Currency: Courage


If you met Angela at a party, you would have no idea what she’s endured in her short life. Her beauty, witty sense of humor and big smile would lead you to believe she was completely happy with no challenges. Think again. Sit down with her for coffee and be prepared to be floored by her story and her redemption. Five brushes with death and she’s not even 40.

It all started with a life threatening and rare brain aneurism. She was 18. She had just started college and was a major player on her college’s volleyball team, hoping to go pro. “I began vomiting in the mornings right after lifting my head from the pillow.” She had a family history of severe migraines so doctors chalked it up to that. Thank goodness her mom felt differently. Pushing for an MRI, her mom’s intuition saved her life, this time at least.

Doctors were shocked to find a 7.5 inch brain aneurism a ½ inch from her brain stem. They were shocked she was walking, let alone alive. She underwent emergency surgery right away. The doctors decided to try a new kind of treatment for this type of aneurism. There were only 55 known cases like hers and only five that shared the severity. Of those five, two patients had died, two where paralyzed and one patient’s health was still in question. The odds were grim.

Coming out of surgery like a champ, Angela was beyond lucky. Unfortunately the challenges were just beginning. Four days after surgery she was re-admitted for a staph infection, which led to spinal meningitis and a month long stay in the hospital, again. This was her second brush with death.

Five years later when Angela was 21 she had a ruptured cyst near her ovaries and was back in the hospital for emergency surgery. Doctors told her that it was good that she arrived to the ER when she did because she was about 30 minutes from bleeding out and dying. Brush with death, number three.
Later that same year, Angela was back in the hospital having emergency exploratory surgery for scar tissue from the last surgery that had wrapped around her intestines. Doctors informed her again, how very close she was to losing her life. Maybe Angela is really a cat.

And it’s not over. A few years later, Angela tripped over a small fence and struck her abdomen. Later finding out that she lacerated her liver. This time, doctors told her she’d never play volleyball or any sport again. It would be too dangerous for her to fall or have her abdomen hit in any way. This could cause a quick and easy bleed out. Angela didn’t listen. “I didn’t want to live in fear. I consulted with several other doctors and decided I’d continue my career in volleyball anyway. I wasn’t going to stop doing what I loved.”

Ang went on to have a successful career in volleyball and has remained out of the hospital for a good 8+ years. “I’m no a huge fan of talking about my personal struggles,” she says, “but if I can inspire someone to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward, then it’s worth it.” I was shocked at what she’d been through, seemingly unscathed. Is she a super hero, I thought to myself, yielding the power to be reborn? She needed a fancy outfit to top off my vision of her, perhaps a big W on her chest? Yes, perfect..


Don’t be surprised if this guy shows up in just about everything very, very soon. A young, but studied actor, Nate landed in Southern California 4 years ago in search of those coveted roles. Landing bit roles in travel and adventure shows, Nate easily became the lead with his excitable, outgoing personality. He will be the first to kiss your cheek, stand where you tell him to and flash that big smile as the last to leave. Dedicated to a tiresome fault Nate has been beating the Hollywood pavement since he relocated from the Northwest in hopes of living the dream.

With the crunch of the recession and the competition of social media ‘stars,’ Nate decided he had to get clever and stay busy. Knowing you’re only as good as your current project, Nate gave himself an assignment; create a web series called “Workshop” focusing on the perils of trying to be an actor in Hollywood. Forging head strong into the details Nate wrote 13 episodes for “Workshop,” and started casting. Friends and fellow actors came out of the woodwork to help and participate. Being the leader Nate is, he took full control of the production of each episode; negotiating with a cameraman to work for cheap, scouting locations, obtaining permits, and overseeing wardrobe. And the really amazing thing is that he also starred in and directed each episode.

Coming from left field and winning you over with quirky, colorful characters, “Workshop” is a mix of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Office.” The feel is real and literal, with a funny bone. “I wanted to show that I could play the solid, responsible guy. The one everyone aspires to be. The leader,” says Nate. “So, I’m actually the least funny guy of the show.”

Not surprisingly, Nate sets himself apart from the current trends of crass jokes and bathroom humor and proves himself a true actor worthy of those juicy, lead roles. “I feel like I’m much more well rounded now as far as my skill set. I bring so much more to the table after creating the “Workshop” series. I have such a respect for how it all comes together,” says Nate. There’s no doubt this newbie will continue to rise to the top echelon of actors whom are not only known for their craft but have the skills and smarts to double as producers, directors and editors; the real cream of the crop.

Since the recession Nate has continued to be a quad threat to the entertainment industry; still finding time to write, direct, produce and follow his acting passion. After two successful seasons of “Workshop" Nate went on to create another web series called “My Synthesized Life,” which won four awards including one for him for Best Director. Needing a little break from the LA grind, Nate also took a sabbatical of 6 months and lived in Japan. Coming back with a renewed energy and journals of his time there, he wrote a book about his experience called, "Journey of Self: Six Months in the Japanese Countryside,” which currently sells on Amazon. He just wrapped starring in a Tony award winning play in Santa Monica and wrote a second book called "22 Original Modern Monologues for Actors and Actresses.” I could go on and on about Nate’s accomplishments, you’d be scrolling and scrolling for days. Let’s just say, he's still working his butt off for the love of the industry.


Logging over 80 hours a week consistently for a marketing company Kortney was feeling the burn out. Getting laid off couldn’t have come at a better time, although during the transition fear and uncertainly took hold. Given a month left to finish out her work and move on Kortney researched other jobs in her field. All the jobs available to her meant taking a step down for lower pay. Finding a moment of clarity Kortney decided this was an opportunity, not a set back and decided to change directions all together.

