Chicken Poop and Life Direction

I feel bad for kids today who come out of college without ever having had a job.  Those first jobs are a great way to experience the real world and help clarify your true talents.

I sold Christmas cards, peddled sweet corn out of a little trailer, cleaned fence rows, shoveled cow manure, bought and sold bicycles, waxed cars, and grew popcorn before I was 16 years old.  By the time I got to college I knew I wanted to use my brains more than my muscles.

Here are just a few jobs held by people who you may know for other vocations today:

  • As a teenager Mick Jagger worked as an ice cream salesman. After entering the London School of Economics, Jagger also worked as a porter at a mental hospital.
  • Need a rat catcher? Call Warren Beatty. He caught rodents to pay the bills before hitting it big.
  • Warren Buffett’s first job was at his grandfather’s grocery store, although he eventually worked his way up to a gig at J.C. Penney.
  • Before rising to prominence with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne worked in a slaughterhouse.
  • As a young man, Matthew McConaughey wanted to get away from Texas for a while, so he spent a year in Australia. To support himself, he took on a number of jobs, including one that involved shoveling chicken manure.
  • Jimmy Stewart was a man of many talents, from acting to being an Air Force general. As a young man, though, he had a job painting the lines on roads and also spent two summers as a magician’s assistant.
  • Bill Cosby played four sports in high school, but he still found time to sell produce, shine shoes, and work as a stock boy at a supermarket.
  • Tom Cruise’s family moved around a lot when he was young, but during one stint in Louisville he picked up some extra cash as a paperboy.
  • Brad Pitt did all sorts of things to earn a buck while he tried to start his acting career, including dressing as a giant chicken to promote an el Pollo Loco restaurant.

Most early jobs are not a mistake or misdirection – they are simply part of the clarification process.  But if a young person is “privileged” enough to not have to work they often and up with a fine education and a life that is off track.  Or they discover at age 45 that they are living someone else’s dream.

Help your kids this summer by allowing them to work for the money they want for movies, cars and goodies.  What they get may be far more important than a few dollars.

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7 Responses to “Chicken Poop and Life Direction”

  1. Pam McLagan Says:

    If you’ll notice, most of those folks listed are in the over-35 category. Wasn’t it about that time that this country decided that “work” was just too much for “children?” I, too, worked as a child: I picked strawberries and beans, fed neighbors’ pets, baby sat, and did other things in my rural neighborhood of the 1950s. Yes, there were abuses of child labor laws, and yes, some children were worked too hard, but most were not.

    I noticed that my children were “ready” for “work” when they were 8 to 10 years old. My eldest was able to work in local blueberry fields, but by the time the youngest was ready, it was truly illegal. Because the local blueberry growers shipped their fruit out of state, they could be in huge trouble if they “employed” an under age worker–even if I accompanied him.

    Add to that the “career” education that our local kids got at school, and when they got to be 15 and old enough to flip burgers, it seemed beneath their dignity; it was boring!

    In addition, we have “living wage” laws which make it much too expensive to employ young people. Egad!

  2. Terry Says:

    AHA! So it wasn’t James Cagney – it was Warren Beatty who said “You dirty rat…”

    But seriously, I think first jobs might be overrated.

    At age ten, I started earning money around town shoveling northeastern snow (lots of work to be had). At twelve I had my first paper route on Long Island. In high school, I worked in a deli and had my second paper route delivering the New York Times. (If you think the national Sunday NYT is big, it’s not as big as the local Sunday NYT.)

    Today I’m unemployed and unskilled, so those first jobs apparently weren’t as valuable as the hype suggests.

  3. Josh McCanless Says:

    Excellent article! My question is ‘Why wait until summertime to require working for priveledges?’ :)

    I have been called many things akin or similar to “cheap” and “mean” by my kids, but the sense of accomplishment and gratitude that comes from working for something you really want is as close to reality as it gets, and an invaluable lesson for young adults. It lets them see how us “old” folks have to work for EVERYTHING, and why finding a career path or dream that you really enjoy is so important; it shows ‘em what they DON’T want to do when they grow up and move out!

    JUST TO CLARIFY FOR CHILD LABOR PURPOSES:I’m not talking about marathon sweatshop shifts here, but a job that is well within the realm of being completed according to the age of said child.

    While we’re comparing jobs, I helped my dad empty trash cans and sweep floors at age 8.
    Guess who ISN’T a janitor today?

  4. Carrie Says:

    Let’s see, I’m a member of Generation X–you know, the “Slacker” generation. And I’m UNDER 35.

    And yet…
    –I mowed the lawn with a push mower when I was around 7.
    –Learned how to do my own laundry and load the dishwasher around that age, too.
    –Babysat as a teenager, also volunteered or did a full-time job during the summer (a job where you frequently get your hands dirty, and work HARD)
    –Helped cook and clean at home. Had regular chores.

    And yes, I worked for my allowance. It certainly wasn’t given to me for free.

  5. Arthur @ FinancialBondage.org Says:

    By not making kids work today for their money we are doing them great harm.

    If you want to see kids views on money and working, go to yahoo answers under personal finance. the questions they ask shout “I want money FAST and EASY and I don’t care to work much for it”.

  6. Mike Sparks Says:

    Dan, thank fully I never had to shovel cow manure(lol), but I totally agree with you’re post. I was talking to a man in his late 60’s last week and asked him what has went wrong with this Country? The conversation was very interesting and to find out I had worked with him at Heil Quaker in Lavergne Tennessee years ago. He stated that many kids today have not been taught to work in their teenage years and they have a difficult time copeing with trying to attain the lifestyle they see others have when they have to work for it themselves. He told me “he wasn’t a bible thumper”, but stated he values the Bible and that our Country has forget it’s roots about hardwork, right & wrong and treating others with respect.
    My 1st job was at the Omni Hut restaraunt here in Smyrna at the age of 13, i watched Major James f Walls almost daily since he lived next door. He was a WW11 veteran who grew up during the great depression. He was known for his hardwork and thinking creatively. We should listen to that generation which Tom Brokaw referred to as the “The Greatest Generation” and learn from their hardships.

  7. Chicken Manure | Keeping Chickens Says:

    [...] So there you have it, a nice ‘by-product’ of keeping chickens if you’re a gardener or like to grow your own vegetables, is chicken manure. Mouse here for Related LinksChicken Poop and Life Direction [...]

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