I’ve been wanting to write this for awhile. I’ve always wanted to write more about who I am, what I’m doing, how it’s taken me this long to get here. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve felt more confident in sharing this with more people. For some reason I have no problem telling people in person, but when it comes to the internet, I think I can act quite “shy”. I’ve stopped myself from writing this for so long because I see it as bragging, but for every time I tell someone about the steps along this journey, the only feedback I’ve received has been “tell me more”.
So here’s more.
We all dream of success. We all hear the stories of how successful people act and how successful people behave. We constantly are trying to find patterns so we can mimic this ourselves. The reality is that every successful person has their own story. We like to put Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the same sentence, but if you know about both of their backgrounds, their stories are astronomically different. My story is about pursuit. It’s the pursuit, the drive, and the ambition which I constantly fueled by that entices me. What will happen tomorrow? Do I have enough money? Why aren’t I rich yet? Whoa, I’m still single.
So here is my story.
I just turned 29. I’m starting to bald. I’m on my third (?) start-up. I’ve been in and out of consulting positions both as a freelancer and as a salaried employee. I’ve lived very comfortably in some of the most expensive cities in the world (Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, London). Some of the opportunities I’ve turned down in the last 10 years would make some less fortunate people cringe. Some, in some view of the world, would call this very “successful”. However, no matter what anyone else calls it, I call it pursuit. I cannot live without pursuit.
Right now, I’m an office on the mediterranean sea, watching the sun set over the city of Barcelona. I have no immediate income. I don’t have a “job” per say, I have many. I have some credit card debt (for the first time in my life). Some days I work from 9 in the morning and get home at 10pm. I’ve never been this happy before.
Let’s travel back 8 years ago when I started my first job.
Like most middle-class suburban white Americans, it was my destiny to work for a large company, make a good salary, probably become a Vice President, make $200,000 per annum and retire by 65. Take the cookie cutter I was given, fill the mold, and create new smaller cookie cutters along the way.
That’s too easy. My parent’s bought me that life.
I was lucky to be raised in a family that came from very little. My dad was the only one of his brothers and sisters to go to college. He earned his way into college by himself, worked for a large company for some of his 20′s and has now spent the last 30 or so years running his own company. He didn’t create the Facebook of his day, but he did something that most people in his generation had a very difficult time achieving. I was the only person I knew growing up who had to cut his own lawn. I got paid $7.25 and had to maintain my own accounts for getting paid. This was my dad’s way of saying “this is important”.
He has always been right.
I started my first job at SAP as a Senior Support Consultant. Some, if not most, of my peers were substantially older than me. I had a Senior position at the age of 21. Whoa. Here was brash, confident, passionate and excited Mike rolling into the likes of Nike, ConocoPhilips, Kimberely-Clark, Coca-Cola, etc. at the young age of 22, “consulting” them on what they needed to do. They listened. It was odd. Who was I?
I learned so many things in my first job and in the process got to see the world outside of business. Two-week onsite in Monterrey, Mexico…flight to Las Vegas…off to Apple in Cupertino…two weeks in Caracas?! Oh, did I mention I spent a year living in Heidelberg, Germany on the company dime? Ya, I abused that. Abuse is a harsh word. Let’s just say I took every advantage I could by that opportunity.
Why? Because I’m sick of everyone else who says “never take for granted X”. Life gives you a lemon, you better damn well squeeze the living hell out of it, and quench every damn person’s thirst you can.
Over the years I spent earning good money I did everything you could possibly imagine with my money. I often think “wow can you imagine how much I’d be worth right now if I save all of that?” I don’t think my parents raised the person that would do that. I was born to see everything.
I spent a decent amount of my time partying until odd hours of the morning in random European cities. That’s what my social circles did. I was supposed to do that. I’ve met people from literally all over the world. Today, I have friends in Sweden, Germany, Singapore, South Africa, Colombia, and New Zealand (just to name a few). It’s one of my goals in life to have a friend in every country of whose couch I can crash on. My sister and my mom have a running joke they like to call “of course he does”. When I tell them I know someone in Singapore that I can go meet during my Sydney to London layover, their response is simply “of course he does”.
