I answer to no one is the motto that I live by. You either work for yourself or you work for someone else. You either building yourself into somebody, or building up someone else’s foundation at your own expense. Well, I bet you’re wondering which category I fall under. I fall into building me, doing what I want to do, and not adhering to nobody. Who cut my checks, I do, that’s who. Who tell me when to wake up, I do. Nobody dictates to me unless I say they can. I bet you’re wondering how I came to have such a radical mind frame. It goes all the way back to when I was a small child growing up in a poor community.
At the age of eight years old, my mother and I were at a shoe store. She had just gotten paid and wanted to buy me new gym shoes. Only one problem, the ones I wanted she couldn’t afford, so I had to get the cheap pair. I couldn’t understand at such a young age why she wasn’t able to afford the shoes that I wanted. She told me her job only paid her so much money, so she had to make do with what she had. This was the defining moment for me, as I watched another kid walk in the store with their mother and buy the shoes that I wanted. Watching the young child have something I couldn’t have made me infuriated. So infuriated I made my mind up that I wouldn’t be my mother. The hell with a job, I wanted to be self-made.
In an attempt to be more self-sufficient, I decided to take a sheet of paper and crayons from my backpack. I proceeded to draw out a plan for what I wanted to do with my life in the future. This would consist of a list of things I promised to myself I would accomplish by the time I was my mother’s age. The only problem for me is that I didn’t know where to start. I never knew anything about being self-sufficient, so how was I going to go out on my own. I mean come on, I was only eight years old, what did I know about making money. So I did what I thought would be the appropriate steps to becoming successful.
My next door neighbors owned a rake and the fall season was rapidly approaching. From watching how irritated people were about raking leaves, I decided to make money this way. That’s when I went next door and asked the neighbors could I use their rake to make a little extra money in the neighborhood. They were more than happy to help me because no other kid my age was thinking about earning an income. All the other kids in my neighborhood accepted their economic position. Not me, I wanted more; working for someone else or asking someone else for money was not for me.
Once I had my rake, I went back into my house and took out a new sheet of paper and crayons. Only this time, I would create some method of getting my name out there. If people didn’t know there was a yard cleaner in their neighborhood, then how could I make money? With my crayons, I designed an advertisement so potential customers could be brought to me instead of me going door to door. The first problem with this type of advertising is that I only had a few sheets of paper. The other issue is that my community was poor. Who, in a poor community, would pay for something they could do for free. Then I realized something, the neighboring community was a middle class neighborhood.
People in the middle class community did a lot of their own yard work, but at times couldn’t find the time to clean themselves. This is where I come into the picture. With this rake in my hand, I left my mother’s house and walked about half an hour away to the other community. As I entered this community, I thought these people were rich. They had homes by the likes of which I never seen before. Two car garages, bicycles parked on the front lawn, and house doors were even partially open. So what did I do, I took it upon myself to approach one of these houses. I almost didn’t see the police squad car behind me, as I slipped one of my advertisements into the open house door.
As I turned around, the police officer asked me what I was doing. “Oh, I’m trying to make a little extra money, so I gave the people of this house one of my flyers.” Thinking the police would understand my hustle mentality, he grab me aggressively by the wrist, and walked me to his squad car. Next thing I knew the police had placed me in the back seat of the squad car. The neighbors of the house had exited the premises. They must have saw the squad car because the husband, wife, and children were all out in the front. I saw the police conversing with them, as the husband shook the officer’s hand. The officer walked away, holding my flyer and proceeding toward the car. For a moment, I thought the man had told the police officer he was impressed by my flyer. I thought my take charge, straight forward aggressive attempt to pitch myself had worked.
Well, it didn’t work, as a matter of fact the police officer entered on the drivers’ side of the car. He started the engine and drove away, as the family standing out front stared into the back seat. They looked at me with different emotions in their eyes: the husband and wife looked disappointed, but the kids looked confused. I don’t see why the family was so irritated, I was merely trying to make a living for myself. As the police officer drove the squad car, he asked me where I lived. I told him my address, as he drove in the direction which I came to the middle class neighborhood. At first, the feeling of riding in the car with the police made me feel like a tough guy. Really, it did, I felt like a real badass.
As the police squad car pulled in front of my house, my mother was sitting on the porch. When the police officer exited the car with me in the seat, my mother quickly left the porch. She made her way to me asking the officer what happened. Once she found out what I was doing, I thought she would be happy; but I was wrong, yet again. She was beyond infuriated, while informing the officer it would never happen again. As the officer drove away, she grabbed me by the ear, pulling me toward the house. Once on the inside, she grabbed her belt, giving me a really good butt whooping. But it didn’t matter because I was more determined than ever to be my own boss.
This setback didn’t deter me from trying because I was on to my next business venture. This job would be more permanent, but a path I regret until this day. There were some hustlers in the neighborhood who needed some help. Once I found out what they needed help doing, it terrified me. I remember my mother telling me to stay away from these guys. She said that hanging around these guys led to death or prison. But from what I knew about life, we all die at some point in time, so I did it. I decided that getting paid by the neighborhood hustlers was way better than asking for money; and a lot better than being broke.
So, here I was, my first day as a hustler like the big boys. I wasn’t able to sell like the men were able to, so they allowed me to hold their product. At the end of the day, they would slip me a few bills in my hand. This was the fastest money I’ve ever made up until this point. I wasn’t asking my mother for anything, and business was doing well for the hustlers. As time progressed, I took on more responsibilities in the streets. The hustlers trusted me enough to allow me to go out on my own. This is what I had been waiting for; real money.