The Value of Child Labor
Leading Thoughts #82
Welcome to this week's Leading Thoughts. I'm Scott and this is where I share my latest thoughts on life, learning, and leadership.
I missed last week after catching COVID for the 3rd time traveling home from Virginia. My daily mile running streak was broken, but the COVID streak roars on.
3 consecutive years.
While quarantined in my office, the warmest room in the house, it took a little while to realize I’d broken my fever because my air conditioner was dying at the same time.
Fortunately, it's feeling a whole lot cooler this week. And, there's always hope for a COVID-free 2023?
Question of the Week:
How can we increase the agency of future generations?
It was around 1993, I was 8 or 9 years old and we lived in the suburbs of northwest New Jersey. I remember my sister and me getting dragged out of the house around 5 am to go to work with my Dad on Sunday mornings.
He was the General Manager of a Friendly's Restaurant, usually working 80-90 hour weeks. We grew up in those restaurants, trying to stay out of the way.
In this particular location, my Dad's office was in the basement of the building. Most days, I'd sit down there playing computer games on his work computer. These were the days of DOS, but I was an early gamer!
Eventually, he taught me to cook. But, being young and vertically challenged, I could not reach the grills. So, I stood on milk crates in front of two industrial grills cooking bacon, sausage, pancakes, French Toast, and eggs.
Anything on their breakfast menu, I could cook.
One Sunday, I was in the midst of conquering the world in my Dad's office when an employee was sent down to grab me. They needed help clearing tables.
So, I grabbed a bus pan and started breaking down tables. I sorted the trash and stacked the cups, plates, and silverware as quickly and efficiently as possible. Like Tetris.
Then I'd lift the heavy bus pan (which is still heavy when I did the work as an adult) and race to the back. I'd return with a wet rag to wipe off the table for the next guests.
Rinse and repeat.
Surprisingly, it was just as much fun as my game. How fast could I go?
Later that day, my Dad mentioned a customer who made a comment referencing me and my twin.
But, I don't have a twin.
I didn't realize the value of these memories until looking back as a dad. My Dad had the burden of trying to watch two small kids while running a busy restaurant. I've tried watching one while working from home -- yikes!
Could you imagine walking into a restaurant today and seeing a young kid clearing tables around you? Or worse, could you imagine him being the person cooking your food?
What I didn't realize at the time, I was a contributing member of that team!
I learned agency. I was able to positively contribute and gain the self-worth that comes along with making meaningful contributions. There was no question of whether I could do it.
By the time I was 10, I could cook, make ice cream desserts, and eventually serve tables, but the serving came later as tips meant the end of my illustrious young cooking career.
Being a parent myself, what will my daughter think just watching mom and dad sit on their computers in their offices all day?
How can we communicate that same level of significance?
What opportunities can we generate to create those same early feelings of self-confidence?
Thoughts Worth Exploring:
The Most Precious Resource is Agency. - I shared this before, but I continually find myself returning to it:
Leonardo da Vinci was a studio apprentice to Verrocchio at 14. Walt Disney took on a number of jobs, chiefly delivering papers, from 11 years old. Vladimir Nabokov published his first book (a collection of poems) at 16, while still in school. Andrew Carnegie finished schooling at 12, and was 13 when he began his second job as a telegraph office boy, where he convinced his superiors to teach him the telegraph machine itself. By 16 he was the family’s mainstay of income.
Agency is a learned skill. These individuals didn't just flip a switch when they finished their schooling. Nor can a society continue to deprive its youth of a sense of agency without strong negative consequences.
This thread does a great job differentiating between people who are high or low agency:
My favorite tweet in this thread:
@JeffBezos has a framework for identifying high agency friends/romantic partners.
Answer this question:
"If you were stuck in a third world prison and had to call one person to try and bust you out of there - who would you call?"
Diving into my archives, a few additional lessons from Dad.
Photo of the Week:
This was a picture of my Dad and me from my wedding earlier this year.
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