- Chris Malzone
Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow!
Updated: Dec 3, 2019
On the 24th of November 2019, I lost my father. Don't worry, this isn't going to be an obituary or a cry of any sort but more of lessons learned that fueled my own personal development and to be honest, can fuel many more to come.
As you may have read, in an earlier blog, my Dad provided me with experiences that in turn became life long passions.
At the Age of 6 I started spending time with him deep sea fishing. At age of 8 he taught me how to dead reckon a boat from 50 miles out back to the Santa Cruz Harbor. By the age of 14 he finally accepted my desire to "become a surfer" (he did not have a positive view of surfers back in the early 80's) and actually drove me over to Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz and waited in the car while I struggled to teach myself to surf on a short board. Despite coming back frozen and often dejected from barely catching any waves, I kept at it and my Dad kept driving me "over the hill" to repeat the process. It became less about surfing but more about avenues to experience the Ocean that my Dad unbeknownst to me at the time, helped fuel. I fell in love with the Ocean despite how cold she was, how badly she would beat me up and how frequently she humbled me.
Then college hit and I made the decision to accept a swimming scholarship to Long Beach State. Looking back at it, I chose LBSU less because of swimming but how close it was to Huntington Beach where I could continue surfing. The problem there was "swimming"... it just required every ounce of my attention & energy. What I thought was going to be regular trips to the beach, became less & less frequent as morning workouts, Saturday workouts, swim meets, and... oh yeah... school took my attention.
I looked for solutions and found one... Lifeguarding. I needed a job, I'm a good swimmer, it's on the beach... perfect! So I tried out for Long Beach Lifeguards and got the job but there was a problem... there is no surf in Long Beach. WTF was I thinking?! Sure there is Ocean but back then the water there was a polluted mess from effluent coming in from the LA River and the Port of Long Beach. Gross!
Then there was school... OMG... School! Swimming not only took away from surfing but it was taking away from school. By the end of my 2nd year I was clueless on what I wanted to do. "Those aptitude tests told me I should be an architect but that didn't seem right. What else was there? What should I do? I'm twenty years old, don't have a major, I party WAY TOO much and, well for all intensive purposes, am aimless."
Then, while I was probably either staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool, I remembered my love for the ocean so I registered for Oceanography 101 that next spring and aced the class! WOW.. that was cool. I then took a Geology Class... same thing. This may seem like "duh.. you must be smart" but No.. I was NEVER a great student... B+ at best but now I was top of the class. huh?!
So that next summer, I called my Dad and told him my dilemma. Keep in mind that my father and all his buddies were successful businessmen in the Bay Area before it was the Silicon Valley. My Dad ran one of the most successful Dental practices in the Bay Area and seemed like he was friends with everyone. Family parties consisted of Lawyers, judges, insurance brokers, bankers, electricians, property owners, landscapers... you name it, they were my Dad's friends. They were all successful, motivated people and I always was humbled when I was around them.
I digress... so I call my Dad up and say
"Dad, I want to be an Oceanographer or a Geologist.. maybe both".
He said... "well.. that's interesting, what do you suppose you will do with that?"
"not sure yet but I'm sure I will figure it out."
"WELL, Chris... don't make any decisions now but, I have always followed one simple rule; Do what you love and the money will follow".
My reaction... "What the fuck does he mean by that?! ... do what you love.... I'm 20 years old... WTF is that supposed to mean". Of course, me being me, didn't wait and started plotting a course for my dreams or to learn what I love
Step 1: Get my grades in order and get the right classes. Being an athlete at LBSU, you didn't exactly take classes that meant anything since the point of them paying you was to compete, not learn! So I didn't care about that anymore since I realized that swimming wasn't going to get me any closer to a long term career of any sort. Unfortunately there wasn't an undergraduate Oceanography major so I picked Geology as my major and registered for all the core classes: Calculus, Chemistry, Geology 202, etc.. Yep, all the hard ones.
Step 2: Take a year off from swimming or "red shirt". To red shirt, means that you take a year off from competing but still train but at a lesser schedule so you can focus on school. Many athletes did it BUT my coach didn't accept the red shirt proposal. So... me being me... I quit! Told him swimming wasn't going to pay the bills after college so this is what I felt I had to do. He was not amused (this is a longer story worth telling over a drink).
Step 3: Become SCUBA certified.... (again...longer story worth telling over a drink).
At some point during Step 3, my Dad comes down to visit me. I pick him up at LAX in my friends 1968 VW Beetle with Mexican blankets for upholstery and holes in the floor boards. During the visit, we swung by and met with friends of the family, the Bersons. Amazing people and probably personal favorites of mine out of the sea of co-conspirators of my parents. Bob Berson was a dentist like my Dad and they actually went to Dental School together. But Bob and my Dad couldn't be more different in a variety of ways but for some reason they were the best of friends. Bob is an ex LA County lifeguard, surfed, etc .... amazing individual whose better half, Rosie, is just that... even better. But like I said... they were tight and super fun to be around during get togethers.
Anyways, So Bob, being Bob hears of my desire to be an Oceanographer from my Dad. Bob says...
"Hey, there is someone you need to meet".
I'm like "Oh shit... they are gonna hook me up with some ex-lifeguard who became an oceanographer and failed". Well... I couldn't have been more wrong!
We drove over to this old warehouse looking building in Santa Monica and Bob introduces me to Rim Faye, PhD! While Rim looked like a homeless person (baseball cap with tears in it, dirty t-shirt, worn pair of shorts, flip-flops, etc), but he definitely was not a failure. Rim was a PhD from UCLA, Venice Beach Lifeguard (old LG buddy of Bob's) who ran his own Lab studying the impacts of pollution off Palos Verdes. Little did I know then but this guy was a legend -- Rim was basically a modern day Doc Ricketts of his time. Look him up some time!
So Rim gives us the grand tour then turns to me and says
"SO! You want to be an oceanographer". (super blunt, no emotion)
"Well... yes sir, I do" . (super intimidated but respectful)
Out comes one of those calendars that with the tides on it and he opens it to the month of June and points to it and says
"Tell me what you see"
"I see the tides"
"Yeah but what about them?"
(Tapping into my Oceanography 101) "Well, these look mixed diurnal tides" (with a proud tone)
"Ok.. nice. BUT... what do YOU see".
"I'm not sure if I understand the question"
Now Rim is pretty frustrated with me in a weird but patient sort of way and, points at the calendar and says:
"The Tides ALWAYS go from a higher hi to a lower low and NEVER the other way around. Remember that and you'll be fine"
At that point and I don't know why... I was hooked. I nodded in return, said thank you and I was off to become an oceanographer. I received a deeper insight to look beyond the obvious to search for trends, see what the data is telling you and to then walk away and wonder "Why is that? Such a simple thing that is plain as day but how many regular people out there actually understood that trend?!"
From that day forward, two things drove me to where I'm at now. 1. Do what you love and the money will follow! If you don't love what you do, who cares?! Clocking in & out everyday does nothing for anyone.... especially yourself. LOVE WHAT YOU DO!
2. Have an open mind. Having an open mind allows you to consider experiencing events that could either reaffirm your faith in your given path or help you chose a better one.
If it wasn't for the love of my Dad, the love Bob & Rosie had for him and consequently myself, honestly... I would not be sitting here writing a blog for a struggling non-profit BUT, I love it!
Thanks Dad! I love you and miss you.
Fair Winds and Following Seas.