As I mentioned in the last post, my grandparents had an insane work ethic. They had to, as they toiled in factories to make their mark when they first came to America, then running a restaurant for many hours, days that would segue into late nights.
I’m talking crazy work ethic. The “We’re in our 80s and still moving at warp speed” work habits. One of a kind.
They passed this on to my father, who in turn passed it on to his kids. When I decided to work at the restaurant after high school, the only way to work was their way. Hours upon hours upon hours. The majority of it standing up, walking, running, whatever it took. Not much in the way of sitting.
Most younger guys wouldn’t have gone for that, but I wanted to be a bartender, and I wanted to work with my family. So I went all in.
What followed was a years long string of 12 to 14 hour days, the busiest ones filled with non-stop activity. I made money, created relationships, and helped build a business.
There were times when I thought it was getting to be too much of a grind, and wanted to quit. But gut instinct told me to stick it out. The hours I was putting into the small family business were going to make me neither rich nor famous, but I was sure, someday, that something great would happen.
Right Place, Right Time
Fridays at the restaurant were especially grueling. Our customers had money on Friday, and they all wanted to spend it. That equated to a longer day, at times 14 to 16 hours.
After one particularly nasty double shift, my father and I were walking to our cars to go home. One of my friends, Bruce, was with me, tagging along. It was a clear night in April, but we walked quickly as it was a little brisk.
We had parked our cars right next to a busy college hangout, in their parking lot. As we approached the lot, I could see that my Dad’s Chevy wagon was blocked in by the car of some overzealous student. I could easily pull my car out, but that Chevy wasn’t going anywhere.
I was tired, but my father worked in our restaurant’s kitchen, so I knew that he wanted to get out of there and go home.
I tossed him my car keys and took his in exchange, saying to Bruce, “C’mon, let’s go across the street and get a drink”.
“Across the street” was another bar, an old time watering hole called the Eldorado. After walking through their door, life was never going to be the same.
Bruce and I put our bellies to the bar, got our cocktails, but fatigue was starting to wear me down. He was talking to me, but I didn’t hear him – I just stared straight ahead in a haze. Then his eyes lit up and he spread his arms into hug formation, as if to greet an old friend.
I turned away from the bar, and watched as he gave an embrace to this striking girl that just came through the door. She was a recreation of the classic Barbie doll: blond, cute, with beautiful eyes. She had a sensational form dressed in denim and a dark blazer.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune that night. I had a friend who could introduce me to “the girl”. And over twenty years later, that girl is still by my side.
My wife and I met under circumstances that should have never happened. I was in a place that I wasn’t supposed to be, and she came to the same place, not knowing where the next stop was. The intersections of life are, at times, unplanned trips. The stars align in just the right places, and that “mystical and magical” force just takes over.
I can give credit where it’s due. Without my grandparents showing me the ropes – without watching how they worked all their years – there is no way I would have put in all the hours I did. And without that, right place and right time never happens.
And that’s the way it is with many things in this life. Like my grandparents, I strived enough, expended effort and energy, to create opportunities for good things to happen. Without the work ethic taught to me by others, I don’t meet the woman I was meant to fall in love with.
If my two children can learn just one thing from me, I’d like it to be this: never underestimate the power of hard work and maximum effort. It can change your life. You will run into people who won’t agree with this, happily coasting through their lives.
Take what I say to heart, understand what my parents and grandparents taught me, and do what few others will do – work it, and work it hard.
It’s the principle that got you here in the first place.