If Brad can do it I can too

This is the time of year when we all set big goals.  And rightfully so.  I encourage you to think big.  But don’t get stuck hoping to be the next Garth Brooks when you’re not willing to play tonight’s gig down at the local pizza shop.  Most famous people started with not-so-famous work experiences.

Check these out:

Donald Trump, now a filthy-rich real estate investor, got his start collecting soda bottles for the deposit money.

Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant before hitting it big with his computers.

Johnny Depp donned makeup for his gig in a KISS tribute band as a young performer.  Back then he often made about $25 a night – today he makes about $25 million a year.

Chris Rock started his career as a busboy at a Red Lobster in Queens, N.Y.  His first jokes included, “The thing about Red Lobster is that if you work there, you can’t afford to eat there.  You’re making minimum wage.  A shrimp cost minimum wage.”

Lucille Ball was reportedly fired from an ice-cream shop for not remembering to add bananas to banana splits.  Her famous skit wrapping candies from the conveyor belt came out of those early days in food service.

Tom Hanks started out as a popcorn and peanuts vendor at the Oakland Coliseum in California.  Then he worked his way up to a hotel bellhop, carrying bags for the “stars.”

Madonna worked at Dunkin’ Donuts as a teenager.  Today, as the 21st richest celebrity in the world she could buy all the donuts she wants.

Brad Pitt drove limos, moved refrigerators and dressed up as a chicken trying to convince customers to visit a Mexican restaurant.

Mariah Carey was a beauty-school dropout.  Then she was fired from her job as a hat checker.  Today she’s one of the most successful female vocalists of all time.

Embrace the work opportunity you have today.  It may be the stepping stone you need on your way to success.  No one goes from having a dream to fame and fortune overnight. As a 12-yr-old  I sold sweet corn on the side of the road for $.30 a dozen.   In high school I earned extra money cleaning out chicken coops on the weekend.  The chicken waste I was shoveling created an ammonia smell that burned my eyes and nose.  It was nasty, stinky, backbreaking work.  But those jobs taught me the value of hard work and provided the incentive to look for better options.

What’s the one job that sticks out in your journey of getting to where you are today?  And what was the lesson learned?

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  • This is an encouraging reminder of jobs CAN lead to where you want to go. It’s hard in the midst of the job that isn’t so fun. It seems all of the examples you gave, had some sort of dream or goal. Thank you for the great information Dan!!

    Jory Butler

  • It is interesting how everyone wants to hit it big doing the sexy thing such as something on the web, investing, organic, bla, bla, bla. The real money can be made doing the things that others despise.

    Josh Bulloc
    Kansas City, MO
    How can I help?

  • What I see here is that these very successful people started in crappy jobs *when they were young* which helped them achieve their dreams.

    I’m 53 and not in the best of health. I don’t have the strength to wait tables or the knees/back to cashier at Walmart. My work-related goal this year is to find a job I can do physically, and find it as soon as possible (I’ve been an unemployed paralegal since June).

    Any ideas for us non-spring-chickens, Dan? Please?

  • I once heard someone say, “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.” I think that is what successful people have in common, they make the most of whatever talent and resources they have and they keep working hard until the right person notices. Great article Dan! Thanks!

  • Genia,
    Yes I too have moved away from the more physical jobs over the years – had my share. And I still enjoy jumping into the mix when an 18-wheeler backs in here with another load of books. But 53 is not too old to find the best work you’ve ever had. Start with your interests anyway – not with what you think the job market offers. You might be a legal assistant, a researcher, deposition recorder, librarian, court reporter, etc.

  • Ashley

    I remember a temp job I did with my best friend–we came home from college and worked at desks side by side amidst a sea of cubicles. All day long we pulled out checks mailed in for insurance payments. It was monotonous work and not in an environment I cared to remain it, but we had so much fun with it–it was when it was the coolest thing to create a mix CD…and CDs were still a new thing. We created all kinds of cool CDs and listened to our music and (quietly) goofed off. It was fun because we made it fun–and I quickly learned that cubicle life wasn’t for me!

    • Ashley – I’m confident that a lot of people could jazz up the work environment for jobs that are pretty boring.

  • Danny D

    Just because you love a job doesn’t mean you get to keep it. At age 19, I worked in the truck shop for a logging company. Began learning how to maintain the heavy equipment. The foreman treated me like a son, and showed me how to do things requiring increasing levels of responsibility. The inventory manager told me how much money I had saved the company in the short time I had been there. I loved the work, even though it was a dirty, physically demanding job. Then one day a general manager from out of state fired me on the spot for having long hair and a beard. That was lesson #1 in corporate life.

  • mike

    The job that really sticks out is still sticking out a little bit.Painting homes and buildings.I started when I was eighteen and hated it ! At the time I was playing music at night and figured I could get ahead for awhile.Somehow I managed to stay in it for the paycheck for over twenty years.Sad, I know.Lesson learned is DON’T stay in a job that doesn’t fit your passion and giftings.I now am starting to do what I’m gifted for and love to do, which is lifecoaching,teaching, speaking, and playing music again.God has allowed me to use these gifts in my wife’s ministry, lifecarechristiancenter.org and is opening up new doors as well.

    • Mike – I’ve painted a whole lot of houses over the years. Whenever I would go back to school I would use painting houses as the means of generating living income. I never saw it as my ultimate career but it certainly served me well in those times of transition. And I didn’t hate it – actually enjoy seeing the immediate change.

  • mattie dibona

    i remember when i was in the fifth grade i ironed clothing for the local fair workers when the fair came to town in the summer. when i was in the fourth grade when the strawberries ripened in portland, tn i went there for a week to pick and cap berries and made enough to buy my school clothes. i also did all types of work that i didn’t get paid for. being a hardworker is one of the things i am most proud of.

  • Dan

    I had a summer job as a college student many years ago that taught me two lessons:

    1) I did not want to work for the government.
    2) I preferred to have a desk job instead of doing hard labor.

    The job was working on a survey crew for the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. government. This was not the surveying most people think of when they see surveyors beside public highways. The SCS surveys regions of the country that no humans were meant to inhabit. We surveyed swamps, gullies, and creeks in the hot and humid Southeastern U.S. We ran into every insect and animal that bites — poisonous snakes, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, bubble bees, etc. We sweated profusely all day, and at the end of the day were covered from head to foot in mud. We used machetes, bush axes, and double blade axes to cut through brier patches and to cut down small trees so that we could get a line of sight. For entertainment, we frequently had friendly “pushing” matches on fallen trees spanning across creeks. The loser was the guy who fell into the creek. By the end of the summer, I had taken my belt up several notches, and I wasn’t fat to start with!

    Well, I got my wish, and it didn’t lead to fame and riches. I ended up in a career as a Dilbert-ized indentured servant in a cubicle in nefarious Corporate America.

  • Ken Gonyer

    Reading Dan’s material has revived my inner entrepreneur. Thanks Dan! One job that keeps coming to mind lately is delivering newspapers when I was 11. I just wanted money to buy some Bauer ice skates, but I learned some valuable lessons. To create a route where none existed, I got business cards made and delivered sample papers with my card attached. It wasn’t easy, but I signed up subscribers and built a route that earned good money. The success lessons: set a goal, have a plan, and don’t give up!

    • Ken – what a great example of a real business. Funny how as “adults” we move away from the things that were obvious to us as kids.