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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Once Upon a Time... 11/9 -11/15 Days 313 - 319

Down to less than six weeks left in the year :( I felt my first twinge of sadness about the year being so near to an end the other day.  I found myself wondering what would life be like after the 1000 Challenge. 

In addition to that, there has also been some concerns as of late questioning myself and the 1000 Challenge.  As I have said to you all repeatedly over the year: I believe in the 1000 Challenge with all my heart.  It has changed my life in more ways than I can count.  I will do anything to keep the 1000 Challenge as it is: a vehicle to positively impact and thus, change our lives.  And if doing so means divulging more of myself, then I will happily do so.  The 1000 Challenge, what it means to me, and what I hope it has come to mean to so many of you; means that much to  me!

To really appreciate the magnitude of impact this year has had on me, I need to give you some more back ground on the beginning, but first...

A few updates:

The 11-11-11 full moon photo shoot was amazing!  I had so much fun watching all of your photos come in from all over the world.  I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.  I know many of you were disappointed that you did not have the clearest of skies for your shots.  One of the main reasons I have done "Trash Day," "Sunrise/Sunset Day," and now "Full Moon Day," is because they are just small examples of how each and everyone of us can do something big - FOR FREE.  Not to shabby considering we all get to be part of an event that involves six continents and over 30 countries participating.  It does not cost us any money to take those pictures. The only thing we spend is our time, which I would hope most of you have viewed your time as an investment during these projects... an investment you have gotten a much higher rate of return on than what you put into it.  

To see the Full Moon photo album click here: 11-11-11 Full Moon Pictures

The ongoing sunrise/sunset challenge has been really picking up steam this past week.  A few of you have been really stepping up and getting your friends from around the world involved by having them take and send pictures to you.  I cannot thank you enough for this.  It has been amazing seeing some pictures come in from some remote places in the world.  Also an extra big thanks for everyone taking the time to check the list before you post a picture.  I cannot tell you how much time it saves me when you take the extra minute to check the list and properly label the picture.  Thank you thank you thank you! :)

To see the updated list, click here:  Sunrise/Sunset List

Lastly, I hope you all can join me tomorrow night (Wednesday November 16th), 7pm PST for a Ustream Chat.  I really enjoy doing these with you all.  I hope everyone has as much fun with them as I do.  To join the Ustream Chat at 7pm PST tomorrow, click here: Ustream Chat

Once Upon a Time...

I have not always been the 1000 Challenge Guy.  In fact there was a time where my life was the exact opposite.

I grew up without a lot of money.  My parents rented a very small house that was covered in mold, with walls so rotten that mice and rats would gnaw their way inside them and I would fall asleep at night listening them scurrying back and fourth inside the walls, worried they would get out and jump on my head.

My parents both loved me very much, I have never questioned this and I know they did the best they could by me.  My Mom always went the extra mile to make birthdays and holidays as special as she could - trying to amend for the birthdays and holidays she did not get to have as a kid.  The rest of the year the topic of money, and the lack of it, seemed to always be at the forefront of conversation.  

When I was about 5 or 6 years old my Mom told me for the first time that her and my Dad might get a divorce.  They never did, the reason, my Mom always said, was for the benefit of my brother and I.  She did not want us to have to grow up in a single parent household.  This filled me with guilt, knowing my Mom was choosing unhappiness for my sake.

What I saw my Mom and Dad argue about more than anything was money.  First it was my Dad not making enough, then when he finally did start making money, he spent unwisely and left little for anything else. The reasons for this are not relevant here.  What is relevant is that seeing my Mom sad, seeing my Dad hiding in his room, seeing neither one of them seeming to really like the other one, it made me sad.  Listening to my Mom talking about having to borrow money from her Mom so she could buy food it took it's toll on me.  I felt guilty.

When I was younger I used to love running up the street to take the rent to Bob and Virginia our landlords.  As I got older, I began to dread the walks and became more and more shamed that my brother and I were the ones that had to deliver the late check.  What once was a excited run had turned to a walk of shame.  

By the time I was around 9 or 10 years old I "tried" to kill myself for the first time.  I use the word "tried" with quotations marks because it was a pretty weak attempt.  I had gone down to the woods below our house with a large hunting knife.  I took the knife out and pressed it to my heart "trying" to pierce the skin.  I began sobbing because I was so scared I could not bring myself to push hard enough to do much damage, I barely drew blood.  

The reason for this drastic action was that by this age, I had become good enough at math to be fairly proficient at addition.  I had figured out, in my little child mind, that if I was not around, it would save my Mom and Dad so much money.  If they had that extra money, then they would be happy.  That is basic child logic right there.  A clear cause and effect.. there is not an in-between - we wait until we are adults to add that in.  All I wanted to do was to see my Mom happy, to see her live one day in her life where money did not dictate how i felt she felt.

My first two years of High School I was super shy.  So much so that the first week of my Freshmen year I broke our in hives from anxiety about going to High School.  I was terrified I was going to get picked on, terrified about getting "canned." 

My Freshmen class had approximately 368 students in it.  I think about 208 of us graduated.  To say I came from not the most academically ambitious area would be an understatement.  Upon the time of graduation I had made it a point to work at my social skills so I could spend some of my final years not being shy.

That did not do much good when I started college.  I had little to no social skills.  I had absolutely "ZERO" game when it came to talking to girls.  I was shy and awkward when it came to meeting people.  When it came to meeting girls... I was beyond pathetic.  The common response was for me to turn bright red in the face and break out in a full sweat.  I was not happy.

