What I Learned From (Accidentally) Hanging Myself at 6
Some life lessons can’t be read about in a book. They need to be experienced. I lived through this one to tell the story.
I must have been about 6 when I tried to hang myself.
Well, actually, I wasn’t trying to hang myself. I was trying to fly. The result was that I hung myself.
I’d just watched a superhero movie, and like a lot of boys that age, just seeing the incredible feats of my heros performed on screen sparked enough creative impulse in me to make me believe, in the core of my being, that I could do something magnificently heroic, too.
So I found the highest window in my house, near the tallest ledge and proceeded to wrap the blinds cord around my neck.
One loop. Two. Then a double knot.
Tug, tug. Great, it’s secure.
Then I jumped.
It took me about 1.5 seconds to realize that my makeshift rig was not going to have the intended effect. As I dangled there, suspended in mid-air, going over the physics of the situation to see where my math had failed me (and already planning my second attempt), my mom rushed into the room.
(Salute to all the parents out there who have a sixth sense for when their kids are trying to inadvertently hang themselves. It’s a 24/7 job that I’m not ready for yet.)
She raced to my side and supported my little 55 pound body to relieve the pressure. She unwrapped the cord, which had left a gloriously deep, red welt in the shape of a noose around my little chicken neck. I know she was embarrassed to take me to the store for the next few weeks. It didn’t look good.
She stood back, took me by the shoulders and looked me square in the eyes.
“Daniel, you can’t fly.”
She hadn’t said, “You shouldn’t hang yourself, you’ll die.”
She hadn’t said, “It’s not safe to jump off things.”
She didn’t even scold me.
My mother did something much more intelligent and long-lasting: instead of addressing the actions that I took, she addressed the beliefs that led to the actions.
Your beliefs can create or destroy your entire life. Quite literally.
All at once, it hit me like a ton of bricks and an idea that had seemed positively brilliant just moments before now seemed laughable, childish and fragile — not unlike myself, ironically.
In a flash, in literally an instant, I knew I’d never do something like that again. Not because I didn’t think it would be fun to fly, but because I didn’t believe in it anymore.
Ah, what it felt like to be young and impressionable!
If you think back to your childhood, you’ll probably be shocked, amused or even mortified by some of the things you vehemently believed then that you now know to be categorically false.
Didn’t it feel good to be really certain about fantastical things as a kid?
The reason children are so gullible is because at that age, we are still forming our belief-center. We are still connecting the majority of the dots and figuring out what’s what. Our minds are flexible and easily swayed whichever way the wind takes us, even with very little evidence to go off.
As we get older, these belief centers harden. The neural connections continue to get stronger and more deeply entrenched.
Santa Claus goes out the window and is replaced by death and taxes.
But our ability to change our beliefs doesn’t die with the Tooth Fairy. And that means we can still change our lives in an instant.
Like most deeply satisfying things in life, changing your beliefs is simple — but it’s not easy.
Not by any stretch of the imagination.
As an adult, we need to see evidence that something works in order to start the process of changing a belief. The good news is, if we see even a tiny shred of evidence, we can extrapolate that and project a bigger vision for ourselves.
This is why it’s critical to take baby steps on your journey.
I’d even go so far as to say that little victories in our lives are one of the most overlooked tools for personal development and success.
Because little victories allude to the fact that bigger victories are in store for you, if only you’ll stick with it. A tiny victory is the evidence our brain needs to see in order to start the process of changing our beliefs.
That’s why losing your first 5 pounds is the catalyst to losing your next 15.
That’s why getting an “A” on your exam can encourage you to keep working towards graduating with honors.
That’s why my latest book talks about making your first $1,000 before your first $100,000.
Little victories => belief change => life change
Very simple. But not easy.
It’s frustrating to continue plodding along at a snail’s pace, constantly looking for your big win. Big wins can take a long time. Sometimes, they take your entire life.
So why aren’t you paying more attention to the small wins?
These small wins probably seem insignificant to you. These aren’t the things that you want to brag about to your friends — but they are accomplishments, nonetheless. And they add up.
Over time, they collect, until one day you’ll look over your shoulder and see a mountain of evidence that says, “You can do this.”
And you’ll smile, because you already knew that.
Daniel DiPiazza is the bestselling author of Rich20Something: Ditch Your Average Job, Start an Epic Business and Score the Life You Want.