Episode 1 What does it mean to Hustle The Most: What 10 year old me learned while hanging out in a giant flea market that my uncle ran.
I think that everyone knows what it means to Hustle. It means to move fast, quickly, put in effort, do work. This episode of Hustle The Most I jump into hustling and getting hustled at a very young age. Hanging out at a flea market when I was 10 years old taught me a lot about how to talk to people, be quick witted and how to keep my money in my pocket. The flea market is a place where I learned a little about a lot of things. I was running wild in a giant warehouse full of vendors at 10 years old.
Since this is the first episode of Hustle The Most I’ll want to give you a quick background on your host. I’m a designer, drummer, and entrepreneur. I spent most of my 20’s touring around the world playing drums in rock bands, designing and attempting to be creative.
I run a few different companies and I am generally interested in others stories. Where they came from, what they do and why they do what they do. This podcast series is really a series of stories and featured guests that talk about all things hustle, heart, design and innovation. There are a lot of successes and a definitely a lot of failures but in the end it’s all about what did I learn.
I grew up on the southside of Flint Michigan in the late 80’s early 90’s. Flint was a pretty cool place to grow up. I feel like there was always something happening. In the early 80’s General Motors was still themain gig in town so people were still flocking to the city looking for work although I think GM peaked in Michigan around 1978. There were always new stores and restaurants popping up all the time. One would close and another would open in its place.
I think Flint has always gotten a bad wrap. Whenever you would tell people that you were born in Flint 90 people of people ask “have you ever seen Roger and Me” and then the next question was always “was is scary growing up in Flint”?
The real answer is not really. When you live in a place and that’s all you know it just seems normal. My friends and I drove a lot of beat up dusted out cars that we paid like $1000 for and we would put speakers in them that cost more than the car. I remember having an 82’ Monte Carlos with primered doors, an 84’ Cavalier and couple of Fieros. These cars were Gems!
I lived with my Dad in this pretty middle class neighborhood. A lot of my friends had parents that worked in the shop. This was GM but us locals new it as in the shop. In fact I think when I was little I don’t think kids knew the name of the company they worked for it was just “yeah my dad works in the shop” and it was like oh ok. Not what they did or what line they worked on or what department it was just, he works in the shop.
Our house was a 3 bedroom cape cod that was in ok shape minus the ceiling had caved in in a few different parts of the house. The roof eventually gave way and the water caused the drywall in the ceiling to collapse. When it rained it was a scramble to get the buckets and pans to catch the water. It’s funny you think everyone is on the same level and then people coming in to your house and look up and see straight up SKY and they are like “What’s going on here”.
We were pretty poor and probably on lower side of that middle class line and didn’t have money to fix it so we just worked with what we had. My parents were divorced so this was my dad’s house where it was my dad and a revolving cast of my older brothers and sisters that filtered in and out between our house and their mom’s house. We also always had people renting the basement or an extra bedroom, usually a family member or a family friend. When people fell on hard times my dad was always there to try to help them out any way possible.
When you grow up poor you learn real quick how to make it. You learn to get creative.
I am not talking about selling drugs or anything like that I am just saying you develop a new sense of “how do I get things done with the tools that I have” I like to think that this forced me to be creative and enginiatuitive and be quick on my feet.
When I was a kid my dad had a booth at this flea market that my uncle ran. This was like a 100K SqFt wide open space just full of booths from on end to the other. You could buy everything at this place. This was the around 1988 and this place had everything from switchblade combs to giant rolls of carpet. My dad’s booth was the place to come if you needed a new or reconditioned car battery. I feel like car batteries were made a lot worse back then, they were always dying on people. We also lived in Michigan and the winters could be brutal. Brutal weather and crappy old car batteries were not the best combo. My dad used to tell us kids how he started that business with a $100 bill.
He bought a bunch of used batteries with good cores in them and a few chargers and cables. He filled them with new battery acid and cleaned them up and sold them as reconditioned batteries. He would sell them to car lots, auctions, and he would sell them at his booth on the weekends.
The flea market was a place where I could totally run wild. This is the place where I learned to hustle and definately how to get hustled. I was 10 years old and I would go from booth to booth just talking to everyone about anything and everything. Sometimes I would start my day out with 2 bucks and I would end the day with 10 buck and a bag of candy. I would buy something and trade it for something else that I would then sell. Sometimes people would just give me stuff. I really don’t know if people gave me stuff because I was cute, poor or homely looking or what, either way they did and it was awesome. Everyone knew my dad and his booth. I’m sure at one time he jumped their car or he bought something from them or vice versa it was fairly communal. I remember coming back to my dad’s booth with a whole shopping bag full of stuff and my dad asked me “where’d you get all that stuff” and I look right at him and said “Dad, I’m just so cute people just give me stuff”.
At the flea market I really learned how to talk to people from all walks of life. Sometimes people would just talk to me because I was there. On a slow day with not a lot of foot traffic people are just excited to talk to someone, anyone. The 10 year old me would get into these crazy adult conversations about their day and the things that they bought or sold. I would just sit in their booth sometimes and just gabb away. Sometimes I would go and get people popcorn or a Tab soda from the vending machine. It’s funny customers would walk through the entire space and probably see me behind 5 different booths throughout the day and they wouldn’t have any clue who’s kid I was.
I think the flea market really shaped a lot of my young personality. I probably spent about 3 years out there. I learned a lot about people and how to sell something to someone and how to assess values. I realized that junk to me might not be junk to you and I have it and you want there is always a deal to be made.
So what did I learn from my time at the Flea Market?
I learned that you can’t learn anything when you are talking. It’s not possible. Sometimes is just good to listen and take it all in. Especially where you are out of your element. If you are the smartest person in the room then you are probably in the wrong room.
I learned that you really never know someone’s story or what their life was or wasn’t before they entered that conversation with you. Take time out to listen and understand their story.
And the last thing that I learned is just because you start out with nothing doesn’t always mean you will have nothing!