I recently came back from a wonderful trip to Germany where I decided to take a break from all the noise, technology and distraction and unplug completely from what seems like unlimited pings and alerts on our phones and computers.
I've been going through a period of transition in my own life lately and I desperately needed some time away to clear my mind.
However, the reason I'm writing this article today is not to tell you how great my vacation was, but because I'd like to share with you a story.
A real story depicted from my own personal experience on my way back home from Germany that taught me some valuable life lessons.
But let me start by providing a little bit of context.
My parents and I waited for this vacation all year long as we bought the airplane tickets way back at the beginning of spring. I can wholeheartedly say now that everything went extraordinarily well - way beyond our expectations!
I spent a lot of time with my brother (something I missed a lot) and played with my adorable 1-year-old nephew.
Despite that, the time has passed so quickly and we soon found ourselves again at the entrance door of the airport terminal in Munich.
With our eyes filled with tears, we say farewell to my brother.
We go through the mandatory check-in process, get our boarding tickets and proceed to the specified departure area. In about 30 minutes, we board the aircraft and wait patiently in line for others to take their seats. Slowly but surely, we approach ours.
I place my handbag in the designated cabin area and… there I see her. Our eyes meet for the first time and we exchange a quick smile. I have to move on, however, because there are people waiting in line beside me.
My parents are generous enough to offer me the seat I like and (as always) I choose the one near the window. (It was a bad idea as you'll discover in a minute...)
I fasten my seat belt, listen to the safety instructions given by the cabin crew and once they're done, I put on my earphones and start listening to an audio program.
During the flight, I'm completely in my zone, totally focused, meditating on the ideas heard in the program I'm listening to and taking notes in the process.
From time to time, I glance at the girl seating in front of me (the one I alluded to earlier).
I can’t help but notice her natural beauty. She has no make-up whatsoever, but she is absolutely gorgeous. She has beautiful lips and she wears a pair of Ray-Ban eyeglasses with black frames that amplify her already lovely look. She exudes that special, dazzling, mysterious something - that something that I like to call “simple complexity.”
My focus is disturbed by the aircraft pilot who lets us know that we’re about to enter a turbulence zone. I take my eyes off her and I go back to my notes.
Sure enough, in about 2 hours, we land safely in Iasi (Romania). People stand up one by one to take their luggage and prepare to leave the airplane.
At about the same time, the girl sitting in front of me stands up as well. I’m still waiting patiently in my seat. She turns back to me and… our eyes meet again.
We stair at each other for what seems like a lifetime.
What happened right then and there is beyond comprehension. It was like two kindred spirits really SEEING each other. I don't know if you can relate, but this was literally the first time that I’ve experienced something like this.
She had such a bright, shiny, positive look on her face. It felt so familiar that one could easily say that we knew each other for a long time.
But we didn’t.
Now, remember I told you that I made a big mistake by choosing the seat next to the window?
Well, the reason I said that is because I wanted to help her take the luggage out of the designated cabin area and strike up a conversation in the process. But unfortunately, I couldn’t leave my seat because I was blocked by my parents, and my parents at the same time, waited for the flow of people to pass by.
(*Note to self: Never mind, that was just an excuse.)
I said to myself, “No problem, I’ll definitely have a chance to approach her at the baggage claim area.”
Well, that was another red flag. Once we went through the check-out process, she wasn’t there anymore.
I quickly rushed out of the airport to try to find her. But I didn’t.
It was already dark outside and I couldn’t see much. Perhaps she already took the cab or the bus, I don’t know.
But what I can tell you is that for whatever reason, I felt empty inside. I don’t know why, but that girl left such a huge impression on me. I simply couldn’t get her out of my mind.
But more importantly, I was so angry at myself. I knew that it was my mistake and I was pissed off and frustrated. I simply couldn’t believe that I’ve let this girl escape without even finding out what her name was.
All the way back home to Chisinau (Moldova), I kept rolling the same story over and over and over again in my mind: her eyes, her smile, her lips, her eyeglasses, her familiar look, the moment our eyes met, and… the moment I didn’t act on.
Whenever I reached that last thought, I kept getting angrier and angrier at myself.
However, having gone through years of personal development and self-improvement, I knew that what I was experiencing was real and I shouldn’t deny it. But I also knew that if I kept repeating the same cycle over and over again, I wouldn’t enjoy the consequences of it.
A better solution, I figured, was to be aware of the negative consequences of my behavior, fully accept the fact that I couldn’t change the past, and then think of a more resourceful way of solving the puzzle.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I asked myself, “How would my best self act in this situation?”
I came up with two answers:
- First: Forget about her, learn the valuable lesson from this experience and move on with your life.
- Second: Don’t give up so quickly. If you feel something for this girl, give your best and do your best to find her. Remind yourself that you’re always trying to live your life so that you end up at a point where you have no regrets. You can choose to focus on what’s the worst that could happen. But you can also choose to hold yourself open to the best possible outcome.
