The #1 Skill you Need to Change Your Life

change your life

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?  

38 thoughts on “The #1 Skill you Need to Change Your Life”

  1. You are fortunate to have that natural talent. People skills have not always been in my armory and I have had to work pretty hard to add them to my skillset. Some of the most successful people in history have forged their fortunes purely on their ability to motivate people!

    Great story!

    1. Thanks Dropped Coin! I just wanted to have fun with this post, and create a meaningful learning experience by telling a story. Building the bridges toward new opportunities, even before you need them, is one of the most important skills you can have. Learning how to see what you need in the future, before the future gets here, is one of the biggest secret keys to taking control of your life, and blazing the path to the life you want to live. If you want to change your life, start with learning something new, and building a new bridge to a life that’s better than what you’re experiencing now. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    2. Wow!

      One of the most life changing articles I’ve read in awhile. Great time spent. Thanks for enlightening me! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      Ps. I’m going to share this with readers.

      1. What up @MY BREAD MONEY! Its so fun to finally see your face on your avatar after seeing your twitter logo for all these months. I’ve always enjoyed your work, so I’m super happy that you were able to stop in and enjoy my work. Please, please, share away! I write to help people find their answers in life. If I can do that, I am satisfied that I am living the purpose in life I was sent here to achieve. God bless, friend.

    1. Awesome Froogal Stoodent! I felt a little afraid stepping out of the norm and writing a fiction story to explain my point, but I wanted to stay true to my artistic talent, and just write unique, exciting, and creative stories. I am so glad that it was fun and enjoyable to read, as that’s always my goal with my writing. We would love a link to this story! Again, thank you so much for your support. I am humbled, and it is appreciated. I’ll keep doing my best to write fun, and meaningful content.

      1. I thought it was creative and well-done!

        A little creative advice, though: remember your writing 101! Show through action/vivid description, instead of explaining directly (http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/showing/) For example, the sentence “He looked at me with a patient stare.” could be re-written; e.g. “His eyes drilled into my skull with the force of a jackhammer as he waited for my reply.”

        Certainly the original sentence is more direct and efficient. But the re-written version is more engaging, no? 🙂

        1. Hey Froogal Student! I totally agree with you, and I think you’re right on! I studied writing A TON in my 20’s (Gary Paulsen, author of Hatchet, was my friend and personal mentor during those years). During that time, I learned that creating great writing takes a perfect balance of extremely direct writing, mixed with wonderfully unique and descriptive words. The hard part of creating great writing is finding where that perfect balance lies. It’s funny you mentioned the above advice, because I’ve been trying to push myself to do the exact same thing. I’ve just started to get back into writing these last few months, and I’ve been feeling that some of my raw, vivid, describing ability (exactly what you mentioned) wasn’t as unique and fierce as I’d like it to be. Just yesterday I decided to re-read some of my favorite descriptive writers (Hunter S Thompson for one) to re-inspire my word-play ability so I can get back to writing stronger, more unique, and more vivid sentences. It is awesome to see your comment, because that’s exactly what I was thinking recently. Your advice helped me re-open those doors in my brain. The rust is slowly grinding off my ability, and now it’s time to push it to another level again. I’ll keep trying to perfectly balance the right amount of direct and efficient sentences, with the unique, vivid, and descriptive sentences. I’d love if you kept coming back to my blog and watching my progress. Talk writing with me anytime! I am definitely going to be practicing your advice in the next few months, so let me know how I am doing, and offer advice any time. Thanks!

          1. You worked with Gary Paulsen?! Whoa, what a great mentor to have! 😀

            I actually worked on a couple different as-yet-unfinished novels while in high school. Looking back, they were quite bad! I will probably extensively revise, and then finish, at least a couple of them someday. But it’s good to know that the lessons I learned stuck with me! These days, though, I’m reading and writing technical stuff as part of my graduate studies. It’s a totally different, and much more direct, kind of writing, and this style is a greater concern for me at the moment. But I still pick it out pretty quickly in stories, for some reason. I suppose that’s what comes from reading compulsively, at least until I was old enough to get a job!

            I’d agree with you that both approaches–direct AND flowery/vivid–are useful (even in fiction!). A point I observed from the MASSIVE consumption of fiction during my youth: save the direct stuff, with a minimum of modifiers of any kind, for fast-moving ‘crisis points.’ During a fast-moving scene, like the climax of a story, bestselling authors include two things, and two things only: 1) dialogue, and 2) the bare minimum of necessary exposition to move the plot along, or to move the characters from place to place. No “he said” or “she swooned” or “with the force of a runaway jackhammer.” Just the bare essentials.

            However, that vivid language is helpful when setting scenes or establishing characters or fleshing out a particular moment (as in the example above). The trick is always knowing which approach is appropriate for a given moment–Justice Stewart’s famous “I know it when I see it” test [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it] comes to mind here.

