"A burning sense of passion is the most potent fuel for your dreams.” - Robin Sharma
The car wasn’t new, but it looked new. Dark green proved to be an excellent choice as it contrasted well with the beige interior. Lined with a wood grain trim, it complimented the structure of the car. As his chubby hands turned the knobs of the stereo, like a bad deejay, he alternated between the FM radio and cassette player. For some reason, he found the need to parade his car in front of a child. I knew he was trying to provoke my emotions; emotions of envy. But little did he know, he sparked another type of emotion. Anger.
That’s when they started. Small ambers.
“Who’s car do you like better, mine or your dad’s?” he asked with a nasty grin plastered across his face. Even at the age of 5, I knew what the question meant. He was inferring that his car, the one we were sitting in, was far superior to my family’s car. The ’91 Camry, our prized possession, was no match for the newer car we were sitting in. His need to compare his financial success against my family’s struggle to remain afloat confirmed what my mom had warned me and my siblings. Growing up, my mom would always tell us that there are people in this world that will look down on you, especially when you don’t have much. Initially, I didn’t believe her. I didn’t want to. But the man sitting beside me just proved her point. She was right – he was looking down on me.
I’ve played the car scene in my head for over the past couple decades. With each life milestone, each iteration that has allowed me to mature and grow, I replay this event in my head. Yet, I’m still perplexed. Did he not know my family was financially unstable? Did he not know my father worked an upward of 100 hours per week from two jobs? Did he not realize such a demeaning question would resonate with me throughout my life? I don’t think he did.
In hindsight, this event marks a change in my perception of the world and an understanding that nothing is fair. Making it fair, at least my version of this, was going to be my responsibility and no one else’s.
Through the years I’ve been leveraging this experience like an invaluable fuel to the fire that has sparked within. A fire that has grown and continues to become a ferocious beast that this world needs. A fire so strong, that even the master at times cannot tame it. A fire that is no longer defined by monetary gains and continues to demand a higher meaning. The meaning of life that has helped men achieve some of the greatest feats that the human civilization has ever seen.
The summer I turned 16, I got my first job. It was at the same cafeteria my mom worked at. The cafeteria was located within a business office building and served white collar workers. It was my first job – a blue collar job. The fire began to flourish.
Usually, such service jobs are physically demanding while compensation is kept to a minimum. You are given tasks that can be completed by anyone that is physically able – making the role easily replaceable. Management needs, like maintaining appropriate margins while ensuring work schedules were adequately filled, made taking time off next to impossible. Vacations opportunities were difficult as this was prioritized based on the needs of upper management.
Being at the bottom of the food chain, especially in a service industry, is never easy. It means that you have to deal with those that lack empathy for the less fortunate. When you are given everything on a silver platter, some people grow up with a sense of entitlement. They find it necessary to poke fun at the less fortunate and belittle them. I have come to accept that in this world, such people exist.
As I’m typing this it’s 3:37 AM. At least that’s what my laptop says. Usually, my laptop is correct. A laptop that isn’t mine. Sitting in the living room in my hotel suite, I realize that the room is quite oversized for one person. A hotel room I didn’t pay for. A reminder of the next hotel I’m traveling to flashes on my phone. A phone that isn’t mine. Across the table in front of me, sits the room service tray from last night’s dinner. It reminds of the pleasant smile from the server who brought the tray. The smile that grew larger after I tipped him, even after he mentioned that the gratuity was already included. Tipping well is part of the cornerstone of my morals and values. I see it as repayment for all the acts of generosity I have experienced in my life. The experiences provided through giving without expecting anything in return. The traits I aspire to maintain throughout my life.
My current role at this multi-billion-dollar organization offers me luxuries that I didn’t think a 27-year-old could afford. It offers me unique opportunities – being given the chance to meet and work with some of the top experts from around the world, speaking in meetings with high-level executives, and managing consultants with 30+ years of experience. My collar, once blue, has been bleached white.
But, never for a second do I forget my past experiences. These experiences will keep me forever humble and grounded. The ones that remind me that I’m just an ordinary human being, no better or worse than anyone else in this world.
But back to your question, dear distant uncle. Whose car do I like better, you ask?
I like my dad’s car. No, not the old 91’ Camry – the one my siblings and I purchased for him.
The brand-new Camry.