In this business coach session, I will be sharing an important principle and lesson from my life: Digging holes, cutting rebar, and pouring concrete is not what I want to do. Translation: Where there is a lack of capital, there is always an abundance of manual labor opportunities available.
The end of my freshman year had been great. I had recorded a bunch of horrible rap songs; I had met a bunch of great friends. I had earned a lot of money throwing my Russell Simmons and P. Diddy inspired dance parties that I called “Episodes.” My floor, Covenant, had just won the “All-School” title, and I had been dating this incredibly gorgeous woman with both an incredible mind and an incredible rear end for nearly half the school year. This woman with the incredible mind and rear end was named Vanessa. Jake, the guy on my floor who was fond of his own personal nudity and cutting my hair with the patented “tuft system,” had invited Vanessa to go out on a “Get Your Roommate a Date” with me, and since that time, I had been pursuing her with a passion. When I say that I was initially attracted to her because of her body and that was it, I really mean it. I did not know her, and she never really gave me much to work with during our early conversations.
During our first date at Uno’s Italian restaurant, she did not talk much. I figured it was because she did not like me, so I kept pursuing her. After I found out that she was already “officially” dating another dude, this did not faze me and only motivated me more (as Greg had brutally taught me with Katie, “Any lady without a ring on her finger is fair game”). Over time, I compensated for my lack of intelligence with my stellar sense of humor and comedic wit. I would always talk with her on the way to classes, and I made sure to mess with her at all times. She was gorgeous, and I was not going to be denied. Vanessa was studying Broadcast Journalism, which was in the same department as the multi-media program that I was a part of, so I saw her often. Over time, I won her over, and we began to go out on fancy dates and various quick trips to Walmart to get “fruit on the bottom” yogurts or the 96-cent frozen chicken panini. The more I talked with her, the more I grew to like her for reasons not related to her incredibly attractive and super-fit body.
Vanessa was a cheerleader for ORU, and her dad (Rick) had always worked the night shift growing up. My dad had always worked the night shift as well. Her mom (Annie) had a small role in the 80s smash-hit movie Top Gun, and my mom was not in Top Gun. Her parents had some financial problems growing up, and my parents did too. She had one brother; I had one brother. She was ambitious (and hot), and I was ambitious (and attracted to hotness). She was innocent, sweet, and accommodating; and I was abrasive, comedic, and opinionated. She was a peacemaker, and I was a believer in war. Basically, the more time we spent together, the more we discovered how much we had (and did not have) in common. With Vanessa playing the part of the “Beauty” and I being the “Beast,” I began to fall in love with her. And being that I was inspired through some heavy doses of “sex transmutation,” (see Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich book, or type “sex transmutation Napoleon Hill” in Google), Russell Simmons, and P. Diddy, I felt as though I had to spend the summer apart from her so that I could go back up to Minnesota to earn the cash that I needed to start my DJ empire and to be able to provide for her after I convinced her to marry me.
In preparation for our time spent apart, I got Vanessa one of the first medieval webcams for her birthday. I thought that we could talk over the Internet all summer to keep the flame stoked. Before I went home, I talked to my parents and let them know that I was coming home to work. My mom did some searching for me, and she found a job that I could do working for Lund Poured Walls—essentially building, forming, and pouring huge concrete basements for Minnesota homes and apartment complexes. I liked the notion of working in construction because it would give me the number of hours that I needed to raise the $12,000 that I felt I needed to start My DJ Empire. This job also sounded great because it started each day at 5:00 A.M. and went until 7:00 P.M., which would limit my free time to spend the money. Basically, I would always be working. This job was sweet because it provided me with nearly limitless hours. This job was not sweet because it was physically grueling, and it required me to get to the truck load-up site at 5:00 A.M.
