[April 29, 2019] My pre-teen years involved working at several small jobs that taught me many things. Among those was the ability to work with others, pick who could be trusted, and learn about the limits of your friends. One summer, a friend of mine and I were going to make lots of money selling lemonade.
Ben Carson, an American politician, once said that a “key to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents, but the good leader knows how to harness those gifts.” My friend Wilson was a great friend but terrible at selling our product. Our business venture suffered but, as two 9-year olds, we stuck it out for the summer and made a few dollars.
I remember, vividly, the oppressive heat and humidity of northeast Louisiana, that my mom helped by making some of the lemonade, and that many of the young men who came by had pity on us (they bought our lemonade). Our best customers were young mothers, men who worked locally, and an occasional “older” person. This was a time when a nickel was a lot of money, so kids were not buying.
Here’s what that summer taught me about leadership:
- A good leader can discover talent in people, but they also have to know how to use that talent.1
- If you want to be successful in any business, you have to stick to it and not give up.
- Friends don’t necessarily make good business partners.
- Relying on the pity of others won’t cut it.
- You have to sell the right stuff and at the right time.
- A smile and a “thank you” goes a long way for repeat customers.
- Money isn’t everything (that idea was a long way in coming to me).
- When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask mom (or someone smarter than you) for help.
I think that I was a bit lazy as a kid. Many small jobs came and went; like cleaning guns for my dad’s friends. It’s a great way to learn many lessons. For me, the best lessons were those that made me suffer. That way I learned and didn’t forget.
Did I learn from the experience? Yes. The main lesson was that I could have been having a lot of fun instead of selling lemonade. That was the last time we did that. Later, as a parent, my daughter sold lemonade in our family’s front yard. She lasted a little longer than my friend Wilson and me.