This is my first post. My goal in writing this is to share my experiences and lessons learned, and more importantly the pitfalls I have learned to avoid (or am still trying to claw out of). Every person on this planet is uniquely individual, but there are also groups of people that seem to think and act and feel in a similar pattern. If my description of my path resonates with you in anyway, I would encourage you to reach out to me and build a connection.
I share stories and examples of my own weakness, because my life’s goal is to chase perfection. We are all imperfect people and perfection is by definition impossible – but the process of pursuing it is the most worthwhile thing you can do. I hope that in identifying and verbalizing my own weaknesses and struggles, and the paths I have taken, that I can help you through similar situations.
I didn’t start writing this to put online – I started writing it for my own benefit. I would encourage you at some point when you have time to sit down with a notebook and pen and make your past tangible on paper. There is something very powerful in either vocalizing or writing, that it can turn seemingly unimportant or forgotten experiences into powerful lessons learned. Or, it can reveal important twists in your road that you hadn’t noticed before. Please take some time and complete this exercise. Your unique perspective of the present can view the past in the utmost clarity, and interpret events that could not be clearly interpreted at the time.
Something I think about frequently is the power of now. Why is now so powerful? Well, I’ll tell you that this second is the most important second in your entire life. No matter what you’re doing, right this second is the most important moment in your life yet. In the present, you hold all the wisdom of your past, and you command complete control of your future. There is no greater time than this moment.
In order for that statement to be true, however, you have to be someone who practices retrospection. This doesn’t mean to get stuck on or hung up on past mistakes, but to view your past through the lens of learning. There are plenty of things in my life that I did that seemed trivial – looking back now I see these things as anything but. Small decisions sometimes can have major impact. It’s important to see where the decisions you have made have cut your path.
Again, sitting down to write your story is something I could not recommend any more highly than I do. It is a fantastic starting point in knowing your weaknesses, and finding strength where you thought none existed.
Who am I, and How Did I Get Here?:
My path is short (as of writing this, I am 23 years old), but winding. This is probably due to the unconventional backroads I have taken in my life.
People have always described me as optimistic. It’s easy to envision the optimist as the one blazing ahead happily, never giving up when things get tough, and always making the best of the situation.
Those three attributes are attributes which I wish I could ascribe myself, but cannot. The optimist we envision and the optimist that exists are generally 180 degrees different. While those attributes do crop up in some areas in my life, I would generally rephrase myself from optimist to delusionist. It’s not a flattering turn of words.
Here’s the dirty secret about unbridled optimism, one which I beg you to pay attention to if you view yourself as an optimist: optimism is most commonly a thinly veiled attempt to get-x-quick.
Here’s what I mean: you have huge dreams and great ideas. You believe that you can achieve every single one of those dreams – there’s not a doubt in your mind! You can easily envision the success (you can visualize your garage full of cars or the vacations you’ll take) and you can even set a rough plan or framework in place to achieve that success. This is the optimist.
So you blaze forward with the mantras of “just do something” and “take action!”. You might spend days, you might spend weeks, maybe even months. But at some point in the process, you become derailed by a challenge or hurdle. All of a sudden, the grandeur of your once life-changing idea is diminished. It slowly fades with your motivation to pursue it, and those fancy business cards with CEO emblazoned on them are now a symbol of your utter failure. This is the delusionist.
My woes don’t stop there. I am a serial delusionist. Maybe you can relate; back to my example: A crushing of that idea and your failure to achieve anything meaningful, or move the needle, leaves you feeling minorly depressed…. For all of two hours. You are, after all, an optimist. All of a sudden, after failing so miserably on your first attempt (and wasting money on business cards and a URL that is now dead) your nonstop mind produces another seemingly golden nugget of an idea.
Let that feeling of a new idea soak in for a minute. Can you imagine how it feels when you have a fresh, just out of the wrapper idea in your mind to chew on? I can: it’s mental cocaine. First, you envision the path to success. Then, you think about what your life would look like if you were able to accomplish the idea. I could waste away an entire day on the ideation process, a week on the planning process, and a lifetime on the “never completing the idea” process.
Let me take a moment to make a clear delineation here. What I’m describing is not the ability to bounce back from failure. That is a powerful ability which has no downside to it. What I’m describing is something that gets confused for the ability to bounce back from failure – overcoming the feeling of failure with self-medication. Specifically the self-medication of delusion and future-fantasy.
If you can relate to the feeling I just described, think back on your last dozen ideas. How many did you see past a few days? A few weeks? How many are you still working on now? If the answer is zero, welcome to the club. You and I have a lot in common.
This cycle will continue. The highs you get off of new ideas become ever more enticing, and the willingness to give up becomes greater. Your mind adapts to the cycle, and your brain seeks the dopamine released from the ideation phase over everything else. We feed our brains sugary candy, and our brains want more sugary candy.
Meanwhile, the days and weeks and months and years march by. For all your lofty goals, grand ideas, and visions of the future, you are left with absolutely nothing. A pile of discarded “break-throughs” and million dollar business plans, in various stages of incompleteness. We become more and more desperate for the “quick hit”.
If you’ve been here, you can relate to the cognitive dissonance you feel. In your mind, you have envisioned yourself as successful and visionary for so long, the reality is hard to understand. You may blame circumstance or others, or you just might be confused. In my case, I became increasingly desperate for the million dollar idea. My willingness to give up was at an all time high – as soon as a roadblock presented itself, I would conclude naively that the path was too hard or the road was too long. On to the next one. Fail fast, get that next mental high.
Here’s the key to optimism: Optimism is only beneficial if it is paired with commitment. Optimism without commitment becomes delusionism.
The person I have described above isn’t some loser living in their parent’s basement. It isn’t some guy going into massive debt playing the “idea lottery”. Everything I just shared about myself and the inner workings of my mind would most likely surprise even close friends and family. My life was put together, all the pieces fit well. The problem was, I was solving the wrong puzzle. From the outside, however, everything fit.
At nineteen years old, I started selling cars. No college degree, but I needed to make more money. I wanted to marry my high school sweetheart, and knew that waiting tables wasn’t going to cut it! We got married when I was twenty, and shortly after I transferred my job to southern California. Twenty years old and living ten steps from the Pacific Ocean!
Three months later, I got a promotion to Buyer/Manager. I am one of the younger guys to ever hold that role. The job was pretty sexy, I got to travel a bit, all my coworkers had college degrees. Here I was younger than all of them, no degree, making the same money. Anyone looking in would say I was doing great. Myself a year prior would have thought I was doing great. Heck, I had four weeks of paid vacation.
This is where cognitive dissonance becomes a little easier to explain. In my head, I had always envisioned myself as an entrepreneur. Wealthy, visionary, and with lots of free time (of course, I rarely pictured the path I’d have to walk to achieve that. We rarely do). I was told I was successful; but success in the eyes of others is meaningless. Success is when our lives match our own goals. My goal was to provide for my family, in that I felt successful. My other goals however had nothing to do with working for someone else and making an average wage.
How I viewed myself and my potential did not line up with who I was in reality. Dissonance. What other people deemed as successful was not satisfying for me, as I had a different view of what success looked like. Like I said earlier, all my puzzle pieces fit together, but I was putting together the wrong puzzle. This feeling is in part what led to my being a cyclical delusionist.
So there I was, twenty year old me with a sexy salaried job and four paid weeks of vacation a year, living steps from the ocean in southern California. What did I do? I complained. Relentlessly. Ask my wife, I’m sure I was pretty brutal to be around some nights. I threatened to quit on so many occasions, coming home with some long rant about something that happened and I was just fed up. The “issues” I had were so petty that I can’t even remember a single one of them now.
I saw young millionaires all around me. To be completely and brutally honest, I looked down on them. I knew that I was smarter than them, wanted it more than them, and could work harder than them. I felt like somehow, I deserved what they had more than they had. As sick and twisted as that sounds. I would look at them and it would remind me just how different my personal goals and my daily actions where.
My motivation became material possessions. I have always struggled with materialism, but in California it became ridiculous. I bought (for the company I worked for), cars costing triple my salary – and salivated all day over the idea of owning them. I would go online and “build” one to my exact specs, print it out and keep it in the passenger seat of my little $2,000 ride as motivation. I went to open houses for multi million dollar oceanfront homes and kept the brochures, also as motivation.
One I house remember well, I really liked it. So much so that I taped the brochure ($2.7 million asking price) to our fridge and wrote with black sharpie in the corner of it: “Get money get paid!”. Like somehow a piece of paper and some poor motivational writing would produce millions in my account in a few months.
I wish I could reclaim the countless hours I wasted in this season of my life. I would idle days and weeks away dreaming of some fantasy future. I had long ago given up on taking any concrete action – that wasn’t satisfying anymore. I was in delusion-ville, thinking that sitting around and getting a mental high off of business ideas would somehow produce the life I wanted.
