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Living the Dream – or the Nightmare

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He was thirty years old. Or possibly forty or fifty. Maybe sixty. For this story he was thirty, but it doesn't really matter. He may even have been a she. He may even be you.

He had been swimming in circles for years. And when he wasn't swimming, he was treading water. Or peddling backwards on his not-very-cool bike. His career, finances, relationships, education, attitude, goals, and dreams were all like the pond at the end of his street — stagnant. Stinky. Unhealthy. He knew it. And he hated it.

He was the master of incompletion. He had "almost" done a million things. He had threatened greatness, but never delivered. He periodically felt sorry for himself. Okay, often. He played the blame game. He was a time waster. An excuse maker. He had spoken far too much and done far too little. For far too long.

He had rationalised, justified, and explained away half of his life. Or more. He was talented. Talented and fearful. Talented and lazy. He tried to be the big funny guy. But underneath, he was the big sad guy. The big lonely guy. The big frustrated guy. The big angry guy.

But one day something happened. The time had come and he was over it. The switch had flicked — and he was ready. At last.

Ready to do whatever it would take. Ready to change. He would do anything. ANYthing. He was sick of himself. His pathetic existence. His inability to get the job done. He wanted more. He wanted success. Fulfilment, happiness. Money. Heaps of it. And toys. Cars, houses, incredible clothes… stuff. Plenty of that, too.

He was tired of scraping by and making do. Surviving instead of thriving. And he was sick of being out of shape. He wanted to be hot. Irresistible. Buffed, ripped, and rock hard. A six-pack would be good. Maybe a well-placed vein or two. He wanted it all.

And why not? If others could "live the dream" why couldn't he? Just gotta work for it, right? He was prepared to work. Finally. He was prepared to change his attitude. And at last, he was prepared to get uncomfortable. The genesis…

He decided that his metamorphosis would need to start with some serious study and research. He began to devour self-help books, reading at least one book every week. He wanted to learn from the best. The richest, the smartest, the coolest. The best of the best. He loved those rags to riches stories; they inspired him. He looked up to the rich people who came from nothing because he saw himself in their story.

He visualised himself with money – in his big house – with his expensive car; it was a pretty picture. He felt drawn to one particular personal development guru who happened to live on his own island. "The coolest thing ever would be to have your own island," he fantasized. "One day…"

When he wasn't selling fridges at Fridges R Us, he immersed himself in his new "success mindset", learning the lingo and the culture. He started to weave terms like "paradigm" and "neuro-linguistic programming" into the tapestry of his daily conversations. His work colleagues were confused. And amused.

He didn't really want to be like them any more. He started to resent what they represented in his life. He began to mock their "ignorance" and lack of drive. Which made for an interesting dynamic in the lunch room. He didn't care.

"If people don't share my vision, that's their loss," he would tell himself.

One of his numerous books made it very clear: "You have to look after number one in this world, because if you don't, no one else will."

"Kill or be killed — the corporate world is a jungle and only the strongest survive," he told one of his bemused workmates over his skinless chicken sandwich one lunch time.

He enrolled in numerous courses and programs. Got himself a life coach. Became a personal development aficionado. Some would say a self-help slut. Not me though; I don't speak like that.

He couldn't get enough of the "get-rich-in-record-time" stuff. He walked on hot coals. He flew on a trapeze to overcome some kind of childhood fear. Or something like that. He wasn't exactly sure about the circus bit, but his life coach said it was a must.

As part of his image and attitude overhaul, he got himself a shoulder tattoo; apparently some Chinese symbols meaning something about a warrior. And some chest and arm waxing. In the car, his favourite rock station was replaced with personal development CD's. Positive affirmations were posted throughout the house. Gems like:

"I am a high-achiever."

"I am a millionaire."

"I am a winner in the game of life." These adorned every spare inch of wall space.

He got himself a trainer. She was hot. He loved to be seen with his hot trainer. She didn't love to be seen with him. He thought he had a chance with her. He didn't. He had his teeth bleached. Twice. NASA could have guided the space shuttle back to earth with those teeth. White would have been an understatement. His confidence grew like a weed.

He gave up booze, salt, sugar, fat, and cigs. And anything wrapped in plastic. Except of course, the get-big-and-lean-in-no-time sachets of "miracle powder" kindly supplied by the aforementioned Uber trainer at the "wholesale price". She made fun of him behind his back.

He asked her out fifty times. She declined fifty times. He didn't care. He had a new attitude. Nothing would get him down. He trained like an elite athlete. His trainer's bank balance grew as his ample gut disappeared. And while the body fat melted and the muscles grew, he enrolled himself in a real estate course. He was driven, focused and passionate and he was about to hit pay dirt.

