Life is not a Fairy Tale

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

“Life is not a fairy tale.”

I knew somebody who used to say this. She said it in reference to the life I was living. The over the top, seemingly glamorous life of wining, dining and buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

Flying as high as I could possibly go.  Nothing could bring me down. I flew higher and higher, ignoring the ground beneath me. Nobody knowing that I was flying on the wings of fear, insecurity and unworthiness.  I didn’t know that, how could anyone else?

And then the arrest.  My wings clipped I came crashing to the ground.

I went to prison. My wife divorced me. I am financially ruined. I will forever be labeled as a criminal.

Life is not a fairy tale.

And yet, even with all that I have experienced I would argue differently.

Life is a fairy tale.

We have a common misconception of the fairy tale. In the Americanized version there is always a happy ending.  But, there are more than one type of fairy tale.  In the tradition of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, in their original unadulterated form, there is sadness,violence, loss and tragedy.

Bad things happen.

The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson did not talk down to children. They did not sanitize their words to make them safer and to shield children from the harsh realities of the world.

What they did was teach children that it is not the tragedy that matters, but the importance of how one navigates through tragedy.

This is where strength is grown. This is where character is created. This is where one finds out who they really are.

It is through tragedy and adversity where resilience is born. It is through tragedy and adversity where we learn that both the worst of life and the best of life can come from the same source.

Pixar has a formula in which they model every one of their stories around. It is simple in its overall premise, complex when you actually think about it and go through the steps your self.

There are three acts to a Pixar story:

Act 1: The protagonist is called to adventure and accepts the adventure.  The rules of the world are established, and the end of Act 1 is in the inciting incident.

Act 2: The protagonist looks for every comfortable way to solve the problem. By the climax , they learn what it is really going to take to solve the problem. This act includes the lowest of the low.

Act 3: The protagonist needs to prove they have learned the lesson, usually showing a willingness to prove this at all costs. This is all about redemption – an enlightened character knowing what to do to resolve a conflict.

These three acts are heavily based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.  The hero’s inner journey is as follows:


  1. Limited awareness of problem
  2. Increased awareness of need for change
  3. Fear, Resistance to change
  4. Overcoming Fear
  5. Committing to Change
  6. Experimenting with new conditions
  7. Preparing for major change
  8. Big change with feeling of life and death
  9. Accepting consequences of new life
  10. New challenge and Re dedication
  11. Final attempts, last-minute dangers
  12. Mastery


I am using this as a narrative tool of my journey, I am in no way referring to myself as a hero.

In the Pixar scenario I am in Act 2. In Campbell’s inner journey I vacillate between the middle numbers. I am still resistant to some change while I am also committed to change.  I am still overcoming fear. I am experimenting with new conditions.

But what I am realizing is that it does not matter where I am in the journey.

What matters is the journey itself.

I don’t know if there will be a happy ending. Nor does that matter.  I am not looking for a happy ending. Why would I look so far into the future, one in which anything can happen, at an ending I cannot predict when so much magic is happening right now?  I’d like to think that by doing what I am doing now that I will have some impact on my future and that it will be a happy one. But, in reality, I don’t know.

But what I do know is this.  It is about now. This moment. And at this exact moment I am writing this, and I am doing something I love. That is what matters.

Both Pixar and The Hero’s Journey have happy endings. The fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson seemingly do not. I would make the case that they do.

To understand that the beautiful and the horrible can both come from the same source is powerful.  That to navigate through adversity and come out stronger on the other side is transformative.

It is what you do with your circumstances that matters, not the circumstances.  It is enjoying the journey and experiencing all that you can that matters.

That is a happy ending to me.


The Darkness

The darkness came back last night. With a vengeance. The cage that held it back unlocked by two margaritas and a Corona. Sitting at the edge of my couch. My body tense. My hands squeezing my temples as I screamed.  I could feel the darkness tearing away at my brain. Tears flowing down my face. Begging for the pain to stop. Begging to not feel this way.  I would have welcomed death at that moment.  Not because of the pain, but because I feared I would do this to myself again. And again. That all of my hard work would be so quickly discarded and I would allow alcohol and the darkness to rule my life.  That no matter how much work I do, all it takes is the smallest misstep to take it all down.  I wanted so badly to call someone for help, but didn’t want to be a burden on anyone.

