6 Lessons I learned From 2 Years Sober

I started drinking when I was 15 years old. In some fashion I lived life for the weekends until I was 25.

I befittingly went to one of the biggest party schools in the country where I drank 4-7 nights/days a week. After college I got a job, moved across the country and was living the postgrad party lifestyle in the ideal beach town of Pacific Beach, San Diego.

It was fun.

On the surface, it seemed pretty normal.

Two years ago, I made the decision I was going to stop drinking. It was a decision I never thought I could commit to let alone wanted. What was most shocking to me was how I came to make the choice. 

I didn’t make it after some drunken stupor of a night (although there were plenty in my past).

I didn’t decide after I was arrested and thrown in jail (I got the charges dropped).

And it didn’t happen after waking up unconscious in a hospital bed. (you get the drift)

While I’ve had many bottoms during my drinking days, my decision to stop came at a point in my life where alcohol was no longer an issue- at least not in comparison to how I used to drink. 

I made the decision to stop drinking simply because I finally realized it was holding me back. If I wanted to be the best version of myself, it was no longer something that I could choose to do.

It seemed like an insurmountable challenge at the time but I can say from this vantage point, it was the best decision I’ve made in my life.

So what happens when you stop drinking?

Your true friends come to the surface 

Life teaches us that friends come and go. We’re close with someone for a little and then things change- life happens. When I stopped drinking it was clear some friends I had that were more like associates while some were close, but just didn’t vibe with my new choices.

There were two types of friends I lost.

Party Friends- When you are together, a drink is in your hand, and you only engage with these people at a party. You find a sense of comfort in the familiar face, but don’t really share any decent conversation beyond that. These friends are the first to fall

Bro Friends- This is the most disappointing. They’re your good friends that you’ve known for a while but similar to your party friends, the best times you share together are getting drunk and losing yourself.

Unlike your party friends, you guys are tight. You live together, you laugh together, and you really like each other. It’s your bros. Your bros are pretty comfortable with you and how you used to be. Bros don’t like change.

When I stopped partying, I was spending less time with these types of friends because, well, they like to party. Many people didn’t understand my new revelation that alcohol was holding me back, and missed the party-go-lucky person I was.

What I’m so grateful for are the friends who stuck by me. The friends whose relationship was beyond what we were doing for the weekend. I started losing touch with my college friends and re-connected with some of my core friends I grew up with.

I was becoming a better person and the people who could see that stood by me. 

If you ever do something that is bettering YOU, and your friends have resistance, it might be time to question if that’s a friend you want in your life.

You are on a consistent upward trend

It’s Monday at work let’s say, day after the super bowl. You drank and ate unconsciously all day and now as you wait for the K-Cup in your office to fill, you’re feeling it. You feel like shit. You’re hoping you can get away with doing a little as possible so you can go home asap.

Now it’s Tuesday and you’re feeling a little better. You got to the gym, but your workout sucked. You couldn’t lift as much and couldn’t last as long. You thought you shook off the weekend but it’s still there.

Wednesday- Humpday. Alright, things are starting to straighten out. You have more motivation, your workout was great and you’re eating better. You feel like you straightened out the weekend and are now back in full force.

Thursday- it’s on. No question you’re feeling great. You’re in your stride and you can smell Friday coming. You’re excited, happy, and finally fully back!

Friday comes and goes in a flash. Time for the weekend again! Guess what you’re doing? That’s right. It’s time to party and celebrate this great feeling.

You drink Friday night away and now it’s Saturday. You wake up slightly hungover, but you don’t have work so you feel good. Time for brunch. Time to go and drink all day.

Now Sunday comes and you’d rather not drink but some of your friends talk you into it. Easily peer pressured, you’re in but you know you’re going to pay for it tomorrow. Nothing you’re not used to by now.

Sure enough Monday comes around and your back where you started- Hungover, lethargic, and wanting to crawl into a dark cave. It’s “worth it” you say. How else are you supposed to have fun?

You’re back on the routine, pulling yourself up during the week only to watch it come down on the weekend. I was on this track postgrad. The middle of the week gives you the false sense that you’re actually progressing towards something.

Unfortunately, if you look at this graph below, you’ll see you’re actually going nowhere.

Once I stopped drinking and no longer endured the weekend hangover, I could then use that time productively. I’d get up early on a Saturday, go for a run, read a book at a coffee shop and feel freaking amazing. Not to mention it would only be around 10 AM by this time. I had the whole day ahead of me.

