Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Passion for Stewardship

Book: A Passion for Stewardship: The Legacy of a Generation
Author: Richard A Johanson
Read:November 8, 2015
159 pages
Genre:  History, Fiction, Fiction-History, Biography, Science
Rated: 3  out of 5

This is a quasi auto-biography of Richard Johanson, a local Fresno businessman. He traces his life story as a child of the Central Valley, Then how the military service during World War II helped to development and prepare him for the rest of his life. Johanson talks about how the various virtues instilled in him during his childhood has governed his life. Consequently even when it would have been beneficial to bend those values on occasion, he has resisted. This has provided him a reputation where people have relied on him and his word.

He credits his elementary school time as when he got indoctrinated with the meaning of family values. (23) This is telling about where we need to concentrate on when we want to change the world. Not as adults, but as children we need to understand how to act. closeness of our family and the inherent love and wisdom of my mom and pop gave us wealth.(26) This is a theme he returns to over and over again, such as We had the love and security of our parents and each other. (32)

The Great Depression formed an ethos of self-reliance, before the government help programs came into being. It also taught him a since of frugality. But I had the impression that it was more the Marines which transformed him into a disciplined young man. (41)

Yet, he would go on and get a BA. In looking back he says that characteristic that I and so many others like myself took away from this period of our lives, it was an awareness that relevancy is the key component to education. (72) He really does not elaborate on this, but I am thinking that the relevancy he is talking about may be two-fold. First, the person must have his abilities sharpened by his education. It does no good to educate a person for college if the person does not have an aptitude for studying. Secondly, the skills and knowledge must be appropriate to the world he lives in. It does no good to be teaching how to use an abacus when the company the person works for uses computers.

Principal: Workplace stress should be kept away from home. The home is a place of refuge. (103) This is harder and harder to be able to do, especially as you move up. But the home should be a refuge.

Living a life consistent with your own standards of personal conduct. These standards should be high. (105)

Trucking industry success: balance between freight available and trucks to haul it. (106)

Integrity is not know until you go and test it. It is only a wishfulness if you have not stood the fire.

Everyone should devout a portion of his or her resources to public service. (116) Johanson has and continues to serve on many boards. At one point he was on the Board of Trustees of the school district I worked for. As a man of integrity, he is much sought after.

We are part of a community. It has always been my belief that no one walks alone through this life. (119) We all need help to get our goals accomplished. Conversely, others can tear us down. In reality, can tend to draw those who hold similar values. It is important to choose our companions to have similar values.

The books starts pretty slowly as Johanson talks about his early life. While there is no big earth shaking thoughts which he shares here, you start to get an understanding about how a life gets developed through a series of events rather than a sudden epiphany. As such, this is an important part of the book which I wish Johanson had made more connections with his adult life. As he grows into manhood and experiences World War II, he sees and experiences things which further propels him into the man of the community. He sees how the Chinese Nationalists are poorly governed, given a certain bit of moral weight to the Mao and his communists. He sees how being a man of integrity is important.

As an employee, he realizes that companies make promises which they hope to keep, but a companies integrity can be undermined by trying to having to pursue financial goals, or through mis-management. Consequently, Johanson started his own company with the idea that with his experience, a company could succeed, but as long as it has integrity, respects its customers, and expresses gratitude for the people around it which helps it to succeed. That in essence is the books theme.

At the end of the book, he has twelve principles which he has used, none profound, none going to make you rich quick, but  ones which will help you be content with the life you have lead. These principles is what the author hopes you take away from this book.

Notes from my book group:
From the Fresno Food Exp web page: In 1971 Richard Johanson – a World War II veteran and author of “A Passion for Stewardship” and “Just a Thought” – founded Johanson Transportation Service (JTS) in Fresno, California after managing a local transportation brokerage company for 15 years. Starting with a staff of four employees in a small rented office at a local truck stop, JTS has grown to 86 employees operating from six offices in four states. Johanson ushered in a higher standard of service and ethical principles to the logistics industry, which continues to drive their customer service philosophy today, setting them apart in the logistics industry. In fact, JTS received the 2013 Fresno Better Business Bureau Ethics Award for Marketplace Excellence for their commitment to ethical business practices in operations and for the manner in which they serve their staff and customers. 

But in reading his book, you understand that he is much more than that. His upbringing, family and early adult experiences formed him.  He worked his way up with integrity, through his time at Sun-Maid, California Trucking Exchange and Johansen Transportation Solutions. During his work life and his retirement, he has been a person in the community. He has served in numerous capacities his community, a small sample includes: Fresno Business Council, Fresno Chamber of Commerce, 5 Fresno Unified Bond Campaigns, as well as being on the school board.

His company, Johanson Transportation Services (JTS) statement includes a mission statement of  is to provide Justified Timely Solutions-note the initials-and its core values:
  • Experience
  • Integrity
  • Gratitude
  • Respect
This reflects what his book is about and what I feel like he is trying to convey to us.


Talk a little bit about why you wrote this book. What were you seeking to convey to us, your readers, about stewardship?

After Brokaw wrote about The Greatest Generation, Johanson was asked to give his take on the times and what was the result. This is Johanson's personal response. He was uncomfortable writing this book because it could be too much like he was tooting his own horn.

You have a rich statement about the closeness of our family and the inherent love and wisdom of my mom and pop gave us wealth. Can you talk a bit more about your upbringing, particularly the effects of coming from a close family?

In his upbringing, corporal punishment was not the general tactic. Verbal chastisement was enough.

Way after the book was written, we had the episodes with Ferguson, Mi and several other places. But you talk about the Hawaiian Islands as a place free from bigotry. This seemed to attract loyalty among a population which you would assume had divided loyalty. You credit this experience as a means of leavening peoples conceptions of races. Can you talk more how this experience has influenced you and in what ways it affected your public life back here in Fresno?

Also your time in China showed the impact of a corrupt government. Fresno has had a checked history from back in the days of Mayor Lyons to more current corruption, such as Operation Rezone. This obviously had impact on you in ways such as the  Fresno Business Council. What do you see today as the biggest need in Fresno concerning good governance? Is arrogance, ignorance and intolerance still roots of our local political problems? (85)

Openness and transparency of why decisions are being made.

How can our education system become more relevant to our youth? (72)

Are you still frugal? In what ways? (74)

Can you elaborate on the statement few people are successful unless a lot of others want them to be.? (107)

Throughout the book, you stress the need to maintain high standards of personal conduct. This was the reason for leaving California Trucking Exchange. For the last 26 years you have been "retired".  How do you living out these standards today?

You envision a cooperative model between public service agencies rather than a competitive one. What does it take to make this happen? Will it happen?

Johanson referenced the book Children of the Dustbowl by Jerry Stanley
Failure is part of life

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: We live in rapidly changing, rootless times with a backdrop of anxiety and even dread about the future.
  • Last Line: May we always recognize that our earthly and spiritual needs are inseparable.
  •  Happiness lies in the reflections of simple things. (23)
  • Be sure you are really ready to get to work - don't accept tasks which you are not prepared to handle. (69)
  • ... there is no more important facet of community stewardship than being a good steward to those one hold most dear. (84)
  • Is there a greater happiness than the joy of being genuinely thankful? (110)
Table of Contents:
  • Chapter I - 1925 to 1942
  • Chapter II -World War II 1942 to 1946
  • Chapter III -1946 To 1971
  • Chapter IV -Birthing a Business
  • Chapter V -Sharing Values
  • Chapter VI -Passing the Torch
  • Epilogue


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