Your Journey is Never Linear
A Life Worth Living Oct 8, 2022
The Journey Begins
So there I was, dressed in a business suit on a sunny Monday morning, standing shoulder to shoulder with my manager, pushing an ATM machine down a crowded street in Brooklyn, NY.
The funny part was that at the time, I’m sure I had a smile on my face, content with the feeling that I had ‘made' it.
Now that I think back, it's obvious I never had a clear idea of what a perfect 'job' should be.
I've suffered from shiny object syndrome for as long as I can remember, and that applied to my job selection as well.
I would say my ‘career’ began when I spotted an ad in the New York Times Classified section for a part-time teller. Yes, a physical newspaper, you remember those, don't you?
Come interview day, I ended taking a series of buses and subways from Yonkers, NY to downtown Manhattan. I got the job and after a few months at Teller school, I found myself in a suit, working at a bank in the city that never sleeps.
I had finally 'made it'!
Know Your Customer
It was during one of the bank’s programs that we were asked to greet customers by name whenever possible. My bright idea was to note the names of the customers as printed on the checks, and keep a running list on a piece of paper.
So when Suzy from Empire Clothes would present her company’s check, I would say, “Hey Suzy, how are you doing?” Needless to say, it would make their day!
My manager at the time was back in the teller area one day meeting the team. It’s then that he notices this piece of paper with a list of scribbled companies and client names. In hindsight, I realize just how puzzling (and disturbing) this would appear, from the perspective of a branch manager.
After explaining my logic, my boss was impressed enough to promote me out to the bank floor as a Service Representative, meeting with customers face-to-face.
Throughout this letter you’ll hear me talk about this boss. Let’s just call him CG, short for Corporate Godfather. It’s a term I made up, but aptly describes his influence on my career.
Finding a Mentor
About a year in, CG was promoted to a new department and at one of our catch-up lunches, he informed me that he was heading up a program to build check cashing services to serve lower income neighborhoods. The idea was to leverage unused windows in branches with low traffic.
Chase partnered with a software company based in Irvine, CA. The then-fancy software program took the customer’s photo on site, scanned their checks with a reader, and dispensed the cash on their end (minus our fee) from an ATM. Super cool! (for the 90s, that is)
We ended up successfully implementing the program across the five boroughs of NYC. I will never forget the day we launched the Brooklyn location.
We were awaiting a late delivery of the ATM machines that very morning from the vendor. The driver finally arrived, only to inform CG and I that he could only drop it off in the front of the building. The problem was, the entrance to the bank was in the back of the building.
So there we were, in full suits, pushing an empty ATM machine around the corner in an (let’s call it up and coming) neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. I can’t help but guess at the number of folks we passed on the sidewalk that day were wondering if that thing was empty or not.
Fast forward a few years, CG moves on to a better position. I end up taking a job in a new department, testing bank software . Given my proclivity for computers I was once again able to learn on the job.
Then came ‘99 and the dot com craze.
It was a wildly fascinating time. It felt like millionaires were being minted overnight. My friend introduced me to a scrappy entrepreneur, who was starting a portal targeted at Latino culture. Given my Salvadoran roots, I was definitely down!
He called it ‘Latiknow’. Get it? LATI plus KNOW, which unfortunately proved challenging to convince folks it wasn't pronounced ‘Latik-Now’. We gave it our best shot but weren't able to catch that dot come wave.
So there I was with no salary and running out of savings.
I ended getting a job as a waiter at age 30.
While it was a humbling experience, it was also a feeling of doing what needed to be done. In hindsight, it was one of the most fun times I can remember. For those that haven’t worked in the service and hospitality industry, there's nothing like the camaraderie of working long shifts and sharing beers and evenings after work with your crew.
Over the course of the next six months I would continue to have lunch with CG and eventually an opportunity came up in Chase’s new smart card division. I remember him asking me if I knew project management. I said yes.
I was lying.
I ended up getting the job and remember going to Barnes and Noble that weekend to buy three books on project management. It's an important skill I still used to this day!
That job led to a position in the Corporate Card department where again, I undersood the basics, was a quick learner, and soon found myself working as an Implementation Manager. I would travel around the country setting up corporate card programs.
A Family Reunion
Less than a year later, I connected with my half-brother in Atlanta, who had just gotten remarried. I ended up going to visit him and learning about what he had been up to since leaving New York years earlier.
He was a self-starter for sure. He began work as a laborer and eventually worked his way up to his own siding crew. This led to him starting a vinyl siding company and by the time we reunited, had expanded the business to masonry as well.
Things were going well for me in New York, but that entrepreneurial whisper was always there, begging to be heard.
We stayed in touch and, over the course of the next few months, and one more trip back to the ATL, he convinced me to move down to become his General Manager. Needless to say, and no surprise if you’ve made it this far, I knew nothing about the construction business.
The World Watched
It was after having made the decision and breaking the news to CG that I experienced the tragedy of 9/11 from my apartment in the East Village. There's so much more about that day that I may share in the future, but it was a unique experience to live through as a New Yorker.
My office at Chase was three blocks away from the Twin Towers and it was a surreal few weeks to say the least. So, while I was emotionally connected to NYC, which I will always consider home, I knew that I had committed to moving to Atlanta.
