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The key is to find meaning in a trade
Mark Souza joined the Air Force thinking that he would serve his country in order to pave the way towards higher education. He ended up finding a trade that he has pursued since his discharge more than 15 years ago and recently launched his own local HVAC company.

 Editor’s note: This week Chris Teicheira is off in Solano County working on a remote farming job. So, he asked friend and local HVAC technician – and company owner – Mark Souza to pen his column instead. Souza is a lifelong Manteca resident (save for a stint in the Air Force that he’ll talk about) and writes about the impact that pursuing a trade as opposed to college helped him take steps towards achieving his lifelong dream.  


Special to the Bulletin

There’s a global pandemic among us and has been for some time now.  I’m not talking about this virus that has everyone up in arms about masks – arguing about what businesses can stay open or which group is legally allowed to assemble and protest.  No, we all “know” the current state of the world and every social media and news outlet is doing a fine job reminding us of it, so I won’t waste any time giving any more of my energy to it.  I’m actually talking about the virus that is much more harmful: the weakness of attention and the poverty of imagination (also known as poverty mindset). The symptoms of this virus begin with worry and doubt, which leads to fear, continues to anxiety, depression, and may eventually end with disease and disintegration. The good news is, there’s a remedy.  For some, it’s higher education – for me, it was HVAC.

I was born in this town right at the cusp of the generational divide between Gen-X, and Millennials. I was fortunate to get a decent perspective on the cultural shift from the grit and grind of the Manteca tradesman to the debt ridden college graduate struggling to achieve $15-an-hour. Being my whole family was in the heating and air conditioning business, starting with my late grandfather Tony Souza, I decided early on that I would work for my old man and continue the family legacy.  That was of course until I started growing hair on my armpits and joining them in the hot and muggy attics in the beginning of junior high back in the summer of 1997.  While all my friends at Sequoia Elementary were going to the water slides, I was crawling attics if not underneath houses doing ductwork and getting itchy from the fiberglass insulation contained in the barrier of the flex duct.  By the year 2000, I was of driving age and my passion of spending hot summers in 140 degree attics declined, as my desire to throw keggers and orchard parties increased.

I spent the next 2 years working for Pizza Guys across the street from the Manteca Bulletin.  During my deliveries, I would ponder what my next move was going to be after high school.  At that time, there was a collective push for college.  Of course college sounded enticing.  I mean I’d seen Animal House enough times to appreciate its appeal, but how was I going to afford it? I had watched my pops grow from an adolescent, hard-working 19-year-old sheet metal worker – raising us in a trailer on an empty lot adjacent to my grandfather’s house on West Ripon Road – to a successful business man moving us into our first house on Willow Avenue just down the street from the chunk of lawn and quasi-playground known as Southside Park.

Even though the economy was doing well at that time and construction was booming, I knew he wasn’t going to be able pull $60,000 out of his hat (although it didn’t stop me from asking) and student loans didn’t make sense to me even at the time unless I was going to be a doctor or lawyer.  So, college was out, and my father didn’t want me in this trade anymore due to the stress it put on his mind and back. He wanted something better for me, and a college education was going to be the way to do it.

Reflecting back on that notion, I had just recently asked him why he thought that was the best course of action in a text message.  Of course, this was sometime before the student debt crisis, so the response I got back was his typical, yet humble reply that I had expected:

“Well back in the 80’s, men like me thought they wanted to be better fathers than they had, and we wanted to show our kids that we can go to every sporting event and cater to all their needs the same as their mothers, and make sure we would break the blue collar chain that our fathers and grandfathers taught us in the name of growth.  So, we told them don’t be like us, and go to college if you want real success. Then of course we got pissed off at them because they didn’t turn out like us.  Sorry to say it was us that did this. Can’t blame the kids.”

As moving as that was, and as admirable it was for him to own and make that proclamation, I couldn’t help but to disagree with him on just one point.  Granted we got some bad intel regarding success, but it is ultimately up to us to choose our own destiny as individuals.  That is the pandemic we’re having today.  Lack of personal responsibility.  The moment I concede the notion that it was the previous generations fault for our present circumstances, is the same moment I release myself from all, or even half of the responsibility.  It is no one else’s responsibility to ensure my success and personal growth except my own. 

