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March 15, 2021 | Timothy Haines

I hate writing because to write is to be vulnerable. I’m going to write this down because it seems like the riskiest thing to do. If risk isn’t your particular brand of vodka, then we probably shouldn’t be friends and you can spend your time reading something else — don’t worry, we’ll be so generous as to save you your time. We hear that time is important these days.

My name is Timothy Haines and I like risk. It makes me feel alive.

When I was a kid, I lived simultaneously in two competing worlds. My parents and I shared a small apartment. Too small. They didn’t make an excessive amount of money. My dad abused me emotionally and he abused my mom physically. My childhood did not represent the way the world was supposed to work. When I went to school, I entered an entirely different world. My grandmother somehow managed to pay my way through a private “Christian” school. I was the only kid in the school that had reduced lunch (that’s fancy talk for “I was poor”). I was a rule breaker. I didn’t polish any apples and the only thing I received from my teachers was a free winter jacket. But, I was a hustler. I started a candy store out of my backpack and made money on the bus. I called it Tim’s Candy Store (TCS). I learned from an early age that money was a tool. I also had an instinct for marketing. TCS took over the neighborhood quickly.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school: My mom was panicked that I only filled out one college application, but I knew where I wanted to go. I managed to network my way into a recommendation for a private college called Hope. Was I qualified? Absolutely not, but my privilege afforded me the social capital to get in anyway.

My entire life was born from the one recommendation that a pastor wrote me. My wife, my friends, my career — all of them were decided because of that one recommendation. I still have no idea why he believed in me enough to write it, but he did. Looking back, I learned little moments have an unpredictable ripple effect throughout our lives.

Fast forward again: I went to Philly to be a teacher. I was going to change the world. I signed up for a program called City Year. It ended up being one of the worst experiences of my life. I hated it. I had to follow stupid rules as if uniforms and being on time would help us fight poverty. I watched teachers who loved their kids so much but didn’t have any resources to teach them well. They couldn’t fix the broken system. Teachers who can make it past their first year in an inner-city classroom still amaze me, for I am too selfish to work within a system I cannot understand.

Fast forward one more time (it’s a long fast forward, but I’ll spare you the details): I’m allegedly a business owner. I find that this same truth continues to hold true: I am a hustler living in a world with broken systems. The problem now is that the mistakes I make are mine and mine alone. I hate my mistakes. I hate that they hurt our vision and our people. Every night I have the incomes of some of my closest friends hanging on my shoulders — I hustle for them, but I fall down sometimes. We are living in an extremely dynamic world and the impact that COVID has had on our economy is only just starting to become more clear. Symposia has been extremely privileged in that we’ve managed to grow during this time. That privilege also comes with responsibility.

A core part of that responsibility is very easy to summarize: We have to ask our partners, our clients, and ourselves hard questions. I often find that “marketing questions” become deeper questions quite quickly. Many marketing agencies are afraid to ask, but Symposia thrives on questions. Questions create conversations. Conversations change minds. Minds change the world.

Want to hear more about our story? Want to share more about yours? Pull up a chair and let’s do drinks over Google Hangouts. I’d love to introduce you to my cats.