Live to Work, or Work to Live

Originally published in the January 2012 Issue of the MSAA Supplement digital magazine.

YEP! is shrieked to my left and I practically jump out of my shoes. Soon it’s followed by another and still another from the back of the room. I try to collect myself. I am an auctioneer after all, so a couple of aggressive ringmen shouldn’t surprise me. I look to the auctioneer who is flipping through a giant tub of tape dispensers. As he continues his chant he grabs one of the tape guns and starts circling one of his ringmen. By the time the lot is sold his ringman can’t move his arms and the whole crowd is laughing. I stand there wondering what I got myself into. All this in only the first 10 minutes of a Grafe auction.

Rewind four months and I am sitting in a ballroom in the Holiday Inn-St. Cloud for the 2011 MSAA Fun Auction when Paul McCartan approaches the stage to sell an experience with the Grafe Auction Team. I lean over to my wife and say that I have always wanted to work with their team and she encourages me to bid. There seemed to be a great deal of interest in this experience and after we hit the $1,000 mark I thought I was done. In a matter of moments my wife had her hand in the air and when the dust settled we had purchased one of two chances to travel with the Grafe Auction Team to an exotic destination and work for free.

Fast forward to Day 2 of this two-day sale in beautiful Virginia Beach. Day 1 is in the rear-view mirror, along with a number of small items and a majority of the larger pieces of equipment in this massive warehouse. Am I tired? You bet. Will I show it? NOT ON YOUR LIFE. The crowd is now down to two dozen very serious buyers and another couple of dozen online. We split the team into two rings as it will be the only way we can go home tonight. Through all this, the auction team doesn’t stop laughing and joking with the attendees. The Grafe team soon has plates of food brought out to the bidders, keeping everyone happy and appreciative as the day wears on. I get the impression that if they could roll a portable toilet through the hall they would consider it. Every few hours the rotation comes back to me and I take my turn at the microphone. I do my best to represent the odd array of items and find myself faking it more times than I realize. But as the day winds down, and the two rings join together for the final hours, I step back once again and take in the show.

As we board the plane for home, I take some time to think back to the lessons I learned over the last 48 hours. There was one thought that stuck in my brain: over my life I have worked many “punch-the-clock” kind of jobs. I have often heard the saying, “you can either live to work, or work to live.” I have never wanted to work just so I could survive, but I also don’t really want to live my life putting everything into my work and missing out on the wonderful things in life. The lesson I learned long ago from my father, and confirmed during my two days with the Grafe Auction Team, was that if you have a passion for what you do and a smile on your face, it isn’t work at all.

That is what I love about this industry; when I’m up on stage, behind a podium, or down near the bidder finding out if they would like to bid, I am having fun, not working.