The person who I am today is a sum of my successes and failures. The past 10 years of my career have catapulted me to success, have plunged me into failure, and have lifted me to success once again. This is Part III of my story of training myself to enjoy my American dream and to evolve my perspective. Read Part I and Part II.
My American Fear
I was teaching, coaching and training full time. The results were mind-boggling.
As I worked with clients on polishing their interiors, their exteriors began to shine too. They looked, talked and acted differently. Their pace of life and energy shifted. Their lives transformed.
Every metamorphosis that I witnessed astounded me: Losing 20 to 30 pounds. Developing clearer and brighter skin. Attaining raises and promotions. Establishing businesses. Moving abroad. Getting engaged. Feeling calm for the first time.
Just as amazing were the opposite transformations: Getting black eyes in bar fights with relatives. Quitting jobs. Getting divorced. Embracing discomfort for the first time. Because they all moved the clients from where they were to where they wanted to be.
Every month, my unofficial business partner and I celebrated in awe as we set and broke higher goals for the income that measured this impact.
This impact even traveled abroad. A woman asked my brother in Taiwan – without any knowledge of his nationality or surname – whether he knew The Big Yogi. She had been following my blog for a year and said that she could tell just by looking at him that he was family.
With overwhelming, diverse and profound abundance, I had overcome my deepest fear – attaining success.
Then I met Jean.
A year after completing my yoga training, I had contacted one of my instructors about deeper breathing techniques and philosophical teachings. But I had not been ready for the recommendations that he returned. I had needed that one-set-of-footprints time in my life to prepare myself for another level of training and another level of teacher.
Once I committed to teaching full time, I recontacted him with a desire to move beyond mainstream yoga. He sent me to Jean, the advanced studies director at Yoga Garden. This time, I was ready. I enrolled in the advanced teacher training that she was leading. And Yoga Garden continued to stoke my spiritual maturation.
I knew from the first arrows that flew from Jean’s mouth that I was in the right room. I knew that she would dare me to develop a more authentic connection to the practice. I did not know that she also would dare me to develop a more authentic connection to myself.
Studying with my new teacher polished the rough edges of my personality, philosophies and teaching skills. Jean shined me up a little.
She also drew me deeper. She awoke me to the energetic effects of yoga. She challenged me to earn my growth by holding poses. She let me prove myself wrong when I questioned the utility of chanting. She venerated my breath as a key to unlock more potent meditations.
These practices tested my tendency to run by requiring me to be where I was. The outer stillness forced me to heed the activity percolating inside a deeper layer of myself. The water beneath the surface began to boil. Then, one weeklong training blew the lid off.
Holy shit, I realized. I had become physically still and abundantly successful. And yet, I was STILL running.
Fear of success had been a mere flare that my mind had fired off to distract me. It was as if I were ensnared in a game of tug-of-war with my mind and it were digging in its heels to prevent me from asking the harder questions that would reveal the deeper fear that lurked behind it.
Slowly, these practices empowered me to drag my mind toward me through the overgrown, muddy grass until I could elbow it aside and unmask its master.
I finally saw that my deepest fear was not attaining success. It was losing it.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur had roused a beast that attacked me with self-doubt daily: How long until I fuck this up? How long until no students come to my yoga classes? How long until all my coaching clients fire me for offering observations that piss them off? How long until the wheels fall off the bus?
I did not trust myself to sustain my success. And, now that people saw me as successful, it would be mortifying when I lost it.
My fear stemmed, as fear typically does, from childhood. My family had been wealthy when I was a kid. Then, my parents went bankrupt and lost their business. We became poor.
We could not afford to buy clothes or to eat at restaurants. If my brother and I asked for anything, we knew that it would cause pain.
I learned to hustle so that I could contribute. I got my first job at age 12 as a baseball umpire. I developed an extensive résumé for a teenager – fast food, retail, transportation, entertainment – you name it.
When I was 18, my parents divorced. As the oldest child, I served as a rock for my mom, dad and brother.
It surprised me that these childhood experiences were the culprit of my fear. I had developed gratitude that my family’s financial struggles had kept me human. Supporting my family members had trained me to teach and to coach. My mom practically served as my first coaching client.
But I guess that watching my parents lose their money and relationship eroded my trust in my own ability to sustain these foundational elements of life. And in the process of nurturing others in my family and career, I had forgotten that I deserved nurturing too.
Jean frequently prods: Who is driving the bus? For 20 years, fear, distrust and self-deprivation had stolen every shift that they could. Doubt and guilt took turns steering for the second decade. Now that I was aware of this subconscious schedule, I could recover the wheel.
Jean empowered me to dismiss those destructive drivers. She enabled me to make sense of my path and to embrace myself. She trained me to own my role as a yoga teacher and to trust that I was living my purpose. Our work together changed my life.
For the year since, I have continued to peel away these deeper layers and to dissolve the debris that I discover. Decades of self-deception do not disappear overnight.
During training six months ago, Jean froze us in each pose for five minutes. Again, the outer stillness forced the inner chatter to show itself. Two thoughts tortured me: How can I help my clients more? How can I keep all my money – and earn more?
I was so fucking mad at myself for being stuck on these self-sabotaging questions. Finally, I broke out of this mental prison and decided: This is insane! I am sick. Of neurotically obsessing. Over these thoughts.
They were not based on truth. I was grasping for things that were neither real nor necessary in that moment.
