“Hard work pays off. I am so
annoyed at my father for being
right about that.”
–Lena Dunham, actress
This quote sure struck a chord with me. I can still hear my own father telling me how important hard work was. He used to say, “There’s no substitute for hard work, Michael.” And he used to practice what he preached. He was always the first one up in the morning, around 5am, and he wouldn’t return until after 7:30pm. He would spend an hour or so chatting with my mom after dinner, and then it was time for bed.
As a young teenager, I followed his lead. I used to work the summer doing odd jobs for people, for $1.10 an hour, and when I was 16 years old, I got my first job at Jack in the Box. I saved my own money for my first car, and when I was 17 years old, I had three jobs after school and even moved into my own apartment. I worked my way through UCLA, but when I graduated and started my first inside sales job, something changed.
When I watched some of the top brokers at my new company make big money and saw them wearing nice suits and driving nice cars, I thought that after a few months on the phone, I had paid my dues and that I should have that, too. In fact, after making hundreds of cold calls, I felt I deserved it….
But that didn’t happen. After three months, I was struggling, and then resenting my lack of success. “Don’t you know who I am?” I thought to myself. “I’m a college graduate” (more than I could say about many of the reps there), and after three more months, I was secretly thinking that I could probably run the company.
Did they acknowledge me? Nope. So what did I do? I copped more resentments and started hanging out at the break room grumbling with the other bottom performers. As I was sneaking out early one Friday, my manager confronted me and read me the riot act. He told me I was never going to succeed if I wasn’t willing to work for it.
That weekend, after I got over my new resentment at him, I began thinking about what my father had always said. I began thinking about how hard he worked. I asked myself how hard I was working and how much time and effort I had been putting in. My honest answer was not very much.
When I got back to the office that Monday, I found that the top producers were already there and they had even written some deals already. When I was about to go home at 4:30pm, they were still there, in full swing. And that’s when it hit me: If I want to succeed, I’m going to have to work hard – a lot harder than I thought I already was.
Fast forward nine months later. After making a commitment, putting in the time, and putting in the effort, I became a top producer at that company. I was the first one in the office and the last to leave. And as I put my first deals on the board in the morning, I watched the bottom producers straggle in and head to the coffee and donuts. I watched them grumble that they hadn’t been promoted yet, that the good leads went to other people, and how hard the competition was.
After they had long left the office, I turned out the lights in the office, locked the door behind me, and got into my Mercedes. I was dog tired. Suddenly, I realized how my father must have felt each evening. I smiled to myself when I realized that he had been right all along….