To some degree we've all been handed the "sad box," had to pack up our belongings, and do the walk out the door for the last time.
I'd even set my life up in a way that I could basically live on a plane for 30 weeks per year and go city-to-city, country-to-country, make my requisite 6-figures, and do exactly WTF I wanted and loved, answering to no one, after almost 30 years of answering to a boss of some sort. Overnight that bubble burst. No travel allowed. Comfy income snatched right off the table. And, once again, having to scramble just to make rent after blowing through my savings just to live in Coronapocalypse for, what is this, six months already. Though you may see me all over the socials, please don't be deluded into thinking that I'm any different than you. Especially if you're struggling right now. Survival is real. And, luckily, I've crashed-and-burned enough times throughout my life that it's innate for me to figure it the f*ck out at moment's notice to get them bills paid. I've had my hands in so many different cookie jars throughout my professional career that I've been able to achieve exactly what I set up my life to do: ALWAYS BE OKAY.
A bankruptcy. Several "F*ck you, I'm out...keep it all!" breakups. Waking up one day and realizing, "I f*cking hate you" departures from companies. You name it. I've been there and likely have the brochure and the T-shirt. And while COVID might be your very first experience with financial ruin, career uncertainty, immense pressure, and ego assassination, let me assure you it's only the first. You likely have two or three more on the way over the next 10-15 years. #beencouraged
If you've read my book you've probably surmised that I've, um, been through some things. My life has been far from charmed. Being a Black, gay man, successfully infiltrating the C-suite for the majority of my career came at a cost...to my mental and physical health, to ALL of my personal relationships, to my finances, career trajectory, and so much more. While many would lament such a path through life, I've absolutely loved it. Because it's created a resiliency, intuition, and fearlessness that has allowed me to ALWAYS BE OKAY. And newsflash: I AM.
I'm an empath. #beveryafraid I've been picking up on most of your anxiety, uncertainty, and declining confidence ever since COVID reared its ugly head. I'm watching even the "strongest" among us completely come undone and expose all the seams they did their best to hide from the public they so tacitly snowed. The one thing you'll realize about people like me is that we'll never be revered in the same way as those who are a little "shinier" or "brighter." We'll always be looked at as "fringe" or the "outsider." Yet, we're always the one those others will turn to because we've actually walked our talk, lived through some shit, and can help ANYONE course correct, right the ship, and BE OKAY. It's our cross. And we bear it with pride.
So, COVID has reinforced that my purpose in life is to help people be okay. No lie, this shit is exhausting. However, I know it's why I've survived all those near-death experiences, why I'm being inordinately targeted by The Universe because, clearly, I can handle it, and living through yet another situation that would take most mere mortals TF out, with the intent of spreading a little wisdom and giving people the tools and enough "hmmms" to just try it and improve their own lives and livelihoods. So that's exactly what I'm doing to do until my very last breath on this planet.
I'm no guru. I'm no prophet. What I am is someone who will tell it like it is and get you to THINK FOR YOURSELF. Take what I offer and do with it what you will. If you're really questioning the validity of this lie, I mean LIFE you've created then this is for you. If you've got it all figured out, go enjoy your yacht. The following are a few epiphanies that hit me during COVID that have forced me into action and a new way of thinking about the world and my life. Grab a Diet Coke and take a few notes.
Second citizenship as a minority in the US and as a fiscally, socially, and morally-aware human being in this country is IMPERATIVE
As a Black, gay, 51-year-old man in this country I've realized that nothing will really change for me in the United States within my lifetime. As I've done a similar life audit as many of you reading this, I've come to the conclusion that my country isn't really set up in a way where I will EVER be truly free or seen and treated as equal. If you're not a minority you'll never quite grasp this. Not asking you to, only to respect that it's a thing. So I've decided to seek second citizenship outside the US. The way I see it, I've given 51 years of my life, efforts, and intention to a country that hasn't reciprocated in-kind. Sure, it's provided me with opportunities to get exactly where I am right now. And for that, I am grateful. However, I'd really, really like to know what it feels like to walk outside every morning and exhale vs. take that same deep breath, sharpen my "street vision," and constantly monitor the degree of code-switching I'll have to engage in throughout my day. I want to go shopping and not feel strange eyeballs on me and that "soft follow" of plain-clothed security following me around a store or happening by when I'm feeling indecisive and taking a little too long to select an item on the shelf. I'd really like to not overlook the blatant racism I encounter in online dating platforms with those nefarious "preferences" boxes clearly perpetuating every stereotype ever conceived and giving people an excuse or "an out" for their numerous biases.
Sure, my businesses will likely always be in the US and my friends will always want me to visit from time-to-time. But at 51 I'm finding it more and more ridiculous paying taxes to a system that's happy to take my money and then persecute me with it. To be clear, this is MY experience and MY truth. However, I know minority communities throughout this nation who are feeling such deep degrees of disillusionment and disappointment, yet not realizing that it's actually elective to stay here and take it. Once I started researching other countries and ex-pat populations around the world, I was clued into a whole new reality these people created from the exact same level of disappointment I speak of. They uprooted and emigrated to countries where they are not only thriving but building the type of lives they would never have been able to experience in the United States. For me, given my research and feasibility, it's a resounding, "Sign me UP!"
