31

Ten years ago on my 21st birthday, I was sitting in a memorial service for one of my best friends. Oddly enough, death wasn’t foreign to me growing up, and at the time I had also just lost two other significant people in my life in each month prior that year. But it was the first time loosing a peer, and that was the first time I questioned my own mortality. Its one of those situations where you knew it was a possibility that he might not come home from a tour in Iraq; you just don’t believe it’ll ever be your reality. For the past 10 years celebrating my birthday has been bittersweet. My life is filled with love, and its a blessing i don’t take for granted. But its still been a struggle to celebrate life and not think about the ones that were cut short. Only now, at 31, am I able to fully realize the opportunity of life, and the paralyzing effect that comes from guilt dwelling on something I have no control over.

Something clicked for me at 30. It feels different, there’s a new clarity, and a better understanding of self. More importantly, the realization that how I live and how I give can forever be a living tribute to those who have had a significant impact on my life.

Maybe you’ll see this, maybe you won’t but that doesn’t mean you had any less of an impact on me. For all your love, support, encouragement, and guidance, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly appreciate every single bit of it.

#31.

A Little Thursday Prose From A Wednesday

They say there is a time and place for everything, but they say a lot of things. 
Divine intervention…perhaps.
Maybe I need to slow down, but I got too much on my plate. 
How much weight can a plate hold, anyway?
In the fast lane going nowhere fast; stay in your lane.
Up, down, up, down…and down again.
Try to find the good in — cut off …honesty stayed and guilt fled.
I need a pen; my camera on my phone will do.
Document everything. Such a tedious process.
Eyes deceive, perception is altered, so what’s the point of documenting?
Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t; unless its time.
Even if you understand the concept of; you will always be deceived by time.
It always moves faster at the most inopportune time.
This time around it was the fastest slow motion replay I ever witnessed.
This time around I wish I had a couple seconds to spare because that would have given me back an hour of my life.
But there’s that concept of time again, an hour of life…
Imagine if we hadn’t had those couple of seconds? 
That hour I wanted back could have gone a lot different.
More headaches, but no heart breaks.
Perhaps that’s divine intervention..
Perhaps something to be learned, maybe something owed; premiums.
But end of the day and looking back on that hour all live are accounted for.

Thoughts on Tribal Workers.

It has been a while since I’ve blogged. There are a number of reasons I could list as to what has kept me away for so long — perhaps that could be a blog in and of itself. But, more importantly is what compelled me to come back to blogging today. 
I woke up to an email this morning from a friend sharing an article called, “Tribal Workers.” It focuses on this “new generation” that is made up of people in my age group; a group of people who embrace, or are trapped, by an “employment lifestyle” …a lifestyle I have been associated with.

“…when people can convince themselves that all they need do in order to lead fulfilled and happy lives is to work long hours, they can quickly start to lose reasons for their existence. As they start to think of their employment as a lifestyle, fulfilling and rewarding of itself – and in which the reward is proportional to hours worked – people rapidly begin to substitute work for other aspects of their lives.

At first, I wanted to take offense seeing as how I am involved in a little bit of a lot. But this doesn’t justify my involvement in the slightest. I generally keep my ventures separated; in my opinion, it prevents people from questioning my commitment and dedication to my field. Over time I have found that people are more willing to accept, or embrace, a creative persons venture when they are they are perceived as “all-in” on their sole niche.

Quick sidebar: there is a distinct difference in the quality of work between someone who has multiple interests/hobbies and has taken the time to invest in their craft, verses someone who is just out there trying different things in an attempt to find their “thing” or even themselves. For the latter, I can understand people who don’t take them serious or see them as searching for a “thing” to use in order to fulfill themselves rather than doing something fulfilling.

Now, the idea of having to pick just ONE thing that I want to do or invest myself in didn’t quite work for me.  When I found something I loved to do I like to explore the possibilities of where I could take it, and where I need to grow to make it happen. I like to see how it fits into the grand vision of making my contributions in this world worthwhile. But unlike many cases discussed in the article, there was never a need for me to keep my time occupied in order to feel more fulfilled. It was more so that I have a passion for different fields; all of which have presented lucrative opportunities that I’ve learned to welcome with open arms.

One of the main reasons why I am able to handle multiple ventures is because of the time Cliff and I spent early on in our careers learning how to maintaining balance in our lives. It definitely wasn’t an easy task nor did we quite figure out the right balance on the first try, but its why we don’t burn out every month taking on new projects either.

Speaking of balance…three of the people who spoke on relationships really stood out to me. One who was willing to relocate for a job and move in with his girlfriend yet still maintain this long distance type relationship. I just don’t understand the point staying in a relationship with someone who is so indifferent about the relationship. The second young man, whose career had international ventures and had him moving around quite a bit made it a point to avoid relationships or any type of emotional investing in a partner due to the fact that he would soon be leaving for the next job. I understand that more; why be in a relationship with someone you can’t be even be with, right? Then there was Kathryn…

Kathryn is a successful American academic, 29, who bucked the trend of her generation: she recently turned her life round for someone else. She moved to the UK, specifically, to be with a man, a decision that she says few of her contemporaries understood. “We’re not meant to say: ‘I made this decision for this person. Today, you’re meant to do things for yourself. If you’re willing to make sacrifices for others – especially if you’re a woman – that’s seen as a kind of weakness. I wonder, though, is doing things for yourself really empowerment, or is liberty a kind of trap?” she says.

Kathryn’s story stood out to me. There was a point in time in my early 20’s when I was ready and willing to uproot my life for the woman I loved. This was even before I had a desire to leave the state of California. Where ever her job landed her I knew I could relocate and run my business from there, or at the very least get a job at the same university. Overly confident, young, and not thinking things through? Perhaps. But I was never discouraged from this. Maybe I just had a great support system. What baffles me is the fact that making such a bold decisions can render someone as weak. That takes so much conviction and confidence, I fail to understand why its looked down upon as weakness; sacrificing some alleged power. But I digress…

In this new generation of young professionals, we will see many more people with a broader general knowledge and experience base. Specialists will be farther and fewer in between, but there will still be the few that dedicate their lives to one thing — and there will be a time and place for their impact and expertise. Much like in health care, more Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners will be handling family/general practice while physicians will be more focused on specializing. For the rest of us, we are no long living in a box nor confined by limitation. But what deserves a moment of reflection is how does everything you’re involved in come together for your greater goal? We surely know it is perfectly fine to be talented at, and invest in, more than one thing …learning how to maintain that healthy balance in life, that’s the most neglected investment.

The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master [article]

This article was published on my 23rd birthday. I remember stumbling across it just before I turned 25. I thought it’d be nice to revisit the article. Word to @SethBrundle.

The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master
A man can be expert in nothing, but he must be practiced in many things. Skills. You don’t have to master them all at once. You simply have to collect and develop a certain number of skills as the years tick by. People count on you to come through. That’s why you need these, to start.
PLUS: The 25 Skills Every Man Should Know
By Tom Chiarella

A Man Should Be Able To:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. I got run out of a job I liked once, and while it was happening, a guy stopped me in the hall. Smart guy, but prone to saying too much. I braced myself. I didn’t want to hear it. I needed a white knight, and I knew it wasn’t him. He just sighed and said: When nobody has your back, you gotta move your back. Then he walked away. Best advice I ever got. One sentence.


2. Tell if someone is lying. Everyone has his theory. Pick one, test it. Choose the tells that work for you. I like these: Liars change the subject quickly. Liars look up and to their right when they speak. Liars use fewer contractions. Liars will sometimes stare straight at you and employ a dead face. Liars never touch their chest or heart except self-consciously. Liars place objects between themselves and you during a conversation.


