The Darkest Knight of My Life – 11/13/17
Over the last two weeks I’ve talked about personal experiences in the corporate world and how that has fueled a fire for both this book and for my desire to write full time.
Today, however, I want to discuss an entirely different aspect that was a huge influence on this book.
July 19, 2012 was the premiere night for The Dark Knight Rises, and as a lifelong Batman fan, I had to be there. I had recently moved to Aurora, CO and it was decided to go see the movie at the Century 16 theater not far from my house. I went with my then girlfriend (now wife), sister, dad, and brother-in-law. We arrived about an hour early for the midnight showing and had a great time waiting in the theater. The energy that filled the room in anticipation of the movie is something I’ve tried to hold on to. There were so many Batman fans, it was exciting to just be around so many like-minded people.
The movie started shortly after midnight and we were finally off into the land of DC comics! Not even half an hour into the movie, exploding sounds started going off and smoke began to slowly fill the theater. In our theater, this all happened during a shootout scene and we figured it was some sort of special effect put on by the theater. More smoke started to seep through the walls, and a woman came into our theater shouting “Someone is in the lobby with a gun!” It was confusing as her voice didn’t sound panicked one bit.
A few moments later a fire alarm was pulled and we all had to clear the theater. Being in theater 8, we have to exit at the top and take the stairs that led down into the main lobby. People around me were coughing out of control, but we all exited calmly and upset that we were being interrupted likely from some punk teenage kid pulling a prank.
Then reality hit.
As we came down the stairs to the lobby, people were running and walking around in a daze. Some were crying, some were bleeding, many were covered in blood that wasn’t their own. It became apparent this was no prank as the SWAT team burst into the theater.
At this point we started to pick up our pace and my senses were heightened to a new level. Something bad happened and we weren’t sure what it was we were supposed to be running from.
It was time to get the hell out of there so we jumped into my car after splitting from my dad and sister (they had driven separately), and we booked it out of that lot just before more SWAT arrived to barricade it.
By the time we got home, the news was starting to break. There was a shooter that opened fire in theater 9 (right next door to us), and every update seemed to increase the death and injury counts higher.
I could ramble all day about the details of this night and the following day, but for the sake of this email I will summarize it. I learned that night how fragile life truly is. It can be taken from us at any moment, no questions asked. I’ve learned so much about life since this tragedy and it was certainly a wake up call to get back to my dreams and do what I’ve always wanted to do and write books! So that’s exactly what I did.
The three years following the shooting was a long and drawn out trial for the shooter. I watched nearly every moment of it all the way through and learned a lot about mental health and guns than I thought I’d ever need to know. Seeing as the shooter was a highly intelligent student, my wife threw out the idea that he might have planned all this as some kind of experiment. While I don’t believe that to be true, that is how Insanity was born.
This novel is merely a fictionalized compilation of the hardest times of my life. While I’ll never be able to “get over” the shooting that night, writing this book went a long way in helping me release a lot of that tension and fear that can quietly build up after surviving such a tragedy. As you’ll see in the book, I’ve dedicated this work to anyone that has ever been affected by a mass shooting. There are way too many of us that have similar stories like this one, and I hope one day we can live in a world where this won’t be an issue any more.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it. You can CLICK HERE to buy your copy.
Bouncing Back – 11/8/17
Last week I talked about my first corporate job with the Colorado Rockies and how it all ended so abruptly after being fired! Not even four hours after I arrived home in a panicked mindset, I received a phone call from a company called Trulia. This was a new start-up company opening its 2nd location in Denver, a trend that seems to still be happening every week here!
I had applied here months prior after hearing what an awesome company it would be to work for and having a friend on the inside. The fact that they called me the same day of being fired was an obvious sign that some sort of destiny was happening. Two interviews later I had my first day with my new company on May 7, 2012.
Going into a tech company was a culture shock after my college years with the Rockies. I could wear whatever I wanted, sit in the same space with my manager, director, and VP’s (they don’t believe in personal offices), and play in a game room fully equipped with ping pong, shuffleboard, and a keg! You could imagine 22-year-old me was overwhelmed at all these changes, but excited to be part of a special company.
Trulia was my first exposure to how many companies are functioning today. They had a vision of a workplace where people would actually look forward to coming in to work, and as a result were more productive than the many other employees in the world who dread going into the office everyday. To this day, I still believe Trulia was the best company I’ve ever worked for. There was never a day I dreaded going in and made some lifelong friends in the process.
Fast forward three years to late 2015. Trulia had grown into a monster in the real estate community, we had one major competitor in Zillow, we had an IPO, and there was no looking back! I had been promoted (yes, based on my performance for once!) and life was great.
Then one day we receive an email informing us that Zillow was in serious talks to buy Trulia. And then it happened. For a small price tag of $3.5 BILLION, all of us Trulians now worked for our longtime nemesis, Zillow. The months following this transaction were grueling. I had to say goodbye to friends that had been there longer than myself, lots of positions were cut, and people were laid off. It’s a natural part of a merger.