          2. Dude, I love it. I can tell you care about the quality of writing — the art and underlying mechanics of it as much as I do. And yes, I worked with Gary Paulsen for many years when he was living in Alaska. He found samples of my writing through a family friend who knew my brother, and after reading my work, he reached out and offered to help me and he became my mentor. I have several manuscripts I’ve written, but I really put a pause on my writing career the last five years, just because I had to get life figured out. In that time, I built a sales business, bought a home, and got married, and now that all my immediate needs are met and I am doing well, it’s time that I get back to what I really love to do, and that’s create pieces of art with meaningful stories and words. I used to write about finding the purpose of life. But the problem with purpose is that it’s a really vague subject, unique to each person, which made creating consistently awesome content difficult. But on my journey to find purpose, I found that I was also building a life of wealth and meaning, and that’s why I decided to start writing about my path to find purpose and wealth here. Since my background is a story-telling fiction writer, I understand the art of creating and structuring page-turning stories. That’s what I am trying to do here. I think I am going to e-publish one of my manuscripts, and then give away the first chapter in exchange for an email subscription soon. My plan is to build up this website, and then get back to novel writing to help people improve the quality, meaning, purpose, and paths to wealth in their lives. I feel honored that you keep coming back my friend. Thank you.

  2. I like it! I was lucky to have built my blog while I was pursuing another dream—that ended in a work shortage a few years later that was really no one’s fault. But online income was the bridge I crossed to support my family. And I thought of it as a hobby!

    1. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with building bridges as one of your top hobbies! In fact, if you consider building bridges to your dreams a hobby, your opportunities to be successful will go way up! We’re trying to build our bridge to the same place you are at now. We’ve fought against our challenges to get to a very happy place, where we can re-organize our priorities, and start working toward our dreams. Our dream life includes writing, sharing, and just being real. We’re enjoying where we are in life now, but we’re always looking for the next bridge we have to build to accomplish our true purpose in life. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What a great story! I think that the meaning behind the story resonates with all of us deep down. I know that I have tried to always build bridges and because of that, I’ve never truly felt “stuck” in any place or situation.

    With the new year coming up, this is great story to contemplate. Creating new bridges will be on my mind for the next little while. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks Jacob! I didn’t even think about how the message of building bridges becomes even more powerful around the first of the year. I’ll have to re-promote this post around that time of year as people start making goals and resolutions. In order for a goal or resolution to be reached, a bridge has to be built toward the goal! This is a great reminder of how to do it, and to remember that building bridges isn’t easy, it’s hard work! But it’s the only way to achieve a goal, change your life, and live your dreams. The secret path on how to reach your dream life is by falling in love with the art of building bridges in your life.

  4. I love love love this analogy. I was seriously hanging on every word.

    I feel like the river is rising around me and while I am doing some networking and trying to set up a side hustle with my blog, I feel like I was too content for too long. Hopefully I don’t get swallowed up.

    1. Thanks Mustard Seed Money! I was a little nervous posting this, just because it was an unconventional way of sharing knowledge, but that’s what I do best, so I decided to stick to my true personality rather than try to copy someone else. I’m really happy I was able to communicate my point clearly, and I can tell the story worked, because I can tell you totally got the point. I’ve worked my way into a good place in life, but I’m not in my perfect place yet, so I am always trying to build the bridge to where I want to be. Don’t think of entrepreneurship as a job or working. Think of it as building a bridge to your dreams, because that’s exactly what it is. The most successful people build their bridges long before they need them, so that when the seasons and weather of life do change, there is no need to panic. They’re prepared with escape routes to new and improved dreams all over the place. This is secret to why life looks so easy for successful people. Everyone only sees them walking effortlessly toward wealth and their dreams. We never focus on them working tirelessly to build their bridges the behind the scenes. 😉

    1. Thanks for stopping in Josh. I had this story in my mind that I wanted to share, but I didn’t want to turn it into a boring lecture. My background is a fiction writer, so I thought it may be cool to turn this real life story into a fantasy type story to read. I felt like I was taking a risk when I posted it because I hadn’t really seen it done before. I’m really happy it worked out, and that people were able to find some value in it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. This is an incredible story! How cool that you were able to work for a boss that recognize this… Nobody at my current job thinks this way and nearly everyone has settled for a crappy working situation. I’ve been building my bridge out for the last 1.5 years and hoping to walk across that bridge in 2017.

    Thanks for posting this. Just bookmarked it, fantastic story!

    1. Thank you so much for reading it, Nick. Stop back more often as we’ll have more stories like this, and other financial stories, coming up in our future. I can totally identify with your stage of building your next bridge. My wife and I are doing the same thing now. When we first got married, my wife thought I was crazy for working so hard at our future when we had it pretty good right now. But I reminded her that “pretty good” is not our dream life. I explained that we need to start building our bridge to our dream life, or else it will always remain just a dream. She totally gets it now. We’d love to see you come back, and check out more cool stories that mix fiction together with real life learning experiences. Thanks Nick!

  6. Wonderful Post. I think many people that read financial blogs are building a bridge by becoming educated about finances. Getting an education/skill, getting healthy/life/disability insurance are all bridges to prepare for hard times. This is a great writing for some people I know that always seem in “that rut”. I really enjoyed this.

