Originally published on June 22, 2017
There is nothing like a little bit of melancholy mixed with wandering through an unfamiliar airport to inspire deep reverie. I am a pretty relentlessly joyful person. I’m stingy about my energy and over the last couple years I have become more and more diligent about refusing to waste it on disappointment, frustration, resentment, and regret. I wasn’t always this way though. It changed when I realized that the most destructive addiction humans have is to their own problems. Problems that they in large part manufacture. We stress about things that haven’t happened and probably never will, or things that have already happened and falsely believe we are unable to change. Unlike you, I don’t have problems. At least not the way that most people define it. Let me explain.
Missing a flight is not a problem. Getting the wrong order delivered to my table for lunch is not a problem. Waiting in line at the post office for an hour simply isn’t a "real" problem. Losing a family member to illness might be considered a problem. Not knowing if you will ever hold, talk to, or see a friend again may be a problem. Yet even in my experience, these “problems” come with unbounded beauty if you don’t fixate on the suffering and choose instead to celebrate the exquisiteness of what is really going on. Right here. Right now. Each moment is an opportunity. A tender, infinite opportunity to pay special attention to what is really happening and how you can participate in it. When my mom was sick before she died I saw a truly indescribable outpouring of unfettered love, generosity, creativity, and compassion. When I have had to say 'goodbye' to friends, maybe forever, I have delicately and determinedly delighted in the richness of small things - a smirk, a twinkle in the eye, a caring squeeze - that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and unappreciated.
So why do we addict ourselves to seeing the bad around every corner? Why do we get mad at our friend because she is flaky, or at the driver who didn’t signal, or at the neighbors who play their music too loudly late at night? Well, it makes us feel pretty damn significant. And it gives us a tiny little rush of power. And oh how we love that little high of “woe is me” with a side of “holier than thou”.
What if instead, you asked yourself, what is the opportunity here? Can you imagine how much more peace you would enjoy? What about energy? What about delight, pleasure, and laughter? How much better would sex be? Your relationship? Dating? What about your business? How would that question affect your team? Your productivity? Your ingenuity? It is a seemingly infinitesimal shift but I promise you it is a powerful one. This shift allows each “problem”, EVERY SINGLE ONE, to become a playground for your curiosity and your creativity.
The most incredible opportunities I have ever been presented with have arisen during times of seemingly insurmountable “problems”. There was a summer in which I became darkly and dangerously depressed. I lost a long-term relationship - one that I thought was leading to marriage and children - and a dependable 9-5 job that looked great on paper. I started smoking and drinking heavily. I accrued $70k in debt because I couldn’t find work and had signed up for a coaching program that was leaps and bounds more expensive than the $0 I was making. I knew I was in trouble when I drove myself home black out drunk one night endangering myself and who knows how many others. And everything came to a head when my cat - a little dude I had loved and lived with for 7 years - got run over by a car severing his spinal chord and leading to a painful, arduous death in my arms. All this transpired over a short and harrowing four months. I started to experience insomnia and long, sleepless nights of uncontrollable sobbing. I was unhealthy, gaining weight, reclusive, and going further and further into debt. Later I was told that trying to get through to me during this time was like watching bullets ricochet off of a tank. I was hopeless and I started experiencing suicidal thoughts. I did not see a compelling future ahead. It wasn’t that I wanted to die, I just wanted the misery and pain to stop. Additionally, I was furious with myself for indulging in the misery, which only deepened the depression and blind self-loathing.
So what happened? Well, first I asked for help. I started listening to a meditation app. And I made a reckless decision to go to an art and music festival that was expensive. It was not the "smart" or "right" thing to do but I had decided that I needed a break, and not the kind that comes from downing a bottle of prescription meds. This seemingly reckless decision set in motion a domino effect of connections, relationships, and events that have transformed my life into something unrecognizable to my former self. Something utterly magical and magnificent.
I fell in blissful, potent, unconditional love for the first time and HOLY SHIT it was amazing. I travelled around the world. Literally! I gave myself permission to live the life I had always dreamed of and to be a person I loved being. My health struggles suddenly began to evaporate. I lost weight, gained energy, and felt sexier than I ever had before. I began making love that was transcendental and divine, causing all my past experiences to pale in comparison. I began making more money than I had ever imagined being able to make adding several zeros to my bank account. My friendships became deeper, more prevalent, and more lovely in every way. My day-to-day experience began to sparkle with pleasure, and delight. I decided to become a vanguard of transformation in my work embracing the power of facilitating similar transformations in others. I now get to witness the majesty of someone choosing to unfold themselves and imbue the world with their unique flavor of juiciness and genius.
I went from an intoxicating, secluded hell to living in heaven on Earth.
