Dare to Be Different

8 Apr

I dare to be different. I dare to be vulnerable. I’m not hiding. This is me and this is who I am and this is my story. I do not want to be invisible. You would think by sharing some mistakes that I’ve made that people would say shame on you, but it’s the opposite. People will admire you for telling you that you’re imperfect. No one wants to share their imperfections or their mistakes. We live in a society where we are thought that we are supposed to be perfect. Although it is our imperfections that make us who we are.

Does it seem like a crazy idea to expose yourself? For me I decided it was the only choice. For a year I kept everything bottled up only exposing myself to my mother. As soon as I started to come clean about everything that I had done publicly it felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t know how people would react, but I realized the more open I was about everything the more people were willing to listen. The more I reached out to others the more others would reach back out to me. I was talking about my imperfections but in return people were telling me that I was perfect. Quite the opposite reaction that I was expecting.

I do not believe that I am perfect and I know that no one is perfect. However, I believe that by sharing my story and the reactions I get is a perfect example of how being vulnerable is how we should be. We cannot care what other people think about us. We are all perfect in our own way. We all have something to share and to contribute to this world. If more people were vulnerable and admitted to their mistakes then we would not live in a society where we believe that perfection is the norm.

I was told that I needed to graduate and get a civil engineering job. I knew, however, that I needed to follow my own path. I knew that there would still be people there to do the calculations to build a bridge or a dam. There would not be, however, someone to share my story to teach people from the lessons that I learned from my mistakes. So I got up in front of that first crowd of about 50 people and put myself out there. It was a complete feeling of euphoria that I had never felt before. I knew I was heading down the right path.

50 speeches later and after speaking in front of nearly 3,000 people I still get that same feeling of euphoria that I felt on that first day. I will speak to around 75 students on Thursday and then in front of a crowd of 500 people on Friday. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears amongst our society.When I think of getting in front of those 500 people on Friday it brings excitement and feelings of joy to my mind.

I dared to be different. I expose myself in my book. I hold nothing back in my speeches and in my writing. We all need to be more vulnerable. Stop caring about your imperfections and realize that they are what make you unique. They are what make us stand out. Do not conform to society. Dare to be different.

Been Through It All

31 Mar

I’ve been through it all. The highs, the lows, the success, the failure, the ultimate college experience, the drugs, the insanity, experiencing death and new life, hope, hopelessness, contemplating suicide, finding my purpose, pursuing my dreams, and the redemption. The combination of these experiences has led me to realize who I am and what I am made of.

My mentality now is that nothing is out of reach. My mindset is nothing but positivity and a sense of optimism about my future. Once you hit rock bottom and lose all hope and get out of that state of mind you learn that you never want to go back to that state of mind. When you are given a second chance at life it makes you reevaluate your priorities and helps you realize what is truly important in life. From this I learned that I will never take anything that I have left for granted. I will focus on the things that I can do and not on the things that I cannot do. I will focus on what I have and not on what I do not have.

In my book and through this blog I have made myself very vulnerable. You would think that people may look down on you for the mistakes that you have made, but I have learned that people will praise you for having the courage to share your mistakes to show the lessons that you have learned.

I am an open book. I’m not ashamed of anything that I have done. I have found that being honest and coming clean about everything was the best decision I made in my entire life.

I share my mistakes so that others do not make the same ones that I did. There are consequences to our decisions and I do not want others to face the consequences that I had to face.

I believe that I was chosen to be in the situation that I am in now. I believe that I was chosen to teach others from the mistakes and the successes of my life. All of the hardships that I have gone through have been well worth it because now my story can be used as a tool for the prevention of hardship to others.

I live every day to the fullest. I love my life. I love the people in my life. I love looking ahead to the future. I truly have been through it all and I am thankful for that because now I have found myself. My life has purpose and meaning. Now I am alive and I promise myself to never stop living.

Nonstop

11 Mar

As I sit out on top of the rooftop of this old parking garage looking out over the city with the sun beating down on me I can’t help but think, “this is beautiful.” I came to this city almost 9 years ago and I still love it as much now as I did then. It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent a third of my life here in Columbus. I’ve met so many amazing people and I have made the best memories of my life here. I know one thing for sure and that one thing is that this is where I belong.

I’m a firm believer that things can always get better. I’ve had one bad year in the past 27 years of my life, but that one bad year set me up for an unforgettable future. If I were to describe myself in one word it would be “nonstop.” I’m constantly searching for that next opportunity and once I find it I pursue it, check it off my list, and move forward. I love this life and the endless opportunities that are presented to me. I’m very humble with all I’ve been able to experience but I’m never content.

I don’t believe in luck. I believe that luck is the result of preparation, hard work, and just putting yourself out there. If we hide ourselves from society then opportunity is never going to come knocking on our door. Many of my friends will say that I am the luckiest person they know. I woke up from a car crash that would’ve killed 99.9% of people. It’s just a constant reminder that I am here for a reason, well, we all are.

Many people never understand the reason that they are here. Well you need to come out of hiding and experience the world, put yourself out there, and find what it is the truly makes you happy. On my application for Sphinx for my epitaph I wrote, “Here lies a man who truly found happiness. He tried what he thought he’d like and pursued only what he knew he loved.” I really do believe that I live my life that way. I’m living a more fulfilling life now even with the physical aspects of life taken out of it because I focus on what I can do.

I try not to think about what I would be doing now if I was down paralyzed. I do, however, believe that you should live your life like I would if I was given just one more day to have my body back. It’s crazy but I am yet to have a dream where I am in a wheelchair. So every night I get to experience what it is like to have my body through my dreams. So not all has been lost.

I went and visited Cleveland Metro where I was hospitalized to visit my doctor, my nurses, and some of the new patients. I talked to a 17-year-old girl who got injured in a sled riding accident and is now a quadriplegic. She seemed to be adjusting to the situation incredibly well. She already has thoughts of being a motivational speaker now that she can no longer pursue her full ride for softball. So I related to her how my new passion of motivational speaking has filled the void in my life that was waterskiing. I wish her the best in this new chapter of her life. I told her that for me the new chapter is much better than the first. I gave her a copy of my book so I hope that my crazy journey can help her with her fresh start.

I’m going to go and try and visit some spinal cord injury patients today at Ohio State. I want to give away some free copies of my book to show them that they will be one of the lucky ones to have that perspective on life where you see how much in life we take for granted.

I’m going to continue to push myself forward and I want to help others push themselves forward as well. We were not put on this earth to live for ourselves. We were put here to look out for others and the reward of helping just one person is the greatest feeling in the world. If you can do that just one time a day just imagine how many lives you could change. My goal for today is to change just one life and to put a smile on someone’s face. That is what I will be attempting to do for the rest of today. I hope you try to do the same.

12 Stages of My Life Leading to a Lesson

26 Feb

1.) Coming in on top. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

I came to Ohio State after much success at my large high school in Stow. I was ready for a bigger stage and I wanted to make a name for myself. I was on a full ride scholarship which gave me more time to be involved at Ohio State.

I got accepted into the Mount Leadership Society. A scholars program that did a great deal of community service and leadership training. I was living with 100 people in a small dorm that were all a part of the program. I was surrounded by highly motivated people that really cared about one another. These people pushed me to do more and during that first year I accomplished a great deal. Surrounding yourself with good people is the key to developing yourself into a better person.

2.) Depression and a way to cope.

The week before my sophomore year started I went through hell week for my fraternity. It destroyed me physically and mentally. I had already signed a lease to live in the fraternity so I was not stuck around those people that had just spent an entire week hazing me. I fell into a deep depression and I needed change.

The next quarter I somehow found a deal to move into a luxury townhouse with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a three car garage for just $500 a month. The depression faded and the party began. My place became the place to get away from all of the rules and restrictions of dorm life. I started to smoke marijuana on a daily basis and threw massive parties. I became less involved at Ohio State and more focused on making myself happy.

3.) The cycle continues.

I did not want to quit smoking and I did not want to get an engineering internship. I decided to get a job at the nicest summer camp in the country teaching waterskiing. This turned out to be the best summer of my life and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I smoked every evening using almost every penny I got from camp to buy marijuana.

I came home to Columbus and marijuana became more and more a part of my life. It drained me financially and the people that I started to hang around were only those that smoked marijuana. Although a lot of these were my good friends, I drove away a lot of the really good friends that I had made my freshman year.

3.) No other way to cope with stress.

In the spring of 2008 I decided to stop smoking marijuana so that I could get a civil engineering internship. I was prescribed Adderall for my ADHD which allowed me to focus and get good marks in school and a lot done but it stripped me of my personality. I fell into another deep depression and I could not snap out of it.

The day that I was accepted into SPHINX I was numb to the situation. I wanted to laugh and I wanted to cry but the Adderall stripped me of my emotions. This was enough though to snap me out of my depression.

I gave up on the job hunt and decided to work with my dad for the summer. I started to smoke marijuana more and more. I would disappear right after work just to get high. I would count down the hours at work until I could smoke.

My only two passions were smoking marijuana and waterskiing. That summer a dream came true when I won the state championship for slalom waterskiing.

4.) The euphoria took control of me.

