…continued….Over the years, we added two bedrooms upstairs, a full bath, and a gameroom in the basement. We basically remodeled the whole house over 10 years. It was a great house on 3 acres on the edge of the woods and several large fields. Wildlife was abundant. We saw many deer, turkey and bear – baby bears too.
Then I had a chance to move onto a totally different career. I got a job as an intelligence analyst. I felt like Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy’s series. I started working for the U.S. Department of Justice and I liked it. I traveled to DEA, FBI, the DIA, the DOD, and even the CIA. I covered interesting subjects related to drug trafficking such as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and Money Laundering. We worked on a strategic, national level. I learned so much and enjoyed much of it. I traveled to some great cities.
Then we got a new director. He made some changes that were good and others that were not, in my opinion. There was so much bureaucracy. I really enjoyed working with many of the people there and I did well. However, I did become to not enjoy the Federal system. I found that there were few incentives to work harder and when you did there was a limit to how far and how fast that you could go. Still, I enjoyed the intelligence gathering, writing, and research.
Then management decided to make other changes. Many employees didn’t like it and morale fell. I was placed in a unit on policy and procedure and I did not like it. There were many hard working people there from the local area and from out of town. But, there were a few people who had learned how to “work” the Federal system and really didn’t seem to care about their performance or contribution. They were there because of a certain number of years employment and/or their level of seniority. There were close-minded people, in my opinion. Again, I’m not saying most or even many – only a few. I let it get to me and I became restless. I worked at surrounding myself with the open-minded, goal-oriented people there.
Often I could do my work, go trade stocks a few times a day, and even play around with an outside business and still keep up with some of my colleagues. Note that I was not smarter or better, but the expectations were low and the guidelines given by management were such that they really didn’t know how long things would take.
I recall one time almost all of the intelligence analysts (like me) in the Center had to complete their reports by June of one year. We all worked hard at reviews, edits, and revisions to that deadline. The deadline came and we all ‘turned in the reports’. In typical Federal government efficiency, they had 2 or 3 people to review over 100 reports. We had no other projects to work on. For months we didn’t have feedback if the style, content, length was acceptable. For months we didn’t know if we should do anything else – we were just told to keep the data updated. It turns out that many of those reports never were sent out to other agencies (their original purpose). Years later I used to ask colleagues if some were ever sent out. They were not. To my knowledge, 10 years later, half of those reports, perhaps more, were never sent to the cooperating agencies. Things like that got to me.
Over time I began to long for a world where my rewards and compensation were at least in some way based upon my performance and hard work, not my seniority or level. I was frustrated and wanted to do more but the serious and extensive rules, regulations and bureaucracy just got to me. I began to search for a job back in the private world. I came up with an opportunity to work independently back in the world of sales.
After research, networking, and reaching out to contacts, I found two good options. One was going to be key. It wasn’t a sexy position but I was going to partner up with two other independent agencies and help market and sell their products over parts of 4 states. I was going to be my own boss and yet partner with them. The pay was less certain and there were chances for fluctuation but the long term opportunity was much better, and if I worked harder and smarter I’d be able to earn more, too.
So, it was the last week of August 2001 and I gave them about a 3-4 week notice. I was working hard at tying up loose ends. Then, as we all know, September 11, 2001 happened. The world stood still and things changed forever that day. I was grateful that all of my friends and family were safe.
The economy took a hit. There was a lot of uncertainty. Many of my friends tried to get me to stay, considering 9/11 and the economy. They were concerned about me and I appreciated that. But I could not let their fears into my mind and I could no go back. I left the Federal government in late September.
The economy was a challenge. Right away it was clear that, since much of my income was based on commission, I was going to earn a little less for some time. Sales were down. Then one of the partnering firms changed their tune. One day I was sending out a newsletter to my clients. Some of my clients were also his clients. Even though we had talked numerous times that we were to remain independent, and I could do my own thing, he blew up at my simple newsletter. He suddenly said that I was a ‘loose cannon’. I remember laughing at that. He criticized the fact that I said “Folks” in a letter and stated that it was unprofessional. This discussion went on for a few weeks.
Then, I still remember it clearly,….I was in Florida visiting my parents at their winter home (- basically a very nice mobile home in Sarasota). My daughters were still very young and I decided to go take one for a walk in a stroller and call my partner back and resolve it once and for all. So there I was walking down the street pushing my daughter’s stroller, talking on the cell phone. He again said that I was a loose cannon. I asked him to explain how he thought that. It became pretty clear that he just wanted to break away and that was fine. So we hung up that we were splitting up.
I had a bad feeling in my gut because I knew that I had just lost a chunk of income. I still had a good relationship and partial income with another partner but here I was fresh out of the “safe Federal government job” and I lost about half of my income already. What had I done? Was this the right decision? What was I thinking – I was endangering my young family…..many thoughts went through my brain in a flash and I felt sick.
But, our trip to visit my parents was just starting. I could not let it ruin out trip. So I forced myself to get over it and deal with it. Looking back, I really did act well, considering. I tried to enjoy the time there, I tried to enjoy the moment and be “there”. We made some good memories with my young daughters and my loving parents. I am grateful for that week and those memories even today. ….and yes, I did overcome that loss of income soon.
…..changes sometime look very bad while you’re in the picture and unable to gain perspective, yet later on when you’re able to look back or look with some perspective, you realize that it wasn’t bad at all- and sometimes how it was necessary to get to the next level…..my business breakup seemed very bad at that moment, but I soon found that better opportunities awaited……