Today is the Day to Level Up!!!!

5 06 2010

So the day started innocuously enough… that is to say innocuous for a weekend that started with a deepening recognition of my own value that resulted in a global raise of my consulting fee. My friend, and one of my success inspirations, Clint Arthur and I awoke in the hotel room in San Francisco we’ve been sharing while we attended a Expert’s seminar. We laughed and joked, and got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. Once there we crashed the table of a couple of other guests at the seminar, and enjoyed coffee and a simple breakfast.

From there, we entered the seminar and spent the next few hours enjoying a presentation by success guru Brian Tracey. It was inspirational. He taught us that all it takes to be a millionaire is to simply DECIDE to be a millionaire. Now, being a millionaire has never been an ultimate life-driving goal of mine. If it happens along the way to my life goal I’ll be happy to accept it, but it’s not what drives me. For the last year, what has driven me is the desire to be known commodity in the Macintosh community. I have envisioned myself writing a column for a popular magazine, having my own radio show or tv show, being an invited guest on talk shows to discuss technology, and many other things. And in that room right then and there I DECIDED that I would make that all happen. Easy to make a decision like that, but as Brian Tracey said, once you make that decision you irrevocably step over a line….

And so I stepped over that line.

When the presentation came to an end, we got an hour for lunch, and Clint and I headed for the restaurant to crash someone else’s table and enjoy a great meal. At least I thought Clint was with me, but when I turned around he was nowhere to be found. I chatted it up with a man I had met the prior evening, and prepared to crash his table and join him for lunch, when Clint reappeared, grabbed my arm and said “You have to come with me RIGHT NOW!!!”

So I did, and along the way, he explained that Brian Tracey was letting people take pictures with him, and Clint wanted to get a picture of Brian holding Clint’s Wealth Doubling book, and I needed to take the picture, which I did. Then I figured as long as I was there I would take a picture with him as well, and have him hold my ipad with my website showing on the screen. Clint shot that pic, and Brian and I laughed as he played with my iPad and I told him what I do for a living.

As we walked away, Clint and I saw Barbara De Angelis, a best-selling author and inspirational speaker who had given a presentation the prior day. We decided to get a picture with her as well. Clint told her about his book series, and I told her that I was the MacWhisperer, and explained my philosophy that ANYONE can learn to use technology. She laughed, put her hand on me and told me that I needed to write a book, and that she would endorse that book right here and now. It was like she reached into my soul and turned a know, and something just clicked. I knew she was right.

I walked away stunned, and over the next couple of hours came up with a title for the book and a marketing plan to sell it. I came back up to Barbara at the next break and told her my book would be called “You Can Be the Smartest Person in the Room; How to stop fighting your technology and start LOVING it!!!” She smiled and threw her arms around me…”I love it!!!” she exclaimed, “I have no doubt that that is a New York Time’s Bestseller!!!”

Which only served to piss off (but not really) Clint, who has spent the last several years declaring that HE would be a best-selling author, while it has never even occurred to me.

Now, that evening there was a special VIP dinner scheduled for many of the participants of the seminar… including Clint, but not including me.

As we sat through the next presentation, an awesome One Man Play by ex NFL star Bo Eason, I realized that I was SUPPOSED to be at that VIP dinner, and I decided that whatever it took, I was not going to let Clint go to that dinner without me.

Over the past couple of days, I have networked and hobnobbed, and connected with many of the influential people who were outing on the seminar. I walked up to one, and asked her to help me, and get me into that dinner. She told me there was no way to do it, the room was completely filled. My heart sank, but based on everything I had learned today, I was not about to let one NO stand in my way… “I’m supposed to be at that dinner.” I stated. But she swore that there was no way she could do it. The dinner was completely full.

I walked up to the next person, and the next person, getting a NO each time. There just was no room, but I was unshakable in my belief that I was SUPPOSED to be at that dinner. Even Barbara couldn’t help me get in. Unsure of what to do next, I walked towards the front desk, and waiting for inspiration…

At that point, a man walked up, and put his hand on my shoulder. He was huge. Easily 6’7. “You’re the mac guy….” he said, and I smiled and said that I was. He looked me in the eye and said, “I heard what you said in front of the room yesterday, and I have some people you NEED to meet… I’m closely connected with Brendon Brouchard(the man putting on the seminar), and I’ve worked with Tony Robbins, and I want to introduce you around.”

He went on to tell me that he had just bought a Mac a couple of months ago and was completely lost. I smiled, and put my hand on his chest…. “I can help.” I said, and I felt his entire body relax beneath my hand.

“Thank God, then I can stop worrying.”

