Working as a Kid
Horses are Great Listeners.
I’d go with my grandpa at the crack of dawn and help feed the cows and chickens and then he’d give me a few tasks to do on my own like cleaning out stalls and brushing horses. I was a little guy and had to use the fence rails to climb up high enough to brush their backs, manes, necks and haunches, but they loved it and were gentle. Well as gentle as a half-ton animal can be. While I brushed them I’d talk to them about what was troubling me, or what great ideas I had. I’d talk to them about books and about how terrible my little sister was. They listened without judgment and without telling me what to do. What I learned from those days in the stockyards is that sometimes you just need to talk things out and you’ll figure out what to do without outside intervention. The other thing I learned is that sometimes people come to you with problems or ideas and they just need you to listen. You don’t have to take it over or provide a solution, sometimes listening is enough.
Physical Labor Makes you Feel Better.
My grandpa baled the hay. That was his job and he never let anyone else do it. He was very particular about how the grass farming was done because his cattle and horses needed fresh, dry feed all winter long. But when it came time to haul it and put it away, it was all hands on deck. My cousins and uncles would come out and we’d stack bales twelve feet high on the trailer, take them to the loft and load them up until there was no more room. It was exhausting and dirty and sweaty and everyone was sore and tired at the end of it. Then we’d sit down for a late dinner and the whole crew was happy. You know it was hard work and you know you’ll feel it for days, but finishing a day of that was exhilarating. To this day if I’m feeling bad, I’ll go do something physical, like chopping wood, clearing brush, working in my shop, or doing a big project and I’ll feel better. It doesn’t fix everything, but it sure helps.
How to Meet a Deadline.
I delivered newspapers. I found out how early my customers wanted to go outside and pick that paper up from their steps. Want to know how I found that out? By being late a couple of times. I quickly figured out that if I was late, I’d have to hear about it and those are conversations a teenager never wants to have with a grown up. I stopped being late. I also delivered these flyers for an Air Force Base we lived on when I was fourteen years old. I’d get a stack of them on the last day of the month and they had to all be delivered within two days. I missed that deadline once and I didn’t get paid. Not there by the 2nd, no money. I made that mistake one time. That’s all it took, after that I was dependable. To this day deadlines are very important to me and I’ll move the earth rather than miss a deadline.
Don’t Judge a Person’s Worth by Their Outward Appearance.
My dad tried his hand at business when he left the military and for a few years he had a radio/television shop. I was a teenager and I was impressed with fancy clothes, expensive cars, nice watches, and jewelry. If someone had money, they showed it. If they were dirty or their clothes were old, out of date, or torn, they were poor and deserved to be mocked. Me, teenager, cruel and stupid.
One day, Jacob walked into the store and wandered around. He smelled bad and he was tracking mud on the carpet. His boots were worn down to almost bare and his overalls were stained and hanging by one shoulder. This guy was probably homeless, I thought. I tried to shuffle him out of the store but he wanted to look at the pretty televisions and all the gadgets. I wasn’t patient or even very kind.
Finally he turned to me and said, “Son, I know you want me to leave, but I told my wife I’d get her a new television, so you get the nicest one you have and take two of those up to the house. Also put a couple of those videotape machines in the order and a stereo system. Have it all hooked up by the time she gets back from her trip this weekend.” Then he reached his weathered hand into his pocket and pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills thicker than a baseball.
Turns out Jacob was one of the wealthiest people in Idaho with thousands of acres of pasture and flocks of sheep tended to by dozens of shepherds. He spent so much of his time in the hills that people in town rarely saw him, but his wife had decided to move into a place in town and what a place it was: a brick mansion with pools and terraces and a master bedroom suite larger than any house I had been in up to that time in my life.
Throughout my life I’ve found that fancy looks and sharp clothes mean very little when it comes to wealth and character. Good to have learned that so young.
Don’t Fall for Sales Gimmicks.
I sold vacuum cleaners. We’d get leads and make appointments and go out to someone’s home and try to convince them that Rainbow Vacuums clean better than any other because it uses water. It doesn’t, by the way. One of the tricks was to put a piece of white linen in line with the hose and vacuum an area right after using their existing machine on that same area. The linen would come out brown with dust and dirt. Guess what? It works the same way no matter what vacuum you use. Go over a spot with your vacuum and then put linen in line and go over it again, Viola, dirt and dust. It’s a trick, a gimmick. Whenever a salesman says, “let me show you,” they are going to do something they’ve rehearsed to impress you in ways that you shouldn’t be impressed by. Knives, juicers, lint rollers, and a thousand other things sold in homes and booths across the country. Never as good as they seem and no better than carnival barkers on the midway. There’s always a gimmick.
Believe the salesman who doesn’t have to sell, because the product or service speaks for itself.
I had more jobs and learned more lessons, but those are some I learned as a kid that have stuck with me all these years. What kinds of jobs did you have and what did you learn?
I’m here if you have questions.