Getting Back on the Workout Wagon

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Down & Out

Even for the most athletically inclined, getting back into an exercise routine after being out of the game for an extended period of time is an obstacle.

In my case, that period of time has been over five years.

Actually writing that feels like failure. It doesn’t feel good to say, or read. That means it’s out there for anyone to see – strangers, family, friends, or otherwise.

It’s like admitting an addiction to complacency and laziness. But that’s the first step in any recovery, and that’s the purpose of this post: Personal accountability to myself.

All we are is how we behave (or respond) in any given moment.

Hi, my name is Travis, and my lazy game is on point!

I say that tongue-in-cheek; I’m not completely sedentary. I have a dog and she requires at least two walks per day. What I’m saying is, it’s been over five years since I’ve gone out of my way to workout.

It’s high time for that to change.

Physical Setback

In February 2014, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing volleyball. It happened on a Sunday night. By Wednesday afternoon, I was in surgery.

I had physical therapy, but I haven’t been back to a gym since. It took eight months to not limp anymore.

Mental Setback

Leading up to the injury, I had memberships at two gyms and had two personal trainers. I was in the best shape of my life and that all came crumbling down with one misstep on the court.

Three months later, I moved to Scottsdale and my life was flipped upside down.

I never climbed back on the workout wagon.

Suddenly, it’s 2019 and I’m left wondering, where has the time gone?

A New Goal

Metaphorically speaking, you can’t walk a mile in someone’s shoes until you run a marathon in your own. It just so happens, I’ve run actual marathons. Three, in fact.

I was about to turn 37 when I decided to run my first marathon. I wanted to accomplish something physical; something that required a certain level of discipline with a rigorous training schedule.

Plus I wanted a tangible reminder that I was capable of accomplishing something when I committed to and focused on a goal.

When people finish marathons, they get a medal. A marathon was an obvious choice. I wanted a medal, and I actually have four!

Between November 2010 and October 2011 I ran three full and two half marathons. The first was Seattle in November 2010, then Anchorage in June 2011. The third was Chicago in October 2011. Both half marathons were fit into my training schedules for Anchorage and Seattle.

Note that not all half marathons produce a medal. Plan accordingly.

There is a purpose to this marathon tangent. When I decided to run Seattle, I read an article that suggested to pick a destination, register, and announce your goal to your friends and family. First, you have a vacation on your calendar. Second, you’re committed, and any deviation from your goal results in having to go back on your word.

That’s one hell of a motivator.

A Labor Day to Thanksgiving Journey

That’s what this is; my public commitment to myself. Between now and December, I’m joining a gym and I’m going to milk the hell out of that membership.

Sadly, this commitment involves no vacation. It involves going to a pop-up gym that shares a parking lot with the grocery store I frequent.

Why Now?

I turn 45 in two weeks. On September 13, 2019 I’ll have completed my 45th lap around the Gregorian calendar.

No congratulations or apologies are necessary. That's not a goal I met. It's more of an achievement anyone can accomplish if they live this long.

Earlier this summer, I set a goal to join a gym by September 1. That’s tomorrow. I tried joining today, but discovered a minor set back straight out the gate.

This particular gym has 24 hour access, but not always staffed. It’s Saturday and they were already gone. Then, I noticed it isn’t staffed on Sundays, and Monday is a holiday.

F.M.L.

The Universe is testing my resolve. After five years of no workouts, the day I muster the energy to start, I couldn’t!

All that did was make me more determined than ever. So I wrote this story.

With any luck, come December, I will arrive at a renewed and improved mental space, which is usually the result of a vacation anyway.

That’s my ultimate goal.

Now I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

The benefits I reap are in direct proportion to the effort I give.

Who knows, after this experiment is complete, maybe I'll be back on board to give a marathon at 45 a shot.

Baby steps, Travis. For now let’s try fitting back into those suits you bought when you moved to Scottsdale in 2014.

That, my friends, is how you hold yourself accountable to a goal.

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No Application For This Job

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The Opportunity of a Lifetime

We’re all pioneers of our own unchartered path. We stumble, trip, fall, crawl, bitch, and argue our way through life’s present conditions every day.

Life is a job for which there’s no application. You are your own boss and that’s all you need to be. It’s a position that requires continual personal growth in order to succeed.

