Teach your child….there is no shame in starting low

Parking lot attendant


Childcare registrar at the YMCA

McDonald’s grillman

What do all of these have in common?  These are a list of jobs held by now successful businessmen and women.

Michael Bloomberg – former NYC mayor and billionaire was once a student at Johns Hopkins University, working as a parking lot attendant to help pay for school.

Mark Cuban – Owner of the Dallas Mavericks and entrepreneur was once a 25 year old college graduate, tending bar as he sought to make ends meet and establish a career.

Jeff Bezos – CEO of Amazon worked as a McDonald’s grill man as a teenager.

At the age of 25, the now highly successful and famous Tina Fey was working as the childcare registrar at a Chicago YMCA.

What’s my point?

My point is that successful people start somewhere. Actually all people start at the same place, including those we now deem as highly successful. Everyone at some point was at the beginning of their career. Everyone was at some point pre-career.

The goal is not to become a clone of any of the above people. Neither is the goal to find excuses for why their success could never be your success; different socioeconomic backgrounds, different educational backgrounds, different “breaks” that provided opportunity.

There are plenty of rags to riches stories. Plenty of folks who completely beat the odds of poverty, a life of crime, whatever, to become successful. If you don’t believe me, you can check out the story of these three friends who beat all the statistical odds stacked against them and all three are now doctors.

So the goal is not to mimic. It’s not to imitate. It’s not to say, “Warren Buffett had a newspaper route, so I should do.”

The point here is that there is no shame in starting out low. There is no shame in working as a grocery clerk as you make your way through school — or even working as a grocery clerk after you graduate, so long as you are moving in a forward direction.

Your future success will not be compromised because you take what you deem a “lesser” job today. In fact, with the right mindset, it is those “lesser” jobs that will give you invaluable skills for the future.

Madeline Albright‘s first job was as a bra salesperson. She made very little, but the experience wasn’t a loss.  In her own words,

I learned that you need to be willing to do anything. You use it as a learning experience; how to interact with people in situations that aren’t always easy.  Madeline Albright

Just as the piece of paper we call a diploma doesn’t guarantee a stellar job and career, neither does grunt work guarantee career doom and failure.

Fresh out of college, you know very little. You think you know everything because you’ve been told by your university how smart your class is and how accomplished everyone is, and how this will be the generation to change the world.

And that may very well be true, but those are potentials, not realities. Education does not end with the graduation ceremony and careers still have to start from zero.

Teach your child — not to be afraid of hard work.

Teach your child to work HARD. And to enjoy the process of work. Work can and should be meaningful. Work can and should be enjoyable and energizing. And at the times when work is drudgery, because that will happen to, teach your child to find the lessons the drudgery can teach them.

It may be a lesson of how to not lead people, as your child’s boss is as poor a boss as one could be.

It may be a lesson in how to work with people you don’t get along with because your child’s coworkers are as different from him as possible.

It may be a lesson in stressful situations because the restaurant job your daughter is working to pay the bills is non-stop.

The lessons are there; is your child willing to find them? Or will your child complain about the circumstances, bemoan their “bad luck” and give only half-effort because he thinks the work at hand is “beneath him.”

There is no work beneath him. Every opportunity for work is an opportunity for character growth and skill development, if one is willing to see it.

If your child has goals of becoming a doctor – he may find a time when he is cleaning the bedpans of patients while working through school. That experience can give him an appreciation for those nurses and attendants who do that job on a regular basis. How much more compassionate will your son be as a doctor when he does not seek to lord over other hospital workers because, after all, he’s a doctor and they are just nurses. But to gain an understanding of their work and what stresses they face in a given shift will make him a much more pleasant partner as they all seek to care for the patients.

Or maybe your child dreams of opening a restaurant, but for now is stuck as a server. Every inch of experience she gains in every aspect of running a restaurant will make her a better owner and manager.

Present any potential occupation and pair it with any current job opportunity, there are lessons to be learned and skills to acquire.

But, for the one who sees some work as beneath their dignity, for them there will be no lessons. Not that the lessons aren’t there, they are. But the lessons cannot be seen, because they aren’t looking.

Any gainful work, and moral job, any activity that is producing benefit for another can be meaningful, instructional and helpful – both for the current and for future goals.

So teach your child that there is no shame in starting low. There are no low jobs; only low mindsets. Every job is a potential stepping stone to future endeavors.

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