I had dabbled in exercise throughout my life.  I have always loved it, but never made the commitment to it.  I finally made the lifetime commitment to exercise April of my Freshmen year in college.  I had hit a low point in my young college life and knew I needed to make a change otherwise my opportunity to live in Santa Barbara was going to be gone.  At the time when I committed to exercise I was 19years old, 6ft. 3in. tall and weight about 165lbs.  Today I am 6ft 3in tall and weigh about 223lbs.  Exercise changed, maybe even saved my life.

Alcohol became a great social friend in my late teens and throughout college.  It took the edge off, helped me meet people, helped me talk to girls, helped me gain confidence.  I never felt I had a problem with alcohol nor have I ever been worried about it.  Even today I still love the social effects brought on by a few drinks.  I love being with people, watching them let go, be silly, and enjoy the giggles that are shared.

After college I fell in love for the first time.  She was an amazing person and the perfect first love for me.  I also started working in my career.  And I worked and I worked and I worked.  You see I was determined not to create the same hardships my parents had.  It seemed like money was always their problem and the cause of so much unhappiness so I vowed I would work harder than anyone else to make sure money never was an issue between my girlfriend and I.  
In fact all I wanted to do is work.   I was obsessed with it.  I took zero time for myself and left little time for us to really build on a relationship.  In the nearly three years we were together we left town together maybe 3-4 times (these were overnight weekend trips).  The rest of the time I was working and the one day I took off I wanted to do laundry and practice bowling because I thought that was what was most important.  This was also a time period in my life where I would stress constantly about what time I went to bed and would go to sleep telling myself that, "If I don't fall asleep by 10pm I won't get 8hours of sleep and I will wake up so tired."

Does not sound like a lot of fun right?  Naturally the relationship ended which at the time was the most devastating thing to ever happen to me.  It changed my life, but only because I made the choice to change it.

I overhauled my life at this time.  I started to look at all the things that weren't working and knew I needed to make some serious changes. Among the many I made was leaving the company I worked for and starting to work for myself.

I also started to look at all the areas that were lacking in life... the areas I was not getting fulfilled.  Things like not traveling, not socializing, were just some of the areas of my life that were seriously neglected.

The next few years were dedicated to learning.  When I was not working, I was learning.  I would read, and continue to read today, a ton of books... anything I could get my hands on.  I learned to love to learn... an important skill that had been long lost.  Much of what happened from then on has already been shared with you all, but you can read it here again if you would like: The Story of the 1000 Challenge

My story is not unique.  In fact I am sure there are quite a few of you that could relate to it, or at least parts of it.  There are also quite a few of you that I am sure had much more challenging events in life.  No matter what the case may be, my point in sharing my story with you is:

I am where I am today because of the choices I have made in life.  I make more money than some, but less than some too. More importantly, I am happy, by far the happiest I have ever been with me.  I love where I live, I love my work, I love the opportunities that I have created for myself, I genuinely love my life - because I have created a life to love.  

Sure, nothing and no one is perfect.  I make mistakes everyday, but those mistakes which I once looked at as failures, I now look at as my best learning opportunities.  

Life WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN.  WE ALL WILL GO THROUGH CHALLENGING TIMES!!! No one is exempt from this.  Everything that "happens" to us presents us with an opportunity - one we can either learn from, grow from and thus improve our life.  Or, one we can hold onto, resent, and use as an excuse to justify the place we are in in life and make it the reason why we are unhappy.  

Something that I have learned in life.  Happiness is not just something that one day happens - it is a thing, someTHING we have to work at.  And it is a lifetime of work to be happy.  It means a lifetime of dedication to make choices, re-evaluating, forgiving, changing your perspective, and so much more.

When I have been faced with challenges, adversity in the past, I have not always tried to learn from situation.  Trust me I have struggled getting to where I am at today, but let me tell you - the struggle is worth it.  I used to resent, blame, cry out to the heavens "Why is this HAPPENING TO ME?!?!"  Nothing happened "to me," it just happened, plain and simple.  I then created whatever story I needed to to UN-empower myself, to make myself as poor and helpless as possible.  The event happened, I attached the meaning to it.

I want to close with this:  I read this great book during my homeless challenge, "Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor Frankl.  This is one of those books that every human being should read, I mean this EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!!!!  The book is an autobiographical account of Frankl's time spent in concentration camps during WWII as a prisoner and what he learned about survival and essentially the meaning of life.  Anyways one point that really stood out to me was the following, 

When referring to why people gave up and quit on life in the Death Camps: "Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually (referring to our inner spirit) beyond himself.  Instead of taking the camp's difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence.  They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past.  Life for such people became meaningless."

By ignoring the opportunity that was in front of them, by choosing to wallow in their circumstance, by choosing to be a victim, Their lives became meaningless...  Only we can figure out what is truly meaningful to our individual lives.  

If you are reading this and find yourself struggling in life, I highly encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper and figure out what is meaningful to you and then seek out ways to add more meaningfulness to your life.

If you are reading this in a happy place, never stop, always keep adding meaning to your life... it's what keeps us going, it's the work that goes into happiness.  

As I have said before, I am no different than any of you.  My thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs, my convictions I have today are there because I have worked at them, because I have wanted happiness in my life and was willing to put in the work to get there.  

Happiness can not be bought, it cannot be won, it cannot be given, it can only be earned and it is available to be earned by each and everyone of us - I promise you all this.

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,



  1. Thanks Jesse :) Wonderfully are an inspiration to all of us because we know where you started and what it took for you to change your "mind" about where you were headed. Your willingness to share your past and struggles along the way is what makes us see that change is possible. Thank you for always being willing to be real.

  2. You look amazing! I love when people are concious of their health and lead an active lifestyle. We're only given one body after-all!

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