Our 20th High School Class Reunion: Fort Payne Wildcats Class of 1999

 

We have arrived.

In an age of reboots, sequels, and of course, reunions, the timing was perfect for the Fort Payne High School Class of 1999 to have our 20th reunion!

Back in May of 1999, during the week of our high school graduation, we had our class picnic in our city park. Most of us were just 18 years old and didn’t really know, and couldn’t know, what we wanted to do with our lives.

We hadn’t yet figured out what we were really good at, or bad at, or how we would even earn a living.

But during the course of two decades, it sort of forced us to figure out who we were going to be. At now that we are all pushing 40, our lives are, for the most part, figured out.

If graduating high school was like putting the car in reverse, backing it out of the garage, putting it into first, and determining which of the endless roads we were supposed to start driving down…

Then making it to our 20th high school reunion is like having the car in cruise control.

Granted, for most of us, the road we took was not a straight and easy one. That road had many surprising turns. Often that road turned us right back around in the same direction we had already come from.

But by now, we are ultimately settled in for the rest of the ride. We’re not trying to figure out who we are anymore.

We know now.

So for this class reunion in particular, it was especially a milestone. For the first time, we were catching up with the grown up doppelganger versions of each other.

I also realized by attending my 20th high school reunion, that I was fortunate to grow up with a particularly special group of people, at a special time, in a special place.

We were born in 1980 and 1981; during the start of our town’s economic boom, as Fort Payne, Alabama became “The Official Sock Capital of the World”; thanks to our town’s massive hosiery production.

Not to mention, the country group Alabama had just become living legends… and they just happen to be from our little town, located in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains.

It was magical time and place to grow up. We are a close group of people.

Our class reunions are a really big deal to us and I am confident they always will be.

-Nick Shell

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5 Reasons Why Men Born in 1981 are Unapologetically Obsessed with Making Money, Saving Money, and Investing Money: The Firstborns of the Millennial Generation are Financially Woke!

Exactly 20 years ago, just a couple weeks away from my high school graduation, my plan for a career was quite humble:

To become a school teacher, to marry a school teacher, and to live in a small house in my small hometown.

That’s all I wanted. I specifically didn’t care about money. For those of us born in 1981, the firstborns of the Millennial Generation, we were led to believe that “money isn’t everything” and that “all you need is love”.

But by the time I began my career, I saw the world in a different light. And I imagine many other men who were born in 1981 also experienced the same culture shock, and therefore, a rewiring of how we perceive money.

What makes us this way? I have compiled 5 reasons why men born in 1981 are so much more woke when it comes to personal finances. Consider this to be my comic book villain origin story:

1.      The average American man gets married at age 27; which for those of us born in 1981, coincided with the Financial Crisis of 2008. Needless to say, I got married just a few months before the recession hit.

2.      Most of us attended college compared to previous generations, which meant more competition in the work force in addition to starting out our careers with heavy student loans.

3.      We were told we would be the first generation to actually make less money than our own parents; who themselves didn’t necessarily need to graduate college like we did in order to be successful in our careers.

4.      It is common knowledge that there should be no expectations for my generation to actually get social security when we retire.

5.      Thanks to the Internet, we have so many opportunities to have multiple online side hustles; to add passive income in addition to our salaries from our full time jobs.

Both at my office as well as my online persona as a YouTuber, I am referred to as Slick Nick.

If you know me at all, you know I am a person who is unapologetically fixated on making money, saving money, and investing money:

In addition to my full time job at a Fortune 500 Company, I also handle my 5 online side hustles: running two YouTube channels, managing the SEO for a majority university here in Nashville, plus selling guest blog spots and planting Amazon links here on my website.

As opposed to the excess culture of the 1980s and 1990s as people went in debt to impress people they didn’t care about by buying McMansions and brand-new luxury cars, I am from a generation where the goal is to impress people by how much money we save and invest; not how much we spend.

I feel like men from my generation will be like those who survived the Great Depression. We will spend our lives finding ways to independently fund our own retirements; assuming there will be no social security left for us.

If we’re lucky, we’re wrong. But if we’re wrong, we just might be rich.

