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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The End is Near 12/22 - 12/27 Days 357 - 362

I discovered today that I cannot count and somewhere along the line I added in an extra day for the year, I guess I really did not want it to end.  Anyways, my running total has the final day of the year being the 366th day, can we just pretend this year was a leap year? :)

I had SO MUCH fun with the holidays around the world challenge.  Pictures of friends, family, pets, Christmas trees, FOOD, and other holiday traditions from all over the world made this challenge extra special.  To check out the photo album of it, click here: Holiday Photos Around the World

I would like to do one more event for New Years... would you all be up for it?

I have been getting a lot of questions about what is next for me.  I have a few goals and ideas which I will share with you all in the final blog and final ustream of this year.  All of which I will have out this weekend :)  One thing I can promise you is that the 1000 Challenge facebook page will remain.  We, as a community, have way to much momentum going right now.  We can not stop, we must keep going forward.

One of my best friends presented me with the following challenge as part of the 1000 Challenge.  He challenged me to find 10 things this year that I enjoyed enough that they would become a permanent part of my life.  His reason for this was to keep me accountable.  He wanted to make sure I did not just jump from one experience, one thing to the next.  He wanted to make sure I was taking time to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  My friend knows me well and is very wise for giving me this challenge as I thought about it often throughout the year.

My 10:

#1 There is no competition of what #1 is.  Without a doubt it is Photography.  A  few years ago you could not pay me to take a picture.  Now, you would have to pay me to stop taking pictures.  I love it that much.  Some of my friends are even jealous of my camera as it goes with me everywhere.  No exaggeration, my camera has literally become an extension of me.

I was talking with a friend about photography the other day and I think he summed it up as to why I love it so  much.  His words, "taking pictures, forces you to be in the moment."  He is absolutely right.  When you are appreciating something, or enjoying a site it is one thing, but when you are trying to capture that perfect moment in time it is a completely different experience.  It has been so special for me to look back at essentially me entire life this past year and see what I have done because I have captured virtually everything in photos.

#2 Helping people.  The only reason this is #2 and not #1 is because I knew I loved helping people before this year, and I did not have the same passion for photography in prior years.  The photography growth is much more drastic than the helping people by scale, but still, my number one passion, my purpose in life is helping people.  This year I received 1000's of emails, letters, comments etc... from people all over the world talking about the 1000 Challenge and what a difference it made in their life.  That motivates me and inspires me to do more.  I learned many new tools that I hope will help me be a better coach, teacher, speaker, leader in the near future.  What gets me up and gets me fired up and excited everyday is the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life.  I only hope to build on that next year.

#3 Travel:  I loved travel before, but I have and even greater love for it now, largely in part because of #1.  I love travel because I love what I learn about myself through the experience.  I really love it now because I pretend I am a photographer going off on an assignment to capture wherever I am going on camera so I can share it with the rest of the world. 

Travel (and when I say travel I mean anything from the day trip out of town, to the airplane flight across the world) is great because it allows me to break the routine of things.  If I want to switch things up, I can hop in my car and 30 minutes later I can be somewhere different.

#4: Teaching/Public Speaking:  While most of the speaking has been limited to our Ustream chats we have, I really really enjoy those because of the opportunity they present me to teach.  I love teaching people especially when the topic is life and how to get the most out of it.  I really enjoy the speaking component of it.  It is fun.  I think teaching another is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have in our lives.  And I think it is vital to the success of humanity (when I say success, I am referring to quality of our lives and not the money we make).  If we have knowledge, a skill, an insight, that could improve the life of someone else, share it don't horde it away.  I love writing the blogs and tying it all into a life lesson.  Each blog and the lesson I try to interweave with it, is my gift to whoever wishes to read it.

#5 On the go lifestyle:  I do not like sitting still or sleeping.  I like going and experiencing.  This year I learned just how much I can see/do/accomplish in a year, and I loved it!  I loved the pace of life.  The few days I would be caught up with no plans I was going crazy.  Human beings are experiential creatures, meaning we need to be experiencing to be growing.  I love the weekend trips, the day adventures.  I love that I did  not sit still much of this year.

#6 Nature:  I have fallen into a much deeper love with nature this year.  The man made stuff is cool and one can't help but to be awe inspired by some of the architectural feats, especially those really ancient ones that were created without all the modern machinery of today.  However, for me the sunsets, the sunrises, the oceans, the mountains, the rivers, the trees, I am happiest there.  I feel free in nature, I feel more connected to myself.  Our natural environment is so so beautiful.  One of my plans for next year is to do a big challenge that allows me to share more of the natural world with all of you.

#7 Learning:  A few years ago I began to enjoy learning.  While I was in school, I really didn't.  It is ironic that I spent nearly 17 years of my life in school and it was not until after I finished school that I began to enjoy learning.  This year presented an abundance of opportunity to learn about myself, to learn about others, to learn what makes humanity as a whole tick.  The only thing I was bummed about this year is I did not create as much time as I would have liked to read the books I wanted to read.  I love the world of information books can open up for me.  Beyond books, I love the opportunity all the experiences I have had this year have given me to learn. 

#8 Driving:  Driving you might ask?  I have driven more this year than any other time in my life.  During that time my relationship with it has transformed.  Long drives are now part of the adventure, part of the process to get to my destination.  They are also an opportunity to explore the unbeaten path, to discover little hidden gems.  If I have someone with me driving becomes and opportunity to bond, to laugh, to share, to experience together.  If I am driving solo it provides me with a time to reflect and/or it provides me with a time to learn.  I have discovered audio books and how important they are.  With living my life on the go so much this year I did not make the time to read physical books, so I started really listening to audio books.  I have probably listened to at least 30 audiobooks this year while driving - 30 books I probably would not have gotten to read otherwise. 

