I was riding home from work today after an incredibly productive day, one filled with energy, teamwork, joy and honest fun and I was listening to "Fortunate Son" which really made me start thinking.
Are we the fortunate ones?
I wasn't born into a fortunate family, we have always had an incredible amount of love and compassion for each other and god knows I would not want my family any other way but we were not well off financially.
I'm not a senators son, I had very minimal connections as far as monetary value goes in my family.. actually pretty much none, save my brother who came from the exact same background. We didn't have connections so we were forced to make something for ourselves and to garner our own relationships.
I didn't do well in school. I always had to rebel, I hated the status quo. I would spend more time in school pointing out the idiotic fallacies of the system than actually doing the work. I questioned everything. The majority of my teachers told me that I would not succeed financially, that I would not go to college and that I simply wouldn't "make it."
I wasn't really the popular one growing up. I never really had a huge amount of friends. I've always curated a few very strong relationships instead of an amassed yet shallow relationships. This doesn't make for a good time growing up and honestly it can derail any hope for a healthy self esteem.
What I did have though, was something great.
I had the most inspirational and motivational parents in the world. My parents taught me and showed me through actions and words that your life is not measured by what is in your pocket. Life is not measured by what people think of you or how you are perceived by society. They taught me that through love, compassion for others and self awareness you can find happiness.
They taught me how to love people selflessly, a trait that wouldn't come into it's own until later in my life. Kids don't want to accept selfless love or care to acknowledge when someone else thinks that they're great. Kids are cruel, and not having the mindset of a kid while growing up can really make you feel like an outcast.
My parents taught me that the status quo should be questioned, because the people who change history are not content with sitting by and watching it happen.
They taught me that pursuing what makes you money is not key to being happy, the key to happiness is to pursue what makes you happy, and let the money come later, if at all.
My father who played Football as a lineman for Florida State University (FSU) dropped out of college 3 years in to pursue his love of writing and acting. Football was his life. His father before him played for Georgia Tech under the legendary coach Bobby Dodd. It was in his veins from the moment he was born. It's what he knew growing up, playing for his schools and eventually getting a full-ride scholarship, starting as a red-shirt freshman his first year.
He quit because it was no longer what he believed in. He followed his heart, and has found happiness in his writing [side note he published his first novel this past year and it's a seriously incredible piece influenced a lot by his life experiences].
My teachers were right about some things. I wouldn't go to college. Hell, I didn't even take my SAT's (I'm kind of curious what I would have gotten though). But the difference is, I didn't not go to college because I wasn't able to. Had I applied myself to that path I could have made it, and I still could. It isn't my path though.
My teachers were pretty wrong though when they said I wouldn't succeed. I was brought up to be very humble, but I was also brought up to be very realistic (get that from my mom). I was 17 when I found SEO through my brother, who actually found it by accident.
My brother was doing web design for a wholesale ATV dealer in Canton, GA when he discovered SEO. Funnily enough it was from a telemarketer who was trying to sell SEO services. Jeremy (my brother) hadn't heard of SEO and was sitting at his computer so he naturally typed it into Google and started twiddling around researching it. He came across SEOmoz and asked "what's to keep me from doing this myself?" the marketer responds "well it's very complicated and you probably wouldn't be able to handle it on your own." Jeremy hung up the phone and soon after his boss walks in and says "I want to be #1 in Google." Jeremy got to work with what he had just learned about SEO and makes every keyword rank #1 in ATL based searches. Moves $2 million worth more units from organic traffic the next year for the business and gets recruited to one of the largest agencies in the world, 360i in ATL, GA.
Quickly Jeremy was handling some of the most immense clients an SEO could dream to have on their resume including E Trade, MTV, LG, NBC, Victoria's Secret and so on. Insanity right? Jeremy went on from 360i to found his own internet marketing agency, Simpletiger (recently rebranded from JCSmithConsulting) .
That's where I came in. When Simpletiger was still JCSmithConsulting Jeremy was teaching me the roots of SEO, the nuts and bolts behind the scenes that made things tick. He gave me books to read, blogs to follow, content to digest and I soaked it up. At 17 I started doing SEO on a contractual basis. Strategizing campaigns for clients start to finish and carrying them out in full by 18.
At 19 I was introduced to John Barron, the Marketing Director and Partner at Gravityfree. I ended up doing a bit of contractual work with John on the grounds of "feeling out for employment." In the months that followed I had a few meetings where I went over the strategy I would use for a couple of their clients and even implemented some elements into their site. John took a chance on me and hired me as the lead SEO at Gravityfree. 2 years later and I've managed upwards of 30 different clients, leading SEO campaigns for companies like Best Western, Holiday Inn and Royalty Resorts.
I attribute most of my career success to my brother, he was what got me in the door. But my parents were the foundation that made all of it possible.
I'm not special, I'm not a "fortunate one" by definition of the song. But I believe we are fortunate for our misfortunes. They make us who we are, they make us unique.
My parents are artists, and they gave me a deeper connection with myself.
I know myself, I know what I stand for and I know where I want to go.
Find your path, we are the fortunate ones.