Hello! Thank you so much for being here for another episode of So Why Not? Today’s episode is about creating the life you want to live. When you were growing up, did you dream about what you wanted to be when you were older? I think that’s the norm for a lot of people. Younger kids are asked throughout their life, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some, the job they plan on having as an adult is idealistic and seemingly impactful. For others, a job may be a passion and a platform for personal fulfillment. For others still, a career may be a way to make ends meet and a way of supporting themselves and/or their family. If you had the chance to do all of that, would you take it in pursuit of your dream job? Do you have or are you currently working in a dream job? Did it really end up looking that way when you made it there?
In a poll from a couple of years ago, two thousand adults were surveyed about the career they dreamed of as a teenager. Only 10% of respondents reported holding their dream job today. Of those who never landed their dream job, 39% regretted not pursuing it. Where do you fit in with those results?
In this episode, we’ll get into the kinds of choices that are made along the way to making dreams into reality. I know you’re going to enjoy listening to this conversation. So, on with the show…
L: So on today’s episode, I have my younger brother, Clay George, here to talk about his career. I’m so proud of him and all of the things that he’s done and all of the changes he’s made in the last couple of years and I think he has a really cool story to tell, so thank you for being here.
C: Thanks for having me.
L: I would usually introduce someone by what they do, what they currently do, but I feel like it’s too much of a spoiler alert so I’d like to just go way far back and talk about your life leading up to this before we get into what you’re doing now. So, tell me about your childhood.
C: Alright, well, you were there for really all of it, since I’m the younger brother, but as far as from a career perspective and kind of what led me to where I’m at now. You know, I grew up with a mom and dad that both went to grad school, both got Masters level degrees, both were in the medical field, you could say. Dad’s a veterinarian. Mom was a pharmacist. So that just seemed like the norm to me growing up. So once I kind of cared enough to figure out what college was and how you got a job like they had, I realized it was more than what most people did for school but it kind of seemed normal to me. So I just had it engrained in my mind, maybe subconsciously, that that’s what one did. That you went, that once you were done with high school, that it was just a given that you were going to go to college, that was the next step, that you were going to get a four year degree, get a bachelors degree, and then something else, right? And so, in my mind, it was kind of always that that would be in the medical field in some way, shape, or form. And Mom and Dad did well. In our family, Dad was the bread winner, Mom did his bookkeeping, so didn’t practice but maintained her licensure as a pharmacist. Anyway, that always seemed to be, I just knew that’s what I was going to do, because that’s what my parents did. So, I never really considered not doing that or doing something that didn’t involve at least 6+ years of education.
L: So when you finished high school, what did you have in your mind that you were going to do?
C: So next up, getting outside of career and education, next up for me was always going to be a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So we grew up in the church so it was always just a given to me that I was going to serve a mission, which was a two year ordeal. So I guess I kind of had these things laid out but I was just kind of a “life is gonna work out” type of mindset and I’d say I’m still largely am that way and that’s probably led me to a lot of the decisions I’ve made, kind of lax, laid back personality, you know, things will work out the way they should. For better or worse, right? But anyway, I did go on a mission. So, after high school, I dated my now wife for a year. She went to BYU. I went on a mission to Houston TX, which was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I got to learn Spanish, got to be in some situations that I think were good for me as a person and good for my development having lived in the same place—small town in Florida—all my life. It was good to get out of Mom and Dad’s house and go out and be independent and figure out how to take care of myself and how to talk to people, how to work with others. So it was definitely good for my development and then also learn Spanish. That continues to benefit me now. That was next and then I kind of just thought when I get home, it’s just a given I’m going to go to school but I never really put. A lot of thought into what that was going to be for and why. (4:40)
L: So what did you decide when you got back?