#9 Boundaries:  This is a really big one for me, one I still struggle with, but am continually working to improve.  Why is boundaries on here you might ask?  Well let me explain. 

I want to help people, I really really do, so much so that I will often do it at the expense of myself.  Without going into all the psycho-bable about where this originates, I will say that I have been well known to give people chance after chance after chance.  I justify it by saying they are a good person, they mean well, that wasn't their intention etc... but all the while I continue to stress myself out about the situation.  This year, something had to change.  With the 1000 Challenge I put myself in a position where I was going to be busier than ever, but I was also going to be giving more time to more people.  I can't live me life and perform at the level I want to if I am I constantly giving time and energy in unhealthy ways.  So I started creating boundaries.  It was hard at first.  Some friendships I had had for a long time were severed, others altered.  However, as time went on it became easier for me to stick with the boundaries I had put in place for myself.  And as a result other friendships became strengthened. 

Here's the thing I really FINALLY got this year.  I am not going to make everyone happy.  That's a tough one for a people please-er like me, but it is so true.  As soon as I can let go of that desire to want to make everyone happy, I can really start focusing my energy on the people who WANT to be happy. 

#10 Being Happy:  I shared with you all the struggles I had been through that lead to the 1000 Challenge.  Were there moments of happiness here and there, absolutely, but was I happy as a whole, absolutely not.  Am I 100 percent happy with myself now, NOPE. 

Happiness and the acquisition of it, takes work - hard work.  It is so easy to not be happy.  It is so easy to blame the rest of the world instead of taking responsibility for ourselves and our own lives.  It is so easy to sleep a little longer, give 70% effort and get by rather than 100%... It takes work to get up earlier, it takes work to try harder, it takes work to have those honest conversations with yourself, and it really takes work to accept full responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your mental and emotional state. Probably the hardest job any of us will ever have in our lifetime is the job of being happy.  It is a job worth taking and it is a job worth giving your absolute best at.

I can tell you that I am much happier being happy than when I am not.  So much so that it is my #10 on my list as it is truly something that I want for the rest of my life and am willing to work for.  Sure it gets frustrating at times, sure it is hard, and sure, life can be cruel and unfair at times, but the thing of it is, I know that already.  I know the challenges that life can throw at me.  I know how cruel and unfair life can be.  And I know I can survive.  I have survived and I know I will survive again. 

Happiness is not about surviving.  At times it can be.  What happiness is really all about is thriving.  Thriving and squeezing every last experience and once of possibility out of life so that when it is your time to leave this earth, you can leave with a smile on your face knowing that you really lived and you were happy. 

At least that is what I want

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Number 1000 ... 12/16 - 12/21 Days 350 - 356

This morning I hit number 1000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But before we get to that, a few updates :)

1st please please please remember that this weekend is the holidays around the world event.  Please get your friends and family involved.  Lets see if we can get 50 countries this time! :)  Bonus points to anyone who can get a picture from Antarctica ... we still have not got one from there yet this year.  For all the info, click here:  Holiday's in Pictures Around the World Event

2nd I still cannot stop thank you all enough for all your support and interest in my book and in Ouch My Heart Is Broken  Some of you have started sharing your stories on the site.  I promise you that by doing so, you are going to help and touch more lives than you can even begin to imagine. Thank you for being so willing to share the challenging times from your lives.

3rd there are less than 10 Days left in the year! YIKES!!!

Well I hit number 1000.  I am not going to lie, it was a little bitter sweet.  On one hand I felt this overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  On other I felt a bit of sadness that the 1000 Challenge, at least this incarnation of it, and the year of the 1000 Challenge is coming to an end.  And on my feet, I felt COLD!!  Realizing that my tennis shoes and socks were not enough to keep my little toes warm. :)

I only planned out two of the challenges: #'s 500 and 1000.  I tried to have the rest of them happen as organically as possible.  I did not pay attention to milestone numbers like 300 or 800 etc...  as no number is more significant than another, they all are necessary to make up 1000.

However, I wanted the halfway point and number 1000 to be special.  #500 was the sunset from the same place I watched the sun rise for #1000.  Sunrise and Sunset (in that order) are my favorite times of the day without question.  I love the stillness, the peace, the serenity that is brought on by each.  It is like with each rising sun you can feel a new day beginning and with it the opportunity to start anew.  Similarly with a sunrise, as it sets and you watch it disappear; you can almost feel time standstill for a moment and suddenly your worries, your troubles,  your stresses, they all cease to exist for that one, perfect moment.

My favorite challenge this year has been the sunrise/sunset day we did in September.  (check out the video of it here: Sunrise/Sunset Challenge ).  That event has sense evolved into the ongoing Challenge of seeing how many sunrises and sunsets we can collect from all over the world.  Part of what has made these two challenges so special is sharing them with all of  you.  An added bonus is that these challenges have really strengthened our now very global 1000 Challenge Community.  I have seen posts, read emails, about people meeting others and forging friendships as a result.  I love this!  It makes the experience of the 1000 Challenge just that much more special :)

My than any time of day, when I am watching the sunrise, I feel that anything is possible.  The sunrise is so powerful.  As soon as the sun begins to awaken you can instantly feel it cast warmth over all that is below it.  And the way it lights up the world is beyond breathtaking.  I often find myself thinking, sometimes out loud, when watching sunrises, "If the sun can do all of this, if all of this is possible, than anything I want to do... IT HAS TO BE POSSIBLE."  

