My top 5 lessons from hard times
3. Keep your mind open to change
I had many career detours. After deciding not to pursue my father's profession of law, I wanted to become a writer. But I knew in 1936 that the Great Depression was upon us (even back then, we knew the downturn was "great"). So I gave myself 60 days to find a job, and set my sights on a job at an ad agency or newspaper.
It didn't happen. But I did get an interview with the Addressograph-Multigraph company in New York. I still hoped for a spot in the ad department. Instead, the company thought I'd be perfect for sales.
Although my deadline was up and I could hardly afford to be choosy, I was leaning toward declining. On my way to what would have been my final interview, I was walking toward Fifth Avenue when I heard a loud noise. I looked across to the Empire State Building and saw the body of a nicely dressed young man – about my age – on the sidewalk. He had jumped from the world's tallest building.
I proceeded to the interview, somewhat numb but no longer conflicted. I accepted the job. And you know what? I was good at sales. After a couple years, I was making the equivalent of $160,000 a year. In a few more years I was the top salesman. The knowledge and contacts from my experience there became the foundation for my own company and my first fortune.