How I got Everything Wrong, about Everything
On Dec 22 2012, I hit rock bottom. As I was moving the last of my things out of my apartment following my divorce, I slipped and fell down a long flight of stairs and badly hurt myself.
Every curse is a blessing and every blessing is a curse. Such is the paradox that is the universe. It took this fall to create the motivation that I needed to trigger my reboot, so that I could find a way towards peace + happiness. If you like stories of doing things the hard + quick way (and not the easy + slow way), and if you like stories of phoenixes rising from their own ashes, then you have come to the right place.
Accruing “debt” #
The period of my life before this fall had been quite rough as well — I saw my startup die a painful and slow death, and lost my life savings in the process (from 2006–2011). I moved all the way across the country to begin a new life while watching my marriage slowly crumble. I was estranged from my whole family, who lived in Bangladesh and Virginia, and had few close friends to speak of. I was frustrated and angry with my life, but I had been holding things together with duct tape for a while, and was accruing more and more “debt.”
Something terrible happened at that moment that I fell. Every single fear I had ever had (and ones that I didn’t know I had) materialized. I was alone. I was broken. My health and strength were gone! I had nowhere to go, no one to lean on, and I didn’t know what to do to get out of this place of brokenness. This was the darkest moment in my life!
The story that I had told myself was that I was never good enough. I was always trying so hard to be good at so many things, to achieve mastery of things (driving, martial arts, development & design, etc). However, no matter how good I got at anything, it would never be good enough. For e.g.: when I achieved something good in my work life, instead of being happy about it, I would just think that I should have gotten better results, or would always think about how someone else had done better; it was always about me not allowing myself to feel the joy of whatever experience I was having. Being very stubborn, instead of taking a step back, and asking why I wasn’t able to find some kind of peace or settling, I ended up just pushing harder.
And in the last 2.5 years (since Dec 2012) since the fall, I have become ready. Ready for what? Ready to recognize so many of the things I’d done had come from the wrong place. And ready to understand that I have had to take the wrong path to end up at the right place (and be ok with this). And ready to stop being right, and to start living fully, and being in the moment 😀. And being ready to see what I would otherwise ignore (and end up missing the core essence of what it means to be alive). We only perceive differences and we end up taking so much for granted and forget what we already have. And become fixated on all that we don’t have, or might lose.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained #
The following things had to come together for my behavior to change:
I lost everything, so there was nowhere to go but up. When you have a lot to lose, you become risk averse, and tend to have a lot of inertia and resistance to change. However, when you accept you have nothing, it becomes much easier to change.
The fall took everything away from me, and gave me a lot of pain. I was very motivated to get rid of this pain. While I was in there doing the inner work to let go of the pain, I decided it was time to rewrite my entire operating system and kernel. Why not right? I’m in there already, might as well pay down a lifetime’s worth of technical debt. Another way of putting this is make lemonade when the universe shits lemons upon your head 😀.
Something amazing happened at that moment (after I fell). Instead of being freaked out, I started finding some kind of inner peace and balance. My entire life was eclipsed into darkness by fear and pain. In this darkest moment, I had to make a clear choice. And that choice was to choose faith over fear, and play over depression, and abundance over scarcity.
I had to finally stop blaming other people and places and things. Let go of the regrets that I’d carried with me my entire life, and just focus on being in the moment. Just be thankful for existing. And start the long and painful journey towards healing myself and restoring my faith in myself, and in believing in something, and in dreaming.
I was in a place, surrounded by people, that are all about belief and bringing ideas and dreams to life! I was immersed in the special energy that only exists in Silicon Valley. And I took to heart the process of reinvention and rebuilding and pivoted my life, so that I could have a better life!
Mind hack #
The most effective technique that I employed when I felt my belief waning was the following. I just visualized my insecurity and my fear. Then I would take them and put them beside me. And then I would just walk away from them. It sounds like a silly exercise, but it really worked for me to get me to center myself once I’ve been pushed off my center when I became afraid, or had doubts or fears or anything else that was bothering me. And this is something that I had to do multiple times a day, and I still do to this day (at the time of this writing).
I adopted a different paradigm, where I focused on the why and the what, and didn’t really concern myself with the when, the who, and the how. And boy, did this start to pay off! I’m not going to lie and say that this reinvention wasn’t painful. It was very painful. But it was also the most important thing that I’ve ever done to get me to a place where I can lean on myself, and understand that when things are down or up, it’s up to you to find the silver lining. And as long as you can, you will have peace and a solid chance at happiness! And everything that applies to self applies to all your interactions and relationships with those outside yourself.
Dare to dream #
Here’s an example of how I applied this new paradigm to new projects. I would set my intention to start a big project (that I had no idea how I was going to implement). Then I would start getting freaked out about how under prepared I was, or how I didn’t have enough resources, etc. And this is a natural reaction. However, then I would take a step back, and just consider the possibility that what I thought was impossible (at that moment) was actually possible. And that I had no idea the who, how, and when of this idea coming to life. And that this was normal. Then I would just take my fear and insecurity and put them aside for a minute and just exercise my belief and imagination muscles — and try and see and feel what this outcome would feel like. And then I would get a glimpse of what I wanted, for a short time. And then it would go away. This was all part of the process. It just kept getting easier over time and I had developed that great mind hack to get myself centered when I would feel myself getting side tracked.
Here’s the thing — you really don’t have much control over anything — over other people and things. And you are going to make mistakes, because that is how we learn. Very little is learned from success, and much can be learned from failure. The key is learning quickly and then to stop repeating these negative habits and displace them with positive ones. So, what you do have control over is yourself, your choices, and how you react to things that happen to you.
Also, you have to experience loss in order to appreciate having things. This is another paradox. People who are given everything don’t have any appreciation for what they have and can’t truly deeply enjoy it. And people who lose things have to go thru the pain of the loss. However, without the pain of the loss, the appreciation and true joy of having something can’t be felt. And it’s easy to become clingy and hold on to what we have — that’s the dark side again. So you have to find this dynamic balance between so many things in life.
There’s nothing great about falling down a bunch of stairs and becoming broken. However, if you can create your own meaning from that and use it to move forwards and let go of things and rise from your own ashes like the phoenix, then you have allowed this bad thing to get you to something very good!
And if you can control yourself to find the silver lining in your life, every single day, then this will be a great journey. You are then empowered to write the narrative of your life’s story, rather than having it written by other people or by other circumstances.
Only by letting go of your fear can you see the silver lining. If you can do this every day, then when we leave this planet, we will have led a good life, one that is rich with the experience of so many special moments, that are made special from the ups and downs of what is life.
What next? #
Once you start on this journey, expect everything to change. Old relationships will get refactored, or broken. New relationships will form. New experiences will be experienced. Expect the unexpected. Always remember that you have to set the Why + What. This is part of the intention that you have to be so clear about — if you want to do this right. However, this is the hard part, the Who + How + When don’t matter (you have to let these go). But know that they will show up in your life in unexpected ways.
Remember that you are venturing into the unknown, and if you have read this far, then you might not be happy with where life has taken you thus far, and perhaps it’s time to make a change… maybe you are ready. And part of accepting this means that you have to be open to different things — different people and situations to come into your life in ways that you simply can’t imagine.
The unknown by definition is something you don’t know 😀. So don’t expect what you normally would expect. This is not easy to do, but gets easier with practice. Remember, this is a virtuous cycle and the more you do, the better it becomes, and the better you will do! It’s a wonderful thing.
My goal for publishing this article isn’t to show you that I know what I’m talking about, or have figured anything out 😀. It’s to share my journey, and write about it, since that helps me 😀. I am writing this for me, as much as I’m writing this for you. And if you are the right person then this has been a win-win.
I will say this much though — I have started to get a few things right, about a few things 😀.
To exercising agency to craft our own narrative every day!