The 2020 Effect: What I Learned from an Unexpected Year Working on the Road and Living with my Parents (part I)

Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership
8 min readDec 17, 2020


The story of my 2020 experience, which involved working any job I could find and moving back in with my parents. Life and leadership lessons abound.
Jenny Sturm,

After graduating from two Master’s programs, which I thought would re-define my career, I spent the first half of 2019 hunting for a job. When I did not find the type of work I was seeking with an organization I liked, I traveled a bit over the summer and then volunteered to serve in hurricane relief efforts. Finally, I would succumb to a gut-twisting realization: I needed to move in with my parents until I get this career thing figured out. Of course, that is the last thing any adult with an ultra-independent western mindset wants to admit. Yet, I have emerged on the other side of that experience with deep gratitude for the opportunity to share this time with them.

But there’s more. Returning from disaster cleanup in Abaco, career prospects continued to stall in late 2019, even before the perfect storm blew in with 2020. Reflecting on the moment, I found myself facing four alternatives:

· Keep focusing all my attention on the job hunt

· Start my own business

· Keep educating myself and increasing my expertise, hoping this will eventually resonate with the right pair of ears

· Put my head down and work any job I can get my hands on, to accumulate some runway before I get back to numbers 1–3

It was clear to me that all four were critical to forging a path ahead. Therefore, I spent 2020 on three work goals. First, I shifted my networking focus to people who could offer insight into the job market, priority areas of expertise, and starting my own consulting firm. I then used these to create a career plan, which I am now executing.

Second, I resolved to begin offering my services as a general consultant to a small circle of business owners. This led to a few short-term projects during the year, through a simple offer: “Name your most immediate or irritating challenge, and I will find a solution”. At first, these were basics like getting organized, measuring improvement, and communicating clear value in a presentation to prospective clients.

At the same time, I also chose to square my shoulders, driving forward with any work I could find. This decision came from a combination of necessity (creating a clear financial runway to move out of my parents’ house), peer pressure (blue collar parents who believe in hard work), and my fiancé (who I asked to marry me in the spring, so I needed cash to support us when we begin our life together).

What follows is my experience with the four jobs I took on during the year, along with powerful principles I may not have learned so quickly along another path.

We all experience hills and valleys. My hope, and my prayer, is that if these experiences resonate with you or you face similar challenges in the future, you may recall these lessons or the mentality that eventually helped me to mine gold while feeling stuck in one of life’s valleys.

Playing Santa Claus: Minus the belly and red suit

The first two jobs I took during this period were in late 2019 and early 2020, delivering food with a distributor, and packages with a well-known logistics company. I knew both were temporary, so my spirit held up during these few months. Still, I faced hurdles in maintaining positive morale. Beyond my living situation and career predicament, these challenges came primarily from the management style of the men I reported to in each role.

The first was an extreme micromanager. He talked about approaching work creatively, but quelled it with unrelenting demands to do things his way without question.

In the other role, I had both an immediate supervisor and a team manager. The former was helpful, and I appreciated our conversations. The latter seemed a bit cold, and I learned quickly by talking with other drivers that he was very short on encouraging or acknowledging his people, while quick demand more or to criticize when something went wrong. Though I value feedback and correction tremendously, his approach seemed to come from a place of frustration rather than a desire to develop me (or anyone on his team). Whether or not this was the case, my perception was my reality — and it was the same reality for many on his team.

This manager also sandbagged my attempt to recoup pay for a few hours I worked on Christmas Eve 2019, but for some reason did not appear on my timecard. Though it would have netted less than $100 for me, it left a sour taste in my mouth for that company. Such is the impact one person can have on an organization’s reputation.

Additionally, both roles confirmed a lesson I had previously learned: My need for intellectual challenge and the opportunity to learn, map, and create. Since the learning curve was quick, I took initiative to seek out management opportunities right out of the gate in the latter role. Unfortunately, I was “overqualified” for every available role, and so continued delivering packages until business slowed sufficiently to eliminate seasonal drivers.

While I’m sure this story is familiar to many people, a great manager would have seen past my job title to recognize traits that could be utilized for the good of the team or the broader organization. An organization of that size always needs good people.

These experiences taught me a few invaluable management and leadership lessons, which I have since taken to heart in operating my own business, in my approach to leadership, and in my guidance to other leaders.

Four leadership commitments:

· Instead of micromanaging, I will cast vision and set expectations by asking others to learn the ropes and get up to speed, at which point I will welcome and value their contribution to improving the work.

