Monday, March 2, 2009

Lessons from my Grandfather

Not a day has gone by this year when someone hasn’t asked me if I’m nervous, scared, stressed (insert other verb here) to be starting a business in these times. And they tell me the location is cursed. And some even shake their head when I answer. In dismay. Like I’m not living in the reality of the times.

Let me start by saying that I do understand the realities of the times and I am an optimistic person that is grounded in reality pursuing my dreams…

I’m not stressed, not nervous, not scared. I’m excited. I’m excited at what we’ve built so far. I’m excited at what can be. I’m excited about all the possibilities. And the reality is that business isn’t as great as I thought it would be. I’m working more hours then I thought I would be. But… we’re during alright. We’re breaking even after 3 months in business. After 3 months. Breaking even. That’s something to be damned proud of. The location isn’t cursed. It isn’t a great retail location, but that wasn’t was I was looking for. I got the location I was looking for. A tamale production house.

We’re either going to make it or not. Simple. Nothing to stress about. It’s something you wake up every morning to and put your best foot forward. You go out and do your best. No, you do what is required. You go where others don’t go. You greet every customer. You take every phone call. You sell at every opportunity. You check the quality of every product. You don’t serve something that doesn’t meet your standards even though if it may cost you a few bucks. You get strong and make those around you strong.

We are now in the worst economic times since the great depression. You can give in (quit) or you can find a way. Every day I find a way. Which brings me to the lessons of my Grandfather. He was born in 1901 and grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. He moved to Chicago and started selling insurance in 1930. The Great Depression and he started selling insurance. He woke every morning and hit the streets. He came home for dinner at 5 and went back out from 6 – 9 pm knocking on doors. Cold calling. And he made a good living for his family during the great depression. Others agents were let go. Other agents quit. He didn’t. He succeeded. In 1948 he was the 6th best salesperson for Prudential Insurance in all of America. The 6th best. He never quit. Never gave up hope and had the work ethic to match.

And how did he convey this lesson to me? When I was a teenager he told me about the depression. He kept the message simple. All he told me was how he succeeded. I can still picture it, his eyes would light up, they would get big, big brown eyes full of delight, delight in the life he had led. He told me the story numerous times. I was in the back seat of his car and he would turn around and tell me. At the dinner table he would gleefully shake his fork and tell me. His glasses would bounce on his nose with all the joy in his voice. “Let me tell you something”, he would pause to make sure he had my attention, he always had my attention, “In the great depression I went door to door selling insurance and people thought I was crazy, why didn’t I get a job that paid a regular wage? I told them I loved what I did. They would tell me that the unemployment rate was 25%. Who could possibly buy insurance? I told them the 75% that were working could. They would quit because of the 25% unemployment, I succeeded because of the 75% that were employed. You can always make it if you work hard enough and focus on the positive”, he would pause and always add, “Don’t get me wrong, we helped everyone we could that didn’t have a job, I would even make insurance payments for some that had lost their jobs or couldn’t afford it.

It’s another story but between him and my mom and dad, it’s easy for me to see where I got my entrepreneurial and liberal qualities.

So, at the end of the day we succeed or we don’t. I have control over that. We will succeed. I’ll work hard, so will others. But we won’t quit. We won’t give up. Don’t you. The government and the banks and plenty of others have put a big ole screw on us, but that’s still not a reason to give up. In fact it’s time to stand up and shout, and work and not let the bastards cram us down any longer. Unfortunately some people will quit, some will give up and some will despair. That means we can’t. We have to be strong for our families, for our friends, for others. Make your world happen. Not by wishing, but by doing.


Laura Fitzgerald said...

Amen, brother. Great post.

Chris said...


I just read your update and I think that Laura summarized it best.

Amen, Brother!!!

You just keep on making great Tamales...

I'm sure everyone that follows your blog has a similar story from their Grandfather or maybe even Great Grandfather.

You all are doing a great job. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

William Irving Brown, Todd's grandfather and my father, had an incredible philosophy for living a life of love. One day I asked him how he deals with negatives about people, in particular his loved ones. Dad said, "I don't look at their faults, I look to their true nature." I said, "But Dad what if you don't agree with them. What do you do?" With the twinkle in his eye my Dad responded, "I don't offer unsolicited advice, I don't tell them they are wrong, because who am I to know what is truly right or wrong. In fact, I don't even tell them if my belief is different. I just continue to love them as they are." I thought that was quite profound and I responded, "But what if they tell you things about yourself that are hurtful, what do you do?" Immediately he answered with,"I just laugh with them... it isn't hard to laugh at yourself." What a guy!
````Who am I? The mother of Todd and the mother of five more loving children. My Dad died in 2002 living a beautiful life for 100 years. I am eternally grateful for my family...and for having learning that our cups are always half full and we are all brothers.