Letting go

“Pain will leave you, when you let go.”

-Jeremy Aldana

I have been thinking about my desire to go on a pilgrimage. The need to explore, to find what is already there, but I cannot see. When I listen to the voice inside me, the Camino De Santiago is the name that is spoken the loudest.  

I think about the journey, the struggles, the people I will meet, the things I will see, the solitude and loneliness. I think about what I hope to find. I think about the pack I will carry, what will I bring, how much will it weigh? How much can I carry and for how long can I carry it? This made me think. 

What about what I carry every day?

The burden that thoughts and negativity carry. Weighing me down, to the point of affecting my posture. Mental weight that affects my body physically. One of the hopes of my journey is to shed some of this weight, to come out of it on the other side lighter than when I started.

But why not now? Why wait for a trip that depending on how I allow fear to influence me may or may not happen?

I, and all us, carry a pack on our backs everyday. We go to bed with them, and we wake up with them. Our packs hold us back, they burden us, they cause us stress. It does not have to be this way. 

I want to let go, it is time to let go, can I let go?

Our packs are sneaky. They slowly grow larger and larger, so subtly that we don’t even realize that we are carrying so much with us. That this weight is with us all of the time. It takes some work to see what it is that we carry. It requires honesty with ourselves to see whats in there.  I see what holds me down, what causes my shoulders to hunch forward from the weight.  There is a lot of shit, and this list isn’t complete. 

I want to let go of: 

The past, the future, of certain people, of thoughts, fear, what was and will never be, who I thought I was, what I thought I could have been, who I thought people were, preconceptions, assumptions, resentment, jealousy, arrogance, self-centeredness, words that were spoken, my sense of unworthiness, expectations, old pain, old hurt, attachments and judgments.

Writing and acknowledging this has provided some relief.  Seeing it on the screen, staring back at me. Knowing that all of this and more is with me everyday. I want to take each one these things out of my pack and discard it. I want to be free of what weighs me down. This is no easy task, that is a lot of things to let go of. 

To do this will require time, patience, empathy and compassion for myself. I will falter along the way, I will stumble and fall. I hope to have the strength to pick myself up, dust myself off and try, try again. I hope I reach out to someone I love if I can’t do it alone. 

The reward of doing this is too great to ignore.

“Sometimes you have to let things go.  Sometimes you have to stop caring for a minute.”

-Trina Etmanskie

I will walk taller without the burden of these things resting on my shoulders.  I will free space in my pack for more important things. Things I care about, things that will direct me towards being the man want to be. I do not have to wait for the pack to be empty before I add to it. Letting go and adding to are not mutually exclusive.  

I know what I want to add and I work on them everyday: 

I love myself. I am enough. I am worthy. I forgive myself.

This too not a complete list, but my beginning.

The amazing thing about adding these to my pack is that they do not carry any weight. None of the positives do. The positives have the polar opposite effect of the negatives. They lift you up, even when the negatives try to push you back down. 

My 1% for today is to begin freeing myself from the mental burdens I carry. This will not be done in one day, it is impossible to say how long it will take. But I have to start somewhere and this is it.

Craig

Learning how to take bigger steps

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

I have this opportunity, this beautiful second chance to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. An opportunity to do all of the things I want to do. My Bucket List.  I feel as though this entry is related to my previous entry, the remnants of its unfinished state still lingering in my brain.

I was made to revisit this by a timely e-mail from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to be Rich (iwillteachyoutoberich.com). A deceptive company name in its inherent nature to make the reader think of only one thing: Rich=Money and Things. This is not at all what he means.  Rich is defined by the individual. What does it mean to you to live a Rich life?

Traveling, starting your own business, having the time to pursue your hobbies, buying your parents a house?

In the e-mail he discusses Bucket Lists and what separates people who go after their wishes and dreams and people who do not. He discusses how our past actions shape our future actions. Have you spent the past “x” amount of years on this planet without crossing anything off of your list? Chances are going forward that pattern will remain.  He looks at what people want vs. what they have done to get it.

