Crying On The Phone With My Bank – Origin Story Part 29

Published May 30, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

Saturday morning. I slept in, soaking up the little taste of luxury… and then got out of bed for my meditations.

Something felt off.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… until I got online, checked my bank balance…

… and saw something that made my stomach turn into an aching stone

A charge in my business account – probably some minor monthly payment – had overdrawn my balance.

So my bank sucker-punched me with overdraft fees.

One…

Two…

Three…

four of them. In one day.

At $32.50 each…

… dragging my account almost two hundred dollars in the negative.

“Okay…” I whispered to myself, “Okay just call them up.”

I dialed my bank and explained to the person on the line that, yes, I understood the first overdraft fee. After all, it was my fault that the account got overdrawn.

But four in a single day? Ridiculous.

“Yes, sir, we understand and it’s our policy… ” yada yada yada, they said they’d see what they could do.

After a brief period on hold, the bank told me they’d remove one of the overdraft charges.

As a courtesy.

The other three would remain. My account will still be well over a hundred dollars in the negative.

My breathing grew quicker. I asked to speak to a manager.

Someone else came on the line. I began talking calmly enough…

… but when I began describing how I was living week-to-week… and how they took the money I needed for food and rent… my reasoning dissolving into rambling.

“Oh, it sounds like you’re experiencing some hard times… ” the man said with a bit of sympathy…

… but he affirmed there was nothing he could do.

“Okay th-th-thank you,” I said as I hung up and burst into tears.

I buried my head into my hands and wept.

So much struggling for every penny, and now this? How the hell could I climb out of this hole?

For the next minute, I cried.

Then something snapped inside

My breathing deepened. And I decided what to do.

For the past few weeks, I’d been planning to send a letter to the man who’d been helping with my direct mail campaigns – Doberman Dan. I wanted to propose a deal with him:

I knew he was doing contract work for clients, writing advertisements and building marketing campaigns. To free up his time, he could sub-contract to me. I’d happily take a percentage of whatever he was charging his clients, and do good work. It was win-win.

Of course, to get the idea in his hands, and for him to take it seriously, I knew some random email wasn’t going to do. Instead, I’d print out and send him a real letter. But with a twist.

Many moons earlier, Doberman Dan expounded on the genius of something called the “Dollar Bill Letter.” It’s a letter with a real dollar bill taped to the top of it. When someone opens the letter and sees the billfold, it’s virtually impossible not to be enthralled. After all, who the heck sends real money in the mail and tapes it to the top of their message?

I planned to take it a step further

I knew Doberman Dan was passionate about precious metals. And, before the gold-buying store closed, I made sure to purchase a few silver dimes.

Although I’d written the letter, I hadn’t gotten around to mailing it…

… until that day.

Sitting at my desk, I wiped away my tears, and a newfound surge of energy pulsed through me.

I stood up and drove to the nearest Fedex Office, feeling propelled forward in a state of calm bliss. A smile spread across my face.

At Fedex, I printed the letter, taped the silver dime to the top, and mailed it.

There.

I put the wheels in motion

Then I visited my bank to deposit some cash… before they hit me with more overdraft fees! For the heck of it, I spoke to the manager there, to see if anything would be different. Nope, it was the same story – except I didn’t cry.

Six days of back-breaking work followed…

… until… one morning… my phone rang. I almost didn’t answer… but it turned out to be Doberman Dan!

He loved the letter – it had gotten his attention just as I planned.

He didn’t have any immediate work for me. Still, Dan said he’d keep me in mind, and promised to refer me to some companies that needed the kind of marketing I could provide. Sweet!

It turned out, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. Just a few days later, he referred a potential client to me. The two of us settled on a day and time to do an introductory phone call.

I realized I had to sell this guy on my services

He was a complete stranger. And in the space of one phone call, I had to convince him to give me some money. Possibly a large amount.

How the heck was I going to do that?