This is the 1st Year Millennials Will Start Having Their 20th High School Class Reunions: Starting with the Class of 1999, in 2019

There are some people who just don’t care anything about going to their high school reunions.

They are the ones who will say, “I spent a dozen years with those people and I didn’t like them then, so what makes you think I would want to go hang out with them now? If I was really that curious what they are up to, I would just look them up on Facebook!”

Clearly, I am not one of those people. No, instead, just call me Mr. High School Class Reunion!

For me, going to my high school class reunions is like repeating the final scene of the final episode of Lost… every 5 years of my life.

What is really special about my own upcoming 20th High School Reunion this July is that we just happen to be the first official Millennial class to experience this.

Most sources agree that Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997. I was born on April 20th, 1981; so I will be turning 38 in a few weeks.

If the Millennial generation were siblings, then those of us who graduated high school in 1999 would be the firstborn children.

This is history in the making.

Back in 1988, when I turned 7, I had a very memorable birthday party. My dad had just cut down a tree in our backyard, so the main entertainment was being able to climb the fallen tree. And coincidentally, I just happened to be wearing a “Class of ’99” t-shirt on my birthday.

Fortunately, my mom did a great job of taking several pictures to capture the magic of that day.

Gary Schrader, Russell McElhaney, Will Stephens, Shane Burt (along with his sister and mom), Tabatha Thomas, Haley Rogers and her sister Ashley, and my own sister Dana were all there that day; whether they remember it now or not… and whether they have ever seen these pictures before either!

I am confident that my upcoming 20th High School Class Reunion will be a highlight of 2019.

Yes, just call me Mr. High School Class Reunion.

It’s that big of a deal to me!

I’m Not a Good Person. I’m Not a Hard Worker. I’m Not Special.

Being born in 1981, my childhood was fully infused with an overdose of the teachings of the Care Bears and The Get Along Gang. I’m referring to that mantra that all adults (and Smurfs) seemed to further convince us of, during that Ecto Cooler drenched decade:

You are special. You can do anything you put your mind to.

You become anything if you truly belief in yourself.

And then I graduated college and got a real job. And then I got married. And then I had kids.

Responsibilities and reality started kicking in, and gradually, I felt less and less special. Less of the good person I always believed I was. Less of the hard worker I assumed I was. And just not quite as special.

Yeah, all that Lucky Charms marshallowy goodness talk… turns out it was all fluff.

The real world doesn’t work that way. The real world wasn’t as easy to win over as I expected it to be.

Instead, I actually have to prove myself on a daily basis to compete with the free market, even if that struggle is not obvious in my weekly highlight reel on Facebook.

The real world doesn’t care if I think I’m a good person, a hard worker, or special.

What does it even mean to be a “good person”? Compared to whom? Compared to the people who are better or worse than me at certain things? Compared to an ax murder or compared to a missionary in a 3rd world country?

What does it even mean to be a “hard worker”? Compared to whom? Compared to everyone who shows up to work and does their job too?

What does it been to be “special”? Even as a kid, I started realizing that if everyone is special, then by default, we fundamentally cannot all be special.

Instead, here’s the truth that I officially had taught myself by age 34; when life finally started making more sense to me:

It’s not about being a good person, a hard worker, or special. Because all of those things are just relative to everyone else around us.

And if I live my life thinking that I truly am a good person, a hard worker, and special, then ultimately, I’m more likely to believe that I deserve things in life.

That is one toxic word.

Deserve.

It’s always a red flag when I hear someone say it now.

A person who thinks they deserve something is going to feel entitled. When they don’t get those things they think they deserve, they will become disappointed. And when they become disappointed, they will blame other people; not themselves. And when they blame other people, society just isn’t going to take that “victim” seriously.

In the end, the victim creates a reputation and lifestyle that causes them to miss out on opportunities than others are now given instead.

Because what it’s really about is being the most dependable and available person. Not the good person, not the hard worker, not the special person.

What it’s really about the person who’s willing to do those tasks that no one else is able or willing to do.

It’s really about being the creative person who’s willing to take risks and introduce more efficient and effective ideas.

So yes, it’s true.

I’m not a good person. I’m not a hard worker. I’m not special.

And I use that to my advantage.

