Overcomer Glendon Gordon
Cathy Risden, Lifestyle Writer
Glendon Gordon defines success as achieving that ultimate goal through the challenges that he meets along the way. He measures success in the challenges one has to overcome. Vice-president of Individual Life Operations at the Guardian Life Group, Gordon oversees growth and development of the branch network and customer service and underwriting operations.
An achiever by nature, Gordon overcame many challenges as a boy, some of which he describes as very exciting because of the many life lessons he learnt. His achievements took years to be recognised and were attained through burning midnight lamps to overcome poverty.
From the small village of Parry in Ocho Rios, St Ann, the disciplined, honest, and hard-working businessman described his childhood as being a natural pressure cooker for the future.
As a boy, Gordon regularly climbed fruit trees to feed his family of six when his parents did not know where the next meal was coming from. Refusing to let his circumstances dictate his life, Gordon rose above his immediate obstacles and kept his eyes on the prize. "I grew up under severe discipline. I had to tie goats and cows - those were seen as investments to offset a part of my future educational costs. I did not like it, but it was a part of the natural discipline."
Through his love for marbles, Gordon discovered another way to earn an income to help to pay his school fee. "I had two big Milo tins that were filled with marbles that I had to sell to help with my school fee, and that taught me entrepreneurship," Gordon admitted. He also disclosed that he did not have the luxury of owning a running shoes (spikes) like the other students. While doing athletics in school, he had to run barefooted - not only that, he also had to walk miles to school without shoes.
Although he had a very rough childhood, he was determined to succeed in the race of life, by using every experience as a stepping stone. The master minds behind his success are his parents - who Gordon said instilled in him that although they were poor he had to pay attention to his education and maintain certain standards. "My father was disciplined and strict, to the extent where if I came home
from school and didn't get any homework, I had to find homework. He went as far as asking the teacher, 'How come the boy nuh get nuh homework?' It was very strange yet exciting," he concluded.
"My father was a carpenter, so he used to take me to work during holidays and one day he told me: 'Son, always measure twice and cut once, you may not have the time to cut it again,' I didn't know what he was saying until I started studying about quality management at university. Then I understood, it meant get it right the first time by doing adequate research," he concluded.
Upon enrolling in the University of the West Indies, to do his bachelor of science degree in management studies, Gordon put what Marcus Garvey said at the forefront of his mind: 'If you haven't confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.'
"When I finally decided that I was going to find a job, I remembered that confidence quote. I remember that I had almost 50 résumés and cover letters to drop off at various companies. Starting from GraceKennedy downtown Kingston, through King Street to Cross Roads. I had in mind to be the governor of the Bank of Jamaica, so I stopped at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) in Cross Roads. Although I could not see the lady's face, I was determined that I was going to get a job that day, and so I greeted the woman at the window and told her I needed a job, and she looked at me and asked who am I to be asking her for a job, and I said I need a job. I got the call for an interview two weeks later. I got the job. After a few years, the managing director at the time wrote on my document that I was overconfident, not knowing that it was Marcus Garvey talking," he laughed.
An admirer of influential personalities, Gordon took life lessons from Nelson Mandela as well, who, according to Gordon, never lost sight of his ultimate goal though being behind bars. "Mandela had a larger vision than prison itself, so prison was only a pressure cooker to prepare him for the future," he said passionately.
Challenges then Success
Living by the mantra, 'Anything that happens to you in life is either what you do or what you didn't do, it has nothing to do with anybody else', Gordon did whatever it took to land himself in the right place at the right time. "I remember back in 2002, the company I was working with as a sales manager was going through a transition and everybody was trying to figure out what to do, because their positions were going to be made redundant. There I was trying to figure out if I should move on to another company. Then I got a call saying that I was recommended to be the general manager of the new company which was the Prime Life Insurance Company, and to me that was strange. That was a major achievement for me," he said humbly.
A light bulb moment for Gordon was that under his leadership, last year Guardian Life, for the first time crossed the billion-dollar mark in premium income. "Through the direction and support of my former boss and the team that I currently lead, this said to me that once there is a unified approach to an objective, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving that unified objective. Everyone united around an objective and achieve what was never achieved before," he said excitedly.
On a Personal Note
Despite having to work long hours, Gordon still finds time for his family and for leisure. He particularly likes to read motivational books. Gordon, who used to be a party animal, now appreciates outings to view plays and other types of performing arts with his family, as well as attending church. His joy of remaining physically active was challenged when he had a motorcycle accident in high school. His doctors advised him against playing football or tennis - two sports that he loves.