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.]

Languishing In An Office Job – Origin Story Part 18

Published December 3, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

I’ve hesitated to write this next part simply because a monumental number of things happened as part of my new job, all of which contained their own weird coincidences, lessons, and amazing energetic notes as part of a much longer symphony.

It’d be too much to cover.

So I’ll just cherry-pick some of the more notable stories I collected during that year.

Actually, my first day on the job set the tone perfectly.

I’d been so excited to get promoted out of sign-spinning that I never actually considered what my new work-life would be. It’s not like I expected a marching band to lead me to a golden throne while the entire company lined up to applaud me and sprinkle flower petals in my path…

… but I still didn’t consider what the reality turned out to be

Instead of suiting up and marching outside for a day of regimented, physical activity, and satisfaction of a job well-done…

… I shuffled into a silent, dank back office without windows, where I felt out of place and somehow useless.

No welcome committee, or even much acknowledgement from my co-workers.

A single trombone player would have at least helped with the transition.

There, I worked… while battling feelings of wrongness that sapped my energy.

Because the company purchased gold and silver (and then sold it to refineries) the price of precious metals was its lifeblood. Back in 2011, gold was rocketing up and hot in the media. As a result, the business couldn’t open stores fast enough.

But when I jumped into my role as a marketer, gold was falling… and then began plummeting

Which would eventually mean we couldn’t close stores fast enough. In one year, the company would be dead.

In the meantime, I languished in an office job without much of a workload, trying to make the best of a situation where my talent, knowledge, and motivation weren’t harnessed or aligned like they could be. Yeah, it was better than sign-spinning full-time. But it was also like a mental cold draft, simultaneously sucking the life out of me and making me want to bundle up.

I saw how office politics can sprout from just three people, as long as one is willing to get the ball rolling. And how people will game the system, without a shred of guilt. One guy, upon leaving, gave this sage advice to his replacement:

“Look busy.”

Previous to me, the company’s marketing was handled solely by the owner’s aunt. She regarded me joining the team like finding a roach in her salad at a restaurant: Bewildered to discover it, sickened that it even exists, and just waiting for someone else to take it away forever.

Especially considering she had me pegged more as an assistant, as opposed to what I really was…

… Someone brought in to take over her half-assed projects and get them working.

My greatest success was the company’s website. At first, it was garbage. Then, with the help of a technically-savvy friend, we created a new website that doubled the company’s internet-sourced revenue, in the first month.

The owner’s aunt gave me the ultimate compliment when we transitioned to the new site:

She said nothing at all

🙂

There were a couple important lessons.

First, I realized why I hadn’t been promoted (or probably even considered) until I approached the owner directly. In my mind, it was logical to approach the person in charge of marketing, about helping out. In reality, she saw me as competition. I realized that if I wanted to help a business grow, I’d do well to get as close to the owner as possible if I wanted to make a deal.

Second, I observed arrogance and low self-esteem in action. In that particular situation, I was more competent than her. I accomplished something she did not and could not. Her reaction began with doubt and bullying… then progressed to outrage and petty emotional tantrums… and ended with denial.

As a result, the owner handed over all marketing responsibilities to me.

Not to say I was a saint during all this (as I’m sure my writing above hinted).

Very quickly, my ego spawned, demanding social status from my co-workers

As a sign-spinner, it was easy to play the humble, centered being. I was at the bottom of the totem pole. My responsibilities were clear-cut. My decision-making power was essentially non-existent. It was actually the perfect “training wheels” for me.

It’s easy to practice egoless-ness when you’re in the bathroom literally scrubbing away your co-worker’s excrement.

Doing the same with responsibility and power, on the other hand, was exponentially more difficult. Nuance came into play.

If someone ignored my suggestion, did they disrespect me, or did they objectively rule out my idea? How could I tell? Who could boss me around, and within what limits? Who could I manage? Everything became blurry…

… Which gave my ego the chance to leap into the fray. As much as I’d like to say I handled the challenge… for the next year I cared more about status than connecting with others.

Which only served to alienate me from everyone

When it was clear my workload wasn’t enough to be in the office full-time, I switched to sign-spinning three days per week, and only worked on marketing for the remaining two. I welcomed the change. Stretching a part-time office workload into a full-time week left me feeling icky and drained. It was also a nice balance of resting in a stale office and battling the harsh elements outside.

