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Sam Valme: One Series of Events Away from Building A Career

Sam Valme is a highly qualified, well-developed IT professional and entrepreneur with extensive systems analysis and project management expertise always interested in working with Industry leaders of successful growing companies and established corporations that require an individual with system design, testing, and support, problem analysis and resolution, and contractor-vendor relations.

Takeaways:

  1. Life as a series of small events, every ‘yes,’ and every ‘no’ leads to a different path. Be intentional about every step of the way.
  2. Reflection is the key to progression. You can’t progress in the right direction if you don’t understand the backwards data points in your own life.
  3. Write it down so you can see it, so you can remember it, and then do it every year and see how your goals change. That is going to help you establish the ‘why.’ If you can write it down and see it and focus on it, that’s going to help you set up everything you need to get there one day.

“You need to establish “why” and really understand why it is you’re doing what you’re doing every single day. Really think about what is the goal and what you are planning on being …”

Sam Valme

Transcript:

BRYAN: You’ve had some crazy things in your life happen that put you on the path you’re on today. What would be the One Away moment or experience that you want to shar with our audience?

SAM: I thought the concept behind the podcast was really interesting. This idea that it is these one moments that you have to look back on. What I found with my life is it’s definitely a single moment, but it’s a series. One of them was losing one of my close relatives when I was younger, my cousin. I lost him when I was extremely young. He was going down a troubled path and you kind of learned from these people all throughout. But, when that incident happened, you kind of look and that was the start, the earliest time that you self-reflect.

When you say, “what can you learn from an individual?” when they’ve been going down a difficult path and help shaping some of you and the way you’re looking forward. That was the start but then there were a couple of others.

The challenge that people have when it comes to these kinds of moments is recognizing them in retrospect. It’s easy to feel like life is constantly happening to you. I remember one time I was in with the guidance counselor when I was in high school. My uncle happened to always be into cars. I never had the opportunity because I didn’t have a garage; I lived in an apartment and thought, “I’m going to go to this program where I’m going to learn how to work on cars.”

My guidance counselor said, “No, you’re not going to do that. You’ve taken three computer classes already. You’re going to take these other three computer classes to finish the set, get that extra thing for college, and then you’re going to pay someone to work on your car.” I was like, “You’re kind of missing the point because I was trying to hang out with my uncle, but I guess so.” 

It’s stuff like that, where in the moment, I was mad. I was hot. Looking back, had she not seen something in me, pointing me in this different direction, my life would be completely different because that was my entryway into IT, computers, and technology. 

BRYAN: Let’s go back to the early childhood memory where your cousin was murdered. How’d that shape you? What did you learn from that experience that maybe changed the path that you were on? You took the time to look at things in retrospect and say, “I should probably do something a little different.”

SAM: Anytime you’re struggling with a loss, it’s one of those things where you really need to take a look at not only where you are at a particular time, but also you have to look at what got people there. There was a period of time, even when it came to drinking alcohol, I didn’t drink alcohol until I was almost 18. Whereas, a lot of my friends were doing it at 13 and 14. I was almost in college before I started because I looked at that.

Not that it was a leading cause of the situation, but it was definitely something that I look at any being in any unstable sense of mind. It kind of traumatizes you a little bit. Even the same thing when it comes to going out with certain individuals. When it comes to going to certain kinds of parties where you know certain activities are going on. You just become more alert for those kinds of things. 

You look at the pain that’s caused to a family you appreciate the fact that you never want to cause that kind of grief. Making sure you aren’t put in a situation where that could be your result, but also making sure that you look out for other people more as well. 

BRYAN: I grew up with more strict parents and they loved me. I’m grateful I didn’t get involved with influences early. Now they’re more casual uses. They’re not a need and never have taken me down a destructive path. For you to recognize that early on, in the face of peer pressure, you chose the harder route and it’s commendable. You’re ironed out. You’re on the good trajectory and then all of a sudden, boom, you wanted to do something.

Guidance counselor put you in another direction. Dive into how you felt in the moment and where that led you. 

