A life without friends isn’t much of a life, and making friends is a crap shoot! Lucky us! Welcome to the Ca-si-no, I’m not your friend! It’s gambling, except when placing bets, we use mental currency, not cash, and it’s amazing what your mind can afford.
People are bought all the time, but nobody can buy friends. By definition,that’s not friendship; that’s business.
However, once you are fortunate enough to cross paths with, and connect to a new soul, a unique adventure begins.
The Fire in Your Soul
The concept is simple. We all have a fire in our soul, and that fire is the source of your inner light.
If you feel your fire (or at least know there is one), continue to read.
If you don’t feel your fire (or don’t believe you have a soul), continue reading, and pretend you do (because you do).
Soul II Soul, from Mine to Yours
Inner light isn’t visible to the naked eye. It could reside in another dimension for all I know. Here’s what I believe about the light that leads me.
My light has no color.
My light has been with me my entire life.
I did well feeding it in my early 20’s.
There was a decade thrown in there where it burned slow and steady.
I thought it was bright enough.
People wanted to dim my light.
There was a period where it flickered more than usual.
I’ve thrown gasoline on it a few times.
In 2014, I packed my light and moved to Arizona.
By early 2015, the fire in my soul became a smoldering pile of ashes.
In 2016, I could have easily thrown myself in a box, on a shelf, next to Denver and Marco.
In 2017, I was struck by lightning – twice.
I learned it could never be bright enough.
Even a hurricane couldn’t put this Dark Phoenix out.
Not all Fires are Created Equal
Fires are either built or caused. Building them is preferred, unless, of course, it’s arson. Accidents happen. Nature happens. Regardless of how it starts, playing with fire doesn’t hurt the fire.
People wanted to dim my light.
The safest way to build a fire is to start small, using kindling as a base. Once the base is ablaze, you can begin to throw the big wood on top.
The bigger the fire, the brighter the light.
You don’t need several advanced physics degrees to understand simple physics. With a little TLC, even the tiniest coal can reignite to glorious levels. However, the devil is always in the details.
There are three conditions:
Fires need to be fed.
You are responsible for your fire.
The brighter your light, the more attractive you become.
Like a Moth to a Flame
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Inner light is the eternal beacon of your soul. Carry it proudly, for life, as if it’s your very own Olympic torch. If the Statue of Liberty can do it, so can you.
Are you burning an eternal flame? That’s a question you can answer only for yourself. I believe it, and I live my life accordingly.
Making friends is easier to do when you allow your true self to make first impressions. Anything else is a waste of time. Show up to your own life.
When I hear someone speak with unabashed enthusiasm, it’s inspiring. Passion creates action. Action creates reaction.
There’s nothing better than jumping into something you love with both feet.
Welcome to Your Atmosphere
I just turned 43. If I count the time I spent in utero, that’s nearly 16,000 days on this planet. I survived incubation only to be pushed out of a womb and intothe world.
Ever since, I’ve been forced to deal with people. It happens to all of us.
Kidding aside, the rules of life are easy. The loopholes take a lifetime to learn.
Shitty people are a whole other beast, but they’re an unfortunate obstacle we encounter on a daily basis.
How we deal with difficult situations defines us as individuals. Just because life flings poo my way doesn’t mean I’m going to shit on anyone. Plus, I won’t shit in public.
Fact is, we’re damn lucky to inhabit this planet. If you’re reading these words, you’re luckier than billions of less fortunate souls you may never know.
It’s Time to Care
I thrive in a positive atmosphere, and I think that’s true for almost anyone. The challenge is creating that atmosphere. If you’re not feeling it, you’re wasting your time.
In other words, focus your energy on things that make you feel something. That’s where passion starts and the seeds of momentum take root.
When nurtured, momentum grows like a weed. Left unattended, weeds get out of control and before you know it, you’re in a messy place you’d rather ignore than deal with. Eventually, you’re that person with a million ideas nobody wants to hear.
Passionate People Make Things Happen
At first, I had it backwards. Writing made me happy, but not happy with myself. I didn’t understand that until I took a break from writing to focus on myself.That’s what I did in St. John.
I rediscovered myself. In a sense, I was reborn. When it happened, I knew it. It was better than any runner’s high and, quite frankly, better than any drug I’ve ever tried.
The lesson was clear. Any passion found before you’re passionate about yourself risks getting lost in the wake you leave once discovering yourself. That’s when passion becomes palpable.
Passion Drives Success
Certain things will never work without passion. Lifeis fulfilling only after you care about yourself. Careersthrive when people love what they do. Relationshipslast when couples are on the same page. Communication is key.
With that hat trick under your belt, you can begin to change your world. Now is not the time to take life for granted. Focus your energy to make a positive impact in any way you can.
Easier Said Than Done
A friend recently told me she didn’t have the energy in life to reinvent herself. She didn’t feel capable of doing that right now. She said she wasn’t putting off a passion, but unfulfilled at work and stuck in a job she hates.
It’s dehumanizing when your efforts are exhausted for the benefit of others. I’ve been there. I co-founded a company where I spent 15 years gaining experience in a cutthroat, disgusting industry of a bullshit software known around the world as SAP. SAP is basically a Ponzi scheme that boils down to nothing more than high stakes poker.
Not every risk is worth taking. My younger self was naïve enough to do it. I was in my first entry level corporate job after graduating college. I was there five months and I was kicking ass. Long story short, I was cock blocked from a promotion because policy required one more month in my current position.
So, I quit.
The timing was impeccable. Everything happens for a reason.
I co-founded the company that gave me 15-years of the best experience I could have ever dreamed of having.
Eventually, we sold. After the purchase, I wasn’t as bold. I took the job like a little bitch and moved to Arizona where I was shoved in a corner. They refused to give me a contract. My responsibilities were stripped and my pay was cut.
I was promoted twice and received an outstanding review where I was told I should be next in line for a C-level position. Then shit hit the fan and I was laid off in a corporate game of chess.
The timing was impeccable. Everything happens for a reason.
That’s when I registered Devilish Smirk. Now, I’m on Instagram and I post publicly on Facebook. I still have Twitter and LinkedIn.
Simple Lessons Learned the Hard Way
I’ve talked to too many people who’ve given up whatever it is they used to love in order to pacify the expectations of others. I know extremely talented people who’ve lost the bright light that used to shine from within. Nothing kills the light faster than slamming the door on opportunity.
Welcome to the Matrix
Life is nothing more than virtual reality.
Nobody crosses paths by accident.
Keep your eyes open for the Easter eggs.
The signs are all around you, every day.
No, you’re not crazy.
Bold decisions may be required.
It almost feels like a sick joke, but I have a Devilish Smirk.
Opportunities knock all the time, but it’s not always easy to know which ones to grab. Right or wrong, every opportunity is a chance to learn. The more we learn, the better we become. Sometimes, being better requires us to feel worse than ever before.
Onward and upward!
I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I’d made better decisions in life. It’s fun to think about how things could be different if I only just…
However, that’s a waste of time. My past made me who I am today. Now is not the time for coulda shoulda woulda didn’t stories. There’s no sense beating yourself up over shit you didn’t do. If you want to change anything, apply the knowledge gained from the lessons life has given you and commit to being better – not bitter.
Nobody lives while dwelling in the past. Nobody lives being trapped in a loop. Nobody lives when they’re not present. I’ve been there. It’s a self sentenced purgatory. Being alive without living is a lonely place. Eventually, I had to ask myself, “Do I want to live life or lose it?”
I Chose to Live
In June, an opportunity knocked hard and loud and it was unlike any other before. How it happened is another story for another time, but a friend of mine was hell bent on leaving Arizona. Scottsdale held too many reminders of things gone wrong for both of us.
We needed to go far away with relaxing with beautiful beaches, surrounded by the blue water, where people appreciate life. Somewhere disconnected from the U.S. version of the real world; a place completely different.
