You’ve heard it from Mr. President before he was president, “you’re fired.” It’s a few days after Valentine’s Day and you just got fired over the phone. No love. You wonder why it didn’t happen in person, but that is the least of your worries.
You wipe your tears from your eyes as you see your roommate walking towards you where you are standing on a patch of grass overlooking gorgeous Santa Monica beach.
…. It’s the first time you’ve been fired. You had a feeling it was coming when they hired a new assistant manager and they asked you to train him. You should have left when you had the chance; you should have listened to your Mom for once.
“It’s good that they fired you. Otherwise, you would have spent the rest of your life there. Look at your father… still a waiter in a restaurant.”
In a way, she was right. In the past, you once thought the same – ‘the longer I stay here, the longer I’ll end up like Dad – my whole life in the same place. The longer Cousin stays in his gig, the longer he will end up like Uncle – a lifetimer working for a corporation.’ Not a bad road to take, just not my road.
Epigenetics is the study of organismal changes due to gene expression. My environment – both internal (food) and external (everything else) – shapes my gene expression. Therefore, if I continue to experience the same environment as my parents, I am likely to express the same genes as them resulting in strikingly similar, if not the same, decision making.
Nature + Nurture = Me
Choose my nurture, choose me.
Do I want to follow in my parents’ footsteps? Do I want to forge a different path? I am the judge.
… As his approach ends, you tell your roommate you just got fired. He consoles you. You tell him you’ve never been fired before. He’s been through some rough shit so he can understand. Dejection. Bottom of the rock. Amiss in the abyss.
After your moment of emotional release, you start thinking again. What to do? Do you go get a job at a restaurant and become a waiter to make fast cash? Do you call upon your connection at the Whole Foods down the street, asking for a supervisor position? Who is going to hire you now? You just got fired…
You reflect on your recent past.
….. In September of last year you were lounging on the porch of Aunt’s recently purchased house in Laguna Beach. Sun shining and ocean glimmering, you ask yourself, ‘why am I selling coffee when I could be selling houses?’ The day with family is the most relaxed you’ve been in a while. In their comfort you relish like onions in olive oil sensually sizzling in a cast-iron skillet.
Following that day trip to Laguna Beach with Paw Paw and Uncle, you get home and you invest in an online California real estate licensing course – 3 classes, 6 months to complete. You think to yourself you’ll work on it in your free time.
….. You make your way back to your apartment that is only two blocks from the cliff view of the beach and you’re thinking maybe now is the time to get that real estate license. You wish you had been more diligent with your real estate studies since September so that this situation you’re now in would be more manageable. But now this is your challenge. How will you, in the words of Cousin’s Facebook quote, ‘rise up and live it?’
Over the next few days you constantly repel that numb, zombie-like mentality from your psyche as you stick to as much routine as you can despite not having a job. Whole Foods. Belcampo. Santa Monica Seafood. Muscle Beach. You talk to your social network of family and close friends. “It’s their loss.”
It’s easy for you to rationalize being happy about a negative event. It’s more difficult to rationalize being negative about a positive event. Is it positive or negative that you got fired, and which way will you choose to rationalize it? Your friend tells you over the phone of his experience of being fired. “It sucks man but in the end it was a good thing. After all they didn’t appreciate me for my ideas. They just viewed me as laborer without a mind. You should go travel man. Don’t get stuck in another job. You’re free man. People are stuck in their offices but you are free!”
You question the logic of his perspective… Travel without a job? Without an income? You don’t think much of the opportunity he has presented to you as you end the phone call.
You continue to struggle with your situation a little more: no income, 2 months left on your lease in one of the most expensive places to live in in the States (you have savings to cover these 2 months), Paw Paw lives on the other side of LA, you have no daily purpose. You ask yourself what is your purpose. You let it stew.
With some encouragement from your family you decide on bunkering down into the depths of real estate studies. You want to knock out the coursework as quickly as possible. You don’t have a job; you have a lot of time. You streamline your lifestyle into the following activities: Real Estate, Whole Foods, Muscle beach, fasting, cook, eat, sleep, shit, piss, and study-break walks with music. You give yourself a goal of 1 month to finish the three courses. This is your life. This is how I get to the next level, you tell yourself.
As you begin your real estate studies in the last week of February and as you inform more and more people of your social circle, you question whether or not this is the right path. Paw Paw thinks being fired is a great opportunity to go back to school. If you jump back into another job, you won’t be doing what you want to be doing; it might just be another job you will begin to dread.