When you feel good, good things happen. I no longer give up that feeling to the fleeting excitement of heavy drinking. I stay focused on the realness of life, not the unconscious. I am becoming the best version of myself a little more each day. I’m no longer suppressed by the physical and emotional repercussions of drinking. 

You forget what a hangover feels like

Get this, when you don’t have 10 beers, 7 shots and 3 cocktails before finally passing out at 3 AM, you actually feel good the next morning. I know, groundbreaking stuff here. But seriously, I haven’t felt hungover in 2 years- 2 years!

This is coming from a guy who used to nurse a hangover for a week. In college I would have the kind of hangovers were you can’t sleep because your body is going through alcohol withdrawals.

The best (or worst) hangovers come after you wake up still drunk, so it doesn’t feel like a hangover yet. So what do you do? You start drinking all day Saturday. You think you’ve outsmarted this hangover, but sure enough Sunday comes with a thumping vengeance.

Piercing headaches, weekends in beds, and days & brain cells lost are no longer a part of my life. I can’t say I miss them.  

Even towards the end of my drinking when I’d have 2 beers at night, I’d wake up and could feel it. It wasn’t a full blown hangover but there was a clarity of mind I lacked that I now really value.

Besides physical symptoms there is one thing that is lost during hangovers that’s way too precious and you can never get back- time.

I can think of a thousand more productive activities than sitting in bed all day nursing a hangover and watching re-runs of Bar Rescue.  

I understand the value of this limited resource and now have much more intention with my time. As Anne Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

You save a lot of money

How you spend your money (energy) will come back to you. What you invest in is an investment in the person you’re going to be.

I was spending all of my disposable income on alcohol, drugs (different blog post), clubs, and not to mention transportation to get everywhere.

I was not aware of how little importance I paid to saving my money, and choosing to spend it consciously. Instead, weekends would come and go to leave me mulling over the hundreds of dollars I wasted on getting wasted.

The sad truth is that at a point I thought that’s why I had a job in the first place. I needed to make the money so I could have a good time- they went hand in hand. It’s all I knew and what I was surrounded by, so it wasn’t ever a second thought.

Now the thought of spending $15 on a drink makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

You remember everything

“Do you remember what you said to me last night?”- Not at all.
“Do you remember taking your shirt off dancing?"- No sir.
“Do you remember buying 3 rounds of jager shots.”- Fuck.

How nonchalant we are with not remembering a thing someone said because we were drunk. Blacking out is so normal and I was at a point in my drinking where it only took a few drinks to really take down the power of what I could remember.

Forget about the good conversations you can’t remember. How about the bad/weird/inappropriate/aggressive stuff you did? While some of the things I’ve done are downright shameful, when you have no recollection of it, it just doesn’t sink in how it’s supposed to.

I like to think I’ve repaired some of those brain cells over the past 2 years of sobriety. My attention span has increased, and there is not a conversation I have that I’m not fully aware. I’ve regenerated my brain into the highly capable tool it’s blessing was meant to be used for.

Relationships are better

As a result of all these steps, the relationships I have in my life are real, wholesome and they involve meaningful conversation with a pursuit of higher ideals.

I’m very conscious of the people I surround myself with and the influences I let in my life because I know that my environment is shaping me. Who I surround myself with I’m becoming.

My relationship with my parents have gotten better as I no longer feel like I’m living a separate life which has to remain a secret. I can instead just be myself, and know that they will respect this self.

While the relationships are fewer with my long time friends, they are much stronger. I no longer have to put up barriers or ask myself “how can I look/do/be so this person will like me.” Instead I can enjoy being who I am and relate to people on a deeper level. Quality is truly better than quantity.

That’s why for the people I do let in, it’s automatically a relationship that’s deeper than most any of the relationships of my past. I’m attracting these relationships based on who I am now and they are people who tend to see things as I do. It’s become my new normal.

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If you would have told me 4 years ago I’d stop drinking and be talking about things like high ideals and meditation, I would have said you must be drunk. But change happens. Who we once were isn’t who we have to be. Who we are can and is meant to evolve.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your wine and movie night with your girlfriends. I’m not judging people for drinking alcohol at all.

All I’m saying is to know yourself. Know what’s serving you and know what’s holding you back.

