In this lengthy post I will discuss, in some detail, what has lead me to start this blog and where I am currently. I’ve been meaning to write on this sooner, but until recently I haven’t fully embraced the idea of what it means for ME to go down this entrepreneurial path. The journey has already been a roller coaster ride of emotions…and I haven’t even started yet.
To begin with, I must say that I’ve always had an entrepreneur drive. Whenever I’d picture myself successful, I was always a proud business owner. I knew somehow I’d be helping people rather than just selling a product indirectly. My interaction with satisfied customers would be what largely fuels my happiness. This vague vision has always been with me.
As a child at 9 years old, I was aware my dad was starting a business. He was developing a logo. He would talk about buying equipment and getting customers, etc. I was so excited about the idea. Even then, I saw me being in charge of it one day. I’d imagine starting at the bottom and working my way up to owner after my dad handed it over to me. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about it. Unfortunately, the idea never got passed a logo and pricing of equipment.
My dad, being in a local band, was at the top of his country music career. Having won several competitions and was even on a local TV spot, things were moving fast for him. He was recording tracks while his band had a huge local following. Then events at that time transpired, changing my entire life.
My dad was sent to prison for 13 years.
My hero. My best friend. My leader…was taken from me. The business idea and his music was put on hold during the ordeal. The hope for a better life ended with hardship, depression and devastation. I went from riding the rails of a super hopeful and happy life, to a directionless young boy who lost everything, living with his single mother in poverty.
Subsequently, we were cut of from all family members for a number of years.
It was dark times for me and my family. Even as I write this my eyes are tearing up and my nose is tingling as I hold back the water works.
Luckily my mom did what she had to do and I was mature enough to understand and help out. She would work as much as she could, and the best she could with no education.
I remember being 12, my younger brother would be off playing with the neighborhood kids while I was stuck inside taking care of my one year old sister. All of us lived in one bedroom and I’d wake up in the middle of the night to feed my sister, thinking to myself “How am I gonna do better than this? What can I do now to make sure my future is in better shape?”.
For so time I was changing schools every other year. We would live with different people and family members. Ending up back with my half sister’s biological father. Finally in high school, I felt I had some stability.
My mom was working hard as an over the road truck driver. She was gone two weeks at a time for 6 years. She’d send money home to the man taken care of her two boys and daughter.
This man was caring but also emotionally abusive. He’d drink beer or Crown & 7…everyday, all day long. My mother and him were not even a couple, yet he was taking care of us. I can tell he would try to show he cared, but he was an awful awful parent. I learned a lot from him. Mostly what not to do.
However the circumstances, one of the best pieces of advice I was giving at that time was from my mom. Late one night before she left us again for two weeks she said, “You have to grit your teeth and keep going.” Referring to being in situations where you have no alternate way around or out of it, and just push thru the journey to come out the other side.
What I learned after that is, the condition in which you emerge out the other side is dependent upon the choices you make going thru it.
The one thing I felt I had control over was my education and my future. Although I wasn’t the best student in school…I felt I was working on my bachelors in the School of Life. Academic learning was difficult for me, but I was observant and knew what was going on around me.
I knew I had to prepare for my own future, no one was gonna do it or me.
In high school, I loved JROTC. It was such a rewarding experience for me. I did it for 4 years and was in all the teams I could be in. The instructor was hard on me, as a real leader should be. I was one of the top cadets in the school. The activities were fun and challenging. I had things in common with other cadets, so the friends were great!
It was in those times I learned who I had forgotten I was. And as important, what I was capable of.
JROTC being the ultimate segue into the military and the promise of guaranteed work with a purpose! I found my future. I decided to pursue a military career. It was during Sept 11th and Patriotism was at an all time high. The moment I could sign up, just before 12th grade started, I went for it.
Me and my best friend went to sign up together. I can remember being at the top of this high rise hotel in downtown Charlotte the night before processing, saying to my friend “We’re gonna remember this day!”
Yea. We did remember that night.
The next day, my best friend swore in to the Air Force while I was sitting in the waiting area. I had failed my hearing test…twice. I was a No-Go. Frozen in shock, I had nothing to say to myself or anyone.
In short, another devastating blow…just as my final year in high school was starting. WTF was I gonna do?
Grit my teeth and keep going!
I spent the entire year trying to find a way into the military. I consulted with mulitple doctors, finding out my hearing damage was permanent. I tried for an ROTC college scholarship. They too had academic and physical requirements. I qualified for and passed everything but the hearing test. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed the full ride scholarship that I worked so hard for and deserved. All because I couldn’t hear certain decibel levels…ridiculous.
