They Had To Die
Heartbroken, humiliated, dejected, confused and angry, I looked into the mirror and saw the broken shell of a man I once knew. Thirty-two years of living on planet Earth and all I had to show for it was humiliation, anger, heartbreak and emptiness. On top of that I had lost two brothers in 2 years. I was riddled with grief.
That fateful day in 2016, I came to grips with a harsh reality. My hopes and dreams were dead. I know that sounds dramatic but it was true. I was at the point of burn out and breakdown. I was slowly and silently dying on the inside, without the power or wish to revive myself.
Many nights I would lay my head down on my pillow and hope I wouldn’t wake up. Have you been there? Have you ever had a moment when hopelessness was the only hope you felt? I had lost my hopes, my dreams, and I wondered when the non-stop frustration of my life would finally end.
Day after day, I wondered what I could do to fill the gaping void in my life. Sex, alcohol, weed, work? Nothing made me feel whole or feel complete.
Don’t get me wrong, I had an impressive resume. On paper, I was accomplished. An award winning singer and songwriter with licensing agreements to National TV networks. Opening music performances with multiple major artists. I had worked with Emmy winners, Grammy winners, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. My biography sounded great, but quite frankly it felt like a hill of beans in this dark moment.
It probably seems like a contradiction to describe life accomplishments while being surrounded by a feeling of darkness, but they were inexplicably intertwined. Only recently have I felt brave enough to publicly describe some of the private pain of my childhood. The feelings of anxiety and depression, as I would come to understand them, started very early.
Many people remember me being a “happy and fun loving” kid, but the silent battles that began at a young age were anything but happy or fun. Difficulties within my home left me riddled with fear and void of true confidence. I constantly heard what I could never become, what I would never accomplish, and what a disappointing adult I would grow up to be.
They say “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you”. I found that saying to be far from true in my life. Some words rocked my confidence, stunted my growth, and hurt me in ways that felt irreparable for decades.
Like so many people I have counseled and coached, I believed life accomplishments could make up for what I lacked on the inside. During my college years, I worked tirelessly to redefine how I saw myself, but in 2006 my life spiraled out of control. A breakup with my college sweetheart during my senior year led to an emotional unraveling. In what was supposed to be my final year in college, I failed all of my classes, lost my scholarships, and was no longer able to finish my degree.
Devastated, I threw myself into my music career. It is probably more accurate to say I buried myself in my music career. I was ashamed, lost, disappointed, and just hoped that if I kept the world at arm's length I could eventually accomplish enough to heal and feel better about myself.
I got the words “dare to dream” tattooed to my arm and committed myself to accomplishing my dreams come hell or high water. Little did I know the next decade would be a living hell that would pull me into an abyss of despair.
Today, I am very different from the man I was in August 2016. I have healed in deep ways, found faith in areas where I was faithless, had hope revived from a hopeless state, and found profound gratitude for the journey. I recently published my first book, entitled Save the Day. Within it, I recalled low moments where I wished someone would fly in and rescue me from the heartache. I blamed the world for my problems and figured the world should also fix them.
Perhaps you’ve been there in your own life. It can be easy to look at the tragedies and heartbreaks of our lives and to reflect on how people have wronged us. We can become transfixed on proving people wrong, hoping they would see the value they once disregarded. If you’ve ever watched a former version of yourself pass away and are looking to become reinvigorated, these 3 lessons I have learned over the last 5 years will make a major difference in your life.
Lesson 1. Some Things Need to Die
I know this is hard to process because it still hurts, but some things in your life need to die in order for you to become the person you were born to be. There are mindsets, attitudes, relationships, and approaches that cannot exist in your future. I know some of the things you’ve lost fueled you, supported you, and even inspired you in the past seasons of life. This however, is a new season! To grow, evolve, and mature as a person, you must let some things go.
My words may feel harsh, but who you were before and who you will ultimately become in life are not supposed to be the same person. I’ll say that again. The person you used to be isn’t the same person that you are meant to become. Year after year we are called to grow healthier, wiser, and become more whole. I know that “stay the same '' may have been written a time or two in your high school yearbook, but those words won’t truly serve you in your adult life. Some things have to change. Some situations have to change. You have to change.
If you have been mourning who you used to be, by all means, mourn fully. Go to therapy. Hire a life coach. Crank up your prayer life. Truly and thoroughly mourn the life that you’ve lost. Mourning is necessary and healthy, but please make sure that you are in fact processing and working through those feelings, not simply sitting and stewing in the emotions that mourning tends to create.
I know that the end of an era in your life is sad but it is also necessary. Some of the things you lost in your life had to die. True life evolution takes place when we learn, gain wisdom from where we’ve been, find gratitude in the journey, and find a healthy perspective as we move forward. There are people, places and things in your yesterday that simply cannot walk into your tomorrow and that is ok. Miss them and honor them but do not take dead relationships and mindsets into a season of new life.
Lesson 2. You Become What You Consume
As growing men and women, it is imperative that we pay attention to what we consume. If you are an individual who is trying to heal and grow from a difficult phase of your life, you will ultimately become what you spend your time cultivating.
In my journey as a life coach and counselor, I have met countless clients who have proved the fact that misery loves company. From the new friendships they form, to the TV shows they watch, to the sad music they listen to, they constantly feed and strengthen the brokenness they already feel. I truly believe new mindsets require a new emotional and spiritual appetite.
After hitting rock bottom in 2016, I realized the soundtrack of my life was no longer serving me. I was desperate for change, I needed to find new surroundings, new resources, and would need to form new mindsets in order to experience a better life.
I changed everything. I replaced reality TV with the Word of God. I began reading new books that challenged old mindsets. Time with Netflix was replaced with time in the prayer room. I hired a new therapist and stopped running from past pain. I embraced the journey of true healing and transformation.
I went “all in” on my life transformation and my hopeless nights of heartbreak turned to nights filled with gratitude and hope. My life is a testament to transformation. Speaking to the people I’ve worked for and worked with in the past few years would show you the picture of a man who is walking in purpose and who has a true sense of belonging and peace.
One of the keys to my life's progress is a pivot in what fuels me. Like many other people, I used to be fueled by proving the doubters and the haters wrong. I know that is great fuel for others, but for me, it caused me to implode on the inside. The anger and rage that secretly drove me led me to a mindset of winning by any means necessary. I didn’t care who I trampled over or whose feelings I hurt to win. That mentality led me to becoming a bitter and broken man that I did not recognize.
My self-esteem, self-image, and self-worth were defined by the approval of others. I found myself staring at my haters as I accomplished things in my career. They were unimpressed, unmoved, and unchanging in their stances and I found myself feeling the same way. It was in the midst of my life's evolution that I realized my greatest critic was inside of me.
Instead of proving them wrong, I allowed the thought of proving God right to be the fuel of my journey. I became fueled by what scripture said about me instead of how I had learned to feel about myself. I felt like a loser, but scripture said I was more than a conqueror. I felt ashamed but scripture called me forgiven and redeemed. I felt like life was always trying to stand in front of my happiness but scripture said I could begin to be strong and courageous because God was fighting the fight for me and with me.
I began to look at myself through the lens of someone who felt I was worth fighting for and everything changed. I was fueled by hope instead of being fueled by anger. I started spending more time looking at who I believed I could become than I did looking at all of the things people said I couldn’t be. It changed my outlook and I’ve seen similar approaches change the lives of countless people I’ve worked with over the years.
Lesson 3. I Found Gratitude in My Grief
For the majority of the first 3 decades of my life, I wondered “why me”.
Why did things never work out for me?
Why did I have panic attacks and uncontrollable anxiety?
Why did my friends describe me as “the most unlucky man they’ve ever met?”
My life changed when I stopped asking why me and started wondering why me.
Why did God keep me in some of the most reckless times in my life?
Why did God surround me with good people during my darkest times?
Why did God place incredible gifts and talents within me when He could have chosen anyone?
As I started to walk into my life of coaching and counseling, I saw that time and time again, God used the very tragedies that once haunted me to be a catalyst for hope in others. Because I knew what darkness felt like, I could “meet people where they were” and be the light that they needed.
Everything I had been through over the years was being used for the good of the people around me. Why me God? Why have you chosen my words, my mouth, my hands, and my feet? I’m so thankful Lord that you love me despite who I've been and what I’ve done.
Tears of sadness turned to tears of gratitude and tears of joy. Today, I’m even thankful for the dreams that have died. They had to die so I could truly live. Even as I think upon my brothers who no longer have breath in their lungs, it gives me motivation to honor them with the breath I have within mine. I want to help so many people and live a good life that honors both the relatives who are living and also the ones who are no longer living.
I started to give thanks for the darkest moments because of what they taught me about humanity, about the enemy, and about myself. The hardest moments were all necessary for me to become the husband, father, author, and speaker that I am and will become. If I had not walked in the valley, I would not feel so confident shouting about how good God has been to me from the mountain top.
Listen, I’m a speaker and coach who does not pretend to have it all figured out. There are things about winning in life that I learn on a daily basis. That being said, one thing I know is that God can work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
I believe my purpose here on Earth is to bring hope to people who are feeling hopeless. If this article has met you in a down season, know that the lessons you gain can be exactly what you need to embrace the joy of your greatest season.
If you are mourning the life you once knew, I want to encourage you to embrace the person that you are now, as you grow in hope for the person you can become. If there is still breath in your lungs, the journey is not over. Breath in your lungs is proof that there is still ink in the pen. The author and finisher of your faith, Jesus, is the most beautiful of writers. Let him change you, heal you, and evolve your life into the testimony it is meant to become. If He can do it for me, He can do it for you. I now look into the mirror and see peace, joy and purpose where sorrow used to be. I never got the old me back. I was never meant to. Instead, I've started to get to know who I was born to become and that has made all the difference.