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The Word that Earned Me Millions

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The year was 1960. I was 12 and obsessed with having a Red Ryder BB Gun. I had grand visions of hunting with my dad, Chubby. The problem? It was July. Christmas was six months away.

I pleaded with my dad for the gun. “Well,” Dad said, “Aaron could use some help at the office. Let me see what I can do.”

Aaron was the custodian, the comedian, the one cracking jokes with the agents. Everyone loved Aaron. His office? A plywood cubbyhole in the basement of my dad’s real estate firm. His black metal desk was meticulous. Pens and pencils lined up like soldiers. The surface was polished to perfection.

Dad’s real estate office had cherry wood paneling and mahogany desks. My first assignment as Aaron’s assistant was polishing all that wood. I worked the entire morning and polished every square inch of that woodwork. I was sure Aaron would be impressed, he would tell Chubby and I would get a bonus for sure!

Just before lunchtime, Aaron checked in to assess my work. “Not bad,” he said, “but not all that good.” Not that good?! Was he playing a joke? I snorted a laugh. Aaron responded with a straight face. No laugh. He pointed to the spots I had missed. Inside table legs. Wooden armrests. Smudges on a small door stopper in the front entry.

“That door stopper is just gonna get dirty every day anyway,” I whined, rolling my eyes.

“Greg, it’s time for you to go home. You have something to learn. Ask your dad about a word you don’t know.” Aaron turned and walked away. I called Mom to pick me up, almost in tears. I was mad and hurt, not a good day. That night, I expected the worst, but Chubby didn’t say a word. I wasn’t about to ask Dad what Aaron meant about some dumb word I didn’t know.

Then, just as I was dozing off, Dad’s footsteps creaked up the stairs. “Come on, we’re going for a drive,” he said. It was 9:30 at night. This had never happened before. It was crystal clear Dad meant business. I quickly dressed and hopped in the car. On the drive, he was unusually quiet.

We pulled into the parking lot at Hague Realtors, Dad’s real estate office in Silverton, Ohio. I had an uneasy feeling. Aaron’s car was in the parking lot.

As we walked in, Aaron looked up. With a giant smile on his face, he exclaimed, “When most people are done,” and Dad chimed back, “Our work has just begun!”

Dad and Aaron laughed and put their arms around each other’s shoulders. Aaron turned to me and asked, “So, did you ask your dad about that word you don’t know?” He knew I had not. Dad and Aaron smiled, looked at each other, then at me.

In unison they said, “Meticulosity.” (Now picture this. I’m just a kid. 12 years old with school the next day. It was late. This was crazy. My friends’ dads didn’t do stuff like this!)

“Let’s get to work and do it right!” Aaron exclaimed. That night I learned about doing things with meticulosity. Dad even cleaned with us for a while before going into his office to work on contracts. We didn’t get home until after midnight.

The next morning Dad explained, “Greg, Aaron is the custodian, and he’s the best mentor I’ve ever had. The man is a beacon of doing things right. With Aaron, good is never good enough. It’s a lesson you need to learn if you expect to work for me and for Aaron.”

I certainly haven’t done everything perfectly in my life. But, thanks to my father and Aaron, and one very late night, I learned the valuable lesson of doing things with meticulosity.

Meticulosity [meh–tik-yuh-loh-si-ty]
noun  1. extreme care; attention to minute detail; precise; thorough: Aaron-like.

Meticulosity is the word that earned me millions.