My department was one of the lucky ones to stay on board and begin work with Zillow, and at this point is when things started to spiral out of control for me. The merger seemed to make upper management a bit crazy in my opinion, we had lost sight of our values from Trulia, but it’s understandable why it happened.
To make a long story short, as 2016 approached, it became apparent that the company was slowly forcing longtime Trulia employees out the door. Little did I know that I was part of the secret plan.
Between October and January of 2015 I was passed on for two promotions that I had been groomed for over the prior three years. As the calendar flipped to 2016, it seemed every little thing I did was scrutinized. I couldn’t go to the bathroom without being questioned on my whereabouts. The term for this, I’ve learned, is “coaching someone out.” This basically means making someone’s life hell to the point where they quit, and it happens every day at companies around the country.
Unfortunately for Zillow, I had zero desire to leave. I loved the company, and even though a couple members of management set out to destroy my future, I knew I could make it through. I was offered a severance package in January (a pretty generous one), but was too blind to see this as the writing on the wall. They thought so much of me, they wanted to pay me to leave!
I lasted two more months before eventually being fired for a laundry list of nonsense reasons, many not even directly related to me, but somehow tied to me with crafty HR maneuvering. This time around, I didn’t cry, I didn’t mope, didn’t try to blame others. I was pissed off and motivated. During this time away from work I finished my first book, Followed Home, and decided I’m all-in on becoming a full-time author. To me, there is no other option, no plan B. This is what I have to do. And while I work for another awesome tech company at the moment, I have ZERO desire to stay in the corporate world.
Every day when my alarm goes off I’m reminded that I’m waking up for someone else’s dreams, not my own. It’s a sickening feeling when you realize how little time we have in life and every second that goes by not chasing dreams is a pure waste. I know I can get where I want to be with enough work and time put into the process.
All of these themes regarding the workplace are covered in my next book, Insanity. The events that happen to the main character, Jeremy, are things that happened to me. A lot of this anger towards the corporate world fueled this book along with other things.
Later, I’ll be talking about how surviving a mass shooting also helped make this book what it is.
My 1st Corporate Job – 11/1/17
February 19, 2008 was the day I started my life in corporate America. I was 18-years-old, in my 2nd semester of college, and ready to take on the world. Sure I’d had other jobs before like working at a family fun center, scooping horse poop out of used trailers, and reffing youth sports, but none of that prepared me for the monster that was waiting in the shadows of the true Monday-Friday office job.
This was my first day working for the Colorado Rockies. As a huge baseball fan, and the Rockies fresh off their first World Series appearance, it was a dream job by every means for a broke college student (free season tickets, yes please!) I went in there with a dream of one day becoming a Major League Baseball General Manager, because who wouldn’t want to play fantasy baseball with real people and real money for a living?
I strived to be the best, worked hard every day, even sat down with the team’s general manager at the time to let him know about my aspirations. The Rockies were great about working around my school schedule, and I returned the favor by building my school schedule so I could be available at least four days each week (working on Saturdays is pure torture).
In my yearly reviews I was constantly told how great I was, what an asset to the department, and they couldn’t wait til I graduated so I could finally move on to bigger things in a full-time role. After a couple years I was even temporarily promoted to a better role, but demoted after the season had ended to my job in the call center.
I felt trapped. Then I finally graduated from college, and after four years of all this big talk what do you think happened?
I was hung out to dry, passed up from small promotions that should have easily gone my way. All the sudden I found myself in a box, unable to break out, and no one wanting to help. It was absolute hell.
One of the most valuable things I learned in business school was the theory of opportunity cost. This is the belief that something is worth whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay for it. If I buy a Super Bowl ticket for $100, and someone is willing to pay me $1000 for it, it costs me $1000 by not selling it to that person. The opportunity to make that money is present. Coming up on my 5th season with the team and having only received a whole 50 cent raise during that entire time, I decided to apply this economic theory to real life.
The results were great! I could buy tickets from the Rockies at face value for the important games, and sell them online for huge profits. Over the course of two months I had made over $2000 in profits. When you’re only making $13,000/year, that is some huge side cash. While I knew this wasn’t exactly moral, it wasn’t illegal by any means. However, the Rockies didn’t care and caught me, immediately terminating my employment on Opening Day of the season.
I was devastated. All that hard work was officially down the drain and I was back at square one with a business degree and five years of phone experience. I was now 22 and hadn’t been jobless since I was 16, the wake-up call of reality stung!
What happened next was something out of a movie (or book!), but I will save that part of the story for next week as I could ramble on all day.
Do you have any stories to share about being misled and lied to at your job? I feel for most of us this a common occurrence, and we keep on signing up for it job after job.
Signing Event – Denver, CO, November, 11 2017
Come celebrate the release of Insanity three days before the official release date! There will be prizes and a brunch menu. Andre will be selling paperback copies of Insanity for $10 and signing them!
Signing is on Saturday, November 11th at the The Irish Rover in Denver, Colorado.
Free tickets can be reserved HERE.
New Book Release
Insanity, the first installment of the Insanity Trilogy, is coming on November 14, 2017! E-books can be pre-ordered on Amazon.