The sunrise, as I said above, is like a "new beginning," and I felt that made it a very appropriate #1000.  Hitting 1000, I have reached the first part (I still have to average 1 a day for the rest of the year) of this goal I have worked so hard towards the entire year.  Suddenly it the moment of achieving your goal is there, and then so quickly it passes into the next moment.  I have achieved #1000, now it is onto 1001, 1002, and as many more as I can possibly experience before the year is over.

I started the year thinking 1000 was such a big number, and look, I made it to that number with 10 days to spare.  You see, anything is possible including doing over 1000 things in  year.  :)

It is 5:43AM on Thursday December 22nd  here in California.  While the year is almost over, we still have 9 full days left to live, left to experience, left to enjoy, left to make the most of.

I'll leave you with this.  Look at yourselves as authors and your life is your story.  Shit is going to happen, life is going to be challenging, but life can also be so beautiful.  Do not let your tragedies and short coming become  your story.  Your the author, YOU WRITE YOUR STORY!  You got nine days left, get out there and start writing the story you want to live.  I promise you I will be!

Enjoy the Pics,

Carpe Diem,


Friday, December 16, 2011

At a Crossroads 12/7 - 12/15 Days 340 -349

Is it really possible that there are only 17 days left in the year!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!??????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't know if I could ever type enough ? or ! to fully convey how I feel about the year rapidly winding down! 

A few quick updates:

Thank you for all the love and support so many of you have shown with Ouch My Heart Is Broken I can never articulate enough just how much it means to me. 

A couple of you have made a fantastic suggestion: to do an event, similar to the sunrise/sunset one, but with Christmas.  How fun will it be to see what the Holidays look like all over the world?!  Here is the link to the event: Holiday's around the World

So here I sit, (actually I am in more of a laid back - reclined position), feeling a bit out of sorts.  I am not quite sure what will flow from these fingers of mine on the lines to follow, but lets give it a go and see what happens.

For the overwhelming majority of the year I have felt confident, determined, and 110% certain that I have been on the right path.  Then all of sudden December is here and the reality of the year really coming to a close hits me and I suddenly start to feel, in no particular order: anxious, scared, tired, confused, and out of place.

I have slept more soundly this year than I have ever slept in my life.  I think I have shared with you all about how I used to be that person who went to sleep and tossed and turned the night away  Every pre-bedtime thought was a stressful one, one that would string along one restless night to another. 

This year has been different.  I can fall asleep instantly, I sleep soundly through the night and I wake up more rested than I have ever felt in my life.  December has been different though.  I have had a few restless nights.  On more than one occasion I have closed my eyes with worry and stress on my mind, only to open them in the morning feeling the opposite of how I have felt for most of the year.

The cool thing about this is that I have conclusively proven it to myself just how much stress impacts my quality of sleep, my energy level, my mood, my everything.  I have built such a strong mind this year, but suddenly I find myself thinking thoughts of doubt and unsureness I have not thought those thoughts for quite sometime.

My alarm goes off at 415 every morning and typically I am up, full of energy, and ready to take on the day within seconds of it sounding.  I get up at 415 because that time before I see my first client at 6am, is typically my most productive time of the day. 

Lately my alarm goes off and I have been dragging... struggling to motivate myself to do those one or two little extra things that have come with such ease this entire year.  It feels like that saying, "One step forward, then two steps backward..." This year feels like it has been one leap after another forward, but then all of a sudden it feels like a Gigantic stumble backwards... why?

I think for the first time since early on this year I have felt some uncertainty about myself creep into my thoughts.  It is like when you were in school and you had a huge paper(essay) to write and you were down to the final paragraph, but it was the hardest paragraph because you knew you were so close to getting it done that your momentum started to fade.  Hmm... perhaps a better way to describe it is: I have been working towards this goal for an entire year, actually even longer if you count the time of conception and the development and preparation that went into it. 

Everyday, for 348 days, (as of this writing), I have lived and breathed the 1000 Challenge.  I have changed, I have sacrificed, I have evolved, I have let go, I have everything for the 1000 Challenge.  And NOW, it is almost over.  This big, gigantic goal, that started as an idea on paper has manifested into the 1000 Challenge you all know today.  I am so close to the end of the year, but am approaching the finish line like a marathoner going into the home stretch of the race when suddenly he hits "the wall" and his body starts to shut down.

I did not anticipate this.  I thought I would be sprinting through the finish.  What the hell is going on Jesse?

Purpose!  Purpose, more specifically our having a purpose is perhaps the most crucial thing to our existence.  Purpose gives us a reason to wake up in the morning.  Purpose gives us a reason to smile more, to love a little extra, and to try a little harder.  Without a purpose, then what is the point?

That's where this feeling of being at a crossroads comes... figuring out my purpose.

This year it was easy, my purpose was clear and it was out there for the entire world to see.  I was the "Challenge Guy."  My entire year had a greater meaning from the start of the year than any other period of my life.  I had set my intentions and committed myself to accomplishing the greatest of goals: To LIVE Life.  Not just go through the motions, not just give 70% effort, not just survive from one day to the next; no, I wanted to LIVE.  I wanted to wake up excited for every day, I wanted to give 110% all the time, I wanted to thrive!  And I did.