Opportunities knock all the time, but it’s not always easy to know which ones to grab. Right or wrong, every opportunity is a chance to learn.

The more we learn, the better we become. Sometimes, being better requires us to feel worse than ever before.

You’re the Boss, Applesauce

You’ll always hold the top spot in your personal business of being alive. It’s a lifelong position for which you were chosen to sit at the helm.

I can’t tell you much about life, but one thing is clear: Life gets infinitely better when you don’t go out of your way to make other people miserable.

Our minds are terribly complex, and they aren’t horribly difficult to use, but we have an uncanny ability to complicate the simplest things.

We should embrace and encourage a free and fair world as if it’s our collective purpose.

Newsflash! That is our collective purpose.

If you’re capable of leading by example, then lead by example. It’s your only job, after all, and you never know whose life you’ll touch.

First, the Good News

All of us have the ability to inspire others. Inspiration is powerful. We see, hear, touch, taste, feel, and draw inspiration from the people we meet and the passions we pursue.

Life is an adventure worth remembering and there’s a lot to miss. Pay attention to everything around you and notice the puzzle pieces hidden in plain sight every day.

Life is a puzzle without borders. No frame will ever contain the full picture, and you have a lifetime to create your masterpiece.

Remember the past, live in the present, and don't be future blind. Envision your future. Dream about your future. Imagine your potential.

Remember to watch your step. Keep your head up and your mouth closed. Look ahead with your eyes open.

Be aware of your surroundings. Listen carefully to others. Think before you speak. Listen deeply for your truth. Recognize opportunities. Know your options. Make decisions. Die another day. 

Now, the Bad News

Life is no ordinary puzzle. It isn’t built in a day and takes more than a week. Life can, however, fall the fuck apart in an hour.

A word of caution: The sadistic side of life constantly delivers blows of sadness, anger, pain (and others) that have the ability to break you, but only if you let them. 

Generally, we have ideas of what we want and where we’re headed, but it’s not always clear how we’ll get there.

All the while, we’re distracted by self-induced stress (of our own creation) and every other obstacle we cannot control. It’s up to you to know the difference. Detours are inevitable – a lot of them – and it’s easy to get lost.

Everyone gets lost.

It’s not a matter of if, but when. It’s going to happen – if it hasn’t already. When it does, you need to do the finding. Nobody else can do that for you.

Others may support you, but that’s the extent of what they can offer. You’re not their project and they aren’t yours. Care about others, but worry about yourself.

Feeling Alienated?

Communication is the heart of humanity. Bring that to every table when you pull up a chair.

I was pissed off, angry, and pessimistic for a minute. Pessimism has one benefit; it helped me understand how debilitating a bad attitude can be. It didn’t take log to realize I was becoming the type of person who irritates me.

That’s what underrepresented, overlooked, or ignored underdogs eventually realize.

If pessimism got anyone, anywhere, everyone in the world would be on top of the world!

We all have a lot more in common than we think. It just takes a little effort and a few questions, and a willingness to listen and learn.

It pains me when people summarily ignore entire groups – be it age, scene, politics, race, religion, whatever – all because they’re uncomfortable.

Poor things.

Learn to cope with being uncomfortable.

It isn't that hard; we were all twelve at one point.

Heartbreak and hardships are guaranteed in this life, but struggles develop your soul. Pain has a purpose.

Empathy enables us to unite in powerful ways.

Making connections is easier to do when you allow your true self to make first impressions. Anything less is a waste of time.

Show up to your own life and act accordingly.

I’m Feelin’ ’92!

I grew up in Alaska during the culmination of the Cold War. I was born a month after Nixon resigned. By the time I graduated high school, the Berlin Wall was mostly dismantled, and the Soviet Union had collapsed.

Later that year, I began my college experience. Bright eyed and full of hope, my generation was ready to change the world.

Optimism sure is cute until years become decades.

The American Dream halted construction and the crews were sent home.

News, news, words, news, fake news, satire, words, words, Twitter!

Good morning, America! In today’s news, distraction is the main attraction. Now, for our top story, “Politics prove the human capacity for hypocrisy.”

People can develop their most hateful opinions about issues that don’t affect them.

