I often do some writing and editing at several local coffee shops. There is something about the energy I get from being around other people, mostly strangers, that draws words out of me.
Most of my visits to those diner-style coffee shops are uneventful. Some, more eventful. Others, very profound. (Even if only in a subtle way)
Two days ago, I stopped by my favorite local haunt to spend an hour editing the final draft of my new book, read a bit, and get a few cups of java down in me. The place was nearly empty when I arrived. After 30 minutes, I was the only customer there.
As I edited, I heard the shift manager complaining to the cook about the state of some other employees who call in often, are late, or just no-call/no-shows. The two men commiserated a bit as they swept the floor, rolled utensils tightly in paper napkins, and did other tasks. Also, the manager called some servers on the phone in an attempt to shore-up the schedule for the rest of the week. He was only partially successful it seemed.
Then, a young (maybe 16 or 17 year old) waitress showed up. As she was walking in, the manager met her at the door, motioning with his arms in an “I don’t need you here” fashion. She walked in anyway, asking what the deal was. He explained that she had called in with only minutes notice a few days prior, put the rest of that day’s workers in a bind, and that he was considering firing her. She attempted to smooth the situation over, but wasn’t successful and left. A few minutes later, she came back in with a middle-aged man and both walked toward the manager. I thought to myself, “This may turn into a blow-out,” and readied my camera phone just in case a video-worthy event took place. I have seen too many things get out of hand over the years and I am a bit edgy when I see people possibly heading toward a serious contention. I figured this guy might be “dad” coming in to straighten the boss out on behalf of his daughter.
The man and the manager started talking about the situation… and I was wonderfully surprised. I am a sucker for civil conversation. I absolutely love engaging in respectful discourse, even if the participants don’t agree on a particular matter. Also, I so rarely observe disagreeing parties in person or on social media who are able to succinctly present their case, hear the other’s, discuss both sides, and then achieve an amicable resolution, respectfully disagree, or agree on something that was previously disagreed on. Beyond that, observing a person change his or her mind on a firmly held position in 2015 is nigh to seeing a unicorn at the park.
Due to my persuasions regarding discourse, I was very happy to observe the manager express his concerns about the server’s performance and reliability in a respectful way and with an even temper. Then, the father-figure apologized for the issues on behalf of the girl. He asked for a second chance for the girl and gave credibility to the manager’s concerns. Also, the girl assured the manager of her commitment to do better and genuinely gave heed to his concerns. After some more conversation and consideration, the manager allowed for a write-up rather than firing. He clearly shared his expectations, which were reasonable, and the consequences present if they were not met. All parties ended the conversation respectfully, amicably, having reached a common position, and asserting a common goal. Not one voice had even been raised through the whole parley. I had to pinch myself.
I know that was a boring, everyday type of story. But, there is a great lesson to be gained. That being, our abilities to deal with other people, have conflicts, argue, discourse, and find common ground (or not) are “everyday” skills. They aren’t just for a college debate class, the board room, marriage counseling, or when some aspect of a relationship breaks down. Those abilities are for the coffee shop, for Facebook threads, for our home, for our friends, and even for our enemies.
Witnessing that interaction between three strangers encouraged me. I personally hope to do as well the next time I have some type of disagreement. Fellow humans, we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Pass the love on! 🙂
Here is a related TED talk by William Ury that I very much enjoy. If you have a spare 20 minutes, it would be worth your time.
This is an ever-needed reflection from Alan Watts that anyone, regardless of faith system or no faith system, can find encouragement in.
So, what would you do if money is no object?
