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Be who you are, not who you think you should be.

October 20, 2015

Without a doubt, Morgan Moore has been our most moving #MCM thus far. His story teaches us that relentless determination and self-acceptance can help us reach our "impossible" goals. Today, this amazing man finds himself in a successful career with Principal Financial Group, despite the seemingly unsurmountable challenges he faced during his childhood. His story will inspire you to no end:

 

 

1. What is your story? What makes you unique?

 

I have heard several times during my life to never stop and take notice of where you are.  This is mainly a reference to one’s humility and how boasting makes way for opportunity to pass by.  While I do agree, to an extent, that pride can lead to one’s demise, I would argue it is important to study where you have are and how you have gotten there.

 

I was born just outside of ATL to a single mother, who struggled with alcohol and drugs.  Unfortunately, these struggles played a strong role in the early years of my life.  From infancy to my 14th birthday, I was placed in four foster homes – homes that were better and homes that were worse than the conditions from which I had been removed.  When I reflect on these moments of my life, it is hard to imagine being raised by complete strangers during a single moment in time, but four is unimaginable.  It has, and always will be, a significant challenge to understand how someone could give up their child four times and make repeated decisions that would lead to consequences that would knowingly have significant collateral damage.  Damage that would greatly affect the life of a young, troubled boy.  But, it was through these challenges that I became who I am today – a person I respect.  While I find myself content with the young man I am today, that certainly was not the case in the years the preceded.

 

To adequately paint a picture of my early years would take more characters than I am sure you care to read; however, I do find key moments in the earliest 14 years of my life do offer strong teaching points for the latter 11 years. . . To say I grew up poor is quite an understatement.  I never had name-brand anything.  I remember developing brand awareness quite early as a child.  Brands, and those that consumed them, represented everything I did not have.  Everything from popularity to a safe, loving, home environment was represented by the logos I did not and could not own.  It was because of this, I grew envious of popularity, an envy of positive recognition – something of which I had very little.

 

The same peers that wore, rode in, lived in, wrote with, wrote on, and spoke of were the same peers that judged me for the things I wore, rode in, lived in, wrote with, wrote on, and spoke of.  At such an early age, my peers were quite cruel – a cruelty I found very difficult to escape from.  My preteen years were some of the worst.  I had been in four foster homes, and I had been tagged with the highly sought after stereotype of the “poor, foster kid”.  As if it wasn’t hard enough to deal with my home life, my peers certainly did not let me forget where I was coming from. 

 

While school was challenging, it was paradise away from my home.  While my biological mother did have periods of sobriety, they were shadowed by her periods of substance abuse and mental struggles.  Over a 14 year period, my biological mother used her past as an excuse for her short comings in the responsibilities of a parent, excuses I never found valid.  From a young child to a teen, I was abused in ways that I care not to share, but ways that challenged me.  Ways that negatively affected me.  Ways that made me angry and pessimistic of what life truly had to offer.  Over an eight year period, there were many moments when I looked out the metaphoric window of my life and desired to be on the other side of the street.  Many moments of recognizing the unfortunate storm in which I found myself, and the almost painful desire to escape it all and to be another child.  Any other child. 

 

With a war on both fronts – at home and at school, there was little energy to focus on school work.  Up until the 7th grade, I was in remedial class – Title 1 math and reading, I believe.  On top of being the “poor, foster kid”, I was the “poor, foster kid who had trouble with school”.  Many of the children that have been through what I have know that this is a cyclical lifestyle.  They know how difficult it is to break free of the chains that our life has shackled us to.  Towards the end of my 7th grade year, I realized that I had to make a path for my own.  A path that would take considerable effort to create.  I realized that there was no sense in daydreaming about others who I so greatly wished to be.  Instead, I realized that I would have to become the person I wanted to be.  A realization that proved motivating at the time, but would later become a significant struggle in my life.

 

During the spring of my 7th grade year, Teresa – my biological mother – made a very selfish decision.  A decision that would lead to the ultimate collapse of our relationship.  It was in that moment of chaos that I saw who I could become and what it would take to do so.  While that night still haunts me, I find myself numb to it all.  So many questions unanswered.  So many of them I want to remain that way.

 

 

The next five years were split between two different families.  Families I owe so much to.  Families I still feel a part of, though I never see.  During my time with them, I learned a great deal about who I was becoming.  While my “popularity” had risen, I still envied what I did not have.  I was wearing all the name brands, riding in nice cars, living in beautiful homes, but I found myself wanting more.  I found myself still looking through the window wanting to be someone I was not.  I wish I could go back in time, as most all do, and tell myself what I know now.  To tell myself that what I had was more than what I truly ever wanted.  Those two families provided me with all the material things I could ever want, but what they ultimately provided me was a safe, promising environment free of abuse, free of judgment, and free of chaos.  They provided me an environment in which I could grow free of unnecessary distractions.  And for that, I will always be grateful.