SAM: These don’t sound like significant things when you just kind of write it on a piece of paper. When you lose a family member, yes, but guidance counselor conversation doesn’t seem like a big thing. Understanding the mindset of thinking like I’m in control and I know what’s best for me at a given point in time. When you’re a child or even when you think you’re a teenager, there’s still people in life that have more experience than you. They can see in the future, things that you don’t even know are an issue.

It’s like going to buy a house but not knowing what PMI is when you go to apply for a loan. These are big issues, big things that are going to come back and maybe stick with you for 30 years.

I understand you want to do this thing for fun, but if you kind of buckle down now, this is going to pique your interest to move you to the next round.”

It seems simple, “No, you’re not going to do this.” How many times have your parents told you that? Anybody may even have had this moment -where they were supposed to go to a party but their parents were like, “No, you’re not hanging out with those kids,” and something bad happens at the party.

It could be something that’s, “Hey, I was going to take job A vs job B but somebody says, “No, that company, I’m not really sure about it.” And you’re like, “Well, you just don’t like me.

I’m going to go with the other route. But I really like the other one too.” And company A goes under six months or whatever the case is.

It’s really sitting back and saying, “Had I not listened, had I not taken that advice, where would I be now?” The answer is you’re not really going to know, but you can always appreciate the fact that you’re probably a little bit better for it because you had that good guidance. 

BRYAN: It’s not just one moment or one person you met. It’s a series of events that happened before and happened after that allowed you to stay on a good path; you listening and continuing that process of taking in information, reflecting, and then making a decision on what’s going to be best forward. 

SAM: I don’t want to take anything away from people that have actually had that one point. There are some crazy moments in people’s lives. Maybe being the black sheep, to the concept, is a good thing because there’s always those people that are like, “When’s my moment going to come? When am I going to get something big that happens to me that sets me on the right path? What’s going to be that switch that makes me motivated to go to the gym every single day at 5AM and get that 6-pack?”

The reality is you make these decisions every day. Things have happened to you in your life in the past, but the question is – have you looked back to really appreciate what’s happening? Maybe you are being pushed right now in the right direction. You’re in your own way to figure it out.

BRYAN: Sometimes you have to take the blurry mirror glasses off to see yourself for who you are. Being able to do that is really hard. Part of pathfinding is actually being able to look inward for your own self as well. It’s seeing yourself for where you are and what you’re doing to get you to where you want to be. Making the changes accordingly is key.

SAM: You have to look at the stuff that happened a couple of weeks ago with Kobe. That was a big thing that rocked the nation as far as losing literally a living legend of our time. I wasn’t even the biggest basketball fan, but Kobe was bigger than life. I was looking at an interview he was doing and one of the big things – and not just one, but multiple interviews, someone would ask, “How did you win the game?

How did you perform so well? What’s the secret to your success?” In summary, he said, “I defeated myself before I ever got on the court.”

Once you can conquer yourself, your own inhibitions, and your own fears – at the end of the day, you’re your biggest opponent in most cases. When he was able to really understand that if I can get past my own limitations, the voice in the head that says, “No, you can’t, you won’t, you’ll never.” At that point, everybody else was candy to be taken from.

It was really easy for him to kind of then get on the court and do what he had to do because he wasn’t limiting himself anymore internally, which I think a lot of people struggle with day-to-day.

BRYAN: The confidence piece is so important. When you take a step back, how do you deconstruct the high level performance and everything that went into that? 

SAM: He was working out maybe more or just as much as everybody else. He was eating the right things — obviously naturally gifted. He was putting himself in the right type of camps and programs. Every decision he made to the right thing, there was an equal decision to do the wrong thing. It’s that consistency that makes you a champion.

When you can get on that path. Sometimes the one thing is figuring out what’s limiting you in your psyche and overcoming that to allow you to keep making the right decision. 

BRYAN: With this consistency theme that’s been in your life, in the face of these harder life moments, as this moved in your career, you were denied a job promotion. Sounds like this was a bit of a blow to you.

SAM: This was earth shattering. 

BRYAN: Why did it throw you off so much and what did it cause you to do because of it?

