Terrance Puryear

Excerpt from Autobiographical Essay

After reading the Douglass narrative, I developed a curiosity to look for deeper meaning in a text. I became a fan of text interpretation. I would asked myself the questions that every literature teacher asked their pupils; “what is it that the author is saying here?” I became fascinated with how books, essays, articles, even political cartoons reflected and interpreted the world around them. To a fault, I believe that success in life is interconnected to reading. I firmly believe it is not all in who you know, rather it’s in what you read. Even more so, how you read and how you interpret. Being in corporate America, I have had the opportunity to speak to the self-proclaimed great thinkers of industry.

I can remember having the opportunity to speak to a VP of a well-known telecommunications company out of Philadelphia. I was in a round table discussion of about forty people and was given the opportunity to ask this well-known leader one question during a Q&A. I can recall one person asking, “What are your thoughts on our presence in the stock market and do you perceive real earning potential in the next fiscal quarter?” Another asked, “We have seen the cost of healthcare go up constantly, no additional investment in retirement plans, and other companies offering great incentives with better reputations amongst consumers. What are you plans to remaining competitive and retaining employees to handle the demand of our customers while keeping them invested?” The VP would give the best answer they could and people would write things down as the VP spoke. When it was my turn, I asked a question that caused the room to fall silent. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you read?” I asked. The VP took pause then asked me to repeat my question, as if there was some auditory distraction that prevented me from being heard clearly. “What do you read?” I repeated. With a smile, the VP responded, “I read a lot of things by Stephen Covey, The New York Times, and I am currently reading The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Can I ask you what you are reading right now?” Flattered that the VP would even show interest, I said “Myles Monroe’s book on leadership and I love reading the funny pages every night before I watch Jimmy Fallon.” The VP laughed, and then with unbridled curiosity to the nature of my question, the VP asked me, “Why do you ask what I am reading?” “Because it gives me insight into how you process. If I know what you read, I have insight into how you process, and if I know how you process, I think like you think,” I answered. Ironically, I was the last person to ask a question for this session, but the VP detained me after the meeting, which was a big deal. They told me that they had never been asked a question like that before in a setting like that one. To say the least, the VP was very impressed and refreshed by someone who really wanted to truly leverage their wisdom and get to know them and the true direction for the company. Upon returning to the office, my boss told me that he had heard all the rumors about “the new kid from Michigan” that got the VP to ask a question (instead of the other way around) and impressed the VP. After that moment, and to this day, once a month, my boss asks the people on his team, “What are you reading this month?”