Ask yourself: 12 months from now, how would success look like for you?
If you had asked me this question just before graduation, my answer would have been pretty similar to what a lot of people say, which is to have a good-paying job, working on my career, maybe have a new car, house, etc, typical stuff. And why? Well…
Looking back, I can see that since I was young, I was following someone else’s goals. At first, I was going to school and getting good grades because everyone told me that was the correct thing to do. I didn’t even question if I should go to university straight out of high school, I just did it. I remember that before I even graduated from high school, I was already looking at what university I was going to go to. At university, I was studying for a career that I choose not because I liked it but because I was good at it. I knew it was a good career, I was going to make good money and society respected people that studied that. 2 years before graduating from university, I was already chasing the next thing, a job, so I started doing internships, volunteering, anything that would make me stand out from the competition; I ended up doing 6 internships, and it worked, since I got my full-time position 2 weeks before graduation.
After graduating from university, I kept doing what society said was the correct thing to do. But there was a problem: I was feeling as if I was living someone else’s life and I was not happy with that. As soon as I reached a goal, I was already thinking about the next one: as soon as I got to university, I was already thinking about how to get a job, as soon as I got a job, I was already thinking about how to get the next promotion, as soon as I got the promotion I was already thinking about how much money I needed to save to buy a house, and so on and so forth. Fulfillment and happiness were always just around the corner. I would tell myself “well I’m not really happy now, but I’m pretty sure I will be when I get this”. There was no end in sight, just a constant pursuit of the next thing.
Fast forward to 2014, almost a year after graduation, and I was living in Los Angeles, working for a big engineering company. During this time I realized I couldn’t keep up, that this was not the life I wanted. Every day at work I would see the company owners and my supervisor, they were “successful”, some were even millionaires; but the only thing I could think of was “I do not want to be like them in the future”. They worked way too much, some were even out of shape, and they looked tired. They needed coffee in the morning to wake up, and alcohol at night to relax and wind down. Their conversations were mostly about the next thing, what nicer car they were going to buy, what bigger house they were going to buy, how they were going to spend the next bonus, etc.
During this time you could have confused me with someone that was somewhat successful: I had been promoted 3 times so far, I was very close to making $100,000 a year, I was working on projects all over California, I even had one in the Middle East, I was in charge of a project with a 6 figure budget and involved in another worth over a billion dollars. I was making more money than I could spend (mainly because I was too busy to spend it), I was going on vacations once a month (since I needed them to keep my sanity), I was driving a new car, and I was even saving for the downpayment of a home. But I was very far from successful: I was miserable. I was working 12+ hours a day, I was constantly on the road so I didn’t really have any friends, and I was lonely since during my time off I was too tired to do anything.
I thought: this is not the life I want, I don’t even know what I want, but I just know this is not it. The only thing I could think of was that I needed a break to think this life thing thru: I needed to leave everything, do something different and think about what I actually wanted. The quote accredited to Einstein fits perfectly here “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. I was definitely not insane.
While thinking about what type of break I wanted, I remembered the people I had met during my graduation trip, when I took a month off to travel through Asia. They were backpacking all over the world, one country at a time. I said, “That’s it! I want to do the same and travel all around the world”. After some research, I saw that I needed to save for around 2 years in order to make that happen. I ended up staying one more year in Los Angeles, then I got a government job in San Diego and moved back for a year.
After saving for 2 years, I quit my cozy government engineering job in February 2016, I left my apartment, my car, my clothes, everything. I packed what I needed in a backpack and I set off to travel the world. I didn’t knew when I was going to come back, I didn’t even knew if I was going to come back, I just knew I needed a break, I needed to finally be in control of my life and do whatever I wanted to do, not what society told me I had to do. And society had a lot to say about this plan, mostly my friends, coworkers, family members, and supervisors would tell me that I was crazy, that I was leaving a job that a lot of people wished they had, that I was saying goodbye to a great government job, that I was successful in my career, and that my next promotion was months away. “How was it possible that I was going to spend the down payment of the home I was originally saving for on a trip?” But I didn’t care about what anyone said. This time I was living life on my terms.
So I did it, I accomplished my dream and I went around the world, 26 countries in 5 continents. During this trip I learned a lot about the world and about myself, I became more confident, I talked to many different people, I got to learn how other people saw the world, how they saw their lives; it was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life up to that point.
I ended up coming back, 11 months later, once I had run out of money. Let me make this clear, I did not want to come back, I only did because I had spent it all.