I had become attached to “constant change” since I had tattooed it to my right calf in Thailand. Now, it was time to sustain my success. It was time to enjoy what I had earned. Most importantly, it was time to release my attachment to my success so that it served rather than ruled me.
Just as powerful as this clarity was the method that had crystallized it: yoga.
I had not needed to search for this evolution externally. I had not needed to travel to excavate these epiphanies. I had not needed to be in Colombia to enter a jungle. I had not needed to fail again to find success and self-worth.
Yoga had issued a free ticket to explore within, exactly where I was. The most daunting jungle – the habitat where all my problems lived – existed inside me.
Training my body and mind through yoga was enough to unwind the snakes that had coiled around my spirit for decades. Once free, my spirit unleashed a solution that I could neither grasp for nor lose:
As my body and mind are human, they are temporary. Temporary implies loss. If loss is inherent, then it does not deserve fear. My family’s challenges shaped my human personality. But they were temporary, so they do not deserve fear.
As my spirit is formless, it is eternal. Eternal implies infinite success. If success is inherent, then it cannot be attained or lost. When I live in the present from this indestructible spirit, doubt from the past or fear of the future cannot live with me.
As I witnessed how quickly and deeply that yoga continued to transform me, I could no longer doubt that sharing its teachings was a damn-worthy path to be on.
My American Dream
My attachment and aversion to the American dream have morphed into a full-circle journey of finding it – on my own terms. Evolving from stress, to freedom, to fear of success, to failure, to success, to fear of losing success, to owning my success, to nonattachment to my success has trained me to become a CEO in a unique way that aligns with my purpose and expresses my full personality.
Some question how I can transition from teaching an entrancing yoga class to yelling at a personal training client to listening nonjudgmentally to a coaching client. But they are all me. And I am developing new facets every day. I thought I was signing up just to teach yoga. But running my own business has offered training ranging from marketing to customer service to writing to self-love.
Since freeing myself from my fear of losing success, it has continued to multiply. I am teaching more topics in Yoga Garden’s teacher training program. I am the head yoga teacher at Wheel House. I own part of a gym. I train trainers. I mentor yoga teachers. I coach coaches. I cultivate wellness entrepreneurs.
I make six figures a year. And I take more than six weeks of vacation.
My polar lives in wealth and deficit taught me that money does not define who I am. But neither does the lack of it. I have had money and been unhappy. I have had no money and been unhappy. Both are stressful, especially the latter.
I also have not had money and been happy. But my favorite combination is having money and being happy because I can be stable in myself and for others.
I earn money in a clean way that has minimum impact on the environment and does not detract from the world. Instead, my income reflects the value that students and clients see me adding to their lives. I focus on people in management positions so that they can expand the reach of our work via their employees and products.
The more I earn, the more I also can care for myself, inspire others, and even hire others who want to use their talents to promote wellness. Serving as an example that it is possible to make money outside of the corporate world if your passion lies beyond it increasingly motivates me.
This all has encouraged me to develop a healthy relationship with money. I no longer stress about how much I make. I even am becoming more comfortable with spending it.
I have realized that an American dream is still real and attainable.
But it requires the abilities to keep dreaming beyond what seems possible; to keep opening your heart to the lessons that life serves you; to keep adapting your perspective; and to keep moving forward so that you can use your expanding insight to create your life.
We live under this illusion that we are fully evolved. We typically see success at its final phase. But life is the sum of all our moments, especially the humbling ones. My mom counts my failures among my best moments because they expanded my perspective.
It is not easy to share those aspects of my story. But the role of a teacher is not to live atop a magical pedestal. It is to be real to give students the courage to do the same. Teachers are merely people who have figured out how to navigate life a little more easily. Their purpose is to share their insight to empower students to become their own best teachers.
I still am learning how to navigate my life. And I still have moments when I hold back while sharing my insight. But I embrace my evolution. This story was the first post that I ever published on my blog. This is its third edition, and it has expanded as I have expanded.
Your American Dream
The path of self-discovery is rarely short or easy. But that does not mean that it is not the right path for you. It may just ask you to expand your definition of “right.”
We are bred to pursue the American dream, but we are socialized to limit what it looks like. The phrase itself – “the” American dream – misleads us to believe that there is only one version. But striving for and running from it were both stressful. Defining “my” American dream instead has enabled me to limit my stress and to expand my success.
So, what is your definition? What is your dream? And what is holding you back from living it?
The first response when you ask yourself these deeper questions is just the dawn. Watch until the whole truth rises. Turn toward it. Let it grow you. And if something in your life hampers this nourishment, then your dream requires you to muster the courage to say: “No, this is not working for me. I am ready to change.”
Life is too short to be unhappy. It is too short to confine yourself to someone else’s definition of success. Above all, it is too damn short to not live it how you dream of living it.
Do not settle for mediocrity. Do not be afraid to follow your heart. Do not be afraid to fail. Do not be afraid to succeed.
Dare to dream of the life that you want. Then, be ready to go down the challenging path that it will ask of you to realize it.
Finally, remember that you are never alone on your path. I needed time on my own. But I got farther when I let people lead me.
“The Big Yogi” originally referred to my height. Now, it also reflects my perspective. I always knew that I was born to be a leader. Now, I have the perspective to prove it.
This includes that I am in no way naive to the reality that, in five years, I will look back and say, “Man, I still did not get it.”
What’s your story? Contact me about coaching to unlock your American dream.
A Maur Unity collaboration, co-written and edited by Maura Bogue