Each morning at 5:00 A.M.,a bunch of hard-living vagabonds would all hop into diesel-powered, five-passenger, silver, pick-up trucks and head to the worksite. Because Cokato (the town in which the concrete company was based) was located forty-five minutes west of Minneapolis/St. Paul (the thriving metropolis areas in Minnesota), we all got used to driving one to two hours each way per day to the worksite. To set the mental picture here, we were all dressed alike and looked like characters pulled right off the Pirates of the Caribbean movie set. Our captain was Peter “The Foreman.” Nearly everyone on our crew wore bandanas, sported jeans with huge holes in them, chewed Skoal, swore constantly (I still am trying to kick this habit), smoked all the time, was super tan, was super strong, and believed that their god was money. Everyone was there for money, and no one really cared about anything other than the earning of money, which meant they did not enjoy being around the “new guy,” and they enjoyed even less teaching the “new guy.” There seemed to be a general consensus (which I will not disagree with) that I was the greenest new guy they had ever seen. They were mad that I did not swear, smoke, or chew; they did not like that I was going to a Christian school; and it annoyed them to no end that I was horrible with all tools and I was not handy in any way. I was an outsider, and I was physically weak compared to everyone else despite the fact that I was in good shape from lifting weights. These dudes were pirate men, and I was merely a “fairy boy” in their minds. Each day I hopped in the work truck and prepared for the long day of work; I also had to emotionally prepare myself for a day of harsh criticisms and negative talk. Over time, I learned to not even listen to it and to occasionally dish it out, but I never got used to working with Tracy.
Tracy was this dude who looked like the Marlboro man. He was a chain smoker with cracked lips and creases all over his face. He was super tan and used curse words as nouns and verbs. He overplayed his tough-guy character to the point that it was comical. I later found out that Tracy was thirty; however, he looked like he was fifty because of his years spent drinking, using drugs, working construction, and smoking. This dude burnt the candle at both ends and in the middle. Our crew had recently added another foreign-born human to our team; however, this particular person was from Finland, and he could not communicate with the rest of the crew at all. So I guess that is why they started him out in charge of the heavy metal-cutting saw that we used to cut rebar in to correct sizes. We used the rebar to make tension rods that helped give our concrete structures additional strength. I am not sure how it worked, but it just worked. However, putting the non-English speaking Finnish guy in charge of the metal-cutting saw did not work. When he was first given the command to cut the rebar, he seemed to understand and did a fine job; however, he didn’t pay attention to what he was spraying behind him. That first time he propelled metallic shrapnel and sparks into a large group of guys who were attempting to form up some walls, Tracy took exception to this and threw a hammer at him. The hammer missed, but apparently even foreigners understand hammer throwing to mean cut it out. Later on, Mr. Finland 2,000 attempted to replace a dull saw blade. He got the original blade off without assistance (which I certainly could not do); however, when he put the new blade back on the metal-cutting saw, he did not bolt it down properly. Thus, when he turned on the blade, it went flying off with unbelievable velocity and narrowly missed hitting another group of guys who were working. Working around that guy was seriously scary; however, working in the “hole” (what we called each construction site) was scary in general. My basic job was to be a “grunt.” And as a grunt, it was my job to lift heavy things and take orders from large people who were not happy with their lives. Usually the orders came in the following fashion, “Hey, shithead, get going. You are taking all damn day. What the hell is wrong with you? Move those forms, and shut the hell up!”
Oh, how I do not miss those days.
Now, if I ever need to motivate myself to do anything, I always ask myself rhetorically if I would rather be doing heavy lifting/construction or the task at hand. The task at hand always wins out. Each day that I came to work, I was thankful to be making $10.00 per hour up to 40 hours, and time and one-half for each hour after 40 hours. I was happy that I was working 60 hours per week, and I was happy to have spent the time I physically worked mentally conjuring up ways that I could kill Tracy without anyone noticing. Honestly, the work was horrible, but I was thankful to have it because it provided me the capital I needed in exchange for the labor that I delivered. I essentially could work as much as I wanted, which was a plus; however, each day also brought near-death experiences to my young life.
