Starting from Scratch – Part 1

scratch_beginnings

We had a special guest today on The Bigg Success Show.

Adam Shepard is the author of Scratch Beginnings. After graduating from college, he conducted a real-life experiment, by starting out homeless with only $25 and the clothes on his back, to see if the American Dream is still alive. His book chronicles his year-long journey. Here’s a summary of the conversation …

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marylynnI loved your book, Adam. There were times when I couldn’t put it down because I was worried about you! I can’t imagine what your mom and your dad must have felt.

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adam_shepard
They definitely did not sleep much on that first night … that’s for sure.

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george
I can imagine, because your first night was quite traumatic.

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adam_shepardI was in Charleston, South Carolina. There’s the Rhett Butler “Gone with the Wind” side of town, but then there’s also the other side of town. I arrived in a pretty shady part of town, so I think my parents were right to be a little bit nervous.

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The “Scratch Beginning”

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marylynnLet’s go back to the “scratch beginning” because you didn’t have to be homeless. You had just graduated from college.

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adam_shepardYeah, I graduated from college and told my mom and dad I was going to be homeless for a year. The project was for me to start with $25 and the clothes on my back, in a city randomly chosen out of a hat, to see if in one year I could have $2,500, a car, and a furnished apartment. For me, that was the idea of the American Dream.

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marylynn
You had some rules. You weren’t able to use your old contacts, your credit, or anything.

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adam_shepardRight – and no college education. The whole idea is that I was starting from scratch. I had to take blue-collar work. I couldn’t just go out and get a job as an accountant. I tried to level the playing field as much as possible.

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marylynn
And why? Why did you want to do that?

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adam_shepardI wanted to represent a story that many people can resonate with. I didn’t want to use any special skills or talents. I’m just a regular guy and that’s what this story is all about – regular guys that I met along the way that are making things happen. There’s no trick here that I’m using.

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marylynn
So now going back to that first night, you really got lucky twice.

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george
And not getting lucky the way you want to get lucky in college either!

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adam_shepardThat’s how I could have spent my $25! There was a lady who told me where I needed to go; she could see that I was a stranger to town. So she told me to go to the homeless shelter. As I was waiting at the bus stop, I had a confrontation … well, a near confrontation. I thought he wanted money, but he didn’t. There was just this miscommunication. I narrowly defeated the book being just twelve pages long by getting on the bus and heading down to the shelter!

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Moving Out

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george
So tell us, how did you start working your way out of the shelter?

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adam_shepardThe shelter was great because I had a place to sleep and hard boiled eggs in the morning. So I was able to save my money instead of having these expenses. So that was the whole idea – to put money away – as opposed to spending it on other things like beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets. I wanted to save my money. For the first two weeks, I did little day labor jobs – anything I could get my hands on to get money today for things I needed right away – pants, shirts, shampoo, and I’m a total pretty boy so I needed conditioner. But then the idea was for me to get a permanent job where I had money coming in and I could control the money going out.

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marylynnYou say that the shelter was great. I know from reading your book that there were some things that weren’t so great. You make it sound really easy – you were living for free, you could go and get a job – but some people don’t leave the homeless shelter. What do you think is the reason for that?

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adam_shepardI know that when I do interviews it sounds like this was just a walk in the park. When you read the book, you see that it was much more challenging than that. I think the difference between one guy, who’s able to make it out, and another guy is so complex. There are all kinds of dynamics – mental illness, addictions – that plays into this. But if you put a healthy guy next to another healthy guy, the one who has the better attitude, that strong work ethic, and who wants to get out, he can get out. I think that’s what is so great about my experience in the shelter. I made it out; I did it. But there were guys right along side me that had these plans – to get out of there in 30, 60, or 90 days. They had that attitude and focus to get out.

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georgeI know your major wasn’t sociology but this was an amazing sociological experiment. You did this from “scratch beginnings” as you say. To me, your story illustrates so well how any of us can get to that next level in life. It’s the same thing. One person will make it; another person won’t. It comes down to attitude, focus, setting realistic goals and a number of complex things as you said.

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adam_shepardAbsolutely. I think that’s why I’m so passionate about this story now. Whether I’m speaking to a college, a corporation, or a homeless shelter, it’s the same! It doesn’t matter if you have $25 or $25,000. It doesn’t matter what kind of educational background you have. There’s somebody out there just like you that’s fighting and clawing for the top. That’s why it’s always a hustle. The American Dream and the American spirit exist at every socio-economic level. That’s where I think the value in Scratch Beginnings is. You can read it and it relates to your life no matter where you are. It’s always a hustle!

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Next time, we’ll continue talking with Adam and find out how one shelter resident helped him turn things around. Until then, here’s to your BIGG success!

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00278-120308.mp3

5 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    “..There’s somebody out there just like you that’s fighting and clawing for the top..”

    That is a very inspirational thought. As much as everyone wants to settle in and get comfortable, the moment we stop growing and improving, we start falling behind. You can apply that to pretty much anything in life.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] start with a quick review about your story: You graduated from college and traveled by train to an unfamiliar city with only $25.00 and the […]

  2. […] We interviewed Adam Shepard on The Bigg Success Show not long ago. Upon graduation from college, he decided to see if the American Dream was still alive. Starting with only $25 and the clothes on his back, he was eventually able to buy his own vehicle among other things. His vehicle wasn’t anything fancy – an old pick-up truck with manual windows, one which didn’t work. But he still had the transportation he needed! […]

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