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Chapter 4: Florida
A few weeks after the surgery, my grandfather had another heart attack. He was dying. My family was cramped into an uncomfortable kitchen area in the hospital. I sat down at the table across from my Uncle Frank. Frank was understandably upset.
I told him how guilty I felt that I was moving to Florida during a time when we needed each other. My Uncle Frank grabbed my notebook and he wrote the word ADVENTURE on it. He then slid the page across the table and put it in front of me. He didn’t say anything else, and I knew what he was trying to tell me.
My grandfather kept coming in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he would be totally alert, and other times he would be living in a dream world. It was hard to understand what he was saying, but in the moments of clarity, you could tell that he was speaking to you directly.
Those last two days, my grandfather said two things to me that have always stuck with me.
First, he told me that “in a perfect world, he and I would be riding horses while Alex swam in the lake.” I’m not sure what that meant, but I’ve never forgotten it.
Secondly, he told me that “life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s own courage.”
My dad and I reached out to my cousin who had already been living in Florida. My cousin was in recovery himself, and at the time, had just celebrated his three year anniversary of continuous recovery. His name is Brian, and he invited me to crash on his couch while I got my life in order. That was the last time I ever saw him
The day had come and my flight was in a few hours. I was at the hospital and I felt so ashamed that I was leaving everyone while the family was suffering. I gave my grandfather one last hug and he told me that he loved me. That was the last time I ever saw him Together, my dad and I got into the elevator and my father drove me to the airport.
It was a strange feeling for me, because although I felt ashamed and embarrassed, I don’t remember feeling very sad. My grandfather died too early and he did have a lot of life left to live. But the years he did live were marvelous. He immigrated to America and started a family. He lived a humble yet successful life and as such, my father was the first Stoddart to be born in America. I’ve always admired my grandparents for that, and I felt strange that my initial reaction was not sadness, but gratitude. I got to spend an entire childhood with my gramps. He was like a mythical hero. I know he lived the life he wanted to and I could only aspire to be as brave and courageous as him. I felt like I owed it to him to move to Florida, and to carve a new path for myself.
At the airport, I texted Ken. Ken was my head counselor at treatment. He always told me exactly what I needed to hear.
I told him “thank you for helping me.” And said “I didn’t help you. You and your higher power helped you.”
At the time, I still didn’t quite understand what he meant by that, but I knew I was going to find out.
I remember being on the plane, making the descent into Ft. Lauderdale. I looked out the window and I could see the lights and I could see where the ocean began. The ocean was a dark void that suddenly gave way to a straight line of bright lights and busyness.
I was starting my new life. I had no idea what I was getting into, but somehow in my heart I knew that I was making the right choice.
I had been in Florida for almost a year. I was learning to live a life of sobriety and learning how to take responsibility to myself. Aside from a short (and insightful) relapse in early 2010, I had been sober the entire time.
I was working closely with a mentor, his name is Bobby. As a way to help me, Bobby bought me a subscription to Success magazine and I would look forward to the issues that came in the mail every month.
This was in 2010, back when millennials like me would listen to CD’s. As such, every episode of Success magazine came with a CD with an audio recording of an interview or a story that gave advice and insights to help others be successful.
The story I’m about to tell you may seem small and insignificant. The day started and finished like any other day. The moment came and went. There were no promises made and no declarations of greatness.
This moment was when the seed was planted. The tiny little seed, that gave life to a flourishing wilderness of love, pain, joy, adventure, success, failure, and everything in between.
This was when my life changed forever, and this is the lesson I hope to share with you.
The interview was with a guy named Seth Godin. I’ve never heard of Seth Godin before, but apparently he was well known in the marketing space. Seth had just released a book called “Purple Cow’, and in the interview they talked about many of Seth’s ideas. The concept of the book is that many times, it’s more efficient to be different than it is to be better.
Imagine you’re driving down a road and you pass a field of cattle. Imagine they are the finest cattle in the world and are only fed the highest quality grass. There is no cattle better than this. It’s incredible.
Now imagine one of them is purple.
Which cow are you going to remember? Will you remember the great cows, or the purple cow?
I really loved what this guy Seth had to say. He was a writer and he had a blog that he wrote in every day. By writing in his blog, he was spreading his ideas and creating a big business or himself. I was intrigued. I remember I was cleaning my room while listening intently to every word.
At the end of the conversation, the interviewers asked Seth Godin for a piece of advice. They asked, “what’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to build an online business?”
Seth paused for a moment and then confidently replied. He said …
“Start a blog, don’t tell anyone about it, and write in it every day.”
So that’s what I did.
I planted the seed.
And this is where our story begins.