Now what?  Where do I go from here?  What the hell is next?  How do I keep the momentum I have built from this year going into the next?  How do I keep all the members of the1000 Challenge Community engaged and committed to living their lives the best they can?  Do I do another 1000 Challenge?  Do I do different challenge?  I like the idea of more challenges, but what would it be?  How come I did not think of all this sooner?  Why didn't I plan for this?  WTF (if you need WTF defined, privately message me) JESSE!!!??? :)  Hmmmmm?  And the list of what has been going through my head could go on forever...

So who am I now without the 1000 Challenge?  Even more important, what is MY purpose? 

Anything can happen at any moment in life, and as I finish typing this at almost 6am PST on December 16th, 2011; there are still approximately 22,680 moments left in the year.  And while I still remain confident that what is next for me will become more clear over the course of those remaining 22,680 moments; there are definitely occasional moments of doubt that creep in and I allow it to affect me - greatly. 

It is really funny going through this experience the last couple weeks.  I feel I have learned so much about myself, about people, about the way the world works, about life in general, but the one thing I forgot to teach myself was how to not be so damn hard on myself.

It is ironic because we are all our greatest allies and at the same time our worst enemies.  The alley part of me has held center stage almost this entire year, keeping the "worst enemy" hidden in the shadows.  That worst enemy part of me is quick and crafty... as soon as he smells doubt, fear, hesitation, uncertainty, he attacks and reeks havoc on my mental and emotional state until I refocus and put him back where he belongs... hidden in the shadows.

As much negative time I have spent in my head these last couple weeks and as challenging as that that has been, I am grateful for it.  It has given me an opportunity to examine a part of myself I have not had to look at this entire year.  A part that needs to be understood, needs to be nurtured and ultimately needs to be healed for me to fully move forward in life the way I want to. 

When I travel, I like to travel light: a small back back and  my laptop are about all I like to bring.  I do not like to be weighed down by a lot of baggage.  The same applies for my life.  I have carried a lot of baggage around before and IT SUCKS!!  I do not want to live my life carrying around the baggage of the past; NO!  I want to travel through life lightly - it gives me far more freedom to explore, live, and most importantly, be happy.

Purpose everyone... I can not stress enough how important it is to define your purpose.  We have a little less than 22,680 moments left in this year.  Spend a few of those on defining your purpose.  What is your purpose for the day ahead of you?  What is it for the next week, and the year to come?  Perhaps one the greatest gifts I can give you in this season of giving is this: A life lived without purpose, is a life unlived... define your purpose, live the life you want. (that is an original quote by the way... i just made it up! :) hahaha )

I look forward to chatting with you all again soon.  It is time for me to pull my head out of my ass, shut down my pity party, stop stressing and start focusing on what is important - defining my purpose for next year and beyond. 

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Letting Go... 12/2 - 12/6 Days 336 - 340

Counting today there are only Four, that's right, FOUR Monday's left in the year... My goodness it is going fast!

First and foremost THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has taken the time to check out Ouch My Heart Is Broken .  Many of you have also downloaded the book.  I can not even begin to describe what this means to me... Thank You.

Sunrise/Sunset pictures continue to impress me beyond words.  Thank you everyone who is not only sending them in, but properly labeling them, and checking the list to make sure it is not a repeat photo.  You can check the list here:  Sunrise/sunset  This has been an awesome Geography lesson for me learning about places I had never even heard of before.

I will host a ustream chat this weekend to better accommodate those of you who are not in the US.  It will most likely be Sunday morning here in the States when I do it.  I will figure it out and post all the info on the 1000 Challenge Page in the next day or two :)  Because I will be doing it on a weekend, I expect lots of you who live outside of the states to attend :)

I checked and the 1000 Challenge Community has grown to almost 6000 Members.  One of the challenges at the start of the year was to grow the Page to 50,000.  I stressed about that constantly for the first half of the year, then I stopped.  I started realizing what solid community the members on the 1000 Challenge page were turning into.  The strength of that community, the dedication to self improvement, the support you have given to others, that means way more to me than 50,000,000 members.  If the Universe aligns and deems it so, along with all  of us continuing to spread the word, I am still confident we can hit 50,000.  However, if that does not happen, I wanted you all to know how grateful I am to each and everyone of you for being a member of the 1000 Challenge Community.

I have gotten about 10 emails in the last week asking about me getting on Ellen, as well as doing other interviews.  I will share with everyone what I shared with them... the 1000 Challenge is a way of life, a way of living, a way of looking at things differently.  And if someone thinks that is news/magazine/television worthy, then I am more than happy to share it with them.  Beyond that all, I am just flattered so many of YOU think that about the 1000 Challenge.  Thank You.

So I have been in a really weird mood the last week to 10 days.  The mood got even weirder ( I use the words weird, and weirder because the mood encompassed a very random mix of emotions) on Wednesday when my book and Ouch My Heart Is Broken re-launched and became a publicly accessible site.  I dismissed it as being nervous about putting the book and the website "out there."  Saturday, I awoke and could not motivate myself to work in the morning.  Instead I wasted about two hours of time watching Youtube videos until the gym opened and I could go work out.  I thought a lot during that workout what it was that was putting me in this state... then it hit me.

I returned home form the gym and new what I needed to do, something I had been avoiding doing for one and a half years.

In a corner in my room I had a pile of my Dad's stuff that I just could not bring myself to go through.  Clothes of his my Mom had sent me to try on to see if I could fit into, papers, a scrap book I had put together for myself - it all sat in this corner collecting dust.

Everyday I would see it, and whether I thought about it consciously or not did not matter, every time I glanced over and saw the pile, my sub-conscious mind new exactly what it was.

When the book for Ouch My Heart Is Broken came out I was more sad than glad and I could not figure out why.  As the week went on and I payed more and more attention to my feelings I knew it was time to let go.

So much of the book is about letting go and healing, and, to be perfectly honest, I had not yet done that with my Dad.  I kept that stuff in plain site so I could try to hold onto him a little longer, why?

My Dad and I were not super close growing up.  He often made choices that left him unavailable to me.  I also allowed his and my Mom's relationship to influence my perception of him and who he was.  It was not until I was around 16 years old and my Dad got "Direct TV" that we started to bond.  Every Monday night, my Dad, my Brother, and I would get together to watch professional wrestling.  It was really special because I knew my Dad had to make a deliberate effort to make it home from work early to spend the time with my  Brother and I.  We did this until I left for college.  To this day, professional wrestling still holds a special place in my heart solely for this reason.

There were a lot of things I did not realize about my Dad until after he died.  It is funny how death provides the ultimate hindsight, one I, and I am sure many of you who have lost someone close to you, would have loved to have had when they were still alive.

When I left for college, my Dad and I would talk typically about once a month on average.  He would occasionally send me a little extra money too when he had it.  I more often than not resented the times he would contact me.  I had created a perception of my Dad based largely in part off of what he DIDN'T do, never stopping to give a second look at what he DID  DO.  As a child growing up, you do not realize how much external influence's shape everything.  We see the color "black" and acknowledge it to be black because we have been taught it is black.  But, if we were taught that black is really red, then we would know it only as red.  This same concept applies to people and our perceptions of them.

By the time I was almost 26 years old, I had softened to my Dad.  I had begun to embark on my own path of personal growth and started to see my Dad was doing the same, despite a constant battle with colon cancer.  Even with nauseousness for over two years from chemo therapy, my Dad still did his best to keep a positive attitude.  I will never forget him telling me about a time he was at the Doctor's office and they were discussing whether or not he should undergo Chemo after an already successful surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.  The doctor told my Dad that he had about a 60% chance that the cancer would never come back.  If he did the Chemo it would bump that percentage up to a much higher number.  He then told my Dad that in the next room, there was a guy who took the 60% chance, didn't do the chemo, the cancer came back, and was now going to die.  From this, my Dad told me, "It just goes to show you that you never have to look far to see someone who has it worse than you."

I have thought about those words of wisdom often over the years especially during the times where I feel like life is just so damn hard.  I do my best to remind myself that each and every day there are people experiencing and enduring way, way worse than me.

My Dad died on February 1st, 2010.  It takes about 8 -10 hours to drive there from here in Santa  Barbara.  I drove that entire way in dead silence save for the occasional phone calls I would get.  It gave me a lot of time to think, to reflect, to try and decipher what my Dad meant to me and better understand our relationship.

The next day, February 2nd, I went up to his office to attempt to clean it out.  I was shaky and very emotional.  What I found at his office hit me harder than any punch.  And it brought tears to  my eyes in a way I have never experienced before.

My Dad has a daughter from a previous marriage - my half sister, someone who I only met once just before I turned two.  He rarely talked about her and I never asked, but sitting on his desk he had a picture of her, and her family.  Pictures of my brother and I were there too, but the one of my half sister was the one that was on display.

As I started going through his computer I came across a file, it was a birthday card that he had made for me, using the computer, for my 25th birthday.  I broke down crying.

At home I have a bag where I have saved virtually every card I have ever received since moving away for college in September of 2000.  Birthday cards, thank you's, congratulation cards, you name it, I have kept it.  There are only a few I have not saved, the card I found on my Dad's computer was one of them.

At the time when I got it, I was angry... "I spent 18 years at home and he never made an effort like this, why now?"  I resented the card and threw it away.  Fast forward to February 2nd, 2010 - suddenly I got it, I got my Dad and I learned one of the toughest lessons of my life.

There's a great book called "The 5 Love Languages," I highly recommend it as it is a great book to help improve communication, understanding, and overall quality of relationships. This book talks about how each of us have a unique way we want to be loved and to show love.  For example, person "x" may love giving gifts to person "y" as their way of showing love.  But person "y" does not like receiving gifts, it makes him uncomfortable, he prefers to be told he is loved, not shown by gifts.  The book goes on to talk about that one of the biggest struggles in relationships is that not all of us necessarily recognize another person's love language, and can't understand why it is not the same as ours.

My Dad was not good with cards, with day to day communication.  He communicated with his daughter less and less because he felt ashamed, and he Feared what she thought of him.  Did she think he deserted her, deserted her mom... who knows, but he definitely thought about her, and he loved her a lot as was evidenced by the picture on the desk.  He just did not know how to get pass the fear to tell her and show her.

As with me, I realized, looking at that card, that my Dad was not good at going and getting birthday cards.  It's how he was raised, how he was taught.  For some of us it is so easy to get cards, flowers, cake, ice cream etc... to celebrate anything, for others it is a challenge - something that takes us way out of our comfort zone.  So for my Dad to not only get a card for my birthday, but to take the extra time to MAKE IT... how far out of his comfort zone was that?

Some of us are huggers, we love to greet people and say goodbye with a hug.  Others are not.  I am sure you all have people in your life who love to hug, and ones who don't.  But when you do get a hug from that person who normally doesn't offer it, it means so much more because it is a BIG DEAL.   My Dad, taking the time to make me a card was a BIG DEAL.