“But I need your help too,” I continued… “I’m supposed to be at this VIP dinner…”

“Don’t move.” He said, and walked off to talk with one of the event organizer. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t dare move a muscle. A moment later he came back, and said “I’m sorry. They have a full room, and a full table, and there’s just no way to get in… but don’t worry, everyone will be coming straight back after dinner, and I will call you when we get here, and I will introduce you to the people you need to meet. See you after dinner.” and he took my card, shook my hand and walked away… and I knew then as I do know, that that was what was SUPPOSED to happen. That would give me a chance to collect my thoughts, take a shower, call my beautiful woman at home, connect with my business partner, have a nice quiet peaceful dinner in my room (which sounded much, much more appealing to me anyway), and write THIS blog.

So, I expect that call any minute, and I will go downstairs, cross that line, and trust in whatever is SUPPOSED to happen….

And whatever it is, I will be grateful. In the past 96 hours, I have leveled up in my life, my business, my career, my dreams, and a million other areas… and the night is still young.






Welcome Home

3 06 2010

One of my best friends, Clint Arthur (The Last Year of Your Life) called me a week ago, and invited me to a seminar in San Francisco. He’s done this before. At the time he called, I thought he was nuts (which he very well may be). I had been having a rough relationship week, long hours and days at work, was short on funds for rent, was having my son tested for autism (and had no idea where the money for the testing was going to come from) and generally felt STUCK in my life. The concept of leaving town in the middle of that for four days seemed ridiculous. Ludicrous even. Not to mention the fact that it was going to cost $1,000 right when rent was due.

But there’s a saying…. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears…”

And most of all, I trust Clint more than almost any other man in my life. He KNOWS me. Not my image or the face I present to the world, but he knows the real me. With all it’s warts and blemishes. So, I made a commitment.

“Yes, Clint, YES… I will be there.”

And just like that, I took the next step in my life… without even fully realizing it at the time.


It’s been almost 7 years since I took the first step in recognizing my true value. I’ve even retold that story in this blog (see Leap of Faith: Parts 1-4). That was when I quit my day job, and started 2 Smart Techies. And I love my job…. but it was never what my original intention was when I quit my job. What I wanted to do was to create a revolutionary technology training system called “Get the Knack of your Mac”. But when people call you 24/7, and offer you ridiculous money to fix their simple tech problems, it’s hard to turn the money down. And when you start a service industry job, it’s hard to find the time to do anything else… especially if you’re successful, and I was.

So the DVD/online training system sat on a shelf in the back of my mind… and gathered cobwebs and dust.

I never forgot it, or my desire to become a known commodity and brand in the Macintosh community… I just didn’t know how to get there from here. Then Clint called.


The San Francisco seminar (where I am writing this blog from) was being put on by a man named Brendon Burchard, and it was called “The Experts Academy.” It’s a seminar teaching experts how to be successful in creating their own seminars, products, books, and becoming highly paid speakers of their specialized knowledge. Wow.

Getting here was easy. Quick plane ride from LAX, and Clint offered to put me up in his room. Yesterday I got dressed into my button up shirt and slacks, and walked right into my destiny. It was a mazing. The people were all experts in their field, and there were hundreds of them. Organizers, life coaches, health and wellness gurus, sports trainers, motivational speakers, etc…

And I could look any one of them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce myself. “Hi,” I would say, “I’m the MacWhisperer.” We’d exchange cards and stories, and make a connection. In many cases connections that I have no doubt will come back to me a thousand times over in the next few years.

Within the first few minutes in the room I had a revelation…. I am not charging nearly enough for my services… I am worth much more… What’s that? No voice in my head to argue? No voice telling me I’m a huckster, a sham, a screw-up? No voice telling me I’m already overpriced? NOPE. Just a small quiet voice, almost inaudible amongst all the hobnobbing… a small voice that simply said:

“damn right. you are worth more. much much more.”

So I decided then and there that my prices had to go up immediately. That evening, I went up to my room, and with Clint’s help composed a humble, simple email to go out to my clients. It merely said:

Dear ____________,

I have good news and bad news. The good news is I’m busier than I’ve ever been. The bad news is I’m busier than I’ve ever been. So, in an effort to reduce my client load and allow me to focus on providing truly exceptional service and support to my best and favorite clients like you, my new rate is $xxx/hour.

Please call me at any time, because I truly look forward to hearing from you and working with you.

All the best,

The MacWhisperer
———————————–

And just like that my business was worth more.

And that was just the first day of the seminar. Much, much more is yet to come…..


