“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?”
“… 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.