APPRECIATE YOUR DARKEST DAYS
Creator of Growth
Lawyer & Entrepreneur
The funny story about how I met Jarel is that we actually lived together in the same dorm room in college. I had the room right next to his but we barely spoke. It took a couple years to warm up to each other but I didn't have to know him very well to know he was going places. After being partially raised in Atlanta, Jarel moved to New York to go to college and then moved to North Carolina to go to law school. He recently moved back to New York and he's now a full-time attorney focusing on commercial real estate. At a glance the journey worked out as planned but after our conversation, it became clear that the journey was anything but smooth. Life doesn't always pan out the way you imagine. Problems will be thrown your way but as hard as they may knock you down, it's important to always pick yourself back up. Jarel's story is one filled with emotion and a journey that I believe anyone who is driven can relate to.
WHY DID YOU GET INTO LAW?
I think my parents honestly. I love arguing and debating and my parents were always telling me that I would be a good lawyer. And if I can be honest with you, I just wanted to have a career where I could make money. When I first applied to colleges I applied to be an engineer and then I realized I wasn't going to like that. Then I used to work as a pharmacy technician in high school and the pharmacist told me he was making so much money so then I decided that I was going to be a pharmacist. When I went to St. John's I started doing the pharmacy program and within the first two weeks I realized that wasn't for me. Then I got introduced to this legal studies program. I took one class in it and I really just gravitated towards it. Law is about just having an extreme rationale and logic and that's how I carry myself. Everything has to be logical for things to make sense. So my parents told me I should be a lawyer but I also took my own route and fell back into it. Now I'm happy and I enjoy it.
SO MONEY WAS THE INITIAL DRIVING FORCE?
Yea money was the initial driving force because I grew up without money. So my initial goal growing up was to always make money. It just so happened that I learned a lesson: not every lawyer makes money. We'll get to that but it wasn't an easy road at all. The market is not as sweet as you think.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF ADVERSITY?
Adversity is intertwined with struggle for me. It's overcoming really intense struggles that the average person cannot deal with. You have to be a very strong person to overcome adversity because adversity can break you depending on your mental make up. If you come across an adverse situation and you don't handle it correctly, it can change your outlook on life.
"Don't let other people determine your self-worth."
WHAT IS SOME ADVERSITY THAT YOU OVERCAME?
When I was younger and we didn't have any money. I really thought that that was normal. As I got older I realized that there's money out there. It wasn't an unhealthy obsession that I had with money but more so that I wanted for my family and I to be comfortable. When I came to St. John's, we took the Greyhound all the way up from Atlanta to New York. Then I had to pay for the Greyhound for my mom to go back down. So I took the Greyhound with two big ass duffles and I had one big cardboard box that I shipped UPS ground and that's how I got all my shit up to New York. An 18 hour bus ride just for me to go to college and get to New York. So that was one instance of adversity. I think something that is more specific to me that determined my makeup and where I am in my space right now is when I graduated law school and came back to New York - even that was a risk. When I was going to law school a lot of people told me I shouldn't leave New York. I wanted to practice law in here so why would I go to North Carolina to go to law school? I thought let me go to the best school I can get into not knowing that when you're in New York you make connections and you network. All those things really never crossed my mind. I had no mentor, I was just doing everything that I thought was correct. So then after I graduated law school, I came back to New York and I had no connections and no job. Luckily my grandfather had rented an apartment in the Bronx but he moved to Virginia for my mom to take care of him and he agreed to pay half of the rent in the apartment until I could find a job. So I come back to New York, still can't find a job and I have to pay $600 a month for rent. I went to a recruiting agency and they couldn't find me anything as far as legal so I ended up working at KPMG in the mailroom during tax season. I was sorting mail, doing bindings and delivering tax reports to accountants. There was nothing wrong with that job but I just felt like I was at an all time low. I hate to say it but I felt like it was so far beneath where I should be. I was making $15 an hour so all the money I was making was basically going to rent. I was broke. I knew I wanted to be in New York and when I got here nothing was the way I imagined. The entire time I'm complaining to all my friends, my mom, anyone I could talk to. If you knew me during that time you probably hated talking to me because I was so negative.
I worked for this law firm for a quick blip before I went to law firm and I hated it. But I made a decision I said you know let me get on my knees and call these people and get some type of legal experience after law school and hope for the best. So I went to this firm and they completely low balled me but I had to take it because I had nothing else on the table. On top of it all my grandfather said that he couldn't continue paying the rent so I had to move. I said ok, let me just take this now so I can get out of my grandfathers apartment and get on my own two feet. Now I knew I was going to hate this place but I didn't realize how much I was going to hate it because when I was there before I was a paralegal. I was doing half of the work they were expecting me to do this time around but for the same shitty salary. A lot of people were telling me I should be happy that I have a job and I completely understand that but I can't subscribe to that mentality because If I do, I will always keep myself to a certain level and never strive for more. In this situation where I know that my value is higher, the market is telling me that people are getting much more and I'm getting way below my market value. But being there was a blessing in disguise. In that moment it taught me so much...
I'm in my grandfather's apartment, the lights get cut off, the internet cuts off and for a month I'm going back to his apartment, laying on the floor because I sold all the furniture. I have no money to go out and hang with my friends but when I did hangout I was credit card spending, collecting debt. When I was home I was sitting in the dark just crying. I was so fucking sad. I come back and I have no money. I didn't know how I got here. I subscribed to doing everything I was supposed to do. I busted my ass in law school and took out all these loans so I could do this, thinking that when I got out, I would get a great job and that I'd be able to help my mom and my family. In that moment I felt so useless. Everyday I'm getting up and going to a job I hate. In that moment some good things happened. I had my friends and I met my girlfriend at the time. She held me down. She was my sounding board. I was in a really dark place and I couldn't imagine being with someone who's always miserable. I just really wanted to progress. I wanted so much more for myself. I thought this can't be what god has planned for me. I can't be here, unhappy barely making it in New York City. For a long time I questioned if I even wanted to be in this city.
"If I didn't go through my dark place, I wouldn't have the appreciation I have now."
CAN YOU SPEAK TO WHAT IT IS ABOUT COOLIN' OUT THAT YOU LIKE SO MUCH?
On the daily we have to be half of ourselves or maybe even less when we go to work. I can't just be there as myself. I have to go in there and give you a piece of me because If I gave you all of me you wouldn't be able to handle it. Whereas in Coolin' Out and can do what I want and say what I want. We're just being who we are. There are no gimmicks. There are no scripts. Its just a group of friends getting together and talking like we would on the regular. I love that natural feeling. I love that through the podcast we've met so many people. Great artists, amazing creatives, just great spirits.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS DEALING WITH ADVERSITY?
I would say you have to be extremely patient and make tactical decisions, like very calculated decisions. Know that there are lessons in the struggle. So I would say being patient and having a strong support team around you is important. You need people who are going to encourage you to keep moving forward. You know anything great is going to take some level of adversity to overcome. The same great things you want, one thousand other people want as well. So it's just about being patient and in a sense waiting for your time. But then when it's your time, you have to go hard.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE ON HOW TO LIVE A MORE CREATIVE AND MEANINGFUL LIFE?
I would just say to stop overthinking. People have a tendency to overthink rather than act. Sometimes you think to much and when there's no action, there can be no creation because you're constantly just thinking without doing anything. It's more so getting that inner child to come out.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Watch the full interview here: