Contractor Tip of the Month
It took some time for me to believe that. And I have a theory as to why it took so long. Many of us choose (subconsciously) not to have the nicer things in life, and it stems from one sentence we hear over and over again as we grow up. “I wouldn’t want to be like that!”
In 1974, at 9 years old, I began working summers and nights on a produce farm. It was steady, fun work, for 75 cents an hour. I couldn’t wait for the boss to call to say he needed me the next day. Especially when I knew that, if I never got called, I’d still have to work on my family’s farm without pay anyway!
I remember dad driving me to work. He’d often repeat advice: “Son, if you want to keep your job, you have to work just as hard when the boss isn’t watching as you do when he is right there next to you.”
My older brother told me that the people driving by the farm were watching us work the fields that were right along a busy road. He’d say “We better show them we’re good workers, they may want to hire us someday.” With the sound of the passing cars and the thought that my boss may be in the trees watching, I spent nine years on that produce farm working my tail off. This, along with always having cash I earned in my pocket, gave me a passion for working hard.
With nine kids in the family, things were tight growing up. Dad worked at a local plant and on our farm with all of us to make ends meet. Mom was a great help as she watched her spending closely. Garage sales were a favorite shopping place for clothes for us kids, and believing it was normal, we had no issues wearing second-hand clothes. Things must have been tough on mom and dad, but for me, with the cash I earned at the produce farm, I felt I was rich.
School was where I first heard kids talk about reasons to never want the nicer things in life. That’s where that one sentence took a foothold, “I wouldn’t want to be like that!” We’d see someone with a nice car and say, “I would not want that car, because I wouldn’t want to have to clean it every day.” A big house was something we never wanted as we would have to walk from one end to the other to get something, and who wants to do that? Nice boats were out of the question, as the muddy river near us would just stain the bottom of it. And, everyone knows all the members of the country club were snobs, so we vowed to never be a member as those people may turn us into snobs, too. All this negative chatter we experienced as kids had us subconsciously talking ourselves out of rewarding ourselves in the future.
Shortly after high school, I started my first business. Working hard paid nice dividends, and I had a few thousand extra dollars that seemed like a million or more at the time. But it wasn’t long until I began to feel guilty, believing that I never deserved the things I was now able to buy. In fact, I bought a Mercedes convertible that I had always wanted a few years back. Can you believe that I never drove around town for fear of what the town would think about me driving a car like that? After leaving that nice car sit in the garage for years, I eventually sold it.
Like me, many of you have struggled to get through the last few years. It is hard to explain the feeling that you just got set back 20 years of your work life, virtually overnight. Still, I believe you have to keep digging and digging, working hard even when no one is watching. You’ll get knocked down a time or two. Just dust yourself off and get back on the horse. By working hard (and also working smart), you should someday, again, be rewarded. And, after all the blood, sweat and tears, when you receive the rewards, know that you earned it and deserve it. We are not kids anymore; there is no dishonor in working hard to get ahead and no shame in enjoying the fruits of your labor.
I have never regretted learning to work hard at a young age and knowing the value of a dollar. Perhaps our hardest job now is to keep these values alive in teaching the next generation those same traits, so we don’t continue to add to the entitlement philosophy that has our country in quite a turmoil. So, I still say, if you work hard, you deserve what you get in return, and I hope that we aren’t too late teaching the next generation the truth about that.