As a second-year driver at American Waste Control (AWC) in Tulsa, Okla., Raymond Shinault, 55, is on his solid waste route at 5:30 am, but after an 8-hour shift, his work day is far from over. Afterward, Shinault, who’s been a professional driver for two decades, reaches out to troubled teens through public speaking, social media and three books he’s written to motivate others toward a lifetime of learning.
Shinault hopes to become a full-time motivational speaker, influencing kids to make good life choices. Until then, he says he’s “very blessed” to drive for AWC and to continue serving his community in any way he can.
Waste360 sat down with Shinault to talk about his efforts to inspire teens, and even his fellow AWC employees, to strive to be better in all aspects of their lives.
Waste360: You’re a busy man. You certainly make the most of your time.
Raymond Shinault: Some people wonder how I can be a trash man and do everything else I do. I tell them it’s all about my desire to help folks. I feel blessed to earn a solid living with AWC while also making a difference in people’s lives.
Waste360: Why motivational speaking?
Raymond Shinault: I started to listen to the great, late Jim Rohn every day and this incredible man changed my life. He helped me have a whole new mindset about life and where I wanted to go with my life. And what he had done for me, I wanted to do for other people. I wanted to inspire people to live better lives.
Waste360: How does the motivational speaker translate to the garbage man?
Raymond Shinault: Just being a positive role model on the job. I basically wanted to work here to keep an income coming in–a good solid income. And do what I do at night. I come in here. I love my job. I do what I got to do. I go home, and I’ve got another job, basically. That job is to motivate and inspire people to live better lives.
Waste360: AWC VP Paul Ross says you’re an asset to the company in your faithfulness to serve customers, your work ethic and as an example to everyone around you. Do you know how much they appreciate you?
Raymond Shinault: They definitely appreciate it at work. I write an article every month in the company newsletter that people look forward to. I’ve had guys come up to me and say, "Man, I’m thankful that you write that every month. It’s very interesting." So people are starting to get a feel for reading that every month. When it comes out I’ll say, "Have your read it?" And they might say, "No I haven’t." I’ll go get them one. I say, "Take it home. Read it."
Waste360: Ross says Kenneth Burkett, owner of AWC, is probably your number one fan and he doesn’t miss your monthly article. Why is it important to you that your coworkers read it?
Raymond Shinault: We want this company to become the best company in the country. If you’re not constantly learning how to do it—how to become a better employee here—we can’t be. This is a team deal here. If the team is working on all cylinders, then we will become the best waste company in all of Oklahoma. And we’re right there.
Waste360: How does your family feel about your motivational speaking?
Raymond Shinault: I’ve been married to my wife, Pam, for 33 years. She’s supported me for many years. (laughs) Sometimes she says, "You’re married to that computer, not to me." But she’s always supported me.
Waste360: You joined Toastmasters International in 2009 and after four months took first place at the local level and second at the area level. Two years later, you won at the club, area and regional levels, and took second at districts, just missing the Toastmasters World Championships. How does a two-time college dropout find that success?
Raymond Shinault: Learning is the foundation for all personal and spiritual growth, and I knew that I had to grow. I studied motivational speakers for three years and learned a lot. Then looked into Toastmasters. It’s the best place in the world to become a better speaker. It’s on the job training, really. Most of the famous motivational speakers came out of Toastmasters.
Raymond Shinault: Most people are not happy in this world because they don’t produce. And you can’t produce if you’re not continuously learning something. In order to continue to make progress in life, you have to be continuously learning something and applying what you learned.
Waste360: Why reach out to teenagers in particular?
Raymond Shinault: We’ve got 1.7 million students dropping out of high school in this country every year. So that’s where I wanted to go. I said, ‘I’ve got to go talk to these young people and help them realize they have to start living their lives on purpose.’ School is not a plaything. You have to treat it just like it’s your job, because the habits you create here at school are the same ones you’re going to take to the market place. That’s the reason we have to continue to learn, and stay motivated to making progress year after year. The problem in America is people go year after year not making much change.
Waste360: Why do you think that is?
Raymond Shinault: It’s because they’re not learning anything. They get into what I call "freewheeling mode." They just go through life letting life happen to them rather than making life happen for them. And then they wonder why they’re not making progress in life.
Waste360: How do you make that connection with them?
Raymond Shinault: Well, Floyd “Money” Mayweather is one of the greatest fighters of all time in my opinion. See, God hands out gifts to us all. Most of us don’t develop the gifts that we have. Mayweather says there’s a difference between being a talented fighter and a gifted one. After his fights he talks about hard work and dedication. Even though he has a gift, he’s not relying on that gift to make him champion. It is hard work and dedication that has made him champion. Forty-seven and 0. Forty-seven men have tried, and 47 men have failed to beat him.
I teach kids that the same way. When you go to school, it is hard work and dedication. When your feet hit the floor in the morning, it has to be done on purpose if you’re going to be successful in life.
Waste360: What’s your definition of success?
Raymond Shinault: My definition of success is that you’re continually making progress year after year. You should not be in the same position—whether it’s in relationships, financially, in your marriage, in learning or spiritually—next year as you were last year. You should not be stagnant or just staying in one place or getting worse. You should be making progress in every area of your life. Every year. And it’s all going to take learning. And then applying what you learn.