There are times in all of our lives when we feel extreme pain. Sometimes that pain is so extreme that it can shape our purpose. I feel this is true for me.
I'm captured by 'The Hero's Journey', used to create so many amazing stories from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games and many more as I can see that my story has also played out like this.
It's likely that yours has too...
This was very ordinary - I lived with my mother and step father (my biological father left before I was born) and my two younger brothers and sister in a small mining village in Wales, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, I'm sure you've heard of it... :)))
Before this point until around age 8 or 9, I lived with my mother and my one younger brother. I have some memories of her being a very happy, smily and loving mother.
She was a hairdresser and my younger memories of home are filled with old lady's sitting in large hairdryers that seemed to cover the top half of their bodies and Barry Manilow songs filling the air. I was happy.
So, forward again to my 'teens'. We didn't have much money but we got by, I was one of the kids who needed 'dinner tickets' and would always look at the kids with the cool trainers with a hint of jealousy as I sported my 'Gola' trainers (they weren't cool back then).
I had a paper round, wasn't particularly good in school, had acne, two front teeth missing from going over the handle bars on my bike, and was one of the skinny kids who got the occasional bit of interest from the cool kids in the form of their football being kicked at me at pace when they were bored.
My Sister Emma, left, me in the centre, my brother Paul on the right.
My mother, Jennifer, was in and out of hospital with post natal depression and some mental illness, but it sort of became normal having lasted a few years. I have a lasting memory from when I was around 6 or 7 of her telling me I would be a 'heart breaker'.
I was just 16, three weeks prior, when real pain visited our family and changed our lives forever.
My mother said 'I'm just going out to get a loaf of bread from the shop'. I don't even remember this, apart from that we've talked about it. It seemed normal, the local shop was just up the road. Things we're looking up, it was my youngest brother's birthday tomorrow, he'd be 6.
The next thing I remember is the sight of blue flashing lights coming from just down the steps that led to the railway viaduct behind our house. It was one of those grey days in Wales, around tea time I think.
She'd jumped. 150ft to her death.
Her shoes were placed neatly next to my youngest sister's toy plastic chair that she'd used to climb up onto the wall.
My feelings then were my first indication at how powerful the human mind is at shielding us from pain we can't handle, and I remember questioning myself, why was I not crying, why did I feel...... nothing?
I was simply what I would describe as detached from the pain - it was weird, I just didn't feel it, but it was definitely there deep down.
At first, the call was not to adventure, it was to drop out of school and look after my younger brother and sister (at this point my other brother left with his real dad and his life took it's own path).
I didn't care, I hated school anyway, I think the education system was not good enough to cater for individuals, so I'd fallen behind on most things, identified myself as a bit thick in school, and my dad had to work to provide for us.
This was the situation for around the next year until I got the call to adventure - The British Army.
I reflect on my life and recognise this unshakable belief deep inside my mind that has always guided me to a new place whenever my life could have settled for mediocrity. It just won't let me. It pushes me to go further, always.
So I find myself in the Army Careers Office in Swansea. I needed to 'get a trade' or my dad (thankfully) wouldn't sign the papers as I was only 16. I wanted to be an electrician like my dad, but my scores on the entrance exams weren't high enough. I could have been a carpenter or bricklayer, but my heart was set and so it seems was the Careers Office Army Sergeant's.
This bit is hazy (like a lot of other bits at that time), but suddenly, I'd scored just enough to join as an electrician, thanks Sgt!
Before I knew it, I'm on the train with a few other wide eyed young boys to the Army Apprentice College, Chepstow, to become a junior soldier and have my head shaved by the 'Camp Barber'! This really happened.
There were many of these, including the Senior year apprentices (just 1 year older than us) making us fight each other in our accommodation blocks late at night or at the weekends, away from the eyes of the Instructors, for their amusement and entertainment. There was a culture of this back in the early 90s, which I am glad to say is now completely different in the British Army.
I'm not going to visit my nearly 25 year career much in this article for brevity and to follow my journey more holistically, however, suffice to say there were many trials throughout my career, at home in leaving my sons when they were just 18 months old for 6 and 7 months respectively, and abroad in peace and on operations that shaped who I am now for the better.
Here's just one of the pivotal experiences where I was responsible for the demolition of enemy caves, that shaped me as a leader and brought sharp focus to what's most important in my life - life, people, and relationships.
There've been many more trials in many different contexts and I truly realise that this place of discomfort is where we can emerge stronger and better, and where I choose to live everyday, on purpose. It makes me feel alive.
Whilst in the military, this unshakable belief deep inside my mind that has always guided me to a new place whenever my life could have settled for mediocrity emerged stronger and became more obvious. I pushed myself and gained results and learning in many ways but just a couple include:
Another one of these trials I set for myself after meeting and learning from a significant mentor, Dr John Butler, of the Hypnotherapy Training Institute in London.
A long story cut short - I became fascinated with the power of the human mind.
I searched out the best in the world and went to train with him for a year, and the funding from the military just appeared to support this unusual path.
I didn't want to be someone who talked about 'the power of the mind' without any real understanding or conviction, so I tested it by having a significant dental procedure without anaesthetic. I wanted to see if I could instruct my mind to feel nothing when the dentist was drilling and cutting into the nerves in my gum.
I did it. I was completely aware and felt nothing at all. Here's one of the procedures (I had a number of others after this including surgery).
This changed my mind and my whole view on what was possible for me, and started me on a new journey into helping people to change their minds while continuing to master my own.
Since this procedure over 10 years ago now, I climbed to the top of the soldiers chain of command and had the huge privilege of becoming the Regimental Sergeant Major of 24 Commando Regt (the first unit I joined after my commando course at 18 years old) and traveled around the world with amazing people and experiences, many of which were humbling and life changing on their own.
I have continued my ongoing project of mastering my mind and helping others to change theirs as a therapist for over 10 years and now a high performance life coach serving the military and business leaders and teams.
I have a beautiful home, a beautiful wife, two amazing boys, my sister has two beautiful children, I have deep friendships, amazing clients, and I am extremely grateful for my life and everything that I've experienced in it.
I feel a sense of completing the circle and landing back at the beginning with a completely different perspective on life and a purpose that drives all of my decisions.
I believe that unshakable belief that's always been there, and has driven me and pushed me to higher achievements and more difficult challenges all of my life, was my purpose born from trauma. I couldn't see it clearly back then, but it was driving me in the right direction.
I have realised on a number of occasions that life can be taken very quickly and that so many of us take it for granted.
Relationships can be lost and pain can visit, so I have decided to live my life on purpose.
The purpose of my life is to be loving, present and positively charged, to role model courage, kindness and personal discipline so that I may impact people, including myself, in positive and lasting ways, bring people into their high performance experience of life and loosen the grip of fear on society.
I see a vision of the future where people are much more aware of themselves, they are proud of themselves instead of scared to be themselves and they are living and loving their lives, fully, on purpose.
I celebrate my mother's memory, although large parts of it are still hidden in the protection of my mind.
I keep her energy alive in me and I think she's proud of my efforts and that's huge for me.
We all have a hero's journey, you're the hero of yours, I encourage you to write about it.
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