How many times have you or someone else you know said this?
I know I have.
I’ve passed up on many opportunities due to the lack of self-belief.
But why do we think this way?
Growing up, I’ve had to be my own champion.
I had to pump myself up before big events, whether it was interviewing for a new job or competing in a grappling tournament. Rarely did I have someone nearby to say, “You can do this. Believe in yourself.”
Rather, the opposite and would go something to the effect of, “You could get hurt! Why bother? It’s a waste of time!”
I remember those moments. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get those words out of my head.
Now older, I believe more than ever we need to be our own champions.
We need to tell ourselves that it’s possible, that we have the ability to mold our circumstances, that we have to be intrinsically motivated.
We need to fight for what we want in this life.
I remember the first time I stepped into the cage for my MMA debut.
It was easily the most nerving moment of my life. I mean, I was about to step into a cage, in front of hundreds of strangers, with another man who wanted to hurt me.
I was ready to face the very real possibility that I could have my arm snapped off or be knocked unconscious. Publicly, no less.
But I also believed in myself I was ready. Why?
I had completed an eight-week training camp, sparring week in and week out with the best training partners and having the best coaches around.
I knew I prepared the best I could. I was training twice a day, 6 days a week for my fight.
I knew in my heart that regardless of the outcome, I put in the hard work and dedication. I believed in myself.
Thankfully, the result was positive. I won.
With all that said, believe in yourself.
Believe in yourself when no one else will.
We’re our own worst enemies, and more importantly, our own strongest advocates.
It’s amazing what humans can achieve when we believe in ourselves.
Remember, time flies and days become months, months become years.
Whatever is on our minds that we want to achieve, take the first step. Just take an action.
It was February 2017, a fair day with the sun out shining bright like any other normal day. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I drove into work in my 2012 Honda Civic with its few bumps and bruises and parked in my normal spot (2nd floor to get a nice early workout in).
For the past few weeks, we’d been told of the news that the hyper-growth company I worked for would be going through a potential restructuring due to platform strategy failures. It was certainly tough news as many of us were gung-ho on its platform potential to change the company into a Amazon-like juggernaut. I certainly was.
For months, this platform business unit was humming along and teams were realigned to push the priorities in building out the platform. Our team in Corporate Finance were tasked with a variety of functions, most notably on “product economics”. Simply, we wanted to ensure what was being produced made financial sense, i.e. do we make a profit.
As months went on, we went from a team driving new changes to support the platform to reconciling data. Said another way, we were glorified accountants–again.
As few more weeks went on, the writing was on the wall. Our roles and responsibilities were changing, and we were hearing less from leadership.
Being self-aware, I could sense another restructuring.
And sure enough. ?
The restructuring and what follows
On February 2017, the restructuring happens.
The night before I had a great conversation with my former Finance VP and learned that I would be part of this exercise. I also learned he would be included as well.
“Amazing…” is what I thought to myself. After nearly 5 years, more than 10,000 hours invested and various promotions throughout the company, and being told of job security in a number of conversations, there I was, in a boxed room with HR and my former manager.
“I’m so sorry, but today is your last day with the company.”
It was really difficult to hear this from a company that I devoted so much to and believed in truly. Nonetheless, I respectfully understood the decision and wished the team well.
And then there I was, standing outside the building with one box with my things and staring back. “Well that was fun” as I walked back towards my car.
In less than 20 minutes, I was back home. ?♂️
You make a choice and you move forward
I spent that week taking a step back to relax my mind and to cool off. After all, I was away from the work I didn’t enjoy doing and this would be a great opportunity to focus on other things.
But what other things? ?
After one week, I whipped out my OneNote (free note-taking tool) and started jotting ideas and thoughts that included:
What do I want next?
What job do I want to do?
What company would I want to work for?
How can I leverage this time to do something more meaningful?