“It was always a deep desire of mine to be in a wellness profession, helping people feel better. And the thought of being my own boss and making my own hours just seemed amazing.” So, Kortney started researching schools instead and quickly enrolled to study massage therapy. “My boyfriend is a chiropractor working at a golf resort. You see so many shoulder and knee injuries with golf. Sharing his love of the sport, I wanted to help in some way, give back to the golf community.”

Kortney’s positive attitude overshadows the obvious rough spots she’s surely encountered. It takes courage and faith to go back to school as an adult and change your life’s course altogether but you’d never know it talking to Kortney. “Sure I was scared. I was making a major change. I took odd jobs to pay for school. I borrowed money. I relied on my friends a lot. But the payoff has been amazing.” A small sacrifice for a big gain.

In talking to one of Kortney’s best friends you see the reflection of Kortney’s choice, possibly making a difference in someone else’s life who is also in transition. “I’m really excited for her and proud of her. She was on this really corporate path and she took a different direction all together.”

“It’s changed my whole perspective of what I thought a job should be.” Says Kortney. “I have more time to myself now. I’m so grateful I was given this opportunity.” More time also meant more of one of her favorite sports. No time to golf when working so many hours, now if Kortney doesn’t have a client you can find her on the course. “It’s amazing. I couldn’t be happier.”

Since the recession Kortney married her best friend, bought a condo and moved to Arizona. She now owns a chiropractic and massage center there with her husband, specializing still in golf related injuries. She’s been pursuing her prerequisites for grad school for about 2.5 years and is only one more class remaining until she can apply to Physician Assistant programs.

Mohawk Matt

With a nickname like Mohawk Matt, you wouldn’t think this man spent over 25 years working as the Chief Marketing Officer for a global company. In fact you’d place him more as a downtown LA barbershop owner. The funny thing is, Matt is nothing like what you’d expect. Sporting a full back tattoo, a very thin red, white and blue Mohawk and a couple of 6 gauge earrings, you might take a step back and think a moment to yourself-how has this guy’s life changed so dramatically? Sit for a moment with Matt and you’ll not only fall in love with his warm and gracious smile, but his courage and inspiring story.

“I lost my identity in the corporate world,” says Matt. “I always felt I had more energy and creativity then I was allowed to practice. And it seemed the higher I climbed the corporate ladder, the more unhappy I got.” During the recession, Matt’s company was bought out. Always having an entrepreneurial drive Matt thought it was the time to do something dramatically different with his life. “I had to ask myself, what do I want to do to be happy, to be really fulfilled in my life,” Matt explains. “The idea was staring me in the face for 30 years but I never considered it a viable business option. Plus, my wife did not support it.” Matt goes on to explain his love of the old style barbershops, the community that these places had. He tells me how men would come and get their shoes shined and get a cut and a shave and chat a bit with their neighbors, not being in any great rush, just enjoying the atmosphere and down time. This idea was so close to Matt’s heart that he actually sported a full back tattoo of a barbershop scene under his button ups for years working in the corporate world.

“I spent so many years running away from it,” he tells me, “one day I just decided to run towards it and see what happens.” Matt used the recession and a divorce as the catalyst for his movement towards the love of his life. He enrolled in barber school and never looked back. Matt opened “Bolt Barbers” in November 2009, in the middle of a recession and in the middle of a run down community. “I wanted my barbershop to have that downtown LA feel. I wanted everyone to be welcome, to cultivate that sense of community in an area that is underdeveloped” says Matt.

Even before Matt opened his doors, he was dedicated to giving back to the community and helping in some way. “The homeless problem is big down here. We all know that” says Matt. “The Midnight Mission stood out as a beacon, it was obvious where our support would lie.” Arranging a fundraiser with the director Rik Krulish, Matt coined the phrase “Hawks for Homeless” and raised over $4,000 for The Midnight Mission in the first week that Bolt Barbers was open. Matt was also introduced to his new shoeshine man, Mr. Happy Feet, a recent graduate of the 12-month program at The Mission. “The way I see it, the Mission did me a favor. No one shines shoes like Mr. Happy Feet. He’s a wonderful addition to our team,” Matt says fondly.

So it seems Matt has already found success not just in the 14% growth that Bolt Barbers is experiencing every month since they opened, but for himself as a person. “I really had to ask myself what I was on this planet to do, “ says Matt. “It’s about getting in tuned with who you are, listening to your heart and your gut more then your head. It seems that the recession has spurred a lot of people to re-tool themselves. The old code may have been about finding success by security and working hard, but there is a new code now that is focused on fulfillment and reinvention.” Matt stands as a beacon to those who might be asking, “What makes me truly happy?”

Sadly we lost this special soul three years ago. Before Matt’s passing at 50 years old, he opened two more Bolt Barbershop locations, one in Hollywood and one in Vegas. After Matt’s passing his X-wife took over Bolt and plans on keeping it alive for his 3 sons. Mohawk, I hope you found a nice comfy barber chair to sit in up there in heaven, where you can put your feet up and relish in your accompaniments down here on earth. We miss your smile buddy.

About the currency project

The Currency Project challenges us all to see the beauty through the pain, the positive that can come from a negative and the heartbreak that can turn into a new beginning. Life is uncertain but our faith, hope and love can never be taken from us. Our true currency in life is what we make it.