[00:00:06] Drew: Welcome to From Caving In to Crushing It, the podcast for those who find themselves immersed in adversity and choose to write their story instead of having others write it for them. I'm Drew Deraney, and I'm your host. Adam Kemper. So good to see you, my friend.
[00:00:25] Adam: Thanks for having me, Drew. Great to be here.
[00:00:26] Drew: This is a pleasure. So I always love when I have discussions before I hit the record button because I learn something new about people. Also gives you some ideas on what to ask. And it's also funny because you are a veteran when it comes to telling your story and even to the point where you're telling me where you need to sit. Now, I know right now I'm just releasing the audio version. At some point, we'll release the video version. So make sure your head stays blocking that light, my friend.
[00:00:55] Adam: It's all strategy.
[00:00:58] Drew: Adam in life, we know that life is not linear. As much as we would like it to be easy and just go in that straight path where we want to go, we know it's not. And we all encounter things in our life that are going to challenge us, that are going to test us. And we have a decision in life, a choice. Do we lay down or do we fight through it? And I know you're a fighter, so I would really like to know myself and share with the audience what makes you tick. What part of your life did you wake up and say, there's a better way to live?
So go reach as far back as you feel and just tell us what got you here and how you did it.
[00:01:40] Adam: Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share this.
[00:01:43] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:01:44] Adam: We're going to go way back to start with because I grew up with, I think, a fairly common model for a lot of people my age. I'm 45. I'm a Gen Xer. So my dad worked for the same company for his entire career, and he actually worked for the same company his father worked for for his entire career.
[00:02:05] Drew: Wow.
[00:02:05] Adam: And there was a loyalty that I grew up expecting and looking for. And I went to start my career with this idea of you go to a company and you start at the bottom and you do your loyalty thing and you just work hard and you work your way up through the corporate ladder of America. And it was the old model, it was the 1950s through 70s model that I grew up thinking still existed.
And that was a very straight line. That was the kind of employment I mean, I wasn't necessarily going to work where my dad was, but at the same time, I looked at a job as, this is where I'm going to be.
[00:02:50] Drew: Right.
[00:02:51] Adam: And so I started my career after a couple little experiences for some learning, working for a Wall Street investment firm here in Colorado as a back office. You start out on the customer service line, frontline infantry, and you work your way into back office positions, doing analyst, trader, all kinds of different financial calculations that go on behind the scenes at an investment company. And you think it's a Wall Street company. This is going to be a place I can spend my career.
Fast forward to 2007 through 2009. As you can imagine, Wall Street was not a happy place to be.
[00:03:35] Drew: Not at all.
[00:03:37] Adam: Well, I have a daughter who now is 19, but at the time she was born in 2004, so she was three, four, five years old. At that time, my wife was pregnant with our second child, and when he was born, he had a lot of medical trouble.
And again, in that old school model, I thought, I've got this Wall Street health insurance, and they're going to see me through, and they're going to stand by me. And they did. And then at 13 months, my son was diagnosed with a blood cancer.
[00:04:07] Drew: Oh, my goodness.
[00:04:09] Adam: And we started a journey through what was hell.
And within three months of his diagnosis, my wife and I found out she was pregnant.
[00:04:20] Drew: Wow.
[00:04:22] Adam: My benefits have never been more important to me than I was in that moment. And again, this is that straight line thinking, I've done my job, I've played my role, I've been the good soldier.
And because there was a layoff and I hadn't filed the paperwork for FMLA, and there's some gray area in how that went down, we don't need to get into that.
[00:04:43] Drew: I have an idea. Okay.
[00:04:45] Adam: But my employer was not unaware of my situation. They were very aware of my situation, which made them extra sorry when they laid me and 299 other workers off that day.
And with 300 of us walking out onto the street, I realized my son doesn't have a chemo treatment covered by insurance right now. My wife doesn't have a prenatal appointment covered by insurance right now. What the hell am I going to do?
