Life is built upon truths. Despite what we lead ourselves (and others) to believe, the truth speaks above all else.
Today, I realized the following truth about my life:
"I would rather kill myself slowly than choose to be happy."
Now, don’t freak out. There are tons of ways we all slowly kill ourselves. But before I get into them, let me first explain the advice I always give others. This advice is solid, and I have to admit that I give it as a means to feel good about myself (most people who give advice do it for this reason). The irony is that those same people are typically classified as hypocrites because they don’t follow their own advice. I have been one of those people.
It starts with classifying the healthy habits into one of 5 ‘life legs’ that our happiness is built upon. Those five legs are:
Physical leg (exercising, eating healthy)
Mental leg (dialogue, reading, writing, learning)
Emotional leg (having compassion, respecting others, appreciating things)
Spiritual leg (helping others, embracing spontaneity, taking chances)
Financial leg (saving, knowing what goes out, increasing income)
My theory is that we are all raised by our parents who are stronger in some legs than others, and we as their children are consequently privileged in some areas while significantly weak in others. The challenge I pose to my friends when offering this knowledge, is “do you want to continue living your life deficient in XYZ leg(s)?” That call to action has proven to inspire and motivate them to be aware of their flaws and build upon them. And it makes me happy to know that there are people in this world that I have helped overcome their weaknesses.
Last week was a continuation of the last 5 years. Ok that might be a bit harsh considering 5 years ago I lived rent free in my dad’s house with a borrowed car and an income of $500 a month. I had just started my now most successful business with Mike and Frank, and knew that if I stuck with it long enough, the money would build. Sure enough, it built, and my financial leg grew substantially. For the majority of the 5 years, my main (only?) focus WAS that financial leg. I rarely exercised, I never read, I seldom cared about others. I stopped practicing Buddhism in 2009 because I thought it was all some propagating bullshit to convert non-buddhists to buddhism.
Needless to say, my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual legs have all waned over the span of 2009 to 2014, despite how much I tried to believe otherwise. Only until 2013 when I bought my house and my Mercedes Benz, did I reach a level of ‘content’ with my financial leg. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t need more money than I was making. Or at least the good guys in my head believed I had enough. The struggle in life always involves the good guys and the bad guys, which of course the bad guys in my mind knew that I didn’t have enough. They convinced me on a daily basis that I needed more.
And of course, with a weak mental leg resulting from years of a lack of discipline, self control, and will power, the bad guys continued convincing me that I didn’t have enough money. So my greed continued as I believed that I was, ‘motivated by money,’ ‘If I’m good at something, I never do it for free,’ and ‘It gets lonely at the top. Those were quotes that have stuck in mind throughout the last 5 years. And it shows, because 3 days ago I sat with my best friend Shaydon trying to figure out why, despite knowing where I need to improve and EXACTLY HOW I CAN improve, I continued choosing not to improve. I believed these quotes and let them define me. I would occasionally escape the bad guys and offer my friends solid advice to help them, only to be return home that night to the bad guys.
The biggest problem about always listening to the bad guys, is that they speak to you from a position of sin. Lust, Glutony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. Believe it or not, each of those 7 sins fall back on my theory that we have the choice to strengthen some legs while weakening others. For example, the combination of a strong financial leg and a weak emotional leg results in GREED. Combining a weak mental leg and a strong emotional leg results in ENVY. Weak physical, weak mental = GLUTONY. Weak physical, weak mental, weak emotional = SLOTH. Strong emotional, weak spiritual = LUST. Strong emotional, weak mental = WRATH.
Notice which legs, when weak, contribute to the most of those sins. The strength of your physical leg determines a lot of your habits and vices. Then the emotional. Then the mental. Then the spiritual, and last the financial. It is ironic in this circumstance why exactly I give into so many of those sins. My financial leg (the least influential leg in our lives) has been the only leg holding me up.
Now back to what I said earlier. “I would rather kill myself slowly than choose to be happy,” because day in and day out, I succumb to the following detrimental habits:
I smoke 10-12 cigarettes a day.
I play 4-6 hours of video games a day.
I eat 2-3 fast food meals a day.
I impulsively spend money to boost how I’m feeling.
I live paycheck to paycheck, despite increasing my income each month.
I avoid small chores, like vacuuming my floor or washing the dishes, for weeks, even months.
I don’t care to talk to people about how they’re doing, because I know they don’t care about how I’m doing.
