This is not an endorsement, far from it. This is a part of my story.
I went to college for all the wrong reasons.
I went because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Doing what you think you are supposed to do when it comes to your far-reaching life choices is just not something I would recommend. At some point we need to be selfish. Being selfish is not inherently bad; everything in moderation, right? So there is a time and place to be selfish — and what you do with your life after graduating high school is one of those times and places.
My Dad had recently moved abroad again, my Grandfather had recently died,
and I recently discovered how much I enjoyed experimenting with the different experiences that excessive drug use could exhume from the mind.
School was never my forte. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn. I will read and study endlessly about the things that interest me until my mind is full. The public school system just never did well at making me feel engaged or that a majority of what they were teaching me was going to apply to my every day life. At least, not in the way they were teaching me.
I have known for a long time that I was going to make something of myself, whatever that something is, and schooling wouldn’t be able to take much credit for it.
There is a school I give a lot of credit, September School in Boulder.
However that is a time for another part of my story.
Because I don’t like school, and because my parents did well by themselves (and saved for college since my birth), I decided I was going to take an all expenses paid vacation. The only place I wanted to go was a place that inspired just about every fiber of my being while I was there. Both good and bad.
I chose to go the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and study as an English major.
My Dad had recently moved abroad again, my Grandfather had recently died, and I recently discovered how much I enjoyed experimenting with the different experiences that excessive drug use could exhume from the mind.
What I wrote earlier is very important to this decision, as there was something about Honolulu that no television, brochure, visit, or news anchor had ever mentioned to me once in my 18 years on the planet.
Honolulu is a very dark and dirty place, one of the seediest underbellies in the nation. Waikiki itself at night particularly — and nobody talks about it.
This was the perfect storm for what became my mental break with reality, subsequent legal troubles, and battle with mental health.
You’re going to get tired of hearing this, but that is a story for another time. I’m a successful college dropout, remember?
If we skip forward by about 2 years I found a job interview to get into the ground floor of an eCommerce paintball site, literally. It was in this guy’s basement.
I have been offered every job I have interviewed for, and this was no different. Interviewing is probably the single most important part of securing a job. Nobody cares what your resume says if you can’t function like a professional adult and present yourself as a confident person who knows what they are doing.
If you aren’t confident in yourself, how can you expect your employer to be confident you can do your job?
I was ecstatic to receive this job with no benefits and starting at $10/hr. At the time I was working in retail at an educational toy store for $7.50/hr +.03% commission. That number is not a joke. The catalyst for this new job was them reducing my pay by $.50/hr and giving me a commission rate that would make me have to sell 5 times the store’s paltry daily take just to make that $.50/hr back in commission. The store’s mission was great, the management was out of touch and incompetent and I felt like a high school kid in a high school job.
Hustle Paintball was the exact place that I needed to springboard myself into the career that I have now. I was able to do everything from shipping and receiving to order management, marketing, video recording/editing/writing, and graphic design. Graphic design was something I was always doing growing up on forums. In my early teens (00s) I was moderating and game mastering private online Lineage 2 servers. I was taking free commissions from randoms to design them signatures with any kind of imagery I could find at that time. I even have a really old Photobucket account lying around with some of it in there.
Being the guy who designed logos, banners, websites, etc. Really gave me the experience I needed after almost 4 years to feel like that is what I wanted to do with myself professionally.
No more 3 hour phone calls with no sales, No more shipping, No more front-end retail anything.
Just graphic design. The idea was a little daunting, but why not? A challenge was necessary. I wanted to see if I could hack it. Hell, I wanted to see if anyone would actually hire some dude with a high school degree and some college experience as an English major — with the audacity to call himself a graphic designer.
So like previously, which I neglected to mention — I had my wife (then girlfriend) and my wonderful mother comb through Craigslist for another job listing for me. There are some things I cannot very well apply myself to, and this is one of those things. I am so appreciative that I had their help at that time.
Another interview, this time much more thorough and professional.
We didn’t even start face to face. It all began with an email response asking me if I could schedule a phone interview. This is where my process about this became very important, I feel, and I could even ask my current co-worker and former boss that hired me to find out.
I responded to the email as quickly as possible with my open (unemployed) schedule at that point, we set up a time and I was excited. I didn’t look forward to it too much or think about it too much, I feel like that can mess me up. So I set my mind on other things until it was time.
The phone call went without a hitch. I am an introvert that absolutely despises the phone, I really dislike talking on it. There’s something about it that really fucks with me mentally and I am still unable to concisely put it to words. So despite that, I am able to very much ignore it for however long is necessary and present myself as I am, as someone who “wants” to be on the phone.
Brandi, the interviewer, ended the phone call telling me she was going to send me a graphic prompt to compare with the other candidates and she needed to have it from me by the end of the weekend.
She had it within the hour.
This was very important to me. I wanted her to know that I can work very fast when necessary but still provide quality work. That must have made an impression because here I am working at The Motorcycle Company as the Lead Graphic Designer closing in on 5 years later.
TMC is a Harley-Davidson Dealership group that manages 6 dealerships across the nation.
High Octane Harley-Davidson in MA
Palm Beach Harley-Davidson in FL
Rawhide Harley-Davidson in KS
Avalanche Harley-Davidson in CO
Riverside Harley-Davidson in CA
Huntington Beach Harley-Davidson in CA.
When I was hired by TMC they had just picked up their 3rd dealership (Avalanche) and were just starting to put together their dealership group because they knew it was only going to get bigger and harder to manage.
So again, I lucked into a situation at the very ground floor that gave me the opportunity to grow and succeed with the company.
I guess, the moral of this part of my story is that it is possible to be a successful college dropout. It just takes a hell of a lot of desire, starting low, working your way up by continuing to look for a better opportunity when it is time — and a dash of luck.
Make sure you learn to interview too. Legitimately, take an interviewing class. I took one in my senior year in high school and the lessons I learned were invaluable to me.
Don’t go to college just because you feel like you should based on societal, familial, or peer pressures.
If you are not ready, you are seriously not ready. It may just set you back a few years in other ways if you go when it isn’t time.
I don’t know if I will ever go back to school. I do know that I will be ready when I do.
©2017 Trevor Elms