Real Estate, Music & Top Ramen. My Path of Perseverance.

Real Estate, Music & Top Ramen. My Path of Perseverance.

It was the summer of 2008, also known as The Beginning of the End. I was thirty years old, married and living in Spokane, Washington. My twenties had been spent enjoying a great economy and a booming real estate market. I had been developing real estate and enjoying some substantial success. However, it became very apparent that my business endeavors were in serious trouble. Mistakes were made, projects were stalling and the market was sliding toward the cliff. The unavoidable path that suddenly lay before me left me speechless. I spent months trying everything I could to avoid the inevitable. It was late August when I realized, we were finished.

Running out of money, I had to tell each of my business partners I would not survive the next few months. Everything was about to burn right in front of me. I would have to file for bankruptcy and it was going to hurt like nothing I’d ever felt before. This would take years to recover from.

What would I do? Where would we go?

Thankfully for us it was to my parents’ house, more specifically, their basement. At this time, we were also expecting our first child. I could just hear me telling my new daughter, “When you’re old enough, you can eat Top Ramen everyday just like Dad. Forever!” To my wife’s relief, that didn’t happen.

As the financial crisis hit our whole country, I was definitely not alone in my misfortune. However, as I watched the political and financial worlds finger-point and place blame, I made an important decision that spared me a great deal of bitterness and pain. I wasn’t going to be a victim. This was crucial not only for me professionally, but also personally because while ambitious, I really had not yet felt deeply happy as an adult and it troubled me.

This new resolve grew slowly in me through that winter. This “failure”–as many would see it–was going to be my opportunity. This was my chance to methodically and honestly answer some hard questions. There were many, but two of the biggest were:

1. At this point, is the person I’ve become who I really want to be?

On some levels, yes…. but at a core level I had to answer “No”. My gut told me I had missed the mark. (FYI, your gut never lies.)

2. So who do I want to be? What do I want to do with my life?

(You don’t get many chances to reinvent yourself.)

I refused to go find a job. I forced myself to stay uncomfortable and in the pressure cooker. I knew if I got into a comfortable situation it might destroy this chance at authentic self-discovery. I’m as lazy as anyone and once you hit your thirties, security and comfort start to creep up the psychological priority list. I had to avoid this. I firmly believed that the fire of this situation was my chance to be changed forever and pioneer a new trail, a path truly authentic to me. It was my opportunity to finally respect and listen to the creative part of me that I had belittled and tried to silence my whole life.

Those days and nights in my parents’ basement, I began to study in great depth the power of my thoughts and beliefs. I began daily disciplines of gratitude, reaffirming my faith about what I was going to do and how I wanted to live life. I started studying people who had succeeded in their creative endeavors. I also drank too much, but we’ll talk about that some other time. ;) My wife started writing her first novel and I began reconnecting with music.

There were good things being cultivated in me, but the years that followed were still hard and painful. We moved to Nashville…. TWICE! (The second time we stayed). This was really important for me and my family. Finally, in late 2012, I released my first single called “Winter Is Over”. This song would be my final words to a brutal four years, but also a statement of faith. It was time. Our focus, faith, work and discipline was going to see its day in the sun. And it really has. This year, I’ve released four singles and two albums. My wife has released the first two novels in her series. It’s been a huge year and the gratitude I feel for it is overwhelming.

I look back and realize how important it was that I resolved to stay in the fire. If I hadn’t embraced the opportunity that my catastrophic failure had created, I promise you, I’d be somewhere miserable right now.

So, in summary… Persevere! Believe! And every other positive thing you’ve seen written on a t-shirt! They are all correct. Listen to your gut. If it’s authentic to your core, then stay the course. You will be rewarded. It might not mean you’re rich, but you’ll be happy. I can confirm it’s much better to be happy… but rich and happy would work too. ;)

Peace and wisdom be yours on the journey. I hope this inspires you.

Photo by Beáta Betty

Steven James Wylie

Steven James Wylie is a singer/songwriter from Spokane, WA.  In 2009, Wylie found himself bankrupt and living in his parent’s basement with his expectant wife. He had lost his home and cars when his real estate development company, once involved in multi million dollar projects, went belly up. His uplifting and intimate collection of sophisticated pop draws inspiration from this depression, and provides an uplifting message through his music. Connect with Steven James Wylie here: http://sjwmusic.com/.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Steven…your story of perseverance touches me. I listened to your music and it is very beautiful…and it is an important message. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you Linda. I’m so glad. I just read your story in fact! You are a truly remarkable person. Have an excellent Christmas. sjw

      Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Steven! As a casualty of a similar industry that went belly-up with the economic meltdown, I really identified with your focus on remaining “uncomfortable.” I actually went after the comfort & security but found myself very unhappy in a job and personal circumstances that nearly ruined me. I try not to think about “what ifs” but I believe my journey has been a lot harder because I didn’t listen to my gut when I should have. Moderate discomfort now can save you from a nervous breakdown… er, traumatic awakening!… in the future.