I realized in that moment that I had never really given my Dad a chance.  I constantly judged him, judged him so much that I could not even acknowledge simple little things like cards.

I can sit here and blame my parents and their relationship all I want for the reasons why I felt that way, but the reality is, at the end of the day, I am not only an adult, but I am a very capable, very self-aware adult who if at any time would have just stepped off his high horse and attempted to let go, or at the very least step away for a minute from the harsh feelings I felt, I may have seen my Dad in a different light.

I cried a lot that day and I have cried a lot in subsequent days since.  My Dad will never see me get married, have kids, shit, I never even had a beer with my Dad because I held on so tightly to issues from my childhood.  This is what I mean, death provides us with the ultimate hindsight.

Fast forward now to Saturday December 3rd, 2011 with a year that was dedicated to healing, to growing, to reclaiming my life, and learning to live it in the way I have always wanted to, rapidly coming to an end; it was time to let go of something big that was still holding me back.  It was time to let go of my Dad and his death.

I have very few regrets in my life, but I do regret my relationship I had with my Dad.  I do not however, regret the lesson I have learned from it.  As hard as it was and continues to be to learn, it is without a doubt the greatest gift my Dad has ever given me.  For this lesson is one that I can now pass on to each of you who is reading this and hopefully many many more over the course of the rest of my life.

So Saturday night, December 3rd, 2011, I brushed off the dust, I tried on all the clothes, I sorted the papers, I looked through the pictures, I put everything away in its' proper place, and I let go of my Dad and his death.

I spent about two hours doing this and cried the majority of it, but it was some of the most cathartic, most healing tears I have ever shed.  After I finished, I cleaned myself up, put on a pair of brand new pants, (that are one size to small for me) my Dad had bought, but never got a chance to wear and went bowling. :)

I now  look at that space on my floor in the corner of my room and it seems so big and empty.  Just as the space I have cleared inside of me is now, big and empty.  The great thing about life is, we can choose to fill those spaces with whatever we want.  My choice is to fill that space with as much good stuff as possible.

Remember letting go does not mean you are forgetting.  When we let go, we clear a space, a space that can be filled with new.  Just as I can now put new stuff in the corner on my floor, I more importantly can put new stuff into my mind and heart.

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,


Friday, December 2, 2011

My Book, My Secret Life 11/24 - 12/1 Days 328 - 335

And then all of a sudden... it is December!  What once seemed like an eternity away for me has arrived faster than I could ever imagine.  I can remember the first few days of January so well... I felt so overwhelmed, so like "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, 1000 THINGS IN A YEAR!!"  Now as I sit here and write this, with 960 challenges completed, it is no longer a matter of if I will make it to 1000, it is a matter of when.  That "when", like I have learned and been shown over and over again, is, like virtually everything else in life, it happens whenever I chose for it to be.  I have done the hard part - I have done the hard work, stayed focus, persevered over the many days I wanted to give up early on, I kept on the path I chose through the ups and downs, and now my reward is not only my goal, but the power to chose which date I achieve it on... December 15th, December 20th, December 30th??? I still do not know,  but I am excited for this final month and to see what the Universe has in store for me.

This blog is a little different than the rest of the blogs.  This blog will be my first time to make public and share something very very special to me.  Something only a few of my closest friends have ever known about.  It is a huge part of who I am and where I have come from.  I think by sharing this with you all, you will also get a better sense of who I am and why I am so passionate about wanting to help people.

As many of you know I finished my first book about two months ago.  What it was about remained a mystery.

Four years ago, actually come to think of it, in a bizarre coincidence almost four years to the date (I promise I did not plan this), I created the website: Ouch My Heart Is Broken .  Wait, I don't believe in coincidence's so I guess this is how it was meant to be... a true full circle moment for me (I have the biggest smile when I just typed that).

In June of 2007 I suffered my first broken heart.  My girlfriend of nearly three years broke up with me and I was devastated.  The pain was awful, by far the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.  There were many days where it was a struggle just to breathe, let alone go out, function, and carry on with my day to day life.  I am sure those of you who have been there, know what I mean without elaborating any further.

It was not just the relationship I was sad over, it was all "My Stuff."  The "stuff" in my life that I had never dealt with, never wanted to acknowledge, never wanted to anything with.  When the relationship ended, it brought all of it up to the surface.  It was like ripping a band-aid off an open a wound that had never healed, but had only grown infected with time.  

Feelings of insecurity, not being good enough, not being lovable dominated my day to day existence.  When I could escape my feelings and think, I thought, "how could anyone ever love me again?"  "I am going to end up all alone" etc....  You can fill in the blanks of a 1000 different thoughts... I thought nearly, if not all of them.

I found it amazing that during the midst of all the pain, all the tears, that when I could actually find a moment of clarity to think an honest thought - I would acknowledge that I knew deep down that ending the relationship was for the best for both of us.  Accepting that was something completely different.  I felt more pain than I had ever felt before, I wanted it to go away.  I would do anything to make it stop, including lying to myself, convincing myself that we should be back together.  I wanted to put my "band-aid" back on.  Deep down I knew I did not really want the relationship back; I selfishly wanted the comfort and security it provided me.  With "Mary," (as I call her in the book) I had the security of knowing someone loved me, that someone was there for me, AND that I never had to be alone!  Without her I did not even really know myself, let alone know how to provide myself re-assurance contrary to the above.

