My Dad

Given that it’s Father’s Day week, I wanted to take the time to mention something about my Dad. I call him my Dad and not my Father because when I was growing up, he taught me that any man can be a Father but it takes a real man to be a Dad.

 

He was drafted into the U.S. Navy when he was 18, during the Vietnam war and has survived multiple helicopter crashes both on land and in the ocean, during his time in the Navy. My Dad is a blue collar guy who always had grease on his hands and hung the American flag in our yard with pride. He’s a God fearing man that would work all day long and then coach high school baseball until the sun went down.

 

If something broke around our house he would buy the part and fix it himself. Growing up, I had never even seen a repairman. He was always in the garage taking something apart or building something. He would help me and my friends fix our cars when we were teenagers. That is when he taught me that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Never cut corners or take the easy way in life.

 

My Dad has always had a quiet calm and steadiness about him. He never acted out of emotion or irrationally. He let me go through all of the usual phases that teenage boys go through, without judgement. He never forced me to do, or not do, anything. He let me figure out those things on my own. When I was old enough to understand, he told me there are two types of people in this world. The type who always do what is right no matter what, and then there’s everyone else. 

 

It wasn’t until I became a Dad myself that I realized how grateful I was for all of the life lessons he taught me. But with my Dad, I learned not from him telling me, but from watching him and how he treated others. Family, respect, and doing the right thing have always been the most important things to him.

 

I remember in the devastating earthquake of 1989, our neighborhood in Mountain View, CA didn’t have electricity for almost an entire month. My Dad used his gas powered generator to not only give electricity to our house but also to our neighbors on both sides of us. Basically, if you had an extension cord long enough to reach from your house to our house, my Dad would give you electricity and expected nothing in return. He’s always been that kind of man.

 

We had an elderly couple, in their mid-eighties living in the house next to us. They didn’t have any children or family that lived in California. They were essentially on their own. Anytime there was a storm, a power outage, the weather was unusually hot or cold, or if he simply hadn’t seen them in a few days, he would always make sure to go over there just to check on them.

 

He probably doesn’t even know that I noticed these things, but I did. These are the types of  life lessons I learned by just simply watching him.

 

He taught me that morals and values will always be more important than money or success because one day we will all have to answer to God. He taught me to always help people in need and always protect people who can’t protect themselves.

 

Still to this day, he is the most honest and humble man I know. I will forever be grateful to him. I hope that one day I can pass these values down to my children. 

Why I Write

I have always been a very private person. But after giving it a lot of thought, I realized that my life, my journey, my story was better shared openly than kept inside. So last year, I made the decision to be open and share my story with the world.

 

There’s nothing special about where I am in my life but there is something special about the unconventional path that lead me here. That is the essence of what I always try to share with everyone through my writing.

 

When I made the decision to be public about my story, I really didn’t know how people would react. I was nervous about making my life an open book. I went back and forth in my mind if I should even start my blog. But when I wrote Benefits Of Childhood Hardships (here), I was amazed by the reactions and at how many people contacted me. I knew I had touched on something powerful that many people could relate to but just didn’t know how to put into words.

 

So why do I write? There’s two reasons. One is that since I have always been such a private person, it was almost therapeutic for me to be open with the world about my story and it allowed me to relive those moments and experiences in my life that I tried so hard to bury and keep hidden. Writing allows me (or forces me) to revisit those feelings and view them in a different light.

 

The second reason is my hope that there is someone out there who can got some sense of inspiration from my words. To feel like there’s hope. To see that not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, but that the light can actually be reached. That is why I write and that is why I will continue to write.

Life Is Short

On a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I received a frantic phone call from my Aunt. She told me that my 90 year old Grandfather was in the hospital and he was on life support. The doctor said he might only have a few hours left. That call hit me like a ton of bricks. It took a moment to register what I was actually hearing.

 

I called my parents and my sister to give them the news and then I rushed to the hospital. I went up to the 4th floor and opened the double doors to see my family all sitting together in the waiting area.

 

They got me up to speed on the details and severity of the situation. He had several things ailing him. I will spare you the details of exactly what they were. If it were only one or two things, his body could fight it but he had several things all at once and being almost 90 years old, he just couldn’t fight all of them.

 

The current status was that he was no longer able to breath on his own and had to be put on life support. The doctor had advised my Aunt and my Dad to prepare themselves to make the decision as to whether or not to pull the plug. As a family, we all knew my Grandfather very well. He was a tough as nails Korean war vet. He would want us to just pull the plug and not think twice about it.

 

However, when you are actually in that situation it’s always different. It’s never a clear choice. The answer to that question easily gets clouded by emotions. They allowed me to go into the room and see him. He was just laying there in the fetal position with his eyes closed and breathing tubes. It was difficult for me to see him like that. It broke my heart.

