The Karate Kid
I should’ve known early on that I will be on a crazy ride workwise from the very beginning because the first real job I ever had was at a bus boy at the North Hills country club in Long Island New York. It was 1987, so I must’ve been 14 maybe 15 years old and I actually had to dress up and wear like black pants and a white shirt and the whole thing was incredibly uncomfortable and I was scared out of my mind that I was gonna do make mistakes. You know, at that moment where you have no idea what you’re doing. You have no idea who you’re working with and you’re just a kid. I am not even having insurance because of child labor laws or if you get even a real job at that age. I was 14-years-old ad I was looking at a different work and it’s definitely tighter than what used to be.
So, I get this job at North Hill country club and the first night that I’m in a work, it’s either Friday or Saturday, I can’t remember what was and the whole thing seemed intense and you would think that they would tell me what the event was that were working but for some reason they didn’t. Not that it matters to the lowly busboy. I went from playing with baseball cards and wrestling action figures to all of a sudden being in this beautiful venue and all these people dressed to the nines and just as intense serious but yet fun atmosphere. It turned out that the first night that I worked at my first real job was for the wedding of the karate kid Ralph Maggio. Maggio, I remember even from elementary schools from the Outsiders and then I think he was in the karate kid ready at that point, so he was a big star, but he still looked like a kid. So that night is kind of a blur to me because not only was I trying to learn the ropes of this job but the intensity and the pressure of that night just seemed overwhelming to me. It wasn’t until later in the evening when my nerves settled in trying to figure this job out that I even realize what was going on and that it was actually his wedding.
So aside for a brief peek into the reception area where Maggio was dancing with his new wife, I didn’t see any of the wedding. So that night came and went as little footnote in history for me but the only two things I remember about the North Hills country club is A it was my first job and was Maggio’s wedding and B that I got fired and it would not be the first time. But that wouldn’t turn out to be something that was uncommon as I wind out getting fired in an assorted variety of jobs going forward. This was just the first. I got fired in the North Hills country club for being late to often. I got from the Record World factory and warehouse for stealing which I talked about in the past episode when I got arrested. I was fired from one job on the very first day of employment. I don’t even remember the story. I don’t remember the situation. I just remember the boss looking at me and telling me to go home and that he didn’t want me around anymore after one day But I remember the last time that I got fired and how it comes full circle with the first time I got fired.
So, I was working in some furniture store in Port Washington, New York. It was in the shopping center called the Miracle Mile. If you are Billy Joel fan at all, he made it famous in the song It Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me where he talked about in the miracle mile. That’s what that was about. it was an empty job. It was a nothing job. I’m not sure why worked there aside from just needing money. So, at this point in my life, I can’t tell you how a different job that had, I’d quit, I’ve been fired from. I dropped in and out of college. This must’ve been 1992 or 1993 and ironically Ralph Maggio come back into my life a little bit because he decided to act in a movie called My Cousin Vinny. As much as I love the movie, I hated the movie because every time I see my cousins, it was the big joke. Every single time, it took years for them to get out of their system. When they got to introduce guess who? Their cousin Vinny. It was a great movie so I’d rather have that happen on a great movie that a crappy movie.
I’m working in this job and it was right before I can have my epiphany about what am I doing with my life and I want to do something I really want to do. I want to do something significant. I want to not keep being a waste of life. This is probably the epicenter of me being a waste of life. I’m at this job and I feel bad looking back, even on my bosses because I was such a pain. I was sarcastic. I was probably insubordinate. I didn’t follow directions well and I really think I look back in a job and I remember the girls that I worked with and just trying to impress them all the time and just try to be funny and try to learn how to be witty. I remember this job and I remember being fired because it was one of the most public firings that I had, not quite to the level when I got arrested but this was second in line.
So, the situation was we were putting together these cabinets for the furniture store. There was about eight of us and I’m not sure what I need so many of us and I don’t think I was the only useless there because we’re all having a great time and being silly. But I believe there were these two girls that I was trying to get the attention of. Like the eight-year-old that does not know how to get the girls attention in a good way, they went on and bonk themselves on the head or doing something silly and that’s what I decide to do here because they realize that in this piece of furniture, it was a television entertainment center that have the cardboard backing that was nailed on slightly. So, a couple of the guys decide meticulously to try to pry it apart and get it out. But I had a much better idea. I figured why don’t we kick it out. As I think back on it, nobody thought it was the craziest idea in the world. We are a fun crew that went out to lunch together all time and it probably was the most fun job I’ve had up until that point.
So, I decided the best idea would be to take a running start, leap in and kick the plywood or cardboard and knock it out from the front. And they all thought what a great idea to. So, they held the thing in place while I went running down the stairs across the showroom. I leapt in the air and I kicked the thing and it didn’t break. The place was empty except for us so we kind of do whatever we wanted. So, while I laid on the ground I was met with howls of laughter because of the response that I’m gonna try again. Now the anticipation is building, they cheer me on and I go a couple steps up on the staircase. I come running down and as fast as I could, I jumped in the air and with the best kick I’ve ever done, I blasted right into that plywood, I busted the back of it out. But this time there was no cheering and there was no laughter. All I heard was a booming voice and it was my boss. My boss, he was nowhere to be found until that very moment and all I heard were five words. “Hey karate kid, you’re fired!’ I gobble off the ground. I looked at my friends and I kind of smiled and smirked because I really didn’t care that I was fired because I think if I did, I would’ve done something so stupid. But those girls that I was trying to impress, they smiled and laughed and the guys I was working with smiled to, I grab my stuff and I left and I never saw any of them again. It was quite surprisingly the last time I been fired from a traditional job.
I think back on it and I think back to really how unimportant all that was. How stupid as I was, how it’s really all just beginning and starting that age. I heard Dan Miller of 48 Days said, which is to the effect of “do whatever you want until your 40. Have fun. Try different things and when you’re 40 and you have experience then figure something out.” Now I’m paraphrasing there what he says but it something to that effect that we need to learn and figure things out as we’re growing and to not put too much pressure on a career and success in such a young age. Because I get interviewed on podcast all the time about how we figure this out and I think it was such a blessing in a lot of ways that I was such a screwup at such a young age because it allowed me to try so many different things and to fail at some different things, to get fired for a variety of different reasons and to realize kind of what not to do. But if I had to always play it so straight and be perfect and not make mistakes, I don’t think I’ll develop this intuitiveness to learn how to fight through things and to learn what mistakes to make and which ones not to make. And I really believe that getting fired so early and so often when I didn’t know what I was doing, allows me to get fired so less later on when I feel like I do know what I’m doing. I just wish that Ralph Maggio was there so he can see my crane kick when I drop that piece of wood the way that he dropped Johnny Lawrence in the karate kid.
I will be back with you tomorrow!