There was so much ahead of me, the world, the life, the entire love affair with the ideas of my future and my future successes. Nobody tells you about the uphill life or the times when the fridge is empty. No one expects the life they find. At least, not really.
There are words that we say when we are young. Perhaps the only reason why we say them is because we are young. We haven’t seen anything yet. We haven’t lived long enough to run into ourselves at the door. We say things like, “That’ll never be me” or “I’ll never do anything like that.” There are times when young people swear, “I’ll never talk to people like that” and they’ll say, “I will never let anybody talk that way to me.”
I’m never gonna sell out.
I’m never gonna be like that “Suit and Tie.”
Uh-huh. I said that too (before I had a mortgage).
I saw myself in such a way yet never knew what to expect. I bought into all the networking ideas and tried to pass myself off as a young entrepreneur. I can remember going out with the crowd and acting as if money was no object; yet, money is certainly an object, especially when you don’t have any. In my case, money was definitely an object when I was on my last few dollars and still trying to act the part.
I remember the different fashions. I remember the different reports from people about their business lives and exchanging business cards. I think back to my past self and see the obvious cracks of insecurity which, of course, is why I tried to fill the naked voids in my personality by dressing the part and filling my shoes.
And watches, yes, watches were a thing for me. They still are. If asked, everyone would brag about their Rolex or their Cartier. They would wear this as a status symbol. They would talk about their Rolex, Daytona or the Submariner. I watched someone talk about their new watch; meanwhile, the obvious differences pointed to the store fronts down by Canal Street. This is where look alike knockoffs are a high commodity for those who like to pose or act as if. Let’s see how far that one goes on the trading room floor.
I suppose my interest in watches began here. Maybe this was because I was listening to someone brag about their new watch. They talked about their new car and their new apartment to an executive in a meeting who listened without a flinch and the Audemars Piguet on the executive’s wrist was a time piece that cost more than the young person’s yearly salary.
I think about this. I think about the time I was listening to someone talk about their temper and tell stories about how tough they were. I think about their ideas of intimidation and tactics to hide their fears. Meanwhile, they were telling this to a person who wore a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and specialized Muay Thai boxing.
I think about the times we work on our defense by creating a mask that decorates us or the way we choose to fill the boots and be the person we claim to be.
I cannot say this is everyone.
But I can say this was me.
I can say that I was lacking. I was afraid. I wanted to fit, to be welcomed, desired, chosen, included, invited and admired.
If I could reach back to the old me and have a conversation, perhaps I would suggest that I learn to stop reacting to the reflex of my insecurity. I would tell the younger me, “Don’t worry about what people tell you.” I’d suggest that everyone has a story. I’d suggest that everyone has a heart. We all have a mind. We have challenges and struggles. We have disputes with ourselves and that our insecurity often speaks louder than we think. In our efforts to cover the cracks to that porcelain figure we call our ego, our measures to hide become our biggest tells.
If I could reach back to the old me or better yet, if I could offer support to anyone who found themselves in the ranks of insecurity, who believed that they (as themselves) were somehow underwhelming or uninteresting; I would promote the ideas that somewhere in there are hopes and dreams, and also obstacles and distractions. Learn to focus on the first. Not the latter.
I can remember a chess game that went on at work. This went on between someone who grew up with much less against someone who grew up with considerably more. And guess who won? Guess who lost not once, not twice, but three times in a row saying, “I shouldn’t be losing like this!”
All of the ivory halls and high priced venues and flowing bank accounts do not cancel out people, their culture or their talents. All of the so-called posturing and hours in a classroom does not mean that someone knows what to do when they find themselves in clenches or fighting for their livelihood.
If I could offer anything, I would offer this: we are working for optionality. We are not working for a living. We are not working to impress anyone or to keep up with the neighbors. I am not working for a Rolex or for a standard that shows that I am successful and brand worthy.
My hours of operation are different from the typical 9-5 business day. I am awake between the hours of 3:30 to 4:30 almost every morning. I come here to improve my skills and create a plan. I am not here to impress anyone. I am not here to posture or pose nor am I here to dissect the success of someone else.
I will no longer analyze the success of anyone else nor will I apologize for my efforts, nor will I excuse myself with a sense of educational or professional laziness if I quit or miss my shot.
I had a conversation with an executive when I began my new journey. The executive applauded my tenacity. He acknowledged my desire and offered a simple piece of advice. “Don’t spread yourself too thin.”
He told me that he wakes up at 4:30 in the morning every day. He said I work and I plan and I offer myself the chance to achieve my goals.
I do the same thing.
I sleep when I can.
I was towards the end of a recent presentation and answering questions about my life. I mentioned that my day starts early and that it often ends late. Someone asked about my sleep. Someone asked what time I went to bed, which is early on some nights. Then again, falling asleep and staying asleep is not the same thing.
I am working for optionality. I am up early, like now, with a cup of coffee. I am writing my thoughts down, which is more of a starting mechanism that churns the ignition to my day. My goals are to create a life where I have the options of choosing what I want for myself. This means personally, professionally, physically and emotionally.
I do not want my life to be subject to anyone else; therefore, to the best of my ability, I am here to create the best options possible. And for me, the options I want for myself are better than a Rolex and certainly better than the Daytona model. Besides, a Swatch keeps better time. And you can pick one of them up for less than 50 bucks.
I have earned the right to “Be” without apology.
And by the way, so have you.