Climbing the corporate ladder? Owning a profitable business? Making a lot of money? Health Benefits for You and Your Family? What Does Success Mean?
Truth be told: I’m not completely sure. I’m a 27 year-old home improvement contractor and I started CraftPro Contracting less than a year ago. So what do I really know? Not everything, not even most things – but I’ll share some of my story and my thoughts with you. Most contractors will agree, or at the very least I hope you’ll all find it interesting.
My paternal grandfather owned a body shop in Cleveland, Ohio. My maternal grandfather, though killed tragically in a car accident over a decade before my birth, was a doctor who was most renowned for bringing the measels vaccine to Iran and saving countless lives. My father is a geophysicist who works in private equity, buying and selling oil and gas companies. My mother is a consultant, and both parents are ivy-leaguers. Even though neither of them ever felt like they fit that stereotype (my father is from a middle-class, Italian-american, blue-collar family in Ohio and my mother a minority from Puerto Rico) they both persued their education, have MBA’s and degree on top of degree on top of degree. My younger sisters followed suit- they went to ivy league schools and one is going to medical school. My little brother, the youngest of us four, is in college now. I was always told that “you become successful by living within your means and recieving a formal education from a higher learning institution”. I only every believed the first half of that. Please don’t pre-judge her for this, she isn’t a snob, but in grade school I brought home a bad report card to my mother who said, “Do you want to be a bus driver when you grow up?”. My answer was “Mommy, the world needs bus drivers”. As it turns out, the world needs contractors, too. I never did too well in school. I got into a good college because I played football and when I blew out my knee I transferred to Rutgers in NJ. I majored in Philosophy, of all things, and then after that I went back to work my summer job (full time now) with a family friend and one of the premier contractors in Morris County, NJ. I loved the work – always did. Not just with him, but with my father when we would perform DIY projects since I was old enough to hand him tools of hold a flashlight. Not just for a scientist but for any non-professional, my father is a pretty talented DIYer and he taught me a lot. Then I learned even more when I apprenticed with our friend the accomplished contractor. Before long, I was a foreman and I ran his company for him. He was over 60 and tired, so he left me with the crew and I would manage the job. After some time I discussed a buy-in partnership. He wasn’t interested until he was ready to retire for good and sell me the entire company; well I was impatient, so I set out on my own with little more than a pickup truck and some small handheld and powertools. It didn’t take much to get started: I built the website myself (when I was 12 I had a “web design business” – 3 clients and about $200 of income), I do the SEO and other marketing work myself, and I got hooked up with a few realtors who hired me to perform some work that I would later add to my extended, detailed portfolio. I started out painting walls and trim by myself, and now my crew and I are finishing 1900sqft basements, just nine months later. Here is why I think things are picking up:
Simply and plainly put, I love what I do, and I gladly spend 18 hours a day doing it. Below is an example.
I know what you’re thinking: “yeah, yeah, heard that one before. Well I love to watch reality TV, so where’s the career in that?”. Well, I suppose you could call the producers of the show “Jersey Shore” because the damage they did to my state’s already awful national image cannot be any worse. But really I have only this to say: it isn’t just about the financial success. Quite frankly I don’t make a whole lot of money yet. At all. But – and I say this humbly – I do in fact consider myself successful. Perhaps not yet financially, but I think if you love what you, and you work at it diligently, and if you read about people who have succeeded before you and how they did it, and you don’t give up on yourself and don’t let yourself get discouraged by setbacks (I’ve had my share), then you will be successful. Now this is starting to sound like a self-absorbed peptalk that hasn’t offered anything of substance. Well, if you want substance, do a search on some great historical figures and read about their respective roads to success. Almost all of them involved failures: of the financial and personal variety. I’ve experienced both. Maybe, had I taken my family’s advice and stuck it out in college and went to law school like I originally intended I would be a lawyer by now. Maybe I would regret that decision like the dozens of lawyers I worked for during my college years who told me to do anything but go to law school. “You’ll be miserable the rest of your life,” they would say. It was sad – I felt bad for them. I chose a different path: one that involved failure to ultimately find success.
However, I think it’s too soon to look back at my past and compare it with where I am now and say “I have succeeded”. Man, I got a LONG way to go. But I’ll tell you this: I wake up before my alarm clock goes off every morning and I’m excited to go insulate a basement, motivated to hang drywall, looking forward to cracking a fresh can of paint, and enthusiastic about setting up the nailgun so I can trim-out a living room. To me, that is success. If I can make a boatload of cash doing these things with that attitude than more power to me, but even if things stay the same: I’m content. Most contractors reading this probably feel the same way- at least I hope so. We are a rare breed: we learn skills (trades) in different ways. Colleges and universities don’t offer a Masters Degree in Carpentry and Drywall that I’m aware of – and even if they did, it would probably be useless. We apprentice with those who came before us, or we learn on the job, or we take classes at tech schools. We learn to take pride in our craftsmanship by doing, not by schooling. And in some cases (i.e. roofing, plumbing, electricity, plastering) we learn to do things that a layman would have no idea how to do. We are unique, self-made, and talented. What more is there to success?
Each of us has heard the story of the banker, or lawyer, or office professional who rakes in six or seven figures but isn’t self-made, doesn’t consider him/herself talented or unique and, in turn, doesn’t consider her/himself a success. And therein lies the final point of all that rambling I just did:
Money=Success is the greatest illusion of all.
Keep on building, roofing, hanging drywall, painting, flooring, installing windows, cutting wood, etc. But only if you love it. Then you’re a success.
Find me, Richard D’Angelo, the author, on Google+.