When I was 6, I’d do almost anything for $2.
With $2 in my pocket I could get 40 Strawberry Clouds, 20 Warheads or a hundred live rounds of ammunition for my capgun.
Money meant one thing; the freedom the select my next luxury.
I had a few ways of collecting money at this age. Naturally most of my income came through gifts, $5 here and there from family and friends at Christmas or on my birthday. But I came to realise that these income streams were seasonal, and out of my control. Hardly acceptable to someone without the forethought to make anything last.
So at the tender age of 6, I created my first job. I became the one-boy director, performer, choreographer and promoter of my family famous ‘Trampoline Shows’.
Whenever we had enough family around to justify an ‘occasion’, I would organise a scrappy 2-5 minute ‘show’ with my siblings, and charge every adult member of the family to attend.
These shows tended to involve a silly narrative which usually included bad attempts at magic tricks, trampoline flips, hideous knock-knock jokes and some form of tragic death at the hands of a capgun (which was often running suspisciously low on ammuninition).
These adorable (and I’m sure unbearable) performances started out at $1 per seat, which increased to $2 once I realised nobody in the family had the heart not to pay up, and had a stop put to them the first time I tried to demand $5 a head.
I learnt some valuable lessons from my first little business venture.
It was the first time I had leveraged my networks for a financial benefit. Of course, my family weren’t paying to see the show because the show was worth $1 to see. In fact, some of them probably would have paid the fatal $5 ticket price if I told them that they wouldn’t have to sit and watch the show at all.
My family were willing to pay $2 each to sit in a line and watch me jump on the trampoline for five minutes because they were invested in me. My success meant something to them, and they were willing to facilitate it.
Every meaningful job I’ve been hired to do since that point has had something to do with my ability to leverage pre-existing networks. While this sounds totally insidious, it’s not a bad thing. Our networks exist to support us.
My family were willing to sit through five minutes of me pretending to be a cowboy, who in one instance ‘accidently’ shot him self in the face because my sister got stage fright, because they care about me.
People who care about you care about what you want, and they’re usually willing to help you work towards getting it.
The even more important lesson was that as soon as you try to abuse these networks by asking too much of them, the support dissipates. And sometimes, once abused, that support will never be offered again. Luckily for me, while I never got away with another Trampoline Show, my family weren’t done supporting my endeavours.
When I was 6, my family were willing to help fund my strawberry cloud addiction. Now, the people I’ve served with on non-profit boards, or trudged through awful 18 hour hospitality gigs with are willing to champion me because they too are invested in my narrative.
We all have people like this in our lives. It’s okay to lean on them sometimes. Just don’t try to rob them. They’ll see right through it, and you’ll wind up without any lollies.