Only When You Get Lost, Can You Find Yourself

My daughter turns 17 today.

Dear daughter,

I can’t give you any advice.

At 17 I knew nothing. At 21 I knew a tiny bit more. At 25 I knew less. At 40 I disappointed everyone. At 47 I was shattered. At 48 I am happy again.

What have I learned from it all? Nothing, Nothing at all.

I remember one time a company I started was presenting at a booth in Cannes. I got there early before the conference opened that day.

I decided to grab a coffee and some of those pastries that the euros are known for. Those little sandwiches everyone eats while standing up.

Walking out of the conference hall I was struck like a clock. The sun rising in Cannes. The boats locked right off shore.

I couldn’t believe the beauty. Like a postcard that god sent to me.

I sat there and sipped my coffee and couldn’t believe what story had drifted me to this shore. What a miracle.

When I got back to the booth, all of our equipment had been stolen. Computers, books, demos. I felt really bad. It was my fault. My sister and brother in law blamed me. It was awful.

Miracles turn into awful very quickly in our world, my sweet one. And, with effort, the reverse applies also.

There’s no advice. One friend of mine, says “read a lot of books”. Another friend of mine says, “travel”. Another friend of mine says, “take care of your body so you can live a long time.” Another friend says, “family first”.

Let me say, this is all good advice.

But every day you will find forks in the road. Take whatever you want. Be whoever you want.Change every day. Don’t find purpose. Don’t find a goal.

It will find you.l It will grasp you and kiss you. And sweep you in it’s arms and throw you into the air and catch you and you will smile and laugh and feel love.

It doesn’t matter what tomorrow brings. Just explore.

Always remember that in order to find yourself, first you have to get a little bit lost.

Get lost, my little 17 year old. And when I’m dead and when you’re old and sick and your grandchildren are holding your hands and crying, please tell them this message from me: get lost fast, get lost often, get lost and scared.

Get lost every single day. Lose yourself. Disappear.

Only when you are lost, can you find things; And one day you too will be old and your ancestors wil be memories. Just like you, my sweetest love.

The one person who caused me to be so lost I never found myself ever again And I hope I never will.

  • Zorro

    “Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything.” Burt Reynolds, in Deliverance

  • Thomas Dotson

    We buried my sweet little 93 year old aunt yesterday. At the funeral we in our late prime of life commiserated over past divorces, financial downturns, retirement myths and the general pathos of life. We are the privileged whiners. She was the strong survivor. Her life was filled with labor and struggle and love. But not whining. When she fell on her concrete drive at age 88 and crawled into her open garage to spend a cold wet broken night alone, it just became fodder for her stories. Did she lose her life? You bet. Every day she took what came her way with a wink in her eye. Great post James.

  • I love this post. I think so many of us live with fear. Fear of missing out, of taking the wrong turn, of falling short. But your message is an encouraging and inspiring permission to just live life.

    “Be whoever you want.Change every day. Don’t find purpose. Don’t find a goal.
    It will find you.l It will grasp you and kiss you. And sweep you in
    it’s arms and throw you into the air and catch you and you will smile
    and laugh and feel love.”

  • Thank you!

  • “Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.” – Tyler Durden / Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

  • I have to say that you have to be my favorite person to follow. You are so genuine and real – I feel like I’m having a conversation with a friend or my favorite cousin. Your stories are inspiring – I know everyone has forks in the road, I feel like I’ve had a lot of forks lately and I definitely don’t know where I’m going a lot of the time. But reading your book, listening to your podcast and now reading your blog, it somehow makes me feel like no matter how much crap goes wrong, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for your work!

  • THank you for this post.

    Ultimately, we discover things on our own. We have to have the energy and will to trust that tomorrow there is another day, and we learn more lessons.

  • This post was awesome. Sometimes all those wrong turns are necessary to help build us into the person that we are today. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ted Scarborough

    Happy Birthday! Treasure her for the last few years before she leaves you. I was sad then happy. It is the weirdest feeling when this happens. My daughter has dated a wonderful young man all through college and will probably marry in a couple of years. He’s visited our home many times. On one visit it was subtle, but i felt it, then realized she wanted to be around him more than me. Then she was gone.

  • Your honest encouragement is refreshing. We need more dads like you in this world.

  • pacman

    AT 17 I knew everything. At 67? Not so much.

  • Excellent post. I feel like at 27 and quitting my job to start my own business, (Or just writing and selling books) that I have finally decided to lose myself in a world without safety nets where I have no idea what will happen to me. That’s why your story resonates with me- Because at age 48 with your own “failures” under your belt you are still alive and life goes on. And that gives me the hope and strength to risk failure.

  • Daniel

    “At 47 I was shattered.” :(