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Opinion

Burb’s Eye View: An author follows her father’s philosophy

If there was ever a Parking Space Whisperer, you could pin that title on Kaaron Williams of Burbank.

Williams’ unusual superpower helps her find a parking space whenever she needs one. Her friends and family request rides with her for that very reason — and once while riding with her husband, Randall, the couple held hands to amplify her power. Two cars backed up at the same time, offering her a choice of spaces.

At the heart of this power is a personal and professional philosophy handed down by her father. It has helped Williams change lives (including her own), and is the subject of her first book, “A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That: The Bruce O’Neal Way of Doing Business,” published this year.

O’Neal, Williams’ father, owned a furniture store in Santa Barbara where he was well-known throughout the community. After he retired at age 58, O’Neal found himself having to reinvent his whole lifestyle, but his business philosophies helped him stay active and lead an active later chapter in his life.

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The key was reinvention — stating a goal and working toward it, knowing full well that the path is going to change along the way. He was a model of focus, emulated by his employees and his family.

That focus can be applied everywhere, and Williams’ book explores how anyone can approach reinventing themselves after a significant event like a layoff, a retirement, or just the realization that a career change is imminent.

“Maybe you start small with a parking space,” Williams said. “If you really want it and focus on it in a positive way, there’s a better chance of it happening.…It may have been there all along, but it doesn’t come to light until you focus on it.”

When O’Neal died in 2010 at age 89, his daughter started remembering all the business and life lessons she heard from him. The following year she began writing them down, and 25 pages in she knew she had a book.

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“A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That” is part practical philosophy and part tribute to O’Neal, who helped his employees with their medical bills out of his own pocket and made sure his younger employees went to college. His own family doesn’t know the extent of his philanthropic work; they learned of much of it after his death.

“The little things you do along the way, you don’t know how you’ve helped people in their lives,” Williams said. “They may hold you in high esteem and you don’t even know.”

Williams seeks to help people burst from the comfortable bubbles of their lives. She’s made herself an example: With the release of her book, Williams is beginning some public speaking engagements to get her message of focus and goal-setting to the masses.

Her father’s influence bolstered Williams’ personal mission to help people get what they want out of life. She applies this mission to her career as a financial manager and boss who must invest money, yes, but before that she must invest in people.

In that, there’s still work to be done. I’ll bet O’Neal is helping her stay focused.

“Maybe [with this book] I’ll fill a piece of his shoes. Maybe help a fraction of the people he helped,” she said.

BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not hunting for a parking space, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.


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