If there is one thing that will define you as a person, it is your Habits. Moreover, if there is one thing that will determine whether you live a life of integrity, it's your Habits.
Every once in a while I like to share a little diddly about myself, not too often, as I’m a fairly private person. But I think life teaches you some valuable lesson’s from time to time and this bit of insight into the “inner Gary” I feel can help people who are struggling now, just as I have in the past. Not to say I have mastered it all, far from it, but I never stop trying and that is the important part.
If I had followed the road—I was destined to be on—would not be where I am today. A pretty bold statement, right? As some may know, my childhood was not one of the best, but you know what? That is the case for a great many people. You can cry and whine about it, or you can dust yourself off and move on. Playing the victim is never the right way to go. If I would have followed that path, which is what society, and a lot of people expected me to do. I would probably be living in a beat-up trailer, maybe even sitting in a prison cell, and/or an extensive criminal history, collecting some sort of public assistance, with meth and alcohol issues… or worse like a lot of people I grew up with and family members—dead!
Simply put, developing good habits saved my life.
Very early on, I started in a middle-class family… then after my dad succumbed to several bad life decisions and his battle with addiction—from there on, it was “Poorville.” After my parents divorced, I lived in the spare “bedroom” of a converted single-wide trailer with my mom and stepdad. One of the numerous “Redneck Engineers” had slapped a “wall” and roof over the trailer’s outside deck and cut a hole in for my bedroom door. So, I slept in the same room with the hot water heater and an inside facing “window” that was once our outside-facing bathroom window. This room was so poorly insulated, I could literally see my breath during the winter. Since we couldn’t afford a space heater, I remember crawling under an electric blanket, head and all, to avoid freezing my ass off. In the summer, I had a free sauna!
Worse yet, rain would leak through the roof and into my room. When this happened, my room was a maze of cups and small buckets. But you know what? That’s how EVERYTHING worked in my family. Everything was half-assed to “save” time and money, and we just dealt with the shitty conditions that followed. Everything was about cutting corners.
Looking back, I could have easily used all this as an excuse to half-ass my way through life and blame everyone when my life turned out to suck because of it. That was the path I was destined to follow. Then one day, when I was fourteen years old, after weeks of sitting in my room getting rained on, I grabbed some tools, climbed onto our roof, and found the leaky spots above my “bedroom.” I took my time fixing them. I knew that if I didn’t, I would have to get rained on, again… and wait for a sunny day, again… then climb back up on the roof, again… and try to make up for doing a half-ass job the first time. So I summoned my inner perfectionist and did the best job I could. No more leaks.
That’s the day I started learning that shortcuts just make everything harder, messier, and more complicated. While I didn’t fully understand the concept of integrity back then, I began to realize that there’s tremendous satisfaction, peace, and happiness in doing things right the first time. But that didn’t mean things got instantly better.
Then I was 15 years old, my dad committed a horrific crime, which resulted in him spending several years in prison. His life-long path of making poor decisions and blaming others had finally caught up with him–big time. I decided he was a toxic person, and I could allow him to influence me negatively, or I could move on. I decided to move on. I never spoke to him again, even up to his death. Some may say that is cruel, but I’ll tell you right now, that was me again exercising my Free Will, and I have never regretted it… not once!
To this day, I’ve never been so naïve as to assume I couldn’t have ended up there myself if I hadn’t watched the people around me sink themselves into mediocrity and failure by taking shortcuts. Today, nearly forty years after that day on the roof, I’ve learned that if I can live my purpose, anyone can create a damn good life simply by choosing the right habits and by living with integrity.
I’ve been asked over the years, what kept me off the road predestined for me, and what makes me so tenacious at living the best life I can? The answer is simple. As you see above, I recognized the mistakes my friends and family were making growing up, and I decided early on—I don’t have to be like them. I’m not saying I’m perfect and walk around with a golden halo, but I give it my best every day to learn from my upbringing and live a life of integrity. Sometimes I fail, but I don’t give up. Nothing has ever come easy for me in life. I’m a grinder. There are no 100 million-dollar podcast deals knocking at my door, book publishing companies offering me contracts to set me up for life, or anyone just looking to throw this dog a bone. It never has or does work out that way for me.
Yet again, that is how it is for a lot of people. Yes, even very successful people. The thing in common we all have is we work on positive habits… continuously! There are many roads in life you can take. It is up to you to choose your own path. You can blame others for the outcomes in your life, or you can get out there and make it happen. Like my story, they aren’t sexy because they show the ugly, the grinding day after day, and most importantly—the failures. Those cute and sparkly success stories are usually made up, which is very common in the self-help world, or they leave out all their failures.
Just because life has paved a trail for me to end up in a ditch doesn’t mean I have to follow it. And you know what? If I end up in the ditch, I can assure you in almost all cases; it is my fault… so I’m the one who needs to get myself out of it. That is the attitude I have carried with me in life, and it has never let me down.
Here’s the thing—I know that life isn’t going to make things easy on you, but that’s okay. With the right habits, you can free yourself from the shortcut chasing mindset, learn good habits, discover your purpose, and go on to make it real. If your early life paved a trail for you to end up in a ditch, we have that in common. It has forced me to integrate my habits with my values and to live by what I teach others. That’s how I know these habits can change your life.
I hope you realize that I’m no one special. But, I hope my story shows you that I do this from a place of deep respect for your natural-born power to choose your own path and out of a desire to help you in the best way I can. No matter what your life has been like up to now. You can choose to make it better. I know this because I wasn’t born with a silver spoon up my butt. Chances are, you and I have that in common, and if I can do this, so can you, maybe even better.