 

He grew up in the great depression and he joined the U.S. Navy as a teenager. He was on the USS Dixie stationed in Tsingtao and was the last US ship to leave Chinese waters when the Americans left the Chinese mainland. He was also on the USS Pasadena which was in the Tokyo Bay in 1945 when Japan surrendered in WWII.

 

I loved hearing his stories about his time in the Navy, The Korean War, the Chosin reservoir, and patrolling the Pacific. I could probably write an entire book about the things he’s seen and done in his life. I just kept thinking to myself that everything in his entire life that lead him to this point, almost 90 years of experiences were all right there in that hospital room and on the verge of being blown out like a candle.

 

We lost my Grandmother a few years ago, his wife of over 60 years. His “hunny-bunny” as he used to call her. Even when she was on her deathbed, he would hold her hand and call her his little hunny-bunny. After she passed away, I made it a point to go visit him every Sunday because now he was living on his own.

 

He took her death hard. After she passed away, I would even catch him talking out loud to her as if she was still in the room. Part of me wondered if he was finally ready to go too, just so he can be with her again.

 

I know it’s cliche to say this but life really is short. The days go by slow but the years go by so fast. We only get one shot at this, so live everyday like it’s your last because one day it actually will be.

There Are Good People Everywhere

I’ve only been to Mexico once. When I was 18 years old, some friends and I went for a 1 week trip after our high school graduation. On the 4th night, we’d been drinking at a bar. I wasn’t feeling well so I decided to walk back to our hotel alone.

 

After 4 days of not eating any good meals or drinking enough water, I was very dehydrated. I thought the bar was close enough to the hotel that I could make that walk alone without any problems. Unfortunately, the bar was much farther away from the hotel than I thought.


On my way back, I couldn’t continue. I needed water. I was dizzy, dehydrated, and in a humid climate that I wasn’t accustomed to. I was feeling weak and things were starting to go black. I knew I was going to pass out. So I sat down right there on the curb. There I was, in a foreign country, in the middle of the night, dehydrated, and about to pass out on the sidewalk.


I knew if I could just get some water in my system, it would buy me enough time to make it back to the hotel where I could recuperate. I finally gathered enough strength to go into the nearest market to buy water. I grabbed a bottle and made my way to the counter. I reached for my wallet but it wasn’t there. I had lost it and now I didn’t know what to do.


Out of nowhere, the man in line behind me saw that I couldn’t pay. I don’t know what he thought. Maybe he thought I was just a stupid, drunk American kid. But he helped me. He put his items on the counter next to my water and paid for everything.


Through his broken English and my even worse Spanish, I offered to mail him money. It was only $2 but since he went out of his way to help a stranger, I wanted to repay him at least $50 when I got back home. He said no. He simply refused to let me pay him back and went on his way.

 

In those real life moments, people aren’t thinking about abstract government politics, policy, or agenda’s. He was just a human helping another human in need. That was 15 years ago and I still think about it sometimes. I am still grateful for the fact that he helped me that night. There are good people everywhere. Those are the ones we need to find and surround ourselves with.

Who Are Your People?

I’ve been working in the Silicon Valley tech industry for nearly 10 years now. I’ve worked inside small startups, large companies, and everything in between. But it all had to start somewhere.

 

We all have that one pivotal moment in our professional lives. That one opportunity, that one job, that one project, or that one promotion. That one event that changed the trajectory of our entire career. What was mine? Mine was 10 years ago. The day I went from being a security guard at a tech company to a software tester at that very same tech company.

 

That pivotal moment often presents itself because there is a person or people who gave us a chance. Who were my people? Well, there were three of them that made their entrance very early on in my career and all three of them played an important part in my unconventional path in the tech industry.

 

I was working as a security guard at Tivo and a woman named Corinne was my boss. She knew I was destined for greater things and she often told me that I could and should be doing so much more than being a security guard. She even encouraged me to explore something inside of Tivo if I could. She told me she would support me one hundred percent even if it meant losing me.

 

Next was Maya, the QA director inside of Tivo who gave me my first job in the tech industry. She was the first person who gave me a chance to enter into the tech industry. It was essentially the lowest position possible but that’s all I needed. If I could get my foot in the door, I would let my work ethic, attitude, and personality speak for itself.

 
To this day, I still remember my interview was at 3:00 pm and I got off my shift as a security guard at exactly 3:00pm. I closed up the security office and walked down the hall to one of the meeting rooms where Maya and another member of her team were waiting for me.

 

I was so nervous and I even apologized to her for the fact that I was still wearing my security guard uniform in the interview. I passed the interview and got the job as an entry level QA software tester, which not only changed the trajectory of my career but it also changed the trajectory of my life.

