Webb: Words of wisdom for my son on his first job

rory dad

Life and work lessons from my father in 2013 during one of his biggest shows, where Rory found time to have fun while helping my dad run his booth in St. Charles, Missouri. Dad actually paid him, too. He did not pay his son. Work ethic runs in the family. I often envy my father for running his own business for 40 years.

A year into a job search, my son was frustrated. At one point after a promising interview didn’t result in work, he was exasperated: “Am I ever going to get a job?”

For those who don’t know Rory, he is autistic. Many things are a struggle. He thinks differently than most of us do, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. In fact, he has an admirable work ethic and gets more done around the house than any of us.

After graduating high school in 2014, Rory worked for his grandfather for several months, helping him remodel the in-laws’ home, among many other tasks. When he came home a year ago, he was eager to begin a career in Kansas City.

We did the best we could to help. My wife and mother-in-law took him job-hunting. He did exhaustive searches online. He even had a job coach. Nothing panned out.

Finally, more than a year into looking, a friend of the wife tipped us off on a gig that looked like a perfect fit at Waldo Pizza. On the night before the interview, Rory and I went over questions, and I ironed a pair of pants and shirt so he’d look the part. I’ve never enjoyed ironing clothes until that moment.

A few days after the interview, Rory told us that he had an email from the manager at Waldo. My wife opened it to discover that he was on the work schedule! He started on Monday and has thoroughly enjoyed his first two days of work. Most importantly, he’s proud and happy. That’s all you can ask for as a parent.

When he graduated, I wrote a blog to Rory offering him advice on being a man. Now that he’s secured a job, who better to offer advice about work than somebody who worked at six newspapers in 10 years and has had nine jobs in 17? (To be fair, most of those jobs were promotions, and I’ve never been fired or laid off).

Work hard: This will be easy for you. You already do it. Remember that you will never be successful without hard work.

Don’t work too hard: This is an easy mistake to make. There are times I look back on my career, especially in newspapers, and realize I did not take time to enjoy life. Work isn’t everything.

Learn as much as you can: This probably won’t be your last job. Take in as much as you can to prepare you for your next job. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Know that you can’t please everybody: Regardless of how hard you try, someone is going to be unhappy. Don’t take it personally. Be courteous, kind and respectful. Remember that your job is to serve your customers.

The customer usually is right: At some point, your patience will be tested. Keep your cool, smile and say “thank you.”

Always say “thank you”: “Thank you” is the most important phrase in any workplace, not only to customers, but also co-workers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: This will not be easy. You’re going to find that little things will gnaw at you, but don’t let them consume you. Focus on the positive.

Don’t be the suck-up: Every workplace has at least one. Be respectful, but don’t compromise your integrity. Rely on your work ethic and performance. That should always be good enough.

Build your network: More now than ever, it’s who you know. Build relationships with your co-workers. Those connections will lead to another job someday.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind: Honesty in the workplace isn’t guaranteed, but you can control your truth. Speak up if you have something to say. Be courteous and thoughtful in your delivery, and you’ll be respected for it.

Don’t worry too much about money: Said best by a journalist, right? Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Do not keep a job that you’re miserable in just for the money. Take less money if you’re going to be happy. That said, don’t take a job that leads to living in a van down by the river.

One last thing: I am proud of you, son.




Words of wisdom for my stepson on graduation day

I'm fortunate to have a father, left, who has pass on so much wisdom, which I'm now sharing with my stepson, Rory, right. He's an amazing kid who despite autism is graduating from high school with honors.

I’m fortunate to have a father, left, who has passed on so much wisdom, which I’m now sharing with my stepson, Rory, right. He’s an amazing kid who despite autism is graduating from high school with honors.

I always looked forward to this moment, even if it came on a path I never expected (being a stepfather).

There are few things more rewarding than being a dad, and as I’ve discovered in the last three-plus years, that word entails much more than anything biological.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect is passing on wisdom you’ve learned, if you’re as fortunate as I have been, from your own father.

My eldest stepson’s high school graduation is today. All parents take pride in this day. It’s a wonderful achievement. It’s a milestone. Most importantly, it’s one of those first steps toward being your own man.

I cannot express how proud I am of you. You have overcome obstacles that most folks simply cannot. You have met these challenges head on, worked extremely hard and are graduating with a higher GPA than I did (mine was 3.17 for those of you wondering).

It’s been 20 years (20 years!) since my high school graduation. I wanted to share a few words of wisdom to take with you as you build your own life:

“You do what makes YOU happy”: I’ve heard those words many times in my life from my father, and they proved to be extremely valuable.

It’s more than about just being happy. It means do not be afraid to be what YOU want to be. You are a good person and deserve greatness. Do what makes YOU happy.

“Be a man of your word”: Unfortunately, you are going to find that honesty isn’t a virtue. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice it.

When you tell somebody you are going to do something, do it. When you see a wrong, point it out. When you have an opinion, speak it.

“Be respectful and kind”: There’s an old saying about not giving respect until you get it. Ignore that. Even if you aren’t given respect, give it anyway. Why? Because you’re bigger than that.

Open doors for people, especially women. Say hello and smile. Look people in the eye. Give a firm handshake. Never swear in public.

A kind, respectful man is a good man.

“Work hard”: You already do this. Don’t ever change. Without hard work, you will accomplish nothing. With hard work, you can accomplish anything.

“Never give up”: I know you understand this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. When you have a dream, believe you’ll do it. Write it down as a goal, and work hard to achieve it. Be relentless in pursuing it.

“Be yourself”: Above all, you are a wonderful human being. A son to be proud of. A hard worker. Kind and direct. Thoughtful. Be yourself, and the world will embrace you.

Other words of wisdom: Tell your mother you love her. Call your mother. Respect and love your siblings. Laugh every day. Cry when you need to. Tell the truth. Get to work on time. Sleep eight hours a day. Read as many books as you can. Enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Sing. Sing some more. Play the guitar. Write. Visit your grandparents. Eat well. Be kind to children, older folks, animals and the less fortunate. Treat your girlfriend as you treat your mother and grandmother. Travel. Try new things. Do not carry fear. Never hesitate to ask me for more of these.