Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Back in 1996, I really, really wanted that Mitsubishi 3000GT... but I had no idea the valuable lessons that I would learn along the way to buying it.
When I was about 14 years old, my dad told me that he would help me buy the car of my choice as long as I paid for half. I'm not sure that he knew what he had agreed to at the time.
Shortly thereafter, I taught myself how to install car stereos, with a focus on sub boxes that made cars and neighborhoods shake. Yes, I was the guy (or at least, "a guy") behind the noise that annoyed everyone's parents.
One of my best friends tactfully called my business, which operated out of the unfinished area in my parent's basement and garage, "crud car audio." It was a fitting name due to poor lighting, no circulation, lots of saw dust... and my skill level at the time.
Eventually, I got better and landed my first "real job" selling car stereos and security systems when I was 15 or 16 years old. There was no training. I was by-far the youngest person working in my department. I quickly realized that I basically knew nothing about our products, customers or anything else that mattered.
Maybe my manager liked my enthusiasm or maybe they just needed bodies to make sure people didn't steal speakers - whatever the reason for my continued employment, it greatly benefited me.
I realized that I liked being "dropped in the deep end" and forced to sink or swim. This was 1994. We didn't even have that awesome thing called dial-up internet yet.
To educate myself, I read everything I could get my hands on, annoyed the installation guys by lingering and asking questions during my breaks, and listened intently to how my co-workers interacted with customers. Before long, I knew my shit and was out-performing others who were twice my age (or more) and had far more sales experience.
W.I.L.: This is where I learned to bust my ass to consume and understand new, complicated concepts in a short period of time. It was 100% on me. Either I'd get my head above water or I'd fail. This lesson has benefited me greatly in business and coaching.
Before too long, my employer (anyone remember Incredible Universe?) went out of business. I got another job at a different car stereo shop. After a few months, one of my good friends joined me. We'll call him "Bird" for this story. A super shady incident happened about a year later.
Bird sold a complete stereo system (including installation) to one of our classmates/friends. The installer (our co-worker) stole the radio from our friend's car a few days later and was dumb enough to bring the radio back to the shop. He planned to install the radio into his personal car. Before dumb installer did, Bird grabbed the radio, ran the serial number and brought the theft to the attention of our manager. This is where things got even more shady.
Our manager took the stolen radio, which was in perfect working condition, and ran over it with his car! The manager then told Bird that he couldn't tell anyone what happened or "heads will roll."
Side note - Bird and I still joke around about that quote to this day.
Bird was (rightfully) pissed about what happened. Our manager wasn't happy that Bird didn't fall in line, or maybe he just didn't know what to do. They transferred Bird to a store that was a 30 minute drive and did everything they could to get him to quit. Bird stuck it out just to prove a point. They didn't realize the type of person they were dealing with.
W.I.L.: This is one of my vivid memories that convinced me to resist working for other people and to have a low tolerance for shady business people. I learned that even if you are a hard worker and do the right thing, if you're working for someone else, you're at their mercy.
Oh yeah, I ended up saving about $15k for that beautiful Mitsubishi 3000GT. I'm pretty sure that I spent every dollar that I made the following year on my stereo and security system. It was sweet. Most people didn't know that I paid for half of "Mitsy" and viewed me as a spoiled brat. They didn't pay much attention to the fact that while they were running around after school and on the weekends, I was working.
W.I.L.: If you want something that most others don't have, you have to do things that others don't or won't do.
Does "don't expect to get an ROI on automobile upgrades" count as another lesson? Ha!
W.I.L. stands for "What I Learned"