2011 was a helluva year for me – certainly the most challenging one so far.
At the end of each year I look back and write a list of everything I learned that year… and 2011’s list was long.
So that someone other than me benefits from my mistakes, here are the most valuable 3 life lessons I learned in 2011.
LIFE LESSON #1: When I Face My Biggest Fears, Good Things Always Happen…
It was 14 May 2011 and I’m in Las Vegas standing in the wings about to be introduced to the TEDxSinCity audience as their next keynote speaker.
I’m nervous and excited at the same time…
Nervous because this is the most important speech of my life so far and if I fuck it up, I’ll look really bad in front of some of my most respected peers – and the world (watching the event live over the internet).
One year earlier, when asked if I’d like to take responsibility for organizing and speaking at the event, I almost backed out of the opportunity of a lifetime – to have the honor to speak at a prestigious TEDx event and have my work impact thousands of people on the internet.
“I just don’t have the time to put into organizing that kind of event and writing a speech…” was the pathetic excuse I came up with.
The real truth was that the star studded lineup of speakers intimidated me. I felt out of my depth, unqualified to share the stage with world renowned authors, businessmen and even the mayor of Las Vegas. What could I possibly have to share with these successful people that they did not already know?
Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about fear: that when I feel scared about doing something that would be really good for me to do, that’s exactly when I need t take a deep breath and commit to doing the very thing that scares me. It’s never failed to turn out well.
So, I asked for a week to think about it. A week later, I committed to helping organize TEDxSinCity and speaking at the event.
So there I am… one year later in Las Vegas, standing in the wings being introduced to the TEDxSinCity audience as their next speaker.
In my mind, I’m pretending that I am Neo (the hero from The Matrix movie), about to save the world with my speech.
5 minutes in, my nerves are calming down and the audience seems to be enjoying it…
10 minutes in, I see someone in the front row with tears in her eyes…
20 minutes in, the audience is standing up giving me a standing ovation…
2 weeks later, my talk is voted best talk of the event by the organizers…
2 months later, my talk is voted Editor’s Pick Of The Month on the TEDx website…
Last time I checked it had more than 20,000 views on YouTube (UPDATE: We’re not at +2 million views).
The lesson I learned: When I face my biggest fears, good things always happen
LIFE LESSON #2: If It Feels ‘Off’, Call It Out…
2011 was the year I learned to trust my gut wholeheartedly. Of course, being the stubborn ass I can be, it took several kicks in the ass before I learned this lesson…
After our divorce, my ex-wife wrote a book teaching women how to get over divorce in 21 days. So a few months back, she calls me and says,
“Hey Brucie, it’s me”
“Would you mind being interviewed by a journalist about our divorce? It would really help me market my book and may get your work some publicity.”
“No problem… as long as you’re sure she’s not going to write some scandalous piece that twists the truth and dishonors what we stand for… that we’re both fully accountable for how our marriage turned out…”
“No way, she’s cool…”
“OK. Get her to call me…”
A few weeks later, the journalist called me…
You know that feeling you get when somebody says something and you just know they are full of shit? Something about what they are saying feels ‘off’, but you can’t put your finger on why it feels ‘off’?
Well, I had that feeling back in November when the journalist called me up to “schedule” an interview with me about how we managed to divorce amicably without contest and still remain good friends after I had admitted to cheating on her multiple times.
During the 5 minute call, she asked me to clarify a few things about my divorce and then promptly ended the conversation saying “No need to schedule an interview… I’ve got what I need…”
During the surprisingly short ‘interview’, my gut was screaming “There’s something off with this woman… She’s hiding something…”
I didn’t listen to my gut and call her on the fact that she seemed happy to base my side of her story on a 5 minute chit chat, and that she must have spoken to my ex for an hour to get all the intimate details she seemed to know about our divorce…
Six weeks later a dramatic one-sided article was published in the Daily Mirror newspaper in the UK that makes me out look like a sex-mad pervert and my ex-wife to be my innocent victim – emerging the hero.
