“Troy, why do you wear shoes with a hole in the toe in public?”
This was the question from a ride-or-die brother. But unfortunately, many of us may never feel comfortable asking such a personal question. So instead, we judge and let our imagination run wild, never fully knowing or understanding why anyone would wear worn-out shoes; we assume they can’t afford new ones.
Let me put into perspective where this took place. I live in Destin, Florida, where a medium-priced home costs $630,000.00, and the medium income is $110,893.00. Someone walking around with their toe poking out of their running shoes stands out.
I asked my buddy to sit with me for a bit. We walked down the crystal-white sand to the emerald-green water of the Gulf of Mexico and sat down. We just watched the seagulls swoop to grab crabs and the snowbirds (winter visitors from Canada and the colder parts of America) walking down the beach. I began my story, which I hope helps you reflect on your life.
“For years, most of my life, and I just turned 59, I’ve been a poser, pretending I was someone I wasn’t. I had forgotten where I came from or what I was seeking. Not my family of origin story; I’m talking about my values, principles, and faith. Outwardly I was living the American Dream, at least my version of an American Dream. I’m married to my high-school sweetheart and best-selling author, Paige. We have four boys and five girls. We live at the beach, on an island, in a town where most people can only afford to visit a week or two in the summer or a month or two in the winter. And yet the void in my heart wasn’t going away. It hadn’t mattered how much money I earned, how much our net worth grew, or how many people spoke words of affirmation about my videos, podcast, or coaching. I still felt empty and alone inside.
My family enjoyed the benefits of my hard work and travel, but my lack of engagement with them was trashing all of us and killing me inside. I was trying to please everyone while never facing the fact I wasn’t fulfilled and my family was dying. Don’t get me wrong, on the outside, we looked happy. But all this hustle to win, own more toys, have more money, build a bank account, and give the kids what we never had was not filling the void. I missed Paige and the kids when I was gone and loved the fairy tale of coming home to be with them and enjoying our life together. But because I was gone so much, it was like I was a stranger in my own home. When I was home, Paige was burning the candles at both ends, fulfilling her writing contracts, and raising the kids as a single mom, so we were not engaging. The kids didn’t like the idea of me coming in and changing their routines or biting their heads off. I might be famous in my professional career, but I wasn’t famous at home, and that had always been what I wanted most. Most of the time, it seemed Paige and I was passing in the dark – and the pressure inside me, inside Paige and inside of the kids just kept building. It was like a pressure valve slowly pushing the pressure out before it blew.
I couldn’t put my finger on when this pressure started building, but eventually, it blew wide open! I didn’t just wake up one day and realize I needed to change. I felt enough emotional and physical pain that I finally said enough. Five of my kids were grown when I realized I needed to transform, and I wasn’t sure how Paige might react to a transformed husband.
Troy, wait for a second; what does this have to do with your toe sticking out the top of your shoe? Looking sideways at my buddy, then back out at the Gulf of Mexico, I just sat there for a bit. I could feel the emotions wanting to well up inside of me.
I was listening on Audible to a book, Love Slows Down, by Joel Malm, when I realized I was posing; I was so angry inside and running from my past, God, and fear of failure. When I was on the road, traveling, speaking, and advising others, I felt like I was succeeding for my family. I didn’t have to face the fact; I wasn’t an engaged husband or dad. I kept telling myself this was all for them, for us. On this day, I was looking in a mirror and seeing my soul for the first time. I knew it was time I stopped running, pretending it was everyone else, and admitted I was being selfish and prideful. I had to dig deep, get back to my roots, rediscover my purpose, my real identity, and most of all, my faith in Christ.
And if this is the case, I must listen and find my true identity. Not the man on stage or the personality in the videos. Not Paige’s husband or the kid’s dad. No, I had to find out who and how God saw me. I had to find out why I was created in the first place and start living as that man. And most of all, I couldn’t do this for someone else.” I looked at my friend with watery eyes. “This isn’t the first time I have tried to change, to calm my anger. Paige often came to me with her or the kid’s pain. She would ask why I was so angry at everyone, and I would stonewall and pretend I wasn’t mad. I would try to change for them, but it would never last; it was for all the wrong reasons. I realized I couldn’t do it to win back the love of my life and kids or because I thought it could change any of my relationships. I had to do this for one person and one person only – ME! I had to stop trying to change and commit to transforming into a new man.
This transformation started 146 weeks ago, and I haven’t looked back. But, of course, it didn’t start fast, and there have been many struggles. I’m still healing, as is my family. But, I will tell you, these old running shoes keep me grounded. Every time I lower my head to pray, I see my toe sticking out; every time I cross my legs and tie the laces, I’m reminded all my struggles started with a small hole in my life.
When we are not living our intended life, we violate our integrity, principles, and values; the pressure builds inside long before it seeps out or explodes. Anger is a secondary emotion; if we don’t slow down to find out WHY we are angry, we will continue down this destructive path, which is what I had done most of my life, at least what I had done during my marriage. These running shoes, where you see me wiggling my toe, keep me grounded. They remind me how the pressure inside blew a hole through my heart, mind, and life. And most of all, the pressure was also causing internal issues for me. I ended up with emotional, mental, and physical problems.
The man you hang with today isn’t who I used to be. You might not have liked me back then, let alone trust me as a brother. But I have found my way back to my faith in Jesus. I’ve got my spiritual life back on track, and the way I see it, the Lord has blessed my efforts to transform my life and love for my wife. Today we partner side-by-side in raising our kids. It’s hard each day not to turn back and throw away all I have worked for. But then I look down at my shoes and smile, knowing I must focus on the transformation and not try to change everyone else.”
I’ll never forget that day, and neither will he. Although, I think he shares my story far more than I do. And although I have plenty of boots and shoes, most days, I still wear the same old pair of running shoes with my toe sticking out.
If you struggle with your business, career, marriage, or kids, we may need to talk. It doesn’t take much to make a shift to turn your life around. But, on the other hand, maybe you aren’t into the Jesus thing and don’t care about spiritual matters. I bet I can still show you some areas where you can tweak your life and transform your relationships, emotions, and physical health. So what do you have to lose in contacting me?
Today I focus on my son and girls still at home, giving as much of my time to Paige as she needs. Business is growing, and I coach others, primarily men, on how not to make the same mistakes or engage in the sins I did! Most importantly, I now keep myself accountable to a handful of ride-or-die brothers who know me well enough to see in the blink of an eye when something is off.
So, the next time you see someone wearing shoes with a hole, don’t judge them too quickly. They may not wear them because they can’t afford a new pair!
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