I really love this wonderful autobiographical story from internet entrepreneur and software geek Chad Fowler (as reported by Tim Ferriss).
It reminds me of my own “moment” decades ago, when my false self-image was destroyed by a single honest look in the mirror.
The story reflects a larger impetus, more valuable than just a weight loss push, to becoming a whole self, for self-striving yielding self-fulfillment, self-confidence, and self-respect.
“Why had I gone 10 years getting more and more out of shape (starting off pretty unhealthy in the first place) only to finally fix it now?
I actually remember the exact moment I decided to do something.
I was in Tokyo with a group of friends. We all went down to Harajuku to see if we could see some artistically dressed youngsters and also to shop for fabulous clothing, which the area is famous for.
A couple of the people with us were pretty fashionable dressers and had some specific things in mind they wanted to buy.
After walking into shops several times and leaving without seriously considering buying anything, one of my friends and I gave up and just waited outside while the others continued shopping.
We both lamented how unfashionable we were.
I then found myself saying the following to him: ‘For me, it doesn’t even matter what I wear; I’m not going to look good anyway.’
I think he agreed with me.
I can’t remember, but that’s not the point.
The point was that, as I said those words, they hung in the air like when you say something super-embarrassing in a loud room but happen to catch the one randomly occurring slice of silence that happens all night long.
Everyone looks at you like you’re an idiot.
But this time, it was me looking at myself critically.
I heard myself say those words and I recognized them not for their content, but for their tone of helplessness.
I am, in most of my endeavors, a solidly successful person.
I decide I want things to be a certain way, and I make it happen.
I’ve done it with my career, my learning of music, understanding of foreign languages, and basically everything I’ve tried to do.
For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable.
If I want a better-than-average career, I can’t simply ‘go with the flow’ and get it.
Most people do just that: they wish for an outcome but make no intention-driven actions toward that outcome.
If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they’re looking for.
That’s been my secret.
Stop wishing and start doing.
Yet here I was, talking about arguably the most important part of my life — my health — as if it was something I had no control over.
I had been going with the flow for years.
Wishing for an outcome and waiting to see if it would come.
I was the limp, powerless ego I detest in other people.
But somehow, as the school nerd who always got picked last for everything, I had allowed ‘not being good at sports’ or ‘not being fit’ to enter what I considered to be inherent attributes of myself.
The net result is that I was left with an understanding of myself as an incomplete person.
And though I had (perhaps) overcompensated for that incompleteness by kicking ass in every other way I could, I was still carrying this powerlessness around with me and it was very slowly and subtly gnawing away at me from the inside.
So, while it’s true that I wouldn’t have looked great in the fancy clothes, the seemingly superficial catalyst that drove me to finally do something wasn’t at all superficial.
It actually pulled out a deep root that had been, I think, driving an important part of me for basically my entire life.
And now I recognize that this is a pattern.
In the culture I run in (computer programmers and tech people), this partial-completeness is not just common but maybe even the norm.
My life lately has taken on a new focus: digging up those bad roots; the holes I don’t notice in myself.
And now I’m filling them one at a time.
Once I started the weight loss, the entire process was not only easy but enjoyable.”
If you haven’t had your “moment” yet, what will you have to face about yourself to make it come about?