 

On top of all the misfortunes of my childhood, I struggled with my sexuality.  As if I did not have enough curveballs thrown my way, I had another obstacle to “overcome”.  While I had known I had a unique attraction to the same sex as early as 11, I did not truly accept it until I was a sophomore in college.  I had learned to control my emotions in respects to what I had gone through as a child, but dealing with being gay exacerbated my anger and frustrations with my life.  It was so easy to ask “why me”?  It was so easy to fall into a hole of self-pity.  I had accomplished so much in five years, and it seemed to be nothing compared to the challenges I was facing at the time.  The reputation I had earned from my peers was one I felt could be respected, but I was gay, and I felt being gay nullified it all.

 

My sophomore year of college came to be one of the darkest, most challenging chapters of my life.  I had no relationship with my maternal family, yet they were still affecting my life.  The hope of one day meeting my paternal family had been forgotten, my relationship with the family I had called my own for three years was deteriorating, and my self-hatred for being gay was consuming my being.  And, on top of it all, I was surrounded by people who had it “figured out”.  Who had it all.  Who I envied.  Looking back, it is hard to understand how I overcame so much and found myself in an ever-fostering situation, but still wanted to be someone else.  I still wanted to be someone I wasn’t.  I was still looking out of my life’s window, desiring another’s.

 

In the spring of my sophomore year, I contemplated making the same, selfish decision Teresa made many years before that.  What was life to be if it were filled with the pain of my childhood and the struggles of being gay? Was it worth it to keep fighting the obstacles that continued falling across a path I was already laboring to create?  It was during this time that I had another path-shifting realization – I am who I am.  Of course, it took a bit of work and significant help from others, but light was slowly shed on what essentially was a very simple realization.  Just as I owe much of my success to what I learned throughout my childhood and growing up with five different families, I owe much of that realization to a very special friend.  I truly owe that night, and what unfolded after, to her and her commitment to me.  Her commitment to the person I was and not to who I wanted to be. 

 

 

Over the next four years, my path led to more obstacles.  More challenges.  From meeting and developing a relationship with my paternal family, to changing career paths, to living in New York City, to dating a guy, to falling in love for the first time, to heart surgery and bone marrow complications, to starting my career, more challenges were faced and more challenges were overcome.  Through these challenges, and those of the past, I came to develop into someone I not only respected, but someone I was content to be.  While contentment is not something I standby professionally, it is very much something I encourage personally.  Desiring to be someone else was just as toxic as the environment in which I was born.  And, throughout my life, I have been taught this by those that have influenced me the most.  Those that have come to love and respect the person I am, and not the person I see when I look out the widow of my life.  Those who have had a hand in making me the unique individual I am today.

 

 

2. What motivates you?

 

 

As I have mentioned, I am very much content with the PERSON I am today.  However, contentment is not a comforting feeling when speaking of my professional career.  Because I grew up poor, I certainly find financial stability to be a STRONG motivating factor.  While I do love the finer things in life, financial stability means much more to be than the charges I can put on my credit card.  Financial stability means I am free of some of the stresses that plagued childhood.  Money means nothing to me unless I can share it with those I care about most.  In fact, I likely spend more discretionary income on others than I do myself.  This is not something I do to gain admiration of my peers, I do it for sheer pleasure, as it represents a large part of what I never had the opportunity to do in the past. 

While financials motivate me in my career, I am driven in all facets of my life by what I want more than anything in the future – a family.  I believe I will never be able to truly overcome the emotional trauma I faced growing up until I am able to have a family of my own.  I am one of those guys that truly looks forward to sharing a life with a partner and children.  In fact, I cannot wait to be a father!  While family is on the very distant horizon, it is the single-most motivating factor in my life. 

 

3. Who is a hero of yours?

 

It would be very inconsiderate of me to name a single hero. Throughout my life, I have been influenced by so many individuals.  Many of these people have TRULY changed my life.  I would never name them all, but if they were to ever read this highlight, I am certain they would know I am speaking of them.  My life is very much a collage of those that have invested in me over the years.  Those that sought to interact and acknowledge a young boy, who very much should have been another statistic, and help develop him into the person writing this now.  It is to those people – young and old, living and passed – I owe my success and the success that is to come.  Individually, each of them were ambassadors of the good in life, and collectively, they are my hero.

