When Lightning Strikes (pt. 1)

I know hearing from me has been a long time coming and I need to apologize to you all for my absence. I owe many of you reading this an explanation of where I’ve been and decided, why not just write about it, it will save me all the phone calls. Little did I know this would the most difficult story i’ve ever written.

Please keep in mind, this article is going to be slightly out of the norm for me, as it will be much longer than the usual and is broken up into multiple parts. I am bearing quite a bit on this article, but with the current state of the world, there is no better time to do so.

It was 2008 when I started my payment company and it was as if lightning had just struck me.

I had been consumed with this idea that I could fight back against the criminal banking practices. I would find myself dedicating over a decade of my life to a business and to people that ultimately, would never give back to me what I was so willing to give to them and sacrificing the precious time I had with the ones I said I was doing this for.

Everyone thought I was some successful and rich entrepreneur because we were working with a few big names and I had a high profile business partner, the son of a local billionaire. It didnt help that my last boss was another Chicago Billionaire and to this day, people would never know or understand what was really going on.

Each waking day was a struggle to figure out if I had enough money to feed myself, let alone my dog, my brother and his wife already had to take my other dog. No-one knew that I would do anything I could to not schedule a meeting in the loop because most of the times I would only have enough train fare to go one way, or that I would tell myself on the long walks home and the countless hungry nights that this was the price I had to pay to succeed.

man walking alone

There was no stopping me, it didn’t matter if I had no money or food, Sammy always got his dinner and I was on pace to actually change this world for the better. Those who knew me grew tired of inviting me over, all I could talk about ”payments this, payments that,” I was consumed, no, I was obsessed and this would go on for years.

I was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for this idea, or so I thought.

The passion I once had for this business I would find fading faster than that first bolt of lightning striking me while I sat there in my friends backyard. The news of my fathers death had just reached me. while it was not as much his passing that has saddened me, it was something that I had done or rather, hadnt done.

I remember it so clearly, I was sitting at my desk working on an audit / proposal for a meaningless account and my phone was ringing. I saw it was my father and I just ignored the call, I would talk to him tomorrow or the day after, I had to make my business a success.

I wouldn’t listen to his voicemail until the next morning. To this day, even typing this letter I can not stop myself from crying. He was in pain and calling for me and it would be the last time I would hear his voice. I had ignored his call, for a business that would pay us something like $20 a month at most.

I will never forgive myself for this and to anyone reading this, let this be a valuable lesson to you. There is no amount of money or gold in this world that I wouldn’t trade to just go back in time and take that phone call.

The person I once was so long ago was long dead, I just didn’t know it yet.

While the business itself looked great on paper, it was far from the case. the mask I wore showed the world that everything was fine. The mask may have seemed great, but it was the turmoil internally that would begin to cause issues. A potential project we were working on in New York wasn’t panning out, blame was being passed around to everyone and I found myself in the car with Samson, we were headed to Montreal to the development offices then to New York, back to Montreal, then Chicago, then California.

This would be a cycle that would repeat over the course of the next few years and each time Sammy and I would take a different route home. Even with all the drama in my life, spending this time in a car was all I looked forward too and even the joy in this began to quickly fade.

I decided to stop the traveling, my soul needed a break and I found myself in sunny, Newport Beach, California, coincidentally not too far from where I was born. It was a short drive to my friends south of me and equal of a drive to the ticketing offices should I ever have to go there. We had just signed a deal with one of the worlds largest ticketing companies to release mobile payments for their stadium parking lots and with everything going on it was truly exciting, I was the first to bring electronic payments via mobility to this massive industry and it was far from that.

I signed a lease in an apartment complex which was in the middle of multi-million dollar homes, it was oddly affordable, but they were willing to take my 100 lb doberman and my terrible credit didn’t leave me many other options.

Distorted view of apartment building reflected in the glass facade of an office tower, Bucharest, Romania

The effects of the decision to move into this place and from the decisions I made living there would echo through me for years to come.

It would be in this apartment complex that I would find myself being blackmailed, see my business subverted and living in constant fear that I would find myself in jail for crimes I did not commit, to then only be betrayed by those I thought were closest to me. It would be in these dark and rather strange times, I would find the friendship of a recovering heroin addict and two struggling investigative reporters…

To be continued…

I think this is a great place, if any, to take a break. Check back in next week for part 2 of When Lightning Strikes.