C: So when I got back, my wife, Haley, was at Brigham Young University in Provo UT and so I had gone to a junior college in Florida for a little bit before I went on my mission where I did pretty poorly because I kind of had in my mind, you know, “What does this really matter right now? I’m just going to go on a mission when I turn 19.” So I didn’t really put a lot of effort into that. Probably dug myself into a little bit of a hole. I didn’t really see my getting into BYU, which is pretty tough to do and so I went just down the street to Utah Valley University (open enrollment type of school) but had a really good experience there. So when I got to UVU I again kind of just knew I want to do something in the medical field in some way, shape, or form. Growing up people would ask me “Do you want to do what your dad does? Do you want to be a veterinarian one day?” And I always knew that that was a definite no. So that wasn’t in the picture. Wasn’t interested in being a pharmacist. And so I didn’t want to follow in either one of their footsteps directly but I was I guess thinking what’s in the medical field since for some reason it needed to be in the medical field and what pays well and what would lead to a good lifestyle? So I landed on dentistry. So I was pre-dentistry but really I was a biology major since that’s what met the requirements, right? So I started going through that course work and then got to chemistry over the summer one year and was miserable, hated it, and it was all I could do, with some effort, to barely squeeze out some C’s in chemistry. So whether it was being real with myself or lazy or some combination of the two, I remember one night having a conversation with Haley and she was like, it was kind of a come to Jesus, take you out to the woodshed kind of talk, where she was like, “Alright, what’s your plan? What are you doing besides just going to school and coming home every day? Where is this going? What do you want to be? Do you really want to be a dentist?” And this was while I was miserably still getting through chemistry, with O-Chem, organic chemistry still to come. And I just realized in that conversation you know, hey, I don’t care enough about teeth and being in someone’s mouth all day—which I’d never done, by the way—to get through the misery that is this course work that doesn’t have any practical application for what I see myself doing one day, if it is dentistry, or anything for that matter. I wasn’t going to be a chemist. I was just like this isn’t it and there’s not a lot of practical application and I hate it.
OK, so there I was realizing dentistry is not it. So I had shadowed a dentist there in Utah, I had shadowed an orthodontist. They were great. Good opportunity. But I knew while I was there, this is not something I see myself doing for 40 years, 30 years of my life, right? No matter how good it pays. So then I would say within a week of having that conversation, realizing it probably doesn’t need to be dentistry, I should change my major. I don’t know what I’m going to do with a biology degree. So I wanted something—that’s kind of when it clicked—I wanted something that would actually have a practical application into something I want to do one day, right? And so then, it was probably even within a few days, not a week, that I ran into a classmate and he was the president of a healthcare administration club at UVU. And so he was telling me about what he was doing. He was basically at the time—Intermountain Healthcare, big healthcare system in Utah. They’re based right there in Provo close by. And so he was trying to start up an internship program for healthcare administration-minded students, people that wanted to be healthcare administrations one day. And so I had a distant cousin on Haley’s side that was doing that and doing well and I kind of had good exposure to it. Anyway, I was like, this feels like this could be it. It’s a little healthcare, it’s a little business, and it’s not a caregiver role that’s not science with this intensive course work that I couldn’t stand doing. So I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come with you.” So I changed my major. I was like, “What are you doing for your major?” And it was business management, so I was like, “That’s what I’m going to do, too.” So I followed him, changed my major, and then obviously course work changed drastically. It became business classes, HR, finance, accounting. I knew it wasn’t finance or accounting that I wanted to be in but I kind of told myself, oh there are other opportunities in healthcare administration that aren’t so finance- and accounting-heavy. So I got my bachelors in business management and then was fortunate to be able to get into a really good MHA program, top 5 program, somehow. I got in at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—Go Heels! And so we moved there, largely I would say because it was one of the highest rated schools but also they had a great basketball program and I felt like maybe I’d been robbed a little of that type of experience at UVU. So we moved to NC, had our second child while we were there and I got into a MHA program for the next two years. So at that point I was still all in on healthcare administration.
L: You still felt good about it by the time you finished school?
C: Yeah, felt really good. Definitely that’s what I wanted to do and had a really good experience at Intermountain. That’s definitely, I would say, a big part of what got me into my program. It wasn’t my grades. My grades weren’t bad. They were A’s and B’s. They weren’t off the charts. And they weren’t bad. So I think having that name of Intermountain Healthcare, which is an internationally recognized, respected, internationally even, health system on my resume was a big thing to help me get in at UNC and I was super fortunate. Somehow got on this path, had a lot of good people in my corner and was all in on healthcare administration but in retrospect was not super sure of what that really meant. I’m gonna get a MHA, I’m going to be a health care administrator and I didn’t really think much past that.
L: No big thought into what you were going to do day to day…
C: Honestly, no. Not at all. And so I had been an intern. I had seen, you know, different roles, health care executive type leadership and what they did. But I didn’t have a great understanding of what that meant day to day. And again, kind of like when I went on my mission and didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was doing in junior college in Florida, and when I was in my undergrad in Utah, I know what the next step’s going to be. It’s going to be more education and it’s going to be an internship and it’s going to be more education and then it’s going to be a fellowship. But it was hard for me to put myself in the shoes of ok now I’ve done all that, now I’ve got this degree, what am I going to do with all of that. Anyway, coming to North Carolina though, feeling good and all in on healthcare administration.