And there's the metaphor of you're on the plane. And I knew on Wall Street that it was a bad place to be. I was doing bad things, and I did not enjoy it anymore. But you suck it up. It's that men are tough and we tough it through tough stuff. And again, it's that straight line that you talked about, the corporate grind is but the golden ring at the end exists, and you just work through it. So I had already started this feeling of I'm not in the right place, doing the right thing, helping anybody, and God shoved me to the door of the plane and kicked me out.
And I went to work one day and found out I didn't have a job or benefits.
God bless my wife's job. And the fact that we were able to transfer our benefits over immediately, which saved us a lot of trouble because she had the same insurance company. So we kept all the same doctors, and God was able to keep us in the right place for my son's treatment.
[00:06:23] Drew: Right.
[00:06:25] Adam: But at that point, I went and did the same dumb thing over again.
I didn't learn a darn thing. So I found another investment company here in Colorado. I found another back office position.
It was a lot longer of a drive, but it was doing the same thing for the same kind of people, for the same kind of money.
[00:06:45] Drew: Well, you were brainwashed. Somebody gave you a belief system that you needed to follow. Adam. Come on.
[00:06:50] Adam: Amen to that. So at that point, I went to work for another investment company, and we worked through my son's treatment, and we got to the other side of that stuff. And while that was going on, I lost a best friend to suicide. My Goddaughter was actually my son and my Goddaughter were chemo buddies.
My Goddaughter is six months older than my oldest daughter, so she's three and a half, four years older than my son. But they were going through chemotherapy for blood cancer at the same time, different versions, same oncologist all of this. So it was just head down, can't think about it. Got to do, got to do, got to do. And all of these boxes that you check of, I got a good job, I get a good paycheck.
The things I need to do are done right. Meanwhile, I'm miserable as hell and just trying to get through life.
And then I went into work on a Tuesday at this other company, and I got called into a conference room, and I knew that God was shoving me to the door of the plane again. When they started the conversation with how much they loved me.
The executioner is always sweet.
[00:08:12] Drew: Oh, that love. Yes, I'm familiar with that love. Okay.
[00:08:16] Adam: At which point, I was told that I was given an option of either relocating my family to St. Louis, Missouri, or taking the check that was sitting in the envelope on the table.
Well, there was zero chance we were moving. I'm a Colorado native, born and bred, and I love this place. And I'm sitting there at this table thinking I have no idea what to do.
And I took the check because I knew that was the right thing to right.
[00:08:45] Drew: Right.
[00:08:46] Adam: And I got in my car and I started driving down the Boulder Turnpike from where I worked to my home in Aurora. My wife was at work, and I couldn't talk to her because she's a teacher. And when you're a teacher, you got kids in the room, you're just not always available. And it wasn't a matter of her willingness to support me. It was her availability during the workday.
[00:09:08] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:09:08] Adam: So I called my mom and dad, and I have a really great relationship with them.
And I remember just bawling my eyes out while I was driving down the highway, because everything about my identity was, in that moment, gone.
[00:09:26] Drew: Men tend to tie our identity to our profession, and when it came from you yeah, I hear you.
[00:09:31] Adam: And I knew I didn't want to do it anymore either. So my identity was this unskilled, untrained blob of uselessness that's driving down the highway saying, the only thing I've ever done that I know I can do, I don't want to do. So who the hell am I and what the hell am I?
[00:09:50] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:09:52] Adam: And just shook.
And I decided at that point that I was too shook to do anything that would be productive. So I went home and I immediately sat down with my finances and I said, okay, based on unemployment being two thirds of your previous months or a couple of months paychecks, I should expect about this, and what if I took my kids out of paid daycare? What if I did this and did that and started doing these calculations that left me with, I'm going to stay home and be nothing, I'm just going to be a dad, because that is the only thing I know I am. And I just want to do that. I want to hide from the world, and I want to play with my kids.
[00:10:44] Drew: I hear you, man. Wow.
