Competing for a Truck-Loading Job – Origin Story Part 25

Published May 4, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

I sat in my car, watching snow whip around the nearly-empty library parking lot.

Did I screw up? Maybe the open interviews were cancelled?

I decided I could only wait and wonder… until I saw the library finally open 5 minutes before 12PM, and people showed up in droves. Suddenly, my worries turned to the competition. Better, at least, to get ahead of them.

I strode inside, and found the right place on the second floor

People swarmed about. I was directed to fill out a bunch of forms. They prodded about any traffic infractions, which I found odd.

Finally, I sat in front of the head recruiter, a middle-aged blonde woman. She took one look at me and asked, “Can you cut your hair?”

“Yeah.” While working as a sign-spinner, I had let it grow to almost shoulder-length.

“… Can you cut it now?”

“… Yeah.”

She explained that the warehouse was stuffed with machinery and moving parts. My potential employers might worry about my hair getting caught. Plus, she reasoned, they’d prefer a more clean-cut look anyway.

“You’re my guy!” she affirmed

I could sense the shift in the energy – I knew I was in. Suddenly the room full of competition took on a new light. The recruiter was looking for just a couple people who fit the bill, and that was a tougher gig than I thought, even with the mass of applicants.

Suddenly, a woman sitting nearby chimed in, giving me directions to a local barbershop.

First comes the shift, then the stars align. I was enjoying the ride…

… but I had to hustle. This was just the first step. The next would take place at the company’s warehouse. And I had to squeeze a haircut in between.

I thanked the recruiter, darted out of there, and drove to the barbershop. There, I explained I needed a crew-cut fast… and a potential job depended on it.

For the next few minutes, I watched the locks of hair I’d grown over the past couple years, fall to the floor. Then, looking slightly spiffier, I sped to the warehouse.

The lobby was packed with applicants, patiently waiting for their second interview to begin

My confidence remained full-blast. Only a couple men were in the room (I doubted any of the 100-pound women were applying for the truck-loading position, which turned out to be an accurate assumption).

The HR guy, Bob, called me into his office. I immediately felt relaxed as we conversed.

I made sure to emphasize how I broke down and cleared out offices in my previous job. Sure, it was only near the end, but it directly related to unloading trucks.

“Did you ever transport the gold?” Bob asked.

Hmmm, I thought to myself… and then remembered the day I helped take it to the post office, when the owner let me borrow his SUV for an interview.

“Yes, I did, one time,” I said.

“Okay, so they trusted you… ” he said, while scribbling on his papers.

Whoa.

The dude was sharp

I made it to the next round, and quickly learned the day in the warehouse wouldn’t be so much an interview as a crucible of physical and mental tests.

Two other guys and I were lead through the heart of the warehouse, into another office. There, we were given timed tests to figure out number sequences and match certain names together. Both tests had four-minute time limits, and finishing on-time was impossible, by design. I admired the ingenious way to judge our abilities.

Before leaving us, Bob said, “We’re going to hire two or three guys so you don’t have to kill each other.”

I plowed through both tests. Of course, taking a test is one thing. Performing under “live fire” is quite another… as I’d soon discover…

Then another man, Ted, sauntered into the office. Each one of his arms looked about the size of my legs.

He asked us a few questions. One candidate, a large Hispanic man named Salvador, answered first and I jumped in second. The other guy spoke last, and began his answer with “I won’t regurgitate… ” Heh, not a good word to use. I could sense him slipping out of the running.

We were herded back into the main lobby. Bob popped in through the doorway, and asked to speak with the third guy.

We never saw him again

But the day was just beginning. Next, Salvador and I were lead back into the warehouse – this time for the weirdest part of the “interview” I’d ever experience…

Applying For a Shitty – Literally – Job – Origin Story Part 24

Published March 26, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

Life after working at the gold-buying store begins…

As we drove away from the store for the last time, my co-worker regaled me with how she was going to scam the unemployment system. The scheme was simple:

Say you sign up to collect unemployment. You must select your former employer from a database of recently bankrupt businesses. Then, every two weeks you get paid. However, you must submit proof that you’re looking for work. This can be done with something as simple as documentation that you’ve applied for five different jobs every two weeks. (When it comes to the specific numbers, I’m going off memory here.)

The deviousness, of course, is in the details

You can apply for jobs on the Department of Labor’s database. And you choose your standards for a potential job, which means you can select criteria that you’re grossly underqualified for. My co-worker made sure she was only sent information about jobs that paid almost six figures and required a PhD. She’d apply to them all, and would never hear back from a single one (probably). But she was still fulfilling her required “work” to collect unemployment for months and months.

For all I know, that’s exactly what she did while living off savings and her husband’s income.

(If you’ve ever attempted to hire employees, and were inundated with garbage resumes and applications… this scam might have been why. You were simply a blip on the sender’s bi-weekly effort to keep the unemployment spigot on.)

Anyway, I dropped her off, returned the Uhaul…

… settled back into my Aurora condo, and crawled under the covers for early sleep

The next morning, I awoke feeling like I was still in a dream.

The light shining through my tiny condo seemed stale and still.

Since becoming a sign-spinner, I’d changed cities… met dozens of new people… formed relationships… felt my heart open… blasted through challenges… heck even went through a bankruptcy… and through it all I had one common, comforting string:

The sign-spinning.

