Social media is a highlight reel. We all acknowledge that. Take one look at the average feed and you see how awesome everyone is, how excellent their career is and the location of their next incredible adventure. Please don't misunderstand me, we all want to celebrate your victories and triumphs with you. We truly do. It's just that we also want to know the real you, the one who had a tough week, who struggles with a phobia, the one who just needs a friend because it's that kind of night. This is the struggle between showing our "best" self and showing our authentic self, the person we truly are whether the lights are off or on. I would actually argue that your authentic self is actually your best one, the person we want to know, the real you.
These past two days I have been attending a retreat talking about power and purpose, about how we can make those changes in our lives and follow through on them with actionable steps. It has been a phenomenal experience and I have gotten to meet and spend time with some really incredible guys with really incredible stories. Picking one of them for my connection hasn't been easy. Each of these men is truly remarkable, possessing amazing skills and stories, knowledge and experience. That said, by the end of the first day, I knew who I had to talk about for this connection.
Sam Ellingwood is as brave and authentic a person as I have ever met. He is very tall, 6'5", and speaks with a softer volume, yet a voice that still pulls you in to listen. Sam is very friendly, his presence is calming and he is clearly attentive and present when around people, like he is taking everything in. This is the description of the Sam you would see walking down the road, the person you may have encountered at a store or a gas station in Indiana, he's visiting Charleston for this retreat. This is a good image of him, but it is not the thing that should be most admired about him, not the thing that is most compelling.
On the first day of our retreat, Sam presented his story. He shared it so willingly with us, so we could learn and grow from his experience. Sam shared this, partook in this act of such amazing generosity, for these guys in a room he had just met a few hours before. Isn't it interesting how we all hold our stories so close to ourselves, seek to protect ourselves from an imaginary attack, and watch other people we could help stumble down the road? Sharing your story, when it does leave you vulnerable, to help others is truly generous. That said, it is also not my story to share. It is Sam's, so I won't be sharing details with you, but I will tell you how it impacted me, how Sam changed my life in just under an hour.
I always talk about being authentic, but even I find myself turning away from my faults in order to make my own self-perception better. That's not the easiest thing to admit. I sat there, listening to Sam talk about his faults, the things he had done, the regrets he had and, more importantly, the steps and resolve he had set to change his life. Sam speaks from the heart, he's actually a very talented storyteller, with heartfelt words and a blunt force that hits you and compels you to take a look inside yourself. His story is incredible, with sadness but also triumph. He share tips, it's powerful and leaves a mark on me, with me still thinking about it as I walk to my car today.
I think a lot about Sam's authenticity, about his honesty and his road to make changes, to make a better life. I think about how I fell in love with this change I made in my life, while at the same time ignoring some other things I need to work on. Sitting here, writing as I bounce between commitments today, I am thinking a lot about those paths, about those things I can fix and change, about Sam's story, his bravery and his truth. I started to write some of these things down, to build a contract and set terms for change, just like Sam did.
I probably never would have met Sam if he and I didn't come to this retreat. It would have been a shame. I never would have met this great guy, who loves sci-fi and stories. I never would have heard his story and I never would have been inspired to take a second look and find some other things I can change in my life.
Thank you, Sam. Meeting you made a real difference. Can't wait until we can do it again.
Favorite Dinosaur: Brontosaurus and T Rex
Why: Bronotosaurus because of how huge they were, T Rex because of how badass they must have been.