As a small child I endured physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend. As I grew older, I struggled with obesity and endured years of teasing/bullying because of it. At my heaviest, I was 17 years old and I weighed 305 lbs. That year (2000) I was finally able to make some changes in my diet and I lost 80 lbs in 8 months:
2000 – 2014
In August of 2000 I went off to college at The University of Houston. I majored in Electrical Engineering. Of course, academically, it was tough. It was just as difficult to navigate the social landscape of college, when I never had any friends growing up. Unbeknownst to me, I took the mental skills I learned through struggling with obesity and applied them to this new challenge. I graduated in 2005 with honors in Electrical Engineering.
I began working as an Engineer 3 months after graduation. Life was supposed to be better. I bought a new car (with a loan) and I had a girlfriend for the first time in my life (23 years old). I hated the work I was doing and after experiencing significant depression, I quit.
My life fell apart… At least, that’s what it felt like:
- I surrendered the car for repossession. This, on top of student loans and eventual credit card default – I was $60,000 in debt and receiving regular calls from debt collectors
- The relationship with my girlfriend exploded – Admittedly, I was too emotionally unstable and immature
- I was at odds with virtually everyone in my life and eventually found myself alone in a dark apartment in Houston – The electricity had been cut off and I was being evicted for failure to pay rent
It was a massively disorienting time in my life. Many of the assumptions I had made about the world were being completely upended. What was I going to do next? I had tried being a personal trainer for a bit but I needed time to generate a client base and a sustainable income. The calls I was receiving from debt collectors made me very aware I didn’t have time. Briefly, I tried working as an engineer at another major company in Houston. It was terrible. I quit after 3 weeks. The office/computer work was something I couldn’t tolerate any longer. I wanted to do something I found meaningful and I needed money as well.
After research and a lot of contemplation, I joined the US Army in August of 2007 with the hopes of becoming a Special Forces Soldier (AKA – Green Beret). I payed off my debt in the same 3 years it took me to get through one of the Military’s most notoriously difficult training pipelines. Eventually, I served as a Special Forces Medic in Afghanistan…
Afghanistan Feb 2011 – Feb 2012
As I have taken time to reflect on these experiences and many other challenges, I have noticed 4 ideas consistently at play:
- Story – I have come to learn that I always have some sort of underlying assumption(s) about how life is supposed to work. A willingness to confront my own poor assumptions has been crucial to moving forward in life.
- Fundamentals – I always kept things simple. I focus on what I want the future to look like (A Vision of Freedom), I reverse plan to where I am in the present, and focus on implementing the everyday habits that lead to that future picture.
- Ownership – I always faced the truth and took ownership of the truth. Overtime I have learned to face the harsh realities of my situation. By looking at the truth I am fully aware of my current resources and the things (fundamentals) that I can actually control.
- Failure – Though sometimes extremely painful, I have always been willing to chase my goals with all out effort… knowing that I could fail. The courage to engage the possibility of coming up short kept me from getting complacent and comfortable. Now I see failure more like an experiment. I reflect on failure, learn, make adjustments to goals/plans, and I attack life all out again.
As I have seen it, practicing the awareness and application of these ideas fosters a shift in paradigms about how life works. As our internal world begins to shift, our behaviors begin to change and then shape our reality into that which we desire. We learn to meet challenges head-on, as we pursue our own definition of freedom. We learn to Adapt and Overcome.