The First Business Lesson I Ever Learned

Duane Cummings

12 June 2017

As a child, I had a “drink out of the hose, be home when the streetlights come on” kind of childhood, and some of my best memories happened during the time spent at my grandparents’ home. They had a huge influence on my life. In fact, some of my business success can be traced back to lessons learned while in their care. The first one I remember turned out to be extremely valuable. We now refer to it simply as…picking up nails.

It was the middle of summer. While visiting my grandparents, I had hopes of building a treehouse; it just so happened there was a perfect tree for one in their backyard. However, we were poor (by any definition), and had no money to buy materials. 

Fortunately, what my family lacked in resources, it always made up for in resourcefulness. So my grandfather took me over to a nearby construction site, and as we pulled to a stop said, “Go up to the supervisor’s trailer and ask if you can pick up all the nails laying around. Let him know that you’d like to keep the bent or wasted nails and return all the straight or reusable ones, and we’ll see what he says.”

Oddly enough that supervisor gave me the go ahead, and while he and my grandfather stood talking, I quickly filled one bucket of straight and another of bent nails. As I approached the two men, the supervisor smiled and said, “Great work—you not only saved us money on supplies, but may have also prevented someone from getting a flat tire, or even worse, getting hurt.”

My grandfather gave an approving nod and the supervisor continued, “So, I guess you’re going to need some wood to put those nails into after you straighten them all out?” I remember thinking that he and my grandfather must have been in cahoots as I answered, “yes, sir.” He pointed around the job site, “Well then, why don’t you come back in a couple days and do the same thing with all the wood scraps…and we’ll make sure you get what you need.”

Needless to say, I ended up with a pretty cool tree house, and more importantly, learned an amazing lesson: When confronted with a challenge, be resourceful and find ways to bring value to others.”

Without a doubt, it's worked time and again in my life, and I hope from now on, you’ll start "picking up nails” as a way to craft a Sensational Life for yourself.

Duane Cummings

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