[February 6, 2016] Teenagers are good at picking up on life’s little lessons. Many of us do this through odd jobs while growing up and some of us were lucky enough to have a job that reinforces positive behaviors. One of my jobs while living in northeast Louisiana was pig pen cleaning on my neighbor’s farm.1
My classmates had a good laugh at me for the dirty work of cleaning up after a few pigs but there were rewards. There was my next-door neighbor’s daughter who was my first kiss while playing the spin the bottle game. While my goal to have a girlfriend was important to me – I succeeded – there were other essential gains from it.
“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” – Colin Powell, U.S. Army General and U.S. Secretary of State
Of course I learned that a well-maintained pig pen is crucial for raising healthy pigs. Cleaning the pens is a job that is not to be avoided. It controls roundworms which pigs are prone to get, keeps the bacteria down to a manageable level, and helps prevent diseases. The pay was not good but, again, my focus was the farmer’s daughter.
I can’t remember my neighbor’s name but his daughter’s name was Linda. She was so cute. With this extra incentive to work, I learned that cleaning the pig pens had to be to my neighbor’s standards of hygiene. The manual labor also kept me in better physical condition (later I graduated to feeding the cows which was less strenuous and better pay). Eventually I learned to respect the pigs for their contribution to my dinner table.
What I learned was that fulfilling my duties as a pig pen cleaner was that hard work and loyalty to the farmer had rewards that were far beyond pay. Those lessons which are the fundamentals to leadership were never forgotten and with luck I was able to instill them in my children when they worked as teenagers. … oh, I never forgot about Linda.
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- For a general idea what it’s like to clean a pig pen, see this YouTube video (1:35 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT8swlAzGR4