3. Take a photo. Fill the frame.


4. Score a baseball game. Scoring a game is an exercise in ciphering, creating a shorthand of your very own. In this way, it’s a private language as much as a record of the game. The only given is the numbering of the positions and the use of the diamond to express each batter’s progress around the bases. I black out the diamond when a run scores. I mark an RBI with a tally mark in the upper-right-hand corner. Each time you score a game, you pick up on new elements to track: pitch count, balls and strikes, foul balls. It doesn’t matter that this information is available on the Internet in real time. Scoring a game is about bearing witness, expanding your own ability to observe.


5. Name a book that matters. The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Not really. You gotta read.


6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. One guy at your table knows where Cobain was born and who his high school English teacher was. Another guy can argue the elegant extended trope of Liquid Swords with GZA himself. This is how it should be. Music does not demand agreement. Rilo Kiley. Nina Simone. Whitesnake. Fugazi. Otis Redding. Whatever. Choose. Nobody likes a know-it-all, because 1) you can’t know it all and 2) music offers distinct and private lessons. So pick one. Except Rilo Kiley. I heard they broke up.


7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.
Buy The Way to Cook, by Julia Child. Try roasting. Braising. Broiling. Slow-cooking. Pan searing. Think ragouts, fricassees, stews. All of this will force you to understand the functionality of different cuts. In the end, grilling will be a choice rather than a chore, and your Weber will become a tool rather than a piece of weekend entertainment.


8. Not monopolize the conversation.


9. Write a letter.
So easy. So easily forgotten. A five-paragraph structure works pretty well: Tell why you’re writing. Offer details. Ask questions. Give news. Add a specific memory or two. If your handwriting is terrible, type. Always close formally.


10. Buy a suit.
Avoid bargains. Know your likes, your dislikes, and what you need it for (work, funerals, court). Squeeze the fabric — if it bounces back with little or no sign of wrinkling, that means it’s good, sturdy material. And tug the buttons gently. If they feel loose or wobbly, that means they’re probably coming off sooner rather than later. The jacket’s shoulder pads are supposed to square with your shoulders; if they droop off or leave dents in the cloth, the jacket’s too big. The jacket sleeves should never meet the wrist any lower than the base of the thumb — if they do, ask to go down a size. Always get fitted.


11. Swim three different strokes. Doggie paddle doesn’t count.


12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Respect the following, in this order: age, experience, record, reputation. Don’t mention any of it.


13. Throw a punch. Close enough, but not too close. Swing with your shoulders, not your arm. Long punches rarely land squarely. So forget the roundhouse. You don’t have a haymaker. Follow through; don’t pop and pull back. The length you give the punch should come in the form of extension after the point of contact. Just remember, the bones in your hand are small and easy to break. You’re better off striking hard with the heel of your palm. Or you could buy the guy a beer and talk it out.


14. Chop down a tree. Know your escape path. When the tree starts to fall, use it.


15. Calculate square footage. Width times length.


16. Tie a bow tie.
Step 1: Make a simple knot, allowing slightly more length (one to two inches) on the end of A.
Step 2: Lay A out of the way, fold B into the normal bow shape, and position it on the first knot you made.
Step 3: Drop A vertically over folded end B.
Step 4: Double back A on itself and position it over the knot so that the two folded ends make a cross.
Step 5: The hard part: Pass folded end A under and behind the left side (yours) of the knot and through the loop behind folded end B.
Step 6: Tighten the knot you have created, straightening, particularly in the center.

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well.
When I interviewed for my first job, one of the senior guys had me to his house for a reception. He offered me a cigarette and pointed me to a bowl of whiskey sours, like I was Darrin Stephens and he was Larry Tate. I can still remember that first tight little swallow and my gratitude that I could go back for a refill without looking like a drunk. I came to admire the host over the next decade, but he never gave me the recipe. So I use this:
• For every 750-ml bottle of whiskey (use a decent bourbon or rye), add:
• 6 oz fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
• 6 oz simple syrup (mix superfine sugar and water in equal quantities)
To serve: Shake 3 oz per person with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice or, if you’re really slick, a float of red wine. (Pour about 1/2 oz slowly into each glass over the back of a spoon; this is called a New York sour, and it’s great.)


