Confusion in one’s life is the result of:
unrealistic expectations and
erroneous core beliefs.
I had finished graduate school with a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning. After five years working in the corporate world, I started my own consulting practice specializing in marketing for merchant builders in the real estate industry. My decision to forgo a pay-check and hang-out my shingle as an independent consultant involved many underlying core beliefs and hidden emotional forces I did not understand until years after I cut all my ties with a stable professional career. What I want to convey here is what I now understand as the motives for my choices and the consequences I experienced as a result of my lack of emotional self-awareness.
At the time I went out on my own I have been married for five years, had two children, bought a house and felt I was ready to show off my unique abilities and insights. Flying without a net was exhilarating. There was a great sense of determination as I broke from the establishment with no fear of failure or vulnerably. I paid no heed to the anxiety of my wife and fully expected her complete support. Little more then 3 years after I started my business, the wheels came off the wagon in my personal life and I was in utter chaos yet still I completely unwilling to reassess my approach. Why didn’t I see what was surely clear to others? Didn’t I comprehend the wreckage in my wake or the personal costs caused by my dogged determination?
They say, “Ignorance is bliss”, but I am more likely to say, “Ignorance is hell”.
The incomplete information I suffered from is more aptly expressed as ignoring information. It wasn’t that I was unaware of the interest sensitive nature of the real estate industry or that being highly leveraged was the name of the game. It wasn’t that I lacked working knowledge of the planning and execution of real estate development or the financing mechanics. It was that I was naive. I only looked at the potential up-side of my decision and ignored the potential down-side. Without a comprehensive view, I had no contingency plan, I had no idea of how and when to move to a defensive position.
Unrealistic expectations mostly involved my view of myself, my abilities and my destiny and is likely the reason I only looked at the up-side of my decision. I was over confident in my ability, I put my faith in my fantasy which translated into the belief that I was too smart to make but only a few bad decisions. Creative thinking was my strength, problem solving was my forte. I accepted the opposite of Murphy’s ‘Rule, “Nothing would go wrong because nothing could go wrong.”
The first two factors are the result of my mind justifying what my emotions wanted all along. My erroneous core beliefs included attempting to plow through several deep-seated feelings of low self-worth or negative self-image, which is to say, I was driven by my desire for success while my mind cleared the clutter out of the way so that my actions appeared to be well reasoned. The core beliefs are too numerous to lay out here, but sufficient to say, I had a need to be a lone-wolf for what I believed was self-protection, a sense that I would not receive recognition or justice in a group setting, that I would be too vulnerable to political tides and “group-think.” The disgust I felt about being used by others was a reflection of the fear of being ordinary or that being unimportant would be realized.
Yet the benefit of operating on such a weak foundation is that the resulting consequences may have been the only thing that could have changed my trajectory and therefore changed the second half of my life. The debilitating confusion resulting from foundational mistakes, the trauma of financial insecurity, the terror of nowhere to turn, the inability to ask for help; these are the horrors of life lived in the grip of a living nightmare. Had I not had acquired the gift of honesty to recognize and accept that I had done this to myself I would not have changed. With no excuses or defenses, I took full responsibility for my actions, looked squarely at my flaws and went about making the change that ushered a life of connectedness and gratitude.
All this said, I did experience a degree of success in the midst of my confusion which is evidence that there was some truth in my self-perceptions along with the dysfunction. Self-will can go a long way to achieving what we like to call success. An arrogant domineering attitude can accomplish grandiose projects that stand as testaments to an indominable spirit. Regardless of my accomplishments however, the elements of my life that were lacking were a sense of self-worth, a feeling of connectedness or an ability to experience joy. I took because I felt there was not enough and gave nothing because I felt I deserved more. Others were a means to an end, leaving me empty and mostly alone.
Neither you nor I should fail to follow our dreams and set goals that stretch the bounds of personal achievement. My hope for you is that your pursuits materialize but that they are they are done with solid planning, realistic expectations and a sense of humanity. Confusion is a part of life and uncertainty will always be present, but being connected, being present, being generous brings a quiet strength that sustains us at every crossroad.