Here’s a career leap for you: Former Bethel School District junior high art teacher Norm LeMay left his position there after 14 years to go to work in his family’s Waste Management Business. When that company was bought out by Waste Connections in 2009, this refuse manager found a way to use his experience to write a book that now benefits local businesses and their workers, among other readers.
What made you think about taking your professional waste management experience and applying that to real life?
I have always seen the correlation between the role of the garbage man and the process of getting rid of waste as an ongoing issue in people’s lives.
What exactly is “waste”?
To me, waste is defined as stuff that has no value. Keeping that in mind, you have to look at the various parts of life and see what you need to take out to make it better.
What are some of the things you have commonly found to be “waste” in people’s lives?
We all carry a lot of the past and memories of experiences where the weight of that is not productive. We all go through different stages as we go through life, and we have to rethink what makes us up and what we need to just drop or give away. It’s a lot like a person moving from a house to an apartment: what do you need to keep, what do you need to reorganize, and what do you need to get rid of?
You also relate this process to businesses. How can business owners get rid of “waste,” and also reorganize employees who aren’t productive?
Well, first of all, people are never “waste.” Instead, with people, it’s the way that you relate with them, and the context and expectations each party has, which might not be as productive as you would like. That process has to be reworked, or updated.
Your book has some clever chapter titles. Tell us a few of your favorites, and what they mean.
The book starts with “What is Waste,” or defining how important it is to understand the value of things and knowing which types of things are real waste and which things you need to keep. There’s also “The Importance of Emptiness,” which talks about how creating empty spaces in your life by cleaning out the junk can give you more clarity and a better path toward doing what you really want to do. “Your Route Through Life” describes how you can clear the clutter and put everything together in an organized fashion. “Park Your Ego” is about how we often don’t look at life in a realistic way, but instead from a more egocentric framework. When you put your ego aside you can look at things in a more clear way.
How did you meet your partner, Steven Kaufman, who helped write the book and set up the website?
I was on the board of a company called Routeware and he was one of the engineers. We got together and talked about the idea, and then we put together an outline. And, after about 17 revisions, here we are with the book at the publisher.
So where do you go from here: TV interviews, book tour, events?
We have a publicist, so we’re starting to book events where we’ll speak. We’re also working with businesses through some classes that we’ve built, including ones that will facilitate conversations between a business owner and employees, or vice versa, or between family members. Topics like how to be more productive, and to change processes to become more positive, or how to work with generational differences.
What is some advice that you would give someone who wants to write a book based on their professional experience?
I would think that it’s easier to write something nonfiction or historical … But we’re trying to give sound advice, which is one of the most difficult areas to be in. That’s because there are so many ways that anyone can take anything, depending on their way of thinking. But this is just about the process of getting rid of your waste, and taking that to an emotional and intellectual mindframe as far as what stands up as value.