One place came to mind; a tucked away island in the Caribbean, the smallest U.S. Virgin Island known as St. John.
It started as a bad idea. Within 24 hours, we were in flight to paradise. Nothing says ‘I don’t give a fuck’ like booking a one-way trip on a private jet. If my friend is one thing, he’s fearless.
I had a breakdown that morning. It was the craziest turn of events I’d ever witnessed. He was dead serious and I was waiting for the punchline. I didn’t even pack.
My younger self didn’t need to remind me what to do with this once in a lifetime opportunity.
I had 30 minutes to throw my shit in a bag and hop in the car.
Back to Life, Back to Reality
After 68 days on St. John, I returned to Scottsdale. My friend stayed. It was an opportunity for which I will forever be grateful. It inspired me in ways I never expected. The trip changed my life. It reminded me that it’s good to be alive.
Wake Up, Travis!
Ok, so you’re not technically an ‘it’, but your life is. This is it! Does it get any better? That, my friend, is entirely up to you.
This is your dream life!
You – yes you – the person reading (and writing) this right now – we’re part of a unique team brought together (or otherwise connected) by incredibly rare circumstances that led us to the right place, at the right time.
Coincidence? It doesn’t matter. Somehow, we’ve crossed paths and it’s about time we have this conversation.
You sacrificed a lot in life early on. Remember? It doesn’t matter what you could have done different. We can play that game for the rest of our lives. Right now, it’s sudden death and the net is wide open. Missing this opportunity is unacceptable.
Life is what you make it so make it great. Your own story should inspire you. Focus on what matters, stay positive, and roll with the punches. Nobody said this would be easy!
They Knock so Softly
You are your #1 priority. Timing is everything and your time is now. Always look after #1. Know how to put your self first without being selfish. Then, you can be selfless. The more you help yourself, the better you’ll be helping others.
Pay attention to your state of mind. Don’t lose sight of your goals, sacrifice your happiness, or devalue your worth. Always exercise your mind. Spend your spare time doing things that make you feel something. The fall from the cliff hanging above rock bottom is hard and fast. Stay on top.
Ditch the device life. Technology is useful if you know how to use it. There’s a vast difference between the world I see outside than the world I see online. Go see for yourself.
Be better than good. Good things happen to good people, but being good is only the beginning. Actively participate in life. Stay aware of your surroundings. Treat others with kindness. Honestly is the best thing for sleeping well at night. Know yourself by being self aware at all times. Most importantly, do the right thing.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting caught up in some bullshit, so stay out of it.
Nurture friendships.Who wants to be alone? Nobody. Reach out to an old friend right now.
Always ask, “why?”Curiosity won’t kill you, but lacking it will.
My brain is messy spaghetti. It’s as dense as a beaver dam with a slow trickle. Coloring loosens my noodles.
As of late, I’ve spent significant time coloring to find inspiration. The book I’m using in this category contains inspirational statements.
Now, anyone can blow a bunch of positive reinforcement in your face. That’s not my intent. I take my responsibility to write something worth reading very serious. Sometimes it’s meaningful.
This August will mark my third year in Arizona. My ex-partner, Brad, and I co-founded a company in 1999. In 2014, we were acquired by, and relocated for, a Scottsdale-based something.
The transaction can be summed up with one word: Fraud. Stay tuned, more on that later.
Within a year, I was laid off. The CEO required Brad to escort over 30 employees, one-by-one, to their termination meeting and out the door – myself included. All the while, the HR director and CEO hid in their offices.
I began writing immediately after the layoff. I built a timeline of events since the beginning of 2014.
Then, the snowflake became a snowball.
Months of ongoing harassment continued to escalate against Brad after the layoff. He was effectively terminated the following week.
One day at a time
Since then, we’ve swirled in a pool of juxtaposed emotions trying to make sense of how this became our reality. Confusing facts, from the past, began making sense, while ongoing developments rolled out.
