Part 1: A troubled start. I think it makes sense to begin this story with my childhood. As the eldest of three brothers, I wanted to set a good example for my younger siblings. But ever since I can remember, my road has been rocky. I was always getting in trouble. For middle school and high school, I was sent to a Catholic military school a fair distance from my home. Looking back, I know this was a good place for me, but I was lonely and desperate for friends close to home. The group of kids that finally accepted me introduced me to drugs and alcohol. This was a difficult time in my life. I did not see how my actions affected my future. My motivation level was low. My skewed priorities harmed my relationships and my education. I had no confidence and no idea where I was going. One late summer night, everything should have changed…
Together with five other 16-year olds, I was in a horrific car accident. Driving 40mph over the speed limit, we hit an obstacle, ran off the road, crashed into a stop sign which deployed the air bags, and continued up a hill crashing into two parked SUVs. All three cars were totaled. I was sitting in the front passenger seat.
My mom went to the police impound lot the next day and took the photo above, hoping it would be a wake-up call.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Miraculously, all 6 of us had walked away from the totaled wreckage without a scratch, but we continued our foolish behavior. Since my friend had totaled his mom’s car, I “borrowed” my mom’s car to continue our joy rides. These came to an end one night a couple months later. My parents were awakened by the flashing lights as the police escorted me home at 5 a.m. I’d been pulled over for speeding, and I didn’t even have a license yet. Never mind permission to be out driving in the middle of the night. That evening there was an alarm on my door, I was on “house arrest” and forbidden to see my friends again.
My parents didn’t blame my friends. We all knew I was 100% responsible for my own choices. But they wanted my circumstances to help me think through the choices I was making. My mom gave me a book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. This was a monumental moment in my life. Sequestered in my room, I read the book, completed the activities and made connections between the content and my own life. Through Covey’s instruction and principles, I was able to look at my life long-term. New priorities, new understanding and new hope embodied my thoughts I was beginning a 180-degree turnaround. I began paying attention in school and enjoying learning. I began appreciating my relationships with my family who noticed that I was experiencing a mental shift.
In the summer between junior and senior year of high school I broke 7 bones while racing BMX. The track known as South Park is famous for being fast, dangerous and downhill. I was here to prove that the rumors and legends of danger are true! During practice, I felt good about my chances for the weekend. I snapped out of the starting gate with full force. I was leading the pack of eight riders into the second straight. I sailed over the first few jumps faster than I had all weekend. I felt unstoppable! The sad part came only a few seconds later when I met my fate in the form of an asphalt turn. I was riding too fast, and I jumped too far. I recall being in the air, looking at the ground coming toward me. Instinctively I put out my hands to break my fall. First I felt my fingers snap. Then the pressure went to the wrists and they both shattered. Then the elbows. Finally my head hit the ground and I blacked out. It was messy.
My active life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t do the most basic things like eat or shower without help. This was such a humbling experience! Just imagine, the awkward teenage years and still having your parents help you shower. Not fun, I assure you!
Part 2: The Beginning of Entrepreneurship
I am proud to say that I made lemonade out of my lemons. I used the summer to start my first business designing t-shirts with simple inspirational designs. With the idea of “seeing clearly,” Lucid began several years ago as an apparel company.
I participated in the inaugural year of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a year-long business development program at SUNY Albany. Each of the participants in the program worked on a business from concept through pitching to investors, from creating a business plan all the way to sourcing a product and marketing. I began the year working on my Lucid apparel business. When the tsunami hit Japan on my 18th birthday, I felt compelled to change my direction, setting up a small nonprofit that raised money for the relief effort.
After high school, I arrived at Westminster College ready to begin a new life! I was motivated! I was pumped! But, I was also clueless, living on my own for the first time ever. Despite the turnaround I’d experienced over the previous 18 months before leaving for college, I was a typical freshman enticed with partying and concerned with friends. I wanted to be successful, but didn’t have the tools. My freshman year was unfocused and my performance mediocre.
Inside of me, however, there was a fire that kept on burning …“You can be and do better than this!”
I looked around for people that inspired me. I identified two upperclassmen in particular. I saw that they were successful, with their relationships, grades, health, etc., while I wasn’t. As it turns out, both had attended the same leadership training program, LEAP – Leadership, Excellence, Acceleration Potential, and both recommended me for this program. The program teaches young people the essential skills and tools for a successful life. I attended the camp in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college.
It is not an overstatement to say that LEAP changed my life. It has given me the courage and motivation to dream big. Through the exposure to amazing success stories and role models at this program, I realized that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. Additionally, LEAP has given me the knowledge necessary to manage and direct my life.