This morning, on my way to the complimentary coffee bar I ran into a sports coach trainer from Spain getting ready for his morning run. We talked for a moment and he told me that in spite of being thousands of miles from his home in Spain, when he walked into this room he felt like he was home. Like he belonged here. Like he had found his people.

I knew exactly how he felt.

I smiled at him, and looked him right in the eye.

WELCOME HOME.





The Amazon and the Iceberg

12 04 2010

I’ll start this story off by copping to the fact that at this time in my life I had not finished college. Don’t get me wrong, I had been on track to graduate college, I just hadn’t crossed the finish line. I had been 17 when I started college at USC Film School. In my second year of college, I met a woman, got into a relationship with her, and unexpectedly started a family. This pulled my focus away from the pretend world of college and firmly into the very real world of parenting. Shortly after my daughter was born, her mother passed away, and I became a full-time single Dad. The dream of finishing school seemed to get farther and farther away as I took on a day job to pay rent, and found myself coming home at the end of a long work day drained, exhausted, and still needing to be a father. Time passed, and along the way I started other relationships, met women, went out on dates, went to clubs, and followed around one of my friend’s bands.

It was at one of my friend’s shows that I met her… one of the women who would have an indelible, lasting impact on my life, and not at all in the way you think. I don’t want to use her name here, but I’ll allude to it. She had taken on the name of a famous vine swinging jungle man, and it was oddly appropriate since she was a 6 ½ foot tall amazon herself. She was tall and well-built, with long streaming blonde hair. She was hot and knew it… flaunted it… used it…

I had been on a few “dates” with her in a friendly capacity, but this night was different. This was an actual date. Just the two of us, no noisy rock band, no other friends, just this tall drink of water and myself. I picked her up at her pad on Melrose, and took her out to a nice meal. We laughed, and flirted, and boy did she flirt back, never failing to blow a kiss, or smile, or bat her eyes. After the dinner we laughed, and walked arm in arm to the nearby movie theatre.

This was 1997, and at the time the biggest movie of all time was in theatres. You know the flick…. DiCaprio, Winslet, and a fucking enormous hunk of ice. Now don’t get me wrong, in retrospect, the movie is definitely not all that… but at the time, it wasn’t about the story, or the dialogue or the slightly schmaltzy love story… it was about the experience. James Cameron had delivered something that reminded people what was great about movie making… he united an entire country in the collective experience of being on that ship’s final fateful journey. When you stepped into that theatre you physically left dry land and spent the duration of the trip on an experience… a true popcorn epiphany, surrounded by a full theatre audience that was on the same journey with you. When the boat creaked, and the boat began to break apart, you have expected your feet to get wet. Every sound, every effect was designed to make you feel a visceral part of that experience. It succeeded beyond al measures at fully capturing the audience’s imagination and attention. A true classic movie experience… even if the movie was a little hokey.

But that’s not the way the Amazon saw it. To her it was just a lousy movie with lousy writing and flat acting. To her it was an overblown and unbelievable love story wrapped around a historical contrivance. To her it was the worst that Hollywood, or even America has to offer. It was an embarrassment, a waste of celluloid, and an all around complete waste of her valuable time… and after the movie we had a drag out knock down fight about it.

She was not just content to insult the movie, she had to drag the entire audience into it. She called them slow, stupid and dim-witted for falling prey to the marketing machine, and believing that this was a movie worth seeing. They were fools, and America was full of morons if this was what passed for entertainment…

I argued with her, trying to explain that it was about the experience of the film, not the movie itself. It was about being a part of something. It was about a collective socially bonding moment where the entire audience became as one… but she would have none of it. It was just schlock. Nothing more. And then she said it… I couldn’t believe what I heard then, and almost 15 years later, I still can’t believe she said it.

“Well,” she said smugly, “I graduated from Yale, so I should know!”

I was dumbfounded. I had long since given up any hope of taking this woman to bed, and was just trying to salvage the last vestiges of my own sanity through this discussion, but that stopped me dead. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to say something, or couldn’t have said something, it was just that I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what I WANTED to say.

“Well I graduated from USC Film School, so I should know BETTER!!!!”

But I hadn’t graduated… and I knew it. I couldn’t say anything. I felt like the scarecrow, and somehow her diploma did make her smarter…

I don’t remember the rest of the evening, or what if anything was said after that between us, but I do remember that feeling of having this woman taunt me with her supposedly elite educational accomplishments. I remember the feeling of not having completed something that had been important to me. I remember feeling less than….

And within a few days I was in action. I pulled together info about USC. Found out how many credits I was shy, how much classes cost, what I needed to do to secure student loans, and I made a vow to myself that I would never get stuck in a discussion like that again. I felt like an unarmed man at a gunfight. This time I was going to finish what I started.

