The real life example of the plan I write about
I grew up deep in Middle America, in a suburb outside Chicago. My family was not poor nor were we rich. Over the years I’ve spoken to many people that were raised in the inner City of Chicago who were poor; when I told them I lived outside the city I’d be judged.
I was seen as someone with an advantage; I was a white guy, lived in a nice neighborhood, with less crime – opportunity should have been knocking down my door?
So where’s my opportunity, I looked for it? For ten years I couldn’t find anything that would pay decent money nor could I find the opportunity I was told I had.
I knew my reality was the same as those in the city. And it’s the same in the suburbs, in the country and even globally.
Without skills, school, or experience, finding a job that pays well is hard. I worked hard to try and find a way to make some good money.
A quick snapshot into my childhood
I was a poor student, mostly because I didn’t care. So if you would, please forgive any small grammar or punctuation you may stumble upon – I floated through most of my education.
In middle school I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) – that was a blanket diagnosis for most disorders in the 1980’s. And for most of my childhood I felt like an outsider and was happy to be by myself.
Life for me was not always easy; I struggled with some unknown force my whole life. Up until last year – I realized – I may be fighting Asperger’s Syndrome.
Some of my symptoms are: poor short term memory, poor social skills, I have trouble with small talk in social situations, sensory issues, and trouble with rage. I have built some pretty intense coping strategies to deal with any social issues and improved most of my bed-side-manner… well I’m still working on it.
I have come to find out getting a formal diagnosis to tell me what I already know; only lightens my wallet $2000.00. Not exactly a sound investment – it’s not like there’s a cure. If I ever have a few grand kicking around I’ll probably make the investment but … until then.
How I have turned draw backs of AS into benefits.
There are upsides of AS for my personality. I can become extremely focused on any one topic … my topic of choice … being the best at whatever I am doing. And I mean becoming so efficient that I look at every possible gesture or movement to determine if it has a place in my work environment. I’ve spent time going over and learning every possible problem and having a possible solution ready at my fingertips to solve any problem.
I’m seen at my current job as a machine – for better or worse. I currently install Carbon Dioxide tanks and related equipment for a national specialty gas company. I can complete difficult installs in record time – I am also responsible for raising the install-per–day, standard. Sometimes another worker and I would complete as many as eight installs in a day working together.
I usually would work at or near fourteen hours per day – my hard work guarantees my employment and gives me the confidence to find another job if I want to.
From the beginning I struggled with employment
I graduated at the top of my class, from a vocational school with a degree in foods; I wanted to be a chef. Oh by the way, this was the only time in my childhood education where I was proficient at school. Why, because I really enjoyed it, and I had the chance to work with my hands.
Daddy Daughter Dinner at Smith and Wollensky,Chicago
I love cook – but more importantly – I love to eat. I get a great deal of satisfaction working with my hands. I spent three years chasing my cooking dream. I had four jobs as a cook and barley rose above minimum wage; not to mention the work is hard and not as sexy as the television makes it seem today.
I had to find a new path. I flopped around for a few years, having many low points being unskilled, begging employers to give me a chance. What I needed was a written plan to find success in the working class field. I was spinning my wheels never getting any traction.
A friend told me about working for an insurance company – being desperate – I gave it a shot. I was part of sales management team in an insurance company, selling and building a large team (you know, multi-level marketing). I was good at selling the dream, not so good at selling their products.
I grew intellectually in spite of my social fears. I attended many sales and self improvement seminars and read many books on the art of those subjects. Most of what I learned was sales based, I also gained some interpersonal skills to interact with others around me. I still use the majority of what I learned over the two year period of time today, which is why I feel it’s worth mentioning.
I couldn’t sell – I was broke and I needed money coming in consistently. I needed to go find something else to do, something working with my hands.
I had to start all over again with no skills, no school, and no experience
I started a new chapter, foods didn’t work and neither did sales management. I had skills and training for selling, management, and cooking – I didn’t like any of them. I found myself back in the same precarious position. Starting over again is difficult, now I was married I couldn’t find a good paying job – I decided to make one for myself.
I started a landscape and seal-coating company – I earned every penny I made. At times, I even come down to knocking on doors begging for work – knowing the money I made that day would pay for the food we would eat that evening. I kept working at it, and I worked hard, because I loved the idea of working for myself, and I didn’t have anything else I could fall back on.