And now that was gone.

It felt like my tether rope had just snapped

I had managed to grab a few mementos. One of the business’s posters. A sign I spun. A t-shirt. And a pair of shoes gifted to me by a fellow sign-spinner. In the next three months, I’d punish them to shreds.

But for the time being, I rummaged through Craigslist, continuing my job search.

On Monday, I drove to what I thought was a simple unloading job on a dock… but would turn out to be probably the grossest job for which I’ll ever apply.

At the address, I found a little office nestled in between massive industrial equipment – like a refinery.

Inside, a secretary and little dog greeted me with an equal level of enthusiasm. He (the dog) sort of sniffed my hand a bit when I placed it near enough to give him the option.

“I guess he kinda likes me,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s not too enthusiastic.”

I was directed to a room with some forms to fill out. Another man there, was already halfway through them. We talked about marriage. He highly recommended it.

Then I went in for my interview

The patches of frostbitten skin covering my interviewer’s face revealed his decades of outdoor labor.

“Are you scared of heights?” he asked.

“… A little.”

I wasn’t going to lie. But, I suppose a more truthful answer would have been heights terrify me. This wasn’t going well.

“Are you scared of confined spaces?”

“No.”

“Now that’s a surprising answer. There are two kinds of people who can’t handle small spaces. Guys like me…” (he was a big guy) “… and guys like you.” He was referring to my height.

I pondered that a bit… and wondered if maybe I could get claustrophobic, if given the opportunity. But I wasn’t about to pontificate my speculative doubts out loud. Especially when a job was on the line, and I already had one strike against me.

At least he didn’t ask me about back taxes owed

Instead, he began describing exactly what the company did, and what my role would be. When I first saw the brief Craigslist ad, I had visions of unloading boxes of produce or something.

The truth was closer to this:

I’d don a protective Hazmat suit complete with oxygen tank, crawl inside a tanker full of human shit, and scrap the inner walls clean of shit residue

Maybe I had some details wrong, but that sounded like the essence.

The family-owned company contracted with other companies that used portable toilets. These guys would drive their trucks in, suck all the collected shit and urine out, and transport it back to their refining facility. They’d drain their trucks of the shit, and then a couple guys (in the position for which I was applying) would mop up the remainder from inside.

“It’s hard… dirty… smelly work,” he said.

Okay, maybe he hadn’t mentioned smelly.

Truth be told, I hardly recoiled at the nastiness of the work. Instead, I worried about how physically tough it’d be. Sign-spinning’s ease and simplicity was such a blessing. I feared my multi-year respite was over.

More than fear. I was terrified.

My interviewer grabbed a stack of filled-out forms from other applicants. “This is my week ahead.”

Oy.

So even getting this shitty (literally) job was a long-shot

Still, I knew the raw odds were an illusion – displaying a modicum of common sense and congeniality in an interview can be quite the leg-up.

As I drove home, I felt it went perfectly. Not because I knew I’d get the job… simply because I was meant to show up and do my thing, whatever the outcome.

Open interviews for the laundry company truck-loading job, were the next day.

It would be the strangest, multi-hour-long interview process I’d ever experienced…

My Final Day Sign-Spinning – Origin Story Part 23

Published March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

On March 15th, 2014, I ambled outside for my final shift as a sign-spinner.

On the southeast corner of Wadsworth and Mississippi, in Lakewood, Colorado, I listened to some music… a bit of an audiobook… and finally pulled down my headphones so I could take in the din of traffic.

I teared up, drowning in the dreadful knowledge that this chapter in my life was over.

Earlier in the day, two other guys and I closed the second-to-last store. I’d developed quite the reputation for clumsiness, and somehow managed to spill about fifty paper cups while loading a drinking fountain into the Uhaul. The guys couldn’t stop laughing. We ate some breakfast – our last meal together – and drove back to the final store.

After unloading everything, I headed outside to sign-spin one last time. If nothing else, for nostalgia.

I thought about the amazing people I’d met

One woman who’d overcome cancer in her teens, without chemo or radiation…

A man raising a child as a single father, who worked his way up from sign-spinner to buyer in the store…

Someone who’d immigrated from Russia as a teenager, and was working on a second Master’s degree here in the states…

The sign-spinner who did real-estate and dabbled in deejaying part-time…

The functioning alcoholic…

The ones who partied… meditated… smoked weed… were going to school…

… and too many more to list. I vividly felt how we weren’t exactly on the same wavelength, but I cherished my time with them, and listening to their stories.

Over and over I checked the time on my MP3 player, relishing every minute I had left

With about 2 minutes to go, I turned north to see the crosswalk light flashing the number of seconds left for pedestrians.

“Funny,” I thought, “It’s almost like a countdown timer for me.”

10…

9…

8…

The world around me quieted as I stared at the numbers.

3…

2…

1…

Huh.

It was over

Well, I had two minutes left…

… but then a new feeling washed over me.

“Oh. It DID end.”

Everything felt flat. The noise of traffic was jarring and somehow alien. I felt so… out of place… standing there. The grief was gone. I knew I had moved on. A tiny bit ahead of schedule.

I said my goodbyes and walked back into the store.