Before long I was back in classes with a new passion. The first time I had been in college it had been for my parents, for my pride, for the bragging rights…. This time it was for me. I delved into classes hard. I took challenging courses and kept rigorous notes. I took pride in my education, and I paid for every class with my own money. Along the way, I sold a TV pilot, helped my father get through a divorce, dated and got engaged to a sorority girl, and found myself, but those are all stories for other posts….

I remember before I went back, I had been keeping a long, long to-do list. It was a chronicle of every thing I wanted to do but hadn’t gotten around to yet. Write a book, travel to Europe, start a business, buy a computer, get my daughter to the dentist, buy toothpaste…. Just an epic running chronicle of a million tasks, and in bold letters FINISH SCHOOL. A friend had given me some great advice when he saw my list. He suggested I break it into two lists…. He explained that some tasks are reoccurring, and never really go away (like wash the car, or pick up the dry-cleaning), while others get finished and then are done, never to find their way back onto your to-do list (like get a dog, buy a new car, have kids… etc). Those one time tasks are the ones to focus on, because once they’re done, they’re done… So I followed his advice, and reorganized my list. There has never been a greater sense of satisfaction or pride than the day I got to look at that list and just draw a big dark line across that one lonely task:

FINISH SCHOOL

What’s the moral here? Well, my beautiful woman shared a concept with me recently. She explained that for any situation, there is always a reason to do it, and a reason not to do it… and then there is the third force… a separate entity that pushes us all to make one decision or the other. For me, the Amazon was the third force, and for that I am forever grateful. The moral is that you never know when, how, or through whom that third force is going to show up and change everything for you… be conscious of the people you meet, be clear in your intentions, and always be ready to plant that tree, otherwise you might find yourself stranded on a sinking ship with a 6 foot tall Amazon and an impending date with a gigantic fucking iceberg….






A Leap of Faith: Part IV – The Career

31 03 2010

There is a common misconception I would like to debunk right off the top. It is the assumption that a career and a job are the same thing… that they are synonyms. I propose that they are very different things, and that confusing them is not only a huge mistake, but that it can often have disastrous repercussions.

A job is temporary. A job is fleeting. You are not in control of it, it is in control of you. Most jobs do not require specific skills, or if they do, often you can learn what you need to know on the job. You show up for a job everyday, but the job goes on without you if you leave. For the most part, you do not control the direction your job takes, the choices you make my subtly affect the way the job goes, but you are not steering the boat. With a job you are usually working for someone else. Being paid by someone else. Dependent upon someone else.

A career is 1000% different. A career is permanent (or at least semi-permanent). A career is long-term. If you have a career, you are in charge. Your every decision and choice affects the course of your career. Generally speaking, in a career your working for a bigger purpose, or towards a bigger goal. A career takes a certain skill set. You can learn many new skills on the job in a career, but the career will falter early if you do not have certain skills.

Once I walked out of that office on the corner of Beverly Dr., and Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills everything changed. I had walked into that office fresh off my realizations in Costa Rica, and the seed money to start my career. I had walked into that office a man with a job… I walked out with a career.

The first week of my new career was a whirlwind. I partnered up with a close friend of mine who was very skilled on the PC. I knew my company would need both Mac and PC technicians, and it seemed to make sense to start with someone I knew. He had strong business skills, and helped me get the bureaucratic blah-blah in line. We needed a name first, then a DBA and a bank account, then a Federal Tax ID#, then we needed a business phone line, and advertising, and a website, and a million other things… but first came the name.

We struggled with the name. I was the creative person, so it fell onto me to throw out idea after idea after idea, only to have each and every one unceremoniously shot down. How about this? Or that? Or this one? Or we could call it… and on and on and on… finally I turned to him, frustrated, “What the hell do you want to call it? 2 Smart Techies?” He laughed immediately, and smiled… and just like that 2 Smart Techies was born.

We quickly got the DBA, and purchased our domain, and designed our logo (again with lots of help from me as the creative guy), and put out some ads… and then we waited. We weren’t sure how long it was going to take. A day, a week, a month, or even longer… but it didn’t take long at all. We soon got a call from a major television production company in Hollywood. They had a dozen and a half PCs, and a huge virus infestation. I will always remember that moment as my Ghostbusters moment. You know the scene… the ghostbusters have put it all on the line getting their headquarters set up. They have their ads running, and most of New York thinks they’re a complete joke, but then someone calls and hires them to catch the slimy green ghost, and Annie Potts, the mousey secretary throws down her hand on a big red button, and screams “WE GOT ONE!!!!!” and alarms and sirens go off all over the Ghostbusters headquarters and they all slide down the pole in their full costumes for the first time…. It was just like that…. Only much much more mundane.