L: So when you graduated, what was your next step when you thought that far?
C: When I graduated from…
L: From UNC.
C: From UNC? So I knew that from UNC, kind of just observing upperclassmen, people that had already graduated ahead of me, the desirable outcome was next was going to be a fellowship. So you get an administrative fellowship. In my opinion, still, that’s the best way to come out of a MHA program because you’re not starting at an entry level, applying on Indeed online off the street kind of applicant. You’re coming in to essentially what’s an administrative residency kind of thing. It’s not that intensive but you’re getting high level exposure to health system executives, or at least hospital executives, and you’re getting some higher level projects and visibility with kind of big wigs of health care at your hospital level or health system level. The idea there is that leads to a better opportunity once you finish the fellowship, which is one or two years. You get paid kind of garbage while you’re going through the fellowship but all of that with a higher paying better opportunity coming into the job market from that fellowship.
L: So you applied to fellowships. So what happened?
C: So I applied for a bunch of fellowships. Went to Houston and did an interview. Didn’t get in there. I applied to several. Made it pretty far in the process with Stanford—super random. I applied there, didn’t end up getting in. But a friend of mine had applied to Banner Health, which is based in Phoenix AZ. So he was saying that there were other openings there, other opportunities there. We kind of wanted to end up back on the West Coast if possible. So Arizona seemed great and I kind of already had somebody in there that would vouch for me that I had been going to UNC with. So long story short, I got into the application process there and ended up getting accepted into an administrative fellowship in Phoenix AZ at Banner Health.
L: And it was a one year program, right?
C: It was a one year program. So about 6 months into the fellowship, I had a preceptor, her name is Karen, great mentor. Most days my desk/office was at the corporate headquarters which is in uptown Phoenix. It was really cool, especially coming out of school and coming into this big, big tower in this metro area in this big healthcare system—largest employer in the state of Arizona. It was really cool to be there and got to be around the president of the health system and all of these executive level people. And so rubbing shoulders with them was really cool. I met a lot of really cool people. But about 6 months into the fellowship, I got approached from someone within the health system and so really I didn’t even have to wait the full year and started getting job offers six months in. At the time, and really in retrospect, I don’t really feel that I was deserving of those opportunities but they came and that was the idea. Again, things just really felt like they were lining up. Things were just working out. I was having great opportunities and meeting people and having fun, honestly. It was a good time. And so basically my day to day work was pretty non-conventional. It wasn’t really like I was sitting in front of spreadsheets all day at a desk, which is definitely not what I wanted to do. I knew even at that point that I did not want to be glued to Excel all day every day. So anyway, at the time, Banner was rebranding and they had met with the Lloyd Consulting and basically they were completely rebranding: new mission, vision, values; trying to be more customer service oriented. They had brought in a lot of people—it was actually really cool—from outside of the healthcare industry and more from retail. So, namely, there were a lot of executive level leaders from Target that were coming into Banner that I was working with, which was really cool. So, honestly, kind of the work that I was doing, we were doing a lot of innovative stuff. Again, trying to be more customer service oriented, which is not something that healthcare organizations always go a great job of. In fact, they do a pretty poor job, especially in comparison to other industries, like even retail. So anyway, really actual cool work that we were doing. When I left, we were working on an app we used in the emergency department that a patient would use. Basically it would show them where they were in the queue and what their wait times were and basically trying to keep people more informed and updated and things like that. So anyway, it was cool because I really had my pick of several hospitals I could go to most days or we actually had a really cool office space off campus, not at a hospital, not at the uptown corporate tower. So I could go to work wherever I wanted on any given day. I really enjoyed the people I was working with. It had this really nonconventional, kind of un-healthcare feeling and office space. Or, I could even work from home. I wasn’t clocking in and out; no one was really breathing down my neck. I could get to work whenever I wanted to and I could kind of leave whenever I wanted to. Honestly, if anything should have appealed to me and I should have been having a good time, then that should have been it. I was in Colorado one night, actually, when I started to admit to myself and let myself realize and process that I’m not so sure that all of this school was worth it. At least maybe the outcome of all of this, the job that I’m in, the field that I’m in… Again, this may not be it. This may not have been where I really see myself. I don’t know that I could do this and enjoy this for the next 30+ years.
