Before my Mother turned into an abusive psychopath, she first stopped feeding us. I doubt she did it purposely, mind you; she was just going out to eat a lot with various dates and buying groceries for her children sort of slipped her mind.
Because she was rarely home and there was no one really to complain to, my brother and I learned to make do. We ate salt and pepper soup. We sucked on old Taco Bell mild sauce packets. During one particularly bad week, we actually ate grass and clovers from outside. This went on for months.
Finally, my brother couldn’t stand it any longer. So, he started stealing. Every day after school, he’d walk down to the corner store. Then, about a half an hour later, he’d show up back at home with candy bars and little Debbie cakes he claimed to have found in the bushes. After a day or two, I began to get suspicious. After all, who consistently leaves candy bars in the freaking bushes? I decided to follow my brother and see what was going on. Sure enough, I caught him stealing red handed.
On one hand, I was furious. Back then, I was still emotionally invested in following the rules and thievery was a blatant no-no. On the other hand, we were hungry. Starving, in fact. In a single summer, we had each lost 10-15lbs and we were both pretty skinny to begin with. What were we supposed to do?
I was only 9 years old, but I felt it was my duty to dissuade my brother’s life of crime. I sat him down and explained to him that I was going to find us food from now on and absolutely forbid him from burglarizing another grocery store. When he asked me how I was going to bring home the bacon, I shared with him my master plan.
I was going to start my own multi million dollar business.
Sure, I was only in the 4th grade. So what? I was hungry and determined. I had a little brother who was depending on me. I had a notebook full of excellent ideas and I was willing to try anything. What more does a young entrepreneur need than that?
The first business I started was a rag doll super store. For hours, I toiled in my bedroom with all the scrap cloth I could find making what I saw as the perfect toy. After I had made a bag full, I attempted to sell them door to door. Unfortunately, my rag doll super store was a colossal failure; I didn’t sell a single one. Turns out, there wasn’t much of a market for creepy looking dolls made out of old T-shirts and cotton balls.
After that, I decided to start my own perfume line. I mixed potpourri with tap water and poured the mixture into discarded tic-tac containers. Again, I tried to sell them door to door. Again, no one was interested.
Still, I refused to accept defeat. I picked blackberries, smashed them up, and tried to market it as ‘homemade preserves.’ I dug up tiny pieces of coal under a bridge near some railroad tracks because I thought they were worth money. I made friendship bracelets out of yarn and even managed to sell 2 of them. I invested my profits into a jar of peanut butter and started making cookies in my easy bake oven. I actually ended up selling 4 whole zip lock baggies full of cookies, though I strongly suspect my faithful customers just felt sorry for me. After all, my cookies were nothing more than glorified balls of peanut butter with fork mark designs on top.
After awhile, I realized that hocking cheap wares door to door wasn’t panning out like I thought it would. I figured I could make some real money if I got into landscaping. So I borrowed my neighbors rake and decided to offer my services in the leaf removal field. A lot of people weren’t interested, but after an entire weekend of slammed doors, I finally got a bite. A single guy who lived a few blocks away hired me to rake his yard.
I worked my ass off on that guy’s yard. I spent 5 hours meticulously removing each and every fucking leaf that had the audacity to fall on his property. I swept the dirt off of his driveway. I even fluffed his grass. When I was finished, I stood back for a few minutes to admire the job I had done. The high school boys didn’t rake the leaves half as well as I did.
Beaming with pride, I knocked on the single guy’s door and asked for my payment.
“Wow! You did a really great job,” he said.
I ducked my head modestly. “It was no problem.”
“What do you usually charge?” he asked.
Bewildered, I paused. No one had ever hired me before, so I really had no idea what to charge. Finally, I said, “Well, whatever you want to pay me, I guess.”
“Whatever I want to pay you?”
He gave me $3. Back then, I was thrilled. I had never made that much money in single day.
However, looking back, I wish I could pay that guy a visit so I could burn his fucking house down. THREE DOLLARS? THREE DOLLARS? I spent hours raking that dude’s leaves for 3 measly dollars? Months later, I found out that the older boys who did the shoddy work typically charged $10.
But hey! You live and you learn, right? I learned to manage my successes, maximize my profits and learn from my failures. After awhile, I even started putting food on the table. Granted, the majority of the food I could afford was either ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese….but at least my brother didn’t have to steal it.
When I was 16 years old, I was walking through a discount store one day when I realized they were having a sale on candy bars. And not just any candy bars, either. The candy bars they were selling were those jumbo sized ones the school system usually encourages students to sell to raise money for fund raisers. I sold them myself once or twice to raise money for various field trips and the price was always a dollar a bar. However, this particular discount store was selling four of them for a dollar. I was working a part time job at the time, so all I had was $75. But that didn’t stop me from spending every last dime of it on candy bars.
Considering I was going to school and working part time, I didn’t have a lot of time to sell the candy myself. So, I hired a bunch of neighborhood kids to sell it for me. (Don’t worry; I paid them significantly better than the guy whose leaves I raked paid me) Within a single afternoon, they had sold every single bar. I spent all of my profits on purchasing more candy. I gave it all back to the kids to sell. Rinse and repeat until I had purchased and re-sold every single jumbo sized candy bar the discount store carried. In a mere 2 weeks, I had managed to make $1,500 for myself after giving the kids their cut.
This was actually how I managed to buy my first car.
The entrepreneurial spirit I had gained as a hungry 9 year old kid never really left me, either. That is, of course, until I went to college. If you have a burning desire to start your own profitable business and you would like said desire beaten out of you slowly and surely, all you have to do is attend a state university. ‘Art History 101’ might as well be renamed ‘Kill Your Dreams in One Semester Or Less.’
Despite what your guidance counselor may tell you, college does not turn people into free thinking individuals who will someday have the whole world at their feet. It turns them into worker bees that will spend their lives in cubicles just so long as they get 2 weeks paid vacation time per year.
Statistics say college grads make double the money as their high school diploma having counterparts. But at what cost? College grads also end up with ridiculously high student loans to pay off. They typically work longer hours, always chasing that elusive promotion or office with a window. Should they discover they despise the work they’re doing, they usually have to suck it up and spend their lives in a field they hate. After all, when you’ve spent $30,000+ on a degree, it’s pretty damn hard to walk away from everything and start completely over. And when all is said and done, most college grads remain a part of the struggling middle class. They sure as hell don’t die rich.
Right now, 6 of the 10 richest people in America are proud college dropouts. The other 4 inherited their wealth. Hell, Dakota Fanning has made more money than most people will make in a lifetime and she’s still in middle school.
We’ve all been indoctrinated into believing that a college education is our ticket to a happy, comfortable lifestyle. But, think about it for a second: how many college grads do you know personally who hate their jobs? How many are downtrodden? How many are on prozac? How many haven’t yet gotten the chance to regret their degrees because they can’t even get a job in their field?
Personally, I’d rather make half the money of a college grad if it means doing something I love. I don’t want to spend my life making some college drop out richer while simultaneously ignoring my personal potential and forfeiting my future happiness.
In some circumstances, obtaining a college degree is a necessary step in pursuing a career that you love. However, in most cases, a college degree is nothing more than a little slip of paper that tells the world you are a certified worker bee.
Sometimes it takes leaving the hive to realize your true potential.
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