Recently I had one of the most profound life altering realizations of my life and I want to share it with you. The stories that I told about my past were only part of the truth and coloured by my emotions. Lacking mentors and leadership throughout most of my life left me adrift, isolated and alone.
So in short, MY INTERNAL DIALOGUE WAS LIKE A VIRUS THAT ISOLATED ME FROM THE WORLD.
Being challenged on my beliefs by men that I trust has allowed me to reframe my life experience and rewrite my stories. This has changed me as a man. Here’s how it worked for me: When I heard my own stories and beliefs reflected back at me I heard how other men saw what I had accomplished and it did not mirror what I felt. That allowed me to look at it again with a new perspective.
Here’s an example. At the age of twelve I read my first comic book and shortly after decided that I wanted to open a comic store. For 4 years I worked a paper route and took babysitting jobs to buy comics which I would sell later at a big markup to buy old comics. By the age of 16 I had 3500 comics worth over $40,000 and a friend of the family approached me to open a comic book and trading cards store. He promised to mentor me and be my partner. A few months later we opened the doors and I was a comic book store owner. Unfortunately my partner knew nothing about business and after 4 months closed the store down.
The story I told myself at the time was that “having a business partner was a horrible idea and that I had failed at my dream”. Wow, that was my take away from such an amazing journey. Unfortunately I had no mentors at the time and the story stuck and effected my life in so many ways.
Looking back now I see a young man that lived his childhood dream for four months at the age of 16, something that most people never get to experience. That’s amazing. I also had a business partner that did not know what he was doing, no contract and no mentors which is something that I can remedy in future ventures. Once I was able to see how others viewed my experience I was able to reflect and see that what really happened was that I had a huge success and learned a lot of lessons.
Do you have a story around work, business or projects that is holding you back?
Another example is that believed that “I was bad at relationships, treated women poorly and did not deserve a good partner”. I looked at how I had treated women and it was obvious to me that I was not worthy of a really fulfilling relationship with an amazing woman. I sabotaged a lot of relationships and kept women at arms distance because I would eventually hurt them.
When I looked back I realized that the first girl I dated dumped me for my best friend, the first girl that I slept with had another boyfriend and the first woman I fell in love with lied to me constantly.
It turns out that the real story was that I was keeping women at a distance because I was afraid of getting hurt and not the other way around. Once I changed this story I was able to open up emotionally, have dated some really amazing women and had fulfilling relationships.
How have your past relationships coloured your current relationships?
Another story that played through my head was that “when it came to friendships with men I believed that most men were assholes and given the chance would bring out the worst in me”. This kept me from making close friends with other men.
The thing is that I grew up in a military family we moved every 1-4 years and when I was 16 fell in with a bad crowd. We drank a lot, got up to a lot of mischief and even stole cars. It’s not surprising that my 3 “best friends” at the time jumped me, beat me up and stole all of my money. It’s also not surprising that I kept men at arms length after that I was lonely for a long time.
It wasn’t that men are bad or brought out the worst in me but that I had no positive male role models to look up to as we moved so much. I also got tired of moving away from everyone that I cared about.
The more that I look back at my past the more that I realize that I was simply protecting myself from hurt and pain with these stories. The more that I am honest with myself the more that I change my stories and open up emotionally.
Imagine this, at 21 I got on a bicycle to ride to Ottawa, Ontario. After 16 days I was in Saskatoon and after hearing that 3 people had died that summer after being hit by semis decided to fly to Toronto to continue my journey. Another 5 days found me in Ottawa. Pretty impressive for someone that had not been on a bike longer then 2 hours prior to this.
My story, once again was that I had failed in what I set out to do. Can you imagine cycling across the rocky mountains into the prairies and believing that you had failed because you decided the risk to your safety was too high?
I have since reframed that story in my mind into applauding the amazing accomplishment that I achieved. This is not to brag but to be proud of something that I accomplished. Hearing things from other men like “wow, that sounds rough” or “that’s impressive for someone so young” helped me to see my own stories with fresh eyes which allowed me to break the chain linking me to negativity.
Are there any stories of failure in your life that might actually be big achievements?
There is something to be said for being strong and independent, however I have come to realize that my growth as a man has been accelerated by being challenged and supported. The Arka Brotherhood has helped me meet some amazing men that have challenged me; brought out the best in me; helped me rewrite my stories; and helped me open up and become more vulnerable. I am so grateful for a supportive space to be able to dive deep into the work, share myself with others and grow as a man.