In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Marc Demetriou: Author of ‘Lessons From My Grandfather: Wisdom for Success in Business and Life’
You are In the Limelight! I’ve got a really special guest that I’ve met recently. You all know how I’m always around networking and I met an extraordinary person with an extraordinary story and an extraordinary book. I love what it’s all about. I’m going to have him tell you about it, his name is Marc Demetriou.
Clarissa: Mark, how are you today?
Marc Demetriou: Thank you for that wonderful introduction. It’s great to be speaking with you here and I’m happy to be part of this, thank you.
Clarissa: You’re so welcome. I want to bring up a little bit of what I do know about your story. Your book’s about your grandfather. Here’s what I know, your grandfather was born in Cyprus. He was 20 years old in 1929, jumped on a ship without his parents knowing, although at the last minute, your great grandfather caught him at the port. He gets on the ship. He comes to New York City and he starts shining shoes. You tell the rest.
Marc Demetriou: Yeah, that’s right. My great grandfather really blessed his journey because my grandfather did leave in the middle of the night without his parents knowing and by him going to the dock and saying, “Son, I’m not going to stop you. Here’s a couple of quarters, a couple of dollars for your travels. I wish you well. My heart’s with you. Do it. Make us proud.” It really blessed his journey, big time. What his journey was like coming here three weeks after the stock market crash, with this burning desire to get ahead in life and not stop, that’s really what catapulted him in his life and is what I’ve really learned the most from him- that burning desire to never stop.
Clarissa: It was hard to make a nickel in the Depression. And he just arrived right then and there.
Marc Demetriou: He was lucky enough to get into the hospitality industry; started washing dishes and worked his way up in that whole business model, that whole area of life. That’s where it started.He lived in an apartment with six other guys, sleeping on the floor one night a week, the whole deal.
Clarissa: He got the bed one night a week and the rest of the week on the floor. Were they all from Cyprus?
Marc Demetriou: Most of the people from Greece and Cyprus kind of found each other. It’s how they started and his attitude was one of the first lessons in my book of the 15. Attitude is everything. He died at 97. With him it was always about, “Whenever I was working those jobs Marc, it was never about being hard on myself or about that labor at the time. I had honor in knowing I was working at making money. I knew that job was a stepping-stone for the next opportunity. I did every job and task as well as possible, as great as possible, so I would move up the ranks.” People in life have to realize that; wherever you are now is not going to be defining you or is not your final destination. That’s a big component.
Clarissa: The other lesson is taking a risk at the same time holding onto your faith. But faith doesn’t necessarily mean religion-based. It can mean belief in yourself and whatever faith means to you. Tell me about that.
Marc Demetriou: Yeah, that’s a big deal. He was very faithful. He believed in his journey. He believed in himself. He believed in his mission. As a good, wholesome person, he had true heavy faith himself and believed everything will be okay, you’ll make it through life. He always helped people in life too, as many as he could. That faith empowered him as well by helping others. And he did believe in a higher being. He felt like there were angels on his shoulder. Just really, truly blessed.
Clarissa: That isn’t easy. A 20 year old guy by himself, leaves the country – everything he knows – for the unknown, jumps on this huge ship. I’m sure he went through Ellis Island, did the whole nine yards, then you get out at Ellis Island and he had nobody on the other end. Where do you go? What do you do and with what money? That’s a tough thing to navigate. You’re a guy, you’re 20 years old and you’ve got your life ahead of you, it’s kind of exciting at the same time it had to be really scary. Did he ever talk about that?
Marc Demetriou: I’ll tell you, the backdrop from that point, he left at 16, but you’re right by your point. He was 20 when he came here and left at 16 first feeding animals on a ship to get a free ride to Greece, then worked in Greece for two years, saved up money to go to London, then saved enough money because he knew he had to get to London to come to America. So the backdrop is at 16 years old, leaving with nothing, which is even crazier.
Clarissa: Let me ask you this: Did he even speak English when he left?
Marc Demetriou: No. Not at all.
Clarissa: Then there’s that, too, because I lived in Italy for 30 years, I know what it means to get off a ship and not speak a word of the language. That’s something you have to work around. Your grandfather must’ve been an amazing individual.
Marc Demetriou: Amazing. When he was here, he had one cousin that was in America already. They wrote letters back and forth before he was coming. It took a week to go to Ellis Island, he had to go get him out.
Clarissa: Where was the cousin?
Marc Demetriou: He was already in midtown Manhattan. Just got here a couple months before that.
Clarissa: So he had somebody here.
Marc Demetriou: Only here. Everything else was nothing. The amazing part of what my grandfather did was him living 97 years and for 37 of those years, he was in my life. I had him. That’s why I was so proud to write this book ten years after he passed away.
Clarissa: “Lessons from my Grandfather”. I love it. I love the story. My grandmother for me, was my life, my best friend. I’m actually named after her as well. The amount of love and the amount of elegance and class she had, notwithstanding the Depression, and all the things that they went through back then. The role of women was so different but she always carried herself with grace and ease. Never raised her voice. Never smoked. Never drank. Never said a curse word. Didn’t start driving until she was 65. In the 1970s, it was a big deal when my grandmother went and got her ears pierced, we all were blown away. And then she wore her first pant suit. It’s just the way things used to be that was so different. But I want to hear more about your granddad. Was it like you’re rocking on the porch and he’s teaching you all this stuff? At the bowling alley having a beer? How did this all play out? I want to get a visual.
