Saturday, March 29, 2014

Anthony Robbins

I chanced upon an audio book from the 1990's by Anthony Robbins, "Unlimited Power", in which he lectures on the principles of success. I never had the patience to sit down and read it back then, so I've been listening to bits and pieces and taking notes on key points. Here's a summary of the lesson so far:

You have three decisions,

  • What to FOCUS on?
  • What does it MEAN to you?
  • What should I DO NOW?
Then, we have four steps,
  • Clearly decide what you want.
  • Take action.
  • Note what is working and what is not working.
  • When things aren't working, change your approach continually until it does work.
That's what I got so far, but it took a lot if listening to grab these key points. To be continued.....

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Another Birthday

"Instead of whining and bitching about my lot in life, I find that just writing about it makes me feel better and I can be at peace with things such as they are, as long as I put it out there, the way things really happened...."-Kurt Anderson, Starving Writer

A lifetime wasted....

Okay, so I'm turning 54 soon and I can't be more depressed about it. I mean, I don't feel 54. I feel about 34 and I think that's accurate, considering how much life I've actually lived in this life.

Our parents of the Depression era generation, they actually were 54 when they reached 54. They had raised children, built fortunes, bought and sold a couple of houses and had grandchildren by the time they were 54. I know this because many were in the habit of reminding me of this on a regular basis for the last twenty years.

Now that's a happy birthday.

I don't know what happened when it came to be my turn. I never left the gate. I never left the barn. I'm still shell-shocked by the lack of opportunity after college graduation. I don't know if it was the era, or what? Maybe affirmative action. I don't know. College. That was the worst decision my parents made for me. I had interests, but nobody took them seriously. Magic tricks? Martial Arts? "Forget about those silly hobbies and go to college". At that time, everybody who wasn't going to school for technical skills was going to college.

After I graduated, I watched the new plumbers and carpenters enjoy steady employment, while the business graduates moved back in with Mom and Dad. College isn't for everybody, but for some reason I had to go regardless. It was the thing to do. Taking business courses never made much sense to me. You learn about business by running a business.

The most successful people I know learned a business niche by working for someone already established in that business for maybe, five years and then starting their own companies in that specialty. I've seen this simple formula work over and over. One very successful individual I know in the steel fabrication industry had only a formal education through the eighth grade, as he was formerly of the Amish sect. Starting work at age 14 for the local steel industry, by the time he was twenty years old, he had started his own steel company, at an age when the majority of college kids had years ahead of them before they had any hope of starting anything. He proceeded to raise four children. Today they all have their own farms and travel all over the world and he's alive to enjoy their success.

Did he feel the need to stay in school another ten years getting a degree in this or that specialty? No! If he needed an engineer, he hired one. If he needed a manager, he hired one. I think people unwittingly shoehorn themselves into mediocrity with all this education until they're 30. The real key to getting wealthy is to gain a position of control and then delegate the tasks you aren't educated in. Start the company, then hire a team!

Back to my shitty experience: There's no worse start in life than pissing away five years of precious time on a degree that led to not one job interview within the first two years after graduation. Just like that, seven years out the window. College pays off for some people, but honestly, I think it just hurt me.

Looking back, everything was going great until I went off to college. I remember I was banking $800 a week in my moped rental business, and this was in the early 1980's during a so-called recession. I was young. I had no debt. It was mostly profit. College just killed my momentum. It was a poison pill. I never even came close to recovering......ever. Human nature being what it is, the majority of people were only too happy to enjoy watching me fuck up.

Losing money is bad enough. Money comes and goes. Time just goes. I was doing great and I had four or five decades ahead of me, just a yawning valley of endless time, deep and wide, where the possibilities were endless. I put an end to it by dropping everything and running off to college because my parents insisted it was the right move. I assumed they were right. I was eighteen. What did I know? The future died with the deafening sound of the door of opportunity slamming shut. I dutifully followed the masses of sheep and went to college. I was doomed.

My classmates who knew what they wanted to do early on, they did the best financially and career-wise. They did not let themselves become distracted by their parents, or get taken way off track like I did. Perhaps the successful ones are the only classmates who made themselves more visible post-graduation, just to brag, giving me a overblown perception of the success of my peers? Of course nothing is heard from the less than successful among us after graduation.

Regardless, having a clear plan early in the game is a huge advantage, which only gets bigger as the passage of time magnifies mistakes and good decisions alike. Sometimes a few former classmates are good enough to let me drive their Porches or enjoy their pools on their multi-acre estates, in the rare times I actually show my face in their upscale neighborhoods. Of course it will be discouraging, to only hear back from the ones who have achieved great success.....I think the modern term is, "Facebook Syndrome".

