My Best job; My Worst Job – and What I Learned From Each

…Server, landscaper, men’s fragrance salesman, dock worker, restaurant expediter, ballpark vendor, childhood entrepreneur, big kid (adult) entrepreneur, quality supervisor, grad student researcher (I know it’s not really a job but it was – at times – incredibly fun work), teaching assistant, forensic scientist, restaurant host, laboratory technician, auditing manager, telemarketer, training director, and now CEO. These are all positions I’ve held at one time, and if we’re playing former job BINGO, as a 32-year-old, I like my chances…


(Photo courtesy of MKulp Photography)


What’s more, reflecting back on all of these opportunities a couple of things come to mind first:

  1. I’m lucky to have had so many vast experiences across so many industries, and

  2. I really didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life, did I?


The good news for me and the fam’ is that I have a pretty solid handle on #2 in the present day, and because of #1 I have an opportunity to write this article for you. Not just by drawing from 3 past jobs, but by over a dozen… And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Oh! I forgot about ‘Student Assistant Coach’ for a DI college football team. Add that to the list!


In the paragraphs below, I’ll pick the 2 past jobs that stand out the most to me – the best and the worst – and tell you the most important things I learned from each.


And who knows? Maybe the worst wasn’t so bad after all…? Let’s wait and see.


I’ll get the caveats out of the way early.


My present positions (forensic scientist and CEO of our family’s dental office, MFD) will not be entered for consideration. It’s a little more than I’m willing to share at the moment, but if you’ll do me a favor and subscribe to the blog, I promise to have much more content out about each of these in the coming months. Thanks in advance! Also, there are no concrete metrics that will be used to measure these positions other than those listed below. We’re talking apples and cream sticks here, not Granny Smith vs. Honeycrisp (in which case I’d feel terrible for Granny…). Thanks for being here and I can’t wait to see your response in the comments section below!


Honorable mention worst job ever (2nd worst) – Telemarketer – 


The details: Unlike some of the best stay at home jobs, here we worked in what looked like an old 2nd floor 70’s living room with a sunken floor area that sat on top of a tattoo parlor. The west facing wall was an entire bank of windows that also faced the street, so if your cube was in that direction you could see the foot traffic out the windows. That was about the only entertainment your 8-hour shift that ended at 10:00 pm (damn west coast) would entail.


Magazine subscriptions were my products and oh I had a deal for you… Unless that wasn’t good enough, then I had a better deal. Still didn’t like that one? No worries, my best offer was even better yet. I threw the scripts out the window as I hustled Popular Mechanics, People, and Time to so many unsuspecting suburbanites that I tended to stay in the medal hunt atop the salesman (hadn’t reached the sales’person’ descriptor yet) leaderboard.


I’m not gonna lie – the 4 summer months I worked that job were tough.


I was one of the youngest people in there and had only gotten the job because a second cousin was the manager, so I couldn’t just up and walk out on him… So I stuck it out for the summer. Current Mike is glad that past Mike stayed the course because there are 2 main things I took away from that job:
  1. I got a first-hand education in cold calling and selling to some combination of people that either didn’t want to talk to me and/or didn’t really care about the products I was selling. I had to work for every sale, and each one felt sooooo good. That carrot-chasing feeling is still with me to this day.
  2. Don’t play Madden against a 30-year-old named Sonny for $20/game. Either I was getting hustled or just beaten by a better opponent every time, but my 21-year-old former football-playing-self didn’t stand a chance. That’s $140 I’ll never get back…


Lesson: It’s worthwhile to practice uncomfortable conversations


Downright the worst job I’ve ever done – Landscaper – 


The details: It was 2002, I was 16, it was summertime, and the job was advertised as “In the garden center for minimum wage ($4.15/hour).” Some days the landscaping crew would be “short a guy” and I’d have to fill in. So there I was, a green new-jack making minimum wage alongside guys twice my age making the big bucks ($14/hour).


This job taught me the value of a college diploma and that although there was definitely a life to be made working a manual labor job, that life wasn’t my primary choice.


I left enough sweat in those flower beds to fill the Olympic-sized swimming pool my classmates were swimming in all summer. On top of that, I worked my tail off all day, went to bed, and got up for more the next day. I learned a lot about myself and about life during that summer.


Lesson: There is no substitute for hard work 


Honorable mention best job ever (2nd best) – Auditing Manager/Training Director – 


The details: If not for what’s below, this job would’ve been hard to beat, but I digress. I took some time off during graduate school to start exploring possible career paths. Monica and I were close to the wedding date and the reality that our family needed supporting had hit me like a MAC Truck. This company deals with many aspects of the environmental sciences sector but their bread and butter was Emergency Response. And if you remember what happened in Spring of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico – there was an emergency to respond to. The company was subcontracted under another company that had been hired by BP to provide immediate support and they were advertising open positions throughout my university.


There was no hesitation as I saw the flier and made a phone call.


Three weeks later I landed in Mobile, Alabama for what would come to be 100 days of straight work averaging 80-90 hours per week on the clock.


I started as one of the first 10 or so sampling technicians on site and by the time I left 100 days later I directed a team of 4 auditors and 2 trainers that created, implemented, trained on, and monitored the SOPs for all sampling activities of 80 individuals from the Florida panhandle over to the western extent of Mississippi’s Gulf coast. I was a battlefield promoted director that had gotten a taste of business leadership and had no intention of letting go.


And it was all by a stroke of luck that it ended up like this…


BP’s lawyers came through on one of the early days and said to my boss that we needed a training and auditing program, so volunteers were sought out. I drew the short straw. 100 Days later I was prepping my replacement to take over the Gulf Coast operation because of an oil pipeline release in Michigan that our contracting company needed my auditing and training program for. If my ego was big before this experience… You hadn’t seen anything yet.


I took the fact that our parent company had requested (my) program to mean that I was irreplaceable. I then proceeded to act like the young idiot I was when I demanded more money and benefits. It was one of the dumbest financial mistakes I’ve made because that position could’ve led to much more than it already had. With a hat-tip to my then boss, he cooled me down and we scheduled a week for me to work on the new site to implement the program. And after that, we agreed that I would return back to graduate school. The lessons learned from those 100 days probably deserve their own book, let alone a paragraph in this post (maybe more to come down the road…).


Lesson: Check the ego


Best job ever – Restaurant Host – 


The details: What started as a genius idea between high school best friends eventually led to me spending a collective 7 months working at the Hard Rock Cafe in Maui, climbing my way up the ladder, and every day gazing at this view:


IMG 0570 e1520874929263


I started as a host for the first couple of months and literally had 5’ x 12’ open-air windows between my domain and the view above.


We made a healthy $12/hour plus tips as hosts, made most of the customers love our ‘incredible’ personalities, and literally lived the dream that first summer. Time passed, a lease was broken, we returned to school, I returned to Maui the following summer, and proceeded to make about $10k working as a server and as an inside expo in the kitchen… But that first summer working as a host with my best friend, making new best friends, was one of the most memorable periods of my young life. We grew up quick that first summer and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.


Lesson: Location, location, location!!!


So, I’m on the edge of my seat…! What was your best or worst job and what did you learn from it? I can’t wait to hear all about the experiences and lessons! Let me know in the comments below.

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