We left off with Part One of my “reintroduction story,” a fresh, honest, up-to-date, and personal version of how I understand you and I have come to connect today.
I prioritize sharing my personal stories, beliefs, and professional experiences with you because vulnerability, authenticity, and trust are exceptionally high values for me as a person, and also, as a business owner.
I always intend to lead with authenticity, trust, and integrity in whatever I do, and before I pitch you on a product or a service I really want you to know who I am and from where my intentions are coming.
The Internet can feel like a gross place these days, and it’s never been tougher to distinguish real news from fake and real authorities or trust-deserving folks from pretenders. It is exhausting.
If you feel it, I feel it, too.
All that really means, though, is that the bar is raised for those of us who intend to lead with love and wish to share ourselves and our beliefs with authenticity. Hence, this two-part story!
Besides, if you’re ever to work with me as a coaching client someday (hint hint: Claim Your Calling is re-opening for new member applications this April!), knowing who you’re hiring is just as important as me getting to know you.
That’s why Part One of my reintroduction story also came with a small invitation:
I asked you to reach out and to connect with me via a little video or audio note, so I could “meet” you and learn a little bit about your story.
You’ll only have 2 minutes(!) to share, but if you do, I’ll reply with my own video note to say hello and thank you for taking the time to introduce (or reintroduce!) yourself to me.
No, really, please — I would love to meet you!
For now, it’s on to Part Two of my reintroduction story, below.
(If you haven’t read Part One yet, you can and probably should do so here.)
7. IT WAS ALL LOOKING ROSY…
By the autumn of 2016, everything was looking pretty rosy.
I had just self-published my fifth book; I was teaching some of the most well-attended yoga classes at my local studio; I was hustling a side-gig as a business copywriter for a reputable storytelling brand, and I was just about to fall back into a whirlwind relationship with a long lost love from years and years prior.
When I had become a yoga teacher in 2014, I took a calculated risk. I sensed a need to shift my exclusively-online work into in-person teaching experiences where I could build my skills as a teacher, speaker, and coach, and refine them — among people, not just through the computer screen.
But my motivations weren’t purely professional, they were personal, too.
I wanted to feel like I was a part of a community. I wanted to build authentic and meaningful friendships at a time when I felt like I was outgrowing friendships from high school and college. I wanted to serve and support peoples’ growth and wellness in person, trusting that it would have an impact on the rest of their lives.
I still believe that the inner work we do carries over to all aspects of our lives.
And while I was still writing my newsletter and on my blog; still publishing the odd collection of poems; still doing some high-level copywriting work on the side; the truth is that, during these years, I was starting to sense at this time that I was not, in fact, fulfilling my own personal calling.
Then, November happened.
8. “IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN HERE”
With the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President that year — which I, like many, didn’t think (or want to believe) was a possibility — my identity and belief systems were shaken to their core.
Many are still surprised to hear me say that it was an actual, established belief in American political science (as in, the study of politics) that a person like Trump — an unqualified populist, a cult-of-the-personality “strong man” candidate, a manipulator of the media and a provoker of the very worst in people — could not be elected an American president.
I happily subscribed to that myth that “it could never happen here.”
But as American democracy revealed itself to be just as vulnerable and precarious as any other in the history of humankind, my own personal privileges also were revealed in ways that I had never previously experienced.
In turn, something inside of me stirred that I thought I had made peace with all those years prior when I exited the world of politics and public service.
It was that voice inside of me that I had first heard some fifteen years earlier around 9/11.
It was that voice that had told me to step up; to bear the weight and responsibility of leadership, and to do something of true meaning and significance in the world around me, insofar as I was able.
I had been living comfortably under the illusion that yoga was fulling that purpose.
I was suddenly worried that I had bet wrong.
9. “…IT’S ALL YOGA”
As much as I loved the identity of being a yoga teacher and adored the connections to the community at our reputable and growing studio, the Election in 2016 provoked a deep, inner friction about my decision to invest so much time, effort, energy, care, consideration, and work into yoga as the nearly-sole expression of my work, teaching, and coaching.
And, despite doing my best to shoehorn all my personal passions, interests, and callings into the yoga room — I tried integrating things like writing, journaling, reflection, and creativity into various workshops or class ideas — it seemed to me that there was a very low ceiling to the impact that I could ever have if I only restricted myself to yoga.
On top of it all, being a yoga teacher began to feel very limiting for me.
The physical toll on my body — I developed some chronic injuries, which is an actual possibility from doing too much yoga — was second only to the exhaustion I was beginning to feel emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually from feeling confined to others’ expectations of what yoga was or who “yogis” were.
I felt like I was expected to play a role as a “yogi” among others, as if to fulfill New Agey stereotypes or self-help tropes, instead of being my own person with my own beliefs.
