Imagine having the type of life that sounds like the beginning bio of a famous early American author. Travel, adventure, overjoyed life leaping from one opportunity or adventure to another, seeing the nation and making your own path through a brand new road along the way. Loving life, potential turning into earnings and recognition, each passing month making it seem only more inevitable that your story is going to be a one of a kind that takes that word “potential” and turns it into an incredible life that very very few ever pull off.
A little fade, getting stuck, some bad luck, some depression, some family obligations – back to a place you don’t care for when every single thing that can go wrong does for years, then a severe depression robs you of nearly a decade of your life.
When you come out the other side…it’s like you lost it all. A stranger in your own body, friends moved on as they lived 10 years you felt like you hibernated…a stranger in your own life and not at all happy with what you see, feel, the age by your name and realizing how little of your life you lived.
Especially compared to the fact you started off so strong. There’s one question that is impossible to escape.
How the hell did this happen?
This is a question that I know all too well. My 20’s were an incredible decade. Amazing adventures, constant traveling, once-in-a-lifetime trips/adventures/chance meetings happened every single season. At a minimum.
Then my 30’s happened, and to say I still haven’t fully recovered, or fully figured out how this happened, wouldn’t be a complete understatement. It’s a wreck. And it’s one thing to never get the life you wanted, or to work tirelessly and never see the “promised” pay-off to that hard work. But how do you go from actually dominating your life and your story to feeling broken, washed up, and struggling to not be hopeless?
Well turns out that can happen easily and in the blink of an eye.
But there is good news: it’s NEVER too late for a turnaround, and although I’m kicking myself for not starting a YouTube channel three years ago to document just how much has changed from then to now – but let’s be honest, in the beginning of dragging yourself up the focus needs to be on pulling it off 🙂
So this is my way of assuring you that this post, about my life, my story, is hopefully encouraging because the story here is from scratch and crawling my way up again. None of the fancy marketing or ignoring the important details that exclude 99.5% of us from getting anything relevant from a story. And hopefully the fact this post is missing those things makes it more encouraging for everyone else.
Turn It All Around
One thing about a years long depression…it really stacks up how bad things are when you come out of it. Interest on the student loans, friendships where you realize you haven’t spoken in many years, it just affects everything. But at that point you have a choice: throw in the towel or see the world for what it is and get back up.
A “How I Turned it All Around” article should be encouraging and helpful but if you’re like me, so often it’s not. Setting aside the “Why couldn’t you have started talking earlier in the process…” (which I get because how many blogs/YT channels stared up and then failed/died) it’s really annoying to read an article about paying off the student loans in two years, building a $20 million dollar company with these 5 simple steps, or “just doing it” and then finding out one or many of the following factors apply when you actually read the article:
- The business was built during one of the Wild West early periods of the Internet boom (1995-2012)
- Being a couple whose been together since 16 (inherent huge savings and planning from day one)
- Parent or family support (parents paid for college, lived for free with parents, were given vehicles for college, etc)
- Authors are still very young and in versus 30 and struggling with depression or 40 with severe debt
- No depression, no injury, no economic depression, no real-life obstacles
- A job that clearly happened to connections (sure you can work hard, but if you and your fiancé started at $275,000/year out of college…you had connections that gave you a leg up)
- Requiring serious intelligence, sharpened skills, a strong built in back up plan (like accounting degree or law degree), or above your age wisdom that isn’t common yet not seeing it and thus lying when saying anyone can do this.
Sound familiar? It’s amazing how tone deaf some of these articles are.
I read one recently in Yahoo News that was from the “We paid off $125,000 in student loans in three years” articles and while the smugness factor from the young writers wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the articles in that genre I’ve seen, they were able to do this because:
- Both landed jobs at 22 straight out of college for $125,000 a year
- Both lived in the parents’ house in Manhattan for two years rent-free
- Both had vehicles bought for them as college graduation presents
Wow. So fucking inspirational.
For those of us who:
- Have never received a free car, dust bucket junker or otherwise
- Can’t live with the parents for free
- Can’t live with the parents in freaking Manhattan for free
- Don’t have the connections to land a $125K job immediately out of college
- Don’t have a partner who lands a $125K job immediately out of college
- Don’t come with the lack of stress advantages that come with having that type of fallback
That article wasn’t very helpful or inspirational. And to be straight: no disrespect to those two individuals for making the most of the advantages they have. Good for them and best wishes. But the idea that anything out of that article was remotely workable for 99.9% of us is outright laughable.
