The story behind what started my journey to #thriveonlife
Picture circa 2016. Do not worry about being perfect with your content. Just start and get better as you go.
what started #thriveonlife ?
In short, the pursuit to find my true self, pursue my passion, and strive to fulfill a mission and journey that would impact many more than just myself.
Like many others out there, I used to hide my authentic self. Most times it is not because we choose to, but because society never really makes us question ourselves until after we have been on earth for a couple decades. It is not something anyone else can figure out for us. We must pursue the question ourselves and find the answer through a lot of trial and error.
As for me, a lot of physical pain and internal conflict caused me to seek a bigger meaning to life in my early 20’s. Upon this journey I found my calling. THRIVE ON LIFE was born to help other people ask themselves the hard questions and inspire them to find their own mission in life. One much bigger and more fulfilling than a paycheck.
Read below for some insight into how it all started for me.
My brand started the day I was born. But so did yours. So did all of ours.
11 days after the new year. Tossing and turning in the womb my mother had an emergency c section because the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck.
That should have been her first sign that I was born to challenge anything and everything in my way.
As a kid, I was hyperactive. I forced her to get up early and play sports with me in the yard, then I’d be non-stop for the rest of the day. Then I would pester my dad as he worked on the car, the house, or whatever other project he had at the time. I was one of those kids you put on a leash, because if you took your eyes off me, I was off running to the next thing. My parents learned the hard way over the years, and my friends and family would attest that I’m still much the same to this day. You either keep up, or I’m gone.
I am beyond thankful my parents took the time to sign me up for every sport and social thing possible. What started at the age of 3 to burn off my energy, turned into an insatiable desire to get better at everything I did. Whether it was on the field, in the skate-park, or in the classroom, I was one of the most competitive people you’d ever meet. That was CJ. But the whole me was somewhat always hidden.
Who was I?
Behind closed doors, I struggled a lot. Throughout my childhood, I constantly battled intestinal issues. I haven’t gone a week in my life without any pain, discomfort, and most times diarrhea.
This pain shaped my entire life. Sports, learning, connecting with others was always a drug that kept my mind off of what my body was going through. But like any drug, too much causes terrible things to happen. I would get overly competitive, overly anxious to do more and achieve more, and overly critical of people around me. This lead me to follow what I thought "would be" the right path rather than what I felt was the true me in the moment.
I always had a lot of friends, but never truly felt part of the pack most of the time. From high school going into college I spent a lot of time trying to find myself. Days were spent with engineering curriculums and some of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. Nights were spent on the athletic field with some of the best athletes I’ve ever met in my life. Parties were spent in my fraternity with a mix of everyone in between. Who was CJ though? Why was he here? Did he study so hard to improve himself or to try and prove his worth to others? Why did he practically kill himself while playing sports? Did he party so hard because he enjoyed it? Or because he wanted to seem enjoyable? What was he chasing?
I was chasing a purpose. A point to this life.
I was in pain. And I needed a purpose to make the pain worth it. Money never did it. Material items were never my thing. Traveling was always fun, but that always made me sick so it was stressful. Socializing with people was always great, until they complained, created drama, and royally annoyed me deep down because they cared about the wrong shit.
On the outside it seemed I had it all. Great friends and family, engineering degree in hand, great career path ahead, a gift for athleticism, and a work ethic that few could compete with.
Yet, I was the most alone I had ever felt in my life. I did not fully fit in at work, I did not fully fit in on the field, I did not fully fit in at the gym. WHERE was my tribe? WHO was my tribe? WHY did I care to even have a tribe?
While many were looking forward to the next weekend, drinks at happy hour, and other so called “fun” things…behind closed doors I was building. Rep by rep I was transforming my body. Book by book I was transforming my brain. And online course by online course I was learning new skills that I enjoyed learning rather than what teachers told me I had to learn.
Alone in my own zone.
Alone at night in my bedroom, a craigslist sublet in Union City New Jersey where I lived with another guy and girl, I was finally finding my purpose. The books and courses started my path of questioning our reality. The external transformation I had because of my work in the gym gave me the internal confidence that I can do and achieve anything I set my mind to. And the ability to make my own money, in multiple ways, gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do.
There was one key ingredient missing though and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what is was.
