I’d felt like this before. Nearly twenty years ago, in fact, right before I had a complete and catastrophic meltdown. Not the most treasured period of my life, but a period that I’d like to think I’d learned from. And, as events of recent weeks showed (but only by the skin of my teeth), it turns out, I did learn from it. Want to know what I learned?
IT’S OK TO ADMIT DEFEAT.
I’m not going to lie: admitting defeat at anything is not something I’m good at. Whether it’s a near impossible HIIT workout, a DIY project (I use the terms ‘DIY’ and ‘project’ in their loosest sense), a crazy-long list of household chores or, a totally unachievable deadline, my mantra is always “I will do this”. And, in the main, I live up to that mantra, even with the ‘unachievable’ deadlines. But not this time. Not this deadline.
Nearly nine years ago, Kate and I set out a strategy for pursuing our vision. Along the way, we got pulled this way and that, but we never lost sight of our strategy. That strategy was our dream. It held the key to everything we wanted out of life. We guarded it like it was a newborn child.
And, in April of this year we finally committed to that strategy. We went all-in. No income. No back-up plans. We pretty much bet the farm. But, that meant no distractions; and no distractions meant no excuses.
Initially, we figured it was a three month project to go from zero to launch with our signature product - a digital course that brought together everything we have worked on since 2002 into one, unique and special offering. So, we gave ourselves four months, just to be safe.
Planning done, every base covered (or so we thought), launch date set, and webinar schedule mapped out, we got to work. And, as we beavered away, we began to see that this was more than we had...
There is a belief (maybe you subscribe to it) that, in order to stand any chance of success in the adventure of becoming your best self, you need to clear the decks and put everything in order first. To ‘have all your ducks in a row', as they say. And I get that.
But here's the thing: your affairs will never be completely in order. There is always something new on the horizon. And, even if you get your ducks neatly in a row for even a brief moment, there will always be a ‘duck' that's more than happy to step out of the line. Your adventure just won't work that way.
You see, the best adventures (and the adventure into becoming your best self is the best of them all) are messy. They are ragged around the edges: unpredictable, loose, fluid. They seem to stand far removed from the humdrum of normal life, as they cry of freedom and craziness, excitement and surprise.
But those epic, ragged around the edges adventures are out of reach for those who stand rooted in the hum-drum of normal life. Trapped in a version of who they are meant to be, those people (and maybe you are one of them) crave adventure, while they embrace the mundane.
The simple fact is that most people will never get to taste the freedom, the craziness or excitement offered by those adventures they crave deep down, or to experience the surprises they hold.
Because, adventures - especially the messy kind (and, for the record, all adventures worth taking are messy) - are the sole domain of the real risk-takers: the action heroes and crazy fools who hold no regard for rules and order; the brave and reckless who live in the moment, with a sense of abandon for the future.
Or, at least, that's what novels and movies, magazines and newsreels, and good old social media feeds would have you believe. But movies and novels, magazines and newsreels, and especially social media feeds do not align with how real life works.
You see, a life filled with adventure - a life that colours outside the lines and...
What's the meaning of your life? What's its purpose? What are you living for?
To raise happy kids? To be a great husband, or wife? A good dad, or mum? To reach the top of the tree in your career? To be financially secure? Surf the biggest wave or scale the tallest mountain? To travel the world without a care to consider?
All perfectly good reasons to be alive, for sure. But is that all there is? You raise happy kids, what then? You surf that wave or scale that mountain, what next? You have more dollars than you know what to do with, so now what? Potentially, those are all good reasons to be alive, depending; but, by themselves, they are not enough.
Which is why the person with more dollars than they know what to do with still strives for more. It's why the surfer who has surfed the biggest wave, or the climber who has climbed the highest mountain still searches for that thing that's bigger, harder, scarier, more challenging. It's why the CEO who has no further to climb changes career, just to have somewhere else to go, something else to aim for. There's an itch that still needs to be scratched.
And that itch will never be satisfied by external factors.
You see, a good dad or mum, a great husband or wife, a CEO, a fearless surfer or climber, or financially set for life is not who you are. Those are merely things that you do.
Who you are goes way beneath the surface of what you do. It sits at your very core. You can always do much more than you have done, but you can never be anything more than you already are - because the person you are is complete - everything you are already lies within you - there are just be bits you have yet to discover.
And you haven't discovered those bits of you because you have not aligned your life - the things you do each and every day - with the person you are.
So how do you do that?
Well, think back a couple of weeks when we explored the search for real happiness. Remember how I said that the real you, and therefore real happiness,...
There was a time when everything was possible. It didn't just seem possible, it was possible. Nothing could stand in your way. No obstacle was too big, no challenge too great. Those were the days. Remember them?
Maybe you do, or maybe they have slipped from memory, nothing more than a vague and distant recollection of something that, once upon a time, was better. Nowadays, where once you pursued the cry of your soul with the heart of a lion, you pull yourself through each day, longing for that chance to slide into the chair, glass of beer or wine in hand, and just unplug from the drudgery of the day. What happened? Where did it all go wrong?