 
Enter Vallab, a Senior Manager who doesn’t mince words and has extremely high performance standards. His motto was “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.” When I met Vallab, I was a QA tester with only 1-2 years of experience in the tech industry.  

 

I will never forget the day I interviewed for his team. It was my first time ever stepping foot onto the Google campus. I passed the interview with a few of the engineers and the final step was to meet Vallab. I passed the interview with him as well and I got the job. The team later told me that I had competed with, and beat almost 50 other candidates for the one job opening.

 

Over the next few years, I quickly learned that most people didn’t last under his management style because he demands and expects excellence at all times. He has extremely high performance standards and will routinely push you to your breaking point. BUT if you manage to pull through and come out the other end, you’ve learned and grown exponenitally.

 

For one reason or another, a lot of my previous colleagues never came out the other end. After working with him for a year or so, he once said to me “You’ve got something special in your personality and a work ethic that is hard to find. I need more people like you.”
I went on to work for him for nearly 6 years, all inside of Google. He helped me take my career from a QA Tester to QA Engineer, to a Manager, and then to a Senior Manager.

 

Almost 10 years ago these three people changed the trajectory of my entire career. For that, I will forever be grateful. There are people that are put into our lives for a reason. Have you thought about who those people are in your life? Or more importantly, how you can be that person for someone else?

The Sacrifices We Make

I’ll never forget the day my daughter was born. My wife woke me up at 3AM and said we needed to go to the hospital right away. She was 9 months pregnant and the time had finally come. My daughter was on her way into this world. 

 

We got to the hospital around 3:30AM. Shortly after arriving, I remembered that I was scheduled to be at work for my security guard job at 7AM.  A job that paid me by the hour and had no benefits.

 

I sent an email to my boss explaining that I was at the hospital with my wife and that she was in labor. That I would need to take tomorrow off. One day, that’s all I needed. I asked my boss if he could find someone from the on-call pool to cover for me and fill my shift. (the on-call pool was made up of other security guards who regularly picked up other people’s shifts, to earn extra money.)

 

About an hour later, I got a nasty reply from my boss that said it was unacceptable for me to take the day off and I couldn’t have any time off without giving 2 weeks advance notice. My boss went on to tell me that he would not ask to see if anyone wanted to take my shift and If I didn’t show up to my shift at 7AM, they would stop scheduling me hours to work. Essentially, if I didn’t show up to work at 7AM, I would be out of a job. Jobs like these pay you by the hour, so if you don’t have hours to work, then you don’t get paid.

 

So what did I do? Well, I had a wife and 2 kids to support. So I showed up to work at 7AM, just a few hours after my daughter had been born. Paternity leave? Paid time off? These were luxuries and privileges that people like me simply didn’t have. At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to at least be able to spend one day with my newborn daughter, unpaid bills didn’t care about my feelings.

 

Even though it might seem like a small sacrifice at the time, it’s not until you look back in hindsight, that you’re able to see some of those sacrifices were more significant than others. I will never get that day back. I will never have that moment or the chance to be with my daughter on her 1st day in this world, again.

 

Sacrifices are essential to growth and success but looking back now after 10 years, I am able to see more clearly which of those sacrifices actually turned out to be the most significant ones.

Going Dark

In 2008 I desperately needed to change my life and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I had to finally quit smoking, I had to lose almost 100 lbs, I had to get myself into a good career, I had to get myself out of debt, I had to start saving money, and I had to start repairing my credit score.

 

I needed to do all of these things just to get my life back on track. Do you want to know the first thing I did? My first step? I deleted all social media. There’s a few reasons why I knew I had to delete social media if I wanted my journey to be successful.

 

First and foremost, It is quite literally a distraction. The obvious elephant in the room when it comes to the negative effects of social media is the immense waste of time it can be. It’s a distraction from real life. There isn’t any time to focus on your own life and the things you need to do, when you are constantly distracted by checking, posting, and updating social media.

 

The second reason is the risk of social media diluting my self worth and my vision. Due to the innate nature of social media, it inherently leads to comparing your life to lives of other people when you see their posts. You see their lifestyle, where they are vacationing, what kind of car they just bought, all the delicious looking food they’re enjoying, etc. It also had the potential to not only dilute my self worth (by becoming discouraged if I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life yet) but it also had the potential to dilute the clarity of my vision.

 

For example, If I see that my friend is posting pictures of their Hawaiian vacation, that will take up some space in my head by giving it my attention and my brain power. When you have goals of your own to reach, you need to be obsessed with those goals until completion.

 

Lastly was the element of surprise. I wanted everyone to really feel the effect of my accomplishments. When I finally got in touch with them again, I wanted them to be surprised with everything that I had done.

