“I’ll never forget that night at the frat party. I was a student at the University of Minnesota studying English Literature. I could quote Dead Poets Society from start-to-finish. I loved cigars, and most of all: I was preppy. Very preppy.
I was so preppy in fact, that on that night two girls came up to me that I had never met, never seen, and didn’t know. They said, ‘Wow, you must be Tom Dankers!’ A little shocked, I asked them how they knew who I was. They said, ‘You have to be Tom Dankers, you’re like the preppiest guy on campus!’ I guess pink pants get you noticed.
But those days are over. Years later, I now find myself living a totally different life in a totally different outfit. Let me tell you a little bit more about how I got here.
The truth is, my life’s never been linear. I’ve never really fit any particular mold, and I still struggle to tell my story on LinkedIn. So, rather than tell you some patched up version of my story, let me just give you the real me.
Most of my early years were spent trying to figure out what to do with my life, like most people. I, like so many others of my generation, bought into the false promise that a $90,000 education from our university system would guarantee success (or would be at least worth the investment). I was wrong.
I bounced around from school-to-school and job-to-job trying to figure things out. For instance, I’ve achieved part of a PhD in Sociology from the prestigious University of Virginia. I’ve done high-level sales for a consulting firm that helped Fortune 500s re-shape their company cultures. I’ve been a top consultant for one of the largest firms in the world, and I’ve become an expert in the areas of organization development and change management. Not too shabby.
Most of my close friends would say I’ve done it all. But I bet I know what you’re thinking: gosh, he really had a problem sticking with things. Yeah, I did.
You see, people always told me, “Tom, you’ll be successful no matter what you do.” I believed them when they said this, and I unfortunately took many things like learningand hard workfor granted. I found out that being smart doesn’t actually mean all that much in the end. I realized I needed to act and think more strategically about my life.
Do you want to know what made the difference? Trucking.
Let’s pause for a second. You really need to remember this: you don’t become a trucker unless you need to. And at least in my opinion, I needed to.
When folks meet me and learn a bit about my story, they often ask: so, why would you go from all that upper echelon stuff to trucking? In response, I always say two things: money and solitude. First, let’s talk about money. It’s never a good reason to do something only for money. But when you’ve amassed more than $90,000 in student debt and who knows what else, you’ve got a problem on your hands unless you make at least $150,000 in our big city, corporate world. Taxes are high. Cost of living is ridiculous. And I’m the kind of person who has numerous hobbies. That’s a pretty bad combo.
Interestingly, there’s no industry or job like trucking that allows you to save money. This is actually a commonly known fact that’s also very commonly misunderstood. You’ll hear me talk and write a lot about what truckers make for this reason. 50% of all truckers make less than $40,000 a year, yet I was somehow able to find an opportunity that completely dwarfs that number.
As an owner-operator contracting for an awesome company and hauling highly-specialized goods, I make more than $150,000 a year…after taxes. The equivalent corporate salary would be that of a Fortune 500 EVP or C-suite executive making $300,000 a year. And when you factor in the savings for a far lower cost of living, the ability to save is astounding. I actually savea 100 grand a year. Think about that.
But now, before I tell you why that would entice me to trade in my boat shoes for cowboy boots, let’s talk about something even more important: solitude. I’m not going to tell you that trucking is freeing, because it’s definitely not. But what it does do, it provides solitude from the busy-ness of everyday American life.
That in mind, here’s a relevant sidenote: cubicles suck. Whoever designed them, they suck, too. Life is too short to get stuck in a cubicle that makes you feel trapped. Even worse, when you emerge from the cubicle, you immediately find yourself in a NASCAR race to a conference room for some boring meeting that isn’t really going to do anything more than put more work on your plate. I don’t miss it.
Most of our jobs these days just do busy work. It’s true. I know it and you know it. Most of us can’t produce any kind of decent justification for either why our jobs exist or how much good they actually do; which is a tough thing to swallow, especially since our jobs make up 25-50% of how we spend our time on earth. Sadly, the spinning wheel of our over-reliance on corporate jobs highly contributes to what social theorists have dubbed “deep and patronizing modern-world anxiety” (ok, I’m stretching their term a little bit here, but it’s accurate).
Trucking, on the other hand, is a great escape from normal, busy life. Most of the time, you’re not picking up your phone in your sleep worrying about an email to come through on some big deal. You don’t take calls on vacation. You don’t go to pointless meetings. And you don’t sit in a cubicle. We’ve got windows and a great view.
But here’s a twist: we might have a great view, but we’ve also got a dire outlook. And this leads me to one final point.
When my friend Geno said, “Tom, I’d love to write a book; but like most of us, I can’t write well. Tom, you need to be our voice,” I realized that I had a responsibility to take from my previous experiences and find a way to make sense out of all the mess that is the trucking industry. After several years of research and experience, I’ve got a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else.
So, for now, I don’t only have a job that pays great and gives me solitude from life’s craziness. I’ve got a platform: The Preppy Trucker.
Over the next several months, leading up to a groundbreaking book on the trucking industry, I’ll be discussing many issues on my website and in my podcast series that all impact America’s future for decades to come.
Thanks for listening.”