This post was originally published on October 17, 2019 on andyellwood.com.
Last night I met up with a friend who I had originally met 12 years ago. This gentleman is a few years ahead of me in life, but at the time we met, we were both in transition from one industry to the next and both felt very unsure of the next step. In meeting up last night, I could see that that next step for him had paid off in spades and that he had truly found his place in this world and was living an incredible life that was making opportunities realities for his family and those fortunate enough to be in his ecosystem.
I’ve changed industries twice since then, with a move from Dallas to NYC thrown in the mix for good measure, and I think he saw in me some of the same encouraging signs of a life well lived in the years since our last connection. But perhaps most interesting to me was some of the things he remembers about the “young Andy” that he met all those years ago. Some of the stories we swapped, the people we compared notes on, the strategies and hustles that we’d run together in the early days of our friendship rekindled a little fire in me as I took the subway home.
In the midst of the wild journey that my career has taken me on, I can see how I've gotten my head down into the weeds of the day-to-day execution that is required for a founder. My inbox has kept my gaze focused on things days and weeks ahead, not months and years. Voicemails and Slack messages from partners that are still looking for the next level of engagement have kept me playing more defense than offense. I can see much more clearly how short sighted I’ve recently been playing this game. Especially when I think back to Young Andy’s point of view and intentions on the world.
"There is a point in everyone’s life where they are faced with a decision to believe the world’s greatest lie.” — Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist
And when they eventually make that choice, life becomes just a little bit sadder and a little bit smaller. It is a point where dreams and visions and daring ideas are tucked away in the archives and in hindsight, people realize that it was that moment that began a slow march to the grave. They’ll have happy moments. and joyous occasions along the way, but the old fire and childlike wonder that they gave up when they believe the world’s greatest lie will never cause the world to hold the same amount of possibilities and wonder that it did before that decision was made.
But here's the good news for all of us today - that decision is reversible. If you’ve been tempted to or already have agreed with the lie that you are no longer in control and that the things you do no longer affect the outcome of your story, the next page, the next chapter, the next adventure, you can reclaim your authority and you can slowly but surely reclaim your control. You can take back what life has beaten out of you and get back in the fight.
It will be hard because you are out of shape. You are not used to taking a punch any more. You aren’t used to taking risks the way you used to. You’ve spent a little too much time on the couch checking your phone and too little time finding the things that you control in a day and being a force that they have to reckon with. You’ve stayed comfortable with your current group of friends because they all have also bought into the lie and you all hold each other accountable to not go do anything too crazy. Your family likes the toned-down version of you. Everything in your life is easier and makes more sense if you succumb to believing you don’t have what it takes to change the things that need changing. Status quo is much more pleasant for everyone.
But, on the flip side of reclaiming your power, reclaiming your authority, reclaiming that you are in control of your own life, right there is where things change and the world opens up to you in a way you may have never seen or have not seen recently. It is a decision and it is a decision that I was reminded of last night when I was reminded of Young Andy and how he saw the world as one big opportunity to bring the right people together for the right reasons and let the rest take care of itself.
Life is gonna beat the snot out of you. Our society has all the sedatives to make you forget how painful it is to get up and get back in the fight. It is easier to accept the lie and live in that matrix. But the life built by someone who fights to maintain their authority and their power is a life that will make more impact and have better stories to tell. That’s the life Young Andy set out to live and that's the life I’ve got some work to do to reclaim.