As time passed, we began to see this was far more complex than a bad business deal. There was a plan in motion way before we sold.
That plan got fucked the fuck up.
It’s amazing what you can learn with a lot of patience, commitment, time, and a loyal friend.
Looking back, I have strength that I never had to find before because I was going to hit new lows. I’m still struggling. I’ve also become more enlightened, and that’s a great feeling.
I’m not quite sure how Brad feels. I’m kidding. What I meant was, I’m only speaking for myself.
I’m ready to write the story. It’s time.
That’s me, seizing my day and I will seize more
The above wasn’t what I intended to cover when I chose Seize the Day. That was a different day.
I’m going to switch gears here because that’s what I do.
Carpe Diem was the motto on my 11th grade yearbook
I knew my yearbooks were in my home office, somewhere in a messy pile of boxes. The pile of boxes, I haven’t unpacked, that my dog raids when I’m not looking.
That’s how she seizes her days.
Seize the Day was a natural choice because, well, Carpe Diem. I’ve lived in the moment a million different ways. I was looking forward to reflecting on my younger years. Back when I believed I was going to make a difference besides working at Blockbuster.
Wow! What a Difference!
And then, I saw a sobering message on Facebook
Early February, a friend of mine unexpectedly passed. He lived in Milwaukee and his name was Jeff. For years, Jeff and I went to the same gym and we’d often run into each other socially. I lived in Milwaukee for 22 years during a very social time of my life. He was someone I will never forget.
I was introduced to Jeff by a friend who also worked with me at the company, but long before we sold. I reached out to her once I heard the news. He had a heart attack on his bike while trail riding. He was my age.
In her final response to me she said, “Carpe diem, my friend. Hope you are well. xo.”
A week later, and even closer to home
I miss many things about my old company, but the office staff takes the cake. I worked with some of the most dedicated and happy employees.
We changed peoples’ lives. We gave opportunities to people in circumstances that a lot of companies won’t accommodate.
I didn’t realize how different and special our group was until I moved to Scottsdale.
Forest died less than a month ago. He was 49. He was found in a Milwaukee hotel room after not returning home the night before. He had three little boys who would come to the office occasionally.
He was the best inside sales rep a company could ask for. He was polite, humble, kind, and a very special man who had demons.
I wish we never had to let him go.
When I heard of his passing, I couldn’t stop thinking about how things could be so different if the situation up top never happened.
It never should have happened.
We were a close knit group. If someone needed support, we provided support. That’s what families are supposed to do.
How hard is it to support someone? Not hard. It’s not hard at all. You know who it’s hard for? Sanctimonious people and that Scottsdale-based something.
This will all come full circle, I promise.
About that yearbook
Do you believe, in heaven above?
The minute I dusted off my high school yearbook from 1991, a thought hit me upside the head. I felt this overwhelming sense that caused goosebumps all over my upper back, down my arms, and down my legs.
Seeing that green cover and those purple words triggered a memory I’m ashamed hadn’t occurred to me until that moment.
I don’t remember exactly when she was diagnosed with leukemia, but my friend Jodi Hill was a fighter. I met her in Junior High. She was best friends with my close friend, Christy. Wherever you saw one, the other wasn’t far away.
I sat down with the yearbook, thinking about Jodi. I opened it to find her picture, and something fell out and onto the floor.
Touched by an angel
Wow! What a Difference!
Jodi and I became a lot closer our Junior year. That’s the year my social life was boosted by the fact I turned 16. That means one thing: Driver’s license. The next week, I bought a car to match, which I paid for by working at Blockbuster.
Toward the end of our Junior year, Jodi and I were talking about how great it would be if she could get a summer job at Blockbuster. By then, I was in good with the manager. It took about two seconds to convince her to hire Jodi.
We’d work shifts together and lament about how great it was going to be seniors – finally! She wasn’t sick anymore. Or at least, if she was, I didn’t know.
I left for a week to participate in a volleyball tournament in Florida. Upon my return, I showed up for work, and was told that Jodi was in the hospital.
