“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

My grandpa jumped out of his school’s window in eighth grade and never went back. His diploma is a plaque that hangs in the back of his cluttered workshop. It reads, “Special Services to General Motors, Fisher Plant, 1959.” He saved them $100,000 dollars that year with a machine of his own invention after the managers in charge had given up. Fifty years later, I graduated from high school and the Fisher Plant was bulldozed after hundreds of layoffs. Grandpa’s pension evaporated. College now meant picking a major that would never leave me laid off. Yet somehow, it led me to the factory floor.

The floor strips you of any fancy credentials and makes you think right there in your boots. There, it didn’t matter that my parents didn’t go to college, or that I went to a public school. You could solve problems as long as you were curious and humble, and no school teaches that better than a messy workshop.

When you can point to something real that you’ve made, that pride lifts you up in a way that credentials don’t. It pulls you out of bed.

Every day I try to lead in my factory floor boots, careful not to forget where they’ve led me.

— Liz Delozier