President Andrew Johnson was born in a log cabin to virtually illiterate parents.
His father, a hotel porter and bank janitor, passed away trying to save his two wealthy employers from drowning. Johnson was three-years-old.
Johnson's widowed mother supported the family through her job as a seamstress before he and his brother William managed to get apprenticeships at a tailor.
How can you go from one of the most bleak beginnings in life to the most powerful office in the world?
We will revisit Johnson shortly…
Look back at your day, there's a high chance you spent a lot of time doing something you’d rather have avoided. Even if you’re working in your dream job, there are administrative details and overrun meetings you could do without.
On difficult days it can be easy to start half-engaging with tasks and letting your mind wonder during important conversations. When small problems crop it can be easy to ignore them or attempt to hide them for later.
No matter whether you enjoy your current task, you should give it everything. If you are working at an ice cream stand, as an underpaid waiter or cleaning someone else's rubbish. Each job will remain with you whether you have enjoyed it or not.
At the time you may feel it is boring and gaining nothing from being there, but it contributes to your overall work ethic.
"No task is beneath you and you’re not overqualified."
Stay present with your work. If you're serving ice cream, make the scoops as perfectly spherical as possible and if you're cleaning a bathroom, make sure it's the cleanest darned bathroom you've ever seen. If you become lazy and lethargic, it will trickle into other areas of your life.
Boring jobs are a training ground for your attitude.
If you think you should be doing a better job, it means you think you're too skilled at your current job to be doing it. Time to prove it. Compete with the rest of the team and make sure you're the one completing everything to the highest standard, the one who can be relied on.
This won’t make you any more money but you will be putting yourself in a better position to in the future. A menial job is trains your mind for your dream job. When you’re at your highly skilled dream job there will be a lot moments you don’t enjoy. Even with the best job in the world there will be these moments. These early jobs will give you the grit and a positive mental attitude to continue when you’re finding things difficult.
Remove your misplaced sense of entitlement and replace it with pride. Pride that everything you're associated with is high quality and the best it can be. You have to go through difficult times to prove to yourself and other people that you can be trusted with more responsibility. Change your mentality to a place where you're happy with what you're doing and your output will surge.
Johnson's time as a tailors' apprentice served him well and he was proud of his early work.
“My work never ripped or gave way until the material out of which the garment was made was worn out”.
When campaigning to become president, he was discredited for beginning his career as a tailor. Johnson did not take it to heart.
“Some gentleman say I have been a tailor. That does not disconcert me in the least; for when I was a tailor I had the reputation of always being a good one, and making close fits; I was always punctual with my customers, and always did good work.”
Whenever Johnson did something, he took pride in it. He wanted to be the best at whatever he was doing, otherwise he saw no point in doing it. Every avenue was an opportunity to excel.
Just before his death said:
"I have performed my duty to my God, my country, and my family. I have nothing to fear in approaching death. To me it is the mere shadow of God's protecting wing . . . Here I will rest in quiet and peace beyond the reach of calumny's poisoned shaft, the influence of envy and jealous enemies, where treason and traitors or State backsliders and hypocrites in church can have no peace."
Johnson found peace in the fact he was true to himself. He realised that giving everything to all opportunities and being 100% present in conversations was all he could expect from himself. It is very easy to think about where you hope to be, and forget to give all areas of your life the respect and effort they deserve.
If you take pride in the small things, people will notice, they will see that your hard work is about more than the specific task you're doing. You will benefit practically too. Whatever you think of your current employer, they are far more likely to give you a good reference if you go out of your way on the small things. Although it is unlikely that employers would ever give a negative reference, your future employer will know the difference between the reference of a someone who has done the minimum and someone who crushes everything they do.
If you become the employee everyone can rely on and wants to be around, when you get the opportunity to take a dream job, your mindset will already be honed for success.
Anything worthwhile will take hard work, get the mindset now.
Anything you do is worth doing well.