I had a peachy childhood. Nothing out of the ordinary – I played sports, I had friends, I was short, I went fishing, and we traveled as a family. I never wanted for anything. The worst it ever got was when my brother and I would fight and Dad would tell us to shut-up occasionally… Which was well-deserved. Overall, we were loved, we had anything we wanted, and we learned good values and morals. And most importantly, my parents are happily married to this day – something that I know has made my life exponentially easier than under alternative circumstances.
Continuing on – high school. I lived to be popular, to be cool, to fit in, to be in the party group. I did just enough work in school to get by with A’s and a couple of B’s. I was blessed to scoot by despite myself.
When I wasn’t playing baseball, I was partying. My ‘friend group’ drank far too much and far too often. We had huge parties every weekend. It was like Animal House for high-schoolers… You get the picture.
I got exactly nothing out of the relationships with the guys I called my ‘friends’ at the time. In fact, of the four guys I spent the most time with in high school, I think I’ve talked to one of them since I started college in 2006. Nothing against them, I just didn’t know who I was and it shows by the fact that I tried so hard to hang out with people who really didn’t care too much about me.
Then I went to college. Cool doesn’t work quite as well in college. And the consequences get bigger, which I quickly learned through personal experience.
On November 17th, 2006, I was arrested after a long night at the bars in my college town. After drinking far too much, I went home to my dorm room and in my stupor picked an unnecessary fight with my roommate. Long story short, the cops came, they handcuffed me and walked me out of the dorm, and I woke up in jail.
If you’ve never been to jail, I hope you never have the experience. Here’s why: 1) It’s embarrassing. 2) It’s terrifying. 3) The lingering consequences are incredibly burdensome.
That being said, being arrested was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Counterintuitive, right? Let me explain what going to jail did for me.
- It fundamentally changed the trajectory of my college career
- It forced me to stop partying so much – I believe this kept me from becoming an alcoholic and also allowed me new opportunities
- I began to consider the things that mattered most to me
- Understanding what mattered meant I began to develop a level of self-awareness
- Thanks to new opportunities, I began to develop a leadership style and perspective
I took on large amounts of responsibility in every student organization of which I was a part. I was elected president of my fraternity and was incredibly challenged to stand by my values and make hard decisions. I was selected to serve as an orientation leader, which meant I had the opportunity to help hundreds of first year students learn from my stupid mistakes. And I was accepted into a leadership development program, which gave me incredible perspective on life and leadership, as well as connecting me with some of the best business students in my college… Essentially, I was challenged. I made a million mistakes along the way, and I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and stand up for what I believed in.
My last major, meaningful experience in college was a nearly four month trip to Europe. My girlfriend and I traveled throughout Europe and studied for an entire term at Oxford University’s Keble College. The single greatest lesson from my studies at Oxford: I love learning. I had never put so much effort into my school work, and neither had I ever desired to put in so much effort. Yet again, my life was changed. I rediscovered the importance of exercising my mind and thinking for myself. Bam – I had stumbled into a new way of thinking and challenging conventional ideas.
I came home from Oxford refreshed and ready to find a job where I could apply my newfound enthusiasm. I’m a competitive guy, so naturally, when it came time to start the job search… I wanted the most competitive, prestigious job I could find in the Atlanta area to fit my finance and accounting coursework. I networked myself right into a management consulting job as a staffer in one of the major professional services firms. I was thrilled with the outcome and excited to go to work for such a large company.
I worked my tail off at the firm for nearly eight months and finally came to the realization that I was living somebody else’s life, working in somebody else’s dream job. That was tough. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to tell my family.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I started reading and brainstorming and reading and brainstorming. I thought of every way I could make money without working for someone else. I introduced the idea of becoming an entrepreneur to my girlfriend, then to my brother, then to my mother. My girlfriend and brother – very supportive. My mother – not so much.
Then a funny thing happened… I came home one day and my mom told me she had been brainstorming on my behalf. I had won her over. Next step: break the news to Dad. Not quite as easy.
My dad has worked hard throughout his life. He was in the Coast Guard, he worked at Lockheed, he waited tables, he raised two pain-in-the-butt sons (that’s me and my brother), and there were times when he put up with the work just to bring home a check. He told my mom that I needed to suck it up and appreciate the fact that I had a great job. Her response: “You have a 23-year-old son that has some talent and you want him to think about something else just to get through the day for the next 35 years of his life?” It was a bit of a trump card.
My dad and I went down to Orvis one day not long after he and my mom had talked. On the way, he said: “You know, if we have to buy your groceries for a couple of months, it won’t be the end of the world.”
I submitted my letter of resignation the next work day.
Now I am the owner of Unconventional Innovations, LLC. But really, the business name most people associate me with is Living for Monday. L4M is a passion-based business on a mission to drive discovery of purpose and inspire intentional action. We do that through inspiration, encouragement, problem solving and tough questions.
I hope you’ll join me, because without you, this whole deal doesn’t matter. Let’s build something together – an unconventional army, ready to spread great ideas and live the lives we have imagined. Because when we do that, the world becomes a better place.