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Don't let anybody make you quit.
The waiter I was assigned to work with absolutely blew up on me.
Yelling and screaming at me in the kitchen, he smashed all the dishes in his hand onto the floor. The salad guy, and the dishwasher, their mouths were gaping. The chef had to stop cooking and turn around to see what the hell was going on.
The waiter grabbed me by my shirt. He pushed me up against the wall, and I pushed back in what almost turned into a scene from A Bronx Tale.
It was my first few weeks on my first job; I was 14 and needed that job.
The waiter went off on me because I had messed up.
I was a snail at busing and cleaning the tables. I made terrible cappuccinos. The way I decorated the dessert plates looked shittier than when those artists smash paint onto a canvas and call it modern art. How did I mess up that day? I was a kid; it could've been any of those things that night.
But still, there is no excuse for a grown-ass man, my waiter partner was in his late 30s, to go off on a 14-year-old kid.
It was an absolute shock for me to witness an adult that was a total stranger go off like that in what was a pretty fancy restaurant. Brunelli's (now closed) was on 78th Street in Manhattan, NY.
I remember going to the bathroom after the incident, my face red, ready to explode. I was embarrassed badly for a split second, and I thought about doing something crazy.
But I thought about it some more as I washed my face. It didn't make sense to go off. I had a family that loved me and that I loved. I was there to help bring in some extra money, not to bring more trouble. As fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, we had enough trouble.
The best thing to do was quit.
It was a busy Saturday night at the restaurant, the worst time to quit. But I walked back in, approached the owner, apologized, and said I quit.
But my uncle, a waiter there too, had just picked up on what transpired. My uncle got me that job. He had asked the owner for a favor to let me work there on weekends because I needed the money. It was probably against some law for a 14-year-old kid to be busing tables. So they'd taken some risk to help me.
My uncle was an immigrant, too; he had gotten to the U.S. a few years earlier and was a little more accustomed. And that night, my uncle gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my life. Something I rely on to this day.
As I left the place, my uncle caught me outside.
He said, "You're going to let that guy make you quit? You go back in there, and you make him fucking quit."
He added, "Don't ever let anybody make you quit something you want or need."
I went back into the restaurant and kept working.
I didn't need to do much to make my waiter "friend" quit. I just showed up every weekend, and time did its thing. Any adult that goes off on a 14-year-old kid has his demons he's dealing with. And sure enough, my waiter "friend" was showing up late, arguing with other people who worked there. He was doing things in the back that he shouldn't have done. And he got fired.
I never forgot that lesson. And it serves me to this day as I try to build an audience and build on the internet.
Today, there are a lot of people who will criticize you.
Some will try to get you to quit without ever showing their faces. They'll do it from anonymous accounts.
Only losers attack people from anonymous accounts.
And some messed up people will say nasty things to you and want everyone to see it, like my waiter “friend.”
But you just remember the lesson my uncle taught me.
You keep doing what you need to do. And you make these people quit.
Thanks to Chris Wong and Daniel Vassallo for helping edit this piece.
Small Bets in the Wild:
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