Marc Demetriou: He retired around 60 when I was just about born, ironically, which was great. So we were always together. My middle name is Charles after him as well. His name was Charlie. He thought of me as the son he never had. From a young boy, I was always a hustler, always worked hard, always put my energy into things. I was an Eagle Scout. He looked at me as a kid like him. We were super close but he would always tell me things that are in my book like attitude is everything, about working hard, about being joyful and helping others. He’d just tell me stories about life, what he was doing here and there. The thing about him was, he was always so positive. He never talked negative, never looked backwards, never, ever told me a negative story about something that happened in his life and he had all sorts of stuff happen. There was this unbelievable power of positivity, goodness and happiness and people that helped in his life. He didn’t like phonies. He would always tell me, “Don’t hang out with phonies. Be real, be who you are.” He was a very good judge of character and knew to hang out with the right people. He said, “When I put my head on the pillow at night Marc, I always slept like a baby every single night of my life. So I knew I was a good person, doing the right thing.” Again, he had all these little antidotes as a grown-up in life. Even about working hard it wasn’t the work, not the labor of the work itself, it was the opportunity you’re presenting for yourself by being the best you could be in everything you do.
Clarissa: Want to give a shout out to your grandmother?
Marc Demetriou: My grandmother was amazing. She passed away unfortunately when I was 11. She was the love of his life. If you haven’t read the book yet, I won’t spoil it. There was an amazing component in how he ended up marrying her. It was a miracle inane of itself.
Clarissa: You remember her then and she was lovely lady?
Marc Demetriou: She was amazing. She called me her little angel all the time. Super close to me. She was great and died really young. She died, I think in her early 60 and it was a shame we didn’t have her. For my grandfather, it’s not only writing the book to inspire, motivate and empower all with his message, with the wisdom that he’s taught me, but it’s the immigrant story, it’s the greatest generation who – like your grandmother – had that power, that wisdom, that guidance, that fortitude that gets you through anything in life, with nothing. They did it. I wanted to write this book for all ages, but a powerful part of it for the youth of America. Here’s this book of a man that came with nothing. You have the Internet, a roof over your head, you have so much going on, you can make it. If this man made it, you can all make it. I speak at a lot of high schools, colleges and military academies to cadets; I speak of leadership and inspiration. This is powerful, so that’s why I wanted to write the book as well, to give that message of hope, inspiration and guidance to people of all ages. For people to be a better mentor to their kids or grandkids.
Clarissa: I can only imagine losing your grandfather must have been extremely painful. What are the signs that you see today that you know he’s with you? I have signs from my grandma and I know she’s there. We sort of had an agreement before she passed on how she was going to manifest in my everyday life. It’s really kind of cool when that happens. Did you and your grandfather, Charlie, have anything like that?
Marc Demetriou: You know, it’s funny. He would always tell me how he felt like he had angels on his shoulders his whole life. He was very blessed. His life was very blessed. We never really talked heavy-duty about manifestation, about angels, about God, about belief, or opening your heart to God. We never got into that. But I’m blessed by having a lot of people around me right now that are into empaths or mediums, people who I know are truly the real-deal. People have said to me, “Your grandpa is with you everyday, if you know it or not. I see him right now over your shoulder smiling.” I feel that he is with me because we were so close. He was part of my journey writing this book, part of the wisdom that came into my head to write more information and just enjoying the journey with me.
Clarissa: And do you have any children?
Marc Demetriou: I have three girls; 13, 11 & 10.
Clarissa: Did you name any of them Charlie?
Marc Demetriou: Yes. The little one is named Charlie. Three great girls. I’m trying to be the best father I can to my kids and inspire them, motivate them, be a good role model. I think the message for this book and for everybody out there is: it’s a blessing to be a parent. It’s a blessing to be a spouse in your marriage. As a parent or a grandparent, we have an obligation to mentor our children. If you want to bring someone in this world, you better bring them in the right way. I don’t think we all focus on being good mentors. Grandparents can be such good mentors to their grandkids. They have so much power, ability and wisdom at the top-of-the-chain for the family, to talk them down and help in a good way. There’s a lot of messages in there and the people that haven’t gone through hardships in life in this generation like your grandmother, don’t understand that no matter what, we’ll get ahead. We’ll figure it out.
Clarissa: I think they probably roll over in their grave when they see what’s happening today with everybody feeling so entitled to everything when they had to work as hard as they did. The hardships were indescribable. My grandfather, for example, is one of 16 children. Very good Irish Catholics. Theirs was a time when kids went to the first few years of school but then were yanked and sent to work just to get enough food around the table for dinner. Those were the times that were extraordinarily difficult. These are the times that kids today – and I know I sound like an old fogey when I say this – have no idea what hardship is. I mean, most don’t have any idea what hardship truly is. This is just a clarion call for those that are fortunate, as we all are, to not sweat the small stuff and just be the best person they could possibly be. Like you said, it’s so simple to be nice, kind and generous and to do the right thing. I’m not trying to profess you know, I get on my little pulpit every once in a while. It’s just so much simpler to be nicer. Have your boundaries, don’t be walked all over but still do nice things for everyone else. Tell me what you are doing today, Mark? I know you’re a mortgage banker.
Marc Demetriou: Yeah, I’m busy. I’m 14 years into the mortgage business. I am mostly doing residential mortgages on the east coast in New Jersey. It’s my day job, which I love doing. Very busy but I love speaking and the opportunity to get out and preach the words of my book, the wisdom I’ve had for years; I enjoy that part of life as well.
Clarissa: Tell everybody how they can find you and the book.
Marc Demetriou: There’s a lot of places to buy, the easiest one being Amazon. It is called “Lessons from My Grandfather: Wisdom for Success in Business and Life”. There’s a website called GrandfatherLessons.com. Whether it’s Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook everything is @MarcDemetriou.
Clarissa: It’s been a real pleasure. I loved you when I met you. I love the story about your granddad and I am glad you were able to share his wisdom with all of us. Thank you.
Marc Demetriou: Thank you, Clarissa I really appreciate it. ✧