I was in my mid-20s and I had recently arrived from Korea to the United States. I benefited from the discipline, hard work, and self-sufficiency that characterized my upbringing. I had limited English skills, but I had a work ethic that made up for any language shortcomings. While at the auto parts store, I had essentially memorized the business’s entire inventory through trial and error and drill and kill.
Before I was hired, the store had a lousy inventory system that left sales staff unsure whether certain items were in stock. As a result, many customers left empty handed and buying parts from our competitors.
But after spending hours researching our store’s inventory, I became a resource for the sales staff. Over time, I became the sales team’s go-to person. They thanked me, and they even bought me lunches—they were thrilled to be selling more products than ever.
Meanwhile, I continued to arrive at the auto parts store long after it had closed. I continued memorizing the products that arrived, what we had sold, and what we needed. Keeping track of inventory was an endless process. In fact, the better the store did, the more inventory I’d have to oversee. The long hours began wearing on me. At the same time, the store’s staff grew to depend on me and I felt obligated to meet their expectations.
The combination of hard work, dedication, and improving the store’s inventory system motivated my boss to give me more and more responsibility. Over time, the storeowner promoted me. I eventually became the store manager.
Koraji: Recognizing My Weaknesses and the Importance of Teamwork
When I think of the experience, I feel proud. In fact, throughout my life no matter what kind of job I had—whether I loved it or not—I always did my best and never slacked off. At the time my boss promoted me to store manager, I was thrilled with the news and realized that my hard work had paid off.
But when I look back, I also see many shortcomings that I neglected to address. Neither my coworkers nor I had shed light on my koraji, which is a lack of understanding and awareness of one’s weaknesses. Now, I’m able to clearly see my koraji.
For instance, was it the best use of my time to spend countless hours at the store both in my entry-level position and as a manager? The business had a full team of professionals; we could have worked together to improve the inventory problem. And we would have done this much faster than I did by working alone.
In fact, teamwork is key to the success of my business today. If I had leveraged teamwork then, I would have saved myself late nights in the stock room, we would have become more productive and efficient faster, and the entire team would have benefitted by learning the best way to keep track of inventory—rather than relying on one person.
My autoparts experience is one of many stories I have that point out my strengths and weaknesses. I recall them to add greater self-awareness to my life and to learn from my mistakes. They remind me of where I started, and what steps I’ve taken to arrive where I am today. My stories also help others understand me: What motivates and inspires me, when I’ve failed and succeeded, and how my past actions inform my present life.
Reflect on your life. When you share your personal stories with others, what do they say about your character, who you are, your struggles, and your triumphs? Do you have experiences that can inform others about where you came from or ones that reveal where you are now? If you don’t, consider what experiences you have that can reveal yourself to others; ones that will help people understand you better. Truly knowing yourself is key to creating lasting change in you as well as those closest to you.