If It Looks Like a Rose and Smells Like a Rose, It’s Probably A… Hooker

by Alexander Heyne · 6 comments

“The grass is always greener on the other side, until you jump the fence and see the weeds up close.”
– Albert Grashuis

July 2009.  I graduated university with my B.S.

Sweet.

The whole world at my finger tips, any travel destination mine, any idea possible, any goal just a matter of time.

Sweet freedom.  For the first time in my life there was no plan ahead of me.  There were things I wanted to do, but nothing set in stone.  It was just me and the road.  Indefinitely.

And I got stuck.  I ended up just taking the first job I could to make money, which was at a local high school as a tutor.

After dealing with colleagues who could care less about their line of work, and students who claimed they were sleeping with me (yes, it really happened), I finished the school year and decided to get the hell out of the country.

So I moved to China. Enter: a tale of deception.

It sounded good in theory

My travel intentions were good.  There was a lot of stuff I wanted to do, and I fully intended on being on the road for multiple years.  I told friends see you in a few years. I had a mini bucket list written down.  I had a packet of all the information on the things I wanted to do and places to see – and I even broke down my journey into three parts:

The Dreamer. The Wanderer. The New Man.

This was really a bucket list — I was going to do it all. Some of the main things included:

  1. Live in China for at least three years, and be fluent by the time I left.
  2. Continue with studying Bagua, a martial art I was studying at the time, find a real master to learn from in China, and after a couple years be a real badass.
  3. After my time in China was done, beginning in China, go in search of the last remaining hermits and wise men.
  4. Spend a period of time where all I did was meditate and train.  Preferably in the presence of a wise man.
  5. Do a short 6-12 month trip around the world with my newfound skills and peace of mind, spreading the word, and continuing on with my life.

At the start, I ended up hating China. I thought it was a stupid idea that I had moved there.  I wondered what a moronic thought it was to just go across the world and tell people “see you in a couple years.”

But I had already told everyone and sold them on my journey, and convinced myself it was happening, so I had burnt all bridges so as to not look like a damn fool.  I sat there frustrated and depressed for a long couple weeks.

I ended up living in China for a year, learned Chinese pretty well, and even studied kung fu while there.

But I realized I had these ridiculously lofty goals for myself; studying kung fu 6 hours a day, doing a world trip, learning Chinese — all in one trip.  And I hated myself for failing.

Alas, times changed, and I overestimated myself.

However, let me tell you what went through my head while at rock bottom contemplating what I could’ve changed.

1. Sometimes goals change – it’s okay, but ask why.

Moving all the way to China made me realize something — that I cared more about certain dreams, and less about others. Originally I had put them on all this “super-important #1 priority” pedestal.

I quickly realized, given the unlimited time, which things I liked doing the most with my time.

And it took me a while to realize I wasn’t giving up on my dreams. They just changed, morphed, took a new form.  The newly synthesized ones were more rewarding than my original undirected ones.

This is big: it’s important to know if you’re “giving up” on your dreams because A. They’re difficult and you claim you “grew up” or B. They changed form.

Giving up because of A is unacceptable and unforgivable.  B happens sometimes.

And it is often the moment when one is closest to realizing the dream that people often give up.  As Paulo Coelho said in his book The Alchemist: 

It (destiny) is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their destiny… People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.

After discussing my life’s largest failure with a stranger in a bar [ life is weird like that ], he pointed out something interesting.

That I was unique in the fact that I actually had something I wanted to do with my life.  He told me how rare it was to actually find young people these days with goals, passions and things they strive for.

“Young people aren’t willing to put in the hours, even for the things they love!” he told me.

We talked for a while about dreaming big, failing big, and what to do next.

“Just get back on the path,” he said.

And so I did.

Later that night when I got home, I checked my Microsoft word document that I intended to keep as a journal while I set out on my “epic journey” originally.

I had quotes for inspiration, quotes for motivation, and quotes to remind me of my purpose. And I found this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

A classic, albeit relatively overused quote.  But it struck home. Big time.

2. Finding yourself in the Garden of Eden

I realized that one of the funniest things about being human, and possessing the ability to think backward or forward in time, is that we have this lofty idea that things are better in some other place,at another time, with different people.

The reality is that people everywhere have the same concerns, the same problems, the same hopes, the same aspirations.  And people on the other side also think the grass is greener on your side.

It historically goes far back in humanity — Garden of Eden type stories.  Paradise just on the other side, if only I could get over the fence…

And in that regard I think it’s “normal” to assume that somewhere “out there” (wherever that is) has all the solutions to your issues, the sanity to your madness, the solace to your inner chaos.

Perhaps what has fueled humans since the dawn of time was the epic promise of possibility:

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

-The Alchemist

But after really beating myself up about “failing” on this epic journey, I wrote a word document called The Grass is Greener, citing all of my original intentions and how I fell short.

And for your sake, I want you to meditate on one thing:  Ask yourself honestly if you are going somewhere else to escape, or if you’re going just for the adventure.

If you’re going to escape, hoping that you’ll find something elsewhere, you’ll be sorely disappointed like me.  And that was the worst part of my huge letdown – that I had letdown myself and disappointed myself.  I just had to cut my losses and get on with life.

3. What “cutting your losses” really means

Cutting your losses implies that pure loss, with zero gain, exists in the real world.  It implies that something you have done is so wasteful that you just cut the dead weight and throw it overboard into the sea.

You have wasted time you will never get back.

But is that really true?  In almost every endeavor I can think of: a business product launch going downhill, a romantic relationship failing, a new pursuit’s progress barely inching along– you acquire experience.

And experience can never be taken away from you.  And what is the biggest predictor of success in the future?  There are myriad factors at play, but I’d argue it’s this: the experience you have, and the experience of those around you.

Cutting your losses brings enlightenment.

Back on the road

So here I am back on the road.

Maybe a bit more cautious.

Maybe a bit more introspective.

Maybe a bit more humbled.

But, as the story goes, it’s on to the next one.

Every failure brings with it an eternity of opportunities.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Lao Tze 

And on the way: Watch out for the greener grass.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Chen September 30, 2011 at 1:21 am

get ur ass in a boxing or mma gym bitch. get hit. hit back. then we will meet…

Reply

kitt November 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm

This is what I learned: a great blog title is like a well dressed hooker. They both sell.

Reply

afheyne November 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Haha Kitt, pretty much :).

Reply

Hayley Crawshaw May 2, 2013 at 3:33 am

Hi Alex,

I usually enjoy reading your posts, but in the last few there have been references to ‘hooker’ and ‘bitch’ etc. Any chance that you could avoid using such comments going forward please? Not nice for your female readers.

Kind regards,

Hayley

Reply

Alexander Heyne May 2, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hi Hayley,

Sorry if I offended you. Yep! No problem.

— Alex

Reply

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