My Confession

So, here’s the deal… This post is kinda all about why I do what I do here.  It’s a lot of biographical information that may or may not interest you.  It’s very personal, and it’s a little unnerving for me to put myself out here like this.  However, I think it’s important that, if you’re reading what I write, you know a little about my background.  On with the show…

3401281513_e5a0967a6d

This question has haunted me for most of my adult life: what if, when all is said and done, I’m completely ordinary?  I’ve never believed that about anyone, but it’s my greatest fear.  I want to be great at something in life.  I want to leave a mark.  I know my wife and son love me, but I want them to be proud of me.  Do you know what I’m saying?  Do you want it too?  Deep down inside you, under the layers of stuff that you’ve piled on top of your ambition throughout the years, can you admit that you want to be a rock star at something?  Is that dream in you?  If it’s not, that’s okay.  Things like what I’m describing are intensely personal, and I wouldn’t dare tell anyone how to feel.  However, if you don’t feel this way, then I’m probably not talking to you in this post.  You can safely move on.

I’ve never really known what I wanted out of my life.  As much as it pains me to say it, I think I’ve always sought other people’s approval.  I’ve always done exceptionally well in school; overachieved without really having to put forth a whole lot of effort.  Never got into any trouble to speak of; never smoked a joint, had my first drink after I turned 21, nothing more than a speeding ticket.  I toed the line because I think it’s easier to go along.  I don’t mind confrontation, really, but I never saw the point in it for its own sake.  A lot of folks rebelled, but not me.  Looking back on it now, I kinda wish I had.  Not because I feel like I missed out on something, but because I think it would have helped me develop a better sense of self.  Up until recently in my life, I’ve never understood that my self-esteem shouldn’t be tied to what others think of me (or what I think others think of me, in many cases).  Growing up, I had a ton of self-esteem, because everyone was proud of me all the time.  I was doing great in school, didn’t have the wrong kind of friends, knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up (so I thought), and seemed to be on a fast-track to success.

When I was 21, I dropped out of college due to some financial issues, and took a job on the night shift at a electronics production plant close to where I was living at the time.  This was an extremely lonely time for me.  I lived a good day’s drive away from my family and all my friends were still in college.  My friends and I didn’t really hang around together much anymore, because I was working nights and sleeping during the day.  I spent a lot of time alone.  I had a lot of student loan debt, a lot of credit card debt, and a job that paid me pretty close to $10 an hour.  Not a recipe for success.  I distinctly remember one afternoon when I picked up my paycheck for the two-week pay period I’d just completed.  It was $660, after taxes. My bank account had less than $20 in it at that time, and I had written $800 worth of checks in the past couple of days.  I remember realizing that my paycheck wasn’t even going to get me back to zero.  I was renting an efficiency apartment attached to the back of someone’s house in a not-very-nice part of town, with a lot of ramen, no television, and a mattress.  It was not a good time in my life.  I cried a lot and generally felt sorry for myself.

I started reading a lot of self-help and inspirational books.  I remember hearing someone say that, “where you are in five years is entirely dependent on the books you read and the people you associate with”.  I had to believe in something, and that seemed as good a statement as any.  I took it to heart and read all the positive motivational material I could put my hands on.  I read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell, and a million others besides.  I made myself a student of leadership and personal development.  I found some good people to spend time with; people who cared about me and wanted me to succeed in life.  I began to get noticed at work, and I began to get raises.  I got off the night shift, into a supervisory position, and then off the production floor entirely.  In less than two years from the time I started on the production floor at age 21, with no college degree, I was making $45,000 a year as a financial analyst.  That was pretty good money for a high-school grad living in Idaho, let me tell you.  I was pretty happy with how things had gone.

Then, on September 11, 2001, I came in early to work and was getting going on a project I had.  I flipped over to a news website to see what the weather was going to be like that day (I think it was USA Today) and saw that the first World Trade Center tower had been hit.  Of course, no one got much of anything done the next couple of days.  No one except for me, that is.  I went and enlisted in the Army.  I was a patriot, and I was mad about what had happened.  I figured that I was one of the smartest people I knew, so I could help out as much as possible by joining the military and doing something important.  Within a month and a half, I was on my way to basic training.

The next five years of my life are still kind of a blur.  I started off strong in the Army, just like I did everywhere else.  Eventually, though, things started to get to me.  I wasn’t continuing the personal growth I’d worked so hard for previously.  I was hanging around with a lot of people who, while nice folks, weren’t encouraging me to stand out or to achieve.  I was frustrated by my lack of autonomy, by the fact that I was treated like a body rather than a person, and by the fact that there were very few things that I had control over anymore.  Eventually, I let it get the best of me.  I quit trying to achieve and excel, and settled into a funk that grew into clinical depression, and culminated with panic attacks and anti-anxiety medication.  Bad news.

