The Black Sheep
So…I’ve always been a bit of a black sheep. To quote one of my spirit animals, Oscar Wilde, I’ve always believed that, “everything popular is wrong”. It all started after my Saint of a Mother endured 46 hours of pure, unadulterated agony in the delivery room. I made my disinterest in leaving the complacent comfort of her womb more than clear, requiring a suction cup to be affixed to my mushy head to yank me out against my will. Presciently apprehensive of the work that would be required once I left the warm incubator that fed and coddled me constantly, I decided that the only way I was making this debut, was with a big bang. It was clear from the start, I wouldn’t be following the straight and narrow.
My Dad has since recounted stories of walking me around the block in circles until the wee hours of dawn until I ceased my incessant wales seeking constant attention. Evidently I would break into fits of ear piercing screams the second he stopped walking, so it was auto-pilot for my poor Father. Somewhere around the same time, he tells me that he once had to send his PA over in the middle of the night when he was on a business trip to talk my Mom out of hurling me over the third-floor balcony….since I was seemingly determined to catalyze her mental breakdown.
Not long after I was walking, I prank called the police when I was home with the sitter. It might even have been deliberate (I was too young to remember), but the phone was left off the hook. As I grew up in a small town famous for its shockingly low crime rate, the whole brigade of emergency response came to my “rescue”, including the entire SWAT team from the neighbouring village. Needless to say the sitter did not last much longer. ...And to save you the questions, this was merely the first of four times that the SWAT team visited my house in the decade that followed.
Not much more developed, but an avid Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangirl, I made it my sole mission in life to expose all the vampire hoarders in said micro town. My primary school was in a residential zone, backing onto one of those mysteriously derelict mansions that inevitably draws insidious rumors that spread like wildfire. Understanding the power of exponential network effects even from the ripe age of 8, I spread the vicious rumor that they were sheltering vampires in their shed. So, I decided to ring-lead the entire class of third-graders to break and enter into the neighbour’s property – and, surprise surprise, to find no vampires! We were apprehended red-handed, and once some whistle-blower snitched me to the headmaster, I was promptly expelled. My dearest father (bailing me out once again) negotiated my reinstatement predicated upon a promise of good behaviour, which included a weekly family “mentorship” session with the warden as a panacea to my delinquency. During the final session, she told my parents that I’d either go to jail or become a millionaire. I’ve since learned Sir Richard Branson was given the same decree, and as I’ve not yet been incarcerated (officially), I’m still holding out for the latter!
A few years pass, and my true stripes as Lucifer’s spawn really showed, when my best friend and I broke into the local power bank and blacked out the entire block’s power by swapping all the cables. Since this was back before ubiquitous street cameras, we were able to pass blame around the school and I escaped unscathed. It was fairly widely accepted that this was my doing, but as my lawyer mother had imparted the understanding of the burden of proof in the early days, I knew I was free as a bird.
Just before I hit high school, I decided I was ready to learn to drive. Being 3 years below the legal age limit, but being cursed with the power of overconfidence, I thought it would be a great idea to take my Dad’s manual-shift car for spin. Unbeknownst to me, this tricky device called a clutch was required to move the car from neutral and gain control over the 2 tonne brick of metal. Since our driveway was on a 30 degree hill, and the door was open, I quickly realized I was missing something when the car backed its way down the hill, across the street, and up onto the curb of the neighbour’s property, knocking over a fire hydrant. Dad comes out the house screaming, a fusion of terror and fury plastered on his face, resulting in severe grounding for the rest of my 13th year. But as it happens, a few days later the local police chief showed up to my house to inform us that by cracking the hydrant (and no water spewing out), a broken pipe underground was revealed that they wouldn’t have known about until a real emergency happened. Literally one week later, my degenerate neighbor burnt his house down after falling asleep smoking in his room. The repaired hydrant was the primary source of water, and I was awarded a medal of honor for civilian support. Father was NOT impressed.
By high school, I had developed a strong belief that rules simply did not apply to me. This was until I met my match with my 11th grade Law teacher who had a policy of 80% attendance or automatic failure. But by final exams, I wound up with a meager 8%. Given I had big plans for an Ivy, I couldn’t possibly survive an F on my transcript, so I marched into his office with that sycophantic smile and eyelash battering I had so famously perfected, and agreed to coach his daughter’s soccer team over my summer in exchange for amnesty on my absence. He was so impressed with my negotiation skills, he ended up being my leading college reference and advocate for a young leader award I won a few years later. This is where I learned the power of quid pro quo.
By the time I reached college – a fact that I’m sure still shocks many of my primary teachers – I had developed what I believed to be a superpower of skirting hard work. I spent my textbook money on booze, and didn’t attend a single lecture following my first Terrestrial Planets class where my professor spent the entire 3 hour lecture detailing us on her sex change operation. Entertaining as that was, it really interfered with my social agenda. But as any good rebel should appreciate, the power of leverage is crucial in one’s unearned success. This is where I got the brilliant idea of facilitating a “lecture note swap” program in college. Preying on the keen overachiever characteristics of my peers, I knew they’d all be trying to one up each other by getting insight into everyone else’s notes. Alas, I formed a group that allowed people to exchanges notes for classes they missed and cross-reference all complex concepts. As the intermediary, I controlled the flow of data, and gleaned all the key insights from the hardworking busy bees without lifting a single finger. This program ended up being adopted by the Dean and implemented school-wide, and I was later credited for my commitment to academic excellence. How ironic. I think Tim Ferriss calls this the Minimum effective load, and boy is it a good lesson.
These skills have followed me to business, sometimes with mixed results, as I’ve probably been fired from half of the jobs I’ve held. That all being said, I’m now running a tech startup and learning the hard way (as I’ve always tended to do), that there really is no compromise on hard work. And as what seems to be payback for my mischievious past, I’m now dating a man whose trickster talents rival my own, leading to a lot of frustrating debates to say the least! I’m publicly claiming that I’m here at Toastmasters because I need to learn to speak for my new business….but my real drive is to learn to argue better with my impossibly headstrung, tirelessly stubborn boyfriend.