Please allow me to give you a little context about who I am and what I've gone through to become the man I am today. This is the story of my journey through Inauthentic Life Syndrome or ILS, a term I coined to describe the experience of working through my ego and coming into a full understanding of my life's purpose. Brace yourself, this ride is going to get a little bumpy!
SOMETIMES BEING AT A LOSS FOR WORDS IS A GOOD THING
I have always been a talker that was prone to questionable decisions, especially when I was younger. When I was a fresh-faced, not-so-sober college junior, I was partying and took one too many jaw-clench inducing "happy pills" which led to a debilitating jaw injury that left me unable to talk or even smile for a year. A YEAR!
I found myself alone in my room, silently reflecting on my life with my jaw locked up in excruciating pain 24/7. I wasn’t able to speak, but thankfully I was able to think clearly for the first time in years. My own poor choices had led me to this prison; I knew I needed to make a change. So I made a drastic life decision.
It was time to put on my big boy shoes, and I saw them as Italian leather loafers standing in front of a jury. It was time to go law school.
Great decision, right? Yes… and no. It was a decision that got me moving, but it wasn’t tied to my authentic self.
I hadn’t dealt with the pain of my injury and asked WHY I had created it in the first place.
I hadn’t thought about whether BEING a lawyer would make me happy.
I hadn’t even really thought about WHAT would make me happy in the first place!
This fear of the unknown and complete lack of self-awareness was fertile soil for ILS, and it was time for me to sow some seeds that I would be harvesting for years to come.
So I went to law school, and despite massive obstacles (which will be a story for another day!) I made it through and became a real live trial lawyer down in Miami, Florida. Three terrible jobs, two despicable bosses and one attack in prison by a client later, I realized that the law was nowhere NEAR what I wanted to spend my life doing. I was so broke I couldn’t even pay attention - I had been working so hard to maintain the image of a successful young attorney that my lifestyle had more or less bled me dry. It was time to hit the reset button.
So I put my fancy degrees in a box, called mom and told her to put a lasagna in the oven; her baby boy was coming home...and he was hungry.
HOW CAN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SUFFOCATING IF YOU’RE SELLING AIR?
It felt like before I could blink, things had hit a strange new low. I was crying in my car in a hospital parking lot…which was not an unusual occurrence at this stage in my life.
I was a 27 year old "recovering attorney” who had left a waterfront house and moved back into his childhood bedroom.
I was selling medical oxygen sweating it out door to door, sweet talking jaded, chain-smoking nurses in doctors’ offices across my Florida hometown.
Life didn’t feel right, it felt forced and I knew I wasn’t operating in alignment with who I was. Beyond that, I didn’t know much.
At the apex of my frustration with this chapter of my life, a friend of mine serendipitously offered me a partnership to take over a struggling restaurant in San Diego, California.
FINALLY, this was it! My ticket out of the mundane job and life I had created for myself in. Beautiful beaches, tan women and a glamorous life as a young entrepreneur awaited me.
Did I know anything about owning or operating a restaurant? Nope.
Did I evaluate whether THIS was in alignment with what I actually enjoyed doing? Not so much.
But this was a bright shiny future, and I saw for myself at the time. So I grabbed Bosco and a suitcase, slapped on an apron, and moved across the country to start a brand new career in a city I had never even visited. I was nothing if not adventurous, right? Let the spiral of ILS continue!
GRILLING PITAS AND PLAYING WITH FIRE
I think we are all starting to see the pattern here, right?
A year later, I sat slumped on a futon in a 300 square foot studio in the back of someone’s garage… my roommate was a vintage Corvette. This was home sweet home, my ultra low budget apartment while I got my business up and running. The problem was, both the restaurant and I were still on the ground and it felt like I was getting buried.
The learning curve of taking over a restaurant on the verge of failure was INTENSE. Hundred hour work weeks were normal - what I had thought would give me freedom had ended up consuming every conscious moment of my life. I was earning my MBA in a real-world pressure cooker that literally cost me blood, sweat and tears on a daily basis. I learned countless valuable lessons along the way, but paid a high price for them at the time.