18. Speak a foreign language. Pas beaucoup. Mais faites un effort.


19. Approach a woman out of his league. Ever have a shoeshine from a guy you really admire? He works hard enough that he doesn’t have to tell stupid jokes; he doesn’t stare at your legs; he knows things you don’t, but he doesn’t talk about them every minute; he doesn’t scrape or apologize for his status or his job or the way he is dressed; he does his job confidently and with a quiet relish. That stuff is wildly inviting. Act like that guy.


20. Sew a button.


21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer.
Once, in our lifetime, much of Europe was approaching cultural and political irrelevance. Then they made like us and banded together into a union of confederated states. So you can always assume that they were simply copying the United States as they now push us to the verge of cultural and political irrelevance.


22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn’t have to ask after it.
Otherwise, ask after it.


23. Be loyal. You will fail at it. You have already. A man who does not know loyalty, from both ends, does not know men. Loyalty is not a matter of give-and-take: He did me a favor, therefore I owe him one. No. No. No. It is the recognition of a bond, the honoring of a shared history, the reemergence of the vows we make in the tight times. It doesn’t mean complete agreement or invisible blood ties. It is a currency of selflessness, given without expectation and capable of the most stellar return.


24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Brand, amount, style, fast, like so: Booker’s, double, neat.


25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it.
Use a contractor’s hammer. Swing hard and loose, like a tennis serve.


26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.


27. Play gin with an old guy. Old men will try to crush you. They’ll drown you in meaningless chatter, tell stories about when they were kids this or in Korea that. Or they’ll retreat into a taciturn posture designed to get you to do the talking. They’ll note your strategies without mentioning them, keep the stakes at a level they can control, and change up their pace of play just to get you stumbling. You have to do this — play their game, be it dominoes or cribbage or chess. They may have been playing for decades. You take a beating as a means of absorbing the lessons they’ve learned without taking a lesson. But don’t be afraid to take them down. They can handle it.


28. Play go fish with a kid.
You don’t crush kids. You talk their ear off, make an event out of it, tell them stories about when you were a kid this or in Vegas that. You have to play their game, too, even though they may have been playing only for weeks. Observe. Teach them without once offering a lesson. And don’t be afraid to win. They can handle it.


29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped.
Sometimes the laws of physics aren’t laws at all. Read The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, by Kenneth W. Ford.


30. Feign interest. Good place to start: quantum physics.


31. Make a bed.


32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. I once stood in a wine store in West Hollywood where the owner described a pinot noir he favored as “a night walk through a wet garden.” I bought it. I went to my hotel and drank it by myself, looking at the flickering city with my feet on the windowsill. I don’t know which was more right, the wine or the vision that he placed in my head. Point is, it was right.


33. Hit a jump shot in pool. It’s not something you use a lot, but when you hit a jump shot, it marks you as a player and briefly impresses women. Make the angle of your cue steeper, aim for the bottommost fraction of the ball, and drive the cue smoothly six inches past the contact point, making steady, downward contact with the felt.


34. Dress a wound. First, stop the bleeding. Apply pressure using a gauze pad. Stay with the pressure. If you can’t stop the bleeding, forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Once the bleeding stops, clean the wound. Use water or saline solution; a little soap is good, too. If you can’t get the wound clean, then forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Finally, dress the wound. For a laceration, push the edges together and apply a butterfly bandage. For avulsions, where the skin is punctured and pulled back like a trapdoor, push the skin back and use a butterfly. Slather the area in antibacterial ointment. Cover the wound with a gauze pad taped into place. Change that dressing every 12 hours, checking carefully for signs of infection. Better yet, get to a hospital.


35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once).


36. Make three different bets at a craps table. Play the smallest and most poorly labeled areas, the bets where it’s visually evident the casino doesn’t want you to go. Simply play the pass line; once the point is set, play full odds (this is the only really good bet on the table); and when you want a little more action, tell the crew you want to lay the 4 and the 10 for the minimum bet.


