When we launched Nowhere Native, it was never meant to be a travelogue, and certainly never meant to be only about us. Rather, we hoped it would be a platform to share experiences - both good and bad, ours and our friends - along life’s journey to become better, more fulfilled people and to stir in others a desire to explore a life outside of societal and self-imposed limitations. For us, this journey meant we would be walking away from the safety and stability of our former lives, stepping far outside our comfort zones and actively pursuing alternative ways to live lives of reward, passion, experience and togetherness. Like travel in foreign lands, choosing to live outside our conceived boundaries comes chock-full of uncomfortable situations. It’s in this discomfort we find the most interesting stories of risk and reward, and challenge and growth.
To us, being Nowhere Native is being in unknown territory and not speaking the language, having to forge a path for yourself with just your internal compass and not knowing what’s below, but leaping anyway. It’s the unfamiliar, the wild, the unchartered, the off-limits where people tell you that you can’t go, or that they could never or ask why would you even want to. These are the paths with the view at the end to the edges of the earth, where few people believe exist and even fewer challenge themselves to reach. The journey there is no paved road, but winds steeply uphill and sharply back down, is wrought with discomfort and danger - both real and perceived - and extends on further than you’d ever thought when at first you started walking. But it’s here that you find yourself, along the path and well before you near the end, and here that some of us find the life we were told just did not exist.
We’ve invited a dear friend who is currently living one such journey to share some of his story with us here. In the months to come, we plan to invite others we know and love who have stepped out of bounds in pursuit of their own dreams to talk about their personal challenges, their most uncomfortable decisions and their experiences being entirely Nowhere Native.
I once heard, when writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. I used to look out the proverbial window and wonder what will happen to me and my dreams in the future - who will help me, and how will they guide me?
You gain a certain amount of power and self-respect when you decide to take your destiny into your own hands. The power of choice that you create from making a leap of faith is something that becomes addicting, and with that addiction you have the ability to manifest great things into your life. However, without sacrifice, dedication and courage you will never become successful with your decision of independence.
From 2004 – 2008 I worked for myself as a tour manager and event producer. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel the world – from Chicago to Las Vegas to Australia to China to the Middle East to Europe, and everywhere in-between. That first go at my entrepreneurship I like to call The First Incarnation of EventJoe, or my first professional renaissance. It was an amazing and exciting time. I created so much energy to make those four years work that the positive effects of that energy are with me to this day.
Those four years have produced lifelong friendships and business contacts that still remain. I hustled so hard, worked so long, traveled countless miles and missed even more birthdays, holidays and family celebrations, but that’s what it took. That’s what was needed in order to quench my thirst for professional happiness. Actually, my career, work and adventures were never really work – they were and still are some of my first loves and things that, in a way, complete me. Somehow, some way I lucked out and was able to blend my passions with my way of life, my living, the way I sustain my family and soul.
As time progressed and the year 2008 came about, I met my real love, Rose, who is now my wife. During our courtship, I realized that traveling a ton and not having any solid physical or emotional roots in Chicago was not ideal. I realized I had another yearning, and that was settle down a bit and plant some roots. At that time I was traveling approximately eleven months out of the year, so it wasn’t conducive for building a relationship.
The next logical step was to take a full-time offer from an LA based agency. The great part about this was that I would be working remotely from Chicago and was still able to keep a sense of independence. At the time, it was a great transition into root building: Being able to still have a sense of independence, but with more structure and back up mass. Plus, it allowed me to sharpen new skills, learn and grow. In a way it was as if I was going to get my MBA or continued education – an all expenses paid scholarship, if you will.
With this new opportunity came a lot responsibility and travel. It also came with an amazing team of dedicated individuals that all worked very hard. Being surrounded by that, even spending most of my time traveling and working remotely, motivates and pushes you. It was a positive experience, but, (and its a big BUT!), you can’t quench the truly creative and innovative entrepreneur that lies dormant during the winter; You can’t stop a hustler from hustling; You can’t stop a doer from doing. Eventually the natural instincts will start to bubble, then boil and finally explode. That’s exactly what happened to me starting in early 2011 - A giant volcano of energy, creativity and desire was about to erupt.
The technical involvement that I had with my employer was not satisfying me. I knew I wasn’t being utilized to my fullest potential; I knew that I could do better on my own. That statement is not meant to be negative, but meant to be positive - I truly mean that. The greatest feeling is knowing what you want to do, and that’s what I had figured out. I used what I did not like to help me figure out what I actually wanted to do, then I realized I always knew what I wanted to do but I had let comfort and security cloud my passions.
It also had to do with values - I valued being happy, feeling proud and respected vs. the security of a humble paycheck. Finally, I wanted success in my career and I felt that staying where I was would not allow the success I was looking for. Looking back on it all, I was beginning to see a universe of opportunity inside that proverbial window, although I had no idea what I was looking at - I just felt it. I felt that I needed to make the jump. That jump, however, took me around eighteen months to make.
