Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead
About the Author
Little children and animals have always loved me. Horses no one else could handle were quiet for me. Dogs and cats that never like anyone get cozy with me. And children who won’t go to anyone except Mom or Grandma fall asleep on my shoulder. It’s a strange way to start a bio, but these are important things to remember as you read about me.
I was born the third child in a family with two children, and my parents made sure I knew my place. It’s a hard thing to grow up in a family that doesn’t want you. There is something in all of us that is supposed to be nurtured by the love of Mom and Dad. I have been temporarily blinded twice in my life because of accidents. My experience is it’s easier to deal with blindness than it is to grow without the essential emotional nutrition of parental love.
When I asked to live with Aunt Geri and Uncle Harold, the answer was telling. After I had the audacity to catch her in repeated lies, my mother rather hotly explained saying “She raised Fran’s kids and Anne’s kids. I’ll be damned if she’s going to raise one of mine.”
When I was ten, I once asked for help sorting money to pay for my four paper routes. My mother’s answer was “We told you not to take those paper routes. So now you can deal with them on your own.”
Growing up rejected by my parents made me believe everyone would feel the same way toward me. After all, who is going to love you when your parents don’t, right? It made me a hard person to understand, and I grew into a hard man. For a big part of my life, I lived by the motto “Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil, for I am the meanest S.O.B. in the valley.”
I have lived on both sides of the law with considerable skills as a thief and as a drug dealer. I’ve also served in the military, run a carpentry business, been married, and am a father.
Yet, no matter what I was doing, I was never inclined to tolerate stupidity. I have no trouble with someone who has genuine difficulty learning something. We all need a little help with new concepts, right? But I have never had patience for people being willfully stupid.
It was routine for people to be surprised, even shocked, when their courteous co-worker, polite contractor, or considerate drug dealer was suddenly calling them out for their stupidity.
Of course, my stupidity was combining the expectation of rejection with every subsequent rejection and thinking it all proved my parents were right; I’m not worth loving. After all, our society is built upon premises such as parents loving their children, and the reality of parents imparting their beliefs to their children.
No one should be surprised when unloved children grow into adults who behave in ways that prove their parents right. Everyone loves the result when we get a professional athlete, successful entrepreneur, or effective activist. But we turn around and blame the person who is anti-social, cruel, or rude. Yet, they might all be striving to meet parental expectations.
To my credit, I started breaking free of parental expectations around age 19. I had always been rebellious, but childhood and teenage rebellion are different from consciously assessing what you’re doing, and your reasons for doing it.
My reasons have led to great choices that resulted in employment success, achieving wealth as a business owner, a wide base of learning through continuing education and reading, and some wonderfully, temporarily, happy relationships.
My choices have also managed to lead to bankruptcy three times (once instigated by my father), being homeless five times (twice by deliberate choice), spending time in jail, and living through more than fifty years without forming a single long-lasting relationship. Even the children to whom I was a father are no longer part of my life. One child is mine by blood. Another three came into my life by marriage.
At this point, you might be thinking I am quite the jerk. You’re right to think so. I have been a consummate jerk in my lifetime, and I have no fear of offending people by speaking the truth. Even my good, positive choices ended up marred by self-sabotage.
It took a lot of learning, and a long time, to realise two things:
1. All we have is the reality in front of us; and,
2. A lot of people are desperate to avoid reality
The only thing I can control is how I choose to behave. If you doubt that truth, just ask any parent what it’s like to “control” an over-tired, cranky toddler. And you can see the truth of it in everyday life by watching people who accept wage-slavery and then complain about having no control.
I have invested an incredible amount of time listening to business owners, parents, and young adults as they defend their stupid choices, and, more importantly, as they change course for better choices. And the intellectual spectrum covers everyone from doctors and tradesmen, to teachers, PhD students, and labourers. It is stunning to see how deeply the desire to be accepted as right, in the face of all opposition and contradiction, permeates our society. Even more amazing is seeing the relief that washes through someone when they succeed in fixing a mistake. Bill is a great example.
Bill owns a truck repair shop. When his employees asked for a raise, he had the habit of crying poverty by telling them it had been years since he had a paycheque from the business. While this was true, it was far from the truth. I managed to bring Bill back to reality by telling him precisely that. Yes, it had been years since his last paycheque, but he had arranged it to his benefit. In a perfectly legal accounting move, Bill arranged it so his investment into the business over the years was a loan. So yes, he was getting paid, and he had arranged it so the payments were tax free because the business was repaying the loan.
Things got a lot smoother between Bill and his employees when he finally confessed this truth and started passing along some of the business’ success in the form of raises.
When you add up all the hours of listening and coaching, it turns out to be years and years of experience. Parents concerned about their children. Children angry with their parents. Business owners confused about leadership and customer relations. The experiences of listening, accepting, being honest and consistent, caring and encouraging, smoothed the rougher edges left from an angry, abused, and rebellious young man.
Those experiences, and a life-altering divorce, led me to pull back, look honestly at myself, and strip away my private lies and pretentions.
My life motto today is simply Cranium Ex Rectum™.
Yes, pull your head out of your arse and face the reality in front of you instead of what you wish were in front of you. You can tell when people get it because they laugh. You can tell people who need a healthy dose of Cranium Ex Rectum™ because they get upset and offended.
The whole point of the phrase Cranium Ex Rectum™ is to play on the pretentions of erudition (real or imagined). It’s a phrase that sounds lofty in Latin that turns out to be simple, even crass, advice. Stop kidding yourself. Stop lying to yourself and others. Pull your head out of your arse.
My adult life – all the good and all the bad – is the direct result of choices I’ve made. Knowing that is what moved me to choose being an author. I learned a lot about myself, making and fixing mistakes, and how other people behave from the choices I’ve made. The best way to share that learning is writing it down, yes?
I’ve already written seven books on marketing. Two of those are international bestsellers. It turns out running your own business from newspaper routes to residential renovations, and doing all the promotion and customer relations, is a great start for an education on marketing. The bigger education, by far, has been learning to understand myself and the people around me.
Have you ever heard the phrase “When you find yourself in a hole, put down the shovel?” Well, it’s fair to say I started life in a hole of negative self-image. I made that hole wider and deeper by holding onto rage and being cruel to people around me. Eventually, I put down the shovel, fashioned stairs to leave that hole, and built a strong, positive self-image. Was it all roses and honey? No. And I make no claim to having a perfect life now- nor am I anywhere near being a perfect man. There are still lots of people who think I’m a jerk.
And make no mistake, the hole is still there. There is nothing that can replace love and support that was never present. However, real effort can transform a crappy, dingy crawl space into a warm, light-filled, friendly, finished basement.
I’m just a man who has learned to stand on his own two feet, makes the best choices he can, and accepts responsibility for those choices. I have always been a man loved by little children and animals.