After being ripped off by a family friend, this man learned a valuable life lesson when his father refused to help him out.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad was to know the value of my work. This lesson was gained as a 13-year-old after three days with a scoop, wheelbarrow in a large chicken house full of chicken you know what.
When I was 13 years old, I owned a paper delivery, hay hauling, and basic farm labor business. My first purchase was a 1953 Chevrolet for $50. Since I was too young for a driver’s license or permit, I was restricted to the gravel roads surrounding the farm. I made a mistake one hot summer that allowed me to participate in that old cliché, “experience is the best teacher.”
One of my hay hauling customers owned a chicken house. He asked if I would clean the inside of his chicken house. I agreed because all I saw was an income opportunity for the business.
In those days, there were no tractors or front end loaders involved. I accomplished this clean out with a large scoop, a wheelbarrow, hundreds of trips and plenty of sweat equity. Before you get the wrong impression, this was not his chicken house for a few laying hens. This chicken house was home to thousands of chickens and measured approximately 24 X 60 feet.
I don’t remember the time involved, but I do remember it being many days of work. It was thousands of scoops of chicken manure, sawdust and hundreds of wheelbarrow loads.
Upon completion, I drove my Chevy to the owners home for compensation. He asked for a ride to the chicken house for a quality inspection prior to payment. I had no problem with this because I had the concrete floor clean enough for an old-fashioned barn dance.
After we had arrived at the chicken house, he proceeded to check the results of my work. He was satisfied, and I remember him making what I call a BPM, (Back Pocket Move).
He pulled out a leather wallet that appeared to be from a Tandy Leather Wallet Kit. He tilted the wallet back towards himself, so I was unable to see the contents. In anticipation, I watched his thumb and pointing finger squeeze each bill to ensure no “double payment.”
He first handed me a five. I thanked him for the five knowing this would be the first of many visits to the wallet. The next trip only produced a one. I was okay with this knowing there would be many more visits to the wallet. He again pulled out a one. I thanked him, assuming there were many more wallet trips to follow.
I was wrong. The wallet went back into his pocket. He stuck his hand out, thanked me and asked me if I could drive him back to his house.
I was shocked. I shook his hand and agreed to drive him home before you could say “seven stinking dollars.” I dropped him off, backed into the road and probably threw a little gravel as I headed home. After just being a victim of what I considered felony extortion, I barely heard him yell he would call me again when it needed cleaning.
I was hot! Seven dollars for cleaning out a chicken house? I needed some counsel and sympathy. Mom and Dad would be home in a few hours. I couldn’t wait until they arrived. I knew Dad would help correct this huge injustice. I was wrong.
After sharing the story of the highway robbery, my anger increased as Dad began laughing. I thought he would never quit. I failed to see the humor and began questioning his love for me. After Dad finally stopped laughing and using his hanky to wipe both eyes, he asked one question; what price did I agree on before I began?
I said I didn’t quote him a price but…but…but. My Dad didn’t want to hear the buts. He started laughing again. I remember his words as if they were yesterday; “Son, you have just received a great life lesson, and you made $7.00 while you were learning. People pay money to learn these in college and don’t get paid.”
He said, “this is what happens when you allow another person to establish your value, and you don’t know what value they placed on your work. Your value must be established up front when both parties have a chance to walk away. Consider it a lesson and move on.”
It was obvious Dad wasn’t planning on having a talk with the felon that had just robbed me of what I consider a full weeks pay… but he was right. When I hauled hay, I let the customer know up front what I charged. If they tried to negotiate, we both had the opportunity to walk away.
Although I would’ve taken the money at that age, I am so thankful my Dad didn’t try to “make it better” by slipping me a twenty.
Thankfully, there was no “bailout program” for foolish 13-year-olds. That would have totally removed the lesson. If you are the parent that constantly bails out your kids, shame on you. You are treating them like a rental car and making short term decisions with long term negative impacts.
Teach your kids to take ownership of their actions. There MUST be a consequence to change performance or behavior. I saw this hundreds of times as the primary Human Resources contact for over 2000 team members.
Every job I have held in my life has been an agreement for my work in exchange for their pay. I knew what they wanted, and I knew what they paid. If they hired me and I didn’t fulfill the job requirements, they could walk away. If I thought the pay was too low for the value I bring to the job, I could walk away. We should agree on the price before we pick up the scoop and wheelbarrow.
I displayed no leadership or responsibility when I agreed to the chicken house job. Luckily, no family members or team members were placed in jeopardy because of my inexperience, ignorance and lack of leadership.
These were the lessons from that experience;
- If you don’t establish the value of your work, someone else will.
- Lessons without consequences are not lessons.
- Sometimes the greatest lessons in life are covered up with chicken manure. You may have to do a little digging to find them, but it is worth it.
This content was taken from Greg Gilbert’s new leadership book; “The Power Of Better Series, Volume I – Leading Like You Own It! Why We Never Wax A Rental Car” available on Amazon or his website at PowerOfBetterUniversity.com
Photo: Flickr/ Cindy Cornett Seigle