37. Shuffle a deck of cards.
I play cards with guys who can’t shuffle, and they lose. Always.


38. Tell a joke. Here’s one:
Two guys are walking down a dark alley when a mugger approaches them and demands their money. They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash. Just then, one guy turns to the other, hands him a bill, and says, “Hey, here’s that $20 I owe you.”


39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack.
Aces. Eights. Always.


40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Use his first name. Don’t use baby talk. Don’t crank up your energy to match his. Ask questions and wait for answers. Follow up. Don’t pretend to be interested in Webkinz or Power Rangers or whatever. He’s as bored with that shit as you are. Concentrate instead on seeing the child as a person of his own.


41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear.
You don’t own the restaurant, so don’t act like it. You own the transaction. So don’t speak into the menu. Lift your chin. Make eye contact. All restaurants have secrets — let it be known that you expect to see some of them.


42. Talk to a dog so it will hear.
Go ahead, use baby talk.


43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Just turn off the damned main.


44. Ask for help.
Guys who refuse to ask for help are the most cursed men of all. The stubborn, the self-possessed, and the distant. The hell with them.


45. Break another man’s grip on his wrist. Rotate your arm rapidly in the grip, toward the other guy’s thumb.


46. Tell a woman’s dress size.


47. Recite one poem from memory. Here you go:
WHEN YOU ARE OLD
When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
–William Butler Yeats


48. Remove a stain. Blot. Always blot.


49. Say no.


50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Cook until the white appears solid…and no longer.


51. Build a campfire.
There are three components:
1. The tinder — bone-dry, snappable twigs, about as long as your hand. You need two complete handfuls. Try birch bark; it burns long and hot.
2. The kindling — thick as your thumb, long as your forearm, breakable with two hands. You need two armfuls.
3. Fuel wood — anything thick and long enough that it can’t be broken by hand. It’s okay if it’s slightly damp. You need a knee-high stack.
Step 1: Light the tinder, turning the pile gently to get air underneath it.
Step 2: Feed the kindling into the emergent fire with some pace.
Step 3: Lay on the fuel wood. Pyramid, the log cabin, whatever — the idea is to create some kind of structure so that plenty of air gets to the fire.


52. Step into a job no one wants to do. When I was 13, my dad called me into his office at the large urban mall he ran. He was on the phone. What followed was a fairly banal 15-minute conversation, which involved the collection of rent from a store. On and on, droning about store hours and lighting problems. I kept raising my eyebrows, pretending to stand up, and my dad kept waving me down. I could hear only his end, garrulous and unrelenting. He rolled his eyes as the excuses kept coming. His assertions were simple and to the point, like a drumbeat. He wanted the rent. He wanted the store to stay open when the mall was open. Then suddenly, having given the job the time it deserved, he put it to an end. “So if I see your gate down next Sunday afternoon, I’m going to get a drill and stick a goddamn bolt in it and lock you down for the next week, right?” When he hung up, rent collected, he took a deep breath. “I’ve been dreading that call,” he said. “Once a week you gotta try something you never would do if you had the choice. Otherwise, why are you here?” So he gave me that. And this…


53. Sometimes, kick some ass.


54. Break up a fight. Work in pairs if possible. Don’t get between people initially. Use the back of the collar, pull and urge the person downward. If you can’t get him down, work for distance.


55. Point to the north at any time.
If you have a watch, you can point the hour hand at the sun. Then find the point directly between the hour hand and the 12. That’s south. The opposite direction is, of course, north.


56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person.


57. Explain what a light-year is. It’s the measure of the distance that light travels over 365.25 days.


58. Avoid boredom. You have enough to eat. You can move. This must be acknowledged as a kind of freedom. You don’t always have to buy things, put things in your mouth, or be delighted.


