The Lesson of Intentionality.

26 responses.

PFC Leonard NMI Turkel

Sometime between World War II and The Korean War, private first class Leonard NMI Turkel was returning a truck to the Pensacola Air Force base when he misunderestimated a blind curve and swerved off the road. Although the private was adept at driving trucks from his days delivering laundry in the Bronx, he wasn’t used to unforgiving culverts and buried the big truck’s front wheel three feet into the muddy ditch that ran alongside the road.

PFC Turkel tried everything he could think of to free the stuck vehicle from the Georgia clay. But even with the truck’s four-wheel drive and prodigious torque he could not pull it out of the trench. Stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to call for help he hoisted himself up onto the truck’s badly listing fender and waited for his eventual rescue.

Before too long PFC Turkel saw two headlights coming towards him through the encroaching gloom. Too close together to be a car and approaching too slowly to be a couple of motorcycles, he finally realized it was a farmer lumbering up the road on a big tractor. PFC Turkel hopped down off the fender and waved his cap in the humid dusk to flag down his potential rescuer.

The big John Deere tractor shuddered to a stop and its driver looked down at the hapless private.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” the farmer drawled slowly.

“The truck’s stuck.” My father answered. “I was hoping you could help me yank it out of the ditch.”

The farmer didn’t answer, he just rubbed his chin, stepped off the tractor and slowly ambled around the olive green Air Force transporter while he assessed the situation. Finally he stopped in front of my dad and looked him up and down.

“Son,” the farmer drawled at the tall, skinny kid in front of him. “You’re either stupid or a Yankee.” It came out as “Stooopid.”

“I believe I’m both, sir” my dad replied.

The farmer laughed and wordlessly returned to his tractor. But instead of hopping back up and chugging away, he wrapped one end of a heavy rope around the John Deere’s front hitch and then tossed the other end to my dad to tie to the truck. Next he straddled the tractor’s saddle, threw the transmission into reverse, and deftly yanked the truck back onto the road.

I think my dad told me this story simply because it was an amusing memory from his younger days. But to me it always held a more significant meaning – thoughtful intentionality.

I return to my dad’s tale again and again when I’m in a situation where emotion is threatening to get the best of me and I’m tempted to respond in an elevated manner that might be momentarily satisfying but will ultimately detract from what I’m trying to accomplish.

You see, my dad was neither stupid nor a Yankee. To a kid who grew up in the Bronx, a Yankee wasn’t an interloper from up north but a superstar who played on his beloved hometown baseball team.

“I believe I’m both, sir” was my dad’s innocuous response to the farmer’s insult that diffused the situation and focused my father’s intentionality and ultimately got him what he wanted — the truck out of the ditch. My dad didn’t respond to the insult in-kind, he didn’t refer to his beloved Yankees (the baseball team, not the Northern slur) and he didn’t elevate the challenge.

“I believe I’m both, sir”, most likely said with his big beautiful smile, was my dad’s solution to an uncomfortable problem and a wonderful lesson that is always with me even though my father no longer is. The intentionality of “I believe I’m both, sir” has served me well in business and in my personal life and contributes mightily to my personal brand. I hope it can do the same for you.

  26 Responses

  1. Seth B
    on February 23, 2015

    Now it’s my chance to admit to being both stupid and a Yankee (or a Met since I grew up in Queens). I didn’t know Intentionality was a word. I don’t know if that makes me stupid or just ignorant (or ig’nant) as they say in that part of the country where your dad got his tires stuck in the mud.

    It’s a good word, and a good lesson. Whether you are the perpetrator of a stupid act or on the receiving end of one, it’s always best to be a gracious, humble and/or forgiving, even if that’s not the other person’s first response. Taking umbrage only escalates a potentially hostile situation whereas turning the other cheek generally diffuses it. And it’s an even smarter policy when you’re the one who needs to get pulled out of the mud.

  2. on February 23, 2015

    Excellent. Thanks Bruce. I have gone the other way too many times and not only stayed stuck in the ditch, but dug myself in even deeper.

  3. on February 25, 2015

    Hello Bruce,
    Thank you for sharing your father’s story with us. Intentionality whether a word or not is a great term and one with a lesson attached that I hope I will remember at just the correct moment when it’s needed.
    Best,
    Ron

  4. on February 25, 2015

    Farmer rose above by not calling him Stupid Damn Yankee.
    As always, great read.

  5. on February 25, 2015

    You are such a brilliant story teller Bruce. I always want to “read more” so I click even though there are hundreds of other things tugging at my time. When someone knows who they really are, then insults don’t connect. How amazing that your young father was so tuned in, even in “enemy” territory.

