I’m reading a book right now called Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. Basically, this former NY Times food critic talks about her experiences dressing up as various people so she wouldn’t get preferential treatment and could give an honest assessment of restaurants she was reviewing. When she put on various outfits/wigs she essentially became a whole new person, complete with different personality and life backgrounds. I’m not through it but she became a demure older woman named Miriam, she became her late mother complete with personality and food should be sent back attitude, she became Chloe a divorced blond, and she became Brenda – a zany, ex-hippy free spirited red head. I’m sure there will be more.
It got me thinking about how I’ve changed, and how the world sees me has changed too. Like my son Loudboy now, I was always small for my age. Until my early teen years, I had no concept of fashion or trends or being cool. I had those self tinting eyeglasses that were about 4 sizes too big for my face (pics upcoming). I was a total dork, my friends were losers and dorks too.
I entered 9th grade at less than 100 pounds. Graduating high school, I was all of 5’7″ and maybe 120 pounds – as skinny as the day is long. I was still a nerd, but was starting to figure things out. I even had a girlfriend later in high school who was sort of pretty, and even had sex for a while there. In college I spread my wings and with the fresh slate I was given, expanded both my life experiences and started really thinking about who I wanted to be. Joining activities that expanded my interests and putting myself out there for failure was critical in many ways in slowly building that foundation of who I would be as an adult. I certainly made my share of mistakes and had countless failures, but I kept evolving and growing and dusting myself off.
Starting grownup life with my wife, I was content to be slothlike. A smoking, lazy bear of a dude. But when my wife started working out, the pressure was on. I became an Ironman. I befriended and trained with pro-athletes. Later I became a dad, a beta dad who was all for keeping the peace and rolling through life. Yet later, I evolved again after trending toward a pleasant roommate-like existence (with occasional benefits) with my wife. Unhappy, I stumbled upon Athol’s blog and book The Married Man Sex Life Primer and it was on (like Donkey Kong). That was really the last major catalyst for my own evolution, though minor ones still occur regularly.
With that shift in life perspective, I changed into the man I knew I could be: strong in physical and mental spirit, stylish and fun, solid as a person and as a leader at home and at work. Gone was that weird, awkward boy or teen who was trying to fit in. Finally comfortable in my own shoes and in who I have become. Like the author of the food critic book I mentioned, I became the person who’s body I was wearing. When I put on muscle, I grew confidence in how I looked and acted accordingly. When I learned some basic MMA skills, I wasn’t afraid to stand up for myself against those I had previously let dominate with their attitude. When I started having the marriage and sex I desired, I felt like a king, and success begot success. In doing these things, I gained respect in many ways by many people, including myself.
If you too want to continue to evolve, you need to open up your mind to the possibilities. If you’re a t-shirt and jeans average dad, imagine how you’ll be perceived if you show up in a blazer and slacks at that function. If you’re fat, unfortunately you’re perceived and treated differently than if you were thin. Let your old bad habits go and start evolving to the next person you are to become. Be decisive and take initiative. Be confident. Take that long, painful process of learning a new skill or hobby and kick the shit out of it. Don’t forget your strengths, and build off of them. Be the person your kids look up to and brag about. Go against the grain, and be extraordinary. And always, always keep learning. Turn off the Facebook and boob tube and pick up a book on anything: Sailing, hiking the Appalachian Trail, how to rebuild an old car, how to grow a great garden, good fiction that makes you think or inspires you. Whether you do it or not is irrelevant, because inspiration hits us in unusual places and in unusual ways, but if you are Doing (something, anything) it has a way of finding us.
Life is not static. Evolve. It’s never too late to start. To inspire. To live. To love.
Here’s a few shots of who I was and who I’ve become.
What’s next for me (besides what I already have on my docket)? HellifIknow. Maybe I’ll start playing guitar again and do some open mics, or learn a foreign language, or start doing improv. I really don’t know, but staying static is not an option. Best of luck to you too in taking the next step to being awesome.