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My First Job: Not Getting Paid to Be Honest

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T. Boone Pickens Founder, Chairman and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management


I got a paper route when I was 12. Although it began on a street grandly named Broadway of America, it was the smallest route in my hometown of Holdenville, Oklahoma: 28 houses with a penny a paper profit per day. When other routes came open next to mine, I talked my supervisor into letting me add them. Within five years my route grew from 28 papers to 156, and I had saved close to $200, which I hid in a hole under the floor in my closet. It was my first experience in the takeover field: expansion by acquisition.

11d1410.jpgI learned other lessons, too. My first year as a paperboy, I found a wallet on the sidewalk. Inside it were the name and address of the owner. I delivered it to the man, and he gave me a dollar reward. It was a windfall. My mother, grandmother, and aunt were on the porch when I got home. They never looked at each other. They didn’t have to. They were so much alike that their heads moved in unison, almost as if their heads were attached to one other by a string. They didn’t respond as I’d expected or hoped about the news of finding the wallet and getting the reward. I pleaded my case over and over. Instead they sent me straight back to return the dollar to the man.

“You are not going to be paid to be honest,” my grandmother told me.

So I had to go back to the man and give his dollar back.

“No, no, this is for you!”

“I know!”

“And you should have it!”

“I know!”

But I also knew better than to go against anything my mother, grandmother, and aunt told me. I gave the money back, and headed home on my bike in a downpour. I damn near drowned. I got home drenched and looking for sympathy. I could play the pitiful routine really well. Aunt Ethel didn’t buy it.

“If you hadn’t argued with us, you’d have been back before it rained,” she said.


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