369 Days Book - Chapter One

369 Days:  How To Survive A Year of Worst-Case Scenarios provides a roadmap of a challenging year (plus 4 days) in my life, and inspiration on how to navigate through trials and tribulations, and come out of those experiences a better person.

Here's Chapter One, free of charge :)

Chapter 1: In the Beginning…

How does a kid who grew up in Pontiac, and Waterford, Michigan end up in Toronto, Ontario?

 I know, I know. Toronto, Canada? That frozen wasteland full of beavers and igloos? How did a guy who, for the first two decades of his life, never lived more than a ten-minute drive away from his parents’ place, end up in Ta-ronnah? (Pronounce that with a heavy Don Cherry accent.)

Sixteen years ago, we were still dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 (Ever notice that the Euros don't call it 11/9? Always seemed weird to me). I was working at an Internet start-up (you don't hear that phrase anymore) in downtown Chicago.

After many steps, multiple career changes, lots of moves (I hate moving), and lots of lessons learned, I ended up moving north of the border.

Now, here I am, in the land of poutine and Tim Hortons. (No, I didn’t miss an apostrophe there. It used to be Tim Horton's, but the apostrophe cost millions of dollars in printing, so the punctuation took it in the teeth, much to the chagrin of English teachers throughout the land.)

Oh, before we go much further, let me explain the stuff (in these curved brackets). I started using the (parentheses) in my writing long ago. I’m not sure why I use ‘em, but I'm guessing it has something to do with a written version of ADHD (I've always wanted one of those AD/HD shirts that look like the AC/DC band logo, but I don't want to offend people who genuinely suffer from the disorder).

Anyway, back to Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac is named after Chief Pontiac (look him up—interesting guy), as well as the name of a "Generous Motors" (GM) line of cars, which they tragically eliminated in 2010.

The City of Pontiac is a classic example of putting all your eggs in one basket. When GM left town, so did the lifeblood of the city. Yes, people still live there, and there are pockets of viability, but it has never returned to the glory of yesteryear.

Of course, you could say that about every town. I don't think we're supposed to stay the same. We're supposed to change, try new things, explore, invent, and thrive. I'm thankful for my time and experiences in Pontiac. They shaped me, and they shaped how I deal with different cultures. Growing up in Pontiac, my school was about 75 percent African-American, 20 percent Caucasian, and 5 percent Hispanic. Thus, I was a minority in the eyes of society. I was too young to care.

 I only had the sixteen-count box of Crayola crayons as a child. I eventually would be bestowed with the infamous sixty-four-count box, with that piece-of-crap "sharpener" that didn't sharpen anything—but until that day, my color vocabulary was limited to the labels on those sixteen little tubes of wax.

One time, when someone said that my friend was black, I shot back, "he's not black, he's brown, and I'm peach, not white." I didn't know much about the labels society gave different groups of people, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that this guy needed to get his Crayola colors straight!

I still don't care what color you are. You're a human being, with a soul, a heart, a mind, hurts, joys, triumphs, and stories. You matter to me.

 I had a great childhood, a great brother, loving parents, and friends whom I still have to this day, nearly forty years later. I knew at an early age what I would likely do: become an accountant. It might sound boring to you, but it was the most exciting subject in the world to me! I knew I would enjoy this field, because I loved reading the backs of baseball cards (the 1978 Topps Cards are still the best set of baseball cards ever). I would look at the stats and figure out how they calculated those statistics. #NerdAlert

 I did well in school, and continued that way in college (there were a few semesters that were iffy, but I still passed!). My younger years were filled with adventure, and . . . well, you know what your teenage years and early adult years looked like. I am beyond thankful that social media did not exist back then. The things that happened would make Snapchat blush (I’m a good boy, Mom, honest!).

My first job out of high school, and throughout my college years, was with a CPA firm in my hometown. I spent eight years there, and the foundations that experience created continues to impact how I do things today.

In the mid-1990s, I got married, and my wife and I spent eighteen months in Florida, the Sunshine State. I was tired of the Midwest weather, and I wanted something warm and consistent. We got just that—mid-nineties temperatures for eight months straight! Winter was cooler, but still quite warm.

By fate, just when I started missing the change of seasons, I learned that the software company my employer used was hiring IT network installers in Chicago. Through my long-time buddy Mark, I was hired. I left Florida at seventy-two degrees, and arrived in Chicago to negative twenty-seven degrees—nearly a hundred-degree swing. What have I done? I asked myself as my teeth chattered in the subzero cold.

The next decade I was in the IT field, working for a large software firm, an executive recruitment firm, a division of the Big Three automakers, and then a large Internet market research firm. Back in the 90s, there were not enough IT personnel to go around, so switching jobs for pay increases was the norm.

Then the dot-com bubble went pop! and IT jobs started disappearing left and right. My wife and I had started a family, and I was looking for something a bit more stable than the IT world. Every company needs to keep track of spending, so I returned to the bean-counting world.

I worked for a small software and consulting firm in the Detroit area for four years. As my daughters were approaching school age, and because of the current economic struggles that Michigan was facing, we decided that Michigan, once again, would not be where we should stay. We explored moving back to Chicago, but family and friends were in Detroit, so we decided to move to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is right across the river. My wife is from Windsor, so that would be the gateway for me to immigrate to the Great White North.

Two years and several thousand dollars later, we moved to Canada. I received my Canadian citizenship 2011, so now I can vote in two countries. (Note: I will not have any political conversation in this book. It’s a no-win situation. I love everybody!)

After crossing the US-Canada border for work for three years, I finally found a job close to home in Windsor. The job market is limited in Windsor, so being an American didn’t help. They would rather employ a Canadian than an American. That’s understandable, but my personal perspective is different. I don’t care where you’re from. Can you do the job? Do you fit in our culture? You’re hired!

I saw an advertisement in the local paper for an administrator for a brand-new medical clinic. I looked at the details of the job, and thought, What the heck, I’ll go for it. It was around the corner from home, and the compensation was good.

A few weeks later the phone rang, and the organization wanted to meet me. So I interviewed with them. Then, there was a second interview, and they requested references. Thankfully, I had left most of my jobs on great terms, so I had rock-solid references from bosses, friends, and co-workers. The organization called them all. I guess they really wanted to make sure this American was all he was cracked up to be.

Apparently I was. They hired me. Eighty-five people applied for the role. They performed thirteen phone interviews, five face-to-face interviews, and three final interviews. I was the only person in the finalists who had zero healthcare experience. I didn’t even know what the heck an Autoclave was. (Note: It’s a really expensive dishwasher.) So I gave my notice, and I started my career in healthcare management. 

WANT BETTER MORNINGS?

Do you want a better start to your day? I have a free e-book on six easy steps to a better day, that I personally follow after I experienced a significant health scare. If you would like this free e-book, please click the link below.

Six Steps to a great Morning (Besides coffee)