For more information on Alan Watts, click the link:
Also, if you were encouraged by this post, please pass it along 🙂
Have a great week, Luke
Here is one minute and 15 seconds worth of wisdom for you from the oracle on the street, Christopher Hitches.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a prolific author, journalist, political critic, debater, and speaker. For more information, see this link:
Last week, I gave my four youngest kids a little two-part assignment. I asked them to first consider the two most important life lessons they have acquired during their tenure on planet Earth thus far. Second, to write them down in brief. Each youngster spent some time independently working on their thoughtful answers. I noticed that a couple of reoccurring themes surfaced. They did such a good job that I wanted to share their advice on my blog. The kids all said it would be fine with them. Here are the sagely proverbs they each wrote. Maybe there is something here you can use in your own life, no matter what your age may be 🙂
Nathanael- 14 years old:
- Don’t waste time on something or someone who is not worth it. Focus on what you are doing.
- If you want to do something, then do it.
Caleb- 14 years old:
- When studying anything, look at the facts.
- Live in the now.
Lydia- 13 years old:
- Don’t live in the future or the past. Live in the present.
- Every yes to one thing is a no to something else. Every no to one thing is a yes to something else.
Charity- 10 years old:
- Don’t let people talk you in to something you don’t want to do.
- Every yes in life is a no to something else. Every no in life is a yes to something else.
On this day in 2008, at 30 years old, I made a big decision. After months of back and forth, I decided to start a business. I was a husband, father of five, and part-time professional singer/songwriter. But, my main gig was being a regional driver for a household goods moving company. Damn hard work.
At that time, I was working the same job I had in my early twenties. After leaving the moving business the first time, I said I’d never go back. But, after several years of busy concert schedules and limited flex time at my previous job, I made a deal with my old company; give me any time off that I ask for with thirty days’ notice and you can work me like a rented mule the rest of the time. They knew how I worked and my level of customer service, so they agreed. And to no surprise, they held up their end of the bargain, especially the second part.
I stayed there about three years before getting fed up with the road, illegal hours for a driver, some of the fools I had to manage on jobs, and my ever tiring back. Not that there weren’t perks. Most of my songs came from experiences I had travelling and two of my co-workers became my good friends. But, in the ending months of 2007, the fear of another year to come like the one before became scarier than the proposition of starting a business and failing. That was the key…being pushed passed the point of contempt for the “status quo” in my work life and the fallout it had on my family life. I was missing too much and was just too damn worn out when I was home. But, that’s what working 120 plus hours some weeks will do to you, even when you’re young and strong.
So, beginning 1/1/08, I started scheming on a way to make a big change. I didn’t have much money or many foreseeable options. I decided to start a “near industry” business to capitalize on my current contacts and skills. I gave myself 4 months to plan and execute the launch of my business.
I realized that what I would do at first may only be a stepping stone to anther venture, but it was a necessary one. I had to just create some space to live, think, and wait for and create other opportunities. It was a lot like “pulling guard” in Jiu Jitsu… I was creating a “safe place” from which to defend or attack in due time. A position I could potentially loose from, but hoped to just do work and catch my breath for the time being.
My business officially began April 1, 2008, a month early. I started a “3rd party company” that assisted moving companies with what was out of their scope. I did custom crating, pool table and grand piano servicing, appliances, and more. I created a turn-key business with zero debt and produced a living wage right out of the gate on a $3,000 start-up budget. Not bad if I say so myself.
But, actually doing it was scary as hell. I almost changed my mind a couple times in February ’08. I nearly scrapped the whole idea for the safety of the time clock boat anchor. Sure glad I didn’t.
Then, in the late summer of ’08, the economy crashed. The good thing was, since I worked for myself, I had a lot of options to adapt. When contracting work was slow from moving businesses, I hustled side work on Craigslist and by word of mouth. I did interior painting, drywall work, bought and sold, and scrapped tons of metal over the next couple years. Unfortunately, with the moving business hit hard, my 3rd party work got slower every year, so I had to hustle harder. Always hunting for side jobs got old and since people were getting broker, they did less home improvement…that meant less side jobs to go around.
The great thing was I still made a livable income in about half the hours that I used to work as an employee. Some weeks I’d have a few days off through the week then be really busy the next. But overall, I saw my family every day and was pretty energized to enjoy them. I got to spend lots of time with my wife, who is my best friend, for the first time in our marriage.
