The morning, the last day of being 39 years old in fact, I was reflecting on my 30s and wondering about my 40s.
We need a soundtrack for this venture, so feel free to throw on the song that was going thru my head, “More Alive” from Pillar's new album One Love Revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdi3saYJxHc
For fun, we're going to paste the lyrics to that song, because it's my blog and I'll do what I want!
Remember what they told you
All the lies that they sold you
Change who you are, don't think for yourself
And if you're different, you're lucky that they can't tell…
Looking back before we look forward…
Obviously a milestone birthday like this causes one to look backwards. It is hard not to.
As I look at me, 39- in a rented apartment with a happy family consisting of my wife and no kids, I realize that I'm not really the typical 39 year old. And I'm glad for that. If you are looking funny at your screen right now, please stop. I really am!
I realize that DJ at 40 is an enigma, so maybe it's best to try and explain where he came from a little bit…
To understand my 30s, it is probably important to understand my teens.
I grew up with some pretty fascinating parents who moved us ‘off the grid'- quite literally- in the mid 80's. Off the grid as in we literally had no connection to the electrical grid, running water or for awhile there even phone. So I grew up different. Not worse, mind you- different. The lessons learned have been valuable, and trust me that I appreciate utilities a lot more than I would have otherwise. Take nothing for granted!
I recall as a teenager trying to hide that difference quite a bit at times, until I figured out that I don't have to live by the standards of others.
Exhibit B: I'm not sure what rocked more, the hair or the sweater
I realized that I could make an impact on my own. Looking back in my 1994 yearbook is fascinating to see what people wrote. “Never change” was a common theme, but some people wondered if I was going to be a multi-platinum recording artist in 10 years. Others talked about how great it would be to ‘finally get out of here' or “I hope we never lose touch” but when I got out of there I did lose touch. Ah, teenage years.
Exhibit C: Dream Big
It was then, as a poor kid with no savings and no plan that I left for a private school in Nebraska called Hastings College. Looking back on it now I scratch my head and can't help but be fascinated at 18 year old DJ, full of misplaced confidence and wonder about the world jumping head first into independence. My parents weren't really able to help pay for school, and being a ‘middle class white male' didn't really help matters. But I learned the value of working for what I got and that things with value should be treated accordingly.
Guess it took a bit of living
To be glad for what you're given
And who wants to be, like everyone else
And who we are is not for sale
Whether I liked it or not, the reality was that 19 year old DJ got quite a wake up call when he realized that he was more dependent on the grace of others than he thought. My federal grants had been pulled and I could no longer pay for school. So, a few days after my 19th Birthday I was given notice that it was pay up or get out. So, tail between my legs I moved back home and began the search for what was next. I had a job within about a week and began repaying student loans that had been accrued for a mere 4 months of school. It was crushing, but then a miracle happened – I got a call from the Vice President of the college (yeah, I'm not kidding, like he called me personally) to let me know an anonymous donor had arranged to meet the balance of my deficit. I would still have to work full time, but at least I could go back. I had a joyous and somewhat triumphant return. That was also the year I discovered that people talked to me- confided in me, wanted my guidance. I was happy to give what I could, but what I struggled with then at 19 was understanding how to not take on other's problems as my own…
To understand my 30s, it is important to understand my 20s.
All the years that I wasted
Wondering how I'm going to make it
When all that I had, was all that I'd need
And nothing more was a guarantee
It is easy to stare in wonder at my early 20s. The guy who was going to get out and rule the world's music scene had a hard dose of reality. I fell into a pretty deep and dark depression, and started to truly loathe people who I felt had been ‘handed' more than me. 21 and drinking age did not help matters, and I found myself on a downward spiral that could have been much worse but for the foundation I had already laid before that. I came around at 22, and realized that it was okay that I was working and others weren't- and that my financial world was not my personal world. I was guaranteed neither would be great by anyone, and I started to work for the first time on truly improving myself.
I started being much more active in things like radio, even meeting some cool people in the process
Exhibit D: DJ and Rebecca St. James
At 23 or so I had released a completely laughable tongue-in-cheek album from recordings made in high school, was publishing three small newsletters that were in effect early blogs, and had started “Starving Guitarist Press” as a company, my first jump into the world of being an Entrepreneur, even with it's completely laughable productions. But I was learning, and that's what you are supposed to do in college, right?
Then came the real world. At 24 I found that my degree in Psychology was just not something I wanted to pursue further, and my other major of Religious Studies didn't really have anything marketable that would pay the massive student debt I had managed to stack up. After living with some friends for a few months working various temp jobs trying to figure it all out, I heard the words that defined my 20s: “DJ, it has been great having you here, but you really need to move on.” I wouldn't have survived without the grace of some friends who helped me out when I was figuring things out for myself.