So I was in Colorado on a work trip in this kind of podunky little town and my brother-in-law, so other side of the family (my wife’s brother)…. So meanwhile while I’ve been doing all of this school and was just so one-track minded on doing healthcare, healthcare, healthcare, my brother-in-law had gone to school for a little bit with a basketball scholarship but—we’re best friends now—I’ll just say he pretty much flunked out of school. He never completed a degree, was out of college pretty quickly and ended up in Utah and that’s where he met a lot of guys that were doing the door to door industry. So at the time, I think his first entry into door to door sales, direct sales, was selling satellites I want to say, satellite TV. So that’s where he got his start and from there he had gone to security—selling security systems—and from there, he had gone to solar, residential solar. So all the while, I never really dug deep into what he was doing, how it worked or really what the money was that he was making. Eventually I realized very clearly that he was making a lot of money, doing really well. Again, I was in school at the time and then fresh out of school and going into healthcare and I never really considered “Oh, I could do that.” But when I was living in Utah, and that’s kind of the door to door sales Mecca because there’s so many returned missionaries that come to school there or are from there originally and so there’s such a recruiting base from there for teams and companies because (return missionaries) obviously they know how to go out and cold call, knock doors, talk to strangers on the street. So naturally that’s where a lot of these companies are based. So when I was in school, I knew a lot of guys that would go out and do summer sales and then pay for their next year of school and then go out and do it again the next year. And I knew a lot of guys that had completely transitioned into doing door to door sales. At the time, mostly security sales. I got hit up a lot during school, people trying to recruit me. I never considered it for a minute. Maybe thought “Oh yeah, that sounds cool, making a lot of money…”
L: At least short term.
C: Yeah. Exactly, yeah. So I never really considered it. So there again, you’re right, so I think one reason I never really considered it was because it was so engrained in my mind, so alright you’ve gotta go to 4 years of school and then you’ve gotta go to more school. That’s what my parents did so obviously that’s just what you do. That’s how that works. You have to do that. So I had never really been exposed to, at least that I cared to learn about, that had been successful outside of that route so I never considered it. My own family member, my wife’s brother, who I’m very close with and was then, was doing really, really well and I still just never considered it. No “what if I did that?”
L: It’s ok for him but not for you.
C: Yeah. It’s ok for him. And then I got to a point that I knew he was making such good money, that I thought well, maybe making excuses: it’s not sustainable or it’s a fluke or what’s he going to be doing 20 years from now? An old man can’t do that, just a young man can, right? So I made up all of these reasons why that probably wasn’t going to work out for him and so it wasn’t worth my time and effort because I knew better, right?
So jumping back out of that context into me being in Colorado on a work trip for Banner Health… He was living in Denver at the time and was running a door to door solar team. So he was with Ion Solar, based in Utah. They had several different markets and he was a manager on a team in Denver. We were hoping to get together while I was in Colorado because he had something come up. We were actually on the phone one night and I was in this hotel room by myself in this podunk town and it was snowing and I’d just been around a bunch of people that were pretty clearly just miserable with their jobs all day long in this dark old damp little hospital. So I knew he was nearby and I was in the same state so maybe I was thinking “What does he have going on?” And that was just the first split second ever in my time of knowing him and in going through school and work and realized that I kind of started to think so what else is there if not that. When I was on the phone with him, that was the first time I ever asked “So what do you do, exactly, on a daily basis? How does this work? What kind of money are you making? What kind of money is there the potential for me to make if I consider making the switch?”
L: And at what point were you in your fellowship?
C: I was still in my fellowship actually at that point. So I was getting ready to go into after—I was offered a couple of opportunities within the health system so I was kind of mulling over what I was going to. So I was actually still in my fellowship at that point. So that was the first time I kind of opened up to it. But I wasn’t like, ok I’m out of here. I’m going to go do that instead. It was just the very first time where I was like, ok tell me the basics. How does that even work? Like, what do you do?
So, talking to him, I liked what I heard but this still wasn’t something I would consider doing. I went back to Arizona and took that first job that I had and still it was kind of in my mind but it wasn’t something I was set on pursuing yet. A few months went by and my brother-in-law, Carter, (that I’m talking about that works with solar)—we had a mutual friend named Austin that lived in Arizona nearby where I was living. I was living in Gilbert AZ at the time. He had solar with Carter. That’s how they knew each other; that’s how I knew Austin. He had started his own company in Arizona and so I kept asking Carter all these questions. I felt like the best thing I could do was go out and see, be a fly on the wall, go out and see how does this work. So I did. I went out and shadowed a guy Austin worked with (Morgan). I went to two appointments with him. It’s all in home sales. We went to two different houses. He sold both of them solar. I was like “This is super simple. I can see myself doing this.” I was pretty thoroughly convinced at that point. Like, OK, I’m ready.
