‘Suits’ Never Suited Me

  • Suits seek seats and office, positions, titles, perks, privileges
  • Suits keep top talent in kitchens and sweat shops
  • Suits forego fellowship and kinship for what they call “leadership”
  • Suits often seek first success and wealth, even at the expense of others
  • Suits keep up appearances at all costs: it’s the PR way or highway
  • Suits form clubs, cliques, fraternities, sororities to be with other suits
  • Suits undermine talent in secret meetings, deals and developments
  • Suits embrace lawyers and CPAs and other professional advisors to do deals
  • Suits weasel their way into elite universities and societies to gain key credentials
  • Suits never have your back when you have challenges and face trouble
  • Suits are “company men” and career officers first and last
  • Suits spend most of their time in meetings and home offices
  • Suits are subsidized, well salaried, with special incentives and bonuses
  • Suits start to sound and “smell” like the organizations they represent

And now a Rather Long Backstory

I suspect that I was “scripted” early to be leery of “men in suits” and of “large and spacious buildings” filled with people who aspire to “be somebody” in the world or church.

Born in March 1947, I arrived on planet earth during the early years of the “baby boom” following World War II—and my mother Ruth was doing her part, having already given birth to two older brothers, Bruce and Ron. And three years after my birth, mom delivered a baby girl, my sister Ellen. Just before her arrival, my parents finished two bedrooms in the basement and added a family room to our small home in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City, Utah.

My father, Fletcher, worked as a traveling salesman of restaurant equipment (he called himself a “pot and pan peddler”), and at the time he smoked cigarettes, drank beer, and rarely went to church, at least until he was made an “Elder” in 1950 and our family “sealed” in the Salt Lake temple (one of my earliest memories at age 3 ½).  Still, he continued to smoke and drink, undercover, but he did go to church on occasion to appease my mother and her parents.

My best friends in the neighborhood, Mike and Chris, were not Mormons; so I had to part ways with them on Sunday in order to go to the Mormon primary. When I started going to grade school, I became more aware of the socialization role of teachers and administrators. By the time I was six, my older brothers were already starting to rebel against social norms.

From age four to seven, I would go with mom into downtown Salt Lake City to visit a doctor who worked on my feet. I remember disliking the feeling of being in big buildings with a man who wore a white coat and seemed to have authority over others. I started to have similar feelings at church and school, especially when visited by administrators (principals or priests).

When our family moved to Provo, Utah in October 1955, shortly after I was baptized into the LDS Church, we occupied a white-stucco, California-style home built by my grandfather, a dentist, at 706 North University Avenue. Many stately homes were built along University Avenue during previous decades by prominent members of the community (suits), but by 1956 only older BYU professors and professionals still lived in the original homes. Although we lived among them, my family (especially my father and older brothers) were considered misfits and outcasts.  My best friends, Manuel and Franco, were sons of a poor Mexican single mother who rented a basement apartment across the street. I was seen as one of them. At both church and school, I felt ignored in overcrowded classes and identified with my brothers and friends.

Our family was an aberration—we just didn’t fit in. Nor did the house fit our family: only three small bedrooms, no back yard, situated on busy street.  As a student in Provo public schools, I excelled at recess (grade school marble champion for three years).  I gained identity in junior high by working out after school every afternoon for two hours, leading to all-around athlete in high school and team captain of three sports.

Once after a hard-fought football game with a team from a rival school on a Thursday night, I attended an early Friday morning meeting of the Student Council. When I entered the room, my “well suited” classmates were grumbling that although we had won the game, we didn’t win by enough points to boast. I turned around and walked out, never to return to suits.

Upon graduating from Provo High School, we moved off University Avenue to a ward and home in Edgemont.  I attended two years at BYU, but because of my work on weekends with the worst retarded men at the State Training School I rarely attended church. My bishops hardly knew me. Moreover, because of my move into a new ward at age 18, I was considered the last and least of 16 Priests trying to get out on missions to avoid the Vietnam War.

During the summer of 1966, I worked in Zion National Park. When I told my young boss (a new suit) in mid-August that I was leaving to attend my cousin’s missionary farewell in Provo and that I wouldn’t return unless I could get one of the open waiter jobs, he let me go, even though he acknowledged that I was his best worker. I realized then how stupid suits can be.

At age 20, I was about to be drafted, so I decided to enlist and become an Army Ranger. I was so fed up with the suits who had been my professors, church “leaders” and other alleged role models that I was willing to risk being killed in action.

The Sunday before I was to fill out the papers, I told my bishop about my decision. He looked me in the eyes and said, “God wants you to serve a mission, and to get a call you will need to leave this city and perhaps this state.” I left the next day for Canada, but first stopped in Missoula, Montana to visit my oldest brother, Bruce.  He told me of a possible job, and I ended up driving delivery trucks for four months to earn and save money for a mission.

I left for Argentina on December 21, 1967, three months shy of my 21st birthday. On day one, I detected the big difference between office and field leaders and told my president that I never wanted to return to Buenos Aires or the Mission Home. So he sent me to a small farming town 300 miles away to tend a “problem Elder” who was dating a member. After 12 weeks of putting up with this loser, I attended my first zone conference. As I stood to get off the small bus, the nursing baby of the women in front of me threw up on me.  Later that day, I met with the suit, President Gordon Hinckley, who lectured me on hygiene and criticized my short talk.

As I matured in the mission, I served twice as a branch president and opened four cities, far from the mission home. I didn’t want to associate with missionaries who loved meetings and the mission home.

Upon my return, I changed majors—from pre-dental to English and journalism.  During the summer of 1970, working with local missionaries, I baptized nine people in Yellowstone National Park (no suits around). I taught Spanish to missionaries for two years at the LTM and married in 1971. After graduating in 1972, I took a job teaching English and journalism at Provo High School.  I was fired in 1974 for “incompetence” by “suits,” my principal and ex-bishop, even though both years my student editors were recognized as the best in the nation.

That fall I returned to BYU to start a master’s degree and launch a weekly publication, Monday Magazine.  After I finished my course work and a thesis, my suit professors kicked me out of the program and kept the award that I had won—national student editor of the year.

In August 1975, with wife and baby in tow, I moved to San Diego to work as a marketing communications specialist with General Dynamics aerospace on the nation’s top defense priority: the Tomahawk cruise missile. Although I was instrumental in winning over $1 billion in contracts, I wasn’t making enough money to live at the poverty or welfare level at a time of high inflation and high interest rates. My suit bosses coveted my talent but didn’t reward me. In the Church I was seen as a rising star, made Elder’s Quorum president and Bishopric counselor, but I saw no future in church administration. Still, in 1979 I was recruited back to BYU to work as assistant director of public communications and editor of the university magazine, BYU Today.

Almost from day one at BYU, my boss suits expressed their dislike for me and disdain for my work, which won me National University Editor of the Year. When they fired me in May 1983, I was forced to start my own firm.  My first client was Covey & Associates, and my first orders of business were to write 7 Habits and launch Executive Excellence magazine.

I added millions of dollars of revenue to Covey, but was exiled by his jealous and zealous managers and cheated out of $3 million in royalties by his legal suits. To avoid a law suit, the president of Covey’s firm asked me to serve with him at a MTC Spanish language branch. There I launched a popular leadership development course but was let go by administrative suits.

Since 1992, my Church callings in my Edgemont ward and stake have been custodial in nature. In 1998 I was asked to serve a self-funded Public Affairs mission to Spain but was told at the last minute that I was not approved by another big suit, Elder Uchdorf.

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