Painful events that remind us that life isn’t fair can be our most valuable teachers. When pain strikes, it’s debilitating, but it’s important to never give up.

Tragic events don’t feel beneficial at the time those events occur, but they help us prioritize what’s important to us, and can often bring clarity.

I’ve done a lot in my life I cannot shout proudly from a mountain top, but I continue learning from the culmination of my mistakes. As well, I can’t say I have any regrets.

Life has a way of correcting your alignment with its course.

I’ve faced, accepted, and owned the crazy things I’ve done. Meeting and getting to know others who open up about the things they’ve done, that society has no business judging, motivates the hell out of me to tell as many stories as I can.

I do what I do because I’m always evolving. I’ve changed my mind countless times about things I thought were true.

Creating a Wake

Life isn’t an accident; life happens on purpose. Some people cause a wake, and others leave an unsettled aftermath.

We crawl before walking, and walk before running. We leave tracks connecting where we’re at, where we’ve been and where we’re from.

Everyone has experience worth sharing. Some won’t, and others will, but nobody can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes until completing a marathon in their own.

You are your #1 priority. Timing is everything and your time is now. Always look after #1. Know how to put yourself first, without being selfish. The more you help yourself, the better you’ll be helping others.

Pay attention to your state of mind. Don’t lose sight of your goals, sacrifice your happiness, or devalue your worth.

Always exercise your mind. Spend your spare time doing things that make you feel something.

Be better than good. Good things happen to good people, but being good is only the beginning.

Actively participate in life. Stay aware of your surroundings. Treat others with kindness. Honesty is the best thing for sleeping well at night. Know yourself by being self aware at all times.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting caught up in some bullshit, so stay out of it.

Always ask why. Question everything to understand anything. Curiosity won’t kill you, but lacking it will.

Do everything with confidence. Confidence is sexy. There’s a difference between being confident, and being a dick.

Laugh. Every. Day.

Be someone you’re proud to promote. You have exactly until you die to become the person you’re proud to be.

Travis Garrod, Devilish Smirk
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A Message For Those Who Need It

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It’s a great time to feel alive, right here, right now, wherever, or whenever we are.

That's one of those feel good mantras I always wanted to believe, but had every reason not to.

Cultivating a life worth living takes time, and patience is a virtue.

Focus on the future value of the decisions you make today, and live life as an unapologetic beautiful soul.

Almost every relationship works the same as finding love: Relationships happen when you least expect.

Any relationship; take your pick, but don’t work too hard to find something that will eventually find you.

Extra Travis Phone Home!

I bet you thought E.T. stood for Extra Terrestrial.

Hang In There Kid!

Hang in there kid, you have a gifted spirit, and deep down you feel it. You exist in a data-based world, and learning’s a lifetime quest.

You’ve already earned the grand prize of life, and now is your time to live. In the playground of good and evil, there’s nothing more to win.

Appreciate and care for others; but your only concern is you.

Keep an open mind, follow your heart, and learn as much as you can.

You’ll fuck up for sure; it’ll happen a lot, and that will never change.

There are lessons to learn from the mistakes you’ll make. Learn to be humble.

Do yourself a favor, start making a list.

You’ll see your reflection in mirrors, at first, and that’s a great place to start.

Be honest about who you are, and acknowledge when you’re wrong. This isn’t a drill.

A lot won’t make sense for a very long time, and you won’t feel importantuntil you believe you’re important

Explore the paths of most resistance, but make good choices. This requires bold decisions, and bold decisions involve risk.

Learn to be spontaneous. Quick decisions aren’t always comfortable, but it only takes one to be the pivot that inevitably changes your life.

Whatever you do, don't become a greedy, selfish, evil, affected, awful lying twat. It never ends well for those.

Universal expectations of humans are low.

Dead or alive, you’re guaranteed a legacy fully directed by the actions you choose.

Failure succeeds at motivating.

You’ll never know what winning feels like until you know what it feels like to lose.

It’s important you do this alone.

I can’t tell you more, but remember this: Life is jam packed with shock and surprise, and I’ll always have your back.

Your Table’s Waiting

Friendships are a special beast within the realm of relationships. Like all relationships, friendships evolve, and they are a two-way street.

A life without friends isn’t much of a life, and making new friends is a crap shoot. Lucky us!

