I quit my job for the first time In August of 2000.
Something happened, some type of awakening.
I had been working with the same organization for 10 years, I began my career there as a file boy and had been promoted through almost every position in the company.
I worked hard, I worked very hard, often the first person turning on the lights in the morning and the last one to shut them off at night.
Within my first few months at this company, at the ripe age of 20 I had set my sites on becoming a manager. I understood it was hard work, but my mentor in that position seemed to have everything going for him.
I liked his lifestyle, I liked what he had earned for himself. I appreciated that he had similar beginnings to myself and that he had overcome the odds. It was obvious that the manager position he held was a stepping stone to something even bigger and better.
I decided that I wanted that for myself. I centered all my focus, worked hard and didn’t look back.
Fast forward 10 years.
I am sitting in the owner’s office, having just resigned the manager’s job that I had worked so hard to get, he asked me if we could have a chat about it.
As I am waiting for him to finish on the phone, many memories of the last 10 years rolled through my mind like a movie.
The endless hours, the meetings, all the people that I had seen come and go, the fact that it wasn’t a week into becoming that manager that I realized I completely hated it.
In fact it had become one of the greater disappointments of my life to that point.
To think that I was going to walk away from a 10 year investment in my life was about the strangest feeling I had ever had. It made me sick to my stomach but my mind was somehow relieved.
A few weeks prior I decided to take a different route to work. Something was pulling at me.
I couldn’t describe it.
For 10 years, I had pretty much followed the exact same routine in my life, but this day was different.
I drove a different route, it was a conscious but unconscious decision. I knew it would take me longer and that I wouldn’t get to the office at my usual early to be early time but I consciously made the decision that I didn’t care… That was an abnormal thought to me.
I took a long route around the city and drove through a large industrial area. My senses seemed to be functioning outside of the scope of normal, I noticed smells, all kinds of visual details that I had never noticed before came to life.
Then questions started to flood my thought process.
I stopped for a coffee.
As I waited in line, my vision came into intense focus. I saw the faces of strangers, some serving coffee, some ordering coffee.
As I saw them, they didn’t see me. They were engaged in their routine. Their daily grind.
As I watched the people in front of me order and leave, they each had that disengaged look.
Oblivious to everything that I was seeing. In a zombie like state, autopilot mode, just getting to work.
The same state I had been in operating in for longer than I could remember.
What was I waking up to?
All these things flashed back when he asked the question.
I told him the truth. I woke up a few weeks ago and took a different route to work. I couldn’t help but notice so many things that I had never noticed before in my life.
I saw warehouses and factories full of people and I had no idea what they were doing. I saw transport trucks coming and going, loads to pick up and loads to drop off, what were they carrying? Where were they going?
I told him that I have been working there for 10 years and have been so focused on becoming something that I thought I wanted, that I had lost track of everything else and it has made me miserable.
I realized that morning, there were so many things going on in the world that I don’t have a clue about that I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t get out there and explore it a little. To see what else life has to offer.
I don’t think too many people had ever spoke to him like that, he seemed a little set back, as if what he had prepared to say was no longer adequate.
He simply said this, “Whatever it is you find to put your heart into Mike, you will be very successful. It may not be what you leave us for, but eventually you will find it and you will have great success with it.”
I couldn’t have asked for a more ringing endorsement.
I opened my eyes and awoke to the reality that I was seeking something exciting, to get close to a different center of momentum, to find that same drive that I had when I first started 10 years earlier.
Once I realized it was that drive that was missing in my life, I finally put my finger on what it was I was searching for…Passion.
A couple weeks later, I was heading out mountain biking with a buddy and he looked at me and told me that I had changed. That I seemed more relaxed, happy.
I was, unfortunately it was temporary.
Three months later, the business that I had left my job for to sell and distribute products for as an independent free agent was in chaos. I had blown through all my cash, covering my marketing and traveling expenses and it turned out there was some fraud going on between the various owners.
I was screwed, I had no choice but to go back and ask for my job back.
They were happy to find a place for me and I was grateful for the job, but that relaxed happy feeling vanished, almost immediately.
I tried to bring it back to life over the next few years in a lot of different ways.
I worked at finding a better work/life balance than I had in the previous 10 years. I took up mountain bike racing, bikes have a been a hobby passion my whole life, so I threw myself into training, riding and racing but it wasn’t the same.
Still feeling the sting from the last time I tried to go outside of what I knew was enough to keep that inner flame from getting out of control. No matter what I tried to do though, I couldn’t extinguish that burning desire inside of me. Something was saying there must be more to life than what I am living.
I was a seeker, there was something out there, another source of momentum that could certainly ignite my passion, I knew I just had to find it.
A couple years turned into 5, my world had turned into a grind. I was looking for satisfaction in everything outside of my career, my JOB had become a Journey Of Broke.
I was physically, mentally and spiritually broke and then it happened, something snapped. One morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed. 35 years old and having some kind of breakdown…
I never returned to work. It took a month to recover physically but it took years to get past the failure in my mind.
I hung on to all kinds of resentment for a very long time, not understanding this basic principle of personal development, I migrated from seeking happiness to hating myself, being unable to forgive myself.
Resentment and blame.
I hated everything about that point in my life.
My wife is amazing and my children are the pride of my life, and those were the two pillars that were holding me up, but I hated myself.
It would take a few more years to realize this was my first bounce off the bottom, I was coming in for a crash landing but it was going to take a little more before I completely hit bottom.
If I knew and accepted then that failure was simply an opportunity to gain experience, it would have been easier to get past.
I have since come to see, that different people achieve this mindset at different points in their lives. Some early on, some never do.
The experiences that we are fortunate enough to learn from through failure becomes wisdom. Some of this wisdom tells us, “never do that again, what were you thinking?” Other times wisdom speaks more clearly, “OK, we can do that a little differently next time, here is how we get better, this is how we become more efficient…”
There is lot that I have learned from this short paragraph. First of all, removing all the emotion is required to objectively understand the experience and gain the wisdom from it. I was unable to do that for a long time, I couldn’t find the value in any of it because I was caught up in blame and resentment.
Like I said, I still hadn’t hit bottom. Stuck in resentment I went on to make a number of poor decisions that adversely affected my family, our finances and eventually derailed almost every positive thing that I had going for me in my life.
I am stubborn, it took crashing hard to find what I was finally looking for.
I thank God everyday for my wife, if it wasn’t for her love and motivation to discover what was burning inside of me I never would have received the personal development that I needed to start turning all these things that happened to me into experiences that happened for me, for my betterment. To see it as a baseline to course correct from in order get on and stay on the right path.
Personal development helped me define my purpose. In order to do that I had to stop looking at the outside world for approval, I had to stop caring about what other people thought, I started to put significantly more weight in my own thoughts and instincts than listening to the people around me.
I started to seek council, instead of asking for advice.
I became able to see value in all things and quit letting my circumstances define me. I stopped focusing on the result and instead setting clear goals, visualizing the results as having already been achieved and engaging in the daily disciplines required.
I quit worrying about everything. I don’t worry about how, I don’t worry about the details. Worry is a down payment on a problem that you may never have.
My discovery in life has been this, it isn’t our passion that fuels us, that energizes us that drives us to see and do and experience. We need to have passion, but it is our purpose that enables us to become more than who we are, do more than we thought we could and achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Once you define your clear purpose, just realize and accept that your path is out there. Believe it and you will attract all that you need into your life to achieve it. Fill your days with the doing, take pride in the daily disciplines, give everything your absolute best and forget the rest.
Apply this daily passion to your purpose and the path will emerge.
My name is Mike Martens, I am a passionate man and my life is about having it all.