I broke my mom’s favorite coffee pot… and it was great because it taught me who I was for the first time in my life.
Here’s the backstory.
For four straight months beginning in the spring of 2014, I walked to class in a zombie-like state… meandering around with no purpose. I would sit in social conversations like a deer in headlights, hearing words but not truly processing anything I heard. At night, I would go to sleep, bury my head in the pillow and wake up at 4 am with my head soaking wet from what felt like gallons of sweat. Imagine this daily process over the course of 90 days. This is what one would call a black hole, an empty pit, a point in time to give up on life.
Why did I feel lost?
For the first 3.5 years of college I had been on a mission, not to sure of the direction, but sprinting 120 miles per hour. I entered my freshman year of college at UGA and took a full course load of classes, balanced social life, and joined multiple organizations. That first summer I balanced a full time internship and a 3 credit hour accounting class. Throughout my sophomore year, I worked for the athletic department and a sports marketing agency in town in addition to keeping up with the everyday demands of being a student. That next summer, I worked a full time internship for the Atlanta Hawks. I came bustling into junior year picking up the two jobs I held the prior year and also started a T-shirt business.
It was like being on a treadmill and with each new activity and responsibility I added, I had to spin my legs faster and faster to keep up. At some point though, my legs stop working … and eventually they shut down completely during that spring of 2014.
As you would imagine, I was extremely excited for summer after the last day of class my junior year. I could finally go home and escape the rut I was in. While I wasn’t sure what exactly I was escaping from, I knew that getting away from it all would be the right thing to do for me.
I headed home with no idea of what I would be doing … a feeling I had never experienced before. Perhaps things would get better, or perhaps they wouldn’t…
I had been home only 2 days when my mom says, “So, Bryan do you think you are not going to work this summer?”
To be honest, I really needed this time away. I needed to clear my head. I had no agenda for the summer and that’s exactly what I needed. I just wanted to stay to myself and let my mind sift through my deep thoughts and reflect.
My mom’s question sparked some serious emotion within me. I remember telling her that I was still trying to figure it out. She explained to me that I wasn’t just going to come home, bum around, and take food for free and play golf all day. That wasn’t what I intended to do, but as the conversation went on, the greater my frustration became.
You know these moments, when people just unintentionally get under your skin because you let them… this was one of those moments.
So what did I do?
I picked up the coffee pot, and smashed it against our granite counter-top. Now, it wasn’t my intention to break it, but it happened. That poor Coffee House pot … smashed to pieces 🙁
Well, that was the official end to that conversation. I marched upstairs, slammed my door, and starting spinning around in my chair thinking … what the hell am I doing with my life?!
Pretty good story right? Well, I didn’t write this article to explain all of my shortcomings…
I wrote this article to explain how I turned the summer around and used it as a 3 month respite to learn about who I was for the first time in my life.
Imagine doing an internship on yourself. That’s what I did and this is how it helped me find myself during a time when I felt lost.
1. Therapy + writing
The first thing I did was enroll in intensive therapy where I went every week to essentially break myself down. It was like re-learning who I was… my strengths, my weaknesses, and how my past affected. My future.
It was a mental workout sitting there talking to someone and sharing everything… all my thoughts, and reflecting. Every week, I went away and he had me do writing exercises. By the end of the summer and through weekly sessions for 3 straight months, I had filled a journal of pages of thoughts. It was like my life in a book. Conversations that led to tears, conversations that gave me new perspective on myself, failure and the world around me … it was an extremely profound experience.
If you have the opportunity to do therapy like this or to embrace anything to gives you new perspective, embrace it! I truly believe that turning your back on something that has the potential to give you new perspective is one of the worst things you can do. (especially if you are like I was… wandering without purpose and unhappy).
I was never a big reader. Then the summer of 2014 happened. I must have read 10+ books during that short time. Reading was a way for me to stay quiet to myself and to just absorb everything I could. I was like a sponge and the sponge never seemed to be fully soaked. I enjoyed it because I invested my time in reading things I truly found an interest in reading.
Here are a few I’d recommend that really helped me become a better leader and marketer:
1. Start With Why by Simon Sinek: Have you ever thought about why you do what you do. Or why a company or organization stands out from the pack … This book simply changed my life. It made me truly internalize who I was. This book and the lessons that were taught came up in conversations with my counselor. The Why is the root cause for any self sustaining organization. When things get tough, you have to go somewhere to dig deep and if you don’t know why you started something in the first place, then forget about it.
3. Find an outlet in the form of a business
To answer my mother’s request, I ended up creating a micro-business. Something I could have fun with that was short-term and on my own time. I did more than 20+ outdoor jobs power washing, gardening, and cleaning siding in two months. I made almost $5,000 working only 30 or 40 days. Nothing like tax free income that you can immediately cash … or put in the bank 😉
While the cash was great and I was able to accrue some great entrepreneurial lessons, the true benefit was that I truly stayed true to myself. I was able to think through all of my therapy sessions, the books I was reading, and the conversations I was having while I was working. It was a great opportunity to work in solitude and have time for myself to process.
All of these things I did allowed me to simplify, to focus on the present, and to transform and grow who I was for the better. The broken coffee pot represented my life at the current state in time, but the summer truly allowed me to figure out how to figure out how to put all the broken pieces together …
Where am I now in life?
I currently run a web platform called Wish Dish, which connects people through the sharing of stories. Imagine TED Talks for personal stories. We exist to give people a voice and help others realize they are not alone. I invite you to join us in our mission and become part of our contributor program. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.