    The other lesson I took away from his story was, “Stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to call for help he hoisted himself up onto the truck’s badly listing fender and waited for his eventual rescue.”. He didn’t beat himself up or worry or complain or get angry or defeated, he “waited for his eventual rescue”. And it came.

    Sometimes when I am in the midst of a confounding situation I worry myself to frustration. When the best advice is “…wait for my eventual rescue”. It always comes, often not in the package expected.

    Thanks for the beautiful memory. I’m sure your dad is still enjoying that story!

  6. Mike Thorn
    on February 25, 2015

    Bruce — very good point. Now that I am ‘seasoned’, I can look back and realize that a deep breathe has a great deal of value. Perhaps if I had realized that sooner, …..

  7. on February 25, 2015

    As per usual, your Dad was a genius…but you already know that:) Loved the story and message!

  8. on February 25, 2015

    Well if it’s not a word it should be Ron. Thanks for writing.

  9. Dave C
    on February 25, 2015

    Bruce – great lesson……wish I would have read it yesterday:)

  10. on February 25, 2015

    Touché, Laurie. Thanks.

  11. on February 25, 2015

    Bruce,

    Thank you for sharing – I’m not sure this is such a different take from yours – I may be just using different words for the same activity – but my sense is that we (all) ache in some way for personal connections in life and the desire to have that facet of our lives which lives deep within us recognized and touched.

    My sense is that your dad was responding to the farmer in kind – I didn’t read the farmer’s comment as an insult – but as a humorous recognition that your dad was “up the creek……”

    Your dad probably recognized the twinkle in the farmer’s eye – and responded in kind

    I can see how the apple didn’t fall too far from that tree!

    Harley

  12. on February 25, 2015

    Funny, I never thought of it that way, Harley, but knowing my dad you could very well be right. Thank you for adding a new and touching interpretation to an old story.

  13. John Lentini
    on February 25, 2015

    Wikipedia has a nice page about Intentionality. Yes, it is a word.

  14. on February 25, 2015

    Good stuff.
    It was easy to visualize your Dad in the story. You made him come alive.
    Well done.

  15. Randall Reeder
    on February 25, 2015

    Harley is 100% correct. As a farmer who pulled out a few vehicles years ago, I know the farmer did not mean to insult. He would have wanted to pull the truck out of the ditch almost regardless of your Dad’s reaction.

  16. on February 25, 2015

    love your posts! Looking forward to your Keynote address at the Conference this Friday!

  17. Mike Grimme
    on February 26, 2015

    Love it Bruce.

  18. on February 26, 2015

    My only regret when I worked for you was not getting to know your dad better. It’s only through your writings that I know about his philanthropy, artistry and intentionality. Little did I know that all those magnificent pieces adorning your office were his! He never told—a testament to his humility. And now you reveal he was also a military man. Please do us all a favor and write a biography full of life-lessons about this wonderful man whose imposing size belied his gentle heart.

  19. Bill Chambers
    on February 26, 2015

    Two things:
    1. It’s a word when it successfully and clearly communicates a meaning, whether it’s already in the dictionary or not. Intentionality requires absolutely no disambiguation.
    2. The farmer WITH A TRACTOR was clearly the most perfect solution he could have wished for in the gloaming, so even if Lenny was violently opposed to either of the farmer’s accusations, he knew he was going to go along with them.

  20. on February 26, 2015

    Thank you, Dan. That’s very nice of you.

  21. on February 26, 2015

    Hah!! You said “disambiguation.”

  22. on February 26, 2015

    Hi Bruce….. Just had to say how much I enjoy reading you…. And how much I wish you would play some harp with me again sometime. Hey, come to Denver, I can get us a gig !
    With admiration and best wishes for your continued success.
    Jim Mason

  23. on February 27, 2015

    Great to hear from you, Jim. I didn’t know you had moved to Denver.
    Next time I’m heading out there I’ll bring a bag of harmonicas and we’ll play together. It will be a pleasure and an honor.

  24. on February 28, 2015

    Good lesson Bruce I’m forwarding it to my 3 daughters.
    Warm regards
    Kiko Ricote

  25. Henry Martinez
    on March 1, 2015

    Inspirational as ever and so great that in so many ways you keep your Father’s spirit alive. Thanks Bruce for sharing of your wisdom in such engaging way.

  26. Larry Harris
    on March 3, 2015

    Bruce, i enjoy your blogs, and the thoughtful responses, often from your peers, that follow. Very impressed that Randall, a farmer, responded to this one, and validated the story!

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