The playwright David Mamet said, “We all die in the end, but there is no reason to die in the middle”.  I reached a point in my life where I came close to “death in the middle” (metaphorically speaking), and I didn’t like it.  One day I turned around and realized that I was 32 years old, had a wife, a son and a mortgage, and I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life.  I didn’t even know what I wanted to do until I started writing consistently.  However, I knew I was tired of propping myself on the crutch of responsibility; saying I couldn’t do something different than my soul-sucking job because I’ve got those responsibilities.  Goodness knows that my wife and son have reasons to resent me after a long day at work: cranky, terse, always dreading the end of the evening because waking up means heading off to the office again.  I was willing to sacrifice myself for them, though, because they’re important to me.

What I’m not willing to do any longer, however, is to stay mired in the same place with the same people doing the same thing, over and over.  It’s a treadmill, and I hate treadmills.  One day, though, after talking with a friend who told me that how I was living was no way to live, I finally realized I needed to work toward something.  My old fire for personal development came back; I began to dream again.  Have you ever been there?  Realized how far off-track you’ve gotten, and turned toward the goal again?

As long as I write a little every day, read a little every day, and keep my mind open for the flashes of insight that provide the topics I write about, I feel like I’m moving forward.  Even if I only have 150 twitter followers, and when I announce my latest blog post, I’m met with deafening apathy.  Even if my friends and acquaintances look at me funny when I tell them what I write about and why.  Even if I never receive the acclaim that I believe I should.  Part of me wants to be recognized, but part of me knows that it’s about the art and the peace that it brings to me.

I write the things that I write first and foremost because it helps me solidify in my own mind what is necessary for me to become a better person.  I write them publicly in the hopes that someone else is out there, someone just like me.  Someone who wants to become more than they currently are, but they haven’t had the advantages I’ve had, or been exposed to the thoughts I’ve been exposed to.  I write for me, and I write for that person.  If we’re the only two who ever get anything out of this site, then it’s good enough for me.  I’ll keep working a tedious job because it’s what funds my passion.  I’ve made my peace with that, and have realized that the job may be a means to an end.

But, here’s the thing: I think it’s impossible for anyone to put themselves out there and not create a following.  People are starving for someone who wants to do something awesome, and who wants to show them how to do something awesome, too.  People want to be inspired.

I want to help people understand what makes them tick.  I want to cause people to ask questions.  Deep, probing questions that they’re probably avoiding asking because they either: a- don’t know how to figure out the answers to those questions, or b- they know, but they’re pretty sure they’re not going to like the answers.  If I had to boil down my personal philosophy into one statement, it would be this: Quit lying to yourself.  What I want to do through this blog is find a group of people who want to live life authentically and honestly, and who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of themselves.  Iron sharpens iron.  “Where you are in five years is entirely dependent on the books you read and the people you associate with”, remember?  I want to associate with people who push me to be a better man.

For those of you who do want to be awesome at something, what are you willing to give up to do it?  Can you fight your fear and admit it to yourself that you do want it?  It’s scary to admit that, because once it’s done, you have to do something about it.  It’s not something you can ignore any longer.  Once you’ve admitted it, you have to move forward, or you risk disappointing yourself.  It hurts when you disappoint yourself, doesn’t it?  I’ve done it so many times in my life that I’ve lost count.  I’m done doing it, though.  I’m going to make me proud of me for once.

This was really long, but I think it was important.  If you finished it up, thanks for your time and attention.  Keep visiting and looking for ways to improve your own life while I improve my own.  And please, let me know if I can help you do something great.  Drop me a line anytime at jason[at]startbeingyourbest.com. Thanks again.

Photo courtesy: MysticMoon14

32 thoughts on “My Confession”

    1. Hemingway wasn’t nearly as long-winded as I am. His synopsis of this post would be pretty much what you said in 17 words, and I took 2000.

    1. Thanks, Johnny. Glad you pointed it out to me; I didn’t even realize it, since I’m always logged in when I visit my own site. Appreciate the support, too.

  1. Jason, very very thought provoking post. Sounds really great have something that you are really passionate about. But the question that comes to my mind is how to you find that passion and how do you know its the right one? Unfortunately I find myself just existing from day to day, doing something that has really lost its edge mainly because it is easy, convenient and supports my family. Although the dissatisfaction is there with life as it is, I find little or no driving force in me to change or find something like you have that makes it more bearable. I would love to hear your thoughts on this?

    Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Thanks for dropping in, John. I appreciate your openness. I’ve been planning on doing a post on my take on how to find your passion, so look for that in the not too distant future. In the meantime, thanks again and keep reading.

