Blue Collar Values – White Collar Humility

I have at last count had 46 jobs in my lifetime, starting with my first experience as an entrepreneurial lemonade stand owner through my current role with Mayo Clinic; where I hope some day to retire from.

I have learned a lot from each and every job I have had; however the most significant lesson I have learned is that I am embarrassed to call what I do today work.

Today, I work primarily in conference rooms and at a desk in front of a computer.

At thirteen I was cleaning up vomit in a bar in the mornings before school.

I eventually graduated to washing dishes and cooking in a bar restaurant, which actually contributed to my love of cooking and an eventual 58 inch waist. I even spent five years bouncing in a bar where I got vomited on a couple of times, I promise that’s my last vomit reference for this post.

Before my bar worker career though; I bailed hay, picked stones, cleaned up yards, dug through garbage cans to collect cans, stocked shelves in a grocery store, cleaned a welding shop, changed oil, cleaned mechanic tools, mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, did my chores at home and that’s not even a comprehensive list.

So when I left my football career behind I was not scared to leave the sheltered life of a collegiate athlete and join the working world while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

I immediately went back to the glamorous life of a small town bar bouncer, which I eventually quit after getting my ass kicked by a men’s softball team. However, bouncing did not pay the rent even at my Grandma Feyen’s house so I had to find daytime work too.

I first went to work in a metal fabrication shop where I operated a drill press drilling holes into boat motor mounts and on more exciting days got to work a saw cutting pieces of tube aluminum for deer stands.

I do have a scar on the back of my hand from when I brought the saw down on it. Who knew drinking while bouncing until two in the morning before running a large saw starting at six would be a bad combo.

I eventually was lured away from metal fabricating to working in a small foundry that did boat motor castings. I was a ladle handler which essentially meant in 120 degree building I would spoon 50 pounds of molten aluminum out of a furnace and carry it 20 feet to pour into a cast, walk back and repeat. When I was lucky I would get a break to work on the shaker team which broke up the casts to pull out the finished product. At the end of the day I was covered from head to toe in a black soot like substance. That was my shortest tenured job ever, I lasted two weeks.

I thankfully had been offered a job in a feed mill where I got to clean out huge bins full of moldy soy beans, clean out drain gutters full mixed moldy feed, bag animal feed by hand and eventually got my commercial drivers license.

After I got the license I was eligible for driving a dump truck with a conveyor for cleaning out corn cribs. I would get out of the mill and in temperatures from 120 degrees to minus 20 degrees be out shoveling corn. I would then drive back to the mill where I got to empty out the corn, turn it into feed and then take the finished product back in bags or a bulk feed truck where at times I got to crawl into attics of barns to spread out the feed. At the end of the day I was usually covered in dust from the feed.

I made it through a couple of years there before being lured away by a drywall distributor. There I was driving a boom truck which had a crane for picking up piles of drywall which me and a team member got to handle piece by piece to haul into new homes, existing homes and various commercial construction sites in all kinds of weather. I eventually graduated to more bulk deliveries where I didn’t have to handle every piece and at times got the chance to manage the warehouse. This is where I learned management has it easy.

It was about at this time too, that I had started back to school part time at your mothers urging. I was initially planning on majoring in English and becoming a high school teacher and football coach; but I had been bit by the business management bug.

I ultimately quit my job at the drywall distributor to get work near the university so I could go back to school full time and work full time. While I was in school I did a bit of driving for a lumberyard. However, my management experience had spoiled me with the idea of temperature controlled environments so while in college I worked at a truck stop, auto parts warehouse and did phone sales. I did eventually do door to door sales to, but only during the summer.

So back to my earlier comment, I am embarrassed to call what I do today work compared to what I know other people do for a living.

I know it drives me to do more and it often drives me to spend time reflecting when I think I had a rough day. My hands are callous free these days, but I still see the callouses there when I do reflect and it makes me appreciate life and all people more.

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