I’m sweating bullets.
Intimidated? Oh hell yea. Sitting on top of a desk in a classroom of 30, tough-looking, tattooed inmates, all looking at me, has a way of breeding intimidation. I could only imagine what they might be thinking, “who is this dude?” or “what kind of sunshine crap are they going to feed us this time…?”
And, for a split second I felt overwhelmed, like I didn’t deserve to be there, and just wanting to run out the room and never look back; but then I looked to the back of the room for Lindsay - my rock, my watcher, my believer - and I calmed down.
Lindsay believes in me. Chris Throp, the guard who reached out to me to come speak, also believes in me. My clients, friends, fellow athletes, and even my ex-wife-best-friend, all seem to believe in me. If I can’t believe in me, all that is nothing.
Taking a deep breath, I begin to speak…
“My name is Christian Griffith and I live for a living.”
Believe in Yourself
My message is not a blueprint for success nor a path to guaranteed happiness.
I don’t pretend to have some secret formula for a successful life. I don’t even pretend to know what “successful life” means, and instead believe it to be unique to each and every person.
I won’t tell you what God to follow or where to find a significant other or how to manage your money.
My message is a simple one - Believe in yourself.
Take chances. Risks. Follow your passions, meet as many people as you can, see as many cities, states, and countries as you can. Experience different cultures. Love, hurt, cry, laugh, test yourself physically, mentally, emotionally. Take the long way home. Introduce yourself to the homeless. Share a cup of coffee with a stranger. Strike up a conversation with that interesting person you see every day, but have no idea what to say.
Why? Why do these things? Because the result of which will enrich your life in ways you never thought possible. You will experience a wealth of personal emotions - excitement, entertainment, happiness, intrigue. You may learn things you never knew. You may become inspired to act in a way you never saw coming, or did see coming and just needed that nudge off the fence. You may find someone to train with, work with, be creative with …or even, fall in love with.
The underlying sentiment here is to put people and experiences above the collection of material things and money. A good friend once told me as I obnoxiously rolled around in my six-figure lifestyle, “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.”
He was right then, and it’s true now.
What Does this Mean for Inmates?
What is jail? For these guys, it’s physical bars and fences and guards and a lack of freedom; but how many people out there have emotional bars, fences, guards, and a lack of freedom?
Let’s be real - almost everyone reading this can reflect back on a time where your decisions could have landed you in some serious trouble. Or, perhaps you did get in some serious trouble but were lucky enough to have family or connections that saved you.
Not all crooks have been caught. Not all those who have been caught are crooks.
My goal for speaking with these inmates is clear - I simply want to offer a nugget of alternative thinking. If I can inspire one guy, one thinker, one dreamer, to look inside, discover a passion or a drive or an intention so powerful that it begins to shape how he thinks about the next version of himself, well then, I achieved what I came to do.
The Only Way to Win is to Fight
Why should anyone care what I have to say? Because I have always been a fighter, and chasing your dreams requires a willingness to relentlessly fight for what you believe.
I’m nothing exceptional, but I have had always had a knack for finding ways to persevere, and sometimes excel, in the face of really crappy circumstances. It’s important to me that people see that I’m no “golden child,” but instead, fight for what I believe and want out of this life.
I can’t tell people what to do, but I can tell stories.
I can tell stories of being a teenager who gravitated towards skateboarding as a way to disassociate from a dysfunctional home life, diving so deep into it, and fighting so hard to make my way that I eventually scored sponsorships and traveled the country as punk-ass 16-year-old kid.
I can tell stories of being a fat, overworked, unhealthy Internet startup jockey who finally decided enough is enough, setting out on a quest to learn what I am truly made of through extreme endurance events and intense challenges.
I can tell stories of laying in a hospital bed, standing at death’s door and watching the faces of family and friends as the possibility of leaving this earth loomed as honest reality; but refusing to accept it. Refusing to believe it. Fighting for another chance, and eventually emerging better, stronger, faster, smarter, happier and healthier.
And lastly, I can tell stories of staring safety, security, and stability straight in the eyes, and not blinking, walking away from the “American Dream” lifestyle for what I believe to be a much greater calling. A more rich life full of people and experiences.
Doing what I Came to Do
So I did it.
I got through the speech, and I did it my way; but best of all, I touched people.
People asked me questions, even questioning my methods at times, and later shook hands and engaged with me on a level I never expected.
I met a man who became inspired to follow his dreams as a chef.
I met a man who is driven to become American Ninja Warrior’s oldest competitor.
I met a man who wants to expose his children to a more rich, cultured life through travel.
I want to do more of this. More inspiring, storytelling and speaker engagement. I said earlier that I don’t really know what makes a “successful life,” but for me, it seems clear that I am living it.
I am truly living for a living.