There were still a couple hours left in the official workday. For no good reason, the remaining half-dozen people lingered around. The owner sat on the floor, legs crossed, distracting himself by playing with his German Shephard.

I may have been done with sign-spinning, but I still soaked up every moment I could inside the store. Because what faced me on the other side made my stomach churn:

Unemployment

But there was nothing to do… except frantically search through Craigslist for another job. I was back to where I started almost three years before. Nothing in the section for Marketing seemed to fit.* From the General Labor section, I could only find a few prospects…

… and one stood out. Actually, it was a post I’d seen a few weeks earlier, and had considered applying for back then. It was a job loading trucks for a commercial laundry company. From the description, it sounded like I could do it, and it seemed like the hiring process gave me an above-average chance of success. But the surface logic I was imputing, wasn’t my real attraction to the post.

The real reason was… something about the job listing felt right. A slight calmness came over me when I first saw it. I got the same reaction – although stronger – when I saw it a second time.

So I wrote down the info.

Finally, 6PM arrived – the usual time we closed for the day.

As good a time as any to leave forever

The owner and his girlfriend planned to hang around and pack some stuff. The rest of us shuffled past them as if to give our condolences, and said our goodbyes, one at a time. I was last.

The owner’s girlfriend gave me a couple gift cards for PayLess, and made me promise I’d use them to buy a new pair of shoes. I said I would (a promise I would keep… which would lead to an odd “leap of faith” turning point in my life).

I shook the owner’s hand and thanked him one last time. He quickly thanked me too, barely able to look me in the eye.

Outside, the Uhaul truck waited for me. As I latched the back shut, I choked back my tears so my co-worker wouldn’t see me crying.

Then came a weekend in limbo…

 

*If I weren’t in such a chronically-high cortisol-induced haze, I’m sure I would have been more creative in my efforts to get marketing gigs (apart from my constant testing in my direct mail business). This experience has given me a new appreciation for the mental challenges when raising one’s self out of poverty.

My Sleep Rampage Gets Ugly

Published January 20, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

I am on a sleep rampage.

Yesterday, I made the decision to defend my sleep with the ferocity of a mother grizzly protecting her cubs.

This has been percolating for some time.

Years ago, when I loaded trucks for a living, I discovered a good night’s sleep could make the difference between a 12-hour shift of exhilarating challenges…

… and 14 hours of soul-crushing labor.

The lesson stuck with me, but my challenges with sleep shifted along with my lifestyle.

I needed another wake-up call. And I got one in the form of slogging through several nights in a row, where I’d drift off around 11PM, only to awaken around 2AM… and remain that way.

I’d try to relax back to sleep… get up and take melatonin and some relaxing herbs… and found the only “solution” was to get some reading done. Not because it helped me sleep – reading was merely a way to make use of the time.

Around 6AM, close to when I was going to get up anyway, I’d finally drift in and out of a funk… and then grudgingly start my day.

Because of my exercise and meditation habits, I could actually function like this for a while.

But there’s a big difference between feeling just fine, and working through the dulling blanket of exhaustion tainting every little moment…

… and pulsating with creative energy and relishing your life.

I chose the latter.

So I had a problem to solve. Because of my wired mind at night, I figured cortisol was gushing through me when it wasn’t meant to. Or I had a drop in blood sugar (a frequent cause of suddenly waking up around 2-3AM). I decided to experiment with my evening meal. Then I wondered if the nootropics I began recently taking, were at fault. In fact, I figured the latter was the answer.

Nope. Something else was ruining my sleep, and I’ll reveal that in a moment.

Finally, after another night with only two or maybe three hours of sleep, I happened to be facilitating a MasterMind meeting with some fellow entrepreneurs. I brought up my sleep problem. One of my guests suggested something that I figured wasn’t the answer… but I was willing to try.

She was right.

Before I reveal the answer, here are the actions I took before finally having my breakthrough.

I…

  1. Began preparing for bed around 8:30PM (now, I’m striking the “around” and replacing with “at”).
  2. Woke up before 7AM (I used to lie around in bed a bit, as I saw fit. No more).
  3. Engaged in daily exercise and meditation.
  4. Installed fl.ux on my laptop to reduce my blue light exposure after sunset.
  5. Took various supplements and supplemental collagen. As well as ashwagandha and ginseng in the afternoon and evening.
  6. Ensured there are zero electronic lights in my bedroom. I unplugged my clock.
  7. Put an Earthing mat on my bed
  8. Ran an air filter – and I covered up the lights with a shirt because the genius who designed this filter, put some flashing blue lights at the top, which emit light even at night.

That wasn’t enough.

Here’s what I was missing:

In the past, I’d have a morning cup of coffee, and then another after lunch. Usually around 2PM. Sometimes closer to 3PM. This wasn’t a problem before. However, through testing, I’ve discovered this afternoon cup of coffee contributed to me waking up around 2-3AM. Per my friend’s suggestion, I eliminated the afternoon coffee.

It worked. I’ve more-or-less slept through the night since then.

And now that I’m feeling the difference (and fondly remembering all the days I began well-rested) I’m on a rampage.