L: So you shadowed your friend, Morgan, and then when did you decide to go out on your own?
C: So I shadowed him twice and I was like I’m definitely going to do this. But Carter, now, has told me that he was afraid. He was living in Las Vegas at the time and he was afraid to have me move from Arizona. He knew I’d just gotten my education. He knew that we were doing well and he knew that we’d just built a house. Haley had picked out everything she wanted for this house. She was super excited. Life was really good in Arizona and he didn’t want to really promote rocking that boat even though he had been wanting me to do this for a really long time. Even still, he didn’t want to be the one that pushed it. He was like, maybe you can work for them or you can maybe you can go out and do it part time.
L: Just stay in Arizona?
C: Uh huh. We were within a month of getting the keys to our house. It was pretty done-done. It was nice because, again, I could come and go as I pleased at work. So I would leave early and I would go out and I would knock. But what I quickly realized was that I know this is what I want to do. I saw the potential and the opportunity. The money was a lot more that I was making even though I was making decent money. And I actually enjoyed it and it made sense to me. So Carter sent me a bunch of training videos. And I didn’t understand how solar worked. And not to go deep down that rabbit hole but basically what I figured out is there’s no downpayment for people to get solar on their roof, and in a state that’s so sunny, like Arizona or Nevada, you can just basically eliminate your utility bill and replace it with a solar bill. So you own the system, you’re getting a lower monthly payment than you’re already paying your utility company and then there’s no rate increase or inflation; it never goes up. So when that clicked for me on those training videos, I was like, “Oh, that makes sense. Now I get why people do it.” And so I was like, OK, I actually see the nuts and bolts of how this works and how I could go out and communicate the value of it and get people to do it. But as I was going out and trying to fit it in here and there, I just realized if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to do nothing but this because the reward financially in solar was greater, at least at the time it was for me, in healthcare. I enjoyed it more and I just realized that I’m too comfortable in healthcare. If I don’t go out and try to knock doors and sell solar, I’m still going to get a paycheck every two weeks, like mediocre as it may be, that’s still going to be there. If I’m really going to go out and knock and maximize—you know, get in front of enough people and maximize the money making opportunity with solar, then healthcare is going to get in the way and I kind of need to burn that ship. So that’s just kind of the realization that I came to in my mind.
L: So when you went out for the first time, how were your nerves? Were you nervous about it at all?
C: So, honestly, in Arizona, yeah, I was nervous for sure. So the hardest door is the car door. That’s the cheesy saying. When you get into a neighborhood and no one knows you and you don’t know anyone, it’s easy to get into your head and think: “I’m a pest here and everybody hates me and I’m a nuisance, like people don’t want to talk to me.” It’s easy to get into your head and your heart flutters and races and you’re nervous to go out and talk to someone. But thinking back on my mission, I enjoyed that and I enjoyed being in what was essentially a door to door environment, going out, talking to strangers and I enjoy that. And here was a way to monetize a similar skill set. In Arizona though, I didn’t knock a whole ton. I realized this is it. I told Carter, “Alright, this is it.” I started to plan it with Haley. I didn’t know how she was going to take it because we were so far with this house. The kids were in school. She had friends. They had friends. Things were going good for us and we saw ourselves living there for a long time. I told Carter, “Hey, I’m in. This is what I want to do.” And he was pretty shocked. There were some little particular details that I didn’t feel were ideal about the solar market, kind of getting into technical things with the utility company that I won’t go into, I thought if it weren’t for those little things, this would be even better. And I was talking to Carter about it and he was like—he lived in Henderson in the Las Vegas area—and he was like, “Well, that’s the way it works here.” Since Denver he had moved to Las Vegas and opened up another market and he was a regional director at that point. And he said that’s how it was in Vegas and that does exist. And I thought it needs to be with my friends and family at Ion that I knew and it needs to be Las Vegas and so that’s when we made the decision that we’re going to get out of this house and we’re going to move to Las Vegas and we’re going to go full in, all in, on solar and really close the door on healthcare and completely transition out of that into door to door sales.
L: How did Haley feel about it when you finally said you were going to completely turn around?