    “Who do I want to be?” is a really challenging question and one that I think we answer over and over all our lives. While we all have responsibilities and obligations, we owe it to ourselves to try and walk the path that brings us the most joy and fulfillment. I think that’s what makes us better people all around.

    Reply
    • Thank you Stephanie! I’m glad it resonated with you. I couldn’t agree more with what you said about walking our path. I wish you all the best. Have a great Holiday. sjw

      Reply
  3. I’m glad that you are finding your niche Steven.
    Also, I’m interested to understand what you learned from your bankruptcy experience… inasmuch as – was it the economy’s fault – or what it your fault?
    Dave Ramsey I think has a very similar story.
    I wish you success and prosperity.

    Reply
    • Thanks Josh. I appreciate the good vibes. With regard to the economy and whose at fault, I blame myself entirely. Its my job to get up everyday and figure out whats going on. I can’t control the economy. But I can prepare for the inevitable winters that come in life. I wasn’t prepared and I made bad decisions in addition to that. Even if there might be a shred of evidence that would allow me to pass the blame to someone or something thing else. Its just not an option. Own your stuff and move forward is my view on it.
      sjw

      Reply
  4. Great story. I think it’s also important to recognize the love and support you have in your life. Not everyone has people who give the kind of support you received from your wife and parents. You are very fortunate to have them in your life.

    Reply
    • You couldn’t be more right. Especially when you have people who will support you while not understanding why your doing what your doing. My wife was 100% on board while most everyone else(parents included) just looked at us like we were complete lunatics. However, most of our friends and family stuck with us anyways and IT WAS a huge blessing. sjw

      Reply
  5. I , somehow could not muster the courage to pursue what I would really enjoy. I am in the opposite situation. I am past retirement age, just got a good severance pay and ended up working again. I would rather tough it out and work on my blog ( my inner voice) but I always feel low in confidence when I am not “working” to earn a living. I admire people like you yet I do not have enough courage to persevere through my dreams. Salute.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words Stu. Its never to late to fire it up man. All the best to you in this coming year. sjw

      Reply
  6. Wow, we have some things in common. I once lived in Spokane in 2000/01. I’ve written 100s of songs. I’ve moved to Nashville… twice. I stayed six months the second time. That was a long time ago, early 90s. I since went back to college and got a Master’s degree. Now I’m a college prof and a writer. If you see Nathan Adam, he teaches audio production at Belmont, tell him hi!

    Reply
    • Man! The early 90’s was a great time to be have been in Nashville. It was just starting to fire up for a good decade in the music biz. Glad you found your way through Spokane too. Many do….. and then of course they leave because there isn’t a lot happening there. ;) I still love it though. It will always be home.

      sjw

      Reply
  7. Steven,

    I was struck by your mentioning to not be comfortable. You wanted to find the authentic you. Yes! So important.

    I think it is so tempting to go for the comfort first. It is hard to trust that if we follow our authentic path, we may find a better path. It is so hard to trust. The unknown is so scary.

    You have shown that if you have a strength of will, discipline, and some faith, you can find the true you inside because the discomfort reveals so many gems about who we really are.

    Follow your passion. Now that is trust!

    Susan

    Reply
    • Thank you Susan. I could not agree with you more on the whole “temptation of comfort” subject. When indulged in the wrong season It is a quiet thief.

      sjw

      Reply
  8. Steven, you have shown the power of passion and how when it is engaged it can take you places you have only dreamed of going. Often life gives us a push to help us go that direction (in your case, bankruptcy), but we need to have the courage to go there. Congratulations on having the courage to follow that path. One more thing, I read in the comments where you took full responsibility for your trials. What an important lesson for all of us. I too lost a company to the tremendous downfall in the economy. It is easy to blame other things and other people. Your recognition that you are ultimately responsible for all things in your life shows great understanding. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Reply
    • Thanks you for the love Jack! It is much appreciated. The journey continues.

      sjw

      Reply
  9. You’re decision to not get a job but stick at your creative dream was clearly a tough one but one that worked – thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Its my pleasure Peter. I’m glad you found it inspiring. Its very fulfilling in its own way to have my journey be of some use to others. Have a great holiday season.

      sjw

      Reply

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