      Edit: the post is up

  2. Hey Jason, honest post! I could related to most of your beginnings :). I found your blog courtesty @vinylart.

    You are right. It is important to look deep into ourselves and ask ourselves what gives us the most joy. Joy, not pleasure. Pleasure is derived out of our memories and are feelings that keep us superficially happy. Joy is something you derive eternally because you are in sync with creation. I love the way you put the reason why you write. I had written a small blog post about this some time back http://saranyan.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/for-who/
    When you write for yourself, you create a masterpiece and that inspires people, gives them hope, and also sometimes makes them introspect. That honesty towards yourself will probably the biggest help you can provide the world.

    Keep writing for yourself. I will catch with your writings this weekend. Thanks.

    -Saranyan

  3. Hey Jason, I just discovered your blog and felt compelled to comment. If it is off-topic for your readers I apologize.
    I taught self-improvement classes for two years. One of the interesting things about the industry is the fact that I don’t think it has helped many people. I say this because a lot of what allows a person to improve themself comes from within. It is far more important that a man learn and believe in himself and his mission in life (if he’s discovered it) than in some Carnegie-esque conversational technique (like the compliment sandwich) that he read in a book. But that is a hard sell. A person who doesn’t like themself does not want to be told to “be yourself.” And techniques are easier pills to swallow than self-reflection. And so the need for empathetic teachers who can make a difference is still there. Now I’m rambling :). Here’s to wishing you the best!
    R.J.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Glad you enjoyed it. I love Hugh, as well. Some great thinking there. I hope to someday have such an extensive blog history of challenging, creative content.

  4. i can relate to so much that you’ve said in this blog. I, too, want to do something I’m proud of. I have committed to myself that i will never, ever work in cubicle hell again. It sucked me dry and left me bitter, lost, and depressed.

    Right now, I’m writing, a little (I’ve almost abandoned my blog because I feel it is irrelevant, meaningless) in my journal. I’m reading lots of self help books, hoping to kick my butt into gear.

    Thanks for putting words to my fears, feelings and thoughts.

    1. Glad, keep writing whatever you do. I know it’s not a panacea, but for me, it’s the ONE thing that brought the rest into focus. Keep going, and let me know if I can help out in any way. Excited to hear how things go for you!

      Jason

  5. Right. On. This is my favorite part and the golden nugget of this post: “What I want to do through this blog is find a group of people who want to live life authentically and honestly, and who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of themselves. Iron sharpens iron. “Where you are in five years is entirely dependent on the books you read and the people you associate with”, remember? I want to associate with people who push me to be a better man.”
    I’ll insert “woman” for “man” there.
    I am often astounded at what people will settle for. I feel I have the opposite problem and change my life up too much because I want to absorb and experience everything…thus people often see me as not able to be content. There is a balance in there somewhere.
    I also think your post speaks to a cycle – I believe we need to settle in at some point long enough to learn a skill, contribute to the dynmaics of a work environment and get through the learning curves of relationships. But we need to let ourselves be pushed to learn the next thing. We will drift into boredom and apathy otherwise. Your discontent you write about is the symptom of someone not willing to settle or be bored. I see it as a sign of moving forward. It’s the decision to act on that or not that separates the settlers from the those who want to keep progressing. You are clearly one who will not be ok with settling and as a bonus you inspire others to not settle. You inspired me. Thank you.

    1. Robyn, thanks! I think that you’re right; it’s a cycle of discontent that moves people forward. Everyone gets to a point where they feel they’ve “arrived”, but after a while, that feeling fades, and you have to move on and grow some more. I’m at that point now, and it’s fun and scary and motivating all at the same time.

  6. I feel in a similar place to you right now, so I can relate. I have had my business idea and website on the back burner since my first daughter was 18 months old (she is 3 now). I had been telling myself that I was waiting until I had enough time, or the right time came along, to get started on it. And then I went back to work full time to support us while I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter, since my husband was just out of the Navy and had no idea what he wanted to do. So with the addition of another child, my ideas were put on the back BACK burner. But then in February of this year, it finally dawned on me…You know what?! I’m never going to have enough time nor will there be a right time. So I decided to just do it. It’s been many late nights (easiest to do at night when kids are in bed) and even long days of working, but in the end I have to believe that all my work will pay off. i won’t know unless I try. And I’m tired of lying to myself that I don’t want more, or better yet don’t deserve more blessings than I already have.

    1. I so hear you, Karianne! I have a two and a half year old at home, and I really do this writing as therapy. Not to cope with him :), but because I want to be a better dad, and the only way I can do that is if I’m a better person. And following my dreams is what makes me a better person. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep me posted on how it goes!

