7 Life Lessons We Learned From Don Ward, New York’s Most Charismatic Shoeshiner
1. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want.
"What are you waiting for?" he asks a potential customer. "An invitation?"
2. You can learn a lot from a person’s shoes.
"I can tell if [a man] is cheap, selfish, inconsiderate, don’t give a damn," Don says. "You can tell if he’s got some money. You can tell if he’s pretending to have money. All that is a three-second read."
3. You can’t be good at EVERYTHING. Just accept that.
"I was a pastry chef for 10 years. I went to culinary school. I was feeling like, ‘Oh, I went to school for this. I gotta succeed at this. I didn’t want to feel like a failure,’ but it wasn’t for me," Don says. "So when I finally got up the kahunas to say, ‘You know what? I’m gonna go back to [shining shoes]’, I quit that job."
4. Work hard.
"You work outside all year long?" the interviewer asks Don. "The show goes on," he responds. "Nine degrees or 90 degrees."
5. Give a damn.
"Young man," Don yells to a passerby. "You’ve got to start caring again."
6. Learn from your past, and move on.
"I live my life with no regrets," Don says as he deftly polishes another pair of shoes. "None."
7. Strive to be the best person you can be, but stay true to who you are.
"I guess till the day I leave this earth, I will always be pushing for better and not worrying about how someone else perceives what I should be. I’m gonna be me. That’s it," Don says. "However you react or respond to it is your business."
And if all else fails, make sure your shoes look good:
"Can’t look neat if your shoes look beat."