What I’m doing now:

  1. Experimenting with eye patches to completely block light when I’m in bed.
  2. Putting a salt lamp nightlight in my bathroom, so I don’t have to turn on my regular, bright lights when taking my evening shower.
  3. Using calming essential oils at night.
  4. Installing Twilight on my phone, a program similar to fl.ux that works on a Samsung. Not that I’m using my phone much at all at night, however I do program my morning alarm then and even if there’s a chance I do more, I want the blue light blocked.
  5. Gradually lowering the temperature in my bedroom.
  6. Wearing the same sleepwear as Tom Brady, which apparently emits far-infrared energy into your body, to reduce inflammation and regulate cell metabolism. The concept actually has research behind it (see here). What the heck. I’ll try it. I’m sure wearing this sort of thing was crucial for Tom landing Gisele Bündchen.

Because of this sleep improvement, I’m also testing an increase in my workout schedule. I used to do HIIT training with three days of rest in between sessions. I’m reducing that to two.

Long-term, I’m moving closer to nature and away from the city.

But wherever I end up… if you find me and I’m sleeping… don’t wake me up!

UPDATE On 2-4-17:

I was wrong.

After a couple more days of restricting my caffeine intake, and failing to sleep through the night, I realized late-day caffeine was not the culprit. After consulting with someone, I tested something else:

Late-day EATING.

For several days, I cut off all eating after 2PM. My sleep immediately improved and has remained that way. Even when I drink coffee up to 2PM. So now I’m testing the waters to see if I can eat certain foods later in the day. Either way, I’m thrilled I found the answer and am enjoying the benefits of more restful sleep.

Applying to be a Denver Marijuana Trimmer – Origin Story Part 22

Published December 25, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

While scrambling through Craigslist for a full-time, easy-ass job to pay the bills… I thought I hit paydirt:

Marijuana trimmer.

After conferring with some co-workers (who had extensive knowledge of the field), trimming marijuana plants is apparently a big enough deal that it necessitates crews of full-time workers to get the job done.

I’d never thought of it before, but it made sense. (Out of all Colorado denizens, I was and am the most ignorant of the entire industry. Call that a reflection of my dorky, sheltered life.)

Anyhoo, the company said they wanted 10-20 people – no experience required.

I liked those odds… and standards

So I wrote down the address for the open interview session and, while looking around the backroom where I worked, pondered a new life as a marijuana trimmer.

My cubicle had officially been buried in a maze of old equipment and supplies from stores I had closed. We had shriveled to two locations, from eleven. Within days, it would be zero.

On the day of the interview, the gold store owner was nice enough to lend me his car – making me the only guy applying for the $10-per-hour job in a Lincoln Navigator.

As soon as I found the place downtown, I discovered landing this job wouldn’t be a lay-up.

A line of people spilled out the front doors

As I parked, I noticed the line snaking around the side of the building.

Ugh… well, I was already there. No point in just giving up.

So I got in line, amongst maybe one hundred people. More piled behind me.

While waiting, I talked a bit with a woman helping herd the crowd along. She said she’d been hired as a trimmer just a few months before, but had already been promoted.

Well, that’s a good sign, I thought.

Once I finally got around the side of the building (progress!) I looked into the distance and saw something inspiring.

It was one of the tallest buildings in Denver, The Spire.

It contained luxury residences I’d lusted after – especially one at the very top, that faced the city and the mountains

And I could see that very unit, peeking above the roofs of all the buildings surrounding me. It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed such a thing: While opening my business checking account a couple years before, I saw it while staring out the window. Like a massive monolith.

A good omen, I decided. Whatever the outcome.

After maybe an hour of inching forward in line, five more people were allowed inside. Including me. We scampered through the doors, inside to discover…

… another line, again snaking around the corner.

Oh come on! I thought.

The entire afternoon, potentially wasted

If I’d known it was this long, I would have abandoned the idea from the beginning.

But because I was already there…

(That’s called the Sunk Cost Fallacy)

Finally, the line terminated in a large back room where four employees manned counters. Almost like check-out lines at a supermarket.

Except, instead of processing merchandise, they were interviewing everyone rapid-fire. No chairs, no resumes, and not much privacy either.

The excitement and fast pace was contagious, and I let it slip into my demeanor when I got called to one of the “registers.” The interview was a blur. I made sure to focus on something I figured was a hot-button for them: Dependability. I forget most of the questions he asked me. (Maybe one was “Are you good with scissors?”)

But one question I’ll never forget

“Do you owe taxes from previous years?”

“… Yes.”

“Ah sorry – it’s against Colorado law for a dispensary to hire someone who isn’t paying their taxes.”

“Oh, I’m definitely paying them – on a payment plan. It’s just that I do owe back taxes.”

“Ah gotcha.”

Whew, good thing I clarified that…

He then proceeded to nicely tell me that they were doing interviews just an as initial “get to know you round” and that they’d call me in a couple days for the next one. Or something to that effect.

Everything happened so fast, and I was so excited to finally reach the head of the line and finish…

… that I actually believed him

By the time I drove back to the gold-buying store, I surmised (correctly) I’d never hear from them.

While handing the owner back his car keys, I braced myself against the chaos in the store. He’d advertised a massive yard sale of all his office supplies, and the vultures were swarming. One guy even bought a computer, but swiped a more valuable one and walked off with it.

