Stripped Naked

How losing everything can give you everything

At this moment in time, I’m currently paying less in rent than when I was 19 years old. I can fit everything I own in the back of a pickup truck. If given the choice to take my “European luxury vehicle” or my bicycle to get where I need to go, I’m hopping on my bike. Most of my favorite things in life cost very little.

I’ve had some great things happen in my life. Many of which, at the time of unfolding, I considered my worst things.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been faced with some tough decisions — the ones where you only get a single option.

Empty your bank account. Choose.

Sell everything you have of value. Choose. 

Walk away from your dream home. Choose.

Let go of a long-time partner. Choose.

Give up the identity you’ve led everyone to believe is you. Choose.

These things happened and they may happen again. Saving you from a hollow statement about taking responsibility, I’d like to share a more empowering way to look at it.

When things leave you, all that was attached to them leave as well. The automated judgment of others latched onto your material possessions. The defensive, self-serving expectations tied to your significant other. The silent suffering embedded in the veiled personality you took on.

All of it goes. And you’re left standing there, naked.

Leaving a blank canvas. A clearing for new possibility.

A chance to remove the choke-holds of fulfillment — the ones we put in place.

“I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” 
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Contrary to popular belief, you’re most powerful when you are bare. I don’t mean bare as in legitimately naked, but as in there’s nothing left to prop yourself up with. It’s just you at your core. Made up of all the things in life that are free. You either rise to challenge, leveraging all that is authentic, or you don’t get out of bed.

You may not have all the resources you had before, but the resourcefulness that acquired those resources hasn’t left you. And even then, who’s to say you the reasons you wanted those things are anything more than a security blanket?

Loss heightens perspective. It reshapes the way we look at the world. When we find ourselves under a different set of circumstances, we develop a cognitive understanding of all we missed out on while it was a guarantee.

The lack of appreciation we showed. The gratitude we failed to practice. The gentle and humane honesty that was missing. We didn’t realize it at the time but the cost we incurred was exorbitant.

I get it — it’s about approval. But as long as we’re hanging on to our need for approval, we’re bankrupting ourselves.

Scarcity and abundance are more yin and yang than we realize. In the sake of approval, the person whose need for approval is abundant, receives a scarcity of approval. The person whose need for approval is scarce, gets an abundance of it — as the majority of it is coming from the self.

Wiping the slate clean gives us the opportunity to re-direct for an overflow of what’s really important in life. To create abundance in the areas that serve us best, and scarcity in what doesn’t.

You don’t have to wait to lose everything to do this, either. Here’s five simple things you can do to stay grounded and detached — and in a way, naked:

1. Check regularly for blind spots

We’re not perfect. And that’s okay. But we can still strive to be better. And we can’t do this without an inquiry. Resistance to looking in the mirror eventually leads to an unpleasant appearance.

Be brave enough to look.

2. Get feedback from others

This is a two-way life. Our view of it, and everyone else’s. If our perceived contribution isn’t in the ballpark of what others feel they can count on us for, we’re doing it wrong. 

Have the courage to request their criticism.

3. Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing until you get to the source

The why is very important. This much we know to be true. But so is the what. Why we do something and what it means isn’t always linear. 

Probe to the origin, and make sure what you’re basing your life on isn’t just a fabrication.

4. Make sure to acknowledge people for something every day

We have a big issue with acknowledgement as human beings. It’s either we’re not secure enough to shine the spotlight away from ourselves, or we’re so cynical that we take issue with highlighting small victories. 

Give credit where it’s due as often as possible, and you’ll receive the reward of seeing someone light up.

5. Share where you struggle with someone who’s struggling

This doesn’t work if you try to look good while you’re sharing. Talking about the struggles of being a CEO with an entry-level employee don’t take. Same as sharing the challenges of maintaining forty acres with someone who’s homeless. Be relative. Go where you wouldn’t normally go and enjoy the ride of humility along the way.

Robert Frost perhaps said it best,

“We love the things we love for what they are.”

Not what they could be. Or what they were. Or what they ought to be.

What they are.

Strip away the facade and love all that you have.

Exactly the way it is.