My philosophy has always been to give back. In fact, that’s exactly the reason I became an entrepreneur. I’ve worked hard from a very early age (my first entrepreneurial venture was operating a bang-up lemonade stand with my friends) but I’ve always been a saver, spending little money on myself.
When I was younger, my mother and I visited a neighbour’s house and I saw her eyes light up and smile as she leaned back into their newly purchased La-Z-Boy chair – I grew up in a single-mother home with my older sister and in my house, we didn’t have a nice place to sit. Juggling two or three jobs most of the time, my mother worked extremely hard to put food on the table so seeing her happy and relaxing was a powerful image for me. I loved to see her so content and I knew then that I had to buy her a comfy chair of her own.
After I had enough money saved up from my lemonade stand, lawn mowing, and snow shoveling endeavors, I rode my bike down to the furniture store where I had seen a big stuffed chair in the display window. With my pockets full of loose change I marched into the store where I was promptly ignored by the salesmen (they probably figured I was just fooling around). Eventually, one of them approached me and I told him I wanted to buy the big chair in the window.
“You want to buy it?” he chuckled.
“Yes, how much does it cost?” I asked.
The salesman took me over to the display window, probably just to demonstrate that I didn’t have enough money. He looked at the tag.
“This chair is $249.99,” he said.
“Okay, I‘ll take it,” I told him.
Loose change fell to the floor and rolled in every direction as I pulled ones and fives out of my pockets and laid them on the table. The salesman, laughing, asked me who the chair was for and I told him. I was taken seriously after that, the salesman even arranged for the chair to be delivered so that it would be home when my mom returned from work.
I’ll never forget my mom’s face the moment she saw the new chair in our living room. She sat down in it and I was so proud; it was probably one of the best moments of my entire life. She got herself a glass of sun tea and just sat, thrilled about her brand new chair. I think that was the day my desire to look after my family developed. The thrill that I got from giving my mom that chair was a better feeling better than anything I could have bought for myself; it was the best feeling in the world.
Persistence, determination, perseverance, resolve – call it what you want but without it failure is inevitable. It took a great deal of work for me to make the money to buy my mother that comfy chair, and it taught me the value of putting off gratification and focusing on what’s important. Persistence is an absolute must-have ingredient for creating a sustainable business and it’s the story of my business life. When I later founded and ran my own business, I knew that persevering through the rough spots would lead to success, and I was right.
As you balance what’s most important in your life, always be sure to reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself. I‘m fortunate to have learned two great lessons at a young age; I was able to see how great it felt to use my money to benefit others, and to experience the sacrifices you must make to be successful in accomplishing your goals.
It’s such a simple joy to be able to make a difference in the lives of others. I suppose I’m still that same kid who likes to save my money—the kid who discovered that it truly is better to give than to receive.