The afternoon’s sales shrunk the clutter, but only a little.

And in a few days, I’d spend my last ever shift as a sign-spinner, and trudge away unemployed…

Use This Magic 10-Word Phrase When Introducing Yourself at a Business Meeting

Published December 16, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

You’re sitting at a networking event, waiting for your turn as people introduces themselves one by one.

“Hey everyone, I’m…” someone begins.

They describe who they are and what they do. You catch bits and pieces. Most of it you barely remember, because you’re too busy wondering what to do when it’s your turn…

“What’s the right thing to say?”

“I feel like such a beginner compared to these people.”

“I hope I can impress everyone.”

“I hope I can meet the right people.”

If you’re at a networking event or conference and your top priority is to learn and meet great people who can help take you to the next level… there’s a certain 10-word phrase you need to try at least once.

Because it works like magic

(On the other hand, if you’re #1 goal is to win some clients, avoid this phrase. It’s also not for when you’re at a meeting for a company that employs you, unless it has a certain culture. You’ll see why in a moment.)

This magic 10-word phrase accomplishes many things simultaneously. Its magic power is derived from subtle communication, the true difference-maker (especially when it comes to becoming wealthy, attracting the opposite sex with uncanny ability, and living a charmed life).

Okay, so let’s imagine this phrase in action…

Finally, the person to your left introduces himself, and you hardly hear what he says because you’re focusing on how you’re going to speak next (another mistake, but we’ll work on that later).

Then, the room grows quiet and eyes shift to you.

In the past, you were nervous and unsure

But today… you’re doing your best to hold back your Cheshire Cat grin because you know everyone in this room is about to love you.

You take a deep, dramatic breath in and say:

“My name’s… and…” then the phrase, “… I’m here to get my head out of my ass.”

(Then a little pause if there’s a reaction.)

“Okay, here’s what I mean…”

Then talk about your business, or whatever the focus of the meeting is. Describe what you want to accomplish. List out the roadblocks you’re experiencing, including the solutions you’ve tried. Add a little about how it’s been making you feel. Then your call-to-action. Say you’d love some advice and to meet some great people who could help.

Done

If this seems like a ridiculous way to begin an introduction, then let’s go over the subtle communication:

  1. You’re confident. Sheepish people would never say such a thing for a first impression.
  2. You’re fun. You don’t take yourself too seriously, and that’s magnetic to other people – especially those with high self-esteem. Those are the only people you want gravitating towards you.
  3. You’re humble. This is a wonderful trait to communicate if someone already thinks you’re confident, because there’s a risk of coming across as arrogant.
  4. You’re okay with dropping the bullshit of looking polished and “arrived.” This is a bit more nebulous than the previous traits mentioned, but it deserves special attention. Many people shuffle through the business world concerned about their image to the point of being hoisted by their own petard (Google it if you need to, it’s a cool phrase). Image is crucial, but best build through a solid foundation, not a façade. If you’re a beginner in a certain area of life and you’re struggling, own it. Wearing your current “head up your ass” state of being with acceptance is very magnetic and charming.

Keep in mind, this works both ways. If you get a negative reaction, this is valuable feedback. But not necessarily against you. Instead, it probably means your group contains a bunch of overbearing, stick-up-their-ass, arrogant people. Not the kind you want to hang around unless you’re fishing for clients.

One thing’s for sure when you use this 10-word magic phrase…

You will stand out

Everyone else in the room just tried to put their best foot forward. You, on the other hand, gave everyone a jolt of pleasure with your humor, and showed them what a great person you are, instead of telling them.

Which helps, because hardly anyone listens or remembers facts, anyway.

This idea isn’t original with me – I’ve seen very successful businessmen deploy it. One approached some office staff during a meeting, stood there, and simply said, “My incompetent ass.”

After getting a laugh, and a request for more details, he revealed he needed help connecting to the WIFI. They did it for him.

Another man helping run a $50,000,000-per-year business introduced himself in a high-level meeting by saying, “We want to suck less.” Two years later, they’re up to $120,000,000 per annum, so he’s no fool.

Try it out, and marvel at how eager people are to contribute to a head-ass-removal procedure.

Spying On Denver Marijuana Dispensaries – Origin Story Part 21

Published December 12, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

A little after 10:00AM, I sat in my car, notebook in hand, watching people.

I was parked in the lot of a Denver marijuana dispensary, counting how many people braved the blizzard to shop inside.

As they piled in, I noted their gender, and whether they looked in their 20s, 40s, or older.

I kept watching… marking down stats… and hoping no one would catch me spying…

… for more than seven straight hours

When I felt too frozen in my car, I started the engine and blasted the heat for a few minutes. Did some deep breathing exercises and meditations. And wondered where my life would be in a few months.

The owner had sent me on a spying mission. He was interested in opening some dispensaries in Colorado, and wanted to see what kind of market demand there was.

Save for the cold, that day’s mission was a nice break from fussing about in an office of a crumbling business.

I counted more than a hundred customers swarm the dispensary on a snowy day where many would hesitate to drive to the grocery store.

Definitely a lucrative business to get into…

… unlike the one we were in.

