Self-Taught: Go After What You Want
I'm not sure when it was, but I was reading an article by someone advising others to watch out for the so-called experts who are"self-taught" because they haven't had any formal training.
I had to laugh because I'm 100% self-taught.
Thanks, Roger. This one is for you.
What's the greatest day of your life?
When I was in high school, I was asked, "what is the greatest day of your life? I said it was the day I met my girlfriend. I don't know why I said that other than at the time, I probably thought I was romantic or cute, but I was 17 years old and an idiot. As the years passed, I began to regret my answer. I'm sure we've all been asked that question before, and we might not all remember what we said, but I do because my answer was read in front of the entire high school during our winter formal. I could have given so many other responses that now are much more truthful than the answer I wrote down. "Scoring the winning goal against our rivals in a sectional game," or "getting a Nintendo for Christmas when I was nine," or "scoring the first goal of the season in high-school hockey." Instead, I said what I said because I thought it sounded better than the truth. I cared more about what someone else thought than what I did."
When I was 22 years old, I met my wife on the dance floor at a nightclub. Out of all the nights I went out with my friends on this particular night, I chose NOT to drink. Those of you who knew me or knew me back then know what an anomaly this was. I probably met a lot of girls at the nightclub, especially on the dance floor of all places. Didn't Vince Vaughn say something like, "oh please, you know I'm a hell of a dancer?" I'm fearless after I've had a few beers. That's not the point. The point is that I wasn't brave that night; in fact, one of my friends had to tell her I wanted her number, and when she finally gave it to me, I wrote the number down wrong.
The last four I entered were 8175, but that was the wrong number. We spent a few hours together that night at the club as she helped another one of my friend's sisters into a car for a safe ride home. I can remember almost every detail from that fall night in October 2002. It was October 10th, 2002. I was sober, I wrote down the wrong number, she held a friend's hair back as she puked, and I couldn't contain myself. I was so in love with her, and she didn't even know it yet. Four days later, I convinced myself I would never see her again. But then I tried a few different combinations of digits as I dialed frantically wanted to ask her out when all of a sudden I tried 8174, and she picked up, "Hi, this is Ami."
Everything about my life that I love: sixteen years of marriage, two incredible kids, my career, my success, and all my accomplishments. All the highs and none of the lows lead back to that one day for me. Everything about who I am can be traced back to that fall day in 2002. If I were asked that question, "what is the greatest day of your life," I wouldn't be lying when I answered it. There are many great days and great moments I've had in my life. Some of them, you might argue, are more significant, but none of them are possible without that one decision to go out with friends to the bar and NOT drink.
This article can be about many things. You can take it at face value and consider it a love story, or you can apply it to something bigger. I'm going to choose the latter.
The most important day of my life was followed by many difficult days. I would be a hypocrite I didn't tell you that right now; while I type this, my wife and I are arguing. We are literally in a fight right now. Mostly because I can be a "huge ass," but also because I don't want to work at it right now which, brings me to my point.
The moment you realize your own truth is the most significant moment of them all. It's not always great truth, but at least you know it. I knew what I wanted my life to look like nearly twenty years ago. I could see it flash before my eyes. Nothing was going to stand in the way of what I wanted. I was willing to put in the work, and I still am.
I've always had a conflict with making dramatic and sudden life decisions. Often, when I do, they end up being the wrong decisions, or I experience a setback. It's an impulse purchase on a car or furniture. It's going with the cheapest quote because I want to save money on my remodel. It could be a bit more serious, like choosing to quit too many things simultaneously. To give you an example, I once tried to quit smoking, drinking and start working out all at once. It turns out I didn't end up doing any of them. But, when I put in the work meaning, I put in the time and effort. I almost always get back the desired result if I'm not unrealistic with my expectations.
About a year after my wife and I met at one nightclub, we went out together to another. Only this time, I did choose to drink. I drank A LOT! I drank so much that I got into a fight with someone I thought was trying to "hit" on Ami. In reality, his only crime was just dancing next to her. That night was another significant moment in my life but not a good one. Unless, of course, you consider what I had to do to win her back.
Write a letter
There was no chance Ami was going to take me back. I got into a full-on fist-a-cuffs in front of the nightclub that night with a total stranger. I had embarrassed her in front of everyone with all the windows exposing my actions. I learned quickly that once you embarrass a woman (or anyone), for that matter, no one wants to be embarrassed again.
She wouldn't talk to me. She wouldn't even look at me. How was I supposed to win back her trust or earn back her favor if I couldn't explain myself? We didn't speak much that week, so I wrote her the most vulnerable letter I've ever written in my life. It was 12 pages long. I remember exactly how long it was because I called into work sick to stay home all day and write it. Like, I'm doing now only this is my job. I'm a writer, amongst other things. All my faults, vulnerabilities, and everything I could think of about me were in that letter that someone wouldn't probably ever want to admit. But there were also parts of that letter about her. I wrote what I loved about her that I don't tell her enough of, things I still need to say to her now. Things such as how the day we met was the most incredible day of my life and how I would never take that day for granted.
I have friends, colleagues, connections, strangers who call me now or send me messages telling me about their problems. Sometimes their concerns are work-related, other times they're very personal, and sometimes I just look at them and say the best advice I can give you is to consider what matters to you and write it down.
There are so many instances in my life and even in my career, for that matter, now that I can recall applying that exact advice. I think about my kids, and I'll write them a letter. I think about my clients, and I'll write them a note: my grandparents, mother, and even written my brother a letter.
In the end, it's not about a letter, though. It's about what's in the letter. For me, it's just the method I use because I'm much better when conveying how I feel if I stop and reflect on it versus flying off the handle in a conversation. The point of all of this is comes down to one very significant detail, honesty. Honesty inspires people—honesty and realizing what you want then going after it.
Someone once said, "you get out of it, exactly what you put into it." It was probably your dad. I don't necessarily have a dad, so I learned this on my own.
All I had to do was look at the best thing in my life and make the decision that I wasn't going to let it slip away.
"Self-taught," I guess you could say.
- I taught myself how to fight.
- I taught myself how to play.
- I taught myself how to write.
- I taught myself how to be a marketer.
- I taught myself how to be a dad.
- I taught myself how to be a husband.
- I taught myself how to sell.
- I taught myself branding.
- I taught myself these things because I knew exactly what I wanted.
Now, I'm smart enough to know it's all a part of God's plan.
I just want you to be aware of this before enlisting me for help.