59. Write a thank-you note.
Make a habit of it. Follow a simple formula like this one: First line is a thesis statement. The second line is evidentiary. The third is a kind of assertion. Close on an uptick.
Thanks for having me over to watch game six. Even though they won, it’s clear the Red Sox are a soulless, overmarketed contrivance of Fox TV. Still, I’m awfully happy you have that huge high-def television. Next time, I really will bring beer. Yours,


60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. It tells a lot about who you are and where you came from. Me? I like Hellman’s mayonnaise and Genesee beer, which makes me the fleshy, stubbornly upstate ne’er-do-well that I will always be.


61. Cook bacon.
Lay out the bacon on a rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.


62. Hold a baby.
Newborns should be wrapped tightly and held against the chest. They like tight spaces (consider their previous circumstances) and rhythmic movements, so hold them snug, tuck them in the crook of your elbow or against the skin of your neck. Rock your hips like you’re bored, barely listening to the music at the edge of a wedding reception. No one has to notice except the baby. Don’t breathe all over them.


63. Deliver a eulogy. Take the job seriously. It matters. Speak first to the family, then to the outside world. Write it down. Avoid similes. Don’t read poetry. Be funny.


64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. When I was a kid, because I’m Italian and because the Irish guys in my neighborhood were relentless with the beatings on St. Patrick’s Day, I loved the very idea of Christopher Columbus. I loved the fact that Irish kids worshipped some gnome who drove all the rats out of Ireland or whatever, whereas my hero was an explorer. Man, I drank the Kool-Aid on that guy. Of course, I later learned that he was a hand-chopping, land-stealing egotist who sold out an entire hemisphere to European avarice. So I left Columbus behind. Your understanding of your heroes must evolve. See Roger Clemens. See Bill Belichick.


65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably.
If you can’t, play more ball.


68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. Note your landmarks — mountains, power lines, the sound of a highway. Look for the sun: It sits in the south; it moves west. Gauge your direction every few minutes. If you’re completely stuck, look for a small creek and follow it downstream. Water flows toward larger bodies of water, where people live.


69. Tie a knot.
Square knot: left rope over right rope, turn under. Then right rope over left rope. Tuck under. Pull. Or as my pack leader, Dave Kenyon, told me in a Boy Scouts meeting: “Left over right, right over left. What’s so fucking hard about that?”


70. Shake hands. Steady, firm, pump, let go. Use the time to make eye contact, since that’s where the social contract begins.


71. Iron a shirt. My uncle Tony the tailor once told me of ironing: Start rough, end gently.


72. Stock an emergency bag for the car.
Blanket. Heavy flashlight. Hand warmers. Six bottles of water. Six packs of beef jerky. Atlas. Reflectors. Gloves. Socks. Bandages. Neosporin. Inhaler. Benadryl. Motrin. Hard candy. Telescoping magnet. Screwdriver. Channel-locks. Crescent wrench. Ski hat. Bandanna.


73. Caress a woman’s neck. Back of your fingers, in a slow fan.


74. Know some birds. If you can’t pay attention to a bird, then you can’t learn from detail, you aren’t likely to appreciate the beauty of evolution, and you don’t have a clue how birdlike your own habits may be. You’ve been looking at them blindly for years now. Get a guide.


75. Negotiate a better price. Be informed. Know the price of competitors. In a big store, look for a manager. Don’t be an asshole. Use one phrase as your mantra, like “I need a little help with this one.” Repeat it, as an invitation to him. Don’t beg. Ever. Offer something: your loyalty, your next purchase, even your friendship, and, with the deal done, your gratitude.

What’s Your Number?

There are certain transitions that seem logical or obvious but aren’t as easy to make as you would think. Being a entrepreneur doesn’t mean you will be a successful business owner. Many entrepreneurs struggle to make that transition to CEO, and often times their companies out-grow them. That’s why many of the most successful entrepreneurs have had a multitude of successful start-ups, and end up taking a role on the board of directors, or advisors, rather than drive their company into the ground. They know their strengths, and more importantly they know who to hire to get the job they need done, done.

