I was a college coach for fifteen years but rather than placing a resume to try and make myself feel better about my past, I will leave it simple and say that my presence for work was on a handful of college universities and campuses from around the country. My roots of coaching began at a small junior college and that path of a yellow brick road of a career lead me to two of the biggest sports factories the United States has to offer in the realm of college athletics. This article has nothing to do with the career but rather how that yellow brick road changed my life forever.
It was Sunday, March 8th, 2015 (if you’re the type that needs dates) I had just unraveled myself from my wife’s arms, without somehow waking her from bed, grabbed the same jeans I had worn for the last three days, and whatever shirt was laying stagnant on the floor, gave them both the smell check (as though I was still in college) and made my way downstairs, tip-toeing every step to avoid waking my wife on the only day of the week she got to sleep in. I threw on my pants and shirt, and made my way over to my phone that was charging on the kitchen counter-top. As any college coach will tell you, sleep is the only time you can separate yourself from your phone and justify in your head why you have good reason to miss a call from a recruit or a current student-athlete. Upon opening my phones main page, there was a text from my boss “Need you to book a flight to Sweden for Tuesday, the kid called last night and he isn’t signing pro.” This was the norm in my line of work, anything you ever planned became no plans at the drop of a text, and though I had just gotten back from Europe three days earlier, I was well aware that I would be heading straight back within the next 48 hours.
Fast-forward 48 hours and grasp the concept that I am on a half-empty plane taking the red-eye to Europe placed in my usual window seat (spoiled with travel agents who pull strings in the travel industry). As most international planes, there were three seat in my row, five seats in the middle and three seats on the other. For much of the boarding process, the two seats next to me remained empty, and for a fleeting moment that thought of having my own row for the next 10 hours had my mind doing back-flips. And then like any great hope in my life, that thought vanished as a man peered up at the seat label near the baggage storage area and then back down at his ticket to confirm they matched. “Well, looks like we are going to be friends by the end of this,” said the man in his raspy voice.
The thing about traveling a lot for work is you can spot the travelers from the non-travelers. The non-travelers have two extremes, they are the ones who sit there totally quiet because they are scared-to-death of the idea of flying, and the other, is the one who pulls out their cell phone and begins recording everything within the plane, and obnoxiously making a total scene, as if to say look at me world, I’m on a plane (let me add the Instagram’s and Facebooks of the world have made these type of people even worse.) These are same people who get up 9 times during the flight, bump elbows every five seconds, or even worse, bother the flight attendant 10 times, because a soda is free, and they’re trying to milk the flight to get it’s full value. They are also the ones who stow away their carry-on bags above the seats, but need something from it every twenty seconds. As a traveler these are the worst kind of people, because you can never settle because of their constant antsy-movements.
The constant travelers are easy to spot, hell you can read them as early as the security check-point, they’re the ones with ID and ticket in hand, pulling out laptops from bags, taking off shoes, and systematically structured without the security saying a word about policies. They also get on the plane, and have everything needed before take-off pulled out of their carry-on before sitting down. As if to let you know, unless I really have to go to the bathroom, I’m not leaving my seat. These are the best kind of travelers, these are also the kind of travelers that test who they are sitting next to with a small dose of conversation to see if that person is worth their time, which was exactly what the “Well, looks like we are going to be friends at the end of this” statement was, a test.
My reaction to the statement only came after I saw the man pullout his laptop, his notepad, and two pens from his leather carry-on bag before occupying the seat next to me. “Have you been to Sweden before,” I asked, knowing the open ended question would stir up conversation. The man tucked his laptop in the seat pocket in front of him and responded “I go there for work once a month,” he responded nestling into his seat as he began to look for both ends of the seat belt.
“What about you?” he asked after locating both ends of the seat-belt and buckling in.
To be fair, this is usually where I’d end most conversations and simply say yes and let it die, at this point when meeting a stranger, it’s only when you extend the olive branch a second time that a long conversation takes place, and for some reason and don’t ask me why, I extend the branch a second time. “I go there often for work as well. May I ask what you do?”
