Mom didn’t drive, so when I was younger, my Dad took us everywhere, except when he was at work. One of my favorite outings was going to the dump on Saturday mornings. We lived in a rural area and we couldn’t afford garbage pickup, so on Saturday mornings, Dad would hook up his wooden trailer to the car and we would take our trash to the dump.
We would go every Saturday at 9 a.m. sharp. It was a thrill for me to spend time with my Dad. He was a hard worker and sometimes worked two jobs just to make ends meet.
These were the pre-seat belt days and I sat in the front seat with my sister. She didn’t always come with us, but I was always there. I was always on the lookout for a bargain and the town dump was like Christmas every Saturday. My father felt very differently.
Our car didn’t have air-conditioning, so we rode with the windows down. I could always tell, when we were getting close to the dump, due to the unforgettable smell of decomposing food, cardboard and whatever.
As we drove through the gate, my Dad would always say the same thing. “Now stay in the car. Don’t get out. You could cut yourself.”
I never listened. Once I saw all the toys, refrigerators and furniture, I just couldn’t control myself. My Dad would always back up to the pile and then start unloading our trash.
I always tried to open the door and get out of the car. I guess luck was on my Dad’s side, because there were giant seagulls circling the dump at all times. I was afraid of birds in general and these birds looked as big as turkeys. I tried to time my exit from the car, when no birds were around, but another one would swoop down near me and I would jump back into the car. I desperately wanted to go over and check out the toys, but I could never get near anything without fear of attack from the “turkey seagulls”.
Dad would hurry up and dump his trash, knowing that I was trying to escape from the car and after he got into the car, he always saw the disappointment on my face.
My Dad was a kind man. He would always say to me, “The toys are there for a reason. They must be broken, otherwise children would keep them. This was little consolation to me. I knew we didn’t have a lot of money. We lived paycheck-to-paycheck and to me, this was the answer to our prayers.
One time I was particularly upset, because I wanted a toy in the dump and my Dad wouldn’t let me take it.
“It’s free!” I yelled. “It’s Free!”
Dad looked at me and said very seriously, “Be careful! Everything that’s free may not be good for you.”
He pulled over to the toy I wanted. He drove around to the other side of it. It was a miniature kitchen stove. It was just my size. As we got to the other side of it, I noticed that that whole side was smashed.
It looked good from the right side, but looking at the other side really surprised me.
“Now, do you understand what I mean?” he asked.
I just nodded yes.
When I started my virtual assistant business, I received phone calls and emails about all kinds of products and services that people told me I HAD to have for my business. I remembered my Dad’s words immediately. Free trial periods or free incentives does not mean that it’s good for my business or that I need it.
In fact many of the products and services would not really benefit a virtual assistant business. I had to take the time to do my research on each offering. I checked out all of the information for each product and service. I had to weigh the pros and cons. Just as Dad did, when we drove around the other side of the toy stove, I had to look at all sides of the products, services and offers. I found out that even the ones that looked too good to be true, ended up being too good to be true. There were hidden aspects that I didn’t know about.
In the excitement of starting and building my virtual assistant business, I had to revert to my Dad’s advice and check everything out. I actually learned a lot about what EXACTLY I needed for my business and I was able to make the right choices for my business based on need and pricing, rather than attractive ads and constant pressure from sales people.
Dad was trying to teach me long ago about listening to my gut feeling, staying alert and going beyond the look of things. He taught me to analyze what was in front of me, determine my need from my want and then go forward with a decision based on facts and performance and not just flash and glam.
As a virtual assistant, I always have to be on the cutting edge of new technology to be competitive, but I also have to be realistic and develop my business around the needs of my clients. We have a partnership and I take this partnership very seriously. I need to be capable of helping them to achieve success, while keeping my own business competitive and successful by not indulging in the lasts fads or equipment and software that I cannot use.
I think my Dad taught me a great lesson. Those trips, we took to the dump so long ago, keep me focused and remind me that need comes before want. I think he did a great job.