I don’t like listening to other people talk about themselves, because most of the time they are speaking from so much insecurity that they want confirmation from others that they are worth something. Essentially, I don’t like listening to people that are like me.
Amidst these physically, mentally, and emotionally hindering habits of mine, the good guys (my moral conscious) still exist, although they work with what the bad guys give them. For example:
Instead of waking up in the morning to exercise, I will sit on my phone for 2 hours before work and read 5 to 8 news articles / self improvement segments. Mental leg = improving (but as a distraction from the physical).
Instead of spending time with my close friends and family, caring about them and being interested in their lives, I embrace strangers and new friends with so much interest and care, almost as a way to fake my emotional leg (I do this mostly for ego. It’s easer to bullshit someone you’ve just met than try to earn the trust of those who have known you forever and change how they perceive you). This is a shortcut / temporary fix to the emotional leg, but it doesn’t last long after those new people see who I really am. My actions tend to do most of the talking for me.
Instead of spontaneously going on solo adventures, I’d rather ‘spontaneously’ (impulsively) spend money or be a vegetable for a day. Or even worse, get super drunk and fucked up and party. Ugh.
Again, I’m trying to fake that I’m building my spiritual leg by being “spontaneous”, when in reality I’m only cutting myself short.
So these legs of mine, as much as I have knowingly allowed them to weaken, continue to define my unhappiness. Day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out. 5 years, probably more like 20 years, my 4 weakest legs have atrophied to a point where 3 days ago, I arrived at a crossroads.
3 days ago, while talking to Shaydon, who mind you has one of the strongest physical legs I know (he is a manager for the Woodland Hills Equinox, the highest end gym in the world, and he is also my roommate), told me that I needed to listen to my own advice, but put his foot down to help me understand WHY I choose to avoid strengthening those legs. Like many of my friends before him, he genuinely wanted to help me. And like I have before him to many of my friends in the past, the bad guys responded by telling myself that “I don’t respect you enough to listen to your advice.”
Now I’m not stupid, and fortunately I was drunk, so I knew that what the bad guys were saying was foolish. So I was vulnerable, and I allowed myself to open up to Shaydon, and together we began searching.
He asked me, “was there anything in your childhood that you could recall that makes you as not caring as you are?” I had told him at this point that one of my biggest problems is that I really don’t give a shit about people, because I don’t respect other people. While I shared some thoughts on where this came from, I recalled an experience (multiple accounts) when I was child, when my mom wouldn’t give me the attention I yearned for. We’d be at the clothing store, and I would hide between the hanging garments, and count to 60, sometimes 100. And I’d get so afraid, not because I was alone, but because my mom didn’t bother to look for me. I genuinely believed that she didn’t love me enough to care where I was. Another time I ran away from home for 2 hours, only to go home (I was hiding around the block from my house) to my mom not ‘caring.’
Looking back on it, it’s not that she didn’t care, but more so she knew I wanted attention, and she didn’t want to spoil me with it. The result of this however, the belief that ‘she doesn’t care’ has snowballed over to all of my friends, my family, and my relationships over the last 20 years. Whenever I get a chance to point out that someone doesn’t care about me, I hold that against them for years, allowing it to ruin so many of my relationships. It’s also been my excuse for pulling some pretty fucked up shit, like dating my friends’ ex-girlfriends, hooking up with my ex’s roommates or best friends, or completely disowning friends for not being considerate of me.
As bold of a belief it is for me to say that ‘no one cares about me,’ the truth is, and now we can come back to the theory that life is built upon truths, that the ONLY person who has never cared about me, WAS MYSELF. Instead of building relationships and making efforts to help others and be a positive influence in their life, I have chosen to seek pity and sympathy by guilting others into caring, into thinking about me. I have portrayed myself in the only way I’ve known to appeal to others, by flaunting my ego. As much as I try to make myself believe that I am modest or humble, to the standards of the good guys in my head, it’s disgusting. And I know it. The good guys know it, and the bad guys try to cover it up.
The reason why I don’t respect others is because I don’t respect myself.
Who do you know that GENUINELY respects and cares about others but treats themselves like shit? How can someone GENUINELY care about others if they don’t even care about themselves? That is the underlying question behind a person’s happiness. In my opinion, have I ever been happy for a long period of time? I would have to say no. Because I know what I am capable of doing, I know what to do, but I choose not to do it. Who can be happy with themselves if you are constantly giving into the bad guys? What good becomes of that? Sure, my impulse buys, my video games, my cigarettes, my fast food- they all serve as bandaids. But the wound has never healed. It’s never been disinfected. It continues scabbing on top itself, time after time, only to reveal a deeper scar. It’s slowly killing me, day in and day out.