C: She was super scared, super nervous. “What about all this education? What about all the time and money and commitment that that took?” The house, fortunately, things kind of just worked out. Again, that’s kind of been the theme of my life. Austin, the guy that I mentioned that owned that solar company, he and his wife were looking for a house. They actually picked up right where we left off. We didn’t lose any money. We were able to get everything transferred over to them and got our money back. So that made that part easy. But obviously Haley was super nervous: “You’ve never done door to door before. What if this doesn’t work?” But she, to her credit and I’m super grateful, she got behind me and said, “If you think this is it, you know I’ll support it.” She had family in Las Vegas—her mom and dad, obviously her brother—and we have more family, obviously, that have moved here since then. So she felt good about that part that she’d have some family support. I think that helped. She backed me eventually and got behind me. I told her how it worked and this was 100% something I felt like I would actually enjoy doing and also get paid a lot more to do. So when she saw how serious I was about it, she was obviously apprehensive about it at first but she got behind me and packed up everything and moved to Vegas.
L: So now that I’ve lived here too, I think that Vegas lives up to its name, not only in tourists but also in local people. Can you think of some times when you were out knocking that you had some standout experiences with personalities—funny, scary, whatever it is. What has stood out to you?
C: Yeah, I’ve never had a gun or knife pulled on me or anything like that. I’m pretty selective with the kind of neighborhoods I would go out and knock in and the demographics of people that I want to deal with and hope to find on the other side of the door. So I haven’t had anything dangerous by any means, at least that I’m aware of. But one that comes to mind was probably a 70+ year old woman one time that opened the door in her underwear, nothing else. And opened the door wide open. And she said, “I don’t have any clothes on.” And I said, “Yeah, I can tell.” And she, I don’t even remember. I kind of blocked out the rest of that. But I think by then I just turned around and I was like, “Welp, have a good day!” So you’re knocking on random strangers doors, and you’re knocking on every single one of them, so obviously you’re going to come across literally everybody. It’s the most random sample size of people you could talk to. But I’ve also met a lot of really cool people. I’d say I’ve met a lot more cool people and that’s what sticks out more in my mind…
L: Than the bad ones.
C: …more than the weird ones or the negative ones or the rude ones. Mostly it’s a lot of fun.
L: What, if anything, would you change? Looking back over the last few years, since you did change your career path.
C: So I still don’t know. So the question is, to me, if I knew that I would come to solar and enjoy it and also make way more money than I was in healthcare, it would have taken me over a decade of things lining up just right to maybe make the kind of money that I make selling solar. On top of that I actually enjoy it. To me, that’s the best of both world, when you actually enjoy what you’re doing. It doesn’t feel like as much work. When I get back from a vacation, I’m not dreading about getting back to work. On my way home, I’m actually thinking about what I’m going to do for work. I’m excited to come back and do it some more. Obviously there’s no direct application from my Masters degree into what I do on a day to day basis now. But I would say that there were a lot of soft skills that I learned. Namely, how to work with people, how to work in teams. I learned a little bit about managing people. And just, overall, same as my mission, was just good for my confidence. To show me, hey, you can go and do something that most people aren’t willing to do. And not everybody has the opportunity, I realize that, but a lot of people are not willing to do it and be able to do it necessarily. So it was good for my confidence just to see that you’re capable, you can go out and do hard stuff and come out on the other side better for it. So I’m glad I did it, in that sense. I can’t help but wonder, kind of a more shallow perspective, how much money would I have made by now.
L: Right. Time cost.
C: Yeah, opportunity cost. If I would have started selling solar 5 years, 4 years, 3 years, sooner than I did… If I could have come to that realization sooner during my Bachelors, instead of not during my Masters, but after that when I got into healthcare, but you can definitely say that I would have made a lot more money and it would have been better sooner. But that’s not the way things work out. I think this is kind of the series of events that I had to take to get where I am now. I’m grateful for where I am now. I’ve thought about like for my kids, I’d recommend that they get a Bachelors degree at least. I don’t know that I would strongly put my foot down that if you don’t, like things aren’t going to work out for you. That’s a must. So I’m honestly, I kind of lean more away from it almost than toward it. But I definitely benefitted from it, made some great friends, made some great contacts, and I’m better off for having gone and gotten that education.
L: So before you went into sales yourself, and looking back, or any comments that people have made in the last few years about your job, are there any assumptions about sales and door to door sales people out there that you might dispel?
