My Story — Part 1
I’m about to start a two-part blog post here. I wanted to start my blog out with my own story, just so everyone can have an idea of who I am and what I’m about. I think story telling is one of the oldest forms of bringing people together and I hope that reading my story will help you think more critically about your own. It might end up being a little long, but thanks ahead of time if you read it. I can’t wait to start this adventure of connecting with all of you.
I was blessed enough to grow up in Houston, Texas in a great family with solid, encouraging, Christian values. I’ll probably dive into my love for Texas and Jesus in a later post, but I will always be grateful for the way I was shaped by my parents and encouraged to always push myself and evaluate myself to see if I was being the man I wanted to be. I remember when I was 14, we bought some property and built a house on it. I tagged along for every meeting and helped with everything from clearing property to installing HVAC. I learned from my father in that time the value of hard work, perseverance, focusing on the details, and never giving up. We talked about the family business he helps run and business principles, values important for being a man, how to properly drills hole or install a sprinkler system, and how to run a tractor and a chainsaw. I was pushed by my dad to come up with solutions to all kinds of problems involved with how best to build and develop our land, and act with humility and perseverance. I was pushed by my mom to think critically, challenge myself, learn as much as could, and treat people with kindness and compassion. I was often frustrated and upset that my parents kept pushing me for excellence when I thought the task was trivial or I didn’t fully understand their reasons, but I see now how important it is to have pride in work done well and to care about people. My family and environment pushed me to evaluate myself, my intentions, and to always be conscious of being the kind of dedicated, faithful person that I wanted to be.
I knew that no matter what, I wanted to try as hard as I could to do what I love; it wasn’t worth it to give up early and settle for anything less.
In high school, I began growing into my own individual more than who my parents were. This involved more critical thinking and developing my own stance on beliefs, sometimes rebelling against my mom and dad as teenagers do, and growing into new interests. One of these was music. I started playing guitar and piano when I was younger, but thanks to a music teacher who showed me his home studio, I excitedly purchased my own ProTools studio recording rig when I was in high school. I immediately started teaching myself and obsessively learning anything and everything I could about recording music. As I started looking at college options I decided I wanted to try to pursue music. I knew that no matter what, I wanted to try as hard as I could to do what I love; it wasn’t worth it to give up early and settle for anything less. But I was grounded enough to know I needed a more practical background as well. This desire to pursue music and business drove me to Belmont University and Nashville. But to get in to the school and for my parents to support me, I had to get a scholarship and quite a few college credits before going. So, pushing myself to fulfill my potential, I started taking college classes as a Junior in high school at the local community college as a dual-enrollment student. I was several years younger than all of my class mates, but it pushed me to be more mature and driven. The work wasn’t too hard usually, but the environment brought me out of my comfort zone and made me expand my horizons and learn how to work hard on my own, driving myself instead of having a teacher or parent act as my self-discipline. I was able to complete 46 credit hours before graduating high school and started college as a sophomore. I learned my own values and decided what my priorities were going to be in high school as I started reaching for more and more lofty goals, always dreaming and pushing myself to to be more excellent than the day before.
In 2012, I moved to Nashville, knowing nobody and having no idea what was going to happen. I was friendly and eager however, and quickly started trying to get plugged in. I joined a fraternity, something I never thought I would do before I met Josh Sundholm, my orientation leader who showed me the value of brotherhood that the men of Phi Kappa Tau exemplified. I also began volunteering with the concert series at Belmont to get some experience, as well as getting plugged in to my dorm and trying to add value to the community there. My early days in college were marked by my desire to get into everything I could and learn all I could from the people around me, both older and my age. I was just trying to soak it in. This is where my fraternity made such a great impact on me. Several of the older guys really pushed me to grow and take my school and my role in the brotherhood seriously. They believed in me when I didn’t exactly believe in myself all the time. I remember one time in particular, an older brother, Matt Smalls, was in charge of planning a big, campus-wide event for the end of the year. We were going to throw a little summer kick-off luau in the quad for all the students. I was a freshly initiated brother, but he gave me the task of marketing the event. He just told me that was my job and I could do whatever I wanted. I was blown away that he would give me that responsibility, believing in me to handle it without any difficulty. I was inspired! I started thinking about all the different ways I could get people excited for the event, from social marketing to posters to t-shirts to getting in front of people and building a buzz around campus. The event ended up getting canceled because a school-sponsored organization decided to do the same thing the weekend before it (it wasn’t as cool though), but I learned important lessons about management, inspiring people, and my own potential that day.
I was so far out of my league. But my competitive nature wouldn’t let me back down or give up.
I was pushed in so many other ways as well. Coming in as an 18 year-old sophomore had a whole set of challenges than neither my parents nor I expected. My first semester I was in an entrepreneurship classroom full of people who were two years older and more experienced than me (which is a lot in the rapid growth chamber of college), or even more in the case of some adult-education students. These people had developed so much more of who they were and where they wanted to go. They had businesses they wanted to start and somewhat solid plans they were already working on. They had knowledge and experience I hadn’t even thought about approaching. I was just excited to be in a new city. I was so far out of my league. But my competitive nature wouldn’t let me back down or give up. I pushed myself to learn and understand all these new things I had never thought through and to raise my maturity and knowledge to the level of my newfound peers. I ended up doing well and even winning some small competitions in class. I was far from top of the class, but I learned and grew to the point that I was on the same level as people that I looked up to as drastically more developed adults in a matter of months.
In my dorm, I excitedly got plugged in to the easy-to-access community of the people I saw every day. I was friendly, but it was also just really easy in our dorm, one of the oldest, smallest dorms on the campus. We grew together and worked on projects together through the year. All the musicians around me pushed me to be more creative as a producer to keep up. We were recording music on the steinways in the classrooms at midnight with a laptop and some microphones and gear we would haul across campus. We made a spontaneous cover music video that we recorded all in one take in this massive wood room with an old upright in it, all in a hour or two. And it wasn’t too bad either! When Christmas rolled around, I wanted to do a Christmas song with a couple of my friends that turned in to a six song Christmas EP with tracks from different musicians across the dorm and even a dorm-wide choir performance, all recorded and organized by me. I think I got 2 hours of sleep the night before driving back to Texas for Christmas break because I was up so late recording the last parts for the final song before finishing packing. It turned out to be pretty good thanks to all the talented people who contributed. I was able to get connected with these people and learn from them and bounce ideas off them, together inspiring each other’s creativity and growing together.
It was things like this that pushed me to pursue raw creativity and problem solving. I was working to come up with solutions and ways to “make it work” in the most ridiculous ways possible, but despite failing quite a bit, I learned to balance my life and to overcome difficult situations with some amount of ease and calm.
These experiences set up the rest of my college life and laid the ground work for the changes that would push me forward in the future that you can read about in the next post.