SAM: It’s these small things that happen in your life that you really have to look back and appreciate. One of my first jobs going in, partly because I got so much in the IT from computers, was I got a job at Best Buy. Deep down I had this fascination with technology even though I started off in car audio but I eventually would be moved into the computers’ department. I worked for Best Buy for 1 ½-2 years. I was still 17-18 years old; one of the more senior folks on the team.

A position came up in the video games’ department which is also something I clearly have passion for. I was like, “I can do that. I’ve been working here for so long. Of course, I can manage a video game department.” The managers were going through the interview process. 

Another thing is I was part-time at the time and this is a full-time thing. My manager, one of my close friends to this day, pulled me aside and said, “Listen.” One of the things they made you do was this 30, 60, 90. They had to make a big plan of what you’re going to do with the department.

“Read your plan. It was probably one of the better plans we read, but we’re not going to give you the job.” I was like, “The two things you said don’t make sense. How can I have the best plan on how I’m going to do the job but then not subsequently get the job?”

They gave it to somebody else who was qualified and she did a great job. The comment that he made to me, “I’m not going to give you the job because you’re overqualified.” Can you imagine telling a 17 year old they’re overqualified for anything? That’s something you hear when you’re 40, 50, or you have a doctorate and you’re trying to get a job at an entry level data entry position. I’m talking about a basic position. How am I overqualified?

At the time, it was kind of wishy-washy as far as what he was saying. I was hot and trying to do different things. Eventually, we had a conversation a couple years later and I kind of called him on it. He said, “It wasn’t that you were overqualified.

As a management team, we looked at the candidates on the board and we thought to ourselves, who is going to be able to really stay here for a long time and who is going to really want to be a manager at this organization for an extended period of time and grow in that position? We didn’t see you as that person.

We had this vision of you doing something else; something more with technology but outside of the retail space. You could be doing better and bigger things.” He was still a manager at the time. He said, “That’s no shot to any managers that still work here. They’re really talented people but it’s different skills you have to have to administrate a store versus come up with architecture and technology solutions and all these schematics and all this kind of stuff.” 

That was just another example of somebody trying to help by closing a door so I went to the right one.

BRYAN: They came to you and said, “If we promoted you, we’d be doing you a disservice.” 

SAM: That was the game. If we promote you, you’re going to do a great job for six months until you realize that you can do something else. This isn’t going to fulfill you to the point that you really need. The skill people need to develop is going back and recognizing those moments and appreciating what the lesson was and not just feeling like a victim because you didn’t get what you want. 

BRYAN: Where did that take you next?

SAM: I ended up going into Geek Squad. More about IT and technology. I’m going through this thing with Geek Squad and there was a series of promotions and new positions being given out in Geek Squad. They said they didn’t have a position for me.

I was sort of getting hemmed and hawed about what the next step was over at Geek Squad and thought, “You know what? I don’t have to deal with this retail stuff anymore.” At this point I had been with Best Buy since I was 16 going on almost 20.

The thought that came to mind was like, “You know what I can do?” I can go over and my uncle is one of the senior managers at your local Costco. I was like, “What I can do is I can make more money at Costco pushing carts than I can here at Best Buy right now,” which is true. People that work at Costco make really good money. I knew that because half my family works at Costco. 

One of the days, I was feeling really down. I was talking to my uncle. I called him up and told him I wanted to go to Costco. He said, “What are you going to do at Costco?” I’ve never shown any interest working there before. “I want to be a cart pusher.” He was like, “Tell me more.” You ever hear that conversation with an elder and you say something stupid and they want you to keep going to really set yourself up? That was that moment. I’m talking through the frustrations I’ve got because I’m not getting what I want once again. He only let me go on for five minutes.

He was a gracious dude, and was like, “I can assure you, with everything in my power, you will not push carts here or any other Costco in this region that I have an influence with.” I was like, “Why? Help me make an extra $1.50. Come on. Why won’t you help a brother out?” Same thing.