I came back to Columbus and started to make a series of bad decisions:

- Spending $15,000 in less than two months
- Growing marijuana in my closet
- A crazy trip to California
- A drug binge
- Skipping class for four weeks

All of the stress caught up to me and I realized how big of a hole I was in. I was not ready to accept help and I thought that I could do it all on my own.

5.) Losing my mind.

I ended up in the psych ward in October 2008 believing that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ for 2 1/2 weeks. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was put on a heavy dose of medications. I spent 3 1/2 weeks in a partial rehabilitation program with psychologists, a psychiatrist, and group therapy to learn how to cope with stress and deal with life. I then spent three weeks in drug rehab.

6.) A new person with something to prove.

I quit smoking marijuana and when I returned to Columbus I was a completely different person. I realized how important it was to keep a sound mind. But as you get farther away from hitting rock-bottom you start to forget about all that you’ve been through. I started smoking marijuana once again against my doctors orders and did not think it would affect my medications.

7.) Euphoria again.

When we won the national championship for waterskiing for Ohio State I felt that I had accomplished everything I ever could at the University. Three months later I went off my medications for five days and the signs came back that quickly. I crashed my car leaving me paralyzed from the chest down.

I would think back to the day before the accident and remember just how good life was. I couldn’t believe how much I took for granted. I was determined to get back to where I was the day before the accident.

8.) Starting over.

Being in the hospital for almost 4 months gave me a lot of time to think about my decisions. I realized that I needed to stay drug-free and to keep a clear mind because that was all I had left.

I believed so strongly that I would walk again but eventually I started to doubt it more and more. I fell into a deep depression. I contemplated suicide and thought that all of my hopes and dreams were crushed. My only goal and focus was on walking again and I obsessed over it. I thought that without being able to walk and do everything physical in my life that I would never be happy.

9.) A new focus. My mind.

I started writing and I realized that through my story and through everything that I have learned that I had a great message to share and that I could help others. The focus was no longer on making myself happy but on making others happy. This in turn put a smile on my face. I started to create new goals for myself and decided to return to Ohio State.

10.) No looking back.

I met others with spinal cord injuries that had been bitter about their situation for over 30 years. I promised myself that I did not want to be one of those people. I decided that whether or not I walk I would be happy despite my situation.

The worst was over and I realized it could only get better from here on out. I actually had goals for myself other than walking and I was working towards something. I finished my degree and holding that diploma I reflected back on the seven year journey it took me to get there. Now it was time to take control of my future.

11.) A new passion.

I still needed to find that one thing that would replace my greatest passion that was waterskiing. I was asked to speak to a class at Ohio State and I found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was instantly hooked and I constantly kept searching for the next group I could speak too. Since then I have done over 40 speeches to audiences ranging from fourth-graders to college students to scientists and doctors. I have found that my story and my messages can relate to anyone.

12.) A dream come true.

Just recently I published my book titled ‘Well… I Guess I’m Not Jesus’. The book was finished in February 2013 and since then a lot has been added to the story. I am never content and I keep pushing myself forward. I constantly am looking for new opportunities for myself and having a book has opened up many doors for me.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED…

I really look forward to the new chapters that lie ahead in my life. I know the importance of keeping a sound mind and I believe that the mind can be much more powerful than the body. I had to hit rock bottom twice to learn this lesson. I smile every day because I know that the hard times are over. I will never put myself through what I’ve been through again.

I’ve once again learned the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. I have so many positive influences in my life and in turn I want to be a positive influence on others.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I never would’ve thought during that first year that today that I would be happier than ever. I thought life was over but now I realize that it was a new beginning.

I cherish each and every day because I know that God easily could not have spared me. Each night I pray that I am stronger tomorrow than I was today. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we reach the top. I am a survivor and because of that I am going to keep living life to the fullest.

Thank you to all the positive influences in my life and especially my family! Thank you for fixing this broken smile. Here’s to the future!

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AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

15 Feb

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

http://www.amazon.com/Well-Guess-Im-Not-Jesus/dp/1495924394/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392491612&sr=8-1&keywords=well+i+guess+i%27m+not+jesus

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AVAILABLE NOW!!

14 Feb

AVAILABLE NOW!!

‘Well… I Guess I’m Not Jesus’ IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRINT! Please go to https://www.createspace.com/4666927 to find it. My goal is to spread this book around as much as possible so please share the book with a friend or two when done. I just want by message to be heard. The book will be available on Amazon as well in 5-7 business days. Thank you for your continued support!

This dream has been 4 years in the making and today that dream finally came true! :)

The Journey of a Dream: 4 Years in the Making

11 Feb

In 2010 I jumped into it. I had this story and I knew that I needed to share it. So I started writing it and I really got into it. It was a new passion that I found and I found myself sitting in class writing rather than paying attention. I put my civil engineering dreams on hold and continued to pursue my degree, but at the same time I felt that my story and my message needed to be heard and that was what I wanted to pursue.

I’m happy that story was never put into publication and especially the message. The title was ‘The Marijuana Poster Child.’ The message was that you could still smoke marijuana and accomplish great things. Right before I skied in the national championship I went and smoked a bowl, which was a ritual of mine. I skied a personal best for my collegiate career which further added to my case. Winning the national championship topped off my college career and was one of the best feelings I had in my life. Pure euphoria.

By the end of that year I had written 150 pages on my MacBook Air, which is still somehow alive today. Then I found out that my story was far from over. Lying in a hospital bed in Indianapolis paralyzed with chest tubes coming out of either side and an external fixator drilled my left arm, all I wanted to do was write. The problem was that my right hand was curled into a ball and it was so stiff that I could barely scribble anything down on a piece of paper. I had my computer but I could barely type with one finger.

I had my mom and my Aunt Paula buy me a fat marker so that I could get a better grip on it and a notepad. I lay there in that manic state and every time I got a sign I would try to make note of it. Although there were so many signs that I could not keep up and eventually I gave up on writing. At that point I had no idea if I would ever finish my book. So my focus just began on pushing through therapy and on the recovery.

The euphoria continued for the next month and a half while I still believed that I was Jesus. But once that wore off my life became a living hell. My dream was no longer on publishing a book or building waterski lakes, it was strictly focused on walking and getting myself back out on the water.

Slowly I started to realize that I was losing that battle. I started to question whether or not that dream would come true. I needed to put my focus elsewhere. I could not sit there on the computer all day and look for miracles about people walking again or for signs of a cure.

I opened my email one day and it was from a spinal cord injury support group at Cleveland Metro. They were going to be discussing a voice recognition software called Dragon. I looked it up and realized that with this software I could actually finish my book. I was given a Kindle while I was in the hospital, well actually I received two, and following that I kept receiving Amazon gift cards so that I could buy books.

I was never much of a reader so those gift cards just began to add up. When I went to buy Dragon I had exactly enough in gift cards to buy the software. I remember receiving it in the mail and programming it to recognize my voice for over an hour. Then a blank page appeared before me.

I wrote an entry titled ‘The Drive’ explaining the experience that changed my life forever. I posted it on Facebook and the comments came pouring in. I started writing on a daily basis and I could not stop. I finally started to break free of that negativity. I found something that I truly enjoyed and at the same time I could tell that I was helping others.

I read through the 150 pages that I wrote before the accident. Of everything there I kept two chapters. I could not believe that was my message. I reflected back on my time in college and realized that mostly everything I had accomplished was before I started smoking marijuana. It tore apart friendships and made me lose focus of what was truly important in life. I now had a new message and I was on a journey to find true happiness.

I worked hard on my book until I returned back to Columbus to finish my degree and take part in therapy. Something that I believed would never be possible. Summer came and the blog was up and running and the focus became more on the blog because I like that instant gratification of seeing people read it and having them message me with their reactions.

When you’re writing a book you are all alone and you really have no audience. I talked about writing a book so much in my blog that I realized that I just needed to put my entire focus and energy into it. In February 2013 I completed my dream of writing a book after the initial thought came into my head 2010. But the process was far from over.

In August we did the Kickstarter campaign which was incredibly successful. Over that year I did over 40 speeches to all types of audiences. I learned what true happiness really was. I learned that I needed to take the focus away from helping myself and to help others. But by helping others I realized that I was helping myself.

The hunt for an editor was a long process but we finally found the perfect match right here in Columbus. The editing process is finally over. The cover design is done. The illustration for the book is done. Now it is time to publish and I have been taking incredible courses on how to publish a successful book and I’m ready to take that step. I’ve chosen to self publish for various reasons. The book will be out in the next couple weeks.

The most rewarding part now is that I finally have an audience to share my story with. I have given away about 150 books so far. I have done this for strategic reasons but I also wanted to hear what people think. So far the response has been incredible. I did not hold back anything in my book and people have applauded me for that. All of the bad decisions that I made were well worth it for the message that I learned and shared at the end.

It is so amazing for me to read through my story and just look back and wonder how I am still alive. There is a reason that I am alive today and I believe that reason is to share my story.

My dream has finally come true and I have a finished product. The journey that it took me to get there was remarkable. But the story does not end with this book. My life is still unfolding and I cannot wait to see what the future brings. That is my story of how a dream came true. Dream big. Think big. Anything is possible.

I want to share my story with you. The first 10 people that subscribe to my blog will receive a free PDF of the book. Thank you for being a part of my journey!

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