ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) - This is, of course, the season when a lot of young people are graduating from high school and college. Of all the qualities they'll need for the road ahead, perhaps none will be more important than wisdom.
Fortunately, our 55-and-older viewers have wisdom to share; lessons we can all learn from, really. Some of them were kind enough to put it in writing by sending us letters. This week, NewsChannel 15 is letting you in on some of those in a series called "Life Lessons".
Our first letter writer now lives in Angola and had a direct hand in bringing about the Colts football you enjoy on Sunday afternoons in the fall. But it wouldn't have happened had he not veered off the path of conventional wisdom.
"At age 30, with four young children and enjoying a successful career with a large corporation, I realized my salary treatment was not fair or adequate to support my family," Paul Oakes's letter began.
53 years ago, Oakes quit his job as a salesman with a phone company in central Indiana.
"It was the worst decision I had ever made at the time, in the eyes of the family. I had four children. I was on a rocket ascent to being a vice president at the telephone company, probably... but then I got poor salary treatment and I didn't like it," said Oakes. "And I told all my bosses two or three times that I didn't appreciate getting military salary treatment. So they didn't pay any attention to me and I walked in one day and said 'I quit. I'm going into the insurance business.'"
Oakes said a commission job appealed to him because in a commission job, one gets paid exactly what he or she is worth. Oakes found success, advancing from top salesman to supervisor to recruiter with Connecticut Mutual, working the vast majority of that time in the Indianapolis area.
"When I came to Indianapolis, I realized that Indianapolis was a very dreary city; nothing happening," said Oakes. "Indianoplace. Naptown. And I realized that sports was our way out, so I started promoting a Major League Baseball stadium."
That required giving speeches, appearing on TV, and working connections: all skills he had developed by going into the insurance business. Oakes, a former spring training pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, failed to haul in a big league baseball team for Indy. But he wasn't giving up on big league sports.
"I was the only person that was doing all this stuff. I was on television all the time and people would say 'You're crazy, Oakes. You're a zealot.' But then, I heard that [team owner Bob] Irsay wanted to move the Colts in 1977. And I called him -stone cold, just like a good insurance man- [and asked] 'Would you be interested in bringing the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis?' And he said, 'Yes, I would,"" said Oakes.
In no time, Oakes was on a plane to Baltimore -along with Indy's mayor and a couple other business leaders- to have the first of several conversations that would eventually lead to the Colts' move to Indiana.
"I can't even tell you about it," said Oakes. "It's so dynamic, so dynamite, the fact that they played the Super Bowl there. Indianapolis would not have had the Super Bowl as soon as they did -they might've had it eventually- but they wouldn't have had it nearly as soon as they did since I did all that work. And it's an unbelievable, great feeling to see your city blossom and prosper and go from Naptown and Indianoplace to Super Bowl City. I reveled in all of that."
And it all started with a cold call from a seasoned insurance salesman who wouldn't have even been in the business had he not trusted his gut. And therein lies the main lesson of Paul Oakes' story.
"If you have a decision to make, and you know it's a big one, put everything you have into it. Do your research. Find out what it is, what it's all about," Oakes exhorted. "And then, if you get any kind of a godly nudge -and I'm very serious about that- do it, and let the chips fall where they may."
Oakes closed his letter to NewsChannel 15 this way: "I have a Sagamore of the Wabash award from Governor Otis Bowen, and truly believe my job change was the best decision of my life."
Somehow, in the midst of all that, Oakes also managed to parlay his skills into a very substantive political career. He ran for Congress unsuccessfully in the 1960s and later chaired Richard Lugar's successful U.S. Senate campaigns in 1976 and 1982. And he said none of it would've happened without the support of Mary Lou, his wife of 62 years.
"Life Lessons" continues Tuesday evening on NewsChannel 15 at 6:00 when you'll meet a local woman who says young people need to stop being in love with the idea of love.
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