To look at Morris Callaman now, you’d never think he’d spent much of his young life homeless, depressed, and suicidal. A multi-millionaire based in Pheonix, Callaman is driven and disgustingly educated—with degrees in engineering, business, and law—and juggles roles in finance, law, and investment.
Callaman’s roots are far from the fruitful tree he’s now swinging in. Given up for adoption and inaccurately labeled as mentally challenged at a young age, Callaman was passed from foster parent to relative to foster parent, cycling through 13 elementary schools and over a dozen states. In the eighth grade, he attempted suicide, only to wake up a day later with his suicide note still sitting on his chest.
Shortly afterward, Callaman ran away from home, wandering Phoenix and sleeping where he could in the city. He survived his teens with a series of odd jobs, including garbage collecting, ditch digging, and mortar making.
Callaman describes his mentality at 16:
I felt like I was 40 years old, like my life was gone.
But Callaman’s perseverance led him to night classes at Arizona State. His first degree, in engineering, took him nine years to complete.
We spoke to him about his life and his most recent project:
Tell me a little about the work you’re doing.
I am in the process of finding people that are making change in the world that are doing things that really need to happen. I tend to look for opportunities where there’s a consumer good or service where the end user is us: you and me and our neighbors. The people I work with are so fundamentally proud of what they’re doing that they want all the people they care about to be a part of it. I think that says a lot.
My desire is to figure out ways to make lives better for the people who are living. I’m not necessarily trying to make the planet better—though I believe in being green and intelligent about resources—my primary goal is to make life better for people.
Can you talk a little about your youth and how that’s shaped who you are today?
Over time I’ve become a firm believer that things mean whatever we think they mean. My internal narrative tells me that my early life was hard. Others have clearly had harder lives—I’m still alive, for one—but when I was young, I was placed with a pedophile, I lived on the streets. Life was hard and I was bitter. I was angry.
But there have been a occasions in life—for whatever reason—in which someone has helped me in a way that was truly magnanimous—not people who were particularly accomplished in the societal sense necessarily, but they chose to reach out to me. Those little acts were enough to make me evaluate and re-evaluate my life story. And things have just worked out for me.
I’ve come to conclude that things work out because I’m willing to spend the effort to come up with a cogent thesis as to how what happened produced an even better and greater result. I’ve gone back and forth between answering this question with religious undertones—angels, etc.—or secular undertones in which I chose to think that things have meaning. That seems to ameliorate my own injuries and helps me advise others.
Do you consider yourself a good man? Why or why not?
I feel a little bit shy saying yes, but I do often say—almost every other day—I consider myself to be a fundamentally good person. A fundamentally kind person. I’m constantly looking for the karmic chewy center, whether I’m advising someone or closing a business deal. I’m trained analytically, but I do most of my decision-making intuitively. I’m pretty happy with the results.
What makes a good man, in your eyes?
I think the worst thing a human being can do to another human being is to interfere with his perception of reality. Whether it’s spousal abuse or political corruption or murder, you’re ultimately interfering with someone’s perception of reality.
I have no desire that others necessarily accept my perception of reality. But my job is to speak candidly. And I don’t keep secrets. So if I invert that, I get near to the answer to this question. A good man is someone who looks actively to share his perspective with others. And for me, that means trying to find the karmic positive in every interaction.