Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder,

Written by Ryan Poling
October 9, 2019

I worked with a guy for years. This man wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. He was young, driven, determined, and accomplished everything he set his mind to. I looked up to him for his discipline and the drive to make something of himself. He inspired me to set higher goals for myself and to “be a success.” I leaned on him for financial advice sometimes, and he really taught me how to get gritty . . . 

He was also a completely miserable jerk. He put everyone down around him. A constant flow of low energy seemed to leak from his skin and the sight of him made me cringe. I was doing something that I loved, but I didn’t want to go to work because he would yell or make me feel stupid (and, quite frankly, just hurt my feelings). 

But there was always a little light that showed. Maybe a customer would tell him a story of how they had lost someone or he gave some reason as to why he was there working, and he would cut them a break on the price of the job, and truly try to extend the tiny empathetic helping hand that he had. Unfortunately, that was a rare peek into a much harder, more stoic man.

He was tough, covered in tattoos, and could outwork anyone you put beside him. He had hands so rough they could wear down your skin like sandpaper when you shook his hand. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had been bullied all throughout grade school and high school. As a high school dropout, he was told he would never make anything of himself, and he had a big chip on his shoulder because of it.

I guess he used that chip to build his financial success, but he always seemed so miserable. He was empty, like a cracked vase, waiting to shatter under the dry, desert heat.

Then one day he must have had enough. Through the stress of running his company for years, he realized how miserable he was and he decided to make a change. He sold everything and went to work for one of his previous customers in another field of construction.

The money was good. It was long hours (but he was used to that). He was charged, like a new man he grabbed a hold of the opportunities in front of him, and like he had always done before he kicked some serious ass.

But, the challenges of the job took their toll quickly, and overnight, it seemed he was right back in the miserable place he started. Desperate and yearning for answers, he made a decision with the help of a friend to go to an immersive retreat–tired of the pain he was causing himself. He opened his mind up to something different, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. 

What Is Your Story?

The retreat was filled with all kinds of things he’d never experienced. He was often laughing inside at how ridiculous it all was, but he stayed open and dove in. He had some powerful moments as well as some great insights that came to him about his own life.

But the real transformation came when a tiny woman–about half his size–came up to him, grabbed him by his arm and said, “I just love you. You’re so amazing. WHAT. IS. YOUR. STORY?” 

“Wow,” he thought. “Someone actually cares about my story? Okay, I guess I’ll tell her if she wants to hear it.” She pulled him by his long arms to a bench in a quiet hallway, and for almost three hours, she listened to him talk about his life.

The struggles he faced with being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, the long, hard days building his life situation, and the totally vulnerable moments of the little boy inside that just wanted someone to talk to. He told her everything. He then gave her the opportunity to tell her own story. But that’s a topic for another day . . .

This man walked away from that conversation feeling a little lighter. He reflected on his words and the story he told, and the next day, all the pent up tears from his struggles came out like a newborn baby coming out of the womb. This stoic man was crying tears he’d never cried before. And for the first time in his life, he realized that he was worth something. I know this is true, because the man that I’ve been talking about is me

For so long the world around me dictated what I thought of myself. I believed everyone that ever bullied me, and I drowned myself in work to escape the pain of those stories I told myself every day. I refused to accept this broken man. I hated myself and so I did everything I could to make sure I avoided happiness. 

Reactive Awareness

“I didn’t deserve it.” I thought. I drowned myself in alcohol, cigarettes, and other forms of escape. I tortured my body and my mind drove me to the brink. I had such a negative outlook on everything, I was leaking toxicity out into the world because I looked at myself like I was broken, damaged, and unworthy of any form of true fulfillment.

When that woman asked me to tell my story, it was the first time in my life that someone genuinely sat me down and intently listened to what I had to say. The entire time she was sneaking in words of encouragement and empowerment and telling me how amazing I was.

“I’m going to believe this story instead,” I said to myself. By truly accepting who I was and where I came from, it unlocked a door into something that even today is beyond beautiful, and surpasses my current level of understanding. I have the same job and the same stresses. I’m living the same life, from a totally different place. Through conscious effort and positive action, I’m living a life that I never dreamed possible. A life full of opportunities, surrounded by peace, and so much more fulfilling. 

A couple of these positive practices are Transcendental Meditation and what I like to call, “Reactive Awareness.” Transcendental Meditation allows me to recharge and go at life from a much calmer and more focused place. Tapping into this focus helps me to stay on target with the changes I’m making on a daily basis. I ritually meditate twice a day and it keeps me in line with the person I’m trying to be. 

Reactive Awareness is like a game. I stay alert throughout my busy work days and often, in hindsight, look back at where I acted out of alignment with who I want to be.

Sometimes I catch myself beforehand, and this is where the game comes in. I stay focused on trying to be the best that I can be, and every time I catch myself trying to be right, or acting in a negative way towards someone else–I win! When I look back in hindsight, I stockpile information, and use that as much as I can to stay winning. We live all day, every day, so for me, this is a good all day/every day practice that helps me observe my patterns, adjust, and move forward with my best intentions.

I also try to read as much as I can, and I listen to uplifting podcasts and watch the same type of videos. I turn off any music or entertainment that brings up a negative feeling and try to focus on things that bring me joy and excitement. 


With these practices, I’ve effortlessly assumed the responsibility of a new branch in the company that I’m working for, and I’m living in the home of my dreams with my beautiful wife and our new puppy, Chester.

When I reach my goals I feel empowered instead of empty, and every day there’s something new to learn. This all started with the acknowledgement of who I truly was, underneath all the layers of dirt the world covered me in, and the acceptance and forgiveness for everything I didn’t like.

Thanks to that woman, and me accepting myself, I can live a new story moving forward. A story of love for myself and those around me, of peace like I never thought was possible, and a brighter view of everything this world can be. 

I urge you to accept yourself. No matter what you’ve done, what story you’re telling yourself, or what you think you deserve, realize that everything you are and everything you’ve been, has been for a reason. Use this to expand your horizons, to tell a new story, and ultimately, accept into your life the peace that you deserve.

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder,