"Attitude is Everything" was probably the most annoying thing I heard growing up. My dad was an entrepreneur who carried the "no excuses" thing to somewhat of an extreme. I guess he had his reasons. However he did have this stupid "attitude is everything" keychain that I wanted to throw at him 99% of my childhood. Can anybody else relate?
If my team lost a game, I was the one who didn't practice hard enough. A hat trick was never enough, and if we lost I was supposed to "lose with a smile" and "be a leader" in front of my teammates no matter how much I wanted punch the nearest wall. For an emotional athlete who always left his heart and soul out there, this was always a tough pill to swallow.
I sucked majorly at baseball but my dad loved the sport. He tried so hard to get me to like it and somehow be good at it. I was this weird little athlete prodigy in pretty much every sport, but when it came to baseball, I was ironically worthless. I remember one time when I was pitching for my 6th grade team: The Rays! Shout out to Travis Bordine who I smoked with a pitch in the back when he taunted me. Lick your lips again Travis I will find you! Live in fear, work in fear, SLEEP in fear...wherever you are, I will find you and throw another baseball at you. I couldn't pitch for the life of me but when I wanted to drill somebody in the back, apparently I was The Wild Thing. Sorry dad, but baseball REALLY wasn't for me.
More importantly in my childhood, I could single handedly run (and fix) a two-man shrink-wrap and packaging machine before I was in second grade. I would always go into my dads printing company on the weekends to help him get work done. When I say I went to work with my dad on the weekends, I didn't play with the vending machine and pop bubble wrap. I ran a tight ship back there and if you disorganized the boxes that I spent my Sunday arranging we would need to have a separate discussion. Child labor laws anyone? I'm pretty sure I drank coffee before most kids had teeth...
When I was 16 and had been working for 20 years, I finally was able to afford one...a car! I needed my dad to co-sign because I had no credit. That alone took weeks of convincing, and I'm pretty sure I vaguely remember myself presenting a power-point on why he should help me. It's my own fault for using power point. Power point is boring.
By some grace of god, he finally agreed to help me. This was my shot. After years of attitude talks, punishment, and long weekends of child labor, my dad was going to help me with my HONDA CIVIC. The day was finally here! After we went in there and he yelled at the sales manager for 3 hours, I had finally owned my first car! I loved it. I washed it every day, took photos by it, and parked it YEARS away from anything else. Anyway, three months later I missed one payment (by like three days), and came back after a long weekend with a few friends to find out that my first car was gone. My dad sold it - just like that.
Ahhh, "Life is all about decisions" was sworn into my brain at a young age. I seemingly always made the "wrong" decision and never could quite figure it out. Yeah, my dad was a tough guy on us kids. Probably me harder than my brother, but I will be honest I remember one time my brother got his ass whacked so hard that it left a giant American working man sized handprint LOL #NeverForget Kyle... Never forget.
Great intro Ben - You sucked at baseball and your dad sold your car because you went up north and got drunk with your friends... Your brother still probably has a giant hand print on his ass, and some guy named Travis may be in danger.
Times have changed.
I was at lunch the other day. I went for some fast-ish food. I walked up to the counter and the kid working there didn't greet me, acknowledge me, or even bother to look at me. As a customer, I asked him how he was doing. After slowly exhaling, he mustered up the courage to lift his head up and take my order. After whacking the screen with his hand a few times, he (moaned something) and gave me my receipt. Without saying anything he grabbed his phone, and went back to the universe that seemingly matters more than real life: social media. The sad thing about this encounter is that it's not rare anymore. After paying more attention, it's everywhere, and it's scary. I don't know anything about the kid behind the counter, but I can learn a lot from him, and so can you.
Times have changed.
My dad started his business around the time he found out my brother was dying of cancer, and around the time he was fired him from his job and learned his degree (at night school) was no longer being paid for. I'll never forget the story my dad tells me of when he came home and my mom was crying. He asked her what was wrong and she said, "we have no money." He laughed and said, "how much money is no money?" She said something along the lines of, "$30." My dad thought of their first mortgage, a scared wife, two car payments, two little kids (sup sup), probably a lot of credit card debt, and well, "no money." He got to work and (without updating his Instagram bio to #CEO) somehow found a way.
Times have changed.
When I started to grow up, I started to learn a lot about myself. High-school was a disaster for me. Parents had a long, slow, brutal divorce, and a lot of things in my life fell apart. I wouldn't go back for a million dollars. Call me pathetic but I honestly wouldn't go back for ten. I watched athletics, academics, relationships, and eventually my life go down the drain. That was a choice I had made. "Life is full of choices, it was no-one’s fault but my own, and attitude is everything." The same shit I heard when I was a kid, I was still hearing at age 20, and it still pissed me off just as much.
I wonder where I would be today if my brother never had cancer, my dad never lost his job, and my family was never inevitably destroyed. Probably not here. Oddly enough, on nine days out of ten, somehow I feel really thankful. All of this pressure created something that (until recently) I was never really aware of.
I worked my entire childhood life for my dad at his printing company. From high-school to college, I worked as a cashier at Best Buy, lead the men's department at Kohl's, made pizzas and cleaned dishes at Mama Mias, worked the front desk at a gym, cold called for a telemarketing sales agency, sold Cutco door to freaking door, was a cook at Texas Roadhouse, and asked thousands of people "How's it goin'?"at Abercrombie& Fitch. I washed windows, mowed lawns, fixed cars, slang supps at GNC, and eventually found myself back where I started. I was working 2nd shift on a flat cutter for a printing company, making minimum wage at age 21. No degree, no school, and no real desire to get out of bed every day. Though I most certainly lost my way, there was one thing that never changed.
I blew minds at Best Buy, helped thousands of middle aged men who didn't want to be shopping for jeans, crafted a mean pizza, made those dishes sparkle, greeted gym goers like they had never been greeted before (until the next day when I rocked their world again), cold called and was told to f*ck-off regularly like an absolute champ, sold the most Cutco cutlery in the first month out of anybody to ever grace the Brookfield Wisconsin pyramid scheme branch, cold-prepped and line cooked some delicious food, gave free meal plans and help to every one of my GNC customers, and wore my skinny jeans and flip flops to work like a tool with a huge smile.
Times have changed.
I'm writing this because the first step to figuring out life and finding happiness is to put the dick measuring ruler back in the drawer. Whether you work at Starbucks serving coffee, McDonald's flipping patties, cleaning toilets, or being forced to work against your will at your dads printing company (at a dangerously young age)...focus on how well you can do your job, not what your job looks like to the fake online world. Focus more on developing your work ethic, and less on posting to Instagram to prove your worth to people who do not and will not ever care about you. Your friends, family, and eventually yourself, will love you because of who you are, not what you do. Something I was wrong about for 20 years.
Against what you're assuming the message is, I am not here because I was never too good to clean dishes…I am here because I was never too good to tell others that I was the one cleaning them. I was never too cool to talk about flipping burgers to my friends, and I found the strength to swallow all of my pride and leave school when I knew it wasn't for me. It was hard. It was actually really hard. Kids I grew up with at big colleges, getting big jobs, and trust me I was hearing all about it. During the post high-school window where everybody was graduating and getting jobs, I was still working at Abercrombie in my skinny jeans and doing brake jobs on the weekend.
Growing up I always wanted to be a CEO or a President like my dad was. I always wanted to run my own business like he did. I wanted to have meetings with a big conference room table and my own big office. I wanted that business card with CEO on it, and I wanted to give it away because, wow how important and cool that must be!
I grew up and I learned something really important. I learned that I'm not half way there because I used the #CEO tag on Instagram and posted photos about the grind when I was a two-man operation with three maxed out credit cards and 2 months’ worth of late rent. I didn't tell people I woke up at 4AM every day to 'grind' and I didn’t try and appear to be somebody I simply wasn’t. If I was the one cleaning the toilets, I wasn’t taking a video of myself doing it to show how ‘humble’ I was.
I just woke up every day and did what I've been hard wired my entire life to do. I just worked really, really hard because if he could do it then, I sure as hell better be able to do it now.
What I've learned from spending 20 years of my 25-year life working, is that (Jesus Christ dare I say it) attitude really is everything, life really is all about choices, and at the end of the day nobody really cares about your job title. They will treat you with respect if you treat yourself and others with it.
We live in a world of clichés, lies, and Instagram accounts that will motivate you to be a millionaire by posting photos of watches, cars, jets, alarm clocks, and big buildings. What we truly need are people explaining that if you can't take a fast food order without huffing and puffing, you will never be successful. That if you can't do a simple job well, you will never do a complex one well, either. Not because of the complexity of the job or the skill set required, but because of the logic behind your choices and work ethic.
Call me biased, but with no college degree, I look for a lot more out of people than most. I look for and want to surround myself with the people that aren't embarrassed by their job title, but empowered by their work ethic and confident in their ability to learn and create something real. If I could go back, I would be way more proud of myself along the way, and realize that my dad probably was, too. He may not have been able to tell his friends that his son was an MBA with an awesome new job, but at least he could tell them that whatever the hell I was doing, he knew I was doing it really, really well.
If you think real respect in the real world is given to the people with jets, watches, and lots of money simply because they have those things, you're going to die extremely broke and confused. I hate assholes who get lucky and write books from yachts defining success, traits of successful people, and recipes for making it big. I hate it even more when everybody in this damn generation seems to listen. There is no book. There is no story or formula. All we have is our work ethic, and we need to start using it. You want a book? I'll summarize it in a few sentences:
Lead with your strengths, never with your excuses. Nobody wants to hear them. Leave them at home. All of them.
Take pride in your work & the impact you create, not your position or job title. It will come. I promise you. Be patient and work hard.
Determine your own success. Put the book down and look within. The answers are all in there somewhere. The less ego you have to dig through, the quicker you’re going to find them.
Attitude really is everything, and life really is a compilation of choices that *thankfully* you get to make. You will make wrong ones, but somehow when it all comes full circle, no choice is really that wrong after all. LEARN.
Start today. Make a ton of choices, right and wrong. Ask for help when you need it. Write your own story, and don’t overlook the present trying to see what’s ahead. Things aren't always as bad as they seem after a few deep breaths.
Most importantly, stand up. Look at yourself in the mirror and promise whoever looks back that no matter what you do from this day forward, you vow to always do it really, really well.
See you at the top.