Two more years went by and I eventually had to abandon my business – I just couldn’t make enough money at it – there were too many costs. I drove my family close bankruptcy … again. Bills were piling up and I had trouble finding a new job, without skills, school, or experience I had to re-start again at the entry level.
By this time I was flat broke with a new baby at home and all I could find was a job as a driver’s helper. Little did I know I was at the beginning of this long journey. Let me share an example of what I discovered.
How I used my experience to get a jump in pay.
Minimum wage in Illinois, at that time was $13,520 I started as an entry level driver helper making $16,600 a year, it’s tough to live on this income – so I had to really focus and work hard. The work ethic I used for self employed paid off when I applied to my new job, I was quickly promoted and trained as driver.
I gained what I call a “leg of experience”; having driving experience I could now look for other driver positions. I looked in the paper and found an ad for a driving job that actually doubled my base salary paying me $32,760.
I added some fancy stuff to my resume and applied the next day. When I interviewed the next day – they hired me. I worked hard and focused on my being the best, this is an essential trait that is required to capture the American Dream. I used this trait at my new job to move to Trainer, then Head Trainer. As Head Trainer I created a training manual and then ran training class I also created, which led to a management promotion. I was looking for every opportunity and capitalized on every one, the second year I was making over $45,000.
Everything was going in the right direction for me and my family. We were out of debt, saving for a home, but I wasn’t happy. I was a manager for a year and decided it was not a direction I wanted my life to take.
I tried self employment one more time
A friend of mine talked me back in to self-employment, this time on a greater scale and I had a partner. Running a business is tough and I learned a lot from the experience the first two times. A seasonal business is good money but not in the off season. I had two children at the time and needed to keep them fed.
After one more season as an entrepreneur I realized I had to find full time employment. I sold the business to my partner for basically pennies. Having your own business isn’t as glamorous as everyone thinks. I racked up more debt keeping it alive, and knew it was time to get out.
I knew I had two legs of experience one as a driver and one as a manager. I re-entered the blue collar field with another driving job hauling hazardous chemic slightly more than when I left the driving field – I didn’t really miss a step. I worked for this company for five years and enjoyed steady pay raises and a dangerous but comfortable working environment.
When tragedy strikes, it’s surprising how many people offer a hand
Everything was going great and my wife and I chose to have another child, we always wanted to have a big family, he would be our third. He spent the first 18 days in the neonatal-intensive-care-unit in the hospital close to our home. I knew the moment he was born something was wrong.
The doctors had trouble figuring out why his body wasn’t getting enough oxygen in his blood. On the 19th day he was flown to another hospital where the doctors discovered he had a severe heart defect. By this time there was too much damage to his heart and lungs and surgery was no longer an option. He later left this earth to be with the Father, dyeing in my wife’s arms on his 22nd day of life. To this day I am still surprised at how many lives he touched. I hope I get that chance.
After our son passed away, everyone close to our family – and many more we didn’t know – did amazing things to comfort us during the very difficult times we faced. My family is forever grateful to all the people that supported us.
Four months later we decided to have our last son. My wife was still on maternity leave from her job as a school teacher and we didn’t realize she carried the maternity insurance. We didn’t Cobra her insurance on her leave, which turned out to be a costly mistake. She had a policy from her job and was also covered under my family insurance policy from my job. I held the family insurance and “maternity”, wasn’t included.
Our fourth, and last child was the biggest. He was 10lbs 8oz at 38 weeks, he needed to be delivered by C-section – had we waited two more weeks he would be close to 12lbs. We are blessed with a healthy boy, but unfortunately we really racked up some medical bills – not being insured-and fell deeply into debt once again.
Change is a part of life, time to get used to it.
I felt like the company I worked for was going to be sold to a new franchisee. The “writing was on the wall”… so to speak, I couldn’t be laid off – I needed to find a job while I had one – applicants have the upper-hand when they are currently employed.
I changed again to another company – this time as a service tech installing liquid carbon dioxide tanks. I was offered a higher salary, better benefits and a better working environment. At that time I made six times the Federal minimum wage – in just seven years.
I can show you how the working class fields are full of success. I hope you can see it is possible.
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