Picture the person I’m about to describe and make a prediction about the way his life ended up. Thief, convict, drug dealer. Known for hanging out in seedy clubs, ‘pimping’ women, getting into brawls, and even going so far as allegedly mugging people at gunpoint. With stints in and out of jail prison, he became a regular in the system. At one point, “his cellblock mates called him “Satan” for his habit of pacing around and muttering curses at God and the Bible. “
No, this isn’t my story. Nor is it the story of someone who finished his life as a loser, a nobody, an asshole. This is the story of Malcolm Little, who would eventually change his life and change his name to Malcolm X.
Good thing for Malcolm, his story didn’t end in his 20’s went he went through a troubled period in his life. He decided to change his life while in prison, converting to Islam and becoming a voracious reader. He became one of the most well-known figures in the civil rights movement. Most people remember him as the finished product — a man of integrity, deep conviction, honor, and selflessness. Instead of the person, he was in a prior life — womanizer, criminal, junkie, just another statistic.
Maybe he was lucky that he didn’t live in the age of social media and the internet, where he would’ve been ‘canceled’ before he had the chance to make a major turn around in his life.
Our culture is losing one of the most important aspects of changing your life — redemption. This hurts both the people who are cemented in time for their mistakes and the ones who throw stones from glasshouses.
When we all lose our sense of redeemability, more individuals in society become locked into a permanent state of feeling trapped by their mistakes instead of learning from them.
In your life, don’t be so quick to throw stones.
Also, remember that you are not your mistakes, you are not your past, you can totally redeem and reinvent yourself. You can reinvent yourself to such a point that most people who meet the new version of you genuinely would be shocked or wouldn’t believe you if you told them about your past.
I’m going to share some stories from my past. Things I’ve done. The person I used to be. Honestly, I felt a little nervous about writing this because I didn’t want you to judge me. But that just let me know I needed to write the post.
13 Unbelievable Stories That Actually Happened
If you’re a long time reader of mine, think about the way you see me now compared to the stories I’m about to share with you.
Some friends and I ran a credit card scheme where we stole roughly $3,000 dollars worth of merchandise by using a credit card that a customer had mistakenly left at my friend’s register.
I went through years-long stretches of drug and alcohol abuse. I used to smoke weed about a dozen times a day. I drank seven nights per week. I’ve snorted cocaine, taken ecstasy, ate mushrooms, dropped LSD tabs. I’ve popped Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicoden, Xanax, Kolanpins, Adderall — just the ones I can name off the top of my head. I’ve drunk prescription cough syrup, drank hallucinogens that cause projectile vomiting, and once took a hit off a meth pipe. I also smoked cigarettes for about a decade straight.
In high school, while the players were at practice, I used to go through their lockers and steal whatever money I could find. I got into the lockers using a bolt-cutter I also stole from Home Depot. Hell, I pretty much stole anything I could find back then. I was what is known as a ‘booster’ — a shoplifter and thief who would resell all the items they stole.
At age 20 I was charged with 7 felony counts on drug and burglary charges, plead to three, and found myself on probation for 5 years. I violated my probation because I skipped a meeting. I skipped a meeting because I was high on hallucinogens. The violation landed me in jail.
I’ve cheated on every serious romantic partner I’ve had. I once cheated on one of my girlfriends with over a dozen women. I’m not proud of that at all and I’d never cheat again, but that’s what happened.
I dropped out of school with only three credits needed to graduate. The credits were for an internship, but I had a hard time finding one because of my felony convictions so I just gave up. I ended up owing more than $70,000 for a degree I didn’t get. I still haven’t gone back to school.
On my 21st birthday, I drank two liters of vodka to myself. At the end of the night, in a drunken rage, I punched, essentially shoved my arm through, the screen door of my apartment.
I had to get 35 stitches. My friend had to put his finger in my arm to stop the bleeding while we waited for the ambulance to come.
Prior to the two jobs I had before becoming a full-time writer, I’d been fired from every single job I’ve ever had. Some of these jobs fired me within the first 30 days of working there.
I got fired from my second job when I was 17 because I got caught stealing liquor from the freezer. They were going to just fire me. But after I confronted the husband of the woman who told on me, who happened to be an off duty cop, I was arrested for the first, but not the last time.
During one of those semesters in college pursuing a degree I never received, I got a 0.00 GPA for the semester. Instead of dropping out of the classes to save money, I just didn’t show up to class while still racking up student debt to pay tuition.
One altercation, my last one, did, in a way, help me pivot toward a better life. After one of my shifts at the crappy electronics factory job I hated, I got absolutely wasted. A fight ensued and I woke up the next day with an eye the size of a baseball. I don’t remember the fight or even the person who I fought. But by the looks of things, it was safe to say I lost. I quit the job at the factory because my eye hurt too much with all the fluorescent lighting. This led to seeking better employment which created a springboard for my future.
Before I found writing, I tried every money-making scheme in the book with no success. I tried selling vector knives, did a few MLM schemes, sold vacuums, and a bunch of other hair-brained schemes. I was that guy — that one friend who always had a bunch of ideas, but no actual results to show for them.
With no degree, while working a $10 an hour job, I got my girlfriend pregnant. We had to live with her parents rent-free to save for the baby. At that point, I’d finally saved enough money to get a $2,500 car to get back and forth to work. I was reading every day, and working on my writing. Hopeful, but still all available evidence showed that, at best, I was going to be working retail for the rest of my life, struggling to support my new family.
What Does This Mean For You?
Fortunately, the story didn’t stop there. I chose 13 stories just to show how ‘off’ — how unlucky — my past used to be. I caused the vast majority of the pitfalls I had in my life. I righted the ship.
What changed? How did I snap myself out of it? How did I change my entire worldview, behaviors, and the way I treated people? How am I able to be in front of you as the version I am right now?
So many of my readers look at me now, the finished product.
Well, not to compare myself to one of the most important cultural figures in the history of mankind, but, like Malcolm, I just made a decision that the person I was no longer served me.
I looked back and tried to realize where all that behavior came from — the need for approval, a messed up environment, ill-formed beliefs about what I needed to do to get by. I started working for my own approval instead of others, changed my environment, and formed new beliefs backed by learning about self-improvements and changing my actions based on those insights.
Your story probably isn’t the same as mine.
I’m hoping it isn’t.
I shared all of those insane details of my life for contrast. If I could pivot from that to this, imagine what you could do?
We both have one thing in common. We have a narrative that’s driving our behavior. Maybe you have the narrative that you’re just meant to be another working-class joe or a corporate shill.
Maybe you think the things that happened to you, instead of the things you’ve done, have created scars so deep you can’t heal from them and move on.
Maybe you think you’re lazy, not an ambitious person, or see yourself as a failure.
The truth is whatever you decide the truth is. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. Don’t pigeonhole yourself based on your path and try not to do it to other people too.
We lack compassion in society both for other people and for ourselves. We need to stop looking at people like their mistakes are a permanent record and understand a growth mindset can help you overcome damn near anything.
No human being is perfect. We all have our scars, skeletons, and even some of the thoughts we have that we’d never share with someone else. But those are only a part of our story. And they don’t have to play much of a role in the story of our life as a whole.
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