Truth be told, I did not feel worthy of help.

I tried to remember all that I have practiced and developed over the past two years.  My saving graces that pulled me from the darkness and shaped my mind into what it is today. A brain that is closer to my child’s mind than ever before. Clear, open, confident and present. I wanted to show myself compassion and love. Now more than ever I needed it. I went to the mirror and told the face looking back at me that I loved him. I did not recognize the face. I did not know the person staring back at me. His eyes were a different color than mine, his skin a different tone.  I was scared of him.

I wanted to tear off the skin I was wearing, to crawl out from the shell that was encapsulating me.

This is not want I wanted for the night. I had merely wanted to enjoy my new found freedom. I wanted to stop at a neighborhood bar, one that I had walked by before when I could not go in.  My ankle bracelet making me a spectator of the fun going on inside. I wanted to partake in an activity I had done thousands of nights before. One that in the past had brought me joy. Last night there was no joy. There was the opposite. There was a vacuum, sucking all that was good away and pulling the darkness in to take its place.

Alcohol had always given me confidence, allowed me to find my voice. Last night the alcohol muted my voice, it chipped away at my confidence. Writing this now do I see a positive out of all of this. I do not need anything to make me feel confident.

I am confident. I found my voice. And I don’t ever want to lose it.

My mind is my greatest asset. But it balances on a precipice. Dangling at the cliffs edge.  So much work and time to keep it safe, so little to push it over the edge. I feel an impetus to complete my book and any other work I have before it falls off the cliff and into the dark abyss below. I fear the cliffs edge, but don’t know how to walk away from it.

I have been working on another post for almost two weeks now. The words have been eluding me. I wrote this instead. It is not uplifting, it is not a part of my one percent for today. I’ve barely edited this, I don’t know if it will make sense to anybody reading it.

It is raw and it is what I experienced.

It is my truth and it is my fear.


Experimenting.  A test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth, to examine the validity of a hypothesis, or to determine the efficacy of something previously untried. The process of conducting such a test; experimentation. An innovative act or procedure.

Experimenting, as I mean it here, focuses on these lines of the definition;  to determine the efficacy of something previously untried. An innovative act or procedure.

When do we stop experimenting? Why do we do stop experimenting? When do we become afraid of experimenting?

There comes a point in life when we stop trying new things.  When we do this our mind shrinks. Our mind is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, otherwise it will atrophy. When our mind shrinks, our world shrinks.  We do not realize that our world has shrunk, it happens over time and subtlety.  We become comfortable and complacent. We make it through each day and often that is enough.

Our routines and what we know become the boundaries around our mind.  We are safe within the confines of our boundaries, why would we ever leave?  This is how I do “X”, this is what I do on Friday, this is where I go on vacation, this is what I do and this is what I know.  Every time we say or do these things the boundaries we put up around ourselves are drawn closer, an ever tightening circle.  We shut off possibilities.  We choose not to view life and the world in its entirety.

Ask my friends about me and routine. They will tell you I was the King of routine. They would be right.

The neural pathways of my mind carved in stone, I slip into what I call default mode efficiency.  I easily fall into routine, I perform tasks in the quickest, most efficient, tried and true way I know how.  I put blinders on my eyes and only see what is in front of me, nothing more. I have come to the understanding that when I do this, I am no longer present in the moment. I am no longer actively engaged in whatever it is I am doing. I am merely doing. Not being.

I have deceived myself into thinking I am doing my mind a favor by doing this. To execute a task in the most efficient way possible without any real thought.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when this an enviable skill.  But most of the times it isn’t. I’d rather be present, I would rather be aware and engaged.

I think about when I was young. So many new experiences and challenges.  Big and small presented to me on a daily basis.  My imagination salivating at the opportunity to solve the problems. I think it is within our youth that we do some of our best thinking. Our worlds are huge and anything is possible.

