Back in 1996 I was dropping my dry cleaning off at a cleaners across the street from my apartment and chatting with the owner with whom I had become friendly over the years. I was 25, ambitious and working in Small Business sales for MCI and doing several side businesses. A week before I had converted over the long distance service in all three of Mr. Lee’s family’s businesses and life was good.
Just as I was about to leave the store Mr. Lee asked if I would come back to the store that evening at 7:30 just after the store closed. I said that I would and asked him why. He said that he needed my help with something and would explain later. I was curious but because we had a great relationship I decided to just wait and see what he wanted to speak about later.
I arrived back at the store around 7:30 and all of the customers had gone but I could still see and hear all of the employees in the back of the dry cleaners. Mr. Lee and I greated each other as was our custom and I asked him what he wanted to see me about. Without hestitation Mr. Lee asked me to pick up the couch and move it to the back of the store.
I was stunned.
I said “I’m not lifting a couch and moving it to the back of the store.” clearly Mr. Lee had lost his damn mind.
He began to smile and suggested that he could have the other employees and himself come and help us move the couch together. In his words “one person hard but many people easy,” I said,”that makes sense but why did you call me to move a couch in your store with all your employees in the back of the store who could have easily moved the couch without my help.” He began to smile and said that’s what I want to talk to you about.
Mr. Lee asked me to have a seat and began to explain that he had watched me and my family working hard and he thought I could benefit from his personal story in my quest to find success.
This is what he told shared with me:
Many people think that when Korean people come to America they have lots of money. My family came here with nothing but each other. It was my mother , father and two brothers and we all came here with no money and not speaking the language. We were all able to get very low paying jobs making $200.00 a week each and we rented a small 2 bedroom apartment. My mother and father stayed in one room and my brothers and I stayed in the other. At the time my brothers and I were in our 20s. We worked for two years and every week we gave our paychecks to our mother. She would take the $400.00 she and my father would earn and pay the bills and take the $600.00 that my brothers and I earned and put it in savings. We did this for two years and at the end of two years we had $60,000.00 saved. My oldest brother used the $60,000.00 to open a small store and we did the same thing for another two years. After another two years we saved another $60,000.00 and I opened a small store. We did the same for another two years, still living in the small apartment together and giving my mother all of the money and at the end of that time we took $60,000.00 and opened a small store for my youngest brother.
After that day my parents retired. For six years we had to live together and work hard for very little money but that is how we got our start. When I see you and your family I know you can do the same because you are very close to one another and have a great relationship.
Remember it is like moving this couch, One person Hard but many people Easy.
I never forgot that lesson and have thought about it many times over the years. People work to be successful but find it hard to save money because of rents, car notes, and individual bills. Any small group of people can help get each other to the next level if they are willing to forego the comforts of life until they reach success and stability.
Working together with a clear goal in mind is the secret for many immigrants who come here with nothing but each other. People laugh at all those people living in one house and riding in one car but they are working together. Who knows what might be accomplished if a group of five people didn’t have five mortgages to pay and five car notes and five grocery bills.
I thanked Mr. Lee for sharing with me the secret of how Koreans move furniture, One Hard but Many Easy.” Ask yourself if you have been trying to move a couch all by yourself. Be careful you might hurt yourself.
Wishing you Wealth, Wellness, and Wisdom
Manager of Wealth