“We are going to escape here before dawn tomorrow. We’re going to pack tonight, and you need to get your kids ready to meet the bus at the front gate.
Everyone has to be silent – SILENT – so have them carry the luggage instead of rolling it. If we can get to the bus, then we’ll be OK. “
I looked deep into my friend and co-leader’s eyes for any hints of a prank but could see she was dead serious.
I knew it was bad, but not this bad. They’d already taken away our food, then our water, and finally our lights. And now I was told they were willing to lock us in and hold us captive until we came up with the money they were demanding.
For a brief second I thought “I’m going to die by machine gun fire inside the stucco walls of a college campus at the hands of Brazilian gangsters.”
Yet it was also in that moment where it was forever crystallized in my mind – I am a LEADER. An ADVENTURER. The life I’m living is uncommon. This is the kind of stuff you see in the movies, but I’m actually LIVING it.
A Little Bit About Me
I have been a trippy-hippy travelin’ cross-country following my favorite rock ‘n roll band, a globe-trotting activist/missionary, a mentor to at-risk inner-city kids, and a tent-dwelling vagabond roaming the southern U.S.
I’ve had crappy J.O.B.s and owned my own business. I’m an author, a leadership and identity coach, and I’ve taught people worldwide how to live an EPIC life, a life that is overflowing with meaning, adventure, purpose, wonder, and discovery.
And now I’ve started my own TV show.
God help us all.
The Pioneer vs. The Herd
For the better part of the ’90’s I followed legendary jam band Phish around the country. It was during this time I realized that life is beautiful.
The sky and the trees and the ground and ocean are beautiful. Flowers and sunlight and cool air on my face are beautiful. But the thing I realized was most beautiful was the people around me.
I also realized that these beautiful people around me were also hurting. They were scared and questioning and dealing with brokenness. Just like me.
As time passed, I realized two things:
1. It’s OK to be broken. It’s OK to wonder. To question life, reality, God, rules, religion, and conventional wisdom. I realized that pretending to have life all figured out only makes us that much more ignorant and out of touch.
2. For some reason, I was incapable of blindly accepting the superficial, the status quo, and the traditional thinking I found many people around me readily embracing. I had trouble following the crowd.
I still do.
For me, following the herd leads to mediocrity. It numbs me and frustrates me. And frankly it scares me.
It scares me because I feel that each and every day is a new adventure, a brand spankin’ new gift, given to us to tear into and enjoy. There is WAY too much life available to us to simply accept a way of living that insulates us from the massive greatness we’ve been given.
To miss out on the incredible gift of life, the awesome priviledge and responsibility of pursuing these adventures and gifts, fundamentally disturbs me.
So once I came to these realizations, it became apparent that my life would be a little different than most.
A leader and pioneer’s road is one of great variety. It is an adventurous and colorful path full of twists, turns, tragedies, and triumphs. The lows are lower and the highs are higher, mainly due to the fact that you’re a lot more in-tune with the vibrant fabric of life than those in the herd.
The feel the wind on your face a little bit more.
You hear the crickets chirping more loudly.
And you can see a little better the value and impact of the opportunities that are constantly revealing themselves.
In the herd, you lose a large part of yourself in the noise and confusion of the mindless excercise of moving the herd forward. You don’t know where the herd is going, or worse, why it’s going, but you dutifully put one foot in front of the other, keep your head down, and move along.
Because it’s “safe.”
And for a lot of people, it’s all they know. They’ve never been told or taken the time to look around to see that there is a vast, rich, fertile land to explore and enjoy.
They’ve just been told to “keep moving.”
Thanks in large part to chasing Phish around, getting into adventures and meeting thousands of new people with different perspectives on life, I “looked up.” I quit walking with the herd, which then left me with a burning question:
What do I do now?
For most people, answering this question involves regurgitating bits of information that they have been force-fed their entire lives. They make decisions because someone once told them “lawyers make a lot of money” or “you’re not smart enough to be an engineer.” They are molded into a life that is actually a thousand miles away from who they are supposed to be.
Even after you leave the herd – especially after you leave the herd – this question remains one of the most important questions a person can answer. But before you can answer that question – whether you’re in or out of the herd – you need to answer another, much more vital one:
Who Am I?
This question isn’t as hard to answer as you might think. (We do this with great success in my leadership coaching program.) When you get to the bottom of it, you’re a person with qualities, dreams, desires, and visions that are meant to guide you into the life you’re supposed to be living. Most of us live our lives with the false belief that we’re put here on earth to “do”, but the truth is we’re put here to “be.”
We’re human beings, not human doings.
After I left the herd, there was a period where I traveled like crazy around the globe. I knew serving people was a large part of my makeup, so I went on several mission/service trips. I spent significant time in parts of Costa Rica, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as around the US (vagabonding around the southern states.)
Some of the highlights from these trips include:
- meeting a cute little girl who would eventually become my wife and fellow explorer
- having a woman tell my wife and I “God says you can have children” when it looked impossible, and then, after years of trying, conceive the very next night after she spoke those words to us
- bringing happiness and comfort to children born with AIDS – seeing their smiles makes me weak even as I type this
- learning to drive on the fly on the “wrong” side of the road across South Africa
- riding the same cable cars in Rio de Janeiro that were featured in the James Bond movie “Moonraker”
- planting orange trees at an orphanage outside of Rio that feed and bring income to the orphanage to this day
- standing with my future wife at a Five Star resort overlooking San Jose, Costa Rica, realizing it was our first date
- eating ostrich and antelope in South Africa
I also began to explore my entrepreneurial side. I figured if I wasn’t meant to rely on the herd, then I better do something that would allow me to create income when and where I wanted so that I could live the lifestyle I was meant to live.
As an aside, I think about the line in the Franz Ferdinand song “It’s Better On Holiday:”
It’s always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That’s why we only work when
We need the money
In 2003 my wife and I began to delve into the world of real estate investing. We “flipped” our first house and sold it just 8 months after making the decision to get into real estate and made around $13,000…not bad for two absolutely clueless people! (Plus, we only put $10 down on the house!)
Over the next three years we bought and sold about $750,000 worth of mostly low and mid-range houses and apartments (over 20 properties in all.) Some highlights from this period include:
- Selling property to people in LA, Arizona, and even Italy, on eBay from my computer in Pittsburgh
- Seeing the relief on homeowner’s faces when the deal was completed and they were out of a bad situation
- Discovering the # 1 Secret of the Wealthy
- Learning I can create money apart from “the system”
- Managing and directing contractors, handymen, mortgage people, etc.
- Learning several No Money Down techniques to secure, purchase, and sell property to minimize or eliminate risk
- Gaining the real world knowledge that just can’t be learned anywhere else
(It’s now an ebook, but I’m working on getting it published and mass-distributed. Contact me if you want to blurb it or have a publisher.)
It is my collective take on religion, spirituality, leadership, and the quest for purpose and identity. It is honest, controversial, and a must-read for anyone interested in these topics.
On the heels of the book has sprung my Epic Leadership Coaching, a 12 week journey designed to set your life on fire! This program, customized for each individual (or group,) is for anyone who:
- Is confused or struggling with their identity and purpose
- Knows there’s more to life but doesn’t know what that means to them
- Wants to become a leader (business, spirituality, adventure, etc.)
- Needs help setting and meeting goals
- Wants to work for themselves
- Anyone willing to leave the herd in search of lush lands full of meaningful exploits and exciting adventures
- Wants to take their life or parts of their life to the next level in any way