Mr Mortocci, my response wasn’t actually intended as a personal attack.
You wrote a piece directed at a very broad audience saying basically, if I can do it, you can too. That sir, is simply not true. Like all of us, you are using every advantage you have to chase your dreams. I applaud you for that and I share your entrepreneurial drive. I have been an everyday champion of the self made since well before you were born. The only mean spirited part of my post was the bit about you being seemingly unaware of WHY you are succeeding so easily, and I pointed that out for your audience as much as for yourself.
I too did everything I could to make money as a kid. I started working at around 12 and worked all the way through high school and worked two or three jobs at a time until I was 27. My mother was the only member of my extended family who earned a degree, and she didn’t finish school until I was 13. I don’t think I ever met a college graduate among my friends parents until I was 17. I founded three businesses before I was 30 and sold two of them, the third failed when the oil bust hit Texas back in the eighties. (My parents both though I was crazy to work for myself). Because I used my own money to fund my enterprises, when the last one failed I lost much much more than my business. I spent more than a decade at a Fortune 50 company, until my division was sold and my position eliminated. I was part of a Silicon Valley start up that was doing pretty well until money dried up in 2007. (we bet on bleeding edge technology that lost out to a competing technology). I had a great time growing a profitable IT division for a small public company that sold my division out from under me to fund other parts of the business, and the buyer had existing management. That’s where things got problematic. Few people want to hire someone who’s been in charge for decades, they rightly worry that leaders can’t be turned into followers. That’s why I suggested you complete your degree. It’s far easier to be hired as a cog in the wheel if you have one, even if you never use it.
There’s one really eye-opening observation I’d like to share. I find accountability and the risks and reward of leadership quite exhilarating. When I’ve been in that position I’m in my element and I look forward to embracing work every single day. When I was young I worried that it would be hard to find leadership opportunities. Boy was I wrong. Most people don’t want to lead, and they certainly don’t want the accountability that comes with it. Just like the lesson that there is actually more money chasing deals than there are deals chasing money, there are more leadership opportunities seeking leaders than there are people willing to assume the role. That wrinkle alone has afforded me a lifetime of enjoyment.
As I read your essay I recalled my own youthful entrepreneurial efforts, I marveled at the advances in available technology, the vast opportunity that creates, and I was struck by how much of a difference class and connections can make.
For every success story such as yours, there are thousands of stories more like mine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every bit of the ride, both up and down, and I’m not the least bit bitter (with the exception of the people who profited from my success and left me holding the bag. LOL).
Today I spend my time nurturing five young children adopted from foster care, three of whom are Hispanic and two of whom are Black. Raising them has made me keenly aware of just how unlevel the playing field actually is. I’ve had to accept that all my stories about just studying hard, working hard,and sticking to your values won’t change the reality that the world will label them, and unfairly.
Any discussion of “privilege” occurs on a very slippery slope. Because I’m a white male, privilege is assumed. It doesn’t matter that I was raised on the wrong side of town surrounded by dysfunction and poverty. As you gathered from my post, being raised by a single mom didn’t make you immune from the same label for different reasons (connections). The readers of this extended conversation will hopefully find useful takeaways from both our perspectives. Thanks for taking the time to engage, I appreciate it.