What is Success? Wednesday, Sep 8 2010 

From time to time I slow down and pay attention to those around me. More often than not I’m blown away by the funny things I notice. There are many ironies in life. Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with some intriguing question. Why does life become complicated? Do we control how complicated our life becomes? Are we slaves to our thoughts?

After spending several weeks pondering the first question and coming up with many deferent ideas for possible answers, I narrowed it down. I have to say the only person responsible for your life being complicated is you. I don’t mean for you to be offended or feel defensive. I’ll have you know, I complicate my life in the same manner you complicate yours. Its normal and we are all guilty of it. After analyzing this idea and really breaking it down, I realized that more often than not our complicating our life is directly connected to a few factors. These factors apply to everyone. However, how much of an impact each of these factors have in our individual lives may vary. A large contributor to a complicated life is ambition. Ambition is a quality that can be positive and negative depending on who you are and how you see yourself. If you have the desire to have more in life and posses the drive to go after the things you want, ambition can be a good thing. If you allow your ambition to become dominant of your life to the point where it become obsessive, ambition could become an oppressive nightmare.

In my life, I’ve been very fortunate. I was born into a family of much wealth. Having a personal servant as a child had some benefits. Having parents who catered to my every want, was very cool. Living above it all and not having a care in the world was priceless. However, the real lucky break was when my family lost it all. At the age of ten it was very difficult to understand why no one was there to prepare the cloths I would wear. The idea that I had to go to a school and not have my personal tutor come to my home was an adjustment. Moving away from my spacious home several times over until eventually ending up in a small apartment in CA seemed dreadful. However, what I did not realize back then was that my life was going to teach me about many things that I would have missed if these drastic changes did not take place. At an early age I learned that material things are never entirely ours. Money for example, tend to have this funny way of giving us a false sense of ownership. When we have it in our hands, we can’t help but to think we own it and it belongs to us. This idea of ownership provides a false sense of security and stability. In reality money doesn’t belong to anyone. Money just like everything else that is material simply serves a purpose. Think about it for second. Today you have $1000.00 in your savings account and tomorrow your car needs tires and “your money” moves on to the next phase of its path. Therefore, could you say that you ever really owned it? Or would you say, you held it for a designated period of time until it was time for you to give it to someone else? Hm… In my opinion, it is ironic how money provides us with a false sense of security as well as opportunities to take care of the things we need while also depending on us to serve as an intricate part of the transition process. If you think of this idea and apply it to everything that is material in your life, you will understand that we never posses anything. Nothing material is truly ever ours. Losing everything I had at such an early age helped me understand this concept. In addition, it opened my eyes to the idea that we, people, are not what we have. The misconception of ownership often leads us to think our identity is attached to the house we live in, the car we drive, the work we do, the salary we earn etc. This could not be further from the truth. My parents lost everything but they were still my parents and I was still their son. I am the same Alexis today that I was ten years ago and will be the same Alexis I am today in 20 years from now.

Among my many fortunate breaks in life, is the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to meet really wealthy people. I’ve been blessed with the ability to see their life up close and personal. The routine 4 am wake call, fast breakfast, driver outside their penthouse waiting to take them to the office followed by a day filled with hundreds of phone calls, text messages, emails and meetings is the norm for most millionaires. If you are a mover and a shaker and you are making big money, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. The common and familiar filling at 5pm, realizing that you forgot to eat lunch, the arriving home after 12 hours in the office only to log on to your laptop to continue to work on the numbers for the next fiscal year is the reality of your life. Then there is those amazing weekends where you spend your time planning out your personal taxes and maybe if you’re lucky, you might squeeze in a game of golf while your assistant follows you around the golf course going over your schedule for the following week. I’ve actually met some guys who have to schedule the time they plan on spending with their wife. I wonder how passionate can that be? If this is not your scenario, try to think of someone you know who may live their life this way. In many cases we don’t have to look to such extremes. Many of us know what is like to have your parents miss your football games and recitals because they had client meetings or some kind of dead line at work. Now that you are imagining the life I described ask yourself these questions. Does slavery have to be physical or can it just be mental? Are we slaves to our own ambition? If so, why? There are many millionaires who accumulate so much wealth only to give it away when they die. They never stop to enjoy the wealth they built. Why is that?

Fear… The fear of the unknown drives us to wrap our minds around that false sense of security that material things provide. If we don’t know where our life will take us how do we know we have enough? Will we be ok tomorrow? In addition, you add the fact that somehow in the process we managed to tie our identity to the house, car, cloths and social status we live in and the possibility of losing any of it would destroy us to the core. Who would we be? What would we do? Would we be accepted? Fear fuels our need for more and in the process can in some cases slave us.

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many young adults. I found it mind blowing how many young adults share the same goal in life. “I want to be a millionaire so that I never have to worry about anything” is such a common statement among young adults. It is borderline scary. We are creating a cookie cutter society driven by the false idea that money cures fear. It’s no wonder why there so many of us out there that find ourselves depressed at 30. Lets look at this for a second. If 10% of the American population control 90% of the wealth in America, nearly 20% of the population live in poverty in America, (America is among the wealthiest countries) this means approximately 70% of our population is struggling to achieve what many would feel is impossible. Remember education and social connections are large contributors to why that 10% control 90% of the wealth. This doesn’t mean it is impossible but a young adult from middle or lower income class America sure have the odds against them when the price for a good education can run anywhere between $1000,000 to $300,000 dollars.