Throughout it all, I continued the two things that mattered most to me: Getting my business off the ground, and my daily meditation practice. Neat things continued to happen. A couple co-workers separately asked me for some advice related to meditation and working with energy.

Another event provided a lesson for years to come. First thing in the morning, I was chatting with the sign-spinner manager and he lamented: “I’m waiting for a call from one of my guys before I head outside. But these calls never come when I want them to, and then they always do when I’m outside and I can’t answer!”

“Then here’s what you’ve got to do,” I said. “Start going outside, and then he’ll call!”

He chuckled and admitted I was probably right.

“No, seriously,” I said, “Go for it!”

Later in the day, he came back and said, “Well Nate, guess what happened? Right as I was about to go outside, I paused for a moment, and he called.”

Every time I can remember, I heed my own advice – and never wait for any important email, phone call, or contact of any sort. Instead, I “juggle” projects. Like giving a dog a large enough variety of bones to keep him perpetually pleased and occupied.

As for my business, the embers were glowing bright enough that I figured getting a cash infusion, in the form of a loan, might ignite things. I contacted a friend up in Fort Collins to discuss a possible multi-thousand-dollar deal.

This would lead to an accomplishment that is among the proudest of my life, and I’ll write about that next.

Getting My Promotion – Origin Story Part 17

Published November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

“Where is he?! I called him so early… now it’s too late to get a taxi… too late to get a ride… and I’m stuck.”

I paced back and forth on the street corner, glaring at the traffic, demanding for my car to show up.

The night before, I emailed the company’s owner and said my car would be repaired and ready, so I could drive over. Immediately after making the plans, I had an unsettling feeling. I knew it was a bad idea to promise anything before my car was back in my possession. But it had been almost a week… with several false starts… and delaying things yet again felt just as painful an option.

The plan was to meet the owner at 3PM. I asked my mechanic to deliver my car at 1PM, giving me plenty of time to get to the head office.

At 11:30AM, he called to say he’d be a little late

Okay, fine. That’s why I factored in some extra time.

1PM came and went. No sign of him.

I called. No answer.

Lovely.

Finally I got ahold of him… to learn he was stuck in traffic. Just a couple miles away.

So, I paced back and forth, seething. Why couldn’t he communicate better? Why did everything always get done later than the estimate? And why the heck did I plan things like this? Because ultimately, I set this in motion.

I didn’t have the owner’s number, so I called a co-worker to try to relay a message, but she was dealing with a customer and quickly hung up on me.

Amidst my frantic thoughts, a more useful one came through:

“Well, if gratitude works so well, let’s use it,” I figured.

So I began repeating to myself, “thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou-”

And I looked up to see my mechanic driving right in front of me, in my car.

I hopped in and called my supervisor to say I was on my way, but would be a little late.

“Don’t bother,” he said, “Owner’s super-busy today and said he can’t do a meeting.”

Unbelievable. All that struggle… for nothing.

Later, I did a little “debriefing” and recognized behavior I could improve. There’s a clear difference between swift action, and pushing things out of desperation. I engaged in the latter.

Getting upset only intensified the forces against what I wanted

I also discovered that my co-worker didn’t mean to hang up on me out of spite. She was simply focused on her customer. Yet, I took note how the Universe had given me a taste of my own medicine.

But, hey, at least I finally got my car back. The mechanic couldn’t find a gold-colored hood at the junkyard to match my car, so he had asked me if I wanted black or silver. Of course, I chose silver.

A couple days later, I set out to the main office again. Driving the exact same route. Passing the scene of my accident was slightly surreal, and I was extra-cautious the second time around.

Finally making it to the office… was even more surreal. I looked around, amazed that this mythical meeting was finally going to happen.

I had given myself plenty of time to get there, so I used the extra half-hour to talk with some fellow co-workers. Then, I sauntered over to the main office. There, I ended up sitting on the waiting-room couch for maybe 20 minutes, as the owner talked on the phone while pacing around.

Dave was in his late thirties, 300 pounds, and sported a girlfriend 15 years younger

He always won their daily shouting matches. His family was from Georgia, he grew up in Florida, and he moved to Colorado for one reason: To build an empire of gold-buying stores.

Finally, he waltzed over to me and said, “Okay, come on in.”

We sat down at his desk and he asked me to talk about some of my marketing ideas. About 30 seconds into my spiel, he got another call.

