Life in the past few years has changed us all one way or another. Some for better, and others for life lessons.
It’s 8:01 AM on September 4, 2018. I had an iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10 for those who keep calling it a X) and life was per usual. I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia, boarding a plane headed to work with Samsung Electronics America. I know. I seemed like a traitor to some using iOS vs. Android, but I like what I like, and my employer isn’t Unicef. I work hard for my money and I will spend it how I choose. I digress. When writing this, I couldn’t recall exactly where I was headed that day. I searched in my iPhone 14 Pro Max (in that Deep Purple if you’re curious, aka, Donatello) that revealed I was headed to work in Tampa, FL. Nothing unusual. Pretty typical time as a Dad of one boy, Knox, and my wife Victoria, who watched him as I traveled roughly 80% of the time. Friday through Monday, I’m on Dad Duty and loved the pace. I loved the chaos of travel, the experiences, and navigating the uncertainty.
It’s September 14th, 2019, a day after my 37th Birthday. It literally feels like it was last year. The pandemic and the lockdowns has caused a time warp. I cannot reliably recall years without cross-referencing on my phone the exact timeline. Between my pitstops of work, I had a birthday celebration in Buford, GA with some family and friends. I recall my nieces and my son playing some of the arcade games in the corner as we all scrambled for coins. I was still big on using Pay then, barely had cash, and you paid by card the traditional way by using a physical card in most circumstances. Life per usual. Chaotic, yet simple and I knew the routine. Not a care in the world as I happily spent my time with family and misstepping along the way.
Now, it’s February of 2020. Do you recall that month with all of the news? The CDC warns that we, the citizens of the United States, should prepare for disruption of the Coronavirus outbreak. Amazon has already caused a massive disruption within Retail. Back in January of 2020, Amazon released their 4th Quarter numbers. Sales were up 21% to $87.4 Billion. Operational cash flow increased 25% to $38.5 Billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $30.7 billion for the trailing twelve months ending in December 31, 2018. Amazon is alive and well. Shopping malls in the United States were already taking a beating and little did it know that this was just the very beginning with their decline in American culture, poor business decisions aside. In other words, we have reached the crest of the rollercoaster ride and there’s a steep decline coming. Change is around the corner.
Also, fresh in the news at this time, we had many other interesting events. Democratic rivals go after frontrunner Sanders in chaotic debate that we all witnessed if you were paying attention. What a 💩 🎥. Trump calls for Sotomayor, Ginsburg recusals on ‘Trump related matters’ which would appear ironic today. Iranian deputy health minister infected with coronavirus news spread less quickly than the virus itself. Former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak dies at 91- an age the average American clearly won’t see as our life expectancy has fallen since this timeline. Stocks continue to struggle after worst two-day drop since 2008 despite many of us living on an economic high. America isn’t unique in it’s battle of immigration as deadly violence escalates over India citizenship law while our very own Supreme Court rules against Mexican family in cross-border shooting case. While we expected Disney + to ramp up, Bob Iger steps down as Disney’s CEO. Crazy news didn’t seem to ever be short in supply, unlike consumer products, chipsets, and soon, baby formula.
It’s February 26th, 2021 around 7:08 PM and having dinner with a good friend. Life was still going well despite so many challenges that we’re all experiencing one way or another. Dozens of Boeing 777 jets with Pratt & Whitney engines have been grounded following an engine failure. Tiger Woods suffered a major wreck as well, meaning, other than being biracial, that’s something else we have in common. Fights and other acts of violence plagued the media. It’s a bit easier to dodge glaring social issues if we have our heads in the sand following solely our own life experiences while simultaneously shuttering the world. We’re all trying to get a footing on what our new normal will be. And after a confrontation with a tree, I too, would have to be working through a new normal. I was broken both physically and emotionally. I am thankful to have two friends, Kristen and Polo, who bluntly had me take my expectations, and discard them. Day-by-day, focus on putting one foot in front of another. That’s the only expectation – to move forward.
Skip life’s memories like a YouTube ad to this very moment. I’m officially 40yrs old, well into my personal recovery, and optimistic, to a degree. I was tempted to write (in detail) that in February of 2022, Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin, started his war crimes against humanity in Ukraine 🇺🇦. Nuclear ☢️ War now seems in the realm of a significant possibility. The economy, while still doing well despite inflation, is an unknown risk that has us on edge. There’s a political dumpster fire where one party has chosen to strip away rights here in America. And MAGA supporters thrive on vengeance due to their own insecurities of being “replaced.” See white Nationalism. Never, ever, did I think that my daughter would have less rights than my mother here in the United States. It’s my personal right to decide on vaccination as it’s my body. But for ladies, well, it’s my religion that has authority over your choice. How contradicting and hypocritical. There’s certainly a reckoning coming.