After spending a few hours writing my thoughts out, I realized a few things I never thought about. For example, I really wanted to try my hand at personal training. For anyone who knows me well knows that I’m extremely passionate about MMA (mixed martial arts) and sports.
So one week after being laid off, I randomly applied to be a boxing personal trainer at a local gym. After some discussions I was hired and off I went. It was exciting! I was training adults who were looking to get in shape and to let off steam. I was finally doing something I actually enjoyed. ?
Next, I decided that I needed to read more and expand myself. Admittedly, I did little to no reading prior to this–not unless you include Medium articles and blogs.
Similar to my thought note-taking, I wrote down a list of books I wanted to read, went to the library and rented a few. It was an easy decision, but one I had pushed back for so many years. ?
It was also at this time I asked myself, “What do I want to do before I die?” Yes, it’s grim. But it’s a real, honest question that most never ask themselves.
After some thinking, I decided it would be backpacking. I’d always longed for it, so I spoke with my wife and we decided we would do it. Not in 10 years, not in 5 years…this year. Yup, it was going to happen.
Received an offer from Amazon and why I turned it down
Around June 2017, I received a LinkedIn message with a potential opportunity to join Amazon. Funny enough, it was going to be a role managing their Promotional Products line, the same group I supported in my prior role.
I decided to jump at the opportunity because it was, well, Amazon. Who wouldn’t want to work for Amazon, right?
So I moved forward with the process, submitted my resume, and thankfully received an interview. The first round was a screening with the hiring manager. After passing that stage, I received an invite to come onsite to meet the team and go through a rigorous interview process. I was just glad they were going to pay for my flight and hotel costs.
On the day of the interview, I went through 5 very long and intense interviews with various leaders of the group. I did the typical behavioral questions such as “Why me, what would you do in XXX scenario, etc.”, but the part of the interview I really enjoyed was the case study. They had me whiteboard what my process would be for launching and validating a new product idea for Amazon. (Answer: test small location, validate, then expand ?).
About a week after the interview process and submitted references, I received an email with the header “Congratulations!”
Most would feel excited and just glad to have a job. It is the normal reaction after all.
But for some reason, I felt empty and a bit dead inside. I felt dread and anxiety. I kept wondering why I was feeling this way.
And then I remembered.
It was because I was about to enter the corporate world again. I was about to enter the world of politics, bickering, back-stabbing and restructurings. I also wondered, “What if I invest thousands of hours again only to receive the same fate as I did at my previous company?”
So I made a decision, albeit a hard one. I rejected their offer. And surprisingly, I didn’t feel bad. It felt good.
For once, I trusted my gut. ?
What the journey has been like since being a corporate employee
In short, amazing.
No longer do I wake up with dread, anxiety and a sense of emptiness.
No longer do I count the hours till when I can really start living (it’s the weekends).
No longer do I feel like I have to put up a mask and say yes to everything (I had a hard time saying no).
Instead, I feel so alive now. I wake up with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I wake up wanting to work, wanting to move forward, wanting to learn.
I wake up knowing I control my destiny.
Ultimately, what I never realized until I was laid off, I wake up knowing I own my time.
Because in the end, time is what matters. We can’t make more of it. It’s the ultimate commodity that can’t be replaced.
Today, I run my own business with my wife called A4E. We are a 100% fully remote accounting practice that offers a complete done-for-you bookkeeping, tax preparation and guidance, and CFO service solutions for small businesses.
I feel an incredible sense of control and happiness knowing every day my wife and I control our future, our own time, and that we can make a real difference for our customers and founders. We could also give back to the community, something that I’m passionate about.
In addition to my business, I’m also a board member for Level Ground MMA, an amazing non-profit managed by Ali Fuller. Ali is one of the very few people I’m amazed and inspired by and was the main reason I wanted to support her mission. That mission being: supporting and helping our Boston youth who are disadvantaged by offering career advancement opportunities, mentorship and guidance, martial arts classes and so much more.
Finally, I forgot to include. We did manage to complete that backpacking trip! ?