 

Motivational Sylvester Stallone Quotes that I Will Pass on to My Kids: Choosing the Victor Mindset over the Victim Mentality

Motivational Sylvester Stallone Quotes That I Will Pass on to My Kids: Choosing the Victor Mindset over the Victim Mentality

In the past few days, I have watched 2 movies written by and starring Sylvester Stallone that have quotes which ideologically line up with what I believe and want to install in my children.

The first is featured in the beginning of Rocky 3 (filmed the year I was born in 1981 and released the following year in 1982). It’s my favorite of the Rocky series.

Rocky tells his victim-mentality brother-in-law, “Nobody owes nobody nothing! You owe yourself.”

A few months back, I wrote about how I believe the world doesn’t owe me anything; not even the government. Stallone adds to that, by clarifying that we as individuals owe it to ourselves to try to earn what we think we are worth.

Five years later in 1987, Stallone made an accidentally hilarious movie in which he plays an arm wrestling truck driver who lifts weights on a pulley contraption in the truck while he drives: Over the Top.

He tells his estranged son on a couple different occasions, “The world meets nobody halfway.”

Motivational Sylvester Stallone Quotes That I Will Pass on to My Kids: Choosing the Victor Mindset over the Victim Mentality

Stallone again shares his philosophy, in which I endorse, that if you leave it up to someone else for your own happiness and/or fulfillment, you will ultimately be disappointed most of the time.

As part of our own family creed and our household, we simply do not allow the victim mentality (also known as the scarcity mindset), where we are quick to blame, criticize, and expect other members of society to take care us.

Instead, we believe in the victor mindset (also known as abundance consciousness), where we are quick to take responsibility for own decisions and actions, while proactively being willing to get ahead in life by choosing to do the things that most of society is not willing to do.

That’s a major principle taught in one of my favorite books, Rich Dad, Poor Dad; by Robert Kiyosaki.

It’s a matter of working both hard and smart. I feel so much of my job as a parent is to teach my children how to think creatively and independently.

I believe it’s not enough to think outside the box… because, why must we be boxed in to begin with?

Find a way to remove the box, then proceed.

Every Breath You Take of the Air Tonight

What were Phil Collins and Sting really singing about?

It happened just a few weeks after I was born, then again exactly two years later in May of 1983. A man living out the final months of a dying marriage releases a song that goes on to become one of the biggest hits of the ‘80’s and most replayed songs on syndicated radio stations like Jack FM. Both of these men’s songs were destined to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Songs that were sad realizations from a man watching the love of his life slip away from him, though she shared his bed every night. I’m referring to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Sting of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”.

Known for its memorable drum introduction over two minutes into the recording, its ghostly atmosphere, and its refrain of “oh Lord” that allows the song to exist not only has a premonition of his soon divorce and confrontation with his then-wife, but also as a desperate acknowledgement that God is overwatching the nightmare unfold, “In the Air Tonight” remains the perfect song for a drive on the interstate on an overcast day in October.

However, to many fans of the song (who wouldn’t be?), the meaning has always been vague and abstract.  Obviously some mysterious big event is about to happen and the accusing tone reveals anger, distrust, and sadness. So it only makes sense that a believable urban legend was born: A man watched Phil Collins’ brother drown and didn’t try to save him. Phil Collins years later invited the man to his concert and gave him a front row seat and sang the song to the man to drench him in guilt. The man later died of a heart attack. I believed this story for three years, until I did some research myself (on Wikipedia) to find out the truth. The Drowning Man Theory makes sense and it’s easy to want to believe it. But once I found out it’s a song about Phil Collins’ fading first marriage, the depth and weight of the song became so much clearer to me.

In a strange parallel, Sting woke up in the middle of the night and wrote “Every Breath You Take” as he watched his first marriage disintegrate. It went on to become the #1 single of 1983, surprisingly beating out all of Michael Jackson’s mega-hits that year (Thriller, Billy Jean, Beat It, P.Y.T., Human Nature, The Girl is Mine, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’). While the song comes across as a vow of undying love to many, with its promise to keep watch over his object of affection, it’s actually the opposite. It actually described Sting’s feeling of deep loss, knowing he would never fully get over losing his first wife. He didn’t want to let her go, but the marriage was ended regardless. Therefore, the “stalkerish” feel of the song is completely intentional.

