I am not the most successful person in the world, by any means, and I have a very long way to go before I reach the goals I have for myself. But I do have a wonderful family, a good job, an exciting career, and an education I’m proud of.
Even one of those things was more than I expected to have when I began my adult life. When I was 18 I could no longer live under the same roof with my dad (who, at the time, was mutually deciding with my mom that they could no longer live under the same roof together). I moved out with no money, no place to go, and no plan.
I moved into my Geo Tracker.
Living in a Geo Tracker is nothing if not an adventure, and here are two adventures from my Tracker days:
When I wasn’t sleeping in the Tracker I would stay at my girlfriend’s house, who, though older than me, lived with her mother. Some nights, after her mother would go to bed, I would park down the road and sneak through her bedroom window and spend the night. One night her neighbor called the police to report a break-in. The police knocked on the door at 1:00 AM. My girlfriend sprinted to the door and explained the situation to the police before her mother could wake up. However, she wanted me to leave in case all of the commotion ended up waking her mother.
There are walks of shame, and then there is going through the window on a February night in Utah and getting a police escort on the way back to your car.
We broke up not long after.
I would often sleep in the parking lot of a gym I belonged to. I could wake up, work out, and shower. One night I forgot to lock my car and woke up because my door was open, and a man was just watching me sleep.
It was alarming.
So, while I recognize the absurdity of a guy who is just a normal person writing a “How I Got Where I am Today” post, it’s a long way from these stories to where I am now. And here are a few reasons why I got here:
1. I was raised by dreamers.
My parents were many things, but one of the things I am most proud of is that they were dreamers. Just a few years after living in a tent and surviving on food stamps my dad was riding a camel in Egypt on a business trip and my mom was graduating with her associates degree.
For any negative traits they passed on, one positive trait I picked up is a disproportionate sense of what one can accomplish in their life. I thank them for that.
2. Eventually, I got my act together and got an education.
My mom graduated from college at 35, and became a paralegal. I didn’t know it at the time but she set a powerful example for me. When I was 20 I realized that while I was no longer living in a Geo Tracker, my life was going nowhere. I went to college, and became the first person in my family to get a 4-year degree. The impact my education has had on my life is almost incalculable, and worth every penny I pay in student loans.
I do want to make a quick note on an education: unless you are going to be a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, or an accountant (and a few other things), you can technically reach your goal without a degree. But it will be a lot harder.
That said, even if you don’t get a degree, get an education. Read, be curious, and never stop learning.
3. I realized where I was at any given moment was not where I was going to end up.
“This too shall pass” is a great saying, but there is a caveat. Time passes, but things only improve if you consistently learn and better yourself. Read books, take classes, find mentors to help you be a better spouse, person, parent, employee, or boss. In your career, don’t wait for your employer to invest in your professional development.
Invest in yourself. It’s your life.
If you do all these things, eventually you will end up in a better place. Last year I spent Thanksgiving at the White House (that’s a real pic of me and Michelle Obama). It was awesome, and needless to say, not somewhere I thought I would be just a couple of years before that.
4. I found my tribe early on.
This year I’ll spend Thanksgiving at home for the first time in a couple of years, and that’s awesome too. I’ll spend it with—all due respect to Seth Godin—the only tribe that really matters to me.
I met my wife when I was 22, we got married two months later, and by 26 I had three kids, one of which was her daughter that I adopted when we got married.
Even when stuff goes seriously wrong in my career, I know the basics like love and having a home are taken care of. And by home, I don’t mean our literal home (though I like having a bed). I mean a place to call home. Five people would be a lot to fit in a Geo Tracker, but even if we have to do that one day, it will still be a home in the way that my prior Geo Tracker wasn’t.
However you define it, find your tribe early on and rely on them.
5. There is some other stuff too, and lots of mistakes along the way, but this post is getting very long, so I’ll leave you with just one more thing.
Listen to good music.
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