I've had an iffy relationship with money. I appreciate what it can do for me. I can exchange it for food, shelter, gifts, medical care etc. Otherwise I've not really cared for it.
I think one memory from my youth, pushed me slightly over the line towards my indifference to wealth and all who pursue it.
Once upon a summer business venture, I learned three things.
- That people part with their money surprisingly quickly,
- that I could be unappreciative of the people doing the labour,
- and that I could feel entitled to the fruits of their labour.
It was capitalism 101, I just didn't know it yet. You see, I had government mandated permission to operate a light vehicle (a drivers license), I had access to my parents car (privilege to transport goods and provide services), and my parents credit card (privilege to rent capital). For brevity's sake, we'll set aside the fact that my parents were living off credit cards and excluded us from the realities of our financial situation.
The people doing the labour, were my brother and his friends. You see, they wanted to make money that summer and they were in high school. Not a lot of options when you're in high school, so they signed up to work on people's lawns with a company that would put them on the back of a pick up truck (unsafe working conditions), gave them quotas, and garnished their wages according to their performance, or lack thereof.
One of my brothers' friends couldn't believe his first pay cheque. He sensed the injustice and calculated the trios lost wages. He came up with a plan, they could do less work, for more money, and keep it all for themselves. As the older brother, I was approached because I had access to capital, a van to drive them, a credit card to rent equipment and pay gas with.
The plan worked flawlessly, it boiled down to a few things.
- We had to know just enough information about lawn care in spring and a tiny bit more than our customers, information that we had access to by observing the condition of their lawn.
- We had to undersell and compare our prices to the "competition".
- We had to present the customers with an honest assessment of what it would cost, if they did it themselves.
They chose to pay, it was the easy thing to do.
10 hours of weekend work, and we hit four figures, by the next weekend, we fell apart.
You know what happened, don't you? We got greedy, the friend with the plan, and the man with the capital, we became entitled.
Of course he deserved more money, he came up with the idea, and the sales script. Of course I deserved more money, I took on the risk and drove the car. We almost broke five figures, everyone had considerably more than they did before our experiment, so what was the problem?
You see, It didn't feel fair and it wasn't transparent. We had an argument, they quit and took the bus home, us entitled two completed our work for the day, returned the machines and unceremoniously packed up and ended the nascent business.
This memory reminded me that what I described continues to repeat itself with 'adults' who think they know better. But instead of a weekend, it turns into a lifetime of us wearing our best suits, marching into work, and pretending we're getting compensated fairly.
I only wish we all had a fraction of the bravery my brother and his friends did. Both in pursuing an opportunity, and in walking away from it.
We're still brothers, and they're still friends, but I've yet to apologize.
Sorry broski, I didn't listen then, I have learned to listen now. Thank you for the memory.