March 6, 2009

First Person:

Never Give Up, Never Give in

By Al Carlos Hernandez

I’m informed that the unemployment level is now around 10% which is similar to the way things were during the last economic downturn in 1983. If you were born in 1983 turn off your Blackberry and pay attention, I was your age when things went bad back in the day.

As a Mass Communications major, I made a decent living in Radio, but when the bottom fell out, the last hired were the first fired. There were no jobs in my white (Really wide) collar positions in my field, and knew that I would find myself by myself if I didn’t reinvent myself. When it comes to feeding your family, pride has to take a backseat, and if you are not man or woman enough to ride shotgun, reality is going to keep you sleeping on your Mama’s sofa, hoping that a do gooder will help you; at this point, they can’t even help themselves.

The only jobs available were sales jobs on commission; this means: don’t sell don’t eat. They gave you a weekly draw, which means allowance against whatever sales you happen to make. The only folks that would hire me was an Oldsmobile dealership; they trained me how to sell cars, and although I only sold a few, the sales training that I learned gave me a very marketable skill. There is an old saying “Catch a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.”

Although I hate to eat fish, I do like to eat, and the skills I learned selling cars, has served me very well until this very day, and because of those skills, I was eventually able to negotiate major record contracts, and kept me bullet proof when I became the managing partner of a motorcycle dealership.

The hardest part in reinventing one’s self is self. I was no doubt a legend in my own mind and too high minded to do any kind of blue collar work, truth be told, I didn’t know to do blue collar work. Those who are willing to work with their hands will never go hungry.

I felt that I hit bottom when in hindsight I really hit the top, when I was hired at a local motorcycle dealership to sell bikes, again on commission. We sold lots of Honda scooters; once the bike is sold it is the responsibility of the sales person to detail the bike for delivery. I remember being on my knees cleaning the wheels on a bike, when a Tweeny Drug dealer comes over with the key, I hand him over the scooter, he flips me a ten dollar bill tip, I had to take it, there were little ones at home to feed.

The economy got better over the years. The Motorcycle business was good to me; my former media celebrity gone, I was now handlebar mustached “OG Carlos” the biker dude. Forgotten were the days of gigs, glory, and glamour; I was happy that I knew how to earn a living with my hands in concert with my wits, this proved to be a winning combination.

The lessons I have learned though humbling and reinventing myself has served me very well. What I considered to be vocational humiliation became for me human validation, guess what, God is no respecter of persons, and or work status for that matter and I am no exception.

I look back sometimes with tears of joy in my eyes about the motorcycle days, and the best friends who taught me how to work, while I taught them big words and the small business hustle, they taught me how to make hundreds, I taught them how to make thousands. I can now get respect from both sides of the counter; I am a white collar worker again, with a blue collar soul who cherishes the opportunity to get his hands dirty.

God who sees the beginning, middle and end of all things knew what I needed to go through to become the person he always wanted me to be. I had to reinvent myself in humility, and know in spirit and in truth that no job is beneath me. That recession revised me, this recession can revive you.

This long and strange trip has brought me to my latest affectation, I am an Adjunct Professor of Media at a Christian University, the old adage, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”, doesn’t apply to me, bring me a screwdriver, vice grips and some duck tape and I will have you back on the road, before you can whine about Government bailouts.

Al Carlos Hernadez writes from Hollywood.

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