A Boy, a Magic Box, and a Quest
Before I share stories of my entrepreneurial career, I’ll share some questions I harbored for years. Questions that were for me, unanswerable.
If money, fame, and power are so wonderful, why do ‘successful’ people feel unsatisfied and constantly strive for even more?
Why is it “harder for a rich man to [find his peace and joy] than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle?” (the Bible)
When is enough, enough?
I knew, as I believe most people know, that until I could answer these questions, it was unlikely that I would be truly complete or ever have the kind of life that I wanted.
Yet, despite having these questions and doubting the notion that money can buy happiness, I was still one of those people who figured that just a few million would allow me to verify the notion once and for all. I didn’t know where to get it but I was willing to promise to give it a fair test and be honest in my conclusions!
But, money is just one part of the equation. We want to succeed in life. We want to live with a sense of purpose. That’s where my mind constantly took me. Something inside me kept asking … Carmelo, what were you born to do?
You’ve been there too, right? Something pulls us there. No, it’s really not the money we want nor is it the stuff money can buy. If we think about it, what we’re really after is to become the person we imagine we would be if we had the money, the stuff, and the confidence one would surely have. Isn’t that true?
After all, it’s not the money or possessions themselves that caffeinate your coffee, they are just things. It’s something else entirely. Exactly what it was, I didn’t know. Someone had stolen my keys to success!
After decades of trial and error, successes and failures, fits and starts, and with scattered pursuits and goals that would even make a ballerina dizzy, I finally did begin to see the light. And eventually, it came together for me. Not out of any brilliance on my part but by and through the best teacher there is … Life.
Life, along with my growing connection to Nature and focused observation continues to allow my truth to unfold before me.
And now, my deepest desire is to share my journey of discovery into a richer, fuller life. A journey that will never end. Perhaps my story, and journey, will help you find those keys to success so you can truly live your purpose.
I have a confession. I’m a serial entrepreneur. That will likely never change. But, there’s one thing that has changed and that’s the way I measure success and enjoy life. It’s made a huge difference in my life and it’s a big part of what I share in Critter Wisdom.
It starts with a little boy and his dream, so get comfy and I’ll share my story with you. J
Carmelo Bryan’s Entrepreneurial Journey of Discovery
I grew up in a town that was the home of the Tournament of Roses “Rose Parade.” Pasadena, one city in the vast expanse of cities that makes up the L.A. basin in southern California. This is where my life as an independent business man began. As a nine-year-old “man” of action.
After finishing third grade, I had my heart set on a bicycle to make that summer great. Much as I wanted it, I knew the family could not afford to buy me one. Still, I just had to have it.
My dad offered a solution. Go to work! What? I’m only nine years old! Dad was quite serious, however. So I listened. I was titillated by the prospect of independence. Not to mention my excitement about getting that shiny new, blue, 3-speed bike I had my eye on.
But, Dad didn’t mean for me to go “get a job.” I was to create one! Step up, be a man! Go out and conquer the world! But how?
The idea of mowing lawns came up but this little runt wasn’t going to be able to push many of those hand mowers all day long. What about a paper route? Nope, no bike. Again, Dad had the perfect solution and soon I was practicing my line.
“Hello, I shine shoes in the neighborhood …”
Yep, a shoe shining business! I would make my own little shoe shining kit out of a cardboard box with a nifty little rope handle. Kiwi wax shoe polish of black, brown, tan, white, and oxblood … rags to apply the wax, three different buffing brushes, a few shining cloths (total investment about $2.50) and I was good to go.
What was my marketing strategy? People were not just going to show up at my door! I had to go to them. I would walk the neighborhood, knocking on doors. A simple but effective strategy.
I started right away and went to work every morning (except weekends) that summer. This little man with his cardboard “briefcase” … conquering! Day after day, trudging from door to door in the surrounding blocks of my home. It was hot, but I didn’t really mind. I had a mission.
“One pair for ten cents and three pairs for a quarter!” when asked how much. Was it easy? No. But I got “jobs” everyday and quietly sat on porches polishing, buffing, and shining. The money grew.
There were obstacles. For a few days there, some bigger kids started following me, taunting me, curious, no doubt, about what was in my secret, unmarked, “magic box.” One day the middle-sized kid walked straight up to challenge me nose-to-nose! He’d come out of the blue and the fire in his eyes told me he meant business.
I had been taught not to fight and didn’t know what to do! I certainly didn’t want to lose my equipment (the ticket to my future) but I also knew I wasn’t going to run. So, I mustered up my courage, raised my right arm and did the only logical thing … I went for his face, grabbed his left cheek and squeezed! Remember how your Aunt Betty would squeeze your cheek each time she visited? Well, I would have made Aunt Betty and even a few uncles very proud that day!
