Saturday, September 05, 2015

Solo road trip to Tahoe

I recently took a solo road trip and vacation. I realized as I drove through Nevada (perhaps the most boring part of Interstate 80, with the drive through Nebraska as a close second) that driving by yourself in a car is sort of like a traveling insane asylum. You're in your own little confined space with padded walls, harnessed in, and bored out of your mind. You end up singing and talking to yourself trying to pass the time, with more time than you've ever had to think....and sit and do pretty much nothing.
Every once in a while you get to get out of your "cell" and get some fresh air. I found myself breaking free of my harness, slipping out of the car and locking the doors behind me and hoping no one messes with my stuff or notices I'm gone.  A quick break, and I jump back into the car and re-harness myself. Then I began to pass people I had already passed on the highway and I wonder if they're thinking
"Hey, did you get out?"
"No, I've always been here...see, I'm still harnessed doors are locked"
I've digressed. Anyway, it was a long trip and I felt like my sentence was over when I arrived in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is an amazing place, and a great way to end my long journey in a confined space. It's a mix between outdoorsy adventures and beauty, with the man-made traps of casinos to take advantage of the people who want to sacrifice being mesmerized by sitting in front of machines. Most of them probably work long hours at an office sitting in front of computers and they most likely sat for hours as they drove or sat on a plane....only to sit inside in front of computers for hours, except now they're paying for it instead of getting paid for it. I don't get it.
I hit a gambler with my car as she crossed the street, but I didn't really feel bad because when she got up that morning, she said to herself, "I'm going to take some risks and see what happens today. I make take a hit or pass, but either way I'll have fun." I mean, really, she knew what she was in for when her day started. She was on a good run, so I cashed her out. No, seriously, I didn't hit any gamblers and I didn't gamble myself. Just hung out and enjoyed an amazing resort, live music, and some great food.
Lake Tahoe is definitely a great vacation spot, with pretty reasonable prices on food and lodging, plus tons of different activities (yes, including gambling). I had to get use to constantly crossing from California to Nevada, divided down the middle of Lake Tahoe. So, you can walk down the street with liquor (Nevada side) and once you cross Stateline Street, you're suddenly breaking the law. Go figure. Anyway, I managed to get away without any tickets for drinking or speeding on my way there. If you're looking for a great spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors, put Lake Tahoe on your list.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why I left the corporate world to serve tables

With a college degree and 15 years of experience in the corporate world, I made a huge change. After running sales departments, selling everything from houses to books, and sitting behind a desk for years it was time for some new scenery. I needed something drastic despite the societal norms of working your way up the corporate ladder to achieve some sort of accomplishment which many label as success. So what's the motivation to "take a step back" in many people's eyes?
Ultimately, my security is not found in a title. It's not how many people I manage or what level I am in a company corporate ladder. I wanted an opportunity to interact with people, earn every dollar I make and not have my work run my life.

Face-to-face with my customers

Sure, my clients/customers are a bit different in the hospitality industry, but after years of working in a corporate environment (mostly sales) I have a sense of customer service that gives me an advantage over most. I can interact in a different way, with professionalism and foresight of opportunities, problems and how to provide guest satisfaction. I am ultimately responsible for their experience and get to actually interact with those I'm serving. I realized that this was a crucial part of what makes me happy in a job.

Goodbye desk and the paperwork I dreaded

Regardless of the role, I was always frustrated when I got trapped behind a desk staring at a computer screen. I gained weight and got depressed and overwhelmed as I shuffled papers that didn't matter, and monotonously accomplished the daily tasks that had to be done. Now, I'm active and on my feet, using the few muscles I have and free from the barriers of paperwork and processes that actually kept me from interacting with customers.

I'm going home now....and not working

Probably one of the best feelings ever is clocking out and being done with my day. I don't walk away with problems, reports, and projects that need to be done. I don't always feel like I need to be checking email or working when I'm "off" work. I walk away and it's over - perhaps on of the most freeing feelings of working in a restaurant as a server.

So long 9 to 5

I'm a night owl - I have energy, creativity, and motivation from about 3pm - 3am. But the corporate world doesn't love that schedule like I do. Instead, they often regulate when you need to be at your desk and it often starts early in the morning (at least for me). I've finally found a niche where I can work the hours I'm most productive.

Ready to go - anywhere

I'm currently waiting tables at a Marriott hotel restaurant. This means that after 90 days, I can transfer anywhere in the world. There are a vast amount of job opportunities and variety within the hospitality industry, and specifically within the Marriott's across the world. I'm providing myself the chance to relocate and experience a different city, different life and an adventure I don't even know.

