Mistakes made, lessons learned, and life loved
Those who know me today know of my passion for community organizing, my fascination with tech, and my penchant for starting new projects. Growing up, I was the oddball who struggled to make friends. Fast-forward to present day, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more driven to organize people and communities. I discovered tech at a time when I couldn't get a job, and yet and a career in tech became my future. Same with entrepreneurship.
Today, I'm working on a slew of highly impactful, exciting projects with incredible people. Moving to Huntsville (as I write about on my homepage), changed my sense of purpose. I'm not just growing companies, I'm helping to grow a city - I've come to care about all the facets of city growth: its people, its infrastructure, and its future.
Read on to learn more about me and some of the challenges I've overcome to become the person I am today.
I grew up in Boston with severe emotional and behavioral issues that led to significant strife for my family. Starting from birth, I had strong mood swings and outbursts. Beginning in preschool and continuing through my teen years, I was frequently suspended or expelled from school.
Over the course of my teen years, I spent lots of time in treatment. I emerged from my teens rebellious, misguided, and angry. I became addicted to drugs, was frequently violent, etc.
At age 23, during an argument with my girlfriend at the time, I lost my temper and hit her. I had no plan to hurt her; it was a cowardly act of impulse. This incident had a profound impact on both of us, our families and our friends. I went to jail for a year and spent three years on probation as a result.
This incident marked a turning point in my life. Thankfully, my jail and rehabilitation experience was so impactful that I fundamentally changed my way of thinking and behaving as a result.
A Blessing in disguise
Going to jail and participating in the programs assigned to me during probation had an incredibly positive impact on my life. Three days after landing in jail, the rest of the jail found out about what I had done and took my punishment into their own hands. For the first time in my life, I took responsibility for my actions and stopped playing the victim of an uncontrollable mental health condition.
As much as this was a dark time in my life, it was a blessing in disguise. It's unfortunate that it came at the cost of someone who I had hurt, however it was a much-needed dose of reality that set me on track to be where I am today.
Following this experience, I turned my life around. I spent the next few years heavily involved with rehabilitative activities ranging from medication, therapy, meditation and prayer. It's now been 10 years since I was last arrested or had any run-ins with the law.
As a result of my violence, an article about me was published by The Boston Herald. For the past nine years, it's been the top result in Google for a search of my name. The article smears me, sensationalizes my past, and lists a number of falsehoods that I've never been able to correct. It paints me as a spoiled rich kid, which wasn't the case. The writer dug up information about my ancestry combined with unofficial testimonials and used them to write a clickbait story.
Between the article and my criminal record, I had a difficult time keeping a job, so I taught myself to build websites. After working for several small companies and clients, I got my first corporate job at age 25. During my time there, a friend and I started a software company. I went on to work or consult with 20+ tech startups, developing a passion for app development and entrepreneurship.
In December of 2014, I was contacted by Curse about a position in Huntsville. The timing was right, so I accepted the job and moved to Alabama. As I explain on my homepage, I fell in love with Huntsville and began organizing innovation activities here. The rest is history.
Over the past 10 years, I've worked extremely hard to overcome my past and turn my life around. I'm no longer violent, I no longer use drugs, I no longer try to hide from my mistakes. I've become a healthy, driven, successful person. Despite my success, I remain humble to the idea that I can always get better, learn more, and become more at peace with others, myself, and the world.
I have a lot of thoughts about mental health and psychiatry. Growing up, I was coddled for being a nice kid with an unfortunate problem. As a result, my behavior was reinforced, leading to many more years spent escaping my problems rather than dealing with them. Once I had dealt with them, I became introspective, comfortable with talking about my feelings, and knowledgeable about my weaknesses and limitations. Someday I'd like to help kids with behavioral issues reach an earlier state of self-awareness, without throwing doctors and medications at them.
Right now, I'm focused on building an innovation economy in Huntsville, Alabama. I work long hours on a range of products that are "teaching people how to fish." Through helping people start companies and level-up their careers, I believe we can help convert a small city into a thriving metropolis. I'm fascinated with Huntsville's city infrastructure and am paying close attention to its growth.
Someday, I'd like to deploy the types of community resources and technology that we're building here for other small cities. I believe we're onto something with building a social + professional + technological infrastructure for Huntsville, so much so that we'll be able to repeat our mechanisms elsewhere to grow small cities faster, at scale.
At a later point in life, I'd like to get involved with humanitarian causes, especially in line with the rehabilitative causes I mentioned above. As psychiatry science improves, it will become easier to diagnose and treat people with mental health issues, but there will always be work to do to improve emotional intelligence. I'd someday like to get involved with helping kids become more self-aware through accepting and loving oneself for their faults and building empathy for others.