    1. Thanks. I think you’re totally right. I am a HUGE believer that all success HAS to start in your mind first. The first bridge you must build is making sure your mind and thoughts are strong and educated enough to take you to the right goals. If you can get your mind set up right, then your journey through the physical world will naturally happen as it’s supposed to. I am going to be doing a TON of writing on this in 2017, so make sure you stop back in and check out future posts. Build your mind correctly, and your purpose and wealth will naturally come to you. That’s the secret journey I Love to write about. Thanks for bringing this up.

  7. Thanks for the great story this morning! This is definitely a lesson/story I am going to take with me and always have on my mind. In my mind, that’s the definition of a great boss – willing to put their people first before their company’s best interest. It would have been easy for the boss to fire and discipline after the scratch, but that response was amazing. Something I also will be thinking about as I manage people down the road.

    Bert, One of the Dividend Diplomats

    1. Thanks Dividend Diplomats for stopping by. You know, I think I try to emulate what my boss did here to this day. A great boss is not only a teacher of their job. They are teachers of life. I’ve always thought that to motivate people you either have to do it by love, or by fear. If you’re a leader that relies on fear to motivate people, then your followers will stab you in the back and flee the first chance they get because nobody likes to be afraid. But if you choose to lead by love, the people who follow you will sacrifice their lives to the cause because love is a much higher calling than a job. As a leader, I always try to teach, love, and inspire, because the people you help, will be there for you for the rest of your life when you need help down the road. Thanks for reminding me of that, Dividend Diplomats.

    1. Thanks XYZ! I hoped it helped motivate you to get out there and build the bridge to your dreams! Everyone’s dreams are so unique. I can only imagine the amazingly unique bridges that this community can build when they put their minds into it. So glad to have you stop by and comment. We will continue to create great stories like this that unearth the path and meaning of wealth, so I look forward to you stopping by again.

  8. It’s true that when things are going well, nobody wants to plan ahead. That’s life in corporate America. Your job is good and you enjoy it, but as the years go by, it gets tougher and tougher. People are so used to the way things are that they can’t imagine any alternative. Keep planning and work on improving your life every day.

    1. THanks, Joe for bringing this point up. In fact, one of the metaphors in this story was that the island was a corporate america job, or a job that provides you stuff, but doesn’t provide you your dreams, adventure, or meaning. It provided you everything, so you lose track of what your own dreams really were when you first started out on the journey of life.

      Being a creative person who loves to blaze their own trail myself, it would terrify me to be in a position where I have to blaze someone else’s trail all day. A very wise friend of mine once told me this which I’ll never forget: “You’re either building your own dream, or you’re building someone else’s dream.” One of my greatest fears is to get stuck in that rut you talk about, and lose track of the bigger adventure to find purpose, meaning, and wealth that I dream about.

  9. Congrats, Rockstar!! Great post – I love the fictional aspects but the message is so true! As this year comes to a close I am sure some feel those waters swelling…especially with added costs of the holidays. Build a boat or build a bridge but you can’t expect to be saved without them. I once overheard a lady telling her friend “failure to prepare on your part for not constitute and emergency on mine.” It’s so true! Save for retirement before you retire. Save for emergencies before you have them. And build the bridge before its needed. 🙂 Great thoughts here!

    1. Thanks Miss Mazuma! It has been fun walking into this personal finance party with you. I think the scene needed some dancers, and we definitely know how to get loose and jam. One of my future posts I have to write is the wealth-building steps I learned from my break dancing crew years. Yes, that post will come, with pictures of course. My love and years in the creative grooving community inspired so many of my views on life. But anyway, back to your comment.

      Your comment is so true. The story of the squirrel saving his nuts for winter, and the rabbit who eats everything he has during summer, also impacts my views alot. I feel like we’re surrounded with alot of people who eat everything they have, but there’s going to come a day when they wished they had saved for the long winter when food is scarce. They’ll look at us like we have it so easy. But it’s so easy to forget all the years of sacrifice we went through, and the difficult decisions we made. The easy life grows out of years of hard work, and inspired discipline. That’s the truth of the easy, happy life. Put the work in, and reap the rewards. Or as my pastor friend says, (who is a multi-million net worth entrepreneur who left business to become a pastor) “Pay now, play later.” That’s out motto. Thanks Miss Mazuma.

  10. Great story and a great reminder. When you have been at your day job for a long time, it is hard to find the time, energy, and motivation to build that bridge to the next step in your life.

    1. Thanks for the compliment on the story, Arrgo! You know, the biggest source for my inspiration to keep me motivated to build bridges is my spiritual relationship with God. Honestly, I’m not strong enough to do it on my own. I am able to do it because I feel this deep calling in my heart that it’s the right thing to do. When I feel like something is the right thing to do, I get enough strength and motivation that I can almost run through a brick wall to do it. When I need motivation, I just start praying. When God puts a direction in my heart, I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do. Don’t ever forget how much more powerful we can become when we go on a spiritual mission to do the right things with our lives. Thank you so much for stopping and reading.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Stephen! If you love to read and write, stop back and check us out more often. We’re always trying to improve our story telling ability, so just let us know what you think, good or bad. Thanks!

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