For me it was alcohol. For you it may be food, toxic relationships, or a job that’s draining. Take inventory of everything you do in your life and ask if it serves you. Does it add positive or negative energy into your life? It’s only then can you view your life from a higher perspective and make choices to change what you see.

It’s taken me a while to get here, but I am finally proud of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol. I no longer miss it and I can see how my life has transformed since. I also know this is just the beginning.

I look forward to how far I can go.

If you think alcohol may be holding you back, feel free to reach out with a comment. I’d love to chat.

The Foreword of Find Your Truth

When I sent my book to the first person to read it besides my editor, I was sweating. To have new eyes on it was exciting but I was petrified of getting the first review. Not only that, it was from a man whose opinion I respect a great deal. That man is, Alasdair Plambeck.

Alasdair is someone I look up to as a writer and value deeply as a human. His philosophy on success, relationships and just about all of life’s biggest questions are well thought out and have made imprints in my own journey. That is why I asked him to write the foreword to Find Your Truth.

So when Alasdair responded the next day saying he read the book cover to cover and would agree to write the foreword, I was profoundly moved and honored.

Alasdair's been traveling the the world the past year going on solo expeditions and writing his heart out. 

Alasdair's been traveling the the world the past year going on solo expeditions and writing his heart out. 

If you'd like to get to know me more and understand what this book is about, please read this. 

Foreword of Find Your Truth by Alasdair Plambeck

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I met Lou in 2014 at one of the weekly Friday mastermind meetings he describes in this book. Through those weekly meetings we developed a fast friendship that carried on outside the boardroom and led to us running our first triathlon together. We have remained close friends ever since.

When I first met Lou, he was timid, quiet and seemed unsure of himself. It is only now that I can see what a pivotal moment in his life we had met at. Back then he was just beginning to take hold of the helm, but the stormy seas of self discovery still lay ahead. He was still lost and sailing on rough, open waters with no shore in sight. 

I don’t know that Lou anymore. The Lou I know now beams with the radiance of someone who has turned to face his own shadow and discovered an inner light beyond. Now he’s shining that light on the rocks that so nearly had him shipwrecked, to help guide others still at sea toward calmer waters. 

It wasn’t until reading Find Your Truth that I began to understand what the hell had happened over the last couple years to have sparked such an utter transformation. Had you received a once weekly update into Lou’s life during that time (as I had) you’d be excused for wondering at times if he'd lost his mind.

But it was the exact opposite. “I’ve really gone so sane, they think I’m insane” Lou writes, reflecting on a hilarious encounter when six policemen turn up on his doorstep uninvited after his impromptu job resignation letter was misinterpreted by coworkers as a suicide note.

Call it courage, faith, intuition or more likely all three —it's no small credit to Kelly for standing unwaveringly by Lou’s side from the beginning.

Lou’s story is intense, raw and real. My hands sweated and my heart raced as I retraced his tumultuous voyage through the dark troughs of mindless drug addiction and the swirling eddies of emotional turmoil it spawned, to the lofty and solitary peaks of personal revelation: he holds absolutely nothing back. It’s a modern day story of recognizing the shadows on the wall, throwing off the shackles of self-bondage and walking out of the cave and into the light. And he wants to show how you can do the same.

While our stories may be different, we can all find parts of ourselves in Lou’s story. Suffering is one of the basic elements of human experience that we all share —it connects and unifies us. We are all in this together. In our own ways, we all must face the precarious situation of only being “a head nod and ten dollars away from the thrill of the pill” that Lou so jarringly describes. 

What you have in your hands is a brave and incredibly intimate story of self-transformation. Lou has taken great pains in these pages to share a practical set of lessons distilled from his experience that anyone can apply to spark positive change in their own life. And through sharing his own story Lou leaves us with one last lesson: that we all have our own unique story worth sharing.      

There is a meditation practice in Buddhist teachings called Tong-len in which one is instructed to breathe in one's own suffering or the suffering of others and breathe out love and compassion to all those still suffering. It is from reflecting on our suffering, says the Dalai Lama, that we "develop greater resolve to put an end to the causes of suffering and the unwholesome actions and deeds which lead to suffering” and that we "increase [our] enthusiasm for engaging in the wholesome actions and deeds which lead to happiness and joy.”

As I read Find Your Truth I couldn't help but see this as Lou’s own version of the practice of Tong-len.

He’s taken a deep breath in.

But his out breath is even greater.