“Finance, but basically the finance of the future if I’m being honest with you,” said the man as he extended his hand, “Name is Charlie, but everyone calls me Chuck.” I extended my hand to greet his request of a handshake, “David,” I replied quickly, “but everyone calls me D.” There was a pause for a moment before I opened the floodgates and asked, “What do you mean by finance of the future?”, and so began the very conversation that would change my life forever.
Chuck looked at me for a moment as if to get a pulse on how open-minded I was before beginning. “What if I told you everything you know about money was going to change in the next five to ten years,” he asked just as the captain came over the loud speakers to give the details of the flight. For the next four minutes, while I listened to the same rhetoric I had heard for the last fifty flights I had ever been on, I started to wonder where Chuck was going with this. I was always heavy in the stock market both long term and short term markets; I had dabbled with forex, owned real-estate and rental properties and began to ask myself what I was missing. And as the captain continued speaking Chuck leaned his head back and closed his eyes, an absolute indicator to any veteran traveler that he had no intention of carrying-on a conversation.
I thought quickly how I could reconnect with him before he fell asleep. The stewardess who was giving the safety instructions was a five-foot five blonde who any straight male would have found easy on the eye. I looked at Chuck’s left hand and saw he had no ring on it, so I tapped him on the shoulder and said “We certainly have a talented group of stewardess here for the flight.” Chuck opened his eyes and saw the blonde stewardess, “I think they grow them like that in Sweden,” he replied with a chuckle before continuing, “I’ll see a hundred of her while I’m in town over the next week, sooner or later I just need to get one of them to marry me.”
And before Chuck could find his next thought I repeated my say question that I had expressed four minutes before but louder so he could hear me over the new voice that came on the loud speaker. “What did you mean when you said finance of the future?”
And so began my education to cryptocurrency. For the next eight hours Chuck began talking about a new currency, comparing it to the evolution of credit cards and how it was created through computers and they called it bitcoin. Of how you couldn’t hold it, or see it, other than some website telling you that you had it. He took out his computer and expressed where to get it, and how to store it and detailed just how he saw this evolution taking place. He talked about the biggest stocks in the market and how reliant they had become on the internet, and the growth of the mobile phone, and piecing together in my mind why this evolution would have to eventually take place. I took out a note pad and began scribbling down every aspect of the conversation, and quickly became everything I hated about traveling, an unseasoned traveler who couldn’t contain his antsy excitement. I took out my phone and began taking pictures of websites being shown to me, notes he had written down, and hell I even took a selfie with Chuck to remember the moment.
By the time the plane landed Chuck and I had exchanged numbers and emails, and went our separate ways. I couldn’t tell you much about who the student-athlete in Sweden I was there to see, nor could I tell you much what I went to see in my off days, or even the name of the hotel I stayed in, what I can tell you is this…..
When I got home four days later, I placed one of my rental properties up for sale, and two weeks later after the property sold, I took all of my earnings and I bought a currency few had ever heard of called bitcoin for $252.13 apiece. I emailed Chuck to let him know and to give thanks and the friendship has become a daily phone call of laughs. Over that time Chuck and I bought into Ethereum at $3.02 Antshares (now Neo) at .14 and arguably my favorite investment of all EOS at .57 in September of last year. During the bull market when bitcoin and all alt coins went on a run we both sold the majority of our holdings with the assumption the market would have to eventually correct itself.
Chuck retired in February at 46 and I walked away from college sports in May of this year. Throughout my time in college coaching I had gone to six continents, 32 countries, 49 US states and had more frequent flyer miles and hotel points than I could begin to speak of. And yet none of them changed my life, more than a 10 hour flight to Sweden, sitting next to some stranger with a raspy voice on a half empty plane.
In the end Chuck got married to a blonde Swedish girl named Abby, and now travels the world to experience all the things he missed in life because of work. From time to time when my wife decides she wants to go on vacation we do the same, the only difference is, I stopped judging the veteran travels from the newbies, just in case one of the newbies has another story to share that could change my life.