I started out in the working world at a young age. I had my first job when I was only 10 or 11 years old. From the age of 10 until I was 15 or 16, I had a lot of different jobs. You could really say that during those early years of my life I was already an entrepreneur, because most of the jobs came from “starting my own business,” although not in a formal way. I mean, I cared for people’s yards, I ran errands for people, I had a newspaper route, I did babysitting, anything to earn a buck or two. And, the truth is, I earned some decent money for a young kid, even a pre-teen.
When I was 16 years old, though, I took a break from being an entrepreneur and got a “real job.” I was living in a small town at the time, Franklinton, Louisiana. There was a new discount store coming to a strip mall in town, the store was called “T.G. & Y.” and was really going to be one of the bigger stores in the small town. When I saw that they were setting up the store, I went there to see if I could get a job. I was hired pretty quickly, and started working. The store was not yet open, but I was part of the crew that got the store all set up and ready to go into business. In fact, I was the first non-management employee that the store hired. T.G. & Y. was a fairly large company, with it’s headquarters in Oklahoma City, OK. They had a couple thousand stores, mostly in the Southeast US. As it turned out, with a couple of breaks, I worked for T.G. & Y. for more than 10 years, until I was 27 years old. I started out as a stock boy in Franklinton, Louisiana at the age of 16, and ended up in Store Management, and even Regional Management until I left the company at age 27.
When I started working in Franklinton, there were only two others were working at the store. The manager, Donn Paul, and the Assistant Manager, James Daniel. I never really had a close relationship with Mr. Paul, but Mr. Daniel and I hit it off right away. James Daniel became my mentor.
What is a Mentor?
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Mentor: A trusted counselor or guide
So, basically, a mentor is somebody who teaches you, guides you, more or less a person who takes you under their wing and guides your way so you can become what they are mentoring you to be. James was my mentor into the world of business and work. He also mentored me in other parts of life too, especially politics. But, primarily, I credit James Daniel for making me what I am today in the world of business, work, and such.
When I started working for James, he showed me so many things about how to do a better job. I remember times when I was supposed to be working, but James would sit me down for talk, teaching me about how to do my job better. Not things like how to sweep the floor, no, think like always doing more than expected. Things like always doing quality work. That kind of thing. These talks that James and I had really had a deep influence on me, and formed something in my core that made me always go beyond what was expected. This is what, in my opinion, made me a valuable employee for every company I ever worked for.
I credit James Daniel for making me the man that I am today. I will always feel that way. I am 50 years old now, and these lessons were relayed to me by James when I was 16 to 18 years old. If they have stuck with me that long, I feel sure that I will never forget.
I have not seen James in probably 25 years or so, maybe a bit longer than that. But, I still hear from him from time to time. Overnight, I got a note from James on LinkedIn, which prompted me to write this article today.
Having a mentor is a great thing. Having a high quality mentor like I did is priceless.
Mr. Daniel, thank you for the lessons that you taught me. You taught me about being a good employee and being a good businessman. Most importantly, though, you taught me about being a man of honor, and a good person.