My very first job was at our local convenience store. I’m not counting my local paper route.
One day I was in there buying my favourite candy, Popeye Cigarettes, and the guy who owned the store, and who basically lived in it 24/7, leans over the counter and says, “Hey, do you want a job?”
Being an agreeable sort of fellow … especially back then … I jumped on it and started stocking shelves with Coca Cola and Pepsi products a few times a week … after school and on weekends.
I even got to stock up the shelves with Popeye Cigarettes. It was heaven.
My pay? $3.50/hour. Cash.
I was 13 years old I think.
After a few months, the sight of dead mice in the back and the sticky cola residue on my shoes started to bother me a little.
I always did my work but I wasn’t as excited about it as I once was.
I remember back then wondering why that was.
Then, Summer rolled around and our father asked if I wanted to work in his construction drywall business.
Now, when my father asked something back then, it was more like I was being told I was going to do something. He just happened to phrase his statement in the form of a question.
So naturally, I agreed.
I gave notice to the convenience store owners and marched on. Sometimes I still drive by that store and take my son for kicks.
My new construction gig was going to pay me $8.50/hour which was insanely HUGE. I mean I thought I had hit the jackpot.
On the first day, my father dropped me off at a job site in Toronto. It was a three level hotel being built on the north side of a large park.
He introduced me to the job foreman and left. I was on my own in a whole new world.
Push a cart around the building picking up scraps of drywall from each unit and then haul it to the dump box.
Then scrape the taper’s mud off the floor.
Then sweep each room.
I did this for almost two months.
Ate lunch by myself every day sitting on the edge of the building. Didn’t really speak to anyone because the adults were busy doing their thing.
Looking back I’m not sure I would put my own son in that situation.
Actually, I think it was somewhat dangerous even.
Anyway, over the next few summer’s I learned how to lay track and build walls and other cool stuff and my pay went up and up.
Then I noticed something.
We were working on a condo in downtown Toronto and the drywall and metal stud crews were broken up into two groups.
Those who worked by the hour and those who worked “piecemeal” … meaning they only got paid for results. There was no hourly component to their pay.
If those guys didn’t get anything done they didn’t get paid.
Those dudes had some serious focus. They worked hard. No talking to other tradesmen, no extended breaks … they didn’t stop for anything.
It was pretty impressive.
Just by watching them you knew not to interrupt them. They were working with purpose.
And then I noticed something else…
Although they worked super hard … the piecemeal guys seemed to be so happy.
During the lunch break, they were always the loudest. Yelling, laughing, joking around.
They just seemed to be a different breed or something.
It wasn’t until years later, when I started handling the payroll in our father’s construction office, that I stumbled upon something interesting.
The “piecemeal” guys were earning about 50% MORE than the hourly guys.
And our father was happy to pay them! Now, our father could get very grumpy about paying people, but he always loved the piecemeal guys.
The reason? According to him, they were getting about 100% more work done.
And then I noticed it…
The hourly guys were just as talented, maybe even more so, but they worked at half the speed.
There was no upside to them working faster or harder.
Zippo reason to get more done.
The piecemeal guys, on the other hand, had a jump in their step.
The hourly guys were sleepwalking.
The piecemeal guys even took every nice Friday in the summer off … and they still earned more.
So they seemed happier, were earning more cash and had a flexible schedule.
Here they were … two very similar types of people. Same skill set. Same job even!
But the type of pay was different.
One got paid by the hour.
The other … for the work accomplished.
One had a cap on their earnings.
The other was in the flow of money. And they were noticeably happier for it.
This begs the question…
Do we make ourselves happy?
Or does the environment we place ourselves in make us, even force us, to be happy?
Can you read all the spiritual/metaphysical/motivational books in the world and still be frustrated if your environment sucks?
And if its the environment that controls us … then can we consciously choose to put ourselves in environments that make us happy?
I’m not 100% sure.
We definitely don’t have all the answers to universal happiness.
But both Nick and I can tell you that we work hard to control our environments.
How does your environment look right now? And what’s it doing to you?
Let’s flip the questions around a little and ask them this way…
Is your environment controlling you? Or are you controlling your environment?
Time to make a change or two?
Until next time … Your Life! Your Terms!