Things weren’t so great after all.
Jodi died that summer. She was 17.
My first funeral
A friend’s mom called to ask me to be a pall bearer at Jodi’s funeral. I didn’t know what that meant. She explained what it was and made some suggestions on what I should wear.
I hung up and started crying because I didn’t have anything she suggested. My next call was to either my step-mom, or a friend’s mom. I can’t remember, but I was still crying about being asked to be part of Jodi’s funeral and not having appropriate attire.
I was shutting down. I didn’t know how to cope with Jodi’s death. My first instinct was to not go to her funeral at all, because of a stupid suit. No 16-year-old should have funeral attire.
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. This is how the past couple years have been, in some strange, connected way.
I’ve either been tuned in to coincidence like never before, or I’ve been touched by an angel. Touching that that yearbook, coupled with Jodi’s obituary falling out, it sure sent a solid message through my body. Whatever you call it, the feeling was as real as the emotions running through me right now.
I guess if there’a a point to all this, my younger self would remind my older self of a very simple thing.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t talk to myself. I still do, and quite often. There are only two things I do more frequently – breathe and blink.
It’s not uncommon for me to shock myself by what flies out of my mouth. Sometimes it’s offensive or completely inappropriate. Sometimes, I walk around my house inventing, reliving, or rewriting entire conversations. Sometimes I say things I would never say in the presence of others – besides my dog.
She’s always lurking nearby. She hears everything. One of my worst nightmares is waking up one day to learn that she understands and speaks perfect English and inked a book deal. Luckily, dogs take everything to the grave better than anyone.
Kids, on the other hand, can become writers.
Two pillars of strength
I was an only child and the first born grandchild on both sides of my family. I realize not everybody is fortunate to have these remarkable figures in their lives. I will always be grateful for they time I had with my grandparents, particularly my grandmothers. Mine are pictured below, above me and my mom.
Grandma Libbey (top left) passed in 2011, on my 37th birthday. Grandma Garrod (top right) passed in April, 2013. They were instrumental in planting the seeds in my head of compassion, understanding, acceptance, humility, and love before experiencing the craziness I would soon encounter.
I was five when my parents divorced. I lived with my dad and he married my step-mother when I was nine. I was 13 when my first half-brother was born.
I was my first best friend
I’m still my mother’s only child. The boy I was outside my house was different than the boy inside, accompanied mainly by his toys and imagination.
It was in first grade when I knew I didn’t feel a way toward girls that was expected. I was different and I knew it. I liked boys. I never felt bad because my feelings were natural and real. That’s when I began keeping secrets.
Early on, I mastered the art of deflection. I learned to adapt to situations, but I’ve never been a convincing liar.
I never wanted to be a convincing liar. I lied enough to others for 20 years about how I felt. However, I cannot and never will lie to myself.
That’s why I say – be your own best friend and listen to what you have to say.
There’s no point in lying to yourself
You’re the only one who knows your truth. One of life’s greatest rewards is having a friend who understands you and isn’t afraid to bring you down a notch or two. You can’t be that friend to anybody else until you’re that friend to yourself.
You learned to write for a reason
Writing your thoughts on paper is one of the most effective ways to have a meaningful conversation between you and yourself – especially if you talk to yourself. If you can read it, you can talk yourself through it. You don’t have to keep it. Burn it when you’re done. The goal is to give yourself the candid advice you’d give anyone else.
Always ask yourself, “Why?”
One of the hardest things to do is change your mind. It can be a process and it can take years. It depends how stubborn you can be and it’s not always easy to question whoever’s responsible for you thinking the way you do.
All I can say to that is listen to your inner voice. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you think a certain way because someone told you how to think. There’s nothing wrong with questioning what you’ve been told to believe.
Your life is what you make it. It’s a gift that someone else can easily rip away from you. It’s an opportunity to know your true self. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re driving. Pick the battles you’re willing to see through a new lens. You might like what you see. You might not. At least you can sleep every night comforted by the fact that you tried.