On Honesty, Happiness & Success (And the Sometimes Unbearable Assholeness of Being)
Letting it all out in the long, never-ending pursuit of figuring it all out.
Strip down the words ‘happy’ and ‘successful’, and you’ll find something surprising: a real person.
It would be really easy, perhaps convenient, to start this post by saying that I am happy, and that I have everything I need or want in life.
That’s not quite right.
Here’s the truth:
I have the capacity to feel a lot of joy.
I am grateful to be able to help other people, and derive a lot of joy from doing so.
I am in love with a great woman, and it takes a lot of work to hold up my end of the relationship.
I have confidence in myself, and therefore I can instill that confidence in others.
I consider myself ‘successful’ on account of these things.
I don’t really need more shit, although I suppose more of it is coming my way. I deal with that on a day-by-day basis. It doesn’t really matter. My vices are food and wine these days, and that’s about it. I’m joyful when I can go surfing, paint something, or hop on a plane to go do something I’ve never really done before. That happens enough to keep me deeply invested in life.
As for what success is and what it entails, that is a constant journey of self-discovery.
My last profound dive into humility serves as a good ‘rebirthing’ point.
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I remember, quite vividly, the day my ex-wife left me.
It was one of those moments in which time is suspended, and you sort of stand there, in a daze, more or less speechless, but also knowing, deep inside your heart, that you definitely had a lot to do with this outcome, no matter how hurt or pissed off you are feeling, or how truly shitty you are about to feel.
To be fully transparent, she strayed in the relationship and I didn’t, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that she strayed and actually had an affair going into our marriage only showed what an asshole I was, and how much she still wanted to hang onto the idea of being with me.
I’ve had to be really, really honest with myself about that.
The separation part was kind of like giving birth. Of course, I have no idea what it’s like to actually give birth (I mean, I am a dude), but I remember assuming the fetal position on our bed and crying my guts out for several days, and then feeling really fucking good as I came out of it, because I realized that I no longer felt sorry for myself, and that I was actually liberated from my own delusion about who I was in that relationship. I was an asshole, for the most part, and I didn’t give her what she wanted and deserved, which was to be loved. I suppose it was the first time I had an inkling of what it felt like to be immersed in a sort of feminine isolation.
I say that as a man who, at times, might as well wear a cape with a large ‘M’ emblazoned on his chest.
At any rate, everyone deserves to be loved. Even assholes. Assholes probably need more hugs than you or I do.
She gave me lots of hugs, and I was still an asshole. So I guess that still leaves me pretty fucking confounded about that part of the experience.
By clinical definition, the relationship itself ended up being a total failure. The details are fairly obvious, and perhaps a bit cliche, and also probably quite tragic. But I’m sure if you were to ask her, she would tell you that we shared some amazing times together. I certainly feel that way, and when I think about the time we shared, I think about all the ways she stuck by me and supported me when no one except for my own mother would.
She’s remarried and about to have twins and is apparently quite happy, and you know what?
That makes me really happy.
That’s the truth. And that’s a really successful feeling, because it seems we’ve both grown a lot from that relationship.
I know I have.
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When people ask me — and there aren’t all that many of them, relatively speaking — what I want to do in my life, I ask back:
“Do you mean, what do I want to do, or, what do I want to achieve?”
I’m doing what I want to do. That’s the truth. I absolutely love what I do, and I am great at what I do. If I were to be completely egotistical about it (which I certainly can be), I think I’m the best in the world at what I do.
What I do in terms of what you think I do is unimportant. I do lots of stuff. But really, I just do. That’s important to me, and eventually, it will be important to lots of other people.
Over time, I’ve chosen to evolve that declaration into something a bit softer, more congealed, more open. That’s the part of my ego I actually trying to manipulate into something else. I’ve given up on trying to remove my ego (that seems impossible, at least right now), so manipulating it seems appropriate. Maybe that’s the wrong way to describe it. Maybe I’m just shaping it into something else.
One of the things I want to achieve is to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
I’m very serious about this. It may never happen, and it might sound completely ridiculous, but I don’t mind— I’m not asking for your permission or your approval. That’s what I want to achieve. My sights are set on it.
Despite my proclivity for f-bombs, too much wine at times and the occasional funny cigarette, I see myself as a global leader, someone who will actually help redefine what leadership means, and will embody it, whatever that ends up looking like.
I have a feeling the world in twenty years will be very different from the way it is right now, not because of robots or AI or singularity or fantasy tropes or because more people in the Western world will have perfect fucking teeth, but because more people will have woken up and said to themselves: “Holy shit, I’m really alive! What the fuck do I do now?!”
If I can help facilitate a journey to accommodate that second question, then I will have been ‘successful’.
Actually, I already am.
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When people say “don’t apologize for who you are” it goes without saying that there’s nothing to really apologize for, and who you are constantly changes anyway.
I mean, really, who the fuck are you? And who the fuck am I to even ask you who the fuck you are?
Am I more ‘happy’ or ‘successful’ than you?
Probably a really stupid question.
Here’s a better one:
“What kind of power do you hold?”
If you were to ask me fifteen years ago how I defined power, or how I held power, I might have said:
“I can kick your ass.” (Whoop-dee-fucking-do).
“I have more shit than you.” (Really?)
“I get more women than you.” (I know: vulgar, grossly self-indulgent and misogynistic).
“I party harder than you.” (Yes, completely idiotic).
Yes indeed, very asshole, very caveman, puerile responses. But half true. The real part of me struggled with being nice and smart and handsome and all that, and I still do. But that’s how I would have likely responded.
Now I would likely say:
I can talk my way, peacefully, out of anything.
I can own my mistakes.
I can call bullshit on myself.
I can create things, and make stuff happen.
I can help you.
That’s all true. Perhaps a bit boring, but true.
Being highly imperfect is a gift, not a handicap or a curse.
And speaking of perfect teeth, I’m glad I don’t have implants, other than a front tooth I replaced after breaking it in a pick-up basketball game, like, thirteen years ago. So there it is.
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Speaking of basketball (NBA playoff time, love it), what a great fucking sport to get to know people. Pick-up hoops is a fantastic way to determine what different types of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ actually look like. I’ve actually vetted many business deals by playing with potential partners and observing their behaviors on the court.
I’ve also met a lot of truly successful assholes playing hoops.
Successful assholes tend to make a lot of money (duh) and have a high shooting percentage. Caveat: they rarely pass the ball, and when they do, it’s usually because they have to. They’re also really predictable, which also means that you can beat them at their own game.
Unsuccessful assholes have lower shooting percentages and rarely pass the ball. Pretty fucking boring, that story. Let’s move on.
Successful nice people are a totally different lot. You’d think this would be the boring bit, but it isn’t, so listen up.
Successful nice people have a steady shooting percentage and love to create plays, which means they actually like to pass the ball, and they don’t need to take credit for it. Even more important, they’re totally unpredictable because they adapt to each and every situation, and each and every outcome. So, they actually create way more plays, and enjoy many more outcomes.
Fuck me, that’s like, genius. I’d like to be a wildly successful nice person // wouldn’t you?
I often think of John Wooden when I think of basketball, and then I think of what a gem of a man he was, and then I think about what a winner he was, while being such a nice, humble and empathetic person.
So pass the fucking ball, man!
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And now for some really wild shit about life and death, and ultimately how they relate to success.
My first near death experience was 22 years ago. The details of how I got to a stage of ‘leaving’ are unimportant, but let’s just say I got to see ‘the world’ and a part of ‘the universe’ in a way I could never imagine, and haven’t imagined since. ‘The’ architect of the Universe is One special motherfucker. And so are we, really special motherfuckers, to be living in it and helping to shape it.
I sort of ignored what happened for a long time — roughly 14 years to be more exact — until my second near death experience.
This happened on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, heading south towards San Diego, at about 8:30 in the morning. Apparently, a woman was texting on her cell phone, suddenly lost control of the wheel, her car started fish-tailing, and proceeded to hit three other cars in succession. The last in line was a truck that spun five times across four lanes, until hitting me.
A moment before impact, I heard a noise encroaching that I couldn’t quite place. Things were sort of suspended for another moment and then…
I was hit and all the windows blew out. I proceeded to spin four times, trying to straighten the wheel, experiencing a complete loss of control, all the while suspended in that motion, literally watching my life flash before my eyes. Total suspension.
