How I Gave Up and Learned To Love Sign-Spinning – Origin Story Part 1

Published November 9, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“You’re, uh, okay with wearing a costume, right?”

“Yep,” I replied, with zero hesitation…although I took a moment to inwardly ponder what my life had come to…

I was at a job interview, which consisted only of my future manager confirming I had a car, was able to work fulltime, could start that Sunday…and that I was willing to wear a giant hundred-dollar bill costume. Or Santa Claus, during the approaching Christmas season.

It was easy to understand why the application process for this gig was so perfunctory. My responsibilities would consist of dancing, waving, and spinning around a sign on various street corners, to attract customers into a store where they could sell their gold and silver.

“This is too good to be true,” I kept thinking, “It’s so perfect.”

Let me backtrack and explain why my life had arrived at this point.

Especially considering I had a goal to become a millionaire by this age…

Instead, I was facing an impending bankruptcy. Roughly a year ago, a business of mine dried up. In another that I was involved with, a principle partner (who controlled the bank account) opted to stop sending me checks. Suing would have been more trouble than it would have been worth, I surmised, so I let that go and focused solely on improving my own lot.

After a year of trying to prime the pump on my sputtering business, I knew I needed to get a job for food and rent money. Pronto. Just a temporary gig until I got back on my feet.

I was living in downtown Denver, CO, in a nice apartment I could no longer afford.


If I didn’t have my financial head up my ass, I would never have signed a lease for it in the first place

So when reality hit me like being force-fed a tray of ice cubes, one day I sat down and tried to figure out what kind of job I was qualified for.

In my mind…not many. I had no college degree. I’d been out of the workforce since before high school (not counting self-employment). Getting a gig in a marketing position would be tricky. It might take a while. I needed money, like, right now.

So I hopped onto Craigslist, and selected the category appropriate for the other strength I brought to the table: General Labor. I was 25 years old and in good shape.

That’s when I saw the ad for a full-time sign spinner

I fantasized how awesome it would be: I could show up…do my thing…listen to audiobooks all day…and then go home and work on my business. Imagine getting paid to do that! I figured it wouldn’t happen…

…but it did. Two weeks after replying to the ad (and by that time I had forgotten about it…interesting, eh?) I got a phone call from a manager at the business, so I drove on over. And shortly after I affirmed I was cool wearing a costume, he hired me.

That Sunday, I drove to the store to begin my first shift. Like I mentioned before, the business was a chain of stores buying gold and silver. This was in December, 2011, and you might recall the value of gold was rocketing up. People with gold jewelry were eager to sell for cash. This business, along with a bunch of competitors, sprang up out of nowhere and by the time they hired me, they were already five locations strong and were opening more.

Important side-note: For the past several years, I had been socially isolated. So not only was this my first time working an actual job as an adult, but a big leap into interacting with other people on a daily basis.

It shook me to the core…

What was interesting, though, was how this job seemed tailored to ease me into the experience, like dipping a sore body into a hot tub. Let me explain:

Each “store” was really just one room with a waiting area (a couch and TV) and a “buying station” that consisted of a buyer at a desk, who tested out the gold and silver and made the potential customer an offer. The buyer was my de facto manager for the day. So unlike a large retail or grocery store that bustles with people, every workday was just me and a single buyer. 80% of the time, it was a cute girl around my age or slightly younger. Again, interesting how the universe works. Not only was I getting paid to interact with attractive women (and I seriously needed the practice) but they were my freaken managers as well. As I’ll get into later, this was both a great… and often painful… learning experience.

Anyway, my first day was a blast. I cranked up an audiobook, headed outside, and waved to traffic while holding my sign. After a few minor pointers from the buyer during my first break, I was practically a pro.

Before beginning, I wondered if this job would enable me to practice standing meditations, but the constant movement precluded that for the most part. Still, as I’ll detail later, I would be able to meditate in many ways.

So that Sunday was a cinch. Monday would be a little trickier…

…mostly because it was around 20 degrees out the whole day, and a blizzard

I wore a Santa Claus costume on top of my three layers of winter clothing, which helped protect me from the bitter cold. Now, imagine this:

My job was full-time. I was required to be out the door by 10:05AM. From there, sign spinners like myself were encouraged to stay outside for a full two hours before coming in for our first break. Constant movement and waving of our signs, was emphasized. We had to make sure to always face oncoming traffic at all times, from our position on the sidewalk in front of the store. We were allowed three, ten-minute breaks per day, plus half an hour for lunch. We were allowed to come in at 5:50PM to begin cleaning up for the day.

At all other times, we were outside, pretty much no matter what the weather… no matter how tired we felt… or anything else.

Five days per week.

Many guys who were hired, quit their first day. Sometimes, in the first hour…

Me? I loved it. Standing on my feet was easy. The weather, I could prepare for. I brought a jug of water with me. I prepared a list of audiobooks. And, instead of stressing out all day over interactions with people and performing mental tasks… I just had to move around and wave a sign. For someone with my goals and disposition, it was almost blissful. Almost.

Like I said before, it was almost like the universe handpicked this job just for me. Which is probably why, instead of being a temporary gig, I stayed at the company for almost three years. In fact, eventually I’d completely take over their marketing, partied with the owner, had shouting matches with managers, and experienced bizarre spiritual events while outside that I still regard in awe when I recall them today.

This was in between bouts of getting shouted at and flipped off by people in cars

And harassed (sometimes physically) by people walking the streets. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is enough for a first post. In the next one, I’ll get into some of the weird things I experienced while standing on my feet on a street corner alone for hours and weeks and months on end, and neat lessons I learned. All of them would come in handy as my life transitioned and I eventually became prosperous…