Welcome to the Ca-si-no, I’m not your friend!

It’s like gambling, except when placing bets, we use mental currency, not cash, and it’s amazing what your mind can afford.

P, P, P, Poker Face, P, P, Poker Face!

Life is like an incessant game of poker, and it’s boring if you don’t pay attention. There’s always a spot reserved for you – and only you – for life.

How we behave, interact, and communicate with each other is a culmination of whatever cards life hands us on a daily basis.

You won't win without trying and you have to play anyway. At minimum, poker is entertaining, but can be insanely fun with the right people.

Learn through observation and improve through experience. With a good poker face, a losing hand can win almost any game. Luck can strike at any time and change your life.

Keep your head in the game.

The Best is Yet to Come

I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I’d made better decisions in life. It’s fun to think about how things could be different, if only I just

However, that’s a waste of time. My past made me who I am today. Now is not the time for coulda shoulda woulda didn’t stories. There’s no sense in beating yourself up over shit you didn’t do.

If you want to change anything, apply the knowledge gained from the lessons life has given you and commit to being better, not bitter.

Bring yourself to the table so we can be better, together.

Smile more. Welcome new people, and show interest in others. Put forth an effort to show people you care.

Small changes will evolve your world before you know it. Even still, it takes time; a lot of time.

And patience.

Nobody lives while dwelling in the past and trapped in a loop. Nobody lives when they aren’t present. I’ve been there. It’s a self sentenced purgatory.

Being alive without living is a lonely place.

Imagination Work is a Virtual Brain Gym

Life is a game of wonder.

Nobody lives a life they never imagine, and it’s never too late to dream. You can always discover, create, tweak, finetune, evolve, enhance, and achieve dreams.

However, there’s a caveat. It’s work, and not necessarily work you get paid to do. At least, not at first. It’s work that might pay off down the road.

Your imagination becomes exponentially more active the more you open, stretch, strengthen, and train your imagination.

Imagination training is exhausting, even though you don’t pick up weights. The only thing you lift is your spirit, which, ironically, ultimately lifts you.

My Dream is Virtually Real

Be real and you will begin seeing opportunities that you never thought possible.

Sometimes it takes us to witness a groundswell of humanity in order to realize the secret to life is simple: Life is an internal journey.

In This, We Trust
You - yes you - the person reading (and writing) this right now - we're part of a unique team brought together (or otherwise connected) by incredibly rare circumstances that led us to the right place, at the right time.

Coincidence? It doesn’t matter. Somehow, we’ve crossed paths and it’s about time we have this conversation.

You sacrificed a lot in life early on. Remember? It doesn’t matter what you could have done different. We can play that game for the rest of our lives. Right now, it’s sudden death and the net is wide open. Missing this opportunity is unacceptable.

Everything must fall apart before anything can be pieced back together. Betrayal and loss are experiences everyone needs.

Everything happens for a reason. Nobody enters your life by accident. An actual occurrence of coincidence is rare.

Your external existence will never soar if you don’t understand and reinforce the foundation of your internal existence.

There are good and bad decisions, but there are no right or wrong ones. How we deal with the outcomes defines us as individuals.

A guilt-free conscience is the best prescription for quality sleep.

Embrace each day as an opportunity to push forward with an open mind and a kind soul.

Never forget: A life of privilege isn’t a privilege at all. The longer you live without experiencing heartache and hardships is a disadvantage.

Be nice, be kind, and do the right thing.

Love wins.

Always.

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He Gave and Hath Taken Away

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For 15 years my former company, et alia, provided me a sense of job security, until that security was taken away.

Self Made Storyteller laid the foundation for this story. Here's a little more background and context.

At et alia, our “good times” emerged in cycles, each one increasingly larger than the last – both in good and bad ways. None were as monumental as the final cycle. It ended in spectacular and rapid fashion.

The stakes were high that cycle, which spanned from 2009 to 2014.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

The next opportunity was risky, and at the expense of personal financial stability.

It’s give and take, only you don’t take anything. You receive.

Welcome to Devilish Smirk.

Facts of the Matter

et alia had a good run, but a sad ending. What I didn’t realize at the time was the “why” behind its demise.

