While traveling in northern California a few years ago, I happened to tune into a local newscast. The newscaster was telling his co-anchor that the speaker at that morning’s Rotary Club meeting had to cut his presentation short because he was being flown down to Disneyland to carve elaborate Halloween pumpkins for the park festivities. The newscaster wrapped up the story with the familiar quip, “Nice work if you can get it.” He got the first part right. For a creative kid-at-heart, being a professional pumpkin carver is a dream come true. It was his serendipitous “if you can get it” thinking that missed the mark. The fact is, people rarely “get” great work; they create it!
Despite all the emphasis on growth in the “job sector,” I am continually amazed at just how many fascinating alternatives there are to the whole 9-to-5 schtick. And just as traditional job seekers can’t wait around for “Mr. Job” to knock on the door, people who want to do satisfying work – and call their own shots – need to be proactive as well. Francis Bacon defined a wise man as one who “makes more opportunities than he finds.” Here are a couple of other wise entrepreneurs who made it by going for it.
Sports-lover Dean Schoenewald was just 18 when he went to the Philadelphia Eagles management wearing a homemade Eagle costume and asking for a mascot job. They weren’t interested. Undaunted, Shoenewald kept showing up at Eagles football games. Pretty soon the fans adopted him as the unofficial (meaning, “unpaid”) mascot. Thirteen paid team mascot jobs, four mascot character creations (including ones for the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks), and 18 years later, Shoenewald started Mascot Mania, the only professional training school for mascots in the world.
Despite what your high school guidance counselor might have told you, showing up uninvited in a bird costume isn’t the only route to self-employment. For Dan Zawacki it all began when he was working as a sales rep for Honeywell and decided to give away 120 live lobsters as gifts to his customers. Dan was so bowled over by the response that he decided to open a small side business shipping live lobsters complete with pot, crackers, butter and bibs to crustacean-lovers from coast-to-coast. That is until his boss heard him pitching Lobster Gram, Inc. on a local radio station and promptly fired him.
In the beginning, Dan worked out of his bedroom, storing his lobsters in a used tank in his father’s garage. His first year netted only $4,000. Now LiveLob.com offers an assortment of steaks, desserts, side dishes, accessories and, of course, lobster. All and all, not a bad tale.
If you dream of making the transition from employee to self-bosser, the first thing you need to do is believe that you can. Then, the next time you see some entrepreneur doing what they love, try thinking: “Nice work – now, all I have to do is get it!”