There were times when someone might see me visibly upset about something and weaponize yoga against me with barbs like, “Oh, I thought you were a yogi!” or, “What are you so upset about, I thought you did yoga?”, which were hurtful and minimizing, and made me want to absolutely abolish my identity as a “yogi.”
But the real kicker for me as a self-employed professional was the harsh lesson I was beginning to learn about prioritizing the building of other peoples’ businesses and identities and interests at the expense of my own.
I had over-invested an absolutely astonishing amount of time (like, thousands of hours) into building others’ businesses during these years. I poured absolute attention, energy, care, presence, and even personal resources into their businesses and interests, too.
I’ll be the first to admit that I expected it to “come around” or pay off someday because I — like many yoga teachers, freelancers, and independent contractors — often get sucked into a quiet pressure and expectation to perform unpaid or underpaid work and to make large contributions of time and energy as “investments” in their own professional best-interests
Sometimes we say it’s “how you get in the door” with a reputable company or “land an opportunity” to teach.
But mostly, I believe this is reflective of the selfish neglect that people in positions of privilege or power are allowed to have when it comes to subordinates’ own development, advancement, or interests.
Time and time again, I still speak with folks who feel like they should “feel grateful for the chance” to over-give at their own expense — even in the yoga world! — as if it is required for them to diminish their own worth and value if they ever want to get ahead.
I was still quite oblivious to these sins that I was committing against myself, my selfhood, my wholeness, and my self-love, and my self-determination.
It would take a series of heartbreaks and disappointments and feelings of mini-betrayal to undo the complicated knots that I had tied my self-worth into.
But they were coming.
10. MY DISSOLUTION SONG
In the months and years that followed, I would go on to live through a series of small heartbreaks, betrayals, fallings-out, and fallings-apart that the poet in me might over-dramatize by calling them what they felt like, “mini-deaths.”
Each mini-death spelled a breaking of my sense of identity, direction, or even what I thought I wanted from my life.
First, I fell out of love with a romantic partner whom I considered to be my soul-mate and who, I learned harshly during this time, had been lying, manipulating, and gaslighting me for as many years as I had known her.
At the same time, I fell out with the owners of the yoga studio in which I had taught for four years and with whom I had felt a strong sibling love for even longer. Discussions about me possibly buying the studio someday and becoming its owner and operator devolved into me being edged out of the studio almost entirely.
On top of it all, the profitable consulting role that I had cultivated as a business storyteller just evaporated one day when that business partner simply “changed his mind” about our doing it, effectively pulling the plug on something I had been building with him for years.
Some of the most important relationships in my life — from the romantic to the personal to the professional — just disintegrated.
These undoings, unfurlings, and breakings challenged who I knew myself to be, and who I thought I could trust, and where I thought my path was taking me.
And I couldn’t be more grateful for them.
11. WHAT WE LOSE… WE HAVE GIVEN AWAY
For years, I had been living under a series of self-deceptions about who I was, what I wanted, and where I thought I was going.
No one had cast a magic spell upon me.
No one had strong-armed me into surrendering my autonomy or prioritizing the building of others’ businesses over my own.
Even though I still, admittedly, can feel a bit resentful and aggrieved about how some of these relationships ended and how they came to end, the truth is that I was not a victim to anyone’s malicious intent.
If anything, I was a victim of my own willful self-erasure.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a part of a larger trend for me — a bigger behavioral pattern; a lifelong, learned-response to people-please and pacify and reassure the worries or needs or anxieties or hurts or wants of others, oftentimes at the direct expense of my own.
The intuitive and Empath and Highly Sensitive Person in me has had a pronounced, unconscious history of preferring to surrender my own self-interests, wants, and needs — even if it was at the expense of my own health, finances, or interests — to assure or placate those of others.
The mini-deaths that constituted my “dissolution song” took the matter right out of my hands, and force-fed me the harsh truth that I needed to taste.
As some of the people around me who I had come to trust the most broke that trust, it gifted me opportunity after opportunity to look into the heart of what I had unwittingly surrendered to others.
Because, as it turns out, whatever we feel has been “taken away” by people to whom we have given our love or trust is directly proportional to what we have been willing to give away.
I’ll say that again for those in the back:
What we lose is directly proportional to what we have been willing to give away.
By handing over too much trust to others around me, I unwittingly exposed the errors of my ways: secretly, deep down, I still fundamentally distrusted myself.
I was scared that I couldn’t make it, “all on my own.”
For all the growth I had been doing and healing I had been working on, I was still fearful that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or capable enough to have a vision, to see my dream, and build something that could be a success.
Despite outward appearances that I was living my dream, deep down, I was only half-committed to claiming my true calling.
And some part of me was idling hoping for free handouts, and back-pats, and approval from others who might assuage my own deep-seated fears.
At the end of it all, I was left scraping the bottom of the barrel.