      Jason

  7. Wow!!! Jason, Great post..
    Not sure, how I got here, but I love your writing!!! I think I’ve lived the same exact life as you had until 21. I was (un?)fortunate to finish college and get stuck!!!
    Looking forward to read-thru the site..
    you rock!
    -Vinodh

    1. Thanks, Vinodh! I did finish my degree (eventually), and even got an MBA. Nothing wrong with college, as long as you have something you want to get out of the experience. Be it the degree or just four years of fun (expensive fun, but fun). What’s important is you taking the time to figure out what it is you were meant to do. Let me know what you’re doing to get unstuck, if you have the time. Thanks again.

  8. Thanks for putting your honest, vulnerable experience out on the line. I really appreciate the Mamet quote especially–it made me realize that I really did “die in the middle” a few years ago when I let my life become stagnant. And there’s a danger of it happening again. I’ve just finished a master’s degree that will allow me to finally follow my passion, and the grim reality of the current job market is leading me to view circumstances from a desperation point of view, to take any opportunity just to be employed… But a miserable not-right-for-me job was what led me to go back to school in the first place. My intention at this point is to stop trying to do it all “the right way” and approach it as if I *can* make it happen however I want–as long as I know what I want and am willing to create circumstances, not just be driven by “how things are.”

    1. My word, Tracy; it’s like you’ve been reading my mail! I, too, went back to school to get an advanced degree so I could get out of a job I didn’t like, and then took a position for the wrong reasons (seems like you’re ahead of me in avoiding that trap, though!). Refusing to be a victim of circumstance, like you mentioned, is the key to taking back control. Keep me posted on how it goes.

  9. Hello Jason!! Just came across your blog, and reading this post made me feel like I am reading my own thoughts. I have not yet done as well as you have after facing difficult problems in school. But I am hoping someday I will. You really spoke to me. I will continue to read and see where this takes me. Thanks.

  10. I just found your blog, and truly appreciate the words that you have shared. I am embarking on my personal dream for myself and going back to school at 27 years old. (I'm going to Nursing School) This is a very scary endeavor leaving behind a job where I was making money, to now spending all of my hard earned savings on school/living! Your blog has inspired me, however, to continue to believe in my dreams and to focus on the final goal of making "me proud of me". I just read a great book called, The 5 Rules of Thought, in it the author says that once you have set a goal for your life you must "See it Done". Envision your success and hold that thought never letting go of the belief in yourself. (of the higher power within you.) I am excited to start following your blog, and I just wanted you to know that you inspired me this morning. I will proudly join the ranks of those wishing to be something more, to do something more, to live extraordinary lives! Thanks for sharing. Namaste~

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Teniah! Best of luck to you as you begin nursing school; I have a friend who's going through right now. Seems pretty tough from where I'm standing, but unbeliveably rewarding to my friend!

  11. Thank you so much for your honesty. I think I lost myself twenty years ago, when I lost a dream that had guided my life through middle and high school. When I arrived at college, I let a couple of events get in the way of my path – and I never found that path again. Instead, I got a bureaucratic job, was married, and had two kids. I love my family very much, but I turned around recently and realized I don't know what happened to those twenty years. And to my dream. And to myself. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you for that.

  12. Thank you so much for your honesty. I think I lost myself twenty years ago, when I lost a dream that had guided my life through middle and high school. When I arrived at college, I let a couple of events get in the way of my path – and I never found that path again. Instead, I got a bureaucratic job, was married, and had two kids. I love my family very much, but I turned around recently and realized I don't know what happened to those twenty years. And to my dream. And to myself. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you for that.

  13. Great Blog, Jason! I just happened to stumble upon your bnog while doing some research for a project I'm designing for my 8th grade American History class I teach. I can definitely relate to some of the challenges that you have stated and some of your readers mentioned, too( Momof2, Teniah, Tracy) and how difficult it is to hit the curve balls that life throws you!! More to come…..

  14. Three things that helped me turn things around, actually four: (1)
    I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior at age 21 (that's the only “Higher Power” I know that really works); (2) I ended up burnt out in management and had to see opportunity in the midst of failure; (3) I started walking in my passion (teaching) even though I knew I wouldn't wake up being “Donald Trump” in the morning and would probably be viewed as a really nice guy who just didn't make much of himself by some of my family and peers: and (4) I poured my heart, soul and mind into what I loved and the Lord has unbelievably blessed me beyond anything I could ever have imagined!!! I am even able to support my family (I'm still not Donald trump–but it's not about money as far as I'm concerned) and I am more fulfilled at 53 than I have ever been in my entire life!! i truly love doing what I am doing!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *