What I Learned as a Teenage Homebuilder

Growing up, my first summer job was with a homebuilder. This was in south Louisiana, so it was often in the mid 90s with 100 percent humidity. The days were long and the work was hard. I’d leave around 6 a.m. and get home around 7 p.m., exhausted. I was in middle school and got paid $125 a week. Doesn’t seem like much now, but I was ecstatic. (Opportunities were limited—I was too young to work legally.)

That experience was pivotal, and I learned a lot. Some cool woodworking skills. That I’m deathly afraid of heights (and that looking down when I’m on a scaffold will make me freeze up). The power of teamwork and the value of a dollar. To not cut corners and to do things the right way the first time. For the first time, I noticed that entrepreneurs are different. Spending most of my time alongside the owner of the company, I took note of how he saw the world differently and made decisions differently than everyone else.

Today I connected with that owner. He’s at the tail end of a successful career but still works (albeit at a slower pace) because he enjoys what he does. He’s passionate about his work, and it shows. That job shaped me, and I’m not sure where I’d be without it. Proximity to success matters; it can have a big impact. I’m thankful that he took a chance on me and gave me my first opportunity to observe entrepreneurship up close.