In trusting my own family for career advice, I did not realize that they were closet psychotics with bad intentions. If I wanted to make sure I would get absolutely nowhere for the first decade after college graduation, I couldn't have picked a better crowd to hang around. It's tough enough dealing with outsiders in the quest for success, but when it's your own family, forget it. They were real pros at keeping me jobless and unmarried, which are very complementary by the way. Next thing you know, I was 30.

Unfortunately, I was surrounded by adults whose incompetence was only matched by their indifference to the less than stellar results incurred when it came to my following their extremely bad career advice. They thought they were smart, but I think maybe they were just lucky, being born into the early stages of the strongest economic upturn in human history, really.

I don't think there's a better era in human history than the 1950's through the 1970's economically speaking, in America. The royal screwing of the middle class by Corporate America didn't begin until just about in time for my generation's high school graduation and boy, have we been screwed! It's no accident that employee incomes have remained relatively unchanged for decades, while CEO income has risen thirty to fifty times or more. If you want to read about what these rich corporate Wall Street sleazeballs started doing to the American middle class and the general population of hopeful college grads after around the mid 1970's or so, here's a link to an excellent book on that subject: Who Stole the American Dream?

Regardless of the era, never listen to career advice from your parents. Never. As a result of being involved with these geniuses, I have been led on a series of wild goose chases that have all dead-ended, sapping my years and leaving me exhausted. I'm not sure why they were so thrilled to have a hand in this failure to launch. I certainly wouldn't want my kids hanging around in the yard after college graduation and going nowhere, that's fer' sure. But, like I said, it was probably the era, but the luckiest generations before us would never admit such a thing, because they were unaware at best. They tended to blame us, with ass-holic statements like, "get a job", and "you just don't want to work". That's right Ma. I'd rather be out here with you, in cow-country being aggravated, than starting my life.

I think if I had simply returned to what I was doing before going off to college, I could have gotten back on track, but I had been brainwashed to land a job in corporate America. I had watched too many TV shows. I had this unrealistic vision of myself after college, like some kind of superstar executive, with the fancy office.

This was not reality of course. The market had been flooded by college graduates and the ones who had the advantage simply had the right connections, bigger tits, or both. That's the cold reality.

Then there was the decision finally to go to work for Dad's company after college in 1983, where I kind of hung out for another seven years while I watched my Dad get rich and I about starved to death. I never did figure out what my purpose was for being there. I don't remember if he invited me or I invited myself. It was all very vague. The plan was, there was no plan. I had acquaintances who were working for their Dads and they were all doing very well and made damned sure I knew about it.

My experience was not the same, unfortunately. My Dad was different. He didn't like being around successful people. He wanted to be the only big shot. He liked to show me how much he had, lead me on to believe I could have it too, and then give it all to an outsider. When I voiced that I was unhappy with my salary, he just fired me, and hired an outsider and paid them triple or more for the same position. If someone happened to not like me, he would eventually be their best buddy. If I got in trouble, he'd back the other side and say that I was in the wrong. There was no loyalty, whatsoever. This was my reward for trusting family and staying in the family business as long as I did, unexplained animosity. It's not like I was a bad guy. I was a straight-shooter. The deck was stacked against me from day one. If someone had just informed me of this insanity in the beginning, I could have just gone my own way.

The best example I can think of was when they adopted a child when I was 13 years old.  All they had to do was wait a few years and I would've given them all the grandchildren they could have wanted. It's not like I had a shortage of girlfriends. Instead they warned me to, "not get a girl pregnant or boy, you'll know real poverty!" They would scare me to death, so I dutifully practiced safe sex and produced no illegitimate children that I am aware of. When I did bring girlfriends home, it just seemed to piss off my parents. No punch in the arm and a wink from my Dad, that's for sure. It was an unusual way for parents to act, or so I thought at the time. It was frustrating. So what did they do after all these warnings? They went out and adopted a child.

Only in America could two teenagers go out and fuck like rabbits, birth a kid, put it up for adoption and immediately have some rich guy adopt it and raise it for you for free, on a farm and shit on his existing kid in the process. Free pass!

After suffering through the lean years, I watched as they heaped rewards upon the new kid. They even bought a farm to raise him on and rubbed my nose in the fact that they later bought him a house. It was kind of shocking, the blatant favoritism they showed for the "new kid". Since he got away with everything, where I used to get my ass beat, I nicknamed him, "Freepass". I'm not sure what I was being punished for, but it was relentless. At the same time, this was probably the luckiest guy I'd ever met. I don't think he would have gone back to his "real" parents if they had showed up in person, begging to take him back.

I'm not sure why the new kid was so unfriendly with me. I suppose it was a combination of the age gap, and more likely, my Dad's appearance of wealth. It's probably a good thing the situation was not reversed and I had been the new guy. I'm sure he would have drowned me and made it look like an accident, to keep from splitting any future inheritance, real or imagined.

