You’ve probably had moments in your life where you felt stuck (or maybe you feel that now). You might have felt stagnant, unclear, unmotivated, and may not have even realized just how stuck you were. I’ve certainly been there before.

About a decade ago I was in a period that I like to call “The Valley of My Twenties” – a very low point in my life where I didn’t even want to get off the couch. I had invested in real estate at a young age, but when the market started to crash I began losing money left and right. After a couple of years of not being able to keep up, I ultimately lost the properties, and with them – about $130,000. Ouch.

When it rains it pours though, right? At the same time, my relationship of seven years ended, and my dear friend who was my college roommate was killed in a fatal car accident. To add to the losses and grief, my brother’s wife, my sister-in-law, who had been in the family longer than I had, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.

I felt buried under all the losses, and it was difficult to find joy in life. I gained a bunch of weight during this period and my business wasn’t doing great. Overall I felt stuck, but I didn’t even realize just how stuck I was. Something had to change.

Making The List

My first step in getting unstuck was getting back in touch with my sense of joy, so I decided to take action. I wrote down a list of all of my favorite things, things that make me happy and give me energy, small and big. I wrote down things like golf, puppies, watching good movies, chips and guac, massages, motorcycle rides, basketball, theme parks, and making my bed. 

I started to take more risks and do things outside of my comfort zone like going to a life-changing Tony Robbins event. At this event, I walked across fire, and at that moment realized that “My mess is my message.” – I had a story to share with the world. This sparked the motivation to truly get healthy by doing things like becoming plant-based and practicing cold therapy. 

Feeling better in my body gave me the energy to pick up my favorite things list and start taking more action. I picked up the guitar again and started joining pick-up basketball games. I loved spending quality time with my dad, so I saved up money to take us on a dream trip to Switzerland. I even joined a dance studio, working on my moves and finding a new way to socialize.

Another thing that brings me joy is public speaking, so I started sending cold emailing emails to all the local schools, telling them that I’m a local businessman and I would love to share my message with their students. I started booking gigs and would do this a couple of times a week. I ended up speaking to about 20,000 students that year, some of whom really made an impact on me.

There was one time that I spoke to a juvenile detention center. One of the students pulled me aside and said “I know you, you spoke to my class before. You were really good, why are you here? Please don’t tell my teacher, I’m only here for the day.” Then he thanked me for coming in and it warmed my heart so much, I knew I was in the right place.

I met an incredibly inspiring kid at another middle school who had the goal of becoming a pro soccer player. He would wake up early to run five miles before school every day. Talk about dedication.

Connection Through Joy

As I was making the list of my favorite things, it helped bring things into perspective, but even just the act of making the list brought me joy. In the process of being intentional about doing these things each week, I met a bunch of incredible people – including my wife.

We had known each other for about ten years, but we didn’t talk much. I knew she had recently lost her father, and I had lost my mother, so I thought that it would be nice to connect. I texted her and told her I was getting a group of people together to go to Orlando for the weekend and invited her to join. In truth, she was the only person I had invited, but she did come. 

When we got to the hotel, we opened the door to our room and realized I had accidentally booked the honeymoon suite. She was a bit turned off, so I told her “Hey, let’s just go for a walk and catch up.”

We did, and the conversation flowed so easily. We had so much in common. We were both vegan, had experienced the death of a parent, and were at a place where we were leveling up in life. We talked about everything, and there was never a dull moment. The relationship blossomed organically from there. 

Fast forward, now we’re married, we have our son James, and have shared so many other beautiful experiences. All of this because I made that list when I was at a low point in my life.

What Brings You Joy?

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a journal and a pen and write down the things that bring you joy, that energizes you, no matter how small they are. It’s incredible what inspiration this simple activity can bring. 

Then starting taking action, one by one. Each tiny action matters. You never know what you might create, and who you might meet, all from an organic place. Get out there and enjoy your life!