CHAPTER 1

Emerging from the Egg

I have no wish to beautify the vulture, but, on the other hand, I cannot acquiesce in the poets’ terrible indictment. They make it ominous and gloomy, hungry and thirsty for blood. … This is all undeniable poetry, but it is all injustice, because out of sympathy with Nature. And Nature is far more poetical than even the poets.

—Philip Robinson, “The Poets’ Birds,” Atlantic Monthly, June 1882

I have always had something of a knack for business. The youngest of eight children, I spent much of my youth in suburban New Jersey looking for ways to make a buck. Whether it was mowing lawns, shoveling driveways, or delivering newspapers by bike on a paper route, I was usually working to earn some cash during my spare time instead of watching TV or playing video games.

Since money was tight at home after my parents separated, I needed to find for myself the means to keep up with my peers in affluent Upper Saddle River. By the time I was a teenager, I had rotated through all sorts of jobs, learning a good deal about business in the process.

One formative experience was a job I took at a local men’s clothing store when I was in high school. Irv Lerner’s, set in a highway strip mall near the New Jersey/New York State border, paid me minimum wage, then $3.25 per hour, which even at the time was very little. The work was tiresome and boring, but it gave me a firsthand ...

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