Category Archives: Success

Why I run a paper route for less than $4/hr.

Today when I finish my day job, I will help my son, Jeremy, load a cart full of local news papers.  We will then set off around our neighborhood and deliver papers to 138 homes.  When we work together it takes almost an hour from loading the cart to cleaning up and putting everything away. And as a reward for our efforts, Jeremy will get about $8.00.  When divided by the two people working for this, it works out to $4/hr. In my estimation, that’s a crappy way to earn money.

So why do it?

news-deliveryJeremy is on the autistic spectrum, deals with anxiety and severe ADHD, and he is 14. Teaching him anything on a good day is difficult. Teaching him to do something that he doesn’t want to do is impossible (and I’m being literal there – impossible like pigs flying or Republicans liking Obama). But Jeremy is motivated by money… or the thought of money… well, when the mood strikes he could possibly be motivated by money.

A while ago Jeremy heard that there are rare earth metals used in the manufacture of computer motherboards, like iridium and gold. So he started a collecting old electronics so that he can smash them and then use a soldering iron to remove electronic bits from the motherboard. When presented with the reality that there are about $0.03 worth of value in there he doesn’t give up on the venture (autistic people don’t change gears)… he just figures that he needs 1,000s more computers to pull apart. You would not believe the amount of plastic and little bits of wire and little bits of transistors and capacitors and such piled up in his room and hallway outside his room and in our garage.

For some reason he got interested in having a paper route. He helped a friend in our neighborhood for a month and at the end of the month he got $50. That’s like enough money to buy 100 garbage computers. He got excited, and then he heard that the friend got wise to how crappy the pay was for the effort and was quitting. A few days later I got a call from The Langley Times and they asked if I was ok with Jeremy running a paper route and they needed to confirm something about his address because he was getting a paper route starting the next week.

Jeremy somehow figured out which newspaper was in question, found the phone number for the paper, called and asked to talk to the person responsible for hiring paper boys, talked to them and got his name on the waiting list for the paper route… all on his very own. This is a remarkable feat for him. How was I going to say “no” to that kind of initiative?

So the first day I ran the route with him, partly to help him, and partly to make sure that he actually knew what was required of him. There are two things that I got out of that first day that have convinced me that there is no better use of my time than running a paper route with my son.

First off, I saw some of his brilliance.  Not only did he know the job, but it turns out that he may have an eidetic memory. He remembered all of the homes that have special instructions (deliver two here, put this one under the mat, don’t deliver to this house, etc), and there are a few.  I’ve been doing the route with him for almost two months now and I still can’t remember half of the instructions, but I can ask him and he always knows and never looks at the instruction sheet. In all the effort of raising him, I don’t often get to enjoy his gifts, and too often am focused on redirecting and correcting, which leads to constant tension between us.  I get to just enjoy what makes him great when we run the route together.

Secondly, I get to teach him something valuable in a way that means something to him. The first day that we had the route, I put on actual running shoes, grabbed a stack of papers and ran… with haste. Jeremy kind of ran to keep up with me as we each delivered papers to opposite sides of a street.  When we finally met again to get more papers from the cart he asked between pants and heaving breathing why I was running.  I told him, “I only know one way to work, and that’s to work hard.”, and with that I turned around and kept running. He kind of ran / walked the rest of that day.

I realized during that first day that I was going to teach my son something valuable. My dad didn’t teach me everything I needed to know about life. But there are a few things that my dad did teach me that I only know because of him. One of those things is to work hard. Not just to work hard, but to work harder and smarter than anyone else around. Not in the context of a competition, but that I am capable of hard work and hard work pays off.

I remember my dad working along side other people, building a church in Mississippi when I was a little boy.  He was part of a work bee, hanging dry wall and painting and there were guys there that were bigger and stronger and more experienced, but he kept up with them. Then he would go back the next night when no one else was there and do more. He would come early and stay late and didn’t take breaks till the job was done. Not only is that church building still standing 30 years later, but it withstood the eye of hurricane Katrina and was used as part of the staging ground for disaster recovery. Seems like a well-built church to me.

That kind of working hard has opened a lot of doors for me in my life. I don’t care if Jeremy delivers papers or not. It really isn’t a great way to make money. I do care that he learns what I learned about working hard. So I run beside him (or slightly in front of him) and show him what I think working hard is all about. After almost two months it takes a considerable effort to stay ahead of him, because when he’s about to deliver papers, he puts on his running shoes.

How long should you work at McDonald’s

It is the time in my daughters’ lives to go get some work. Well, I figure they should get some work and pay their own way for some of the expensive things that they want to do. Patti figures they should not be rushed into the marketplace where they will spend the rest of their lives. Regardless, one day I told Xandra this story and she asked me to add it to this blog.

