The Secret to Living

About three months ago I started reflecting, thinking about turning 35 and how life may be different, if at all.

In the past few years I feel like I’ve aged 10x. Relocation, thriving startups & ventures, fast paced life in the Bay Area, growing daughters, busy family life, contributions to causes I care about, and never ending self-inflicted to-do lists play a small part in that statement. I’m looking for no sympathy, if anything I catch myself finding more and more to fill up my time. The best part is each new thing I stack onto my days, I’m finally focusing less and less on the mundane and more on why they matter. For the first time, I’m taking on new challenges with confidence and gratitude.

Memory Lane.

Early in my engineering career I got the opportunity to work on a lot of Tony Robbins digital properties, building and enhancing his foundation, sites, streams and even getting lost in wanderlust on his Namale Island resort site. I have to admit for as many mastery talks and walking on coals sessions experienced I was immature & ended up laughing much of it off, even though I knew it was gold deep down. As a 20 year old, living week to week and hustling in every way I could muster there were days I’d sit back and distill some of it the best I could, but aside from the aspirations of wealth nothing stuck. After 18 years of learning what works for me: following authors I love, listening to Audiobooks on human nature, business, growth and life in general [1] I found this video session that hit home.

“..focus on being a blessing in people’s lives.”

— Tony Robbins

There is something profound about his statement and account as a teen and I can’t deny the plausibility in sharing a few similarities with the bones of his story: growing up in SoCal, living pragmatically, being owed money by others just because I was ‘that kind of guy’ and continually striking out. Not to mention my love for El Torito and miss their champaign brunch so very much. Two memories in particular made this video the real deal for me.

1. Entrepreneurship is not like Shark Tank

Fast forward a bit to my late twenties and I remember an afternoon driving home from a business meeting that I completely struck out on. This wasn’t just anything, it was everything. Months of planning, years of relationship nurturing, and because of one reason or another, everything I was counting on was gone and I was back to square one, yet again. I remember feeling devastated and thinking about all the “crap” jobs I’d need to take just to afford gas, and keep on.

At the time I journaled a lot of audio notes. Talking out my thoughts was therapeutic and a great release. I remember in the middle of professing my frustrations to my [first gen] iPhone (classic, I know), the track “Better Days” by Lisa Shaw came on, and I lost it. Also like Tony, I pulled over on the side of the road and took some time for myself, wondering why I push so hard with no return. Why can’t I find the stride I need, the opportunity to shine, the chance to ‘make it’. Or even, why can’t I simply settle for good enough. Without even figuring out an answer I knew I had to persist and one day find what I was looking for.

2. You’ve never known purpose, like the birth of a child

Professional world aside, I’ve been blessed with two beautiful, healthy and thriving girls who I adore more than words can express.

Not long after relocating up to the Bay and feeling over my current company, I was desperately looking for a change. One day heading back home on BART, I shut off my music and stared out the window at a gorgeous Northern California sunset over San Francisco. Watching the shipping yard in Alameda pass by, I found myself inspired to go back into my audio note archive and I picked one at random to listen to (first time I’d ever actually done this).  I ended up choosing the recording I made hours after the birth of my second daughter Hazel and nearly fell to the floor overcome by emotion. Listening to myself, a tired, terrified & overjoyed father of now two, talking about how I couldn’t be any happier at this moment in time, incredibly proud of my wonderful wife and my plans for how much I plan on giving the world to this little angel, it was clear that I needed to drastically change my scope on what mattered, and no one would do it for me.

I realized the only path to a state of fulfillment was to put everything that made no substantial difference to my or someone else’s life out of the picture and focus all my energy on obsessively caring about change.

While change can come in many forms, I saw the picture clearly. Keep my laptop closed on the weekends and spend more time with my family; cut out social media bloat and stay on task; stop fiddling and focus on learning; pick a few causes I can make a difference in and do something about them, and find a new business path and give it everything I’ve got.

As I cross the line into 35, only a few years dedicated to this new focus I’m happy to admit it took 15 years of trying to find what worked.

Today, I’ve decided to keep with those rules and join as the latest donor with the potential to save a life. I have a ~1/500 chance to help someone that otherwise may not survive, and at no cost other than time and giving a damn.

  • Difference in someone else’s life, check.
  • Difference to my life, check.

Cancer is not only a big part of my life with the losses I’ve had in the past but the impact I know will come about if we all took the time to contribute towards a cure. What’s a small inconvenience to me in the perspective of helping [and possibly saving] another?

If the secret to living is giving, today on my birthday, the only present I ask is being lucky enough to give.


[1] Some of my favorites in the past years that gave me new perspective:

Seth Godin – The Dip
Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers
Adam Braun – The Promise of a Pencil
Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning