Between playing basketball and work, I had less and less time for school. I’d come home from school, get my basketball and shoot around until 4:30, jump in a van and work for a couple of hours, go back to the backyard and shoot around some more, go to sleep, and do it all over again the next day. There was little time for homework, and my grades started reflecting that more and more. It didn’t matter as much to me though. Life wasn’t about books and homework to me. Real life was about having money to provide a roof over your head, food in your belly, and clothes on your back. Those were the necessary ingredients needed to survive. I could live without finishing a homework assignment on time, or getting an A on a project. I couldn’t bare to be hungry, or handle the constant pressures of meeting the social demands of school as a teenager.
After I got the hang of MET, I started telling my friends about it. Mike Austin was one of the first ones I told, and he eventually started working there, too. Man did we have a blast. For our age, we made a lot of money. It’s just a shame that we didn’t know what to do with it. Mike and I both liked basketball. I was, of course, much more found of it than he was, but we both loved 1980’s basketball, especially the good old Bad Boy days of the Detroit Pistons. I remember when word got out that Michael Jordan’s rookie basketball card was worth thousands of dollars, collecting basketball cards became our newest craze. We’d go to the mall and spend $50-$60 buying entire boxes of basketball cards. We’d rotate spending the night at the others house and spend hours opening up our cards, hoping to get a David Robinson or a Derrick Coleman rookie card (I know what you might be saying…Derrick Coleman???). Ever since the MJ rookie card exploded, getting the rookie card of the next rookie of the year was a lucrative investment. I know…we were foolish.
I might have had an unstable home life, but I was learning some practical life lessons during this time in my life that have shaped me into who I am today.I learned how important it was to be able to earn enough money to live, I learned how to set goals and achieve them, I learned how to communicate with people, especially strangers, and I learned a lot about sales. Every time I went to work, I was set on being the top seller every day. I loved the idea of being the best, and I wanted to get that top-seller bonus every night. To accomplish that, I had to do some math and get creative.
One day, a lady was pondering which item she wanted. We had so much to choose from: caramel nut clusters, mint patties, peanut brittle, honey roasted peanuts, etc.We even had erasable coloring tablecloths, and scented candles. Anyway, I came up with this idea to offer her a discount. Since I made $1 for every box (I got bumped from .90 cents to a dollar for being awesome), I could sell 2 boxes for $7, and still make my dollar. The way I saw it, I could make my money back by offering a deal. Selling multiple boxes at a house would put me in much better shape to be the top seller at the end of the night. Doing so usually meant a $5 bonus, and sometimes $10-$20, depending on Ron’s mood. I was quite the entrepreneurial lad as an early teenager. I might not have been getting all A’s in math, but I knew how to crunch some numbers.
So I learned how to manage risk and reward. Sure, there were some days where I offered tons of bargain deals to my customers and fell short of being the top seller for the day. Now…I was GOOD! Those days were few and far between. However, it did happen, and usually, when it happened, the next day I would come storming back, not taking no for an answer from customers, and find myself on top at the end of the night again. In retrospect, I have taken that lesson and applied it to everything else in my life. To this day, I hate to lose. I am one of the most competitive people I know. I’m ambitious, driven, and quite frankly, I don’t particularly care for the opinions of other people if their opinion doesn’t fall in line with what I want out of life. Experience taught me that if you want something, you go after it and get it. No one can define your possibilities but you (well…and God of course, but that’s for another chapter).