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  • Mark Lipton

The Badge of Courage!


I’ve got a problem with rules and authority. It’s not really a problem for me, it’s more a problem for the people who make rules and want to have authority over my actions.

My fiancée Guy is in Washington, DC with her sister for the weekend. They went to a concert and while I always miss her when we are not together, I didn’t want to have to watch the Buckeye game on the train (10-0, GO BUCKS!) so I didn’t go. In other words: I didn’t get invited!


Guy is one of the rule-makers in my life and so with her gone for the night, I got to do with her rules what I like to do with all rules: ignore them!


I had them all to choose from: I could have failed to make the bed; I could have made breakfast without cleaning the stove immediately after use or I even could have left my clothes on the floor after I got into bed.


All good choices! In-fact, if Guy’s rules were constitutional amendments (they’re close in her view) then cleaning the stove immediately after use would be like Freedom of Speech: it’s NOT up for debate!


But I chose smoking in bed and leaving the toilet seat up. Far more liberating than leaving the stove with a few spots of grease! I feel like I chose wisely but of course I’ll reserve final judgment for after she gets home.


Nothing hits the fan until that happens.


We all know what the “nothing” in the sentence above refers to. But I struggle with multi-tasking: I can’t blog and curse at the same time!


Anyway, I doubt Guy will be all that upset (or surprised) that I broke a few rules: she knows even better than anyone that I am not much for rules. Besides, it’s the third rule I broke that would blow her up like Mount Vesuvius and THAT one I’m keeping a secret; even from you! It would get “awks” as my daughter would say, if I shared EVERYTHING!


My first week of work in my new job as the “Strategic Counselor” at Benjamin Moore are behind me. I’ve put my title in quotes because I find it funny. I didn’t ask for a title (it showed up in an email about a month after I was hired) and I don’t really feel like the one I was given fits me all that well. There’s probably a room in Montvale someone where they just make titles for people. I think it’s the same person who does all the color names: “Who wants to be Director of “Whispy Clouds?” Anyway, after so many years of being on my own….I don’t see the point of titles. I asked for: Mark Lipton-The Guy Does Stuff Around Here,” but I guess that was taken.


Whatever they call me; feet up on the coffee table (with shoes on, on this rule-less day) watching football is not a bad way to recover from my first week as a working man.


Some months ago, I met Benjamin Moore CEO Dan Calkins (aka-my boss) in his Montvale office at 7:30 AM. I offered to bring him a bagel from my favorite New York bagel store. It wasn’t exactly on-the-way, but Goldberg’s makes the best bagels around and hey….I was trying to impress him! Dan is an “everything with veggie cream cheese” guy. I can’t commit to an entire day of eating mints, so I never do an everything bagel. I guess when you’re the boss you don’t have to worry “does my breathe smell like garlic from my everything bagel?”

To get the ball rolling my first week, I had a 7:30 AM meeting with Dan. I KNOW he was expecting a bagel!


But now, I’m on Keto AND already have the job (shhhh, don’t tell Dan I said that) so, no bagels for Dan. Anyway, there’s probably some rule in the HR manual about buying bagels for the boss so why risk an early termination. People go to jail for less in this country right now!


I hope Dan didn’t notice. I’m trying to get off to a good start.


There are no rules that say I’m required to bring the boss a bagel during early morning meeting (that I’m aware of) so I’m feeling good that I got away with it. But, there are a lot of other rule. When people talk about how different it is to work for a large company, rules are (at least partially) what they are speaking about.


Rule # 1: THE badge!


I now have a badge to get into and around the various parts of the building. I guess that’s not such a bad rule-safety first!- but to a guy that struggles with authority, it feels a bit like a choke-collar! I’ve been keeping it in my pocket as a sign of my (quiet) resistance.


The truth is that I have not yet been impacted by a slew of corporate rules, YET. But I’m sure it’s coming and I like to start my panicking early!


While I am worrying some about learning the rules around here, it’s the unwritten rules that I spend most of my worry on. Every organization on the planet has these.


I sat in on a dealer roundtable last week. These are cool: a bunch of dealers and Benjamin Moore staff sitting around trying to answer each other’s questions. While saying goodbye to two different dealers after the two-day program, they both asked me why I didn’t participate more?


Fair question!


I was asking that myself a number of times during the conversations when I KNEW I had something to add. The truth is, I just don’t know all the rules yet: written and unwritten. There are others who set this up and maybe it’s not ME they want to hear from (that would seem impossible but hey…you never know). So, it seemed wise to stay on the sidelines. Of course, that will have to change. I’m sure I’m allowed to speak…..I’ll just have to figure out when.


It’s all got me a bit jumpy which is not a particularly natural state for a (generally) confident guy. It’s just that I’m making a lot first impressions these days. If I had a “best behavior” I’d put it on now.


I have made one friend, or so it seems. Even though he’s orbiting in a different world from me work-wise, Chad is in the office next to me and so I see him all the time. Chad is the winner of the “First person to ask Mark to join them in the cafeteria” award! It really helped me feel comfortable and I appreciated it. So much so that if anyone else wants to trip me in the halls and invite me to join your table at lunch I’ll give you a second-place ribbon. Second to Chad is still impressive!


I know I’ll get a handle on all this and I’m not the least bit concerned for the outcome. It’s the journey that may be a bit bumpy for a while. But I’m so excited to have gotten started. AND, at least I have Chad!


I just hope that they don’t have a rule about cursing in meetings. THEN, we are going to have problem!




©2019 by Mark Lipton

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