Fuck I feel really shitty about myself. Fortunately, I have discovered my rock bottom. This is my darkness. These are my bad guys.
*Deep breath* Couple more exhales. Refocus. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Ok! So 2 days ago, I called upon Byron, one of my best friends that is probably one of the extremely few people in this world that I truly respect. He is a professional dancer, and whereas most people in the creative arts are driven by a combination of money and ego, Byron is driven by passion and selflessness. He runs 2x 50+ member youth dance groups who have won World of Dance amongst other competitions. He runs a 100+ member dance studio on top of this. He brought up Miles “Boogaloo” Brown, the kid with the afro that’s in commercials and billboards and is now on a TV sitcom. He has helped thousands of local youth stay off the streets, build a passion for dance, create invaluable lifelong relationships, go to college, and make something of themselves. He has helped our community by sharing his passion, and teaching his kids why to give back, and why to help others.
As a bonus, despite charging very little each month for 40+ hours of dance practices and classes (he charges $36 a month), he has well over 200 kids a month under his wing. You can do the math. Building something so small yet having so much to prove in return. It is truly amazing to know someone who has accomplished as much as he has in his life.
SO back to our conversation now that you know who he is. I brought up the following scenario to Byron: I have a lot of money, and I’m not that bad looking, but whenever I have asked my female friends to hook me up with one of their single friends, the response is always “for sure!” but the action is always the same. Nothing. This went back to the truth that I didn’t respect myself, so how could anyone respect me? Not to mention I never respected any of those girls because they always repeat their mistakes despite my advice to help them (again they probably didn’t listen because they didn’t respect me, and so on). Considering how respected Byron is in our community (and around his realm of hip hop dance), I asked him, what is it about how he does what he does that earns him respect?
His first response? “I don’t do it for the money.”
Boom. Shabam. Click clack. Like that. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for the money. And yeah I’ve heard “don’t do it for the money” but the bad guys would always say ‘fuck those poor motherfuckers of course they’d say that shit.’
But they’re right. And the bad guys in my head are wrong. This is the truth. Byron has proved that to me, in a rare circumstance of actually proving something to me through action, Byron has done so, thus throwing off the bad guys from any position of justification. This is what I needed, this truth is what the good guys have been searching for, so they could prove through actions that the bad guys were wrong.
Since Byron is so damn modest, I couldn’t really get him to talk much more about himself, but I knew that his reasons behind what he does were: his passion for dance, helping others, and giving back to the community. The same community that brought him up, he is giving back 10-fold every day. Talk about appreciation. Holy shit.
From that conversation 2 days ago, something happened in my head. The bad guys no longer had as much say in things as they have before. I went to get fast food last night and I couldn’t even eat half of it because it’s so bad for my body. It’s really disgusting. I’ve chosen to not eat for most of today than finish last night’s fast food. Little by little, the good guys are taking over. Will-power, initiative, COURAGE. Byron embodies, he has the potential and he is living it through each day. There is absolutely no excuse for why I can’t do the same, if not more.
So here it is, my COMMITMENT to myself, my friends, my family, and those in my community. I will start with this, for every wedding I book, I will donate 2-hours of my photography services to a local non-profit organization in need. Focusing primarily on unfortunate children and animal shelters. I have 5 weddings booked for 2015, so I will commit to 5 months of helping those organizations. Not for ego, not because I want to prove myself to anyone, but because it’s the right thing to do, and I am capable of doing it.
My second commitment to others, is to establish a youth photography program that provides children of all walks of life (no discrimination) the opportunity to learn photography, advance in photography, and offer their photography skills to others. The way I will begin this is by creating a group of photographers that are interested. Together, we will all help each other raise funds to purchase the equipment necessary to take opportunities and help kids advance. I have a countless number of friends, businesses, and members of my community that would benefit from having access to professional photography. And since the money isn’t going into my pocket, I know I can help dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people out. Having popular pro photographers host workshops and teach these kids, one by one, I can make this happen. I can do good, and raise money, and improve lives.
Goal: January 1st, 2015!
Take 3 months to do a trial period.
Never stop making moves!