by John Clark
While attending Christendom College, sometime between Metaphysics and Economics class, I decided that I wanted to become a stockbroker. Many brokers begin their careers when they are a bit older—some of them start the business when they are in their 40s or 50s, and are moving on from a successful career somewhere else. But, even though I attended a small Catholic college and was only in my early 20s, I was determined to make it. So I sent out resumes, made phone calls, and tried to set up appointments with the hope of breaking in to this prestigious business. Presumably, most of my correspondence was immediately filed in the place that these would-be employers saw fit: the trash can. But after two years of searching, I was eventually hired by a firm.
To become a broker, you must pass a series of tests that are incredibly difficult; to pass these tests, you must have a comprehensive knowledge of a variety of aspects of finance, as well as a mathematical mind in which to calculate economic formulas. After studying for about six months, I took and passed my exams. Shortly thereafter, with a broker’s license in hand, ready to take on the world, I got on the phone and started introducing myself to the wealthy people of Northern Virginia. After driving a three-hour commute to work each day, and making a few hundred phone calls, I set up my first appointment.
I was so excited. After the phone call, I ran in to tell my manager of my good fortune. Then I called Lisa to tell her the good news. “A business appointment! How great is that! Someone in the world is actually looking forward to having me manage their money! This business is for me!” Lisa was excited too, because when I started my career as an investment consultant, she had just given birth to Athanasius, so I was beginning a commission-only sales career that needed to support a young family of three. She congratulated me and re-affirmed that this was my calling. (In twenty years of marriage, Lisa’s emotional and spiritual belief in me has never wavered. Frankly, at times, her confidence in me has bordered on the absurd. That’s pretty cool.)
So a couple of days passed, and as I continued to make phone calls and tried to set up new appointments, I kept thinking about how well I would do on my first appointment. The day finally came, and as I made my calls in the morning, I kept a careful eye on the clock. “I can’t be late for my first appointment,” I thought. When the time came to leave, I announced to the other “rookie” brokers that I was on my way out to see new a new client, and land a big new account.
I hopped in my little white Mazda Protégé, and drove to the address that the man had given me, but when I got out of my car, I noticed something strange. The house didn’t look like it belonged to a wealthy person; it looked quite the opposite. Stranger still was the fact that there wasn’t even a car in the driveway—in fact, it looked as though no one actually lived in the house. As I walked toward the porch, I noticed that the front door had a yellow sign posted to it. As I got closer, I was able to make out the word: CONDEMNED.
As I tell this next part of the story, keep in mind that I was about 22 years old, had just graduated from a Catholic college, and believed that people were basically good. I tried to console myself, thinking that this must have been an honest mistake on the man’s part. “I probably just took down the wrong address,” I reasoned. So I pulled out my cell phone, called the client, and said that I had arrived at the house, but that I must be at the wrong address.
The man said: “Oh, yeah. That’s an old address. I tell you what. Drive to the other side of town to the Exxon station, and I’ll meet you there in about twenty minutes.”
So I got in my car, dutifully fought my way through traffic, and somehow arrived on time. But the man wasn’t there, and I couldn’t get hold of him by phone. I waited at the gas station for an hour, during which time I slowly realized that he wasn’t coming. Realistically, he never had any intention of coming. However, after the hour had passed, I did something that would shape the rest of my career: I got back in my car, drove back to my office, walked in the door, sat down, and got right back on the phone. I learned a lesson that day: anyone can thrive on success, but if you learn to thrive on failure, you are a winner.
Fathers, and especially young fathers, I relate this story for a few reasons. First, don’t become jaded because of others. There are people in this world who will delight in making you miserable; that’s their problem—don’t make it yours. Return unkindness with love, and you win. Second, you may have to work a job that is frustrating, tedious, or unpleasant—you will get “knocked down” at work. Get up, and work hard again. Sadly, many people don’t work hard—oftentimes, people mentally “quit” their jobs long before they ever leave their employer. That’s not fair to them, or to you. Use all the talents God gave you, every single day. Third, take solace in homeschooling your children. Your work may not seem rewarding during business hours, but try to find its reward in the hearts and minds of your wife and children. And when you do come home after a hard day’s work, come home. Turn off the worker, and turn on the Daddy.