Two liters of vodka in my stomach and multiple shards of glass in my arm, I found myself in the emergency room. I remember being so drunk that I watched the doctors stitching up my arm, sewing together the gaping hole where you could see down to the bone with a little digging, and being totally indifferent. Amused even.
The night of my 21st birthday, I invited hundreds of people to my small apartment and had myself a good ol’ fashion ball. I had many nights like this. Parties and nights out where I wasn’t so much trying to have fun but was trying to add another mosaic piece to my personal legend — the caricature I built, nourished, and protected…until it ruined my life. That night, I let my anger get the best of me (something I was prone to) and let out my frustrations on a glass screen door by putting my entire arm through it.
I remember waking up the next day to leave the hospital. They gave me a bag with my clothes from the night before. The right pants leg of my jeans was entirely soaked with blood. “Why the hell would they give me these?” I thought. I threw them away as I walked out of the hospital, headed home, and reflected on what had happened, for like five seconds…before I smoked a bowl.
Unfortunately, this incident wasn’t quite enough to teach me a lesson. Nor were many others that preceded it. See, the night of my 21st birthday was two years after I’d been arrested for felony possession of marijuana. I was on probation already, the terms of which included, you know, not getting shitfaced. Instead of taking the time to shift my perception, I decided to…go out, again, that night. I shouldn’t have gone for health reasons alone — I’d lost a lot of blood the night before. On top of that, the potential getting thrown in jail should’ve been a good enough incentive not go to either, but I went.
I should’ve just “came to my senses” right? That’s what all the self-help gurus tell you. They say you should reach a point where you understand the consequences of your choices and will yourself to succeed, or whatever. You should just change, on a dime, because you only get one life — another trope. Human history has repeatedly shown people not coming to their senses, spiraling downward, never recovering, and dying a failure. For every success story, there are many times more failures. This shit isn’t easy. And, you’ll never change your life until you’re ready to receive the message. Some never come around. You can, but whether you will or not remains to be seen.
I spent a great deal of time “not coming around.” After that weekend came a seemingly infinite series of similar weekends. Throughout my five year probation period, where I wasn’t supposed to drink or do drugs, I drank and did drugs daily for the first four. It’s difficult to hold a steady job when you’re always intoxicated, so I started selling drugs again. Sometimes I look back on those times and wonder “what the hell was I doing?”
See, I’ve always been intelligent. But as you can see, intelligence — knowing what to do — doesn’t guarantee you anything in life. Either things click for you one day or they don’t, which is why I write so many posts, multiple books, dozens of videos, all about seemingly the same topic. I’ll be here for you when you’re ready, just like the message was there for me when I was ready.
“That was the best job interview I’ve ever heard from a student in my entire life,” said my mentor and supervisor for the role right before he told me I wouldn’t be getting the job.
I’d always have periods where I tried to get it together. I sold knives door to door once, quit drinking for a semester because I wanted to do well at the MLM company I started working with, joined student council, and tried to integrate myself back into the normal social often milieu many times. But each time, I wasn’t ready.
My mentor knew that, as polished as my presentation was, I had no substance. I was still a major screw up and having me work for his office would’ve lowered both our reputations. He wasn’t punishing me. He was giving me room. I didn’t take it that way. Hard-headed and confused, I walked out of the office resolving not to work with him again. I’d done this many times – avoid talking to him for months, even years at a time. He always knew exactly what I was up to. But he never pressured me, lectured me, or tried to coerce me in any way.
He knew it might take learning the truly hard way to change and he also knew there was a distinct possibility that I’d never change. Working as an advocate for minorities and inner-city kids for most of his life, he knew all too well that sometimes, oftentimes, the message never sinks in at all. Instead of lamenting the fact that a good deal of his effort would be in vain, he continued to work with kids by trying to meet them where they were at the time and leaving the rest to them. He’d help and nudge you but to a point. It was the only way. You can’t push too hard. He knew that because used to be one of those kids, too.
Why am I telling you all of these stories? Because the stories from my life guide the way I teach and help others with self-improvement. I write so much and I’m so patient because I know what it takes to truly come around.
I get why self-improvement turns so many people off. You’re a single mom living in section 8 working two jobs — what the hell could you possibly learn from Dale Carnegie? You can’t even afford the book. You’ve been working as a factory employee, mid-level manager, barista, lawyer, garbage man, accountant, burger flipper, vice president of sales, drug-dealer, for years. It’s not even the exact job that matters, but the fact that whatever you’ve been doing creates a pattern and groove that you sink into.
Easy for me to tell you to up and just change your life, right? I don’t even know you. I don’t know what trauma you’ve been through, what kind of parents you had, how society screwed you over, what resources you have available, what obstacles are in your way, who rejected you, what experiences have shaped who you are today, what talent you have (or lack), I could genuinely go on here.
Easy for me to tell you that it’s “all in your head,” right? Your “head” is pretty damn powerful. Sure, perception dictates your reality, but it’s not as if your perception isn’t justifiable. You don’t perceive the world to be a certain way for no reason. You have reasons, damn good ones.