[00:10:46] Adam: And in that window, I didn't use that time to figure out who I was. I used that time to disconnect from everything that was related to that.
[00:10:59] Drew: Wow. Which is hot, I'm sure, at that time oh, God.
[00:11:02] Adam: Yeah. I stopped talking to friends because when you worked somewhere for I worked at Oppenheimer for just under a decade.
[00:11:10] Drew: Yeah.
[00:11:11] Adam: So your friends are your work friends.
My best man in my got we got jobs there together.
[00:11:19] Drew: Wow.
[00:11:20] Adam: So when I left that job, I left my best friend sitting at a desk in the office, and I got walked out like I was going to steal shit.
[00:11:29] Drew: Yeah. And they treat you well.
[00:11:30] Adam: Right, right. And it was humiliating. And at the same time, I'm leaving literally the guy I've known since I was 16. And that was the start of what came as a long, slow death of that friendship to the point where I haven't spoken to him in years. If I saw him on the street, I'd hug him warmly. I don't know if he'd love me hugging him back just because we've drifted.
[00:11:57] Drew: Wow. Unbelievable. Yeah. That tie to our profession, man I.
[00:12:03] Adam: Spent seven months sitting at home, playing with my kids, helping my son recover from his treatment, getting to spend time with my Goddaughters, and then about six months of the seven months, maybe a little sooner, maybe five months, timing is not important. I started going to job fairs.
[00:12:22] Drew: Okay.
[00:12:23] Adam: And it was gutting going right back.
[00:12:26] Drew: To what you knew.
[00:12:27] Adam: It wasn't even that I knew I wouldn't go back to that. So I take this Folio that I have this book with a notebook in it, right.
In fact, under my desk here, I still have the exact one because I can't get rid of it. I'm an emotional dude and experiences tied to things.
[00:12:45] Drew: Yes, they do.
[00:12:47] Adam: So I went to these job fairs, and I'd find an empty booth that some company decided they didn't need to fill. And I'd tuck in behind it, and I'd sit down with my notebook, and I'd write down, I saw this company. What do I think? I saw this company. What do I think? And I never approached the tables. This was me from 10ft away, listening to them to talk to other people, seeing how their branding spoke, all of this other arm's length stuff.
You know, the Heisman trophy?
[00:13:22] Drew: Yes.
[00:13:24] Adam: It was like going to job fairs with the Heisman Trophy pose. My heart was tucked and my arm was out.
[00:13:31] Drew: Yes.
[00:13:32] Adam: And nothing spoke to me. I don't care what it was.
And we were at a time I mean, this was 2009, 2010 at this point, and unemployment was still coming out of the Great Recession saying, you know what?
There's no limit. There's an extension on an extension on an extension.
Right. My drive also wasn't there. So I really was in this place of I don't know who I am. I don't know what I do. I don't feel value. I don't feel good about myself in any way. And how am I going to approach a company and sell them on me when I'm gross? I know I'm gross. And how do I tell you I'm not gross when I think I'm gross?
[00:14:16] Drew: Exactly. I hear you.
[00:14:18] Adam: And it was probably four or five job fairs in to doing the same thing every time. And most of them I'd leave without ever talking to anybody. And the only information I grabbed was the stuff needed to fill out my unemployment verification documents to prove that I did something.
[00:14:36] Drew: You tried.
[00:14:38] Adam: I was going through motions, just dead inside.
And I went to a job fair, and I did my normal thing, and this guy leaned over the barrier, said, what are you doing?
And I said, I'm considering what companies here interest me. Load of crap I'm wasting time to try to hide from the world.
[00:15:04] Drew: Right.
[00:15:05] Adam: And he says, Did I catch your attention?
Honestly, no. I don't know what you do. Even I didn't see you. And he says, Well, I do payroll services. And my immediate reaction was, what the hell is that? No, thank you.
And he started just talking to me. He's a Christian man. He's a good man. I'm still friends with him. His name's Andy.
[00:15:31] Drew: That's awesome.
[00:15:32] Adam: And Andy and I started having this conversation that ended with him saying, why don't you just come in and meet with me at my office? We won't call it an interview. We'll just call it a meeting. I want to keep this going, but I got to keep doing my thing here at the table, okay? He could clearly tell if he had said, come in an interview, I'd have been like, screw you, man.
[00:15:55] Drew: Right?
[00:15:55] Adam: So he says, come on and just meet with me. So we have this meeting that he ends up taking me to lunch, and we probably spent 2 hours just talking about who I was as a father and what my son had gone through. He's a dad. He has kids just a little younger than mine, and one of his kids has some challenges, too. And so it was just this god moment of, this is the person you need to talk to right now with where your head and your heart is?
[00:16:23] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:16:24] Adam: And it ended with, okay, you got to let me give you an interview now. You got to come in and do an interview. I was like, okay, fine. I'll do it. This guy's nice. And so I went in for the interview, and I come from Wall Street operations. I was a back office guy. I typed at a desk, and we were probably 20 minutes into the interview when I stopped him. Colton I'm like, what are you interviewing me for? What is this?
It sounds like sales. And he said, yeah, it is. You're a salesman. No, we're done. I want to leave. I want to go. I don't do sales. Sales is gross. In fact, I looked at him, and I said, you know the movie Groundhog's Day?
Needle Nose Ned Ryerson.
[00:17:08] Drew: Yeah.
[00:17:09] Adam: I said, that's a sales guy to me, and I wouldn't want to be him ever. And he said to me, then don't be. Be yourself. You are a salesperson. Said no, I'm not. No, I'm not. Again, I was that corporate brainwashed. This is my box. I put information into systems to create output. That was what I was taught to do.
And so he says, give me a leap of faith. Give me six months. If you don't like it, I'll train you to be an operations guy. I'll bring you back in. We'll start you over. But if it's six months, you're in a good place, it's because you figured out you're a sales guy, okay? And he handed me two books, and one of them is over here on my shelf, and I'm looking for it right now.
It's right here. I keep it on the top.
It's called The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton.
[00:18:06] Drew: Okay? I see it.
[00:18:08] Adam: And the other one was a payroll.
Like, this is how payroll is processed. IPPA. This is our like, this is what you need to know to sell. This is the product.
And this book is about a guy. It's a narrative book about a guy who goes into a coffee shop, and the coffee shop owner says, you need to talk to this friend of mine. He's going to help you. And this friend of his introduces him to four different professionals that are four different archetypes.
[00:18:39] Drew: Okay.
[00:18:40] Adam: And he teaches him how to interact with them on an interpersonal level and see them for who they are, not change who he is, but to mesh that who he is with who they are in a way where it becomes a trustful relationship.
[00:18:56] Drew: I love that. Wow.
[00:18:58] Adam: And it was like, Holy crap, this is what I'd want. If I was being sold, I'd want somebody who doesn't try to be me, but sees me and serves as an outcome, but at the same time cares about the human.
[00:19:14] Drew: Yes.
[00:19:15] Adam: I was like, wow, I didn't know any of this.
And it has been the revelation of a lifetime for me because I was always the guy who loved to have deep conversations with people at parties.
[00:19:31] Drew: Right.
[00:19:31] Adam: It wasn't like, weirdly deep. It was just, oh, that's cool. You're into that music. Why? Where did you get into that? That is so cool. And I love geeking out on what other people love, and I have this really diverse nerdiness that I just kept in my private life. I never knew there was a way to be nerdy about stuff and turn it into something that you got to do for a living.
[00:19:59] Drew: I love that.
[00:20:00] Adam: So now I sit down with people, and I nerd out on who they are, and I nerd out on what they love, because I guarantee you, if you like five things, there's probably one or two of them that my eclectic weirdness has lapsed into at some point in my life.
[00:20:15] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:20:16] Adam: And I'm more interested in talking about that than I am about telling you about my print and mail, direct mail services that I do. That's the outcome of understanding you. And in understanding you, if my services help you get where you want to go as a human, your job is part of your life. And I've learned that if I serve people in this, I get to do something more. And there was an absolute pinnacle of it all. So my son, when he was ill.
[00:20:47] Drew: How's he doing, by the way?
[00:20:49] Adam: Amazing.
He is struggling with chemistry, as any sophomore, junior in high school does. And I'm glad for it.
[00:20:58] Drew: Yes, absolutely.
[00:20:59] Adam: But the key moment there was an absolute lightning shock, and it took me a while to understand it. So my son is ill after his birth. This was when I was still employed by that company, right?
There was this treatment called ECMO. It's where they go in through your carotid artery, and they put a shunt in, and they hook it to a centrifuge, and then they turn your heart off. They actually shock it so that it stops beating, because at birth, his heart had an infection, and so this machine circulates the blood through the circulatory system so that the heart muscle can rest for up to four days.
[00:21:38] Drew: Oh, boy.
[00:21:39] Adam: And there's this guy. These two guys, in our case, who came and traveled with the machine, and they travel all over the country, and we were sitting with them. What they do is they have a kitchen timer, and they set it for 15 minutes. And every 15 minutes, they take a flashlight and they go down every inch of the tube to make sure they don't see any clots forming, because if the clot were to form, the baby would die.
And so every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day for as long as the kids connected, up to four days, these two guys take shifts.
[00:22:14] Drew: God bless them.
[00:22:16] Adam: As a parent, you're sitting with them and you're talking with these guys and saying, why do you do this, and, Where are you from? And just tell me about your life. It gets me not thinking about my kid.
[00:22:28] Drew: Right.
[00:22:28] Adam: And so they were sharing these details about this one guy. I'm doing this for a certain number of years so that I can build up enough experience that I can get a different job in the industry, that I can then be local with at my own home. But then I'll have enough income built up that I can marry my girlfriend and we can start a beautiful life. So while I don't get to see her a lot right now, for this five year window, I'm doing this to give my wife a beautiful future. Wow.
You hear this and you're like, you serve others, you save lives. You have meaning.
You are happy with what you do.
[00:23:09] Drew: Yes.
[00:23:10] Adam: I have none of that. And then I went back to my job, and it wasn't until I started looking at what I wanted to do that you can be happy, you can make people's lives better, you can serve with joy. You can do all these things. And I watched these guys who, yeah, there were sacrifices, but they weren't sacrifices that weren't for a purpose, that made a better life for them, that they could see how they were serving others in. And I didn't help anybody. I was shuffling papers for a company that was screwing people over on the regular, because that's what Wall Street does to a lot of folks.
[00:23:49] Drew: Absolutely.
[00:23:50] Adam: And so in that moment, I became aware, and in meeting Andy and working through that, I became aware that there was that moment of an example that was given to me that I missed the first time.
[00:24:04] Drew: Exactly. You weren't ready for it. Now you are ready for it. You embraced it, and it's helped you where you are now, which I want to hear about. I want to hear about the print business and what you're doing and how all the lessons you learned shapes the kind of person you are doing what you're doing.
[00:24:24] Adam: Absolutely. Yeah. I work with the company. I'm the client acquisition manager for Plum Marketing, and we are a marketing agency that specializes in print and direct mail marketing. And the reason we say it that way is it speaks again to this journey. I could throw something in the mail for somebody and just shoot it out, but if it says something that's not effective, if it looks bad, if it's something that my experience tells me will hinder their success, and their success is a lot of these these are mean. Denver is full of those people who are real people who are trying to succeed in business. And if nobody tells them, hey, this thing you're doing, if you change it just this little bit, you'll actually get better results and you'll see more prosperity in your life from those better results. But so many places just, okay, I'll take that order. I'll print that thing, I'll mail that thing.
