During the lowest point in my life an unusual man saved me.
I met the man through a friend. He had grey hair, wore a black overcoat to combat the Melbourne weather, had a smile with teeth that looked like they’d touched many Coca-Colas (and other drugs), and had a look in his eye I’ll never forget.
He looked a lot like the warden from the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption.’
If angels help guide lost souls then this guy was a blunt instrument designed to hammer a nail into a brick wall. The advice I got felt like it came from “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” author Mark Manson.
Here’s the advice he gave me that woke me the hell up.
Your problems aren’t unique
The man tells me that walking away from a business is nothing new. I protest.
“It involves family,” I say.
“And? 90% of businesses fail in the first five years. If you go into business then the outcome you get is predictable.”
Hard to argue.
“You have no idea the struggles in my mind,” I fight back.
“And? Don’t you think everybody has some level of anxiety or depression at least once in their life? That’s right, you must be special!”
No one gives a damn about your sob story
It feels like when you share a hard story people care.
“Do you think people have time to listen to your victim story?” he says with a spray of saliva all over my face.
“We all got harsh stories. We all want them to be heard. We all want an audience of people to listen and bring roses and donations to our feet. It ain’t going to happen, pal.”
The more you tell a negative story the more it holds you back.
The equation that changed my life
The man in the overcoat reminded me of this fact:
“You are 1 of 7 billion people on planet Earth.”
His point is, I’m not as significant as I think. None of us are. Billions of people enter the Earth. Billions of people will exit the Earth.
The math works against you.
If there were only a few hundred people on Earth then my painful situation might have mattered more. There aren’t.
Every corner of the Earth is crowded wth people full of their own problems. Instead of hearing your problems they’d rather hear your solutions.
No one’s coming to save you
The overcoat man told me this three times in our conversation.
Marvel movies reinforce the role of superheroes in society — strange people dressed in costumes that have superpowers to save anybody from anything. It’s comic book fiction.
Nobody will lift you out of rock bottom. If they try then the valuable lessons won’t be learned and you’ll find yourself right back there again.
Then … stand on the shoulders of giants to rise up again.
2 years after your death you’ll be forgotten
What happens after you die?
The overcoat man reminded me. Within two years you’ll be forgotten. You’ll become a distant memory.
Photos of you will sit on someone’s hard drive that they never boot up. Lives will move on. Wounds from loss can heal after a couple of years. New lovers will enter. New lives will be born to replace those that are lost.
And in 100 years you definitely won’t be remembered, even if you became famous. Rock bottom feels insignificant when the clocks running out.
Those we love don’t get to remember us for long. May as well have them remember us while we’re still here.
You’re on Earth for a limited time. Stop d*cking around.
“Time on this Earth rock is precious,” the overcoat man told me.
He told me to stop d*cking around and rebuild. The phrase personal responsibility got thrown around a lot.
Time that’s wasted can never be bought back. All we have is now. Yesterday is gone. Today is right now. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
As a child, a 12-year-old kid in my brother’s class didn’t wake up one night after his mother put him to bed. A few days later there was a funeral at school. It was the first funeral I ever went to. My brother held my hand all the way into the chapel and over to the casket.
I looked at my brother as if he was Yoda to understand: “Why did he die?”
“He died in his sleep from a sudden brain aneurysm. Nobody knew he had it,” my brother said in a calm voice. For my entire life I’ve had that little boy’s life stuck in my brain. He had no health problems, no bad medical history.
Just tough outta luck.
Live for today.
No advice is absolute. I disagree to this day with some of what the overcoat man said to me. What he did was wake me up from my nightmare.
I never saw him again.
He’s likely dead now based on the smoker’s cough he had back then from emphysema. There’s always someone who cares about you, just not as much as you think. Be the catalyst for your own wake up call.
Don’t leave behind unfinished business. Keep action mode alive.