 So I experimented. I would try one way and it would fail. I would try another way and that would fail.  Maybe I would fail over and over again, but I would always keep trying. And then, finally, I would get it right. It is through this process that so many great things occur, and also where the trap of the default mode efficiency kicks in.

Through trial and error we learn so much. But once the correct solution is found the mind grabs hold of it and starts carving that process into the brain. Perfecting the process until it becomes efficient and the blueprint of how you perform task “X”.

 When we are young so many things are new and they are exciting. Our minds expand at an exponential rate. Until the time when they no longer expand, and without experimentation they contract.  We grow secure and comfortable in our constricted worlds, content to abide by the status quo of “this is how it is done”. Our jobs become efficient, our home lives become efficient, our relationships become efficient. We no longer pursue challenges, we cease growing. We become stagnant.

I write all of this now because I can see  how my world had shrunk. And how, without work, it would continue to shrink. Time and repetition have taken their toll and constricted the boundaries of my mind.

I see this now because of my gift of a second chance at life. I have to start over, I have to rebuild – not what once was, but something new. A life that doesn’t have a blueprint, but rather a doodle on a napkin. A rough sketch that points me in the direction I want to go.  Within this opportunity is the ability to experiment. To throw away so much of what I know and start over.

I realize the importance of experimenting and don’t ever want to stop.  Life is a laboratory. Mix this, mix that., try this, try that.  I want to expand the boundaries I have put around my mind. I want to expand my definition of what is possible and to challenge that which I deem as impossible.

The idea for this post came to me because of the dinner I cooked last night for a friend.  I was going to prepare the meal in the same way I had made it in the past. I knew how to do this, it was safe and it was easy. I was going to take the easiest path to prepare something good for somebody I wanted to impress with my cooking skills. At the last-minute and with her encouragement I switched on the fly and made it up as I went along.

Reading this back now it sounds ridiculous. Patting myself on the back for such a small step.  But the rewards. The rewards were huge. It was fun, it was spontaneous, and it tasted delicious. OK, the asparagus needs some work, but the tuna was awesome.  I could feel my mind expanding at what was possible and what I learned.

The act of doing this alone made me realize the importance of just trying.  Doing something new.  My mind lights up when I experiment. Synapses fire, neural pathways are created.  I once again look at the world with a child’s eyes.

I want to always ask myself, what if? What if I did this, what if I tried that?

I want to throw perfectionism out the window and stop hiding behind it. I want to take risks.  I want to always be learning, and always be trying. To understand that I will probably learn more from the failures than the successes.

Our minds are like goldfish, they will expand and contract within the boundaries we put around them.  Pushing the boundaries and what is possible gives the mind more room to play. I want to let my mind roam free. Let it off the leash and see what happens.  By expanding the boundaries of our brains we make room for the big things in life.

Each post I write is an experiment. I don’t know if it will work. If it makes sense. If people will like it. It doesn’t matter. Each post expands what is possible through the power of writing.  I learn something with each post I write.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

My 1% today, and ideally this should happen everyday, is to experiment.

I will walk a different way to work, I will cook something I have never made before, I will change my workout, eat something I have never eaten, go places I have never been. Say “Yes” to as many experiences as I can.  I will change the small to make room for the big. I will do my best to take the status quo and throw it in the garbage.

Every day is a new day. And within each day is the opportunity to experiment.






A new beginning


This is what I wrote on May 9th, the day I was released from the Bureau of Prisons. My stream of consciousness without much editing. I spent fifteen months in Federal Prison, four months in a Halfway House and two months in home detainment with a GPS ankle bracelet.

May 9th

I can feel the chapter close behind me and the new one open. As clear as the sky. The second the bracelet was removed and handshakes and well wishes were exchanged. One door closed and another opened.
Leaving the halfway house I saw a piece of graffiti at the end of the bridge.

“Freedom Forever.”

The universe has once again blessed me with a sign. I am so grateful.

