Are You An Entrepreneur?

Are you really an entrepreneur at heart? How hungry are you for it?

My father died when I was 5 years old. My mother was struggling, and soon became sick. It turned out she had cancer, but we wouldn’t know that for awhile yet. And we were broke.

I used to do anything I could to earn money. In the winter I would offer to shovel sidewalks for pay, and in the summer I mowed lawns. I also tried door-to-door selling of anything I could. I found a ditch that had wild watercress growing in it, and I would gather it, clean it up, bundle it, and sell it door-to-door (remember, this was the late 1960’s- you can’t do something like that these days). I would pop popcorn, package it up, and sell it door-to-door. I did anything and everything I could. We were broke, my dad was dead, and my mom was sick.

I realize now that these childhood circumstances are what set my future as an “entrepreneur” in motion. It was actually a great experience in many ways, because it made me hungry for entrepreneurship. Damon John (from Shark Tank) talks about this same phenomenon in his book “Power of Broke”. If you are broke in the beginning, you learn more. You learn faster. You stay hungry. And it leads to success.

Sometimes the “entrepreneur” path is tiring, and you yearn for a regular job making regular pay. I did. And I succumbed to that yearning more than once in my career. (Read the book “The 4 Hour Workweek” to discover strategies on how to leverage your regular job into entrepreneurship— I wish I could have read that book decades earlier, had it existed).

When I was a kid, I got tired of the door-to-door selling. It seemed all that I faced was a constant wall of no’s from the people I tried to sell to. It was tiring, and discouraging. And so I also searched for a job— any job, as long as it was regular and consistent. But of course, nobody would hire such a young kid. So I changed my strategy. Who did I think would be most likely to hire a youngster? I mulled this question over, and decided FARMS were the most likely to hire a kid.

So I started going to the farms in the area looking for work. These farms were also dairies. There was “Smith Dairy”, “Stanley Dairy”, “Kingston Dairy”, and a couple more that I don’t even remember their names any longer. I remember those three because I worked at all three at some point in time or another. So I remember them.

Kingston Dairy was the largest. I bought myself a pair of rubber boots from the second hand store, and yep, they leaked. But I used them. I showed up one day at Kingston Dairy and started trying to help them in their milk barn, and I did it for free. At first they put up with me, but after a couple of weeks the boss of the milk barn, “Chris”, sent me away. He obviously didn’t want to deal with me. But I persisted. I went to the owner of the Dairy, Merlin Kingston, and told him what had happened, and told him I really wanted to work there. He took me back to Chris, and told Chris to put me to work. And Merlin started paying me. It wasn’t a lot of money— I calculated at the time that it was about 70% of the hourly money I could make door-to-door. But it was consistent, and it was easier money.

My family lived in one of the worst areas of town, and the rent was only $65 per month for a two bedroom apartment. One evening (after sunset) Merlin dropped by to talk with my mom, to let her know how I was doing on the job. Merlin was inside the house with all of us, when my mom noticed a scary-looking man walk up to the front porch and try opening the door. My mom had locked the front door, but seeing this man trying to open the door scared her to death. After freezing from fear for a moment, she suddenly realized the back door was unlocked, so she ran to the back door to lock it, when the man came around and saw her through the window of the now-locked door. The man pounded violently on the door in an attempt to break it down, but fortunately the door held. Merlin saw all of this, came to the back door, and opened his jacket to reveal a handgun holstered inside his jacket. Through the door, Merlin told the man, “I think you’d better leave”, whereupon the man left.
It is quite possible that Merlin saved the life of one or more members of our family that evening. It might have even been my life that he saved. And I will be eternally grateful.

Years later (in 1977) my mother died, and I went to live with my oldest brother. And then a couple years after that, personal computers (PC’s) were just beginning to make the scene, and they took my interest. I ran into Merlin again, and excitedly told him what I thought a PC could do for his business. He listened, smiled, and told me he would buy a PC that I could use, and he would also pay me to write a program for his milk cow business. I agreed. It was my first “for pay” computer programming job. And again I was thankful to Merlin.
Merlin passed away some years ago, and I went to his funeral. Merlin was a polygamist, with three or four wives (four, I think). And quite frankly, I don’t care that he was. I appreciate what Merlin did for me, and my family, and will always appreciate it.

When I was engaged to Denise, I was working for the US Forest Service. One day we were driving near what I remembered was property where Merlin used to live. I didn’t know if he still lived there (this was before he died), but I was confident that *someone* from his family did. So I turned into the driveway. It was a long, winding driveway, with trees on both sides, and the home at the end was hidden from view by the long winding driveway and the trees.

Denise asked me, “who’s driveway is this?”.
Nevin: “I don’t know”. (I really wasn’t sure)
Denise: “Why are you going here?”
Nevin: “To see what’s at the end”.

Denise looked at me like she wasn’t sure what to think of all of this, as I proceeded around one corner, then rounded another corner in view of the house. I stopped the car and got out, as the door of the house opened and a woman emerged. It was Joyce, married to Merlin. Joyce recognized me, and I recognized her. Denise got out of the car, and I introduced Denise to Joyce. Joyce treated us both like royalty. It’s hard to describe how well she treated us, and it was a very pleasant visit. After visiting, when we were leaving I explained to Denise, “I really wasn’t sure who was living there, but I was sure it was somebody from Merlin Kingston’s family, and that they would treat us that way, so I wanted to drop by and visit”.

Merlin and his family have always shown Denise and myself nothing but kindness, and I think a lot of them. This morning (Wednesday) I received a text message that Joyce has passed away, and the funeral will be tomorrow (Thursday). I plan on going to the funeral. And I bet it will be packed with a lot of people, because of the way Joyce treated everybody. And yes, I am sure there will be Kingstons there. A *lot* of Kingstons. Because that was her family.
In Napoleon Hill’s book “The Law of Success”, he talks about what he termed “The Law Of Attraction”, where like attracts like. Treat people with kindness, and they will reciprocate with kindness. Show patience, and you will get patience. If you are instead of grumpy character, or angry, or any of the myriad of negative thoughts and emotions that can enter the human mind, that is what will come back to you. Like attracts like. You will reap the same seeds that you sow. The world will forgive a lot of other faults, but the one thing that will never be changed or “forgiven” is the fact that like attracts like.

It has been widely quoted that “You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With”. This statement is nothing more than another recognition of the law that “like attracts like”. If you are around people that are negative, who always try to connect the dots in the worst possible way, that is also what you will become. If you are around positive people, they will charge your battery (metaphorically), and you will become more positive. Like attracts like. This means one effective way to improve yourself is to first improve the quality of the five people you spend the most time with. This might mean you need to change who your friends are.

Remember also, the world tends to forgive mistakes, but doesn’t easily forgive lack of decision. Be decisive.
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Key Points:

Are You An Entrepreneur?
You need to stay hungry to succeed.
Where sacrifice can lead.
You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With.
Like attracts like.
Be decisive.
“The Power of Broke”, by Damon John (from Shark Tank)
“The 4 Hour Workweek”, by Timothy Ferris
“The Law of Success”, by Napoleon Hill