Your First Million – Bonus Episode 4 – Transcript

This is a transcript for Your First Million Bonus Episode 4.

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Arlan:                    I’m Arlan Hamilton and this is Your First Million. I’m a venture capitalist. I started my fund Backstage capital from the ground up while I was on food stamps. I have now invested in more than 100 companies led by women, people of color and LGBT founders. After having raised more than $10 million, people often ask me how I did it. I created this podcast so I could tell you my story and so that together we could go on a journey and speak with some of the most successful people in the world from all backgrounds and walks of life to learn how they got their first million. And who knows, maybe I’ll reach my first million in personal capital while I’m recording this series. There’s only one way to find out. This episode is brought to you by DigitalOcean. Let’s go.

Arlan:                    Hello. It’s Arlan again. Always. And this is a bonus episode. If this is your first time listening to a bonus episode, it’s really simple. I will either use this to interview someone on the fly, something that was not scheduled like I did with Brian Grazer, the producer, or my fiance Anna. And you can hear those episodes just by looking for them in the series. Or I’ll use them like I’m going to do right now to expand on a topic and just kind of riff. There are no notes, no real plan, and I just press record and start talking.

Arlan:                    So what I wanted to do this time was pull a little bit of the thread of the current episode that’s coming out the same day, which is Irma’s episode, where I think first of all, go back and listen now or go back and listen after this bonus episode, because Irma is awesome. And in the episode we talk about both of us being hella gay, wicked gay, super gay, totes gay.

Arlan:                    And we talk about it openly and freely and I’m 38 and I’m very used to doing that, but sometimes I forget that not everyone who is in the LGBTQ community can speak as openly about their identity or someone who they love or how they feel, who they’re attracted to, what their life is like in their own companies or around people that they work with every day. And then a lot of people can. So I just thought… actually Anna, who’s my fiance, I’ll say it again, and then when we get married I’m going to call her my wife all the time.

Arlan:                    She is the main producer for this podcast, so she edits each episode and she produces each episode along with the rest of a wonderful team. And she is the one who suggested I talk a little bit more about this. Now obviously if I’m engaged to a woman named Anna, I’m hella gay or hella something, right?

Arlan:                    So I thought about it and the way that it was brought up in the episode was we were talking about how being a lesbian or being gay as a woman may have influenced the confidence that Irma and I seem to have in business. And where did it come from and was it always there? Did we have to build it to kind of live in our skin? And how do we use it in business? And because I want most of these bonus episodes that I do in this particular podcast to be about helping you get your first million while I get my first million, I’m sure there’s a way to tie that in and I think it just comes down to being authentically yourself.

Arlan:                    I think that anybody can relate to that, you don’t have to be… if you’re like some dude, some straight dude, you don’t have to turn this off, there’s probably going to be something for you too because I think it’s just about being yourself and being identified, right? So I just said that, I just said some straight dude, right/ that’s not who you are. You are Eric or Brad or Jamal or Steven or Jose, right? You’re not just some straight dude, you are a person and I think today and I’m part of this, you are usually put into a category along with a bunch of other straight dudes, or if you’re a white guy, a bunch of other white guys, or men, man those men. And frankly this is what has happened to underrepresented people for centuries, so it’s not like it’s anything new, but it may be new to you.

Arlan:                    And it all goes back to us being authentically ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin, being confident, feeling like we’re being seen and heard and being able to do that and bring that self, your self into your job. Because I guess for most people their job, their career, or their gig is the majority of their life, so it’s at least half of your wake, your woke, no, your time awake, right? And so it’s important that you feel that you can be yourself and I think that the reason that I’ve gotten to where I am, which is kind of far but not as far as I want to go, and I think the reason I will go further is because I have been able to own my identity. And not only be proud of it, but I talk about it a lot and I champion it and I’m very… you probably notice that I’m like, big fan of championing yourself and being like your biggest cheerleader.

Arlan:                    It does come from this. So I’ll talk a little bit about earlier days. When I was younger, I was raised in a religion that did not think that gay people were human, basically. They thought that they were subhuman, that they were sinful, animals and that they were all going to die and that’s what I learned as I was growing up. And a lot of religions aren’t like that. And I remember thinking, I remember being very sad for gay people. I didn’t really understand what gay people were, I knew that they were men that kissed other men and women that kissed other women, that’s kind of what I understood as a child.

