Our natural tendency is to size each other up, and compare ourselves to one another based on the positions we see them in, the destinations that life takes them to. Rarely do we take the time to consider the road they traveled, the adversity they may have faced, and the decisions they had to make along the way. As the popular Chick-fil-a commercial well illustrates, “Everyone has a story ... if we bother to read it.”

This is mine.

In 1980 I was born into a one bedroom apartment, my parents turned their bedroom closet into my bedroom. We were what some would call poor, although having traveled to third world countries I hesitate to describe our life as such.

1985: My parents divorced and I moved in with my grandparents at the age of 5. They would raise me for the next three years, while my younger sister would stay with my mother in North Philly. Our parents would both re-marry, which today might see like the norm, but adjusting as a 5-year-old to two sets of parents in the mid 80’s was more than difficult.

1988: I moved to North Philly, into a home with barred windows, and was struck in the head with a baseball bat for refusing to by drugs at the age of 8 one day on the way to school. I can still remember the feeling of that moment whenever I touch that soft spot on my head.

1992: We moved from my hometown of Philly to a safer neighborhood in Delran NJ, and alternated time with my parents between the two cities on the weekends.

1997: We moved my Senior year of high school from a class of 119 students, who I had grown in relationship with over the last 5 years, across the country to Michigan into a senior class of 729 students. I was more than alone, and I reacted poorly. My GPA would severely suffer and instead of going to Penn State, I would attend Macomb Community College.

2002: I dropped out of my junior year of college, while working as a cashier at Costco, to take a job as a Marketing Manager at Costco with no marketing experience. The job paid more than double the teacher’s salary I would have earned, once I graduated, and if I found a teaching job. I was passionate about educating people, even if it was simply about the benefits of a Costco membership, and eventually the Costco business model, which is what earned me the promotion.

2004: Having been raised as a Catholic, but distant from God, holding onto bitterness from my childhood circumstances, I made the choice to accept Christ into my life. Shortly after I was offered a promotion to larger role with Costco back in my hometown of Philly, and as excited as I was, I felt called to decline the opportunity because there was something more for me here.

2005: One year later, I met Amy, my now bride of 12 years, in a small group in that same church. 

2007: I was recruited by Macy’s into a General Manager role for their foods division having had no prior GM experience, the result of a locker room conversation one day playing hockey with the VP of Macy’s. The discussion stemmed from a passing comment I made about developing people through the alignment of purpose.

2010: We welcomed our first child, our daughter Vera. I was recruited by a local international market to leave Macy’s and become their GM with future partnership potential. 8 months into that role, I was fired for the first and only time in my life. I was asked by ownership to divide their workforce into two groups, fire half of them, and replace them with better talent. It’s safe to say we did not share the same ideology of developing people and managing performance. Fortunately CVS Health was in the process of recruiting me for a multi-unit leadership role having no prior multi-unit experience, and I gladly accepted.

2014: We welcomed our second child, our son Bennett. I began to transition from my District operations role at CVS Health into an HR Business Partner role, without an HR degree or any prior HR certifications. It was an unpopular choice to move from operations into HR, but I saw this as an opportunity to help the organization bridge the gap between the two, align the workforce around their purpose, increase engagement, reduce turnover, and ultimately improve performance.

2016: I took the great leap. I felt called to leave my corporate role with CVS to start a consulting firm. I surrendered my generous salary and my stock options, leaped out on faith and would live off of our savings with a stay-at-home wife and two young children. Shortly after that decision, I was recruited by Northwestern Mutual to a contracted Growth & Development Director role in Financial Services, with no financial services education, designations, or experience. 

2017: I delivered my first public speaking engagement on the topic of leading people through purpose. 

2018: I founded PurposePoint in partnership with Kurt David and a private investor and became an Ambassador Member of the C12 Group. The C12 Group provided me the opportunity to work with CEOs of organizations large and small from across the country, and the topic of popular discussion, you guessed it, Purpose.

2019: Co-founded the Purpose Summit in partnership with our speaking team, was honored to be named as one of Oakland County’s 40 Under 40, was appointed Chair of Economic Workforce Development for Auburn Hills, spoke in over a dozen cities across the country, and began work on my first book. 

In 2020 there will be more choices to be made. This road has been far from traditional, far from easy, but absolutely worth it. If there is one thing I have learned along the way, it’s that your circumstances don’t define you. Your choices do. Choose the road less traveled.

Written By: Davin Salvagno