Fortunately, I had an idea…

[Funny note: As I was editing this chapter in a coffee shop, I turned my head and saw the woman next to me writing out a bunch of hand-written letters, and preparing them for mailing. We got into a fun discussion on how important a real letter can be for showing gratitude. Or opening doors.]

Losing Sleep, Dragging Bags, Soaking in Grime – Origin Story Part 28

Published May 27, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

As I prepared for bed after my first day (and night) of work, I took a single melatonin pill…

… and then lay in my bed, wired almost to the point of shaking. As if I’d just awoken in the morning and drank a pot of coffee. Even though it was past 2AM.

So I took another melatonin…

… and lay in bed, fixated on my next shift… starting in less than 12 hours… how tough it was going to be… how lack of sleep was going to make it much worse… how dwelling on it would push sleep further away…

… and took another melatonin.

Would I lose my job? Die? My mind raced. Somehow, the combination of a dark bedroom, sleeplessness, and stress always mangles my thoughts into delirium.

Finally, well past 5AM, I slept a few brief hours

Then I awoke, did my meditations, and drove back to the textile warehouse for another 10+ hour round of punishment. To steal myself from the impending chaos, I walked a short path behind the building and stood amidst a group of four solid trees.

The second shift of work was much like the first, except my fog of exhaustion felt even thicker.

On the upside, I slept better that night.

And after a week of folding mats, I began to mentally get the hang of it…

… just in time to be moved to a new position

The load team comprised four main positions. At the beginning of every shift, fifteen trucks arrived, packed full of dirty laundry. Mats, shirts, pants, towels, mops – things like that. We couldn’t go home until we unloaded and reloaded everything.

Folding mats was just one part of this process. Another part, and my new position to learn, was “the Sling.”

As two guys unloaded the trucks, they’d dump everything into giant bags hanging inside wheeled carts. Each cart was over five feet high, and weighed 250 pounds full (measured by a scale right beneath the sling).

Or 350 pounds, if they overloaded

In the Sling position, my job was to grab those bags, roll them over to the sling, tag them, and push a button to send them rocketing up to the warehouse-wide overhead rail system. Momentum and a couple strategically-placed pneumatic devices would zip them to the laundry room.

Working the sling required considerably more memorization than folding mats.

After dragging the bags into position, I had to tag them according to truck and item, and send them up in a certain order. When the sling came back down, it carried an empty bag with it. I had to hook it to the empty cart, dismount it from the sling, and shove it back to the unloaders.

In addition, I had to dump sacks of several different kinds of dirty towels into large bags myself, and monitor for when to send them up the sling.

Some carts had busted wheels, and dragging the 250+ pounds felt like trying to pull a car… sideways

It helped to remember which carts sucked, and use them for only rarer kinds of towels.

Sometimes the large bags wouldn’t be secured in the bottom. I’d find out after sending the bag up the sling, only to watch in horror as the bottom burst open like a chrysalis, leaving a couple hundred pounds of dirty towels behind in a perfectly-round, four-foot pile on the scale.

Many times, the sling would malfunction, and merely raise the bag to the top without sending it across the belt system. So I’d snatch a long metal rod and jab the bag hard enough to push it until the first pneumatic device.

On one occasion, the bag snared the metal cart, so the sling pulled everything about ten feet up, before the cart slipped loose and crashed onto my right shoulder.

A headshot might have snapped my neck

I also had to monitor the bag’s progress until it was out of sight. Many times the bags got stuck on the other end of the warehouse. So I’d have to grab a thirty-foot metal poll, race across the floor, climb up some metal racks… balance myself at the top… and use the poll to jam the trolley’s hooks back into place just so. Like shooting pool, and aiming for a cueball on the ceiling of a basketball court. Then ramming the bag onward.

Solving every one of these malfunctions meant losing precious seconds, which could mean falling behind the unloaders in the trucks.

On top of all that, I also had to practically swim through sacks and sacks of wet, sloppy, nasty towels.

Picture an auto body shop using rags every day to soak up oil, gasoline, and sweat. Then they stuff all those rags into plastic sacks… and send our way for sorting and cleaning.

Some soaked with cleaning fluid… regular old grime… and sometimes cadmium

The cadmium towels were marked off and specially sealed for separate cleaning and handling. At least once, they showed up with the seals burst.

When the laundry guy got ahold of them, he made sure I was looking, and exaggeratedly pretended to lick them.

Oy.

If I fell behind (which I did) then the unloading crew didn’t have any bags in carts to fill. So they’d sit and wait for me. For the first three days at this position, I had to be bailed out during my shift.

I feared my job was on the line

Then came Friday. The final shift before our three-day weekend. My 72-hour solace in a world of miserable chaos. I vowed that I’d get the hang of this new position, so I could enter my weekend feeling secure in a job well done.

I even affirmed to myself as I drove to the warehouse, “Earn your weekend… earn your weekend… EARN your weekend.”

From the very start, I attacked the bags without mercy. Even if I risked damaging the equipment as I slammed the cages around.

I almost made it… but Ted had to jump in to help, near the end of my shift. Still, for my first week at the position, it felt like a victory. And now I had the three-day weekend to look forward to, feeling like I earned it…

… little did I realize, the very next day something was going to cause me to break down and cry uncontrollably. The first of many breakdowns I’d have over the next few months…

The Labor Begins – Origin Story Part 27

Published May 24, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

One week after I was officially hired, I returned to the same warehouse at 2PM, ready to take on my new career.

Two in the afternoon was my new workday’s “morning.”

And unlike a typical 9-5, there wasn’t an official end to a day’s shift. The load team stopped only for one reason:

We loaded all the trucks.

Maybe we finished at midnight. Usually not.

More likely, it was 1AM… and sometimes 3AM

We got one break for “lunch” which was – as I recall – at 7PM. And sometimes, when we worked past 1AM, we sat in the breakroom for about fifteen minutes, to recover.

During the few months I worked there, two guys out of a crew of less than ten, got injured. One required surgery.  It’s fortunate no one died – and our supervisor Ted almost did meet a gruesome fate.

I had no clue about any of this, as I stood in the waiting room, thinking I was ready to begin.

Salvador showed up just a couple minutes after me. But, after a short visit to Bob’s office, he barged his way back outside again, his face twisted in fear and anger.

“I’ll probably never see him again,” I thought

I never did.

(My best guess is, he failed the drug test but didn’t realize it, until Bob delivered the bad news, in person.)

Ted lead me back to the same mat-folding station where he tested me before. This time, it was the real deal.

In a blur, he showed me what to do.

Turns out, there was much more to learn. One of the toughest parts of the job was working through the brutal conditions while still assimilating new information. Describing everything this textile company did, would require a book (and people passionate about business operations would probably love every painstakingly-detailed page). But I’ll cover the basics.

Throughout my ten-hour shift, someone from the giant laundry room would push a cart of freshly-washed mats my way. The cart was about half the size of a four-door sedan (so, the same size as your average Subaru).

It was loaded to the brim with perhaps a couple thousand pounds of mats

My job was to push this cart onto a hydraulic lift, which would hoist it into the air, and partially spill the mats onto a station.

Then I’d grab, fold, and wipe them over an electronic scanner, before tossing them onto the appropriate section of a rack. Each mat weighed between five and twenty-five pounds.

Then, when the rack was full (it would typically end up weighing 400+ pounds, by my estimation), I’d drag it to another part of the warehouse, for loading onto trucks. As I recall, I did fifteen racks per shift.

The mats were usually still a bit wet and stuck together. The carts and racks were warped and I had to grapple them to get anywhere. And during a single shift I folded thousands of mats. From what I heard, sometimes the hydraulic lift shut down in the bitter cold of winter, necessitating the use of a forklift.

Then I understood why the company tested people before hiring them.

Nobody with an average build – or mentality – could do this

So I began. Soon, Ted walked away to let me learn the ropes by trial and error.

Carts kept getting wheeled in. Soon, I was two behind. As fast as my body was capable, I plowed forward, folding and folding and folding. Every time I dragged a full rack to the trucks, my shoulders and back were pushed to the limit.

