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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why I’m Grateful for my Screwed up Childhood…

For my entire adolescence and through my early adulthood, I was angry and bitter about how my childhood played out. Why did I have to have a verbally and physically abusive father? Why couldn’t they have made more money and allowed me to play sports, or help with college, or do what “normal” kids’ parents do? Why did I have to have awful homemade haircuts (check out that stud in the little suit). 


Why did they hold me down with oppressive and mentally damaging religiosity? Why did my father have to kill himself? Why me?

Things changed when at twenty-five I took a one-person show writing class with the venerable Matt Hoverman. I wrote a scene that I had to act out and play my own father. I wrote a piece where my father was cruel, insensitive, and probably came off as a giant d-bag. After I presented my scene to the class, Matt was kind and said the writing was good, but that I could never go up on stage and just “out the bastard.” If I were to write a successful scene, I would have to write something that showed a human side to my father, not just the evil things that I had been harping on for years. During that next week, I took a hard look at my father and who he was and what he went through. I didn’t agree with all the choices he made in life but some of them I could understand better. I had empathy for the man and I went back the following week and delivered a much better scene to the class (that eventually went on to become Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt). 

From Matt’s class I realized that I am not defined by my father, my dark past, or the circumstances that unexpectedly fell into my lap. But I could use those circumstances to change my world and the world of others for the better. 

And I eventually did, using my father’s suicide as a catalyst to help others dealing with mental health issues and suicidal thinking or suicide loss. 

The only way to deal with the enemy from our past, is to accept him as a friend and listen to the advice and lessons that he teaches us, but never allowing him to dictate the rules of the game.

Leave me a reply (it’ll be private)—I’d love to know how you are turning negatives into positives and how you’re kicking ass in your world. Thanks much!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Piss Off the Naysayers—Be the Change You Want to See in the World


The kid in this picture didn’t know he was in for a world of hurt: an abusive parent and grade school teachers, like an endless drum circle in his ear, who told him he wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or anything “enough” and wouldn’t amount to much. He lived in the ghetto, a place, where people get stuck. He lived through his abusive parent’s suicide.  he was abandoned for a short time. And he lived through a few bouts of dark depression. 

Statistically speaking, this boy should not still be alive today. But he is. And through it all, he clung to the belief that he could do anything if he really worked hard, if he cared enough, and if he surrounded himself with the right people.

It took the kid twenty eight years to figure out his place in the world. He’s now happily married. He has spoken to more than 30,000 people in less than five years. He has helped saved thousands of lives. And he lives well. 

In case you haven’t figured it out, that kid in the picture is me (I definitely can’t rock a cowboy outfit like I used to…). That kid in the picture was always worried about being “enough” to do just about anything he wanted to in life—until a few years ago when a mentor pulled him aside. “You are more than enough to make the impact you want to see in your life, your job, your community, and in the world around you,” he said.

He was damn right. And so I repeat those words to you. You are more than enough to make the impact you want to see in your life, your job, your community, and in the world around you.

There’s been plenty of people in the world who have overcome huge obstacles, many much bigger than mine and yours, who have gone on to make a huge impact. Muhammad Ali. Beethoven. Oprah. Nelson Mandela. Frederick Douglas. The list could go on for days. 

One of the bigger problems in not believing you are “enough” (I’m not the only one who has had to get past this kind of thinking) is on a societal level. Images are flashed on television of what an “ideal” person looks like, or all that’s ever shown is a person’s highlight reel rather than the grueling work they did behind the scenes and how many times they fell before they could get in front of a large crowd to speak or show off their accomplishments. 

What we could use more of is investigative research: how did that person I admire get to where they are now, how did they fail, and how many times? 

There’s a lot to learn from in failure but not nearly as much in the highlight reel. 

You want to make a difference? Help the newly bereaved from suicide? Start your dream business? Lobby congress for a law that better protects your community? Fill in the blank ___. You are more than enough to be that change you want to see in the world. F&^% the naysayers. They can sit in their crusty armchair, never accomplishing anything. You have some damn incredible work do.

Take the time to research failure from those who you admire and who are doing similar things you’re working to achieve: being a better father, getting into social work school, professional line dancing, and so on. You’ll learn a lot and get where you want to go much faster.  

If you want to hear more about failure, please let me know. If you want to know more of my “failures” and how I rebounded (or didn’t), please let me know. I’m an open book and would love to share. I’m sure we’ll both learn a thing or two in the process. Don’t forget to leave me a reply :) 


#iampossible

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The People Have Spoken, and We’re Flipping the Scriz-ipt

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a three month sabbatical from writing regularly on this blog.  Why? It’s been a hella busy year… I got married…


…became insta-dad to three teenagers (and step dad to two turtles, two cats, and a dog)…


…moved to Los Angeles, moved again, and had my busiest spring semester traveling and speaking to conferences, colleges, and high schools (ten total weeks in: Minnesota x 2, Arkansas, Buffalo NY, Wisconsin x 2, Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Georgia x 2, Texas, Toronto Canada).

I needed a little writing break… and I needed to recalibrate, refocus, and reformat the blog. When I first started in 2011, the focus was personal development and the arts, and it evolved a little here and there with some good results. But the writing got a little stale and readership (you) wanted more. 



So… I’m switching things up a bit. Our blog, our little engine that could, is going to be focused on “making the impossible, possible,” mental health, suicide prevention, and we’ll also touch on creativity and a few other tidbits of personal development. We’ll learn together, laugh together (or at me), and rock out in life in between. 

My aim is to write for sharper, smarter readers (you), and for you to hear from me once a week on this blog, and to have the writing so fresh and funky that I hear from you regularly as well. And I would love it if you left a comment or two from time to time so that I’m writing about what you’re interested in. 

In the next few weeks I’ll be writing about: “How to Make a Difference in any Station of Life (with a much less crappier title),” “How to Get Involved in Suicide Prevention Without Saying the Word ‘Suicide’,” “Put Down the Workahol and Take a Damn Break,” and “Why I’m Grateful for My Screwed Up Childhood.”

If any of that sounds cool, let me know, and if any of it sounds like crap, please-oh-please shoot me a message so I don’t bore you to death or make you swipe left :)

Thanks a million as always for reading. Much love. 


Josh