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Glenn Kelman
Glenn Kelman

We’ve not heard much lately from Glenn Kelman, the ever-quotable CEO of Seattle online real estate company Redfin.

But now Kelman — who once called real estate the most screwed up industry in America and recently explained why he was unprepared for the Redfin job — is back in form.

In a post on LinkedIn, Kelman explains that the best advice he ever got was from a “food-splattered, sex-crazed short-order cook at a Bellevue Red Robin.”

Kelman worked as a dishwasher at the burger joint just before college, and notes that a line cook by the name of Steven Livestead took pity on him and taught him the importance of working with speed and efficiency.

Citing the help of the line cook — who was prone to chasing waitresses around with tongs — Kelman writes:

I learned instead to hit the dishes as if my life depended on it, blasting the ladles and ashtrays until my face was covered in teriyaki and drenched ashes. Seeing that, Steven would yell out his highest praise: YOU’RE AN ANIMAL! YOU’RE AN ANIMAL!”

And that was it, the best advice I ever got, repeated every night for 70 nights. As a former chess-team captain and late-adolescent D&D player, I desperately needed to hear it. It wasn’t nuanced or intellectual in the way I would have preferred; it was reptilian. But from that moment on, my whole professional future became the slow process of not being such a weenie.

He concludes:

I learned to value speed in everything I do. I learned how other people lived; I learned how to be alone. I learned, even when all hell is breaking loose, first to take time to make my environment productive. I learned that people love to be good at things, even the silliest things.

But mostly I learned how to be hard on myself, which let me mow down the other students when I went off to college at the end of that summer, and into a wider world where hardly anyone else had ever washed dishes for a living.

So, there you have it. One of Seattle’s most successful online real estate companies can trace its roots to the dishwashing tubs of a Red Robin.

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