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Free Write: Inspired

Staying with my grandparents the past few weeks while I find an apartment in New York, they’ve really opened my eyes to the simple things that we as a society have lost touch of. One of those things that I really enjoyed was how friends used to write letters to one another. I thought I’d write a letter to my friends to communicate my feeling in more traditional manner.

As the next chapter in my life has arrived, an interesting feeling has surfaced, and it’s liberating. I’ve never felt that, though the next steps are not laid out to a tee, I have ever been more focused and clear about the path I am taking. It is the first time that I have either not had a full-time job or been enrolled in school since I was five years old, and it feels like I’m doing exactly what I should be right now.

I’d like to shed light on why I feel this way and why I’m so optimistic about the future. I hope that this monologue may resonate with you if you are in or come to a similar junction in your life.

First, it is clear what I want in a career. I want to do something that I love and am passionate about. My confidence is at an all-time high. I know that I’ll give my all and be excellent at whatever I choose. Why not choose to do the thing that will make me happy every day? It’s clear. I made the choice that I will not stop moving toward it.

I’ve always been in a comfortable place. A place where my mission was clear. Finish the army, get the college money, graduate from the University of Miami, and a dream job will fall right on my lap. When I graduated and didn’t have an offer in Investment Banking, I felt empty. I’d been passed on repeatedly. Some in the community would say I was too old, my diploma was not prestigious enough, and I wasn’t capable of the workload. I started to ponder whether I should take other job offers including sales, other areas of banking, or with big name companies outside of banking. Today, I’m glad I did not commit to something that, despite coming with more money than I had ever been paid, does not move me towards my goal.

Fast forward to moving to New York City. I didn’t have a job in line. I didn’t have a place to live set. I didn’t have anyone waiting in the city to welcome me with open arms. That level of uncertainty has given me the motivation that drives the feeling of which I speak.

Being in finance, I like to relate things to the market. Those who understand investing, know that the greater the risk, the greater the reward, or loss. A government bond can never make the return of a stock. While the stock has a chance to bankrupt, the US treasury has never defaulted. Life can be explained similarly. If you take the easy route, if you settle in anything you do, and if you do not take any risks, you will never be able to get that high reward. Get in uncomfortable, uncertain situations that help you toward your goal. Be so resilient that no setback will stop you.

Once it’s clear what you want, why you want it, and that you’re prepared to take the risks associated with getting it, there’s one ingredient needed to create this “success potion.” It’s the hard work. For many, this is the hurdle that is missing. Why? Well because it must be done with resilience. It is ongoing and requires sacrifice everyday. The uncomfortable moments, be it networking, relocating, or anything else have little value if one is not prepared. I wake up every morning with the full-time job of learning more about my craft. That hard work will, in the end, actually land me the position I desire.

No matter where you are in life, there are people out there who are willing to help you get where you want to go. I’ve found amazing veterans that went out of their way to help me. For them, I am so thankful and will pay it forward without a doubt.

A Letter to My Congresswoman

As promised, I’ve uploaded an email that I sent to my congresswoman explaining my story, hardships, and how affirmative action is not helping enlisted military veterans. Hope you enjoy:

To The Honorable Nydia M. Velazquez,

I am a disabled veteran of our United States Army, and I feel that a minority group is under supported in our fine city and country.

As a young Sergeant and leader of troops, I remember sitting in the hills of Afghanistan thinking, I’m going to be the first person in my family to graduate college. The G.I. Bill is going to give me the opportunity to be whatever I wish so long as I make it out of war. In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu famously explained, “rewards are necessary in order to make the soldier see the advantage of beating the enemy […] so that all of your men have the desire to fight, each on his own account.” At a ripe age of eighteen, I bought in to this idea.

I promised myself that I would not take this education for granted. Honestly, the government held their part of the bargain, however, corporate America did not. After earning excellent grades at the University of Miami, I earned a degree in finance that cost United States tax-payers $300,000. As my graduation came closer, I saw classmates, many of whom I did far better than in finance, getting offers from various investment banks. What I didn’t know was those very private school students got many of the jobs because of family connections. I had not realized that a high grade point average from a top 50 university meant very little when it came to recruiting. I still had hope, despite, ultimately, being back in the same rung of the caste system in which i started.

Without securing a position, I graduated at the age of 27 years old with 5 years of military leadership and an undergraduate finance education as good as anyone. I moved to New York City to try to network as none of my application to banks so much as resulted in a single call back.

I split my days in half. Half of the day I would study, read books, and watch videos to prepare me for my dream of entering banking. The other I would cold call, email, do informational interviews, and pursue all veteran resources I could find. Money that I saved while deployed started to deduct from my bank account quickly. However, each veteran that I met told me to stay persistent and that I have what it takes to succeed in the industry. It was clear that I was being overlooked because I was not an officer. In retrospect, officers weren’t required to have top level educations or even ones in finance for that matter. But the few that the banks did take were officers, leaving us enlisted out to dry. Why? Because I did the military before I did college? Because there was never a father in my life to explain to me the importance of college?

Despite this, I have spent the last five months trying to secure an interview. I got lucky and got one with a firm that receives business from the government because it has a reputation for hiring service disabled veterans. Despite cold-calling my way into an interview and knocking the interview out of the park, they explained that they were downsizing and would see if the could help me.

I wonder, is it because I am disabled? Is it because I am a veteran? Is it because I was enlisted? I know it is not because I am unqualified. I am looking for answers and, though it is extremely for me to swallow my pride and send this email, I am running out of options. If I can’t interview in this field, I need to dedicate my life to advocating veterans rights. Forgetting about the enlisted guys is like hiring women and minorities, but not hiring women minorities.

I feel alone and have sacrificed far too much to give up now. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

Best,

Eric Lubus