That said, in the spring of 2011 I desired to have a more stable type of business. My wife and I discussed options and came up with a new plan. I would escalate my part time hustle, buying and selling, to my main gig. The plan was to replace half our income in six months, before the slow season for my current business. The next phase was to completely replace our income with buying and selling in twelve months. We achieved the first phase in five months and completely replaced our income in nine months. The initial capital I had to invest at my first auction on May 15, 2011…$200. I bought five things that sold within a month for over $1,100 and we were off.
For the first four months, I only sold on Craigslist. Then in late August, I purchased a rare knife at an auction for $9. I knew I’d need greater exposure to get what it was worth. I listed it on ebay and a week later it sold for $490. I fell in love with ebay and within three months, it became my primary selling format.
It still is on 1/1/14 and we’ve come a long way. We now have three “Power Seller” and “Top Rated” ebay stores. I work less hours than ever, spend stupid amounts of time with my family, and basically do whatever the hell I want every day. I’m not rich in dollars, but if freedom is your currency, I’m a millionaire.
So at 12:54 a.m. today, I got my first sale of 2014. “Cha-Ching” went my ebay cell phone app. Not a big sale, just a $39 vintage coffee percolator that I bought for $3. I’ll have shipping, ebay, and paypal fees out of that, but will still net about $25ish. That “Cha-Ching” is less an audible symbol for money and more of freedom for me. Good job ebay on creating that Pavlovian response via your app by the way!
One thousand words later, I’ll briefly share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my business. I hope some of you might be able to get some use out of them if you’re interested in starting your own company or service as well.
- “Pulling the trigger” is the hardest thing– It is one thing to desire change, another to plan, but to execute a plan is the tipping point. That not only applies to business, but life in general. Most people are ruled by fear. They let the fear of “what if” bully them into settling for something they are dissatisfied with in life. You MUST master that fear and kick that bully’s ass in order to flip the script in your life.
- Bet on yourself- Every change has varying degrees of risk. But, do you know what people don’t think about? The risk that leaving everything the same has. Don’t be afraid to bet all your “chips” on yourself. Then, rise to the occasion and be your own hero.
- With a great plan and the right tools, you are more likely to succeed than to fail– I did not have a mentor when I started my business or anyone pushing me to do it. I did have people that supported me and that was invaluable. I also had the experiences of being exposed to business in my younger years by my mom, dad, and grandparents in different ways. Yet, I still needed other knowledge and information. I got that from the Internet and books. Some things (actually a lot of things) I had to figure out on the fly. But, you handle things as they come. I know the stats on start-up businesses failing. The thing is, many of the failures have distinct features in common. Poor planning is #1. Lack of understanding of the business being started is another vice. There is NOTHING you need to learn that you can’t find out. Do your due diligence and then make things happen.
- Sometimes, “You can’t get there from here.”– I’ve heard old timers from the mountains use that phrase jokingly to describe where they are from. But, it can be true situationally. You may not be able to jump right from your current “A” to your perfect world “B.” You might have to make some incremental changes toward your ultimate goal. Don’t be discouraged from the journey toward your goal just because it won’t be an instantaneous teleportation. Usually, the “good stuff” in life can take a lot of hard work. Sweat equity can be more important than investment capital. If you have less of one, you’ll probably need more of the other
- It’s worth it- There’s nothing like being able to thank your own former self for the good decisions he or she made that led you to where you wanted to be. There’s always more work to do and need to reinvent things. Start your journey off well and in time, if you stay the course, you’ll be glad you did.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog! I am an independent poet, author, and singer/songwriter and I have my own ebay business to keep me as flexible as possible. But, writing takes time and if you appreciate what I do, if you have been moved or made to think by my writing, OR have just enjoyed something on my blog, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar! Your kind contribution may buy me a cup of coffee out at my next writing session. Click my easy paypal “tip jar” link that follows and THANKS! -Luke