Over and over through the years, up through middle age, while basically living out of my car, I would go visit my parents mansion on their 80 acres. I would see my adopted brother working on the property and getting paid for just being there, the little shit. Then my Mom would happily bring me up to see his large home and be confused when I wasn't thrilled by the whole thing. God, she could be such a bitch. I'm glad you're so thrilled Mom. Now fuck off.

This was the result of my being the product of a first marriage and being too young at the time to leave soon after my Mother got a new husband. I was naive enough to think everything would just go back to normal. If this happens to your parents, make sure you figure out a way to leave home as soon as the new guy moves in, or else you're really fucked. Trust me, I lived it.

"Dad" enjoyed keeping me broke. Of course I did not know this in my youth. It's always years later with me. He went out of his way to make sure my experience working for his insurance company was negative and discouraging. The first year, he sent me to the worst neighborhoods in West Philly, much of the time with a few old insurance leads that were all but burned already by somebody else. I swear he was trying to get me killed that first year. Or else he would have me drive around Pennsylvania, handing out brochures. Anything to keep me busy getting nowhere.

I think maybe he hired me to keep my Mother happy. I was merely a token hire. I had been conned. I finally got a clue and left in 1990. Bang! Seven more years gone. Time-cost of my college education now stood at a fourteen year investment! Of course, nobody gave a damn. This is the legacy of that depression era generation, I suppose. I don't know what the WWII generation did to these guys, but they definitely had the biggest bug up their ass, and I will be glad to see them all eventually disappear.....

Another problem was, at that time, people - actual employees that worked for my Father - apparently thought I was making the big bucks, probably just because I was working in the family business, and they treated me with a lot of contempt, as I remember it. Maybe that was just a normal part of working for my Dad, I don't know.

So instead of it being a fun work situation with a team feeling and a lot of camaraderie, like in my wrestling team days, co-workers were strangely quiet and resentful, so the experience sucked all around. Marvelous. If I'm getting treated like the "rich lucky guy", it would have been nice to at least been actually making that kind of cash, but this certainly was not the case. Plus, God only knows what my parents were telling everyone, behind my back. They must have been making up the worst stories about me. I could tell by the way people treated me. There was no reason for it. It's no fun being the lone poor guy in a rich neighborhood, that's for sure. I had to watch everyone else' brats live high on the hog while I didn't have a pot to piss in.

Instead of signing up for the pencil-pusher gig, the best career path I could have chosen, had I known what my Dad was up to on the side, which was getting into the horse racing and breeding business, was to have gone right into farrier school after high school, the guys that cruise around to different farms and race tracks and shoe the horses. There's a school in Colorado that has a six month program. Last I heard, these individuals make $90.00 per horse that they service.

That way I could have lived out in horse country, without depending on my Dad for employment and actually had been able to make a pretty good living while I was still young. I say this because I met a few farriers along the way and they all were self-employed, had growing families, newer model trucks, lived in the country and took a lot of vacations. Instead, there I was, in the office all day with the secretaries, earning squat.

Now don't get me wrong. I have peers that have had fulfilling careers with the college degree, to great effect. But they had supportive friends and family and never left the same familiar small town where they knew everybody, and I think that's been the key. Networking is huge, in business. It's not like you can go back to a place you once called home after a certain amount of time has passed. You can never go back. Believe me, I tried it, twice. People grow up. They change. They have kids. They're married with kids, or divorced with kids, and that's about when I used to show up, not even started yet, late to the party.

It would have been interesting, while growing up, to have stayed in one spot, at least until I made a little money, bought the house and then maybe, picked a wife. In every one of those towns that I lived in briefly during my youth before eventually moving far away, the young woman that fate had picked for me is now, living with my replacement, raising, or having raised his children. This is what goes through my mind whenever I chance to pass through one of my old neighborhoods and I see the kids playing in the yards.

My parents moved a few times when I was growing up, then again while I was in college, and then I have moved at least ten times after that, never fitting in anywhere since. I attempted to return to the Philly suburbs back in 2000, but I just couldn't afford the housing and the business start-up. The time to start investing in this area was back in the 1970's, not three decades later.

Plus, my family, or at least, my parents, were very big on negative reinforcement, meaning they loved to tell me how much I was going to fail, and then when I did fail, they relished the confirmation. My Mom would often tell me, in my early teen years, "Kurt, you look stupid and you act stupid." I'm not sure what was up with this generation, with the insults. This was supposed to motivate me? The new kid, of course, received the opposite treatment and was treated like some kind of royalty.

