“I have learned and unlearned how to live hundreds of times…I go through a period of euphoria, which gradually dissipates.”
–Paulo Coelho, Aleph.
I’m back in Cleveland, Ohio right now, hanging in my hometown (image below) until I decide upon my next move — which quite possibly may be to London in a couple weeks.
This weekend I stumbled into full detox mode, cleaning out the little bit of stuff I still have here. Bookshelves and desks, papers and mementoes, clothes and such. In the process, I’ve discovered a few old notebooks and some letters to myself. I thought it appropriate to share them here.
As always, I’m reluctant to share. Why? Because while they may show how far I’ve come, they also reveal how much I still have left to figure out.
Take for example, the final note, from May of this year. I admit that I still feel lost sometimes. Keep in mind, this was written after my 7 month blissful European wandering. After publishing an Amazon category bestseller. After getting a blog on Huffington Post. After I helped to relaunch The Escape School in London. Less than one month after I’d delivered a TEDx talk.
But of course, I will I share them despite this. It’s more important that I share them than it is personally uncomfortable for me to share them. I share them to show what evolution looks like — sped up and summarized — from discontent to clarity, and sometimes all the way back to discontent again.
These six notes were written at very different times in my life. Even if they were written chronologically close.
1. Flight from Chicago to New York. September 20, 2010.
Working at IBM, on a project at ______ in New York. Working in the project management group. When I started, there were three individuals covering this role. Now it’s just me. Doing mostly administrative work that needs to occur for the project to operate.
Not really thrilled to be doing this work. I try to take everything in a positive light, try to learn while doing seemingly menial tasks. Learning about things like project financials, etc. which I actually do enjoy.
I think what it boils down to is: I don’t feel valued, like I’m “on a mission.” Don’t feel like I’m providing much actual value, and that I’m making a positive difference.
I should keep in mind that I’m probably learning more than I realize. I’ve come to this realization looking back on every project so far. At the very least, I’m learning what doesn’t work. Seeing first hand failures, ill-performing, troubled projects.
Working on a 100 day plan [note from the future: whoa! guess I was onto this 100 day thing a long time ago!] to charter the next chapter of my life. I’ve been at IBM for 3 years and need to make a move — internally or externally…
Reading the book Ahead of the Curve — an account of the author’s two years at Harvard Business School. Starting to think about B-School, feeling like going to school again. Trying to figure out why…what do I want to accomplish? A specific goal/career? Advance my current career? Find a new career or calling? Or just from a general learning perspective. Probably the last one. This book is helping me start to understand my answers.
Want to start a Business Book Club in Chicago. This may be the first book.
Yet I feel good right now, at this stage in my life. I’m single, live in a vibrant Chicago, travel when I want to, am surrounded by friends and beautiful women, am financially independent and sound. I am very free.
I worry I enjoy freedom too much sometimes. But I think I’d regret enjoying it any less than I am. Life is good.
2. Melville, NY, USA. February 8, 2011.
I know I am destined for greater things. I’m young, passionate, motivated, determined, and maybe naive. But I’m certain I have great potential.
Just watched a TED talk with Dan Pink. I want to use more of my right brain. I desire Automony, Mastery, and Purpose. Tasks can be outsourced…I want to create.
3. Chicago, IL, USA. February 25, 2012.
The first notes on GiveLiveExplore.com:
4. Madrid, Spain. December 1, 2012.
Never forget what you felt that day in Germany. Never forget what you felt while in Metz. Don’t forget those tears, those dreams, and the truths you learned. Don’t forget that you only have one shot at this life and you have a duty to live it in the way you feel compelled to.
Always keep in mind: what you create is part of your legacy. Think about the people who will read it years after you’re gone, who will find inspiration and answers and truths to convince themselves to live out their destinies, because of your story.
It’s not about the money or fame. It’s about sharing your gifts and growing into the person you’re meant to be.
It’s as much for you as it is for the world. KEEP GOING.
5. New York City, NY, USA. January 2013.
What do I want to remember from this moment?
That moments of clarity happen against our own will. You can’t create them and they seem to happen organically — either in extreme moments of bliss or in moments of terrible suffering.
I want to remember that these moments of aliveness happen when we surrender to our true selves and become at peace with where we are, who we are, and what we’re meant to be doing.
The ability to reconnect with those moments is so important. It takes practice, and it will rarely happen when we’re not being true to ourselves, or accepting of where we sit in the universe.
Stay alive — and always go toward the things that excite you.
6. Perdido Key, FL, USA. May 3, 2014.
I feel like I’ve accomplished Step One — Freeing myself from the chains. I’m now mentally, physically free from sleep walking through life. Although I’m still challenged. I’ve “unschooled” myself, but now I feel, in a way, more lost than I’ve ever been.
I’ve figured out a lot about myself. But I realized I’ve lost my grand vision, my big goals, my direction. I’m free, but I’m still wandering.
What’s next? What do I dive into now? The Escape School in London? Maybe. Tales Of. Perhaps. Travel media and publishing? I’m not sure.
Whatever it ends up being…I’m ready. And I know what’s required of me: Secure my vision. Make big goals and plans. Focus and execute. Be focused, fierce, and tough. Be a maniac.
Re-reading these reminds me of a few things.
First, it’s all a process and discontent is an important part of it. The discontent or the bitterness you feel? Celebrate it. Because in reality, that’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff that’s going to propel you from where you are right now to where you want to be. Or if you don’t know where you want to be, it will get you closer to figuring that out.
Comfort and content are the killers. Discomfort and discontent are the sparks.
That Great Discontent you may feel about your situation right now — don’t expect it to resolve itself overnight. But do expect big changes to come if you slowly chisel away at it. If you act. If you make small changes and little bets. One day, you’ll look back and you’ll realize how far you’ve come.
Have faith that the actions you’re taking now (as long as you’re actually taking action) will grow into something.
Second, I’m convinced everyone is feeling some sort of discontent. Take the “least successful” person you know and the “most successful” person you know. Be comforted knowing that they’re all struggling in some way. Everyone is winging it, all the time.
You may catch someone when they appear to have a lot figured out. They’re bubbly and optimistic. But keep in mind, you may be catching them in the springtime of their journey. They may have just (barely) escaped a brutal winter.
The people who seem to have it mastered haven’t necessarily removed the chaos. They haven’t eliminated the rocky, violent waves from life. Instead, they’ve simply picked up a surf board and learned how to surf.
Third, your universe will continue to expand. Just when you figure something out, the universe seems to keep expanding, that elusive little rascal. As Paulo Coelho said in Aleph, the universe “keeps expanding and won’t allow me to know it entirely.”
Use your discontent. And if you still feel a bit lost, be comforted knowing that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably growing and your universe is expanding in proportion to your own growth.