Over time, I learned the finesse required with the job. Sometimes the mats were so tangled in the cart (especially the 10-footers) that if I couldn’t easily yank them out, tugging and tugging would only tighten the knot they were stuck in. Wasted effort. Instead, it was smarter to test different mats, and “unfold” the massive pile like a snaky version of pick-up-sticks.

Frequently, I pondered how much this was like unravelling a personal issue.

Folding the mats had a technique as well. Tossing them into the rack had a technique. Guiding the load across the warehouse did too. Every task had a three-dimensional path-of-least-resistance that could be learned only through practice. It’s how my co-workers made everything look easy… while I struggled and sputtered, exhausted.

Hours flew by…

… until our “lunch” break came at 7PM.

I took maximum advantage of the hour, first stumbling to the oasis of my car to do an Inner Smile meditation. Then I wolfed down the meal I brought in.

Just before the break ended, I chugged some more coffee, and limped back to my station…

… to gain a new appreciation for the myth of Sisyphus. Except, instead of rolling a boulder up a hill, I was folding endless carts of mats.

As the minutes crawled by, nighttime descended on the warehouse, which only grew louder and more chaotic. And I discovered I was only halfway through the shift’s mats.

“No way… that can’t be true…”

They brought in another worker to speed things up. Together, we paced in an odd circle, each of us grabbing, folding, and tossing a mat before doubling back to do it again.

My exhaustion seeped deeper and deeper, until I was floating in a stupor.

Finally, it ended. Except then we had to sweep things up, close down the doors, and grab our stuff as fast as we could before Ted locked the place down.

My hands trembled from the shock

Ted said I exceeded his expectations for the first day. A shallow wave of relief washed over me when I took the news in. Because mixed in my mental and physical exhaustion, was the pulsating fear that I would fail. And get fired.

So I felt a little safer, at least for the time being…

I didn’t realize it as I drove home, but a certain hormone was going haywire in my body, driving me towards partial insanity. And the suffering would linger for the next few months…

Stop Whining About Money

Published May 22, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

Several entries ago, I wrote about how one of the proudest achievements of my life originated from the money my friend loaned me for business. Now I’ll reveal why.

It wasn’t the advertising campaign succeeding – it failed.

It wasn’t either of us making a ton of fast money – we didn’t.

Instead, it was how I paid my friend back.

Every month, without fail, I wrote and mailed him a check for $500. Somehow I made it work, even when I was earning $12 an hour, paying for rent and food and car repair… and then eventually state taxes owed on top of that.

Then the gold-buying business went bankrupt.

Few people living a middle or upper-class lifestyle in the United States understand how vital it is for those near the poverty line to get their hands on consistent “right now” money. A mere missed week of income can mean the difference between paid bills and a roof over your head… or penalties, a repossessed car, or worse.

Imagine being cut off from oxygen… for a “mere” five minutes

 (Which is why savvy employers offer daily pay for low-wage jobs.)

In 3 days, I landed a new job. But it didn’t officially start for another week, and that gap punched a near-deathblow to my finances.

I called my landlord, explained the situation, and asked for a few more days to send my rent check. He allowed it.

Then I wrote another $500 check to my friend, and sent. Paying back my business loan would absolutely not be delayed.

That was, I as much as I can remember, the second-to-last check.

Eventually, I paid off the entire loan. Not a single payment was even a day late.

No drama. No whining…

No twisting his arm because he was a friend. No avoiding the issue. And no making excuses because I was near-broke.

When it was complete, I knew I had planted a multi-million-dollar seed, in a way no other action could have done.

After all, anyone can talk shit about money. It seems most people do. How they want to make more, how they try to save, and why they should definitely, totally, really really should have some. I PROVED when the chips are down, you can count on me. How rare is that? What repercussions would it create?

