Stop Telling Me, "NO!"
I'm the youngest of six kids and I was fortunate enough to watch all of them grow up. Some of my siblings got married, got divorced, remarried, had children, went bankrupt or lived off government sustenance. Some family members came out of the closet as either gay or transgender, Democrat or Republican. Objectively, the biggest factor we all have in common, the overwhelming power of negativity. However, I feel the biggest common difference between us is, I learned and continue to learn to use "NO" as an opportunity for "YES!"
I have been told "NO" my entire life. And I have spent an entire career turning the "NO's" into "YES!" When I graduated from high school I had absolutely no help and no direction with my future. I only knew two things; 1. I wanted to continue to learn. 2. I didn't want to spend my life as a floor installer. I absolutely knew I didn't want to make a life out of installing floors when I drove the double sided carpet razor blade through my leg. That was the moment the Floor Installation world was finished as a career option.
In 1996, at the end of my second year lifeguarding for the Cape Cod National Seashore, I decided I was going to stay on the East Coast and make a go out it with $90.00 to my name. I was told, "NO, that will never work." I ended up living in Boston for ten years and continued to work as a beach lifeguard on Cape Cod for the CCNS for another six years. Also, I took college courses at Northeastern University and subsequently made the "Dean's List." I never graduated though, life had other plans. But I never stopped learning and studying. Especially, my skill craft!
After living in Boston for ten years, I watched my best friends move on with their lives into careers, marriage and plans. I decided I wanted the same things, but I wanted them under my terms and my terms are non-negotiable, or so I thought.
Surfing with my best friends in Panama should have been one of the best times of my life. It wasn't, exactly the opposite. I was miserable, negative and panic stricken. I had no idea where 'my' life was going. At this point the only thing I wanted to do for a career was Beach Lifeguarding. "Well, that's fucking stupid! Have you ever heard about Pararescue?" This is the statement my great friend had to say to me after revealing my career goal. My friend, Lt Col. Getty, told me to check out this career field in the Air Force. When we got home from the surfing trip I headed to the Boston Public Library and didn't emerge until I had consumed everything the library had to offer on PJ's and the United States Air Force Pararescue Team.
I made my declaration to all my family and friends that I was enlisting in the military, at the ripe young age of 32, in the Spring of 2002. Not only was I volunteering for military service, I was volunteering for a specialized AFSC (Job) in the USAF...PARARESCUE/ PJ-1T2X1. My enlistment process was not pretty, let's just say at the end of the day I got what I wanted and turned my very first professional "NO" into a "YES!" It was the most equitable solution for everyone involved. I reported for Pararescue Indoctrination Course 005-02 or Ballz 02 on January 05th, 2005...The Winter Team! Graduated that PJ selection Team in March, 2005.
What I didn't realize was happening in my parallel world back home was, the people I looked to for guidance, mentorship and direction were "nay" saying my chances at passing the PJ selection course. They had good reason, USAF PJ Indoc has a 1 out of 10, or roughly a 90% attrition rate. Meaning, only one Trainee will make it for every ten Trainees that try out.
This was my second professional "NO." My family and friends either thought I was lying about what I was doing or flat out didn't think I could or would make it. I DID and I proved them all wrong!!! However, I didn't learn till much later that this was happening, I found out over time. Regardless, before I shipped off for selection I cashed out of everything I was worth and gave it to my mother. When I packed my bags for training I purposely left my "Dress Blues" at home safely tucked away in garrison, inspection ready in the back of my closet. The only way you can officially quit the PJ Selection Course was to report before the Pararescue School House Commandant in your "Blues" and make it official. Well, that wasn't going to happen for me because my Dress Blues were at home, hundreds of miles away. Jesus Christ was going to have to petition the Commandant for me before I would be caught dead in those things professing "I AM A QUITER!"
The fact is, I am too dumb to quit. A common thread that binds every PJ and a moral flaw we don't mind having. Not bringing my Blues came with some issues and for that I am sorry Colonel Sjlowjakowski[sic]. Principals are Principles and I am a man of conviction and I stand by my convictions. As for Chief Colon-Lopez, I can't apologize enough, but it's funny now. Chief Colon-Lopez told his men, (Insert thick Puerto Rican Accent)..."I'm not raising Choir Boys, here. But, I am sure as Shit not raising Fucking delinquents either!" The intent of his message was intended for us to "Think for Ourselves," and when the world is against you and you know you're right, NOW is your time to shine individually and to defend your honor, integrity and moral fabric. "These Things We Do, THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE!"
YES, you will be judged mercilessly...BUT, when you're right, you're right and defending that position should be unwavering. Unwavering like the way you stand by each other here today. Never Quit, Never Give Up. Ray, is a man who could say this with all it's intent and purpose in a way we "Knuckle Draggers" could appreciate, own and understand. Main reason, because we LOVED & LOVE this man. He's that kind of Warrior, a true Sage.
I defined the Beret, the Beret did not define me. I live, still live by my Pararescue creed. I do because it is a part of who I am. Not because I am some belt-fed person who can't let the past go. Absolutely NOT. I have always been this person. I took it to another level by professionally proclaiming it, battlefield testing it and now it's become "ME," my "BRAND" and exactly who I am as a person and a business.
Are you starting to understand why I have a hard time taking NO as an answer? By this point in my life people don't verbally object in front of me, they don't want the trouble. Now it's done in a more subtle, passive/ aggressive approach. This is fun to work with, sarcasm implied.
