In 1992 a home builder incorrectly mixed a batch of cement causing the floor of a basement in Missouri to require replacement.
The contractor who won the job lived across the street from me. He was my first manager, the guy who cashed in by matching odd jobs with cheap workers. There is good money to be made in convincing people to do subhuman work. I was an easy mark.
I was a skinny 14 year old, eager for cash, and convinced I had something to prove. He pointed at a pile of rocks, promised me a paycheck, and put me to work. I wonder how much money he made off my labor.
For $4 an hour I would climb through a small window and jump down to the mud below. I would lift the chunks of broken concrete above my head and throw them out the window. Then I would climb back out, load up a wheelbarrow and move the rock to a truck that hauled the waste away.
Maybe that sounds like hell. I thought it was great.
I remember how good the 15 minute breaks felt, how refreshing a cold drink was on those humid summer days. How great that sandwich tasted after a morning of physical labor. How wonderful a shower felt at the end of the day and how great you sleep when your body is spent. It was almost magical to be able to transform effort into dollars. Most of all, that addicting sense of accomplishment has never lost its appeal for me.
I have been reflecting on my last 24 years of employment because yesterday was my last day at TrainingPeaks. I have been telling people it was the best job I have ever had, and it's true. I have been working a job or two non-stop since I was 14. I have been promoted from construction sites to grocery stores, gas stations to Costcos, marketing agencies to in-house design. Each gig gets a little better. There are fewer blisters, bigger paychecks, and more temptations to get lazy.
The trajectory of too many careers seems to be toward reduced risk, delegation of responsibility, and the collection of as much cash as possible for the minimum amount of work. Promotion means going from worker to manager. If you win that game you end up with a corner office, completely isolated from the real work. I am sure you know some people like that. They can make a compelling case for their existence but the real workers recognize empty suits.
Could you ever become that neighbor from back when I was 14? Would you be satisfied skimming cash off the top of hungry young workers who will break their backs to accomplish something? There is good money to be made in convincing people to do the work nobody wants to do.
As for me, I would rather be the one in the mud, hauling the waste, and fixing the foundations of failing structures. Point me at a pile of rocks, promise me a paycheck, and let me get to work. There is no better job in the world. And just like that 14 year old version of myself, I am still convinced I have something to prove.
Thanks for reading. They don't pay me to write this stuff and I don't charge to read my weekly excursions into the rubble. If you like my hustle, consider giving me a follow. Stay creative.
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