There was one day in particular that was especially exciting. Much of our job involved putting together a series of seven-foot aluminum molds for a giant concrete structure. Whenever we got to a jobsite, the footings were already in place, but that was about it. Thus, we had to drill holes in the footings to insert the weight-reinforcing tension rods. We had to assemble everything, and then we had to wait for the cement truck to arrive. Once it arrived, Peter would yell out orders for everyone to get out of the hole. Since the giant 7-foot (or 9-foot) high forms were all held together by a series of pins and wedges that we hammered into place, we always ran the risk that someone did not properly hammer home a pin or wedge. If this did not happen correctly, then the weight of the concrete flowing in between the giant forms (that made up the huge molds) could cause a “blowout,” and a blowout was a bad thing. A small blowout could be fixed in a half hour and might only cost our crew $1,000 or more in additional labor and cement. A huge blowout could result in the structure falling down; thus, if you were on or near the structure, you would get crushed. However, Peter was a good foreman, and we never really dealt with too many blowouts, but I did get crushed by some forms one glorious day.
Each aluminum form that we moved weighed about 70 pounds and was about 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The forms were held in large containers that were dropped into the worksite by a large crane. Because each form container could hold up to ten forms or more per side, there was a potential 700 pounds waiting to fall on someone at any time if the safety chain was not properly put into place. On this fine wet and super muddy day, the chain was not properly secured. Thus, as I walked by the form container in my super-muddy steel-toe boots and my ventilation-enhanced, hole-ridden blue jeans, it all came tumbling down on me. The impact of the forms hitting me literally drove me into the ground. The initial hit was awesome. It felt like Jabba the Hutt (the 2,000-pound beast from Star Wars) had hit me, and honestly I should be dead, but since it was a muddy day, the forms just drove me into the mud. I could not get out of the mud however. I was lying face down in the mud and yelling for help under 700 pounds of unforgiving aluminum forms. Ricky, my redheaded co-worker and high school friend came to my aid. One by one he lifted them off me, and I survived. In fact, I still have a nice scar on my back as a souvenir to commemorate this moment.
Week by week this sort of thing kept happening. If the forms were not falling on me, they were falling on someone else, but when the forms were not falling and emergencies were not happening, this physically exhausting and small-minded job gave me many mental breaks that I used to think about big ideas and plans. I had some really quality thinking time available to me because the work required 80 percent of my physical capacity and about 2 percent of my mental capacity. Since I was the new guy, I was always being asked to do the insane and undesirable tasks. It was not uncommon for me to hear things like, “Clay! Hey, here is the deal. We are going to hold you upside down by your ankles over that hole (a 10-foot deep and 3-foot round hole used for pouring and forming the concrete piers used to make secure Minnesota foundations) so that you can reach down and pull out all the trash that fell in there. So shut the hell up and get over here.” Generally, however, I would hear statements directed at me like, “Hey, Greeny! Get over there and cut all that rebar (400 pieces of rebar) into 8-foot sections, and then put them into those vertical holes in the footings. Let’s go, Clark!” And so, like any good soldier, I would begin cutting that rebar or hopping into that hole while completely mentally disengaging from the tasks at hand, thus giving me tons of time to think.
As I hammered home one pin and wedge after another, I had all sorts of downtime to ponder my potential future marriage to Vanessa, corporate structures, tax strategies, business coach tips, the character traits that are universally found within the ultra-successful, the character traits that were causing nearly our entire crew to be phenomenally unsuccessful (addiction to gambling, alcoholism, promiscuous sexual activity, dressing like a pirate), and the future of this crazy journey that I was embarking on to start a mobile entertainment empire. The time that I spent thinking allowed me to almost completely design My Future DJ Company in my head, and all this before I had spent a dime on equipment. As I walked up and down the rows hammering and grunting, I would think about my former DJ boss whom I had been contracting for in Tulsa. It allowed me quality uninterrupted time to think about how much capital I would need to raise. It also allowed me to think about how many systems I could afford to buy. It allowed me think about what my former DJ boss did well and what I thought I could do better. It allowed me to think about marketing and how I would do it. It allowed me to think about the business coach skills I needed to learn and whether I was going to be able to learn them by earning a college degree. This work gave me a paycheck, but it also gave me lots of time to think. As I mentally marinated on the reasons why I was working to begin with, my mind kept taking me back to the same three things over and over again.