And that’s a shame. Because even from a background of those advantages there was probably information that could have had broad appeal if they could step back, see what they knew that others didn’t, and take a teaching standpoint instead of an on the pillar “Look at us and what we do” style of setup.
The good news is, and I really wish I had been able to hack through the pre-depression, depression, and “post”-depression aftermaths to realize this is that you’re never too old for a comeback.
People older than 40 will laugh at me for thinking 40 is old. For those of us who were in our 20’s not so long ago 40 sounds….really old.
Wherever you’re at: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc, there is always time to build yourself a better life and you would be amazed how much can change, and how quickly, once you dedicate yourself to that and get started.
There’s a few things I’ve pushed to habits that have done wonders for me, and I’m going to share in detail. Take what helps. Ignore what doesn’t. Re-visit later to see if you change your mind (as I recently did with a book I used to be critical of).
Take what works an apply it, change it, switch it up to work for you, but let’s start with the Acronym I remind myself of daily: ALAMO.
Remember the ALAMO!
I wish I could say I cleverly came up with this and then applied it to my life…but not even close. After years of struggling and three years of a crazy good turnaround I thought about various things I’d done, advice that helped, how adopting certain practices worked for me, and at some point I tried to think of an acronym or something to help me remember it.
Accept, Learn, Adapt came to mind and lo and behold it worked.
And I like Alamo because there’s a lot of symbolism there. Everything that can come at you in the universe to break you will try to do so and if you want to fight for yourself, you have to fight to the last breath. Taking action is you taking your stand against the inevitable and that should be encouraging, not defeatist.
ALAMO = turn your life around acronym
I’ll break down each of these a little bit more.
A = Accept
Accept things for how they are, NOT how you want them to be.
There is no step that I see 95% of people say they have down and 99% of them are wrong. You see this in the real world all the time. In politics. In arguments over stupid disagreements. Over virtually anything someone is trying to turn into a black and white, yes or no, simple answer or solution.
If you can’t accept things for how they are, you have virtually no chance of overcoming whatever has hammered you down in life.
One of the hardest parts about this is that sometimes there are bits of truth, bits of fact, or at least really strong isolated experiences/anecdotes that seem to back up these (often) cancerous beliefs.
- Red Pill Community
- Die-Hard Republicans
- Die-Hard Democrats
- Men Going Their Own Way
- Shoplifting/Grifting urban culture
- Various over-zealous Redditt communities
And if you’re furious right now, if you hate me because I obviously don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, then I’m CALLING YOU OUT. Make your choice right now. Be angry and walk away and don’t you dare complain to me about being a victim ever again, or step back and look 100% HONESTLY at your reaction and why that is.
Because if I’m really that much of a fucking idiot, if I’m really that wrong and you’re really that right, why are you angry? Why wouldn’t you just dismiss me with a second thought?
If a four-year old stomps their feet and yells that unicorns are real, you don’t get angry or furious. If you have any emotional health at all it doesn’t affect you because hey how ridiculous would that be?
If you’re angry it’s because at least a little of that hit home. Certainly did for me.
Yet so many people define themselves by a group, an echo chamber, a culture. Some basic truths that didn’t used to be controversial:
- Life is complicated
- People are complicated
- Some things are black and white, most aren’t
- You can do everything right and still fail
- Shit Happens
Any time you have an all-inclusive belief, take a step back and think really hard on whether that is helping you or hurting you. And focus on “What if I’m wrong?” and do it honestly.
Accept the world for what it is. Accept yourself for where you’re at. Not where you were if you used to be better, not where you want to be in three, six, or twelve months, but where you actually are. This is almost always hard, especially if you’re not where you want to be, but do it.
No blame, push away the emotions, rip through them if you have to. Step one is ACCEPT.
Once you accept everything for the way it actually is your actions and reactions will be to things that are really going on in your life. Think about it. If you don’t have an accurate picture on what is affecting your life then what’s the chances of your reaction solving the actual problem?
None. If I stick my arm in a bag of rattlesnakes, the problem is unicorns, politics, or even the tingling in the arm. You could argue the problem isn’t even the rattlesnakes. I need to pull my damn arm out of the bag. Then instead of jumping to some delusion about walking it off, I need to go to the doctor to get treated for the venom.
