We all desire Freedom: The Freedom of a Healthy Body, Financial Freedom, Emotional Freedom in Relationships, and The Freedom to do Work we find meaningful.
We all experience failure, disappointment, adversity… or what I generally call ‘Pain’. Wrestling with pain on the path to freedom, develops resilience and the character needed to experience more freedom with time.
I believe Character is best developed in the pursuit of freedom.
This belief comes from a unique combination of personal experiences:
I struggled with obesity as a child and endured years of teasing/bullying because of it. At my heaviest, I was 17 years old and I weighed 305 lbs. That year (2000) I was finally able to make some changes in my diet and I lost 80 lbs in 8 months:
2000 – 2014
In August of 2000 I went off to college at The University of Houston. I majored in Electrical Engineering. Of course, academically, it was tough. Just as difficult was navigating the social landscape of college when I never had any friends growing up. Unbeknownst to me, I took the mental skills I learned through struggling with obesity and applied them to this new challenge. I graduated in 2005 with honors in Electrical Engineering.
I began working as an Engineer 3 months after graduation. Life was supposed to be better. I bought a new car (with a loan) and I had a girlfriend for the first time in my life (23 years old). I hated the work I was doing and after experiencing significant depression, I quit.
My life fell apart… At least, that’s what it felt like:
- I surrendered the car for repossession. This, on top of student loans and eventual credit card default – I was $60,000 in debt and receiving regular calls from debt collectors
- The relationship with my girlfriend exploded – Admittedly, I was too emotionally unstable
- I was at odds with virtually everyone in my life and eventually found myself alone in a dark apartment in Houston – The electricity had been cut off and I was being evicted for failure to pay rent
It was a massively disorienting time in my life. Many of the assumptions I had made about the world were being completely upended. What was I going to do next? I had tried being a personal trainer for a bit but I needed time to generate a client base and the calls I was receiving from debt collectors made me very aware I didn’t have time. Briefly I tried working as an engineer at another major company in Houston. It was terrible. I quit after 3 weeks. The office/computer work was something I couldn’t tolerate any longer. I wanted to do something I found meaningful and I needed money as well.
After research and a lot of contemplation, I joined the US Army in August of 2007 with the hopes of becoming a Special Forces Soldier (AKA – Green Beret). I payed off my debt in the same 3 years it took me to get through one of the Military’s most notoriously difficult training pipelines. Eventually, I served as a Special Forces Medic in Afghanistan…
Afghanistan Feb 2011 – Feb 2012
As I have taken time to reflect on these experiences and many other challenges that I don’t mention here, I have noticed 3 principles consistently at play:
- Fundamentals – I always kept things simple. I focus on what I want the future to look like (A Vision of Freedom), I reverse plan to where I am in the present, and focus on implementing the everyday habits that lead to that future picture.
- Facts – I always faced the truth and took ownership of the truth. Overtime I have learned to face the harsh realities of my situation. By looking at the truth I am fully aware of my current resources and the things (fundamentals) that I can actually control.
- Failure – Though sometimes extremely painful, I have always been willing to chase my goals with all out effort… knowing that I could fail. The courage to engage the possibility of coming up short kept me from getting complacent and comfortable. Now I see failure more as information from an experiment. I reflect on failure, learn, make adjustments to goals/plans, and I attack life all out again.
I don’t claim to have a be all, end all formula for personal growth but It seems to me that practicing these principles leads to increased self-worth, self-awareness, and self-discipline… As I have seen it in my own life, these principles applied to a vision of freedom will develop one’s character. Character is best developed in the pursuit of freedom.