From the outside looking in many people assume that someone else's life is sunshine and moonbeams along with all the other blow-smoke-up-your-ass euphemisms.
If I had a dollar for all the people I have met over the past 14 years who told me that starting a business with less than $1,000 would be "easy" and a "piece of cake" I would definitely be rich by now. In the past when crazy people would tell me how they would do their businesses so much better than me, never mind that they never had one or probably never would, I would boil a little (or a lot depending on the person) inside.
Now? I smile, nod my head, tell them to let me know when they get their business up and running and just feel sorry for them that they're so delusional. I don't even waste my time giving them any type of response. Why waste energy even bothering to remind them of the famous quote "before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes?"
While I genuinely try to put myself in other people's situations before I react, or criticize, which is not always easy. I should definitely get an A for my efforts.
Which brings me to the blog - the Girls Guide to Homelessness. It's a blog written by a vibrant young red-haired woman (this is a hair related blog afterall) who found herself living in an inherited car and trailer, with express permission, at the edge of a Wal-Mart parking lot somewhere in Southern California.
Although I haven't walked in hard core homeless shoes, I did spend a few weeks living on my own when I was 15 due to a physically and emotionally abusive mother with emotional and personality disorders. After one of her melt-downs I temporarily escaped to avoid yet another out-of-the-blue beatings.
I hitched a ride to the tiny one room shack of another 15 year old girl named Yvonne Hoppman who was living alone due to her own violently dysfunctional family. I met Yvonne at my after-school job as a kitchen orderly at St. Anthony's Hospital in South St. Louis.
Yvonne had been living on her own since she was probably 12 and had figured out the "system" for surviving in the "almost living on the streets" world. She knew the game and played it well. I was thankful she took me in when I ran away.
During my time with Yvonne we walked (more often than not) or took the bus to our daytime high schools and our after-school jobs. Since we didn't have access to a car or extra money we had to grocery shop at stores along our various walking or bus routes. We also learned to sniff out day old bread bins or end of week meal deals.
Washing our clothes was often limited to the kitchen sink with said clothes dripping dry off a line out back. Our shacklike room had a tiny shared bathroom with another retired women and didn't have a bathtub, heat, or much hot water to speak of.
Of course we didn't have a microwave, a television, a phone of any kind - cell or otherwise, and we barely could cook food. We did have an old toaster and lived on toast and PBJ sandwiches.
My experience was an major eye opener for sure. By the time my father showed up to retrieve me to take me home, I had walked in very different shoes. That experience has stayed with me for the rest of my life.
When my husband of 25 years died suddenly almost five years ago my first thought was where will I go, where will I live, how will I live. I flashed back on my time in that little shack living from hand to mouth.
Yes, it was crazy thinking, but my short time with Yvonne has always kept me aware of how close any of us can be to falling off the edge and winding up like Bri who blogs about her own homelessness in the Girls Guide To Homelessness Blog.
When I heard about Bri's blog via MediaBistro I had to stop and read it from beginning to end. My first thought was how did she blog while living in a trailer parked in Wal-Mart? After thinking about the available Web access at the public library I realized there were definitely options for blogging, even when homeless, which is impressive. Don't you think?
After reading how Bri became homeless, respecting her journey and admiring her willingness to share it, I thought about so many of the experiences I have had with my own employees over the past 12 years. Sadly there have been so many who do not appear to share Bri's willingness to work, display strength of character or integrity and do their very best.
When people make comments about how easy it must be to start and run a company, I never bother to tell them that the hardest parts of having a business are the employees.
I used to think that maybe I didn't know how to place good help wanted ads. Or maybe it was because I was in Dallas and people here had a different work ethic than what I grew up with in the MidWest in Missouri. Then I questioned whether it was a generational thing or a gender, age, or race thing. I even considered whether it was an astrological, Feng Shui or vampire culture thing.
Do I have the answer? No, not really. I am still trying to figure it out with minimal results. Am I bitter, angry and distrusting of all new employees? Absolutely although I try hard to give everyone a fair chance.
While I am very grateful to currently have a solid core of hard working, honest, responsible, loyal and dedicated employees (many with me for over five years), over the lifetime of the company I have also experienced horrible employees.
I have employed workers who would rather lie than tell the truth, even if the truth were easier. I've experienced employees who had a sense of entitlement which prevented them from being willing to do the work outlined in their job descriptions, talk nicely to the customers, show up on time for their scheduled shifts, or actually put in a fair day's work for a fair day's wage. I'm not sure they even knew what fair day's work even meant.
Instead I've had employees who have decided to show up when it suited them regardless of the needs of the company. They would often do their jobs in a manner so it didn't interfere with their need for constant text messaging, emailing and cell phone chats with their significant others. Heaven forbid if working meant missing hitting the tanning beds or the spa in the middle of the afternoon or sneaking out early to attend stock car race or drink margaritas at the local Mexican restaurant with their wife.
When employees from hell were asked to abide by business rules they would often respond by walking off the job without any notice, often lying about their reasons for leaving such as having a supposed "family emergency" or fabricating a wide range of excuses because they didn't have the backbone to look you in the eye and give you the real reasons they were leaving.
Maybe because they would have to own the fact that they are telling bald faced lies to avoid honoring the decency to provide two weeks notice.
While I would never personally dream of leaving an employer (whether they had been good to me or not) in the lurch by walking off a job without two weeks notice, one of my last employees left on a Tuesday morning at 9:00 am due to a "family emergency" (now considered to be a fairy tale) and didn't even have the courage provide two weeks to wrap all the projects they had left hanging.
While I was initially feeling compassion for the employee with the family emergency the truth emerged and I felt duped. It seems said employee let it slip that as soon as the supposed "family emergency" was over they had decided to start their own company.
My response? Heaven help any of this person's future customers since he will most likely lie to his new customers and leave them hanging if he decides to go off and do something else on some other whim. Of course he will probably come up with some new "family emergency" to use as an excuse.
Meanwhile, he would probably do well in the Big Brother House where lying, backstabbing, slander and fabrication are rewarded. And of oourse we all know that what goes around eventually comes around.
Meanwhile, while I was reading all of the entries in Bri Blog about being homeless I wondered about all my past scumbag employees and if any of them were homeless at this point. I wouldn't be surprised if at least a few weren't in that position. Unlike Bri they are probably homeless for their own actions and not the swift hand of fate dealt to Bri.
I also wonder if I invited a homeless person like Bri to park their car or truck in my parking lot at no charge and gave them a job how it would turn out. Would they would lie, cheat, steal, refuse to do their jobs and be disloyal like so many of my previous employees?
At least they probably wouldn't have iPhones that distracted them from getting the work they were paid to do completed. That's definitely a plus. Right?
Who really knows? At least in the case of Bri she seems to be on her way back into the mainstream world which is so exciting to read. Not only did she land a paid intern job at Elle Magazine as a result of her homeless blog, she has lots of new doors opening and seems to have the spirit and integrity to ascend to the life she wants to lead.
It's refreshing to discover that there are still people with integrity making their way in the world who have a sincere interest in offering employers a good work ethic. If there are any more people with great integrity and work ethics like Bri out there in the world, please the Girls Guide to Homelessness me. I would love to hear your stories. Maybe I will figure out the answer to my ongoing question about lack of work ethic, integrity, loyalty and conscience.
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