McDonalds I Was Loving It

My first job was at McDonald’s. On my 16th birthday I got my learner’s license, just under six weeks later I had my unrestricted driver’s license and the day after that I had a job at McDonald’s. The particular McDonald’s in question was right beside my high school and for the rest of grade 11, all of grade 12 and about a year after that, I worked almost full time hours.

McDonald’s was great. They taught me how to work hard, how to work in a team, and that effort and attitude were rewarded. I had spending money, a car, and something that required me – something that really helped me to find relevance while bouncing around inside this ADHD mind of mine.

I worked hard, and was promoted and trained on everything they could possibly train me to do. I became a trainer, a crew chief, and eventually a swing-shift manager. A swing-shift manager is still technically a crew-member and not an actual manager, but you start wearing the manager clothes and that changes how people relate to you… which is an interesting study on human psychology on its own. I was even part of the team that hosted the media release of McPizza.

Now the real managers at my store liked to party at night and no one wanted the opening morning shift, so I volunteered for that. I started opening in the mornings and doing all the manager stuff, before an actual manager would show up. I earned the trust of the other managers and eventually I was put in charge of all weekday openings and I alone ran my store from opening to 10:00AM (which at the time was the #2 grossing revenue store in Western Canada). This created a problem because I was not an actual manager.

Let me back up a bit and explain something about McDonald’s managers’ social lives. Corporate McDonald’s doesn’t pay their managers all that well, and the benefits are not all that great. But what they do do is drive around a corporate funded McParty Van and pick up managers from different stores and take them out to various evening social establishments (they go clubbing). This creates an odd social dynamic where these managers become friends and create their own socioeconomic peer group. By creating a peer group where everyone earns the same, has the same financial issues, gets the same benefits, there is no motivation to improve on any of those things. There is also a lot of McDonald’s manager inbreeding, which is a whole other kind of odd.

I had two problems while working at the big M. The first was that I was volunteering at my local church, helping to run the youth group and this meant that I had schedule conflicts with giving McDonald’s 24×7 availability (something that is required of managers), and secondly I was observant enough to see that all the managers I knew only ever hung out with other managers, and all the married managers that I knew were always married to other managers, and I thought that was weird.

So when the regional manager came to our store, specifically to meet with me to rectify the opening manager issue, and he offered me a promotion to manager trainee, I said “No”. Then we he came back and said that he would promote me directly to second assistant, I said “No” again. Then when he said he would make me second assistant and let me choose which store I wanted to work at (something that they never did) and I said “No” again… they let me go.

Leaving McD’s was sad, but great at the same time. I had learned a lot, including some interesting tactics for employee retention, but I was also glad to not become part of some cult community.

Answer: Work at McDonald’s or any other ‘first job’ place that has the resources to invest in you and train you and give you new skills, but get out before you have to sign your life away in blood.

When 95% is a fail

One of my daughter’s friends asked me a question. At first I thought it would be a fun and fairly easy question to answer. But I keep coming back to this key concept that I need to explain first.

There is a study that was done at some point in the late 60s. (I’m not an expert or on trial, so I have no idea what the reference for this study is, but I trust the source that told me about it.) They took a bunch of average people that were all at about the same level of life when starting in college. Then they looked at where these people ended up, at the age of 65. The statistics broke down like this: 1% was wealthy, 2% were fairly well off, 2% had enough to take care of themselves. The other 95% had to keep working, were dependent on others to take care of them or were in complete poverty.

Keep in mind that these people were all level at the start of college, so they were not “poor” to start.  They were not unintelligent or unmotivated… they were all going to college!

So they looked into what the difference was between these folks. It wasn’t the grades they got in college, or even if they finished college. It wasn’t what classes they took in college. It wasn’t how wealthy they were to start with. It wasn’t their IQ or gender or any other predictable factor.

What set these 95% on a course for failure? What helped the 5% get ahead in this race? The 95% didn’t plan on failure; in fact, they didn’t want failure and they thought they were headed in the right direction in the beginning.  But there was a very important but missing skill.

The difference is independent thinking.

Independent thinking means looking at a situation and deciding what to do for yourself. That seems simple enough, but 95% of people will make most of their decisions by looking at what other people are doing, making sure their actions and social interactions are in line with what other people are doing, and following what is expected. The lie in all of that is that you think that most people know what they are doing.  The truth is that they are all just as insecure as you; they don’t want their actions to break the normal and they can’t bear to handle the potential shame of trying something different and failing. So the pack huddles together and shuffles in mass towards oblivion.