Arlan:                    But I remember feeling so sad for them, because I was learning every week at our version of church that they were going to die and they weren’t going to make it in, and I was learning that it was something that was like this demon that had taken over them. And it sounded to me like they couldn’t control it, so I wasn’t quite sure why a god that we were worshiping would destroy these people. But I figured it had to do with him not.. with this god not wanting these evil demon people to be contagious.

Arlan:                    And I remember I was in high school, no, no, I was in junior high. So I was probably 8th grade, 14 or so, and I was in gym class which in most of these stories start, and there was this girl and she didn’t speak English very well and I remember she would look at all the other girls in gym, in the locker room and all the girls just really hated it or said they hated it. And I remember she looked at me and I was just like, all right, don’t do that because I didn’t want anybody looking at me, but I wasn’t mad at her, right?

Arlan:                    And then something happened where she was actually hit in the face by this big bully Tiffany who used to be my bully too. Tiffany hit her in the face for some reason so she ran out of the locker room crying. I remember that day we had a substitute teacher for a substitute coach. So she ran out and her face was all red from crying and from the hit and people were laughing, and I just, as this deeply religious indoctrinated person, my instincts just came out and I just ran after her, because I was like, this is a human who’s in pain, and humiliated and in physical pain, and doesn’t have an easy time expressing herself in English. I’m going to go see if she’s okay.

Arlan:                    So I ran into the bathroom with her and I just kind of touched her face and made her understand that I was being friendly and that I was sorry that whatever happened just happened, and I can still see her face, and this would have been almost 25 years ago, I can still see those tears and the redness in her face from being so embarrassed.

Arlan:                    And I remember it was that moment, it was that experience that made me understand that I could not, no matter what I was being taught or what I was learning was the right thing to do quote unquote. I could not hate this person. I could not find it within me to hate her, even though was I knew about her was that she was looking at other girls and that she was a sinner, quote unquote, and that she was the thing that I was supposed to be running from. Running for the hills. In that moment, she was a crying little girl who had just been hurt by someone who was a bully and someone who most likely had her own issues, and she was being ostracized and judged because of this thing.

Arlan:                    And at the time I did not at all know or think that I liked women. I don’t remember having those thoughts until later in high school. So it was just strictly wow, like I can’t make myself hate her. I’m supposed to hate her. I’m supposed to think she sucks. I’m supposed to think she’s a sinner. And none of those emotions or thoughts or feelings were coming to the fore, and so I really thought about it, and I was this 14 year old I believe, I really reflected on it and contemplated like, why don’t I feel that way and what is it?

Arlan:                    So I started making these decisions, like I’m going to treat her like I treat everyone else, I’m going to treat anyone who expresses that the same. She ended up having to go to a different school because all kinds of hell broke loose with her. I did rat out Tiffany by the way. I’m a nark, me. I can’t help myself. See something, say something. I just couldn’t when the coach came back and she was like yeah, I can’t remember the girl’s name, but she’s like, yeah, she claims someone hit her here and then blah blah blah, and she was on Tiffany’s side, on the bully’s side, and I was like uh-uh.

Arlan:                    So after school, Tiffany told everybody, if you tell on me, she came up to me at a bus stop once, she’s like if you tell anybody I’m going to punch you too. I was like, okay. And so then I went and told coach (beep) who is probably still at (beep). I went and told coach (beep) that Tiffany had in fact hit this girl. I knew it, we all knew it, we saw it, and that she was telling the truth. And I was just like ready to take my lumps, I was like, Tiffany’s going to kick my ass after school, I better get used to getting hit in the face. Oh god I wonder what that feels like. So I was like, I had…

Arlan:                    This is getting really like therapy, but I truly had an orange and I put it against my face and I said I wonder, I kind of hit my, I didn’t hit it hard, but I kind of pressed against the orange, and I was like oh right, that’s like a fist. I can take it. She might hurt me but I’ma take it.

Arlan:                    So I told. Tiffany got in trouble. I saw Tiffany like a week later at the bus stop, she didn’t do nothing to me. And I don’t know if she knew if I told or not, but she’d gotten in trouble and after that, I wasn’t afraid of Tiffany anymore. Tiffany couldn’t hurt me because I knew the limits for her, right?

Arlan:                    So in high school I went on and there was this boy at school who was bullied, ugh. So badly. But he had the softest hands in the world and again, as this religious child, this upbringing I had, I had to ask him what lotion do you use? What is your skin regimen? What are you doing? What’s your moisturizing situation? And so we would have those kind of conversations, we would say hi in the halls. People would make fun of him. He would wear make up. And I just was drawn to him. And over time I started understanding that I was super gay. I mean as soon as the Brazilian exchange student walked into my science class in the ninth or tenth grade, it was done. We were over. It was a done deal. I understood. I was like, why do I… why is her hair flowing in slow motion right now? What is going on? I had had a boyfriend before that and he was all right. I don’t know.