Around this time, I closed three more stores in one swoop. Before that, I chauffeured my co-worker friend around so she could lay people off. I’d worked with these folks for months – even years. But one 60-second conversation later… and we’d never see each other again.

I would have been really depressed, had I not felt so scared.

On another day, my co-worker friend and I called every single county in Colorado, to find out their laws and regulations for selling marijuana. That gave me a doorway into the weird and wacky ins-and-outs of local governments:

“I’m calling about your county’s laws and regulations regarding marijuana.”

“You have to ask an attorney – we can’t give legal advice.”

“I’m not asking for advice – just what the actual laws are.”

“I can’t tell you that!”

Some of the most rural, middle-of-nowhere counties surprised me, though, and sent detailed PDFs on how to start a marijuana business in their jurisdiction.

I hoped the owner would start this new business soon, and that I could be a part of it. I also wondered if we could keep the current one going as well. My online marketing was working. And with the store closures, we evaporated hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses…

… but it backfired

The landlord of the first location we closed, sued the company. And somehow, even before a judgement was made, this former landlord managed to vacuum every last penny out of the business’s bank account.

The owner admitted to me that he called his bank in a panic, demanding at least enough funds remain to make payroll. He succeeded. He also admitted he cried in the office alone that night. It was hard to imagine a guy like him in that state… but I knew all too well what he was suffering through.

The State of Colorado sent a letter to the company’s accountant, demanding to garnish my wages. I called them to negotiate (as in, explain to them how broke I was) but they wouldn’t give in.

During a lunch break, I drove back to the law firm I’d retained for my first bankruptcy, to discuss going through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It’s an interesting hybrid designed to unload taxes owed.

The lawyer had converted half his office into a used car lot.

It… sort of… made sense

When someone goes through a bankruptcy, they frequently need a new car and don’t have the credit for a loan.

The lawyer said I could go through the Chapter 13, and have my remaining debt organized into a payment plan. I’d have to take a second job to afford it. Driving back to work and thinking things over, I refused to go through with it. There had to be a better way out. A curious relief washed over me. I couldn’t tell if it were a sign, or my body giving me a respite from the constant grief and stress.

The state moved forward with my garnishment, but they reduced it to a mere $75 per week. Still, my remaining pay was so low, it was like I was making $9 per hour.

Around this time, I deployed my friend’s $3000 loan for my own business’s marketing test.

I watched the numbers day by day.

I hoped this would work, and give me some light at the end of the tunnel.

It failed

Then, I faced paying back the loan… barely enough income to afford rent and food… and possible unemployment.

A friend of the owner visited town, to strategize busting into the marijuana industry. Him, his assistant, the owner, and my co-worker friend spent a couple days discussing all the details. I wasn’t included.

I never would find out if they went through with it.

On the first day of March, 2014, the owner asked me to come talk in his office.

I sat down and he said, “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. We’re closing. Like, closing closing.”

Oh. After thinking a bit, I realized the time I’d just spent sign-spinning outside that day, might have been my last.

The news really hit me then

“Well,” I told him, “Nobody could ever say you didn’t do everything you could to make it work.” It was true – I’d watched the man eat and breathe the business – taking customer calls seven days per week, working all hours, and obsessing over every detail.

But it was over. Almost three years before, I’d found that job on Craigslist. So, right after walking out of the owner’s office, I sat at my desk and returned to the site, to see where I could land next…

… and that was how I ended up competing with over a hundred other people for a job trimming marijuana plants.

Next time…

The Downward Spiral Begins – Origin Story Part 20

Published December 9, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“I just lost $12,000!”

It was April 15th, 2013.

Most folks in the U.S. think of that day as nothing more than a scramble to get their taxes filed, if anything.

But anyone passionate about investing in gold and silver, might remember that as one of the biggest drops for gold prices, in history.

I owned zero gold at that point, but still remember the day because of the cold dread it swept through the office.

Imagine you buy a few thousand dollars’ worth of gold, and it drops almost 10% in price the very next day…

Now imagine you own an entire business that buys gold, and only profits when you re-sell it.

Except, every minute you hold onto the stuff, it’s losing value

Now imagine an entire year of that.

That’s why the owner walked into the office that day, and declared he lost twelve grand. Simply because of a big blip in the price chart. He had a smile on his face and chuckled as he admitted the loss. The man was a living, jovial example of treating money as a game.

At the time, we had nine stores in the Denver area and one in Fort Collins. Within a few months, I helped close one of them. Three other sign-spinners and I showed up, hauled the furniture into a Uhaul truck, packed up all the supplies, and stripped the entire store bare. Then we transported everything back to the main office.

We did all this without telling the landlord what we were up to. After several failed negotiations with the landlord, my boss decided to simply move out and stop paying the rent. I imagine the landlord figured out what happened when he visited the place to see an empty storefront.

That decision would come back to haunt us all, in a devastating way…

During this final year, I became friends with a woman who worked her way up the ranks, all the way to managing the entire business.

As fate would have it, we carpooled together on days I worked in the main office. Getting to know her was the perfect complement to delving into the world behind our “time and space” existence. She spent her money without keeping track… but always had enough. She didn’t care about getting raises or promotions… but ended up in a position of corporate power. She was absolutely, unapologetically herself with little to zero catering to other people… and was incredibly magnetic to others. She worked hard, had a sense of deservingness, and a vapid detachment from everything… the perfect combination to attract what she wanted.

