How does one sum up themselves when all they see is failure?

Alright, let’s not get all dramatic.  How about the facts?

I’ve had ten different jobs in the last fifteen years.  Two marriages.  Two kids.

In the last three years I’ve been fired twice and walked away from my first business, with $15k in uncollected invoices and $40k in debt.

It is now February 1, 2015 and I’m eight weeks from being completely broke.  At my current capital burn rate, and without an income stream, I’ll be bankrupt in April.

If it were to come to that, my wife would likely leave me (I have no idea why she hasn’t already) and take the kids.  I wouldn’t stop her.  I seem to be constitutionally incapable of stable employment.  If you can’t provide for your family, what good are you?

Today was a failure avalanche.  I received an email from a past client stating that they will not pay the balance of their contract of $2,000 because they didn’t see value in my services.  I saw an ex employee from the company which fired me two weeks before Christmas.  He quit during my tenure and it wasn’t my best job of management.  His bitter stare and curt reply to my “hey man,” further cemented by failure by him.

My last bit of dignity evaporated in the checkout line at the grocery store.  I’d forgotten, or at least suppressed, the fact that the groceries I was about to buy were not being paid for by me.  There’s just something so incredibly embarrassing about pulling out an “Oregon Trail” card.  Yes; food stamps.

You try to pull it out quickly and smoothly, like it’s any other card.  You put it away immediately after swiping it, even before entering the PIN.  Then you look down, or at the food the government just bought, wondering if the clerk noticed.  It’s really hard to look at anything except your shoes on the “walk of shame” to your car.

At least that’s how it feels to me.

So I sat in my car for a long time.  And it was filthy.  I’d decided this week to get a carwash, and also decided to find a cheaper option to my usual $8 place.  So that was a complete waste of $5.

And then I decide to get a “real” carwash, and pay for the “plus package” just because.  Now I’ve got five minutes of suds and foamy brushes to sit and stew over my wreck of a life, and the fact that I just paid $10 I didn’t really have to get my car washed.

After three minutes of relentless self-loathing and pity party (ok, four and half minutes) I come to a decision.

You see, I’ve just not had many wins lately.  Frankly, life has been hard.  My nephew was killed, my brother’s been very sick, I’ve uprooted my family and now stranded them in an unfamiliar city, away from friends and support.  And I’ve been a terrible grump since I stopped drinking.  Even that.  That was part of my last-ditch effort to “turn things around” last year.

How silly to think, now that I’ve been sober for ten months, that simply removing one action would change a life built around falsehoods and missteps.  Yes, it has helped. No, it hasn’t been a cure-all.

And I find myself at the end of a terrible year, in an over-priced carwash, completely broke… and broke down.

I’ve been living life as if on a sea, on a small raft.  I’ve let “life” twist and turn me.  I’ve lived it on terms other than my own.  I stopped listening to what really matters.  I’m not even sure when.

You see it’s hard to win for yourself when you’re playing on someone else’s team.  I’m not even sure I know what that means, it just sounded right.  I am sure of something though: it’s time to start living intentionally.  It’s time to drive this boat.

Did you know that if you roll your window down just a crack when you’re passing through the “wind tunnel” at a carwash, it’ll blow the tears off your face so fast that the people outside would never know you were crying?  Of course it’ll also take out a contact or damn-near rip the eyebrows off your face, so be warned.

You’ll never win if you’re playing not to lose.  Let me rephrase for clarity. I will not experience “winning” as long as I’m more worried about losing.  Heck, I’ve already done that.  The crowd is gone and the janitor is sweeping up the popcorn (is that nacho flavored?)

No. I’m done with playing a losing game.

I drove my shiny, wet car straight to the Nike outlet.  I walked straight to the “running” isle and picked out two pairs of the thickest soled Air Max’s I could find.  You see, when you’re 40, have had orthoscopic knee surgery once already, and haven’t run for over a year (maybe two?), you can’t just run around with any old shoe.  You need cushion if you hope to last more than a week.

Then I drove straight home, after spending another $89 I really didn’t have, put those shoes on and ran.  I ran frickin THREE MILES!  Ok, I walked some.  But I mostly ran THREE FRICKIN MILES!

Tony Robbins has said many times that physiology has to come before psychology.  If your body is tired, sore or just weak, it is very difficult to train and change your mind.  The two are connected.  You can’t improve your outlook without improving your outsides.

I knew this. I’d heard it all before.  Heck, I’d even quoted it to other people.

I just chose to be ignorant. And lazy.  Very lazy.

This afternoon was not lazy.  This afternoon was not ignorant, or angry, or even sad.  The run I took, for myself today, was painful.  And wonderful.

One of the keys to winning is setting attainable goals.  Then raising the bar before things get easy.  This afternoon I was already remembering this small piece of advice.  That next signpost, if I can just get there without stopping.  The top of that rise, don’t stop till you get there.  Oh crap, that lady and her dog just passed me, time to start running again. (OK, let’s just call it running alright?  My feet were actually leaving the ground at the same time, which counts)

I really don’t remember the last time I ran.  Or the last time I felt good.  Endorphins are awesome.

Another cool thing about not having any pride left, is not having to care how many other much-more-fit people there are running past you.  I stopped to catch my lung…I mean breath midway up a steep trail section.  I’d already accomplished my last goal of “reaching that gate thingy up there without stopping”, so stopping here was totally within the rules.

As I stood, or stooped, there panting like a walrus, somebody road up to the trail above me and started carrying their pike down switchbacks.  “Out for a hike?” he asked as I looked up and a drop of sweat impaled my eyeball with acid.

“No,” I panted, “running.” [pant, gasp].  “It’s been a couple years,” I managed.

“Just take small steps and keep your head high,” he advised, jumping like a nimble cat around my heaving mass, “You’re doing great man.”

That’s right, man. It’s called Winning.