I couldn’t cope with the relentless weight of the work, so naturally I became dependent on Adderal, a popular amphetamine that had been prescribed for my ADHD. I was flying high, but going down fast - despite pouring an endless amount of time and effort into my business and substantially improving its performance, it wasn’t enough to support both my employees and myself. Guess who ended up not getting paid?
As this unfolded over several years, both my body and my willpower started to break down. Injuries started piling up, and my vision of entrepreneurial glory began to fade.
ILS was setting in, and was about to go terminal.
Adderal wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore. I began using oxycontin, a powerful narcotic, to cope with the chronic physical and emotional pain that was building within me. I spent over a year down the rabbit hole of opiate dependency, including many moments that I feel VERY fortunate to have survived. The disconnection from my authentic self had led to self destructive thoughts which had led to self destructive actions.
As I reached the point where I was doing drugs simply to avoid getting sick, I knew I had to stop or one of these days I wasn’t going to wake up. I was running out of time.
I had just enough love for myself left to refuse to give up. I drew a line in the sand and went cold turkey. I went through months of withdrawals and emerged sober and physically healthy, but emotionally traumatized.
THE POWER OF "HOW ARE YOU?"
I had come back from the edge of the abyss of drug addiction but now faced a new toxic dependency - negative thinking.
I found myself back in the corporate world, smiling at everyone while inside I hated myself; my thoughts constantly revolved around the “mistakes and failures” of my life. It got to the point where I had to keep a TV or music on at all times because I couldn’t be in silence with my thoughts… it was too dark.
I would like to take a moment to thank nine seasons of Parks and Rec for keeping me sane during this stage of my process!
I had gotten really good at pretending to be someone I wasn’t. ILS had become more than a way of life. It had become my identity, and it was eating me from the inside out.
Then one ordinary day something extraordinary happened.
A kind woman I had just begun working with asked me, “How are you?" I gave her the textbook answer I told everyone - “I’m doing good, thanks."
She must have felt my inauthenticity. She looked at me again, waited until I met her gaze, and asked again slowly, “No I mean really… how are you?"
I felt her genuine care and concern for me, and in that moment a wall inside me came down.
The floodgates opened, and I began to tell her how I was REALLY feeling. She listened patiently and let me be vulnerable. The healing process had begun with that simple question, and it continued with a powerful chain reaction of events.
I joined a mastermind group where I connected with other like-minded entrepreneurs who introduced me to the importance of personal development and inner work, a subject I had never been exposed to before.
I delved deep into it, reading every book that could help me on my journey. I became conscious of my negative thought patterns and took control of my mindset. I accepted responsibility for the choices that led me to where I was, and realized that I could recreate my life however I wanted. I designed habits and practices that empowered me to create amazing new things in my life.
From this expanded awareness, I connected with a profound spiritual healer who helped me reach another level of consciousness. I explored and experienced the Law of Attraction and became a manifesting master.
I had achieved cognitive control of my thoughts and was spiritually connected, but I still felt an emotional dissonance within me. Fear and self worth were still major issues in my life.
Then serendipity brought me to transformational emotional intelligence work. With this powerful practice I broke through the deep emotional wounds of my past, learned powerful tools to help others do the same, and unlocked the transformative power of love within me.
I broke down the walls I hadI built around my heart, dug deep to tapped into the origins of my limiting beliefs, and let them go.
Finally, my mind, heart and spirit were connected and aligned. I became fully aware of the perfect beauty of my authentic self.
After a long journey through my identity and ego, I finally came home.
It was in that realization that my highest purpose became crystal clear to me. I exist to use the lessons I’ve learned and the tools I’ve discovered to support everyone ready for change in their journey back to their authentic life and highest purpose. I have guided many in this process, and would love to support you too.