1) I wanted to start the DJ business so I never had to work at a place like this again.
2) I wanted to marry Vanessa now.
3) My boss, Peter, was the man. He was dyslexic, and he was making bank. He did not have any business coach or a college degree, yet he could mentally do the math needed to order huge sums of concrete with unbelievable accuracy. I was amazed with Peter, his focus, and his determination. He always told me that he was going to work until he was thirty-five, and then he was going to retire. I admired that. The guy knew what he was doing, and he knew that he wanted to do something else with his life, but he had the maturity to view this job as the vehicle he needed to financially get him to where he wanted to go.
As the summer wound down, I spent more and more time talking with Vanessa and her family on the webcam after each horrible day spent working in the hole. Week by week the work became less physically painful, and it started to become just routine, which made it more and more bearable. Over that same summer, I spent many hours on the phone with Mark discussing his views on college, his desire to coach baseball, my love for Vanessa, and The DJ Empire in general. Mark kept encouraging me to ask Vanessa to marry me ASAP. He felt as though she was the hottest and the nicest woman that I was ever going to find. He felt as though I would be “marrying up” if I was able to land her, and he was more confident than I was in my ability to support her financially with The DJ Empire. He just kept saying, “Clay, you are awesome! Oh yeah, buddy. You are the best damn DJ in Tulsa. Your business is going to blow up; you are going to make a ton of money; you need to marry Vanessa.” Being that Mark was the only non-pirate from which I sought advice and that I really talked to on a consistent basis, he pretty much sold me on the concept of proposing to Vanessa after the summer. I was only nineteen and Vanessa was only nineteen, but Mark had pumped me up to the point that I knew I could do it.
I was riding an emotional high from my good friend’s encouragement. All I had to do was tell my parents (never mind telling her parents—I would not see them until five months before the wedding because they lived in Louisville, Kentucky). So, right after I put the phone down from talking long distance with Mark, I marched upstairs to give my parents the news. “Hey, Mom, where’s Dad?” She replied, “Hey, Clayton, he’s in the restroom.” Being that my dad and I have been known to take epic trips to the “porcelain palace,” I started to get nervous knowing that I had to wait to tell him. A while later he came out, and I said, “Guys, I need to tell you something,” (which was a weak opening statement). “Here is the deal, I have been thinking about it, and I am going to ask Vanessa to marry me; and if she says yes, I want to get married next spring.” They then proceeded to ask me questions, and surprisingly, I had most of the answers to their questions readily available. At that point in time, I had already decided to drop out of college at some point, but I did not tell them that part. After reading about Russell Simmons, and P. Diddy, and after working with Peter (my foreman), I knew that my career did not require a degree. It required experience, creativity, and a tough work ethic. I knew that my life was going to be “odd,” but my journey was going to be epic. We talked for the better part of an hour, and then my mom told me that my dad’s mom, Grandma Dot, had given her wedding ring to them before she died. She had told them that she wanted me to give it to my wife when we got married. So that took care of that; therefore, I would have more money to start The DJ Empire. I know that sounds weak, horrible, and pragmatic; but honestly, I was going to be spending every dime that I had on new DJ gear: a maroon Mazda MPV minivan (with over 150,000 miles on it), ultra-small advertisements in phonebooks, (non-glossy) business cards, and various office supplies. I knew what it was going to cost down to the penny, and I did not have a wedding ring in the budget. Thank you, Grandma Dot and Grandpa Clayton. You helped me out even after you both passed away. I miss you and your dominoes.
Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – THOMAS EDISON
Don’t make this business coach blog post as meaningless as ordering two Big Macs, a large fry, and a Diet Coke (to cut back on the calories, of course). Answer these self-examining business coach questions to shine some light on your current situation and opportunities:
Remember, each day on this earth you either get closer or further away from your goals and dreams. Decide now to make every day of your life a positive step in the right direction. If you need help achieving your goals and dreams, contact us at thrive15.com. We’ve got mentors, tools, and resources to help you build a successful and wealth-generating business.