Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.
Most people know Edward A. Moed as the tough-as-nails, Tony Soprano-like co-founder of Peppercomm. And, he is all of that. But, as Repman managing editor, Dandy Stevenson, recently discovered, today’s Ed was shaped in no small measure by the many (many) jobs he held during his formative years. Read on for a fascinating glimpse into the youthful Ed (aka Repman’s Better Half).
Growing up, Ed’s dad owned a drug store, so he started young— stocking shelves, working the counter and making deliveries. Other positions on Ed’s real life resume would include pizza maker, law firm messenger, art gallery security guard and my personal favorite, The Guy Who Turns the Drew University Gymnasium Lights On in the Morning and Off at Night.
Entering college, family financial demands increased and Ed had to help with tuition payments. He held a dozen different jobs from waiting tables, to tending bar, to selling suits. He said he was “was promoted to bartender because I was such a lousy waiter.” That was more his forte, as you might imagine, and later he parlayed that experience into a job at a liquor store. For reasons that probably need no explanation, he didn’t excel as a haberdasher and when he started his stint at a Home Depot precursor, he “didn’t know a two-by-four from a tee-square.”
Ed said each in its own way, was an excellent experience “for a kid who knew nothing” and gave him an early respect for what it takes to earn a buck (or two.) Most jobs didn’t last more than a month because he was looking for the holy trinity of pre-college graduation jobs: 1) good money, 2) work he was good at, and 3) work he enjoyed (or at least didn’t hate.)
The summer before his sophomore year, he hit pay tar. (That’s pay dirt, only hot, stinky and sticky.) His friend Tony Cashman’s father got them both jobs tarring a section of I-95. “I never worked so hard in my life,” he said, but across that hot summer, the money and life-lessons rolled in.
Ed worked alongside “hard-up, burned-out laborers” who were as happy for the work as Ed was, but for vastly different reasons. The men were just glad to have steady work to pay bills and put food on the table. Ed was working so one day he could be interviewed by one of his 125+ employees at the successful strategic communications firm he co-founded and discuss how he spent one summer tarring I-95.
At one point Ed and Tony decided being flag boys, directing traffic around the work area, was far easier than slinging hot tar when you had a hangover which Ed and Tony did once in a while like every other day because they were college guys for heaven’s sake. All was jake until the morning Ed forgot his up-flag from his down-flag and four cars collided. No one was hurt, except Ed. Tony’s father was head of the union, and let’s just say Ed saw a side of kindly Mr. Cashman that wasn’t so kindly.
But the highlight of that summer was when Ed, Tony and a few other wholesome guys drove to Myrtle Beach for some wholesome (and non) R&R. Ed said “no vacation could have meant more” because it was “financed wholly with money I earned myself.”
It was a long, hot summer, but not only did Ed earn a bundle of money, he picked up a bundle of life-lessons:
- Nothing beats money you earn yourself. It’s one thing to have someone tell you money is hard earned, it’s another to do it yourself. You get a sense of pride and ownership, not just of whatever your money bought but in the accomplishment and confidence of doing it yourself.
- Hard work is its own reward. Trite but true. Whether you are digging ditches or writing pitches, there is honor and satisfaction in doing a good job.
- Success brings responsibility. The directional flag mishap taught him that a job can frame someone else’s life. He said today, “I know individual’s and family’s livelihood are dependent upon my decisions, actions and performance.” A job is never just about yourself.
- A good education is paramount. Even though there are jokes about degrees being a dime a dozen these days, you want in that club. And you want to do the best you can, unless hot tar is your cup of tea.
- The sooner you learn to fail, and recover, the better. Ed was dismissed from some jobs because, like all teen-agers, he was immature and thought he knew more than he did. Dealing with failure, and recovering, is a big step towards self-reliance, which is a critical component of any responsible adult.
Ed’s three children have all the privileges in life he did not, but they will learn the lessons he did. When they reach college age, they will take out a loan for a portion of the tuition which will be their responsibility to re-pay. If you grow up without failure, with someone always doing things for you, you cannot be self-confident; you have to know you can take care of yourself. The road to success is paved with failure. And that journey for Ed started on I-95.