An old essay I wrote years ago, in a spiral notebook. Decided to type it up here and see if I could glean anything new from it. Sometimes ideas from the past, from a different time, can come back around with new meaning and insight to use in the present.
Johnny wanted to be something special. He was hard-pressed for luck growing up, he didn't have much of anything. He swore up and down that one day, he would change the world; he would make something, sell something incredible. He would be wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, and show up all the doubters and bullies that put him down all his life.
He put his nose down and worked. He scrambled. He brainstormed. Finally, he had his idea. Through all of his struggles, he learned to motivate himself. He was great at it; because he was the only one who could do it. He...was all he had. He was a master at pushing himself, at persevering. So one day, he decided to motivate others. He figured his strategy worked for him, others would buy into it, for themselves.
He wrote a book about staying motivated. He began lecturing at businesses. Group meetings. Anywhere and everywhere he could, he let the bookings roll in. He saw that people were soaking it up and he thought..."I'll get rich in no time. People will pay to hear me motivate them." It's almost too easy, he thought. He sold his services all over the land, his name was popular, he had a reputation. He was doing it. He was making money. He decided to invest a bunch of that money, to earn even more money.
He spoke at a Women's Group. He spoke to a group of young entrepreneurs. He spoke to a college, at their commencement. He spoke at a work/life balance retreat.
Each group paid him a steep price for his appearance, and he showed up, told his story, and pumped them up with his message. "I did it, you can do it. No excuses. You are your only hope, it's up to you. Go out and make your own dreams happen."
Johnny made a mountain of money, quickly. He bought a large house on the water. A yacht. A baby grand piano that he couldn't play. He had the nicest suits, and clinked glasses with celebrities. He graced magazine covers. He had beautiful women on his arm, all the time. He was doing it. He was showing them all. Johnny was a success.
One day, his stock took a dive. He lost all the money that he invested. He was furious and depressed. He researched it, it was a good investment. He was heartbroken to lose all that money. He got some bad press, due to acting out in public. Meanwhile, he had spent a lot of money that he didn't have, on his extravagant new lifestyle. Soon enough, with no new books, no new material to share, Johnny fell on hard times, yet again. The money stopped coming in. "What a waste," he thought. All that work, all that time, everything was gone in a heartbeat. Johnny was lost. "I'm a complete failure. I'm a joke," he thought. "I was never meant to succeed at anything." Years went by and Johnny fell further and further from his dream.
One day he received a letter from a woman, who had fought through four rounds of chemo and kicked cancer's ass. She was gushing with praise and gratitude, thanking Johnny for inspiring her, for helping her to find the strength that she needed at such a pivotal time in her life. She enclosed a photo of herself, smiling widely. "Thank you, Johnny. You've changed my life." Johnny felt awkward inside, he didn't know what to make of it. He figured it was a fluke.
Another day, he was surfing the Web, and came across a revolutionary new home design that was changing the world. Affordable, stylish, and green, the design was sustaining precious resources and saving its consumers money. The very design of these pre-fabricated homes were helping to save the planet. On the home screen was a note, mentioning Johnny as a driving force in the inspiration and motivation to see the project through. Johnny let it sink in. He smiled, thinking, "at least someone benefitted from all that work. I sure didn't."
And yet another day, he found himself at a career fair, knowing he had to do something to pay the bills. He was no longer inspired to motivate people, he felt that he failed at it. But he had to do something. One of the students that heard a commencement speech that he gave now ran a Fortune 500 company. Many CEOs don't bother with recruiting, but this woman was different. She tackled her dreams with inspiration, with a desire to help others, to motivate others as she grew her own dream. She was inspired by Johnny, all those years ago. And saw that as he gave out and shared his message, he inspired so many people. And she wanted to do that too.
"Mr. Johnny, such a pleasure. I've never forgotten your words, they changed my life," she said him. He frowned.
"I don't know why, I'm a nobody. I lost it all. Don't follow my lead, you'll only fail."
"Can I offer you some work, until you get back on top again?" The woman smiled at him warmly. Johnny didn't know what to say. But he needed the work.
"Sure, that's why I'm here. I need a job."
"Absolutely. Call me, here's my card. I'll get you in, we'll talk. I know you'll have a lot to offer..."
Johnny left scratching his head. He was beginning to wonder if maybe he wasn't a fraud and a failure after all. But he was definitely broke.
A friend convinced him to attend a yoga class with him one day. He was skeptical and swore that it wasn't his thing. But his friend insisted, she said that the instructor was wonderful. He agreed, not wanted to discuss it anymore.
The yoga instructor, too, was a student of Johnnys. After class, she spoke to Johnny and his friend.
"Mr. Johnny, I've always hoped I'd see you again. What a difference you made in my life. What are you up to these days? Are you well?"
"Are you blind? Don't you read the news? I lost everything years ago! I'm a failure!"
"What have you failed at, exactly?" The yoga instructor seemed confused.
"All I wanted was to prove them all wrong. To change the world, to conquer it. To make my own millions, to be totally independent, to not need anyone. I always did things on my own anyway. And I was doing it, until I made that stupid investment, and it all fell apart."
"Johnny, no. What about all the lives you've touched?"
"I never cared about that! I didn't do it for that! Motivate yourself, I'm not your hero...I was just earning my due, that's all! What I was due!" Johnny was getting angry. The yoga instructor sat with him and helped Jim to relax.
"Johnny. I was a corporate workaholic when I went to a retreat, where you spoke to us. I left the business world, purposely. It was depleting me, my soul was dying. I became a yoga teacher, and while I make less money, I have so much more. I am rich in so many ways. And you...maybe at the outset, you wanted to be rich. You found a niche and you wanted to exploit it. Why not? If people are gullible enough to pad your pockets, why not take it form them?"
Johnny thought about this and felt ashamed. The yoga instructor continued.
"But here is the truth. Regardless of why and how you started...you touched people. You made a difference in the lives of others. You reached out, you shared your story, and you inspired people to live their own dreams. Just by being you, by telling your story. Your truth. And it must have been authentic, because look at the impact you've made. Johnny, you have changed the world. By changing the lives of every person you've touched with your words. Each individual who has gone out to improve their own lives, have left a mark of the world. And they've changed it. Just as you have. It's easy to get lost in material pursuits, we all do at some point. But Johnny, if your dream was to reach people, change the world, have your name known...you've done it. You've conquered it. You can get back to public speaking in a blink, if you want to. And maybe if you did it...with the goal of inspiring and helping people...things might change for you. They did for me..."
Johnny thought about everything the woman said. His student became his teacher, and his outlook had changed. He thanked the woman and began imagining his new future, using his wisdom from the past, with a new found understanding and passion. Knowing that he didn't have to do it alone.