Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. and Mrs. McConnell
"Biggie made me who I am today" is not entirely accurate. In the interest of historical accuracy I enlisted the help of my long time friend Danielle Lombardo (then Danielle Marques) to determine what grade we had Mrs. McConnell's Creative Writing class in high school. Her response "Junior or Senior". My response "No way it was Frosh or Soph." Seems like that will remain unsolved just like Biggie's murder. What the hell does Biggie have to do with anything? Well, in that class, I usually screwed off the whole time and had fun with the sweet and elderly Mrs. McConnell. The sad thing is she had some great things to teach. Unfortunately, I was too busy with other things to pay attention. I would stare at the clock and wonder if because the second hand was continuously moving, instead of moving notch by notch for each second, that the class was actually shorter than advertised. This meant I would have more time between classes to go to the parking lot with friends to ever so sneakily smoke some cigs. That was cool after all.
A project of some sort came along and I had to throw together some poems, journal entries, and some other creative shit for a grade. So what did I do? I turned to my man Biggie for some help. "Why don't I just write some of his lyrics down? It'll take up a few pages," I said to myself. Hopefully not out loud. It was after fabricating a creative project using lyrics from Biggie’s “Get Money” and “Juicy” that I took a bonafide interest in writing. I don't know what clicked, but I started thinking there were better words, more intriguing adjectives, and cooler ways to convey thoughts. It began. Well nothing began really, just pure enjoyment in something. My mom used to say "You're gonna write speeches for the President one day." While there is no better time in history than right now for her belief to actually materialize, it's more important to acknowledge the fact that my life's current path will be guided by similar sentiments of purity and enjoyment. Writing was simple. Writing was fun. I got an "A" on the project by the way.
In the 23 years since, a lot has changed
The last thing I wrote in high school was a kind of "note to self" about how I would soon be leaving for the Marine Corps. It served as a reminder to substantiate why I had made the decision to enlist (without parental or judicial influence). I knew Rich Cardona was heading nowhere. As a matter of fact, I got arrested a day or two before high school graduation. I had left graduation rehearsal with some friends, played beer pong in my garage, moved onto another place to drink, then came the cops, and finally then came the police station. My aunt Maria, who was in town from Florida for the graduation, happened to answer the phone when the cop called my house. She came and got me. It was pretty serendipitous and a secret we kept for years. I still walked in graduation.
I spent 17 years in the Marine Corps and retired early for various reasons; the most important and perhaps trivial was that I wanted to stay in California. See, I was coming up on orders (or a time to rotate) and my gut feeling was that I might end up somewhere I didn't want to be. That, and I was a year into my EMBA from USC so clearly I had to finish. No "regerts" on that at all. At 34, when I was retiring, I had spent half of my life in the service. The next 3 years were spent "transitioning" from the service. A term that I have to come to see as equally overused and under appreciated. I worked for the most impactful and well-known company of our time - Amazon. I won't delve much into my careers except to mention that I have yet to see, or be exposed to, the type of leadership that I had been accustomed to while I served.
My wife always says, "Your expectations are too high of people and companies. It becomes so easy for you to be let down." I freely admit that I do have high expectations, and maybe this is one of those weird self-defense things where I project because I know I wasn't meeting the expectations I had of myself. I don't know. Someone call Dr. Phil.
Better yet, call Jerry Springer. His "Final Thoughts" are habitually on point.
I was inspired by so many (so often) during my service that sometimes during my transition I found myself desperate to find someone to emulate. With that lacking, I created an alter ego of sorts. I would work feverishly to deliver results and did so successfully. Yet, I became more and more detached from who I was fundamentally and in essence - lazy. Does that make sense?
I thought to myself that I was "all in" when, in fact, I was checked the fuck out. When you’re living like that your start to be a little more reckless. I would say I deviated from the character within me that I was normally proud of. This lingering disappointment in myself was only exacerbated by the fact that my wife and I brought a daughter into the world during this period of mental misplacement. Nonetheless, I got to meet and work with some fascinating and up and coming talent (e.g. Cassie Frow, Dwayne Thomas, Ryan Gallego, David Guillet, and many more) and I am grateful for that. In the end my mother categorized the last couple years quite accurately, "They got what they needed from you, and you got what you needed from them."
Action > Inaction
I don't know how many times I haven't taken my own advice, but it’s extensive. If you know me you may have heard may say, "If it causes problems, it's a problem." The intent of the statement is that you magically build up the courage (without alcohol) to end that problem by taking the action you know you need to take to rid yourself of said problem. It's funny how about 18 months ago when I started obsessively following Gary Vaynerchuk and his Chief Heart Officer Claude Silver I began to gain more and more clarity. It was kind of like using Adobe Lightroom when you have a picture that's full of areas to edit. I adjusted, fixed, and happily observed the potential finished product. I just never hit save.
You ever wake up in the middle of the night because you have a crying baby? Maybe you have to go to the bathroom or startled yourself to consciousness from a crazy dream. You are disoriented for a bit. Your heart may be racing. You're clinging to known touch points so you don't bang into something. Here's the thing; the darkness becomes lighter little by little. You eyes adjust and you are able to start making out furniture or other objects. Soon enough you know you can navigate through the fog because it’s lifted. You get up. You proceed to walk to where you need to go with much less trepidation than you had 30 seconds before.
That is me now. I have never cared less about where I stand in the world and what my "journey" might say about me to others. I'm not foggy. I know what I want. I know have the tools to get there. I know I have support. I know it is me and only me that is responsible for every situation, good or bad, that comes my way from this point forward.
Last year when I disclosed some of the aforementioned frustrations I had with the real world to Claude, she said, "You're in the driver's seat more than you think." I heard her, but didn't really feel that to be true. Now I hear her loud and clear, know that it was true then, and know that it's probably been that way all along. But, because of the inordinate amount of social pressures and scrutiny associated with drastic changes, we just get too scared to rid ourselves of problems we know we can solve. That's really all there is to it. I think it's very hard to unlearn internal behaviors that we have become accustomed to over years of inadvertently or intentionally practicing them. We all have ways to shield ourselves from harm, embarrassment, and failure. We wouldn't be human if we didn't. And, it wouldn't have taken me so long to figure this shit out.
This first blog was supposed to be about how I left the super cool city of Austin (pop. 925,000) and an Texas sized 5 bedroom house for Blackstone, VA (pop. 3,027) and my in laws' basement. It was supposed to be about what I'm doing now, how I'm going to do it, etc. Instead, things changed as they always do and you'll just have to like this, share it, and subscribe to it. In the last 30 days since I've taken furious action I've learned one thing; the time I used to spend worrying about being inspired by others was in fact an opportunity for me to be inspiring others. I've received plenty of texts, emails, DMs, etc from people telling me that my recent actions have been inspirational. Who would've thought?
In the intro to "Ready to Die" Biggie is getting out of prison. The correction officer tells him "You'll be back. Y'all always are." Biggie laughs and says, "You won't see me again. I got big plans [expletive]. Big plans." Same.