The thing with a successful business plan is that you have to know your niche, and have an exit strategy. Entrepreneurs focus on the beginning, the establishment — developing an idea or concept; many times which comes from creating a convenience that they wanted but couldn’t find. Their end is when they either bow out gracefully, sell or…become the reason it fails.

When ever you start a business, you always have to know your exit strategy — or know where to go once you’ve reached what you were working for. Whether you have a number you want to reach financially so you can walk away and never have to work again (ie, retirement), or your company goes in a direction you do not agree with; and part ways. 

Initially, my plan was to establish this company, remain as majority stock holder and appoint a CEO to manage the team and run the show so I could focus my energy elsewhere — at the time it was returning to being an artist; now its more about philanthropy. Since I’ve grown, that has somewhat changed. My heart isn’t in being a performer, as much as I may miss it or enjoy the brief moments I get to be on stage. I mean, the plan is the same but I wouldn’t go back to being an artist; not full-time anyway. [The reasons I wanted to be an artists were rooted in the idea that that would be the best, and only, way I knew how to reach the people and community, and contribute to making changes, and the impact in my community. I now know better ways to initiate the changes I want to see and make the contributions I want to make…but that is a blog for another day..]

I wouldn’t consider myself an entrepreneur, although over the past few years I have started growing into that role and contributing to the start-up of many different projects that I am passionate about; I never would have been able to be at this position without AG One. I didn’t start AG One to be an entrepreneur. We started it because we knew what we wanted to do, and no one would give us the platform to do that unless we did it ourselves. I never went into the music industry with the sole purpose of getting rich or obtaining fame, but I was conscious of the fact that it was a possibility — the good and bad.

The reason I’m reflecting on this today is because while I was at my buddy’s house helping him unpack from his move he asked me, “Where do you see yourself and where do you want to be, will you be doing AG One forever, or do you plan to walk away?” Honestly, no I won’t do it forever. Once I reach my number — not including assets, property, or investments — I will gladly walk away and move into the next phase of my career and life. I would be able to dedicate my time to my family, and building my own family; and being involved in the philantrophic and community organizations…maybe even get my credentials and get back in the classroom. But for the time being, I have a mission to accomplish — and these are all career moves that will get me to the place that I need, and want, to be in order to really make the passion moves I intend to make.

Picking Up the Towel.

I was supposed to have written this a few months ago; Picking Up the Towel (fast forward the video to 3:20). It was going to be a follow-up to a post I wrote on the Speaker Box . Then life hit — ironically, what I spoke on at 3:02 became relevant to my life, again. You would have thought I would have learned my lesson the first time. But it wasn’t until I was writing the blog I wrote last week about my selling my phone that I was reminded me of this. Now, while it wasn’t the actual story that triggered the realization, it was again the book, “Produced By Faith” by DeVon Franklin — another theme that was a #dammitrandy moment.

I’m not one to pay attention to signs; figuratively speaking. So when God, or the universe, is speaking to me or trying to direct me down a particular path I don’t always acknowledge it. In most cases, its leading me in the direction I am not trying to go in so I, regrettably, make a conscious effort to suppress it. Then I finally give in. I accept it, and more doors open I could have ever imagined. Things start falling in place faster than I can keep up with and its like, “why didn’t I do this sooner?”

In some ways, that’s why I have been on somewhat of a hiatus from blogging. Well, I’ve been blogging, just not on here. I’m sorry for that — but really its myself I’m apologizing to since I created this blog in part to document my journey of growth, trial and triumph that I will one day be able to share with my legacy.

In the past 7 months, I’ve started a new business venture; Edizon Flix Fotografia. Although modest, its growing pretty rapidly. It started out as a hobby, if you could call it that. It was more of a necessity for my artists — head shots, shooting live gigs, etc. I had numerous friends and colleagues asking for me to shoot for them, but I politely declined since it was not my specific area of expertise. One day I agreed to shoot with Arnold Randall…and the next thing I knew gigs piled up and I had some of my work in a feature for a local publication. And a new business venture on my hands.

