Courtesy of Glenn Pizzolorusso
Glen Pizzolorusso at the wheel of his Range Rover, one of five cars he owned before the subprime mortgage market went bust.
[Ed: We're bumping this post up for the folks coming in from This American Life. Also, for the dialog with its author that has broken out in the comments.]
Glen Pizzolorusso got his start in the mortgage industry in his father's company, at age 14. Still in his 20s, by 2007 he'd worked his way up to running his own sales team, making $100,000 a month and helping to inflate the bubble that became the current global economic crisis. When that bubble burst, he told us the story for This American Life's Giant Pool of Money episode.
Here, Pizzolorusso writes about the difference between his old definition of success and his new one.
I see a Porsche convertible drive by, sky blue, tan leather interior, gorgeous, and immediately a feeling of envy comes over me. I think that's a natural feeling, but I can't help wondering what is the motivation behind the purchase of such an expensive piece of machinery. Is it a burning desire to own the pinnacle of German automobile engineering? Is it a love for speed, wind blowing in your face, freed from the perils of Corporate America? Or is it a symbol of success, a long career, countless promotions, 60-hour workweeks, a remedy for the stress that accompanies such dedication?
For me, it was all of the above. After seven long years of 60+ hours a week in the subprime mortgage industry, I had achieved what I had set out to accomplish: success.
I was a success, with a seven-figure income, a healthy portfolio of real estate, a gorgeous wife, fancy cars, a Madison Avenue wardrobe. I was the envy of others, my yellow 911 a testament to my success. You see, I grew up in an affluent community. Our neighbors were doctors and lawyers with kids who went to private schools. Money and status defined success for me, and by my definition, success was all around. Now I was worthy to take part in its communion.
Then I lost everything. I became a victim of the financial mess I had helped to create. My houses, gone. Cars, gone. Bank account, gone. Success, gone. How could this happen? This wasn't the story you see on TV. This wasn't supposed to happen. The success I had sacrificed so much of who I was to achieve simply disappeared.
In the weeks and months following the financial crash I went from highly employable to another "subprime" guy looking for work. Many companies specified not to apply if you had "subprime" experience.
These have been the worst months of my life, and oddly enough, so far, these same months also have been the best. I watched as my healthy bank account slowly evaporated, the repos and foreclosures started and my claim for unemployment benefits got denied. It was a downward spiral ending in financial ruin.
I should have been terrified, but for some reason I was calm, collected, happy even. The enormous cloud of uncertainty was slowly disappearing and allowing the sun to shine in on my life.
I began to realize the things I had been so naive to overlook: my children, my health, the love of a Godly woman and some of the greatest friends on the planet. I was truly blessed. And the best part of it was this was all free, there for me whether my paycheck had six zeros or two.
I started to think differently about wealth and how I defined success. The dream of success I once had was radically transformed. I was actually ashamed I had earned so much money and the only thing I had to show for it was a handful of pictures. I hadn't helped anyone but myself. I could have done so many positive things with the money I earned, but failed to. I was not a success.
Now that I've been given a second chance, success to me has no monetary value, and it is not something that can be measured by outward appearances. Success is making the best out of what you have been blessed with. It's giving your all despite your circumstances. It's spending the time to teach your children the importance of things such as faith, love, education, and confidence. It is so much more than the shallow emptiness that wealth and material possessions often bring.
I think about an illustration someone shared with me recently. When you finish a game of Monopoly, all the pieces go back in the box, so it really doesn't matter how much of the board you control. Life works the same way. Life is finite, your days numbered. When my days have ended, if one person stands over my grave describing the positive impact I had on their life, my life will have been a success.