As I walked out of the Oregon State Penitentiary, I vowed I’d never end up like my father. The conversation we had that day, as he awaited sentencing replayed in my mind from that day forward.
“Son, I don’t care enough about you to change my ways.”
I was 16 years old with a world of opportunity ahead and made up my mind I’d achieve my way to love, validation and connection.
Fast-forward six years. I’m standing on the bus following my rookie season of minor league professional baseball culminating a lifelong dream. Standing there in the aisle I considered all I had accomplished: D1 scholarship offers in three sports, D1 team captain, First-generation college graduate, and professional athlete. I dug deep to find meaning in it all but after a mediocre season; all I could see was the end.
In the years that followed, I became obsessed with finding success in business. I found a home in Direct Sales. Sales came naturally to me, the money was great and I loved the recognition I received for being a top producer. The passion I felt as an athlete was no longer there but I figured I’d out-hustle, achieve and earn my way to the life I always dreamed of.
It’s Friday. A chilly fall evening in Cincinnati. It’s the end of my first year as General Manager at D1 Sports Training. I had become the youngest General Manager in the history of the company, one of the few to lead a facility to profitability within the first year. I was making more money than I had ever made. I had a $50,000 Lexus and a condo in the City.
It was time to celebrate.
After a night of bottle service, drugs and women I found myself on the balcony of my downtown condo. I stood on the balcony and stared at myself in the reflection coming off of the floor to ceiling glass. I was empty.
What in the hell am I doing?
Over the next several years, I became desperate to find answers. I buried myself in personal development. I read books, attended seminars and courses, traveled to speaking engagements and spent hour upon hour online learning from “gurus.” I became a slave to the gym. Working as hard on my body as I did on my mind. I was in the best shape of my life, mentally and physically…and I began to find hope.
January 14th, 2009. My birthday. I sorted through the mail anticipating the gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods that comes from my Mom every year like clockwork. Instead, I found the first installment of an Inc. Magazine subscription. I flipped through the pages and landed on an article outlining Josh Shipp. This was Inc’s 30 Under 30 issue and Josh was #28 on the list. He was 28 years old, making a ton of money as a Youth Motivational Speaker.
“Interesting,” I thought.
I read the article and felt a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. Chills went up and down my spine, but I was calm. Visions came to my mind (as if I had taken the “limitless” pill) and I saw myself standing on stage speaking to an audience of hundreds of young people.
“Have I finally found it?”
Within three months I parted ways with D1 Sports Training, enrolled in Youth Speaker University (Josh Shipp’s mentoring course,) poured hours and hours of my story on paper and created my keynote speech. I booked my first speaking engagement and hired a film crew to record a demo. I had never committed to anything outside of sports with this degree of clarity. I became “the motivational speaker.”
Then I got the call.
“Is this, Nick Connor?”
“Yes. It’s 1:00 a.m., why are you calling me?”
“This is Detective Johnson with the violent crimes unit.”
He didn’t have so say another word.
I drove to the coroner that November evening in 2014 to verify that the man who had taken his life was, in fact, my father. I sat emotionless in my car before walking into the building and drifted back to that day in Oregon. I saw myself speaking to my hero through the bulletproof glass and for the first time since that day I recalled what he actually said to me.
“I love you son, no matter what you do in your life I will always love you.”
In that moment the weight of trying to earn the approval and validation of my father was lifted. I was crying but this time they felt like tears of joy. I was conflicted by that but knew my life would never be the same.
Over the course of the last 10 years, I’ve led teams, sold a lot of stuff, earned awards, recognition and reached the highest levels in sport. I’ve shared stories and stages with some of the most successful people in the world. Ironically, it was a tragedy that opened my eyes to a powerful life lesson.
We get to choose our “rock bottom.”
So many people wait for the “right” in their life. The right moment, opportunity, season, market, or whatever else people wait on. The time is now. Passion, meaning, purpose, vision (insert buzzword here) are a byproduct of embracing who you are and being true to where you are at this moment. At the end of the day, as brutal as I can say this, no one can do for you what you won’t do for yourself. You can choose to wait for your time to shine or you can start now. You choose your turning point. You decide when enough is enough.
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