The more I write, the more I try to think about . . . you.
From the repeat criminal to the working class person to someone who simply has “golden handcuffs” working in a high-paid job they hate, the rule is a life governed by the past and living below your full potential. Getting any traction with self-improvement is the exception to that rule, anomalous, and it pisses you off when someone like me tries to act like it’s not.
If you figure out this whole self-improvement process, you’ll be one of the few people who do. That’s not a negative judgment on those who don’t. Not becoming self-actualized is the normal and obvious outcome of trying to live by the set of stipulations that come with being a human being. And no amount of chest-thumping gurus will change that, ever.
So where do we go from here? From where you are right now? At best, I can tell you my story and show you how I did it. My advice? Free. The hustle? Sold separately.
First, if you’re at the point where you’re seeking information at all, pat yourself on the back. When you get involved in self-improvement, it seems to ubiquitous, but the number of people who seek out this type of stuff pales in comparison to those who don’t. Many are just stuck in apathy and the grind of life.
How did I become a seeker? Again, I’ve told the story many times before. I stumbled upon a job as a manager at a video store, didn’t want to fuck it up, and started learning about self-improvement. The moral of the story is that, often, your sign to live a better life will come in the form of something innocuous. I didn’t go from dead-broke drop out to millionaire. I went from dead broke drop out to the video store manager at $10/hr.
Based on everything that had happened before, though, this opportunity seemed major to me. It was major. Who knows what would’ve happened had that not happened. For you, that opportunity could come in a number of ways and it’s all subject to interpretation. Sometimes its a matter of pure timing.
I can’t predict when, how, or if that opportunity will present itself for you. I don’t know. I’m willing to wager, though, that you will experience some whether you know it consciously or not. And again, it’s easy enough for me to just tell you to seize it. I’ll instead say that I hope it happens, I’m rooting for you, and based on my experience I believe you’re capable of making it happen.
Maybe that isn’t the sexiest message — that life is mostly about capability, probability, potential, etc, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. But just because chance plays a role in life doesn’t mean you can’t exert will over your own fate, you can, but it takes seeking, opportunity seizing, insight, and a ton of action to make it happen. Your past view of yourself holds you back, but it’s also a great place to look for clues.
We did cartwheels walking out of the mall parking lot, having just stolen $3,000 worth of clothes and merchandise. Actually, we didn’t steal the merchandise, per se, but rather someone’s credit card to buy said merchandise.
We devised the perfect plan. It was Christmas season — tons of people coming in and out of the store. Inevitably, someone would give their card to the cashier, my friend, and forget to take it back. “I got one,” my friend told me over the phone. He laid low and waited to see that the person didn’t come back for the card immediately. Then, I came in and “bought” a bunch of merchandise as his counter.
We poured those profits into other schemes — sold some of the merch direct, used that to buy couple ounces of weed, parlayed that into some ecstasy pills…we really created a little flywheel of profits. I was eighteen at the time. My friends and I spent the whole summer this way — we found a way to not just live, but thrive on a bunch of little scams and crimes. Take away the mountain of negative context from this and what do you find?
Prisons are filled with people who, given the right direction, would’ve become business moguls. All drug dealers are good at math. All these lessons show is that great talent gets misdirected by context, often. While you’re probably (hopefully) not a criminal, rest assured you have latent talents that have been misdirected.
When I see gregarious retail worker, I see the owner of an event planning company. When I come across someone who’s fascinated with pop culture, I see a Youtube star. I could go on, but your past is so skewed by negative social conditioning that you don’t realize how talented you are.
Even in the darkest of pasts lie seeds for better futures. Another esoteric kind of fluffy statement that’s true. Look back through your life with a different lens — one that puts your past effort, no matter how meager or “wrong,” into the proper context. Just because you don’t like the way your life has turned out so far doesn’t mean you didn’t learn anything useful.
Say you have a sales job you hate. You know how to sell. Sell the stuff you want to sell and build a company. You’ve been traumatized somehow — only someone who’s been through trauma can properly teach others how to deal with it. You’re an aspiring writer, but your life is kind of fucked-up. Ever heard of Bukowski?
I’ve gotten pretty good at recontextualizing the path and seeing in others what they can’t see in themselves. The clues are there and I’ll point you to them as best I can, but only you can make the change.
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” – André Gide
Self-improvement is pretty redundant.
I essentially write the same article hundreds of slightly different ways. Why?
Well, look at what you have to contend with by virtue of simply existing.
People forget that life is hard for everyone. No matter how materially successful, admired, well-adjusted, happy, [insert desired adjective in perpetuity] someone is, they have a special cocktail of b.s. stirred just for them.
You have you’re own special certain of problems.
And you need help, whether you admit it or not. You need self-improvement, whether you admit it or not. I know the majority of my words will fall on deaf ears, but it will land for a few. That’s all I want.
Why? Because I’ve been the person who finally listened after hearing the same message 1,000 times. The exact mechanisms of how and when it will click are unknown, but it does happen. It can happen to you.
So I’ll be here, often, constantly, not coercing you, but inviting you to join me.