I remember when my drill instructor gave me my eagle, globe, and anchor.
I felt almost invincible.
I'd accomplished something, but more importantly, I became something and I'd gained a title.
It was like I'd never be alone again. I'd always have a purpose, and a band of brothers to help me fulfill that purpose.
I remember the days when I'd get my uniform ready. Ironing out every crease, shining my jungle boots to the point that I could see myself (back then we shined our boots), and rolling up my sleeves perfectly.
I remember getting ready for the field. Double checking everything to make sure I wasn't missing gear, and then double checking my marines to make sure they were squared away.
I remember the feeling of having my rifle in the ready position. The weight, the feeling of the pistol grip in my hand, with my finger pointed straight and off the trigger, and the feeling of the butt stock near my front right shoulder.
I remember the excitement, the adventure, the pain, the boredom, the suck, the big green weenie - but most of all, I remember that the pride I felt in doing what I was doing made all the negativity go away.
And then I remember what happened after it all ended.
I remember trying to work my civilian job, the empty feeling of sitting behind a desk, and doing things that seemed to carry no meaning.
I remember going to school, and being surrounded by people who didn't seem to understand me and who seemed to openly hate what I was and what I'd done with my life up to that point.
I remember trying to drown out the loneliness I felt with alcohol, and taking norcos and vicadin just to feel normal.
I remember going to crowded cafes and malls just to sit there so I wouldn't be alone, but feeling more lonely than ever as I watched families having dinner with their children and couples having a night out.
I was focusing on everything that I wasn't: t wasn't in the Marine Corps anymore, I wasn't serving a larger purpose, I wasn't successful yet, and so I was just like everyone else: a desk jockey, a student, and a lonely and bitter person who'd already lived out his best years and who accepted the idea that he wasn't going to be doing anything else with the rest of his life.
The emptiness haunted me, the regret of feeling like I didn't do enough while I was in the corps haunted me, and the feeling like I wasn't going to do anything purposeful in my life ever again sat on me like a 2000 lb elephant.
And after seven years of this, I found myself, at 33 years old, living out of my car with no money, no job, and no plan for how to fix it all.
I'd like to tell you that I woke up one morning and this feeling was gone and everything was ok. I'd like to tell you that everything is ok now, and that I never feel like this anymore, and that would make this story easier to tell - but lying isn't my style and I'm not trying to sell you anything.
The reality is that it took years to turn myself around, and I'm still on a journey that takes constant effort - constantly fighting off feelings of inadequacy and self doubt, to build Warrior Soul Apparel and to fulfill what I see now as my life's purpose.
So I don't have any easy answers for you, but I do have a a single piece of guidance that's helped me find my purpose.
Forget about what you are, and focus on who you are.
You control who you are. It's defined by you, your core beliefs, your values, and everything you project on the world around you.
You choose who you are through your actions. You choose to be strong or weak, productive or lazy, good or bad. You also choose how you treat the people around you and you choose the people you surround yourself with.
You also get to choose what you stand for, what you stand against, the vision of what you want your life to look like, and the actions that you'll take to make that vision become a reality.
Knowing who you are allows you to make the tough choices that you need to make to find your purpose and to reach success because you're guided by your own values.
The only limits you have with this state of mind are the limits of your vision.
What you are is a much more limiting concept. Focusing on what you are takes your mind off of the journey and traps you into only seeing where you are at the moment.
Your choices for your purpose become limited by where you live, what your family wants for you, what your girlfriend wants for you, what society thinks you should be doing, or on your fear of what you think is gonna happen if you aren't what they want you to be.
And in this way, your life is no longer your own. You become alienated from who you are because you're playing a role that you don't want, and at this point a lot of us shut down, withdraw, and decide not to do anything.
How do you switch your thinking? It starts with a vision.
While I was living out of my car, I got over my depression by realizing something: I had nothing, but that meant I had nothing to lose. And because I had nothing to lose, I could build my life into anything I wanted it to be.
I began writing a vision for my purpose that was based off of my values: patriotism, honor, creativity, strength, fitness, and drive. Above all, I wanted to inspire veterans to take charge of their lives and to become successful.
And I wanted to incorporate all of these into what I would do with my life - and this was how the idea for Warrior Soul came about.
I had no money to start it, and at that point, I didn't even own a computer, but my vision guided me to do what I needed to do to make it happen.
It guided me through months where we had no sales, and through days where everything in the world told me to give up.
Opportunities came up where, if I gave up on Warrior Soul to focus on something else, I could make a lot of money, but I turned them down because they were not part of my vision, my values, or who I wanted to be.
And the only reason this company is here is because its fabric is based off of who I am and not what I am.
If I told myself that I was just an unsuccessful tee shirt salesman, I would've given up and I wouldn't be talking to you now. But I wasn't focused on what I was, I was focused on who I was and how that drove my purpose for doing what I was doing.
The bottom line is this: it doesn't matter how much money you have, how many friends you have around you, or what you do for a living.
What matters are your beliefs and your values and how they guide your actions as a person.
And all of this is determined by your answer to the question: who do I want to be?
You can't control your age, and you can't bring back the past. You can't control the fact that your brothers are scattered across the country and you can't bring back the brothers you lost. You can't magically make yourself rich, and you won't be successful overnight.
But you can control who you are and the actions you take at any moment.
When you realize that you have this ability, it doesn't matter what you are at the moment or where you're at in life right now.
What you are right now doesn't matter because the he minute you decide to focus on who you want to be, you've put yourself on a journey to become something else that matches closer to who you want to be.
And at the end you will build the life that you want to live rather than a life that's been forced on you by someone else's vision of what you are.
So while I don't have any secrets for you or any neatly ordered steps for you to take, I can give you one thing you can do right now that can change your life. Get rid of any ideas of what you are and ask yourself out loud: WHO DO I WANT TO BE?
And once you've answered that question, write down the answer and hold onto it. If you use that vision as your guiding force for every action you take, you'll find the path to living your best life.
I'm always here if you have questions. Just hit me up on the live chat below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.