You stopped being you and became someone else: a version of you constructed by the people and circumstances in your life. A version that was compliant. A version that didn't rock the boat. A version that did what was 'right', instead of what was right. A version of you that simply wasn't you.
But you - the real you - never went anywhere. You just slipped from view, overshadowed by the multiple versions and personas of you that took shape as you sought to 'fit in' and keep the wheel turning. All that potential that once you found impossible to contain is still there, just waiting to be unleashed. Those dreams - they still live on, just waiting to be brought out to play once more.
So if the real you is still present, if your potential still waits to be set free, and those dreams still long to be explored, why is it so damned difficult to break out of this prison to which you have become so accustomed?
Because the world doesn't want the real you. The world is so determined to suppress the real you that it will do everything within its gift, and sometimes beyond that gift, to contain the disruptive, unruly, radical, pioneering, unconventional, revolutionary force that simmers within you; while building and supporting that version of you that maintains the status quo, that plays the game, that toes the line. That version of you...
Are you happy? I mean, are you really happy? Not happy with the model of your current car, your current relationship, your current job, or house, or wardrobe. Happy with your life? And how would you know if you were, anyway? After all, isn't happiness subjective? Isn't it something that's ever-changing? Doesn't it depend on all sorts of external factors over which you have little or no control?
Well, you could be forgiven for thinking that happiness - real happiness - is subjective and down to external factors, because the media and the world around you peddles that message with incessant vigour. Even an article in Psychology Today puts true happiness down to external factors - the things that you have in your life, stating "[to be truly happy] all we have to do is focus on what we have and not focus on what we don't have".
So, yes, you could be forgiven for thinking that happiness is subjective and down to external factors, but, not to put too fine a point on it, you'd be wrong.
You see, you can be thoroughly discontent with your car, your house, your sound system, your wardrobe, your job, your relationship with your significant other, or whatever, and still be truly happy. And that's because real happiness has zero to do with external factors - its source is 100% internal.
But you only tap into that source - you only catch a glimpse of real happiness - when you connect with, and step into, the real you. And therein lies the problem.
You see, the real you knows what true happiness looks like for you. The real you understands your passions, your values, the cry of your soul. The real you is fully conversant with what makes you tick. And, if the voice of the real you was all you had to listen to, then no problem. But it isn't, so big problem. Because the voice of the real you is just one voice among many, and those many voices are loud and persistent.
They are the voices that scream out of billboards and TV commercials, magazines and websites, each telling you...
Last week, I introduced the idea that too many of us spend far too long living as an interpretation of who we are meant to be. I want to expand on that, if that’s OK?
I want to expand on that by exploring the cornerstone of that epic adventure into becoming the real you - your best self - that we talked about last week: the ability to love yourself.
Oh so easy to say, but all too often excruciatingly difficult to do, to love yourself first requires acceptance. Acceptance that you are where you are. No denial. No avoidance. No judgement. No condemnation. Just acceptance. Acceptance that, while you may not like it, where you are right now is where you are.
But, acceptance that where you are right now is where you are, is not an acceptance of an ongoing existence as an interpretation of who you truly are. Rather, that acceptance unlocks a context in which the past can be acknowledged, the present can be understood and the future can be embraced.
It offers a baseline from which you launch your epic and ever-unfolding adventure into the person you are meant to be - the real you.
But to find that baseline - to be able to accept your present reality - you must first understand exactly what that reality is. And to do that, you must deconstruct the interpretation that you have become - the good, the bad and the ugly.
And that deconstruction begins with a process of discovery.
Who is it that the world encounters as you interact with it? Who is it that you encounter as you interact with yourself? What version of yourself do you choose to reveal (and yes, it is a choice), and how do you reveal it?
It is the attributes that you do display - the characteristics that you see when you examine yourself, and that the world sees when you engage with it - that embody the version of you that you choose to reveal. And, unless those attributes reflect the true essence of you, no-one - not you, and not the world - will ever have the incredible privilege of knowing who you really...
If you've ever found yourself driving behind a Land Rover, you've likely seen the bumper sticker that reads "One Life. Live it". That message on that sticker seems to be the mantra of Land Rover die-hards, but should it not simply be a mantra for how to approach life, period?
It certainly should be, yes. But it so blatantly isn't.
Instead of a lifelong and epic adventure into our best self, too many of us settle for an existence as an interpretation of the person we truly are, and that is like running a marathon in a pair of sneakers that are a size and a half too small: you can do it, but it damn well hurts.
As an interpretation of the real you, you try hard to live up to expectations, to fit in, to be the person you have come to believe you should be. The person you've been told you should be. But, somehow, you always seem to come up short of the mark.
The success and the plaudits soothe, but they don't satisfy. Laughter fades all too fast, while tears linger all too long.
All the potential that you once had to offer has slipped into the shadows, and the dreams you once held onto so tightly have long since been locked away, out of sight, out of reach.
