I stood on the third floor balcony, clutching the rail and staring down at the ground. Two floors below there was a party in full swing. It was nighttime, July 4th, 2002. My neighbours were celebrating Independence Day, laughing and giggling and otherwise making a hell of a racket. To top it all one of them had just produced some fireworks. I myself was in no mood for celebrations because my life – as I saw it – was over. I was drunk too, but not in a good way, not like them. I was drunk on despair, drunk on my overwhelming sense of failure, crippled with emotional pain. How had it come to this? For years I’d studied personal development, read every book, attended every seminar in an effort to improve my life, succeed in business, be the best, ‘Number One’. Now I knew it had all been for nothing. Every penny I’d ever made had been thrown away on expensive toys and even more expensive drugs. I’d proved to myself that I was useless and now here I was, alone, bankrupt and living in poverty, steeped in guilt, feeling that I didn’t have a friend in the world. Worse, having to listen to successful people enjoying their party, enjoying each other’s company, enjoying life.
Well I would show them. I had a plan that would spoil their fun. I wasn’t high enough to jump. I would only break my legs, and if that happened they might not even notice me lying there groaning in pain. They would probably just carry on partying, adding insult to injury. Better to get a sheet, make a rope of it, tie one end to the balcony rail, the other around my neck … They wanted fireworks? I’d give them fireworks.
What I didn’t know then was that I had been running a program in my head, creating a movie of my life, editing, directing and starring in it since I was a kid. And since I was a kid I’d been silently watching it unfold (because, yes, I was the audience too). This movie was no rom-com, and it wasn’t a thrilling adventure with a feel-good ending like Indiana Jones. It was a tragedy about a young guy who was doomed to failure no matter what he did, who could never accept being anything less than the very best at everything, who had a gift for achieving every goal he set himself, only to throw it all away at the first opportunity.
Years later, in February 2015 to be exact, I attended a seminar with about fifty-five others in La Conner, Seattle. George Pransky was giving the talk to people from all sectors of the world of personal development. There were coaches and therapists, NLP practitioners, hypnotherapists and even lawyers, all pretty spaced out, all craning to hear every word uttered by this remarkable man who’d been Syd Bank’s very first mentee. On the second day of the weeklong seminar George announced that he would be having a principles-based conversation with someone from the audience the next day. Would anyone like to volunteer? I looked around and saw about a dozen hands go up, mostly women. I thought I would balance things out a little, gender-wise so I put my hand up. The next morning after coffee we were told that the conversation was about to begin. Guess who’d been chosen … ?
I really wish I could tell you what George said to me that day, as I sat next to him in front of all those people. I remember feeling very wired as I came out of the audience, not knowing what to expect. I was used to being the one who did the talking. This was new. Then … what? I remember he said something about Mohammed Ali. The next thing I knew I was in floods of tears, as forty years of pain and anxiety was released. I started to laugh, and George asked me what was so funny. I’d hallucinated a big snake, a python, shedding its skin. After our conversation – ‘conversion’ would be more accurate – I spent the next fifteen minutes being hugged by all kinds of people who’d been touched by the experience and wanted to thank me for changing their lives.
And I still don’t know what George had said to me.
It only took seconds for me to see everything differently. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have happened on that night in 2002. But that brings me back to my original question. My biggest flaw: procrastination. I hesitated too long that night, and the bad thought went away. Mind had my back.
What do you consider your biggest flaw?