January of 2012 I was struck with inspiration for an idea that would set myself off on an amazing adventure. The idea was the beginning of Pro-Ject - I’ll never forget it. For several months I was kicking around different ideas on how to make certain events and professional interactions better. I took a look at my professional network and how people would call me for advice or introductions. I looked at how brands and agencies interact with each other, consumers and influencers. Then, as if by some sort of mysterious force, the original concept for Pro-Ject was born.
Jul 12th, 2012 I produced the first Pro-Ject event. I used what little money I had saved up at the time to fund this dream project of mine. With the help of some great friends and folks that believed in me, the first event was a success. That gave me enough confidence and excitement to finally say to myself, You need to quit your current job, start Pro-Ject and work for yourself. From mid–July until the end of August, I let the universe work its magic. I allowed myself to remain open to any and all opportunities, knowing that I was soon going to make the leap into the world of independence. During this time I had a consultation with a very wise entrepreneur and interpreter. This person told me that in the next two years, if I allowed it, I would have success in my career if I based it on my personal passions. That keen insight mixed with my own intuition further allowed me to have confidence in my soon to be decision to leave full time employment.
As life would have it I was tested on whether I really wanted independence. Out of nowhere, I received an opportunity from another agency to work for them full time at an increased salary and from home. This shocked me for I was certain the independent life was my current path. The new opportunity eventually allowed me to finally go out on my own. This offer from the other agency pushed me past the point of jump where I may have stayed even though I was feeling confident.
Oct 2012 I was flying to NYC for this other agency. I was sick to my stomach and feeling awful that I was working in a role that did not satisfy me - I was working against my passions. I’d spent the last month dreading every morning and upset at myself for taking this position when I really knew I should be out on my own building my own dreams. I took the flight to NYC as an opportunity to meditate and think about what I really wanted. I did not focus on the how, but rather the emotions of what I wanted to feel. When the plane landed I felt a lot better and I knew the time had come.
Two days later, I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel in New York with my immediate supervisor. We were going over the plans for the program I was working on. I started to get extremely hot and uncomfortable during our one on one meeting. I finally said to her, STOP! I told her this was not going to work and that what I had signed up for was not what I was getting.
“The power of saying NO and taking back my destiny was truly a defining moment in my life.”
A lot of us get stuck working in roles that we do not like without doing anything about it. We sometimes accept the negative – I realized that I was hired to do one thing but then was forced to do another. With that realization came my power to make a change.
The very next week I realized I only had approximately one month worth of savings on standby for my wife and I, our house, cars and all the other expenses that come with life. I used that fear as motivation and steam to eventually power my dream. I devised a strategy based on my passions and what I believed in, which is authentic interactions. I personally contacted everyone I had met in the last eight years and told them about my new endeavor of being a relationship architect, consultant and producer. Based on the authentic approach I received a lot of great responses and opportunities.
Truth is, the best thing I did was burn my ship. I knew that I could never go back so I made the decision to burn the vessel in which I came over on. There is a big difference from burning a bridge vs. burning a ship. Burning the ship allows for no retreat and no surrender and creates only one path - the path towards eventual success.
The following months allowed me to create more opportunity, joy and success in my life than I have ever had. I learned more about business and strategy then ever before. It was as if I won the lottery. Every day I wake up thankful for taking the jump. Please note that there are still hard times and moments of fear and doubt – but those moments are blessed with knowing that it’s all on me.
Since Oct 2012, I have toured the country with amazing hip-hop acts, consulted for great brands, produced amazing events, launched Pro-Ject and produced Pro-Ject events in 2 different cities, worked on fantastic marketing programs and also found time to travel around Europe with my wife for three weeks. Let’s not forget that now my wife and I are expecting our first baby!
Everyone needs to look himself or herself in the mirror and ask this one simple question: Are you happy? If you say yes, you’re doing it right. If you say no or are not sure, you need to make a change. We are on earth to be happy and thrive. It’s your responsibility to make sure that happens - not your boyfriend/girlfriend’s, husband’s, wife’s, parent’s, sister’s, brother’s or employer’s - it’s all on you!
Fear is an emotion that you can control and the first part of controlling it is by doing stuff outside of your comfort zone. You need to build resistance against it before you make a major change. Start small, but with gusto and confidence. Believe in yourself, your dreams and in the power of good.
My belief in myself has often faltered at times, but now it’s a different story.
As I referenced in the beginning, when writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. The stories I share with you have helped me to now change my view on how I look out the window. Now I look out of the window not worried about my dreams or goals, but rather how I will find the time to accomplish all of them. Anything is possible.