So this was me, again, refusing to pick up the towel, and get in the game. It only took me 3 years to realize that this is something that I really excel at, as well, being rather lucrative with. Whether it be the growth of confidence in my ability, or the idea that something kept pushing me down this path, I’m here now and I’m enjoying it. I’ve always felt like folks who have too many creative ventures are indecisive, or don’t know what to take seriously so they try to do it all. That is why I was reluctant with owning this craft. I never want to venture too far from AG One, but I do feel this is another avenue in which I can build within the company and support my artists with — and that was my sole purpose when I started out.

Only time will tell where it goes from here. But I’ve picked up the towel, and for me that is always the hardest part.

Remember Who You Wanted to Be.

I am in the process of changing phone carriers. I figure, I could make a small profit — or at least supplement the cost of the new phone — by selling my old one on craigslist. I put it up for a modest price, same amount you would pay in deductible cost for a “lost or stolen” phone, which is still twice as much as you would get from a buy-back program. I got several hits, and committed to the first guy who agreed upon my asking price. Later that day I got an email from another guy who was in dire need of a phone and was willing to pay me enough above my asking price if I were to hold it for him. I agreed. But when we met to make the sale, he didn’t have the full amount agreed upon.

A number of thoughts went through my head:

– I got greedy; I got duped.
– I have a waiting list of people who I can get more money from.
– This isn’t my problem; no sale [walk away].

It was at that moment I had to check myself, and take a step back. I wasn’t present in the situation, nor with the person in front of me. My industry can leave people very jaded, and its a conscious effort to be able to recognize when its happening; to maintain compassion.

So lets paint the picture. Initially we met at Starbucks, but ended up going to the near by sprint store so someone could help us with the change. I pull up looking for a green car, and right away I spot him in the back row by himself chillin in his car. He was pretty grimy. He had no shoes, and his feet were pretty dirty from walking around barefoot for what seemed to be quite some time. A dirty white shirt with holes and khaki shorts that looked like they haven’t been washed in some time. I can only assume he works in the construction industry or possibly in the window installment business because of the company name and logo on his shirt. A job in which not having a phone meant he wasn’t getting calls for work.

After not being able to make the switch over the phone with account services, we decided to go to the sprint store. I can’t even explain the loud screech that came from his engine as he turned on his car. As we drove, it appeared that he wasn’t able to go over 35mph — thank God that the Sprint store was only a few blocks away. He had one tire that was a spare, and the rest had mix matched tires and rims. It looked like he could have been living out of his ’92 corolla, but he had shared with me that he had just gotten that car that morning.

While we were at the sprint store, he was sharing with me the story of what he had been through the past couple weeks. If anyone needed a break, it was this guy. So after all the hoops we had to jump through to get the phone activated, I asked him if he had the money. He looked at me and said, “I did this morning…but I needed gas to get here, and I was hungry…and this is what I have left.” I don’t know what face I made but he looked a little worried to ask, “Can you work with that?”

Initially I was gonna snap and say, “No.” Have the rep switch everything back and be on my way because like I said before — I had other people who were willing to pay me more. But when I took that step back I was able to see, whats a couple dollars if its really going to help this guy out? I almost missed an opportunity to help someone who really needed a W in the win column.

I think this moment came so timely and weighed so heavy on my heart because of the book I’m currently reading, “Produced By Faith” by DeVon Franklin. He speaks on a very heavy theme through out the book this far; not compromising who you are for your career. I can’t say that I’ve stayed the same person; its impossible. But what I can do is be conscious traits that I do not want to to be part of my character.

When I started down this career path years back, Cliff and I made a promise to each other not to lose sight of who we wanted to be, and how we wanted to get there — and keep each other accountable. We’ve spoke about this recently, and he said I needed to get back to blogging…hence the story. This was one of those moments. Always remember who you wanted to be.

[hindsight: I could have had him make a deposit via paypal to hold it for him, and collected the rest in person…but that’s not the point of this story]