This is the first of a mini-series of six posts that I will publish on the following Mondays and Thursdays.
The posts will illustrate things that happened in my life that I once thought to be impossible.
The last post of the series will be about yet another thing that just happened (or more precisely is about to happen) that if someone told me a few years ago, I would have said:"no way!".
More than bragging and self-celebration (lots of that too), the aim of these posts is to inspire the readers not to limit themselves by the others' or their own beliefs, because... everything is possible!
Well, the first one had to be about the fact that I managed to drop everything and come and live in Maui to do what I like most.
A little bit of relevant history first.
I was hit by the windsurfing bug pretty early. I think I was 18 when a friend of mine got a windsurfer from his dad. Not long after that, I had my first own board. Not sure about the date of this photo... probably around 1983-85
After high school, I studied six long years as an engineer. It was a pretty shitty time. I didn't enjoy it, but somehow it seemed I didn't have any other choice. Family and in general society pressed me to do so and so I did. Here I am at the discussion of the final thesis, November 1988. How's those glasses?
After that, I worked one year for Ericsson in Naples and then moved to Rome to work for IBM.
Lately, thanks to the power of the social networks, an old friend contacted the classmates of the IBM training course for new employees back in 1990. He also retrieved a photo of the collection of all the company badges.
Number 40505, that's what I was.
After six years in one big corporation, I got hired by another big corporation where I started a carrier as a software salesman.
Another badge, another number.
One year (I think 1998) I did pretty good. The last day of the HP fiscal year (October 31st) at 6pm, after a very stressful day making sure that all the last minuted orders were received and processed correctly, I was at the coffee area when a secretary stepped in looking for me.
"Giampaolo, Nicola is on the phone for you"
Wait a moment... it's 6pm of the last day of the fiscal year and the bloody CEO wants to talk to me?!? Shit, I must have done something REALLY bad...
"Heeey Giampaolo, how you doing?"
"Ehm, pretty good... and you?"
"Good, good. Listen, I wanted to have the pleasure to announce you that you have been selected as a winner of the President's club this year! You know what it is?"
Some corporate bullshit, I though... "Kind of, but if you give me more details that'll be great!"
"Oh, it's the biggest corporate price an employee can actually win and it's awarded to the best 100 salesmen worldwide in regard to criterias like results, teamwork, positive attitude, etc..."
"Cool, thanks! But... what did I win exactly?"
"Well, this year it's a four days trip for two to Maui in April... you know, business class, luxury hotel and everything included"...
A few months later, the following dialog was held between my manager and me.
"Cesare, as you know I won a trip for two to Maui in April"
"Your business unit will have to process the costs of it"
"Well, I don't have a girlfriend at the moment (I was supremely dating though), but do you think I will find a girl that will want to come with me?"
"I have no doubt about that"
"Right. So I thought that instead of having the company spending money on a second airline ticket in business class, I could go alone, extend the trip for a couple of weeks (I had plenty vacation days to use) and use that money for accomodation, car rental and so on"
"Sure, no problem... as long as you stay within the cost of an airline ticket, I don't care."
So in April 1999, thanks to Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard, I landed in Maui for the third time.
Here's a shot in the bathroom of my unnecessarily luxurious room at the Four Seasons (the tuxedo was clearly provided locally for the Gran Gala...).
I had already been in Maui twice, but both times for shorter periods and in different times of the year. This time it was an 18 days trip and it was destined to change my life forever. The amount of fun I had, in fact, is beyond my ability to render it with words now. It was actually not only the fun I had in the water. It was the connection I felt with the energy of the place, the nature, the people.
But, every vacation has to come to an end.
I was sitting on a window seat on the right of the airplane when we took off from Kahului and flew over the north shore. Needless to say, it was windy and I could clearly see the colorful sails zipping all over the ocean at Kanaha. A few seconds later, while flying over Sprecks a couple of painful tears were coming down my cheeks.
A few more seconds later, while watching the sailors ripping at Hookipa, I took the most important decision of my life.
"I wonna live here and whatever it will cost me... I'm gonna live here!"
So I worked hard for a couple of more years, and managed to put enough money in the bank to afford a year off (having sold a record deal of 1.7 million dollars of software licenses to Telecom Italia Mobile helped).
On November 1st 2000, I gave notice. By contract I had to work three more months after that and my last day of work was January 31st 2001. As of today, that was the last time I wore a tie.
I will never forget what I felt when I took it off in front of the mirror at my house: "this could be the last time you have to wear this stupid shit!", I said loud and proud to myself.
It felt good, you guys... it felt really good.
It wasn't easy though and the Italians will understand this better than the Americans.
In the States, in fact, the job market is sooo much better and people quit, move, change way more often than in Italy.
Quitting a well paid job with a brilliant carrier path (whatever that means) was considered a crazy move by most people I knew.
I actually did it in the safest possible way. The CEO promised that they would hire me again upon my return and I found a new tennent for the lovely studio in Rome that I was renting with the agreement that if I had come back after one year, he would have to move somewhere else...
My window is the closed one at the lower left.
On February 2nd 2001 I landed in Maui for the exciting start of my sabbatical year.
Two weeks. Two weeks was all it took to figure out that I was not going back.
Everything tasted so bloody fucking real!
I didn't have a company car anymore, instead I bought a 1994 Buick Century station wagon (in the photo with a couple of friends camping on its vast hood).
Even though it kept breaking down on me, I was the happiest man in the world while driving it on the Hana Highway loaded with windsurfing gear.
Oh man, so many things happened, so many anecdotes I could mention... but that would go beyond the scope of this first post...
Stay tuned for the next chapter on Thursday and try to guess (maybe with a comment) what is the last "impossible thing" that just happened (or more precisely is about to happen)...