Ibuprofen for the swelling won’t do it in that case.
Think of that as an allegory/metaphor. See how suddenly it can seem like in life you’re trying hard but nothing is happening? Maybe you’re treating the swelling instead of the venom. Maybe you’re staring at the burlap sack instead of seeing the ornery snakes inside it. Maybe if you took a further step back you would be able to see how the hell you ended up there in the first place.
Accept the world as it is, and accept yourself as you are now (This kneecapped me for a long time – I was an extraordinary 20-something when it came to health, endurance, ability to handle stress/trauma and function – when I stopped feeling guilty about not being to “Handle things like I could back then” things started improving a lot, and the voices that try to push me back to depression had one less argument to use against me) and go from there.
Resources to help with this step:
Ryan Holiday via Daily Stoic YouTube
L = Learn
Learn from everything that happened that resulted you in ending up in this place.
This is a hard step if you haven’t practiced detached self-examination before, and it’s one step where it’s critical to take Jocko Willink’s concept of Extreme Ownership to make sure you learn the lessons that are there to be learned.
Sometimes things happened that by all accounts you have no control over. So trace as far back as you have to in order to figure out when you could have stepped, acted, or done differently to avoid it. Maybe it was choosing friends better many years ago. Maybe it was trusting a gut feeling to not go to a place or person before something went down.
Fell in love with the wrong person? Not his/her/their fault – why were you the TYPE of person in that moment and situation to fall in love with the wrong person instead of the right one?
Fell into a depression that lasted months or even years? Yeah a lot of that is brain chemistry, genetics, and sometimes just plain bad luck in life. But could you have walked 10,000 steps a day instead of 1,000? Pushed yourself to exercise/workout? Meditated on three things you were grateful for each day? Try CBD for anxiety/mood?
Failed to even get an interview for a dream job? What life-changing experiences could you have put on a resume? a
Does this mean everything is your fault?
- Practically speaking no – there are always things that are going to be well beyond your control.
- As far as you treat your life, yes. Assume you are at least partially responsible for everything that befell you.
This isn’t depressing, IT’S EMPOWERING!
What can you do about your dating life if the problem is feminism? Nothing. Nothing at all.
What can you do if the problem is you? Work out, pick up a hobby/interest, improve yourself, become a more attractive person and thus a more attractive potential mate.
What can you do if the problem is society? Nothing. Nothing at all.
What can you do if the problem is you? Try some new experiences, build your own business, travel around to find places you fit in or really like living. Depending on the issue it might be an easy solve or it might not but there’s no way of knowing unless you’re willing to look at those things you actually have the ability to control or change.
Learn from how things actually are, and learn what you have control over so you can take control and start being the agent of your own change.
A = Adapt
Adapt to your real-life situation, to the real world around you, to your weaknesses, and to fix your weaknesses by building on strengths.
Those who can adapt thrive. Those who can’t break.
The unmoving unyielding man isn’t strong. They either hide their brokenness well, they have never been fully tested, or you have mis-judged them as unyielding because you haven’t seen the full story that makes them take that stance when and where they do.
Once you’ve accepted the world as it is and learned from your mistakes, it’s time to adapt. Adapt to the immediate problems, adapt to your current situation, and adapt to the REAL world problems, the REAL issues affecting you that you can deal with, and start stacking victories and progress.
If you have to start small and keep building that’s fine. Most people drastically underestimate how much can start changing when even a handful of tiny victories start adding up together.
You can’t run off of 3 hours of sleep a night like you could in your 20’s? Then stop trying! Get the 6-9 hours you need and then learn to adapt with the time you have left. When you’re committed to finding a solution you’ll do it…but only if you can throw away hopeless plans.
If your finances are so shaky you simply have to work every spare bit of OT or pick up cans, or struggle to write for content mills to scratch together even the smallest amounts of money then do it! Accept hey, the next 12 months will suck but if I do this I have a little money to invest in (myself, my business, a website, etc) whatever.
Yeah, I love thinking about what I could do if $20,000 fell in my lap or $100,000 or if my health was as good as it was 10 years ago. But none of those things are true. I’m pushing myself to lose weight, walk more, lift weights, and have been to countless doctors to try to find the right combination of meds/treatments to get me back on track. I’m building multiple websites, freelancing, and working on my businesses.