I was pissed… not only with the journalist, but at myself for not listening to my gut. I could have called the journalist out there and then (while I had her on the phone) and insisted that I get to approve the article before it is published, but I didn’t.
The lesson I learned: My gut knows when something is ‘off’ and I’m trusting it from now on. I’ve had this lesson before, but this time it has finally sunk in my thick skull. As I have more experience trusting my inner guidance, I’m learning to distinguish my gut feeling from my passing thoughts and my fleeting emotions.
LIFE LESSON #3: Anything That Appears To Be ‘Not Love’ Is A Misunderstanding
If you’ve read any of my blog posts on relationships this year, you’ll remember the heartbreak I went through when my lover left me to be with my best friend… then we got back together months later… and then broke up again when she moved countries.
I pretty much spent 6 months grieving, crying myself asleep each night as I came to terms with the fact that I had lost the only woman I had ever truly loved. It was a deeply humbling experience.
My friends, concerned about my well-being, advised me to do whatever it took to forget her, but I didn’t know how to… and to be honest I didn’t want to. I loved her too damn much.
Eventually, I jumped on an airplane and went to see her.
We hung out and spoke together all week.
I learned that she ran away because she was terrified of feeling stuck in a relationship where she didn’t feel like she could be herself.
That hit me like a ton of bricks. How had I not seen that before?
She learned that my neediness was not me trying to trap her, but a reaction to my worst childhood fear of being abandoned.
The more we shared, the more we realized that each of our “hostile” actions could be understood (and even loved) by the other when we stood in each others shoes with a commitment to understanding, empathizing and validating their side of the story.
I flew back home to the Dominican Republic, still without any idea whether or not she would change her mind, but at least I had shown her that I was not giving up on us and she got to experience that her fear that she could not be herself with me (and still feel accepted) was unfounded.
A week passed before she called me up and shared that she was still in love with me and finally ready so commit to sharing her life and love with me.
As wonderful as this news was to me, there’s a more important distinction at play here: Reuniting would never have been possible had we both not made the concerted effort to step into each others shoes, discover the misunderstandings that caused the break in our connection and resolve them.
I am proud (and relieved) to say that round 3 of our relationship is nothing like rounds 1 and 2. I plan to make sure that there isn’t a round 4, but even if there is, I know it will grow us both…
We’ve both worked really hard on ourselves to get to the point where we are now – in love, deeply connected, and grateful for all the pain that got us here – even though we live in different countries for now.
The lessons I learned:
- Love is worth fighting for.
- Any conflict can be solved in a conversation.
- The rewards of moving though my pain without running from it are more than I ever anticipate.
- Anything that appears not to be Love is just a misunderstanding when you truly step into the other person’s shoes and give them the experience of being heard.
It’s my hope that by reading this you can relate some of what I’ve learned to your own life.
Is there a fear you know you are avoiding facing?
Is your gut screaming at you and you’re not listening to it?
Are you making someone you love wrong?
There’s no better time than NOW to do something about it. It may scare the crap out of you, but it will ensure that 2012 is not a repetition of the painful parts of 2011.
P.S. Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you learned. I read them all…
You write here about situations, which are very difficult, but make important changes. 1) When you get yourself cross your present border, you grow. There are different kinds of fear that hold people back. 2) To feel something is wrong, but not act on that feeling… You are focused on something and don’t think that your bad feeling could lead to some harm. 3) It happens that you believe to have fallen in love and it doesn’t take long that you know that something is wrong and then it takes time to put an end to that wrong relationship.
We all have to focus on our inner voice and do what it is telling us.
I think you rock! 🙂 last year i learned that no matter what goes wrong, or who thinks what – loving someone really is an amazing gift and when you find the one you love, you fight for them even if that sometimes means fighting with them.
