Today, I want to tell you a story about determination. The story comes from my reading earlier last week from the book, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow,” by Marsha Sinetar. The story I want to tell you is about a man named Wayne. At the time of the writing of this book, he was a 75-year old self-made man. He was a general contractor, photographer, husband, father and grandfather. At age six he became a trapper to help feed his starving family. At nine he ran away from home because of a misunderstanding with his father. At seventeen he found himself in the great depression and it was at that moment he decided how he wanted to run his life. He saw other young men running into town drinking the night away, but he wanted a better life. As he watched the light flicker in the fire he was sitting by, he decided that despite his background, he would make something of himself. That’s exactly what he’s done.
He lives with such confidence in his ability to make money. During the great depression, he became a roof-cleaner earning one hundred dollars a day. Now, after decades of working as a carpenter he can be selective with his clients, choosing only those that fit his values. Wayne believes no one ever has to worry about money or not finding work. On that subject, he said:
I’ve always made a living because of me. Not because I can build. During the Depression, with twenty people wanting every job, I was working. I’d just go into a place and convince them I could give them excellent service. They not only paid me, they fed me, too. I saw a man stab himself to death out of sadness because he couldn’t support his family-that’s how bad it can get. But it has nothing to do with what you do. It has to do with what you are.
His words clearly show his confidence, high self-esteem, and determination. In reading his story, I don’t think failure was ever an option for him. He just knew he was going to succeed at what he put his mind to. And this is a man with no education, no ability to read, and no family connections. The words “I’ve always made a living because of me,” are the most powerful he’s said. Everything outside of him was stacked against his path, yet he succeeded. Some might say he is boastful, yet I think he possesses a necessary self-confidence that many lack. It’s the reason many of us don’t achieve what we want.
Possibly the most beautiful part of this story is how he used his resourcefulness to help others. He doesn’t seem to understand when people say they are “too old” or use excuses to not to go after what they want or need. He said,
A while back, my wife bought me $10 worth of tropical fish for a Christmas present. A year later, in
addition to my regular work, I was earning $700 a month off that present-just doing it on the side. Later, I
sold that business to a man I know who had been an aircraft worker but who had had a heart attack and
though he couldn’t work anymore. I showed him exactly what to do, and today that man is the largest
dealer in tropical fish in the area.
Recently, I met a man who has become paralyzed and is taking walks around the block just because he
needs something to do. He thinks he can’t work. I’ve been talking to him about starting a hobby. I’m going
to set him up in business, too- probably tropical fish. Or maybe I’ll teach him how to carve wood toys. He
can just do this hobby at home and earn all the money he wants. All you have to do is see a need in terms
of a service or a product and then get on with it. But first you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and
use your mind. And that’s just about all there is to it.”
I love how matter of fact Wayne is. He has a “figure it out” mentality. I especially love that he is using his determination to teach other’s how to overcome obstacles to make a living for themselves. He has a real skill that is much needed today. Many people think they need advanced degrees and everything lined up perfectly to make something of themselves, but they are missing the key ingredient: grit. To do what Wayne has done, an individual needs grit, determination, and a “I can do it no matter what” mentality.
This story brings me back to why I made the title of this company “rooted to fly.” To fly, we must root. "Rooting" can mean many things, but one thing it definitely means is to be connected to who you are as a person. It means to pay attention to developing your personhood to then be able to flourish in careers, relationships, and really anything you put your mind to. Wayne knew who he was and exactly what he brought to the table. This is a great reminder for all of us to focus less on the outside things we cannot control, and more on ourselves. We might not be in the middle of the Great Depression, yet life is REALLY complicated right now. I think the more we return to who we are, find strength in our quiet moments, we can walk empowered through any roadblock.
Strap on your “Wayne mentality” and get after it! Happy rooting, everyone.