Now, even though I didn’t hit him and it couldn’t have hurt him much, those guys never bothered me again. I stood my ground. I saved the magic box that was going to take me to my goal. (I guess you could say I had just fought off the first of many threats to my entrepreneurial career!)
It wasn’t an easy summer, but I never seriously considered quitting. I was a businessman. Men don’t quit. Even little men named Carmelo.
Half a 1000 Pairs of Shoes and a Gaggle of Dimes
I polished over 500 pairs of shoes that summer. That was a lot of pocket change. Dimes were my favorite. I can vividly remember the dimes mounting up.
I created a home-made, visible “piggy bank” which allowed me to drop in dimes. Only dimes would fit in this slotted “bank” that stored and displayed the dimes in the same fashion that a casino dealer might splay a deck of cards to show the entire deck. I could easily keep an accurate count at a glance … one, two, three, four … ten, twenty. Whenever I got quarters or nickels, I’d exchange them for dimes. I counted them every single night. (Even today I have a fond connection to dimes.)
As I think about it now, the constant counting and “see through” bank was pure motivational brilliance!
Eight weeks, a lot of closed doors, and a few stained fingers later, I reached my goal. I bought my bike ($43.50) with money to spare and retired, on two wheels, for the rest of that summer! And … I was forever hooked on the life of the entrepreneur, and the freedom it offered!
Let’s fast forward a bit.
My Daughter Provides Some Perspective
Not all that long ago, my daughter (who was about 30 at the time) was at a crossroads and considering the next direction for her life. She asked me the following: “Daddy, how is it you’ve been so successful when you’ve never even had a real job in your life?”
I had to chuckle, did she really think I’ve never had a real job in my life? It’s not really accurate but I can see why she thought that. After all, I’ve almost always been self employed and/or entrepreneurial.
This was the legacy that nine year old boy (and his dad) had created for me. And wow, the lessons it’s taught me over the years.
But, her question really got me reflecting.
You see, she saw the successes … the nice home and cars. She remembers the outwardly visible positives. That shiny red Mustang convertible she got to drive in high school and the spectacular views of Lake Tahoe from the south facing wall-of-windows in our High Sierra home. This was certainly a life of success, was it not? Perhaps in her eyes.
She saw independence and possessions and never really experienced doing without. At least not for long. But, that’s not the full story of Carmelo Bryan. A story which includes things she neither saw nor heard. The times things just didn’t work out.
She DIDN’T hear those times when repeated failures caused me to bolt from my office, stumble into the bedroom’s walk-in closet and scream in frustration at the top of my lungs. She DIDN’T see the countless times when I dropped to my knees in despair with no clue what to do next. She didn’t know the times when debt mounted so high I had difficulty breathing.
That little boy had grown up, had long since become a man – an oft times “successful” man. But, he still hadn’t discovered his true purpose and still didn’t understand what really mattered in life. He still hadn’t answered those questions!
The Conscious Life
Was I really as successful as she imagined I was? No, I wasn’t. There was no conscious awareness. I didn’t even have an inkling of what conscious living was about. You see, without knowing it, I was trying to find my identity in the pursuit of money, possessions … visible, measurable “success.”
One goal of Critter Wisdom is to bring about a consciousness awareness. Let’s live life on purpose! Let’s stop playing roles and following pursuits that others damand of us. But … back to my story.
My daughter had no way of knowing the many times my confident appearance was just a front … reflecting my determination to provide my family with a feeling of security and promise. Does any of this hit home for you? Could it be your story too? Would you like to live a more conscious life? We’re not so different … are we? Where have YOU hit bottom? What keeps you up at night?
So, how do we get to these points in our lives? Why do we put ourselves through this? What is this entrepreneurial bug that has no cure?
In Service by Nature, But Missing My Calling
In analyzing the enterprises I built or worked in over the years, I saw something very interesting. Most were centered around me providing direct services to people. They involved working closely with, and finding answers and solutions for hundreds of people.
As a Real Estate agent, I helped people sell and buy homes. As a stock broker and later a Registered Investment Advisor with my own company, I helped many people make decisions about their life savings and their futures. As a home building coach I worked very closely with countless people over the years by helping them design, finance, hire contractors and manage the construction of their own homes. And I even provided a little “marriage counseling” when necessary!
What was all this telling me? I loved helping people succeed. And I loved helping people who had visions of where they wanted to be but didn’t know how to get there. This was my gift. Commendable? Sure, I suppose. But, there was a huge element missing.