In a way you are going back to school by studying real estate. Although real estate is completely different than anything you ever studied in college, you’ve developed the mentality that anything can be learned thanks to your lessons from Michael Jordan. It’s simply a matter of mindset. This is one of the reasons why you choose to pursue real estate: you want to test your hypothesis that anything can be learned with the right mindset. Doubt arises in the form of the question from close family and friends, “is this really what you want to do?”
You strip away any unnecessary marketing dogma from your past. You refocus your energy on leveraging the tools and techniques in your arsenal that will help you reach your goal: fasting – less time cooking, more time studying, more focus; caffeine – focus, suppression of emotion, improved memory; exercise – health maintenance, focus, improved learning; the power of habit – get shit done.
When the weekend comes, you go to Paw Paw’s to spend time with family and to break the news. You tell your aunts, you tell Paw Paw. They are as calm in demeanor as you are in telling them. There’s no need for drama. They are supportive, they help you think forward.
That friend who told you you should travel, he’s one of your closest friends from college. You battled on the soccer field together. You were roommates. You were hall mates when having a single to yourself as a senior was the mature thing to do.
He keeps tabs on you during that critical week after you got fired because he cares about you and because he’s been there before. Birds of a feather, flock together. He pleads with you that the responsible thing to do would be to get a job. But he tries to convince you of the value of traveling. He tells you to go visit your other close friend and teammate from college in Leipzig where he is playing semi-pro soccer. You try to defend your family’s best wishes which are for you to think and behave seriously and practically now that you are without a job.
One night when you’re at Paw Paw’s the friend calls you up.
Friend: I’m going to buy you a ticket to Germany.
You: No you’re not, bro. I’m studying real estate.
Friend: You can study real estate from anywhere. You can always study real estate when you come back.
You: *Pause*….. You’re not buying me a ticket. I have plans. I’m going to finish these courses in a month then take the state licensing exam.
Friend: When is your exam?
You: Whenever I sign up for it.
Friend: Sign up to take the test after you come back from traveling. Study while you travel.
You: How can I study while I travel? I want to not have to worry about studying while traveling. I am not traveling, bro. Don’t buy me a ticket.
You hang up the phone. You think he’s being completely irrational by wanting you to go travel when you don’t have a job nor an income.
The next morning you check your e-mail. You’re shocked at what you see: there’s a plane ticket with your name on it. LAX — IST, IST — LEJ.
You spend that whole day thinking about the possibility of traveling to Germany to see your friend who has been traveling the world playing soccer. You question your ability to get the coursework done in time. You are quite heated by the fact that your friend was not very considerate in buying you the plane ticket. Or was he being considerate in a different way? You avoid calling him the whole day.
When the evening comes and some of the heat from your temper has subsided, you give him a call.
You: You’re pretty crazy you know? How am I supposed to go travel in a month?
Friend: Find a way.
You: Get a refund, bro. I’m not going.
Friend: It’s your ticket. I’m not getting a refund. If you don’t go, you don’t go. That’s your choice.
You: You know, I’ve always wanted to go to India. Why don’t you go ahead and just by me a ticket too while you’re at it? (You don’t think he’ll take you seriously).
The next morning, you find another ticket: TXL – AUH, AUH – BOM. You’re going to India.
Sure, you got fired. But now you have something to look forward to: a trip to Leipzig to visit your good friend and a trip to India where you know no one.
Now you have some motivation to study. The trips are a treat to your hard work. Can you make it work? There’s no way to know unless you try your best. You push through.
Over the next few weeks you go to bed thinking about real estate. You wake up with real estate on your mind. But in the back of your mind you’re in a foreign place meeting new people and trying new foods come April 1 – Fool’s day. Who am I fooling? Myself?
You keep the travel plans to yourself. There is no point in breaking the news about your travel itinerary to your family at this moment in time; it will only create a commotion. It’s best to keep studying and get shit done.
Your goal is to take the state licensing exam immediately after you finish the three classes and right before you hop on the plane to Istanbul. You know this is the way Mom would want it. After all, she constantly reminds you of your past and how ‘you never finish what you start.’
Two weeks into studying you discover it can’t be this way. It takes 6 weeks to process the application for the real estate licensing exam. No worries. You remain focused and make it a goal to finish the coursework at least.