Extraneous forces were hard at work for years trying to accomplish something. What, exactly, wouldn’t be clear for a while (i.e. years after et alia’s dissolution).

What’s amazing about et alia’s demise was that we were extremely well positioned in our niche within the SAP ecosphere, much to the chagrin of others in the industry.

et alia developed CREW, the SAP’s vertical industry solution for construction, general contractors, specialty trade contractors, and project-based services. All the while, building a database of industry trade secrets from which to develop the Intellectual Property that would ultimately be stolen and sold around the world.

To our face, SAP told us that CREW was their “go to market” solution for construction and project-based contractors. They would tell customers the same thing if any expressed concern about et alia’s longevity due to its size.

“Help Us!”

Every time SAP reached out to et alia for help, they had their tail between their legs. We called those opportunities rescues. A rescue was necessary when SAP initially fell on their face in front of a prospect.

After each rescue, we thought we’d proved ourselves to the point of loyalty. Sadly, no. We’d find out about yet, another rescue.

What became apparent is that SAP would routinely keep us in the dark about their prospects in deals where CREW’s functionality was relevant and essential. They hated their reliance on et alia.

SAP asked us to use et alia’s CREW system for demonstrations, but never invited us to the demos. They even went so far as to ask us to remove the et alia logo from the CREW demo system.

The partnership agreement et alia had with SAP guaranteed et alia a percentage of the SAP software cost when et alia CREW was part of the sales cycle.

Prospects would often wonder why SAP never introduced et alia earlier, but most times it was too little too late. Then, SAP would blame et alia for any loss because our implementation costs were too high.

If anything, we were on the low end of consulting costs.

Even still, SAP would introduce different implementation partners, sometimes using our proposals, at significantly reduced rates (but better licensing profit).

A past prospect of et alia's notified us when SAP returned with our proposal with a different implementation partner and rates.

But one of the most important customer they lied to was Turner Construction Company.

Again?

At the time et alia met Turner, SAP already lost the account. Turner was ready to sign Oracle contracts in mid-2009 when an et alia saleswoman got her foot in the door at a construction networking event.

Coincidence? I'm not so certain anymore.

Shockingly, Turner had never heard of et alia. They didn’t know et alia had actually developed functionality that SAP wasn’t able to show because they didn’t have or develop their own functionality.

Turner invited et alia to demonstrate what we’d built so far. Once they realized et alia had developed the functionality that SAP was unable to address, they put their Oracle signing on pause.

They gave et alia 30-days to develop a list of enhancements on top of what we demonstrated.

We returned in 30 days and demonstrated Turner’s requested enhancements on top of what we already had in CREW.

With that, Turner canceled their Oracle signing and began negotiating with the SAP team that Turner kicked out in the first place.

Then SAP came back to et alia in an effort to renegotiate the software license commission agreement we already had in place.

Ultimately for Turner, according to SAP, they discounted SAP software for the Turner licenses approximately 98%. That’s what they told us. et alia still received roughly $900,000 (which was 20% of the discounted list price).

Convenience has never been so obvious.

Pillars of Importance

A life without learning isn't much of a life at all. That's what happens when threading together the frayed cluster of a rope's loose ends.

What et alia did in the SAP industry helped expose the level of economic crime and fraud in the SAP sales process and subsequent implementations.

No wonder they wanted us as far away from the licensing side of SAP software...but they still needed to sell systems internationally, in construction and contracting.

Now, what others in the SAP world say is anyone’s guess. We had what felt like “good cops” purporting to be champions of et alia, and others who did nothing to mask their disdain for everything about us.

I’ll let et alia’s track record speak for itself. This is not a comprehensive list. These are important highlights of et alia’s last six years.

2009

SAP, both in the USA and Canada, booked the biggest et alia CREW deals to date. Turner Construction in the USA, and Churchill Corporation in Alberta, Canada. Turner’s project began in September 2009, and Churchill started in October.

Turner had significant concerns over et alia’s longevity due to its size and they were about to become our largest project to date.

Turner was the primary project manager for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

After closing both Turner and Churchill, et alia had grown to 100 fulltime employees.

SAP assured Turner that et alia and CREW were their “go to market” solution for construction.

By some accounts, SAP even mentioned purchasing et alia to Turner.

