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Life has an often frustrating and necessary way of teaching us lessons that end up serving us positively.
I have been doing alot of reflecting lately and got thinking about how I have got to where I am today.
Although my life is still very much on the move and I have many dreams, I can't help but think back to some of my life experiences, how I felt and why they mattered.
Today I am back down memory lane again but this time to explore the life lessons from my crazy odd jobs.
I am writing from Regents Park in London. It is sunny but with a slight chill in the air. Most people look happy and the life seems to be on the up.
I love parks and recall the many times I would sit at a park and watch the aeroplanes flying across, knowing I could only but dream about being on one.
Something about being an immigrant and being broke is something I hope some can relate to, although it is often not talked about.
It's funny looking at where I have ended up today, there is no way I could have predicted any of what I am doing now in life or where I think I am heading.
People tend to see you in the moment of your perceived success and not many have a clue about where you have come from and what you have had to endure.
When I think about the many odd jobs I have had, I think of them with some sadness because alot of them were not jobs of choice but rather necessity and survival.
Looking back at these jobs from a different positioning and perspective, I can now see how well they have served me.
Below are some life lessons from my crazy odd jobs:
1. Factory floor sweeper
In my mid-teens, I was desperate for some money.
I was new to the country and struggling to find my place. There was a complete culture shock – New way of speaking, awful weather and crazy kids at school.
There was a distinct pressure that existed and I had to fit in somehow. I spoke with an acutely strong accent and the kids at secondary school made fun.
So I decided to speak less and instead focus on improving my looks and try to fit in that way.
There was only one problem – My parents were only giving us £1 each a day for lunch and I badly wanted a pair of trainers that cost £40.
[yellowbar]These trainers in my mind would solve all my problems. The girls will notice me and the boys will think I am cool.[/yellowbar]
The grand plan was to find a job, make some money and finally buy the coveted Reebok Classics.
I blagged my way into a factory in Walthamstow in East London, and spoke to the manager, and told him how good I was at cleaning etc.
This guy gave me a go and I never forget walking into the printing factory on day 1 and being daunted by how massive it looked.
My job was to sweep the factory periodically, picking up bits of paper here and there.
I did that job for one week and was totally knackered and never forget the feeling I got when I was called into the a room and handed a brown envelope.
I had earned £80 and it was the most money I had ever seen.
That same day, I quit my job and went to the shopping centre. Mission accomplished!
I bought a pair of Reebok Classics in neon blue for maximum visibility.
What was the result? Well, a few of the boys were mildly impressed but the girls took absolutely no notice at all!
Life lessons: If you're going through crap in your life right now, do something about it! Don't let it become your norm. Take steps to do something that might change your reality.
2. The Animal Technician
In order to get me focused so that I didn't get into trouble, my dad organised a Summer job for me as an animal technician.
What on earth is that, right? Well, I thought the same too.
Anyhow, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. daily and trek from South East London to North West London daily to do this job.
It involved dressing up in some weird scientific kit and clearing out the cages of research lab mice. Hundreds of them!
I can still smell the strong ammonia scent from seriously concentrated waste from an army of mice. Yuk!
This job paid well though and I had moved on from cash in hand to over £1,000 a month income. I was rolling in it!
I bought my parents a sofa as a thank you gift, but suddenly had more money than I could do anything with.
Off to Camden town, and easily as the money came, so it also went down the drain in shopping.
Life lessons: Do whatever it takes to achieve financial security. And when you get there, borrow from your years of abundance and plant for your years of famine ahead.
3. The Sandwich Maker
I somehow found myself in a job making sandwiches at the sandwich bar at Harvey Nicks.
I had never even heard of the store but everything about it was opulent.
One thing I couldn't get my head around was why anyone would buy such expensive sandwiches and why they couldn't just make them at home.
These sandwiches had to look amazing and I absolutely hated the job due to the pressure to make the sandwich look good.
What I did notice though was that there were endless queues of wealthy looking people buying up this stuff at crazy prices.
I quit that job after one week and couldn't deal with the pressure any longer. Although the experience has always stayed with me.
Life lessons: Value in the eye of the beholder. People will pay whatever price you ask them to pay for something because what you're selling meets people at different points of need.
4. The Waiter
My mum had managed to get a 5-star hotel in London to give her a contract to supply waiters and waitresses as an agency.
There was one problem – She knew nothing about this business and had no staff.
That night, she assembled me and my sisters and said: “I have found you guys a job!”.
We were game and I was especially excited because I finally get to set my foot in a 5-star hotel.
When we got there on day one, surprisingly no one asked any questions. We were given 10mins training on silver service and thrown into serving.
I remember being out there and trying to serve some bread with a fork and a spoon and couldn't quite hack it. My guests noticed and encouraged me as they could see I was struggling to keep my hands from shaking.
What scared me the most about this job was that I had never been around so many posh people. I couldn't believe I was there and doing what I was doing.
Interestingly, 15 years later I was back to that same hotel and the same ballroom but this time as a speaker.
Life lessons: By doing things that are out of your comfort zone, you're strengthening your character and preparing yourself for guaranteed success.
5. The Assistant to an Assistant
Years before I even knew what accounting was and went on to train as a Chartered Accountant, I was fortunate to have been offered a part-time job as an assistant.
As with all my quirky jobs so far, I had no qualifications for this job and someone was merely doing my mum a favour.
This accounting firm was owned by one man who had an assistant, and I was meant to assist the assistant.
I remember rocking up and thinking “oh my gosh, this will be extremely boring!”.
Anyhow, I persevered and started taking notice of quite a number of things in the accounts I saw:
- People who ran small businesses earned alot of money! Plumbers, electricians, cleaning companies etc.
- The guy who owned the accounting firm was hardly ever there. He was always in another country and it turned out he was managing investments he had built up from that tiny accounting firm.
- I started to understand what a financial statement was and how businesses created Retained Earnings.
Many years later, I ended up training as a Chartered Accountant and this skill alone has opened many doors and given me access to things most people don't understand or see.
For example, I have been in situations where I was paying millions of pounds in dividends to entrepreneurs who I managed their finances.
Seeing large sums of money has now become the norm on this journey, and I see how the rich use money to make money.
Life lessons: The most boring and seemingly insignificant things can yield very high returns.
Don't ever focus on just working for money. Use the money you make and reinvest it in other asset classes to work for you. Creating a business no matter how small can have material significance and help you achieve freedom much quicker than through just one job.
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What quirky jobs have you had and what have you learned? Do please comment below.
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.
A very interesting read Ken. I learnt a couple of years ago that “No Knowledge Is Ever A Waste.” It’ll always come in handy someday somewhere.
Thanks for sharing and please do post a part two so we can read the remaining off jobs you did.
Ken Okoroafor says
Hey Edozie, thanks, man! Glad you found it interesting. We all have fascinating stories and so please do feel free to share. Re a part II, I never quite saw it that way, so I’ll take you up on it at some point 🙂