My high school German teacher believed in sasquatch. Actually, to be more precise, he believed he saw an albino sasquatch in the hills of New Jersey when he was a young kid.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “How the hell does Lyle know that?”
My classmate Nate had an older brother who had taken the same class from the same teacher a few years prior. One day, we were hanging at Nate’s house and his brother said, “If you guys ever want to get out of class for the day, ask him about the sasquatch.” To which we replied, “Uhhh, what? Did you say sasquatch?” Then through a wry smile, he said, “Just trust me.”
A few days later, we were sitting in class and I turned to Nate and gave him the signal. He promptly raised his hand and asked the question that set us off on a wild journey through our teacher’s—most likely flawed—memory and his stash of weird newspaper clippings he had in the closet in his classroom (for some reason). I can’t imagine what kind of conspiracy theory-laden rabbit holes he got sucked into once the internet became a thing. (Yes, kids, the internet didn’t really exist when I was in high school in the early 90s).
Now, you might also be thinking, “Wait, Lyle took German in high school?”
Yeah, I know, it was a weird choice. The vast majority of kids at my high school took Spanish and almost all the rest took French. But no, I and a handful of other kids decided to be different and take German—even though I lived in a city called San Jose, which is a name clearly not derived from the German language and it’s geographically way closer to Mexico than Europe.
It’s one of the first decisions I remember making where I partially did so just to be different than the rest of the crowd. This has since become a pattern in my life.
I dropped out of college to pursue a career as a musician.
I quit my job to play professional poker.
And, as I wrote last week, I recently transitioned into crypto.
I’m apparently allergic to a regular 9-to-5 job.
The pattern exists with smaller things too. Like how I listen to mostly obscure musicians who approach their craft in a unique way. Or how I generally don’t like mainstream movies or shows all that much. And how I love writing that surprises me—like my favorite piece I’ve written.
This can lead to awkward and funny moments, like when my stepdaughter Sara asked me if I’d heard of Billie Eilish and I said, “Who’s he?” (I’ve since gone on to appreciate her music and unique singing style. Plus, her brother Finneas’s production skills are off-the-charts good).
When my go-against-the-grain tendencies involve major life decisions such as work, it can cause unexpected reactions in other people.
My parents weren’t exactly thrilled that I dropped out of college, but they ultimately were supportive once it was clear my band was on the path to signing our record deal. Yet when I told my dad I was pursuing poker full-time, he was baffled by the decision. If he were still around today, I’m sure we would’ve had some lengthy conversations about my most recent career move. For the record, my mom is quite supportive, although I may have desensitized her a bit over the years with all my job and career changes.
Oftentimes, a confrontational reaction to my choices comes from a place of not understanding.
When I played poker, I would sometimes get a negative or dismissive response such as, “Isn’t it just gambling, though?” But I knew that poker wasn’t straight-up gambling and I had an edge over the majority of my opponents at the time. Poker has since become much more competitive as players have clocked in countless hours at the tables and with the proliferation of poker education via blogs, YouTube videos, online courses, and deep statistical game-theory analysis.
More often than not, people are intrigued by my career path. While it’s hard to distill it all into a quick “tell us a bit about yourself” job interview question, it does make for an entertaining conversation filled with lots of questions from my interlocutor. It’s part of why my now-wife Allison listened more than she talked during our first date. Little did she know then that I would go on to jump from job-to-job within multiple industries over the ensuing years while she held only two different roles in the same general industry—which she also went to school for.
I’m sure my eclectic career sounds stressful and uncertain to many of you. Allison would probably agree with you, for the most part. She recently brought up how my crypto transition just sort of happened without us talking about the plan. I had shared what I was investing my time and money in, but we hadn’t sat down and decided together that I should give it a shot for some predetermined amount of time and what kind of financial risk we were willing to take on. It was a tough conversation—and it’s still ongoing as this new endeavor evolves—but I’m ultimately glad we did it.
No matter what, I always want to remain true to myself and my convictions. If other people don’t understand, then so be it. It’s my life and as long as I’m taking care of my responsibilities as a husband, father, and son, then I’m going to keep doing me.
I guess there’s one thing I can take solace from in all of this: at least I’m choosing to believe in myself—and not a mythical albino creature in the hills of New Jersey that could very well have been a creepy uncle in an abominable snowman suit playing a joke on an impressionable young kid.
Thanks for being here.
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As a fellow winding path-taker and career pivoter, I strongly relate. And sidenote, FYI, my husband is the CFO of a crypto-poker platform. Double-trouble!
I really enjoyed how you juxtaposed a seemingly irrational belief in yourself (at least from an outsider POV) with the objectively (or maybe widely held) irrational belief in Sasquatch. Also, I love the photo you used. I visit that location whenever I’m in Amsterdam. I’ve probably got dozens of pics of it on my phone. Anyway, keep up the good work, Lyle!