Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Message, Not the Man

How’s your life, NIP?

            When I first thought of writing this letter, I intended it to be the 50th and possibly the last one. I don’t think that I’m ready to throw in the towel yet, and anyone who knows me in the flesh can tell you I can talk. A lot. I think the biggest reason that I contemplated leaving this letter writing business behind is two-fold: 1) let’s be honest, reading in general is a bit passé for a culture that loves inane reality television and Schadenfreude, and reading one thousand word letters without pictures is perhaps too much to ask for most attention spans; 2) a lingering question in the back of my mind—if hardly anyone is reading them, why do I keep writing? I certainly don’t do it for myself. I’ve managed to turn my life completely around and it only continues to get better the more I learn to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can. Sometimes I think that these letters might come across as “look at what I’ve managed to do” or “look what I accomplished” and perhaps seem like some kind of ego trip, but they’re not. I really like to write because I do believe that if they make an impression or help even one person then they’ve been worth it.

            I want to let you in on a little secret, NIP. I don’t think very much of myself. That’s not to say these letters of encouragement / attempts to make a difference in the lives of others has been a lost cause or a meaningless endeavor. I think they have been worthwhile and therapeutic for me. What I mean is that I am not anything special. I am a regular person, same as you. I don’t have superpowers and I’m not a genius. What I have realized is that these letters have been worth it because it’s about the message, not about the man. I am an empty vessel that I keep trying to fill with intelligence and wisdom, but the more I attempt to do so the more I realize I am nothing. I am no one. I am a “nobody,” just like the rest of you. This isn’t to say that I don’t count for anything or that I don’t make a difference, just that I’ve come to realize that I am but one small speck of cosmic dust that is self-aware of its insignificance. But the message, that’s important, that’s crucial. The message is what gives us hope and vitality. It’s what fills us up so that when we overflow with love, compassion, gratitude, generosity, and patience—the very best of what we as human beings have to offer one another—it spills over into the next container, the next person who is a little low in his/her well.

            If I can break the message down to its simplest form, if I can condense what I’ve tried to say in the last 50 letters it is this: if you want to fix anything in your life, no matter what it is, you are capable of doing so. But you have to believe in yourself and your capacity to do so. You must begin by loving yourself and telling yourself that you are worthy of happiness. I don’t care if you want to lose weight, curb a destructive addiction or appetite, begin a new career, or whatever, the first thing you have to do is take a good long look in the mirror. The message begins with self-reflection, self-assessment and brutal honesty. You have to strip yourself bare and take stock of all of your faults and foibles. You have to tear yourself down to build yourself up. You can accomplish whatever dream you may have, but it will take persistence and patience. And it all begins and ends with the choices you make, NIP. Far too many people want to play the victim card again and again, as if it’s the only one in their deck. The longer you do this, the longer you’ll spin your wheels and get nowhere. Believe me, I know because I let far too many of my own years and potential languish from having always pointed the finger at everything else but myself. You control your own destiny by making good choices and steering your life in your own way. And when circumstances prevent you from having total control (and there will be moments like this, perhaps more than you’d ever expect), you always have the choice to control your own attitude in that moment. You are more powerful than you can imagine, NIP, don’t ever forget that…

            I hope you’ve found meaning and hope in some of the previous letters. I will continue to write them for the foreseeable future, but I’m not sure how long that will last. Just as I said in my radio interview when I won the award for Healthiest Person in Tampa Bay, if I can do it, anyone can. I am just a regular person who learned to cultivate my will power and make the best choices to affect the one chance I have at this miraculous life. I am grateful for any and all people who read this and in turn begin to make the needed change in his or her life. It’s not impossible to turn your life around, no matter what position you find yourself in, NIP. While it may take more work for one person compared to another depending on what type of transformation is sought, anything is possible. The naysayers and detractors who tell you otherwise are only people who have given up on themselves. You don’t have to be that way just because they want to drag you down to their level. You are the final arbiter of your own choices and attitudes, NIP, so take the reins of your life and make something of it.

Stay strong; stay positive…

- Ryan


  1. "you always have the choice to control your own attitude in that moment."

    A little touch of Frankl there.


    also, just because no one is reading it does not mean that it does not need to be said. well presented ideas may not resonate with the youth of this generation but when itunes, youtube and youporn have exhausted their welcome I predict a renaissance where ideas over impulse stimulus will once again be revered. you and I might be long dead when that happens this is why we the little people must convince ourselves that the work is enough. The smallest flash of insight will carry a long way through a hall of shadows if our eyes are open long enough to see it. I believe in the future. If you only exist to keep hope alive that might just be enough.

    spiral out.

  2. Frankl indeed. I almost brought him and _Man's Search for Meaning_ up in the letter, but I decided against it for the sake of brevity. You and I will always be idea men...and there's nothing wrong with that, sir.