Thank you for allowing me to come talk to your group. Tonight I want to “imitate” Steve Jobs and share with you three stories from my life. Just three. The first story is about – connecting the dots.
Growing up in a small town, I had plenty of opportunity to work. When I was 15, I worked in fast food. At 16, I worked at a gas station before and after school and the summer before I left for college, I worked in a factory. While in college, I was a statistician for the college newspaper and a weekend DJ for the college radio station. When I dropped out of college after my freshman year, I enrolled in the “prestigious” KFC management program. And after one exceptional bad day of burning a batch of chicken, I decided that the Army would not be a bad place to be for the next 4 years…so I joined. While in the Army, I worked part time at Sun-Coast Motion Picture Company, started a MLM business and studied to be our Battalion’s Soldier of The Year.
After the military, I started in sales at a local chemical company, left after 3 years and went to work for a Fortune 500 chemical company in Chicago. Left there after one year and studied to get my insurance license….which I did for a year. Then for six months I worked as the marketing manger for a cargo/trailer manufacturer and then got into the nifty business of selling vinyl fencing in 1997. In 1999 I helped my wife start a business and in 2001 I left the vinyl fence company and started my own retail fence company in Carmel Indiana. In 2002, I sold that company and joined my wife’s company, Creative Indoor Advertising. Needing more money in 2004, I went to work for a software company for a year. In 2005 we sold the advertising company and started Plan B Marketing. In 2007, needing more money once again, I took a job as Director of e-solutions for an Indianapolis ad agency. Bored in 2008, I bought a franchise, and then went back to Plan B Marketing full time. In 2009, we re branded to Fat Atom Internet Marketing and closed the franchise business. In 2011, I started the Catapult Project. In 2012, I closed that business and now focus exclusively running Fat Atom Marketing with a full time staff of 22 employees with yearly revenues of just over 1 million dollars this year.
Paraphrasing Steve Jobs here – Who would think that flipping burgers at 15 would lead me to where I am today? No one can look forward to connect the dots. But, it is very clear looking backwards 28 years later that the experiences I had not only made me the person I am today…it made the company I own today. You see, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Trust in destiny, karma, something, that will allow you to believe that what you are doing now has a purpose and that belief will drive you to success.
My second story is about epiphanies. I have always run against the grain of life. In 2001, I was at the top of my career in the vinyl fence industry. Making over 6 figures, being the top salesman at the company, having the respect and admiration of others…I was doing great. I can recall the day of the epiphany that would change my life. I was talking to my boss about the companies marketing strategy. I was giving my unsolicited input into his job. My boss stood up from behind his desk, looked at me and said, “We pay you to do the job we want you to do, not the job you could do.” And that is when it hit me like a brick wall. My value to the business was limited…finite. I couldn’t grow here…so within the month I quit. At the time, that was considered by most of my family and friends as the absolute stupidest thing I have ever done…next to joining the military that is.
But what this did was energize me to make my own path in the world. And while it wasn’t always what most consider a “normal” career path, it was mine. I know that I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that conversation. I wake up each morning, wanting to go to work, excited to tackle the challenges before me…one epiphany changed the course of my entire life. Tonight I challenge each of you to reflect on events that happen in your life. Don’t let the future happen out of chance, we each have the opportunity to make what we want out of life…will you make the most out of yours?
Steve’s third story was about death. As you know, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and if you read his autobiography, you can follow the ins and outs of his ordeal…spoiler alert…he dies. And while I don’t have a riveting cancer story that goes along with my death, I was once reminded of my own mortality. In April of 1995 my Dad called me around 7am and informed me that my Grandfather had died in his sleep. It was the first time in my adult life I had to face death. His funeral took place on a blustery spring day and as I stood at his grave, I read the big block letters across the tombstone…M U F F L E Y….Muffley. It was there for the first time, I realized my own mortality. News Flash, we are all going to die. But as the cliché goes, not all of us live.
Steve Jobs said that he would ask himself this question each day -
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
I would like to say that I am that introspective…but I am not. I do like to think that even though I don’t wake up each day asking myself that question, I had a moral compass inside me, guiding me by that principle. Because you see, Life IS to short and to precious to not be involved with something you love, something that you have a true passion for, something you believe in.
Each morning for the last six months, before I get out of bed, I have said to myself, “today is the day the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.” And while you may or may not believe in God, saying those little words have had a profound affect on my life. It reminds me that my time on earth is finite and that I need to be happy where I am at. And if they day should come where I am not….I know it’s time to change something….and that isn’t a bad thing.