Hustle The Most Episode 11: Putting In The Effort
I really feel like putting in the effort will get you anywhere you want to go. I remember when I was kid I would always rush through my chores or whatever work I was doing just so I could do nothing. I think even when I started my first job I didn’t really understand what working was all about. My first job ever was at KFC. I was 16 and Eric who played in Jive and Spit with me got me a job there.
Minimum wage at the time was $4.25 an hour.
Which even to this day still blown my mind. My dad used to tell me how lucky I was because he used to pump gas in the freezing cold for a Nickel. I still don’t know if there was any real truth to that it seems a little low. I remember getting hired to work at KFC, I had to go to orientation. The orientation was help in this little out building the was painted like a small KFC. I seem to remember people calling it the chicken coop but I could totally be making that up. I was hired to be a cook I was going to cook chicken. The orientation was a lot more geared toward people working in the front. I remember there being some sort of customer roll playing around upselling and I remember me being super uncomfortable and bad at it. I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the front counter or dealing with customers but I still had to do the drill. There was one situational question where I was supposed to ask the person playing the customer if they would like to order a drink and I my response was something like
“would you like something to wash down that chicken?”
I can’t even believe I said that that’s probably the worst upsell in the history of upsells. Wow. What a bonehead answer! I think everyone laughed and she corrected me and we just moved on. The orientation was like 8 hours long and it was pretty much the worst thing ever but looking back on it I think that’s a right of passage that everyone should experience at least once in their life.
Maybe you guys can tell me but I feel like the most stressful part of any job is the very first day. Everything is weird, and different and everyone knows what’s going on but you. It’s like walking into a class mid semester in the middle of a lecture.
I think it’s pretty stressful. Take out the time and place and just focus on yourself for a minute. Think about the social aspect of it. How do you look, how do others things you look, are you going to fit in, will you like the people, will the people like you. How do you dress? Are you wearing the right clothes? So many things run through you head before you even walk in the door. This kind of stress and anxiety can make you literally not even want to show up. It’s almost like you would rather live in your parents basement than to have to go through that.
Working in fast food was no different but they did take some of the guesswork out of the equation. Before I started they issued me 2 shirts, a pair of pants, a hat, apron, KFC belt and a pair of non slip shoes. It was all blue and white and had the cornels face and logo embroidered on it. I remember the first time I put this costume on and I looked in the mirror and I felt the like the biggest doofus to ever walk the earth. I remember feeling like I wanted to cry until I walked in the door and then I had this realization that everyone else was wearing the same obnoxious outfit. It was only weird to me.
I think all of these all of these things that I dealt with when I was 16 are the same things that people deal with on every level. I have friends that are CEO’s of fortune 500 companies and they go through the exact same woes as a 16 year old kid walking into his first job. I mean it gets easier of course because if you have had more than in job in your life then you know what to expect. It’s not different than riding a roller coaster for the 1st time and then the 10th. It still may be scary but at least you know what to expect.
I think like most young kids I had a handful of silly jobs between 16 and 20. I worked at KFC for maybe 6 or 8 months then left explore the world entertaining kids at birthday parties inside of a sweaty Chuck E Cheese suit.
Yes you heard me correctly yours truly used to be Mr. Chuck E Cheese. That job wasn’t really that bad. The way they do it is if you are in the Chuck E Suit then you are in it for 20 minutes and out for 20 minutes for an 8 hour shift. When you are out of the suit you basically fill up ice on the soda machines and help out wherever else you are needed until you gotta get back in the suit. You can’t talk in the Chuck E suit you basically just walk around and wave to kids and try not to get punched in balls. There are some specific site lines in the suit with some definite blind spots if you aren’t paying attention kids will just walk up and sock you and you have to do you best not to scream or go down like a sack of potatoes. That was another job that had an 8 hour orientation about making it fun for guests. Like I said it wasn’t really that bad there I mean the place is based around having fun so it kind of carries over a little to the work environment. I did lose my pager once when I jumped into the ball pit. I also lost my key and my wallet. I had like 5 people in there with me helping me find my stuff. It was pretty awesome. I think I was only there for like 4 months and then I got offered another job for more money.
My buddy Jason was a cook across town at another restaurant called “A Chicken Affair” and I got hired then because I had “Chicken Experience”. I moved up from $4.25 to $4.50! I was balling at that point! This place was like a knock off KFC that catered to a more authentic southern fried chicken demographic. We sold things like livers and gizzards and okra and cod fish sandwiches and I got to cook all of it. This place was also pretty fun to work at I remember before I worked there my buddy Jason was working and he had someone quit on him in the middle of a shift so Eric and I when over there to help him catch up and then close his kitchen. It was almost like we were these major league cooks coming in from the corporate giant to help this little restaurant catch up and stay afloat. This place had some pretty funny characters that worked there. Everyone got along for the most part and there was always a lot of joking and pranking and even the occasional kitchen wrestling match. This company also did a good amount of catering so there were a handful of late night when they came back from a wedding or party with like 200 dirty dishes for us to clean. I spent a lot of time infront of dish sink at that place.