I felt lost, I felt desperate... I had arrived at the proverbial fork in the road.  Path #1 is familiar, it leads to more of the same.  Path #2 is the path of change, it is dark and unknown.  I was terrified to take Path #2, but if Path #1 was going to lead to more of the same, which meant more of feeling how I was feeling again... there was no way in hell I was going to voluntarily put myself through all that I was feeling again.  So I opted for Path #2, the scary, unknown, challenging Path of Change.

I have always best helped myself by helping others.  It gives me a purpose, something to focus on externally of how I was feeling inside... I needed a project, something to get me out of my head.  I scoured the internet looking for resources, specifically ones geared towards men who were suffering a broken heart, but could scarcely find a thing.  I began reading countless books on anything and everything about humans: how we think, how we feel, how we act, and why.

The more I learned about humanity, the more I began to understand myself.  As my knowledge increased so did my desire to do something, something big, to help myself and hopefully others heal.  Ouch My Heart Is Broken was born from this desire.  I had decided if there were no real resources out there for men, then I would make one.

What started as a site targeted for men has evolved into a site that welcomes everyone from both sexes of all ages, races, and backgrounds.  Virtually everything on the site is "as it was," four years ago when I created it. I left this because the site is built around the of sharing stories and I wanted my story to remain authentic to what I felt in the moment.

You see I have learned something about people... when we are in our saddest, most desperate, most grief stricken state, we feel lost - we feel alone.  We feel so alone that our salvation from the pain may seem completely unobtainable.  It is in this state that we have the greatest opportunity for change, but for change to happen, we need hope.

That is what Ouch My Heart Is Broken is for - to inspire hope in people.  Through the communal sharing of stories, people from all over the world, from every background, every religion, every age, can see they are not alone in the pain they are feeling.  Not only are they not alone, but they are not the only ones going through what they are going through.  People can link up with others around the world so a person in New York can see that a person in Paris is experiencing the same thing as he or she is.  These insights alone can potentially be the catalyst that provides the hope that may not only change someone's life, but could possibly save their life.

Since the site has been up 1000's of people from all over the world have visited it, how they find it, I do not know.  100's have written me, (Michael, my alias on the site) sharing their stories with me.  You see love and the pain that comes with its' loss are universal truths, ones we all share... they know no bounds.

As I saw the difference the site was making in peoples lives, I wanted to do more, so I decided to write a book.  A book that could further help (I hope) people suffering from a broken heart.  It took me nearly two years to finish it, and it is my best offering to date, to the world to help people all over hopefully heal their broken hearts.

The book is a "Heart Beak Survival Guide" for the lack of a better phrase.  It is written to act as a guidebook to help you through that extremely difficult time only  heartbreak can cause.  The book includes everything from a suggested daily schedule, to an exercise program, to a post heartbreak "do's and don'ts" guide.

The book is now for sale on the site.  If you purchase the book, you get a free lifetime "premium" membership that gives you access to all the discussion forums.

Of all the challenges, of all the experiences, of all the things I have done, tried, tasted etc..., none has been more scary for me than this.  I have shared Ouch My Heart Is Broken with the world for nearly four years now, but I have always been protected by two things.  One, the alias I use when sharing my stories and responding to emails on the site "Michael."  And two, the fact that I have only told a few people about it over the years, leaving virtually every person who knows me in the dark about me having such a site

It has taken me two days to write this blog.  I have been on the emotional roller coaster.  Feelings of happiness, sadness, and lots of tears of both happiness and sadness, and the biggest one, FEAR (i can't share this with people, people will think I am weak, people will think I am crazy, people will think ______ ) you  name it I have been feeling it these past two days.  More than anything though, I have been scared about sharing this very private part of me with the world, but I know it is time for me to do so.

Having said that, I do have a favor to ask all of you, if you know someone who is going through a tough time, please pass the site on to them.  I know the site helps, I have seen it 100's of times over the last four years.  Please spend some time checking out the site.  It will help you get to know a different side of me.

Wow,  I really do not know what else to say, so I guess the time has come to hit the "publish" button and send this blog out into the world.  Well, here it goes, WAIT, actually, I do have one more thing to say :)

Dreams you guys will always remain just that, dreams... thoughts in our heads, until we start doing something about them.  When I made this website, I did not know how to make websites.  I had learned how to follow a template though after making my personal site .  At the time when I purchased the necessary web tools to make the site (approximately $160) I was living off my credit cards, trying to start my life over post Mary.  I could NOT afford to do the site financially, but I really COULD NOT afford not to do the site either. I did not know if the site would make a difference, but in my heart, all I wanted to do was TO make a difference.  It was my dream to take my pain and turn it into something positive.

As I have said so many times, I am no different than any of you.  Every single one of you has the ability to take your dreams and turn them into a reality.  All you have to do is believe in yourself, and believe in what you want to do.  Do not let your limitations in the moment keep you from starting down the path to living your dreams.

Four years ago, writing a book for Ouch My Heart Is Broken was not even a thought.  It became another dream that evolved from the dream before it which was creating a website to help people deal with heartbreak.

Dreams have that power, they have the ability to build on one another.  If your big dreams scare you, start small... dream little dreams first.  Once you start achieving those dreams, dream the bigger ones, and then even bigger ones after that.

Ok, I have rambled on long enough, it is time for  me to hit the "publish" button, wish me luck.  I hope the site, the book, and your experience with either one or both, impacts you the same way as creating them has impacted me.  Ladies and Gentlemen, it was with a rapidly beating heart, that I present to you all: Ouch My Heart Is Broken and The Ouch My Heart Is Broken "Heartbreak Survival Guide."

Enjoy the pics,


Enjoy the site ;)

Carpe Diem,

Jesse AKA Michael

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Change... 11/16 - 11/23 Days 320 - 327

I don't even know where to begin... the holidays are here and the year is rapidly winding down, where has the time gone?!?!  I know I have started so many of the blogs with a sentence on time as of late, but I mean it more on this one.  It has really been setting in as of late that the year will be over before we know it.  With the end of the year will come the end of the 1000 Challenge, I have been thinking a lot about what's next, but before I get to that, a few quick updates:

Sunrise/Sunset Challenge, even as I am writing this sunrises are coming in from all over the world: Africa, Asia, and USA all just contributed pictures.  Keep asking your friends and your friends, friends, we have 40 days to fill up as much of the globe as possible.  For an updated list, click here: Sunrise/Sunset Challenge

I know I had mentioned awhile back about doing a meetup for my birthday, but as of right now I am going to put that plan on hold.  I have some ongoing medical issues that need to be resolved.  I am going to take the time as soon as the 1000 Challenge is over to do so.  I hope to reschedule this sometime in the very near future.

I am trying to think of something cool/significant/meaningful to do as my 1000th Challenge.  I have a couple ideas, but would love to hear suggestions from all of you.  Please pass them on.

What's next for me????

I cannot say it enough how much the 1000 Challenge has changed my life.  It has taught how I want to live my life for the rest of my life, as well as proven many theories and beliefs I have held really are true and really do work when applied!  :)

The last two or three weeks I have been on an emotional roller coaster  of sorts.  I can feel something changing inside of me, and I know it is a good change, but as you all know, change, at times, can be a little challenging.  Let me try to explain...

I have always had my "opinions," but I have never done much with them aside from sharing them with friends and complaining about things that bothered me.  Lately instead of just complaining I am doing more and more about it.  I have called the police once or twice in the last month on truants.  On Veteran's Day, I was so upset about the poor turnout of people to support the Veteran's at the parade in their honor that I first started crying, then I got upset.  I raced home and wrote this letter: Jesse's Veteran's Day Letter which I sent out to the local newspapers.  The link takes you to the paper that printed it in the opinion section.

I could not believe how fired up I was over the parade.  And it does not just stop at the parade, there are countless other situations as well where I have been noticing differences in myself....

Going Out... in the summer 2008 my friend and I were known as "those guys" in one of the bars here in Santa Barbara.  We were out nearly every night, we were always drinking, we loved having a good time.  Everyone knew who we were, it was an amazingly fun time in my life.

I have always enjoyed going out and I definitely enjoy a good party.  Lately though I have been becoming more of a recluse from the public scene, especially those that involve drinking and socializing in more "scene places".  Why, I have zero clue.  I do have a theory though.

I have been working on making more time to spend with friends and when I do have that time I no longer want to spend it in crowded social places.  It distracts from the intimacy and bonding that I really desire to share with my friend. What I once craved as a social backdrop because of what it provided me: fun, alcohol, girls, popularity... I now find myself shunning.
There have even been a few times were I was having minor anxiety at the idea of even going to these places.  Where that comes from, I have no idea...

Las Vegas was a place I grew up dreaming about going to.  I loved gambling and wanted to see the city and the lights.  When I was finally old enough to go and really partake in what the city is known for, it quickly became one of my favorite places to go as it provided me with more of the above, but in extremes - alcohol, parties, girls, girls, and more girls.  I have been to Las Vegas three times this year.  Twice was as a stop over to cut down the drive on the way home from races in Sedona Arizona, and St. George Utah.  Each time I have noticed myself enjoying it a little less.  I was curious to see how I would feel about it spending an entire weekend there like I did this last weekend.

I felt a sense of bitter sweetness in Las Vegas.  The lure of nightclubs no longer dazzled me like it once did.  Instead, as we hopped from club to club on our party bus, I became almost resentful as the clubs were robbing me, I felt, of what I was really craving most, which was just the time with my friends.

I enjoyed being on Fremont street the second night much more as we were able to walk and talk and really hang out.  I can't really describe it.  One of my friends said jokingly, "Maybe your just growing up?"  But it is not that, it is something more.  I am growing, but in a different way, something inside of me is changing.

When I was in New York one of my friends asked me about going out saying, "Why don't you want to go out as much anymore?  You used to want to go out all the time."

To which I replied, "I have gone out.  I know exactly where in life going out gets me, and that's not where I want to be.  I have had a ton of fun with it, but right now it is not my focus."

HAHAHA I have to laugh, as I was typing that last sentence I think I just answered all my questions and ramblings from above.  There is something inside me that is shifting.  I am re-prioritizing whats important.  I feel like my leadership skills are strengthening and that I am in this huge state of evolving for what's next in life.  And, I THINK, that the reason for feeling so different with Las Vegas and the other stuff is that there is a part of me that is fearful of it.  Fearful that if I fall back into my old behavior that I will hold myself back from progressing and moving forward on the path I am on!!!!!

Imagine that!  I spend so much time talking about the importance of facing fears and a new fear has crept up inside of me!  Those pesky fears sure can be sneaky!!

How funny  is that... even though I know I will not as I have gone out numerous times this year and I still enjoy grabbing beers with friends.  Even with that knowing, fear can still pop up and affect me in such a way, hmmm, this has been an insightful blog for me.  :)

Having conversations like this with ourselves are crucial... the most important people that we can be honest with is ourselves.

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,


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,