Advice from a Millionaire
In 2019 I went on a J1. I worked as a musical director, piano teacher and camp counselor at the French Woods Festival of Performing Arts in upstate New York. I had an incredible 3 months at camp and honestly it was the happiest time of my life.
I can’t help but smile whenever I think about camp.
After camp, the counselors formed groups and traveled the US together. A lot of our campers’ parents offered to host us, and we happily accepted.
One of our hosts, Adam, was truly exceptional. He always gave us his undivided attention, cooked us a homemade meal, and even drove us all the way from New Jersey to New York. Definitely not what you’d expect the founder and CEO of a billion-dollar company to be doing.
He was the first millionaire I’ve had the pleasure of really knowing.
After he picked us up from the train station, Adam brought us on a walking tour of the town. On our stroll into town I noticed two of his incredible traits that set him apart.
We came across a plastic bottle on our journey. It wasn’t in our way and I hardly noticed it. Adam saw it and went out of his way to pick it up. He held onto it for a good ten minutes before we reached a bin.
This surprised me, a man of his importance picking up someone else’s rubbish as though it was his own. His attention to detail, and working for the greater good, is something that I am still learning today.
The second thing that struck me was how understanding and empathetic he was. He knew we had just come from 3 months of camp and that we were probably sick of kids, so he made sure none of his 4 children would intrude on our holiday time. He even cooked us a homemade meal himself as we rested.
You may think that Adam’s retired, or it was the weekend by the sounds of the things. I assure you, neither of these things were true.
He’s just an extraordinarily generous person.
After our tasty meal we were left to chat and relax while Adam went to do the dishes. Again, I was amazed by his hospitality, and curious to find out more. I followed him inside and offered my help.
Of course, he didn’t accept my help as I was the guest, but I kept him company. I thanked him for his incredible hospitality, and complimented him on his movie-worthy home, then asked him how he got to where he is.
Humble as ever, he said his secret was that he married someone smarter than him.
He told me more about his story. He graduated college and interned at a billion-dollar company where he quickly progressed through the ranks. His boss liked him very much and he was set to become an executive. But then the Great Recession came.
One day in 2008, Adam was called into his boss’ office and told that the company was going under. He was given a blank cheque and told that he could give himself whatever he wanted before the company declared bankruptcy. He could’ve become a millionaire right then and there.
Adam, a man of complete integrity, ripped up the cheque.
I didn’t need to question why he ripped it up, I knew why. Regardless, he explained it would’ve been unfair to the hundreds of other workers. He said he had learned so much from the company that he’d be okay no matter what happened.
He continued his story and told me how he used his skills to start his own company. His original job was in real estate, and he saw a gap in the market. His present company scouts real estate for fast food restaurants.
He calls himself lucky, but I’ve no doubt that he would’ve attracted success regardless.
Adam is a strong believer in good karma. When he found out my friend’s suitcase was misplaced by UPS, he sent him money with just the subject ‘Good Karma’. What goes around comes around has become one of my primary principles ever since meeting him.
I had a question for him. I had just experienced the best summer while my friends pursued internships, and I wanted to do it all again. But, seeing how his internship launched his career, what did he suggest for me to do?
He didn’t answer me directly. He told me to go with my gut and said that if we were to die tomorrow nothing would really matter. The only thing that would matter is if we were happy.
I decided then and there that I would not be the person who lives with regrets. As soon as my incredible holiday was over, I booked another J1.
Our conversation didn’t end there. We went on to discuss more things. He even told me that he didn’t care if his children graduated college.
This was something I couldn’t comprehend at the time. His reasoning was that both him and his wife were smart so the kids would have the mental capacity to do well. So, he didn’t care if his kids went onto blue collar jobs.
I couldn’t understand at all, why would he let his children go for something less than their potential? He went on to explain that skills were the most important thing, and not some degree.
Being brought up by Asian parents who thought a brand name university degree was all I needed; I did not agree with Adam. This was something I tried to understand but couldn’t at the time.
Now I completely agree and find it incredible how I had been brought up in a way that seemed correct but actually wasn’t. After all I am proof of his point. I don’t have a music degree, yet with my international teaching experience I am much more valuable than many who do.
Following my realization, I’ve been learning new skills on top of my business degree. I have now made websites for clients and consulted with small companies based on my time learning from the school of hard knocks.
Adam’s thinking of skills being the most important thing is something so simple, and correct that I wish I had copped on sooner.
I will be forever grateful for having met Adam. He’s really inspired me and I hope his story has inspired you too.