How Letting Go Was The Key For Will Ferrell

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By now, you’ve at least *thought* about reading my book, Let It Go: Manifest What You Really Want By Giving Up and Allowing, right?

Right?

Of course you have. You’re smart, powerful and attractive.

But I know… I get it…

Perhaps you’re  thinking Letting go sounds good, but really, isn’t this just more “think positive” cliched advice?

 

Sweet Jesus, I hope not.

I mean, no. No, of course not.

Me? Stock advice? Never…

 

What’s that you say?

You can’t get what you want by giving up?

You need to fight tooth and nail, to claw your way to the top?

 

Yeah, maybe.

But maybe not.

In fact, that’s not been my experience.

 

And over the years, I seen many, many examples of how giving up and letting go is the true catalyst to ALLOW your desires.

AKA “The easier way.”

 

(That’s what my book is about. Read the reviews. People like it.  And more important, I like it and am proud of it.)

 

Anyway, I was watching Will Ferrell get interviewed on Off Camera with Sam Jones and I thought Will’s short story would fit perfectly into my book’s philosophy.

So, I taped it for you to listen here.

Knowing he *could* give up dropped his resistance.

When he dropped resistance, he allowed.

When he allowed, we got to watch Rick Bobby and laugh really hard.

Everybody wins.

 

Oh, and when you buy the book, you get the audiobook, free.

Guardian Angel: Living Your Right Life

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I owe my life to a Marine.

He did not pull my wounded body from a battlefield or bravely throw his body on a live grenade.

No, he saved my life by embarrassing me.

 

* * *

 

When I was seventeen years old, I stepped off the commuter plane and stood on the tarmac in Gainesville, Florida. The heat and humidity of mid-August pressed down on me; the air thick, the sun punishing. Instinctively I knew this was no place for a redheaded Irishman who preferred cool autumn days to the relatively mild summers of upstate New York. But there was no turning back—the next morning I was to be sworn in and begin basic training as a midshipman in the University of Florida’s Navy ROTC program.

A taxi took me to my dorm. Because fall classes did not begin for several weeks, the huge campus lay dormant and there was no sign of my new suitemates. Feeling alone and seeking comfort, I drew myself a bath, sank in the water, and cried.

As the hot tears rolled down my cheeks, I shook my head and whispered to myself, “How did I get here?

 

* * *

 

My father and I were not as close as I would have liked during my adolescence. In fact, I wanted him to notice me, to recognize that I was a special kid, and to have him feel proud of me. One day in an attempt to connect with him, I mentioned some of the colleges I was interested in attending. As I prattled off the names of the private schools, my father nodded silently.

Looking back, I realize that my dad—a high school teacher—was likely feeling the pinch of having financed several of my older siblings’ educations. There was no more money for private schools. However, as I finished running through my list, he dropped his hint. Had I ever considered ROTC? The military offered full scholarships to a select few students who made the grade. Wouldn’t it be great it I could win one of those awards, he asked?

 

Unconsciously, I began nodding.

 

Yeah. Sure. That would be great… I guess.

 

Over time, the idea took hold within me. My need to win my father’s approval combined with competitive nature made me determined to win the award. In return for a full government-sponsored scholarship, recipients were required to spend at least four years on active duty as an officer and then four more years in the reserves. However, I gave this massive commitment little consideration; I just wanted to please my dad.

After months of interviews, tests, pushups, and physicals, I received a phone call informing me that I the scholarship was mine if I was willing to attend the University of Florida’s program. Elated, I accepted. My father seemed proud of me and this made me happy. My course was set.

The reality of my choices hit me when I stepped off that plane. At 17 years old, I found myself 1,500 miles from home, my girlfriend, my friends, and my family. I felt stranded at a huge university in a foreign state where I did not know a single person. As I settled into my new life, I discovered that I had little in common with any of the other midshipmen and I had trouble making friends. My feet bled constantly as my tight white Navy-issued shoes rubbed the skin off my heels. And because the Navy strongly encouraged us to major in engineering, I struggled to stay awake during my mind-numbing classes.

In short, I was as unhappy as I had ever been in my life. Every morning when I woke up, I revisited that same question: “How did I get here?

 

Over time, the answer came. From my need to please someone else, I created a life where I suppressed all the things that mattered most to me – my freedom, my individuality, and my love for connecting with people.

As miserable as I was, I was not yet ready to take a stand for my life. I still valued doing the “right” thing more than paying attention to how I felt. No, I would not be a quitter. I would not disappoint my father.

In fact, I rationalized my decisions. Even though I felt like an outcast in the ROTC program, I tried to convince myself that perhaps I would learn to fit in. Perhaps my gut instincts were wrong and I would eventually learn to love the military. While I had no interest or aptitude for engineering, I was told that there were always jobs to be had in the field; it was safe.

Clinging to my lies, I soldiered on, month after month.

 

Every Thursday was “Drill” day. This meant that I was required to wear my white Navy uniform as I attended classes around campus. At the end of the day, all the midshipmen and Marines would meet on a huge field to practice our formations and marching in the sweltering heat. I went to bed every Wednesday night dreading the dawn.

Being in uniform required me to be in “soldier mode.” And I was not a very good soldier. Unlike most of the other midshipman whose fathers were active duty military personnel, I had no previous military experience. I did not know the culture. I was oblivious to the rules of the game. My ignorance caused me to feel anxious all the time, worried that I would be discovered for the being the interloper that I most certainly was among these military folks. I spent most of my time keeping my head down and trying to maintain a low profile.

Being in uniform required you to follow the rules and regulations of a soldier. This meant that whenever I walked around campus and encountered a superior officer, I was required to go to him and offer a salute. However, this simple protocol presented a large dilemma for me as the bars, stripes, and insignias on the uniforms that denoted rank remained beyond my comprehension.

