I was in grade 10. It could have been grade 9.
My entire grade was taking a summer trip overseas. I wanted to become a million by the time I was 18, so the clock was ticking. Tick. Tock. Instead of having fun with my friends, I had bigger aspirations for my summer. I wanted to buy an electric bass… and a stereo. I had to earn the money to get the sugar. I worked in a cosmetic factory. It sucked. My job – day in and day out – was taking this round piece of white plastic, dabbing the center with some glue and using wax paper I would push into place the mascara. From there, I would screw on the see-through top, place them a box, get the right count, tape up the box and put it on a palette. I don’t think it rained one day that summer. At least, it didn’t feel like it did. I wouldn’t know. I was stuck inside a dirty warehouse all day that was filled with people who had no passion, desire or drive. They just did their jobs. Collected their money. Time to make the donuts.
The food sucked too.
I wasn’t a brown bag lunch kind of guy (I’m still not). We’d hit up some greasy spoon or grab something quick at the corner donut shop. It was in a part of town that had lower income apartments and random businesses. It was a long haul to a cruddy fast food joint. It wasn’t even worth the trip. I hated the work and only semi-appreciated the minimum wage. It wasn’t about the work… it was about the means to the end. By the end of the summer, I got the electric bass that I wanted… the stereo too. I had even made enough money, to put some of it aside. You can bet that I appreciated ownership of the bass and stereo.
It’s all about the hard work. Not just at the job – each and every day – but about putting in the hard work. Always. Luck is a lot of hard work. You can chastise Malcolm Gladwell all you like, but he’s right in Outliers about the 10,000 hours. It may not be an exact number, but it speaks to the time and dedication it requires to be successful. We hear about the random stories or the lottery winners and we’re fooled into believing that luck has something to do with success. I didn’t want to work in that warehouse. While that was my first job, it wasn’t my last hard job. I must have a thing for hard jobs. I worked at a frozen yogurt place (part-time) one summer in high school. The customers were borderline disgusting ("can you put in a few more strawberries?" – I would try to explain to them that there is a formula to create the best tasting result. They would fight me on it. I’d put in the extra strawberries and they would return it and say that it was too tart). During the day, I was a counselor at a day camp, working with ten 9-year-old boys. It was a great summer, but it was hard work. We forget about how good hard work is. It keeps us engaged, it keeps us motivated and – sometimes – the lesson is bigger. I love hard work, because when it’s the stuff I’m interested in, it pushes me to be better. I love hard work, because when it’s the stuff I’m not at all interested in, it pushes me because I never want to do that kind of stuff ever again.
I can still smell that mascara. I’m not going back there. I’ll just keep on working hard.
What was your first job?