My mind went for the first option. My heart went for the second. I followed my heart.
I immediately started to brainstorm ideas on how I could eventually find her. I opened up my Evernote and quickly wrote down some notes. Before you know it, 3 hours have passed like 10 minutes and I was back home.
It was 2 in the morning and despite my rising enthusiasm, I went to sleep, handing over the ideas to my subconscious mind, allowing it to immerse in the vast storm of thoughts and absorb all that has happened.
Sure enough, I woke up the next day full of energy and vitality and I was ready to implement my action plan:
1) First, I created two Facebook ads*: one ad targeted only women in that specific age range, located in the Eastern part of Romania; and a second ad targeted women in that same age range but located in Iasi only.
These two ads ended up reaching over 33,000 people.
*For the sake of clarification, I want to assure you that I didn't share any details that would violate her privacy and confidentiality.
Now, you’re probably like... WHAT? (face-palm).
I know, I know… How crazy can you be to spend money on ads so you can find one girl in a million?
First, for full transparency, let me assure you that I didn’t spend a fortune on that. I was driven by my heart but my mind was still in control. 😀
And second, looking in retrospect, I admit that it may sound crazy, but at the time, I just didn’t care that much. I was crystal clear about what I wanted and I was determined to do whatever it took to reach that goal.
2) The second thing I did was I published an announcement in some of the biggest Facebook groups related to that specific location. Those posts got collectively over 700 likes and over 300 comments. People were extremely supportive and most of them admired my intention.
If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people who contributed to any of those posts, I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for doing that. Every single "Like" and/or "Share" counted and I want you to know that it was greatly appreciated.
3) And last but not least, I got in touch with the Airline Agency. At first I tried to get them on the phone, but no matter how much I tried, I still couldn’t get on the line. So I did the next best thing: I wrote them a letter.
Because of privacy policies and countless legal implications, I knew that they wouldn't let me know her credentials even if I gave them all the details they needed.
Therefore, the letter addressed my complete awareness of this issue. But nevertheless, it went on to ask for the same details I knew very well that they were forbidden to give me (her first name and last name).
I considered that if it happens to be my lucky day, maybe I can stumble upon some kind man or woman who can provide me with her details. Maybe it sounds foolish but hey, if you don’t try, you’ll never know, right? 😀
I did my best to assure them that I wasn't some maniac or anything of that nature, but needless to say, that was of little help and I got back a negative response as a result.
In sales you learn to “Never take ‘No’ for an answer,” and like a mad scientist, I went into my “laboratory” to brainstorm a few more ideas. Sure enough, I came up with a brilliant hypothesis that I decided to put to the test.
This one involved an ideal win-win-win scenario where:
- The Airline Agency wouldn’t violate any laws,
- I (potentially) get in touch with this girl,
- And the girl is happy to find me. 😀
Here's the idea behind it:
I write a letter directed towards this girl. I DON’T ask the Airline Agency to provide me with her details, but I DO ask the Airline Agency to do me a small favor by emailing the letter from my name (or from theirs) to this girls’ email address.
At the end of the letter, I would provide my personal details, so she could use them if she decides to get in touch with me. If she writes back, that’s fantastic and we’re all happy. If she doesn’t, that’s fine too, no strings attached. In other words, I find out her name ONLY if she decides to write back, makes sense?
I thought, “Well, if this doesn’t work, then I don’t know what does.”
Sure enough, the next day I receive their response. In short, here’s what it said: “Unfortunately, because of privacy and confidentiality reasons, we cannot help you with this request.”
But hey, let’s not lose hope. We still have those Facebook posts running in the background, right? What about them? Well, you’re probably curious as to what was the final outcome of these efforts.
You’ll find the answer to that question in my next article…
Wait, wait, I’m just kidding. 😀
Here’s the grand revelation:
Two weeks have already passed since I started my so called “investigation.” Despite my best effort and despite the massive momentum gathered on Facebook, I have to say that unfortunately, I didn't find her yet.
But I don’t want to end this discussion on a negative note because I strongly believe that the meaning we attach to the experiences in our life is the ultimate force that controls the quality of our life. When we come up with a new meaning, we get a new life.
So let me conclude this article with some lessons we can all learn from this experience:
Lesson #1: Follow Your Heart and Intuition
For a long period of my life I was very cold, rational and living too much in my head. I would never let my emotions run the show, let alone “follow my heart.”
But over the past few years, I started to increasingly get in touch with my intuition. I started listening to its silent whisper. And whenever I followed that whisper, I'd always come out better, stronger, and wiser.
It's not always the easiest path to take and it may not make sense in the beginning, but it's always the one that delivers the greatest rewards in the long run. You can't know where your decisions will lead until you make them. As they say, life must be lived forward but can only be explained backwards.