I took a major step in my life back in June to leave Samsung Electronics America. It was a safe company (in a sense of knowing the business) and I was comfortable with the devil I danced with repeatedly. An incredible amount of PTO, great benefits, and a sector in which I absolutely loved to work despite it being at odds with my internal belief systems. I had been around so long, I have watched several regimes come in, make minor/major adjustments, leave, rinse and repeat to the point that I have seen a full cycle of the seasons with different leaders. What was new became old, and the old became revived – basically, how the music industry remakes and remasters classic hits. It got to the point where I became the dinosaur within the organization. And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs. They went extinct. With a toxic environment of poor leadership that, instead of volcanic ash, put their inner circle careers in front of contributions to the organization that best served the people and the business, saw an exodus of strong employees. Several era’s had left the remains of bad morale scattered like fossils within the organization that could be carbon dated to direct leadership. It became clear – I had to form an exit strategy or go extinct. The finger pointing and mountain of challenges were daunting. The system of ranking promotional opportunites – really, the lack thereof – was and is unethical in my view. If I had stayed, I would have chosen mediocrity that wouldn’t had best served the organization, nor myself. Besides, we need fresh ideas and faces to take our place over time to sustain organizational vitality. That’s the circle of business life. It was time to go and it had to be on my terms. Either I’m a great employee who just didn’t find my next move OR… or… I’m just not that good and shouldn’t be promoted. When you take time too critically think through your next move and your current state, be honest with yourself. Never put your career in the hands of another. Above all, ALWAYS bet on YOU.
During any of our given careers, there are difficult decisions to be made. I have made the mistake of being more loyal to a company vs. my own career. Mistake 1. We invest and go the extra mile to appease the powers that be. Where was the investment in myself? I hadn’t made the best of choices. With the pandemic and the uncertainly, there is this overwhelming feeling, at times, that one has to always go the extra mile. Daily. Time on and off the clock. We want to feel indispensable in an uncertain environment to put our own fears and insecurities to rest in hopes that they sleep overnight. Some of us were even willing to suppress our own integrity to make it through. It was emotionally exhausting. I would have best served the business and my career by intelligently dictating and owning my time, specifically, carving out my own growth. In other words, we must find a way to grow the business AND ourselves. And when that ceases, that’s a signal it’s time to make a move.
Then there’s the risk of change itself. Our ancestors, who were nomadic in nature, sought change. If the environment was too harsh, they explored more suitable climates. When food sources changed in those climates, for example, meat in summer months where they couldn’t be preserved, adapted to grains and oats. If water became scarce, they would venture out towards lakes and land plentiful with rainfall. How and why that was instilled in them can be argued. Some may have very well been adventuresome while many others changed to survive. One thing that isn’t arguable and plagues our species is our negativity towards change as it signals uncertainly. I had to face my own internal fears and insecurities in this space, and the pandemic certainly accelerated my internal need to adapt and seek shelter. Beforehand, I wasn’t ready nor fully committed to embrace change. Mistake 2. The grass is greener, they say, on the other side. Like the climax in the last scenes of The Croods, we often find ourselves being thrown to the other side by an outside force. That could have been a layoff, creative differences, or a major life circumstance that has created this opportunity. We’re excited, yet terrified, all at once. That is normal. And is should be something – in my view – that we strive to do more often. Make change normal and embrace it. It is an indicator of progress.
I have now become more appreciative of my time. It’s a combination of losing my youngest brother early due to illness, having a life changing auto accident, losing a child, and coming to the conclusion I’m like that battery in your Samsung or iPhone: battery health at 50% capacity remaining. Half life. I’m cognizant that I do have a finite amount of life left. As I once heard from Ryan Seacrest at a UGA graduation ceremony, patience is for those who have time to waste. If your current situation isn’t taking you in the direction in which you want to go, ditch the patience in favor of aggressively pursuing your next move. I’m not saying patience isn’t a virtue. I am, however, saying we can mistakenly use this as an excuse not to proceed forward and make difficult decisions. In other words, make a plan and move. Take action. And do not settle. Or risk going extinct.
As we move into Q4, I would strongly recommend that we take several moments to reflect over the last few years. Soak in your thoughts of what you’ve personally had to adapt to. Embrace your inner fears and insecurities. Accept that you may never get rid of your dark passenger (a Dexter reference, yes, but the point is there are some things one has to learn to live with) – just don’t give them the drivers seat and securely fasten it to the passengers seat. The second request? Make sure to keep in mind of others in your presence. And those who are not that can be affected by your decisions. We don’t know the challenges they face and perhaps there’s some solitude in that thinking when we don’t pause to contemplate that there are others in a similar boat. Continue to communicate and connect, even with those who do not share your views. Life is already challenging as is and one thing that can help us all through tough times is knowing you have options and are never, in a sense, alone. While I wish I didn’t have to experience much of the pain that life has dealt, I do have to acknowledge it is the very thing that forced my evolution and gave me the grit needed to prolong this harsh climate of uncertainty. These experiences helped me to not go extinct. Persist we shall.