I’m calling this style of writing DJ fiction, because I feel it’s just like a DJ spinning records. Everything is true, but I mashed together a lot of different eras of my life to create this hybrid form of experience that can be used to help change your life.
My boss called me into his office. I didn’t know if I was going to get fired. I had made a huge mistake the week before and tried to cover it up. But my boss found out on a Friday, and I beat myself up all weekend afraid of what was going to happen next.
I walked into his office. I tried to avoid eye contact. He pointed at a chair across from his desk and said, “Sit down. I need to talk to you about your future here.”
Oh crap, I thought, I’m getting fired. I sat down in the chair, and tried to rush at him with an explanation first. “I’m sorry about that truck. I didn’t mean to scratch it – I should have told you – I didn’t think anyone would notice.”
My boss leaned back in his chair, interrupting me — “Honestly, scratching a truck and lying about it should be the least of your worries. You have bigger problems to figure out than what I’m about to say.”
I exhaled my pre-planned excuse. This is not the way I wanted this conversation to go. “Are you going to fire me?” I stared back at him unflinchingly, trying to look fearless with nothing to lose, like a young wolf caught in a trap. I knew that if I gave in now, I’d be fired for sure. People can deal with making a mistake and being afraid and hiding from it. But a lazy liar deserves to be shamed and fired.
My boss shook his head. “Shut the door, I want to tell you a story that I was told a long time ago. I hope it can change your life the same way it changed my life.”
I sat back and moved squeamishly in the chair. He was like a friend. I had lied to him, and it was embarrassing sitting there, stuck, like a prisoner of my own human flaws. I didn’t know what to say or do.
He drank his coffee. “I don’t know if you can see it, but I can see it. In the long run, this job isn’t right for you. We work with our hands here. But your talent isn’t with your hands. I watch how you work. You understand people. You think differently than most.”
“You have this thing called emotional intelligence. It’s a different skill than we value here, but I bet it’ll be valuable to someone, somewhere, once you get yourself figured out.”
I stared at my boss. What was he trying to tell me? I didn’t understand any of it. I was just here for a job. I never really thought about a job being anything more than that.
“I’m not going to fire you today,” my boss said, “But I have a story I want to tell you. It made me smarter the minute I heard it. I started this shop because of it. Maybe it will help you find your path; once you’re ready to explore your life and talents beyond this shop. It’s the ancient story about how to build a bridge and be successful.”
My boss was usually a very demanding and uptight man. Experiencing this moment with him was odd. Time was always money to him; and therefore, I was surprised he wasn’t paranoid about the time he was wasting talking with me. In this moment, he seemed not to care about time or money. I watched as the story and memories unfolded in his mind as he began to speak:
“Many years ago, when American society was first starting to rise, a crew of explorers, fur-traders, and gold-miners left the cities in the east, and headed west in search of their dreams and their path to wealth.”
They hiked across the Great Plains in the spring. In the early summer, they hiked into the Rocky Mountains, and discovered a sunken, hidden valley that lay between three canyons. It had never been spoken of or seen before. Three rivers flowed down from the canyon walls and mountain peaks, and in the center, an island formed that was absolutely gorgeous. It was perfect. Like the garden of Eden. They thought it was paradise on earth. There was animals to hunt, water to drink, and beautiful views everywhere they looked.
One of the men said to the leader, “Why should we go on? Everything we dreamed of is here on the island.”
The leader agreed. “Let’s set camp, stay, and enjoy the summer.”
So the entire team set camp and stayed. It was so amazing living there. The pleasures they experienced were so intoxicating they quickly forgot about their dreams to find riches on the west coast. They stopped working for their original dream because they thought they had found everything they wanted here.
Months passed, and they lived in harmony provided by the island. Then one day as fall neared, the first storm cloud they had seen appeared above the western canyon wall. It was black as night in December. The thunderclouds above them boomed. Like the first tremors of fear in a nightmare, rain drops started to fall.
The men of the camp gathered in the center of the island. It was the first time they’d felt afraid for months, and they forgot how to act. One of the men yelled to the leader: “We should have built a bridge out of this death trap when we had the chance. The valley is flooding, and there isn’t a way off the island.”
Night started eating away the sunlight, and the leader instantly knew that if the rivers kept flooding, they were all going to drown and be dead in the morning. This island, that had seemed like paradise, was now going to be the death of all their dreams.
He felt horrible regret. The terror twisted knots in his stomach. The entire camp knew they’d made a mistake with their time. They should have been building a bridge to their next adventure. But because of their laziness, and indulgence of pleasure, they had failed to plan. Now that a true emergency had arrived, it was too late to build a bridge to save their lives.
A frenzied panic spread through the camp and some men ran and tried to escape on their own. But the flooding rivers around the island quickly consumed them. They were instantly drowned. The rest of the camp huddled together in the darkness, hoping and praying they could survive this night. But as the rain gushed over the canyon walls, they realized how cruel life can be when you don’t plan ahead, and this storm was now a bigger monster than they’d ever imagined and was there to eat them alive.
They heard the sounds of death coming down the canyon walls. The last sounds they heard were horrible, tragic, regretful sounds of life, because they all knew their deaths could have been avoided if they’d just thought ahead, and built the right bridges out of this nightmare before they needed them.
My boss finished his story, and he looked at me with a patient stare.
“That was a pretty intense.” I said, “Why did you tell it to me?”
My boss was more relaxed than I’d ever seen him. He drank his coffee, and looked at me like I was the most important project he’d ever worked on. “Life can be a pretty intense experience.” He said. “Life can give you paradise at any moment, or it can rip your dreams away from you, and leave you drowning, devastated, and regretting your decisions.”
“I want you to realize today that you are responsible to build the bridges to wherever you want to go in life. No one will build them for you. Your path to the wealth you dream of, and where you want to go, is ultimately up to you. You are always the only one in control of changing your life, and building the bridges to your dreams.”
Machines and hammers, and working men echoed in the shop behind me. I looked back at him, wondering what it all meant.
My boss saw the gears moving in my mind. He spoke before I could. “I told you this story so you can be aware how the path to success works. The people who know how to build bridges before they need them, will be able to do anything they want in their life.”
“They will always have an escape plan ready to take when tragedy strikes. But those who wait, postpone, and ignore, will always be in a perpetual state of destruction, and rebuilding their life. They will never go anywhere with their resources and time, because it’ll be the same cycle over and over: rebuild, and get destroyed again. I am telling you this because I like you. I want to see you get somewhere special with your life.”
I didn’t know if I should go back to work, or wait for him to say more. An awkward silence separated us and hung in the air.
He finally said, “You can go back to work now. Just remember, when the rivers around you are low, it’s an easy time not to care about your dreams or your life. But don’t fall into thinking you’ve found paradise in those easy moments. Always be planning and preparing to where you want to go next. Never stop building the bridges to your dreams. If you want to find your path and success in life, figure out what bridges you need to build, and then build them before you need them. When the hard times come, your next adventure will be waiting and ready for you.”
I walked out of his office back onto the shop floor. I looked around and instantly realized I was starting to see the world differently. I realized I didn’t have to stay in any one place, or job if I didn’t like it. If I ever wanted a change, all I had to do was ask myself where I wanted to be in the future, and then build a bridge toward that dream goal.
It suddenly occurred to me that this was the path to reach your dreams. A locked door opened in my mind. I walked out of the locked mental prison I had been in, and began changing my life. Nothing was holding me back from what I wanted in life anymore. (Click here to see where I went next)
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Discussion time: What do you think the purpose and meaning of this story ultimately is? How does it impact your views and life?