Life Stories How to Choose a Career You’ll Love

Making a living doing what you love might be the exception rather than the rule, but there’s something to be said for following your passion when considering a career path.

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What makes us gravitate to a general career field or a particular job? Many times the past holds clues to what we want in the present. Something in our childhood or adolescence could trigger a desire and send us on a journey toward becoming a doctor, a firefighter, even the president of the United States!

While our own past experiences often motivate us, sometimes others inspire our dreams by what they’ve done or accomplished – following in your father’s footsteps, perhaps, or maybe wanting to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.

Instead of sharing more customer testimonials, we’re focusing on three Life Storage customers whose careers were in some way fostered or cultivated by their upbringing.

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Hell on Wheels

Carlos Gonzalez was born and raised in Pleasant Grove, Texas, a low income neighborhood outside of Dallas. By his own admission, Carlos, now the owner of Tint Shop & Accessories in Lewisville, Texas, wanted to be much better off than his parents.

“I have always been driven to work hard for my family, so I can provide what I never had in my life,” says the 43-year-old husband and father of three. “I have always been an entrepreneur since I was very young. I have owned tanning salons, bars, kiosk retail businesses, restaurants, and now I’m in the window tint business.”

When Carlos says “very young,” he’s not exaggerating. His first job was at age 12.

He was “hanging out” at a local arcade every day during the summer and one day the owner had a family emergency and had to leave abruptly. Knowing Carlos from being around the arcade all the time, she asked him if he could watch the arcade while she was gone. He was thrilled, and she gave him the keys. The arcade owner didn’t return for two days.

“I ran the place, cleaned it up and had all the money from the two days,” Carlos proudly remembers. “She was a little shocked and she offered me a job.”

Carlos worked at the arcade for over two years. During that time, a restaurant was opening across the street from the arcade. The manager knew Carlos because he was always around.

I rode my bike around to all the stores, collecting money from all three, got home to my house at 12:30 a.m. and had to get up to go to school the next day and do it all over again.”

“He offered me a job at 15 years old, basically to run the place,” Carlos says. “They opened three restaurants in the area, and I was training managers at all three stores. These 35-year-old guys didn’t like being trained by a 15-year-old, but they all thought I was older and that I knew what I was doing.”

It was a hectic time for Carlos, but he was determined to be successful. He got up for school at 6:30 a.m., then went directly to work at all three restaurants.

“I rode my bike around to all the stores, collecting money from all three, got home to my house at 12:30 a.m. and had to get up to go to school the next day and do it all over again,” says Carlos, who described himself as being “hell on wheels back in the day.”

By the time Carlos was 19-20 years old, he had saved up enough money and was able to buy his parents’ house and his aunt’s house because they were struggling to pay the mortgage.

“They made payments to me,” Carlos says. “It was at a time when interest rates were sky high, and they were better off paying me.”

With some money in the bank and a strong desire to succeed, Carlos the entrepreneur was born. Over the years, he’s been involved in several business ventures, some better than others. “I never lost on a business,” he says. “I have always had Plan A, B and C.”

Carlos has been in the window tinting business for the past 14 years, and while it is doing well, the man who never rests on his laurels is planning for the future.

Next up for Carlos? “I want to get into the tourism business,” he says. “Buy a villa in Jamaica, rent it out. It will have a maid, chef and butler. It’s going to be a place with an ocean view, it’s going to be pristine and in demand,” he adds confidently.

The tourism gig will be something much less stressful than Carlos’ previous ventures, and that’s just fine with him. “I started real early, 12-13 years old. Now I’m ready to stop.”

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Doing His Own Thing

Jeff Simoneau is currently a successful independent contractor working with Pepperidge Farms in North Andover, Mass. He enjoys his work – the independence, the self-accountability and the opportunity to grow his business.

“I am given the opportunity to work for myself independently without the constraints of being in an office or having to report to anyone directly,” says Jeff, who bought the Pepperidge Farms snack route a little over a year ago for nearly $300,000. “It is a great business and one that is very prosperous. The company is great; they really let you do your own thing.”

Before Pepperidge Farms, Jeff was an independent contractor for Voortman Cookies, and prior to that, he was the head women’s soccer coach at Rivier University in Nashua, N.H., for over nine years.

Moving back to the U.S. was scary because I was leaving my family, but it certainly taught me early on to think for myself and make decisions for myself.”

The key word for Jeff is independent. You see, Jeff has been a very self-sufficient person his entire life, going back to his adolescence when his family moved from Melrose, Mass., to Sens, France, a small town about 60 miles from Paris. Jeff spent two years in France, going to school and playing soccer.  Looking back, he says it was a great experience, but it wasn’t always easy for the then-12-13-year-old.

