By John Wood

In my early twenties, I took a job selling steak and seafood out of the back of a truck.

The idea was that you’d go around to businesses and ask them if they wanted to buy some top-quality frozen food. If you worked weekends, you’d knock on the doors of people’s houses and inquire if their freezers needed filling up.

Late one afternoon, I spotted a little industrial mall. I walked into the first unit and asked the receptionist if she, or anybody else who worked there, liked to barbeque. She seemed to think they did, so I told them about the top-quality New York Strips, bacon-wrapped filets, bib-eyes, and top sirloin steaks I had on the truck.

Informing her that she had to really see these steaks to believe them, I asked her if it would be ok to bring a few boxes in and show them to her and anyone else who might be interested.

She said “sure”.

I brought in some steaks (and some seafood of course) and a little crowd gathered around as I went through my presentation. I used my never-fail-to-get-a-laugh line “all our steaks are de-boned, de-fatted, and de-licious”.

Among the crowd, there was a rather large man who appeared to be their leader. He looked a bit like Jackie Gleason only with a Moe Howard (of Three Stooges fame) haircut.

He smelled like a cross between a dead muskrat and Paul Bunyan’s underarm after a long day chopping wood. Sweat circles darkened his shirt where his arm met his shoulder. (Because I don’t remember his name, I’ll call him “Moe”.)

I can still see Moe’s eyes light up as I described each box of food.

He announced he was interested in making a purchase. He left to get his checkbook. When he was out of earshot, the lady next to me informed me that he was the boss. He owned the entire building.

“Sweet,” I thought to myself. A rich guy who likes to eat and remembers where he put his checkbook. He fit perfectly into my target market.

When he came back, he asked if anyone else was interested in buying anything from me.

They were.

It looked like I was in for a big sale. Moe suggested that whatever they were going to buy, they should write their checks to him and he’ll write me one big check.

All in all, I ended up selling almost $400 worth of food.

A week or so later back at the office, I was informed that I had a Non-Sufficient Funds check returned to me. This surprised my boss, because of all his salespeople; I had the least NSF checks against my name. This was my first one.

Needless to say, it was Moe’s check.

The next day, I went back to the industrial complex. They directed me to another address. I promptly drove over… knocked on the door and was told to enter. The office was barren except for one desk with a phone on it and a middle-aged woman sitting behind it. I told her the reason for my visit.

She quickly informed me that Moe was not there. She didn’t know when he’d be back. I sat down on the floor and told her I’d wait.

That’s when she told me Moe had just filed for bankruptcy. I was crestfallen. I waited a while longer for bankrupt Moe to appear then I left.

Over the next few days, I made numerous visits to his office. I could tell the receptionist felt bad for me. One visit feeling particularly charitable, she volunteered to give me his home address.

So the next day, which happened to be a Saturday, I drove to his house.

It didn’t look anything like I expected. It was a small box-shaped house. It was a bit run down. The front lawn was untamed. Not at all what you might expect from a person who at one time supposedly had a lot of money.

I knocked on the side screen door.

As he opened the door, a gush of his odor came rushing out and smacked me in the nostrils. He was sweating like he’d been working out. A doubtful cause at best.

Even though I knew he knew why I was there, I explained it to him anyway.

Then I politely asked him for my money.

He said he didn’t have any money. He motioned at one of his kid’s crap bikes slumped in the driveway and suggested I take it as a form of payment.

I told him “thanks, but no thanks”.

I didn’t swear at him. I didn’t ask him where Curly and Larry were hiding. I didn’t even raise my voice to him.

I asked him why he did it. He didn’t really have an answer.

Then I asked him why he couldn’t just stiff me for the food he bought. Why did he have to stiff me for the food that everyone bought that day?

As he started to speak, I realized it didn’t really matter what he told me.

Because sometimes it takes two fools to have a conversation and this was one of those times.

You see, I should have evaluated the situation and realized it was pretty much a lost cause. I should have just moved on, eaten my losses (no pun intended), and chalked it up to experience. The time I wasted pursuing him was time I could have been selling more steak and seafood. And with a bit of luck, I could have brought in $400 for myself – maybe more.

Plus I let Moe get to me. I kept thinking about him eating my steak and spending my money. I let it dominate my thoughts. It affected my performance.

Selling steak and seafood out of the back of a truck is a tough job at the best of times. But if you’re walking around with no smile on your face and an image of Moe Howard’s haircut in your mind, you might as well just stay in bed.

To be successful – you have to stay focused. You have to have tunnel vision. You can’t let external things like mounting monthly bills, relationship issues, or other setbacks affect how much you accomplish in your day.

Because if you do, the only person you end up hurting is yourself.


This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Writer’s Blog. For a complimentary subscription to AWAI’s free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available, visit