Don't ever let someone else tell you that you can't say "Howdy"
If you walk into my store, or into my life for that matter, chances are you will hear me greet you with a big ole "Howdy". This is not because I think its cute, funny, southern, or whatever else. It's just always been my preferred method of saying "Yo, What up Homie" or "Hello" and it doesn't feel weird coming out of my mouth.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I want to tell you a story about a time where my success hinged on the avoidance of this word from my vocabulary.
But first I want to tell you a little background about me so you understand how I tick a little. I grew up in a big family with five siblings and two very entrepreneurial parents. I had the opportunity to grow up watching my parents both work hard for their businesses and be successful but also have a work life balance to raise us six kids.
My parents didn't just give us money. Ever. They made us work for every dime whether that was earned by helping them at photography events, counting inventory, or doing any type of chores. The bottom line was if I wanted a new shirt, or to go hang out with my friends, or needed gas to drive a car to school, I needed to earn my own money to make it happen.
I wanted a steady gig so I could enjoy the finer things of life, like that cute shirt at Wet Seal. So at the age of 17, I went to work at McDonalds. I literally started at the bottom as a cashier who also had to wash dishes covered in onions, mustard, or ketchup. Ugh. I went home smelling like a double cheeseburger dipped in grease and then swirled in a toilet.
But that job taught me valuable lessons on how to do what I was told, and how to deal with all kinds of personalities. I made $5.25 an hour to be yelled at by a man with no teeth about not wanting cheese on his cheeseburger. Honestly, I wish working at McDonald's was a requirement before kids are allowed to transition to adulthood. This job teaches a multitude of quality work traits including learning to cope with not getting your way. (This aint Burger King).
I went on to work several other jobs including a janitorial job at my college cafeteria, a hostess, a waitress, a sandwich chef, an intern making cold calls, a sales person, and so on and so forth. I learned that eating expired bagels that were about to be thrown out because I could not afford groceries was something I would do. I also discovered that I was to proud to ask my parents for money even when I couldn't afford basic necessities because I wanted them to think I could do it all by myself. Man, I can still remember breaking down and calling my dad from college in Hawaii to finally ask for his help with $100 to buy my flight home.
I hated depending on anyone else, or owing anyone anything so I worked my ass off no matter the position. From the lowly dishwasher at McDonalds, to the top 1% of sales people for T-mobile, all the way to a Marketing Manager position for a worldwide company. I always felt good about my accomplishments, about the skill set I had learned and acquired over the years. I could get along with most everyone, and work through most situations, but nothing prepared me for the challenge of feeling inadequate.
I thought I was doing pretty good at one of my jobs that I had landed before my boss decided it was time for a performance review. Those thoughts of accomplishment were quickly dissolved when my boss pulled out a list of things that could have been done differently, or weren't meeting expectations. These things were small, and could easily be addressed and fixed so I was ready to move on and finish my work for the day. The last request was that I simply Quit saying "Howdy" because it was very unprofessional."
Wait. What? I didn't realize a salutation was unprofessional.
Yelling at employees in front of other people, that is unprofessional. Being rude to someone because they are nice to an outsider at work, that you don't like, is unprofessional.. but saying Howdy, this was not unprofessional.
That conversation still haunts me as I think back to the next several months when I would catch myself saying Howdy by mistake, and then correcting myself quickly. I was stuttering my hellos because my normalcy was replaced with someone else's negativity towards a word. I was refraining from laughing at things I thought were funny. I was keeping any thoughts I had to myself because I didn't want to appear dumb, or unprofessional. What a spiral of negativity.
You know the saying "Don't let anyone dull your sparkle?" That conversation and many others that followed sadly dulled my sparkle. I wasn't who I wanted to be anymore. I let someone tell me what I could and could not do and just said "Okay, Sure" to every request. This is not how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
So I took a lesson out of the Robison family handbook on being your own boss. P.S. Five of my five siblings own their own business in some way, shape or form. Guess my parents passed along the strong willed gene to each of us.
Except I had to regain some of my confidence in myself that I had the skill set to step up and put my experience to the test. So I took my savings from my side gig of selling jewelry, and dumped a lot of my 401K into building my own dream and hoping it would work out.
*Smashes piggy bank*
So far I feel more accomplished than I ever did working for anyone else. I am not saying I am successful just because I own my own little business. In fact, it took a few months before I even thought to pay myself a penny of what money was coming in. However, I say Howdy to every damn customer that walks through my doors if I so feel like it, and I don't think twice about my boss having a problem with it and that tastes a little like success to me.