Property was going to be his ticket.

Within twelve months, boy wonder had become a qualified real estate agent (realtor), had begun working in the industry, had traded his nine-year-old Ford for a new BMW and was about to buy his first investment property. Not long after, the organisation he worked for acknowledged his drive and value to the company, and promoted him. He lived his job. He ate, slept and breathed his career.

They promoted him again. He had no social life or fun. But he knew the fun would come later. It could wait. "People don't understand sacrifice," he would tell himself. All he did was work, exercise obsessively and eat over-priced organic food: brown bananas, spotty apples, and chewy, half-cooked rice.

Friends and family had to "take a back seat for a while". And for the most part, he found his family to be something of an emotional drain. Within three years he was a partner in the company. Unheard of. He had set a record. The BMW had made way for a Porsche and his personal portfolio had grown to eleven properties and significant investments in blue-chip stocks.

He was making some serious cash. Just what he always wanted. He was on a roll. He was indeed walking the talk. Some people thought he was obnoxious, arrogant and one-dimensional. He thought they were losers who were trying to get in his way.

His body fat was seven percent, his teeth were whiter than ever, his confidence was at an all-time high, he was waxed within an inch of his life, he had his own personal assistant — and best of all, his gorgeous trainer had realised that she did love him after all. Swell. Who'da thunk it??

Just before his thirty-sixth birthday he set up his own real estate company.

Within two years he had branches all over the country, couldn't remember how many properties he personally owned, had more luxury cars than he could ever drive and had been featured in Success magazine. He did TV and radio interviews. He bought a forty thousand dollar watch. And he bought more and more stuff.

Finally, he was living the dream. Even his assistant had an assistant. His amazing metamorphosis had brought with it a whole new group of friends. He was so much more popular now. People noticed him, knew him, wanted to hang out with him. He didn't speak to his old friends any more. Or his family much. Apparently they were pretty jealous and had really changed.

They didn't really "understand" him.

"Oh well."

Two days after his forty-first birthday and eleven years after his first personal development workshop, our super-achiever sold his business to a large international company for hundreds of millions of dollars. He was richer than rich. He would never have to work again. Ever.

Even though he hadn't spoken to his family for two years, he thought they might ring to congratulate him when they heard the news. They didn't. "Typical," he thought.

He was mad at them for being so dysfunctional and resentful. He vowed to never to speak to them again. "Don't need that anchor around my neck anyway."

Two months later he bought his own island. It wasn't Australia or anything, but as islands go, it was nice. He built his dream house — a mansion overlooking the ocean, complete with gym, theatre and a walk-in wardrobe as big as his parents' house. He had his own airstrip, a helipad and of course enough toys to keep him happy and occupied forever.

He and the trainer (who was now his wife) fought a lot but he had learned to pacify her with some regular retail therapy. "Give her the credit card, send her out the door and I get some peace and quiet," he would tell his rich buddies.

And while she was happily spending his money, he and his assistant would indulge in a little therapy of their own. Yep, he had it all figured out. "Best of both worlds."

Sometimes he marveled at how smart he was. Even though his best friend in the world, an old school buddy, had stopped talking to him. "Better off anyway. We were socially disconnected; no common ground."

"We're in different places now; I've grown, he hasn't," he would try and convince himself.

One evening after enduring World War Three (thousand) with Mrs Super-Achiever, our hero went outside to sit on his massive balcony in his very expensive chair and look at his very expensive view on his very expensive private island. He collected his thoughts and looked down to admire his waxed, muscular arms in the light of a brilliant full moon. The veins he had once longed for were now permanently on display just below the skin of his lean, athletic body.

His teeth were now so white, they were almost fluorescent. He rested his protein shake on his rock-hard abs and stared at the waves. It was the most beautiful view in the world — but it may as well have been a black hole. For a man with everything, he felt distinctly poor.

And alone. And foolish.

For the first time in years he was completely honest with himself.

A lone tear rolled down his cheek. And he let himself feel. Really feel. No distractions, no noise, no ego. And finally, no bullshit.

For over a decade he had lived "in his head." And for the first time in an eternity, he listened to what his heart had to say. That single tear turned into a torrent. He felt pain like never before.

Instantly he had a heightened sense of awareness through every cell of his body. It hurt to breathe. The tears were liberating. Slowly the pain turned into joy as he began to really understand success for the first time. All of a sudden wealth had nothing to do with money. He walked inside and calmly picked up the phone.

"Dad, it's me…"

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About Craig Harper

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    That’s a really good article, Craig. Important stuff to remember as we try to crawl up the greasy pole of “success”.

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