From “The Human Condition: A User’s Manual,” by Arnold Kunst
I remember like it was yesterday working for a painting contractor when I was in college who submitted a bid for painting the exterior of an entire condomenium complex. The complex was called Whispering Pines and they were over the moon when they found out they had won this job. The company was led by three brothers who had, between them, no less than 15 kids - lots of mouths to feed. Bob - he was the one who had taken and passed the contractor's exam and so, nominally, was the boss - told me that they liked to nail down a super- big contract every year if they could, one that would stretch out for six months like this one, and then they could build the rest of the year around that one contract.
There was one little problem, though, one that should rightly give anyone cause for concern: they learned eventually thst their winning bid was lower - considerably lower- than the next lowest bid. In fact, $40,000 lower. When they examined their bid they found the problem: John, the estimator, somehow had forgotten to include a figure for the windows. The good news was, they had the gigantic job they were going to build an entire year around, just like they wanted. The bad news was, they went into this six-month commitment at a considerable disadvantage: they were starting out in a $40,000 hole, and nothing they could possibly do would ever dig themselves out of it.
The one who really stood out in this whole story was Bud, the third brother - the best painter I ever met in all those high school and college summers - who was slated to be the job foreman. He had to get up every day, drag himself off to a job he KNEW was losing $40,000, and that, no matter what he did - and he was a wizard not only with a spray gun but also as a leader of men - the thing was a dog. I, like all the other 16 guys on that crew, was happy enough to be off to a job that would last my entire summer and leave my bank account sufficiently swollen that I'd be able to limp my way through to the following summer when these three brothers would work their magic once again.
For me Whispering Pines was nothing more than a cash cow. It was something very different for Bud, the one who - largely because of how he carried himself during those six gruelling months - became my lifetime hero that summer. He taught me a valuable lesson: maturity isn't always pretty, and it largely happens out of sight.