Without introspection, our mindset becomes increasingly warped. I had no structure to keep my mindset in check, and plenty of nasty attitudes cropped up.
The worst was a complete lack of contentment, and taking for granted everything I already had. Sure, the life I was living wasn’t exactly what my goal was, but I was living the life I had designed. No one at any point in your life takes the paths you take for you. You choose your paths. I was living the exact life I deserved. The entitlement mentality at work in my heart was ludicrous – when I look back, I realize I didn’t even deserve what I had, much less anything else! We all like to think in the moment that somehow we deserve more. Worth more. It’s nonsense. You choose your paths in life and the consequences of your actions, good or bad, are what you are deserving of.
The lack of contentment led to a feeling that I deserved more. This led to increasingly stupid wealth generating business schemes. I thought I was “working”. Anyone else guilty of day-dreaming the day away on stupid schemes whose motivation is solely profit? The formula is: write a half-assed business plan, daydream about the millions you’ll make, waste an entire day on “execution” (action-faking), repeat the next day!
We all want massive success. To live the life everyone dreams about, you must first do the things that no one dreams about. The reason why everyone who aspires to be rich, isn’t, is because we dream about the goal. The successful few envision the process. You must be willing to do the things that no one dreams about.
I fell squarely into the category of wantrepreneur. Embarrassing, and at the time I would never admit it, but it was true. All talk, all fake action, nothing tangible. I was as principled as someone playing the powerball – my chances of business success were the same as hitting the mega-millions.
Your mistakes can redeem you, if you let them. This is why self-analyzing and introspection are so important – instead of letting your habits continue to shape you, you can look back and review them and use the lessons to shape yourself. If any of what I talked about above applies to you currently or previously, please keep reading. You can use your past experience to change your future.
Recognizing Myself for What I Was
I spent two years in a vicious cycle of unhappiness, followed by a few-day-long idea high.
A former colleague of mine knew I was unhappy, and attributed it solely to my job (I had also attributed it to the job, as I hadn’t enough wisdom at the time to fully understand myself). He had worked with me for a little while, and had left about six months prior. We had stayed in contact and became even closer after he left. He is still one of my best friends now, in fact.
He invited me to dinner. The next day, I was interviewing for a job with the owner of the company he had left to go work for. I thought about it for three hours, and made the leap. No more corporate safety net, no more salary, no more paid vacation. Just a lot more flexibility and the potential of more money.
This new gig fulfilled everything I had thought I had wanted. I was able to leverage my industry knowledge to work significantly less – only three days a week. And those three days I worked? Never more than six hours long. My paychecks were bigger, and I worked less than half the hours I had before.
One of my tools to battle the cognitive dissonance I was feeling before was an excuse: I always told myself I wasn’t able to complete my ideas because I didn’t have enough time. I felt that my time was eaten alive by my employer, and I felt bitterness towards them for using so much of it. That must be why I can’t complete a project. Here’s a hint: When you begin to blame external factors, the problem is, 99% of the time, really internal.
So now my excuse was gone. I had time, and lots of it. More than I could ever know what to do with. I had enough time to probably start two businesses and still get some tanning in on the beach.
I didn’t have time, anymore, to sit at my desk at work and stew over my “situation”. My time was now almost all my own. Even the hours I worked were mostly decided by me. I couldn’t blame anyone else for the use of my time, and didn’t feel obligated to spend my time in any one way. I couldn’t ignore the responsibility I had now, and the feeling that everything I do is of my own accord, and I now own my actions 100%.
My first two weeks, I was miserable. Professionally satisfied and personally depressed. I had no motivation to do anything. I spent my free time inside, watching t.v or surfing forums, literally giving away my hours in the day to just make them go away. I had more time than I had ever had before, but I didn’t know how to spend it.
My institutions were crumbling. My excuse for failing in business? Gone. My scapegoat for my woes, my former employer? Gone. I felt bad about myself, but again didn’t have the wisdom to know what was wrong.
I was so unused to being in control of my own time, that the thought of it turned from being “freeing” to being terrifying! The amount of free time I had at my fingertips felt like a noose. My time seemed to own me, not the other way around. I became so fixated on spending it wisely, that I spent it on nothing at all. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it, so inaction became my choice.
Perspective changes are massively important in one’s life. Out of nowhere, my wife and I started discussing leaving our sunny southern California lifestyle, and moving back to Virginia where she was raised. Our families were back there, and the cost of living was hard to argue with. We both enjoyed our jobs and were doing great, but we wanted to start a family.
With the threat of the great California adventure coming to an end, I realized how much I struggled with contentment. My perspective shifted. I began to look back on what we had done in two years, the places we had been to and the people we had met. The sunsets we watched every night and the fun times at our favorite bars. The community we had gained and the church we had found.
It’s amazing how blind we can be. I was one of the most richly blessed people on earth, and I had done nothing but complain and wallow in my own head.
Within days, I felt completely snapped out of it. I had lived two years with this mental weight, like a noose around my heart. It was like the blinders came right off, and I was able to see myself for what I was. It can be difficult to be completely frank and honest with yourself, but boy does it feel good.
My free time now was treasured, and I knew exactly what to do with it. I journaled a bit during this time, and really started to analyze myself over the past two years. My mindset and attitude and poor desires. My obsession with material possessions. My inability to finish any goal. I laid my true self out on paper, the self that others rarely get a glimpse into. What a sight.
I committed during this season to completely dropping any ideas revolving around entrepreneurship. Anything relating to making more money outside of my job, starting a business, etc. I needed to go cold turkey – one day I would reintroduce those thoughts, but my mindset needed some serious shifting before entrepreneurial thoughts could produce anything worthwhile in my brain.
Laying the Groundwork
Personal development can be quite the buzzword. It carries for some a negative connotation. It’s a phrase you’ll hear passed around at uppity conferences where everyone is an aspiring millionaire in a $20 suit with a huge “hello my name is” namebadge on. It’s that kind of word.
The problem with the word, and the thing it describes, is that is sold as a thing. Personal development is a solution, some silver bullet, something you can conquer and have what you want to have. That is how it is sold, and that branding sells pretty damn well. Personal development is sold as a stage or event that happens once and changes you.
Personal development never ends. There is no endpoint, no victory lap. It is constant, it changes with you, and it lasts forever. Like I said earlier, we are imperfect people pursuing perfection. Understanding that perfection is literally impossible shifts the mindset. Perfection isn’t a singular event. Personal development isn’t a singular event. The process is what’s important.
Most people who seek personal development will never find it. It’s not an event. It’s not achieved through a conference. You can’t buy it. It’s a never ending and sometimes painful process. It’s much cheaper than what life coaches and gurus will sell, but is much more difficult than most imagine.
My perspective had been shifted, which in turn revealed my warped mindset, which led to introspection and a change in heart. True change will not occur until your heart is changed. It’s the “aha” moment, the sudden clarity that sometimes happens upon you due to some event or a random thought.
With my giving up of entrepreneurial thoughts, I was really giving up on the pursuit of money and materialism. Previously, “starting a business” was, in my mind, synonymous with “millionaire”. I knew I needed to give up those desires. My past had proven money to be a poor motivator for personal growth and mental wellbeing.
Money cannot, and never will, offer security. Money will rule you and subjugate you. Even those who appear to “have it all” can easily fall into slavery to money. The more you have, the more you perceive you need, and the more you fret over losing it.
In releasing myself from the self imposed mental shackles of materialism and money, death became a constant thought on my mind. Why is it that no one ever speaks of death? Do people not realize that the death rate of being human is 100%? It’s the only thing in life that is completely and absolutely assured – yet we choose to ignore it. Death isn’t bigfoot, it’s not some made up story. We. All. Die.
Why does our culture ignore death? Because death is the antithesis to the driving marketing force. Keeping up with the Joneses’ is exposed for the lie that it is when viewed through the perspective of “we all die”. Material goods and consumer habits are made to appear ridiculous. Death is ignored because we are programmed to consume, and unlike the Egyptians, we’re not planning on taking our possessions with us to the afterlife.
Death is ignored because it makes us uncomfortable. We love to plan and save and talk about how one day we will do x, y, and z. We ignore that the reality is one day we return to ash, our stuff rots, and the only thing left is a headstone and maybe, just maybe, some positive impact we made in the lives of others.
I understood my materialism and obsession with money, and saw the evil behind it. I became obsessed with the thought of death. Fixated on it. As a result, I started to value my time a whole lot more than ever before in my life. My thinking on time shifted.
All time is free time. We are endowed, by our Creator, with a certain amount of hours on this earth. He has created us, and has given us the time we have. We are free to spend that time in whatever way we please. We are responsible for how we use it, sure, but we are 100% free to use it how we see fit.