We got on site, and sure enough it was a complete disaster. Some new PC virus had been released and had just wreaked havoc on this office. I saw things that day that I had never imagined as even remote possibilities outside of the Sci-Fi Fantasy films I had grown up on. I was at a distinct disadvantage coming from the Mac side of things… I had only heard of viruses as concepts. I’d never really seen them in the wild, nor did I know what they could do or how to fix them. It was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced before. There were viruses that could shut off your computer, or wipe all the data off your machine, or redirect your browser to unauthorized pages… it was crazy. I let my PC partner guide me, and together we worked our asses off for over 16 hours straight… and then, all of a sudden, we were done. We invoiced the company, and collected a check for over $4000. My partner and I split it down the center, and just like that we were a legitimate company.

I was warned by friends of mine and other technicians, that this business was a sink or swim business. Some weeks you would eat filet mignon, and some days you would be lucky to have enough money and work to buy dog food… but it was never like that for me. It was always filet mignon. On job led to another. One client referred me to another one. Before I knew it, I had more work than I could handle, and more money than I had ever expected to earn.

That’s not to say it was easy sailing from this point on, not by a long shot, but we were over the first hurdle. The second hurdle that would really define me as a leader, and define my business as a whole, came a couple of months down the line. You see, I was already 30 at this point, and had had enough job experiences to know that I never again wanted to work for someone else. This gave me an intense work ethic. This was not just my day job. This was a company that i would build out and cultivate into a career. Something that would feed me and my family not just for the here and now, but well into my future. My partner on the other hand was in his 20’s, still finishing his school career, had no kids, and almost no overhead. Originally we had assumed that we would split all costs up front, and all checks we received, but that soon proved to be a bad plan. I worked every day. I had clients lined up and waiting for my services, and my partner just sat around waiting for someone to call him. I was being proactive, while he was just being reactive. As a result I provided 90% of the clients, and 90% of the income, and yet also carried the full load of the overhead, and paid half of my earnings over. This clearly wasn’t going to work.

My first remedy for this situation was to put my partner on a guaranteed hourly amount. I would pay him a flat rate every week, and keep the rest of what I was making. This didn’t work either because then he did less and less since he wasn’t being paid based on how much he did, just a flat rate. He was clearly in a job mind-set, while I was quickly learning what it meant to be in a career mind-set. I decided I had only one choice, so I bought him fully out of the company, and became a sole proprietor, a business owner, a full-time computer consultant, and most of all the proud new owner of an actual career. Go figure.

Down the line, I would branch out, find a new top-notch PC technician, build my brand and my clientele, and 7 years later I would still be here, fixing people’s Macs and helping them get their PCs working, writing tech blogs and recording a podcast, and thanking my lucky stars everyday that I get to be in charge. I get to be the boss. I make the decisions and choices and I steer my future, for better or worse. I have no one to answer to, and I make my own schedule, and money has never been the same issue it was back in those early days. Now it’s on to bigger and better things, and finding ways to continue to market my Business, and build my roster, and add new technicians, etc… Every day is a new adventure, and every day I learn something new that helps me lift this company a notch higher and a notch higher still. With a job, who cares…. With a career, I better care, because no one else will care for me.






A Leap of Faith: Part III – The Knock

4 03 2010

So here I am, on this gorgeous beach in Costa Rica, fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams… that of learning how to surf, and through it all I am haunted. The thought of returning to that job, to that life, to that identity seems unbearable, and so I worry… and panic… and I stress about it.

One day, I am mid-conversation with my father and his girlfriend, Judy. We are discussing happiness in life, when the question comes up… “Why don’t you want to go home?”

It’s not as easy to answer in that moment as it is today. At that moment I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was all about. I lied to myself and said the weather was too beautiful here, and I wanted to keep surfing, but the truth was that it had been pouring rain (I mean real rain forest rain) in buckets for days now. There was no surfing, and the weather was shit. Finally I said it, “I hate my job and I can’t bear the thought of doing it for a single moment longer.”

“So what would you rather be doing?”

I thought about it. I thought about Kurt Simon, and making $75/hour to teach computers. I thought about how easy it was to fix technological problems. I thought about how much I had learned being in relationship with Kurt, and other clients of mine. And I knew it… I knew what I wanted to do. “I want to do my computer work full-time.”

“And what would it take to make that dream a reality?”

