The “Keep Playing” email is an uplifting start to each day for us at Fairway Independent Mortgage. Originally it was written daily by Steve J., our founder & CEO. Now every day a different person from our company shares a little piece of themselves.
Last year I shared my 9/11 story. Today I shared this….
I am a 2nd generation grocer. By the mid-2000’s I was the Chief Operating Officer of the fastest growing start-up grocery chain in America; a company that I had led from scratch. My focus and intensity made so much happen, but I’d steamroll any vendor or employee that didn’t produce the results exactly how I wanted them.
This roughness towards people eventually got me pushed out the door, years prior to the company selling to Sprouts for hundreds of millions of dollars.
I was devastated as I suddenly found myself with a year’s severance and nothing to do.
A grocery friend of mine had a girlfriend in the mortgage business. She knew of a young twenty-something guy that was teaching a class on how to become a loan officer. That instructor was Kyle Fischer, who all these years later is my branch manager here at Fairway.
What I didn’t know then is that I was Kyle’s very first student. He taught me the business as I leaned into my vast network of grocery industry contacts which generated a lot of leads.
Kyle and I became business partners for the next several years, as I aggressively went out and got the business and Kyle patiently helped structure the deal. Back then I was trying to change my ways, but I was still really tough on the account executives and processors that I worked with.
Kyle and I had a good deal of success until we hit the crash. Suddenly we found ourselves with plenty of clients, but the inability to close any loans as values plummeted and banks were going out of business daily.
Things got so bad that I started secretly driving a taxi-cab overnight (not even Kyle knew) through the meanest streets of Phoenix. This was a life changing experience for me. I met people from all walks of life and would listen to their stories that were often times both sad and inspirational. I would intently listen and sometimes share my story of resilience with them; my career adversity and finally opening up and talking about the death of my fiancée many years earlier. I started to learn that people were generally good; most people just want someone to listen to them and treat them with respect. Whether in the wealthiest or poorest parts of the city, I truly discovered that deep-down people were basically the same.
I was in financial ruin. An opportunity arose to get back into the grocery business in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I said bye to Kyle as I moved my wife and our 11 and 16 year boys to Eastern Idaho, just across the snowy Teton Pass from Jackson Hole.
The new, more humble me became the popular local grocer. I was having more fun and success with people than I ever had before. Then one sub-zero January day a freak accident changed life once again.
My wife Shelly was in the kitchen when she walked past the sink. At that split second the homemade bottle of ginger ale that she had forgotten to pour out exploded. We later learned that once the ingredients of the bottle became warm, this concoction had fermented and turned into a bomb. It knocked her unconscious, broke her nose and a couple weeks later starting showing the signs of a traumatic brain injury.
Over the next weeks she lost all ability to walk and talk. With determination, patience and appreciation for being alive she began gradually to teach herself to walk and talk again, ignoring the doctor that told us that she would never improve.
We were isolated, alone and facing bigger hurdles than anyone could imagine. Our family unit of myself, Shelly and our sons, Dylan and Taylor built an indescribable bond as we all worked together through each challenging day. Shelly’s positivity and grace while going through this life changing event was the final push for me to totally embrace gratitude.
Kyle called to check on us often. Each time we spoke he told me that I needed to come back to Phoenix and join the successful branch that he and his new business partner (Dominick) had built. He explained that the market had changed in the time that I was away and that he had no doubt that I’d do well again.
Each and every time I resisted.
Then one day Kyle called me at the perfect time. I had come to the conclusion that I needed to get Shelly back to the familiarity and support that we had in the city that she loved. I also had come to terms that Shelly would always have challenges from her TBI and the subsequent PTSD. To be the best caregiver that I could be, I needed a career with more flexibility than the grocery business.
From that day forward we set the wheels in motion to get back down to Phoenix.
The mortgage industry had changed considerably from 2010 to 2016 so my learning curve was steep. I studied hard, passed the licensing exam and started again from scratch. I began to diligently connect with the network of people I had built relationships with over the years.
I entered the mortgage business in 2016 a completely different man than I was when I met Kyle ten years earlier. Instead of focusing on how many deals I could close and how much money I could make, I instead put the focus on how much I could help and serve others.
My attention now is on approaching each day with a grateful heart, centered on kindness and patience.
With gratitude now as the center of all aspects of my life, I have found the added benefit that everything else falls more easily into place.