People love to talk about their schedule, or their job, or this or that. “I just don’t have enough free time!” Nonsense. No one but you controls your schedule. Every second you have is free. You have the choice over how you spend every single second of your time. If you don’t like how it’s being spent, well, maybe choose to spend it differently.
The stress I had previously over how to use my time was relieved once I released my mind from the fixation on wealth. Thinking on my own mortality helped to clarify priorities in my life. Realizing that time is fleeting helped me to enjoy all the little aspects of my day that I previously took for granted.
Instead of pursuing personal development as some means to an ends, I saw it for what it was. A necessary, neverending daily process. I realized my many failures and my unhappiness came from my immaturity. This was a season for growth, and a season for introspection. A season for personal development. The real kind.
It Starts with Introspection
I was tempted to go and buy or borrow every book I could find that might provide insight into what “being a better person” was. I was having such a good time journaling, that I aimed my time towards that instead. I spent more time with my wife, spent more time cooking and enjoying the beach, and I wrote quite a bit.
Instead of running from myself in my free time, I was analyzing my thoughts and desires. It’s hard, in the modern world, to be truly introspective. Turn of the phone, the tv, and the internet for a day, and see what your mind does. You might learn some uncomfortable things about yourself. I certainly did. My framework was out of whack, my priorities were messed up, and my focus over the last two years had been on insanely ridiculous things.
Journal. Every day. Don’t try and fix things, don’t try and patch things up. Just journal what you find about yourself. Try and enjoy the nuances and the minute details of every day. Spend more time unplugged. Hold every thought hostage and ask: “what was my heart behind this thought? Behind this desire?”
I promise I’m not some new-age hippie, and maybe I just had more baggage to work out than most. But this is literally what I did, and I can tell you it is super effective.
What is important in life? In light of death, what should I aspire to or aim for? If I know for a fact that everything turns to dust, what am I working for?
The answer to this question becomes your frame of reference. The answer becomes your grounding point, and your strongest motivator in life.
Being a Christian, the answer to this question is abundantly clear. If life is a pyramid, this question is at the very base of the pyramid and supports every other aspect of my life. My life is built upon this foundation.
The reason that my mindset, my habits, and my perspective was so out of whack, is that I had no foundation to speak of. I was polishing the marble floors of an abandoned insane asylum condemned and infested with mold and rats.
We ended up having four months left in California, from the time of my “awakening”, so to speak. Those four months were the best months I had living there. I was happy, content, and my mind stopped feeling so cloudy. I committed my time to growth and development, specifically my foundation (my faith).
You Choose the Life You Live
We moved back to Virginia on a cross country roadtrip, to move into a house we had bought sight unseen. My wife and I had no jobs lined up, and were leaving great jobs in Southern California. Big decisions become small and routine when you have a vision for your life. We knew what we wanted our life to look like – moving helped accomplish that, so we did it without much thought or worry.
Two weeks after we had closed on our house (we closed in California, and moved two months after), we found out that my wife was pregnant with our first. The timing was incredible – we were moving back to be closer to our family and start our own.
The house was a complete mess, and needed much more work than we thought. We spent four months renovating it, the majority of that time having a non-functional kitchen. My dad and I started tossing around business ideas, and within two months had opened the doors to a small used car dealership.
This is where the story picks up – this is where I am today.
Present Day – That’s How I Got Here…Now Why the Website?
So now you know how my life ended up here. You know a good bit about me, and my many flaws and failures. Hopefully, we have some of those flaws in common, because we may be able to help each other.
Soo… why the website? What is the goal of writing all this? Simple: I’m on a journey, you’re on a journey, we’re all on a journey. I feel that I’m pretty good at verbalizing certain truths, and there are some things that I have realized in my short lifetime that maybe will provide value to you.
First, I have achieved what was, for the longest time, my highest desire: I own my own business. A business that has been in the black since day one, for the past six months. And as fulfilling as that is (it’s pretty fulfilling), it doesn’t necessarily make me a better person. The process of starting the business and running the business has brought to light many more personal weaknesses, and a slew of new personal challenges.
So here, in a nutshell, is the point of all of this.
Our mindset is the most powerful thing in the world. Without a foundation or frame of reference, our mindset will become increasingly warped and will lead us down the wrong path. Our thoughts produce our actions, and our repeated actions produce our habits. Our habits become who we are, or worse, we become enslaved to our habits. The thing that matters most in life is time. All of our time is literally free time, but we are completely responsible for how we use it.
If you enjoyed this, please subscribe and follow along as I write more. I’ll be focusing on the topics of habits, time, and mindset, specifically relating to achieving your goals.