Alasdair Plambeck
Writer at AlasdairPlambeck.com

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If you want to read more get the first chapter sent to you for free. You can also now buy the book on Amazon.

My Values & Why They are Important

There are endless frameworks and how-to articles on how to live a better life. I’ve read, studied and practiced many of them.

Above all the guff on the topic there is one framework I can feel most when I drift off it’s course. That being the conscious effort to define my values and choose to live in line with them.

My values are what's most important to me. They are the person I want to be and the way I want to feel.

I find that when I start living outside of my values I’m more anxious, I get depressed, and I feel like I’m running on the rabbit wheel which I found so enlivening to get off of.

This downward spiral can happen out of nowhere, and if I’m not aware of it, it will lead to much suffering.

That’s when I take a look at my values and ask:

“Am I doing things that represent these values and bring them more into my life?”

Often I see the answer is no- I’ve stopped making them a priority and replaced them with values that aren’t giving me the peace and fulfillment that is our birth right.

These 6 values are the pillars that hold up my house of life. If one weakens, I feel my foundation start to shake. I’m sharing these with you in hopes they spark a conversation with yourself about your own.

Presence

If I’m not present, I can’t see the magic of life that’s happening around me. My awareness can’t pick up on the subtle energies of my body: the ones that urge you to start that conversation at a coffee shop because he or she looks like an interesting person.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve connected with simply because I took a moment to get out of my head and be present enough to open up to my surroundings.

I believe the people you rendezvous with are put in your life for a reason, but if you’re not present you’ll miss them.

Presence is an important component of a stress-less life. Our minds are running constantly with anxieties and worries about future events, most of which never happen.

Cultivating a mindful state helps us stay in the moment, appreciate the beauty of the now, and fully engage in what we’re doing. We allow ourselves to get in more flow states, which is really what leads to day-by-day happiness.

Neurotic thought brings anxiety about a life that hasn’t happened.

Presence brings enjoyment of the life you are actually experiencing.

Gratitude

I am grateful for…

There is no point in my day that I can’t say those four words and not finish the sentence. There is always something to be grateful for and a positive to focus on rather than its opposite.

When I’m not living in gratitude, I’m falling asleep at the wheel. When I get upset over silly things like someone stepping in front of me in line, I let the darkside win.

Focusing on what I don’t have always leaves me in despair, and I always get more of what I don’t have.

When I shift focus on the good things, and when I can become grateful for the bad because of what I've learned- then I am riding the good wave of life.

Wisdom

“I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What started me on a path of personal growth was feeding my mind with books that brought new knowledge, ideas and continued inspiration.  

There are many great thinkers that have come before me, and there is a finite amount of time left to take in as much wisdom as I can.

Reading books, listening to podcasts, and learning new skills sharpens my psyche. It’s like going to the mind gym.

While bringing wisdom in is important to me, it is more than just an outer game.

I know that wisdom of self will guide me further than any book. I know the answers are inside me as they are you.

Taking time in solitude to sit with myself and see what the guidance is telling me is a morning ritual. I find meditation and contemplation to actually be my favorite practices.

Wisdom of self also includes understanding the types of people you want to be around. Knowing who will bring me down and who will bring me energy is important if I want to live my best life.

Health

While it may be beneficial to stay on my computer working another few hours, it’s not in line with my values.

When I am doing yoga at least 5 times a week and eating whole foods, everything I do feels better. 

I have a crazy belief that were actually supposed to feel good all the time. Suffering now to feel good later is backwards thinking.

Health, wealth, and happiness happen by making it important  now and taking actions that prove it. It’s a no brainer, a non-negotiable, and something I have so much fun doing.  

Love

Love feeds me. Love is me. Love is what I want to express as much as I can with my time here. Love is the miracle, love is the start, love is the finish. If I lose track of my love, I lose track of who I am. If I am living in love, I can feel- with every inch of my soul- the emotional beauty that radiates throughout all.

I’m someone who can cry on a dime and I believe that is because I make it a value to live with love. To show love, to give love to more than just loved ones.

It’s the greatest emotion yet I see so many people shy away from it, not comfortable talking about their feelings.

I’m a better man when I can love more and feel more deeply. I’m a better partner, I’m a better friend, and oh those successes? They come tenfold, and they feel that much better.

When my heart is closed, I don’t want to connect with others. It feels like I’m lonely in social situations and I just want to leave. It’s the farthest thing from the truth I want to live.