· Instead of being stingy, I will look for opportunities to delight others in their experience with our organization, and I will fight for my team — their needs as well as their hopes and dreams, adding value to them in the same way I expect them to add value to our team.

· Instead of criticizing, I will be quick to cultivate the strengths in my team and celebrate their successes.

· Instead of seeing people through the lens of a role, I will see our team and our organization through the lens of our people. The product of their strengths and their capacity determines what we can achieve together.

When I was no longer needed as marginal capacity with the first two firms, I took a role with another logistics company… again delivering packages. At this point, my morale took its big dip. The beginning of COVID drove a stake through the job market, until it screeched nearly to a halt. Equally demoralizing, beginning a second job as a driver meant horizontal trajectory, not moving toward my goals — in my finances, career, or getting out of my parents’ house. I was incredibly frustrated, even angry, both with the world’s seeming inability to see the value I could bring to an organization, but also my own apparent inability to navigate the mysterious black hole of hiring processes. All I wanted was to find a place to grow while leveraging my strengths to contribute real value.

I worked in this role for six months, while on the side I continued to pursue small consulting projects and to network with others who graciously provided me with business and career insight I could use later. My frustration continued, though.

I was also angry with God for allowing me to “end up” in this place. While driving one day, I began praying (and yes, it’s OK to pray with your eyes open). Allowing my frustration to lead the way, I lamented, “God, You gave me so much to offer, and then put me in this small place. You do nothing by accident, so why the misalignment here? Come on, God, put me in the game!” Have you ever felt this way?

In response to this prayer, my soul felt strangely calm. I sensed that the eyes of my heart had been closed for months, and I felt the need to open my eyes to something beyond simply getting through the day, or simply getting through this frustrating season of life. So I did. And what I found completely changed my demeanor and morale.

Opening my eyes, I noticed that 99% of the people to whom I delivered packages were kind, and almost as many were appreciative. This encouraged my spirit, and even inspired me, seeing the heart of the American people even in the midst of a pandemic, economic shut-downs, natural disasters, social tension bordering on riots, and extreme political polarization. They could have been cold or fearful, but they were not. Sure, I was their Santa Claus and perhaps lifted their spirits by bringing an awaited package, but they also lifted my spirit by their choice to be kind and grateful.

As a result, my scowl turned upside down, and I was enjoying the fact that I brought a smile to peoples’ faces. (And yes, I felt like Santa Claus — delivering packages, and growing a decent beard with traces of white beginning to show.)

A couple months later, I noticed that, despite delivering packages for over 9 months (11 in total throughout the year), I had only been rained on twice. Twice. In Ohio. Over 9 months. Many times, it was even raining as I drove to work in the morning, or began to rain within minutes after I got in my car to drive home. Entire days delivering packages from house to house and from business to business, dry. With this realization, my gratitude swelled, and I sensed something from God: I am with you. In fact, I will never leave you, and I am always with you. You can trust Me, because I care for you and I have great plans for you.

I do not cry often, but tears came rushing to my eyes. I knew God was with me in that moment, and had been with me throughout this time. And I knew He wanted to teach me something. So, while I was finishing my exit plan from this seemingly lost year, I also committed myself to not move on until I had learned what God intended me to learn.

Specifically, from this role I learned three lessons in a deeply personal way:

· Fear and frustration may be a natural result of circumstances, but they only cloud the opportunities for God to teach us. He wants to grow our character, to increase our trust in Him, and to bring us to the other side more prepared for greater opportunities around the corner. In this case, God wanted to break something in me, and at the same time open up a new level of trust in Him and gratitude for his presence in my life. BIG WIN!

· As people, we may all be quite imperfect, but we all have loveliness inside. It comes out in others when we bring them a gift, show them love, or treat them with kindness and appreciation. No matter the external circumstances, that goodness is waiting to bubble up to the surface with something as simple as a package delivered to their door (or a smile, or… fill in the blank).

· God is present. Not just sometimes, but ALWAYS. Not just with me, but with you too. It may be raining. We may be “stuck” living with parents, or working a job that comes nowhere close to utilizing or developing our full ability. But He is there with us at every step, sharing in our pains as well as our joys.

Read Part II here. The Census, the gift of family, and three BIG takeaways.



Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership

To live a life worth imitating: Son, Husband, Father. Passion for developing leaders + elevating families, organizations, & the discourse of US/Global affairs