How to Bounce Back if You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind in Life
At the age of 25, I’d totally fucked my life up.
There were times I had less than $100.00 in my bank account…for weeks.
I’d been arrested and put on probation for selling weed, yet still continued to sell drugs — — unsuccessfully, mind you, because I’d always smoke my profit away.
Instead of having my own apartment, I lived in a 10x10 dorm room because they let you live there without putting money down and added the bill to your student account.
At the time I just graduated from college…almost. I walked across the stage for the graduation ceremony, but my actual graduation was contingent on completing an internship that summer.
I interviewed at a couple of places for internships and got rejected at all of them. Instead of toughing it out and finding a place to intern, I quit, like I always did.
I was in the hole $70,000 and 3 credits short of my degree… and I quit.
How does someone do something so stupid?
The Subtle Influence That Creates Your Behavior
My behavior at the time was a product of the state of mind I was in. I spent most of my time getting high or doing whatever drugs I could get my hands on.
I’d have little spurts of hope and motivation here and there — those spurts got me through my last semester of school even though I ultimately fell short — and deep down I knew I was capable of more, but it was easier to give up.
Where does this belief about oneself come from? Experiences. In my case, I remembered the first time I screwed something up, the second, the third, and eventually the nth.
After seeing so much evidence for me being a piece of s***, I started to believe my behavior wasn’t just action, but a statement about who I was as a person.
Your behavior creates a feedback loop — it tells you something about yourself, you only see more evidence against you, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, which reinforces your behavior, and it repeats until you’re stuck.
Fortunately for me, there was a trampoline sitting right above rock bottom.
The one thing that makes human beings special is their ability to bounce back.
Regardless of where you’re at, you have that ability.
How I Changed After Hitting Rock Bottom
Back to my life at 25…
That summer, I did end up finding a job, but it wasn’t an internship to complete my degree. It was a job at an electronics factory working on an assembly line.
Have you ever been somewhere you can actually feel depression in the air? This was one of those places.
For 12 hours a day, I sat in one spot doing routine tasks like placing a piece on a circuit board or cutting off an inch of wire for the same part over and over again.
I remember they had these bags of parts with anywhere from 12–1,000 pieces in them. I’d feel a little victory after I finished a bag, but then there’d be another one and another one.
It felt a little bit like Chinese water torture where they let one drop of water fall on your forehead for days in a row before you go insane.
To compensate for the despair my job and the living situation created, I’d drink. One night I got so drunk I couldn’t possibly work the next day.
I called in sick. Then called in again. Then again. I never went back to that job.
Now I was jobless again.
I wallowed around jobless for a while until I found a job at a local video store.
I applied to be a “clerk” but the manager saw something in me and asked me if I wanted to be a manager.
That seemingly small responsibility changed my life forever. When someone believed in me and I was given an opportunity, all of a sudden I was motivated to be somebody.
I started reading a lot, watching TED and TEDx talks, listening to audiotapes while I walked to work ( I didn’t have a car) because I wanted to do well in my job and be a leader.
Around the same time, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to write articles on his website. He noticed I liked to write these long essay-like Facebook statuses and he saw something in me.
Those two opportunities — the job and the writing — created a perfect cocktail of motivation and a window to jump through.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m no longer a 25-year-old broke man-child.
I cleaned up my act, finished my probation, and had my criminal record erased.
I’m a grown man who makes a great living. I went from a dreamer to a doer. I took the little opportunity to write for a small website and turned it into 100’s of blog posts and two books.
I went from watching TEDx talks to giving one in front of 1,000 people.
There were a lot of steps in between. Lots of hard work. Lots of dedication, persistence, and struggle.
But the key was seeing the window of opportunity and seizing it.
Success doesn’t show you a neon sign pointing you in the direction of your dreams.
It whispers to you in the seemingly small opportunities. The windows close, too.
Life is like those haunted houses with trap doors that lead to a hallway one minute and to a brick wall the next.
You don’t need to make this big proclamation that you’re going to turn your life around. Just keep your eyes open. Perk your ears up to hear the whispers.
It’s Not Over for You (Yet)
I know what it feels like to have zero motivation.
I know what it’s like to feel stuck — cemented even. I’ve been at the bottom, been depressed, been addicted. I’ve been a bad human being.
But I’ve also been redeemed. I redeemed myself through purpose and action.
Call it divine intervention, but I found something that gave me a reason to be something.
People make the mistake of believing change comes primarily from thoughts. You can’t think your way into purpose. You act your way to build purpose. It comes through doing something that feels right.
When something feels right, do it. And keep doing it. Finding “that thing,” is a matter of keeping your eyes open — when a friend tells you you’re good at communicating with others, when you realize your eyes light up when you see animals, when you stumble across an article on computer programming and get excited, when you discover a penchant for making things with your hands, when you’re cutting your grass and notice you could do much more with not only your lawn and garden but other people’s — the signs are all around you.
If you take notice of them and act on them…
One distant yet ever-so-close day…
…you’ll be successful.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.