Once I was back in San Diego, I went back to working at my old job (with a promotion, so much for ruining my career…). Being back I saw how everyone and everything had stayed the same, and it made me realize how much I had changed. Everyone around me had the same conversations as before, the same mindset, the same goals. If before I felt like I didn’t fit in, now for sure I didn’t fit in.
I will admit, coming back was rough: I was depressed for months, since I was finding it very difficult going back to “regular life”. It didn’t help that people were telling me “you had the adventure of a lifetime, now it’s time to come back to reality, grow up and work for 30 years; then you can retire and travel the world again”. But I refused to believe that, since I knew something they didn’t: there are many ways to live your life. During my trip, I met people that bought assets instead of liabilities and were now living off their investments in their 30s, people that were working remotely, people that valued what they knew, not what they had, people that had very little material possessions but were happy. This inspired me. So I started researching what was next since now I knew that there were many ways to live life, and I was decided to find the way I wanted to live mine. It took months and months of researching, learning, reading and trying new things. During this time of research, I got to read the title of a book, I didn’t even read the book, just the title, called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. This title changed the way I was thinking. I realized that what got me to that point in my life was the mindset that I had, the friends that I had, the things that I knew, all of that had brought me to that point in my life where I was lost. If I wanted to go somewhere else in life, I needed to change myself, I needed to learn new things, I needed to change the friends I had or at least the conversations I was having with them. Everything had to change.
So in 2017, 4 months after I got back, I decided that I was going to reconsider everything about myself, I was going to change, and this was not because I was broken or damaged, but because I wanted to be better. Things that I had told myself that I was never going to do, now they were a possibility: I looked at everything with a new mindset. The mindset of: “could this help me? Yes? Ok, I’ll do it”.
And just like that I started reading books, talking to new people and doing new things like going to a 10-day silent meditation retreat, waking up at 4 am in the morning to do my Miracle Morning routine, and going to conferences such as “Best Year Ever“, Chautauqua and Landmark Forum, where I had to speak and interact with strangers for at least 10 hours a day, conferences where I had to be honest and vulnerable, where I had to say what I really thought and felt without worrying if I was going to fit in. Basically, things that were so far outside my comfort zone that I would have not done before.
My hobby became asking myself “Am I scared of doing this?” If the answer was yes, then I had to do it. And that’s how I ended up joining Toastmasters, since all my life I had hated speaking in public: it would get me nervous and I was scared to do it. Now I was doing all of this, since I knew it would help me.
It’s been almost 3 years since I came back from that world trip. They have been amazing years, they have sometimes been very difficult, but I wouldn’t change anything about them. And what exactly have I been up to during this time?
- A friend of mine and I started a company, and closed it a year later.
- I have attended silent meditation retreats, totaling in over 20 days in complete silence.
- I learned how to surf.
- I did an 8000-mile road trip from San Diego to Alaska and back.
- I designed and built a hydroponic garden.
- I attended Chautauqua, a 7-day personal finance conference in England.
- I did mushrooms in the mountains of Oaxaca in southern México.
- I’ve now been completely sober for over 10 months and counting.
- I kept traveling and now I’ve been to 32 countries so far.
- I am currently at a leadership institute, where I’m learning how to bring out the best in people.
- I took up Yoga, which I now practice weekly.
- I took a Wim Hof class, where I submerged myself in ice water for some minutes.
- Since joining Toastmasters I’ve done public speaking over 10 times (the biggest audience has been a group of 150 people).
- I’ve helped 33 people figure out what their ideal future would look like and how to achieve it.
- And lastly, and more surprisingly, since I had not realized this one until I wrote this, I went from a negative 5 figure net worth to a positive 6 figure one.
I don’t mention all of this with the intention to show off, but just to show you how much can be accomplished in 3 years once you decide that things will be different. After all this searching, after “failing” many times, I finally found what makes me happy now, instead of someday in the future, and I’m working toward making that my full-time career. I’ve had some amazing adventures and experiences, I’ve met some very interesting and inspiring people, I have the pride of doing things that I never thought I would do, I have the satisfaction of helping people, of being a good influence and helping them with things I have struggled with in the past, inspiring them to get out of their comfort zone.
At the beginning I asked you: “12 months from now, how would success look like for you?” Well for me it would be:
- Attend a 12-day meditation retreat in Thailand.
- Bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
- Participate in a 1-month volunteering experience in Africa.
- Keep working and learning from my amazing institute classmates.
- Grow my coaching practice to get a steady monthly income from it, so that I can do what I really enjoy for a living.
- Keep trying new things and learning as I go.
And why am I doing all of this? Well very simple, because “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”