There I was, sitting in a luxurious boardroom in Ludwigsburg, Germany. I was surrounded by C-Level executives and senior management. I was the only one who didn’t speak German, I was half the average age of the fellow attendees, and they were all there to meet me. I had hit their global radar as a ‘mover and shaker,’ and I was now in the ‘celebrity’ seat. It was very much an interview as it was about the technology solutions I was developing. I laughed, one year outside the undergraduate Fraternity and I was actually being ‘hazed.’
If you would have been there, you would have seen me leaning back in my big comfy meeting chair. I had a slight lean to my left as that leg was casually crossed over the top of my right. My body language was pure self confidence. I was rocking a power suit, complete with a squared pocket handkerchief that brilliantly matched my tie. A $400 Mont Blanc pen rested in front of me, ready to be wielded. My Movado watch was peeking every-so-slightly from underneath my starchy, crisp dress shirt as I held my chin, conveying interest in what my German colleague was saying. My black leather padfolio in front of me shined just as bright as my black leather shoes. Freshly cologne’d, freshly shaved and freshly styled hair. I was complete GQ porn.
I was 23.
It was everything I wanted for myself and my budding career. Boardrooms, fancy meetings, international travel and powerful business leaders at my attention. The IDFR train was right on track.
Fast forward 8 years, I still work corporate but am a shadow of that 23yr old GQ centerfold. My once adorned suits are collecting dust on the Oak Hangars I purchased for them. I realized last night I have no idea where my Mont Blanc pens are. I’ve given 80% of my ‘business wear’ to my cleaning lady, who donates them to her church. I wear a Casio pathfinder digital watch, with a giant, gaudy compass ring. I haven’t gelled my hair in over a year. I now shave about once a week, wear T-Shirts and am not afraid to admit that I wear the same pair of jeans for about 2 weeks straight. (I have my girlfriend ‘smell test’ them.) I know, that’s pretty gross but it’s honest and I think its one of the best ways to clearly illustrate my transition.
So what happened?
I got over myself.
It all began about two years ago. I sat on a couch with Erin Pavlina and Vicki Kallman, and spoke about how I wasn’t happy with my life. From the outside, it looked like I was happy and in control of everything, happy with where I was headed. I wasn’t. I was stressed, I was unhappy, I wasn’t myself. It sucked.
Deep inside I was actually in pain.
It hurt. It was always on my mind. It kept me up at night. It was causing me to drink. It was causing me to try and be something that I wasn’t. It literally was tearing me apart from the inside, and all the ‘life duct-tape’ I had applied over it wasn’t holding it in. I could no longer tolerate the pain of the incongruence within my own life. I tried to compromise. I tried to form an identity that mixed both the ‘pretend’ Dana with the real Dana. It was never going to work. One had to go, and Dana was tired of acting.
Up until that point I had fancied myself of becoming this big, powerful, worldly CEO guy. Business first, money second, family etc. last. I’d have oodles of cash, power and influence, and I’d be successful. People would fear and respect me. I’d be responsible for world-class decisions, and of course… a world-class paycheck. All that delicious CEO money would give me endless options, and solve all my problems. I was playing to win, wanting to have more than others, be better than others, and teach others the lesson of how to win the game of life. Money was going to be essential. He who has the most toys, wins. Besides, with all that money, how could I not be happy?
If you can’t tell at this point, the problem was I was only really doing it for the money. Plain and simple. I wanted money, and I wanted a business title that would guarantee me that money. Everything in my life would be better if I could just earn more money. Money, money, money. More money equals more happy.
It wasn’t me.
Following that course lead me into trying to be something I wasn’t. I was so focused on money, power and success; I forgot that which had always made me happy. I was good at playing the money part, walking the walk and talking the talk, but it wasn’t me. And deep inside, ‘me knew it wasn’t me.’ It was driving me insane, and all the money in the world couldn’t pay for the amount of duct-tape my soul was gonna need. I knew that if I kept up this ‘act,’ as I lay on my death bed; I would be full of confusion and regret. I’d see the real Dana looking at me from across the room, an image saddened by the lost possibilities of ‘what if.’
The ‘Act’ is Over.
All the ‘props’ I had added to my life were just that, props. Meaningless items that decorated a false stage I had set for myself. It wasn’t necessary, and the maintenance of these props was scaring off who I really was inside.
I was afraid to be myself because ‘myself,’ wasn’t who I wanted to be.
Ferris Bueller Yourself.
In regards to life, Ferris Bueller famously says, “If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you may miss it.” I finally did that.
In a way, I was always looking around at my life, but I was looking at the ‘stage’ I had created for my life. I was viewing my life as an audience member, judging my life based on my performance. A sick, twisted ‘Improv’ version of it. I realized this, and I finally took Ferris’ advice. I stopped, and I looked around. I finally looked at my real life, not the ‘Act.’
What I saw was a great life. I had a great network of friends, a great family, and a buttload of great experiences. I had been extremely well blessed. In fact, reviewing where I was at, and seeing / feeling the love and support I had all along, almost made me cry.
You see, who I am is just a happy go lucky momma’s boy from Chico California, who vacations in Wisconsin, and who happens to have a wild imagination only outdone by a penchant for mischief and trying new things. Not a money driven business leader who relies on an Org-chart to command respect.
Oh, and about the money? Most surprisingly, the instant I began ignoring money, is the instant I realized how much of it I already had.
The old Dana was shocked, and the new Dana just kicked his ass off the IDFR train.
Maybe you’re already happy, and content with who and what you are. Maybe you figured out long ago what it is you want to do with your life, and maybe you’re already doing it. If so, I’m very happy for you and can’t wait to see you change the world. However, maybe you’re like I was, putting on an ‘act’ because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do to get what you want. If this is you, I beg you to stop and look around. See what you already have, and take the costumes and masks off. Ditch the ‘props.’
I consider everyone that reads this a friend, and a person I care about – stop wasting your potential and talent on duct-taping your real self inside your guts. Let the real you bust out, and barf awesomeness all over the world. It’s Go Time – choo choo!