The storms are never great but most of the time good comes from them and the growth as a result of them is just amazing. In many ways having those fights is facing my fear and having good things happen as a result (your #1)
Your #3 is spot on too. It seems I had at least the odd similar learning curves as you did last year – what I didn’t get was the realization that I’d actually learned something from them – so similar experiences but didn’t quite see the value as clearly as you put them. Somehow you putting them in words cemented them for me. Thank you.
It is hard for me to believe that a sexy and successful man like you is able to be truely in love with a woman (one woman only)!!!
I’m glad to see you in love and ready to fight for it; encouraging others to believe in love again.
Thanks for your life lessons and Good Luck!
Believe it or not Stella, us men are actually human! Fortunately we’re able to fall in love too 😉
…and thanks for the compliment.
Just now, I’ve been dreading one of my biggest fears the fear of what the future holds for me…you see, I’ve just been reassigned to another station in my work and although I know that there are many opportunities waiting for me where I am going, I am scared of what might happen, the ‘what if’s’ come to my mind. So reading your thoughts about your experience when you faced your fear is gradually helping me be grateful instead of being scared. Now, I’m trying to see the present and being thankful for all the blessings that I have now, that is manifesting now, not fearing what is to come. Thank you Bruce! I really am truly grateful!
Bruce I am so glad that I met you on that champagne day, in Blouberg at Petit Fours , just after your breakup with your girlfriend. I love your work and the way you are spontaneous and from the heart. Every time I read your articles I move forward in my thinking.
Hi Bruce, thanks for sharing all those eperiences we us, your story is a inspiration. and also thanks for all your good advices. Your advices just come to me like a message from God, since I am facing a similar experience. I have a great 2012 years!!
Welcome back Bruce! Happy New Years!
I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart, your words over the last year have helped me tremendously. I have been going through alot of the same things that you have, the loss of the most important woman I will ever love. Nights crying myself to sleep, depression, and over all the toughest year of my life. A new and very special woman had introduced me to The Secret, I embraced it’s teachings and ran with them, which in turn led me to you. Thank you again and keep up the excellent work!
Cheers to a wonderful new year and new beginnings!!!!!
Thank you for writing about your life lessons, they are very inspiring. Nothing is more interesting than authentic, real personal experience. I admire your ability to “speak your truth” – very cool!
Bruce, after reading this I do not feel the authenticity. Are you bagging your ex-wife because she ‘vouched for journalist, and is the story about your current partner simply to demonstrate that although she left you, she has come back?
Feel free to put me straight, but that is me being authentic…….
Not bagging anyone. It’s not my wife’s fault that the journalist wrote an article that was as dramatic as an afternoon soap opera. The point of life lesson #2 was exactly what I wrote above – I learned that not trusting my gut costs me. My gut had told me the journalist was full of it and I did not listen. Was that not clear from what I wrote? If not, let me know how, so I can correct it.
With regard to Life Lesson #3, there were 4 distinct life lessons that I pointed out at the end of that section – the most powerful being “Anything that is not love is just a misunderstanding”. The story about my relationship is secondary and was shared to illustrate the power of finding the misunderstanding behind a conflict – how doing that can bring love back to any relationship in upset.
Again, if I can make that clearer, I’d appreciate your help.
Thanks for clarifying Bruce. I would be happy to share what I read into what you wrote if that is of any help to you, just send me a mail.
At the same time, I would also like acknowledge the work you do to investigate, understand and create authenticity. I have come across your work on a number of occasions and am grateful for the impact you have made in empowering people to live authentically
I have actually been following you for some time now although I don’t always read every post. This one caught my attention because I am always wanting to learn a lesson and it is easier to learn from others mistakes(by easier I mean less painful). I also wanted to tell you that I had a love for a man just like you do for your woman only he didn’t come to me and resign himself to a committed relationship and after 20 years of waiting I finally let go in 2011 and I could kick myself for hanging on for so long but what can I do? I did it, I wasted 20 years. Now at 48 I have no clue where my life is headed. I am glad things worked out for you. I am glad you did not waste 20 years. I would like say to you thank you for all you have shared and I wish you happiness and good luck for this year and many to come.
