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Tom Sheldon was a self-made millionaire who’d been born into money. As the son of an industrialist who’d had to work to pull himself out of the gutter, Tom wanted for nothing but earned everything he had. While working to rise above his background, his father had also worked to instill that same ethic in his only son.
At the age of fourteen, Tom used an alias and applied for the job of day laborer at his father’s largest factory. He spent his summer sweeping metal shavings from beneath the feet of lathe operators and from between the cracks of large machinery whose purpose he could only guess at. At the end of the summer, his means of giving notice was walking into the plant manager’s office and telling him what he thought was wrong with the way the plant was run. Tom was dead right on every point and he knew it, but he was fired immediately. He could still hear the loud ranting of his former boss as he punched out for the last time and headed for home.
That night he strode into his father’s study and laid the entirety of his summer earnings on his father’s lap. “I’ve been working at the Rouge plant since I left school. That’s the money I earned, minus a bit I spent on myself. Consider it a down payment on the rent.” Unsurprised, his father gathered the money and nodded. Tom finished with, “From here on out, I pay my own way,” and walked from the room. His father slowly tucked the money into his pocket and went back to reading the newspaper.
Tom never told his father of his means of resignation, but word spread quickly from the plant floor into the executive office. Given two weeks to comply with the younger Sheldon’s plans or face the consequences, the plant manager chose the latter and was easily replaced. No man ever went against a business plan of Tom’s again.
Never once did he shirk his self-imposed rent, despite his mother’s protestations. She insisted he needn’t work and he needn’t pay his parents for his keep. Once, in the study after dinner, she went so far as to say everything they had was his without asking. His father silenced her with a single look and the subject was never broached again.
Upon graduation, his father presented him with a check for $50,000. He indignantly refused the perceived handout, but his father assured him it wasn’t a gift. His father then explained how he had taken every penny of rent Tom had ever paid and invested it. The check was strictly the profits from the investments. His father assured him he had kept the rent plus a minor broker’s fee, which suited Tom just fine.
His grandfather offered to pay his way through college, but Tom refused that as well. Irreverently, he laughed at the old man and his thought of higher education. Tom knew there was more to be learned in the world than one could learn in a lifetime of classes. Then, sensing he had somehow deeply offended his mother’s father, he apologized. He noted then something was deeply wrong with a man who would offer another money and then be offended when it was refused. That was the last time he spoke to his grandfather, and it was the last time he apologized to anyone for his own integrity.
Taking his own $50,000, he left home—principles intact.
... (several chapters later)...
When he left his father’s home all those years ago, it had been to fight the first battle of his war to the top. His father had unknowingly given him the key when he’d given him his stake—the key was the stock market. If Thomas Sheldon, Sr. could take the pittance his son paid in rent and turn it into fifty-thousand dollars, then surely Tom Sheldon, Jr. could use the same plan to make a much larger fortune. Heading east into New York with a plan in mind, he vowed to take the first job he could find, strictly to keep himself alive while he learned his trade.
Tom planned to hold his stake until he’d taught himself enough to trade and trade wisely. Working as a day laborer at a factory in New Jersey and as a night watchman at a high-rise in Manhattan, he scraped along quietly and was able to keep himself nicely, but it wasn’t enough. He discovered he missed the opulent lifestyle of his father’s home, and he buckled down to achieve it.
In the hours between his day job and his night job—working weekends when he could find the work—Tom took whatever work he could find. Soon he began pulling in more money than he’d ever earned. The increase in money allowed him to regain something of the lifestyle at his father’s home—a spacious apartment in a high rise, the best foods, and the best wines.
Unfortunately, his work schedule didn’t allow much time for studying the markets, and he could feel his stomach twist each time a penny stock jumped while he was busy grinding out a living. Taking the chance he knew he had to take to truly succeed, he quit his jobs and his nice apartment. With the last of his wages, he paid two months rent on a tenement in a somewhat seedier part of town and knuckled down to earn the skills needed to turn his small stake into his fortune.
Studying the markets hard, he looked for trends in the stocks. Diligently watching the news, he studied the behavior of corporate executives. Within a month, he found just the right stock in which to invest his money—all of his money. He’d never cared much for doing things by half measures.
He watched and he waited as the stock hovered, wavering slightly up one day and slightly down the next, always within mere cents of the price he’d paid for it. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy, the papers said. They said it was only a matter of time. If the company went bankrupt, his investment would be worthless and his money lost, but he was unafraid. He had an instinct about this, and he knew his instinct was born of knowledge. As the rent on his apartment was overdue for the second week in a row, and the landlord was threatening eviction, Tom’s knowledge was born out.
The company had been a small venture with a simple product—a venture too small for the company to rise without assistance and a product too brilliant to escape the notice of a bigger enterprise. When the little company was bought-out by a much larger conglomerate, Tom walked away with his first million. It was a lesson he never forgot: knowledge and hard work always wins.