In my younger years in life I attempted to do things only to fall short from what I had first imagined. Generally, I walked away from something I was doing, or quit altogether, if it was a sport I was playing. There was always this one thing or person that got in my way of success and it frustrated the heck out of me! For example, my basketball coach never liked the way I played basketball and would tell me I was too short to make it into the NBA. It honestly didn’t matter where I went, but this “plague” as I call it, seemed to follow me. It all changed one day when I finally realized that the plague following me was in my own head. You see, there was always something “I” didn’t like, or something “I” had a problem with. As time grew on and more and more people got in my way of reaching success, I began to lose motivation towards my passion. It wasn’t until after the most trialing moments in my life that I was able to locate the key to the door that allowed me to get past myself, and motivated me towards success - even when things seemed to go exactly the opposite of what I visioned.
For the most part, life to me has been this gigantic mystery that has revealed its grand design over time. As a very young boy there was no thought about life. No thoughts of working for a living, having a family, good people, bad people, or why some things happened to some and not to others. Typically the only thing that mattered was the moment I was living in. During my freshman year in high school my friends and I use to tie two metal trash cans together with fishing line and set them across both sides of the street in the night so when a car came by it would run into the line and drag the trash cans down the street making a ton of noise. We loved it! It was a lot of laughs we shared together but we never thought about how those choices could have had a negative outcome. In much of the same way as a young man I acted how I pleased and copied traits from those I looked up to and developed my own responses to situations until eventually they became habit. What I didn’t realize at such a young age was my attitude would be the most important habit I would have developed that drove my life to and from its destinations.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I don’t sit back at times and think to myself “if only I knew then what I know now.” I lived the first 23 years of my life with a plague towards my own success, because I built a habit of a bad attitude and a negative perspective on everything. A person once told me the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. Those words were given to me during a time I was building new habits and a new attitude and the words have stuck with me ever since. I think as people we often tell ourselves we want to change because we can recognize that we are our own worst enemy. We search for motivation but can’t seem to find a way to make it sustainable. I will say this from personal experience, though. There seems to be this period were creating a new set of habits is a daunting process because you are having to force yourself to go against a pattern of responses your brain naturally lives in. We also tend to tell ourselves that we just need an upstroke in luck before we can begin our change. As people who have the ability to achieve so much, we can’t let our mind play those tricks on us. I began my change in a small prison cell at Wasco State Prison where every day I worked out, I had to listen to a white supremacist try and brainwash me with his racist non-sense. If I was able to build a new attitude and perspective on life in prison, then you can make the changes in your life - but it won’t be done without some consistent work. Here are four things I did that helped sculpt my change that I think can help you make the changes you want as well.
1. Deny your mind access to old ways of thinking. This is probably the most exhausting thing I’ve done in my entire life. At times it seemed like the only thing I was doing throughout my day was telling my mind “don’t go there”. Sometimes for 15-30 minutes straight before it finally would stop, only to start back up 5 minutes later. As time went on, though, I began to achieve uncanny control over the direction my mind went. By the time a year rolled around I was able to switch channels in my head during thoughts I knew brought out old habits.
2. Force yourself to be positive even if you don’t feel like it. There is an old saying, “Fake it till you make it” and for myself I feel like the first year of my change was more of this than genuinely being positive. In 2011 I blew out the ACL in my knee while racing, and at the time I was just starting to make main events at the Elite level. My recovery was complicated and took 15 months to return - and when I did, I got my butt kicked by the lower pro class. Shortly after my return I developed a stomach disease, ulcerative colitis, and had to ultimately let go of racing BMX professionally. I knew in my mind even at that moment, that I lacked all motivation to continue the fight every day. I had to wake up and tell myself that this has happened for a greater reason and that something good was going to spring up. Shortly after I signed a national speaking contract, picked up 2 Olympic athletes that kicked started my BMX coaching career, and the Freewheel Project (my action sports mentoring non-profit) began to grow locally. Had I not forced myself to be positive I would have not been in the right spot for opportunities that I received. It’s ok to want to quit, as long as you DON’T!
3. Surround yourself with positive and goal oriented people. You are who you hang out with. One of the biggest blessings being in prison was to my life was the removal from old friends and people. When I got out of prison it was up to me to make new connections with positive and like-minded individuals. Hurting people’s feelings should never be the goal, but you need to love yourself and where your life is going. It’s ok to go out on your own and do something for you, so you can reach a happier more successful place in life. Did you know that if you put crabs in a bucket, that every time one almost gets to the top to get out, the other crabs will pull them back in? Negative people are the same way, they want to hold you down and keep you contained. Break free from this and watch how things change.
4. Make everything an opportunity. The definition of opportunity is literally “A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something,” and the motivation you gain from seeing life through this specific lens is POWERFUL. A friend wrote me one time while I was in prison about me coming back to racing BMX as a pro, and I remember I wrote him back that I was in a top secret training grounds getting time to prepare for my return. Every negative situation had a positive role and it played in my success and it will do the same for you if you quit the pity-party and start using your failures as an opportunity to find success.