“Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
The Air New Zealand announcement interrupted the hundreds of thoughts racing through my mind as I fastened by seatbelt for the 6,714-mile journey ahead of me. An adventure that I had set my sights on since beginning my career in New York City.
My eyes, finally dry from the tears of having to kiss my fiancé and puppy goodbye, now sparkled with emotion. Although a racing heartbeat would disagree, I comfortably sat back in my first class seat with gratification and peace of mind.
With each glass of wine poured, I tasted a sense of satisfaction mixed in with the grapes from the land I was about to call home for the next six months.
It was deja vu.
Flash back twenty months earlier, I once again found myself on a plane. This time only traveling half the distance and in an economy seat. Luckily, I had the entire row to myself.
With a suitcase and one-way plane ticket, I embarked on a new life in the city of angels. Los Angeles.
With the wheels up, my decision to leave behind the only life I knew – my family, my business, my hometown – was finalized. My thoughts were relentless. A battle of exhilaration and worst-case scenarios ensued in the space between my ears.
Across the country, my arrival was greeted by the same oil rigs that brought so many others in search of fortune and fame. The next chapter of my life was eager to be written.
What exactly brought me to Los Angeles? A girl, of course. It’s always because of a girl. That and a hunger for opportunity and growth; personally and professionally. Yeah sure, I guess I have to insert the cliche: “the weather”.
Reality set in fast.
After a week of bliss and birthday celebrations, I had a little wake-up call. Actually, a lack of one.
You would think it’s a blessing to not have to wake up at 4:20 a.m. After five years of an alarm startling me out of my shortage of sleep, I was without a reason to wake up. There were no clients, no gym, no schedule. What made up a majority of my waking hours and even more so, my identity, was now absent.
Starting from scratch is never easy but I wasn’t prepared for this. This lack of purpose. This uneasiness of what to do with my day. This uncertainty turned me from a rather calm individual to one filled with anxiety.
In this moment, I was allowing fear to win.
Fear that I would prove all the doubters, who questioned my cross country move, right. Fear that I couldn’t make it on my own. Fear of not reaching my potential.
Up until that moment, my business was more or less built for me. All I had to do was show up and perform the best service possible I possibly could and yield results beyond the amount of sweat shed and pounds lost or lifted.
In the city under the shadow of the Hollywood sign, nothing would be handed to me. I soon realized that I’ve never been handed anything in my life, why should this be any different?
Pulling myself off the couch and out of this rut, I began to create momentum in the only way I knew how at that time of my life. Pulling my sneakers out of the bottom of my luggage, I laced them and was off to a meeting with one of the most honest things in my life.
The weights were there waiting for me. Training was my therapy; my saving grace. One repetition at a time, I built my confidence back. With each droplet of sweat that hit the floor, the same fire that brought me to my new adventure was rekindled. Set after set, the fire was roaring.
I was no longer a victim of my circumstance. After all, I was the one who decided to leap in hopes to fly. Taking ownership, I was the sole reason for being in this situation. I was the only one who controlled my own destiny.
Time to fight.
The first time I ever got seriously punched in the face, I learned something extremely valuable. Thanks to my little bro for the life lesson.
Your body goes into a fight or flight response. You can either run and hope that you survive. Or you can grit your teeth, push away the fear, and place your hands up to protect your face. You can fight for your life.
Los Angeles landed a little jab at me, but I was going to either go down swinging or go out with my hands raised in victory. I chose the latter.
Since opportunity wasn’t knocking, I decided to go build doors.
When there wasn’t a position available at a certain major studio, I did everything in my power that there would be one by the time I left the lot.
When I was highly resistant to commute from Hollywood to Santa Monica after 5 years of sitting on the Metro-North Railroad, I pushed my stubbornness to the side and made the commute.
When someone would say no, I refused to accept it.
On numerous occasions, I put my ego aside. One that was created after a successful run in the limelight of New York City. After all, Jay-Z did say since I made it here, I can make it anywhere.
Hitting the pavement hard, I reached out to every single contact I had, gave away free sessions, and created my own luck.
At a certain point in an entrepreneurs’ career, they transition from taking every opportunity, every meeting, every position they can to learning to say no. In New York, I had my fair share of circumstances that I had to turn down.
Now, I had to start from ground zero. At least, I had to try out each of these opportunities and see what worked. As I like to think of it, I threw a bunch of shit against the wall and saw what stuck, what allowed me to survive, what moved me closer to my bigger goals, what made me want to get out of bed each morning, what made me happy.
When I decided a circumstance didn’t fit into the bigger picture, it was time for a break-up. The whole “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel.
If I could only share one lesson that I’ve learned throughout this experience, it’s this:
You must be selfish.
Being selfish is one of the biggest drivers towards you getting what you want out of your life.
Looking back I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. Sure, I could have done a better job of having those difficult conversations when I decided that something was not the right fit. In the past months, I rightfully have owned up to my faults.
But I do not have a single fucking regret. Why? Because I followed my instinct, listened to my heart, and put myself and my aspirations first and foremost.
Not for one second am I saying to trample over others to get what you want. You’re a better human being than that.
Too many times, you see people avoid being selfish and find themselves at the other end of the spectrum; sacrificing their self. Fear creeps in and they abandon their dreams to make something of their lives.
Instead of being selfish, they become self-less. They become so concerned with everyone else’s lives and telling them how they should live that they’re not even worried about themselves.
If you can’t take care of yourself, then how can you take care of others?
Selfishness is about respect for yourself.
Others will not respect your time, your dedication to your health, your life goals…until you, yourself, respect it.
When you go to work out, write, read, study, create your art, – insert activity that moves you closer to your dreams – you must treat that as sacred time. You must protect it with all your might or people will take it from you.
When I step into the hallowed grounds of the gym, that is “me” time. I will not let anyone interrupt it. Again, you must be a selfish prick.
You can ask my fiancé, I am a mean bastard when it comes to getting my workout in. On more than one occasion, we have fought at the gym when she’s come between me and my training. And I love Melissa with all my heart but she knows how precious that fifteen, thirty or sixty minutes is to me.
When you have selfishly completed your “me time”, you can give more of yourself to everyone and everything that needs your attention. You can be more generous with your time, attention, and emotion towards others.
That only happens if you are selfish to begin with.
You are handling your shit. You are being responsible for your personal, emotional, and physical needs. You are doing what you really want to be doing.
Because you are taking action towards giving your life a purpose. You are taking the necessary steps to not be a victim of your circumstance. You are not choosing fear.
Up in the clouds, I’m on my way to New Zealand as I reflect on the adventure that’s brought me to this moment in my life.
I was selfish to my family when I decided to move to Los Angeles.
I was selfish to the people who gave me job opportunities when I decided to move on from them.
I was selfish to my clients when I decided I could no longer work with them.
I was selfish to my fiancé and our puppy, Storm when I decided to take this opportunity of a lifetime and achieve one of my career goals.
When I return home from this experience, I will be able to give more of myself to all those people I was selfish to. I will appreciate each and every one of them for allowing me to put myself first.
In return, I will be the best fiancé, “father”, son, brother, coach, friend, human being to all the great individuals in my life. But I will not stop being selfish.
Now it’s your turn. Start with this. Give yourself permission to say yes to that which moves you closer to the mountain, say no to those things that move your further away, treat your art as sacred, and above all, be selfish.