Some of the items on my list are daunting, they seem overwhelming and insurmountable. At least to me.  I have seven figure debt and make twelve dollars an hour.  As a result of my actions I have nothing. No money. No pure freedom. My ankle bracelet keeping me confined to only certain, acceptable destinations. Overwhelm could easily engulf me at this point. But it does not.

I breath and take a step back. This provides me with an opportunity to to look at my list with a new perspective.

I look objectively at the two core issues:

1.  Ankle Bracelet: It limits my movement. So frustrating in a city that begs to be explored and lived in. As I write, I am limited on where I can go in my own apartment. The bracelet requires charging twice a day, I am now tethered to the wall like a dog on a lead.

This sucks. But does it really? My brain is still free. I write this blog, I am writing a book, I am working on starting my own business.  I read, I seek inspiration through those I admire. All things I love to do, and now I have more time to do them. And the bracelet has an expiration date. May 9th it comes off. Freedom. My biggest issue then becomes a fantastic problem to have; balancing everything I enjoy doing so that I can do it all. How many people actually explore the city they live in? Most people take their immediate surroundings for granted, the landscape becoming a part of their everyday. I’ve been locked up like a tiger in a cage, I hope I never forget what that feels like.

2. I have nothing: Not true. I have family, I have friends, I have things I enjoy doing that don’t cost a dime. By reducing what I have I actually gained so much. I have desire. I have more than I can imagine. Everyday I complete a page in my Five Minute Journal (fiveminutejournal.com). I keep a separate gratitude journal when the 5MJ doesn’t have enough room to cover everything I am grateful for. And if I choose to be stuck on the, “I have nothing” mentality I can even flip that on its head and make it a positive.

I have nothing.

Meaning I have nothing to lose. Meaning I can try whatever I want without fear of losing anything. This is very powerful.

When I first read Ramit’s e-mail and wrote the first draft of this post I looked to my past behavior to see if I had checked items off of my Bucket List to gauge what I would do in the future. My first gut response:

Not really.

I was bummed. I felt as though my future ability to check items off of my Bucket List had been cast in stone by my past behavior.  I had written a post about this that was much different than what you are reading today. I let the post sit for the night and it didn’t sit right with me. I was looking at life with my old eyes.

Having this realization I came back to the initial draft with a set of fresh eyes. I cross checked reality against my initial gut feeling. An initial gut rooted in a feeling unworthiness, lack of self compassion and inability to stop and congratulate myself every so often. I focus on what I haven’t done, not what I have.  Making the things I haven’t done grow disproportionately larger.

I have checked things off. I am in the midst of doing that with every word I type. If I look at the list I created in prison I am proud to say I have already checked things off even with my limited finances and freedom.

I need to stop and pat myself on the back for what I have done and look to the items remaining that feel overwhelming. One of the items on my list that brings the most self doubt: Travel.

I have an all consuming need to climb a mountain, hike the PCT, Appalachian Trail or the Road to Santiago. I want to ride a bike down the The Death Road in Bolivia. I want to see Praia Da Marinha in Portugal that is on my Uncle Andy’s funeral card. I feel the need to be by myself, forced to confront who I am. I, perhaps foolishly, believe I will find absolution at the end of this journey. That I will find love and forgiveness for myself.

Travel, the way I envision traveling, seems like it would be an extremely difficult task for me to overcome. Taking the time off, money, what will people say, who will take care of my cat?

So what can I do to change this mindset? How can I rewire my brain? My motivation to rethink this came from a friend. She asked me the top five things I want to do in NYC.  There is a genius and beauty to this that lies in its simplicity.

Only five things. All of which are within my reach. There is no travel to plan, no planes, no hotels, no time off of work to think about. They are simple, executable and best of all things I want to do. Things I may have easily forgone or forgotten had I not put them in a list.

Why did I not do this in the past? Fear. Why would I be hesitant to pursue this now? Fear and unworthiness.  My reluctance in doing this tied to a deep feeling of unworthiness. Who am I to pursue happiness after what I have done? A self imposed penance for my sin. I am working on this and every little bit is a step in the right direction.

What are the top five things I want to see in NYC:

1. The Whitney – I followed the opening of this amazing museum from prison.  Consuming every article I could, envisioning the day I would be able to explore it.  It was a brief reprieve from the mental and physical prison I was in.

2. Prospect Park – The idea of wandering through nature with no real direction, the park was another reprieve from prison.

3. The Guggenheim – I have never been, and have wanted to go for at least fifteen years. It’s about time to check it off the list.

4. Brooklyn Botanic Garden – On my list for about 5 years, time to check it off.

5. The Polo Bar – I want to put on a suit, have a seat at the bar and treat myself.

Adding all of these activities up will equal around $125.00. I can check off five items from my bucket list, for a nominal sum. I don’t know what my experience will be at each place, nor am I going to attach any emotions to them. I will let them unfold as they were meant to unfold.

Where I see the magic in this lies in the ease of actually doing it.  I am not only experiencing new things, I am chipping away at a much larger set of goals. It is having a stretch goal and breaking it down into smaller, attainable goals.  So that at the end of each day I can say I am that much closer to achieving my stretch goal. I can expand my horizons, my comfort zones, I can show myself that I am worthy of doing things that I want. That it is OK for me to experience happiness and joy.  I can chip away at the list, and in turn my unworthiness.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

While I can’t do these things right now, I can do this:

Make a public pledge to myself that I commit to do these things when I am free and able. I am sharing with whoever is reading this and holding myself accountable to cross these items off of my Bucket List. And to further up the ante, I will do them all within a month of May 9th.

This is my 1% for today.

In the meantime I will continue to write, create, and innovate. I can plan, I can do everything now to hit the ground running. I will look at my stretch goals and figure out ways around my internal roadblocks to achieving them. For starters, how much would a big trip cost and how much more do I need to earn to get there? What can I do in order to earn more?

I am not taking a huge step in going to these places, they are all small steps – bu they are steps in the right direction. What I am doing is setting myself up for bigger steps in the future. This isn’t about the five places. This is about moving towards something I want, something I dream of and knowing that I am worthy of doing it.

Craig

A life well lived

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

-Samuel Johnston

I’ve read different blogs that address the idea of living life as if you had only one year left to live. Or a month, or a week. How would you act? What would you do differently? What would you change? Rewiring the brain in this way reinforces the impermanence of life and the importance of living each day to its fullest. Living in the moment and making each moment meaningful.

I like the idea of this, it strikes a chord within me. I can say every time I have read one of these articles I am instantly motivated to embrace this lifestyle and live life as if I knew its expiration date. Particularly when the expiration is quickly closing in.

The sensation I get is liberating, it is powerful, it contains a certain magic to it.  Think about how you would change and behave if you knew when you would die.  But the fact is, we’re all going to die. We all have an expiration date. This is a given, we all know this.  So shouldn’t we be embracing life and living with this attitude without the artificial expiration date?

I know I don’t. I am guessing I am around the midway point of my life, I have another forty-two or so years left to live. That seems so far off, I can procrastinate, I think,

“I have plenty of time.”

But do I really? The first forty-two have flown by, with time only seeming to pass quicker every day, month and year.

I can say all of this, understand and accept all of this and yet still struggle to embrace the reality of it and live every single day to its fullest. Maybe that is why I find the artificial expiration date so appealing. The idea of it forces me to think about it now and circumvent procrastination.

I know I would act differently if I were told I have a year left to live. I would travel, I would sing karaoke, I would dance as if nobody was watching, I would tell everybody I loved that I love them, I would push myself beyond my physical and mental limits, I would learn to forgive myself.  I would do everything in my power to have no regrets.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

To write all of this and see it on paper is powerful. The knowledge that all of this is within my grasp is so appealing. And yet, the sensation is fleeting.  I only make it a few days with this new found attitude before I find myself back to normal.

So I am left to think, why?

What happens between reading the article, being motivated and then finding myself back at the status quo in a matter of days?  The easy answer is the knowledge that I have not been given a set expiration date. I feel as if accepting this answer is lazy and only scratching the surface of the issue. True, I know that I do not have a set date, but the energy and inner fire that is created by attempting to shift to this mindset is so great that I feel as if I would never want to let it go. And yet I do.

