My own self-disruption journey began when I was 20 years old.
I dared to sneak into the University of Notre Dame’s Career Center in hopes of landing an interview for a Chicago internship, even though I didn’t even attend the university. However, while at Notre Dame I discovered a poster of Semester at Sea and fell in love with the idea of traveling around the world. That day, I didn’t get the internship, but I started on a new adventure.
Less than a year later, I left home to circumnavigate the world, venture into the unknown, understand the world, reinvent my potential, and expand my own self-limiting box.
In short, I was disrupting myself, and this self-disruption changed my entire future.
I flew to the Bahamas and boarded the SS Universe, a 554-foot ocean liner built in 1953. As I departed, I knew I would not be in a familiar environment again until I had it made it all the way back around the world. At that point in life, I didn’t know a single person who had traveled outside the United States, let alone any of my fellow travelers on this voyage. I stepped into a new world and began challenging myself in new ways every day.
My greatest period of growth came when I realized I was all alone, yet I continued onward and chose growth over comfort. I was already a thousand miles from home, and still headed further away. I wonder if an astronaut headed toward the moon might feel the same way.
The excitement was subdued by the FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) I was experiencing.
The expedition moved me in and out of 12 cultures on three continents over 120 days. Nearly half of those days were spent in the open waters in a giant social experiment, while the other half was spent exploring new countries, people, languages, and cultures. Every day opened my eyes to something new. New places, new situations, and new people, all forced me to continuously rewire my brain and grow. In doing this, I started to open up the limited beliefs from my modest midwestern upbringing.
My dreams got bigger! Suddenly, for the first time I believed that I could accomplish great things and make a difference by stepping up to challenges that presented themselves. My path had been forged and unfolded in front of me as opportunities magically presented themselves as my thoughts began to play out in the real world. I started developing my purpose. I started attracting the people and opportunities I needed into my life. The path becomes clear when your purpose is clear.
In college, my thirst for knowledge accelerated. I graduated with honors in three years. I continued to graduate school to earn a degree in Latin American Studies as I continued to see a bigger world. This would open the door to my ultimate education goal, getting my MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. I achieved that 10 years later. Looking back, I now realize that intelligence has nothing to do with formal education or a classroom. Ironically, I found I learned more about life, and about how to excel in a life, in my time spent outside the classroom. As Elon Musk has said on many occasions, “Don’t confuse schooling with education.”
While these experiences served me well, I recognize that this is not everyone’s experience. My experiences built the necessary confidence for me to open the door to many opportunities, including becoming the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Thunderbird and eventually this experience opened the door to many other Universities and eventually led me to Singularity University at NASA Ames campus in Mountainview working with some of the most exponential entrepreneurs in the world. It also opened the door to facilitating innovation around the world with companies like WDHB, Hyper Island, and Kaos Pilot.
Just as a shark will only grow to eight inches in a fish tank but will grow to more than eight feet in the ocean, after I disrupted myself, I was soon swimming in a much bigger world.
For years, I looked for a sign from the outside world. However, it wasn’t until I started to take a deeper journey within that I realized I already had the answers. Through a series of leadership development courses, I stopped looking to the outside world for validation. I learned to say “no.” This helped me to avoid burnout and led me to take an introspective journey, which led me to Bali, Indonesia to spend time with some of the world’s great energy healers. My energy needed recharging. I spent a day with a laughing Shaman, fasted for two weeks, and I spent time in a Buddhist monastery in silence. I also spent time in isolation in the wilderness. I realized my own self-love and self-worth were only set by myself. I became mindful and embraced the joy of missing out (JOMO). I shed excess ownership, weight, and simplified my whole life. I finally found freedom, living by my own terms.
I continued to travel, learn, grow, and educate myself, to learn how to talk to myself, to innovate myself, and to reimagine myself. As the world is a perfect picture of our own imagination, I became aware of my own intentions and my own fears holding me back from becoming everything I wanted to be.
Once I became free to just be myself, I accepted that I was good enough. I stepped into the present moment for the first time. Through this transformation, I learned these following seven universal truths. You can use these seven truths to disrupt yourself this year, and watch your own self limiting box expand:
1. We are always right. To think is to create. Your perception is your reality.
2. We are our habits. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Focusing on personal habits and putting in the work will help us reach our goals.
3. Attitude is everything. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we respond.
4. What we resist persists. Let it go! Forgive.
5. The goal is not the end. The journey is the reward. Enjoy the process.
6. Enjoy the moment. Now is all we’ve got. Be present.
7. We are all one. Love unconditionally.
Once you’ve begun the journey to disrupt yourself, you’ve taken the first step into Exponential Theory. The fifteen years of research in creating Exponential Theory also led me to create a course that encompasses all the lessons I’ve learned: the XMBA. The last course you will ever need to take will help you develop your eXponential Mindset, Beliefs, and Attitudes. Much like Semester at Sea was waiting for me, the XMBA is waiting for you.