Early in 2015, as I drove to the first day of my new job, I found myself getting off the highway an exit early so that I could drive through the neighborhood I grew up in. Soon, tears of joy were streaming down my face. The crisp winter air cooled my flushed cheeks as I stepped up to the building where I now work. As I walked in, I felt for the first time like I had arrived, and that my future was worth looking forward to.
My name is Jason Flamm. I grew up poor. I grew up in a family that has spent their entire lives in the food and retail business. My father went to prison when I was 13 and my mother worked multiple jobs just to scrape by. By age 25, I had already worked more than 20 different jobs. I was the first and only person in my family to graduate high school and (eventually) get a college degree. I was 31 when I finally got my Associate’s Degree. I’m currently 33 and I’m still working on my Bachelor’s. Everything I’ve tried to accomplish in life, has felt like a never ending uphill battle. Without a network of people, without marketable skills, and without a good example of what success looks like, I’ve sometimes felt like giving up completely.
The year I turned 30, I decided to take hold and change my entire life. But, that didn’t mean the universe was going to make it easier for me.
I quit my job. I ended an unhealthy relationship. I went back to school. I lost over 140 lbs. I focused on doing things that would add value to myself, others and someday the world. While I worked on getting my education, I started a side project that wound up helping me change my life. I started STL SketchPAD, a monthly sketch comedy show. I had no idea where it would lead me and who it would have an effect on. Writing and performing comedy was just something I loved to do and, thankfully, I’m too insecure to try to do things all by myself. So, I invited a group of people to team up with me.
Each month I invite new people to join my team and, for some reason, they keep showing up. I purposely changed the circle of friends that I was a part of. I wanted to collaborate and work with people who were like minded and who were trying to do something special. I found myself surrounded by people who had the kind of careers that I had hoped to have someday. Those people began to help me, coach me and encourage me to start applying to better jobs. Jobs where you don’t end up with trash can water on your face and shirt (worst thing ever).
Eventually, I went back to the food and retail industry. I worked at Starbucks for a year and a half and even back at Dominos for another stint. But, while doing so, I applied to different places, rewrote my resume over and over again and hoped that someday I wouldn’t have to deliver pizzas or make other people’s coffee to earn a living. Then, finally it happened; I got a new job. I started a career at a marketing agency downtown. It’s the best work environment I’ve ever been in. I have complete autonomy and my employers trust me to do my job well. In the world of fast food and retail, you have a supervisor over your shoulder telling you “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” You have to work holidays and not see your family, because “not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving with turkey and stuffing.” And you have to bail on your friends on Saturday night because weekends are “when you make your money.” For some, working food and retail is perfectly fine. A job is a job. But, for me, I never wanted the same life my parents, aunts, uncles and everyone else around me had. I wanted, and will always want, more.
I had to work hard to get here. I had to take a side path. I had to find creative ways to add skills to my resume that a potential employer might actually find useful. Believe it or not, “worked at Domino’s Pizza for six years”, isn’t that eye catching to most employers.
Things that were impressive:
- Blogging for over 10 years
- Foster a community of creative people
- Reading behavioral psychology books (for fun)
- Teaching myself email marketing & SEO
- Showing lots of writing examples
- Being endorsed by someone who works here
Without creating and doing those things on the side, I believe I would still be stuck in an occupation that led me to depression, weight gain and at times, hopelessness.
You may not have the same life experiences I’ve had. You may not want the same future I want. The point of this article is to encourage you, if you are trying to make a change or land a job you’ll love, to continue working your butt off (even if only on the side) on the things you love to do. Get really freaking good at them. Then share those things with the people around you. Let others feel your passion and share in your successes.
Through that, I fully believe that dreams can come true and goals can be reached. I’ve seen it firsthand. When it happens for you, I hope you’ll take a moment to take it all in and then inspire other people to do the same. Also, if you ever want to write comedy, I know a great group of people who would love to help you.
Keep creating. Keep writing.
Who knows where it might take you?
Jason Flamm is the creator and producer for STL SketchPAD. He has helped over 50 writers and performers produce comedy (many for the first time) while putting on dozens of shows since 2011. If you’re interested in learning more about STL SketchPAD or what Jason is doing, subscribe to his mailing list. He’d love to meet you and learn how he can serve you. You can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bfLy3v you can also find him on Twitter @STLSketchPAD or on the web at http://stlsketchpad.com