Random example… buying your own kids presents for Christmas or their birthday. 50 years ago, on Christmas you might get 1 present for Christmas and a few stocking stuffers. The present would be worth the equivalent of a new pair of shoes (a BB gun, a toy car, a train set, a doll, etc.) The media starts showing us pictures of Christmas trees that can barely compete with the pile of toys and gifts under them, and over the holidays we visit friends that have piles of gifts all laid out nicely, and well they seem successful, and it sure looks fun. Added to that pressure is the knowledge that your kids are going to go back to school after the Christmas break and are going to compare what they got with other kids. So you go shopping, and you make your tree look like that.

You have no idea how much debt the other people incurred to get that pile of gifts. You know you couldn’t afford it. You know that most of the gifts you bought will not get used, and will likely get discarded within the first few months of the new year, but you buy them anyway. If you keep this up year after year, you will struggle to keep out of debt and your house will be filled with junk.  If you follow this pattern for birthdays and everything else in life, your finances will be a wreck. You will have debt instead of savings or investments.  The reality is that this simple issue can destroy your life and leave you with nothing, but… you will look the part.

Nobody will stop you and tell you that you are going too far. Nobody will chastise you for your lack of planning or short-sighted thinking.  Your children will certainly not complain… All those people who are saying nothing are trying to keep up with you.  I am not saying that giving gifts is bad or that even giving lots of gifts is bad.  I am not saying that someone who gives lots of gifts is somehow making a big mistake, but what I am saying is that you have to look and decide for yourself what you can spend, and what your kids actually need and not to worry about what others think of you.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend that would come with us to Red Robbin. We would all order our meals and drinks and maybe split an appy.  He would order non-stop fries and water.  We would spend $10 – $20 and he would spend $1.75.  He would then proceed to order three or four refills on his fries and leave full.  Now granted, that’s not a well balanced meal, but its not like a bacon cheeseburger is the picture of health. He did eat well at home and he had quite enough money to order anything he wanted, but that’s not where he wanted to spend his money and he didn’t care if he fit in or copied everyone else.  Because of the way he handled his money early on, and mostly because of the way he makes his personal decisions, today he owns a web hosting company that is doing very well.  You would be blown away with the number and size of his clients while even his own company’s dated website design says, “I don’t care what other people think”. He gets so much business from referrals that he doesn’t need his website to look nice to get business so paying to make his website look current would be wasted money.

in 2007, more than 40% of teens admitted to driving high and that number is even higher today.  While that is a bad statistic and makes the roads unsafe, what I got out of it is that a whole lot of teens are trying and smoking weed. So many, that in some social situations it might seem socially awkward or bad to say “no”. So many that you might have to think, “it can’t be that bad if that many people are doing it.” But who is looking down the road and thinking about where this “95%” type activity is heading. Is this a crowd, huddled together shuffling toward oblivion, or is it actually ok? I’m not answering this question for you; I am saying you need to answer this question for yourself.

So, here is a piece of advice that has served me well.  10 years.  I figure that any behavior or habit or strategy in life will start to show how it pays off within 10 years.  So if I wonder what something in life is like, I will find someone who has been doing it for 10 years and ask them. When I was 16 I started working at McDonalds and back then you could smoke on your lunch break in the staff room… I know – gross! Anyway, out of pure curiosity I wondered what smoking was like.  I would watch fellow workers come running down to take their break, get out a cigarette, light it up, breathe it in deeply and exhale like they were finally at peace. It would actually look kind of refreshing. I would then ask, “why do you smoke?”

This is the part that freaked me out… they ALL (and I mean ALL) said the same thing. “Oh, I have to – it relaxes me.”  Then I would ask, “yea, but why did you start?” They would say something about who introduced them, most of the time is was because everyone else was doing it, but then ALL (and I mean ALL) of them did the same thing; they would stub out their cigarette and say, “yea, I wish I hadn’t started. I’m trying to quit now.” This all happened withing about 45 seconds, and I repeated it about 20 times with all age ranges of people.  I figured out that smoking cigarettes has got to be one of the stupidest things that you can do.  I’ve never had one.  Ever.

Ask questions about the decisions you make in life and I mean ask about everything. You will find that most people have very very shallow logic if there is any logic at all in most of the decisions they make, and a lot are regretting doing the things that they are currently doing.  Wherever you find this… think up a new plan that makes more sense and don’t worry how it will look to others.

Because 95% is a fail, but turning on your brain is free and getting at least 96% is easy.

(Feven, your question is next 8-D )

What is the secret of success?

It should be a dream of all parents to have their children ask this question. We have had a few conversations about success and failure; what they are and how to achieve them. I am sure that I am not fully qualified to answer this, but I can share what I know.

Secret of SuccessBackground

I didn’t start off in life with any of this understanding. I was good with people and succeeded in customer service type jobs, and some were even called sales jobs. One day I was promoted from “sales” driving a service truck to actual cold-calling, relationship building, needs analysis, script memorizing sales… and I failed. I was on the verge of financial ruin, had a wife and three kids to provide for and was desperate.

