Lemons or Lemonade


It was Saturday afternoon when I hopped in my car to run errands.  The thermostat in the car told me the temperature was a cool 93 degrees, but the sensation of walking into a sauna told me that the humidity in Atlanta was much higher.  As I put my basket of dry cleaning in the car I heard a little girl’s voice call out, “Lemonade!  Lemonade for sale!”  I looked over my shoulder and at the entrance of the next block were two sisters with a table, a pitcher, and a few plastic cups.  The younger of the two girls was clearly in charge of advertising, as she hopped up and down, yelling at passing cars to let them know the sale was on.

I grabbed my wallet and walked over to get a cup of lemonade for the road.  “Good afternoon ladies, I would like a glass.  How much is it?”  I remember how much my lemonade stand used to be, but with inflation, I had already located a $1.00 bill to hand to the little girls.

The oldest sister went directly into her sales pitch, “Our lemonade is fresh squeezed and is 25 cents.  We are also donating 25% to the local Humane Society.”

I have to say at that point I was actually shocked.  Here were two girls, who the oldest could not have been more than 7 years old, offering me a product of value.  The cost of the lemons and sugar that their parents purchased could not have been covered by the meager 25 cents per glass and yet on top of this, these little girls were donating 25% to a charity.

I smiled at the little girl and said, “Oh that’s wonderful.  I don’t have any change so I’m going to give you a whole dollar and you can keep the extra money.”

The youngest girl jumped up and down as the oldest sister, still very business-like, took my dollar and added it to the zip lock container she was using as her cash register.

“Thank you.  Would you like some animal crackers to go with your lemonade?”  and the little girl uncovered a tray of animal crackers.  I am quite certain that at my lemonade stand all those years ago, I did not offer complimentary snacks.

I happily obliged myself to a handful, and the youngest little girl grabbed an 8 ounce plastic cup and filled it with ice from a cooler that was under their table.  She handed the glass to her big sister and it was filled to the top with the fresh drink.  When they handed it to me I took a big sip and was delighted at how this simple liquid quenched my thirst on such a hot summer day.

“Thank you ladies, this is great!  I hope you get lots of business today.”

As I walked away, I thought about how the lessons these two girls were learning standing on the side walk were preparing them for the years to come.  They were learning many of the principles that we in our MBA pursuits will cover.  Cost of production, marketing, supply and demand, corporate citizenship, and return on investment are just a few.  They were also learning one thing that school cannot teach; the value of hard work.

We are the children of the Baby Boomer generation, and are now in the work force.  With the Baby Boomers approaching retirement, our generation is now coming into its time for influencing the future politics, markets, and values.  Our parents were instilled with a sense from their parents, who survived the Great Depression, that hard work and savings would be important to financial stability.  What will be the legacy of Generation Y?  What will be the lessons that we instill in our children?

As we go through our studies to receive our MBA, this is something we should ask ourselves.  Pulitzer prize winner David McCullough was on the news recently promoting his latest book “The Greater Journey”.  The topic of the book discusses how Americans in the 1830s left the United States to go to universities in Paris.  In his interview he stated that these Americans went to Paris with a vision of bettering themselves and frequently they wrote in their journals, “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but the happiest I’ve ever been.”  I don’t just think it was the beauty of the Parisian skyline or the wine they were sipping that made these hard workers reflect on their time with fondness.  I think it was the value of the opportunity, and the reward of knowing that their effort would better not just themselves, but the nation and ultimately the world.  What types of contributions did these Americans studying in Paris make?  Well, the Brooklyn Bridge was built using engineering techniques that were learned by an American engineer who studied the engineers of the Parisian bridges.

McCullough continued his interview to explain that the key resource in our economy is “ideas”.   He explains how ideas, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and work ethic are the values that will differentiate one nation from another.  The concern from this 78 year old man, was that our generation was concerned with the pleasures of “work-life balance” rather than the reward of a hard day’s work.  McCullough sees hope in our generation and I’m sure this class of hopeful Duke grads would make him proud.

Let’s take this Fuqua Experience to its full advantage.  Let’s be our generation’s group of leaders and innovators, who studied with the best from around the world.  Let’s set up our own “lemonade stands”.  Let’s grow the next generation to appreciate these values.   Let’s enjoy the feeling of a job well done.

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2 comments to Lemons or Lemonade

  • Vince Cellini

    A great post Jordan. I agree with you that our generation is often more concerned with the comforts and leisure that is built on the backs of the hardworking prior generations. I myself am somewhat guilty of this as my mom’s work ethic blows me away. I work hard when I need to, but she works hard ALL the time. To me, it isn’t about working hard but being able to discern where we put our energies to make a difference. That old saying of ‘work smarter, not harder’ could be slightly modified to ‘work strategically hard, not just randomly hard.’

  • No kidding about the hard work of the previous generation(s). My neighbor across the street has to be nearing 90 years old, and she routinely embarrasses me by doing yard work while I sit on the couch (I can view this if I take my eyes off my 55″ TV!).

    Doesn’t matter if it’s raining, 110 degree heat index…just getting it done.

    I don’t work as hard! But then again, I traveled around the world to learn and see things most people don’t. Maybe that’s enough. Or it will be, once I hire a gardener.

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