Most people can relate to the idea that advice is everywhere, it’s what you do with that information that matters most.
In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the advice he values most and where you’re likely to find the best advice.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. Hi Ray. Good to be back.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob. Good to be with you today.
Rob Artigo: Well, we’ve heard on this podcast you talking about growing up early because you lost your father at a young age and we’ve talked at length about the work you’ve done on the ranch. You ever once told a story about how you at age four your mother, sent you on a task to go to the store and get eggs and milk and whatnot. Age four? Let’s talk about some of the advice that you’ve received. Any recollections stand out to you for the advice you most valued when you were growing up?
Ray Zinn: As you pointed out, I lost my dad when I was 26. I had already graduated and got married. He left nine children at home at the time when he passed away. And I had to pick up the slack there, helping my mother with the children even though they lived not around me, close wise. I had to help financially to some degree. And then mentoring my siblings. So I became actually their surrogate father. But some of the advice that I can remember that really panned out was my neighbor who was a very well educated civil engineer and very successful, told me to go into engineering.
And so I took that advice and that proved to be a very, very sound decision. I was good in studying engineering. The second one was when I was working at a company called Electro Mask in Woodland Hills, California. I was having a pretty good time, made some good money as a sales manager for the company. For one reason or another I didn’t seem to fit in. My goals and aspirations didn’t match what the company wanted. And my boss who was a very fatherly individual, 20 years older than I was at the time, took me to lunch one time. He was the CEO of the company and he said, “You know Ray, you really should not work for a company, you should work for yourself. You don’t really fit in as in the corporate environment and so I don’t suggest you go look for another job. I go suggest you create another job.”
And so I took that advice. And from that, that was in 1976, took his advice, left the company, and started my own company. And from 1976 to this very day, I’ve always written my own paycheck as you would. So that was very sound advice. And of course another piece of sound device was when my father was alive. And I introduced him to my fiance, my current wife. He took me off in a corner, and he says, “If you don’t marry her, I will.” Of course, he was saying that to make a point, that he would be a polygamist or something like that. But he just said, “If you don’t marry her, I will.” And so that’s been a very, very sound decision that I made was to marry my wife, Delotta. And that’s worked out wonderful, 57 years with four children, 22 grandchildren, and currently seven great-grandchildren, soon to be nine great-grandchildren. So that turned out to be very sound advice.
So there are things that are good advice and there are things that they’re not good advice. What you want to do is if you want to get sound advice is listen to an older person, don’t take advice from your peers. Your peers are just as screwed up as you are. So don’t take advice from your … Take advice from your elders as they say. They know. They’ve been there. They’ve done that. So that’s my suggestion.
Rob Artigo: I’ve heard many people, I’m not a parent, just wasn’t in the cards for me. But the people I’ve heard parents say to their teens, “Hey, don’t listen to your friends. They don’t have your best interests at heart.” They seriously do not think that if they’re advising you to do something, for example, try this drug or drink this alcohol or what have you. I mean, we have these experiences when we’re teenagers and when we’re growing up. And parents are cautioning their kids all the time, “Don’t listen to your friends there. They don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind when they’re giving you advice.”
Ray Zinn: That’s my point. My point is don’t take advice from the contemporary. Somebody who’s at the same level, the same background and education time, experiences, so forth. Seek out mentors, people who have been there, done that. That are older folks as you would, experienced people. I’d like to say as a minimum, 10 years older than you, maybe 20.
Rob Artigo: Generationally, get that generational gap of-
Ray Zinn: Exactly. One generation. Exactly. Minimum of 10 years, preferably 20 years or more.
Rob Artigo: Well, obviously that’s great advice and you have a lot of ears listening to this podcast right now. Any other words of wisdom in terms of advice, and what would you say to … imagine a listener out there right now, just sort of, we’ve had a podcast before on crossroads, but just thinking about where to go, what to do in life. What piece of advice would you want to pass on to somebody like that?
Ray Zinn: Okay, so I think education is important. So I think you need at least a bachelor’s degree. Is really is I think as a minimum. Not for everyone, but I think for the general population getting a bachelor’s degree is important. Whether you get a master’s or a doctorate depends upon what you’re going to do. If you’re going to be a doctor, a medical doctor, then of course you’re going to have to get a doctorate. If you’re going to want to teach school and of course you’re going to have to get a doctorate. But I wouldn’t get more education just for the sake of saying, “Well, I got a PhD behind my name.” It’s got to pay off. In other words you’re going to spend an additional four to 10 years getting that advanced education, either master’s or doctorate. And so it’d be very careful about that is going to provide a living for you.
For most of us that are on this earth, to earn a living for our family. That’s why we’re here. And so make sure that what money you do spend to advance yourself, both educationally and experience wise is going to pay off down the road. Don’t take jobs that are not going to lead you where you want to go. Don’t go get an education that’s not going to lead you where you want to go. And make sure that it’s an education you can afford. So that to me is the most sound advice and whatever you do, marry someone who’s going to lift you up, not tear you down. So you want somebody who’s going to help advance you. My wife is my greatest supporter. She’s not there where I have to wait for her to push me up the ladder. She’s up there already leading me up the ladder. She’s pulling me up the ladder. So whatever you do, find someone who’s going to help move you forward.
Rob Artigo: Well thanks a lot for the advice Ray. I know I’ll take it to heart. I don’t have the time to go get a bachelor’s degree, but I certainly will. I mean I married a woman too that I think is the type to lead the way and so I have to underscore what you’re saying. Its excellent advice.
Ray Zinn: Thank you.
Rob Artigo: So you can reach out to Ray Zinn with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com where you’ll find more podcasts. Still there are blogs, links to information about the book, Tough Things First. Check out Ray’s new book, the Zen of Zinn, and please go to your favorite podcasts source, probably the one you’re listening to right now, and give your rating to help us spread the word about the Tough Things First Podcast. I look forward to the next time. Ray thanks.
Ray Zinn: Oh, you’re welcome, Rob. Thank you.