Allow Experience to Be Your Guide

Growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s left its mark on me.  From an early age, I worked.  At 10 years old, I started collecting celery as it tumbled off a delivery truck.  Every afternoon, I saw the truck drive by, bulging with celery after having just left the processing plant.  As it wound its way through my town, the irregularities of the road or the quick turn of a city street resulted in stalks tumbling from the delivery truck.

Over the course of the truck’s trip to market, I’d collect the errant stalks, which would quickly fill up my wagon.  No one would miss the fallen vegetables; no one except a little boy, eager to earn some cash.

Like countless entrepreneurs before me, my focus on personal wealth cultivated my flash of inspiration.  Unlike the business mavericks that preceded me, I wasn’t seeking fame or riches but a movie ticket and a box of popcorn.

My foray into suburban hunting and gathering took place once the rumble of the truck disappeared into the city air.  I recall racing to fill my wagon.  Once full, I returned home and emptied its contents.  The celery was in fine shape, freshly picked and ready for packaging.  I ran bundles and bundles of my green gold under the faucet and repacked them in my wagon.

My one-man operation had on the front lines a sales staff of a little boy.  The door-to-door sales approach was effective.  Housewives soon came to expect my delivery, and over the course of days and weeks, my pockets filled with coins ready to be deposited into the local movie theater and my savings account.

The approach may have been unconventional, but my work ethic was ordinary.  My generation was characterized by hard work.  Adults worked, and so did their kids.  My parents didn’t have the disposable cash to give me an allowance or pay me for household chores.  Instead, if I wanted to buy something, or see a movie, the money had to come from work-generated income.

When I was 12 years old, I started my second business venture.  I was one of the millions who benefited from the booming pharmaceutical industry.  Winters in New York were harsh.  Regardless of the weather conditions outside, streets coated in ice and air too painful to breathe, people’s medical needs had to be met.

These cold months were particularly tough on the elderly and shut-ins who needed their medications.  So, I began delivering their prescriptions to them.  My clients would call me.  Then they would phone the drug store and let the pharmacist know that Bob Graves would pick up their medications.  I would retrieve their payments, run to the pharmacy, and return with their prescriptions.  In exchange for my services, I would earn a quarter, or if I was lucky, 50 cents.

These experiences taught me the value of hard work as well as the importance of building trust and maintaining an optimistic attitude.  Had I not worked from such a young age, I wouldn’t be able to provide excellent service that my clients expect today.  Although the responsibilities of being a Financial Advisor are vastly different from those of a celery sales person or prescription drug-runner, the qualities necessary to succeed are the same: work hard, earn trust, and have a positive attitude.


Excerpt from Robert O. Graves book, Your Life Plan: A Guide to Financial Freedom.   
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