My sixteen-year-old brother called recently. He had snuck out of the house while mom was asleep to hang with friends. It was raining, and his windshield wipers were not working.
After verifying that he hadn’t been partying or knocking over banks (he’s a passionate Dungeons and Dragon nerd and was at a late-night game). I showed up to help him figure out the problem.
Growing up poor, solving these problems was a weekly occurrence for me: I swapped the dead alternator in my mom’s car when I was twelve. When I was fifteen, I pulled a lawnmower out of a trash pile and started a lawn mowing company.
Tools were limited, and money was tighter. Solving problems with a lack of resources became a normal way of life. It got to the point that I times I didn’t know how to approach live like normal kids.
Sure, it made me an oddball, but collecting cans on Friday morning would put gas in my car for college that week, so, why not?
One of the best aspects of growing up poor was that it taught us to be resilient. Our parents explained that they had made some poor choices: chief among them was not finishing college.
They also impressed us on the importance of finishing a project. If you start a project and leave it half-finished, you’ve wasted a lot of resources. The reward is only on the other side of the completed job.
They attribute much of our hardship to half-finished goals in their youth.
This viewpoint meant that we kids learned how to overcome obstacles from a young age. When the new college wanted to charge out-of-state tuition, I found a community college with easier requirements. I enrolled there and used those enrollment papers to prove my in-state residency to the university.
As an adult, it also means that you can enjoy more peace of mind. While most adults live their lives frustrated by the month-to-month lack of funds that they live with, I’m actively blogging, taking on side jobs, and tinkering in the garage.
Most people’s brains come home and watch TV, exhausted. My brain is challenged by new problems on a daily basis, and constantly excited to use every day to put another dollar and skillset between me and my impoverished youth.
The daily brain challenges create daily resilience.
The best way to hammer a nail is with a hammer. The second best way is with the side of an old crescent wrench.
When you live your life in a problem-solving manner, you are always seeing opportunities where no one else sees them.
In college, a girlfriend was dealing with intense stomach pains from the flu. Thinking it was appendicitis, we ran into the Emergency Room. Faced with a 6-hour wait — and here intense agony — I found a rural hospital that was only 45 minutes away.
An hour later, she was being seen and diagnosed. We were back home before most of the people in the first emergency room had seen a doctor.
Today, I am a bit of a tool hoarder. It’s one of the reasons I started Tool Tally. Having been without resources for so much of my life, I’m anxious to build up my savings account, to strengthen my tool collection and to improve my skillsets constantly.
Sure, I probably should not have rebuilt that engine head by myself, but now that I’ve done it, I’m more resilient, and an added redundancy for myself and my extended family should they ever need the head rebuilt on one of their cars.
This is one area that I feel we can all use more of. As a youth, long days and hard nights were just part of the hustle.
With a college degree, several successful blogs, and a good day job, I still work hard but have also earned the ability to take a break and work a cushy 9 to 4 schedule whenever I want.
It is important never to lose the rugged edge.
A good example of this was the time when some family members became stranded out of state. The transmission on their car died while they were still 9 hours away from home.
Sure, I was tired from a day’s work, but I often challenge myself with all-nighters. I know how to use caffeine and workout breaks to accomplish a late-night goal safely.
By breakfast time the next day, they were happily sitting around the table with the rest of us.
There are times in life when you won’t have much money to accomplish a task. This is where you can invest time to get it done. However, when you are short on both time and money, you need the ability to dig deep.
It’s in those moments that you become a legend.
Becoming legendary doesn’t happen without preparation.
Daily fitness and cold showers help create that hard edge. Monthly camping and hiking trips provide you with an added level to withstand suffering and focus.
And quarterly all-nighters are great for honing your ability to get things done at all costs.
Thankfully, getting my brother home wasn’t going to require an all-nighter. A little cooking spray on the windshield kept the rain rolling off, and I drove his car home on rural back roads.
The right man can get a lot done with the wrong tools. Now, to get my brother off of Dungeons and Dragons and into a game that is more likely to get him laid.
I bet a crescent wrench would help.