You’ve gotta get right back up in the saddle. But think about this. Let’s just say Ford’s first company had been moderately successful. If it had, we might not have the Ford Motor Company of today. It might have turned into something totally different. If Walt hadn’t experienced his first few failures, today’s Disney might have turned out quite differently. No one bats 1,000, buddy, but you’ve gotta keep swinging.- Sebastian
“Allow me to quote one of your favorite political figures, Richard Nixon,” Sebastian continued. “God knows I’ve heard you say it enough times.”
Robbie tilted his head curiously as he looked at Sebastian. “All right,” he said with amusement. “Go ahead.”
“What was it he said at the farewell address from the White House?” Sebastian asked. “‘Always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty,’” he said in his best Nixon voice, jiggling his jowls at the end for effect.
Robbie nodded and finished, “‘And always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.’”
Sebastian smiled. “Nixon was right about one thing there. Always give your best, Robbie. You have to give your best, even if you’re the underdog or on the losing side. If you don’t give your best, if you don’t do the best job you can, you’re gonna damage your own pride and self-confidence. Be proud of a job well done, whether you win or lose. If, at the end of the day, Carlos loses the campaign or this thing with the law firm doesn’t pan out, at least you can look back and say you gave it your personal best—that you put forth your best effort.”
“Hey, remember that girl at Coastal, the one you wanted to hook up with? The one who wouldn’t give you the time of day?”
Robbie smiled. “Boy, that narrows it down,” he teased.
Sebastian laughed and shook his head. “I think it was a statistics class,” he said. “Remember when I told you if you wanted things to happen with her, you had to make them happen? That you couldn’t just
wait around and hope for it? You had to take the initiative and go get it.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” Robbie agreed.
“And did you get the girl?” Sebastian asked curiously.
Robbie nodded. “Yeah.”
“It’s the same concept, Robbie,” Sebastian continued. “In business, things aren’t just always going to come to you. Sure, sometimes you step in dog shit, but that’s rare. You’ve got to take the bull by the horns and make something happen. Sometimes you have to find a way.”
“He (Sebastian) also had an innate ability to gauge the person he was speaking to and to adjust his commentary accordingly. For instance, if he was talking to an individual who took their religion very, very seriously, he was always respectful of how far he could push that envelope. The same was true with political back-and-forths; Sebastian knew there was only so far he could go with a differing opinion before the other party would get offended enough to shut down.”
“You’re like the rental car they picked up at the Detroit airport,” Sebastian continued. “They don’t give a shit because they haven’t really invested shit. They’ll drive you hard, tear you up, abuse you, and get as
much mileage as they can. As long as you let them treat you like a rented mule, they will continue to do so.”
“But don’t you have to suck it up sometimes? Just take the whipping?”Robbie said. “Don’t you have to in order to keep the peace and keep a good client.”
Sebastian gave him a look of concern. “Never accept being treated like crap,” he admonished. “This is business, and these guys are professionals. Trust me, if that’s how they treat people, they’re not the good guys you think they are, and you don’t need to be involved with them.”
“Nothing worthwhile happens overnight, Robbie,” Sebastian explained. “You have to stick with it. Starting a professional service firm is difficult. Just because you’re in a white-collar financial firm doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easier sell or startup than a blue-collar company. Let me
give you a good example. Think of good ol’ Jake, who runs the janitorial service in your office building. He didn’t just start with six vans and a clean-up crew of eight in each. He started with two guys, a pick-up truck, and a bottle of bleach. They did a good job with their first client, and that person told a friend about them. The next week, they had two jobs, and the week after that, they had three. It’s a matter of people getting to know your name. You’ve gotta establish yourself by earning their trust. That’s all the more important in a business where you’re dealing with financial information. It’s all about staying in the game! Keep your head in the game and keep grinding, and you just never know when something
is going to really pop.”
“I was having a business lunch once, early on in my career in Atlanta, back when I was still a little wet behind the ears. It was a boss-employee kind of thing—casual, but we still had to mind our manners, ya know?”
“Yeah. Go on.”
“Well, my boss and I ate lunch, and I took cues from him about what to order. He had a beer, so I ordered one as well. Since I figured he was gonna be picking up the tab, I took it easy and just got ordered a draft domestic and a light meal. We had a few bites and a few drinks and a little talk, and everything went fine. He picked up the check, and even though I offered to pay my share, he wouldn’t have it. I offered to at least pay the tip, and he got a little offended, so I shrugged and put away my
“Well, he sounds like a pretty selfless guy,” Robbie said.
“Not really,” Sebastian said, pausing to reflect on the event that had taken place two decades prior, one that had left a lasting impression on him. “I couldn’t believe the tip he laid down,” he explained with a touch of disapproval. “A buck on a forty-dollar tab. That girl had really busted her butt for us, so it pissed me off. But really, there was nothing I could say. I mean, that was my boss, and I didn’t want to offend him. We got up and left the table, but halfway to the door, I lied and said I’d dropped my keys or something, then flew back to the table. I was just laying a five-dollar bill down to add to his pathetic excuse for a tip when the waitress showed up. She saw me and came over to me. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but she said, ‘Sir, you don’t know how much I appreciate this. My gas tank is nearly empty, and the rent is late. Every dollar will really help today, and you just help put me over the top.’ I grumbled something nice and congratulated her and walked away.”
“You just walked away? Just like that?”
“Well, what was I supposed to say to that? But anyway, it’s always stayed with me. It was just five bucks to me, and I’d just gotten a free lunch, so why would I care? But that measly few dollars meant gas money to her. You just don’t ever know how much of a difference a few bucks can make for somebody, and I’ve never forgotten that.”