I still can’t quite recall how I met Ray Yenkana, but we met and he invited me out to breakfast before work. He spoke words that my soul was starving for and they not only changed my current reality, but every day and waking thought since then. He took me for breakfast a dozen times or so, and gave me books and tapes and cds (for the kids, tapes are these square plastic things with this long brown ribbon that can hold, like 30 whole minutes of music on one side). I decided at that point in my life that I wouldn’t regret the years wasted and opportunities lost, but I would make sure my kids knew this stuff.

What is success and failure?

Success is not a lot of money or cars and houses and yachts. Think about it, if you set out to be ‘rich’, how would you know you are there? At what point would you have enough that you would say, “I have just crossed the line into success; yesterday I was not a success and today I am”? Success is deciding something specific that you want and then accomplishing it. If you decide that you want your life to be spent serving the poor of Uganda, you may never drive a sports car or own a Vancouver house, but if get there and do it, you are successful. If you decide that you want to be a millionaire, and you become a millionaire, then you are successful. If you quit on life after you have your million, then you would cease to be successful, and failure would be waiting for you. So ultimately success is the ability to be who you want and do what you desire in life. So failure would then be to never get where you want in life or be who you want to be.

Success is not one monumental achievement, but simply and consistently following simple disciplines over time. Failure is not one cataclysmic event, but slight errors in judgment repeated over time. You won’t get a heart attack from eating a cheeseburger; you might from eating one every day. There are a million little indulgences and bad spending decisions and little time wasters that people do every day. Learning disciplines is the key, and I’m not talking about stuff that’s hard to do. So what are these simple disciplines that you should follow?

There are a lot of simple disciplines that are great, but if you learn one today make it SETTING GOALS! “I will have a job by my 16th birthday”, “I will save $1000 within the next three months”, “I will improve my grades to all As and Bs before Christmas break so I can qualify for this scholarship”, “I will bench press 200lbs by the end of the summer”… A goal can be anything but make it something that you can achieve, and set a date when it needs to happen by. Write it down and keep it close to you, and read it every day out loud. This is SUCH A BORING, SIMPLE, TEDIOUS TASK, and because of that most people won’t bother.

Picture two boats. One boat has a captain and a map and some instruments to measure where the boat is, and most importantly a chosen destination. Each day the captain reads the instruments, compares his location to the destination, makes small course changes and then carries on with his day. The other boat has none of those, but is set out to sea anyway. The first boat will likely reach its destination or at least it will get close; the other will end up on some rocks somewhere. That’s the difference between setting goals and not setting goals.

Here’s another wise quote, “Success is not something you do, but something you attract by the person you become”. When you work on yourself and train yourself to do these simple things, then success will find you. Its actually a little freaky, but I am not kidding; setting a goal and looking at it and reading it every day with almost no additional effort, your goal or at least amazing opportunities to achieve your goal will come to you. So by focusing on the discipline of reading out your goal, you will become a more disciplined person, and that will attract success.

Learn to Farm

The world is built around the law of the farm. A man of great need can go to the field and say, “please feed me”, and the field will reply, “I want to, but I require seed”. A man with barns full of grain who diligently plants seed, though he is not hungry, or in great need, the field will still grant him bounty that he cannot contain. This is not a case of rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, but how you approach life. You ALWAYS have something to give. Giving something to the benefit of others is seed. There is a law that transcends all other laws or circumstances that says that he who sows, reaps; and he reaps according to the type and quantity of his seed. I could fill up a whole blog post about the farm… maybe another day.

Xandra, you see mom and me, you see a couple that is constantly tired and working hard at the daily grind, and rarely has the chance to do anything fun or social. You have questioned before what kind of an existence that really is. What you cannot possibly see in context is that just over ten years ago I was broke, and floating like ship with no captain, very few marketable skills, three kids to take care of, an apartment that was growing mold, and insurmountable debt. By changing very small things about how I approached life, and following a few simple disciplines, I am now highly sought after for my skills. I own a nice house in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world and am almost out of all the consumer debt. You might see me working two jobs and being tired, but today I have goals, and seemingly without effort I get opportunities to achieve those goals. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work hard or sacrifice something, but it means that I have a deep inner knowing that I am going where I want to go, and doing what I want to do.

So I will wrap this post up with these words: When harvest time comes, if you find that you have very little, don’t blame anyone, don’t complain, but realize that you planted little, and rest assured that there is another spring right around the corner so get your seed ready. On the other hand, if harvest time comes and you have more than anyone else, don’t be ashamed, don’t apologize, but accept the rewards you prepared for, and don’t think that you can skip planting seed in the spring.

Angelica and Xanrda, I know you both and both of you WILL be successful!