I started chanting during my senior year at college. My first job out of college was at a large computer company, call Digital Equipment Corporation. I was young and inexperienced, but I was working on some exciting stuff in artificial intelligence. I was determined to showcase this work in any way I could, because I thought it would be very useful to the company's customers. So I decided that the best way to showcase what we were doing was to do a demonstration of our work at the upcoming company trade show, which was called DecWorld. DecWorld was a large affair, hundreds of thousands of people traveling from around the world to Boston to see the latest and greatest computer hardware and software.
So I chanted about doing a demo at
DecWorld, and then I asked some of the folks in my workgroup about putting
the work into a demo. They laughed. DecWorld had been in the planning stages
for two years, and all the demo slots had been taken a year before the
show. (It was only a few weeks from the show at this point.)
The next week, as I was chanting, I had an idea. There was a person at the company who was involved with DecWorld trade show. He was the person there who taught me. I called him up, and told him about my idea for a demo. He laughed too. He talked about all the politics involved in getting demos placed in the show, and all the months of planning that went into it. He said that there was just no way.
I figured that was that. But Dan called me, and when I told him the situation, he said, "Hey, there's no way you can give up now!" So I kept chanting about it. As I was chanting, I thought about this teacher and some of the things he taught us in management training. One of the things he said that always stuck with me was "Even though Digital is such a big company, you can always get support for doing the right things."
I called this teacher up, and talked to him about how much I believed in that. He was put off balance. He danced around the topic a little bit, but then he finally said, "Look, if you can get your whole demo plan together within two days, I'll consider giving you a slot. You'll need to get all your own software and hardware, you need scripts, marketing literature, and staffing for an entire month. Send me everything; then, we can talk. I said, "OK."
But I didn't realize what I was getting into. The software that we were using was experimental (and very tempermental), so it would only run properly if the machines were tuned very carefully. All of the machines that were being used at the show were brand new top-of-the-line, which I didn't have access to, and I didn't even know if the software would run on the next generation of machines. I had never planned a demo, or written marketing material or a script in my life. And getting staffing for a whole month would mean taking about ten people away from their jobs for a month, something that would require their managers to approve. Also, since the show was happening in July, many of them would have to forego their vacations.
Fortunately, that conversation took place on a Thursday, so I was able to chant a whole lot over the weekend. I talked again to Dan, and he said, "Great!" as if the whole experience was complete. I was frantic! And I was absolutely sure that this was way beyond me. I was way out of my league.
But I continued to chant about it over the weekend, and started putting together some documents... whatever I could think of to write down. And I chanted every free moment I had.
The software turned out to be a big issue. The way that it ran was not compatible with the new generation of machines, and would take weeks of specialized expertise to tune them — and we didn't have the time or the expertise. I was talking on the phone with someone about the changes we needed to make in the software, and how difficult it would be. Just then, a head popped up in the cubicle next to mine. It was a new guy who was starting his first day of work in our group. He said, "I can do that." He volunteered to do all the work needed to update the software. Wow! I was amazed.
It was Monday, and I didn't have any staff yet. I literally went from one cubicle to the next, asking people to volunteer. There were many conversations and details, but within about an hour, I was stunned to find I had filled every slot. It would require me to work ten hour days for several weeks, but as long as I did that, the staff plan would work.
So I called my friend the teacher, and I said, "I'm all set." He was surprised, and a little perturbed, I think. He had expected me to "see reason" and give up. But he was a man of his word. So I sent him the crude script and marketing materials I had created, and my staffing plan with all the names. He asked whether I had all the hardware and software I needed, and I said that the software would be ready, but I needed some help with the hardware. He gave me some names of some people to check with.
I couldn't believe how fast this was all happened, and I was just about to celebrate victory. But no matter who I called, I couldn't find the machine I needed. The particular model was brand new, and also rare. All of these machines that were manufactured had already been earmarked for the show, and they were already used up.
I was completely depressed. To come so far, and to hit a dead end. Once again, my friend Dan called, and again, he refused to let me give up. I was SO ready to throw in the towel, but he just kept quoting the Gosho and President Ikeda's guidance about not giving up. So I chanted that whole week like my life depended on it — a lot of daimoku. And I tried to follow up on any lead I could think of to get the machine I needed.
But nothing. Nada. Nobody had it; nothing was budging. This machine just didn't exist for me. The show was now only a few days away, and the huge conference center in Boston was already being prepared for the event. So after chanting more about it, I decided to visit the floor of the trade show as it was being built.
I did a vigorous gongyo, and set off for Boston early the next morning. I put on my best sport coat and tie (even though they didn't fit very well), and headed in to the World Trade Center. Carrying my new briefcase (which my parents had gotten me the previous Christmas, but which I hadn't ever used), I trudged on to the floor of the show.
Well, it was more like a construction site. There were sheets covering everything, ladders and lifts with people hanging lights. I found the place on the floor where our demo would take place. And sure enough, it was the only horizontal surface of that floor that DIDN'T have a computer on it. Somewhere in my mind I had hoped that there would be a mistake and someone would just drop one there. Well, it didn't happen.
Now I was desperate. I was chanting to myself. One of the workers walked by, and I went up and started talking to him about the demo and how I needed a computer. This person was very fastidious, and immediately pulled out a bunch of blueprints and notes. After consulting them, he said, "Nope, there's not supposed to be a computer there. And it doesn't matter anyway... if you don't have your computers set up by now, that's it. We don't have any more left."
I almost fell over with disappointment. I felt silly in my dress-up clothes, in the middle of a scene of blue jeans and T-shirts and hardhats. I was sure that I had just overstepped my boundaries... I was a naive kid who didn't know how things worked. I was crushed.
I headed up to the cafeteria, and got myself a coffee. I couldn't believe that this was the end. As I was sitting there nursing my coffee, and chanting to myself, my ears kept ringing with some of the quotes that Dan had read to me. So I said, "what the heck," I'll do daimoku sansho, and head back down to the floor ONE MORE TIME. If I didn't find the machine, well, that was the end.
As I got back to my empty table, I spotted another workman. I told him the same story about my need for a machine, and he repeated the same line about the machines being all taken. But then he said, "Let me take a look around." I sat down at my table and chanted to myself. This was the crucial moment.
And sure enough, the guy came back carrying a machine... just exactly the model I needed. He said, "It's the strangest thing. I just went around the corner, and those folks over there had just decided to cancel one of their demos. They were just turning this machine off as I walked by."
So I had my demonstration at DecWorld. Turns out it was the most popular demo in our demo area, and one of the most popular at the show that year. By the end of the show, they had not only moved it to a more prominent space... they had turned off two of the other demos in order to have more computers to show mine. The people staffing the demo had a great time and worked really hard. I spoke to hundreds of customers and salespeople, and after the show was over, I kept getting calls to do demonstrations, which led to consulting projects. These consulting projects grew larger, and I moved into the company's consulting organization, and then on to a separate consulting company. I had moved into a whole different area of work, and developed new strengths, and found new work that I really loved to do.
I look back at this one experience as a complete turning point in my career. It totally changed my direction, and made everything I did later possible. (Later on I started my own company and became a CEO, but that's another story...)
But more important than that, through
this experience I learned to have confidence in the Gohonzon... that nothing
is impossible, and to NEVER give up.