A Half Century Dance: Rediscovering Life's True Wealth in Relationships

Article posted on "I Am Unbreakable Magazine"


I recently turned 50. Like many, it prompted a lot of reflection on my life thus far. The highs and lows. The successes and failures. But most importantly, I reflected on the critical role of the relationships I built over time.

And to be honest, it was those relationships that kept me going in the darkest of times. Over 10 years ago, I left my career to start a company focused on holistic wellness. Looking back now, despite the hard life lessons, it was what I needed at that time in my career and my life.

At that point in my life, I was blind to what I had created. Fuelled by some tricky childhood challenges - stuttering, for example - I didn't notice the influence my fearful ego had on my relationships.

While I did have fantastic relationships with my family and dear friends, I spent most of my time in transactional relationships. Relationships based on social proof and validation. Relationships that reaffirmed my ego.

In starting my company, Zero dB, it all changed. My identity vanished overnight. I was no longer a young alcohol executive; I was bare. An uncertain forty-year-old about to embark on a 10-year lesson in humility and struggle. Struggling not in the financial sense, per se, but the mental struggle born of the incongruence of who I was and who I truly wanted to be.

Maybe you can relate, but when you lose your identity, the rudderless relationships in your life don't survive. Perhaps not instantly, but eventually they always dissolve.

This quote by Matshona Dhliwayo, a Canadian-based philosopher, aptly sums it up, "One friend in a storm is worth more than a thousand in the sunshine."

See, starting my business was that storm for me. A storm born from the deafening echoes of my self-judgement. I was mentally, emotionally, and I guess spiritually broken down. This was when I needed the ‘real’ relationships in my life the most.

I've created what's called the Emergency Crisis Kit. It's a card-sized reminder of what to do when things fall apart. The most important part of the list is 'phone a friend'. It's the most important because in trying times what we need from our relationships the most is a trusted perspective. Perspective from people who know and love us.

When we're surrounded by truth and love, we start to get a sense of our bearings again. We begin to trust in who we are. We start to develop a sense of true self-worth. And this is critical because our soul runs on gratitude, and without the belief that you are somebody, there is no gratitude.

We attract what we are in life. Since I turned 50, I haven't stopped reflecting on my life and the people I’ve attracted into it.

I think about my sister and her two kids. The kids born when I started my business. The only light in my life at the time.

I think about my wife and dog and our blessed baby on board. How incredible a shift did I have to make in my life to manifest this rare beauty.

I think about my most powerful group of souls I call friends. Their love provided the canvas for my soul to evolve.

On my 50th birthday, I invited thirty dear friends and family to dinner. I began and ended my speech with a realization of awe. Awe of the love I had around me.

The friends around me represented different aspects of my personality, because they were the ones who shaped it. I looked around the table and at who I now was, and I was grateful.

What I was most grateful for was the integrity of my relationships. I no longer needed to validate who I was. With these relationships, I could weather countless storms.

I've seen firsthand that relationships with integrity, built on love and trust, help mitigate the noise of doubt and fear, especially when times are tough. I've seen that they are the bedrock when all is shaky.

Sadly, I'm not sure if the general sentiment of society values relationships. Our world is becoming increasingly more isolated and self-absorbed. We seem to be losing the most important aspect of our biology. Connection. Connection to the environment. Connection to ourselves. And connection with those important to us.

We are, conversely, becoming a disconnected society. The focus is ourselves. How great and virtuous we are. Justifying this individualism with Maslow’s pyramid, heralding self-actualization as the ultimate goal.

Yet, this interpretation misses a critical piece of Maslow's ultimate vision: Transcendence.

Contrary to the notion of 'it's all about me'. Transcendence is about surpassing the ego and contributing to the broader societal good. Transcending the ego and connecting. Relationships.

I'm at a critical time in my life. The business is at an inflection point, and my wife and I are due in June. But for the first time, I can look forward and trust that everything will be ok. Not because it is ordained, but because I can see clearly.

I can see that I can count on those around me. I can see that I am where I'm supposed to be. And finally, I can see that I'm not alone.

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