Perhaps you are at a point in your life where you wonder if you have the strength to change. Maybe you are in such a low place that you feel that it’s impossible or too late to make something of your life. Maybe you have made some bad choices that have led you to a very unhappy, dark, and even desperate situation.
Your dark nights of the soul are continuing night after night. You question your sanity. You question your ability to face your problems. Each day runs into the next. “Hell on earth,” you say to yourself. When will I find the strength to change, face my fears, and take the necessary actions?” you wonder.
“This isn’t life, I am not living,” you say to yourself. “How did I get here? What happened? Where did I go wrong?” you think.
I’ve been there more times than I like to admit. It’s an excruciatingly lonely and terrifying place.
The good news is that you can pull yourself out of it and make your life what you want it to be.
Here’s my story.
It was my first day on the job at a well-known international corporation. I was hired as a management trainee. I was 26 years old. Within a couple of years, I was the top-performing district manager in the region. Then I became the youngest regional division head in the United States. A few years later, I became a national marketing manager responsible for 400 million dollars in annual product sales to 900 retail outlets throughout the United States.
Completely unknown to anyone at this company, I was living in a dingy, rundown apartment building in a bad part of town during my interviews, on my first day of work, and for a few months afterward. This apartment house was full of men who had lost everything due to job loss, divorce, bankruptcy, alcohol, and/or drugs. While I was living in this apartment building and working at this company, I was constantly in fear that someone would discover where I was living and how I got there.
I was the only person who left the apartment building in the morning with a tie on. I was also one of the few who had a car! And to my knowledge, I was the only one who worked for a highly successful Fortune 500 company.
At a celebration for the grand opening of our new headquarters a few months after I started, the regional manager, who later became head of a well-known competing Fortune 500 company, said to me, “We pulled you out of the gutter, didn’t we kid?” Then he added, “I know because I was in the same situation myself when I was about your age.” His question startled me. I was immediately consumed with the fear that he and everyone else at the company had discovered my secret! I paused for a moment to collect myself. Then with a smile, I said, “Yep!”
The manner in which I responded neither confirmed nor denied it, but I always felt that he knew the truth. No one at the company ever said anything about it so I always felt it was private conservation between him and me –- until now (with the publishing of this article).
Finding the Strength to Change
It was 3:00 in the morning and I woke up sweaty and consumed with fear and anxiety. My girlfriend had recently ended our relationship, I was living in a shabby one-room apartment, I was unemployed, and I was broke. Although I had graduated from college with honors just over a year earlier, too much partying, lack of direction, and an unwillingness to accept responsibility were the cause for all these outcomes. I was 25 years old.
The apartment house was both depressing and inspiring. It was depressing due to the realization of living in such a place. It was inspiring, especially at my age (being the youngest), to see firsthand what I did not want to become.
A large community room and adjoining makeshift restaurant on the first floor was a popular gathering place that allowed residents to get to know each other. A number of the men who I became acquainted with were especially kind to me. They were supportive, helpful, and encouraging. They came from many social and economic backgrounds. There was a “former” firefighter, lawyer, surgeon, carpenter, oil rig roughneck, dockworker, and writer. All of them had heartbreaking stories about how they had ended up in such a place.
The outfit that I wore to my interviews at this Fortune 500 company was a conglomeration of clothing contributions made by current and former residents. The outfit was clean and perfectly ironed but it was a strange hodgepodge of color, fabric, and style.
It was an amazing learning experience living in that apartment building. I never felt such despair, hope, and determination all at the same time. A large part of my inspiration to build this site came from the stories I heard and the personal growth experiences I had while living in that apartment house.
Here I was living in a dingy apartment, jobless, and penniless with rent due in three weeks.
Several men in the apartment house occasionally shared leads for low-paying, unskilled jobs. I landed two assignments, which turned out to be short-term. I took down temporary fencing at public events and construction sites for one company. In the other job, I removed the recording tape from audio cassettes in a warehouse literally filled to the ceiling with thousands of them. It was the most boring and humiliating job of my life. My job as a janitor during high school was prestigious in comparison.
I had to find a job that I was proud of and one that provided a future. But I was afraid and had little confidence.
Then one day as I looked around at where I was living, I said to myself, “Enough!” I will walk through my fears! I will do whatever it takes to change my life!” From that moment, I began a process of digging deep into my soul for the strength, inspiration, and determination I’d need to change my life. I had to go very deep to excavate these resources. I was delighted to find that they were indeed there and probably had been all along. I just never dug deep enough. I may have only been a few inches away at several points in my life and didn’t realize it.
Within a couple of days, I was ready. “Tomorrow I will take whatever action is required to change my life and I will not allow any fear or second-guessing to stop me.” I declared to myself.
The next morning I recommitted to this quest by saying to myself, “Today I will do it!” What I needed first was a job that I was proud of.
On that day, I got three jobs! I was on fire. Nothing could stop me. I went after each job that I always wanted to try but was afraid of. I got a job as a salesperson at an automobile dealership, an account representative at an employment agency (ironically), and an interview for the following week at a Fortune 500 company. I got the interview through an employment agency that I walked into at the end of the day. After I was hired, this Fortune 500 company paid the employment agency several thousand dollars for finding me –- a guy who was living in a dingy, rundown, one-room apartment in a seedy part of town.
It really was that quick. It boiled down to being completely fed up and determined to change at any cost. The starting point was a decision and a commitment to move forward no matter what.
From the day I started at that Fortune 500 company, I never forgot where I came from. This provided me with an extraordinary amount of motivation and determination. Had I not had the experience I did just before starting, I do not believe that I would have risen through the ranks as high and as quickly as I did.