At the time, he wasn’t saying, but what he was trying to explain was, “You’ve gone down this path already. You spent all this time learning these foundational pieces. You’re now doing the work with your hands. For an extra dollar, is that worth taking you way to the right when you should be going left?” It’s the same thing where that wasn’t even an option. That was my get out of jail free card, easy ticket. What does it force you to do though? It forces you to be creative.

Because that moment happened, I had to go to other places and that’s how I actually got one of my first pseudo big boy jobs at Apple. That was a lot of fun. That’s how I ended up down that path.

BRYAN: How come you couldn’t see, in yourself, what other people saw in you?

SAM: It’s a good mixture of immaturity, a good mixture of not having been to the next level yet, and not knowing what that looks like. It’s not knowing how big the world is. I come up from a very small town. You look at what you think the top is in an area or what a job position is and you’re looking up to people who are your management and your team, and this is like in your bubble, the best you can be.

When you try to get there and someone is saying no, there’s a whole other bubble over there and it’s so much bigger and you can do other things. You’re like, “What bubble are you talking about? This is the world.” They’re like, “No, it’s not.”

Once again though, they don’t say that in those moments. They just say, “No, you’re not going to do this. You’re going to do that.” That’s what they’re trying to say. That’s what people kind of saw. They were like, “You can do things outside of this world.” I don’t know if it was the day-to-day actions I took, or whether it was my mentality that had taken on problems, but it’s definitely something that clearly, as my life was progressing, I made the same impression over and over again to many people. That’s kind of what ended up shaping a lot of these directions. 

BRYAN: Reflection is the key to progression. You can’t progress in the right direction if you don’t understand the backwards data points in your own life that caused you to get to a certain place.  

SAM: It’s not a superpower. It’s not a magic bullet. You really just have to take a good look at yourself. How many people have made a song about it? You’ve got to look at the man in the mirror. You never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone. You have to look at yourself and you have to change yourself before you can change the world. People have been talking about it for years. Every self help book says the same thing.

I still struggle with doing things. Is it easy for me to get up to go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning? No. Do I want to do it every single day? No. More often than not, you try to win it. It’s not going to be consistent every single day, but the more you can get to a baseline, the better. That’s what you have to work for. 

BRYAN: To close out, what are you doing today? Leave the audience with a piece of advice beyond reflection. 

SAM: Just to round out the story. From there I worked at Apple. Then I ended up working at Dell. Then I worked at this major Microsoft partner which is where I’m still at today. I became an engineer/solution architect. I manage the engineering team and now I’m training other companies on how to engineer our software as well. I’ve stayed down this path.

As far as a final thought, for folks who are just looking for something to really hold onto, I’d say you need to establish why and really understand why it is you’re doing what you’re doing every single day. Really think about what is the goal and what you are planning on being. 

Here’s what you need to do. I’m going to give homework to every listener. Open your phone right now. You need to write down what your perfect day is. Whether that’s waking up next to a loved one, going to the gym, what house you want. Be as descriptive as possible. Write down what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the clothes you’re wearing, and where you went for an afternoon stroll.

Were you working? Were you not working? Where did you live? What kind of house did you live in? What kind of friends did you talk to? Were you talking to family members? Whatever the case is. Write down that perfect day in extreme detail and then ask yourself, what do I have to do to get there? 

If you want to play the bonus game, if you do have a spouse or loved one, have them do the same thing and see where there’s some deltas. Maybe write down to join that perfect day together and then see how you both can get there. That’s something I’ve been doing with my wife now for a number of years. I’m 28. We’ve been married almost six years now. We got married when we were 22.

I think when a lot of people ask, “What did it take to really keep you guys together so long?” It’s being on the same journey together and having that same trajectory every single year, every single month, every single day. It’s easy to talk about. Write it down so you can see it, so you can remember it, and then do it every year and see how your goals change.

That is going to help you establish the why. You have to design that dream life. If you can write it down and see it and focus on it, that’s going to help you set up everything else you need to do to get there one day.

BRYAN: This is the golden ticket advice to life through love and happiness, fulfillment. How much do we charge listeners for this wisdom? This is profound.

One Away Podcast
Catherine Kushan

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