Remember a few episodes back when I talked about how it’s all about who you know. That phrase is literally how linkedin started. I was getting pretty burned out working in the food industry and I was looking to get out of it. I think I quit and was just looking for another gig and hadn’t found anything. I applied a handful of places like Target and Meijer but I never got in the door. A few months later my cousin Jason called me, he was a manager at the Ace Hardware down the street from my dad house and he said “hey you still looking for a job” I said “YES” he said
“come up right now and fill out an application and you can start tomorrow”.
This was like the best news ever not just because I got a new job that paid me $6.00 and hour but Ace hardware didn’t have a kitchen and they didn’t sell food so I wasn’t going to be cleaning grease off the steering wheel of my 83 Pontiac Fiero and smelling like food every day of my life.
All this time I was still playing in a band and going to high school. I was living at my moms until I started driving then I pretty much moved back into my Dad’s house and just drove everyday from Flint to Grand Blanc to school. It’s funny I remember Eric and I both worked at the KFC and played in Spit together and we used to love to work together so they would schedule us together but then we would have shows like on a Friday night and we were always trying to both leave at early to get to the show.
There is probably nothing grosser than working in a greasy chicken kitchen for 8 hours then changing in the car and getting on stage and sweating chicken life all over the place. Uggghhh!
The hardware store was a different type of gig though it was customer service. This was totally foreign to me. My job there was to help the customers. It was big store and people were always coming in looking for someone to help them find something or solve a potential problem. I remember standing at the main aisle on my first day. I was looking good, I had my hardware smock on and a tape measure on my belt a pen and paper in my pocket.
I was so ready.
Then my first customer came down the aisle and I immediately started to sweat. I remember I went to say “ can I help you find anything” and I swear I almost swallowed my own tongue. Whatever came out of my mouth was definitely not those words and the guy didn’t even blink he was like “nope, I’m good just picking up window” I was relieved. I was off the hook until the next guy came in and this time I got the words out and he was like, “yeah I’m looking for the nuts and bolts”. I took him to the nuts and bolts and he was like “ok I got it from here”. It was awesome, he needed something and I helped him get it. This sounds pretty silly and miniscule but for someone that didn’t really like talking to people and had no confidence in their abilities as customer service person I was feeling pretty good about it. It was interesting because I was kid and people would come in looking for real help and when I would try to help them they would say “where’s the old guy at” they wanted someone with experience. Eventually I had to win every frequent customer over until they eventually started coming in saying “where’s the kid at, I need some brains”. I started drawing things out for them that connected electrical, or plumbing or whatever else they needed. This was my first job that I actually felt valued. It wasn’t even valued from the workplace but just the customers that I had helped.
They appreciated it and they showed it often.
So let’s get back to putting in the effort. At the hardware store we all had kind of side jobs. Sometimes it was to change all the prices on the spray paint or change product on an end cap or something. My thing was cutting glass and re-glazing windows and repairing screens. We had a lot of landlords in the area and they were always bringing in old windows and screens to be repaired from these junk houses that they rented out. At the hardware store is where I first heard someone say some words that will stay in my brain forever. Someone in an all store meeting said
“you are going to be here for 8 hours either way so you might as well take you time and do the job right”.
Remember how earlier I talked about rushing through my chores so I could just do nothing? This is what people did at work. They would do their side job and just blow through it just to be done with that task so they could do nothing. You know how people say it’s actually harder to look busy then to actually just do the work. That’s totally true and do you want to know why? Because the new variable comes into play that wasn’t there before which is your conscience and you wondering if other people are watching you pretending to be busy. How silly is that?
Looking back at it these jobs they were probably not that bad but when you are 16 and you have to work instead doing anything else that just sucks. I think these jobs are a right of passage because even though the nature of the job may be awful they really teach you a lot of fundamental things about being in the workplace. Think about your first job for a second and some of the things that you carried with you from job to job and eventually into your career. Things like time management, punching in and punching out, accountability, how to work with others or ask for time off. These are all pretty basic things but you don’t know what don’t know. Taking the bumps and bruises and learning to navigate jobs in your early working life is what it’s all about.
But let’s talk about what did I really learn from all this:
I learned that no matter what your title is when you walk into a job for the first time it’s always weird. Weather you are a CFO or a cook at KFC you are jumping onto a giant moving treadmill you just have to do your best to asses what’s happening, ask good questions and learn on the fly. Day 2 will probably be better and day 300 you will hopefully be owning it.
It’s interesting looking back on my first jobs 25 years later. I really learned that the culture in these places are what made the work bearable. A lot of times the people you work with can make or break your job. When it’s good and when it’s bad it sucks!
I think the last thing that I want to touch on are those feelings before you walk in the door. These are the same feelings that stop people from being successful. The same feelings that stop people from starting a business, doing a podcast, or doing what’s in their hearts. The key is to figure out what those barriers are for you and learn how to navigate around them and set yourself up for success.