I was working extremely hard, but I was still my own worst enemy. While I was making progress, I still was holding myself back by drinking too much, chasing the next fling, and chasing fleeting experiences.
Then one day in spring 2015 I had a gut check. One of my roommates believed in me enough to question me on my shit. Linda asked me “CJ what do you want from life? You are all over the place. Wake up early, go to bed late, constantly going…but what for? She always called me "old soul" and at the time I had no clue why. Looking back however, she saw that I was in turmoil. I was stuck at an age I did not necessary belong in. I would question the lifestyle I was living, but then I would still do it and not CHANGE anything…every human in the world can relate to this. That conversation changed my life forever. And Linda, wherever you are in the world, I hope all is well. You changed the course of my life that day and I will never forget it.
And in a moment your life can change forever...
The conversation ended like this. She asked, “is there anyone on earth you look up to or want to be around?”
My response: “Yeah, there’s one person I have always been drawn to, but I can’t be around her because she lives in Texas.”
To this day her response still gives me chills. “CJ go fly to her, she is going to love who you are, I just know it.”
(In my early 20’s I had such a narrow minded view on life. I couldn’t picture myself going after what I truly wanted because if I failed at it then I would let myself down. That seemed worse than letting others down in a life society pressured me to live. Linda was already in her 30’s and had a much wiser view on life. Having moved from Nigeria to NYC to chase her own dreams she knew that if we have something/someone pulling at our heart, we must at least try to follow it.)
So I booked a trip for a week-long visit that summer. And the universe gave me the final ingredient to my purpose. My lifelong friend Erin.
Erin is #thriveonlife.
Her father had his last heartbeat while having a life ending heart attack in his morning spin class. I could not go to the funeral so I wrote her a letter in an email, which lead to us corresponding life updates for the next couple years, and eventually gave me the confidence to go out to Texas and visit her.
That week we connected over the pain. The pain of her loss, the pain I endured every day, and the purpose we both were seeking out of life. We both questioned whether we were meant to be engineers. Questioned WHY everyone was chasing things in life, when life can end at any moment. We questioned WHY we both were afraid to be our truest selves.
We also challenged each other.
She challenged me to focus and stop fooling around with my goals, to start an Instagram to help others, and step into the man I said I wanted to become. I challenged her to believe in herself more and work for herself rather than bow down to everything her job wanted her to do. And combined we began to see that this very moment in life is all that mattered. This very second you are reading this is truly the only moment of time you should care about. You cannot buy more time, or alter the time that already occurred. You can only CHOOSE to live in this moment and #thriveonlife.
Much of this part of the story I have told before. Boy reconnects with girl, they fall in love, and start their lives together. What does this have to do with thriveonlife? Well the week I visited her she challenged me to create a fitness IG to start my journey. One month into “cmfitn3ss” (LMAO still cannot believe I used that name) I did not want to do it anymore. So I told Erin I needed something more meaningful. I wanted to create a brand and a business that was bigger than myself. So we sat there one night and listed out all the values we wanted to represent and the dreams we had.
Our conclusion was…
We wanted to build a non-profit that gave back to youth education and healthcare. When we looked at ourselves compared to anyone else was said that no matter what situation you put us in, we will THRIVE. So we started looking up all the available IG handles and stumbled upon thriveonlife. BINGO! Our new brand became an account of Erin and CJ and their journey to #thriveonlife in hopes to help inspire others to take advantage of every heartbeat they are fortunate enough to have.
As you can see this is long winded. I did not just wake up one day and go hmmm I am going to have a purpose, start building a brand, and travel on a journey to fulfill a mission. Life takes so many twists and turns that we must not fret when we make a wrong turn. Our final destination is not the key, rather remaining positive and reminding ourselves it is a blessing to make every turn, even the “wrong” ones.
I found my tribe!
So if you read this whole thing…you are a part of my tribe I once could not distinguish. I want you to remind yourself, if you are starting a new project/business do not worry about all the little details. If you are pivoting your life, do not stress over the small things that ultimately come and go. And if you are questioning WHO you are…it is a good thing. Lean in to those feelings, learn from them, and take your first step towards THRIVING. Those small steps eventually add up to lifelong journeys that will mean more to you than anything you could have previously imagined.
This is the story of what started #thriveonlife … stay tuned for upcoming posts about HOW it has changed over the years, and WHY I do what I do today.