So I dig a little deeper to seek the truth.

The most common answer that surfaces with this base level introspection is; May 9th.  The day I am no longer under the auspices of the Bureau of Prisons. The day that the GPS ankle bracelet that limits my travel to work, home and the store once a week gets removed. A day of freedom, a day of celebration. The day that my debt to society has been paid in full.

It seems reasonable and exciting to mark this day as the beginning of this challenge. It feels triumphant. It feels like a celebration of freedom and life and pursuing everything I want all lumped into one perfect day. I think anybody reading this would think, “Yes, that is the perfect day to start.”

I feel as though it is an excuse. A perfectly formatted excuse to not act now.

Why do I wait for some magical moment to start something that could be magical?  It is true that I will have more freedom to do all that I dream of doing and seeing come May 9th. But what is preventing me from living life to its fullest right now? The bracelet? Maybe I can’t go skydiving or rock climbing right now. Maybe I can’t explore the amazing city I am lucky to live in. Go visit my family in Connecticut and Florida. Go on a real date with the girl I have been spending time with. Those things are great, no doubt. But they are only facets of a life lived to its fullest. Pieces of a much larger puzzle.

Given my current circumstance I think one way to live life to its fullest means doing all that you can within the confines of your current situation, while at the same time perpetually seeking to blow past the confines you currently have. These confines can be physical, i.e., my ankle bracelet and they can mental i.e., one of the reasons I started 365percent. Challenging myself every day to improve just a little bit, moving past what I define as my current comfort zones.

So while the bracelet may hold me back in a geographical sense, it has no say, no bearing, not a damn thing to do with my greatest asset. My mind. The human mind is our greatest gift.  Our ability to create, innovate and let our imaginations run wild is truly something special. To ask ourselves the question, “What if….” and fill in whatever blank we want and let our minds reach to the furthest corners of the universe trying to figure it out.

And while I feel pretty good about how I spend each day and the time I dedicate to creating, to writing, to innovating, to asking, “what if…?” I still feel as if I want to do more. So the idea of giving myself an artificial expiration date seems so appealing.

Cue the endless cycle and I am back to thinking May 9th is the perfect time to start something like this.

So what gives? Why do I not start now, and pursue what sounds like the way I want to live life?

I need to go deeper than my lack of total freedom. I need to find the root cause of what prevents me from fully embracing this liberating and powerful lifestyle change. I need to understand so that I may do something about it. Because the reality is, even without the artificial date, every day I am closer to death.  Being honest with myself leads me to one word that encapsulates all that I feel.

Fear.

I am afraid of not being able to live life like I fully understood how short it really is.  I fear failing. I fear what my friends and my family will think. I fear appearing foolish. How is it that fear contains so much power when in this instance it is nothing more than a balloon? Something blown up bigger than it should be, and filled with nothing but air. No substance.

How could I fail at trying to live life this way? As long as I try, and continue to try I have not failed. My friends and family want nothing but my happiness. While they may raise an eyebrow at some of this, as long as I am happy they will be happy for me. And maybe I will appear foolish. Who cares at the end of the day? I was arrested by the FBI, my story made the news and I served time in prison. The guilt, shame and embarrassment around that is far worse than appearing foolish for trying to become the best version of myself that I can be. To live this second chance at life with the respect that it deserves.

I would really like to wrap this post up with an inspirational, “fuck it, I am going to tackle this challenge and beat the hell out of it” finale. But that would be a lie. I am still being held back, and I am still trying to figure out “why?”.

Perhaps I need to give up the “why?” and focus on the “how?”

Maybe writing this is the first step, I don’t know.

I’m not really sure I can say this covers my 1% for today. But that is OK. I do other things everyday that cover it. I will write a separate entry about that and how I do my best to cover the 1% everyday.