Fun fact: The CEO of the company that purchased et alia in 2014 joined SAP in December of 2009. Turner contracts were signed in September 2009. His responsibility involved developing SAP's own construction solution. They called it Commercial Project Management (CPM). CPM lacked essential project management and complex union payroll functionality that et alia developed in both US and Canadian implementations.

2010

et alia was actually in discussions to sell as early as 2010 based on the Turner and Churchill success. For one company in particular, we had established a “ballpark” number of $20-something million USD. Those discussions quickly fell apart after an abrupt management change within the interested company.

2011

et alia achieves its highest revenue of any year, nearly $18 million. That was the highest annual revenue for et alia between 1999 and 2014.

2012

In December 2011, Construction Executive magazine names CREW a 2012 Hot Product in Construction. et alia loses its Director of Presales to SAP in January 2012. SAP strong arms et alia into accepting the poach. “Be a good partner, it will be a “win/win” in the future.

et alia doesn’t close another CREW deal for the rest of 2012, and et alia’s rapid decline begins.

2013

et alia’s plunge continues, but sells its final CREW deal. It was a fixed bid, small to midsize construction solution we called CREW Emerging. The customer was LPCiminelli (LPC) in Buffalo, NY. The final bid price was less than $500K, but stretched out over the course of the latter half of the year.

In September, out of financial desperation, et alia offers two executive team members the opportunity to buy in 8% of et alia. One said no, and one bit. The one who bought in 8% was longtime friends with the et alia Director of Presales whom SAP poached in January 2012.

2014

Two companies begin talking to et alia at the same time, Kiewit Construction in the USA (which would change its name to InEight that May) and ILLUMITI in Canada. Somehow, Kiewit became privy to the confidential ILLUMITI discussions (price, specifically), and Kiewit issued a “letter of intent” which halted et alia’s ongoing discussions with ILLUMITI.

et alia sells for the total of its debt with a few dollars on top.

The CEO of the new company is the same gentleman who went to SAP in December 2009, right after et alia and SAP booked the Turner and Churchill deals.

Less than a year later, I was retaliated against for escalating an HR claim to the head of HR who, in turn, forked it over to an HR investigator from Kiewit’s corporate office. The complaint was about the CEO. A week after I was gone, the head of HR was constructively terminated.

Fun Fact: LPC never fully paid et alia at the time of sale in 2014. The way the purchase agreement worked was that all outstanding accounts receivables were received by et alia, paid to Kiewit/InEight, and paid back to et alia. LPC still had an outstanding balance of nearly $45,000 at the time we were terminated. et alia never received that money.

Here in an instant, gone in a flash, what have I done to deserve this?

Suffering is Optional

The past several years have been an intense learning experience about our country and its judicial priorities. What’s clear at this point that the purchase of et alia was a fraudulent transaction, and Kiewit knew it at the time.

The gentleman who signed the purchase agreement knew it, and Kiewit's attorney, who negotiated the contract, but didn't show up to the signing, knew it.

I never knew that until after we were terminated from InEight.

I wonder what would have happened if we pulled out of the sale once the press release announcing the sale was released hours before the signing.

We made the accusation to Kiewit attorneys that the purchase of et alia was fraud on July 7, 2015. More on that in this story that I published in December 2018, a day or so before the government shutdown.

We’ve had lawyers deter us from proceeding, telling us there’s nothing that can be done about this situation. Eventually, in January 2016, we went to the FBI’s Phoenix office and reported everything we knew at the time.

Later that year, after not hearing from the FBI, we contacted a Russian embassy reporting what we knew to be major constitutional violations against us as U.S. citizens.

Meanwhile, the world is over a barrel while the United States deals with its Trump nightmare.

Plenty of people out there would like historic truths about et alia to remain buried or forgotten, except neither are options.

Whether or not I can make a difference in a corrupt world remains to be seen, but I feel a hell of a lot better not sitting on the facts I know.

This is life, and life is a fulltime job.

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Self Made Storyteller

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It's been a wild ride, but I don't regret a thing. I could have done without a few of the moments, but what's done is done and I wouldn't change a thing.

A Writer’s Life

If you’d have asked me five years ago, today, where I’d be in five years, none of my answers would’ve come close to my current reality. I’d have told you, you were out of your expletive mind.