C: Yeah. For sure. So I think my misconception, and I would say the prevailing one, about salespeople in general and door to door sales, I would say most people probably think salespeople are dishonest. And I find that a lot. With some people, when I knock a door, immediately their guard goes up and they’re like, “Oh my gosh! This is a salesperson. Like, he’s going to get me to sign something. Like, he wants my money.” So yeah, absolutely, I do.
L: You want your money.
C: Yeah, I want their money. I want my money but particularly with solar, everybody wins. I’m making money, my company’s making money, the homeowner’s also immediately saving money without putting any money. And the planet benefits. The utility companies benefit because they’re being given excess energy that’s being supplemented in the grid that they can then distribute out. No creation cost to them. Solar, to me, is a great opportunity because everybody wins. I want to make money and I’m interested in making a lot of money but I don’t feel good about doing it at somebody else’s expense. To me, the best sales people, and how I try to be, is just very authentic in my communication. I try to be the same person in every scenario: in sales, you know talking to you right now, at home, on the phone with a friend. Everybody’s different in different scenarios, in different settings. I get that. But for me, just being an authentic communicator, and just being a real person, instead of every time the door opens, you’re stepping onstage and the curtains open and you’re a performer. I can’t. That’s not my personality. That might be the way that some people do it. But for me, I need something that’s sustainable. That I have the emotional capacity to be able to go out and do day to day, day in and day out, so I need to find something I believe in.
L: You don’t have to put a mask on every time you go knock on a door?
C: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I would say that a lot of misconceptions about door to door sales, definitely I think a lot of people, they don’t think it’s a real job, you know? But, I mean, to me, I’ve definitely built some thick skin. I’m not worried about somebody yelling at me when I knock their door or coming off as a pest. I believe in what I’m selling. I really believe that there’s a benefit in it and so when I knock somebody’s door, I’m giving them an opportunity to do something that’s going to help them. So, to me, I feel like it’s their loss. I don’t feel bad. I don’t get upset with people if they reject me. That’s the biggest thing that keeps people from going out and doing it obviously. But also, the money’s really good. So every time that I sign somebody up for solar, I do a soft credit check, I get some information from them. Run a credit check on the spot. One of the qualifying questions is what’s your pre-tax annual income and its very, very rare that I meet somebody that’s making more than I do, going out and knocking doors and doing direct sales. It’s definitely a real job; it’s just a non-conventional way to go out and make money. But it’s a tried and true effective way to get in front of people and to go out and market and make sales and generate income. So I would recommend it to anybody who’s willing to go out and do the work. But what I find is most people aren’t willing to go out and stick it out and do that work.
L: I wouldn’t want to. I don’t have the personality.
C: Yeah. And I don’t judge people who don’t want to go out and do it or who are apprehensive about it. Like, that’s fine, but we need people to do different things besides going out and knock doors and sell solar. I realize that. So there are a lot of things that you can do, however, I guess, conventional or non-conventional or traditional or not. But I think a lot of people, like if you’re talking about sales or starting your own business or whatever outside of a typical corporate clock in and out, 9-5, 40 hour work week, with health benefits. That’s what most people have engrained in them that they aspire to go and do or that’s kind of the mold that’s been put out in front of them. And there’s this cheesy thing I saw in a meme recently on Instagram I think, but it was like, “A salary is what they feed you to make you forget your dreams.” Or something like that. Super cheesy.
L: It’s true. I can attest.
C: But true. I think that people are so… I met a lot of people when I was leaving healthcare and I was telling them what I was going to do that I worked with and they were like “Good for you.” You know, they had been in healthcare for decades and were saying, “You’re going to love that. I totally see you doing that. You’re going to thrive in that. I wish when I was your age that I would have had the guts to go and do something different. I don’t hate it here but I’m not loving every minute of this. So, if that’s something you’re going to enjoy and go out and make a better living doing, good on you.” So I think that a lot of people… and I interview a lot of people that are thinking about coming to do this job and I have people shadow me. I think one of the big reasons, besides just the rejection and the work, I think that one of the big reasons that people are turned off by it and aren’t willing to go all in on it is because there’s no guaranteed hourly wage.
L: There’s no safety net.