Watching her and the owner work together in such synergy was awe-inspiring… and I hated it. They read each other’s minds like a long-married but still-happy couple.

I was the third wheel. Many times when we were talking in the owner’s office together, I’d make an interjection and noticed the owner and her exchanging a glance. For them, it was a subtle signal. For me, it was a sledge-hammer smashing home the message:

“Nate, you’re on the outside.”

As the business collapsed, they talked, lamented, and laughed together… while I languished like the proverbial square peg, slipping out of the round hole it’s grown used to… and is desperately clinging to.

I yearned to be more involved… to be a decision-maker, and part of the business strategy. But I was so obviously out of my element. She was so clearly in her perfect place…

… and I grew to despise her.

It didn’t help that I began to see her dark side. She quietly, but gleefully, enjoyed her influence over the owner. Especially when it came to firing people. She loved her pet dogs more than her husband. And her habit of laughing at others was so ingrained, at times she literally had to cover her mouth and giggle through her fingers.

Even though my heart center was slowly… even shyly… making its appearance, I struggled not to lash out at her. And failed several times. It was so irritating.

My life’s chaos blinded me to the bigger picture, and the knowingness that I was being drawn to my own pasture

In the meantime, I transitioned from marketer, to mover.

The first store closure was just the beginning. Like setting off a controlled demolition, the owner ordered more and more emptied out. And put me in charge of shutting them down.

Early in the morning, I’d walk to a Uhaul facility, rent one of their bigger models, and carefully drive it to the store. Then one or two other guys and I would load everything up. Like playing an exhausting game of 3D Tetris. Especially when the main office became so packed with furniture and supplies, that the formerly-spacious breakroom became a maze of paths in between stacked chairs, desks, and signs.

If you’ve ever moved, you know how draining and stressful it can be. So us sign-spinners-turned-movers dealt with it however we could. At one point, while helping carry a sofa, one of our guys stepped on a pack of butter and it smudged all over his sole.

“Dude, your shoe is covered in butter!”

For whatever reason, we started joking about it:

“Now your entire shoe… is made of butter.”

Then we started saying everything in a gravelly voice: “Shoes made of butter. Pants made of butter. Then I go home every night… to a house made of butter.”

“Hey Nate, you know why that table’s so heavy?”

“Why?”

“… Because it’s made of butter.”

Little jokes like that helped what was, for me, an emotionally rattling event.

Sign-spinning comforted me because it was so consistent. For years, I showed up on time… did my thing… and got paid. My job was like a financial hammock I could lay in, freeing my mind to work on everything else in life.

Then, all of a sudden, instead of walking into a store to take a break – like I’d done perhaps a thousand times…

I was entering the room to dismantle everything… leave it bare… and shut the door behind me forever

That was the worst part. The strange combination of nostalgia, grief, and feeling the ground unsettled underneath my feet.

Hope dwindled along with our number of stores. Then, one afternoon, I got a letter from the State of Colorado. They were back, to get the debt I couldn’t discharge in my bankruptcy. And if I didn’t pay, they were going to garnish my wages.

I also spent the $3000 loan from my friend on the biggest advertising test yet. This would prove whether or not I really had a business. Next time, I’ll tell you the results.

I Wrote This For You

Published December 6, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

The night before writing this, I shared this story with a fellow Denver entrepreneur. He said it sparked something in him, and asked I write about it.

So now I share with you…

Nine years ago, I sold a DVD course on how to get in shape with a certain kind of yoga.

As the business took off, I made sure every single customer received an email sixty days after their purchase, asking how things were going. It’s an easy way to collect feedback and valuable testimonials.

They began pouring in. I lost track of how many I received…

… but there’s one I’ll never forget

A man wrote in to say he’d gotten rid of his joint pain, and even dropped 20 pounds in just a couple months.

This message initiated a dialogue in my head… one I’ve repeated to myself many times since.

“Nate, are there any shortages of products on weight loss, out there?”

“No, there are probably thousands, maybe tens of thousands in total.”

“Are there any shortages of quality weight loss products, out there?”

“Well, there are definitely far fewer. But still, in total, there are plenty.”

“And yet… this man wasn’t able to successfully lose 20 pounds like he wanted, until he used the course you happened to sell.”

“True.”

“Is it because the yoga course has proprietary, groundbreaking secrets on burning fat?”

“No, in fact weight loss isn’t even its focus.”

“Exactly. Here’s what I think is going on here. This man… in this time and space existence… was, in a sense, waiting to buy this specific product. Because for whatever reason it resonated with him at the right time, in the right place, in the right way, for him to finally get on track and lose weight. The information he gleaned in all his previous decades of learning, did not get the job done. Instead, the breakthrough occurred when YOU helped him. And, if you hadn’t sold him that product, he might still be 20 pounds overweight and suffering health problems as a result.”

Since then, I’ve considered the ripple effects. I also understood this wasn’t true for just me. It is for everyone, including YOU.

There are thousands… if not millions… of people out there, suffering with a specific malady. They need help with their health. Or their relationships. Or their finance. Or they just need a simple pick-me-up.

They’re waiting.

