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The Experiences that Shape You

Maya Angelou, one of the most well-known writers and poets of our time, passed away last week. Upon her death, what came as a surprise to many is that she held a long string of jobs throughout her life, from a cable conductor to a nightclub dancer to a magazine editor to a cook. She was even a prostitute.

It’s hard to believe that such a prolific writer would have held such an inordinate number of odd jobs throughout her life, but as one article pointed out, “these were the experiences that made [Maya] the person she was.”

While my career plane has almost no resemblance to Maya Angelou’s, it got me thinking.

“I kind of fell into the business.”

Many moons ago, early in my investigative career, I was visiting with a hedge fund client in New York City with a senior director of the firm I was working for. I had developed a good relationship with one of the analysts at the hedge fund, and when I got there, we chit-chatted for a bit. One of the more senior members of the hedge fund later joined us, and the discussion got more serious. Eventually, he asked us about our history and how we had gotten into the business.

“I kind of fell into the business, quite honestly,” I said. I went on to tell him that I had been working in the sports industry and was not happy with where it was going when my father offered me a job at his investigative firm.

It was a harmless but true story.

But when I left, the other investigator chastised me for saying what I said. At that point, I had been in the investigative business for a few years, and he suggested that I highlight my accomplishments in the investigative world and not discuss my previous experiences, as that may change others’ perceptions of me.

He was right, but I’ve never forgotten about it. In part, it gave me a complex about my past and my capabilities. My history was not dotted with law enforcement experience, and for the next several years—and while I would never have pretended to be more than I was—I really wasn’t all that confident.

Be Proud of Your Past

But as the years have gone by, I have shed that complex.

I know who I am and what I can do. And after working with hundreds of investigators over the years, I know where I stand.

Instead of being ashamed of my past, I highlight it.

I don’t mind telling people that I rode in the blimp for the 2000 Subway Series while working for Major League Baseball and learned some valuable lessons about work and dedication.

I don’t mind telling people that I interned for the public relations team for the New York Giants (the football team), which taught me some valuable lessons about running a business.

And I don’t mind telling people that I really did fall into the business and I am still here after more than 13 years.

Not everyone may appreciate the honesty. A potential client might want only someone who has law enforcement experience or 30 years’ experience in the business and might not give a hoot about my other experiences.

But that’s not who I am, and there is no sense in hiding it.

My past experience has shaped me into what I am today.

And I am pretty proud of it.

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1 reply
  1. Lee
    Lee says:

    Hello Brian,

    Your story is very inspiring. As I read throught this post I thought about the many careers in my past lives and how they’ve shaped the success I’ve experienced in my life. While my journey has taken me many places my interest has always remained strong in the field of freelance investigations. The closest I had come to exploring it was beginning a correspondence course which I quickly dropped. Any advice you can give someone who is at the start of this journey?

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