Webb: Words of wisdom for my son on his first job

rory dad

Life and work lessons from my father in 2013 during one of his biggest shows, where Rory found time to have fun while helping my dad run his booth in St. Charles, Missouri. Dad actually paid him, too. He did not pay his son. Work ethic runs in the family. I often envy my father for running his own business for 40 years.

A year into a job search, my son was frustrated. At one point after a promising interview didn’t result in work, he was exasperated: “Am I ever going to get a job?”

For those who don’t know Rory, he is autistic. Many things are a struggle. He thinks differently than most of us do, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. In fact, he has an admirable work ethic and gets more done around the house than any of us.

After graduating high school in 2014, Rory worked for his grandfather for several months, helping him remodel the in-laws’ home, among many other tasks. When he came home a year ago, he was eager to begin a career in Kansas City.

We did the best we could to help. My wife and mother-in-law took him job-hunting. He did exhaustive searches online. He even had a job coach. Nothing panned out.

Finally, more than a year into looking, a friend of the wife tipped us off on a gig that looked like a perfect fit at Waldo Pizza. On the night before the interview, Rory and I went over questions, and I ironed a pair of pants and shirt so he’d look the part. I’ve never enjoyed ironing clothes until that moment.

A few days after the interview, Rory told us that he had an email from the manager at Waldo. My wife opened it to discover that he was on the work schedule! He started on Monday and has thoroughly enjoyed his first two days of work. Most importantly, he’s proud and happy. That’s all you can ask for as a parent.

When he graduated, I wrote a blog to Rory offering him advice on being a man. Now that he’s secured a job, who better to offer advice about work than somebody who worked at six newspapers in 10 years and has had nine jobs in 17? (To be fair, most of those jobs were promotions, and I’ve never been fired or laid off).

Work hard: This will be easy for you. You already do it. Remember that you will never be successful without hard work.

Don’t work too hard: This is an easy mistake to make. There are times I look back on my career, especially in newspapers, and realize I did not take time to enjoy life. Work isn’t everything.

Learn as much as you can: This probably won’t be your last job. Take in as much as you can to prepare you for your next job. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Know that you can’t please everybody: Regardless of how hard you try, someone is going to be unhappy. Don’t take it personally. Be courteous, kind and respectful. Remember that your job is to serve your customers.

The customer usually is right: At some point, your patience will be tested. Keep your cool, smile and say “thank you.”

Always say “thank you”: “Thank you” is the most important phrase in any workplace, not only to customers, but also co-workers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: This will not be easy. You’re going to find that little things will gnaw at you, but don’t let them consume you. Focus on the positive.

Don’t be the suck-up: Every workplace has at least one. Be respectful, but don’t compromise your integrity. Rely on your work ethic and performance. That should always be good enough.

Build your network: More now than ever, it’s who you know. Build relationships with your co-workers. Those connections will lead to another job someday.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind: Honesty in the workplace isn’t guaranteed, but you can control your truth. Speak up if you have something to say. Be courteous and thoughtful in your delivery, and you’ll be respected for it.

Don’t worry too much about money: Said best by a journalist, right? Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Do not keep a job that you’re miserable in just for the money. Take less money if you’re going to be happy. That said, don’t take a job that leads to living in a van down by the river.

One last thing: I am proud of you, son.




Webb: Last run was last straw for my body

ernie fun run

By the time I’d shaved more than six minutes off my personal best in a 5K, I was hopelessly addicted to running. Now, I haven’t jogged in 100 days.

I still get a little melancholy when I see people jogging. It’s a reminder that I haven’t worked out in three months and that I’ve been battling Epstein-Barr Virus since mid-April. To put it in perspective, I didn’t go more than three days without exercising from the summer of 2011 through April 2016, nearly five years.

Only twice in those five years did I go more than three or four days without running, both


Shin splints prevented me from running for three weeks. I still worked out twice a day.

due to injury. In 2012, I ran into shin splints. More specifically, I didn’t stop running when I felt a burning sensation in my shins. I could barely walk the next day and didn’t run for nearly three weeks (I fed my exercise addition on the elliptical machine and on free weights).

Last summer, I went a few weeks without running after my only fall since the fitness makeover began in 2010. That fall, due to running in a construction zone at night, produced an ankle sprain and a quarter-sized gash on my knee cap. I survived the running drought with a heavy dose (sometimes twice a day) of weight lifting.

I’ve written about the impact my exercise addiction had on my health, from providing me with an excuse (an extremely poor one) for a bad diet full of soda, cheese and junk food, to feeding a virus that was hiding and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

That opportunity came a few weeks after a glaring warning signal from my body in the form of three days of a sore throat, extreme fatigue and throbbing headache. As soon as I felt mildly better, I went back to working out (with the clearance of a nurse practitioner).

I did back off a routine that included working out twice a day for two to three hours, exercising only once a day for a week. Within two weeks of that warning sign, I was back to old habits, eating poorly and working out far too much. It didn’t matter that I still felt sluggish.

My body finally raised the white flag on the weekend of April 30. On that morning, my stepson and I drove to Coyote Canyon in Topeka to attend a fundraiser for my nephew’s baseball team. I gorged on a breakfast buffet loaded with dairy and meat, figuring I would run later on to “work it off.”

After several hours of researching the Brenda Keller murder case for a graduate school project at the library, the breakfast bonanza still hadn’t settled. I felt terrible when we got home and slept for several hours.

True to form, I woke up early in the evening, put on my running gear and told my wife I was going to run. She said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I know you’re going to do it anyway.”

She was right on both counts. I felt terrible as the run began, struggling to breathe as fatigue gripped my body. I turned toward a stretch of hills thinking I should just stop and call it a day. As always, I pressed on, gutting out several hills until I hit the two-mile mark and stopped to walk for about a quarter mile.

“I’m going to pay for this” kept running through my mind. My stomach hurt. My head was

Mizzou gear

Thumbs-up to working out smartly.

throbbing. My throat was soar. My breathing was shallow. My resolve, however, was not. I started running again, obsessed with hitting four miles (a relatively short run compared to most during the past few years).

After managing to finish, I downed a large glass of cold water, went upstairs and lay on the floor for 30 minutes. All I could think was, “I’m going to pay for this.”

I didn’t feel well the next day. I was tired. I also didn’t like what the scale said after Saturday’s breakfast barrage. That meant one thing: I had to work out. Instead of running, I lifted for more than an hour, finishing, as always, drenched in sweat and even more tired than the previous night.

Those were my last hardcore workouts. I tried to run the next morning, but my body wouldn’t have it. It’d had enough. I spent a few minutes on the elliptical and walked for about a week before a competent doctor confirmed that I had EBV.

Tomorrow marks 100 days since the last time I ran. I haven’t lifted a weight in 99 days. But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Listen to your body … and to your doctor when he tells you it isn’t healthy to work out 15 hours a week.