“I was the new kid, the kid that talked funny,” Jeff remembers. “I had to learn a new language and try to crack the starting lineup against some really good soccer players.”

Jeff accomplished both tasks, but his parents thought it would be better if he returned home to attend Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., to finish his high school education.

“Moving back to the U.S. was scary because I was leaving my family, but it certainly taught me early on to think for myself and make decisions for myself,” Jeff says. “I certainly made many mistakes as a young person learning my way in the world, but it taught me as well that you need to think about not just the now but what is best for you going forward.”

That experience molded young Jeff and prepared him for his future endeavors. He went on to graduate from Northeastern University. During his college days, Jeff got his first taste of coaching soccer, working for a small city high school in Boston.

I certainly made many mistakes as a young person learning my way in the world, but it taught me as well that you need to think about not just the now but what is best for you going forward.”

“I think that there was a certain me against the world mentality, developed from living abroad as a foreigner in a different country and then being on my own at 14 years old and not having an immediate support group around me such as parents and family,” Jeff says.

Jeff, now 48 years old and living in Newburyport, Mass., runs a lot (mostly 5K races), enjoys reading and lives his life by several mantras. He relates to many inspirational quotes by legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, and “loves” Dale Wimbrow’s poem “The Man in the Glass,” which concludes:

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartache and tears,
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Jeff also relates to a scene from one of his favorite movies, “Hoosiers.” Norman Dale, the head coach played by Gene Hackman, is visiting the principal who hired him as Hickory’s basketball coach. The principal just had a heart attack and was going to have to stop working as Dale’s assistant coach for a while. He says to Coach Dale, “looks like you’re on your own for a while.” Coach Dale says, “That’s OK,” and the principal replies, “you kind of like being on your own.”

“I love that line,” says Jeff. “Probably because I, too, like being on my own.”

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A “Natural” Progression

The environment, the wilderness, nature’s beauty… it’s all in David Allwine’s wheelhouse. He’s made a career out of his love for the great outdoors.

A senior project manager for Stantec Consulting Services in New Hampshire, Dave works on the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites and does environmental due diligence on properties proposed for sale.

It’s been a job-in-the-making since he donned his first Cub Scout uniform at 7 years old.

“I have always enjoyed the outdoors,” says Dave who naturally lists fishing, camping and woodworking as his hobbies. But tops on his hobby list is being a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts.

Born and raised in Shelby, Ohio, Dave was a Boy Scout through much of his school years but fell one level short of an Eagle Scout. He regrets not making Eagle Scout, saying his time was occupied by homework, a job as a stock boy at a drugstore and girlfriends.

Dave majored in Geology at Miami (Ohio) University, where he met his wife, Anne Marie. They met, of course, as counselors on a camping trip with other college students. Geology was a no-brainer.

“It (Geology) allowed me to be outdoors, see other parts of the country, travel, plus it had financial rewards,” Dave says.

Dave has worked in the environmental field for 30 years, holding jobs in North Carolina and Maine prior to his current position with Stantec.

Dave and Anne Marie have two sons, Dylan, 21, a senior at Lyndon State College in Vermont, and Dawson, 16, a junior at Brewster Academy in their hometown of Wolfeboro, N.H. The family camps occasionally, and Dave took his sons fishing quite often when they were young. Dylan does not share his father’s passion for the outdoors, but Dawson is knocking on the door to become an Eagle Scout.

Dave, the Scout Master, says he “encourages” Dawson to finish the progression to Eagle Scout. “He’s so close, he better finish,” Dave says with a light-hearted laugh. “It would be a shame if he didn’t push through. Eagle Scout has a lot of benefits. Colleges look at it with great regard.”

Scouts was great fun, plus it prepares you for life. It absolutely enhanced my love for the outdoors which led me to a wildlife management career.”

Dave says he proudly lives by the Boy Scouts of America Scout Law, which says a Scout is: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

“The underlying goal is to take boys and turn them into leaders,” Dave says. “Give them responsibility. Scouts instills in you good moral and ethical behavior.”

Scouts definitely had a significant influence on Dave and his career choice.

“Scouts was great fun, plus it prepares you for life,” says Dave. “It absolutely enhanced my love for the outdoors which led me to a wildlife management career.”


Carlos Gonzalez came from humble beginnings and knew early on that he wanted more in life. Jeff Simoneau found his independence as a teen and now enjoys the freedom of being his own boss. And Dave Allwine turned his lifelong love for the outdoors into a 30-year career working in the environment.

The process of choosing a career is influenced by many factors as is the case with these three businessmen. It makes sense that people are likely to pick a job for which they have a passion. But understanding your personality traits and characteristics can also be key to career fulfillment and success.

 

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