My office window overlooks a massive building that’s being renovated. It’s one of the city’s landmarks, a concert hall opening onto the main plaza.
Every day, I get to watch construction workers pick at it, little by little: they first gutted it out almost entirely, demolishing everything but the outside walls, a few internal walls and the main pillars of the construction. What was once the place where my parents came to see me in dancing shows (I had a dancing moment as a teenager), was now a bare concrete structure.
They then slowly started rebuilding, at first roaming inside, moving cables and reinstalling pipes, then adding a bit of height and putting in new window frames.
One day, as I was journaling about my own slow progress towards my dreams and looking over the messy construction site, it hit me.
There’s this thing I never thought about that’s part of the process of rebuilding a building, and it’s part of the process of rebuilding a life. A thing that a lot of people just won’t do to themselves, myself included.
They won’t be gutted out.
Think about this for a moment.
You can slap on a fresh coat of paint on your life, but if you want it transformed in a massive way, you can’t do it without demo day. It’s in all interior design shows that are now so popular. The first thing they do is swing a hammer at what was to create what will be.
“If you want to fly in the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down.” — Amit Ray
Hammers hurt, so if you’re like me, you’re afraid of them. What would this mean? What exactly has to be removed from you and what gets to stay? Will you ever be yourself again if you go this far?
It’s an irreversible process, so you have to decide now.
The problem with this decision.
You don’t know what you have to give up.
When I was young, I thought to achieve the things I wanted to achieve, I had to give up having a family. Then I had a family.
Since then, a tiny voice inside me was telling me that I’d missed my chance in making it big. That it was too late for me, that I didn’t have the freedom anymore to make the necessary decisions.
A few nights ago, I watched Dark Phoenix and at the end Jean Grey, the main character, who’s always been told that her emotions make her weak, said
“You’re wrong. My emotions make me strong.”
It’s not the best screenwriting in the world, I know, but it was an aha moment for me. Your emotions could make you weaker or stronger, depending on how you deal with them. Your family could make you weaker or stronger, depending on how you see it.
Until that moment, I saw my family as one of the things I had to remove to succeed. In turn, I saw myself, my confidence and my deep-seated knowledge about how the world works as the foundations of my life and the reasons behind everything meaningful I’ve achieved.
I was wrong. My family is now the foundation of my building. The love and support I receive from them make me stronger, not weaker. Remove that and I’ll collapse in on myself.
The things that have to go are my self-sufficiency, my desire to compete with everyone around me, my inclination to listen not to hear, but to respond and to impress.
People who are ready for success can give up things.
That’s the first step. We all know it intellectually, but emotionally, we stick to what we are. It’s what we’ve been since we were kids, and we’ve been building on top of it for years and decades, to the point where it feels like if you pull at one thread, the whole thing will unravel.
But the people you look up to, they’ve pulled at that thread. They were scared to do it, but they did it. It was difficult, but they did it. They saw all the positives of remaining who they were, and yet they knew it wouldn’t be enough for the next level, so they adapted.
How to demo yourself.
It starts with awareness. First, you must realize that you do need this, that you can’t build your new life on top of things that don’t serve you anymore.
Then, you must do a lot of inner work to identify what must go and what must stay. Whether you choose to do it on your own, through journaling, meditation, prayer or get professional help from a life coach or a therapist, it’s your call. You know best what’s best for you.
“In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” — Deepak Chopra
Some of the things you’ll have to change will be internal, some will be external. Plan them all carefully. Consider how they’ll affect your life, consider how difficult implementing each change will be and start small. It’ll get you going.
Then cut the umbilical cord and don’t look back. It’s over. It’s done. There’s a void there now, I know, but it’s okay. That’s what you needed.
Give yourself time to reset your focus on what you want. Be careful not to fill this void with the expectations of others, or with your imposter syndrome. Fill it instead with what matters. What matters? What matters enough to give you the strength to do this?
Now you have it. The one skill of successful people that no one talks about — being able to swing a hammer and demolish you.
You’re only at the beginning, but the beginning is the hardest part. If you did this, you’re ready. Good luck on your way up.