When New York was attacked in 2001, I was working for RBC on the 21st floor of the Royal Bank Building. They allowed anybody who’d rather not be in Toronto’s ultimate symbol of capitalism (the entire building itself is tinted with actual gold for dog’s sakes), to go home. I opted to go home; to our condo that was located within ball-throwing distance of the CN Tower. The CN Tower itself became a target for a group of fertilizer-hoarding terrorists dubbed the Toronto 18.
I spent most of the day weeping. I quit my brokerage job shortly after. I was 27 I think. By that time, I had already purchased our 3rd new car in 3 years because apparently that’s what cocky 27 year olds do who don’t know jack about the world. Most of that changed after 9/11. This was my first reboot.
I left RBC and found my way over to Sony of Canada, working out of their head office as a sales trainer. How does a guy with a zoology degree who became a licensed trader rep sell himself to the world’s most famous electronics company while possessing absolutely no industry experience? A week’s worth of hardcore research and rehearsal. With help from a friend, I was able to meet the hiring manager at Sony. He was relatively senior but the key bit of info I learned was that he was “way the hell out there.” Everything I did, said or wrote had to appeal to that type of personality. Once I knew who the ‘buyer’ was, I saw everything through his eyes.
He turned out exactly as advertised.
The first words on my cover letter were ‘The best sports teams draft players for their raw talent then find positions to place them in.’ I’ve forgotten what was in the middle (something to do with me being hardcore talent and it was up to him to find me a spot) but I remember ending it with ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for Sony and myself.’ Apparently it worked because I was told after I was hired, he was reading that cover letter to anybody who would listen. I ended up winning an award for the year I was there so I fulfilled my primary mandate as an employee – to make the guy who hired me look good.
I don’t know how many crappy presentations were given, potential sales lost and job interviews blown because folks didn’t do everything they possibly could to know their audience.
Major events, both great and awful are catalyst for change. The worst thing for anybody to think is that they are too far down one path to change. That’s complete bullsh_t. Once a commitment to change is made and the first step is taken, absolutely nothing can hold you back.
There’s a saying in Chinese – “Step out when the river is flowing the surest”. This means changing direction when everything is absolutely perfect. When everything is flowing your way, you get lazy. You get fat and you start to feel entitled. This is the very definition of coasting.
We went from great income to zero income. We were also in the middle of planning our wedding. My wife was still in school at the time. Zero income? Yup – I had given my resignation to RBC. But because I was considered one of the valued ones, they let me stay as long as I wished to find a new job. This was unheard of. Thank you Richard Luger. I gave them exactly 3 weeks. I didn’t want to coast. New job or not, I was gone. When I left, there was no job yet. It was terrifying.
Have the courage to just stop mid-track. There is no such thing as a predetermined road. The most interesting people I have ever met are people who keep on searching and rebooting themselves. Life is about stories. Life is about risk. (Wait till I tell you about China…) Who the hell cares about the guy who did one thing for his entire career unless he was Nicola Tesla or The Stig?
You have choices. You have always had choices.
Today’s a good day to stop and remember all those folks who gave up their choices so you can have yours.
November 11, Remembrance Day
(from Boston, Mass.)