It was from an employee in the store, who was negotiating with a customer. He listened to the various kinds of gold and silver items the customer brought in… ran the calculations in his head… quoted a price… then got a call from another employee in another store… then put her on hold to take a call about a 100-ounce bar of silver that might be fake.

He juggled these calls, and more, for over 15 minutes while I sat there, marveling at the workload

At no point did he display a single speck of frustration, overwhelm, or annoyance. He simply took call after call, doing almost all the math in his head, and then finally meandered over to the adjoining store to look at the silver bar himself. Dave still couldn’t figure out it if were fake.

He bought it anyway. Then he showed it to me, saying, “I’ll still have to test it out to see if it’s real… but it looks pretty cool!”

That was Dave in a nutshell.

Making money was a game to him, and he loved to play. Whether it was teaming up with a few friends to beat opponents in online poker for money (back when that was legal stateside) … buying and selling stuff on eBay… or owning multiple strip clubs… if he could figure out a way to make money, he belly-flopped right into the opportunity. But permeating his “I don’t care” attitude about absolutely everything… was a very sharp, meticulous business mind.

And a strong gut instinct

That day, he demonstrated how much he went by it, and promoted me on the spot to do marketing for the company full-time. Starting the next day.

My days of sign-spinning were over (at least… that’s what I thought…)

However, on my very first day of this new job, I’d realize the importance of “be careful what you wish for.”

My Car Wreck On I-25 – Origin Story Part 16

Published November 30, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

I-25. Northbound. Traffic was getting denser as I approach downtown Denver. The four-lane highway turned into stop-and-go as people merged on and off.

Suddenly, I saw a car plow into another just in front. Metal and glass sprayed everywhere. As I rubber-necked to view the damage, I felt fortunate it wasn’t me…

Then I turned back to look ahead, and saw the wall of stopped cars in front of me. Too close.

I slammed my foot on the brake and my car began to skid on the asphalt

It was too late.

A few days earlier, I emailed back and forth with the owner of the company I worked for, settling on a day and time for me to visit the head office and sit down with him.

To say that, since then, I’d been excited for the meeting… would indeed be an accurate statement.

Finally, the day arrived. I stood outside holding my sign for a few hours, and then came in a couple hours before I was scheduled to meet the owner, to begin my drive over. I wanted to make sure I was on time.

Then I headed out. Outwardly, I felt calm. But there must have been some serious churning going on, at a deeper level. Because on the highway, I ended up slamming into a stopped car ahead of me.

The front of my engine let out a dull crunch as my hood crumpled upwards

Much in the same way one fixates on the sight of a wound after cutting oneself, I stared with horror at the gnarled mess of my engine. It had just been totaled.

“SHIT!” I yelled.

I felt a little outside of myself, registering and yet not believing what had just happened. Both me and the other car pulled to the side of the highway. Another casualty of the heavy traffic.

I switched off my engine as I saw coolant spill everywhere, like the car’s blood.

There went my meeting with the owner.

I practiced, in as tiny a way as I could muster, assuring myself that this was perfect. Heck, I think I even muttered, “This must be perfect for me” when I pulled over.

Then I realized… what the heck was I supposed to do with my car?

Tow it? Where?

I dialed the mechanic’s number – the one who soaked my catalytic converter. Based on my dealings with him over the past few weeks, chances were he would not pick up the phone. And then I wouldn’t know what the heck to do.

If there was a time I wanted him to pick up… this was it.

The phone rang… and rang…

“Hey, what’s up, buddy?” he answered.

“Oh man, I’m glad you picked up!”

“Why, what’s going on?”

“Oh you know what happened!” (I don’t know why I said that.)

“No. What? Tell me, man.”

“I totaled it. I just got in an accident.”

“Oh shoot.”

“I’ve got to get my car towed off the highway – can I take it to your place to get it fixed?”

“Yeah, but I have to see how bad the damage is.”

“Okay, cool. I’ll get it over there.”

Would he have picked up, had I not affirmed… even a little bit… that this was perfect for me?

I talked to the other driver, who was cool about the whole thing. Although he admitted, looking at his own car, “Yeah that’s totaled, the frame is bent.”

Soon his friend arrived, inspected his car, shook his head, and waved it off. “It’s fine!”

“Really?” the driver asked him.

“Oh yeah, this is no problem at all!”

I interjected: “I like him!”

Soon the police arrived, took down our information, and I gave my insurance info to the other driver. I marveled about how nice he was about the crash, when he affirmed, “Hey, the important thing is we’re both fine.”

