Finding Another Path
by Ben Campen
December 7, 2015
In April of 1967, I was fresh out of the Marines and anxious to get a job. I had an offer to go to work at a local gas station/repair shop in my home town of Waldo making $100/week. I had worked there part-time in my teens pumping gas and doing basic car repairs.
But I also got a job offer from my girlfriend’s dad at his automobile auction business in Palatka, FL. He would pay me $60/week (take home pay was $47) and provide me with ‘some sort of car’ to drive.
After giving it some thought, I came to the conclusion that I already knew how to pump gas and do basic repairs but I didn’t know much about the auto auction business. My girlfriend’s dad was financially successful and I thought, “There is something to learn here.” The auction business sounded exciting and I really needed ‘some sort of car’ to drive. In addition, I knew that if I worked for my girlfriend’s dad, I would get to be around her more often. So off to the auto auction I went.
The first auto auction I worked blew me away. Watching what happened, the quickness of the transaction, and that thousands of dollars changed hands in an instant, really impacted me! I was hooked, even though at the time I didn’t realize how much so.
After a few weeks, I had the process figured out. The dealers bought cars low and then sold them at auction for about $300 more than they’d paid. I thought, “I can do the same thing and make some extra money!”
The first vehicle I purchased was a dark blue, 4 door Dodge. I paid $850 for it and it had a book value of $1,100. I was so excited that I was going to make a few hundred dollars! At 20 years old, I was a car dealer, just like the big boys!
Over the next few days, I spent a lot of time detailing the car and while working on it, our auction floor manager stopped by to see me. As it turned out, this person was unfortunately not in my corner. Since I had gotten the job through my association with the boss’s daughter, he just wasn’t all that encouraging in my development as a car dealer. He said to me, “Why did you buy that old car? What did you pay for it?” When I told him I’d paid $850 for it, he replied, “I think that is pretty strong. That car isn’t worth that much! I think that you are wasting your time!” But, I felt this wasn’t right as I’d done my research and the car was so clean!
But, when auction time came around, this auction floor manager set the opening bid at $500! My heart sunk!! Even from my short auction experience, I knew that vehicles didn’t sell for much more three hundred dollars over the opening bid. And indeed, this was to be no exception as the bidding stopped at $800.
After the bidding concluded, the floor manager said “I told you so!” and walked off with a smile on his face.
After I cooled down, I realized my mistake. I should have never told him how much I had paid for the car! It was as though he wanted me to fail and I had given him the ammunition to help me down that path.
But what was I to do? Confront him? He was the “expert” and he’d most likely say I was upset because I lost money. Complain to my girlfriend’s dad? Well, that didn’t seem like a good idea either.
So I decided, if I couldn’t work with the auction floor manager, I’d work around him. It was time to find another path.
The next car I purchased, I went to extensive measures to ensure he didn’t know how much I’d paid for the car. He had access the company records to find out – but, unbeknownst to him, I had our accountant make the check out to the bank and not to me. When I bought my next car for $800, I told him I’d paid $1,200. He again criticized me for paying “too much” and when he took the car into the ring, he set the price low again! This time he opened the bidding up at $800. When the car sold for $1,100 he again said, “I told you it wouldn’t make any money!” But, little did he know that I’d made $300. The smile was on my face now.
From my initial experience, I strongly felt the floor manager wasn’t going to be my advocate. (Newsflash to my 20 year old self: life isn’t fair.) But, because I found another path, I made my situation work and did several positive things in the process:
- It engrained into the core of my being that there is more than one way to ‘skin a cat’. When someone tells me “NO!” I smile and find another path.
- That it’s better to be friends than to be right. I could have exploded in righteous indignation and ‘told on him’ but he more than likely would have had it in for me from then on. By getting what I wanted in a way that didn’t make him look bad – his negativity towards me didn’t escalate. Also, I needed this job and my girlfriend’s dad might have considered the floor manager a more valuable employee than me!
- It also showed me that there is no shame in a peaceful approach in getting what I wanted. I didn’t have to always bully straight through the problem, often I could just find another path.
This week, my challenge to you is evaluate the problems in your life and see if there is a way to find another path instead stubbornly trying to plow right through the issue. When we get mad or irritated because we are treated unfairly, we are generally the ones that suffers most. When we get upset, our blood pressure goes up, and that, for sure, isn’t healthy! When we get mad, the problem usually wins and we lose! And dealing with a problem in a head strong way can often create more problems than you started with.
When you meet a roadblock in life, don’t drive into the wall or over the cliff – just find another path.