I used to listen when people would tell me about myself.
I used to buy into this too. After a while, I started to wonder why?
Why am I allowing myself to submit to the predictions and the judgments of other people?
I never questioned any of this. I just listened and accepted.
I never thought to myself, “Hey, maybe they’re wrong” or “Maybe this is more about them than it is about me.”
Instead, I would buy into the idea that maybe they were right.
They had to be right, right?
Why else would they tell me these things?
Or better yet, why else would I listen?
I remember a time when I was approaching the end of my stay at a treatment facility. This was a rough time for me. I knew that I had been exposed to the truth about myself. It was clear that it was me who let myself down. I did this. I submitted and surrendered my life to an ongoing, draining lifestyle that does nothing else but rob and steal a person away from their best self.
I knew that it was me who brought me to where I was. It was me who had the collar around my neck. it was me who did the crimes and it was me who’d have to do the time.
I also knew that I had no one else to blame. I couldn’t claim ignorance anymore. I couldn’t just blame addiction or mental illness because although my chemistry defied my best interest; still, I knew how to live a good clean life. But somehow I found myself back in the belly of the beast. I went back to my old default settings; but worse, I want back to desperate behaviors to match my desperate episodes.
At the time, I was hiding behind a personality to which I used as a means of protection. I was carrying a gun. I was trying to act like some wild gangster. Who cared about the future? Who cared about life or anything that had to do with life?
There was no future, at least not for me.
Or so I thought. Live fast and bury a beautiful corpse, right?
I subscribed to an image. I pretended to be someone crazy. Maybe I was crazy, if there is such a thing.
I acted like someone who didn’t care; as if to say “spark it up and let the world go down in flames.”
Who cares, right?
This was me yet I knew this was not who I really am.
I was scheduled to leave after my time was extended. This was due to an issue of self-harm which was almost life-ending. However, there was no point in staying any longer. Plus, insurance only pays for so much. So I suppose it was time for me to go.
The facility allowed me to complete the program and soon enough, I was about to be home again.
I can still remember my last full day . . .
I overheard a group of men talking about me. I heard them laughing when my name came up.
I heard them predict that I would be dead before I made it down to the end of the road.
This was funny to them.
They were laughing that I was going to die.
Literally, I was going to die
And this was funny to them . . .
I remember thinking that maybe they were right.
Maybe they were right to laugh about me.
Maybe what they were saying was true.
Maybe I was a joke.
Maybe I deserved to die.
I remember this.
In fact, I can see this entire experience in my mind’s eye.
I have learned to see this in its true perspective now which means I am not overdramatizing this by any means.
I can see how the sun filtered in from the front windows and brightened the main lobby.
I can see where I was sitting, which was in a chair just outside the cafeteria.
To help you with this, the facility was once an old hotel in Upstate, New York.
The decorations had not been changed.
The place looked the same. Only the guest rooms became patient rooms and the hallways were no longer used to entertain vacationers. No, this was used for people like “us”.
I heard every word.
“That kid is gonna be dead before he gets down to the end of the road.”
I didn’t say anything.
I just listened and accepted what they predicted.
Years later there was a time when I was out with a group of my so-called friends.
I didn’t have enough money to enjoy some of the night’s extravaganza.
Now, before I explain anything else, I must explain that I called them friends.
However, I use this term loosely.
One friend told me that it would be unfair to compare myself to them or their life.
He told me that I would never be as successful as him.
He was basically trying to discourage me from going out with the group because it was embarrassing that I didn’t have a lot of money.
He informed me that I did not grow up around the same people.
He mentioned that I didn’t have the same connections and that, at best, I’d only be able to achieve life as a product of my environment.
“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” he told me.
“You have a good union job.”
“You’ll do alright,” he said. “You work hard,” he told me, as if this was a compliment or a consolation prize to his point.
“But you will never be as successful as me.”
I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t respond.
I didn’t tell him, “The hell you say!”
I didn’t do anything but accept it.
I can remember another time which took place a few years back.
This is when I decided to start nurturing my dreams again. I came to the decision that life is not moving any slower. In fact, the older I am, the quicker the calendar seems to disappear on me.
Days slip by and months become years.
As it is, decades have passed and I look back in disbelief.
(But don’t we all?)
I decided that maybe there was something more for me.
I looked at my job. I looked at my daily grind. I looked at the hopes I used to have and then I wondered, “What happened to me?”
Where did my thinking turn left instead of right?
When did I decide to settle or accept the trade?
Or more to the point, when did I give in to the beliefs that things I wanted would always be out of my reach?
I started to look into different roles in the mental health field.
I studied and took classes to learn new ways to help people in their recovery. And just like that, an old spark was rekindled.
Somehow, I ended up working in a small program with a decent amount of attention from the media.
I started to receive attention to the point where I started to recognize this is what I want to do with my life.
Not only that, I started to realize that I have the ability to be good at what I do.
I started to notice that perhaps my old dreams can come alive again. But more, I started to realize that I was more capable than I ever realized.
Maybe I can rekindle an old spark and reignite an old dream about building a farm.
Maybe this can happen.
However, after sharing my goals with a so-called trusted supervisor, I was told not to bother.
I was told that none of what I wanted to do was possible for me.
I was told by a so-called professional with decades of experience, “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.”
“You don’t have a chance.”
This person told me about her experience. Then she reminded me, “You’re just starting out now . . . trust me, you’re not going to be able to do what you want and make the kind of money you’ll need to survive.”
