According to Merriam-Webster, the word Incentive means: “something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination or action.” There is nothing like a job we’re not particularly fond of to motivate or incite us to find another job that we may actually like. At age 13 the word around the campfire in our working class neighborhood was that we might be able to get a job – loop - caddying at the local country club. There was no guarantee we could get a shot at carrying a heavy golf bag eighteen holes. What was guaranteed was that a young kid would need to commit to sitting in the caddy yard for long hours, and maybe catch a whupping from a bigger guy, or get tossed into the Ten Mile River. Actor Bill Murray and his brothers were caddies, and Bill’s brother Brian spun that experience into a film called “Caddyshack,” and the Murray boyos made some good scoots from the gig. They started at the bottom and then went big using their wits. Good on them for their hustle for something better than looping.
The bottom line for caddying was money and here was the drill. First of all there was a pecking order in the caddy yard—there was no shack at this club—for the gig and a young guy had to compete with the big dogs in order to simply have a shot at getting a loop. When a resource is scarce, primates can be vicious, and the older caddies let the young dogs know that they were in charge; there was no romance to this reality. This gig was intimidating and we had to roll with taking our physical and psychological lumps in the caddy yard. Some guys bailed after sitting for four hours of baking in the sun and getting hassled. I didn’t, and hung doing this tedious drill until I finally got a shot to carry a single bag. It took me about four weeks to finally get a loop. The bag was heavy, the golfer couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway, and my shoulder had a groove in it after carrying the heavy and unruly bag with too many clubs and golf balls. The job was not easy, but I got two scoots, and I was there bright and early the next day— money talks after the caddy walks. What I learned from being a young looper, was how to hold my own in the caddy yard, curse, play cards, smoke Camels, and bust chops. Most important, I learned about incentives, and at age 14 as my shoulders got stronger, I could carry two bags and make more money. This was a clear and strong lesson in regards to working from the bottom at a job for something better. Subsequently, I caddied throughout high school, college, and I even looped when I was raising my kids. (We do what we have to do when we’re working stiffs.)
I don’t know anyone that started at the top of any given career or profession. We all need to start somewhere to cut a better deal for ourselves, unless we a have money tree in our back yard. (I’ve never seen a money tree.) I like learning about people in the creative arts and how they started out in their careers. There is this guy named David Geffen who is a big shot in the show biz thing. Geffen started out in the mail room of
the William Morris Agency. This guy has a great backstory (Google him). Geffen is an agent, record producer and an avid art collector who has made a beautiful dollar making things happen in the music business. He has a fancy yacht called Rising Sun, which was anchored outside Old Harbor last year as he was riding out the pandemic. What intrigues me about this guy is not his success, but his capability of connecting some serious dots in his mail room gig as a young guy. He must be very bright, and was probably was very good at networking. Moreover, and without question he was not planning on making a career for himself in the William Morris Agency’s mail room. My take is this: Geffen had a passion for connecting people to their talent and thereby helping them as well as himself. Likable stuff. His incentive was for other people’s success as well as his own, and as a result Geffen was the nexus for someone else’s personal incentives. When success lends itself to success then it’s a win win deal and David Geffen surely knew this. Sharp guy.
We are currently in a conundrum regarding our national economy. The pandemic has sent our nation into a veritable tailspin and I honestly don’t know how we will come out of it. I’ve heard countless business owners say that they can’t find help; especially in service related enterprises. If we can make more money by not working rather than working, then where is the incentive. I don’t know how this economy can sustain itself. Don’t get me wrong, I get the stimulus objective; however, when a business owner can’t operate because of a staff shortage because there is no incentive to get up and go to work, no matter what the job entails, then we need to rethink what stimulus actually means.
In July of 1970, I was working on the crew that dug the hole and poured the cement slab for the bicycle shop in Old Harbor. I worked a 14-hour day after being at a late-night party at Mansion Beach well into the early morning hours the night before - bad move. That morning, as I rode my bike down High Street, I wanted to mix cement like I wanted a root canal. I was working for Paul Filippi at the time at Ballard’s and during that day he could see that this job was kicking my 20-year-old ass. Paul knew I was going to college because I’d told him when he hired me. After we poured an inordinate amount of cement, and finally finished the gig at sundown, Paul Filippi took me aside and said, “Okay young man, this is your future if you don’t continue your education. It’ll serve you to work hard in school.” After that long day of pouring the slab in Old Harbor I had a clear incentive to guide me to something other than mixing concrete to earn my dollars. Finally, Blake Filippi recently told me: “That slab doesn’t
have one crack after all these years.” I told Blake I learned many things from his dad that summer, and that concrete slab. ‘Nuff said.