Like most of Generation Z, I want to live a contrarian life. And so far I have. I’m an elder of this young generation, and at my old age of 23, I have a responsibility to lead the rest of us.
I knew I wasn’t going to college. I wanted to be a businessman and college isn’t for that path. College is designed for your future employer, not for you. The responsible adults in my life tried to convince me college is a wonderful option for everyone, but I didn’t see the point of paying money to start down a path I never intended to walk.
Most people thought I was naive for not getting a degree even though I was capable, both academically and financially.
Low and behold, student loan debt is the financial crisis of our time. But I’ll save that for later.
After high school, I got my real estate license and sold my first house at 19. But real estate wasn’t for me, so I found an internship at a marketing agency.
This time was the high of my young life. I was promoted to a paid position halfway through my internship. Then, promoted again. The founders were grooming me. It felt like I was the prodigal son.
The myth was created. The myth that I was a star being born. Fed by my bosses, my colleagues, my clients, and my new peers in the LA marketing world.
My pride snuck up on me.
The Fall From Grace
I was in the high-stakes entrepreneur world of Los Angeles. Now, influencer marketing is a commodity. A lot of agencies offer it. Just a couple of years ago, there were few that could pull it off at scale. We were one of them.
The company was at the heart of the frontier. We weren't leading the way, but we were close. And I was at the heart of the company. I wasn’t leading the way, but I was close.
The problem with being told you're amazing, doing well for your age, that your special, is you begin to believe it. Of course, it’s all a con. You can’t be great. Greatness takes experience and training and sacrifice and discipline and self-control. I didn’t have that. What I had was the myth. The myth worked.
All and all the experience lasted about a year. It was all built on a house of cards. Although the company was great, it was young. We were the epitome of a wild west business in a wild west field. It only took one blow to knock me down.
That blow was a toxic relationship.
It came fast. Faster than I could see what was happening. A few months into the relationship I moved to a place I couldn’t afford in downtown LA, and quit my job at the agency.
At the time I was convinced I was ready to strike out on my own. Looking back the truth is the toxicity was guiding my decision-making. Not just the toxicity of my relationship, but the toxicity I had let fester inside of me. Telling myself things like “I’m being groomed” “I’m great” “I’m a rising star.”
6 months later I was back living at my parent’s house. My toxic relationship still going. No job. My ‘striking out on my own’ was a failure, to say the least. I was demoralized. I had an intense sense of guilt for making a string of bad life decisions. The discipline I seemed to have disappeared. My confidence went with it.
I was depressed and anxious. Hopeless and spineless. Fragile and weak.
Digging Up From Hell
In hindsight, as the story often goes, I can see the whole situation with a lot more clarity.
The toxic relationship wasn’t a reflection of that person. It was a reflection of me. You don’t have a toxic life unless you invite it.
I was in LA. I was around the money, the parties. It’s not real life. It’s theatre. Every girl I met was a waitress/model. Every guy an entrepreneur, or some other buzz-word (launching a new crypto-currency was a big one). And everybody, no matter what they were, was also an influencer.
I was young and felt like I was doing well. I wanted the “things”.
To be let in the next tier of parties.
To make stupid money.
The dope highrise apartment.
Back door access to the famous clubs.
A girl with fake boobs. Or at least real boobs that look fake.
In other words, I wanted toxic success.
The success never came, but the toxic did.
I wanted what society told me I should want. You know what I mean. All the stereotypical stuff. Material success.
Not even material success I cared about. Just the stuff I was trained, like a monkey, to seek out since I was a child playing with my toy Ferrari.
I thought I was being a contrarian non-conformist but I was playing the same game as everyone else who thought they were special. The glory game.
This was a tough look in the mirror. It crushed my identity as I knew it.
That was only the beginning. And doesn’t mention leaning on weed and alcohol to soothe myself.
Finally, I reached the catalyst. Well, you can call it a catalyst or the bottom, it depends on your perspective.
Shoveling Your Way Up
I woke up.
I saw what was going on. I wasn’t going to stand for it anymore. Getting rid of the things that didn’t serve me was the first step.
Mainly, my goals.
That might sound weird, considering we see goals as good things in our lives. But they aren’t always. In a way, goals are a constant reminder of what we don’t have. The more we focus on our goals, the more we focus entirely on what is not, not what is.
I took the time to do nothing. I just read all day. I read a book, Soul Proprietor, that made my experience understandable. Reading it was magical. Like watching David Blane pull your wallet and watch out of his jock-strap.
After spending time without goals, letting myself just be. I figured out what I want for my life. You can’t know what you want to do with your life until you get rid of the noise around you. The noise of what others want with your life, or the expectation set for you. Until you do that, your path isn’t yours.
Realizing this, I was free. I just needed to stay free. I started only doing the things I wanted to do. I was creating the life I wanted for the future, but I was living it now. And I don’t mean being lazy, partying, and “just enjoying myself.”
I mean doing the work that really matters to me. I was intensely reading. A book a week, more or less. I also spent a lot of time creating notes on those books. I wanted to really study. Really become educated. Not just read, but learn.
Then I started two practices that kept me on this path and created my momentum.
Writing and running.
These practices completely changed the way that I view work. From overcomplicating things all the time, to making things simple and about continuous practice.
The practice will set you free.
If there is one line, one phrase, that sums up my entire experience, it’s that one.
Freedom is found in the practice.
Since focusing my life on these practices beautiful things have happened.
I got offered a job from the old company I worked for in LA. A better position, more freedom (completely remote), and more money.
I’m in the best shape of my life thanks to the running, and that’s saying a lot considering I’ve always been an athlete.
I advised on a book, and actually love the freelance clients I have.
I bought a real estate investment. My first ever, which is pretty cool.
My writing is getting better (let me know if that’s true).
The best part, I have no desire to use these new riches, moral and material, on any of the things I wanted in the past. I just want to do more of the work I’m already doing.