In subsequent summers, I have gone back to LEAP volunteering as a coach. There is nothing like TEACHING material to help you LEARN it. I know from my own experience, and the experiences shared by so many of my fellow coaches and students, and my wonderful mentors, that this type of success skills training is needed by today’s young adults. LEAP was so incredible and motivating for me that I wanted to spread this inspiration to others. I wanted to find a way to scale these positive messages, especially into the college-age demographic. My question was “Why don’t we learn this material in our formal schooling environment?” I felt that this training should be available to any young adult wishing to improve.
My first idea was to create an online platform with videos that would help students succeed socially, academically and professionally. My thought was to host local live events that we would film and then place online for a larger audience to learn and benefit from. Advertisers, our source of revenue, would have the opportunity to position themselves together with young adult success.
Although I still think it’s a good idea, at the time my academic demands grew and the idea moved to the back burner.
Part 3: Writing a Book
Fast forward a few months … as my 21st birthday approached, a landmark birthday, I wanted to do something important. My starting point was a blank piece of paper with two questions at the top: “How can I improve my performance?” and “How can I enhance my experience?”
With those two questions in mind, I looked at everything I’ve learned through my personal development journey. I revisited my idea of making inspirational content widely accessible and challenged myself to write a book covering the 21 skills I felt were most critical to me as a 21-year old. These included topics you might expect such as goal-setting and mentors, but also included such diverse subjects as conducting better conversations, learning theory, nutrition and the importance of play. For each of the 21 skill sets, I embarked on a journey of research including reading everything I could find, watching trainings, attending classes, interviewing mentors and experts in the appropriate areas, and designing challenges and tests to develop a system that 21-year-olds can use to improve their lives.
My goal with The 21 Project was to write a relatable resource with actionable tips to improve performance and increase enhance our experience. The main categories were:
- Discover who I am/what I stand for
- Manage my time and maximize my efforts
- Understand and leverage my surroundings
- Learn strategies to become more dynamic and interesting
- Build successful foundations in health, wealth, and play
I did achieve my goal of writing my book while I was in my 21st year. But I began to question whether I, a young college student, had the credibility to tell others how they should get in touch with their core values and live a life full of adventures and creative pursuits. I thought that perhaps I needed to have more of my own stories that would resonate with my readers. I decided to postpone publishing my book.
Part 4: The Lucid Note
But I didn’t want my efforts to have been for naught. So I went back through my journals and the material in my book, and identified many patterns and interesting trends that leaders across disciplines share. I noted these similarities and assembled a collection of ideas, strategies, and quotes. I took this content, and turned it into questions and prompts. My idea was to incorporate these prompts into the tool I use the most in my life, a journal. The journals I had been keeping for years were composition-book sized, but I wanted this “prompted journal” to be different. I wanted it to be pocket-sized so it would be convenient to have with me at all times. I began to use this “prompted journal” and found that I liked this system. The inspirational prompts made this journal a personal development quest.
This prompted journal allowed me to write my ideas and thoughts in an organized fashion that could be retrieved by topic. I thought, “if this little journal has become such a useful tool in my own life, inspiring me, prompting me with important subjects to consider, then surely it could be a similarly powerful mechanism that could help other aspiring adventurists, creatives and entrepreneurs!”
I called this prompted journal the Lucid Note and my goal with this product was to help the user become more adventurous, creative, and entrepreneurial – to develop to their fullest potential in alignment with their deepest dreams and desires. I wanted to supply the dreamers with a story catcher that will help them organize their thoughts and consistently inspire them to gain a better understanding of themselves and their world. If I could, I’d give this to every young adventurer, creative person and entrepreneur.
This was an incredible journey, where I learned about what it takes to move an idea from my head to my hands. To read all about this process, click here. The story you’ll read has plenty of ups and downs, including the awesome feeling of giving it away to people to the terrible feeling of losing an amazing girlfriend, the faith of your support, money and time.
Part 5: Failure leads to Yoga on Youtube.
Putting a product into the marketplace is a scary thing, and I was / am not ready to do it again. I am sure that one day I will be ready.
I was put into an emotionally tough time after the crowdfunding experience. Fitness gained my attention and energy because I had control over it and could see gains from the work I was putting in. I gained back my energy with the completion of P90X3 and a strong yoga practice.
I also learned how much I value my mission of creating things that engage, educate and empower people to vitalize adventure, creativity and exploration. It makes sense that the next idea in the line is Muse+Move. The progression of questions from Lucid Note blended with the mind/body awareness that comes from yoga is a great avenue – in fact it’s something that I am incredibly excited about and can’t wait to share with the world! If you’d like to learn more about this venture, follow me on social media or read about it here.