I worked for four years with Pauling till he died in 1994. It’s a funny story how I met him. He was 90 years old then, sitting in the laboratory with a cap on, when I went up to him and said: “Sir, I have a 4.0 GPA with straight ‘A’s. What does it take for a student to work in your lab?”
He looked up and said: “Well, one has to have dark skin, dark hair and marry me!” So I asked him: “When?” He started laughing. He told me that he didn’t have much work there but needed someone to clean the petri dishes. So I told him: “I will clean the petri dishes. I would just be happy to be around you.”
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
How many people would have been insulted to be offered cleaning petri dishes?
“But you don’t understand! Look at my grades! How can you ask me to do such shit work? I want to do something that matters!”
That is why you fail.
Would you have been willing to join Facebook if it meant being their janitor? Hell, look at the guy who painted their wall. Look at his payday!
The point of being Facebook’s janitor is that you’re now part of Facebook.
Once you’re part of something, it’s up to you to move up to something better.
Andrew Carnegie began in the world of work by shoveling coal into a damn oven. When he got his first office job, it was like ascending to heaven to him. He was one of the few people who honed his telegraphy skills so that he could understand the Morse by ear. When there was a train wreck that threatened to cost his employer a lot of money, he sent out unauthorized cables under his boss’s name to get things moving again.
He had initiative.
I’ve read all the stories — starting back in the early 1980s! — of people who sit at home dispatching resume after resume and getting nowhere. The world is a damned hard nut to crack.
But too many people look for a perfect fit — or only labor they are willing to do.
Sometimes it’s the shit work that actually leads to something.
Ask that awesome woman. Ask Andrew Carnegie. Ask everyone else who started low. Ask this guy who wound up rich even though he had no desire to ever sell groceries as a career.
Take the shit work. Be in something. In is always better than out.