When you’re halfway through the 3rd course you decide to test the waters with Mom about traveling during this crucial moment of time. Is it still crucial? You have your plan and you’ve successfully completed the first two courses. You tell her you’ve done the best that you can: you will finish the three courses and submit the application to the California Real Estate Bureau. While they take 6 weeks to process the application you will go to Germany to visit your friend. You don’t tell Mom about India because it’s best to tell her that while you’re already in Germany; less drama.
Your grades for the courses:
85 – Real Estate Principles
78 – Real Estate Practice
92 – Real Estate Finance
Not too shabby for blowing through the three courses in 3 weeks. You really focused hard on the last course because of the slacking off you in the second course.
Last Minute Business
Getting out of the last month of your lease is one more thing you have to take care of. You pitch to your roommate. He understands. These are life changing circumstances. He doesn’t hold you to the contract you signed last August. Essentially, you have $1350 in your pocket – money for your travels. And you’re going to get your deposit back except he’s in somewhat of a financial bind himself. He tells you he’ll return the deposit in installments. $300 now, the rest when he’s financially stable. No problem.
Time to pack up your life again. Good thing you don’t own too much shit. Your prized possessions are your college diploma, the guitar you barely get to play, and the violin you have touched maybe 10 times. One day.
Early on when you first started studying real estate, your aunt tells you she may have an opportunity for you that requires a real estate license. She’s been in the real estate game for several decades; she knows the industry. But in your conversation with her she says she has ideas for you and your real estate career. You ask her if you have any say in the direction you take with real estate. She doesn’t really have a compelling response. You don’t want to get your hopes up.
After you have finished your second course, you tell her of your opportunity to travel. You tell her you’re meeting your targets. She questions your commitment to a real estate career, telling you now is not the time to travel. ‘If you want to survive in real estate you have to be a go-getter. You have to work hard. It’s HARD WORK. How can you travel?! You don’t even have an income!’ One opportunity she has is for you to work for her friend who is in commercial real estate. After all the studying is said and done, you phone her and ask her if the opportunity is still available. She tells you her friend ended up hiring a client’s daughter as a favor. It wasn’t meant to be. It was meant for you to travel.
You pass your last test in the morning. You print off the last of the three coursework completion certificates and you bike to the local notary to get your fingerprints live scanned for the application. You then bike to FedEx and make a copy of your application just in case it gets lost in the mail. You mail one copy to the California Real Estate Bureau. You reflect on your life these past three and a half weeks. You’re amazed at your efforts. You hope they will be fruitful.
After a few days of packing, you rent a car and pack up your belongings into the Hyundai Elantra. You bid farewell to your roommate and your landlord. You wish it didn’t end this way, but it is not something you have control over. You tell yourself you’ll be back. One day.
You spend your last week in the States at Paw Paw’s house. You call up friends and family. You tell them you’re going to Germany for a month. As far as you know, the world is your oyster – the opportunities: endless. You make the routine trip to Costco with Aunty where she asks you, ‘who will be my sherpa when you’re gone?’ She can’t lift the 42lb bags of kitty litter by herself. She’s barely 5-foot. You help change out the empty jug of water in the kitchen for the last time. Paw Paw and Aunty will miss your strength. They’ll miss you for being a listener rather than a talker.
Your application for unemployment benefits is accepted. You must look for work every two weeks to remain eligible for your benefits. Perfect. You can do that while you travel. That’s what LinkedIn is for right?
You link your unemployment debit card to your checking account with Charles Schwab. This way you can have access to all your funds. You cash in the last paycheck from your former employer – all the vacation time you never used turned into Paid Time Off.
You put on your school-size backpack and strap on your shoe bag and you hop into the Uber waiting to transport you to your former co-worker’s house. Travel lightly. Paw Paw asks you when you’ll be back. ‘Maybe two months?’ You’ve learned in the past that keeping things open-ended gives you more freedom.
She’s the last of your social circle you see before you go abroad. You remember the day you first met her at the Conference. You sat in front of her on the carpet floor of the convention center, captivated by her light blue eyes trying to find anything to talk about. You remember the night you sat next to her during a meditation session in Venice. The day you leave she takes you to the airport and you wonder about what could have been had you not been her assistant manager.
You walk around the check-in area of Los Angeles International Airport and you wonder when you’ll be back. You look into the faces of all the foreigners around you. You imagine yourself being the foreigner in a new place.
You do what you know how to do: check-in, security check, boarding.
The journey begins when your seat mate listens to your story and tells you, “now is the time do what you’re doing.”