I thought about it seriously. I knew it wasn’t out of my reach… A stretch yes, but not out of my reach. What would it take? Money, pure and simple. Money to pay the bills for at least the first two months while I built up my client roster. Money to buy some parts and print business cards. Money to promote myself. Money for business licenses and DBAs. Money, money, money…

I thought about working at my job day after day, wasting away in an office building making someone else rich. I thought about leaving the house for work at 7AM, and walking in the door with my daughter, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bag under my arm at 8PM or sometimes even 9PM. Too tired to do anything but collapse on the couch and turn on the idiot box. Too broke to fix my car, or own nice clothes. Barely making rent. Fluorescent lights and parking cards and frustrated, obnoxious co-workers and short lunch breaks and brown bag or fast food lunches and and and…..

ENOUGH!!!! I turned and looked my Dad and Judy right in the eyes and said “$5,000. For me to make that dream a reality would take $5,000.”

I don’t know what I expected to gain from blurting this number out. At the time it seemed like an unattainable sum of money, $5,000. In retrospect, by today’s standards it’s not all that much, but it seemed like a lot to me then, and I certainly wasn’t expecting what Judy said next:

“I’ll get my checkbook.”

And she did. She got up right then and wrote out a check for me for $5,000. I was just getting to know this woman, and she was handing me a check… and it wasn’t a joke. I knew the check was good. I promised to pay her back as soon as I could and she just waved me off…

“Whenever you can… no rush.”

And just like that I had a lot of things to do and think about and prepare for. Just like that everything looked different. I called my boss and told him I had been unavoidable detained and stayed an extra week.

I enjoyed that last week of the trip the most. I had the best meals, great times with my Dad and Judy, went out to discotheques and danced the night away, surfed, and explored. We even went on a canopy trip riding on ziplines through the treetops of the rain forest… and then it was time to come home.

That first day back at work is seared in my mind. I will never forget it. I walked up the steps, and into my bosses’ office and looked him right in the eye. He said it first.

“You’re done here, aren’t you?”

It wasn’t said in a mean way, or in an angry tone, it was just complete acceptance…. it was clear that something had changed in me. The boy who had left LA 3 weeks early was not the man who walked back off of that flight, or into this office.

His words hung in the air for a few moments. I savored them, heard them echo back in my ears, felt the true power behind them….

“Yes. I’m done.”

“But what about my computers” he asked, “Who’s going to take care of them?”

“I will.” I said, “I’ll just be on the clock.”

And I gathered my things and I left. And that was that.

NEXT: A Leap of Faith Part IV: The Career






A Leap of Faith: Part II – The Wave

16 02 2010

Costa Rica was beckoning to me….

Since setting the plan to leave town in motion, it seemed everything in my life was pulling against me simultaneously. By now, work on the film “Hollywood Homicide” was in post-production. In layman’s terms, that meant the filming had been completed, and now we were editing the footage, and trying to get the movie ready for the cineplexes. Everyone on the crew had figured out we were making a bomb, and money was being thrown around every which way to try and staunch the bleeding. Several previews had been cut and sent out to theaters with all the common cliches we’ve come to expect from buddy pictures: “In a world where music and crime collide…”, or “In Hollywood, no one is who they really want to be..” or “On the toughest case of his career Joe Gavelin has been assigned a new partner…” You get the gist. Cheese coming out of every opening. Trailers that were completely misleading about the movie, and could only hope to draw a few unsuspecting cinema goers into it’s web. In short, it was a slowly unravelling disaster.

I was working crazy hours, rushing home, picking up my daughter, feeding her, getting her homework done, getting her to sleep, and collapsing into a heap on the couch with some useless pop-culture show streaming from the TV. And then I would wake up and start it all over again. Each night I would dream fitfully, hoping everything would just change, and I would be magically transported to some paradise in the middle of South America with endless white sand beaches, beautiful women and unparalleled sunsets. And each morning I would awaken in my own house, my own bed, my own life… and I would go through the motions all over again.

As we got closer to my departure date I could feel it in my bones. I needed to get out of here. Nothing could hold me back, not the craziness of booking airline tickets in the post 9/11 world, not making an emergency run to get a valid passport before the trip, not even finding a way to get my daughter cared for while I was gone. Slowly, day after day, I got closer to the end of the tunnel.

Then, suddenly and without warning, I found myself at the airport, tickets and passport in hand. A stuffed backpack and a single carry-on by my side. And what on earth was that? A smile? A real, genuine, no bullshit smile peeking out from behind my lips? It felt like it had been years since I had smiled… and just like that, the journey began. My shoulders relaxed. My bags seemed light compared to the weight I had been carrying. This trip… this moment…. this opportunity was just what I needed… Everything was possible… and everything was about to CHANGE!

