars as a professional basketball coach who’s forced to mentor a group of intellectually disabled young men who all have hidden talents lurking beneath the surface. While initially reluctant to take on the task, Harrelson eventually warms up to the team and changes their lives.
This is a feel-good movie from beginning to end, and while it may not have provided the depth required to make it a true winner, it did interject enough humor and humanity to make it compelling enough to watch.
Check this one out if you’re looking for relaxing mid-week distraction.
A “C+” for “Champions,” now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.