So, in the summer of 2002, I had decided that I was going to go to college, and I was going to use The United States Air Force as a vessel to make this happen.  To me, it made the most logical sense.  The $15 an hour was there, food, dorms, healthcare, housing, and college were paid for while you were in, while the GI bill and a zero down VA loan for a house were available upon departure.  Everything the disgruntled college graduates are fighting for was there wrapped in a bow.  The recruiter promised me that I could pick the base of my choice, I could pick them all in California and I’d be a “Missile and Space Facilities technician for NASA in the Space Command” (Now known as the Space Force).  Of course, when I got out of boot camp and onto tech training in Vandenburg AFB, CA, reality hit and my NCO promised I “wasn’t gonna be no damn technician for NASA.  The key words were ‘Facilities Maintenance’, genius! That’s right – your temporary stay here close to home will be 16-weeks and you’re gonna be performing Diesel engine work on the generators that power the missile sites, and the air conditioners that make them cool!”

(Crickets Crickets...FROGS FROGS)

As I held back my tears, I couldn’t help but utter a sad laugh at the cosmic joke that I felt was being played on me.  So, after extensive training, and accepting the divine HVAC mission that was clearly set before me, I developed a healthy respect for the trade, doing more service and repair than installations and developing a healthy new respect, meaning, and love for the trade.  So I packed my A3 bag, and received my honorable discharge in January of 2005, never having went to college “knowing” what I was meant to do.

When I arrived home and back into civilian life things started to get complicated. I mean, no one told me that I was supposed to make enough income to pay for the studio apartment I was renting in the alley between Willow and Park avenues, with a $300 dollar truck payment, a 3 can a day Copenhagen habit, and a consistent Thursday to Sunday weekend binge bar tab at Rocko’s! I had to choose! Unfortunately, after the repo man came and grabbed my truck this sent me into a downward spiral, landing me back on my pops’ couch – blaming him and everyone else for my dilemma.  It didn’t help, either that the HVAC company I was working for was only paying me $13-an-hour.  I had caught the “poor me” victim bug, and I needed a remedy. 

It wasn’t until I stumbled across the movie “The Secret” that led me to Bob Proctor and his book “Born Rich”.  It was him who ultimately gave me the remedy to my self-induced virus.  He said that I was the only problem, and I was the only solution I would ever have, and it all starts with our thinking.  The formula for the remedy is this: Thoughts arouse emotion, emotion causes action, and action drives results. If you’re not getting the results you desire, then changing them is as easy as changing your thoughts.  Our body can only act on whatever’s in our subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind cannot reject, it can only accept the thoughts given to it from our intuitive conscious mind. If you’re not pleased with your current circumstances, change them with your conscious mind.

Our minds are just like a magnet.  They require both a positive and a neutral to be energized to create the attractive force.  The positive is “desire” from the Latin word ‘desiderare’ (heavenly body) but the attraction doesn’t take place without its neutral, “expectation.”  The two have to go together to achieve the desired results.  Raymond Holliwell outlines this best in his book “Working with the Law”:

“Many people desire great things that they never expect.  They may start out well but lack the awareness to complete the process.  When they learn to comply with the other half of the process involved, and learn to expect what they desire, most of their dreams or wishes will steadily materialize.  Most people expect what they don’t want, and it often comes.  This proves that expectation is a powerful force.  Never expect what you do not want, and never desire a thing you do not expect.  For when you expect something you do not want, you attract that undesirable.  On the other hand, when you constantly expect that which you persistently desire, your ability to attract becomes irresistible.  Desire connects you with the thing desired, and expectation drives it into your life. That is the law.”

Once I discovered this science of the mind, and applied it into my life, weird things started to happen.  The next couple years my income doubled consistently during the Great Recession.  I bought my first home after becoming manager of the top HVAC outfit in town at that time – until I left and eventually started my own company to which my gross income nearly quadrupled my first year and am on pace to having it being “10X’d” ethically and honestly here in this perceived mess we call 2020, in which happens to be the best year of my life.  My best friend Greenlee sponsored an epic trip to Vegas followed by a 3-day trip to Lake Havasu for my bachelor party. I went to Toronto to personally train with Bob Proctor. I’ll be marrying the hottest flame in the 7 seas in Cabo San Lucas, and I’ll be completing this year walking on fire with Tony Robbins and spending some quality time with the flame in Palm Beach, Florida.  It doesn’t matter what trade it is, you don’t even have to love it, just find meaning in it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. 

Napoleon Hill says in his famous book, “Think and Grow Rich,” that wealth is hardly ever accumulated by hard work, but the definiteness of purpose and definite principles: the demand for what you do, your ability to do it, and the difficulty it is to replace you.  There are many trades and skill sets that can be used to achieve balanced wealth using these fundamental principles.  For me, it was HVAC.”