I arrived late that evening, and was picked up and whisked away by a friend of my father, who brought me to the gorgeous villa my father was staying in with his girlfriend. I slept hard, and dreamed of escaping… no really… it was one of those being chased dreams. I ran through a strange town, breaking into people’s homes, and attempting to hide out and evade my pursuer… who was none other than Harrison Ford. I had barely escaped him time and again, when he finally caught up and grabbed me by the scruff of my shirt and lifted me off the ground… at which point I gratefully awakened to find myself in a strange new land… completely free.

That morning we left that part of Costa Rica and embarked on a long and winding path through the rain forest in an old beat-up bus. This was the main road that ran through this country, and it seemed there had been a teacher strike, and a necessary bridge had been blocked by the protesters, so we had to take a side road around the blockade. We stopped at a roadside shanty, and grabbed a coke before heading further in. The whole journey was surreal, as if each moment you were going deeper and deeper inside yourself, peeling away layer after layer of societal underpinnings, until we finally arrived at our destination…. and I was figuratively naked… a newborn.

This undiscovered, remote part of Costa Rica was like a film set… unpaved roads… trees everywhere… people selling shells and trinkets from bamboo stands along the street… I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a land of so many opportunities and experiences, I wasn’t sure where to begin… so I made a list of all the things I wanted to do while I was here and free from the constraints of my normal everyday life. At the top of my list… LEARN TO SURF….

So the first chance I had, I walked into town by myself, and talked to some locals, who put me in touch with Alvaro, a one-time professional surfer who had never made it to the big time, and now took odd jobs teaching locals and tourists the way of the wave.

He was rough around the edges. Tall. Dark skinned. Dreadlocks. His eyes were perpetually squinched tight, as if he had spent an eternity staring at the sun. His name meant Nobel Guardian. And he spoke with a thick Jamaican accent that was sometimes absolutely impossible to decipher. I was a little intimidated by him to tell the truth, but I had trust that this was where I was meant to be.

We grabbed a surfboard, and walked together out of town, and into a small inlet alongside an old dock. The waves were small here, and the place was practically deserted. He showed me the basics…. how to hold the board… how to stand on it (while on the sand just to get the feel of it)… how to paddle… then he took me out into the water.

This first day was miserable… try as I might, I could not even get close to catching a wave. I could stand for only a second before loosing my balance. Paddling was pure torture, and the board was rubbing my chest and my thighs raw as I swam. I was never going to figure this out… Sensing my discouragement, Alvaro pulled me out of the water. “Dat’s enuff for t’day.” He said, “Tomorrow we figure ‘dis ting out.” And he took me out for a rotisserie chicken at some local joint.

The next day I awoke with my passion and commitment renewed. I met Alvaro and we went out to the same spot. For the first two hours it was just like the day before.. that’s when Alvaro pulled me aside:

“What’s your problem man?” He asked, “This is simple stuff. You a smart guy. Just watch da wave, follow da wave, catch da wave. Dat’s all. Simple. I told him I was doing my best, but he just shrugged… “Theres somet’ing on your mind… somet’ing dat’s distracting you…”

He was right, there was something distracting me… a lot of somethings in fact. I had come to know them collectively as “my reality”. There was the shitty job I would have to return to at some point, the unfaithful fiancee taunting me from Amsterdam, the daughter I was doing my best to raise, the bills I had to pay… you name it, and it was one of my distractions. I told him this, and he laughed… “You still don’t get it man… Surfing is like life… it’s simple… watch da wave…. follow da wave…. catch da wave… everyt’ing else is just distractions…”

Something in his words rang true… so I paddled out, and I cleared my mind. I waited until I was focused, my only thought catching the next wave. Everything else was quiet. No, not this wave… not that one… here it comes… I saw it on the horizon as it closed in on me, and I just watched it. It was beautiful, perfect, majestic. My eyes took it all in, and I followed it as it approached. Then I paddled… and I paddled hard, pulling my arms through the water, forcing the board into motion with each stretch of my arms, and then suddenly the wave was upon me, and as the surfboard got carried by it, I stood up… and I caught the wave… riding it all the way into the shore, never losing my balance or my focus. And when I stepped off the board I understood what Alvaro had truly meant…

It’s simple. Life is a wave. And there’s only two things in life, the wave you want to ride… and everything that keeps you from riding it. I knew what my wave was now. I knew where I wanted to go. And more importantly I knew what the distractions were that were going to try, time and time again, to toss me off that wave.

