The Decision Was Not So Easy: A Bullet to the Head or Change Everything in My Life!
When everything was at it’s worst, I made a decision to reinvent myself. Even though I wasn’t sure how to get it, I knew what I wanted…
In 1995, I sat in a rented room with the door closed, staring at a rifle resting against the wall.
I didn’t think I had much to live for in those first few months after my third business and second marriage died. I was convinced that my three children would be better off without me.
The problem: My big insurance policy was relatively new, and I knew that my kids would receive nothing if I off’d myself before the end of 1996.
I couldn’t leave them with nothing. Even though I’d given them nothing of myself for the past 10 years, that just didn’t seem right. I’d have to wait.
Where do these logical thoughts come from in moments of insanity? They seem like small annoyances at the time, but on reflection, turn into monumental turning points. Is it God appealing to the part of my brain that still functions? Is it the fear of failure kicking in? Or is it just an excuse to keep going until I can reinvent myself one more time?
Like a drowning person whose feet reached the bottom of the lake, I pushed myself up with the last little bit of strength I had. The beginning of my new life was contained in a phone number on a scrap of paper in my wallet.
That bottom was the low point for me. While things weren’t always easier, they were never harder. And never as dark.
But in that moment, in that small room, unemployed, without cash, without prospect, without hope, and unmedicated, I pulled the torn newspaper corner from my wallet. Smudged from being in there for nearly three months, I could still read the phone number my soon-to-be ex-wife had scribbled as I left her house for the last time.
“Gerald may be able to help you,” she said.
I didn’t call. I didn’t need help… until that moment.
Gerald answered the phone and agreed to meet me, even though he didn’t know me.
Those two small moments of clarity led to a total reinvention of my life. I had no idea then that I was changing everything.
And if I had, I might have run away in fear.
But in a flash, and without knowing how to get it, I knew what I wanted:
- Better relationships – with my children, a true life partner, and real friends
- Independence – I no longer wanted to give control of my life to anyone else – no creditor, no employer, no customer, no one.
- Peace – with a strong belief that world peace begins with peace in the heart of each of us, I wanted to be an example of that for others, but first, I had to experience it myself (And I was a long way from it…)
More than two decades have passed since that moment of clarity, but the goals haven’t. Sometimes, I forget, but each day I’m moving toward them.
I didn’t know it, but those three children were all I had left in the world. All my possessions, my money and my family were gone. The only chance I had of having any relationships was to rebuild the relationships with my kids.
But I had done almost everything wrong for nearly 15 years. They had no respect for me. And there wasn’t much love left. The greatest feeling they most experienced for me was fear. How’s that for successfully fathering?
I worked diligently over the next 10 years to regain their trust and love. (I chronicle that process in Bad Dad: 10 Keys to Regaining Trust.) But it was slow going. Patience, consistency and sincerity were the keys.
A funny thing happened though: As I loved them, I became more lovable.
And I attracted wonderful friends into my life. Those friends introduced me to an incredible woman. Now, I have a relationship that I could have only dreamed of with a beautiful, talented wife!
Although I’ll never be finished, I’m much closer to achieving my relationship goal.
There are many different kinds of independence, but I was praying for financial independence. I got much more.
An insecure person (like me at that time) couldn’t handle much independence. One definition of independence is “freedom from control or influence of another.” An insecure person is always influenced by others!
I could not become independent in any way until I became more secure in my beliefs and actions.
That has been a long process, one not yet complete.
I’m still haunted by niggling little thoughts.
For example, when I began writing Bad Dad, I thought, “Who am I to write this? I was a classic failure as a parent.” And even when I began writing this article, my first thought was, “Who are you kidding? People will think you’re a failure!”
Yet, I’m doing the work. That’s all that matters.
Over time, the thoughts are overcome by the new evidence, and internal security builds. It’s a matter of “acting as if” until it becomes a way of life.
Financial independence is not far away.
In 1995, I had $256,000 in unsecured debt. More than 20 years later, that debt is gone (paid off in 7 years) and now have a net worth much greater than I expected because I focused on my goals.
That’s not bragging. It’s not enough to retire on (if I ever choose to do that!) but it’s proof that change happens when I put my focus on it.
Now, I’m focusing on my online business with recurring income, that allows me to work where I want, when I want.
That’s key to my independent growth.
Building a community of friends and supporters who are creating lives of independence with their own online efforts has been a blessing. I’ve built great new relationships and continue to learn more than I teach.
That longing for independence feeds my need to improve these relationships as well as my existing relationships while building new ones.
The paradox, of course, is that the more independent I’ve become, the more interdependent I am on friends, colleagues and family.
Yes, yes . . . we all want world peace . . . ho, hum!
But really, who can change the world?
Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher and teacher, had a comment about this 2500 years ago that still applies today:
“To put the world in right order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
For selfish reasons, I want peace in my life. I want the feeling that comes when I close my eyes and know there’s a Universal presence surrounding me.
I want the feeling that comes when I know my heart’s right. That comes from doing right for others, or as my wife says, “being of maximum service.”
It’s a spiritual place of comfort and security. It’s a sharing with all things that reinforces my smallness in the scheme of things, but adds to my confidence that what I do matters.
Peace in me helps instill peace in you. Peace in us instills peace around us. And so on and so on. And eventually, that little ripple of peace becomes a tsunami of change where the world gets it!
All is well, and change happens.
Finding peace led my wife and I to give up a comfortable life in middle of suburban chaos in Atlanta, GA, and head for the hills in north Alabama. A harmonic convergence of some sort, still a delightful mystery to me, allowed us to purchase 95 acres of forest with streams, waterfalls and wildlife where I built a log house with my own hands.
It’s true. We didn’t do much. But what we did was important: Created a vision, I focused on it, and stepped toward it with action.
The future appeared in front of us disguised as the present.
And it was good.
That’s how it works. Reinventing ourselves begins with a moment of clarity, a massive desire to change, a commitment to our goals, and focus and attention.
Every time. And always!
The moral of the story?
Never give up. All you need is a little clarity and a lot of determination.
People who succeed may get discouraged, but never get deterred.
We bang into locked doors until one opens.
And then, we step through like we really belonged there… because we do.