Arlan:                    So but that was nothing. None of that has anything to do with a career or making a million dollars, but I wanted to set the stage of how my life was. I came out to my mom. She actually came out to me. She told me I was gay by walking into my bedroom at around 15 or 16, and saying, looking around the room in a dramatic fashion and finally saying that she was looking for my Ellen DeGeneres poster, and this would have been ’96, where Ellen had come out. And so it was her way of saying she knew and that has been a trip since.

Arlan:                    I think it was around that time with the girl who got hit and the guy and like openly being friendly with him even though he was getting physically hurt and knowing that it could happen to me, and then coming out in an essay in my sociology class in 10th or 11th grade. I think all of that set me up for: I am not going to be able to be this gay, this proud and understanding of myself quietly. It’s probably going to be a loud and proud situation, not because of me but because of the other people that I saw that didn’t have a voice. I mean, the first kind of real interaction I had with someone in real life, she quite literally couldn’t speak her truth. She couldn’t speak it to people around us who could hear her. And that is… I had to, in my view, be 100% authentic because I was representing something.

Arlan:                    Years later, a girl reached out to me who had been in that class where I did come out in an essay in high school. And she told me that she was gay and that in that room, she was so proud and could not do it herself, but it really helped her. And I just saw her as… I remember she played soccer, which should have totally tipped me off, I thought she’s just a girl next door, she’s like blonde, girl next door, athlete, really good student, and of course she’s straight. Like there was no reason that I would think she wasn’t except for that damn soccer now that I think about it. Repinoe!

Arlan:                    So yeah. To hear that, to actually hear those words years later, and this was after I’d started a blog called Your Daily Lesbian Moment for years, that tens of thousands of people read, and many, many, many people talked about how they felt community. I helped dozens of couples find each other across the world, around the world. In fact, the company… this all ties together, because in fact the company that I was going to start around 2013 that made me want to understand venture capital to begin with was a dating site called Juliet and Juliet for women who like women. Had a little twist to it as a dating site, and that was the company I was looking into. Like, oh I want to start a company now that I understand what start ups are, and then the more research I did, the more I understood, no, my calling here really is in making investments and helping other companies succeed.

Arlan:                    So to have all of that history but to hear this from this woman that said, yes something that you did did help was really special and it legitimized again, and reinforced again what I had thought was the importance of speaking up and speaking out. I can tell you that, all of that, the pain and the heartache and the being afraid and even facing sort of physical retribution as a teenager and then as an adult, holding hands with a girlfriend in a certain city, a certain part of town or a certain country, all of that has been worth it. Not only because I’ve been able to… in some cases speak where others can’t speak, but also because I think that any success that you think I have or see that I have has come from that.

Arlan:                    If I were not openly gay. If weren’t [inaudible 00:19:31] hiding that. I wouldn’t be happy so I wouldn’t exude confidence. And if I didn’t exude confidence and feel confident internally, I definitely couldn’t have made the deals I’ve made. I couldn’t have executed the way I have been able to on my vision. None of that would have happened. So there’s a real tie in to whatever that is for you. If that’s owning your nerdiness or owning your eccentricities, or owning your womanhood or owning your masculinity, but let’s say you’re a dude and you like to paint your nails, and that has nothing to do with your sexuality or who you are attracted to, but you’re trying to hide that because you’ve been trained this other way. Just start thinking about ways that not being your full self or not being 100% yourself might be holding you back from some of the wins.

Arlan:                    Honestly, I’m kind of racking my brain right now to see if there’s anything that I have been having to mute or dilute in order to be me and over the years, I’ve shed any of that I think. I don’t think there’s anything I keep to myself. Even down to like, needing to fist bump people rather than shake hands, or liking to be by myself a lot. I like being by myself more than I like being with people just because I have a lot of sensitivities and I used to hide that, because I didn’t want to be seen as weird, but now it’s just like, you know what? Life is short.

Arlan:                    Remember who you are. Do what you gotta do. Harm no one else. There’s no reason to harm anyone else, but as long as you’re not doing any harm and you’re making adult decisions and everyone’s consenting, do you. Do you. There’s a lot of footnotes and asterisks and everything in that, but it’s true. I don’t want you out there hurting anybody but I just meet too many grown adults who are asking people for permission to be themselves and it’s infuriating. It doesn’t make any sense. I like logic. I’m a big fan of logic.

