Day 2 of 21: Death of a Dream and Unique Consumer Products

If you’ve just read my previous post (day one of the writing challenge), you know the story. Here’s a refresher just in case.

April 2002: I’d just resigned my equity research job at an investment bank. Why? Because my girlfriend deserved a real boyfriend, not a shell of a man that I’d become since I was always working, always exhausted. And I quit because I deserved a life.

Plan? Study for the GMAT, get into a good business school, get my MBA, join a hedge fund, then launch my own hedge fund firm, then start a charitable foundation to fund social causes. But big surprise as I studied for the GMAT. Whoa, I didn’t want to study for the GMAT, nor get my MBA, nor start a hedge fund.

From being in control, logical, and a big planner, to huh(?) instead. Life just got interesting. Okay, you’re caught up. (See my prior post if you want details.)

Living in San Francisco, I wonder, “No hedge fund dream. What does this mean?” It took me some time, and I felt some fear, as I considered my options. Oh, wait! A few years earlier, I had the idea that it’d be cool to own a mail order company selling unique consumer products. An “it would be fun” type of dream that I’d put on the shelf.

As I began moving forward on the mail order company dream, I did so without going through the grieving process for my recently deceased hedge fund dream. When I was ten years old, I read the novel, “Bridge to Terabithia.” It was about a fifth grade boy’s life. And he lost someone and had to grieve. I cried, cried, and cried some more reading that book.

Of course my loss wasn’t comparable to losing a loved one. Yet I do believe that proper grieving is important for both the loss of loved ones and non-human loss as well, such as a loss of a dream. Most people don’t grieve skillfully when losing a dream or a person. We either stuff our feelings or grieve in a non-productive way.

Imagine if you had dreamed for years about your life, and all of a sudden, that life would never be, and you didn’t know why. Puzzling, perhaps even disturbing. But let’s get back to the mail order story as I’m not ready to share about the grieving aspect.

Being ignorant of the industry, I bought an extensive seven-volume course from Gerardo Joffe, a big success in that industry. If I recall, it was a few hundred dollars, but to me it was a bargain if I could learn from a master. Man, did I devour that tasty course! Step two in launching my empire: find unique consumer products.

It’s now January of 2003, and I’m in awe as I attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a potential buyer. As I roam the huge halls, I hunt for unique products. Despite fear, I had just taken a big step to achieve my mail order dream, and I felt thrilled.

Oh wait, I almost forgot. Let me back up a few months. (Sorry about that!)

After I left my job in April 2002, besides figuring out my next career, I also wanted to do some volunteer work as I missed doing that. But I found nothing interesting. Perhaps use my financial skills?

But no, what was more interesting was to apply my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) skills. (I’ll skip the subplot about wanting to be a freelance journalist writing an article about NLP and hypnotherapy.)

Think of NLP as a cousin to hypnotherapy. (If you’re an NLPer, forgive my simplification, and don’t egg my house.)

At that point, I’d learned a little bit of NLP over the years, solved many problems, and had become a much happier person. Well, in my last job I was always exhausted, but that was my choice and not NLP’s fault.

Though unqualified in NLP, I decided I’d volunteer at medical clinics to help patients quit smoking in an hour using NLP.

Guess how many clinics said yes to my amazing offer? Would you guess 5, 10, 15? Remember I had no formal qualifications, very limited skills in NLP, and I’d never helped anyone to quit smoking before. Yes, what a formula for success! Trifecta!

What number did you guess? Drum roll please… zero clinics called me back. After my shock had faded, I had two options. (A) Give up on smoking cessation. (B) Skip the medical clinics and help smokers on my own.

I chose option B. Unqualified, limited NLP skills, no smoking cessation experience, yup, a formula for failure. But for some strange reason, I believed in this small project. I had faith I could do it. Probably not warranted, but I had faith.

I moved forward. Guess how many smokers contacted me? Would you guess 5, 10, 15?

Over 30 people emailed me. And I was no marketing expert nor an NLP expert. Just a former finance guy who wanted to do some cool volunteer work before I started my mail order business.

You may wonder, “William, how did you get 30+ people to contact you? What was the outcome of your program? Did you finally grieve properly over the death of your hedge fund dream, or did you grieve by getting into bar fights every weekend?”

If those questions make you curious, then let your mind be free, and stay tuned for the writing challenge’s day three.

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