For posterity, let's continue. I spent 2 1/2 years of PJ training before I made it back to my operational Team, PJNY 103rd RQS. I deployed on two combat tours. One, to Bagram, Afghanistan (OEF), and the second one was to Balad, Irag (OIF). On November 02, 2010 in less than five minutes it was all gone. Everything, was gone,! II left it behind the C-130 I was attached to; while performing a night time static line jump for currency, I became a "Towed Jumper." Upon exiting the left paratroop door, my static line became fouled with my left forearm. Long story short, I was tied off to the aircraft by left arm at 150 mph for five minutes. I suffered tremendous injuries to my arm, neck, back, brain, heart and "head." This was the third and biggest professional "NO" I would eventually turn into a "YES" and it's a constant work in progress.
My parachute accident left me scars you can see and scars you can't see. I had to become my own physical therapist, doctor and mental therapist during my recovery. And I am still recovering today, I just built an unbelievable support structure around me and I have the SME's I need to help me continue to get better. My accident changed me but didn't change who I AM.
It's a sobering thought to realize that the one job you ever wanted to do, can't be done anymore. Or atlas I thought. I had more "NO's" in my life at this point and I was the one with the majority of them. Once I realized I was the biggest limitation factor in my life. I decided to get out of my own way and solve my problems one by one brutally honest and objectively. The one thing I had going for me was, I wasn't going to quit attitude and I still had/ have a mission. My situation is "F'ed" twenty ways to Sunday, but I know this and I use it to my advantage and make it funny. Hopefully, inspiring!
November 02, 2010 changed me, ended my career and my life. I could have sit back on my couch and accept that and I did for a few months. I fought back and will continue to fight back. My mission has changed and it took me a long time to figure it out. But I have! My mission now is to be the voice for Veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI. My mission is to tell my story and let every one who suffers from this stuff know it's OK, there IS a "friendly" way out. My PTSD and TBI do not Define who I am, I define what PTSD and TBI is to me. It's a problem that's hard to understand until you're ready to and I share my trials and tribulations through my "Stress Brief." I peel back the veneer of PTSD and TBI in front of people and show them "real time" what it looks like to see some one manifest the signs and symptoms while relating the experience.
I guess when it comes right down to it, I'll always be the "Rescuer." That's what I am trained and continue to train to do, today. In the mean time I have objectives I am going to achieve and are well on the way to reaching. My cousin and I bought land in Nicaragua Pacific Coast with the intention of building a house on it. Our plan is to guide people who wish to pay for our services down to Nicaragua and surf, fish and explore. I wanted to create a business & brand, "Surfer Labor" and eventually work for myself. This is purely selfish, too. I know this is the direction I need to go in and it's going to make a lot of people happy. I want to create a business people can work at and have a real life experience at the same time having a vested interest in work. Not to mention coming to a place you feel you have a career, not a job.
Once work becomes a four lettered word, you're done for. How does this story tie into my "NO" theme? Glad you asked. My cousin and I we were crazy for buying land in Nicaragua and our goals were absurd. House?...Won't happen!" "You're wasting your time down there." No, Not, Can't, Couldn't, and TRY is everything we heard all day long. My idea of Surfer Labor is a running joke among friends. The products I promote are....(You fill it in)?
Here is my "YES" defense: Surfer Labor is a fully functioning company with several Independent Contractor's and SME's under our fold. The jungle house in Nicaragua is built, has running water, two master suits with full bath. We own the property out right and we our legally registered land owners with the Nicaraguan government. Our property taxes are paid in full to the people of Nicaragua and hold no local or federal debt. We employ 5-10 local nationals on the property as staff and managers. At the end of the day they are "Family!"
We are well on our way down there and we plan on offering our trip packages at competitive prices and 5 Star service.
By all means, contact us today:
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Surfer Labor is not your usual travel,security, nutrition, health and fitness company. You're not purchasing "1 & 0's." Moreover, you're purchasing security, excitement and piece of mind when it comes down to it. We fine tune it into a World Class experience and we'll get you home safe and sound.
I sought out during my rehab and during the last seven years the best supplements, medicine, information I could get my hands on. My only claim is, I sell and promote the products that have worked for me and people I know. During this same time frame I was offered opioids for pain relief. Unfortunately, civilian Doctors were out of their league when it came to treating all my issues. Their main cure all was either a prescription for Vicodin or Percocet. I didn't want these drugs, nor did they work for any of my pain. All my friends and family were telling me the "Docs" know better. How about the psych Doc who met with me for less than five minutes and prescribed me 3 psychotropic medications. That's another story. Again, I was wrong and I was being told "NO" don't be your own advocate. Trust what other people are telling you what is wrong with you.
I couldn't follow their advice. It wasn't working for me, so I went back to the basics. I started reading and researching and eventually came up from the "Rabbit Hole" with knowledge and experience I have today. My education and Subject Matter Expertise are not subjective. However, they are objectively biased based on my experience, perception and personal research and education.
People, Family & Friends I want your support & business, I want to earn and keep your trust. What Surfer Labor is doing is important and it affects and effects people's lives and for the better. This is a fact! Please, enough of the negativity and the "NO's," Surfer Labor is here and it's here to stay. Surfer Labor wants all of you to join us on this journey, it's going to be fun. YOU NEED TO BE A PART OF THE NONSENSE!!!
You will be happy you did and you will be ecstatic you stopped saying "NO!"