I stop for a coffee and croissant. The first sip of coffee as I walk the street is different.  It is delicious, the best sip of coffee I have ever had.  I look around me. The sky is bluer, the clouds whiter and the tulips a brilliant orange and purple. The world is different.

I’m on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I’ve dreamed of this moment. My first taste of freedom. With every dream I was near water. I wanted to see water. I needed to see water. I look forward to seeing the ocean again. Water touching the horizon. My desire to follow the water to its edge, knowing I could never reach it. The water calms me, it brings me peace.

Everything in my life has led to this point, to this moment. Everything going forward will lead to the next moment.

As I walked to the Promenade I thought back to the sentencing. I found myself no longer standing on the street, but transported back in time.  Standing in the courtroom, the enormity of the room making me feel so small. Surrounded by loved ones, but alone in front of the judge. My life being altered to the point of being unrecognizable. Could this be happening? The trance I had put myself in for the previous years disappearing. Reality facing me head on. Uncertain, unkind and frightening.

I felt a gripping pain in my chest, my heart being squeezed by a gigantic hand. The sadness, the shame and the guilt all wrapping themselves around my heart. Constricting my breathing.  The desperate agony for my wife and our life. What had I done?

I stopped walking. I took a breath.  I said to myself,

“That is the past, it is over. Let it go.”

My body responded with compassion, the hand around my heart let go. My mind released the thought that moments ago was crushing me. The recurring thought that has haunted me for so long.  My chest lightened, my mood improved. The sky was once again blue, the clouds the whitest of whites.

I am free.

None of what I did can be changed. I have no control over the future. I have this moment. And in this moment I am a free man capable of doing everything I dream of.

I walk now with the lessons learned, the clarity what’s important in life. Really important.  I walk now with the courage to be vulnerable. I walk now a new man. Stronger, more confident.  For everything I lost I gained twice in gratitude.

The lessons so valuable, I have no choice but to be the best man I can be. To ignore the lessons would be spitting in the face of those that I love, including myself. All of their and my suffering would be wasted. It would have been for nothing.

I burnt it all to the ground. And now I am emerging from the ashes.

A new chapter has begun.

Find Your Art

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

—Neil Gaiman

I love to write. The act of creating something from nothing.  I love the evolutionary process that writing is. Inspiration, idea, fingers on a keyboard, deleting, rewriting, fine tuning, putting out a finished product that is never actually finished.  There is always another revision. There is always something that can be added and maybe more importantly, deleted.

I believe in the idea that a Muse comes and visits me, giving me the gift of an idea and the inspiration to chase it.  The preliminary inspiration coming on like a bolt of lightning, and I sitting with my empty jar hoping to bottle a little of it. Beginning with one sentence, the floodgates open and the words flow so quickly I struggle to keep up. Worried that I cannot write fast enough, afraid that the Muse will take her story elsewhere before I have a shot at it. Because whatever story the Muse bestows upon you must be told. Whether by you or someone else.

I love when she visits, when I find myself lost within the words, the need to convey the message is so consuming and so powerful.  When the words truly flow, when all the stars are aligned and the story just pours out of me I am transported to another world. Time ceases to exist and I am lost within myself.

Often times what I write brings me pain. To write the story I have to write is to open old wounds and explore the darkest recesses of my mind. Exploring the thoughts and the memories most of us choose to push further away. Dissecting them and making them bleed.  When the last word of the day is written and there is no more blood to give I slowly come back to reality. I’ve traveled a great distance without ever leaving my seat.  It is a spiritual journey, a form of meditation.  I find myself at the crossroads of mental exhaustion and invigoration. A paradox I would not trade for anything.

Writing helped pull me from the darkness. Writing helped save my life. Anguish, pain, disgust, shame, guilt, embarrassment all bonded together to create a new element inside of me.  A dark mass of energy and density. Each passing minute compressing the elements closer to the point of implosion.  Writing was the safety valve that released the energy.  Taking what was inside and putting it on paper.  Those emotions are still present inside of me, but their energy and density reduced to a manageable level.

