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My Career, Part Two

To anyone just coming across this blog, Part One was written a couple months back,over here.

So, fast forward to about 1997. I had originally decided to spend the year after high school getting my head straight and ready for college. Instead, I woke up one morning in an apartment with a pregnant wife, a 1980 Chevette and more questions about my direction in life than I did at graduation. No time for me to worry about them, though. I had an 80-hour work week as a pizza delivery driver. It’s funny how the real world can punch you in the face…

I had taken every opportunity to polish my design skills up to this point, taking any gig – paying or not – to grow as a designer. In Chesapeake, Virginia and its blue-collar workforce, there was no way I was going to make it as a graphic designer in my situation. So, when you have to work 12 hours a day to keep food on the table, and no time to be picky about where the money comes from, passions tend to take a back burner. I turned to designing out of pure enjoyment, developing mock logos and posters on my downtime. For the next couple years, and what seemed to be the foreseeable future, I had to worry about making a buck with a 20 year-old subcompact and learning how to be a father.

Eventually, after learning how to re-build a car multiple times over, the Chevette finally tapped out. Now without remotely reliable transportation, the only logical path that I could see with still limited resources was management. Sometimes, I think back to those long summer days of delivering pizzas in a car with no air-conditioning, no power steering, no power brakes and an exhaust leak, and I wonder how I made it out alive.

I would end up managing pizza joints at a higher pay and slightly less hours, which enabled me to get serious about my design passion again. I would stick with this glamorous profession for the next four years, through a divorce, as much college as I could possible attend, and a million other stories that I will kindly spare you from until I publish them, until I had reached my boiling point in 2004. I was within spitting distance of thirty and still had no idea where I was going. I only knew that my passions were fatherhood, music and design, and I’m not pretty enough to launch a music career. On a phone call with my brother while closing down a Domino’s one night, he gave me a piece of simple, yet poignant advice that I will never forget: “If you want to make something out of your design work, go where the clients are”.

I saved up my pennies and, on June 1, 2004, I packed up my belongings into a U-Haul and set out for Washington, DC. I had a room at my brother’s apartment and that was it. I had no job, no money and knew hardly anyone, let alone potential clients. I ended up taking a surreal job at BWI airport as a staffing coordinator for 10 new restaurants, which was a pretty intense job, but hey, I’m the master of long hours, right? After about a month of 24-26 hour shifts, I quit. I got in my ’94 Explorer and went home. On that trip home, I decided that, if I was going to “make something out of my design work”, I was going to have to get serious, which meant taking some risks…

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

One Comment

  • This one slipped through the net – I just saw it now for the first time! Sometimes a leap of faith doesn’t work out! I know all about that one too Patrick. But, you’re right, if you don’t follow your passion, what is your life about? Is it the journey or is it the destination? Or is it what you become through that tough, tough journey? I left the insurance industry because it was empty for me – left good pay, position, company car etc. etc. into almost poverty. Led to divorce, a daily challenge for survival, but 20 years later I’m still alive. And these are the things that make your business ethics different; your commitment to integrity consistent.

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