I'm reminded of Steve Jobs' quote: “Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Lesson #2: Learn to Manage Your Emotional State
On the flip side of the coin, not letting your emotions run the show all the time may prove to be sound advice in many situations.
And I'll be the first to admit that it's hard to control your emotions in the moment. But with a little bit of effort and practice you can cultivate those experiences, and with enough repetition, you can turn them into habits of conduct that you can trigger at will in the future.
Whenever you feel the temperature rising your body or you find yourself going over the event (or series of events) in your mind and you're getting angrier and angrier, more and more resentful, humiliated, and put upon... STOP!
As hard as it is, you need to take a step back and follow the 3A's Framework:
- Awareness: Be aware of the consequences of your behavior. You can’t change anything if you’re not first aware of what’s happening. As they say, to solve a problem, the first step is to admit that you have one.
- Acceptance: Don’t ignore what you’re going through, don’t deny it and most importantly, don’t resist it. Fully accept the fact that you can’t change your external environment, you can't change the past, the circumstances or the event that has triggered your emotional response. Instead, focus on what's within your control. And the only things that are within your control are the choices you make in response to the circumstances and the events in your life. Simply put, it’s how you choose to respond to what happens that determines your outcomes in life.
- Action: You can have all the awareness in the world; you can let go of the past and live in the moment; you can think about what you can do to get a better outcome... but you and I both know that if you're not taking any action, nothing ever changes. One way to inspire that action is to ask yourself this question: "How would my best self act in this situation?" Once you have the answer to that question, have the courage to act promptly on that insight.
Lesson #3: Have The Courage to Act When It's Time to Act
Don't make the mistake I made and “wait for a better opportunity.” Don't wait for the "perfect" conditions or for inspiration to strike you on a Sunday morning. When it's time to act, act.
Whether that's standing up for what you believe in, correcting a social wrong, or even if it's something as simple as approaching a girl that you admire - have the courage to do what you need to do even if you risk failure or rejection.
It's better to regret what you have done than what you haven't because once the train is gone, it may be gone forever.
For me personally, that's the hardest pill to swallow from this entire experience.
Lesson #4: Strive to Live a Life Without Regrets
In 2012, the Australian author Bronnie Ware wrote a brilliant book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Despite having no formal qualifications or experience, Ware found herself working in palliative care. She spent many years tending to the needs of those who were facing their own mortality. And during that time, she questioned the dying about the regrets they had or anything they would do differently if they had to live their life over again.
As a result, here are the five most common regrets in ascending order:
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This was the number one regret expressed by the dying. As Bronnie Ware said, “Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
The question is... What choices will you make starting RIGHT NOW that will help you end up at a point where you have no regrets?
Lesson #5: To Have More, Become More
I think that what my story also teaches us is that we won’t always achieve what we've set out to achieve, even if we give our best effort and do the right things for the right reasons.
In life we don’t always get what we want, that’s just the way it is. But we always get in life what we are. That’s because what we get is not nearly as important as the person we’re becoming in the process. In other words, if we want to have more, we have to become more.
Every life experience, either good or bad, is just a stepping stone towards our greater self, but only if we choose to see it that way.
And I can honestly tell you that despite the fact that I didn’t find this girl, I don't feel sad or depressed. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
I feel at peace with the fact that I had the courage to be vulnerable and willing to put myself in front of hundreds of thousands of people, despite knowing that I would be ridiculed, criticized and laughed at.
There were people who said, “How dare you do that?! What if she's in an existing relationship or she’s engaged, or married? If I was her boyfriend, I would've beat the heck out of you!” Another said, “If she has a boyfriend, pray to God that he doesn’t find you and kill you...”
And that’s true: maybe she has a boyfriend; maybe she’s in a relationship; maybe she’s engaged or married. I don’t know. But what if she’s not? 🙂
Again, you can choose to focus on what’s the worst that could happen. Or you can choose to hold yourself open to the best possible outcome.
Lesson #6: Never Ever Give Up
I guess the final lesson here is that you’ll always face obstacles on your way to accomplishing what matters most to you.
There will always be people who will try to stop you from doing you. They’ll belittle your dreams and project their own insecurities by behaving in a mean way towards you. But remember, it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with them.
And look, I won’t deny it.
There were many times when I just wanted to quit. I wanted to delete all those posts and simply give up. But I didn't quit, not because I was so strong, brave or special, but because I had a bigger vision of whom I knew that I was capable of becoming.
And I’m happy I didn’t.
Hope that helps you on your own journey towards personal excellence. Stay humble my friend. Stay well and be great!
With great love and respect,
- Daniel Cerescu
P.S. In one of the posts that I published in a Facebook group, there were a few people who said something that I intuitively knew to be true: “If it is meant to happen, you’ll meet each other again in the future.”
Who knows… Maybe the Universe will conspire to make that happen. 🙂
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