Inspiration/Excitement

When my 5 values are aligned, the natural by-product is more inspiration. Inspiration is the gift of my higher self which gives me the ideas, creativity, and will to act on the insights that excite me most.

This is the true joy of living.

There is no excitement that compares to being tapped into my purpose. I feel like things fall into place and life moves in a seamless dance. The people I need seem to show up in my life, and I lose sight of all those negative people who bring me down.

I literally feel like I’m living in a dream world. This is what I’m passionate about and why I’ve decided to pursue this path.

It is what I want so deeply for you.

So what are your values?

Who is the person you want to show up as?

If you don’t know, I implore you to take 30 minutes of your day to sit and think about them. They don’t have to be concrete and they can evolve and change.

What’s crucial is you understand what’s actually important to you.

When you have that figured out, you will be able to see where the disconnects are in your life.

If you value nature but live a life that cripples your ability to be outside, you will feel that. If you value creativity but work a logically minded job and don’t pursue creative hobbies, you’ll sense something missing.

Learn to live in line with your values and life will start living in line with you. 

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I’d love to hear what values you live by so feel free to comment or reach out to me to start the conversation. 

The Right Way to NOT Meditate

While at a Buddhist meditation retreat a woman raised her hand and asked what was wrong with her. It was the third day of mindfulness practice and she was frustrated that she wasn’t “getting it.” In obvious grief she asked, “Am I doing it right?”

Some shook their heads in agreement, evident they had similar feelings. I sat there holding my breath- wanting so bad to take the monk’s role and respond.

I’ve had friends reach out to me with the same concern. This “right” way to meditate people seek is one of the biggest blocks to actually meditating.

What’s funny is these thoughts about meditation are exactly what meditation helps to subside. The constant mind chatter that wants to give us every reason why we’re not doing it right.

We’re no good, we can’t learn anything new, we’re not worthy, and we’re an overall worthless piece of…wait a minute. See? Our mind gets down on us fast!

I know a woman, Coach Jennie who just wrote a badass book called, Hilda. She explains that Hilda is the inner naysayer in your head that wants to give you every reason why you’re no good.

You can call yours Dave, Ezekiel, Mom, whatever.

Know this- Whoever your inner critique is is not who you are.

That is what meditation can help you become more aware of.

You learn to look at those voices in your head objectively. You hear, “You’re not doing it right” and respond, “Get out of here, Mom!”

I think people get so down on themselves about meditation because it seems so simple. And really…it is.

The problem is we LOVE to complicate things. We think we need to read all the books and learn every detail before starting. Then when someone isn’t experiencing what the book said, they freak out!

“Am I doing it right?”

The right way to not meditate is to think there is a right way to meditate.

I wish I could have told the woman at the retreat to relax. There is no “right” way to meditate. You just close your eyes and do it. Ta-da, you’re meditating. No mater what Mom’s telling you.

Think Less, Be More. And remember- It’s called a meditation practice! 

With anything you practice, you begin as a novice and move towards an expert. It’s not Hamilton on Broadway. You don’t show up and get instant gratification. 

Like when beginning to play an instrument, there’s a learning curve. It’s going to take consistent effort and an ability to push through the growing pains.

No matter how uncomfortable it feels, or the amount of thoughts you have, you are meditating.

It’s time to beat the inner naysayer that tells you otherwise.

On your journey inwards, the outward benefits will come.

Keep showing up.
Keep exploring this beautiful practice.
Keep thinking less and being more.

Let the right way find you.  

 

4 Ways You've Meditated and May Not Have Known It.

I used to play beer pong like it was an Olympic sport. Every meticulous detail was important from table length to the brand of cup. 

Once the game started, I’d feed off the intensity of the crowd. My pre-shot ritual was taken in full focus. I’d splash the white ping pong ball into the water cup, give it two shakes to dry, then take my stance.

Stance was key.

With feet shoulder width, I'd eye up the ball in front of me and take vision of my target. With a couple light leg bounces, I would visualize the ball falling into the back of the cup. I’d then release with a high arc, leaving everyone in anticipation.

As I let the ball go, I knew if it was in before it landed. If the shot was executed well, it would fall into center cup, sending a splash of foam towards my opponents. A sly satisfaction would rise across my face and I couldn’t wait for the chance to do it again.

What does this have to do with meditation?

Everything.