No way in hell. You're crazy. That would never happen.

It happened. Here we are. Words of expressed reflection pouring from my fingertips.

I began writing in 2015, during the time between losing my job and registering Devilish Smirk.

At the time, I didn’t know how or where to begin, not beyond journaling and work email. Since I rarely journaled and had no job, a “blog” was an obvious choice.

Coming up with the name and securing its space was the easy part.

I still don’t know much about being a writer, other than I spend a lot of time doing it.

Writing requires a long game.

In the beginning, I was curious what writers in history had to say. The message that resonated with me was part of a quote slideshow.

I can't recall the exact quote, but the gist of it is "you cannot begin a story until the last word is written."

Whether or not that’s true, it stuck with me ever since. Its impact has everything to do with my mindset at the time: I had no end in sight.

Photo Credit: Jeff Brezovar

Understanding that, I realized my journey to writing signified a beginning.

I had (and have) a lot to learn about my story. I'm plotting my own unchartered path.

That’s when I registered Devilish Smirk.

I affectionately refer to Devilish Smirk as my hobby blog. It’s my training ground, one of the most important development tools on my journey to become a writer.

That was four years ago, in the summer of 2015. But let’s take it one step further, back to April 30, 2014.

It was a day that would become a significant live PIVOT (Personal Insight Visible Over Time) in my life.

Don't worry, this comes full circle.

Five Years Ago

It was April 29, 2014, on the eve of the sale of et alia, I was in the Detroit airport en route to Scottsdale for the signing.

A sudden last minute contingency was placed on the next day’s contracts. It came out of left field and was non-negotiable.

They placed a $600,000 holdback of purchase price, based on passing an SAP audit necessary for partnership status. That responsibility fell directly on my shoulders.

I accepted the responsibility as if I had a choice. My future was contingent on passing that audit, not to mention $600,000.

I missed my connection and stayed in Detroit overnight. I caught the first available flight to Phoenix the next morning.

April 30, 2014

It was finally the day. Four months of negotiations, meetings, and conversations came to a head. The entire day’s meeting was videotaped, or it was set up to look like it was.

The first thing unnatural that happened was the press release announcing the sale went out several hours before the signing.

I didn't know it at the time, but like the Grinch's heart, SAP's market cap increased by two billion that day.

Complete silence from the newest partner who bought in 8% even though he was about to lose half his investment.

His vocal gripe was his moving package. I wasn’t extended a contract. I was coming over as a straight-up employee. There were no guarantees for me; I was dispensable. They could terminate me at any time.

At one point, the CEO asked me how I felt things were going. Before I could answer, he brushed me off like I didn’t matter.

The last 15 years of my life meant nothing.

Not at that moment in time.

That’s a humbling blow at 39.

Dance with the Devil

The partners of et alia sold its assets along with “all known and unknown lawsuits” to Kiewit Technology, Inc.

Kiewit sent a substitute, contract attorney.

“Ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?”

After the five partners of et alia signed the purchase agreement, that’s the actual quote the then CEO of Kiewit Technology, Inc. (InEight) muttered.

He said it once the agreements were stacked neatly in front of him.

As he went in to sign I interrupted him, from across the table, with the rest of the quote from 1989’s Batman by Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

“I always ask that of all my prey, I just like the sound of it.”

The CEO’s ears perked up. He looked directly at me from across the table and said, “Travis, I may have underestimated you. I need to get to know you better.”

Then, he signed.

Immediately, my phone vibrated. It was a text from the et alia attorney who joined us at the table.

"Document that" was all it said.

That night, at dinner, I sat across the table from the CEO. He told me that I had no idea how impactful it was that I knew the Joker quote earlier. He said it changed his opinion of me.

What?

I remember it well since it was the first and only time I ever ate a raw oyster.

Another thing that the CEO told me about contracts, when discussing my lack of one, was that “all contracts can be gotten out of through loopholes.”

That stuck with me ever since.

Seeds.

The CEO went on to say that after I moved to Scottsdale, we’d have to get together at his house for dinner, and he would show me his bat cave.

Fun fact: The CEO is a DC comics fanatic. He has a tattoo of Gotham City on his shoulder and wore Batman socks and t-shirts to work.