Basically, when someone asked me if I wanted to do something, the word “no” rarely exited my mouth. Gimme that lemon!
My last year at SAP was in 2009, shortly after the economic crash of October 2008. I remember this vividly because it was a major turning point for me. I was coming up on my 4th year at SAP and inevitably the “grass is always greener” idea started popping into my head. What was I doing getting paid what I was getting and yet the company was charging me out at $2,000/day?! There must be something better. I applied for a position internally at SAP to move to Montreal, Canada. Canada…why not, eh? This was a huge step for me. I was actually invited to join a group of the what was considered the most badass group of consultants at SAP. Score! I actually didn’t think I possessed anything substantially better than my peers, other than the fact that I wanted it. Many of my peers said “ah ya those guys are awesome, I’d love to be in that group”. The reality was that they knew they weren’t confident enough to do so. I soon realized that was the only thing stopping anyone.
This was the first time in my life that I realized that you do not get anything in life if you don’t ask for it. I learned that you must couple pursuit with vocality. This is commonly called ‘vision’. And for some reason when you have ‘vision’ this resonates really well with masses of people.
Economic crash meant hiring freeze. I’m stuck and wasn’t allowed to move to the new role for any foreseeable future. I got thrown into a role that was “dummy work” because my boss knew I wanted to move to another group, and needed me for his own group’s goals. Fair enough. You just made that decision very easy for me.
That’s when I met my first business partner. Slightly older than me. More experienced. Consulted to the axis of evil (Goldman Sachs) – of which he left to pursue the life of an entrepreneur. I was inspired. I looked up to Brian, and still do. We spent a year together in New York trying to build a web business. We were, to my own surprise, quite successful. Something was missing though. I was getting calls to do SAP work, that I turned down. Twice the amount of money, half of the amount of time. What was I doing? Oh, right Mike, I was learning. Push on.
I don’t think it’s possible to learn more in your first year of entrepreneurial work. School cannot prepare you for the most important aspect of human life – survival. Being an entrepreneur does.
I soon found out I wasn’t passionate about the work that I was working on with Brian and received an offer to help grow an SAP consulting practice in London. No wife, no kids, no girlfriend, no family. No baggage except the two in my hands. This is a no brainer. So I hopped on a plane and journey number 3 started.
I was very blessed to have met with the people that I worked with in London. When I worked for SAP, I was sheltered by very many senior people. Here I was huddled around the same campfire with senior enterprise people, but it was my responsibility, ultimately, to make both myself and the company a success.
During my time in London, I also achieved most people only dream of. I completed an Ironman. Not many 27 year olds can say that. I learned the extreme amount of sacrifice it takes you achieve something that you can’t simply turn over in a weekend. I will always remember my Ironman journey. No one can take away crossing that finish line in 12 hours and 30-some odd minutes.
Through the past years, I’ve had the opportunity to see so many sides of life, business, travel, love, relationships, but more importantly I found out the importance of maturity. Maturity is the most important thing you need when you are faced with adversity.
My path came to an abrupt halt when I was made redundant from my company in Xoomworks. Actually, not many people know this. You could probably look at that situation in a number of different ways but for me it was a blessing in disguise. This must be failure number, um, number 1,023,405th for me? Do I still sound like a success?
My former boss gave me quite possibly the most vital piece of motivational material when he broke the news. Basically he said “You’re very passionate and full of energy, but you need to finish”.
This was the first time in my life that when I faced adversity, that my natural instinct was to be confident. No one can eliminate the human nature that goes with disappointment and failure, but I was finally mature about it.
So, here I am, sitting in an office in Barcelona watching the city lights glow. It’s almost midnight now and I’m still in the office. I absolutely love this. Even though the numbers and the situation don’t show it, I’m more confident because I know this life will work.
I launched Compete Hub several months and my doubt in it becoming the next best thing continues to subside. As humans we will always doubt ourselves and our capabilities. This is normal. But what’s even scarier to me now is not the risk and the doubt, but the reality that “Holy shit, this might actually work”.
This is still my story and it still goes on. But now it’s time to finish. And when I do, it means I start again.