I realize now that the reason for being such a good beer pong player was my capability to zone into the moment. Every time I picked up the ball, I went into complete present state awareness. I wasn’t thinking about what happened that day, or the tests I needed to study for next week. I was all in on my goal- sink the cup.

I was in a meditation.

Meditation conjures up different thoughts for different people. Some see it as a religious practice. Some are intimidated by it. Some simply don’t understand the point. Regardless what the perception is, everyone has been in one.  

Here are 4 ways you’ve meditated and may not have known it.

Great Conversation
Have you ever talked with someone where 2 hours went by that felt like 20 minutes? You were so engrossed with connecting with that person, that time stood still. You my friend, were in a meditation.

Peak Sports or Theatre Moment
Whether the fourth quarter of your rival football game or 2nd Act of West Side Story, I’m willing to bet you felt alive and completely in the moment. You were in a meditation.

Your Workout Routine
Runner’s call it a high, body builders boast about how much they can squat, and there’s a whole #fitfam revolution happening on Instagram. If you love your workout routine, it’s because you are in a meditation.

Your Entire Childhood
How much do you miss being a kid? No worries on your plate but what park Mom was going to take you to. Every moment of life was an adventure, every day showed new games to be played. Watch how a child acts next time you get a chance and you will see someone who is in complete meditation.  

What do these all have in common?
-Happy
-Fun
-Exciting
-Presence

So how can you have more of these moments in your life?

The meditation of closing your eyes and focusing on your breath actually helps have these moments happen more often. 

The reason you remember them distinctly is because you were actually in the moment, not in your head. You were in the joy of life, the now. There’s never another time.

By starting a silent meditation practice, you can train your mind to bring you more into the moment. You will begin to see life as a child again.

A challenge will bring a calm, game like, “How can we figure this out?" rather than an anxious worry.

Don’t you want to be happier, more excited, and have more fun?

Give it a try.

I’ve recorded some meditations on my YouTube channel to get you started.

PS. I don’t drink anymore but I’d still take anyone down in a game of beer pong.  ;) 

 

Live Your Great Story

Is our life story predetermined?

In order to achieve worldly success, must we be born with a special skill or to a well off family?

Is life a lottery that only a few of us get to play, let alone win? 

If you’ve watched a Hollywood movie in the past decade you know the answer to these questions is a resounding, no. Dozens of stories depict people who grew up with nothing and reached some sort of success in their field.

They overcame the poor conditions they grew up in with abusive parents, no money, and no real promise of a future. These people become heroes and we hear of their stories for generations. We listen, we learn, but do we apply?

We tend to separate ourselves from movie characters, fictional or not. We enjoy hearing their stories, but rarely take the time to consider our own. It's unrealistic to think that our lives are worthy of a prestigious story.

"If my life was made into a movie, would anyone want to watch?” 

The answer to that questions is uncomfortable. It forces us to think about our legend and our significance in the bigger picture. It challenges us to question what the story of our life represents.

Whether you're aware of it or not, your life will be told as a story. Great grandchildren will hear of the life you lived and what you did with your time. A great story doesn't have to be dramatic, it just has to be yours.

Do you own your story or does someone else?

A month ago I had a cinematic moment adding to my own story. With my face rested against the window of a 16 carrier Toyota transport van, I imagined myself to be Eminem’s character from the movie 8 Mile. I was writing ideas and insights into my journal and looking out into a sea of ghetto living conditions. Only I wasn’t looking out on the streets of Detroit. I was in the Jungle village of El Remate,Nicaragua.

I traveled to Nicaragua on a voluntourism retreat with World Travelers Association. I became involved with World Travelers Association after quitting a corporate job which forced me into a "make something out of nothing" mindset.

As we winded through rocky dirt roads the phrase “came from nothing” gained new meaning. Homes were made of any resource available including tin sheets, wood stints, and for the less fortunate-garbage bags. Flea ridden outhouses accompanied downtrodden vistas of jungle and makeshift living spaces.

From the outside looking in, the village people looked happy enough. They would converse relaxingly in siesta as children ran about and played. Village life seemed simple, peaceful, and serene. I thought they might even be happier than than most people at home. Ignorance is bliss, right? 

As we got closer to the villagers and began our volunteering, their faces weren't one of blissful peace. Instead they looked tired and fed up with the way life had turned out. Despair dripped down there faces in a cold stare. It was a look not so different to many in the US.

