Leadership and Mowing the Grass

By | November 16, 2020

[November 16, 2020]  As children, we learn at an early age that we are part of a family and with that comes both duties and responsibilities.  Often we are given odd jobs around the home.  I was fortunate to have many of these jobs outside the house, where I learned about hard work, saving my money, and leadership.  One such job was mowing the grass.

If we are lucky, we can earn a few extra pennies by helping out the neighbors.  Growing up in a small town with no traffic lights meant that everyone knew each other, and if you were willing, you could get just about any small job for either money or some item you wanted.  I did this when I was about ten years old by mowing grass.  I had my own lawnmower, the push type.

This was the first real job I had where I worked for myself.  Part of my earnings went to the family.  At first, I thought this was unfair but gained an appreciation for the respect my family and neighbors granted me for doing a good job.  My earnings were whatever the homeowner gave me.  Typically, this was a quarter of a dollar unless the yard was large, and then I got an extra dime.

It was hard work in the heat and humidity of the Deep South.  I was never hurt because the push lawnmower was typically dull, and I worked slowly until everything was cut.  Many years later, well after it would do me any good, I learned how to sharpen the mower blades.  For a ten-year-old, however, this was a bridge too far.

One of my neighbors, the father of my best friend Wilson, would teach me some of the “tricks” of mowing and pleasing the customer.  This was new to me.  The mowing part, I had down pretty good. Satisfying the customer was a different story, however.  He told me that the first thing I should do is to politely ask the customer how they were getting along and thank them for their generosity in hiring me.  Smile, he also said as if my life depended upon it.

He told me that it was just as essential to get my customers to like me as it was to do a good job.  If they were not satisfied with my work, I could forget about any future work, and the adults would no longer help me out.  “That Doug sure has a beautiful smile,” Mrs. Cox would say to my mom.  I was learning and learning fast.

As the years went on, my family moved to the big city, 10 miles north.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this big city had a population of about 8,000, which was “big” for me.  I no longer mowed anyone’s yard, but I came into contact with a farmer that gave me much better jobs, picking up cow manure, cleaning pig pens, and finally graduating to milking cows.  That’s where I met my first real girlfriend.  And that is another story.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Leadership and Mowing the Grass

  1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    A good thing that you were “learning fast,” Gen. Satterfield. That is why, I figure, you made General in the US Army. You can’t get away with being lazy or stupid. They weed out those kind of dummies really fast or just don’t promote them. I’ve seen laziness in the military and can tell you this trait of laziness is growing in the Army. I get comments all the time from recruiters telling me about it.

    Reply
  2. JT Patterson

    SMILE, you would be amazed at what it can get you.😊😊😊😊😊

    Reply
  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Here is the heart of the article:
    “He told me that the first thing I should do is to politely ask the customer how they were getting along and thank them for their generosity in hiring me. Smile, he also said as if my life depended upon it.”
    Remember this is what boys need to learn and learn well. I’m not so sure it is taught any longer.

    Reply
  4. Karl J.

    Responsibility and hard work…these are the ingredients to a successful life but also the building blocks to great leadership. Obviously, it paid off in the case of Gen. Satt.

    Reply
    1. Ronny Fisher

      Yep, you got that right and an important point not to be overlooked. Today, you will not find young boys getting odd jobs any more because they don’t need it. They are either given everything by their parents, grandparents, or the govt. Who needs a job? Well, now we are reaping the “benefits” of that kind of young man (or woman) with those same folk delving into socialism because, the bottom line, it gives them what they need (or think what they need). Hard working people hate socialism.

      Reply
  5. Tomas C. Clooney

    Good job on today’s article. I esp. enjoy this entire series of small jobs you had as a boy and young man. I too like best the one on cleaning the pig pen but I also loved the one about killing the chicken (that you did not link to). It was one of the best. Thanks again.

    Reply
  6. Dale Paul Fox

    The “big city” wow. 8,000 population. You surely must have lived in a really rural area, Gen. Satterfield.

    Reply
    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Yes, Gen. S. has noted this before. He grew up in Northeast Louisiana. This is the part of the state that didn’t get any development from the Huey P. Long era of the corrupt politician who ran the state. This is the forgotten part of Louisiana and thus more poverty.

      Reply
  7. Greg Heyman

    Another enjoyable post this morning. I enjoyed it while drinking my coffee and having my dog at my feet. Now that winter is upon us (almost anyway), I will have more time to do some of the reading on your website. Great job, BTW, Gen. Satterfield

    Reply
    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Yes, another good one. I’ll also be sharing this one with my friends at work. I’m headed out the door now. Just wait, I hope to give some feedback later today or tomorrow on what I hear at work.

      Reply
  8. Lynn Pitts

    Gen. Satterfield, good one. Hey, thanks! I enjoy this series about “leadership and …” on your odd jobs as a young boy.

    Reply
    1. Max Foster

      This is how young boys learn to become responsible adults. They have many many small jobs growing up. The older they are, the more responsibility they come across. This hurdle matures them quickly. Those boys who do not have jobs or any kind of responsibility grow up to be college snowflakes.

      Reply
      1. Army Captain

        Like so many of us, we learn “on the job” – so to speak – that working hard pays off in a little extra spending money, helping the family, and -something unexpected- a chance at respect.

        Reply

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