Today’s guest author is Bill Treasurer, Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting. His latest book is Leaders Open Doors. Bill is also the author of the bestselling book Courage Goes to Work along with the training kit Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace. Contact Bill at email@example.com.
It seems like all the years up until then had led me to that transition point. I now believe that all of us get a year to figure out if we’re going to spend the rest of our lives extending the selfishness that we’ve fortified through our youth.
My year was 31. Yes, I was an old young guy.
My extended adolescence started after college, when I joined a troupe of traveling gypsy high divers. No kidding. I really did that. Every day I and my motley tribe of elite athletes would climb to the tippy top of a 100-foot platform and hurl ourselves toward the water below, traveling at speeds in excess of 50 miles an hour…protected only by our Speedos.
The life of a high diver rivals that of a rock star. It was full of thrills, girls, traveling, and lots and lots of alcohol—all of which helped prolong my adolescence even more. Until one day, two years after I had retired my high-dive Speedo, my girlfriend walked out on me.
My ego was shattered all over the ground.
I was an angry 31-year-old teenager.
It was in that critical year that I learned one of life’s most important lessons: The person who you will spend the most time with over the course of your entire life is yourself. If you can’t live with yourself—which is what the escapism of a prolonged adolescence is mostly about—then you’ll never be content.
At 31, I moved into a studio apartment in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. For the first time I was utterly alone, and left to encounter this strange creature I had become. I got into therapy, went on a dozen three-day silent retreats, and entered a 12-step program.
Over the course of five years living alone, I became acquainted with myself, forgave myself, and learned to love myself. Not love in that falsely conceited way of adolescence, but in the supportive way one loves a true friend.
One of the mentors to whom I dedicated my new book, Leaders Open Doors, came into my life during those inward years. His name was O.K., and he was 35 years older than me. Whenever I would gripe to him about some perceived injustice, or complain about how the world was conspiring to put roadblocks in my way, O.K. wouldn’t give it any energy.
He’d just look at me and say, “So how’s Bill with Bill?” It was his way of reminding me that the more off-center I am, the worse the world will seem to be.
Life is an inside job, and you’ve got to center yourself before your outside world will seem settled.
Today I’m 50, married to the woman who walked out on me during my 30s, and father to our three children. I’m a much better friend to myself then I was back then.
And when life gets topsy-turvy, or when I’m angry about some bonehead who I’ve convinced myself is putting obstacles in my way, I ask myself, “How’s Bill with Bill?”
It gets me back to center, and helps me stop being a teenager.
How are you with you?