I was 39 so it’s not like it was a pedophile thing. Needless to say, I never made it to the bat cave.

Another fun fact: The CEO was the CIO of gulf-based contractor, Roy Anderson, who became an early CREW customer, almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina. History.

Over time, the impacts of his actions shed light on motives that began making a lot of other shit potentially make sense.

It was the strangest day of my life; the day we sold et alia.

Set Up to Fail

The 11 months I spent at Kiewit/InEight, I was being set up to fail.

Leading up to the sale, the CEO initially wanted Brad, my co-founding partner, to fire me before the transaction took place. That didn’t happen. When push came to shove, I was at least offered a position.

I don't know what those clowns expected, but I was a co-founder. Sadly for Kiewit, I came with the package.

Even still, the CEO even persisted and regularly informed Brad he was going to have him fire me within a year.

For whatever reason, they wanted me out of the picture.

I passed the SAP audit in June, renewing partnership compliance for one year. et alia received the $600,000 hold back, and I kept my job.

I was promoted twice the latter half of 2014.

At my first review, my manager said, “the expectation was that you’d get here, and you’d fall on your face.”

I was one of three promotions announced in December 2014 for new roles in January.

The review I received in February 2015 was great. My manager was incredibly happy with my performance, his sentiments reflected in the review he wrote.

I never imagined the escalation of HR accusations reported to me, against the CEO, by employees I managed, would result in my ousting.

April 2015 Departures

Brad Nicolaisen laid me off on April 13, 2015. He was constructively terminated on April 22, 2015.

A good place to start for the truth would be Kiewit’s then Director of Government Relations.

Hi Jill.

She only played a role in a few major incidents affecting me. Maybe her side could shed more light on why.

After 11 months and two promotions, they lumped me into a layoff of 30+ employees – some of whom participated in an investigation of anonymously reported HR incident(s) involving the CEO.

All previous attempts to get rid of me failed. They did it that way.

Overnight, I didn’t have anyone to manage, help, or assist. I had had nowhere to be, and no one to see.

I’d spent my entire career bound to the corporate world. After almost 16 years, I found myself jobless without many options.

Certainly, I was not about to return to that industry.

I had mixed feelings about it, but I knew, deep down, I’d rather die than have anything to do with that industry.

Plus, my attention was increasingly focused on other options. And I never signed a confidentiality agreement.

That's the best part.

Making Sense Out of the Nonsensical

I loved to write, but I’d never written anything for myself.

My degree is in Journalism. Of all things. This should come as no surprise. Finally, my college years made more sense.

My college experience was a whirlwind, but I didn’t attribute anything happening in my life because of my degree.

All this time I thought college was for the multitude of other experiences it afforded me. My inner journalist was stoked, but journalists aren’t beloved by everyone in this world.

The End

The end of this story is clear. There’s nowhere to go but up from here.

The events of yesterday matter as much as you make them.

Reel into your core, and have honest conversations with yourself. Look in a mirror if you have to. Eventually, you won’t need one. One day, the scales tip.

I realized the fine line between being careful and careless. Too much in one direction, and the overextended end flips your life in unproductive ways.

It’s hard to be optimistic these days. That’s when I stopped adapting to respond, and started adapting to understand.

It’s a line I toe daily.


The Devil Made Me Do It

I stand up for what’s right, I know how to fight, and that makes me a threat.

Travis Garrod, Devilish Smirk

Five years is a good timespan for the beginning and end of a story.

What the Hell Happened in Scottsdale?

April 2014: Dance with the Devil
2015: Devilish Smirk
2016: Domestic Terrorists Live Among Us
2017: Think Inside the Box, Pivot & Go
2018: Answers
April 2019: Phoenix Emerges from the Colorful Crap Ashes

Reading my stories from the top-down is a reverse version of my evolution, but an evolution nonetheless, but there’s no wrong place to start.

It is a form of Choose Your Own Adventure! Eventually all the stories tie into one another, and yours hopefully makes more sense.

2020: Foresight is 20/20

I feel like I’m crawling out of a steaming pile of extraordinarily colorful crap ashes.
*Currently In theaters in the future*

Where will you be in five years?

What were you doing on April 30, 2014?

I can’t believe I was eating a raw oyster, or that I was celebrating anything.

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