Just had keep living
To be glad for what I'm given
And who wants to be, like everyone else
And who we are is not for sale
The year I turned 25 was one of those years I look back, scratching my head and wondering what I was doing- because that was the year I started conforming a bit. I decided to take what amounted to a paid internship in Iowa, my first job in the IT world. I bought some shirts and ties and started doing the 8-5 thing. Y2k for me was spent in an IT ‘war room' watching everyone else celebrate the party of the millennium. Glorious. It was about then that my Entrepreneurial spirit came back and my first job became my first client. I was in control of my own destiny, and back towards not letting others define me.
Exhibit E: DJ's Band in 1999: Local Crew
But it wasn't that simple.
Seriously- to understand my 30s, you really do need to understand my 20s.
At 27 years old I was traveling the country making about $35/hr and life was good. I was engaged, finally starting to pay down some increasingly crushing debts and life looked good.
Exhibit F: DJ on the North Shore of some Hawaiian island
But in 2003, all of that came crashing down as my engagement ended, I lost my sweet contract and various other drama… I spent nearly a year working only part time completely outside of my IT career- DJing weddings and stuff like that. I once again had the uncomfortable position of needing to move along- this time my roommate at the time was getting married, so I really did need to move along.
I actually lived in my car for two weeks in 2004.
I again got back into an IT-related contract, moving in with some gracious friends. More few back and forth between jobs and contracts until finally the same basic thing. “DJ, we need you to move out…”
But fortunately for me, during that time I had gained some experience with a technology called Citrix and for the first time was hired by a company to focus on that technology. So, 29 was a great year for me finally figuring things out. My 30th birthday party was quite the celebration, and life was finally feeling right!
To understand my 30s, you have to… understand my 30s!
It's time we broke into the chorus here!
Stand up – ‘cuz there's nothing to hide
Tonight's the night – we've never felt more alive, alive
Live it up – and enjoy the ride
Tonight's the night – we've never felt more alive, more alive
So my 30s became the years I got good at stuff that actually paid the bills. I set down the guitar and learned Citrix, and started to get actually good at it. I helped to grow a business with it! How fun is that?
My 30s were the years I was married to a wonderful woman, built and dismantled a somewhat successful DJ business and really began to focus. At 35, I set a goal of becoming a ‘Citrix Architect' that guided people on the best way to do things, and leading teams. I wanted to be doing that by the time I reached 39. So, I left my company and began independent consulting to build up to that point. At 36 I had tripled my income and was working with Citrix as a ‘bench' consultant! At 37 I took things one more step forward and began leading Citrix teams- my income was now four times that of 35 and I had already essentially accomplished my goal two years early!
We paid off all of our debts…
I met a few more of my heroes.
Exhibit G: With Joe Satriani
Time for the joy of the tag!
Live like every breath I'm taking
Is the last one I get
Live like every step I'm making
Gets me closer to the end
Live like every thought I'm thinking
All the good times I had
And I've never felt more alive
At 39 life is really good. But here's why. I have begun the process of focusing not internally, but externally. I'm not saying I have all the answers and can now move forward.
I'm saying that I have found that in everything I have been doing or attempting to do for decades now, it has to do with SERVING OTHERS. In my consulting world, I have become a somewhat fierce advocate for the Truth- even when it hurts. In fact, next year I'll be fully launching an IT Consulting company called “BOT Consulting.” BOT stands for Belt Of Truth.
Because what I have found is that I don't serve you by covering up the truth. I'm going to tell you what you need and what you are doing wrong right along with what you are doing right.
What I have found that I live by, whether or not I had the words to put to it before, is this simple maxim: “In whatever you do, leave it better than you found it.”
In other words- my 30s have been about living my life to the full, and now it's time to help others do the same!
DJ at 40: Leaving the World Better Than I Found It
I am not 100% sure what 40 will really look like. As I'm typing this it occurs to me that it will probably look much the same, but with one key difference. If my 30s were all about me, my 40s will be all about you.
With that I can tell you a few things that will be happening in this next era of DJ:
- I will be focusing less on my ‘career' and more on my Impact
- I will be focusing on creating Platforms that help others succeed
- I will be doing a lot more ‘life coaching' and spending effort in things that encourages others in Truth
- I will continue living a life without boundaries, not ‘selling out' or taking the path others think that I should. We may someday buy a house… if we feel like it. Kids… another discussion, but in all things we will focus on our purpose first!
- I will take the gifts I have been given and develop them even more to powerful tools that I can share with you!
- I will feel more alive and invite you along for the ride- that means getting even more healthy than I currently am, doing even more fun and meaningful things… but trying to not just do them alone J
Live it up and enjoy the ride!