The Road Not Taken

My journey through life & work

When I was young, there was a poem that resonated with me, and stayed with me my entire life, like a guardian angel sitting on my shoulder. My life's path, like most lives I assume, is all about the choices we make. Should I brush my teeth before or after breakfast? Which meditation will I zen out to this morning? What difficult problem will I devour first? Which passion will lead my creative day?

Whenever I see a fork in the road, figuratively or metaphorically, I would always stop and think. What would Robert Frost do? I always thought of him in those moments, taking his many meandering walks with fellow writer Edward Thomas. The Road Not Taken came from these walks and may have been significant in Thomas' life-ending decision to enlist in World War 1.

Very early on, I learned I was an explorer of sorts, like Lewis and Clark investigating a newly acquired land. An eager young man on a mission. 

A tale often told in my family was of a fateful camping trip in the Hamptons at Cedar Point when I was five years old. Let me set the scene. In a dense forest, there was a rickety playpen with a gaping hole in the bottom which was poorly covered. There was a moment of distraction. It was Memorial Day weekend and there was a scheduled parade just kicking off. 

Can you see it? 

A moment of panic, where's Danny? The earth stood still, there was a frantic search, and after 20 minutes that likely felt like 20 hours, there I was. Stomping my feet and marching at the head of the parade. I can still hear the beating of the drums, booming like a thunderous storm. 

Steady and rhythmically, a little soldier was in the making. We all laugh now, but at the time, I am sure my family was terrified. I wasn't, I was in my element, and practicing for what was to come just 12 years later.

When it came time for high school graduation, my first big diverged road was presented to me: college, or the military. I come from a long line of service in my family. My father and his brothers all served, my mother and sister served their local communities as nurses, and my mother’s brother is also an Army vet. I choose the Navy, or rather, the Navy chose me. There were two reasons, my godfather was a seaman, and Tom Cruise’s character Maverick, naturally! I mean, who didn't love Top Gun! I was ready for adventure, to explore the world through a lens that not many of my fellow graduates were choosing. In retrospect, this would be the definitive decision in my life. The drive, determination, and discipline I learned carried me down this road that led me to you reading this piece.

Full immersion #1

When I left the military, I was now on a new mission, I needed a job and a chance to find what I am passionate about. A friend hooked me up with a job at Kinko’s, what an interesting founder story Paul Orfela has. Serendipity struck! I was a delivery driver by day, printing room spy by night. I soaked up all the knowledge the design department had to offer, and when I wrung them dry, Adobe’s classroom in a book series became my best friend. This job drove me down my first rabbit hole, of which I have not found a bottom. Kinko’s led to me starting my first business, Naz Creative. This was a graphic design company for local businesses. I designed logos, business cards, and company literature. 

Full immersion #2. 

Naz Creative led me to WebCanDo, a web design company started by a family friend. I lived and breathed web design and internet marketing for 2 years after being laid off following 9/11. I spent many days and nights, laying on the couch of a house my friends and I rented. As they tell it, my holey sweatpants became a badge of honor to them. I still have not lived this down. Hundreds of websites were designed in those air-conditioned sweats.

Full immersion #3.

Fast forward a couple of years and this brings me to my current business, Creativo Design Studio. My partner and I formed the studio in February of 2008, 8 months prior to the housing bubble bursting. 13 years later, we’re still going very strong. All of the skills I learned leading up to this founding have helped me maintain my edge on technology, design, and trends around the world.

Full immersion #4

When the pandemic hit, another diverged road appeared along with a new rabbit hole. This hole was very different than the others. A unique path that I never thought I would get a chance to explore. The stock market has always been a high interest for me, dating back to growing up in the ’80s. Our Trading Edge is my stock trading journey I never knew I wanted to take. I am still immersed here, exploring every nook & cranny available to my sore fingers. 

As you can see, there is a lot to unpack on this adventure. Through my writing, my hope is that you take this journey with me as a companion of sorts and possibly as a guide to my entrepreneurial path if you will. We'll explore the many topics and passions that fuel my creativity and internal fire. I'll talk about how I came to find my passions, the jobs I had along the way, and the mentors who were influential in my life that helped propel me further in my career. 

We'll touch on 9/11, the 2008 housing collapse, and the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, all of which were instrumental in pushing my passions and career to even higher levels. Life has done nothing but throw curveballs at me, we're talking Sandy Koufax type of curveballs. When I see that pitch, I embody my best version of Mike Trout and crush the ball over the centerfield fence.

All of these moments in my life, these roads diverged in a wood, are why I am here telling my story. I am frequently asked what I do, why I do it, and how I got to where I am. What will come next will be my best attempt at putting this framework together. My hope is that someone out there can identify with my story and possibly glean ideas of how I navigated obstacles along the way. 

Solutions > problems

If a tree falls and blocks your path, find an ax and chop your way through. We are all presented with different roads in life, I took the one less traveled by every single time, and that has made all the difference.