C: There’s no safety net. There’s no health coverage. There’s no of those traditional “benefits” that you get with a corporate 9-5 traditional job and that’s enough for most people to just be like, oh, then that’s too risky. But I really believe, obviously it’s been very literal in this job, but I really believe that anything worth having in life takes hard work and I really think that the things that offer the most reward consistently are going to require the most risk. That’s definitely true in what I do on a day to day basis. It’s easier said than done, definitely. I’m still really shocked when I tell this story; it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Fortunately, again, things just seem to work out and that’s been, I guess, the prevailing theme. I believe in that concept, though, that most people settle for mediocrity—and I’m not saying everyone is mediocre if they do a corporate 9-5 job. We need people to do those jobs. They offer a lot of value for the people in the job and the people they serve. Name the industry, healthcare or whatever it is, those jobs are important, don’t get me wrong. I think there are a lot of people that deep down, whether they realize it or not, aren’t happy with what they’re doing and would like to find something they actually enjoy more or that would offer a greater reward, financially or just quality of life, more work/life balance, whatever it is, and they’re just not willing to let go of that perceived safety and security and consistency. Again, however mediocre it may be in their 9-5, twice a month salary and health benefits.
L: So is that your prevailing advice to people who are considering a career change, is to find what you love?
C: Yeah, I really do believe that as cliche as it is, another eat, laugh, love saying. Everybody’s heard that if you enjoy what you’re doing, love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. I don’t know that I believe that…
L: It still feels like work.
C: …that literally. I work. I have a blast. Time’s flying by and fortunately, again, it’s definitely something that’s definitely rewarding, too. But I have a blast doing it and I think I’m a better version of myself in my relationships with my family. Maybe my wife would disagree because I do work a lot sometimes. But at the same time, when I do want to take off or want to go somewhere, I’ve got the flexibility to do that anytime and that’s been really nice for our family. But I think that just getting that fulfillment of going out and doing something you enjoy and believe in and have fun doing makes you a better version of yourself in your relationships with every aspect of your life. I would definitely recommend, I mean specifically door to door sales, I believe in it. It’s something I poopoo-ed for years and did not give the time of day. I’m definitely a firm believer that that’s a great way to make a consistent living and love doing it. But yeah, whatever the opportunity is, just take my example, there’s definitely reward on the other side of the risk and the scary, anxious transitioning to something else, whether you’re doing what I did and essentially dropping, cold-quitting what I was doing before to jumping in with two feet in this…
L: In your 20s, too. It’s a big change in your 20s.
C: True, in my 20s, too. But, also, that’s a good point. If you really feel like that early on, don’t hope that it’s going to feel better over the next 20 or 30 years. For me, you could say that was a knee jerk reaction but I was just like, you know what, I just want to be honest with myself, which felt good. And say, hey, I don’t think this is it and I don’t think it’s going to get better over the next two or three decades. So, when you realize that, there’s no better time to make the change and it’s better to do it then, I think, than investing more time into—again, going back into opportunity cost—than just moving on and doing something that you know you’re going to enjoy more.
L: If money or lifestyle weren’t factors for you, is there a different dream job you would have?
C: If I could do anything, I would probably be a pro football player. That’s probably what I would want to do. Just to get paid to play a game and work out and entertain people, that’s got to be a fun way to make a living. I guess that would be my answer if I had to give you an answer, but knowing what’s out there, I really enjoy what I do right now.
L: That’s so cool.
C: Yeah. Maybe a pro football player. I think that ship sailed many, many years ago if it was ever even in the harbor in the first place so that’s not going to happen. For now, residential solar sales it is.
L: Gah! I’m so proud of you.
L: I’m so proud to see all of the things that you’ve done over the last few years. It’s very motivating for me and I think for a lot of people. Thank you for telling your story.
C: Yep. Thanks for letting me.
Wasn’t that so interesting? I am obviously biased, being Clay’s sister, but I am so inspired by the choices he made that have landed him in the career he has today. I can’t say that I wasn’t worried when he told us what he was going to do. I knew he would give it his all though and he does, day in and day out. Again, I am so proud of him. I hope that his story gets you thinking about your own career or life choices. Whether a change is on the horizon or you’re looking to find more fulfillment, I think that his story highlights the importance of creating the life that you want to live.
Make sure to connect over on instagram—I’m @sowhynot.podcast—and you can find the entire transcript from this episode on my website when you visit sowhynot.me. I’d love it if you could take just a couple of minutes and leave a written review on the Apple Podcast app. It’s so helpful for others to find the show. I’d really appreciate it!
As always, I hope you can use these ideas as tipping off points to channel the ambition, curiosity, and desire to create the life you want to live. Thanks so much for listening. Our time is so important and I am so appreciative that you spent some of it with me.