12. FINDING SECOND LIFE
By the summer of 2018, I made a decisive break from yoga teaching — a planned hiatus that I called a “1-year sabbatical,” even though I doubted I would ever return to teaching.
Then, by that autumn, I had conclusively exited my toxic relationship.
And by the early winter, I had reconfigured my business and resuscitated my work as a writing and creativity coach — harkening back to the days of coaching and supporting creatives in my writers’ group, The Literati Writers.
I debuted my new coaching offer, which was called Writer’s Group of Two, that autumn, and it gave my business — and my calling — a second chance at life.
It’s said in the study of history that, “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
As a student of history and human studies, I tend to agree.
Even the hardest, toughest, most shameful, or hurtful episodes in our history — whether personal or collective — present us with opportunities for learning, growth, and most of all, healing.
Carl Jung said similar, though not of the study of history and more of our own psychology: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, [the unconscious] will dictate your life and you will call it fate.”
After my “mini-deaths” over these years, I found a renewed sense of commitment and energy to invest in my own personal healing and self-care. I scrutinized my own fault, responsibility, and shadow-habits around surrendering my own self, my desires, my goals, or my simple daily needs over those of others — even those whom I love and care about.
And I finally “got out of my own way” and officially began a professional relationship to therapy. Now I’m able to safely and confidently unpack the roots of my people-pleasing habits and self-erasure tendencies, while developing practices like establishing healthy boundaries with others — in some cases, for the first time in my life.
Besides those detailed benefits of working with a qualified therapist for the last year, it’s also been a great stride for the “independent” guy I am to take some of the burden of all the “inner work” and “healing” of my own shoulders and to get help with that from other people.
We all deserve that.
13. WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
Despite my grief and frustration over the ways in which certain business relationships ended over recent years — and the heartbreaking nature of how that very important personal relationship dissolved — the mini-deaths that comprise my “dissolution song” were tremendous gifts.
They’ve freed me in ways I would have never otherwise found freedom.
Because what I needed to learn was not about these other people, so much as it was about my own blind spots, shadows, and self-limiting beliefs.
All of the lessons that I learned during these hard years have not resulted in deep distrust of others, which they could have, but rather, they resulted in the spark for me to uncover the reasons why I would self-erase and self-surrender my own rather than to trust in my own self, wholly and first.
These lessons have provided me with a clearer understanding of what I desire the most in my life — and how those desires of my own may, someday, intermesh or overlap with your own.
After experiencing the cold sting of being burned in business, I want to right those wrongs by being a creative entrepreneur, coach, and servant of others who lifts, empowers, and cares in ways that shatter the mold of what I have experienced previously.
I intend to grow my business beyond being “a business of one” in the years ahead, too, and become an eventual job provider.
My goal is to hire my first full-time employee within the next three years, and for that number to grow to three full-time employees within the next five years.
And, all the while, I intend to do my all to never commit the same flagrant and selfish sins against others with whom I might work by honoring their goals and desires and understanding how I can be the very best supporter and empowerer of them.
With all future partners or employees, I want to build their skills and abilities in ways that align to my long-term goal and ultimate expectation for them: to grow, to graduate, to move on to bigger and better things… by design, and with my own help and encouragement, instead of fearing being cut out or consumed and discarded.
This mentality — the expectation that the paths that have crossed, will eventually uncross — is how I also coach my coaching clients.
And that is the same that I want and expect for my readers, like you.
14. THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
I started sharing this story by telling you that I’m grateful that you’re here, and why I’m grateful that our paths have come to overlap.
I shared that I don’t expect our paths to be intertwined forever, and that that expectation is normal, healthy, and good.
With what time we share, dear friend, however short or long it may be, I intend to do my best so that by the time our paths uncross, you are not left high-and-dry, out in the cold, marginalized, hurt, disillusioned, or feeling like you sacrificed too much.
It may not be my entire responsibility — after all, we each have to learn the inner workings of our own hearts and minds, and why we might have that tendency to self-erase and self-martyr rather than self-trust and self-love.
But insofar as I can have a helpful hand in it, it is my earnest desire for the time that we share to eventually end healthfully, and with you feeling and being more skillful, informed, aligned, integrated, self-knowing, confident, capable, and whole — if I am able to provide, inspire, or support you in those ways.
I know what it’s like to be burned, to be gaslighted, deceived, neglected, exploited, or taken for granted.
I will not pass on my hurt to you.
I intend to continue to transcend those pains, and to alchemize them into resources of love, giving, service, and uplifting.
That is why I’m here and writing these words to you.
So, once again, thank you for being here.
I do not take it for granted.
I do not take this opportunity for us to connect lightly.
I cherish it, I respect it, and I hope to set you on your way, someday, feeling better, stronger, and more “unapologetically you” for our having met.