The act of cutting oneself open, examining what is there and pouring the contents onto the page is magical. I have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible through this art. I know there is so much more. I know there will be more pain, reliving a past I would normally be content to leave behind.  But the fulfillment and enjoyment dictate that I must write. That I must continue to dig. When I feel I cannot dig any deeper I must find a bigger shovel. Because my guess is this where the story truly begins.

Writing is the opportunity to tell your story, whatever it may be and to take ownership of it. But the story is only ours for a short while. When we share it, when we hit publish and send it out into the world to live for eternity on a server in a data center in the middle of nowhere, that is where the magic happens. That is when the story is no longer ours, that is when it belongs to the world.

I am afraid to share this story, I am scared to hit publish. I always am, but I always hit the button. My book will be the most difficult for me to share. The pain I know it will cause.  But I will hit publish. I will take that leap.

I write for me and this is my truth.  I fear what others will say, what people will think.  If I allow those voices to creep in while I write, I will be writing for them and not myself. And what I put on these pages will be false, a polished and refined version of the truth. That is not what I want. I have only begun to dissect my inner self and already I see the power in it. Good, bad, ugly – whatever it may be, that is what I need to put on these pages.  I must be authentic.

I write this now to share the power that writing gave me. I write to share what brought me back from the darkness and near implosion.  The power of finding my art. I had to share and I want to encourage others.  The power to change is at your fingertips.

Find your art.

Find what you have to do, the thing that makes you feel empty if you don’t do it. That thing you wanted to do as a child but life got in the way.  That thing you didn’t realize was missing but now you cannot live without.

Find this for yourself. Find that which fills you from the inside.

I write in the morning, this is when I feel most creative. I wake up at six to write, I have to. Due to my current work schedule I am unable to write Saturday and Sunday.  To wake up even earlier would leave me with little sleep and I would be of no use to anybody, particularly myself. I feel incomplete on those days, I feel empty. I cannot wait for Monday to come so that I can once again write. The ideas and words that have been pent-up all weekend come on like a summer thunderstorm, powerful and beautiful.

Find your art. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter if there is more than one thing. Cooking, painting, carpentry, public speaking, helping others, playing an instrument.

Whatever. Find it. Do it. Embrace it. Never let it go.

Once you find your art there is a second step.  This may be the most critical piece of the equation. It is the scariest.  The one that so many of us stop at, the one that fills us with fear. The piece that makes the magic happen and brings the cycle full circle:

Share it. Share whatever it is with somebody, honestly anybody.  Just share it.

“When something scares me there is magic on the other side.”

-Kamal Ravikant

Love to cook? Have friends over. Love to paint? Set up a gallery in your home and have friends over for an opening.  Play an instrument at open mic night.

Walk to the edge of the cliff and look. Not down into the abyss that you think lies beneath you. Look up, look out, look behind you to see how far you have come.  And as tempting as that firm ground behind you is, you know you don’t want to go back.

You have to take action. You have to take that leap into the abyss. The abyss you think is made of fear, rejection, and judgement.  Once you leap you realize it is none of those, but rather a wide open blue sky of opportunities.  We worry about failure and rejection. The very act of leaping off of the cliff negates rejection and destroys failure.

You took the leap. That is what counts. That is the moment your courage gives you wings. The words of others mean nothing, your actions are all that matter. If you are true to yourself and share your story, your art, your creation, a piece of your soul you have found the magic.

Finding your art fills you from the inside. The need for external circumstances to impact your happiness disappears. You are in control of your joy.

Do what you want and never thought possible. Because it is possible. Do it because you have to. You will bring light into the darkness.  The world opens when you face fear and share your art.  Opportunities abound.

You will become a better, happier person for it. Do it now. Don’t wait for a time when you will be less busy. Be honest with yourself, will that ever really happen? No.  Things aren’t going to magically change and make you less busy. Find the time. It is not selfish. It is an investment in yourself that pays endless dividends to you and everyone around you.

I love writing. Quite frankly I don’t know if I’m any good at it. Nor does it matter. It lights me up and brings me joy.  I feel complete.  Writing makes me better at life. This isn’t about doing it for the money or for anybody else.  Do it for the person who matters most.