Excellence Personified

January 31st, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new February episode of Career Changers TV starts airing Sat., Feb. 1 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (channels 12 or high def 1012). For Valentines Day, we've got features on Watanabe Floral, what's new at Waimea Valley, plus a segment on tattoo removals for those who want to get rid of inked reminders of love gone bad!

People who read my blog know I like to gripe. But I do so in the naive hope that if enough people complain about stuff that should be fixed or improved, positive things can come out of it. And I'll tell you who gets it -- Mayor Kirk Caldwell. I had a chance to interview him for my Career Changers TV show while we were shooting at the Job Quest Job Fair on Wednesday. (BTW,  came across a couple of really interesting news stories that will be on the March show!)

I've been impressed so far with the job he's done, and he comes across as a likeable politician on TV. Which always makes me suspicious. It's one thing to perform well on camera or say all the right things at photo opps. Yet not every politician or government official has that ability to connect with constituents one-on-one during brief encounters. The first thing the Mayor did was study my business card before he began answering my questions. He tailored his responses to the theme of careers, even working in how he went from law to public service and why he feels being Mayor is the "greatest job in the world."

When I asked how he felt about criticism, he didn't hesitate in his answer. He says the second you begin to push back against negative criticism, you lose the battle because the focus should be on listening to the complaints and doing what you can to address those problems. Of course, you can't satisfy everyone and solve every problem overnight. But he seems genuine in his passion for the work he's doing. Kirk also showed real verbal ju jitsu skills in deflecting my question about his bigger career goals, i.e., whether he intended to run for higher office in the future... say, Governor?

He smiled and said, his only concern right now is being the Mayor and living "in the moment," which he feels is good career advice in general. And he's right. Too often we get caught up looking down the road or thinking ahead instead of doing the best job we can today at this very minute. I was thinking about that last night at the UH men's basketball game against Long Beach State. After coming off two impressive road wins, fans were stoked and getting caught up in scenarios of the 'Bows running the table at home to put them on top of the conference. Problem was they didn't take care of business on the defensive end of the game last night. I also thought the coaches were reluctant to put in other players who might have brought in that attitude they were lacking to make stops and show more hustle on defense.

Sometimes teams -- in business, government, sports -- rely too much on their "star" players, and forget that people in supporting roles can spell the difference between excellence and mediocrity. I was reminded of that again this past weekend. My wife, Isabel, and I had tickets to see Keali'i Reichel perform with the Hawaii Pops Orchestra last Saturday night -- a nice treat from their Executive Director, Donna Bebber, because we ran a segment about Matt Catingub and Hawaii Pops in November  (click here for that video). We had a pre-show dinner at Kincaid's, which smartly lured us back after we dined there during the holidays by giving us a $20 gift card -- no minimum amount, no special hour restrictions. The food has always been good-to-excellent on past visits, and our server was friendly, professional and not pushy or too intrusive.

Unfortunately, when my wife cut into her opakapaka it was undercooked. Everything else on the plate was good, so when she pointed out the underdone fish to the server, he quickly rectified the situation. Since the rest of her food was fine, he simply transferred the opakapaka to another plate and had the cook fix it. Then after dinner he offered us a free desert as compensation for the problem, and again apologized for the kitchen's mistake. It may seem like a small thing, but in other restaurants we've been to, the server would have just grabbed the entire plate and left my wife sitting there twiddling her thumbs while I continued to eat.

Anyhow, when we got to the convention center for the concert, we were listening to the UH basketball game on the radio. They were playing at UC Irvine and had made a terrific comeback to put them in overtime against a team that features a giant center who stands 7 feet 6 inches tall. Most UH fans didn't get to see it though because it was only available on a special Oceanic cable sports package (which we get and recorded to watch later). However, as we entered the convention center parking garage, we lost radio reception. I hurried towards the center interior holding up my iPhone to see if I could get a wireless connection -- and who do I see trying to do the same thing? Jeff Portnoy, the UH basketball radio commentator for home games!

Jeff's significant other was able to get a connection and told us the Bows had won. So my wife and I were very happy going into the Keali'i concert. Later, when we watched the replay on TV, I saw how the UH bench contributed to that victory with timely defensive plays and strategic fouling of the Irving giant center (who bricked his foul shots). That is what it takes to be an excellent team -- you need role players who are ready to do the small things when the starters falter.

As for the Hawaii Pops concert, my wife said it was maybe the best birthday gift I've ever given her. Keali'i was wonderful. Funny, self-effacing, humble, and of course, there's that beautiful voice... and the beautiful spirit he seems to emanate on stage. What made it even more wonderful though was the subtle backing of the orchestra instruments. They were never overbearing or distracting. They played their supporting roles perfectly, as did the musicians and hula performers that make up Keali'i's performing troupe. You had the feeling that each and every one of them was totally focused on their respective role as part of the whole experience.

It was excellence personified that night, from the dinner at Kincaid's, to the Bows' win at Irving, to the Hawaii Pops concert. Who says I only gripe about things?

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To see more examples of excellence at work, check out the new Career Changers TV show! For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out video segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which is now getting over 15,000 views per month. For advertising rates and info, email me at richfigel@gmail.com.

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