My business partner and I started our government contracting company back in 2013 with the goal of being more employee focused than the companies we supported. Those first few months saw us both take pay cuts, with no insurance and no actual security to speak of. Three months after we started there was a federal government shutdown that went on for 16 days. It may not seem major, but those early days sacrificing security for the unknown future were very taxing. The following year we were getting jerked around by one of the companies we teamed with so I had to loan us money to make payroll. A small price for building towards a future doing something I loved doing. I read that Confucius said “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I did that, and I wouldn’t trade my job with most people honestly. That said, I don’t know what Confucius did for a living, but I’m going to call bullshit on that saying right now!
There are always hidden layers to pursuing something you desire. Primarily because there is a slew of things you can’t know until you are in the position of doing it. Sure, you can anticipate, research, or do something similar to get a feel for the gig, but it’s never quite the same as doing it for real, firsthand. There are layers that you may know going into it that turn out to be just as taxing mentally as the elements that surprised you. That’s just looking at the actual gig, before considering how the people around you will react to you and your new gig. Not everyone will be happy for you genuinely, especially if they believe you’re making more money than them. God, forbid you love the job to the point that you handle the stressors better than most…then some of the outsiders looking in will think it was easy and demand you get them to where you are.
As a kid, I wanted to be an entrepreneur…I don’t think I ever said those words specifically, but my plan was to own my own business and be able to help my family. I wanted to succeed to buy my parents whatever cars they wanted, provide jobs for relatives that couldn’t catch a break, and then give back to the West Side of Chicago what I could for giving me all that game over the years. Since it wasn’t physically in the cards for me to be a professional athlete, nor did I want to be a professional entertainer, this old brain of mine was going to have to be the star of my show. Meaning it would be significantly harder to be as generous as I dreamed of while also enjoying the fruits of my labor. Still, I figured I’d be able to achieve all of that and then some with all these bright ideas and determination to succeed.
How It Started
My distaste for school made college an unlikely path fresh out of high school. I gave it a shot, but I was so distracted by everything else, that shot only lasted a semester. I went into the military where the pay was less than amazing, and people are treated like a rank, not like human beings. Sure, I preferred this path over college, but my dream of owning something significant enough to help people out seemed to be nothing more than a pipe dream. I entered the Air Force as a weapons loader, think missiles on a plane, not bullets in a gun. I wasn’t certain, but my common sense told me there were very few civilian jobs on the outside where my skills translated directly. I was determined to get out of the military with a useful skill, so I cross trained into Contracting six years into my career. I learned a lot, got my certifications, got my degree and then got out of the Air Force with more confidence than options. At least I was finally doing what I wanted to do.
I worked for a few companies the first 2 years after I got out. I took an assignment as a contractor overseas supporting the Army in Afghanistan. That required 12 hours of work, 6 days a week, and a 6-hour workday on Sundays for thirteen months. When I came back from that I took the first job I could find in the career field without taking any time off. I grew up knowing survival and working for what I wanted so my young mind said “no days off” Mamba style. I took 1 week off to go to Disney World with my wife and daughter, the following month we started the business.
How It’s Going
Since we started the business, I’ve only taken 1 actual vacation for 7 days to Panama back in late 2013; and that was planned before we started the business. There’s a lot that goes into getting a business like this off the ground, and I have enjoyed most of it quite honestly. Sure, there have been missed opportunities, financial setbacks and extremely long weeks, and months that make the delay in gratification seem too long to bear. Even so, I have always been able to get up for the occasion because I love what I do, and the pressure of not letting our employees down fuels me to go even harder.
We just passed the ten-year mark of being in business a couple days before I wrote this post. I stood looking in the mirror at this older face, with a salt and pepper beard and softer muscle tone than ever before and thought…I need a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I have found time in between working and parenting to write and record music, with the occasional weekend trip or trip to visit family and friends. However, I haven’t taken the chance to fully get away and unburden myself of the pressure that comes with running a business. I have at least done some of the things I dreamt of as a kid though. I definitely feel good about the things I have been able to achieve in life and the opportunities my efforts will be able to give those around me. I also enjoy the fruits of my labor in the form of stuff.
How I’m Feeling
Despite providing stability and stuff, I haven’t earned any additional time. Quite the opposite probably, and that realization has inspired me to enjoy more of the now. I am guilty of imagining what I’d do differently if I could rewind time…but not applying those ideas to the present. Anyone else like that? I’m driven by being available to the people that need me and/or want some of my time, but without self-care I’m doing those people and myself a disservice in the long run. That said, I think it’s time I took a couple vacations. Just a week to unwind with the family, in some foreign land where I can be nerdy with nice weather. Then a guy’s trip for a few days to a week, where I can laugh and joke and talk about the women walking by freely. Yes ladies, that’s what we do…and it has absolutely nothing to do with how we feel about y’all.
In the moment, I’m feeling tired…the missing of sleep version, not mentally or physically exhausted exactly. That could be due to the last month and a half of Airbnb living, combined with working a lot, but the feeling is still there. Mentally I feel pretty good, we’re making progress with the business, my family and friends are doing well, I’m still able to play basketball and my hobbies of rapping and writing still come easy most days. Life is good. In this moment I realize that I need to actually dive in and enjoy more of it while I’m able to. Although I feel life is good, I know life is short. It’s probably time to adhere to that understanding and take a break instead of grinding nonstop to reach this unreachable moving target I’ve crafted for myself called success.