Of course we all grow up hoping we will be successful adults. But how do we get there? That’s the tricky part. Society and conventional wisdom will tell you to do well in school, get accepted to a good university, graduate, and then get a job at a company where you will hopefully stay until you retire. Realistically, that path isn’t an option for many people and it definitely was not an option for me.
My parents didn’t have money for me to go to college. They had lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life and were just trying to make sure the bills were paid. Those bills were usually sitting on our kitchen counter with “PAST DUE or “LAST NOTICE” showing on the envelope. When I was 18, I tried to apply for the only assistance I knew of, which was financial aid but my parents owed back taxes to the IRS so I was unable to get any kind of assistance. This, along with some other things, lead me down a dark road of depression for almost 3 years. I was able to eventually pull myself out of it with grit, a positive mental attitude, and a strong work ethic.
While many young adults do have the opportunity to go to college and earn a degree, that wasn’t a part of my path. When I was 22 years old, my friends were graduating college and staring out into the horizon of their bright future, while I was a janitor cleaning toilets at a rundown motel for minimum wage. When I learned I was going to have child, I knew I needed to make a change. I became a security guard at a tech company because honestly, that was the only thing I was able to find better than cleaning toilets that didn’t require experience or a degree. Then I got into that same tech company at the lowest possible entry level position, working in software. That got my foot in the door and my success or failure from that point on, would be up to me and how hard I was willing to work for it.
From there, I was able to set a career goal for myself and make incremental steps to achieve that goal. Before I was 30 years old, I had become a senior manager in tech. A role where most of my colleagues were in their mid to late 40’s – almost 2 decades older than me. We both arrived at the same successful destination but we took very different paths. They had taken the conventional path to get there and I had taken my own path. It was not easy for me to get there. It took a tremendous amount of hard work and ambition. It involved taking on additional tasks and projects at work, sacrificing time with my family in order to work late nights and weekends, and going to school at night to learn new skills, after working all day.
Even today, as one of the managers at my company, no matter where I am or who I am with, I take pride in being the most humble guy in the room and never forgetting where I came from. Everything I have in my life today I had to earn through hard work, ambition, and perseverance. I started at the bottom as a janitor and worked my way to where I am now.
This is why I treat everyone with respect. I don’t care if your net worth is in the millions like myself or if you are the busboy at a restaurant. I used to be you. You are a human being with dignity and deserve to be treated as such. I treat everyone with the same respect as I would like to be treated. One of my favorite quotes is something along the lines of “judge a man by the way he treats the ones who can do nothing for him.” Those are powerful words and when you view people through that lens, you will see their true character.
Having no formal education means that my experience and knowledge was not gained listening to an academic lecture or theory in a college university. Everything I learned was from the school of hard knocks, so to speak. I believe that anything learned inside of a classroom can also be learned outside of a classroom, at a different time and place. Drive, ambition, and work ethic can’t be taught.
The key reason for today’s blog is that I don’t want anyone out there to feel discouraged if your path hasn’t been paved for you. Don’t get angry and blame your environment or other people for your current situation. We all get dealt different hands in life but we can take steps to change our hands. The path certainly wasn’t paved for me, but I incrementally changed the hand I was dealt and reached my destination. Success.