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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
In the Second grade I learned a valuable lesson. My grandfather was a top salesman for the company he worked for and one of the first salesmen to fly to clients, instead of driving. It was a big deal in the fifties and sixties to fly. His company had a pencil with a foot long eraser for advertising purposes. It was pretty clever and really cool for a seven year old. I took one to school and all the kids loved it and wanted one. I got a bunch from my grandfather and sold them for; I believe 25 cents a piece. Actually, I didn’t have to sell them, the kids begged me to buy them.
Lesson learned: If you have a good enough product, you don’t have to sell it.
RedAs my teenage years rolled around I turned my attention to fireworks. We had no malicious intent just curiosity that many teenage boys had back then. Instead of taking apart gunshot shells or Estes Rockets like most kids were doing, I researched the formula for gunpowder. This was not near as easy as today; there was no internet back then. I learned that the main ingredient of gunpowder was potassium nitrate. The local pharmacy sold potassium nitrate, but it was fairly expensive. With some research I found a chemical company that sold 100 pound bag of potassium nitrate for $17.00. I was paying $1.50 for four ounces or $6.00 a pound at the local pharmacy. I talked my dad into driving me down to the chemical company (I was too young to driver - 14 years old) and I bought a 100 pounds of potassium nitrate! What the hell was I going to do with 100 pounds of potassium nitrate? Sell it to the other kids in the neighborhood! I was getting a reputation for knowing how to make fireworks and bombs. I started selling eight ounces for $1.50, twice the amount at the same price the pharmacy sold it for. I sold so much potassium nitrate the local pharmacy quit carrying it! I had two of my friends selling it at the high schools they attended. The sales brought in enough money that I never had to use my own money for other chemicals and supplies I needed. Read more
I was never satisfied with the gunpowder we made. It wasn’t reliable and sometimes it did not explode. We started experimenting with all kinds of different mixtures to see if we could come up with a better combination that would make a great bomb. Day after day we tried and nothing worked. Even though we had failure after failure, we would always be careful while doing the experiments by hiding behind a tree, fence etc. so we did not get hurt. We were getting pretty frustrated and it was hard to get my friends to try just one more experiment, then one magical night we hit the jackpot. It started out like all the other experiments. I carried the mixture to a sandbox, I lit the fuse, and I ran behind the tree where my friends were waiting. They were getting tired of duds after duds and really not paying attention. All of a sudden the entire night lit up and then the loudest boom I ever heard echoed across the country-side. We all started laughing uncontrollably and hugging each other. We knew we discovered the magical formula we had been searching for! It felt like winning the Super Bowl.
Lessons learned: Distribution channels and never give up.
I was 15 years old when I went to my first concert and I loved it, except I was sitting so far away I could barely see the band. Instead of doing the same thing all my friends were doing, standing in long lines to get the first tickets or getting lousy seats, I made myself useful to the bands. I learned photography and then learned how to contact the bands before the concerts. These were big bands, not local bands, but since this was back in the 80’s there was really no security. I told the bands I was a freelance photographer and I would shoot photos for them if they gave me backstage passes. I never sat in lousy seats again. I either had front row seats or backstage passes. I would go to the concerts for free, have the best seats, and then sell the photos to the kids at my high school. Actually I did not have to sell any photos. They would ask me if I went to the concert and ask me to buy my photos. Again, you don’t have to sell if you have a great product. The product sells itself.
Lesson learned: Don’t follow the crowd. Do the opposite, create value, and reap the rewards.
I learned all these important life lessons before I was old enough to legally drive!
To read more buy the upcoming book: 52 Lessons from the 52 Peak Club.
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV