One of the most valuable lessons was learned when I was just 15 years old. I was living in Tucson, Arizona. I had always worked, from a young age. The summer of 1992 I found myself pulling weeds and digging up dead cacti in the sweltering Arizona 100+ degree heat, working for a desert landscaping company for a whopping $5 an hour. Since the age of 12 I had dreamed of one day working in radio, but had figured I was way too young to start a career like that.
One day I came home from a long day of working in the dirt–sunburned, dirty and stinky. My dear mother greeted me at home with a newspaper clipping from the classified ads (young people may need to Google that), advertising for a position as a mobile DJ for a local entertainment company–the kind of DJ that would emcee weddings, parties, etc. My mother insisted I call and apply for the job. I laughed at her.
“Who would hire a 15-year old kid with no experience?,” I chided. She told me I should at least “ask,” but I wasn’t having that. I wasn’t about to call and risk embarrassing myself. I told her to just forget it, as I dismissed the idea and went on with my night, up early the next morning for another grueling day of outdoor Arizona work.
The next day when I came home from a long day of labor my mom was waiting for me with excitement. Imagine my shock as she gleefully informed me that she had called the DJ company herself, talked to the owner and told him all about me, and that I now had an appointment for an interview on Friday.
“What?!,” I shrieked in horror. “Let me get this straight, you–my mom called a potential employer to set up an interview for me??? This can’t be! I am ruined!!! What did you do?!”
It was a teenager’s worst nightmare–his mom calling just about anyone, especially a potential future employer. Nothing could be worse!
I was stuck now. I had to show up for this interview that my mom booked. Oh boy. This is going to be tough. I reluctantly put on a tie (actually, my mom put the tie on me, I didn’t know how to tie one) and showed up for my interview (transportation provided by my mom, of course.) This was gonna suck.
I met with Ron Coss, the owner of DJ Dynamix. I remember my jaw dropping and being in awe, actually being able to put my hands on real-live DJ equipment–the turntables, mixers, microphone, etc. I’d only seen this stuff in TV shows and movies, and now, here I was, using it in person, if only just for pretend. That hour went by so quick and before you know it, I was back home–thankful for my experience, but with no actual “hope” that I’d actually get the job. It wasn’t gonna happen. 24 hours later the job was out of my mind. I had weeds to pull. I soon forgot about the position entirely.
Until I got a call three days later. I got the job.
My mobile DJ position at DJ Dynamix was only the first of many, many positions in a very long and fruitful radio and TV career that is still surprising me to this day. From there I was able to get a position at the local public radio station, then on to the commercial station in town, eventually making it to Phoenix, then Los Angeles and of course a nationally syndicated radio show, that today, airs in over 80 cities nationwide and is still growing. And to think, this all started with my mother picking up the phone and embarrassing me.
The very valuable lesson here: TAKE RISKS. When the only risk is that of “being embarrassed” or told “no,” TAKE THE RISK. Ask for the position. Go get yours. Let nothing stop you, and realize that nothing is impossible. Never be afraid of no.
What if my mom had never made the call that one summer day, so very long ago? That one call was the first domino in a chain of hundreds of events that would eventually lead to one of the most amazing and fulfilling careers one could imagine. Could it be possible that without that one call, none of what happened in my life and career would have ever transpired? Would I be an insurance salesman today if Mom had not have decided to embarrass her son? I’m scared to even think about the possibility.
Yes, I learned and accepted this life-changing lesson at 15 years old when I was hired to be a “real-live DJ” while just a sophomore in high school, and have never looked back. Since that first job and the realization that you must always, always take risks and raise your hand for opportunities, I have since always made it a point to attempt to seize every opportunity that I was presented with. I’ve absolutely been laughed at, made fun of, talked down to, insulted and berated…but in the sea of 10,000 “nos,” there has been hundreds of “yeses,” and those yeses have led to an incredible 20+ years in the business.
That’s a pretty long lead-in to a story about Slow Jams in Suriname, but it was absolutely necessary.
So here I am, December of 2013, visiting the mysterious and mesmerizing country of Suriname. (By the way, this was thanks to a flourishing and long-lasting career in radio that has afforded me the means to see the world). Most of my friends and colleagues had never even heard of Suriname before my trip…in fact I had never even heard of Suriname! But traveling there was a requirement to fulfill one of the items on my bucket list: to see every country in South and Central America before I turned 40. And the clock was (and is) ticking–I’ve got a lot of countries to see!
My expectations for Suriname were low–it certainly didn’t sound as romantic or adventurous as an Argentina or Brasil–but the more I researched Suriname before my trip, the more intrigued I became. Here was a country in the Amazon jungle in South America, where the people were African, Indonesian and Indian…and spoke Dutch!!! Go figure that one out! I won’t bore you with history and geography, but the story of Suriname is simply amazing and the result in 2014 is the most interesting mix of people, colors, languages and cultures living together in one of the most random spots in the world…absolutely fascinating stuff.
You should know that one of my goals is to get my show, Sunday Night Slow Jams, on in every city in America…and eventually every country in the world. And well, most people would say this would be impossible–but now, we must think back to that one life-changing day in Tucson, Arizona–when a 15-year-old boy received a call and a dream job offer from DJ Company. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I had no problem contacting a radio station in Suriname’s capital of Paramaribo and setting up an appointment to tour their studios. Enjela and the crew at ABC Radio in Paramaribo were nothing but hospitable and warm to me as they welcomed me into their facilities to give me an hour long presentation and reception. I toured their building, saw their studios and offices, and was even invited to say hello on the air by the most famous radio personality in Paramaribo (and now Holland). It was an awesome experience, where I learned a lot and met some really nice people–one of the highlights of my trip!
And, looking back to that first job I stumbled upon in 1992, thanks to a nagging mom–I wouldn’t feel right if I hadn’t at least “inquire” about the possibility of airing Sunday Night Slow Jams in Suriname.
And just like it was far-fetched, in 1992, to get a real DJ job at the tender age of 15–I knew the chance of becoming Suriname’s next local radio personality was about one in a million.
But just like that first DJ job in Tucson just happened to magically come together…so did this one. Say hello to the newest member of Suriname’s ABC Radio team. I start Sunday.