They need YOUR help

Because, for whatever reason, the help you can deliver – and ONLY you can deliver – is the perfect match for them to finally snuff out their suffering.

That’s not all…

For these thousands, or millions of people… nobody else but you can help them.

And if you don’t… you’re letting them down.

Every day you put this off, you’re forcing them to wait. Who knows how they might be suffering in the meantime.

I used to believe this dynamic applied only to men and women who want to write books, give talks, or sell products. But last night I realized it’s any kind of communication or exchange. Even nonverbal. You don’t have to be a writer or even a business owner.

Just someone who feels worthy to deliver, and improve the world.

Consider this a dash of negative motivation to help you feel worthy

This has nothing to do with your message being better than everyone else’s. It’s because your message is PERFECT for the right people it needs to reach.

There’s much more to embodying this idea than simply understanding it intellectually. Embodiment of an idea requires cultivation. Part of this blog’s purpose is to give due diligence to as many facets of cultivation as I have experience in.

If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to keep reading.

Maybe a story or tidbit of advice contained in these pages… for whatever reason… will ignite something wonderful inside you.

If so, I’m honored to have written it.

Because I wrote it for you.

Getting a Business Loan From a Friend – Origin Story Part 19

Published December 4, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“I don’t understand… so how is that even a business?” he asked.

I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, standing in front of a whiteboard in a shared office-space, marker in hand.

Sitting in front of me was a friend of almost a decade, Jason. I had just mapped out my entire direct mail marketing plan.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Wait. Just to clarify… these figures here are net profit.”

“Oh! Oh, okay, I gotcha,” he chuckled.

Heh. Sometimes you have to make extra-sure you’re on the same page. 🙂

That day, I had driven over an hour north to meet with Jason, to see if we were comfortable doing what has probably ripped apart more deep friendships than anything else:

Loaning money

… a land of drug-like high hopes… the banishment of rationality… vanishing savings… and awkward radio silence.

Where thousands and thousands of dollars can evaporate. Possibly followed by quietly imploding friendships… or not-so-quiet lawsuits… and maybe even a shattering marriage or two.

We both walked into his office aware of this, and knew we were going to handle our money in a way you never hear about in “you can attract millions!” seminars…

… with machine-like rationality.

But would it work?

For the first half of the day, I mapped out my business’s entire customer-acquisition strategy, and my strategy for making a net profit (two different things… they don’t teach that in “make money online” scam-fests either).

I showed the campaigns I had tested with my own money, and the results. I extrapolated those results to how I could scale up, and listed the potential pitfalls and rewards. I detailed both best and worst-case scenarios.

But the business is always just one part of the equation.

In this case, there was another massive risk

Me.

So I mapped out my own strengths and weaknesses, including my state and federal tax debt. For most lenders, this would be a deal-breaker. For my friend, it simply meant an adjustment in his ultimate profit as I paid back the loan (I’m sure there’s a fancy accounting term for that – he’d know it).

He asked his employee to get us some Chinese take-out for lunch. Then Jason and I enjoyed a walk around a park together.

In the second half of the day, we negotiated the possible investment.

Here, I was more a fish out of water.

But together, we crafted an elegant plan

Jason would provide me with a cash infusion large enough to get proof-of-concept that my business really could begin scaling up. If we both agreed it worked well enough, he’d loan me the remainder. Then I’d pay him back, plus a whole boatload more.

If the initial infusion did not work to our standards, I’d simply pay him back at the minimum interest rate of 1%. And part as friends… we hoped.

Then we discussed his upside if it worked out. I forget the details but it went something like…

“Three to four hundred percent… ” I offered.

“Okay so 400%,” he replied

My friend, far more experienced in negotiations than me, knew to latch onto the higher number I gave. If I wanted to go down, I’d have to back-pedal and possibly give something up. Whereas if I had started at 300%, he might have had to give something up for me to go higher.

Machine-like rationality, remember?

Lesson learned.

In a negotiation, never give a range.*

After we ironed out the details, I went to the bathroom and thought things over. Then I sauntered back in, tapped the piece of paper where we wrote everything down, and said, “I’m good with this.”

We shook hands and parted ways.

But it wasn’t over

In the coming days, we continued the ironing process with a written contract, which we edited a couple times. Then we both signed, and Jason mailed me a check for $3000.

Earlier, I wrote how this would lead to one of the proudest moments of my life. But it wasn’t the deal itself. Making a plan and signing on the dotted line is the easy part.

I’ll reveal the hard part… and how I handled it… soon.

But next, I’m going to write about how the company worked for, slowly crumbled. And how it became my job to sweep up the pieces.

*[12/10/16 Addendum: Actually, giving a range can be an excellent idea, especially when you’re delivering an extreme anchor. For instance, give out a salary range with numbers on the high end, if you’re applying for a job. For instance, $50,000 to $70,000 instead of offering a single number like $40,000. Your interviewer will adjust to that anchor. Just make sure you’re okay with the low end of your range. There are also ways to deliver the range and contexts to keep in mind. Way too much for a blog post. I got this from a book I’m reading right now called Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. I highly recommend this book, especially to learn why it’s better to go for a “No” in a negotiation than “Yes” and the magic two-word phrase you want to hear from your adversary, which signals you’re about to get everything you want.]