“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin
As I mentioned a few times before, I am an avid reader.
As I was reading Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans, Chris Sacca mentioned his “Sweet and Sour Summers,” an account of what he learned from his Summer internships.
This reminded me of my own version of internships — and what these have taught me about life.
Truth is, learning is not always something that will be delivered in a classroom. But let me start from the very beginning.
In Italy, especially in my region, working in and around the countryside is a thing. Think about the bucolic farm experience: picking up fruit, or helping in vineyards, or whatever may be needed.
I was lucky to know a few farmers and to be needing a new laptop for my writing endeavours.
I knew I could have asked for one for my birthday, but I wanted to feel what it’d be like to work for it — something that’d become a thread throughout my University years.
Despite my parents not finding it necessary for me to spend one month and a half in the sun after finishing my exams, I shrugged shoulders and said:
“well, I’ll be able to get my own laptop, so how bad can this be”.
I picked up pears for two consecutive Summers, six days a week, starting at 8 am and finishing around 6 pm every day.
Sometimes we would even do Sunday shifts if required.
We were paid minimum wage — sort of — and allowed minimum breaks.
If it does not sound fun is because, in fact, it wasn’t.
It was tedious, never-ending and quite honestly mind-numbing (I did get to drive the truck a few times though).
There was a time during the day where the sun was directly above you and the bushes would not provide any shadow — literally what the term “nowhere to hide” was invented for.
That usually would last for the two hours around lunchtime — and if that does not teach you the value of resilience, I do not know what does it.
Everyone had to do specific chores depending on the day: carry wooden boxes, drag small carts with more wooden boxes, or jump on and off small trucks in the mud (once again, as dangerous as it was fun).
Picking up pears is especially tricky as you have different categories and different ways of storing each pear.
A bush can have up for 25 pears, each of them need to be checked and classified in one of the different categories. You need to be a good observer and extremely patient.
Some days we’ll spend hours in silence — or listening to Iron Maiden, once we were granted a small set of speakers.
There were not many distractions, so in a way, it was quite a Zen experience.
At the time I was working there, I had my end goal in mind, and little else really.
Patience, focus, and efficiency became three important factors when it came to doing a great job.
I showed up every morning with the best attitude I could because no matter the job you are in, you have to show up 100%.
I did it equally when giving tuitions, serving chicken, making lattes (very poorly, most likely one of the most scarring experiences of my life).
If there is one thing that those Summers taught me was that some days you are going to feel like a boss, some days you’ll have to carry big boxes in the rain.
And that’s okay.
The truth is, a lot of the skills you’ve learned will be transferred to your future self. I’ll be wanting my own children to experience, it is being able to get their hands dirty.
Do the humble jobs, just never forget to work towards whichever goal may be at the finish line.
Because once you learn how to be genuinely excited about waking up at 6 am to pick up fruits without really complaining, you’ll be much more excited about a lot of things that life will present you with.