For those of you who aren't experiencing the challenges related to race, I'd offer this. If you have the ability to make money from anywhere in the world, digital nomad-ism is the move. Knowing you can conduct business anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection is a freedom unlike any you could imagine. Before COVID, I was a digital nomad. I only spent about half of my time in the US. The rest was working in countries throughout Australasia and Europe. If you're young, can create a digital income, PLEASE do an honest and thorough audit of what actually keeps you here. Even if you're older with a family, truly consider starting an online business, growing your client list, perfecting your offering and finding a way to live a few months in one country, then another, then another. And definitely look into seeking a second passport to capitalize on a much cheaper and infinitesimally better standard of living that will not only alleviate a TON of stress, but expose your kids to other cultures, stoke the wonder and curiosity that keeps YOU young, and improve your relationship with your spouse because you're constantly in a state of discovery of your surroundings and one another.
Completely Change Careers
The one thing COVID has done was expose, to many of us, how much we actually dislike what we do for a living. Even pre-COVID I realized that I absolutely detested waking up another day being someone's "assistant." After biting my tongue for 27 years supporting numerous Execs who were less smart, less self-aware, less connected, but much luckier and more resourceful than me, I got hip to the game, studied it really well, and am now playing on the same field seeking the same victories. And now I teach other Assistants how to open their eyes, leverage all those years of experience, acumen, and connections and do the same thing. Sure, it's within the same realm, but I answer to ME, now. No one else.
There are so many free and cheap resources out there to help you dust off a dream or idea and bring it to fruition. COVID has brought about a reckoning of heart and authenticity. For many, losing that cushy job with the fat, consistent check has shown them just how big of a mess they'd gotten themselves into. Insane levels of debt. Way too many "things" they don't need. Friendships based on what they have vs. who they are. Relationships based on the same. The breakup/divorce rate is increasing exponentially because people are starting to realize the foundation of many of their relationships is, essentially, hard-packed sand. Solid enough for now, but nothing that could withstand storm after storm. This holds true for professions as well.
"Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." This is a phrase that's finally making sense to many. Doing what you love as a profession allows you a fulfillment far beyond the money. The money is great, let's be clear. But doing something that allows you to make your mark on the world and pay forward your unique expertise, talent, or point-of-view is real fulfillment. The kind that makes you excited to wake up every morning and "get after it." If you're still rolling out of bed with that long-ass sigh, that signature hunt for caffeine, and gathering all the disparate tasks strewn all over your mind into nice, neat stacks of "Today's To Do's" then I'd offer it's time to consider doing something different. Like, really, different. And only you know what that is.
Get Obsessively Active
One of the most positive changes I've made during COVID has been to become obsessively active. I walk about 4 miles every morning including a 15-minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) session and a few rounds of a lengthy stretch of stairs along my walking route. I've also found a couple of new tennis buddies and we play a few times per week. I am in my best physical and cardiovascular shape in over a decade and I'm definitely seeing an improvement in my energy levels running 3 companies.
The best advice I can offer here is to find something that takes your mind off of what sucks. All this isolation can be circumvented simply by donning a mask, slapping on some headphones, and getting outside. Obsessively. I make sure that I give myself that time every day without fail. That way I know I'm taking time to not only improve my physical health, but my mental health just as obsessively. I'm learning Portugese on my walks. I'm constantly coming up with new ideas for my businesses. I'm seeing streets I've never seen or new things on the same streets. I've even created a number of silent friendships passing people who also walk at the same time each day.
Do something that feeds your soul. And be obsessive about it, especially now. It will pay dividends like you won't believe.
It's a really, REALLY good time to audit your life. Really accept any mistakes you've made and reconcile them. Finally. Develop a new mindset that's based on what you actually want for the rest of your life and start taking action bringing it to fruition. For me, the US has lost it's lustre so I'm putting a plan together to extricate myself as a citizen. I was sick of the weight rollercoaster but hated dieting so I figured out a way to be able to look great physically and still be able to eat anything I wanted. I've taken on the herculean task of building 3 (soon 4!) businesses simultaneously because I feel I have the energy, focus, connections, and attitude to do so. And for me, success isn't about the money. It's about mastering the insane amount of focus and follow-through required to make them successful. The money will come. I know that. But I'm more interested in the process and hopefully making it replicable enough to teach others how to create a new level of success of their own.
I hope something in what I've written resonates, especially within those who are struggling right now. COVID has created the type of reckoning we all needed. We now have the opportunity to craft a new life with a new purpose, intention, and goals that leverage what we've learned up until now but is completely independent of our pasts. Create something new and exciting in your life. And make it a little uncomfortable. Or if you're like me, completely flip the script and actually DO the impossible. At 51 years of age, I feel like I'm only getting started. I wish the same for you.
So, get started! And once you develop a routine, establish some new goals, and develop the ability to make shit happen regardless of what gets thrown at you, you'll find you will ALWAYS BE OKAY.