our internal dialogue is a patient in a hospital: getting better or getting worse.
as a kid i was full of teenage angst. i listened to Dashboard Confessional and fell asleep with my headphones in, looping the most depressing song i knew at the time. sometimes i wanted to die.
then in high school i was happy. i started dating someone and for awhile, life felt perfect. sure i only made $50 /week doing odd jobs like mowing grass or teaching guitar. sure i worked at Chick-Fil-A for $6 /hour. sure my band was always stealing or breaking my equipment. but life was good.
until high school ended. my friends and girlfriend went to colleges in different states, and i never even applied. i started working full-time at a home improvement store, then made grills (gold teeth), then taught more guitar and mowed more grass. i was living in friend's basements, with my grandfather, and generally speaking scraping by. somehow i saved ~$900 and recorded my first album.
i discuss more about this period in Ryan Kulp's resume, but long story short it was not a good time for me.
eventually i went to university and, while i can't put my finger on the exact moment, something inside me changed. it was my self-talk.
instead of complaining that i was starting school late, or skipped 80 days of my senior year of high school, or failed a couple AP exams... i told myself "Ryan you can do this."
it wasn't fancy. it wasn't pep rally rah-rah "you're amazing! crush it!" it wasn't a cheer. it was just the truth: i can do this. which meant my previous self-talk was actually just a lie. Marianne Williamson reminds us:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
suddenly my GPA was 4.3. not a typo. i joined clubs. i became the president of the student union. i interned at Red Bull and Microsoft and Teach for America and others. i lit on fire.
self-talk, whether good or bad, has a tendency to compound. if you have a small win in the morning you'll feel better throughout the day. if you have a great freshman year you'll have an even better sophomore year. now zoom out to decades. my 20s were a whirlwind of compounding opportunities.
but let's go back again, this time to college graduation.
admittedly my chest was puffed. my resume was bad ass. i thought -- no, i knew -- that i could get a job wherever i wanted. so i applied to the usual suspects. Google, Facebook, huge advertising agencies, you name it. nobody called me back. i thought they were missing something. but it was me, not them. because i was an idiot, and i didn't know it.
so at this point my self-talk was actually negative, disguised as positive. i believed in myself, but there was nothing to believe. i didn't have a "track record," i had internships. my only hard skills were bravado (is that one?) and typing 140wpm.
this is where the Big Deflate occurred. i got desperate. i applied to jobs as a financial advisor, aka spam-all-your-friends-to-sell-life-insurance. i don't disrespect this job, by the way. but it wasn't for me. i quit on my first day.
meanwhile all my friends were getting great jobs. they didn't have any work experience like i did, but they went to better schools. Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, MIT, you know how it goes. it felt cosmically unfair. is this how the world works? my self-talk was shit again. i started drinking a lot in my loft Atlanta apartment. neighbors would come over during the day. not even knock, just walk in and go straight to my mini-bar. i got fat. gained at least 30 pounds. i had $2k in credit card debt.
then i got a job. it was a miracle. i won't explain how, here, but i got a job in NYC. i moved there and worked extra jobs on the nights and weekends to pay my bills. i was accidentally successful in trading stocks for a few months, netted $20k or so. moved into a better apartment. quit my job. got a new job, doubled my salary. quit again, tripled my salary, quit again, and on and on. built this FAQ years later and answered this question.
every inflection point of my self-talk can be described as "with" or "without" other people in my orbit.
when i was obsessed with myself (college years) i thought too highly of myself, and was an idiot. when i compared myself to others (post graduation) i found more grounding upon which to introspect.
they say you shouldn't compare yourself with others. sounds like something an envious person says at a Jealous Anonymous meeting. for me, comparing myself with friends who i thought were dumber (but richer) was one of the best ways i learned to improve my self-talk. after all: if they could do it, so could i.
a few years into this mental refactoring i hit "lift off." i made more money than i needed. i made more money than my friends. which was kind of sad, because now i needed new targets to look up to. i still haven't picked those new targets. i'm focusing on being content and grateful with what i have. i don't need more.
these days i refine my self talk through reading autobiographies and simply sitting around, thinking. i no longer work. not really. just tinker with projects because i enjoy helping people.
i express my thoughts on Twitter, where approximately 67% of my readers hate everything i say. this is good for my self-talk. it gives me a new target. my target is to never try and please everyone.
your question says "i'm my own worst enemy." so it is. now slay it.