Time to eat some humble pie

There have definitely been challenges and obstacles to overcome, perhaps the most significant is others' views of the change I've made. It's been a humbling experience as people make comments like, "Wow, that's quite a step down from a real career to waiting tables" or "How's the job search going?" It's been a refreshing chance to not care about what others think and not try and fit into the box of what a career looks like for a college-educated male. Truly, it comes down to this:
If you need to redirect your path and find something that you enjoy doing, the opinions of others will only get in your way until you're ready to be honest with yourself. 
Plus, I usually shut most people up when I tell them I don't have to take my work home with me as they frantically check their email on their phone, worrying if they've missed an important communication or a deadline that has slipped through the cracks.

Sometimes our career path chooses us...and then you're stuck....or are you?

Whether it's your college degree, your first job out of college, a connection that landed you a job, or "what you've always done" sometimes our career chooses us. But don't lock yourself into somewhere or something you're unhappy with. Life changes and your interests change - take a step to dare and do something different. Yes, it's a risk and you may not know what's next, but what's the loss? The money? The status? The security? We too often focus on the negative risks instead of the benefits, many of which you won't know until you pull the trigger and do something daring.

Ultimately, I wanted a change in career which means you start over - you start at the bottom and work your way up, concentrating on everything you've learned from past experiences to make yourself the best. From day one at my initial interview, I expressed my desire to work my way up in the hotel, whether that means management or simply new roles and opportunities. Now, I've got to put in my time and enjoy the ride.
So what's your story? Do you need to restart and blaze a new path? Don't be a drone to what you think is expected and following the norm. Find something new, take a risk and be the person others talk about.
I'm not giving in or giving up: I'm giving myself the opportunity to discover, explore and restart with a fresh new energy that motivates and inspires me. Do the same for yourself.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Adding to the "Random Job List" on my resume

Well, I've done a lot of random things and I somewhat pride myself in having unique jobs that make great stories. For instance, here are a few of the things I've done:

  • I've been 3 different costumed characters, including Chuck E Cheese
  • I've been an actor in a T.V. pilot (that never aired)
  • I've worked at 3 radio stations and been a radio DJ
  • I've played the piano as a volunteer at a nursing home
  • I've given guided tours
  • I've worked in a hotel
  • I've worked at an insurance office
  • I've been an assistant manager of a shoe store
  • I've been a janitor/maintenance guy
  • I've taught improv skills to major corporations like NASA, Mars, Cochlear, Anti-Doping Agency, etc.
  • I was the "try a chicken sample" guy in the mall for Chick-fil-A
  • I've been a real estate agent
  • I've handled key accounts and called on clients including Target, Groupon, Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc.
  • I've been an improv comedy actor for 10+ years
  • I've sold booth space, advertising, corporate sponsorships, homes, shoes, books, Bibles, food, etc.
  • I've emceed various events including weddings, parties, silent auctions, dinner-dances, etc.
  • I've been a Couchsurfer, staying at random people's homes on trips and vacations (not really a job, but sometimes it's not exactly a vacation :)
  • I've done social media for companies like Chick-fil-A
  • some failed businesses which all gave me more experience and life lessons
.....and now, I'm driving for Lyft. If you're not familiar with Lyft, it's much like Uber (except better) and provides a cheaper and more friendly alternative to taxi cabs. It's a total disrupter for the transportation industry and seemed like a great place to meet new people, have new experiences, and collect some amazing stories.

I'm excited to start another venture, and if you're interested in giving it a try as a rider you can sign up and download the app (plus take a ride) to help me out.

Even better, if you want to join me on the road as a driver we can both get a little spiff if you join and drive.

But seriously, this isn't an advertisement, more just an update in my latest journey as I'm back in Colorado trying to figure out the next thing. Thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers as I continue in my journey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I don't need what I have

I've just finished reading The Man Who Quit Money (by Mark Sudeen) which describes the journey of a man who saw how money, possessions and materialism were a burden. He now lives in a cave, dumpster diving and finding ways to survive without begging, but also without holding a job or relying on government welfare. I'm not there yet - and probably never will be, mom, so don't worry - but it made me look back and realize 3 key points in my life that caused me to stop and think: I don't need what I have.

Many of us can relate to this one. Each time you move, you look through your heaps of possessions: old college textbooks, trinkets that sit on your shelf and take up room, clothes overflowing out of every drawer, power tools you've used once, and relentless piles, closets, and garages stuffed to the brink. With every move, I skim down a little more yet still stubbornly hold onto things I haven't used for years. I've furnished a house and everything that comes with that, now sitting back in Colorado mostly being unused. I've had friends ask (as I wander around the country) if I've considered putting things into storage? Here's the deal: if you pay to store your stuff, you have too much. By the time you get it out, it's going to be outdated, damaged, and you've probably forgotten what you even have in that tin room an already bought another one . Plus, if you've lived without it for years already, you can live without it forever. Take the tax write off and donate it, or sell it on Craigslist. 

