The answer is so easy it’s laying out right in front of you.
You don’t have anything.
If you feel empty, you have nothing.
A story begins: A long time ago, my mom, my sister, and myself all left an extremely abusive father and a manipulative family.
My dad’s side of the family has money. Substantially more money than my mom has, who works in retail. Substantially more money than my mom’s family has, who never really established themselves in the United States.
There I was. 16-year-old kid, 12-year-old sister, and a 36-year-old mom who are all trying to make life work.
We didn’t get our first apartment for about a year. My mom barely made enough money at that time. Nobody would rent to us, until a nice Russian man allowed us into a small apartment we still rent today. Our great-aunt, who lives in the building, vouched for us.
I was still in high school. When my coach learned that my dad had nearly killed my mom, his heart sank. He had a contact in the insurance industry who would hire me as soon as I graduated high school. My coach was a mentor and a father figure and more. He’s shown me more kindness and taught me lessons in achieving success I couldn’t have found anywhere else.
He was just a distance running coach. But, he helped me understand how to chase what matters.
I was a 16-year-old kid in a tiny apartment, scared, unable to go to college far away because my family needed me. With little money, no work experience, and a future of uncertainty, all I had was a little fear and a lot of family.
Over time, things got better. As Hemingway says, it happened “gradually, then suddenly.”
A pay raise into my first job turned into another pay raise within a month. My new mentor was my boss at the insurance company my coach vouched me into. He became another amazing father-figure in my life.
My mom and my sister began to mentally heal from the tragedies in our past. No crying, no whimpering, no complaining.
And, we worked.
I laid out the stepping stones my sister needed to follow to get into schools like Berkeley and Princeton.
My younger cousin, whose family had housed me when I was homeless for a few months, ended up attending community college with me. He also got into Berkeley.
I got into Berkeley.
By the time I grew comfortable with where I was in life, it was about to shift in tremendous ways again. My sister and I were moving 400 miles north to go to Berkeley, with my cousin.
My boss was so thrilled for my next step. He and his wife took me out to a nice restaurant in Sherman Oaks and handed me a thank-you card along with a $5,000 check for all that I did for their company. By that point, I had been working for them for around 4.5 years.
In my college years, I remember a good friend of mine taking a bus 400 miles to stay a few days with me. Running, going to a baseball game.
By the time college was over, the homeless and poor days were gone. My life hadn’t changed, but those grueling days were over.
The money was always great. It was amazing that I could finally afford anything I could have ever wanted. But, by the time I could, and now that I can, they didn’t matter anymore. Those things I were reaching for were just a footnote of the grand scheme.
Spending a life, building a resume. Except, the biggest things on the resume weren’t about the accomplishments in school, or the dollars I helped investors accumulate.
The greatest value can’t even be included on my resume.
My first boss.
The people who made me what I am. Now that I’m at a place where anything is affordable, I understand that the greatest thing in life isn’t something that can be afforded. It comes free. Otherwise, whatever you’re building is absolutely meaningless.
Everything needs its foundation. Without it, it falls apart.
Without it, you’re in infinite free-fall; limbo. Always searching for something you can’t find.