 

 

4. What is your future plan? Goals?

 

Goals.  We live by them!  I have always had one (or two) ultimate goal(s): to be a good person and a great father/partner.  I truly believe there is more than one path to get to where you want to be.  While my ultimate goal is one of vast vagueness, it is a strong guide to almost every decision I make.  I believe to be a good person means to act in the interests of others more often than your own.  While I have seen some of the more selfish sides of life, I have learned you must also act in your own interests, as well.  But, if you are cognizant about the greater effects of each decision you make and act in a way that respects it all, more often than not, good will come of it. 

 

As far as my career goes, I cannot be certain.  I have seen more success at my age than many of the employees within my company and more success than I thought I would have seen at 25.  Just as my life is a product of the investments made in it, the early success in my career is due – in large part – to the investments made by my manager and the dedication of my team.  While I am uncertain of where I am headed with the Principal Financial Group, I am certain I will work my hardest to be the best employee I can be.  As with most facets of life, the harder you work, the more opportunity comes your way.  And, I cannot say specifically what opportunities will come, and I certainly cannot say how I will respond when it does, but my ultimate goals will certainly guide me. 

 

 

5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

 

Be who you are, not who you think you should be.  As my story sheds some light on the matter, I hope there is some parallel to the lives of those who find themselves reading this.  Many of us spend so much time, almost obsessively, trying to mimic the lives of those we envy.  No matter where we go or who we meet, there will always be someone we deem as having more than us or being better than us at something.  While this may be the case on a specific topic, it is certainly not the case as a whole.

 

Each of us bring something very unique to the world.  Just as our DNA is different (identical twins excluded from this point), the combinations of our talents, skills, and character bring a rare uniqueness to various situations.  A uniqueness that cannot be duplicated by another.  It is for this reason that we should cherish who we are.  We should acknowledge the immense value we can bring in a situation we may currently face and/or one that is to come.  Spend time investing in the person you are, develop yourself, and spend far less time trying to recreate your “wheel”!

 

6. What is something you feel strongly about?

 

 

The life of a child.  Children represent the purest form of life, and they are sponges for influence – positive and negative.  It is for these reasons they should get the best of care.  As we hear all the time, children are our future.  They are who will eventually charter the course of human existence.  If we acknowledge this, why should any child’s life be less than cherished and cared for?  The early years of a person’s life is the time of greatest influence.  It is during these years that we begin shaping into the people we will become.  So, why are so many children falling through the cracks?  Why are so many finding themselves in less-than-livable situations with no life-line to pull?

 

I am a product of community investment in a child, a child that would have become a “statistic” had those investments not been made.  I will never be able to give a sufficient ROI to those who made an investment in me, but I will certainly take their principals – literally and metaphorically speaking – and reinvest them into the lives of many more. 

 

7. What is one of the coolest things you have ever done?

 

I met my father in October of 2010.  It was astonishing to see how much we had in common, considering we had never met.  In a short eight-month period, we grew very close.  As my 21st birthday approached, my father asked me what I would like to do.  I had never really had a birthday party growing up, so I entertained the idea of throwing a party.  But, my father – a very big-thinking man – said that was too simple for my 21st.

 

Those that know me, KNOW I am quite the foodie.  I enjoy food more than any person should.  Having spent years eating Hamburger Helper, Ramen Noodles, and off-brand cereal, I do enjoy a nice, fancy meal! Additionally, I love to travel, as most do, and my father happens to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world – Switzerland.  Unlike anything I had been exposed to on my maternal side, my father is a very successful businessman.  Because of his hard work, he has been able to do most anything he has ever wanted, especially in regards to travel.  Having been to almost every country in the world, my father proposed a trip for my birthday.  He said we could go anywhere in the world, so I suggested New Zealand.  Being the philosophical man that he is, he asked why.  Of course my response was met with more questions, and together we decided that New Zealand wasn’t the best trip for my 21st. 

 

He later proposed we pick a destination in Europe, and I agreed. . . Under one condition: we do breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a different country each day.  And, by that, I meant breakfast in one country, lunch in another, and dinner in another.  This, of course, would combine my love for travel and food.  To my surprise, he agreed!  For four days, my father and I flew in his private plane eating some of the best food in Europe.  From Switzerland, to France, to Germany, to Austria, to Italy, my father and I shared the best 21st birthday I could have ever imagined.  Even now, I find it unbelievable.  It was like we had known each other my whole life.  While the trip itself was special, the time I had with my father was more than anything I could have ever dreamed of, and that alone was more than any gift I could have received.   

 

If you'd like to reach out to Morgan, you may email him HERE.

 

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