I became desperate. I contacted my state Senator and asked for help in the form of a waiver. She wanted to help but couldn’t do anything for me. One disappointment after another, I was getting depressed and my grades showed.
Other cadets in my class were enlisting and the year was drawing to a close. Everyone was going on spring break and vacations with their families. My friends went to Prom and I didn’t. My family couldn’t even afford for me to be in my senior yearbook.
On the day of graduation practice, I was called out in front of my entire 12th grade class and told I wasn’t on the list to graduate.
What a mind #^&* that was. I was the only one called out. They re-positioned everyone after me, over one seat. I was done. Game over!
Long story short, my math teacher told me I needed to correctly answer 4 questions on the final and I’d have enough credit to pass. We worked out an agreement and I came right back and finished the practice. That was a close one. I was scared, confused, embarrassed and shocked in that moment. Luckily the Universe was looking out for me.
Even though my military career was a faded dream and nearly failed 12th grade, I still had hope. See the whole time I had a backup plan. I was studying CAD at school. I found it in 11th grade and realized quickly that I liked it and was good at it. I was the best in my class and my district. I came in 4th place at a state competition. Considering I was from one of the poorest families in the one of the poorest schools in country, I think it was pretty good.
I applied to several colleges. I choose a 2 year Engineering associates program due to a lack of self confidence and college fund. Besides my family only had one car and I’d needed it for school.
I didn’t expect to do well academically. Dropping out of my first math and chemistry class, it was apparent from the start college wasn’t for me, at the time.
After a few years in school and a heartbreak later, I pushed thru the best I could. Eventually moving away for a semester, only to find myself back in my small town with no job, no money, no education and no direction. While looking for work, I joined a local heavy metal band with a good friend. To encourage myself, I set a goal to play on a particular stage I’ve seen my favorite bands play on. For a while it was the only thing that gave me direction and joy.
Eight months after dropping out of college I accomplished my stage goal with the band. I quit the band, got arrested and lost my drivers license. I hooked back up with my high school sweet heart, had two minimum wages jobs and started classes at a local technical college. There I found a 2 week co-op CAD job that turned into a 9 year career so far.
I’ve had a few extra jobs and projects along the way. I bought a house. Now I’ve been with my sweet heart for almost 10 years. We have a smart, handsome, blonde-haired, blue-eyed 3 year old son together. I’m now at the top of my CAD career it seems. Aware that I’m turning 30 this year, I’ve been doing some soul searching.
Its as though I’m nearly at the top of my snow capped mountain and I’m seeing the forest from the trees. I’m seeing the peaks of other mountains I’m itching to explore.
But what do I do? Do I go on up to the peak I’m closest to? Or do I expand my territory and explore what it might have to offer me?
There’s got to be more out there that I want to do and can do. And of coarse I have to survive and sustain my family along the way. I have to maintain and improve the quality of life I already have. Even though I have surpassed my childhood goals of being better than my parents, and I’m still not done.
I’m ready to turn the page in my life.
Writing this post brought back some painful and inspiring feelings I’ve gather over the years and stuffed in my pockets. I’d forgotten some of the hardships I’ve been through that have shaped me into the person I am today. At such a young age I was driven and successful considering the circumstances I was in. So I ask myself now…
What else can I be driven and successful at?
As a reader you might think its to start a business, right? Well I thought so too. But over the last year or so, I’ve remembered my other childhood goal. I told myself I wanted to be the Best Dad I could be. Tough love and all. I believe 100% that I am accomplishing that goal every day and long after I’m gone. That job has already started and will never end.
My desire to be an entrepreneur, however, is boiling at the surface. Its like I’ve gotten to a spot on my mountain journey where I have an opportunity to zip-line down to the bottom of another mountain across a rushing river.
Staring me in the face is the fastest way I can start over on a new path up a glorious, higher, tougher, more beautiful and more rewarding mountain hike.
That’s a bit dramatic, but I think it paints a picture of my current dilemma.
Do I continue up the mountain …or start a new and potentially more rewarding journey at the bottom of another?
All I know is I AM capable of doing either one; and one will be hard as hell and test me in just about every way.
The float business is without a doubt calling me. Like a persistent urge to peak over the edge of the cliff to see how far down it is.
Floating itself does help quiet my mind so I can weigh in on this internal struggle. I’m sure in 5 years, when I look back and find theses post, I’ll realize how obvious the decision should have been.
C’est la vie…
More on my thoughts, ideas and plans in a later post.