I’ll save for another detailed post, but in a nutshell, for a couple months in late 2017 we traveled throughout Southeast Asia. It was such an incredible experience and one that I will be experiencing again very soon. We ate so much delicious food, met amazing people, were touched by heartfelt stories and even almost got run down by rabid dogs.
Yeah…that was scary. ?
So where do we go from here?
Honestly, I can’t say.
But what I can say is I’m infinitely happier than I ever was prior to that point in my life.
I had faced a number of tragedies and painful work experiences throughout the past decade.
In 2009, I painfully lost my sister. When I opened up to my Fortune 500 company talent manager about the experience, I was told to “think about the starving kids in Africa”.
Imagine that. In a world where we are told to empathize with others, I was told this. I was broken; I thought to myself no one cared.
Nonetheless, I was glad to experience that. It made me who I am today. I realized that day that I would never be like her. That if anyone came to me with a story, I would be all ears. That’s what true empathy is.
Thank you for reading up this point ?
In closing, for anyone on the fence about their corporate careers and doubting where they want to go, do this one simple exercise: journal.
Write down your thoughts, wishes, dreams, goals. Be honest, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you happy? Are you doing what you love? What do you value?
When you do, you’ll realize what’s most important to you. Then it just comes down to actions.
Thank you so much for reading. It’s really tough for me to open up, but as a new parent, I know I need to. I don’t want to become bitter and angry as I get older–no one does.
If you found this helpful or enjoyed it, it would mean so much to me if you could share it ?.
Thank you again, stay well and stay safe. Till next time.
TL;DR – when you love yourself, others will love you too.
You might ask, “What does that even mean?”.
I know, in some peculiar sense it doesn’t make sense. Why would we love ourselves if others don’t. Why me? Why should I care?
Because when we love ourselves, we find purpose. We understand how to help others, how to love others, how to care for others. We find reason.
It’s human nature – and in some sense part of life – to face difficult challenges in our lives. There are (too many) times where we’re faced with life’s problems, and we don’t have direction. What if I don’t achieve my goals? What if I fail? What if….
And I agree. There are no simple answers. All that we can do is put our best foot forward, wear one shoe at a time, and gear up to face our fears and challenges.
This is what allows us to overcome our demons, our battles and our fears. We realize after facing these these challenges that nothing else could be worse.
For those who may have lost loved ones or who battled extreme trauma in their lives understand this. And if you haven’t, you may have experienced in other ways (e.g. volunteering).
It’s at these moments we manifest ourselves, our characters. We find out that we want to take care of others, and that means first taking care of ourselves.
We must love ourselves.
When we begin to love ourselves, and we tell ourselves that we matter, life finds meaning.
It’s the long game though. One day at a time.
Rather than feeling sad about the things we haven’t done, be happy and fortunate for the things you have accomplished. There’s always something.
Remember you were scared of attending that workshop because of your fear of meeting new people? What’s to lose? Give it a shot :).
It’s calming to know others have been through our suffering
We’re not alone. It may feel like it at times, but be assured there’s someone out there we can speak with, to both sympathize and empathize with.
So love yourself, and others will too. We’re right there with you.
You’ve experienced many things in your life, you’ve endured things you hope no one else will have to, yet you’re here still. Yes, you are still here, breathing and soaking in the sun and the chilled breeze.
Remember those times growing up as a kid wondering, “Is this normal? Do all families go through this”? Remember those times when you thought you couldn’t amount to anything because, well, no one believed in you. All you were taught was to get good grades, but there was never a goal in it.
As you sit here, typing out this post, you reflect on your life and picture those dreadful days. “Did I think I would be here today”? Of course not, you didn’t have any reason to believe.
But here you are, standing strong and proud, weathering all that life has thrown at you. You were kicked on the ground constantly, begging for life to stop. But as the kicks came coming, somewhere deep down, you realized those kicks would never stop coming. So you decided in that moment – it’s time to take charge of my life.
