Coming to you today with a message about hope and possibility. Enjoy this inspirational Valentine’s Day message.
After years of being sourly let down by Harvard, NYU, Wall Street, and Lehman, it was a DJ from East Harlem who set my career on fire. It’s not something you realize to the fullest extent but the mindset of the people closest to you in your personal life (especially your husband, wife, or equivalent) have an enormous impact on your career success.
I read somewhere there was some study (which was probably BS, but I’ll say it anyways) that if you make a list of the people you talk to the most on a daily basis, your income eventually falls somewhere in line with theirs.
I wouldn’t doubt that’s valid somewhat, but I can’t help wonder if this is partially the result of socioeconomics. The people you spend the most time with are naturally going to come from your schooling, where you grew up, or the social circles you travel in.
For those of you who follow my podcast, you know that I have four kids with Antonio who I’ve been together with for about 10 years now. We’re not married, but that’s for philosophical reasons more than anything else. But what’s funny about me and Antonio is that we had none of the socioeconomics working in our favor when we met. He was raised fatherless in the projects of East Harlem, and I am from a middle class suburban family.
But nonetheless, he lured me in with his fly Latino style. Ha ha here we are on one of our first dates almost ten years ago!
He’s the strongest person I know and I gotta say, it’s unbelievable how he always shows up.
And here’s where it matters to business/career/success etc.: it is vital that the people closest to you have the right attitude. More than their education or their upbringing, their attitude and motivation matter way more.
When we first met, we would have failed the “average income prediction” test mentioned above. But yet over a period of ten years, the total amount of income we make has skyrocketed, to the point that he hasn’t even had to work in about two years now. He got laid off during COVID and hasn’t gone back, in order to help take care of our four kids. For sure, better financially together than we were before we met. I can’t believe how much we have both grown in other ways, too, and the things we continue to achieve and aspire to do as a family.
How does that happen? How is it that at two points in my life I was almost engaged, each time to an Ivy League educated physician, and during both those times I was nowhere near as successful as I am now being with a guy from the streets, who never set foot in a corporate office his entire life?
See, because whenever I would tell people I was in a serious relationship with these doctors, they would kinda look at it like I was “all set” for the rest of my life (as the “doctor’s wife”). Everybody thought it was just great. It was like we all kinda gave them a pass because of their success. On the converse, if I had gone with either of them I would have likely been divorced, probably raising my kids as a single mom, probably wouldn’t have had four of them, and my career would probably have been decimated because I would always have had to be playing second fiddle to their big doctor careers. They were so arrogant, no matter what I did, they never acknowledged my talent because they were so busy being in the spotlight, almost like they were competing with me.
So that’s great, you say, but what are you telling us all this?
The reason I made this podcast isn’t to glorify me or Antonio or the relationship between us. Like any, it has flaws. It’s not to give love advice because I am probably the last person in the world you would ever want to ask for that. It’s also not to make some sappy statement like, “love overcomes all obstacles” because frankly, I don’t really know if that is true although I would be delighted if it were. There is a deeper message here about hope and possibility.
The point is that alot of times when people look at each other they don’t see each other for who they really are, who they really are deep inside underneath all the titles, the appearances, the messaging, the fronts. And that is one thing I feel me and Tonio always gotten right (trust me, we’ve gotten alot wrong too, but this we got right). I know who he is, and he knows who I am. And he believes in that person, and I believe that his heart will never let me down (or our four kids); it never has. I sincerely believe that is what has led us to defy the limits we have.
See because the world now becoming more digital, you would think that people would become more connected but to me it seems like people are only growing more isolated from each other – and from themselves even. This is a point that really bothers me because I think it makes people feel alone and makes it so easy to detach from the truth. I’m all for the world advancing digitally but I hate seeing how numb it makes us. Canceling, ignoring, and pushing each other away so easily, and why? Because technology makes it so simple to create a little virtual world (did I say “little” or “limited”) where we feel safe.
If I hadn’t been able to see through the differences on paper (and trust me, everyone was telling me the paper mattered so much), you wouldn’t be sitting here reading this blog because I’d be off somewhere doing something stupid that amounted to nothing. Like being an investment banker or a corporate attorney like the mold Harvard tried to fit me into – that I never fit by the way. I would never have had the courage to break free and become the writer I am, or been able to take the risk to make an impact; I would have been living someone else’s life. Because, see, it was those same differences that set me free.
There was one day after I had my second baby and I nearly had a nervous breakdown, I was under so much stress from having to go back to work with no maternity leave. I was getting stress headaches. And Tonio just said, “Why don’t you just quit a be a writer? You’re a beast writer, you could make anyone read your stuff.”
Damn. He was right.
And from then on, my career has been on fire and there’s numbers to prove it. Some people say I’m the best writer in the industry. I never would have been that without my Day One Guy because I would never have seen it in myself. I guess we all have that blindspot. And it’s not just that he had the idea; come what may, on my bad days he continues to support me, giving me a place to hide when the haters are coming for me (yes, even badasses need someone to protect them).
Who are the people closest to your heart?
Do you really believe in them, and do they believe in you?
Do you really know them?
Do they know you?
Most of all, do you know you?
And is all of this holding you back or propelling you forward? Truly, what is the impact their attitudes are having on your mind?
And are you better off apart or stronger together?
They may sound like pointless questions to ask but given all the conflict and misunderstandings that happen between people, is it really pointless? I see it all the time, people getting married, hiring people, starting business ventures with people, and they really don’t know who the person is in the first place. And I also see people who are pushing others away because of differences when just like Tonio’s street smarts led him to see something in me nobody else could, it’s a diversity of thought that makes us richer.
And the truth is limitless…
A final word about hope and possibility.
My son has autism and ADHD. Two years ago, he couldn’t hold a pencil, his hands were too weak. Since then we’ve fought and fought against an ableist educational system, seems like every day is a fight. But look at how far he has come – his writing has taken a big leap these last few months. He just needed time to figure out how to do it his own way.
This experience has taught me to try harder seeing the value in others no matter where they are coming from. It’s so easy to overlook. Remember that everyone has a valuable contribution to make but sometimes it’s just kinda quiet, not ready to show. It made me more successful in business when I learned how to help it show in other people. Patience and clearer communication were what made the difference. There is hope and possibility to overcome the world’s problems. We need everyone’s full contribution, and we need to do it together.
The podcast below is going to tell you the story of how I went from never fitting in anywhere that I thought I belonged to finding my place in the world by the grace of a truth that I once fought to accept. It was love that allowed it to break through and for that reason I’m telling the story on Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and I hope you’ll enjoy the podcast (it’s linked below).