I moved to New York City with no apartment, no job and $400. Here’s what I learned.
September 12th 2005: I boarded my American Airlines flight to New York City. I’d just dropped out of grad school to pursue a career in marketing and figured NYC was the best place for me to thrive — fortunately and unfortunately though, this relocation was happening with no apartment, no job, two bags of clothes, $400 to my name and very little marketing experience to lean on.
That entire 2-hour flight I was scared shitless and riddled with fear but wildly excited at the same time. I didn’t know what the future had in store for me but I made a promise to myself to figure it out and that under no circumstance would I quit this journey before it materialized into something bigger. It was a transformative mind over matter moment driven by sheer will, ambition and grit.
Upon landing at LaGuardia, I knew life would never be the same.
That first week I quickly picked up some work as a club bouncer while sleeping on a college friend’s couch and learning how to maneuver the city. After a few weeks, I moved in with another friend and slept on their floor for two months, while working to save enough money for my own place. Even then, it was a struggle. Rent was consistently late. Bills were waaaaay past due. And for a very long stretch I ate turkey sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But while things got SUPER crazy that first year, never once did I think about quitting on my vision. I was determined to figure it out —and I did. In two years, I went from bouncing clubs to a seasonal gig at Barney’s NY to an entry-level corporate role before finally landing a hybrid position with a basketball publication and sports marketing agency — a position that would shape and become the cornerstone of my marketing career.
I moved to NYC as a kid with a dream and grew into a man with a vision.
Here’s 8 life lessons I learned in the process:
- You will only go as far as you allow your mind to take you. Fear stops people more than circumstances ever could. Think big, get big. Think small, get small. Seize what you want, you have more control than you realize.
- 80% of the people you know don’t give a shit about you. They only care about the value you provide for them. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be. But don’t take it personally though, people are just busy and focused on their own things. Just think about all the people you know and how often you call just to make sure they’re ok. I’m sure you’re in that 80% for someone else.
- If you can make it in New York City you can make it anywhere. I know this saying is cliché, but it’s so true. If you’ve seen that film The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio — the grizzly bear is NYC and Leonardo is you. If you can survive a viscious beating or two by the city, you can do ANYTHING.
- You have to be willing to commit to your agenda by any means necessary. I know this is easier said than done, but put your fear aside and trust the journey. The universe will assist you once you’ve truly made the commitment to yourself. People will help, opportunities will come, doors will open up. But you have to focus on doing everything you can to execute. Half-assing won’t get it done.
- Success is a moving target. What you want at 2o is different than what you want at 25 or 30. Stay nimble, explore and grow. Rigidity in life doesn’t allow for adaptation.
- We waste more time than we realize. There’s 168 hours in a week. Minus 56 hours of sleep and say, 50 hours of work — you have 62 hours every week to accomplish whatever goals you want to. If you’re not where you want to be, look at how you utilize your 168 hours — especially if you’re single with no kids.
- Always be creating. If you learn how to consistently create, add or drive value you will ALWAYS have opportunities come your way—everything from jobs to friends to people who want to help you.
- Money will not make you happy. Money will help sustain you, reduce stress and provide some cool experiences in life, but your overall state of happiness will need to be anchored around a purpose. Driving without a destination in mind gets you nowhere. Think big picture, pie in the sky things to rally your time, energy and efforts around.
- What do you wake up to accomplish everyday?
- What drives you? What are you excited by?
- What do you care about?
- What are you working towards?
- Why do you do the work you do?
- If life could be perfect, what would it look like?
- What is the ideal scenario?
Whatever it is you want, it’s out there. But it’s not going to fall in your lap though, you gotta go get it. Trust me, I know.
LeKeith Taylor is a consumer focused brand strategist, marketer and designer who uses his talents to bring ideas to life, create solutions and develop cool experiences for brands. He’s worked on the brand side, agency side and independently with companies such as Nike, Converse, Beats by Dre, MetLife, Home Depot, Land Rover & Roc Nation Sports.
View his collective works + experiences here.