When I set out in life, I wasn’t confident, or particularly uncommon. I felt lost and without a vision for my future. The Mark Divine I knew then was trying to be Mr. perfect, a great athlete, a straight-A student, yet inside I had no confidence, no emotional awareness and no sense of purpose. I sucked at communicating and burned through one relationship after another. I presented an outward appearance of being squared away, but inside I just didn’t feel good about myself.
The patterns that defined my story started early at home. When I finally had the courage to dig into my own past, I realized there was a large amount of emotional chaos and anger. I would protect the Divine family myth of the perfect family with much fanfare. But we were not perfect, far from it. Like all families, we had the good, the bad and the ugly. Humanity is just like that. There is no such thing as perfect, and for all the goodness of my parents, they also led me to the crisis I found myself in at 21.
I launched into the real world with a great job in New York City, beginning my journey in the corporate world to gain solid skills before stepping into the family business. That was my story, and I stuck to it. But I when I wasn’t drowning myself in beer or distracting myself with my MBA and CPA studies, I felt lost, vacant. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Do you feel that way yourself? That there is something out there for you that will fulfill you, but you can’t seem to see it, or find it? Welcome to the club. No matter how awesome or horrible your upbringing was, the story you have adopted can, and will likely, hold you back from your true potential. I had to see and eradicated my BOO in order to break free, just as you will have to do.
When the Student is Ready
Every successful life is a team effort. You simply cannot be uncommon and find your 20X by going it alone. You will need guidance, someone to fact check your thinking and help learn from your screw-ups. If you don’t have a mentor that can push, prod and pull you to your highest self, you’re likely to miss your path in the dark. I will fill that role with this book until you replace me with someone else.
A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a living, wise human. I have found the same things a mentor can provide in silence, in God and in a community of peers. All are very powerful. But it is invaluable to have a real person to guide you and challenge you to step up your game. Someone who will motivate you to do the hard work, take a look at the patterns that drive your behavior, and hold you accountable to becoming who you’re truly meant to be. Someone to help you create a better story.
There’s a saying that when the student is ready, the mentor will appear. That was certainly true in my case. I was looking for something that could develop me to be a better human being. I had been very inspired by my college roommate, David Bowman. While I swam and rowed competitively, David trained diligently for his black belt in Shotokan Karate. I watched him transform from an unconfident geek to a serious, grounded and highly intelligent man over the course of four years. When I graduated I was just a little older with a degree.
Off I went to New York to start that career in Public Accounting. But I remembered what happened to David and wanted to experience that. So I searched for a martial arts studio. Just a block away from my apartment on 22nd street was the World Seido Karate Headquarters. Tadashi Nakamura, the founder, was teaching when I walked in, and he instantly became my mentor.
Nakamura provided his mentorship through his raw presence. He barely spoke English, but the way he listened, laughed spontaneously and respected everyone was amazing. He displayed sincerity, honor and trust and had a lightness that was galvanizing.
Through Zen meditation, this mentor taught me to still my mind, develop deep concentration and connect to a deeper part of myself, one I did not know I had. This led me to uncover my BOO stories, and then challenged me to find my 20X potential. Nakamura didn’t use any of that terminology though. His tools were the Zen bench and hard wooden floor of the dojo. Through these, he helped me tap into a new source of power different than any I had known. I was able to access more of myself… like I had limitless energy.
The training also led to a growing self-awareness. All through my early years I was groomed to be in business. There simply was no other option I could consider, not in my family. I was locked in a mental prison, my thoughts cycling over and over in a loop based on fear and falsehood. It wasn’t until I finally was able to still my mind through Zen training that I could witness the truth. When I could connect to that deeper aspect of myself, I had a realization that I was not my story, that I was capable of so much more.
As my training matured, I asked better and better questions. I was still not totally clear on my true path forward; my future vision was murky. But as I was walking home from the dojo one evening, I passed a Navy recruiting office and stopped dead in my tracks. There was a poster on the window that said: “Be Someone Special.” It showed Navy SEALs jumping out of an airplane, driving a mini submarine and stalking the enemy.
“Wow,” I thought. “Could I do that?”
My thinking mind said “Nah, Divine’s don’t do the military,” but suddenly my deeper self said “Hell yes, that is what you are supposed to do, idiot!” Up till then I was investing my precious time on Wall Street and living the false core story of my life… and not feeling very special at all. But I knew at that moment that I could be someone special, and leave common to others. Thereafter, under the watchful eyes of Mr. Nakamura, I launched myself toward this new vision with intense focus.
Through three more years of dedicated Zen meditation, I had developed an entirely new core story, and found a new purpose. As soon as I finished my MBA, I headed West to the Navy SEAL training base.