That was true – it wasn’t like I was doing 80 MPH down the freeway. Still, one wonders what would have happened, had I not slammed on the brakes.

I later learned that my airbag didn’t deploy only because of a glitch in the system. Because I hit the brakes, the nose of my car hunched down. As a result, I didn’t so much smack into the car ahead, as wedge underneath it – so the airbag signal wasn’t triggered. Either that, or it was just broken.

The tow-truck came, and I gave him the address for my mechanic. He was there waiting for us, as we arrived. Before the tow driver had a chance to lower my car onto the street, the mechanic hopped onto the bay to inspect the damage.

Overall, the news was good. I’d probably just need a new hood, radiator, lights, and a couple other odds and ends.

If it were a regular shop, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it

But this guy could get it done in his own garage for several hundred dollars and a trip to the junkyard for parts.

Considering my car was a requirement for my job, I was grateful.

He even gave me a lift to another of my company’s stores, so I could hitch a ride home with Ken, my friend and co-worker. Plus, it gave them a chance to say hi.

I marveled at how things could resolve themselves so smoothly. By the time my shift would have ended anyway, I was home. I just had to take the bus for a couple days.

So, it was just a matter of rescheduling the meeting with the owner, right?

As it turns out, it wouldn’t be that easy. And I began to wonder if the Universe was conspiring to keep me stuck…

Planning My Promotion – Origin Story Part 15

Published November 28, 2016 in Origin Story - 0 Comments

“Well, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I said I’d be cool whatever happened so I’ll be cool.”

I was standing inside one of our stores, talking to a co-worker before heading outside to wave around my sign all day.

A couple weeks before, I had had a meeting with my supervisor that went well (I showed up for work on time and actually went outside, which pretty much guaranteed a stellar review – heck even showing up high as a kite every day would have been fine… I was probably the only sign-spinner who didn’t smoke before work).

When the topic of open positions came up, I had mentioned my experience in marketing and he said he’d see if they needed anyone.

The vice president of sales emailed me and said there weren’t any current openings, but for me to send my resume

Which meant I actually had to write one. For the first time in my life.

I threw one together and sent it back. Around that time, I mentioned the promotion possibility to a co-worker, but said I was practicing being content no matter what the outcome.

The acid test arrived after a couple weeks without a response. So I mentally shrugged my shoulders and forgot about the possibility…

… until that year’s Christmas party rolled around. I realized it was my only chance to be in a room with the owner while he was relaxed and his guard was down. So I planned out what I would present to him, and how I’d say it. The whole idea felt so… right. And logical.

A funny feeling of knowing overcame me

Soon the night arrived. The owner rented out some floor space at a Dave & Busters. Much drinking ensued. I managed to break a novelty-sized candy cane.

As the night wore on, I waited for my opportunity… and then seized it.

I approached the owner, introduced myself, shook his hand, and thanked him for a great party. Then I brought up my experience with marketing, and how there was an opportunity for driving far more customers his way.

He asked me to send him a proposal and I said I would.

[Side Note: Knowing what I know today, I would have angled for an in-person meeting as soon as he could possibly schedule one… but a minor detail in the grand scheme of manifestation]

The good news was, persuasion in writing was my strong-point. So, over the next couple days, I wrote and edited and re-edited until my proposal was ready – and then sent his way.

I also finally got in touch with the mechanic my fellow sign-spinner knew!

So I dropped my car off at his “shop” (his home garage) so he could soak my catalytic converter overnight. Thus fooling the emissions test.

As fate would have it, I got pulled over the day before the test. I explained to the cop all that I went through to fix my car (leaving out the crucial detail I just mentioned) and that I was just about to get my plates renewed. He gave me a ticket, but emphasized how, because it was my third offense, he was supposed to tow me. So, overall, a lucky break.

Anyway, I passed the test.

Yes, I cheated

Call it moral relativism, but I’m okay with the decisions I’ve made.

And a few days later, I ran into the owner on my way outside and followed-up about my email. He was busy and said he’d reply. Again, I practiced being content whatever the outcome… and it wasn’t a few moments later that I spotted a penny on the sidewalk. Nice.

A couple weeks later, when I had forgotten about the whole thing, the owner finally replied and asked when I could meet him in person at his office… and he wrote he didn’t think I’d be sign-spinning anymore! (A prediction that would come… half-true.)

However, my meeting with him would be delayed due to me almost dying. I’ll write about that next time…