You decided in that pivotal moment in your life that you – and only you – could make a difference in your life. That the only person who would care the most about you would be you. So you took the time to reflect and ask, “Who am I, where am I going, am I happy, what life do I want for myself, and what will my future kids and family see in me”?
In that reflection, you wrote everything down, both good and bad. You saw that you had many flaws, but also that you had many things to be proud of. But seeing everything on paper made you realize something – you had a choice. That you could right the ship, that you could be someone different, that you could make an impact on those world. That you didn’t have to be that scared kid growing up wondering, “Is this it”?
So stand tall, stand proud you told yourself. The future is unknown, but that is what makes it so beautiful. Make that future your own. Be happy and never stop pushing.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. – Charles R. Swindoll
For many of us, life is filled with challenges, consequences and at times, amazing experiences with fulfillment. However, most of the time we focus on just the negative side of things, completely foregoing what lies ahead – our future. Trust me, I do the same.
Why life is like the stock market
Ah, the stock market. For many, the stock market is a place where we can invest our earnings in the hopes it grows overtime, leading to our eventual retirement sipping margaritas by the beach.
Unfortunately, like many, the stock market is a place that can cause panic and fear. Markets up 5%…great! One day later…markets are down 5%. Panic!
Although it’s frightening and nerve-wracking as it happens, the reality is this. It is normal. The markets, by its nature, will move up and down throughout the course of days and weeks. However, thankfully over the long-term, the markets eventually trend higher. And if it doesn’t, well then, it’s time to invest my money elsewhere :).
But just like the stock market, where stock movements can swing rapidly and unexpectedly, life behaves the exact same way. One day, you’re working a dream job earning $100k; the next, you’ve been called into the office by your boss to be notified you’ve been let go. And this is after 10 years of service, too!
Was that the plan? Was it your plan? Of course not.
But like the stock market, the long-term is what matters
Just like in the stock market, eventually markets recover and trend upwards. Just like in life, there are good moments and then there are bad ones. Sometimes, horrible ones.
Personally, my life has felt just like the stock market. My upbringing was a rather harsh one, dealt with both grief and sadness. Honestly, I believed for many years this life wasn’t for me.
When I was just 16 years old, I lost my mother. In fact, I had to be in the same room with my father at the time (he didn’t speak english) to confirm with the doctors to pull the plug. My mother was officially brain dead, and being left on life support wasn’t the best course per the doctor. As a young teen, it was traumatizing to experience.
Then in less than 2 years afterwards, my dad passed away due to a car accident. I was devastated, to say the least. I even had to prepare the funeral obligations and work with lawyers myself. I was just 18 years old. And it hit dawned on me – I was an orphan.
Up until at this point in my life, I never envisioned a world where both parents would be gone. But when my dad passed, I had a sudden revelation. I needed to grow up – and fast.
Making your choices and living by them
Despite what happened in my and my family’s life, I knew I had to continue moving forward. After my dad passed away during my freshmen year at UMass, I made a decision. I would succeed in college, that I would make my decisions and live and die by them.
This is the same code I live by to this day. Is it challenging? Of course. Can it be tiring? All the time. But even with everything that has happened, I believe we can survive and move forward. It’s not easy. In fact, I had to seek therapy at times because of the dark places my mind races to.
But like the stock market, just know that these things will pass. But also that we should take the time to be sad, to cry, to vent and let out our grievances. It’s part of human nature.
Although I try my best to stay strong and determined, I have my weaknesses too. I have days where I need to vent and just lay in bed all day. But this is normal.
We will all get there. And requesting support and reaching out to friends and family is sometimes necessary and healthy. We can’t all do it alone.
Focus on the long term
Just like the stock market, the focus is on the long-term. Day to day, week to week, life will be erratic, crazy and rage-inducing. Trust me, it will.
But just like the stock market, we’ll progress, trend higher, and reach and attain new goals.