I know what it feels like to be alone. Unloved. Abandoned. Forgotten about. Or worse.... abused by those whose responsibility it was to support you, protect you, and nurture you. I know what it feels like to be thrown to the wolves. Left for dead. Absolutely and completely fucked over. I'd rather not tell my backstory here. Someday I will. I'm 52, and I'm still not ready to write my autobiography. But until I do, trust me when I say I know what it feels like when the world has given up on you. I know what it feels like to give up on yourself. To be too emotionally drained to live, but too much of a coward to die. To be stuck, your rage and sorrow subsiding to a feeling of perpetual numbness. To be defeated. Dead, but still surrounded by life. And to feel mocked by it. This is hell. I spent years here. Years, and years. You hear people say things like, "I was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I see." I remember hearing these things, and wanting to kill the people saying them. Burn it all down. Torch the world. Leave nothing standing. Fuck you, and fuck your saccharine messages of hope. Too little too late. It's a terrible place to be. You want more than anything to be saved from the hell that you're in, but you also don't believe that you can be saved. You don't believe that you're worthy of redemption. You truly believe that you're garbage, and neither deserve -- nor are capable of -- receiving love. And you've been disappointed so many times in your life that at this point your trust in humanity, in goodness, and in kindness are corrupted. It's game over, man down, end of story. Bah humbug. I'm writing this as someone who was in this dark place, yet who is now somehow in a better place. A much better place, actually. Now don't mistake this for some euphoric evangelistic message, because it isn't. My mood right now as I type is sober at best; I'm not drunk on gratitude, nor hyped on an overdose of optimism. But still, I'm content.... and that's not something I've been able to say for the majority of my life. While there are still things I'd like to do, goals I'd like to achieve, boxes I'd like to check, the fact is that I have everything I need to be happy; and if I died right now -- in this moment even -- I would die peacefully and without regret. When I think back to those difficult times, I have to acknowledge that I didn't escape the gloom and doom entirely on my own. There were people along the way who helped me to build a bridge from where I was then to where I am now. To name a few, they are: Bruce Long. Arthur Tillman. Lula Noriega Walker. Grace & Arthur Hauser. David Mecionis. Arthur Downing. Daniel Kelly. Bente Torjusen. Mark Landrieu. Bethanie Dardant. Henrietta Bethely Washington Dixon. Linda Smith. Susan Kimmins. Lurene Sorogheye. Cecilia Emily Rutherford. These names will mean nothing to you as a reader, but for me this is a shortlist of spiritually generous people from different times in my life who believed in me when I didn't fully believe in myself. Each of these people, in some way, carried me when I was too tired to walk. These are the people who said "lean on me" (like the Bill Withers song) and I did, because I desperately needed to, and because I trusted them implicitly. These people, each one of them precious to me in some way, appeared in my life as a saint. As an answer to a prayer that I had long stopped praying. These people (and some others I haven't listed) were angels who created the miracles for me that I didn't yet realize I could eventually create for myself. These were the people who offered me the golden thread that led me out of the labyrinth. And these are the people who are the reason that I do what I do now. If you're reading this on my website, then you already know what I do. I'm a Life Coach for Men, operating under the brand Man-UP! Life Coaching (MULC), as I have for almost a decade now. My business was born in sunny San Diego, CA. It was the answer to a question. The question was: WHY? Why am I still here? Why haven't I died, or killed myself? Why do I somehow still have hope that this story ends well? And most importantly, why was I put here? Why was I conditioned by so much suffering and hardship? The answer was: SERVICE. I was put here to serve others, just as those whom I have named (as well as those I haven't) so selflessly served me when I was in need. My ability to respond to those whom I recognize need help, and whom I genuinely believe I can help, are literally my "response-ability". And so in a moment of absolute clarity -- what one might call divine enlightenment -- I suddenly understood my calling, and while sitting at my kitchen table both named my business and hand-painted the iconic logo now famously associated with my brand. I remember getting my first client. My second. Then five guys. Then ten. I remember the feeling when I first filled up my calendar for a whole week. My first office. My first remote session. Everything about this process has been hard work, don't get it twisted, but it hasn't been painful in any way. On the contrary, it is labor of love in a very literal sense. Sure, I have business crap to do on the back end.... legal, marketing, money management, etc. Sure, scheduling is a constant challenge, and I work impossibly long hours while still balancing my home life, so my family doesn't become collateral damage in my efforts to manage and scale what has evolved into a flourishing practice. But as I said, coaching is not only WHAT I do, it is very much my WHY, and I'm honored to be able earn a fair living while offering this much-needed service. I accept this cosmic role, as it were. And on days when the work feels especially difficult, I take a deep breath, have a sip of coffee, man the fuck up and do my job. And so here I am on my MacBook at exactly midnight on a Saturday, in my office, down the hall from my sleeping 12-year-old. His mom is asleep as well, as are the dog and our two cats. Sunday is my one day off -- my sabbath, if you will -- and instead of sleeping I'm up thinking about my clients. So I figured I'd write some content from the heart. One guy in particular has inspired this post. This is a dude who became stuck in his life, and hired me to help him get unstuck. We've been together for three years now, and while I've seen him make some nominal progress over this time, I haven't seen him take his first big step out of the pit of despair that he's been wallowing in. At least, not until today. It has been session after session, week after week of failure and excuses, followed by self-analysis, leading to intense self-judgment... and of course the judgment of others as well, which is par for the course. Sour grapes and all of that. But in today's session, he said with a smile that this was the week. Somehow, for no especially good reason, he did a thing. It really doesn't matter what the thing was. What matters is that it was something. Anything. In fact, he did a couple things. Interestingly, a few weeks prior he had asked me why we were still together. Like, what's our endgame here? He meant of course that if he was just sitting in a virtual jail cell with the door open, making excuses for why he couldn't leave, why did I continue to stay with him, when all of my efforts to instruct him and guide him out had failed? And I said, "Because even if you refuse to leave, I'm not comfortable giving up on you. So as long as you're willing to pay for sessions, I'm going to show up week after week and keep you company. My gut feeling is that at some point, as long as I don't pressure you, but still continue to believe in you (which I genuinely do), at SOME point you're gonna make a move. In the meantime I'm here, so you know that you aren't alone." And today he did a thing. And if HE can do it, trust me when I tell you.... anyone can. So while my Sunday is probably going to be over pretty quickly, and Monday starts another 60+ hour work week, I come into it neither mentally exhausted nor spiritually drained, but rather more committed than ever to the service I provide for my clients. Like myself when I was down and lacking direction, these are guys who need someone to not only offer them professional mentorship, but to believe in them until they learn to believe themselves. And further, to offer them them unconditional love until they can offer it to themselves, which is the first step toward satisfying their WHY.