That shiny exterior you protect so valiantly to present to a world that expects so much of you masks a faded interior.
Yet, somehow, you just know that this - whatever this is - is not all there is. Surely, this is not the full story. Surely something's missing. Something doesn't feel quite right. Something just does not fit like it should.
All around you, you hear talk about how amazing life is when it simply ‘flows' and leads you into ‘the zone' where everything aligns. But, for you, that's all ‘flow' and ‘the zone' are: hearsay and talk. For you, every day is like running that marathon in those sneakers that are a size too small. Where is the flow? Where is that zone you hear so much about?
Well, my friend, you know that the flow and the zone you hear so much about are there. Deep down,...
Whether it's in your business, your family, your wider social circles, or in the adventure into your real life, without relationships - good, healthy, solid relationships - you, and your endeavours, will never reach the heights you dream of.
And yet, especially when it comes to the adventure of your real life, all too often you find yourself walking a lonely path.
As you rock the status quo, as you challenge the social norms, and as you become who you are meant to be, you throw down a challenge to all who brush against you. A few will rise to that challenge, but most will run for the hills, leaving you alone in your victories and your failures, your highs and your lows. And, sometimes, being left alone to face those elements of your adventure sucks.
It sucks because you weren't created to go it alone. You were created to be in company - to live in relationship with others,not to walk a lonely path. And, the longer you spend walking that lonely path - despite all of your best efforts, grit and determination - the less successful and fulfilled you will be.
Now, I'll be honest, I love my solitude - in fact, I would go as far as to say that I often seek it out, and protect it with all my might. When I’m tucked away on my own, I find I am productive; I can think, and I can develop ideas. But then comes a time when solitude begins to bug me and get me down. I lose my focus, I become less productive and negativity starts to eat away at my thoughts.
When that time comes, I need to be around people.
The simple fact is that, however much you may like, on occasion, to have your own space and spend time alone, you don't function well if you spend too long in isolation.
But why is that? Why is it that, however much you like to be by yourself, there comes a time when you need to be around people? What does company give you that being alone does not?
Well, one thing company gives you is perspective. You give...
Success is over-rated.
OK, let me qualify that statement a little: to be more accurate, it's not so much success that's over-rated, but the deeply flawed projection of success that has seeped into our thinking and governed the trajectory of our lives - the projection of success that pulls you away from ever living the life you were made for - your real life.
You see, just as with the life you are living, there is success -real success - and there is pseudo-success - made up success. And it is that pseudo-success that is well and truly over-rated.
Pseudo-success is the so-called 'success' that you see all around you in the messages pushed by the media: of the career, the prestige car, the designer labels, the holidays on white sandy beaches that go on forever under unbroken blue skies, and the perfect house straight out of the home-ware catalogue.
It's the one-size fits all benchmark that determines whether you should be congratulated or consoled over the state of your life.
And yet real success cannot ever be one-size-fits-all.
You see, success is intensely personal, and is not defined in terms of what you have, but in terms of who you are.
It really is this simple: are you the person you are meant to be? If you can answer "yes", or "getting there", then you are, at the very least, on your way towards success -real success.
Now, if you were made for the high-flying career with the big bucks and corner office, then success may well come with prestige cars, holidays on white sandy beaches, and designer labels; but it is not those things that make you a success. It is the fact that you are living the life you were made for that makes you a success, and those things - the cars, holidays and designer labels - are simply an outcome of you being the person you are meant to be - the real you.
I know only too well just how true this is. I chased that benchmark of success pushed onto me by the world...
Do you ever feel like you've hit a plateau? Like you've hit a hump you can't get over, run into a blockage you just can't dismantle - reached your limit, and gone as far as you can go? Do you wonder if, maybe, that dream you have, that real life that you are creating, is, in fact, beyond you?
I felt like that just this last week.
But, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel to admit that - after all, I'm supposed to be a bullet-proof, resolute, pioneering, transformational, revolutionary adventurer, right? - it's inevitable that us adventurous-pioneering-types will have doubts, at least from time-to-time. And that's just fine.
It's just fine because, not always, but more often than not, these things - the blockages, humps, plateaux, and the doubts they create - will pass, and you will break through to the other side. You just need to know how to navigate that path.
This week, as I was grappling with my doubts, I was reminded of a lesson in how to navigate that path, that I learned whilst running on the treadmill (as you’ll know by now, I learn most of my best lessons while taking exercise of one form or another!).
Several years ago, when I first went back to the gym, I set myself a pace and distance target for my running; and I’d been making reasonable progress towards it. But then I got stuck. I hit a hump - a distance and pace that I just couldn't break through. I was way off my target, but, try as I might, each trip to the gym saw me fail at the same point. To say I was frustrated does not do justice to how that made me feel.
But then came the session when I broke through the blockage, and I've been pushing on ever since. So what changed?
My approach changed.
Instead of a tactic of 'get on the treadmill and run harder', I realised I needed a new game plan. So I got one.
The new game plan was nothing fancy, or innovative - just basic common sense, really. But, as simple as it was,...