 

It’s the same concept as when you see the same child daily, you tend to not notice that they are growing little by little everyday. But if you see that child once and don’t see them again for a couple of years, when you finally see them, you are amazed by how much they’ve grown. I wanted people to be amazed by how much I had grown.

 

There’s no way that could happen if they saw me and my status updates everyday on social media. I honestly didn’t want anyone to be a part of my journey. I only wanted them to see me at the starting line and then not again until the finish line.

 

When I look back after those 5 years at what I had done on my own, I realized that this transformational journey was actually quite a spiritual experience and that wouldn’t have happened if I’d had an audience.

Drowning In Debt

When I was only 20 years old I was already $10,000 in debt and my credit score was 400.

Debt collectors would call me at all hours of the day. I would get calls at 2am. They would bully, threaten, and harass me. They tormented me on a daily basis.

 

When you’re 20 years old, that is honestly scary. We now have laws that prevent debt collectors from this type of behavior but this was back in 2006. Before the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act became a law in 2010. Back in 2006, they could do and say almost anything they wanted to, and believe me, they did. 

 

The worst part of the whole experience is that I knew I couldn’t pay off these debts. It was too overwhelming just trying to survive on a $6 an hour job, not to mention pay off $10,000 in debt. I eventually lost hope and buried my head in the sand.

 

Until the day I made a plan to break down my massive debts into bite sized pieces. I saved a little bit of money whenever I could and once I had enough to pay off one in full, I would pay it off right away. Then I would start saving to pay off the next one, and so on, until I paid off every single one.

 

After being bullied, harassed, and tormented on a daily basis by these people, everytime I paid one off, it felt great. Each debt paid in full was like a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. It lightened the burden on my mind and soul. Because it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank. The foundation of your financial health is your credit history and score.

 

This is just one example of how success and accomplishments don’t happen overnight. They happen slowly, one step at a time.

Why I Turned down $250,000

A few years ago when I was around 30 years old,  I had a job offer with a total annual compensation of $250,000. To some of you, this might not seem like a lot of money but to me, a blue collar kid who grew up poor and never went to college, this was a lot.

 

I wasn’t looking for a new role and a startup company in the silicon valley called me one day, invited me to their office, took me out for dinner and drinks, and offered me nearly a quarter of a million dollars per year to help them lead and grow customer success for their company.

 

The position itself was awesome and it would have given me the chance to be one of the top people at a growing startup. The compensation, perks, and team were all great. The company also had strong growth numbers for a startup. It checked all the boxes, so to speak.

 

But I turned it down.

 

It wasn’t an easy decision but in the end, I turned it down. What I was doing at the time at my current company was more important than the money being offered to me. I was already at a startup that I joined fairly early and it was important to me to stay with that company and see it through to completion to an IPO or acquisition.

 

It was also my loyalty to my team at the time and what we were trying to build together that caused me to turn down the offer.  It was in that moment when I realized that I had reached a point in my life where I was searching for something more than money. I was searching for the ability to do something meaningful. Everyone has these moments, we just need to be mindful enough to recognize them for what they are.

 

Losing Millions

I remember being around 4 years old and often going to visit my grandparents at their mansion in the hills of Silicon Valley.  A few years later, when I was around 7 years old, I remember visiting them at the motel downtown where they were now living.

 

They lost everything. Their mansion, their cars, investment properties. Everything. Gone in the blink of an eye.

 

Before they lost it all, they lived in a mansion in Los Altos Hills, CA , where the median home price is around 8 million dollars. They had almost 2 dozen other properties spread out all over the Silicon Valley.  Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto. If I were to take a guess at their net worth in today’s terms, it would probably be near 100 million dollars.

 

It’s quite tragic really, from a mansion in the hills to a trailer park downtown, in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

 

The conclusion I came to was that it was actually not gone in the blink of an eye. Their wealth was slowly eroded by stagnation and complacency. By 40 years old, my grandfather retired. He stopped hustling and sat back on what he had built. However, they didn’t change their lifestyle.

 

As the money started to dwindle, they would default on payments. The bank would foreclose on one property, then the next, and the next. They slowly lost everything, bit by bit.

 

It’s easy to just say they weren’t smart with money or they should have been satisfied with less. But the truth is, this is not a story about what will happen if you don’t control your money. Instead, this is a story about what will happen when you let your money control you.

 

I know for a fact that witnessing this tragedy as a child and trying to understand what could possibly lead to this, helped to shape how I treat money now as an adult. The moral that I learned from living through this experience is that pride and complacency can slowly destroy everything you’ve built in your life.

 

Appreciate what you have but don’t lose the drive that made you get it in the first place. Always be willing to adjust if your circumstances change because if you dont, it could all be gone tomorrow.