“My first name is Roman. I’m the organizer. This is my group. So, this is something I do on Sundays. I didn’t start this MeetUp group. This group was started in 2009. I came out to visit California in 2010. I just played here for about 3 months, and I enjoyed the group. 2011, I came back. They were financially struggling, so I became a sponsor. So if you see, I have these balls; they say ‘Roman’s Photography’ on them. Then in 2012, I came back. I was a sponsor, donating balls, paying the fee and everything. Because this is a free group. 2012, I came out here, just played out here for a while. 2013, I decided to move here. And I was more involved in it. More people followed me. So the organizer basically said, ‘You can run this better than me.’ So I ended up taking over the group in 2013. And since I’ve taken over the group, we used to have two courts. Now, we have 6, sometimes 8 courts.
I’m an investment banker, wealth management, property management, kind of – people say entrepreneur, public figure. Literally, you can Google my name: you’ll get two pages of Google about me. Pictures and everything.
I worked in New York ’til 2007. Then I retired in 2007. I went and moved to Amsterdam, and I traveled the whole world. Went to every country possible. So I have a passport with a stamp from every country. Every single country. I have – I think – 216 stamps on my passport. So I went to every country from 2007-2012. I did nothing but travel and work with photography, and that’s it.
What I did, was I ended up packing a camera and going for backpacking trip to Nepal and Tibet. And I was taking pictures, just as a hobby. What ended up happening was I ended up with a group of gypsies. Gypsies don’t let you take their pictures. They believe that if you take their picture, their spirit leaves them. So I kept up with them for a month. And finally, after a month, I was able to take pictures. And I sent those pictures into – one of the girls I used to work with. Her husband’s sister, I believe, is the director of National Geographic. National Geographic called me, and they bought those pictures off me. Discovery bought them. Then, as I was travelling, a lot of friends came up to me, girls said, ‘Take our pictures. Take our pictures.’ So I just ended up taking more and more pictures. And it just became a thing. And I realized that this is something of a passion, but I can make a business out of it. I went and opened up a studio, and then I opened up another studio. I have six studios.
Because I made a lot of money, and I wanted to enjoy life. I started working when I was 15. I was in college at 15. I graduated college at 16, from undergraduate. I went to work in investment banking from 16 ’til about 28-29. I didn’t take a lot of vacations. I worked six days a week, seven days a week. So, my goal was to make enough money to have freedom to do whatever you want to do. There’s two kinds of people: people who watch life drag on, and then hope they can retire. And then there’s people like me who want to have financial freedom. And once I did that, I wanted to travel for five, six years.
It was an accident. Do you remember the movie that came out, The Wolf of Wall Street? Jordan Belfort was my first boss. I worked for him. I was working in a deli. I was 16 years old, just graduated college. I had $100,000 in debt. I was trying to figure out what to do. One guy came up to me – he used to work for him – and he took me to Wall Street and said, ‘You want to make a lot of money? Here, come see me.’ I showed up the next morning, and that’s how I got into Wall Street. Everybody that they’re talking about in the movie, I know personally.
I moved out here from London. When I went to college, it was 1995. Back then, at least the colleges I went to, they didn’t have this system where you can only take x amount of credits. London, the school I went to, you could take as many credits as you want, so I was taking advanced classes.
Because again, sitting in school, and hanging out, and everything didn’t make sense to me. There was a goal in my life. A reason for that is because I saw my father go to the same job for 22 years. And when he retired, they gave him $100,000. What do you do with $100,000 at sixty years old? Not much. You can’t even buy a house for that price right now. So I saw certain mistakes that my father make, and I learned from them. I wanted to graduate and move on with my life. Does that make sense?
I went into school just to please my parents. I went, got a degree in electronic engineering and computer science. And by the time I was done pleasing my parents I was $147,000 in debt. So I needed to make money quick. Investment banking gave me that strategy. There’s two kinds of people out there: there are people who get stuck in a rut and work because they want to make a paycheck. And then there’s people who have goals that they want to accomplish: have financial freedom, own a photography modeling company, which I do. So I looked at investment banking as a great stepping stone to give me financial freedom. My ultimate goal in life is to be financially free. Wake up in the morning, and do whatever I want to do. Not have to go to work. Go to work because you want to go to work. Because you choose to.
My passion is enjoying life. Giving back. Make an influence in every body’s life, every day. There’s a famous quote, ‘If you took the elevator to success, make sure to send it back down for somebody else.’ Show responsibility. So I live my life in a way where I basically cater to people.
Future’s not promised to anybody. Back home in London, there’s a saying. It goes, ‘The best laid plans don’t get you where you planned.’ What that means is you can lay out all the plans in the world. But they are not guaranteed. Make sure that when you end every day, it is your best day. Be sure you smile, you laugh at people, you give them a good time.
My grandfather told me when I was 8 years old, ‘Small mind talk about people. Gossip. Average mind talk about events. Brilliant mind talk about ideas.’ So I try to stay away from gossip. I don’t care what he’s doing, what she’s doing. That’s why I said, I go to Facebook, I post something, and I get out. I post Happy Birthdays, and that’s it. I just follow the positive things I want to do. You’re always going to have challenges in life. You just got to overcome it. You know, you just keep on. You keep going. You have to realize that at the end of the day, life is going to throw lemons at you. Make a lemonade. Or if you want to make it better, throw in some tequila and vodka, and have a party!
I am my best motivator. Constant remind yourself, that people like that look up to you. So I need to make sure that I’m in the mind scene, so I don’t hurt people, I don’t abuse people. Everybody looks up to me here. I’m not the oldest person here, but everyone comes here, and everybody respects me in less than a year that I’ve been here. I just got nominated to be on the board of LAPD. I was the youngest board member ever in the history of LAPD to be nominated as a board member. Why did they give me that? Because certain achievements, because of raising, because of fund, because of helping people, because your character.
So, you’re going to choose how you want to live your life. I have a friend of mine, she literally wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to fill up my sink with coffee and just dip my head in it.’ Okay, great. I wake up, and I say, ‘You know what? I’m alive. Let’s go out, and have a kick-ass day.’ When I go to sleep at the end of the night, I make sure I have not hurt anybody, I’ve not robbed anybody. I put a smile on people’s face, and I make people happy. That’s how I live my life. One day at a time.”
Excerpt may be edited for clarity.