26 was a big deal for me. It really marks crossing over into a new segmentation of adulthood. So on my 26th birthday I took a random trip to Costa Rica to 1) reflect on the last 25 years of my life to set goals going forward and 2) do something adventurous. While I was there something random yet amazing happened – a retired couple pretty much became family over the course of 24 hours.
It all started at 7am on a Saturday morning when the shuttle arrived for my road trip through various cities in Costa Rica ending at the Arenal Volcano. I hopped in the van and to my surprise I was sharing it with an older black couple. I was hoping for a younger crowd but I remember thinking that it could worse – like having a van of weirdos.
As we set out I grabbed a seat next to the Harold, who was a retired welder and technical school instructor. My guess is that he is roughly 60 years old. We introduced ourselves to each other and pretty much did not say a peep for the next hour or so as we drove through the small towns north of San Jose. Eventually we came to a small town where a high school band was practicing. It was reminiscent of my alma mater’s (FAMU) Marching 100 band. Harold was also intrigued and started telling about how his son was a drum major at Southern University in the mid 2000s. From that moment forward he started opening up about his life, kids, career and marriage.
As we went from town to town and eventually to our destination, I learned so much about a guy who started out with such humble beginnings in life. Although he did not attend college, he stressed the importance of education to his children growing up. He then turned to me and asked about my background and what I do for a living. I told him about my days on Wall Street and the transition to working for hip hop mogul Sean Combs. He encouraged me to continue to perfect my craft in finance and business. He started suggesting books that I should read and the importance of staying deeply rooted in my values and belief system no matter what it was.
While we were trekking through the rain forest we stopped at a site with waterfalls and natural hot springs where he and his wife Jocelyn continued to tell stories of their life together. Toward the end of the day our driver decided we better start heading back toward San Jose as we were about 4 hours north at that point. The darkness fell upon as we were driving and it became tough to stay awake; needless to say I feel asleep within 30 minutes of boarding the van. But something strange happened. Our van stopped moving and we were told by the driver that he would need to phone is colleague who would meet us and get us back safely. Imagine being stuck in the middle of a small town within foreign country late at night. We got out of the van and walked to a nearby hole-in-the-wall bar, where the owner was friendly and offered us free beer.
While there Harold began to share with me his latest “project” and showed me photos on his phone. He built this huge two-story edifice behind his home in Louisiana with a game room, work bench, two bathrooms and a big open area. I asked what it was and he replied that it was a garage. I then asked for what since it was so massive and he replied that it was for an RV. My first thought was that these folks are really doing well! I asked if he had any pictures of the RV and he said no. At that point I was really confused and couldn’t help but wonder who in their right mind would make that sort of commitment of time and resources and not even be close to buying an RV. Before I could muster up a response he started explaining the importance of always laying the ground work for your dreams. His point was that in life, we’ve got to be prepared for the big things to come. If you get an opportunity to do something great and you are unprepared chances are you will either miss out or screw it up.
From that moment forward, I knew what I had to do in my life. I had to start laying the foundation for my next 2 – 5 years now – whether it be related to my career or personal life. Success, so I’ve heard, is the intersection where preparation meets opportunity and preparation starts now.
Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready – Will Smith (I think)