Thanks,

Craig

Pursuing a dream

“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”

Mark Twain  

I have had a passion for cars for as long as I can remember. My father first introducing me to them, my child-like curiosity and desire to know everything about them growing from that moment. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a subscription to Road & Track magazine. I was eleven years old and would wait, not so patiently, for each issue to arrive.  I would read it cover to cover. I would rarely understand the technical aspects, I was interested in cold, hard facts.  Every vital statistic would be etched into my brain; horsepower, 0-60, 1/4 mile (time and speed) and top speed. I would happily recite this information to anybody willing to listen.  Road & Track became my Bible.

The first two exotic cars I encountered were a 1978 Aston Martin Vantage and a BMW M1. I could recite the circumstances around seeing both as if it had happened a minute ago.  I had remote control cars that I would build by hand, carefully maintaining them and then customizing them to go faster. Always faster. I had a go-cart purchased from a neighbor who had grown too old for such things. My father tuning the governor so that it too could achieve the highest possible speed. I was a lucky kid.

I don’t want to say my passion dwindled as I grew older, the sight and sounds of an exotic still stirring my soul, but something changed. My focus went to other things.  Was it a time to grow from childish things? Or was it fear? Fear to chase what I truly loved for fear of destroying it?  It was fear. I chose the safer path. A path that eventually led to a high paying job that allowed me to spend money on things, not experiences.  I became a slave to these things. My perception of what was important in life became skewed. I lost myself in a sea of things.

Fear took over. A deep-seeded feeling of unworthiness consumed me. All of which contributed to my perpetrating my crime.  As I rebuild my life I have focused on what I liked as a child, who I want to be as a man, what values are important to me. How can I be the best version of myself that I can be.

One place to start is to ask the child inside me (inside all of us),

“What makes me happy? What puts a genuine smile on my face and ignites a fire within me?”

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 
― Howard Thurman

For me the answer is cars. Always has been.  So I have been slowly reintroducing myself to my love of the automobile. I say slowly because I still hold a fear of somehow destroying what I love.

I recently watched Urban Outlaw (http://magnuswalker911.blogspot.com/p/urban-outlaw.html), a thirty-two minute documentary on Magnus Walker. A man who followed his childhood passion to become one of the worlds most prolific Porsche collectors and Porsche tuners. The story is an inspiration for anybody looking to pursue their dream, regardless of what it may be. Watching the documentary brought back my childhood feeling of anything is possible. As the film played I realized I would relish the opportunity to work in an environment surrounded by what I love and what I dreamed of as a child.

So today I e-mailed Magnus Walker.  I thanked him for what he has done, the inspiration he is to me.  I asked to be part of his team. Doing whatever it is he had available for me to do.  I told him my story, my crime, my punishment, my desire to die. The gift of a second chance I have been so fortunate to receive. I have no experience with working on real cars, I have never driven on a racetrack. Nor have I even driven a Porsche. But I know what I love and what I would like to be surrounded by everyday.  It is not only the cars, but the passion, the drive and the goal to create something extraordinary.

This may not work out, but I tried. And I will continue to try.  When I am done with my prison sentence and it is time to leave the safety net of my post prison job at the gym I will not conform to how things are “supposed” to be. Maybe what my family would wish for me.  I will not become a corporate drone again, working a soulless job for a fat paycheck and health benefits. Any job I take will be one where I am surrounded by that which I have passion for, a job that I can learn from, a job that matches the set of values I have created for myself and will lead me on the path I want to walk on. I will live life on my own terms, doing what I love.

I was scared to send the e-mail to Magnus. Scared for putting myself out there to a stranger. Scared for what he would think. I took this fear and analyzed it. I asked myself two simple questions,

“What is the worst that can happen?” and “What is the best that can happen?”

The answers were easy. The worst was a “no”. The best was the opportunity to meet someone I admire, move to a city that I was thinking of moving to anyway, being surrounded by amazing cars everyday, learning new skills and fulfilling a life long dream.  My decision became pretty obvious.

My 1% today was pursuing one of my dreams. My 1% was going outside of my comfort zone and reaching out to someone I admire. Sharing my admiration for them, thanking them for what they have done and asking how I can be a part of it.  It is impossible for nothing to come from this, the mere act of sending the e-mail has already provided me with so much.

Craig