NEXT: A Leap of Faith: Part III – The Knock






A Leap of Faith: Part I – The Job

6 02 2010

It was 2003, and at the time I was working as an assistant to a manager in the film industry. In his day, he had been one of the big wigs that they wrote novels and fictional stories about. He was the man who made Arnold Schwarzenegger the superstar he would later become, he had managed Gena Rowlands and Christopher Plummer through the bulk of their careers. He had been a top agent at ICM for years… but that was then, and this was a whole different era for the film industry. It was an era where agents were becoming managers, and manager were becoming producers, and here I was as an assistant.

This was the third in a series of frustrating jobs helping someone else build THEIR company. Somewhere along the way of this job, my life had gone through the ringer…. I had broken up with my fiance while she was on a semester abroad in Amsterdam, the World Trade Towers had been attacked, and I was trying my best to maintain my sanity while raising my 8-year-old daughter single-handedly. It was around this time that I got a karmic break. My father’s landlord (who I’ve spoken about in other posts, and will no doubt speak of in many, many more since he was the initial inspiration for this blog) called my father, asking for a recommendation of a computer trainer. Now, I was doing computer tutoring and fixing a few Macs on the side, and I certainly knew what I was doing, but I hardly considered myself a professional computer trainer. That being said, opportunity is where luck meets preparation, and I wasn’t about to pass this chance up, so I took the job.

I quoted my price at $75/hour, and was shocked to get no resistance to that price. And so began the job that would change everything. I would work at my day job during the week, and then work with Kurt every weekend. I was not there to teach Kurt computers, nearly as much as I was there to give him new things to think about. We explored all sorts of technology, ways of communication, and electronic solutions to everyday needs. Along the way, I learned as much as he did. Then I would go back to my day job….

My boss was in the process of finalizing a deal to produce a major motion picture, his first. He had secured Harrison Ford as the lead (a big win in anyone’s book), and had an offer out to Josh Hartnett for the other main role. Everyone in the office was excited, myself included… then I read the script, or as much of it as there was. Having been raised by a screenwriter, having been to USC film school to become a screenwriter, having read hundreds of scripts, and worked professionally to analyze scripts for major film studios, I knew what a good script was supposed to look like, and I knew how the process of writing a script was supposed to go… this script was a mess.

Harrison Ford had been sold on the concept of the script by the manager and the film’s fairly well known director. He hadn’t even read a page. This was because there were only 20 pages of the script so far. As the writer would finish pages he would email them to us fresh off his computer, they weren’t proofread, they weren’t edited, and they weren’t very good. We were in a rush to start the filming so that it would work with Harrison’s schedule. He had another film he was supposed to start on shortly, so it was a mad dash to get him in front of the camera. My spider-sense began to tingle… this was a slow-motion train wreck, no doubt about it. I tried to tell my boss the script was off pace, and the structure of the script didn’t work. I offered suggestions, criticisms, warnings, but it all went unheeded. Before we even had a final script, the shoot dates were set, and we were going into production.

I had long enjoyed watching bad movies, just to laugh at them… Ishtar springs to mind (a movie I’ve seen more times than I should ever admit in print) or Howard the Duck, or Waterworld, or Gigli, you get the point… And as I would watch these tragedies of modern filmmaking and egos run amok, I would always ask the same question: “Did they know they were making a movie this BAD?” Now I had a definitive answer… YES!!!! But once a bad movie is in motion it takes on a life all it’s own, and all you can do is hang on for the ride and hope your instincts are all wrong and that the box office will redeem all the time and effort.

This was the moment I realized I was done with this job, and began to think daily about escape. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to formulate a good game plan. I needed the money to raise my daughter and pay rent, my computer work wasn’t going to cover my needs, plus I couldn’t desert my boss in the middle of this disaster… after all, during filming I would be running his office’s day to day needs almost single handedly. I was screwed…. Or was I?

BRRIIIIIINNNNNGGGG!!!! BRRRIIINNNGGGGG!!! My phone started to ring. I picked it up, and my Dad was on the other line. My savior. He was going to Costa Rica for a vacation with his girlfriend, and they wanted me to come along. They would even pay my way to get me there. They were hoping I could come for the entire 6 weeks they would be there, but there was just no way I could do that. But an idea began to coalesce. I went into my bosses’ office, and told him I was going to take some vacation time. I would wait until the movie was released (only a few weeks away), and after the initial opening weekend I would take my vacation time of 2 weeks. This way I could be there for the initial weekend, but be gone before the inevitably huge second weekend box-office drop. It was perfect. He didn’t want me to go, but he didn’t really have a choice, after all I had almost never missed a single day of work, and he knew that he owed it to me.

And so the plan was set.. I wasn’t sure how this was going to get me out of this job, and get me back into a place where I was happy in my life, but getting out of the country was a good start. And I needed any help I could get….

NEXT: A Leap of Faith: Part II – The Wave