Brandon HalloweenI don’t know what your definition of success is.  Depending on who you ask, it could be faith in God, money, having a great spouse and happy kids, a great job, fame or fill in the blank.  There’s an impression amongst people that success is something you have or you don’t.  If you do, you’re lucky.  If you don’t, you’re screwed. Sorry.

I started thinking about success after a friend recently lamented their life situation by wondering why they couldn’t have life a little easier like other people do.  I chuckled when I read that.  Not because of their pain but because of how limiting that thought process is.  There’s a lot that I don’t know but I do know this, success doesn’t come easy for anyone.  It takes work and commitment and a battle against an opposing force that works against us.  Family that doesn’t support you.  People who don’t get your message right away. People who don’t get you.  You name it.

If you looked at my life today, it might look reasonably successful.  I make great money, have a beautiful wife that is way out of my league and four beautiful, healthy daughters.  On the surface, it looks terrific and it is.

For every story that is full of light, there is a story that comes with it that happens in a darker place. I want to share my darker place with you.

The story starts with abandonment.  To this day, I have never met my biological father.  My mother is a recovering alcoholic who abused alcohol for the first ten years of my life.  During these formative first 10 years, I was exposed to alcohol abuse, drug use, physical abuse, mental abuse (I was once chased by a man my mother was dating with a machete….for fun), witnessed domestic violence, rape and had my life savings robbed from me (it was about $100 but still traumatic).  This was all before the age of 11.  Needless to say I was little fucked up by this situation.

There are a lot of ways that this unhealthy start could have manifested itself.  For me, the by-products of this jump start into real life were being overly self-reliant, anger, trust issues, issues with authority, self- destructive thought processes and abandonment issues.  My defense mechanisms were humor and anger. You liked one side of that and you never wanted to see the other side of the spectrum. If you knew me in the first thirty years of my life, you got surface Brandon and nothing else.  I held everyone at arms- length. Many people tried to get close to their own demise.  I seemed like a normal kid because I worked really hard on making people think I was OK.  But I wasn’t.  I was fucked up and deeply wounded.

Did the pain stop at childhood?  Nope.  My adult life hasn’t been all roses either.  I spent nine years in a career that I hated because I was too shut off to ask myself what I really wanted and too scared to play big.  Somehow I got married but marriage doesn’t work out that well when you won’t be vulnerable and you resist true intimacy.  At one point, I lost all of my money and lost a home to foreclosure.  Having your home foreclosed on is embarrassing.  “Hey I didn’t know your home was on the market.” “It wasn’t.” “Ohhhh” (as they side step away awkwardly).  I had to ask my parents for money because I didn’t have any money to get our water turned on after it had been shut off for non-payment.  Pride officially destroyed.

I could have done one of two things in this situation.  I could be a victim or I could draw a line and say enough is enough and start working on the issues in my life that showed up negatively which were all self-imposed in one way or another.  I started working on my vulnerability issues which has helped my marriage tremendously as well as my parenting.  I turned my life over to Christ because I realized I couldn’t work through this alone.  I needed help. Things aren’t perfect but I am enjoying the process of growth.

As for my past, there are some silver linings:

  • My tough childhood gave me a level of resilience that made it possible for me to start a business and see it through the tough times to make it work.
  • My lack of a dad makes me realize how important being a dad is and I make sure that my kids feel loved and supported to the best of my ability.
  • When you lose all your money, it sucks but you know what else it is?   In the end you realize that it’s just a house and just money.  That’s it. Have you ever said the Lord’s Prayer? I said this for 30+ years as a former Catholic and never gave it a seconds thought.  In the prayer it says “give us this day our daily bread”. Throughout the entire process, God took care of our daily bread and we had exactly what we needed when we needed it.  Not always what we wanted but what we needed.
  • I found out that when you ask for support and you ask for help that there are a lot of people who give a shit and will help you. It only took me 35 years to figure this out.

There it is.  There’s my journey.  People have certainly overcome more and some people haven’t had the same burden to bear.  My point in sharing this is that life is never easy.  For anyone.  It’s a series of wins and failures sprinkled with fear, doubt, worry, joy, achievement, etc.

If you feel like you are constantly running into roadblocks in your life, here are a few tips to help you overcome:

  1. Surround yourself with good people: I am fortunate be surrounded by so many good people even though I haven’t always been the easiest person to deal with.  If you have people in your life that aren’t positive and helping you move forward, love them and move on.  But…don’t try to do your journey alone.  I have a lot of friends.  On the surface this looks great, underneath that I can fall into patterns where I am surrounded by great people and still feel like the loneliest person in the world because of my own shut off patterns of behavior.  Hang with good people and engage them in a real way.
  2. Be a committed complainer: You want to tell me about the rough time you are having or when you are struggling?  I am ready to listen.  You know what I don’t have patience for?  The same bullshit story over and over again.  Don’t be a complainer without a commitment to making changes in your life.   This makes it tough for others to be around you and it leaves you stuck in a rut.
  3. Focus outwardly: My own scarcity comes from self-focus.  When you get stuck in a rut.  Look for ways that you can serve and create value for others.  This has been a huge help to me in times when I am struggling.  It’s easy to travel in a downward spiral and pile negative experiences on top of negative experiences until your life feels hopeless.  Focusing outward keeps my focus form being overly self-centered.
  4. Be a good loser and a humble winner: I have had to learn how to have character in the face of defeat.  This comes from being outwardly focused and remembering that there are other people in this world besides.  I have also learned that great things in life are a gift and I am just a steward.  My wife.  My kids.  My business.  My house.  All of these things are a gift and I need to keep myself humble and appreciative of the gifts.

If you aren’t where you want to be in your life, you are the captain of your ship and it’s not too late.  Get some support and surround yourself with good people who are invested in your success.

Take time and develop your mindset.  Journal.  Work through your limiting beliefs.  Hone your skills. Create value for others.  Look for areas where you can improve.  If you spend time worrying about what other people aren’t doing for you, you miss what you could be doing for others.  If you need help, I am her for you.  To your success.


PS…Share your best tip for my readers on what you do to maintain the right attitude and mindset to keep yourself moving forward.  I know I just scratched the surface here so let me know your thoughts.