But I pride myself, and we pride ourselves here at Plum in looking at somebody and saying, I love what you're trying to do, but there's a way to adjust it to better speak to the people you're wanting to serve, which will create a better result, which will bring prosperity to your world.
[00:25:37] Drew: I love it, Adam. And you know, that's a great example of how the journey you've taken in life connected you to the work you do. And that myth that we learned growing up, separating work from personal life, is bull. That is a myth, because first, why would you want to separate it? Because you can bring strengths from your personal life into your work life.
We're only around 24 hours a day. We're sleeping for really supposed to be eight of it. How do you separate those other 16 hours? Good for you, man. What a perfect example of that.
I could talk to you for forever.
I want to get to the last couple questions that I have for you, and then we'll roll into how people get in touch with you. So I want you to think about this, because you don't often get a chance to think about this. You have an opportunity to speak to your younger self. So, Adam, you are sitting down with seven to ten year old Adam, and you want to give him advice about life. What are you going to tell him?
[00:26:48] Adam: There's a phrase I've learned from some men I meet with regularly, and that is that don't should all over yourself.
And I, as a young man, had a lot of shoulds. I should have this kind of job. I should follow this kind of path. I should hit these landmarks of life like it was some trail that everybody was on, and I should be where other people are.
And that should is all just societal BS. Telling you these things that leave you feel like you're not who and where and what you should be it and as long as you are genuine to who you are and are happy, that's where you should be. But you don't hear a lot of those traditional should things of you should be happy. You should enjoy your life. You should do this, do this, do this. So I tell my younger self, don't listen to all those things you should do. You should find happiness. And beyond that, there's not a lot you should have to do in life.
[00:28:02] Drew: I love that the Christian singer Matthew West in one of his songs says that comparison is the thief of joy.
And I tweak it a little and say, comparison is the thief of truth.
Somebody else's livelihood is not your truth. You know your so that's great advice you'd give to your younger self. All right? So take all put on a different hat now. Now you're sitting with young Adam, the young businessman, young entrepreneur, and you're going to give some business advice this time. What are you going to tell him?
[00:28:39] Adam: I'm going to tell him the same thing I heard a couple of times early that benefited me, but a little too late.
And that's the old adage, god gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason and never forget it. As you can clearly tell, I like to talk and I have to remember when to stop.
And I've learned it. But, boy, I met a Ukrainian woman as a prospect one time as a referral, and that was the big learning moment because she reached back out to the referral source and told him, don't ever introduce me to anybody who talks as much as Adam.
And I was like, Ouch. So I've learned to read others as well with that and learn to know when to shut up.
[00:29:24] Drew: I love classic. Hey, you got to send a thank you note to that.
All right? So the audience has certainly, as have I, captured the essence of adam kemper. People are going to want to get in touch with you for a variety of reasons. Why don't you give them the information to do so?
[00:29:45] Adam: Absolutely. The easiest way is just reach out to me on my cell, 720670, 6500. Super easy number to know. Also, [email protected]
and that's plum with a b.
And I'm here in Denver, Colorado, and I love sitting down for coffee with folks. So if you're here locally, hit me up and I'll buy you a cup of coffee and get to know you better.
[00:30:11] Drew: Beautiful. Love it, love it, love it.
Adam, thank you for being in my life. I'm grateful that we're friends and you're an awesome guy. And please keep being who you are and keep doing what you're doing.
It's been a pleasure, my friend.
[00:30:26] Adam: It is great to know you. I am always moved by the thoughts you share, and I really appreciate being in your world and being your friend as well. Drew.
[00:30:35] Drew: Thanks, my friend. It's my pleasure. Take care, everybody. Be well. Be safe.
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed the episode, please subscribe and give us a review to help others find it.
[00:30:50] Drew: If you find your self immersed in adversity and would like to find support from other men in times of struggle, please become a member of my Men Supporting Men Collaboration tribe by emailing me at [email protected]
expressing your interest and I'll get in touch with you. Speak to you soon. Bye.