Long Read: The General
The General could only be described as spry. I encountered him in his late seventies, active as ever. He didn’t look it. He was a general in the Air Force and many wondered about his military experience. By his age, he would have weathered Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, perhaps the first war in Iraq.
We met in an old high-rise downtown. He had a little office filled with lots of interesting things; model airplanes, war figurines and the like. I assume he was a pilot since he attained his rank in the Air Force. There were sets of wings pinned to velvet. Also there were professionally framed photographs of military planes.
General Ed McFarland moved quickly. He had a natural anxiety which kept him and everyone else moving. It was contagious and a little intimidating at the same time. One wants to accomplish more around men like the General. You could tell he made his bed every morning and woke the roosters up.
The Mid-Continent Tower was built in another era. It is adorned with art deco tones, oxidized copper, and marble. It is opulent. The offices are lined with wood panels. The brass doorknobs from the 1910’s are polished bright by thousands of sweaty hands. The rest of the brass has gone darker. The walls tell stories of back room deals filled with cigar smoke and malt whiskey. Built by oil barons, the building is a modern feat.
I encountered the General after the building owners retrofitted the tower with a fitness center. They put in a racquetball court spanning two floors. On the upper floor was a thick glass window where you could peer down and watch opponents chase that blue ball across the gym floor, sweating and banging themselves against the white walls.
The elderly General made self-discipline an art form. He was his own man; quirky and quick. On Wednesday’s at lunch one could catch him doing aerobics and yoga with the ladies on the racquet ball court. Seeing his gray haired legs stretch to the sky next to a thirty something Jane Fonda look-a-like was a sight. I would drop by just hoping to see the novelty of it all. Other days you would find him with a racquet demoralizing some thirty-year-old man. He had a warrior’s heart and loved the competition.
His small frame and wink told me that he liked to keep folks guessing. Also a sharp dresser, everything was ironed and tailored. I got to sit in his office once and chat. I was in my late twenties and my curiosity was more powerful than the intimidation he carried.
For an hour or so he talked of various planes he flew. How he was a friend to a local billionaire and how he disciplined himself. I observed how much energy he had as he shared a few pointers about exercise and eating right. And, now ten years later, I cannot recollect much about the conversation save this one thing. His presence intrigued me so I took a risk. I asked a simple question that everyone wondered but no one could put their finger on. “General, what do you do?”
He leaned in, both eyes narrowing and alive with life. He said,
“Imagine if you had something you would like to sell, however, you don’t want others to know you wish to sell. Perhaps a large home or a skyscraper. Who do you go to? What if by letting others know that you are selling, said value of the item would actually decrease?
I am that guy.
Take the Mid-Continent Tower as an example. A gentlemen came to me needing to sell and I simply joined him with someone who needed to buy. I made myself a little money in the process and got this nice little office for life.“
I learned something very important from the General. Holding a confidence and living a disciplined life are are highly rewarded character qualities. The reward for the General’s habits was trust and confidence. He did very little selling. He was simply himself. He sat in places of influence. Here is another lesson from the General. He knew who he was. He carried leadership and was humble. The Jane Fonda workouts proved it.
He invested a few moments in my life. Perhaps I can do something with it.