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“Make Sure You Work Hard”

The Clifton Review

The Clifton Review is a tri-weekly column that examines the question of the Clifton project along with the evolution of the war between two billionaires. We covered the start of this war with articles describing the battle over easement rights, the mysterious burning of a home, the blocks to rebuilding, and countless questionable court filings.

The 2018 series salutes fashion mogul Peter Nygård’s Golden Jubilee detailing his rags to riches story and incredible business success over these past fifty years. The Clifton Review will take an inside look at how he did it.

“Make Sure You Work Hard”

By P.J. Malone

Can the culture we were born into determine our trajectory in life? It appears that for fashion mogul Peter Nygård, his need to survive, his willingness to work hard, his drive to always be the best, and most importantly, his culture determined his success.

In the Finnish culture that Peter Nygård was born into, there is powerful ethos—a way of being that permeates its culture. It’s called “sisu” and represents the ability to withstand a great disadvantage and yet overcome through sheer determination. Sisu is described as representing the Finns national character. Sisu spurs a Finn on to be brave, resolute and determined to fight against all odds.

There was no doubt that Peter Nygård learned the sisu principle and values from his parents and upbringing. It was demonstrated in everything he did.

Every summer Peter found jobs to make the money he needed to help take care of himself. It was standard practice in the Nygård household for him and his sister Liisa to find summer jobs, even though neighbourhood friends got to spend their summers having fun.

The nature of the work didn’t matter to Peter. He took on all sorts of summer jobs because the tougher the job the more he was able to get paid.

As a teenager, Peter worked on a construction crew and a pipeline, which involved arduous work and long hours. Another time he worked as a lifeguard; he had earned lifesaving certifications and even taught swimming safety. He in fact learned an interesting lesson during lifeguarding.

The lifeguarding job usually started before the beaches opened: Lifeguards had to spend time cleaning up the beaches and painting benches.

Being the consummate competitor, it didn’t matter what job Peter had. He always had to do it better than the next guy. Painting benches as a lifeguard, he had to work the hardest and had to be the fastest. That is until a group of burly lifeguards came over and threatened him: he would ‘get it’ if he didn’t stop painting so fast and making the rest of them look bad. This was quite a shock to Peter.

While the North American standard was “don’t work too hard” and “be home in time for dinner”, Peter grew up hearing his mother say every time he left the house “make sure you work hard and be sure to finish your work.”

No matter what others were doing around him, that became the Nygård standard for every aspect of his life—work hard and get it done. Peter Nygård has become known for his 14-16 hour days.

His work ethic, competitive nature and drive to always be the best paid off. In high school he was a top athlete on every sports team, which included basketball, volleyball and track and field as well as curling, badminton and tennis.

As an athletic champion in so many of Glenlawn Collegiate sporting programs, Peter was the winner at graduation of the Male Athlete of the Year award.

Another early accomplishment for Peter was becoming a relieving manager of a Loblaw store, which were the go-to grocery stores in Canada back in the 1950s.

He started working for Loblaw at fifteen as a bagger. He moved up to stocking shelves, working in produce, the meat department and even cashiering. It wasn’t long before that work ethic and drive to be the best got noticed. Even in stocking shelves Peter was competitive; the others would put one or two cans on the shelf at a time while Peter would put four.

Still in his teens, Peter became the one of the youngest store managers they ever had. He was made a relieving manager and spent one summer going from store to store relieving store managers. His experience in various levels of the job paid off. He was eventually tasked with helping to open new stores.

Clearly for Peter Nygård, success started at a very early age.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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