Two British men who fronted successful pop rock bands in the 1980’s both wrote a song at the end of their marriage that went on to be a classic and unforgettable hit. And many people will never know the truth about the background of the writing other than what is written here. That’s often the case though: Some of the biggest legendary things in life are surrounded by mystery, only adding to the intrigue.

The Generation X and Generation Y Hybrid: For People Turning 30 This Year

Here’s to the Class of 1999 (as well as for anyone else close enough in age to relate this).

We were born between the fall of 1980 and the summer of 1981; currently the ones turning 30 within the next year.  It was us who remember having vinyl records in our house during our early Elementary School days, but by the time we got to Junior High we learned the cool kids were getting CD players.  We remember how in the 3rd grade when The Simpsons came out, our parents hesitated to let us watch it, and now we wonder in amazement that they’re still making new episodes of it, and how tame and polite the show seems now compared next to Family Guy.

During our high school days, we came home and fell asleep to a Saved by the Bell marathon until dinner was ready.  We clearly remember the horrific Columbine shooting in Colorado happening just a few weeks before our high school graduation.  (The event actually happened on my 18th birthday.)

 

Yes, we remember Teddy Ruxpin and slap bracelets.  We remember when The Ren & Stimpy Show was the coolest show ever.

We are part of Generation X, barely: The last year of Generation X ended in 1981.  That means the new generation, Generation Y, began in 1982, just 7 full months after I was born.  After a motivation speaker at work a few weeks ago gave characteristics of each generation, I confirmed my belief that I’m not a typical Generation X guy; and if anything, I’m more Generation Y.  The caricatured characteristics of the generations (below) are from notes I took while listening to the speaker that day, Dan Baker:

Generation X: 1961-1981

33% of the work force, first generation to get divorced, “latch-key kids”, high-tech, loner, needs to be happy, reward-motivated, blames everyone else for their problems, high work ethic, works the bureaucracy, cold-blooded practical

Generation Y (Millennial): 1982-2001

20% of the work force, lacks people skills, no sense of authority, no sense of boundaries, not intimidated by threats, has no prejudice, not motivated by money, loves to be mentored, learns by mistakes, learns quickly, knows how to trick the system, “so what?” generation, wants to feel special, wants someone to care about them, needs to “be built”, bad listener, good watcher, needs encouragement, not good at having real friendships- partly because they rely so heavily on social networks (texting, facebook, etc.)

I definitely relate with a few Generation X characteristics: I’ve always born more of a loner and am content being that way.  I need to be happy.  I know how to work the bureaucracy.  And because I’m not a black-and-white, cut-and-dry person, I am definitely cold-blooded practical.

But as a whole, more Generation Y traits jumped out at me: I am not intimidated by threats.  I am as little prejudice as I know to be humanly possible.  I am definitely not motivated by money (I have been preached to my whole life that money isn’t everything and that it doesn’t make people happy, and I believe it).  I do love to be mentored, just as I love to mentor.  I totally know how to trick the system; it’s one of my specialties- taking a machete to red tape.  I’m not so good of a good listener, but I’m always watching, even when you don’t want me to.  And I need encouragement.

I “work the bureaucracy” be being faithful and loyal to people for the long run (Gen. X), but I’m not faithful or loyal to the system because I “know how to trick the system” (Gen. Y).  I am “cold-blooded practical” (Gen. X) about all my decisions and opinions, yet because I am motivated by encouragement and want to feel special (Gen. Y), I am not being practical because I am letting my “feelings” control me and allowing others’ opinions of my achievements to become part of the deciding factor of whether or not I am successful in what I do.

So I predict that most other people born around 1981 are in this similar situation where they don’t identify fully with either generation, but instead with elements of both.  And I’m sure the hybrid traits I have adopted are not necessarily the same ones as other people born in 1981.  But I do find it pretty interesting how my way of thinking and outlook on life resemble specific X and Y traits.

So now you know.  It’s official.  You’re Generation X, but there’s a good chance you act and think more like Generation Y.  We’re the in-betweens.  And I think that makes us feel special; which for our generation, is pretty dang important.