Guestpost by C. Michael McAuley
About C. Michael McAuley:
I write. I act. I don't sing. Washington, DC. Twenty-Something. I love literature & lace, politics & Pearl Jam. I'd be friends with Gatsby, might even kiss him, but certainly wouldn't give him my heart. I'm a fan of business, entrepreneurship and Autumn in New England. Huge supporter of our troops. Can't figure out if my favorite color is pink or navy blue?
“The world, as a rule, does not live on beaches and in country clubs.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
A better childhood could not have been written for me had I commissioned Fitzgerald to write it for me himself. My weekends looked like fifty foot yachts and five hundred yard par fives, smelled like sunscreen, and were crowned with optimism, hope, and excitement for the future. I spent my summers bouncing between the country club my family belonged to, and the golf and yacht club that my uncle owned. When the seasons grew colder, and New York traded red leaves for snowflakes, we took trips to Naples, FL or to the Caribbean, staying in the same hotels that presidents vacationed at. I lived a privileged life. For a while.
During college my father’s business partner took the opportunity to crash the company I was to one day inherit. The multi-million dollar establishment that I had helped to grow was no longer able to put food on our family’s table. To make matters worse, this business partner (whom shall remain nameless) made ridiculous financial charges all in my father’s name. Every penny from every retirement fund, tuition fund, wedding fund (yes, my mother told me they had a wedding fund for me) was gone. Within a matter of months we lost both of our homes. I didn’t recognize my life. It was like Ashton Kutcher was punking me on a socio-economic level.
I was 20 and terrified. I said good-bye to my home on the West Coast (the one with a six figure pool and grotto) and good-bye to the tudor on the East Coast. I dropped out of college and moved out on my own, so that I wouldn’t be a financial burden to my parents.
Where do you go with no degree and the weight of shame? Where was I qualified to work? Well, I went to work in a familiar place: a golf club. I might not have had a piece of paper from a fancy college but by God I had a Junior Golf Academy Certificate from 1992 and that was going to count for something. I called the Director of Golf at a country club near the college that I had previously attended (so I could still live near friends) and worked as an assistant in the Golf Shop. “Do you have any experience?” He asked. “I’ve been golfing since I was six-years-old,” I said. That was good enough.
Life hits us so abruptly. We must start hitting back. While I was not taking classes in Macroeconomics or Financial Management, I was learning how to effectively communicate with powerful CEOs and professional sports players. I taught myself different software programs. I taught myself how to learn by observing others.
So, just how does one bounce back after significant financial loss?
1. Be Humble
Believe me, losing out on millions is quite a humbling process. But what I’m referring to, is that you must be willing to do the jobs that no one else is willing to do. I became very close with the President of the company when we would both find ways to improve the aesthetics of the club before an important golf tournament or a special event. While it wasn’t glamorous to mop the floors together, it helped me to stand out. This led to me getting raises and more responsibilities.
2. Become a Planner
Eating meals out can get very expensive, especially in a big city when paying for parking can be very dear. Instead of going out to dinner I started to plan “family dinners” with my friends. Everyone would chip in a small amount of money, and then we would take turns cooking elaborate dinners. We created great food, and great memories.
3. Splurge on Organization
You will save time and money if you know where everything is, and if you know where everything goes. Find a system that works for you, and then stick to it. Aim to be organized both at work and at home. You will sleep better and reduce stress.
4. Be Honest
While I was the youngest employee on staff at the golf club, I started to gain respect through my honesty. I specifically remember a moment when the President asked me what I thought about a particular marketing material. My response was: “It’s ugly and it’s ruining the reputation of your brand.” He was thrilled. I began contributing more and more to the marketing department until I eventually ran it myself.
5. Remember that You are You
You are not your things, and you are not your job. You are not the mess you are in. You are you.
Over the course of four years I was promoted several times and was running my own department at age 22. I was also the recipient of an award given by a national magazine for excellence in event planning. Both accomplishments would never have happened at my father’s company. I lost everything, but I gained back so much more. I gained the self-confidence that no one could ever give me or teach me, because it must be worked for and earned. And, at this point in my life, I’m okay with that. Perhaps all I really needed to inherit from my father was his integrity, entrepreneurial spirit, and work ethic, not his company.