I walked through a construction site and noted a young apprentice with both hands in his pockets. I walked up to him, gently put my hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “Not much work gets done with your hands in your pockets”. His hands flew out of his pockets and I walked away, he had that dreaded look I had years ago. This young man was surrounded by his superiors and I thought about his training, “Is he learning the fundamentals of work ethic as much as he is about his apprenticeship?” LIFE WILL TELL!!
We all need a wakeup call from time to time
I was twelve years old when I got my first job outside of my dads business. My uncle had a fish and chip shop that was second to none. Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights 4:30pm to 7:30pm were mayhem and I got the glorious position of answering the phone orders, how simple was that???
My uncle had a gold tooth, a chain-smokers voice that sounded like someone out of an old gangster movie and a charismatic way about him. I rocked up ready to make my $5 a night with the easiest job in the world, just answer the phone, or so I thought.
First things first
My uncle transformed from the charismatic uncle who everyone loved into a monster, at least that’s what it felt like when he gave me my first lesson in hospitality. “GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS” he shouted, “YOU’RE HERE TO WORK” and then instructed me on how to answer the phone. He was very specific… the welcome, the order, the name, the time of pickup etc… everything had to be done in a particular way. To a twelve year old it seemed a little over the top, what difference does it make how you answer a phone, until the phone started ringing and the shop filled with customers. I would be abruptly asked by one of my cousins about an order, “What sort of fish do they want?!!”, I didn’t know, a fish is a fish. “What does that say?!!”, I couldn’t remember, “Is that a 2 or a 4?!!”, I got muddled up… the shop was so busy. I failed time and time again until I got it right. My uncle and my cousins gave me no slack, they didn’t treat me like a child, they treated me like the young man I wanted to be. At the end of the night I got my first pay of $5 and a free dinner…..I felt like I earned my keep.
Second lesson was both humiliating and timeless
After a while, what seemed stressful those first few nights of answering the phone, it became relatively easy. Week in week out I mastered the role and I had time on my hands in-between phone calls. The shop was full of customers, my uncle, auntie and cousins busy serving and business was humming. I started daydreaming and watched the fish and chips getting wrapped up on the counter by my cousin and a piece of crackle fell out onto the bench. I didn’t even think twice, walked over to the counter, picked up the crackle and ate it in front of all the customers and my cousin saw me. My cousin stopped serving customers, someone else took over and he asked me come to the back of the shop where no one could see. As I walked to the back of the shop knowing instantly something was drastically wrong, placing my hands in my pockets in a reactionary way, not knowing what was going to happen. When I get to the back of the shop, my cousin shouts “GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS, YOU ARE HERE TO WORK” then he goes on and scolds me for eating in front of the customers giving me a lesson on discipline and vigilance. My uncle walks past not saying a word and he had a look of compassion yet didn’t stop the lesson from progressing. My uncle and my cousins gave me no slack, they didn’t treat me like a child, they treated me like the young man I wanted to be. Again, I got my pay $5 and a free dinner…..I felt like I earned my keep.
42 Years later and those types of lessons remain
I’m known for four simple lessons when I mentor others
- Clean your own space
- Know where you are going and work backwards
- Separate yourself from the sheep and become a sheepdog
- Be a role model, they are always watching, this is where the fun begins.
In this day and age, the way I was mentored by people like my uncle and even then my 19 year old cousin would seem reprehensible. It was these mentors that taught me how to hunt for myself, create my own opportunities in life as well as have the privilege of passing on some of these survival skills to the next generation.
My concern for this generation? – Not enough genuine mentors