A week ago I had a plan. Last Wednesday I was sitting at work, earning a steady paycheck at a reputable advertising agency in Nashville, Tennessee. I woke up in the morning, watched an episode of Saved by the Bell, showered, grabbed a McDonald’s iced coffee, sat behind a desk all day, did my job, went home, ate dinner, watched Seinfeld reruns, and went to sleep. This cycle was repeated almost ritualistically day in and day out. My days had become so routine that I had almost lost interest in breaking away. What was the point in changing anything? Why should I bother taking any risks when this ‘worked’? I could work my way up the corporate ladder, get my annual raise, put a down payment on a house, have some kids, set up a pension, and live out the ‘American Dream’.
It’s amazing how fast things change. Now, one week later, any semblance of that cookie cutter American Dream is gone. The only similarity between last Wednesday’s routine and today’s was the waking up and watching Saved by the Bell Part. Today I’m sitting here, unemployed, in my new home of Elgin, Illinois. Last week I could have mapped out the next 25 years of my life. Today I can’t tell you what will happen 25 minutes from now. Looking into my future, there is no plan. I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow or where I’ll be living a year from now. For the first time in my life I’m living spontaneously, moment by moment, and honestly all I can ask myself is, ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’
When you live by the rules – you limit your potential. I’m here to tell you that the rules are BS. Odds are they were put there to keep you safe – to limit your risk taking but promote a safe and secure lifestyle. Graduating college, finding a job that pays well, getting married, providing for your family – this is all part of our lives’ script. Some rules are there for a reason, I’m not promoting all out anarchy here; but sometimes when you break the rules, when you ‘cheat life’, you start to realize what you’re truly capable of.
Remember the old school Contra on the NES? Yeah, that game was awesome. Those video game nerds out there will remember that three lives was never enough to conquer the game. There were too many unexpected things thrown at you, too many situations where the ‘game’ pretty much screwed you and there was no way to escape certain death.
So most of us, myself included, saved ourselves the trouble and cheated. Sure, we may have lied and said we never did to our friends during recess because only losers had to use cheat codes. But it’s OK – we’re all adults now, we can admit we were just a bunch of cheaters back in the day. The universal ‘Konami Code’ was legendary amongst gamers of our era:
Entering the sequence of buttons above gave you unlimited lives: Immortality in pure, 8-bit format. It’s funny how different you approach something when you have nothing to lose. You face risk head on – you’ll run in guns blazing instead of tippy-toeing from screen to screen. You’ll jump down the dark pit without knowing what’s below. The beauty is, if you die, if you ‘fail’ you can pick yourself up and try again. And with every death, through every failed attempt, you learn, you grow. With experience you learn what to do, and maybe more importantly, what not to do the next time through.
Over the past few weeks I’ve shared my story with many of you. There have been several who have commended me for my bravery – for being able to take the leap when there are so many reasons not to. Many of you have said something along the lines of ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing’. My (public) response to all of you out there who may be doubting yourselves is to just do it. If it helps, watch me try and fail. Observe how many times I fall down, only to pick myself up and try again. Now that the line has been drawn in the sand and I’m standing on the ‘other’ side – I’m telling you that as terrifying as it might seem to break away – you CAN do it. If I can do it, anyone can. Stop living your life by the rules and start cheating. Punch in the code and start taking risks.
[+10 Bonus Points to the first person who explains the context of the 'Winner Is You' headline]