I still remember the smirk on my mother's face whenever I made the mistake of complaining about my misfortunes in business, or more like lack of business, especially after I left the family business. They seemed to think it was cute, that I couldn't get my life started. I guess it was because they were already so wealthy and had been comfortable financially for so long, relatively speaking, that it didn't really matter much, what I did. This is the dark side of having successful parents. It really wasn't a family business anyway, but my Father's business alone. That was my big mistake in the beginning, assuming it was a family business, like it was the TV show Dallas or something.

My biggest regret is letting them get away with all this treatment, this lack of respect. I didn't go out later and gain any modicum of success in my career. I didn't live a particularly interesting or rewarding life in my later years. My only consolation is that when I pass my family picture on the mantle, yes I still keep a picture up, I don't miss my family like normal people do. I just say, "fuck you, fuck you and fuck you too", and it feels good. I don't think this is something to be proud of.

I finally got up the courage to leave Dad's company, around middle 1990. This also meant that I would be homeless. I had about $2,500 to my name, so yes, it was scary. I remember, my Mom actually asked me to stay, which would have been an impossibility without the job, because I really was horrible at earning a living. I had no marketable skills. I had no connections. I don't know what was going on between my parents, but looking back, I believe my Mother was actually a very lonely woman. I remember feeling bad at her funeral in 2011, about leaving home in 1990, even though I was 30 by that time.

It's not like things improved much after my leaving Dad's company either. My degree was now eight years old. New graduates received preference now for the few good jobs around - this was pre-internet, remember - it was just landline phone calls and snail-mailing my resume out to promising want ads from the local newspaper, never to be heard from again.

I was too colorblind to enroll in one of the hero occupations, like the police or the military. I remember flunking the vision test for the Navy pretty badly. I eventually landed a lot of temporary jobs, through Manpower (Pittsburgh).

I also got pretty good at cruising around wealthy neighborhoods with my chainsaw and begging locals for highly-paid tree-work (San Mateo, CA), posing as a contractor coming from a missed appointment. "Excuse me ma'am, my appointment for work fell through. Do you have any tree-work available before I head back to San Leandro?". I even had a fake magnetic sign on my truck, "Atlas Contracting". Hilarious! Some days I would make five to seven hundred dollars. Eventually, I got busted by the cops. Regardless, I was pretty screwed, career-wise. Plus, the recession of 1990 was no picnic. I'm talking about starting slow and then easing off, career-wise. What an unmitigated disaster.....

Family support was lacking, to say the least. I didn't know of any other parents who didn't want their children to be at least as financially successful as themselves, but looking back on it, my parents really had it in for me. They took it as an insult, that I had any ambition whatsoever. I'm not sure why there had been such pressure years earlier to go to college. I think my Dad eventually turned the rest of the family against me, including distant relatives. Of course that's the way it worked. He had all the money.

Regarding my Mother, she was such a flaming asshole the last ten years that she had to be suffering from dementia, looking back on it. She had a complete personality change. She turned mean as a snake. She thought I was her ex-husband. I don't know who that was who died back August of 2011, but it sure as hell wasn't my Mother. She died years ago. Outsiders didn't assume that she had dementia. They just thought I was the bad guy and that she was perfectly sane. I never had anyone take my side.

My biggest downfall was being unaware of it for so long, that both my parents were sabotaging me. Well into my 40's, I had no idea my parents were often applauding my setbacks in life. It probably had something to do with my being a product of Mom's first marriage. I was like the guy that gets left behind enemy lines during war-time, a life-long P.O.W. Whoever my blood-Dad was, my Mother never forgave that fucking guy and never forgave me for being a part of him.

Other notables, in my half-century of time:
  • It's amazing how few true friends I have to show for the trip.
Oh I have plenty of Facebook friends, that's for sure,but very few friends that actually enjoy seeing good things happen to me. More often than not, they are jealous of my rare good fortune.
  • I'm not "successful" by now and I go out of my way to avoid my financially successful "friends". I wish it did not have to be this way, but they really rub it in when I have been stupid enough to accept an invitation to their social events.
Don't get me wrong. My "friends" who have become wealthy and successful still invite me to their homes, but the few times I have been unfortunate enough to get tricked into one of these visits, I got the feeling that they were subtly making fun of me.
  • My tastes in women have stayed the same.
I'm starting to get spammed from those "dating over 50" singles sites. I'm not sure why someone would sign up for a site which excludes two thirds of the female population. Leave me alone! 
  • Don't do student loans. I can't repeat this enough. If it's a real opportunity, they'll give you a scholarship.
Speaking of student loans, now is when those early life decisions and missed opportunities have really come back to haunt me, especially late at night while in the throes of endless insomnia, staring into the dark: Turning down that wrestling scholarship to Drexel, breaking up with my favorite girlfriend in 1977, leaving the Beach Patrol, not sticking with things I was good at, the late-in-life chiropractic career-choice fiasco, selling that moped rental business too early, giving away all my lawn care clients. I hate birthdays........