Some saw us being there as a chance to take as much as they can, telling their kids to “Go get something from the gringos.” Some were drunk, causing a scene at an elementary school while we were playing musical chairs with the kids. And some, or I should say one, was Harold.

Harold grew up from El Remate, but after getting to know him it was clear he didn’t grow in it. Unlike the restlessness and despair others in the village showed, Harold had a bright aliveness to him. Harold saw the distaste of life so many of his village elders shared and it didn't sit right with him. Through our conversations, Harold made it known he was set on writing a new story.

At only 21 years old, his leadership in the community was evident. Harold is one of the only people in the village who is pursuing higher education. Every Saturday he wakes up at 3:00 AM to take the bus to Rivas, a few hours ride southwest. He is majoring in English with a focus in English teaching as a second language. Harold has leveraged his ability to speak English into a business, giving tours of El Remate to travelers who visit the area. 

Harold dreams of becoming a writer and traveling the world. But what is it about Harold that’s separated him from the others in the village? Why is his view of the future one of exploration and not complacency?

For starters, Harold asks good questions. 

Harold asked me if I think our life roads are pre-designed. In short my answer reflected that we have many pre-designed roads, and we are always designing a new future with our thoughts and our actions. Harold’s response offers more insight into why the people in his village aren’t living a similar Hollywood story.

Harold said, “Most of the time people think they were born only to be under the shadow of somebody else. They think if they are living bad, it is because their roads were written out that way.”

This mindset isn't partial to just Harold’s small Nicaraguan village. This is a universal “victim mindset” with people blaming their circumstances for their problems.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone lament their life didn’t turn out the way they wanted because of how they were raised, where they lived, how much money they had, the bad breaks that always happened, the people that doubted them, the list is endless.They blame it on anything that isn’t themselves. It’s easier to blame than to take responsibility to change it.  

Harold told me most people in his village have this thought process. Harold’s view is assuredly contradictory.

He said, “We think in life there is only one way to follow, but actually life offers us many. We should reflect on what we have been in doing in this world. Only by doing this will we know what our purpose in life is.”

Most people think their story is what happens to them, not what they make happen. “Live a Great Story” is a phrase that’s become a mantra for me the past year.

As we made our way from carrier van to oxcart, I sat with Harold and asked him what he thinks it means to “Live a Great Story.”

 

Harold said, “Living a Great Story is looking for opportunity to not only make yourself feel good, but to make others feel good. It’s not just your story, but it depends on what you create for other people and the impact you have on them. They will remember you forever for that.”

To me living a great story is finding your authentic self, which I call your Truth. In finding your Truth, your Passion, your Purpose, you then are able to live with your highest excitement and fulfillment.

By living your great story, you tap into the magic of life. You embark on your ‘Hero’s Journey, a phrase coined by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell.

The Hero’s Journey is the archetype for the stories that have stood the test of time. You can find the Hero’s Journey stamped throughout Hollywood. Epics like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even Fast & The Furious all are outstanding examples of this story line.

A theme in the Hero’s Journey involves a person going against the norms of society and blazing their own path, facing trials and triumphs along the way. They ultimately reach their maxim or learn some great insight that they can then come back to their home and share with others.

This describes Harold emphatically, as his mission is to live his great story and show others in the village what's possible.

Campbell would call Living Great Story, “Following Your Bliss”.He said, “When you follow your bliss...doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.”

This means that life rewards those who take chances in the direction of their dreams. Fortune favors the bold. And fortune disfavors the entitled, resentful, and lazy. In either case there is only one person who’s responsible for the story of your life.

Your gravestone won’t read:

Mictim Vindset
“Mictim would of had a great life but was raised by shitty parents and had bad things happen to him. May he be remembered for being unhappy and negative about everything. RIP.”

You can’t take your excuses with you. Living a Great story isn’t reserved for a special breed of people. Success is not pre-determined. You don’t need to have a special skill or be born rich. You’ve already won the lottery of life, you were born.

Harold is a 21 year old Nicaraguan kid with his whole life ahead of him. He has the mindset to give himself to something that will bring him more happiness and success than he can imagine.

Harold is also the 24-year-old who just graduated college and has no idea what to do with his life.

Harold is the 45-year-old who just got divorced, hates his job, and is unsure about everything.

Harold is the 65-year-old who just retired and now is looking to go back to work because she’s bored.

Harold is all of us.