Arlan:                    All right. So I honestly don’t know if this was helpful. It sounded like it wasn’t. But I was helpful to me, I got a lot out. And it’s a little bit of a taste of what we’ll talk about in the book that I’m writing. Yeah. I bring it all back. I’m writing a book, I can’t tell you the title yet, we’re going to announce that later in the year. But I am writing a book. I got a book deal that I got in February on Randomhouse currency and I can’t wait. It’s going to come out in 2020, I’m almost done with it and we talk a lot about parts of… I’m doing it with my co-writer Rachel Nelson who’s a friend of mine. We talk a lot about parts of my life. It’s not a memoir but it is going to tie into ways that you can take that into your life as an operator or an investor or a mother or a dreamer or any of those things.

Arlan:                    And I hopefully don’t ramble as much as I just did, but it is, I mean it all comes down to our individual stories, that’s why you’re listening to this podcast. If you made it to the end of this episode, this is a great experiment, because I really don’t know exactly what resonates. You do come up to me from all over the country and in other countries and say that you’re listening. You quote me. So I appreciate that. But if you’re listening to this right now and you’ve made it all the way to the end and you are there, I want you tweet me @arlanwashere, A-R-L-A-N was here. Either tweet me or leave a comment on Instagram and I want you to say grapefruit. That’s the code.

Arlan:                    We did this in a couple of other episodes of our backstage podcast and it was a lot of fun, so if you hear this, you’re going to say grapefruit to me and that’s how I’ll know that you listened. And be candid. Let me know, because there’s a lot of weeks ahead and I’m going to be doing a lot of bonus episodes so if this was helpful to you, let me know. If it wasn’t, let me know. Be honest because we can kind of tweak it and talk about what you want to talk about. Sometimes I’ll have topics that I’ll just be drawn to and sometimes I’ll answer questions that you all send in. So keep sending those questions in, I’m seeing them, and I really appreciate you.

Arlan:                    This has been me talking to myself for 23 minutes, but I feel like I’m talking to you right now. Whoever you are, I feel like I’m talking right to you, honestly. This is part of… oh I don’t want to get weird, but part of why I get up every day is the connection with other people that I’ve been able to have over the past few years, and especially the last year. This connection has been very special to me and it’s something that fuels me and has nothing to do with money. Has nothing to do with acknowledgement. It’s a very intimate and personal and one-on-one thing, and even though there’s not enough time in the day or the year to talk to everybody or to say everything I want to everyone, please know that if you’re listening to these words, you have a special part in my life. You really, really do. Even if we never ever talk to each other, you are appreciated and you’re seen. And you matter and it keeps me going, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Arlan:                    I’m going to go now before I do my Oscar speech. And keep being you. Whether that’s gay like me, and Irma, or not. Bye everybody.

Arlan:                    Hey so I’d love to talk to you and keep the conversation going. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @arlanwashere. That’s A-R-L-A-N was here. Stick around too because I will let you know when my new book is going to be in pre-order, now that’s coming out in 2020, it’ll be out. And it’s a real book, oh my goodness. And you’ll be able to pre-order it most likely this year, so stay tuned. I’ll let you know all about that on Twitter, on Instagram and on this podcast.

Arlan:                    Thank you again to DigitalOcean for sponsoring this episode. If you are interested in sponsoring an episode of Your First Million, get in touch with me right now it’s supes easy to do so. You just email me at arlanhamilton@gmail. That’s A-R-L-A-N And put in the subject that you’re thinking about sponsoring and I’ll give us some more information. This is a really, highly engaged audience, really, really educated, either through traditional means or through grit tenacity, or a little bit of both. And these are the people you want to be talking to. You’ve got aspiring founders. You’ve got in the trenches founders. You’ve got aspiring angel investors and active angel investors. You’ve also got venture capitalists, you’ve also got limited partners. And then you have people who are listening in to learn all about what all of that means, no so it’s a really interesting group of people.Check it out. Thank you again DigitalOcean for sponsoring.

Arlan:                    Your First Million is produced and edited by Anna Eichenauer, and senior producer Bryan Landers. Additional audio mixing and mastering by Alfred ‘Rook’ Hamilton. Additional production by Chacho Valadez. Executive producer: Arlan Hamilton.