It was the longest 7 seconds of my life.
I ended up against the retaining wall next to the carpool lane, as two big rigs barely missed taking me out on my right side. My car — well built, with all the protections — was completely sardined. None of the airbags deployed, which was an incredibly odd detail.
Once the car stopped, I sat in the driver’s seat for about ten minutes taking it all in, and thinking that I should be dead or severely handicapped.
I emerged from the car in a daze, unscathed, and walked across the freeway as people were stopped in their cars, observing, completely miffed, as I observed them, curiously. I remember calling my wife at the time and not saying anything for the first 30 seconds of the conversation. It was almost as if she was waiting for the call, and waiting for my interpretation of what was going on.
Everything about my life has been different from that point on.
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Up until that point, I’d watched friends die over the years to drunk driving accidents, drugs and suicide. Like most people living with proverbial blinders, I was affected by their deaths, but hadn’t really given too much thought as to what this meant for my own life, or other people’s lives.
I’ve flirted with death many times. Everything from jumping cliffs on skis, to being stabbed in street altercations, to being shot at, to surfing dangerous waves, or, doing copious amounts of drugs. I’ve wrestled with my darker selves, to put it mildly. I respect the darkness, I learn a lot from my shadows, and I’ve come to respect death in a very different way.
Right after the car incident, I started to develop an acquaintance with life, and more specifically, the spirit world.
To be clear, none of this was drug- or psychotropically induced. These have been very real, although largely inexplicable experiences that have been unmistakable and quite remarkable. Some of them have been dream states that were so lucid, I had to have been experiencing another reality. Put another way, I’ve had dealings with energies — or entities, if you’d prefer to consider them as such — that most people won’t get to see, or want to encounter, in their lifetimes.
I don’t want to come off preachy or overtly weird (too late?), so I’ll leave out the specifics of these experiences, but I will say this: there is no real death.
I’ll repeat: there is no real death.
I don’t care what anyone tells you, and what scripture has outlined, because your experience is a manifestation of a journey you create as a being in this world, and a energy-carrying card member of the Universe, as it were. It’s not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘other’, it just IS.
Isness just is. You and me are the Isness that is Everything.
Institutions of one sort or another have led us to believe that we are to be subservient to a ‘higher power’ and that ‘morality’ is a discipline from which we cannot waver. What rubbish.
We are thinking, feeling beings with the power to create and choose. We are a higher power. We have freewill. We have the power to create our own choices.
As such, you make your own reality(ies). That is both a right and a privilege. Anyone operating in higher consciousness does so with strong ethical codes.
If you want to conjure a certain outcome or result, attract it, intend to manifest it, allow the space for it, and achieve a sense of balance as you create it. Just don’t bullshit yourself or anyone else about your intentions or how you hold them, and it will happen.
That’s how the Universe works.
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So now what?
What to do? How to do it? And for what?
If you have an idea of what the answers might look like and how they might manifest, good on you. If you don’t, it’s just as well.
The easy and perhaps inane thing to do would be to spin off a short list of to-dos, one of those morally prescriptive, ‘here’s how to be a better automaton’ type thingies.
Nope, not going there. I fucking hate listicles anyway. People prescribe way too much shit to actually know what the fuck they are really talking about. That, or they don’t actually live and embody the shit they wax on about. We should all cut that behavior out of our daily routines because it leaves us out of integrity and possibility.
I have only one thing to really emphasize: You do not have to be afraid.
You are here to live, not to die, and to experience as much joy and delight and learning as possible.
Live to your fullest and highest potential. If you feel unfulfilled, ‘unhappy’ or ‘unsuccessful’, step out from the cubicle. Get outside the building. Stop believing the hype. Think for yourself, and act on behalf of others. Put down the social media megaphone. Turn off the idiot box. Read, write, question, create. Listen. Explore. Fall on your fucking face and get up again. Talk yourself off the ledge. In fact, make your own ledge. In the process, you will become who you really are.
This is what world needs. The real you.
And I look forward to meeting you. Again.
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I am a serial entrepreneur and a planetary custodian, whose purpose is to democratize and decentralize information systems (data, media, currency). My partners and I build platforms and provide applied approaches to help organizations perform better through means that are socially and environmentally conscious.
As always, thanks for reading. Namaste.