In other words, I had no clue who my superiors were. To compensate, I adopted an ingenious strategy. I saluted everyone. However, between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, there were over a thousand cadets on campus. I was making a fool of myself (“why are you saluting me?”) and living in a constant state of fear.

 

My life changed course on one fateful Thursday.

 

I made my way to class, this one held in the busiest building on campus. Hundreds of students flowed in and out and I made my way through the crowd. I saw him out of the corner of my eye when I was about twenty feet from the entrance to the building. In the sea of students, he appeared and disappeared in an instant, but indeed, a man wearing the khaki Marine’s uniform had registered on my consciousness.

I felt the familiar shiver of indecision move through me. My gut told me that this man was an officer, but my mind told me that I was just a few steps from reaching the safety and relief waiting for me inside the building.

 

I don’t think he saw me… I’ll just keep moving and pretend I didn’t see him…

 

Then I heard his voice, as startling as a crack of thunder on a sunny day.

 

“MIDSHIPMAN! DO YOU THINK I CAN GET A SALUTE OUT OF YOU?” the Marine bellowed.

 

Hundreds of students froze, me included. Without looking up, I knew that his message was directed at me. As I turned to face him, I saw that all eyes were fixed on me. Reflexively, I raised my fingers to the bill of my cap. I heard a young woman snicker as she passed, and the Marine continued to dress me down as the other students got some unexpected entertainment.

As the blood rushed to my face in humiliation, I could not take in a word he was saying. I just waited for it to be over. When dismissed, too shaken to go to class, I scurried in the direction of my dorm room, fighting back the tears and cursing to myself.

I stripped off my uniform and lay on my bed. As I allowed the waves of rage to pass through me, one message echoed through my head.

 

Never again.

 

Never. Again.

 

Never again would allow the truth of my feelings to be trumped by my thoughts of doing the “right thing” or allow the preferences of other people to dictate the course of my life.

 

* * *

Following the event, I mustered the courage to give up my full scholarship, transfer to a small liberal arts college, and replace my engineering major for a degree in psychology.

This decision set me on a course to take full responsibility for my life and to use my feelings to navigate the course of my life. Moving forward, I would live in alignment with what felt right to me instead of what looked right in the eyes of others.

 

In retelling this story, for years I would curse that Marine for his actions that day.

Now, I see him as my guardian angel, sent to jar me awake from my sleepwalk so I could live my right life.

 

***

(This came from an unpublished book proposal I wrote called Radical Responsibility: How to Master Your Life by Mastering Your Thoughts. This was truly one of those moments that changed the course of my life. I am reminded of it because I boarded that plane to Gainesville 28 years ago today. Another lifetime ago, and yesterday.)

 

 

Living By a Code (Get the Fuck Off My Obstacle)

I live by a code.

Now that may sound graybeard of me, but fuckit, my beard is pretty dang gray, and it’s true.

I’ve invested a couple of decades of my life sculpting this creation, working it to its simplest form. And yes, I’m am proud of it.

The empty husks of once useful (but ultimately too complex) philosophies lay all around me. And they were all philosophies — ways of thinking, interesting theories, and intricate modalities…

My code is rooted in how I feel.

How I. Feel.

And my code — my Very Cool Life Code, if you will — is that in moving through my life and making decisions, I do my best to follow what feels better to me.

It’s a very simple code.

And simple as it may be, living it is the most challenging adventure I’ve ever been on.

This is mainly due to existing cultural norms and the pesky presence of other people.

In other words, no one else is me. No one else knows (or really cares) what feels better to me. And the number of people who share my particular life code remain rare.

Living by such a code is quite a solitary experience (because it feels so good to do, I wouldn’t call it “lonely”), and the rewards of following such a discipline (because it IS a discipline) have been great.

I’ve begun to notice that the conflict in living in such a selfish way (because following how you feel requires you to be self-oriented and to follow your intuition) doesn’t really come from those closest to me (as I suspect those people are drawn to me as a direct result of such code), it’s more about those people on the periphery…

These people can be family members or old friends, and these people can even be clients (or those expressing an interest in your work). With a code like mine, people will think you selfish. Hell, they’ll say that to your face in a condemning tone. After a while you get used to the words though, and you can see how the words really have nothing to do with you (just like praise).

But…

But… most all of us are sensitive to criticism. We all want to be thought to be GOOD. We all want to be part of the tribe.

And when you live by a code — if it’s really YOUR code (not something packaged and sold to you by some institution), a code forged from the intense heat of your life experiences — you will have to be willing to fight for it.

No, you don’t have to fight against those other people or institutions. (They won’t know what in the fuck you’re talking about anyway.)

It might look like that, especially when someone is in your face, but what you’re really fighting against is your own thoughts. The thoughts about how it’s not nice to be so selfish. Or about how it’s dangerous to live in a way that looks so different that everyone else. Or about the risk of being seen as foolish when everyone knows you can’t do it that way

But the good thing about having a code is that you have a code to turn to in these moments.

The code is your domain, your home base, (your personal “obstacle” in the video below), the center you can always return to for guidance.

For that code to mean anything, you must be willing to stand behind it — to punch back at the thoughts that pop into your head (again, very often cleverly disguised as other people informing you of your wrongness in some way) — and you must tell them to Get the Fuck Off My Obstacle.

You don’t belong here.

I have nothing to offer you. 

Move along. 

I live my way.

And you most certainly climb obstacles like old people fuck.

 

 

P.S. You don’t need to say any of these things. You don’t have to express a word to anyone else. You can if it feels better. But you don’t have to.

But you do have to allow yourself to think “not nice” thoughts when it feels better.

That’s freedom.