At any moment you have the ability to change the cards you've been dealt. You can make a choice to find your truth and follow your bliss.

Your life is a movie and you are the screenwriter and director.Pencil's in your hand.

What great story will you write?

The first step to finding your Purpose

Live purposefully.

You’ve made your last excuse, you’ve given your last reason, life is no longer going to get in your way. Life is the only thing that happens. You’re the controller and the creator, consciously or unconsciously.

Life only gets in the way for people who aren’t living purposefully.

I know people get sick, babies are born, tough times fall. Maybe these things weren’t planned for. It’s an easy excuse, but it doesn’t have to be the reason why you couldn’t execute. It’s a poor mindset that takes you out of control.

No more excuses, reasons, complaining. The first step to finding your purpose is to live purposefully. That means taking complete ownership over everything that’s on your plate.

It’s rare you see someone who isn’t in control of their life all of a sudden fall into their dream job and relationship. No one gets lucky in that sense. 
Your purpose doesn’t fall out of the sky.

You gradually create it by living purposefully.

That means you learn how to decide.

You decide to go to work

You might be thinking, “What do you mean? I go to work everyday.”

One of my biggest pet peeve’s is hearing someone talk about their job in a negative, victim-like way. You might not even notice you’re doing it when you say things like, “Ughhh I have to go work.”

I understand there are rules to follow if you want to stay employed but please, take back your power. You’re the ultimate decision maker. You don’t “have” to go to work. You “choose” to go to work. There is a purpose behind it right? Your paycheck is valuable, isn’t it?

Make the decision and be grateful. I write more about this in a previous post.

You decide how you’re going to show up

To work, to dinner, to LIFE. Make a choice that you’re going to show up for others in a way that is engaging, open, and caring. You always have the opportunity to create the experience. Choose to be the person everyone gravitates to and is excited to see.

If you feel bored in a conversation you’re the one who is boring. If you’re disinterested, it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough to care. You can choose to make every encounter a fun life enhancing experience, or you can continue with the same meaningless chit chat.

Sometimes you’re so tranced in your own life you lose sight of genuinely engaging with others. You lose sight of the opportunity that’s right in front of you.

Do you consciously think how you show up, or are you on auto-pilot?

You decide your environment

Physical, emotional, spiritual. Everything that is on your plate is there because you put it there. Take responsibility for it, stop blaming it on your circumstances.

You know the person who blames their situation on the way they were raised? It’s their Mom or Dad’s fault that they are unhappy with the way their life turned out. That person has given up responsibility and is content making excuses.

Or maybe you just “don’t have the time.” It’s not that you don’t have the time, it’s that you haven’t made it a priority to make the time.

Decide what TV shows you watch or not watch, what books you read, and who you let influence your life. Do these mediums encourage you, or do they leave you hesitant and fearful? Your mind is a computer and you are the programmer.

Take account of all the influences you have coming into your life and ask what place they have. Is playing 5 hours of World of Warcraft helping you succeed in your career?

How are your influences serving you? You may have to make the decision to change what you don’t like or add new positive ones.

You decide your thoughts

Your old thought patterns of what’s possible and what isn’t has you in jail. Why think about the things that could go wrong and the reasons you’re un-capable? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Would a programmer intentionally run virus loops in a computer? Then why are you poisoning your mind with I cant’s and I shouldn’ts? Here is where the influences you let in help mold the thoughts that come out.

The uber cliche phrase, “believe and you can achieve” is uber cliche because it’s so vital. You will never get what you don’t think you can have.

Meditation helps for re-wiring positive thought patterns. I’ll have guided meditations coming on my Youtube channel.

You decide there’s no other choice

I’ve been telling people this a lot recently. It may come off extreme, but it’s what I know. There are 1 of 2 things that will happen. I will be successful living my calling, or I will die. Whichever happens first I am fine with.

While you might not be at my do or die mindset, that doesn’t mean you can’t rule out other possibilities. Make the decision of what you want and don’t stop until it comes to fruition. If you don’t know what you want, simply decide you are stopping at nothing until you find out.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters who you are.

Making the decision to live a purpose driven life is what transforms you into a better person. You become more, and are able to give more to others.

Finding your purpose isn’t a math equation. It’s a journey and constant evolution. Life gives the purpose driven person what they want and it also directs them to where they need to be.

Make decisions often. Live life purposefully.

Then let your purpose find you.