Once upon a time, I had just finished interviewing a very interesting psychologist named Kristin Neff and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to leaders in the Positive Psychology movement to hopefully interview at least one of them for this project. She said to me, “Every time Amazon accidentally sends me an extra book, I always wonder and wait to see who it’s for,” and she disappeared into a room and came back and handed me a book called Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson. I opened the book, realized she was the Positive Psychology person for me, and the rest is history.

This is another story of Amazon kismet with a little Facebook magic mixed in and a beautiful epiphany about self-respect…

On March 22, 2011, I responded to a friend request on Facebook from someone I didn’t know nor did we have any mutual friends:

Elise Ballard March 22 at 6:05pm
Hi Brian. I always like to at least say hi to whomever I become friends with on here. How did you run across me, pray tell? : ) Thx for reaching out! Best, Elise

Bryan L. March 22 at 7:37pm
To answer your question, it was a random act combined with great timing. Let me explain:

I put in an order for a number of books through Amazon and they replaced one of the books I had ordered with your book. To be honest, I had no intention of reading it, but was kinda intrigued; at least enough to open it up and see what the first couple of pages had to offer. Before I knew it, I was 100 pages in and hooked. I’m going through my own “life transformation,” if you will, and have been having a number of epiphanies of my own since last August so the book really hit home.

I looked for a fan page on FB by typing in your name and saw that your profile pic was the same the picture in the book, so I added you. (I found the fan page after that). The book rocks, I’ve bought it for a number of friends and have pasted the website link on FB a number of times.

Well, I’m Bryan and that’s my story, and hope all is well 🙂

Elise Ballard March 22 at 11:25pm
are you kidding?! a random Amazon incident?? amazing!! Thank you so much – you have no idea how much this means especially on this particular night at this particular time, and I’m so happy it has helped you in any way. Truly, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this and I must hear your epiphanies one of these days, please.

Bryan L. March 23 at 12:03am
I would be more than happy to share my story and how my major epiphanies over the last six months have changed everything about me in the ways that I think, act, live, and approach life.

Your book is powerful in that almost everyone has an epiphany at some point, it’s just that not everyone acts on them. And your book uses a very diverse group, both in the individual and in the experience, to illustrate the power of acting on whatever “it” is that is trying to tell us that it’s time to change, move on, or push forward and what not. Reading the stories helped affirm in me that the changes that I am making (whether they end up being for the better or for the worse) are worth making just for the sake of the lessons learned – just another brick in the foundation.

My Background

I am 28 years old (29 on the 16th of April). For the last 4½ years I have been working in the equipment finance industry. I have always been a hard working, semi-motivated individual, but mostly an underachiever. It took me eight uninterrupted years to earn my degree (damn those south swells that bring beautiful waves to our beaches and big winter storms that fill our mountains with snow), and since my junior year of high school, I smoked pot on a daily basis.

The Beginning of My Epiphany

In August 2010, I attended The Outside Lands music festival up in San Francisco with some friends. As it would turn out, the trip was a failure by most standards and when I got back from the trip I developed a very melancholy view of life. My work environment was extremely negative – a place where the managers would manage through fear with threats of losing your job or not paying your commissions.

I clearly wasn’t happy with a number of things in my life and for the next three weeks my life started to fall apart and my work suffered greatly. It was at this point where I was called into my managers office to explain why things were going the way they were and to discuss what I was going to do to fix them before I got fired. In this meeting, I broke down and explained to my boss that I just didn’t care any more: I didn’t care about making him or the greedy owner of the company another dime. I didn’t care about losing my job. I didn’t care about not being able to pay my bills. You see, all I cared about was not inflicting harm on others or myself because I was dealing with thoughts of ending my life.

My boss immediately recommended that I go to the company’s healthcare provider’s website and seek out the help of a therapist. So I did. And to be honest, I wasn’t that interested in going to a therapist or talking to anyone – these were my problems and I needed to deal with them. Boy, was I wrong. I have been going to see my therapist for eight months now and have no intentions of stopping any time soon.

Turns out, along with some other things, I have been battling depression for as long as I can remember and with the help of my doctors and therapist, I have increased my quality of life ten-fold in dealing with this issue.

In seeing my therapist, one of the major issues she wanted to address was my habitual pot-smoking. With the increase in the stress levels that were occurring at work, my consumption rate at the end of 2010 was at an all-time high.

I have known since the first time I smoked pot that it was not conducive to the life I want to live. My therapist would remind me of this on a weekly basis. But the reality was that with the stress loads at the office, smoking pot was an easy escape for me.

My Epiphany

So here I am in October 2010: 28 years old, making good money but miserable at work, smoking lots of pot, and I haven’t had a girlfriend for seven years. I had dated plenty of girls, but none that I would have ever considered girlfriend material.

Through a friend at work, I was introduced to one of the most beautiful girls I had ever met both in terms of physical beauty and beauty as a person. She was a teacher by trade and loved kids, was kind and companionate, and unlike other girls that I had dated, I could trust her.

So we started dating and I was elated, smitten if you will. Here I was dating this girl that was what I considered to be the complete package and things were going well for us. At this time I was well on track in managing my depression, and although work was stressful, I was having a career year in terms of funded transactions and income earned. What could go wrong?

After discussing the situation with my therapist and my friend, it was clear that this girl was not going to be pleased with my pot-smoking habit – a habit that I have had since the age of 16 and one that I was afraid to let go of but didn’t understand why.

Well, the day before New Year’s I told her that I smoked pot. We were in Phoenix for the holiday and her response was worse than I had anticipated. She wanted nothing to do with me, and I found myself alone in a hotel on New Year’s Day, drinking at the bar, trying to figure out what my next move was – including getting home.

Then came the moment that I will never forget. I was sitting at the hotel bar and had already consumed five pints of Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale when with absolute clarity it hit me: How could I have expected this girl to respect me and someday potentially love me if I didn’t respect or love myself?

For years I have known that the life that I want to live is not possible if I were to continue to smoke pot. But that was just a small part of a bigger problem. I started to think about everything that was going right in my life and everything that wasn’t, and then wrote down everything that I want out of life. Looking at the list, I realized that there was one common denominator that was preventing me from achieving what I want to achieve in life: ME. I was the only reason I wasn’t succeeding in the ways that I want to succeed.

Then, clear as day, it hit me. The solution was simple: Get out of the way. Instead of getting overwhelmed by how tough it would be to figure out the solutions to each individual problem, I realized the simple solution was to get out of my own way, which applied to all of my problems. No one was forcing me to smoke pot – I was preventing myself from stopping. No one was forcing me to work in an environment that did not support the lifestyle I wanted – it was my being lazy and making excuses preventing me from making the career change that I needed to make. As I went down the list, I realized that it was me: I was my biggest problem. I was the only thing holding myself back from living the way I wanted to live, and I needed to get out of my own way.

And so I did. I quit smoking pot that day. When I got back to work after the holiday, I quit that too. I have surrounded myself with the people that embody the personal characteristics that I want to embody. I have joined the personal and professional organizations that support the lifestyle that I want to live. It is within this paradigm of life that I am learning to love and respect myself, and it is within this newfound love and respect that I find the strength to make changes that need to be made so that I can live the life I want to live.

As corny as this may sound, I can’t thank God enough for having introduced me to what I considered the girl of my dreams. And I can’t express with words how thankful I am that that girl would not allow any person that did drugs into her life and sent me packing. She still wants nothing to do with me and I have not talked to her since that day in Phoenix, but that’s ok. Regardless of the outcome, her gift to me is one that I will always be thankful for.

– Bryan L., Yorba Linda, CA

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