These are just off the top of my head:

  1. My friend will always remember that I paid him back on time, so he’ll see me as a safe investment in the future. This has a number of benefits because I predict my friend (who is already a successful, connected businessman) will continue to grow and prosper. Plus, any loan I ask for in the future will have a higher likelihood of being granted, and I’ll be able to ask for much better terms.
  2. I’ve trained my “money muscle” to be much stronger when it comes to savings, asset allocation, awareness, and discernment. Simply by going through the struggle of repaying a business loan, I’ve developed an unconscious proficiency related to wealth, that people who read and ponder about abundance can only dream and hope for.
  3. I have a success story I can refer to, when negotiating with others.
  4. I have a success story I can refer to, when instilling confidence within myself.
  5. I have a neat story to write about, that could inspire others to financial stability and abundance, possibly when nothing else could strike a chord within them in just the right way.

Not a bad return on investment, just from doing the right thing.

If more people understood and practiced this, there’d be many more rich people out there

 

Note: I’m compelled to answer the question permeating the energetic airwaves: What would I have done if I truly couldn’t pay back the loan on time? Like if the new gig had fallen through and I was unemployed for 30, 60, 90 days or more?

Again, off the top of my head, I would first determine that I truly couldn’t pay him on time. Then I would immediately contact my friend to explain the situation. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy would not be an option as I’d done so only a couple years prior. Filing a Chapter 13… eh, maybe, but I’d rather negotiate in private.

I’d ask to change the terms. Longer payout in exchange for more interest. And even if my friend turned into a cold-blooded animal, the profit derived from him squeezing me wouldn’t be worth the financial expense and mental effort. So I’m sure he and I could have reached a fair agreement.

Another note: If I had used the above process with all my creditors back in the day, including the IRS, I might have been able to avoid my bankruptcy and even ended up in a much better financial position – let alone the better credit history. Live and learn. Or, perhaps in the case of some folks reading this, read and learn so you don’t have to live and learn.

Weirdest Job Interview I’ve Had – Origin Story Part 26

Published May 19, 2017 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“I’m only going to show you this once,” said Ted.

Salvador and I stood at attention amid the warehouse’s chaos. Around us, workers unloaded trucks… dragged rows of clothes along rails… and giant bags zipped overhead. I barely took any of the action in, as I focused on the task ahead.

Ted grabbed a couple floor mats from a giant cart, folded them in a certain way, slid them around a tabletop just so, setting off a scanner. Like checking out a supermarket item. Then he tossed them into their respectful places on a rack.

“Alright, who wants to go next?” he challenged

For the next five minutes each, we were to fold mats just like he did.

Salvador instantly raised his hand and strode forward.

“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll probably get more points for accuracy, than for going first.”

I had a chance to watch his mistakes. He only made a couple.

Then I did some folding, scanning, and plopping into the cart. All good.

“What you just did, is the most physically challenging part of the job,” Ted said.

Huh. It didn’t seem too rough.

I wondered if looks were deceiving… especially considering how long the job’s shifts were…

Ted lead us both back to a meeting room, sat us down, and said he’d like to make both of us a job offer. We accepted.

In the parking lot, Salvador and I shook hands, congratulating each other, and parted ways. I was excited to work with the guy. But the day wasn’t over. I drove to a local clinic for a physical and drug test. Then, after drinking a celebratory coffee, and while driving home… I got a call from the recruiter who first asked me to cut my hair!

She congratulated me, and let me know her hopes that I’d eventually be promoted to a driver for the company, and make the big bucks. Later on, I checked my voicemail and discovered a call from a lawn-mowing company I applied to. Heh, I’d have to call them back and deliver the bad news.

The ground beneath my feet felt plenty more secure, and the gnawing fear in my gut had evaporated…

… because I was completely ignorant of what I’d just signed up for

But I’d discover in time…

A few days later, I went to a bar with a few co-workers, the owner and his girlfriend included, for a final hurrah before we went our separate ways.

Who knows if I’ll ever run into him again, but the last time I ever saw the owner was at 3AM, at Shotgun Willies, watching him make it rain for the strippers there.

I had a few more days to relax, before the physical assault on my body and mind began…

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…