Month: November 2012

Broke-down, Busted, and Adjusted

At 21, I was the president of a company that I helped take public. We had a couple of hundred employees, several offices, and not unlike most Internet companies, no earnings. A year later, I decided to buy my first home. The purchase price was much more than I could afford, and it took three mortgages to get the deal done. I had five cars that all had notes, and a lifestyle I could not afford. There are probably posters still floating around with my face on them, and the caption, “Live the American Dream; Spend More Than You Make.” Needless to say, less than three years later, I was broke. All of my cars were repossessed, and I narrowly avoided foreclosure. Over the next several years, I painfully managed to pay off all my creditors and become debt free. Thank you Dave Ramsey.

More than a decade later, I found myself in a similar situation for a much different reason. I bet it all on a company that I knew would be successful. However, my lack of experience, and market conditions, put me in a very compromising situation. I owed millions, and the economic vacuum that existed within our company would not allow us to pay down debt, and make money simultaneously. I had two options; sell the business, or file bankruptcy. Each had it’s advantages, and although there were two options, I had only one choice.

Being an entrepreneur, and being a good money manager are two very different things. The former requires vision, dreaming big, and action. The latter requires discipline, determination, and a plan. However, both require math, as does just about every aspect of our lives. I have to work very hard to stay disciplined in my spending, however, in order for us to rebuild America together, we must develop and maintain healthy personal and professional budgets. It doesn’t mean we can’t have what we want, but it may mean we have to wait. Waiting isn’t so bad.

Black Power

Many people in the world have never seen a black American Express card.  I was one of those people up until a few years ago.  It’s interesting however that few people know what really qualifies someone to be “invited” to receive one, and entertaining to hear things like, “wow, a black card? dude that card has no limit. i know a guy that bought a Porsche with one of those.”  The fact is that to receive an “invitation” to receive a black American Express card, or a Centurion card, you need to first have a platinum card, charge $250,000 in an annual calendar year and repay it on time each month.  To be clear, you don’t have to spend $250k per month, but in annual calendar year, which is approximately $20k/month.  You then pay an initiation fee of $5,000 to receive your card, and an additional $2,500 per year to keep your card.

The black card has no material differences than a platinum card, with the exception of the actual material of the card, which is titanium.  It has a limit as well, and is not like any other AMEX card in that respect.  Your limit is established by spending patterns, and your credit profile.  Bottom line, it’s a status symbol.  It says to anyone that sees it or receives it as a form of payment that the person whose name is engraved on the bottom has more money than they have sense, or low self esteem, or both.  For me it was the latter.

My black card represented to others that I was important, successful, and it made me feel powerful.  I would rarely flaunt the card, but certainly wouldn’t be disappointed to see the response on a server’s face when I handed her the card, or the occasional, “Hendu, breaking out the black…big timer,” from a friend who was digging on me, but in some way less secure about themselves because I had a black card and they didn’t.  Silly really, but true.

I cancelled my Centurion card many times and then had it reinstated over the past few years.  I knew that the card represented my alter ego, a false identity, and a shot of self esteem on demand.  It was my Golden Calf.  I must admit that writing this has been something I’ve procrastinated for a long time, but it’s what I’ve needed to do even longer.

No more black card for me.  I plan to continue my journey of self-improvement, which includes establishing a healthy sense of self-worth.  This may be a surprise to many that I struggle with self-esteem, but stay tuned to my blog, and you’ll learn a lot more about me.  You may also learn something about yourself.

Serially Unemployable

Today was the last day of the last job I will ever have.  I remain serially unemployable.  For the past four months, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should attempt to stick it out for the entirety of my three-year employment agreement, or surrender to the freedom that comes with being, once again, an entrepreneur.  My decision to leave was illogical, unwise, risky, and perfectly liberating.

I’m thankful for the time I had the privilege to lead an incredible team of people who bled yellow and black.  You know who you are, and I sincerely thank you.  Keep doing the right thing!

Although I don’t have a definitive plan going forward, it should not surprise anyone that it will involve a big dream, a team of talented people, and a purpose and goal of doing something that can only be done together.  It’s not what you do, but who you are that matters most.

I’m a Shaft Inspector

The first thing most people will ask you after exchanging names is “what do you do?”  In most cases, it’s a way of sizing you up, which is especially true with men, including me at times.  Furthermore, when we talk about others, we typically are quick to point out what they do professionally, or what they’ve accomplished.  As for me, my identity is much more than what I do or have done as an entrepreneur.

Early in my entrepreneurial career, it was common for me to work 12-16 hours per day.  I thought that working long hours to the point of exhaustion demonstrated that I was a “man.”  I was wrong.  Last year, Mike Van Hoozer shared with me a simple way of deciphering between one’s identity and roles (see pic.)  This simple exercise was very helpful, because it allowed me to visually see that who I am, isn’t defined by what I do.

I circled twice what’s most important to me, and where failure isn’t an option.  It helps to have a partner to share the results of this exercise with, because everyone needs support, encouragement, and accountability.

My first challenge to you is to do this simple exercise, circle what’s most important to you, and then start taking the steps towards positive change.

The second challenge is the next time someone asks you what you do, make something up.  If you can’t think of anything, tell them you work for A&B Elevator, and you’re a shaft inspector.

Morale of the story…don’t be defined by your job, be defined by your character.