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I am the sum of my experiences, nothing more, nothing less. I have cultivated my own unique convictions because I decided to experience life, make foolish mistakes, and laugh at the end of the day.
Throughout my 35 years, there are three sayings that have followed. They have inadvertently become the foundation to my ethos, shaped who I am, and how I express myself. They’ve yielded in me the ability to rise from an abusive home, to one that I am a proud husband and father to. This is why I value them.
You are a product of your environment
The first, gave me cause for concern because I feared I would forever be marred by the memories of coming home to the smell of stale beer, curtains drawn closed from a sun permeating the air with a sickly warmth, as I heard shuffling in the kitchen of a Father unable to cope.
At 11, this kind of strong association is hard to shake. I still shun the summer heat and stale beer amongst other relatively harmless scenarios, and for the longest time they did take up much of my thoughts because I had no other experiences to drown them with. So at the age of 16, I ran away. Go West Young Man is the saying, isn’t it?
I took a Greyhound from Montréal to Calgary, 56 hours of on the road glory. I laugh that I have a story which resembles landing in New York Harbour from the old country. I had no job experience, no money, and absolutely no idea, but I had the one thing I needed, I had an adventure.
Not soon after I got to Calgary did I find myself sleeping in +15s. I walk by many of the places I once called home, and from time to time I stop and stare at them. I stand remembering that I have money in my pocket now, a business, a family, a son, but I stop short of patting myself on the back.
There are too many variables in life for me to raise my flag and state that, “I alone, thrived and overcame the evils of my unfortunate past!” Such ego. Much mistake. Whether it was through luck or kindness, I have surrounded myself with good people.
The only attribute I will take sole pride in is my affable nature. This characteristic alone has afforded me the friendship of the powerful and poor alike. This was the only currency I consistently held, and I am grateful it was given to me.
Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are
My father loved this quote, and for all his failings, this is his legacy in my mind.
As with everything in life, it took a multitude of errors before I came to realize their value. Being a homeless teenager provided many with the opportunity to befriend me, and after several attempts that yielded unsavoury situations, you learn to trust your instinct.
I formed the motto, ‘Know what you do not want’ to help me clarify my expectations better. Everyone wants health, riches, and beauty; this is easy. I found that defining myself through the things I did not want, made a lot more sense.
As I got older, the criteria for my friendship became more strict. I avoided what it is I did not want and came to the realization that friendship is not altruistic, it is an exchange. We decide to trade our greatest currency, time, in exchange for presence. So why surround yourself by those who don’t value this?
This perspective came to being because of the third saying that haunts me, a Globe & Mail advertisement. It changed everything for me, and no, it didn’t just suddenly make sense. It festered until one day I understood it.
Perspective is everything
People ask me how I came out of homelessness, and the truth is. I tricked myself.
There comes a time when you no longer sleep well when the alienation of a public space and the loss of humanity you begin to feel takes its toll. Restlessness, apathy, and depression make one hell of a poison.
One of my father’s last efforts to make up for the past came in the gift of $800. I went straight to MEC and bought a tent, sleeping bag and backpack. I bought a ticket to Banff, AB and decided to reinvent myself. Instead of being homeless, I was going to be a backpacker. I was going to find the compassion and understanding people seemed to have lost for me.
I faked it until I made it
However, this calm didn’t last long as I found myself fighting the greatest enemy we all have – ourselves. Years of anxiety had formed, and without my understanding, became anger and ego.
I had to face myself and admit there was something wrong, that I didn’t know what it was. I had to take responsibility for the only thing I have ever been in control of, myself. Knowing that I had a family history of mental illness, I faced that truth and sought help.
One of my greatest victories was turning my greatest weakness into a part of my story.
Now, every year I get older I look in the mirror and marvel at the new lines and scars that cross my face. I am getting older, an honour many have not had.
My company is built from the collected skills I have come to learn, and every day, providing I am willing, I add to it.
My home, once made of bramble, now sits warm because of my partner, the greatest person I have had the pleasure of being loved by. That strength alone, as cliché as it sounds, and it is cliché, makes life so much easier to tackle.
And finally, there is my son, whose everyday adventure reminds me to not take mine so damn seriously. I have surrounded myself by people I learn from every day, those who are willing to ask questions for the sake of curiosity and together, we are a fierce resource.
My successes are now many, so many more than I could have ever imagined.
My article was published in Branded Magazine’s Winter 2016 issue: http://issuu.com/brandedmagazine/docs/branded_winter2016/17
If you have any questions or just want to chat about your own struggles and entrepreneurship, feel free to drop me a line via twitter @dariohudon