When I was 18 years old, I moved into a Honda Civic. I didn't get along with my parents, didn't have money for an apartment, and was not attending college. I read a lot about the student debt crisis many young people face today, and while that is real, with potentially dire consequences, I faced a crisis of a whole other kind:
Where to shower before I went to find a job.
I had no money, no food, and had to sleep parked behind the gym that provided me a place to bathe.
I addressed the hunger by occasionally resorting to theft. Some nights I would go into the grocery store, suck in my stomach, and tuck a package of shrimp into my pants.
It was pre-cooked, and I hate cold hot dogs.
I ultimately realized that this was no way to live. Humans are not meant to live in Honda Civics, or survive on stolen shellfish.
That realization eventually led me to work harder and inspired me to start saving for college. When I was 21 I moved to another state and started working toward my degree. A few years later I became the first person in my family to graduate, and have since become the first person in my family to become an entrepreneur.
Here are a few things I've learned along the way:
1. Success requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.
I was in that position because I had been lazy and unmotivated. I more or less quit planning for the future after the 8th grade, and, in living the way I was, was reaping what I had sown.
It was no one's fault but my own.
When you realize you have no one to blame but yourself you also come to a powerful realization: that you are the only one who can solve your own problems.
Wallowing in your own failure is self-defeating, but recognizing the role you played in creating your circumstances is the first step to changing those circumstances.
2. Change is a product of action, not time.
Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? Where do you want to be at the end of your career? At the end of your life?
Achieving your goals is not simply a matter of enough time passing - achievement requires action.
I always wanted to be a dad, and have a family. When I was 18 I envisioned that when I turned 30 I would have a wife and a couple of kids.
I realized two things:
A. Living in your car with no career prospects whatsoever does not exactly make people want to "swipe right" on you (Tinder wasn't around back then, but the point is valid).
B. The backseat of a Honda Civic is no place to raise children.
So I took action.
3. Identify role models that have had similar life experiences.
I often see people who are eager to identify mentors, but never talk about role models.
The two are different.
If someone is truly a mentor you will get to know he or she on a personal level, but you may never know a role model. You may be lucky enough to have a mentor who is a role model, or vice versa.
That wasn't really the case with me.
I looked up to the multiple entrepreneurs and successful people who were once homeless. I admired Stephen King, who sold the rights to his first novel, Carrie, when he was nearly broke. I looked up to J.K. Rowling, who went from welfare to authoring the Harry Potter series.
You may not be living in your car, but if you aren't where you want to be in life start by being honest with how you got where you are, take the action required to create the change you're seeking, and when you need inspiration, look to people who've had to climb a very long ladder to success.