A One-Time Motel Maid Looks Back on Success, Then & Now

My experience as a young girl of what the term “work ethic” really meant began with a fib.

I was 14, growing up in southern California. My mother had divorced when I was 5, left to raise me and my two younger brothers. She didn’t have a formal education, so she had to work two full-time jobs as a waitress to make ends meet.

I can still remember those afternoons when she’d come home from her first job in a maroon dress and switch into the black and white cocktail outfit for her evening job. I’d watch her put on her makeup, we’d figure out what I’d prepare the boys for dinner, and then she was off, often until midnight.

Riding my navy blue Schwinn bike home from school one day, right down the middle of the street, I had this vision. With absolute clarity and certainty, I knew three things:

1. I never want to end up in my mother’s precarious financial situation
2. I wanted to help others reach their own financial independence
3. I knew it was up to me to make these things happen

With that inspiration, I told the manager of the Don Carlos Motel in Dana Point that I was 15, so I could get a work permit to work as a maid. With necessities like phone bills going unpaid, I knew every extra dollar I earned would count.

Since then, I’ve started and sold successful companies, worked alongside some of America’s top leaders, written books, and achieved financial independence. When I look back at my life now, I feel extraordinarily fortunate. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices.

But what if was 14 years old today? Would I be able to accomplish the same things in this new highly competitive world with so many global challenges? It seems hard work and sacrifice isn’t enough anymore. Are college students truly prepared for the world they will be facing over the next thirty years?

Today, you need to be extremely adaptable. To progress in your career it’s not enough to know one thing well. As my friend Sean Harvey, product manager at Google put it when we were speaking to students, “Today, companies aren’t hiring for a specific position but rather people who are smart and flexible. The way you demonstrate that is by showing you can do multiple things well.”

Good mentoring matters more now than ever. When I was at UCLA, I was very fortunate to have one particular experienced professional take me under his wing and teach me entrepreneurship and business skills that otherwise would have taken years to develop. Some corporate mentoring programs exist, but are hard to come by for teens and young adults.

What’s clear to me after advising hundreds of young people on their career paths, colleges still have a long way to go to prepare graduates for all they will encounter in the real working world.

When I went to UCLA as an undergrad twenty years ago, annual tuition was $722. This year students will fork over $11,000 – but still a bargain compared with quadruple that expense at many top private schools. Now, graduates often wait years to get meaningful employment, dramatically lowering their lifetime earning power by tens of thousands of dollars and dashing any hopes of saving for the future.

My aunt and uncle gave me room and board for $100 a month to help keep my college debts down. But without a pension, could they have done the same for me today?

The lethal combination of unemployment—around 15 percent when you consider those who’ve stopped looking for work—and anemic wage growth means we are not only at greater financial risk, but we have to take more risks to succeed.

The picture isn’t all doom and gloom, of course. The new Internet world of all-the-time connectedness means anyone with a hot idea or product or service can create a business out of virtually nothing. Success can be quick and big, at fractions of the cost of starting companies just a decade ago.

But that success demands more creativity, more “out of the box” thinking – the flexibility Sean Harvey preaches.

And it makes me think a lot about the future my three-year old daughter faces. How can I best prepare her for the world she will encounter twenty years from now? What will that world look like? What experiences do I need to allow her to face now to be ready for whatever comes her way in 2032 and beyond?

Whatever the future brings, I think the best message I’ll give her is to believe in herself. Life won’t get any easier, but the opportunities will come – as they always have – to those who work hard, adapt as they need to, and trust their abilities.

And maybe on our next trip to the west coast, I’lll show my daughter the spot where the Don Carlos Motel used to be.


Jennifer Openshaw, President of Finect, is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch and author of The Millionaire Zone, based on national research about how those who are financially successful used their networks to get ahead. Twitter @jopenshaw.


Courtesy: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130208181601-9359661-a-one-time-motel-maid-looks-back-on-success-then-now


About Arun Mishra

“We often becomes what we believes ourself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” SO, “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're gonna be winners. Because "I feel like my wings are finally coming back. They were broken, and there was a point where I thought I was confined to this earth. But I feel like they're back now. And I'm excited to fly again. And sure, there are going to be bad and tough times. I can easily see them now but that's not a reason to stay on the ground. Everyone has to fall sometime but no matter how long it takes you, you eventually get tired of dragging your feet through the mud, and you get up and find your wings have healed and they ache to fly again. So I'll fly, I'll fall, I'll get back up, and I'll live."
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