I Gave Up Everything to Chase my Dreams, and You Should, Too

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What did you want to be when you were a kid? How did you envision your life unfolding? Maybe you wanted to be an astronaut, or a firefighter, or a professional wrestler or…whatever.

Me? I wanted to be a race car driver, and an actor. A-la Patrick Dempsey. But alas, there is only one Patrick Dempsey.

Over the years, I raced cars and I also acted, but I never created the opportunity (put myself in the environment) for either to become a career option. You don’t have to ask yourself “Why?” because you already know why.

Because life happens. You don’t want to leave family, friends, or the place you grew up. You get older and get into that college you wanted to go to, and then you have bills you need to pay, so you get a job. And then, you don’t want to leave the security of your job.

So, you stay there.

And stay there.

And stay there.

And suddenly, being the first person to fly to Pluto doesn’t seem like such a realistic goal anymore. But, that’s okay, because our goals and dreams evolve over time – as we do.

But what doesn’t change, is the desire to grow and improve in all areas of life. Progress is embedded within us, but progress doesn’t happen on its own. It requires sacrifice, and compromise, and finding comfort in being uncomfortable, because comfort is the enemy of progress.

And a funny thing happens if you don’t pursue consistent progress – you feel unfulfilled. Stuck, almost. Wondering what you’d be able to accomplish if you uncovered all of that potential that people seem to keep telling you that you have, but you’re not really sure what to do with it.

Maybe you’ve not been given the opportunity to flourish, or maybe you’re not in the right environment. If we have a plant or a certain type of pet, we take great care to make sure they are in the proper environment to grow and thrive. We do not put a Hydrangea in the desert (or, do we? I know nothing about plants…)

The point is, we set those we care about up for success – but, do we really do this for ourselves? Does your environment coincide with your natural interests, talents, or skills? Or do you feel like you are constantly out of place? Not relating to the people around you? Stuck going in circles and unsure of how to break the cycle?

A couple of months ago, I decided to move to Los Angeles. Hollywood, specifically. I have goals and desires that I know I couldn’t accomplish where I was living, and I was feeling it weigh down on my shoulders like a ton of bricks. I never felt like I belonged, or that I was progressing. I kept hitting walls and dead ends, and I couldn’t figure out why.

The truth is, I was a square peg trying to fit myself in a round hole. I was uncomfortable and unfulfilled, and going nowhere fast.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. I had a small window of opportunity to get up and move to Los Angeles – so, I took it. I gave up my apartment. I left my car (my baby) behind. I left my family, who are my best friends in the world and some of the only people I can truly count on.

In a matter of 3 months I lost my grandfather and my aunt, two people who fully believed in my abilities and always asked why I hadn’t moved to California. My grandfather would criticize everyone hosting a TV show and ask why it wasn’t me. He would talk about how their suit lapels were too thin and how you’re never supposed to button the bottom button on your suit.

He would watch my videos and read all of my articles, and ask why I wasn’t in Hollywood. He’d always tell my brother and I to “kick it in the ass!” His memory is a reason I’m doing this.

The last time I visited my aunt, she could barely speak. My uncle said to her “James is moving to California.” And she said “Finally?” Her memory is a reason I’m doing this.

I have learned that you need to make people proud while they are here to see it. The best gift you can give the people who love you, is to be the person they’ve helped you to become.

So, I took one single suitcase, and I bought a one-way ticket.

In two short months, I’ve found myself hosting one of the top self-help podcasts in the world, speaking at live events alongside Oscar winners, and walking red carpets at events that an unpopular kid from the Boston suburbs has no business being at.

But, it’s not success. It’s the opportunity for success – and it’s progress. But, it’s not success.

The thing is, though, it’s progress. It’s more progress in two months than I made in the two years prior. It’s more promise, it’s more potential, and it’s more opportunity.

What changed? I am the same person I was back at home. What changed is, I took the Hydrangea out of the desert. I identified the location that I needed to be in for my skills and my potential to actually become a reality, and I decided that the pain I feel being away from my home and my family, will be temporary. But the accomplishments and life I will be able to live (and help them live) when I succeed, will last forever.

I decided that it is worth temporary pain, to avoid permanent pain. To have stayed where I was and never at least tried, would have been something I would’ve lived with for the rest of my life, carrying it into every next job or relationship like an anchor.

So, I did things the only way I know how, the extreme way. And now I’ve got my one suitcase and my room in an apartment and my Nike’s for transportation, and a tight (very tight) grip on my debit card.

And I know that there will be a day in the not-so-distant future when I will be writing or speaking about these days. These are the days that were the struggle. The days when I woke up every single day and wondered if I should book a flight home, after I wondered if I had enough money to buy one.

The days when I was tested, but refused to give up. The days when I learned what didn’t work, and how I needed to change so it would work. And – the days when I grew and developed and evolved as a human being. Because that’s what challenge does to you, it forces you to become the type of person who can overcome it.

Mostly, though, these will be the days when I created the success that I always knew I would achieve. These days are the story. The means to an end. The journey.

I am confident enough to know can succeed, but also humble enough to know I may fail. Either one is possible, but no matter which way things go, one thing will be for sure:

I kicked it in the ass.

 

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