It’s so interesting… the things we do, the way we justify them, and how perspective clears the jagged edges of our past to shape a smooth experiential memory.
For me… it’s lying to get on the stage in the late ’90s… until 2000 or 2001. After getting out of the military, I worked odd jobs in different fields to support my family while I started to build on my vision for the future. It’s a funny thing about envisioning a future and bringing the internal calling to external experience… other people can’t see it and (usually) can’t understand it either.
It seems that “visionary” and “delusional” are twins. The difference is perspective… when the Visionary has the courage to turn the delusion into reality.
It was a bumpy several years in my mid 20’s… of misrepresenting (that’s the word “LYING”, in a tuxedo) my educational credentials so that I can get on a stage at an event. My incessant studies (shout-out to public libraries and the Dewey Decimal System) of Psychology, Business, and Philosophy, Theology, and Sociology had given my internal calling a sturdy and practical base. My military experience had taught me to efficiently use the best components of each system, cut away the impractical nonsense, and successfully implement. Those crucial years built the programs that would have a global reach… the words that would resonate in countless souls, the methods that would transform companies, the thoughts people would tattoo on their bodies… Those crucial years built ME.
After those turbulently chaotic and integrity bending years, my education and/or expertise wasn’t about credentials as much. It was just something noted in my bio. By that time, I had already created and implemented my programs in many places… and that had proven to be very effective. Because of this, I wasn’t petitioning someone who was checking boxes to hire a speaker anymore… companies, organizations, and event organizers were hiring ME… they wanted Steve Maraboli to speak at their event… and I ROCKED that shit!
The joke was on me… I should have just removed it then, in the early 2000s… because nobody has asked me about education credentials in 20 years. People just like speaking with me and listening to my talks. My ideas and methods are simple and they work. I became synonymous with the practical application of behavioral science with business. Because these programs and modalities worked very well and I was an entertaining speaker… that’s all that mattered to my clients and I never let them down.
So yeah, to the thousands of people in the audiences I positively impacted in the late ’90s and early 2000s… I lied to get on that stage. To all the people who were there who sent letters and some emails to say how much my words changed their lives…. I lied to get on that stage… The churches and charities I spoke at and shared truly empowering and life-enhancing ideas that correlate with the most powerful theological philosophies… I lied to get on that stage.
I’m not sorry… I feel it was the right wrong thing.
Some people create their own storms, then get upset when it rains. Not me… I own it, I play in the mud, and I learn. It’s just who I am. I’m comfortable with my light and my shadow. I am a sinner, a saint, and all in between. I’m not for everyone. My friends know I’m a cannon… maybe a loose one at times. You don’t necessarily want to take me to a china or antique shop… but you definitely want me next to you at every f***ing war you’re in.
Not everyone is comfortable with how comfortable I am with the shadow side of myself. I don’t find some people’s reactions to me surprising… but what I do find interesting is that they think they are any different. If hypocrisy flowed like water, there would be another deluge of biblical proportions.
Most people have a chapter in their life that they don’t read out loud. I publish mine and literally read it out loud to my audiences. That backlash is tremendous. The criticism is obscene. The public judgment is hurtful and revealing… but the enormous amount of private messages of gratitude for my transparency mean everything to me. Like it or not, I am you and you are me. And the less you like it, the more it seems true. Life is a torturous comedy like that. The more you hate me, the more you see me in you.
The good news is, you can choose a different path than I did. You can make better decisions and healthier choices.
For me, life is an endless stream of helping others and being at my best. In life battles and challenges, I’m a good person to have in your corner. I am so grateful and humbled by the reach of my words and their positive impact on so many lives… but I will never forget how the base of this impact was built by doing the right wrong thing.