Sunday, August 2, 2009

How did I get here?



Yesterday I said that I was going to share an uncomfortable thought about getting clarity about what you want. I'm going to postpone that thought for a later date.

I was talking to Amy (my wife) today about this process. I asked her how she liked the posts so far. She said that they were great, but they missed any personal connection to me. She has been through a lot with me over the last 18 years and has gone through the serious lows that led to the great things that we have done. She's right of course, so tonight I am going to start to give a little background on how I got to this point.

In 1993 I married Amy Melissa Tisdale. I knew that I would marry her from the first time I kissed her. We moved in together less than 2 months after we met, much to the concern of my friends and family. When we were married I was working in a motorcycle shop as a salesperson. Before that I had spent my summers working in a bicycle shop and winters in a ski/snowboard shops. I started to think about a career path that would provide better so I decided to give my Dad a call. My Grandfather started Sanel Auto Parts in the 1930's. My family grew the business to a 50 store operation over the next generation. My Dad split off from the company in 1984 with 9 stores of his own in northern NH and VT. He had a nice business and even though I wasn't really interested in auto parts (I did love cars though) I thought it would be stupid of me not to pursue it.

After a number of phone calls convincing Dad that I was serious, I moved to St. Johnsbury VT. He had told me that he was starting to think of retiring and it would make sense for him to turn the business over to me since none of my brothers were interested in it. My Dad and I had always had a special bond. He favored me over my brothers and wasn't shy about showing it. It put a wedge between us and added a lot of stress to my early life. My parents were divorced when I was 5 so he really wasn't around much. When he did take us for a visit he spoiled us with anything we wanted. He always had piles of money and was very generous with it.

I started at the warehouse as a counterman. I learned fast. I was dedicated to learning everything about the business that I could. I treated it like it was mine from day one. Everything I saw I questioned why we did it and thought of ways to improve. Over the next few years I moved to various positions and eventually became the Vice-President. I oversaw everything including purchasing, store operations, financials and the 93 employees. It was way to much for one person to handle, but all the while I was thinking about how I would own it one day. In my mind I was just doing what I needed to do. My son Max was born in 1996. I didn't see him that much as a baby. I left for the office at 5:30am and usually didn't get home until 6:30 or 7pm.

I sat in the same office as my Dad. It was hell. My dad is the fastest talker in the world. He is also one of the rudest, inconsiderate people I have ever met in my life. I was constantly embarrassed by his inappropriate language and his incompetence. I would have a rep from a company in the office trying to solve inventory problems and he would be telling dirty jokes. I was struggling to grow the company while he called everybody an asshole and watched porn at his desk behind me. It was the most toxic environment I have ever been in. He would leave the office around noon and by 3 or 4 the phone calls would start. He would call every 5 minutes to ask about something. And he would be drunk. I mean stinking shitfaced drunk. So drunk it was hard to understand him. He would call and yell at me. He ran me around like a puppet. He would call up and fire people then not remember it the next morning. I would do my best to try to keep him from everybody, but there was no way to do that. The stress it created was unlike anything I've ever experience still to this day.

During this period I found out that he had been trying to sell the company without me knowing it. When I called him out on it he told me that I would be well taken care of. Then I was the one who had to present the figures and talk to the companies who might buy us out because my Dad couldn't talk business with them.

I started to become physically sick. I constantly had stomach problems. I would get chest pains. I was in a pit of despair. If it wasn't for Amy I don't know what I would have done. Every night she would help to try to calm me down while I got so worked up I couldn't sleep. I would drink too, because I thought it would relax me.

I honestly didn't think that there was any way out. I was making 55k a year, which after working in a bicycle shop was a fortune. There was no way that I could leave and go back to making 25k a year at a bicycle shop. I had a wife and a child to take care of and bills to match my salary. I only went to college for one year. I didn't think that my experience running the parts store would be very valuable without some kind of degree. I had no self confidence. I was broken. I began to understand why people would commit suicide. I would never do that, but I understood the despair that could push somebody into thinking that there were no options left.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the man who rescued me and put me on this path without even knowing it.

4 comments:

Tony said...

As I read this I was thinking that nothing drives a person to be at the top more than spending time at the bottom. At the bottom is where you get the true measure of who a person is. A winner will evaluate his position and find a way out of it by being smart, being determined and by not letting the discouragements that come along with progress sway them from their purpose. A quitter will find all kinds of reasons why it just can't be done. And its NOT about the money as you said earlier..."money follows when great ideas are pursued with passion"

kellywalter said...

OMG! I love your raw honesty, your pure vulnerability, your truth and the real story. I can tell you for a fact that other people in your family have been through that horrible dynamic, perhaps with not as much "bait" but with the same pain. I am so proud of you for telling your truth! You are amazing and wonderful and so is Amy and I only pray that I can tell all my ugly thruths to someone someday and not be judged. Love you cousin. Thanks for being brave... and true. That in itself is your Karmic Justice. xox

YM said...

Wow Nate, great post. I think, as Kelly said, that everyone in this family has been to their own "pit of despair" for various familial reasons. I think if we could all be as open and honest as you were about your pit, we could all heal. You are an inspiration!

Love you Cuz : )

"Sherpa" John Lacroix said...

Family isn't just bound by blood... as a member of your family in soul, you know I know about despair. I love your writing Nate. I'm learning more in a few posts then you've ever truly delved into while running... I only heard the surface facts...

I hope this is all helping you get closer to your future. ;)

SJ