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There I was at the bottom, 25 years old, no career and fresh off a divorce. Prior to that I chased down a Real Estate career in a major Metropolitan area and came up empty, never sold a thing. I delivered pizza for a few years, quitting here and there only to go crawling back begging for the job again. I had to dress up in a giant rabbit, mascot-type outfit at a kid’s pizza party. Yes, a new low there. Most of my jobs were stints at menial task labor and lasted anywhere from 4-6 months and always ended with me just walking out. The most difficult thing I had to do was go back to pick up my last check, another tail between my legs endeavor.
There was one golden opportunity a few months before I ended up divorced. I had an interview at a large company working in a data-entry type position. I stayed up late the night before doing my usual routine of drinking and smoking and decided it would be foolish to go to sleep now! So, I stayed up all night, put on my cleanest dirty sweater that reeked of smoke and drove to my interview. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
After I was abruptly kicked out of my apartment by my soon to be ex-wife I landed in a seedy neighborhood with only a part-time job reading gas meters. I was demoted for not showing up on time and eventually, like always, I just quit. Facing eviction, I attempted to get some assistance. At the government center downtown I ran into many people who were down and out or just seeking some help to get by. I didn’t feel like this was where I wanted to end up, but here I was. I knew I could do better, but first things first I needed help paying rent. After a full day of forms and interviews I was awarded a whopping couple hundred bucks to pay rent for the month and that was it. I paid rent and promptly moved out, to my mom’s basement. Cliché, yes, and true.
I don’t know how I let it get so bad. I had hit bottom, right? Everyone’s bottom is different and some have it much worse to be sure. So this is where the story gets better right? Yes and also no. Life doesn’t work that way; plenty of bad times lay ahead for sure, but I learned something. When life knocks you down, you have to get back up.
I managed to land a customer service job at a major credit card company and worked my way up to Assistant Supervisor. Admittedly, the job was a grind and the pay was minimal, but old habits are hard to break and I abruptly quit one day. Just when I thought I knew what I was doing. I managed to be unemployed for only a few months and found another sales job. This job paid well and required a two-week long training period which required a hotel stay. I went to the nearest secondhand store and cobbled together mismatched suits as suit and tie was the requirement. I met some great people and had a blast.
I had too much of a blast. The instructor sat me down to scold me on being visibly hungover and as a result I would eventually be sent home. In the meantime, though, I picked up some valuable skills such as what it takes to be professional, a.k.a. not showing up hung over. I picked up the pace and made great strides, my sales pitch was effective and I was able to post very good scores on our assignments. This was a pass fail opportunity and I realized I had to take it seriously. On my final day, unbeknownst to me at the time, I sat with my instructor to go over my performance. He praised my ability to turn my dumpster fire of an approach around and admired my desire to learn. Then he fired me.
I had developed confidence, even though I was fired and I proved some things to myself. I could be disciplined and I was a hard worker, when I wanted to be. I had to turn my life around like I did my attitude at that training. Said another way, I had to take that attitude and apply it to my day to day life. This was the beginning and it started small, very small.
Put the cap back on the toothpaste. That was it. I had to force myself to do it but I made sure every time I brushed my teeth I put the cap back on. What I was lacking was discipline and this was the first step in creating self-discipline. I haven’t mentioned until now that I also have a child who was about 4. I felt an added responsibility to amount to something for him; to be a good example.
I was putting hours into gaming, accomplishing wonderfully useless benefits. I devoted time to “grind” out accomplishments. The process was mundane and often boring but had a useful reward at the end. I wasn’t even enjoying the game all that much; I was doing what I had to do for that end goal. I had an epiphany whilst grinding out one of my myriad goals. What if I approached my own life in the same manner?
I was beginning to blend the two ideas together. I needed to add discipline and “grind” out my real life goals. What were they? That’s where you have to start, you must define some goals. To start ,I had to list several short term achievable goals to get the ball rolling to feel accomplishment and add motivation. I needed a job, I needed to get my own apartment and I needed to be something respectable to my son. I started searching for jobs in the area and I was able to land one.
I had to ask a friend if I could sleep on their couch until I could get a few paychecks and find an apartment. After a couple weeks I sensed my welcome wearing thin and still unable to find an apartment due to poor rental history and terrible credit, I rented a room at a hotel. For the next few weeks I stayed in this small room and drove to work in a car completely packed with all my belongings. My job was paying a mere $12 an hour but it was something and I was gainfully employed.
I made it past the six month hump and then nine months and finally had a one year anniversary. I also found an apartment, a dump though it was, and even quit smoking. I slept on a blow up mattress that would deflate every night and I’d wake up on a hardwood floor. I also witnessed the largest cockroach I’d ever seen in my bathroom. I had a desk, chair, and a TV tray; wasn’t much but it was mine. Those were my main short term and long term goals, just stay employed and get an apartment. Oh, it wasn’t easy either. One day while at work I was fed up and I walked out. Ah, back to my old self. As I was driving back home I realized I was making an enormous mistake and abruptly turned around and just acted as if I took an early lunch. Crisis averted.
I worked hard and managed to stay employed at a mortgage company through the 2008 recession. I wasn’t moving up though and I really needed more money. I made the decision to go to college and I was lucky enough to do it online. What you choose to do is up to you but I chose Accounting. I know, sexy right? I knew nothing about money or finances, obviously and I believed there was important information out there I was missing out on. I put in the work, I started the grind and a few years later got promoted. The company moved me into a new role and I received a large increase which enabled me to move into a nicer place and get some furniture. You could argue I should’ve stayed cheap and not moved but this was how I chose to reward myself. These were the rewards for my grinding.
Later I finished my two-year degree and while the mortgage job was pretty good I decided to pursue my Accounting career and moved on to another company. I then enrolled in a graduate program where I’ll earn my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Today I’m making $60,000 a year, have a great healthcare package and went on an employer paid vacation to Cabo San Lucas. Who would’ve thought?
No one, absolutely no one would’ve ever thought this was a possibility for me. I’m not telling you a get rich quick story; I’m telling you how to fight your way out of poverty to a livable wage. It can be done, I did it. My parents still shake their head at the thought of me being an Accountant, even they can’t believe it! The keys are to grind it out, work harder than the person next to you, stay out of office politics and get a college degree, a two-year degree works too so don’t underestimate it. Oh and the best part, I’m not done yet.