Our true happiness doesn’t come from grades, from winning, from beating someone at something, from playing a game better, or any of those other things the world claims brings satisfaction. Our happiness comes from staying true to ourselves.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

 – E.E. Cummings.

Cummings has it right, this world tries to change us into something mediocre the best it can. It brings temptation, the things we know we don’t want in life, and makes us think twice about the things we have. It causes us to speculate about what will happen, and what’s out of our control. It tries to mold us into a plain version of everybody else. But if we really want to be ourselves, we have to fight for it every day. This fight can never end. We are constantly tested. We get advice from people, we hear things that make us question ourselves, and we try to find answers to situations that sometimes, we shouldn’t have the answers to at all.

One of the hardest things for me to do is admit that sometimes, we can’t have the answers to everything. I am a problem solver by nature, and if there’s a certain problem that plagues me, I write it down. Then, I come up with a bunch of different possibilities, find the most logical answer, implement it, and then I stick strong to my solution. But life is full of events that don’t have logical answers. You can’t run through life treating it like a math problem. There are just too many factors to take into consideration. People’s feelings are vital, and your feelings are inevitable. The list goes on and on. Sometimes, you just have to go off of what you know, and have a little faith that you’re moving in the right direction.

Without a doubt, faith is one of the hardest things to possess. You are basically telling yourself that despite what your senses tell you about everything else in life, you must shut all of them down and just blindly “hold” onto something that isn’t there to hold. I am getting to why I am happy, I promise, it’s just that there are so many opportunities to lose ourselves and really stray from our path. There are endless ways to change ourselves for the worse, and become manipulated by things that aren’t worth the fight. I have done these things in the past, but I have learned from them, and that’s why I am the person I am today. I know these things will continue to happen, and it’s just a part of life, but my compass is pretty strong right now and I clearly see what’s worth it and what isn’t…well, most of the time.

I have had many opportunities to destroy things, tear them to pieces and burn the remnants, but I didn’t take them. The realization to not do that didn’t come so easily. The easiest thing to do is to protect ourselves. It’s instinctive to want to light a fire around ourselves when the world threatens, but most of the time, those first reactions are the most dangerous thing we can do. Sometimes, it’s good to be vulnerable. I truly believe that beyond public speaking, being vulnerable is one of the things that scares people the most all over the world.

I was sitting outside the other day, and I was just playing with a box of “strike anywhere” matches. I have always struck the match, watched it burn, and then flicked it onto the blacktop. But as I was watching those matches burn, I realized something. When we hold a match sideways, it burns so fast it almost singes our fingers. However, when we hold the match upright, it takes forever for the flame to burn down the wood, and a lot of the time, it just puts itself out entirely. I sat there for a second, and this is what I came up with.

If we lay down to die when things get hard, we almost always turn to ash. But if we let ourselves stand, no matter how much fire is around us…that flame will almost always burn out. We need more people to stand in their flames.

Here’s why I’m smiling today. I am sitting here smiling, because I am thinking clearly. Sometimes when things happen to us, we are all muddled up in the confusion and the emotion, and it clouds our heads. We are so concerned with how we are doing, that we can’t see the big picture. So, here’s the big picture. The greatest opportunity I was ever given in my life was the opportunity to change everything I had ever hated about myself. This opportunity came at a great cost. It came at the cost of unexplainable suffering. While it took a year, I came out a better person because of it, and developed that hard inner core I was talking about earlier. I like to refer to it as the iron will in my heart. What I have learned is that while the process was excruciating and lengthy, it was worth it in the end. It made me proud, it allowed me to keep my head up, and most of all, it helped me create these positive massive buildings from a previous ground zero construction site. Best of all, I never had to rebuild those that I didn’t want to see anymore. I learned about myself, and got to know the man within.

My job is never going to be done, but I know that with a little iron in my heart, I can withstand the unthinkable. Beyond that, the most important thing I have learned, is that I have what it takes to make myself feel alive.

“The amount of time it takes you to get where you are to where you want to be is the amount of time it takes to change the vibrations within you.”

– Unknown 

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project