It was an intense learning experience and within a few months I was well-versed in blueprint estimates, and accurately bidding on (and winning) several big projects for the company. I found myself regularly awakened by the sound of a Nextel chirp, a common handset in the construction industry. It was a wild and fun two years, but as things tend to go when it comes to family business, it was clearly time to move on.
It was December 2003, and I was staring out the window seat of my Delta flight back home to New York.
I was returning home to live with my parents.
Life has a way of constantly humbling you, and it's tough writing these words again on a Saturday afternoon in my living room.
Earlier that year I had purchased a ticket to Thailand, after reconnecting with a friend I had met a few years back in Amsterdam. He had been asking me to come visit, and so that's how I found myself on a 26-hour journey to the island of Koh Samui, to welcome in 2004.
There's a longer story here about how I almost died on that trip, which I’ve shared on a few stages, but again, a tale for another time.
It took a few more months and a few more lunches before a new opportunity presented itself. CG was now working at E*TRADE, looking for help implementing a business intelligence software called Business Objects. CG asked if I could handle that, and of course I said yes. It was a few weeks later that I found myself in Midtown Manhattan reporting for my first day of work.
Spoiler alert, I had never heard of the Business Objects.
Sorting the Puzzle Pieces
I tell you this long winded story to remind you that not everyone's journey is linear. As cliche as it sounds, you can’t always make sense of the pieces by looking forward.
It's only when you look back and see where things ended up, that you appreciate taking those crazy leaps into the unknown, which would eventually became your life.
I learned SO much, and would force myself into situations where I HAD to figure things out on the spot. It’s a valuable skill that has served me well in my entrepreneurial journey, and a reminder that you don't have to figure it all out before starting.
There's a couple of ideas and stories in this letter, my first long-form post in a long time. I’ll articulate what is happening and what prompted it.
First and foremost, I feel compelled to write about my experiences in the hopes that I can inspire folks of all ages. Maybe this is the writing prompt you need. This is the inspiration you were waiting for.
Maybe you see yourself in me and my varied career journey. You could be at the very beginning, middle or even closing in on the end of yours.
Acknowledge where you are, and give yourself some grace. I am seven pages into my new journal and have no idea how many words I've written. I wrote the first draft of this free hand which is also out of my comfort zone.
But you know what?
When you do the same things over and over again (across decades) and expect to get a different result, that is the very definition of insanity.
This Is My Why
So here I am starting this new writing journey at 51, to demonstrate first to myself, and then to others, that I too am capable of change. It's not that I don't have the proper inspiration and not for lack of trying, albeit halfheartedly. It’s now time to put that all into action.
My goal is to focus and flex this writing muscle and push it out of its comfort zone. My expectation is that through committed commitment to consistency, I will fuel the skill and transfer it to other areas of my life. My health, my relationship, my family, my nutrition, my business and so many other areas I can't even see.
It’s in the world of podcasting where I first heard the phrase, Know, Like and Trust. It's something I remind clients and students of as we begin our podcasting journey together.
That changes with the publication of this letter. If I am to continue to build relationships, and grow my business and network, I feel a responsibility to teach others what I have learned along the way.
I have come to be humbly reminded that no matter what I say, if I am not willing and able to be honest about my ups and downs, how can I possibly expect you to relate?
So this is the part where you get to know me.
I've been heavily inspired in the last few weeks by the words of Dan Koe, and have made it through almost all of his written content online.
The main takeaway from his content which resonates strongly, is this idea that we are all brought here, in this lifetime, with these experiences, to not only have them, but to share our lessons. Then in this way, we each do our part to raise the consciousness of this planet.
As someone who has recently come out of the spiritual closet, and on a spiritual journey for over 20 years, this resonates with me powerfully.
So that's my message to you today.
Remember that every single one of you reading these words has a voice inside of you.
And that voice is a vibration, a story waiting to be told.
You will find, as you begin to share that story, just how cathartic that experience can be.
And you will be the beacon, that inspiration, for just one person who needs to hear this message at the right time.
That person is you, my friend.
I can tell you that I already feel different than I did when I first started writing this letter. My hope is that this inspires you to do the same.
Yes, it's going to be messy and that's OK.
Follow nature's example of the beauty of imperfections. Rocks are not perfectly round and trees don't grow in a straight line.
Your journey is the same.
It is wildly and beautifully imperfect and it's now time to share it.
Don’t wait 30 years like I did.
What I Created Recently
Season 6 of Vertical Farming Podcast launched last week. Thanks to my Platinum Sponsor Cultivatd for their ongoing support.
New Podcast Junkies interviews. Thanks to my sponsor Focusrite for their ongoing support.
Excited to share this new journey with you.
🙋♀️ P.S. When You're Ready...
Here are a few of ways I can help…
✡️Download a free copy of my Conscious Voice Expansion Plan. The most powerful way to transmit and elevate your voice is with a podcast. This plan will outline for you the pillars of success needed prior to the launch of your show!
🎥Watch my free video,5 Key Pillars of a Profitable Podcast that every business owner needs to know prior to launching their show.
🌈 like secrets?