You can pretty much ask me anything and I'll say "yes." Grab something to eat? Yes. Go out tonight? Yes. Travel? Yes. Use my toothbrush? Yes. Turn around, lay on my stomach, pull down my pants, don't ask questions and find a happy place? Yes.
There are times in a person's life that he can look back and realize that if he had chosen one path, things would've been drastically different. Monumentally different.
Four years ago, I had the opportunity to lead the in-house Public Relations efforts of a 7,000 employee company (11,000 today) while making over six figures a year.
13 years ago, I had the opportunity to be a summer intern for a fringe cable show featuring two guys who spoke a lot about breasts, alcohol, sex, and debauchery. Right up my alley, no? (I get a "B" just for showing up, right right?) That little show was called, The Man Show, featuring two young, up-and-coming hosts by the name of Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel.
Most of you probably don't know these stories about me because I don't spend much time living in the past. I also don't regret the choices I made, making these stories irrelevant.
Instead, I did things that I've always wanted to do. Things that were true to me. Real to me. They became the living embodiment of my fantasies – more than just passionate ideas that would only fester in my mind because of some excuse or another. In the last four years, I eliminated the barrier of "excuses" and fulfilled these dreams:
– I learned how to write a screenplay and did it. (I even wrote a second, to boot!)
– I visited nearly 20 countries, of which highlights included: Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, running with the bulls in Pamplona, scuba diving The Great Barrier Reef, Brazil for Carnaval, visiting Cuba illegally, walking through my favorite artist's house (Frida Kahlo), visiting the hometown of one my favorite authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), partying in Ibiza, St. Tropez and Amsterdam, couchsurfing with strangers who became great friends, "winging" it at train stations in Europe not knowing where I would end up next, celebrating dear friends' weddings in a mansion on the French Riviera and another in a castle on the Amalfi Coast in Italy...
– I wrote a book.
– I started bartending.
– I founded and launched an internet startup.
Learning and doing something completely foreign to you is a game changer. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you believe – no – see possibilities that you once thought of with limitations. You push what you know. And what you know will push back. And it's scary. Your mind is accustomed to what the parameters of society has placed on it. It wants to go back and do things you know you're good at. That you know you're comfortable with.
How much is that comfort worth? $500,000?
Let's say that I had taken that PR job four years ago. I would most definitely have earned a pay increase each year with bonuses (or been fired in a blaze of glory), but to make this easy – for my poor, feeble mind, that has already pushed its mathematical threshold passed the enjoyment level – let's say that I would've made $100K a year for the last four years. Minus 35% for taxes, $3K monthly expenditures on housing, bills, expenses, and partying, I would've been able to bank $116K by now. Cash. That seems like a ton of money!
Holy sh*t. What have I done?!?!
I could've had a bigger TV, a nicer car, designer clothes, the occasional bottle service, and maybe even lines of cocaine off a stripper's butt! I would've had two whole weeks of paid vacation a year! Two WHOLE weeks! That's eight over the course of the last four years. (How's that for math skills, Mr. Hanson!?!? Go f*ck yourself! (Actually, I take that back. He was a nice guy. I just hated Geometry.))
If I had taken that job, I might be a VP today of that same company, or possibly leading the PR efforts of a Fortune 500 company.
13 years ago, if I had taken that internship, today, I might be a producer or a writer on The Jimmy Kimmel Show or working with Adam Carolla (maybe even fetching his laundry!), but instead I chose a TV news internship in San Diego that spring-boarded my career into my childhood dream of being a journalist.
I liked PR while I was doing it for the challenges they presented – I was at a startup that allowed me to experiment with almost unlimited reign – but eventually it got cumbersome as I was telling the same story over and over. With television, I got to live my dream across several markets. I loved it, but also felt the weight of having to report tragedy on a daily basis. It had lost the creativity that I so madly desired.
I've always believed that if you love doing something, the money would eventually come. It's been somewhat true for me. Maybe not enormous amounts of it when you start off, but enough for someone who values experiences over money.
Too many times we say we're going to do something and never get around to it. We make too many excuses. We've been given this miracle of life and I want to try and do everything possible. At a very young age, I was always very conscious of mortality. Then, that fear was put to the test with the passing of my grandparents. Nothing has ever affected me so much. It would be a shame not to see what we're capable of before we're done with this world.
Working on my internet startup, I don't do it to strike it rich. I do it because of the challenges, because I believe in it, believe it'll make a difference, and I do it because of the unique experience. Do I question myself? Do I doubt whether I'm capable? Of course. Almost every day and night. It's that fear that sometimes debilitates me from getting out of bed (and I have a hard time already), but it's also that fear that lets me know I'm vulnerably alive and that I have a new challenge in front of me.
For me, every day has been about self-discovery, pushing the boundaries of what I know about myself and intimately exploring possibilities I'd only envisioned from afar. We have a relatively short time on this earth, why not do as much as we can to exceed all our own expectations? I am constantly pushing, delving – and, yes, failing – but those experiences and the rewards of accomplishing something new can never be measured in dollars.
If I had taken that PR job, no doubt I'd be more rich... but only on paper. I'd also have missed out on all those amazing experiences.
I had a boss once who thought that he could motivate me by fear or money. That's not what I'm about. It never has been.
I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and smile, knowing that I did everything I could to accomplish all I'm capable of. I still have a gaping hole when it comes to love, and I still have a few more dreams out there I'd like to chase, but saying "no" to some of the easiest choices can have you saying "yes" to a lot more in life.
To all out there, I hope that you never look back at life saying, "I wish I had...."