Hey there , all the way from Singapore here…
I must say that I am truly amazed with the truth that you are confessing… It gives me the needed strength to continue my journey in life. You are such an inspiration.
You’re so brave to share all your personal experiences but because of that you mean so much to so many!!!
All the best for 2013
Great lessons Bruce. Never try to solve anger with anger. First be the “hearer” then the speaker :-)Always starting with “I feel hurt ” than saying “YOU” …(negative referals). Made me THINK again , thanx
I’ve learned to face my fears (& I have a lot of them) & trust love..many thanks to u
Thanks for the post, it reinforced a thing or two about facing my fears that I already know but needed to read once again.
It took some guts to put yourself out there ! OMG, The Daily Mirror eh? NEVER trust a woman whom you have cheated on! Clearly what she did was wrong but come on? LOL .. Even the most civilized person is going to be angry about a spouse cheating, and multiple times ? As a girl I can tell you I would have been pretty upset too.. I dont know if I would have set you up like that though.. I’m sorry that happened to you , it sucks but there you are, you learned to trust your gut and have grown from the experience.
You truly to have an incredible gift Bruce! I will never forget the speech you gave at Mark Ryan’s/Joe Vitales event , and how you realized that you were a racist and then took the steps to overcome that and you wound up helping so many people.
I love your candor and I completely respect that you don’t gloss things over to make yourself look like a perfect human being like other Personal Develpment people do.. Thanks for the honesty
Wishing you tons of love and continued success this 2012 !
Thanks for the encouragement Aymee,
Just to clarify, my ex-wife didn’t set me up. She too trusted the journalist…
To be honest, Bruce, I used to be a real fan but …
… you cheated on your wife 18 times before you told her?
Sorry, but I can’t admire that in anyone for any reason.
Goodbye and good luck.
I get it Dawn,
Had I read that article not knowing the other side of the story, I too might also feel the way you do…
This is a great example of my Life Lesson #3: Anything that appears to be “not Love” is just a misunderstanding. But in order to get the misunderstanding, you’ve got to stand in the other person’s shoes…
Nothing is as it seems – especially in the Daily Mirror!
I get SOOOO many emails from various people and companies trying to sell me their programs or products and I have no idea who you are or what you do. I usually just delete, but felt compelled to open due to the title of the email “3 Painful Life Lessons in 2011” as I had a few major setbackslast year and am still trying to figure things out. After reading the article and some of your other blog posts, I think I’m in love! Just kidding, but I love your intense honesty and boldness and ability to put it out there for the world! Thank you
Thank you so much, Donna. I appreciate the acknowledgment. I think we all get a ton of useless email these days, so its’ nice to know mine is considered valuable.
I’ll keep writing!
Your a very brave man Bruce, good on yer.
There is lessons there for all of us.
I always go by gut feelings, but sometimes its hard when something comes from a trusted source. Glad you got your love back. x
I love your honesty, Its refreshing to hear. I am glad things have worked out for you in your relationship, and wish you both well. I am dealing with some bigs fears at the moment, and I am facing them head on, mostly. And When the panic sets in I talk myself down.. But I am on the path.. Thanks again
Congratulations! I`m happy for you! Wishing you loads of joy, Peace of mind and fulfilment!
Bruce, I love reading your articles, you are so easy to understand, and make so much sense. Thank you for sharing your private pain with us to help us. And what a beautiful picture that is, you are awesome. Happy New Year to you.
Going to conquer some big fears this year…this post is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you 🙂
Nice and personal, very good lessons…enjoyed the article..especially the one about relationships.. and the gut thing..in fact it all applies to my 2011. Thanks. x
moving and something personal