I had been addicted to my mediocre, good-on-paper life and then something in me snapped. The break up, job loss, debt, and wallowing didn’t happen TO me. I chose them. I left the relationship. I quit the job. I signed up for the coaching course. I picked up the bottle. The life I was living before all those events stacked together and toppled was one that was utterly underwhelming and fundamentally limited. I was constantly asking, “Is this really it?”. I was completely deluded. I’d like to invite you to ask yourself if you are suffering from this same delusion. Are you addicted to your problems? Are you telling yourself that “This is just the way it is”? Would your 8-year-old self be totally tickled with the life you’ve created? Or would your 8-year-old self look at what you’ve created, let their shoulders drop dejectedly, and lose that twinkle in their eye?
In retrospect I realize that what I was doing was burning down the forest to make space for new growth. Purging the unfulfilling relationship, job, money philosophy, and shrug-worthy commitment to health so that I could make way for the most inspiring love and sex of my life, launch a business that makes my veins tingle with electricity, make more money than I ever dreamed possible, and have a body and health that enliven me with sexiness, energy, and vitality.
They say that your greatest triumphs come from your greatest struggles. This can certainly be true. I know because I lived it. But I also know that it is not the only way. And it definitely isn’t the most fun. I was dying a slow, painful death, choking on my own mediocrity.
Is the significance and certainty you get from your current life circumstances more important to you than your dreams? If your life doesn’t look the way you want it to, then the answer to that question is ‘YES’. As long as you are more invested in your fears than in yourself and the dreams you so desperately crave to create, you will ALWAYS be in the situation you are in. As long as you tolerate your excuses for why your life is the way it is, no one can help you. I can’t help you. Oprah can’t help you. Gary Vaynerchuck can’t help you. You are beyond help as long as you refuse to bet on and invest in yourself.
So here is the good news! There are a million and one ways to stop tolerating your own masterfully mind-numbing, boring, and bleak “reasons” for why things are the way they are.
1. Ask yourself, “WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY IN THIS?”
Every “problem” is an opportunity you have unfairly and unimaginatively dressed up in your own B.S. Your partner dumps you. Great! Now you have the opportunity to show up more courageously, more generously, and more true to yourself in the next relationship. You get fired. Awesome! Now you finally have that free time to start your business, or apply for a job that actually yanks you out of bed with a spring in your step because it excites you. You get in a car crash. Score! You hated that old beater anyway and the insurance money is going to be your first payment on that sassy, red convertible you’ve ogled since you were a sophomore in high school. Get it done!
2. Start by GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION to dream and to start entertaining those dreams in earnest. Craft a vision of the future - 1 year, 2 years, 5 years from now - that is so juicy it makes your mouth water. Let your idealistic 8-year-old self take a stab at brainstorming this new future. You know they are way better at dreaming big than you’ve been lately. Maybe you want to sail around the world, or be so flush with cash that you can send your kids to private school no problem, or meet your soulmate, or publish a bestselling book, or open a wolf sanctuary, or feel sexy in your body each and every gosh darn day. Whatever it is, dream big! It’s yours for the making and for the taking.
3. READ! READ! READ!
There are so many life-altering (literally) books out there just waiting to whisper to your heart, imagination, and soul in a way that will ignite and inspire them.
4. GET HELP!
Whether it is hiring a coach, starting a book group, enlisting accountability buddies, going to seminars, trolling Meetup for people doing what you want to be doing, or finding a mentor… Do it! The fetishism of “doing it all yourself”, aka the myth of the Self-Made Man, is a harmful one. Nobody does it alone and I mean NOBODY. Getting a pack of awesome people on your side and in your corner will catapult you further, faster, and I promise it will be a hell of a lot more fun.
5. GIVE BACK.
Start to practice generosity in a way that you never have before. Generosity is the secret ingredient to amassing your own formidable abundance and wealth. It seems counter intuitive but it turns out the Universe favors folks who give back. If you usually tip 15%, start tipping 20%. If you never give to charity, consider giving a small (OR BIG) donation to the organization of your choice. Even if it is only $15, you will feel pretty damn abundant giving your money away. Adopt an acre of rain forest and fancy yourself a Patron of the Panthers. Consider picking up someone else’s tab at the restaurant where you are enjoying dinner. Send more ‘thank you’ cards. Pick up litter and recycle. Surprise your partner with breakfast and some morning loving simply because today you are choosing them and they are still choosing you. Leave a sweet, anonymous post-it note on your coworker’s desk for the simple pleasure of giving them something to smile about.
Problems are a drug and you are choosing to invest your precious time, money, and energy into them! You are giving them the ultimate power. You are giving them the power to stifle your life and hold you back from experiencing heaven on earth. Someone always has it worse than you and some always has it better.
What needs to happen for you to say ‘yes’ to your own happiness and a life that you absolutely love?