This week I’ve stared loneliness and fear in the face. Not my loneliness and fear anymore but that of my friends’. I can see how much it affects them because I was there too until recently and it breaks my heart to see them suppressing these emotions. Being male, I want to ‘fix’ it for them but realise the only respectful and objective way I can is to share my story and hope something sticks.
For five years in Australia I was so focussed on being ‘important’ in business. I spent the majority of my time looking occupied (but not actually being THAT busy) and I thought the more serious I looked and acted the more serious the results would be. It meant everything I did was centred around my business and thus I created a little universe of people and things around me that enabled me to keep doing what I was doing.
Needless to say, it didn’t work out well at all. I got in a rut and I would wake up every day with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
One day in December 2010, I woke up and realised that my lifestyle was not only undesirable but was also unsustainable. But unlike any other time in the past, I was eerily calm because it was on that day I finally took responsibility that everything I had created was of my own doing. If I created a life I hated, I could easily create a life I loved. I had few real friends at this point, I had a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t particularly want or afford and the only person convinced it was all necessary was me.
When this cycle started, it seemed so innocuous. I felt I was just making small decisions along the way without realising that they would snowball into life defining statements.
From personal friendships, professional relationships and of course intimate partners, I closed up shop and created an inward spiral to become harder, faster and somehow ‘better’. My girlfriend at the time mentioned I was very unromantic, my friends said I was selfish and my clients said I didn’t care about them.
These are the complete opposite of who I really am in my heart but for some reason I created this corporate image with the belief I needed to be Captain Cold to be successful in business and life. How wrong I was.
My frustration and angst translated into spending money and living in a constant state of irritability, but I felt that somehow pushing through the pain would create greatness. I guess I had interpreted those self-help books with a skewed view!
My friends also enabled me by saying ‘well you have a business and it’s stressful’ as if it were a justifiable reason to be a cold disconnect asshole. However the reality was that I hated what I represented and what people thought of me. I wasn’t this person at all but I felt I had walked too far down the path to turn back. I was dangerously proud and it was possibly the loneliest time of my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
The silver lining however was that I would soon realise I wasn’t strong enough on my interior to handle the image of my exterior. You can only keep up the internal/external image game for so long until it implodes effectively causing a black hole and you risk sucking away everything you created along with it.
So I sold my companies and all my possessions and booked a ticket to San Francisco to start again. I’d learned a lot about business, myself and startups and felt I needed a clean slate to apply my new world view.
My first few decisions: to do whatever it took to always be happy and smiley, to let things flow naturally without force and perhaps the first and foremost – to be a loving, real and committed friend to others again before anything else – always, always, always.
I have met wonderful folks here and it’s been very easy and pleasant building close, loving friendships with people who have taken me under their wings. My friends here have opened their homes, their friendship circles, their support and their hearts to me. For the first time in a long time I feel human again. They didn’t have to do any of this – but they did – and thus it’s critical I reciprocate and also pass it on.
I suppose that I have ‘seen the light’ and have changed my life. I’ve really learned that relationships must always come first even if it means the deal is off the table. We want to be successful in careers but remember in the proud heat of the moment – business deals will always come and go. Friends however who will stop and help you for no other reason because they love and believe in you, do not.
When you’re faced with the decision to deepen your relationship with someone or to take advantage to get the gold, please always choose to deepen.
You might not rake in the gold there and then but when you’re down and out (because one day you will be), you can rest assured you will have attracted those around you who will help you pick up and rebuild your life rather than swoop in for a cheap deal.