‘Growing Old Is Mandatory; Growing Up Is Optional’

I was 30 years old, modestly successful, living a life based on solid principles, and yet here I was in a meeting with some young punk with sleeve tattoos, feeling like a tweenager who was just called in to the principal’s office.

Why did I feel so intimidated? This guy was coming to my office to buy one of my wholesale houses. I was giving him a great deal, and he was going to make a lot of money on it. I should have felt like Santa Claus after a few shots of Patron-spiked eggnog. (Santa loves Patron. I don’t know if you knew that or not.) Instead I felt like one of the kids on his naughty list who wasn’t going to make this deal as punishment for my Santa sins.

Despite my inferiority complex, tat-man signed on the bottom line, and we both lived happily ever after. But I was left with a nagging sense that something wasn’t quite right and that there might be trouble in paradise lurking somewhere deep beneath the surface of my consciousness. You see, that wasn’t the only time this had happened. This was a routine occurrence.

I won’t bore you with the details, but after a lot of thought, study and counseling, I figured out what was wrong with me: I was a boy trapped in a man’s body.

I hadn’t grown up yet! I was 30 years old chronologically, but psychologically I was still a kid seeking a parent’s approval in everyone I came in social contact with.

Why? Two reasons:

1. I had not resolved my past.
2. I had not been initiated into manhood.

With that revelation, I set out to grow up.

Past Resolution

Parents aren’t perfect. They try, but they’re human, so they mess up and do stuff that hurts us. The main injury incurred is shame. I’m bad is the message we take with us into the world.

Such is life. Let’s not cry about it (for long), but in order to fully mature as an adult and become a person of power, you’ve got to pause for a moment and retrace your steps. You’ve got to have the courage to see your childhood for what it really was, re-live the negative emotions as an adult capable of processing them in a healthy way, forgive and forget. Anyone who neglects to do this will be caught inescapably in a life of self-deception, confusion and anger.

Listen carefully here…. You can go to as many rah-rah seminars as you want, chant yourself into oblivion with affirmations, visualize until the cows come home (Where are those freaking cows anyway? They are late.), and set goals for the moon to land in the stars all you want. But if deep down you are operating out of a broken heart and distorted schemas based on childhood wounds, you’re only going to get so far. And however far that is won’t matter because you won’t be happy. And what’s the point of success without happiness? I mean true happiness. I realize this may sound like so much psycho-babble to some, but it’s the truth. No one escapes childhood unscathed. No one.

Here’s what has helped me:

1. Find a good therapist and see them once a week until you feel like a superhero. I did this for eight years. This article would not exist if I hadn’t done this. None of my articles would.

2. Put together a solid group of friends and get real with each other. Give the small talk, gossip, work and sports conversations a rest every once in a while. Be authentic with people. Tell each other your stories and really listen to each other. If you’re a man and this sounds effeminate to you, that means you need this more than anyone else.

3. Read Radical Honesty by Dr. Brad Blanton. It’ll change your life.

4. Go back and forgive everyone who has hurt you. But read Radical Honesty before you do it.


Adult Initiation

In other cultures, men and women have initiation ceremonies and rites of passage for boys and girls. They are all designed to re-wire the children’s brains and change their perceived identity from child to adult. Admittedly I know more about how they do this with boys than girls. With boys they do stuff like send them out with a wooden spear and not let them come home without a dead lion. With girls? I don’t know. Whatever it is I’m sure it’s equally as cool as the lion thing. I’ll read up on it and report back.

There is about a 99.997 percent chance you did not go through any sort of initiation process to manhood or womanhood. You need to put yourself through one. This one thing will transform your life more than anything else imaginable.

Action Steps:

1. If you’re a woman, read Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Do something like what she did. If you’re a man do the same thing.

2. Think of the one thing that scares you the very most. Now think of the second thing. And the third. Go do them all over and over and over until the fear is gone. For me, my number one fear was fighting because apparently I was a complete wuss. So I hired a UFC fighter to both beat the crap out of me on a routine basis and teach me how to fight. I know one guy whose fear was poverty so he dressed up like a bum, took a “will work for food” sign and panhandled on a busy intersection all day long. A friend of mine was deathly afraid of heights, so he jumped out of a plane. Get creative.

3. Study masculinity if you’re a man and femininity if you’re a woman. Learn what it really means to be a mature man or woman in the fullest sense of the word.

In a word? Grow up. No matter how full grown you are, there’s always more growing to do. That’s the beauty of life. So keep pushing your perceived limits and expanding the boundaries of who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing in this world. It’s a lot more than you think.

“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” – Chili Davis

When I was in seventh grade, I got beat up by a skinny little girl with an umbrella. Seriously. Find out how I went from wussbag to warrior, aka how I got courage—and how you can, too.


Preston Ely is founder and CEO of RealEstateMogul.com, an Inc. magazine "Fastest Growing Company." He has built and sold multiple businesses and was recently voted one of Fast Company's "Most Influential People On The Internet." He makes $0 a year teaching success principles; he makes millions of dollars a year applying them to his own life and businesses. He writes articles for SUCCESS.com for the fun of it. Follow him at PrestonEly.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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