It was the summer of 2008, also known as The Beginning of the End. I was thirty years old, married and living in Spokane, Washington. My twenties had been spent enjoying a great economy and a booming real estate market. I had been developing real estate and enjoying some substantial success. However, it became very apparent that my business endeavors were in serious trouble. Mistakes were made, projects were stalling and the market was sliding toward the cliff. The unavoidable path that suddenly lay before me left me speechless. I spent months trying everything I could to avoid the inevitable. It was late August when I realized, we were finished.
Running out of money, I had to tell each of my business partners I would not survive the next few months. Everything was about to burn right in front of me. I would have to file for bankruptcy and it was going to hurt like nothing I’d ever felt before. This would take years to recover from.
What would I do? Where would we go?
Thankfully for us it was to my parents’ house, more specifically, their basement. At this time, we were also expecting our first child. I could just hear me telling my new daughter, “When you’re old enough, you can eat Top Ramen everyday just like Dad. Forever!” To my wife’s relief, that didn’t happen.
As the financial crisis hit our whole country, I was definitely not alone in my misfortune. However, as I watched the political and financial worlds finger-point and place blame, I made an important decision that spared me a great deal of bitterness and pain. I wasn’t going to be a victim. This was crucial not only for me professionally, but also personally because while ambitious, I really had not yet felt deeply happy as an adult and it troubled me.
This new resolve grew slowly in me through that winter. This “failure”–as many would see it–was going to be my opportunity. This was my chance to methodically and honestly answer some hard questions. There were many, but two of the biggest were:
1. At this point, is the person I’ve become who I really want to be?
On some levels, yes…. but at a core level I had to answer “No”. My gut told me I had missed the mark. (FYI, your gut never lies.)
2. So who do I want to be? What do I want to do with my life?
(You don’t get many chances to reinvent yourself.)
I refused to go find a job. I forced myself to stay uncomfortable and in the pressure cooker. I knew if I got into a comfortable situation it might destroy this chance at authentic self-discovery. I’m as lazy as anyone and once you hit your thirties, security and comfort start to creep up the psychological priority list. I had to avoid this. I firmly believed that the fire of this situation was my chance to be changed forever and pioneer a new trail, a path truly authentic to me. It was my opportunity to finally respect and listen to the creative part of me that I had belittled and tried to silence my whole life.
Those days and nights in my parents’ basement, I began to study in great depth the power of my thoughts and beliefs. I began daily disciplines of gratitude, reaffirming my faith about what I was going to do and how I wanted to live life. I started studying people who had succeeded in their creative endeavors. I also drank too much, but we’ll talk about that some other time. 😉 My wife started writing her first novel and I began reconnecting with music.
There were good things being cultivated in me, but the years that followed were still hard and painful. We moved to Nashville…. TWICE! (The second time we stayed). This was really important for me and my family. Finally, in late 2012, I released my first single called “Winter Is Over”. This song would be my final words to a brutal four years, but also a statement of faith. It was time. Our focus, faith, work and discipline was going to see its day in the sun. And it really has. This year, I’ve released four singles and two albums. My wife has released the first two novels in her series. It’s been a huge year and the gratitude I feel for it is overwhelming.
I look back and realize how important it was that I resolved to stay in the fire. If I hadn’t embraced the opportunity that my catastrophic failure had created, I promise you, I’d be somewhere miserable right now.
So, in summary… Persevere! Believe! And every other positive thing you’ve seen written on a t-shirt! They are all correct. Listen to your gut. If it’s authentic to your core, then stay the course. You will be rewarded. It might not mean you’re rich, but you’ll be happy. I can confirm it’s much better to be happy… but rich and happy would work too. 😉
Peace and wisdom be yours on the journey. I hope this inspires you.