About 12 years ago, I was at the height of my outward success. I was making a lot of money as a political consultant. I was well-regarded in my field, so I could choose my clients. I dated attractive women and I was about to make my first film.
From the outside, everything looked great.
I had the material things I wanted. I drove nice cars and took the sorts of vacations I wanted. One of the women I dated was a model who was just starting to get into managing models. She was convinced she could get work for me — at least local work — as a model/actor in advertising. (She took this photo when she was trying to convince me.)
On the inside, though, nothing had ever been quite right for me. I didn’t know why. Something was missing. Something was wrong — and I had come to realize that the world doesn’t work the way I had been taught. I was lost.
My journey from then to now has been a complicated one. But as I look back on it — a trip which took me into poverty, loneliness, shame and embarrassment — I realize it all made sense. I had to finally become strong enough to throw away much of what I thought I knew — and start all over again.
If you could read everything I’ve written on this site over the last seven years, you would see a good bit of my evolution. When I started writing here, I wrote mostly about politics. For several years, I had a decent following as a political writer, mostly telling people who already generally agreed with me what they wanted to hear.
I quickly tired of that — and I spent some time wandering through wilderness trying to figure out what I wanted to say and what I wanted to be. Some of that is reflected here. I slowly became far more emotionally vulnerable with you. I rarely talk about politics (other than to beg you to get away from it). I’ve spent the last few years trying to figure out how to express a growing collection of ideas in my mind and heart, even if I didn’t have a good name for them.
I’ve finally realized lately exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to reflect my own changing ideas about what’s important in life. I’ve been building a roadmap for myself — a way out of the hole I’d dug for myself — and I’ve been sharing with you the parts that seem worthwhile.
We all start out in life thinking that we understand life and understand where we’re going. For most of us, though, there’s a point at which something gnawing on the inside makes it plain that the things we thought were important aren’t enough. Most of us experience some crisis that brings us to the point that we can either give up and live an empty life — or we can choose to start over, examining what we were taught and rebuilding our ideas about which things are worth living for.
For me, this choice was foreshadowed in an old personality inventory before I had really even gotten to this point. On this now-defunct system called ANSIR — the brilliant developer died of cancer, unfortunately — I was known as the “Visionary.” It said this type is very successful early on but eventually ends up in rebellion against the things they had thought were important.
“The treadmill of youth that once ran so smoothly now jerks along mindlessly,” the profile of Visionary reads about that point when they grow dissatisfied. “Their natural drive and curiosity are replaced by apathy. Disillusionment and dissatisfaction mount, until one day the hollowness inside them erupts into a roaring crescendo of deafening, threatening self-doubt. Without invitation or shove, they leap off the treadmill. Stepping on every sidewalk crack along the way, Visionary heads home, where, in profound soberness, they take stock of their self and their life. What they learn, during this Visionary-common experience, decides whether they’ll begin living as born and meant, or continue much as before; by dictate of circumstance.”
I’ve spent the last decade or so in that process. It was complicated for me by dealing with unexamined baggage from a dysfunctional family and it led me at times to make decisions that I might have questioned otherwise. But I did “leap off the treadmill” of the life and values and beliefs I had been given — and I’m slowly ending up at a place of living “as born and meant.”
I finally became strong enough — and got past enough of the shame — to start over with no fear of what others might think. I finally had a blank slate. I could finally make my life whatever I wanted it to be.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this process lately because I’ve been working on the changes I’ve told you are coming to this site. I needed to get very clear about exactly what I was doing before I could recreate the site to reflect my current direction.
Most people reach a point of needing to start over, but very few have the guts to jump off the treadmill and make the change. Almost all of them — in my experience — are going to continue with what they’re doing, even though they’re miserable, as they live “by dictate of circumstance.”
If you’re one of those miserable people who’s not interested in change — who’s unwilling to throw away past mistakes and start anew without shame — you’re not who I’m talking to here. I’m not writing to you, because nothing I say could be relevant to you. If you’re not willing to start over if you need to do so, nothing I say matters to you.
I’m talking to the one who was superbly confident about life and who could do no wrong when he or she was young. I’m talking to the one who bought into the things his or her school and parents and preachers taught which turned out to be empty. I’m talking to the one who feels an unfamiliar hollowness on the inside that threatens to erupt “into a roaring crescendo of deafening, threatening self-doubt.”
If you’re unhappy with where you are in life, how are you going to change that? If you’ve messed your life up with decisions you regret — because of poor judgment or messed-up family psychology or mistaken values or whatever caused those decisions — you’re not going to be able to dig yourself out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself by applying the same dysfunctional thinking that got you into the hole.
You have to change the root cause of what got you there — or else you’re destined to spend the rest of your life in that hole.
I realize now that I’ve been talking to those who are in that position. I’ve been explaining some of what I’ve learned. I’ve been exploring some of my lessons. And I’ve been encouraging you to make the changes you need to make.
In the coming weeks and months, you’re going to see me do that in a far more direct and obvious way. I’m still going to be writing the same sorts of things I’m writing now, but it’s going to be framed with an explanation of this process — and with an overt call to change.
As I’ve gone through this process of changing the site recently, I’ve faced some technical challenges, but the biggest challenge has been to get very clear on what my core message is — for myself and for you. It’s been emotionally draining, but it’s left me in a better place, because I can see where I’m going — and I can clearly see who I want to bring along with me.
If you want to cling to your past — the lies you believed about how the world works and about what should be important to you — you’re wasting your time with me. Nothing here can possibly interest you.
But if you have the courage to face yourself and admit your mistakes — and then to commit yourself to fixing those mistakes — you’re going to want to stick around.
Starting over isn’t for losers. It’s not for wimps. It’s not for weak people. Beginning again can mean a chance to reinvent yourself and a chance to get your life to where it should have already been. It’s hard work. It requires honesty and vulnerability. It requires pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do.
But if you took a wrong turn along the way — as almost everybody did — you’ll be amazed at the life you can make for yourself — with new values and new directions — by giving yourself a clean slate.
I hope you care enough about yourself to come on this journey with me.