Losing it all was a real blessing. I often times get asked this question. How is it that you are so relaxed about life? You never stress and you’re always happy. In addition, I’ve had many ask or assume I have some kind of trust fund and this is why I’m never stressed. When this occurs, I simply smile and reply… who knows? If you really want to know the secret, I’ll tell you in my brothers words. I’m simply a “Thousandnaire®” I know you will not find that word in the English dictionary. A thousandnaire is the individual who can simply enjoy life for what it is and appreciate the simple things. You are a thousandaire and you did not know it. If you are a millionaire you have many things to worry about. Ambitious people are constantly trying to take the money or things you think you own. Thousandaires don’t have that problem. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my massages, social life, good cloths and the occasional travel. However, the most pleasant part of my life is the lack of stress. I chose not to let fear drive me into slavery. I chose to be free and with freedom comes real comfort as well as contentment. I consciously work to simplifying my life and my only real quest is to do anything I want to do with no limitations. If I want to travel I plan and work towards it. I don’t worry about the illusion that we call tomorrow because tomorrow doesn’t exist until it gets hear. I simply live today and create a stress free day. The Daly Lama said it best “Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday, was it worth it?”

I invite you to try it. It won’t be easy but I can guaranty it will be worth it. Make it a point today to eliminate one item in your life that causes stress. Do that every day and for every stressful item that you eliminate from your life have a relaxing item replace it. Your neighbors stresses you out, don’t talk to them as much and give yourself ten minutes of quiet instead. Your financially stressed cancel your cable TV and make it a point to relax with your family watching the sunset. You can find a map of stars and play games to see who can find and name the most constellations. These ideas will not only help to relax you but can in some cases strengthen your family’s relationships buy opening lines of communication. My parents played games and talked to me every evening. I was not babysat by cartoons nor was I raised by Nintendo. In part because those luxuries were just not available. However, the lessons learned while talking to my mom for just one hour, I would not trade for a life time of video games. I hope you get the picture. If you don’t and you need more ideas, shoot me a comment and I’ll share more.

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The Journey Tuesday, Jun 29 2010 

June 25th marked a very interesting day for me. It was the last day in CA. I was setting off on what I thought was going to be a 12 hour drive to AZ. The plan was set months before and the strategy was in place. We were to have no problems.

Ten O’clock came around faster than we expected. The night felt like it had a mind of its own. Right before setting off, as we filled up our gas tank, my brother and I noticed a 4 inch nail had pierced through the side wall of the right tire of the trailer that was pulling my Jeep. At this point we could not turn back. I could not take the risk of arriving too late and having no place to stay in AZ for 2 days. We took the gamble and hit the road with the small air leak on the tire. We were both pretty tired and had been up for about 15 hour at time of departure. At this point all we could do was hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Four hours into our drive, I looked to my right and caught a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The brightest moon reflected off the water in a magical way. The clouds that surrounded the moon reminded me of the movie Pirates Of The Caribbean. They were mystical and powerful looking. As I looked at the beautiful scene, my brother turned to me and said “Enjoy it brother. There is no Ocean in AZ and it will be 2 yrs before you could surf these waters”. Those words created pressure around my heart. It took all of me not to break. I could not look at him. I simply stared out the window of the rental moving truck and quietly replied. “This is true. I think when I’m done with school I’ll move to Monte Rey. This way I can make up for all the lost time”.

As we drove across the crazy city of Los Angeles and began to head east, I felt as if I could not breath. The decision to move to AZ for school felt like the biggest mistake ever made. I was leaving everything I know behind. All I could think of was “I will not share a wonderful conversations with my mother over coffee on Monday”. I asked myself why would I have done this? The answer to this question kept me from telling my brother to forget this heart wrenching drive and head back home. This decision was taken because I wanted to accomplish a childhood dream. It’s not about the money or social acceptance. It’s about doing what your heart desires and enjoying the adventure.

The adventure of self discovery is amazing. We as people tend to limit our selves because we are afraid of failing. In some cases we are afraid of success. I was feeling afraid of the un-familiar. I’ve talked about this problem in my blog before. Whether in conversation or threw my blog, I’ve told people to never let fear stop them from doing what they want to do. As an individual who was brought up to stand for what they believe in, I will set the example. I will not turn this car around. I will not let a nail stop me from arriving to AZ on time. I will accomplish the adventure and learn to love every minute. I’ll learn to deal with the heat. I will learn to like everything about this new place I will call home for 2 yrs.

The drive took 16.5 hours. My brother and I arrived in AZ after being up for 32 hour. I was tired and we still had to unload the moving truck. We were welcomed by that amazingly warm AZ weather. The temperature was 108 and the sun was on a mission to cook us. As we began to unload, I realized that this moving truck was made of medal and metal heats up. The inside felt more like 150 degrees. We began to work as fast as humanly possible. Three hours later, after returning the moving truck we headed back to my new place and took turns showering. When I was in the shower the water felt refreshing and cool. My skin began to feel human again. This is the absolute longest I’ve ever gone without showering and I was grateful to have water and soap. We searched for a local place to have dinner and found a Jumpers. Their food was fabulous. After dinner we came back home and finally went to bed at 12:30 am. The total hours awake came to 44 hrs. Needless to say, we fell into a deep sleep. The initial journey had came to an end.

Sunday at 7:00 am, my brother and I went out for coffee. We talked about my staying there and his returning to CA. His flight was scheduled to leave at noon. As the time passed, I began to feel that heart constricting feeling again. I drove him to the Air port and he left. I came to my new home and began to unpack.

Monday morning I realized an important part of doing this. I called my mother from my local Starbucks. She answered the phone and before saying good morning, I said “Let’s have a long distance coffee”. We talked and had our coffee together after all.

In life sometimes we shoot for things that present challenges. Whether emotional or physical, challenges are tough. They are there to test us and confirm to us whether or not we really want something. A wise man once said to me, “If you come across a challenge get excited, happy and grateful because it means that your life is moving towards something you want”.

The initial journey ends and the real quest begins. Learning and sharing. Living life to the fullest.

Love

Alexis