You see, even though I often worked with people at times they most needed help, and helping them gave me pleasure, I rarely actually did the kind of work or provided the kind of services that I most enjoyed or came naturally to me. And that’s exactly why I eventually hit walls and found myself in periodic despair.
I was using my natural talents and abilities and that was good. But the missing element was that I resisted applying them in the arena where I could excel effortlessly and enjoyably. I was serving, but I wasn’t really living. And I didn’t hve a real sense of purpose in my life.
And the result of this was that I was inconsistent and extremely self-critical. And in order to succeed, I had to resort to adding more self-discipline, forced organization, and ineffective goal-setting. I was out of touch with my truth.
My God … this was no way to live! Yet isn’t it incredible how many people do the same thing? Think about it. What were you born to do?
Years of Reluctance and Resistance
Have you ever resisted doing something you thought you really should be doing? Are you doing it now? Maybe it’s a career choice you feel you are born to do but something holds you back. Well, that was certainly my story.
You see, for years I delved deeply into self help books and tapes. All the gurus before they were called gurus. Jim Rohn, Robert Ringer, Wayne Dyer, Zig Zigglar, Dale Carnegie, and Earl Nightengale to name a few. I studied the philosophers too.
I was drawn towards the idea of helping others find happiness and succeed in life. I could see myself as a speaker on the stage, motivating, inspiring, and leading others into the life of their dreams! But, back then I couldn’t pull the trigger, make the change, and live the life of my dreams.
A Journey of Discovery
I thought I lacked the experience. I felt I didn’t have the knowledge. In a lot of ways, that was true. Also, I had a family … responsibilities. I just couldn’t afford to drop out and learn something new … could I? So, I redoubled my efforts in self-discipline and became all the more self critical, and at times miserable.
I just didn’t realize that it’s all about the journey.
Since I couldn’t make the leap, I had to put the dream aside. And in time, I began to believe it was too late. Sadly, most people do the same thing. Strangely, it happens to people like us who are already entrepreneurial in nature. Maybe we’re already even in business for ourselves! If anyone could make the leap, wouldn’t it be people who were already bravely independent? One would think … but it usually doesn’t happen that way.
Somehow, we forget how bold and brave we really are. We put limits on ourselves even when we’ve previously proven we can succeed at pretty much anything! Why? Well, sometimes it’s because we find some success, we become dependent on that success, we accumulate obligations and we get … trapped. And even though we hear the inner voice’s call for change, we resist. The journey of life bogs down.
Luckily, for some of us, that inner voice gets louder. That happened for me. And I finally heeded the call. If you’re not yet there, I’d dearly love to help you hear that voice and heed the call.
Remember that movie with Robert Redford called the Natural? Well, I saw it again some time back, and because the timing was just right, it had a profound effect on me.
It was the story of a professional baseball player (Roy Hobbs) who, before his rookie season, endures a gunshot wound and is forced to quit on his dream (before he even started!) Sixteen painful years later, at an age when most of his contemporaries had retired, it was too late. Or … was it? No, Roy Hobbs came back to baseball, a rookie at age 35.
Why? Because this is where life had meaning for him. It was something he HAD to do. And he thrived. He carried his team to victory. Because he was finally doing what he was born to do.
I could relate to the story and a new call to action emerged. It was time to embrace what I’d been resisting my whole life. To do what I was born to do. I finally came to realize I had no choice – or rather, it was the only choice to make.
Changes began to happen for the better. This time, I was more attuned to who I really was inside. It was finally time to reach out and connect more authentically. No one has all the answers. I know I certainly don’t. It’s about discovery. It’s about the journey. But, most of all, for me, it’s about sharing. Maybe there’s something I can share that will turn into a powerful solution for you.
I realize now that when I come from my Inner Being, I’m a natural, just like Roy. I’m not only an entrepreneur but one with a core mission that matches who I am. No, life didn’t change over night and there were (and still are) set-backs. That’s life, after all. But from that point on, the die was cast. I was ready. The switch had been flipped and there was no turning it off.
What motivates me now is the hope that our connection might just help you find your mission, your purpose in life and the courage to get busy living it!
I have not answered all the questions I posed in this little biography. Maybe it’s better to discover them together within the pages of this site. I’m reaching out, not to ask you to just ride along … maybe it’s better if you helped steer. Maybe it’s better if you made it your journey too. That’s my wish. What’s yours?
My friend, you have a powerful solution and an “audience” that needs you. You have a voice that needs to be heard. Whatever your purpose, your love, your joy – it’s yours. It’s unique to you and you must live it. There comes a time when there are simply no more excuses and you’ll just burst through. Is this your time? Are you ready?
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