Waldo Canyon Fire Evacuation
Spoiler alert: I didn't loose my home or any possessions in the fire (although sometimes I think it would have been an easy, clean start to lose it all). However, I was evacuated during the fire. I went from watching it on the news to being told I needed to evacuate immediately. I scurried around the house with my video camera in hand, trying to quickly capture my possessions on film for the insurance company. As I went through each room, skimming past my mounds of stuff, I suddenly stopped and thought: there is nothing here that is so important to me I can't live without it. Sure, there are memories and expensive toys, but nothing that really mattered. With that realization, I was on a different mission to only grab things that would be a pain in the ass to replace like my passport, laptop with important files, and social security card. I barely filled half of my Mazda 6 (R.I.P Mazda - it was totaled in May 2014) with some basics that I could survive on. It was a long emotional day, not to mention the fact I went to a friends house upon being evacuated and an hour later was evacuated from there as well. He was gone (actually fighting the fire), so now I had the task of trying to figure out what HE would want and packed up random items from his house only to drive further east to another friend's home where I lived for 4 days. The best moment of that crazy day filled with moving my stuff all around the city, was when my friend came back safely from fighting the fires, not all the stuff I have "saved" from burning. My most vivid memory of that day was watching him walk up the driveway, covered in soot and smelling like campfire. I went outside and gave him a huge hug, telling him how glad I was he was home safely.

Living in Seattle
I still haven't decided if this is a temporary or permanent move, but when I had the opportunity to live in Seattle for 3 months in an apartment in Capitol Hill, I jumped on it. Again, rifling through stacks of meaningless clutter, I filled about half of my silver Mazda 3 with basics that I needed to live for 3 months. I'm living just fine with a suitcase full of clothes, a few kitchen utensils, and basic hygiene products (you're welcome Seattle). 
You have to understand too I'm somewhat of a pack rat and my mindset is typically "I could use this sometime, I just don't know when, so I'll hang onto it" but my mindset changed with each of these experiences. Sure, there are things I miss in Colorado like my piano and guitar, my bike (which i would have brought if I could have), and my printer. I learned to make sacrifices instead, perhaps a little less convenient, like walking to FedEx/Kinko's to print my resume instead of printing it in my living room. 

Overall, it's the realization that the things I miss most are not things at all - the things that are most important are people who I left behind. I've had to change my focus and realize no matter where I end up, the less selfish I can be and the more I concentrate on relationships, loving others, and connecting to them will result in more happiness than I could ever gain from sitting around my house with my stuff. It's a general apology and a commitment to changing my priorities, so prepare yourselves. If my possessions help someone else, I'm ready to give, donate, and provide to others without limits. What "thing" could possibly be more important than people? If the things you're holding onto can be a tool to help you show love, connect with and bless others then why do you still have them?

Thanks for listening to my deep thoughts - if you want some lighter humor you can check out some of my old blogs of other life lessons, which may inspire a laugh today:

Monday, May 11, 2015

New server job at local gastropub in Seattle

Well, I found myself a job. I haven't worked since I left CBA in November and it's been a good time for me to figure out what's next, travel and relax. But all good things must come to an end.
I've been looking for a server/waiter job and they're actually pretty tough to find here in Seattle. Mostly, because they all want you to have 1+ year of experience and I haven't worked in a restaurant since college (yes, I was Chuck E Cheese for those of you who didn't know. That's another story - here are 4 posts of mine that will shed a little light on this amazing experience). Other than Chuck E Cheese I worked at Chick-Fil-A and Cracker Barrel in high school and college, for about 3 years total between the jobs.
I'm now a server at Traveler Montlake
Anyway, I found a restaurant about 5 minute drive from my apartment and they were willing to hire an inexperienced server and train me up. I went in for a "working interview" and when the bartender suddenly got sick and went home, it was just me and the manager serving the entire restaurant. She told me I could go home, but I asked if I could stay and help and it was a good thing. We were totally slammed and I got to do just about everything: pour beer, run food, learn the restaurant POS system very quickly and more. By the end of the night, she appreciated what I did so much and saw the fact that I picked up on things quickly, was good with the customers, and had good common sense she offered me the job. The restaurant is called Traveler Montlake, a gastropub located in guessed it...Montlake, an area of Seattle.
Traveler Montlake fireplace at the back of the restaurant
It's about a year old, and make the Thrillist list of Seattle's Best New Restaurants.
So here's the weird thing about Washington State: all servers are required to take a course and get a food handlers card, plus their MAST certification (Mandatory Alcohol Server Training). Eight hours later of online training and useless information like where warning signs need to be posted in a restaurant, I now have both permits (oh, and $30 in fees). I've heard the theory that since there's no income tax in Washington, this is a way for the state to bring in additional money, but regardless, some of the training was helpful especially for someone who hasn't been in the restaurant business for a while.
I'll be working there Wednesday and Friday nights (they're only open from 4pm - midnight) and hopefully pick up some additional shifts in between. It should be a good change- I was in much need of a self-esteem boost and motivation to do something. So, thanks to all those who prayed and had best wishes for me finding a job. I'll keep you posted!