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:
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.