In other words I’m doing what I can…but my health isn’t amazing and there are no 5-figure or 6-figure amounts of cash falling into my lap with no strings attached. So I don’t daydream about that. I adapt to where I’m at, what I can do right now, and go from there. As things hopefully get better, I’ll be able to keep ramping up myself and my plans.
Do the same. Be flexible and adapt.
Accept, Learn, Adapt.
M = Move On
Move on from ALL past anchors, past failures, past albatrosses, past shame and MOVE ON to your ideal new life you’re building for yourself now.
Don’t assume you’re past it – confront yourself honestly, attack it, and consciously choose to move on. Re-visit until this sticks permanently.
This step sucks, and it is rough. And it’s the one that I have to come back to again and again. The Move On is a lot like the recovery after a break up from a serious relationship. It’s not linear. There are good days and there are bad ones, and you can have a ton of bad days followed by some great ones and then suddenly you smell a familiar perfume and bam.
You may be good for two months moving on over whatever the problem or issue is…then find yourself struggling with old frustrations, feelings, or problems once again. This is a normal part of the process.
If you find yourself looking at something again, step back and tackle it. Don’t ignore it, but tackle it because moving on is an active choice and an action that requires commitment.
If you’re familiar with the Christian theology, a comparison with move on as an action is like being saved.
Believing in God isn’t enough. It requires repentance, which is an actual dedicated action that leads to change.
Same with moving on. It’s a crucial step. Just saying you’ve moved on isn’t enough, it takes dedication, concentration, and action. This isn’t ignoring it, it isn’t (for most of us) a one-time thing.
And this is also not “Things get better with time.” I hate that saying because it leaves out an important ingredient to being able to move on. Some things do need time, but you NEED to commit to moving on and doing the hard work. We all know someone who pined for a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other for many years and let it derail their lives.
Time didn’t help. Because they didn’t commit to moving on. Time can heal but with commitment, so why not commit now to moving on and do the work so you get to the good stuff sooner?
Accept, Learn, Adapt, Move on.
O = Overcome
Overcome all obstacles old and new.
Not overcoming isn’t an option, period, end of statement.
No, it’s not easy, but when you mindset shifts to being forced to overcome any problem whether it’s to rise above it, find a work around, or bite the bullet and just slog through a long painful lesson, you will get through it. You will overcome. You will win.
And many times the first time it actually is the hard way. The painful slog. As you get more tools physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, through plain experiences, you get more tools to deal with all types of obstacles whether familiar or not and build yourself up as you do so.
The more obstacles you overcome, especially when you’re focused on building yourself through those experiences, the more you will be able to consistently overcome.
Avalanches don’t just wipe you out when problems combine to overwhelm you. The EXACT same thing can happen when you work on yourself with intention and with focus. One obstacle overcomed leads to another, then another. Soon problems that paralyzed you in your tracks won’t be more than a blip on the radar as you keep on moving forward.
So how do you just overcome things in life?
- Move on
Sound familiar? Follow the advice there and the victories will pile up. I’ve seen insane progress the last 2-3 years of my life and I started in a far, far worse spot than 99.5% of the inspirational articles I’ve seen written on these types of topics.
Chances are you’re well ahead of where I was. Possibly even where I am. Or you might be in a spot that’s much worse. Even at my lowest times I’ve had it good compared to many others, I know that. But the same process still applies. I’m sure of it.
Important Note: This is like leveling up in video games. If there is something that seems so far beyond your ability to overcome you don’t know where to start, that might be the Level 50 boss when you’re still a level 3 player. Work through what you can control, take on new manageable challenges, stretch yourself a little bit at a time, and you will get there eventually.
Are acronyms trite? Sure they can be. But if they help, who gives a fuck?
So What’s Your Second Half Story Going to Be?
I know what I’m dedicated to doing with my next few months, next few years, and how I want the trajectory and story of my life to go. What about you? Are you going to go for the false comforts of powerlessness? Or are you going to embrace the discomfort and pain of reality, apply ALAMO, and give yourself an honest chance at something as good or better than you ever could have hoped for.
Wishing you all the best in health, hope, and support on your life journeys. I hope this information helped you, and that we’ll be having drinks and exchanging stories from a much better place in the near future.
You have more power than you think, and even if you don’t, you still have the power to make the little things work for you and that is still worth fighting for. So corny or not, I’ll continue to Memento Mori and remember the ALAMO and keep pushing for my dream life in 2022 and beyond. I hope you’ll do the same.
Until next time!
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