Chris didn’t grow up wealthy. Raised by his grandmother on Chicago’s west side, his story is one of heartbreak at an early age. His boyhood friend and idol, his older brother Reggie, died on a playground in 1995. Reggie was killed while playing the game he loved. A legitimate prep-star and highly recruited college basketball prospect, at the age of 16, Reggie’s life was ended by a bullet intended for someone else. For Chris, August 29th, 1995, lives in infamy. Gone, but not forgotten, those memories fuel Chris.
I’ll tell you this: when you hear stories like these, you should question every complaint. Find a new gratefulness for each and every moment. Celebrate your friendships and loved ones. Don’t take it for granted; life is short and you don’t know how it could change from one moment to the next. So tell someone you love that you love them. Go hang out with your kids, with your spouse, and more importantly, question your excuses.
Chris blew my mind. It’s not just that he’s a 30-something-year-old man, married, with a wife and child, doing everything he can to take care of his family, but this dude has a vision. He’s passionate about improvement. He’s not idle – anything but. He works all day and plays basketball at midnight several times a week. He’s not sitting around watching TV. He maintains his physical and mental health. He’s not drowning his sorrows at the local bar or feeling sorry for himself because he didn’t catch all of the lucky breaks.
Instead, Chris chose a different approach. He knew before he left high school that he didn’t want to spend another four years in college. Uh-oh. What’s poor Chris going to do without a college degree, right?! This misnomer, this idea that every child needs to go to college, is ridiculous. ESPECIALLY, when they are going to have to go into debt as a result. He didn’t want that for himself, nor did he desire to spend the rest of his life working in a warehouse.
I’m a HUGE supporter of education. And so is Chris. But get this straight: it’s not the only avenue to having a good life. The alternative to a degree is not a dead-end job. It’s not living in your parents’ basement playing video games. BTW, if that’s you, stop it and get out. If you’re the parent supporting an adult child at home, then lay down the law and set an expectation that they come up with a plan to get out.
Take a look at the video Steel Encounters created that emphasizes the value of doing something, in learning a trade. The link is in the show notes and reminds us that not everyone was meant to get a degree. Maybe your personality has you geared for a trade or you need to wait a few years before you go to college when you better understand what interests you. Becoming a journeyman/woman is a better option for many people than going to school for four years and becoming an accountant – and that’s okay! Maybe your calling is construction or plumbing. While figuring it out, do something! You can learn something no matter what the job is and this the first key lesson in today’s episode.
Intention And Dedication Make Up For A Lack of Luck
Chris wasn’t satisfied – he wasn’t going to sit back and let life happen. Intention and dedication make up for a lack of luck. He took control. He knew that he needed a change and needed out of Chicago’s west side – and I don’t mean never to return, but for a period where he could do something with his life that would make a meaningful difference to his family and his community. So he decided to go learn how to drive a truck.
Chris is sharp. He’s clean cut and well spoken. He might not have had the advantages that others have had, but he is calculating and intentional. So Chris found a company that was willing to foot the bill for his truck driving schooling and in return, he committed to two years driving for them. At this stage, Chris sets himself apart from the majority of humanity: he banked the paychecks. Instead of going on vacation, partying on the weekends, buying a new car, etc… he banked those paychecks…judiciously.
So, as you can imagine, driving a truck is HARD. If you have a dream, a passion, a vision, you might as well decide now that you are willing to pay the price. If it’s worth having, you will have to work hard for it. I’m very familiar with the challenges a truck driver faces because it was a formative part of my background. Chris knew that driving a truck was going to keep him from having a relationship, a family, the way that he envisioned. And this leads us to the next key point today:
Get A Mentor
Without anyone telling him how important it was, Chris did something brilliant: he got a mentor. Somebody who had been there, done that. Chris latched onto the idea that OWNING the company was better than WORKING for the company. So his mentor showed him the ropes. It took months while Chris literally learned everything he could about owning and running a business. He did everything with his mentor. Morning to night, weekdays, weekends, whatever and whenever. He wanted to understand the menial and complex.
Through this process, he discovered that he could buy a used rental truck from Ryder for a fraction of the cost of a new one. So he bought his first truck a few years back. When I asked him how he financed it, he looked at me like I was crazy! Financed? That’s ridiculous. Remember, this is the man who didn’t want the debt from college. Nope, Chris paid cash. All those paychecks from driving a truck, he had banked the cash to buy his first truck outright. Is that not so awesome! Do you know how few people exercise this level of discipline? It might be too late for us, but tell your kids! Tell your grandkids! I’m not talking about saving your way to wealth – I’m talking about establishing a cash position that allows you to become an opportunist. And this is the third lesson:
Be The Boss You Never Had
After Chris drove that truck HARD himself for a couple years, he ran into another driver at a truck stop who he used to work with. One thing leads to another and Chris gets him to drive his truck so he can put another truck on. That driver is still with Chris several years later. You know why? Because Chris wanted to be the boss he never had. He treats his people well. Chris now has three trucks…and three drivers. He hasn’t been behind the wheel of one of his trucks for eight months.
Chris had bad bosses and he refused to be one. He spends time with his drivers and genuinely cares about them. When he pays them each Friday, he does it in person and he buys them dinner every other week. He WANTS to be connected. Knowing exactly how hard their job is, it’s easy for him to sincerely appreciate what they do every day! You already know that he’s doing something right: now his primary customer wants him to increase the number of trucks. And Chris would if he knew that he could find more reliable drivers like himself or the three he has currently. But don’t kid yourself – it’s been anything but easy getting to this place.
Learn From Every Single Thing You Do
He drives Uber by choice – he loves driving around the city and meeting people. He’s one connection away from his next big break. And it has this super valuable benefit: driving Uber allows him to take his five-year-old to school in the morning and pick ’em up in the afternoon. He loves his life. His Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) forces him to be a cautious driver – a rare breed in Chicago traffic to say the least. Every moment of his past led him to this. He genuinely wants to learn from EVERY SINGLE THING he does. And maybe that’s the bonus lesson today. He said that even being born and raised in Chicago, he didn’t learn about the city until he started driving Uber. But he’s not done yet: he’s already thinking about what’s next…and it isn’t trucks.
I’m not going to disclose what he’s up to because he needs a bit longer to execute, but he’s already got a mentor who has made it in this space and he’s paying CLOSE attention. I will tell you this: we all need a tiny dusting of the entrepreneurial genius born from this wide-awake Uber driver.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
It’s In Me – YouTube video from Steel Encounters
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