My spectacular failures, and how they can help you succeed.

Examining my passions and failures in order to find direction.
Connecting like-minded individuals so we can help each other succeed.

​I turn 30, I have realized with increasing terror that I have no idea what I want to do next in life. This aimless sentiment is common for my generation as exemplified by Kylie’s post, I don’t have a passion (and that’s okay). I have a different problem; I feel like I have too many passions.

In 6th grade I fell in love with theatre and performance. In junior high and high school I discovered passions for writing, poetry, vocal music and even magic (yeah, I was that guy). I went to college with the intent of becoming a famous actor. I had it all figured out.In college in Sedalia, Mo I started making some devastating mistakes. I started destroying my life with drugs and alcohol. My desire to be a socialite led me to throw wild parties soaked in booze, cocaine, and designer drugs. My behavior outside of school was detrimental to my performance in school. I was late or absent for rehearsals. I neglected memorizing lines. I was never fully present on stage, which made character development nearly impossible. When I started to affect other students, the head of the theatre department finally cut me loose. I lost my theatre scholarship and was kicked out of the department.  For the first time in my life, doubt started to creep in. I questioned whether I was meant for a life dedicated to the discipline theatre required. I allowed the world to tell me that performance wasn’t practical. How would I find work? How would I eat? Could I still have a family?

“In college in Sedalia, Mo I started making some devastating mistakes. I started destroying my life with drugs and alcohol. My desire to be a socialite led me to throw wild parties soaked in booze, cocaine, and designer drugs.”

While processing all of this, I fell into a position as a broadcast journalist for a radio station. In high school I was the radio speaking state champion for Missouri in 2004, landing me a radio job in college. I loved it, and here again I thought, “This is what I want to do!” Sadly, I wasn’t mature enough for the job’s responsibilities, which required early hours on the weekend. The hours didn’t jive with my late night proclivities nor did the public nature of the position. One evening a few friends and I were smoking pot at a dealers house when the police showed up and kicked in the door. We all played dumb and the dealer, a good friend at the time, told the police everything was his and we knew nothing about it. While I didn’t get in any legal trouble, my name was in the police report, which in small-town Missouri, meant my name was in the news. I was soon fired from the station.

“Outside of school, I worked in downtown bars and clubs. I learned from those experiences, but as I slipped deeper into the party scene, my struggles with addiction worsened.”

I moved to Springfield and continued my painful drudge through school at MSU, while struggling to settle into a degree. After theatre, I switched my major to Entertainment Management while pursuing a side interest as a DJ and promoter. Again I thought, “Hey I can do this! I like music, I like parties, I can do event management!” I joined the student activities council and learned how to plan and manage some incredible events. I threw an HIV charity/awareness rave event. I booked a wildly popular Grateful Dead cover band. My greatest success was spearheading an event where we booked GirlTalk for a raging, raucous, though rainy dance party. Outside of school, I worked in downtown bars and clubs. I learned from those experiences, but as I slipped deeper into the party scene, my struggles with addiction worsened.

Despite myself and with overwhelming support from my family, five years later I graduated with a public relations degree and a minor in journalism. My life started to look pretty good on paper. I was hired by one of the top public schools in the state as a paid intern in the communication department. I learned a lot from Zac Rantz, who is still one of my greatest mentors. After my internship I quickly landed a good-paying job in the animal health industry as a marketing and communication specialist, which I did for two years. I was married. I was on my own. I had health insurance and benefits and bonuses and pay raises and work autonomy and responsibilities and

I was miserable.

I also had a severe alcohol problem.

“My life started to look pretty good on paper… I had health insurance and benefits and bonuses and pay raises and work autonomy and responsibilities and… I was miserable.”

My addictions had mostly moved from illicit, hard drug use to legal drug use, mainly alcohol. While alcohol is legal and more socially acceptable, of all the drugs I have used, alcohol was the most destructive. All of the worst moments in my life, including my decisions to use other drugs, always started with booze. Coincidentally, I had started working in an environment full of hard drinkers. My hangovers were generally accepted. But while my work environment had shifted to accommodate my worst addiction, life at home became completely unmanageable.

My alcohol problem, along with a myriad of other foundational relationship problems, culminated in the end of my marriage a mere two years after it started. I could write an entire blog post on my failed relationships, but to fast forward a little: I met someone new whom I respected intellectually, morally, and creatively. She showed me what it was to be a better person. I quit drinking. I quit my job. I decided to follow one of my many dreams, which was to live and work abroad, and I moved to Taiwan to teach English as a foreign language.

So, here I am.

I’m eight months into my contract, and once again, I am staring down the barrel of the rest of my life thinking: what the hell do I do next?
I am doing what most people do. I’ve talked to my parents, who taught in the public school system for 30 years. Their advice is something like, “Talk to God about it,” or on a more practical level, “Come home and go back to school, get your masters, teach at a university. Go to law school, drive a trash truck, WE DON’T CARE, GABE, JUST COME BACK TO AMERICA!”

“So, here I am. I’m eight months into my contract, and once again, I am staring down the barrel of the rest of my life thinking: what the hell do I do next?”

All of those things are certainly options (sans trash truck). I have thought about going back to school, either to complete my theatre degree or to attend law school. I do enjoy speaking, performing, and generally being in front of crowds.

I’ve thought about developing an English-learning magic show and going on a tour of Asia.

I’ve looked into teaching English in Peru while learning Spanish, and exploring the Andes and the ruins of Machu Picchu.

I’ve considered starting or joining an organization dedicated to bringing the arts to underprivileged youth.

I’ve even considered developing this blog into the greatest bastion of travel advice and inspiration on the internet while traveling the globe and experiencing new cultures and languages.

Speaking of language, I’ve started trying to learn Mandarin and I’ve wracked my brain seeking ways to bring my passion for language and philosophy to bear on society’s greatest problems.

I could also get back into journalism with the goal of becoming the world’s greatest journalist, surfing the tides of truth to bring you the hardest hitting news and information from around the world.

And on and on and on.

My point is, I have many passions and interests, and I have no idea what’s really going to make me happy.

“Happy people focus on other people. They focus their time and energy on building stable, worthwhile relationships that can be relied on when times are tough…They do work that they believe is making the world a better place.”

Recently, I have started watching Ted Talks about anything I can find that might give me some hint as to what direction I should point my life. Here is what I have learned.

According to a 75-year-long Harvard study on happiness, happy people have high-quality, lasting romantic relationships and friendships. I’ve devoured scores of other articles and talks, and they all boil down to this: happy people focus on other people. They focus their time and energy on building stable, worthwhile relationships that can be relied on when times are tough. They focus their careers on jobs that are not only in line with their skills and talents, but also with their values. They do work that they believe is making the world a better place.

How do I translate that information into a fulfilling career for me? I recently watched another Ted Talk on how to navigate your quarter-life crisis. The first suggestion this guy makes is, “Surround yourself with believers.” The idea is to surround yourself with people who say “yes” to meaningful, fulfilling, and even world-changing work they are passionate about. People who aren’t afraid to “make the ask” by reaching out to like-minded individuals for help and inspiration.

That’s what I am going to do.

“If you made it to this paragraph, I want to know why. What’s driving you? What questions do you have? What’s holding you back? What are you passionate about?”

If you made it to this paragraph, I want to know why. What’s driving you? What questions do you have? What’s holding you back? What are you passionate about? What’s your story now, and what do you want your story to be? Email meFacebookme, Tweet me, write a blog and send it to me. If you are already living the type of life I have described, reach out anyway. The rest of us need your advice. At the very least, for God’s sake share this post. I guarantee you someone you know needs to read it.

Let’s connect.

Let’s help each other.

With any luck we can build a network of people who may not have all the answers but are at least asking all the right questions.

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