I believe that every person who enters our life is a present, a pre-sent gift, summoned to deliver a lesson, to help us grow, or to remind us of how magical life is. I’ve found that life tends to give us the people we need—those who will help us, hurt us, love us, leave us, and ultimately shape us into the person we’re meant to be.
A few years ago when I was speaking at a conference outside of Boston, I decided to book a hotel in the city and show myself around town. I get off on solo adventures and the opportunity to meander around Boston on a Friday night had me feeling excited.
When I arrived in the hotel, I had two things on my mind: tapas and wine. I asked the concierge for a recommedation and found myself at a hip spot nearby. The place was packed and there wasn’t even a seat available for one at the bar, but I decided to wait and grab a drink anyway. As I walked near the busy bar, an attractive guy noticed I was alone, and asked if he could help. Before long, I was sharing food and wine with this guy and his mother, celebrating her birthday, learning their stories, and laughing uncontrollably.
Twenty minutes later, a group of his eight guy friends walked in to sing Happy Birthday. The celebration of Mom led to the celebration of life with dancing and antics until 4am. Needless to say, it was an unexpected evening full of laughter, joy, and adventure.
The adventure of Boston taught me the value of solo exploration, spontaneity, and how winging it sometimes beats having a clear plan. It showed me that serendipitous encounters await us at every turn, if we’re open. Because of Boston, I go out for dinner alone several nights each week. It’s why the decision to move to Barcelona last-minute for a month last October seemed like the best idea ever (and it was). And it’s why I find myself chatting up strangers everywhere I go to soak up their wisdom and stories.
One person and one experience can have a profound impact on the trajectory of our lives. When we open ourselves up to the people around us and the lessons they carry, we open ourselves up to the joy and natural flow of life.
But the flow of life isn’t always so pleasant. Sometimes it’s painful and designed to help us grow.
For the last few years, I’ve had clarity on where to direct my time and energy. I wanted to help people realize their full potential through writing, speaking, experiences, and life design consulting. Despite knowing this, I had a pattern of putting my ambitions aside to help other people realize their ideas.
Over the course of two years, I co-founded a few start-ups, joined other purpose-aligned organizations, and told myself that I wasn’t ready to focus on my own ideas. With every opportunity, the same pattern emerged. I was immediately excited and dived right in, only to realize a few months into the work that it wasn’t my calling and I’d need to end the working relationship. This was painful. I let people I cared about down and I let myself down. But I learned. A lot.
Last December I made a commitment to myself that I’d fully focus 100% of my attention on my own ambitions for six months to see what would emerge. Within a month, the idea for The Bold Academy fully developed and within six months, we finished our first pilot. Now, we’re planning the next one and there is no way in hell I will ever turn back.
This pattern taught me the power of living my truth, committing to experiments, and letting go of what’s wrong to create space for what’s right. When I look back now on the opportunities I walked away from, I see massive growth on both sides. The fear of letting someone down was debilitating for me at the time but it eventually proved to be best for us both.
Look around you. The stranger you’re about to meet in five minutes might have the wisdom you’re looking for. The person you’re dating might show up tomorrow with gift-wrapped growth. And your new best friend might be waiting for you on the elevator.
The gifts you need in your life right now are all around you just waiting to be opened.
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