I was told that I wasn’t experienced enough. I was told that I didn’t have the schooling or the business know-how.
It’s too late in the game is what they were trying to tell me.
Maybe it is, but so-the-hell-what?
I was told to stay in my lane and mind my business.
I was asked to wave for the cameras and play along which I did for a while.
I was told that it’s okay to have dreams but not all dreams are meant to come true.
Namely, my dreams.
Namely because my dreams would be a disturbance to someone else’s path.
However and in all fairness, I get it.
I have met with people who were literally just pulled out of the gutter. They were cleaned up after a few days in detox and when speaking to me again they told me: I think I’m going to do what you do.
Right, I’d say.
Go for it.
I can see how this might cheapen someone’s efforts. However, my intention has nothing to do with anyone’s efforts. I can see where this would sound off-putting to someone who paid their dues.
“I want to do what you do.”
Meanwhile, it took me decades to become who I am.
However, who am I to say where the next miracle comes from?
Who am I to say how long it takes for someone to come around and recognize their strengths and their hopes?
So yes, in fairness, I understand the experience behind the so-called professional. I understand her years of investment. However, in my best estimation, I don’t have another 30 years to reach that level of experience.
Instead, I chose to build my own brand.
I used to listen to people when they’d tell me things like, “You can’t do it,” or how I’ll never make it.
I’d listen to their predictions.
I’d listen to their criticisms or allow them to tell me why they’re better than me.
All the while, I never thought that maybe this was a reflection of them or their issues.
Maybe this had nothing to do with me.
Maybe my sights and my dreams can only be clear to me; therefore, no one else’s input is necessary.
I remember being asked to stand at a podium and introduce myself to a roomful of people. This was a business function and there were people who were in higher positions above me. Since I was not “their guy,” or “their pick,” I was met with a harsh vibe of coldness and mistreatment.
I was offered the opportunity to be part of a wellness committee; however, there was an opposing side to this invitation.
I heard about what was said behind my back.
I heard what they thought.
And sure, none of this was kind.
Sure, some of this was hurtful.
Then it was suggested, “Did you ever stop to think that maybe they’re intimidated?”
“Did you ever think that maybe you scare them?”
I was told to consider it this way: “You’re not even trying and you speak better in public than they do!”
I never take compliments or criticisms like this very well
They distract me.
Nevertheless, I used to listen to that little voice in my head.
I’d listen to the whispers.
I’d listen to the insecure thoughts and then I’d wait for the self-fulfilling prophecy to come true.
So . . .
That time when I was told that I’d be dead before I hit the end of the road was back in 1991.
I’m certainly doing better than their predictions. I’ve certainly surpassed and exceeded their limitations.
I’ve moved far beyond the end of that road and no, I’m not dead.
As for whether I have the connections or the resources to become successful, I have learned that success is a relative term.
I have managed to work my way up in the ranks. I have a job.
I’ve released more than a dozen books. I’ve been flown across the country in business class. I’ve been treated to some of the finest foods and the finest dining.
I’ve been on the news. I was on the radio a few times.
I may not have the mansion or the yacht or the penthouse overlooking Central Park, but . . . and I will say this in the true slang of my New York accent: The game ain’t over yet, man!
As for the professional who told me to stay in my lane; and to the person who said that I would never be able to turn this into a business; and to the one who wanted me to smile for the cameras and to the ones who said that I didn’t have what it takes; I decided not to take their advice into consideration.
I decided not to listen. Instead, I decided to keep going, one step at a time. To be fair, every prediction that was set upon me could have been true if I continued to allow myself to believe in them.
I consider this prediction each time I present my weekly seminars in front of one of the largest global consulting companies in the world . . .
(Stay in my lane, huh? Okay. Don’t mind if I do!)
What the hell was I thinking?
Well, to start off, I was thinking honestly about myself.
I knew my limitations.
I was judging myself too harshly but somehow through it all, no matter what, I did not stop working.
I didn’t quit.
Even when I wanted to and even when I wanted to rip the cord from my computer out from the wall; even when I wanted to trash all of my journals and vacate this promise that I made to myself years ago – through it all, I have never stopped.
This does not mean that I haven’t done things that were counter-productive. This doesn’t mean that I never shot myself in the foot or put my foot in my mouth (on more than one occasion) because I have.
I’ve fallen more times than I can count.
But I never stayed down (and neither should you).
Sure, I make mistakes.
Sure, I’ve said and done things that make my best possible self a difficult goal to reach.
But in all, I’m still here, faults and all.
Sometimes I’m alone.
Sometimes it seems as if no one hears me or sees what I’m doing.
Many times it would seem as if nobody cares.
And maybe no one cares, but none of this can matter anymore.
I’m the one who needs to care.
Period. End of sentence.
The problem with outside predictions is that if we feed into them they can drain us like a weed that drains the root of a perfect flower.
If we buy into this, at best, we can only wilt and reach a glimpse of our true potential.
Do you want to know what I was thinking?
At some point, I opened my eyes and decided to stop allowing other people to define my limitations.
Instead, I decided to define my expectations and shape the pathways to build my hopes and my dreams.
Do I get discouraged?
You bet, all the time.
But then the stars seem to line up and life tells me:
We’ve been watching you, kid.
I translate this to mean:
You can lose your shit tomorrow.
But today, we got grown-folks business going on.
Suit up, son
You have a life out there
Just waiting for you.