Zak had green and purple hair, tattoos in more places than he had places, and a nose ring. His Rolex watch also looked a little out of place against that backdrop of his colorful body art.
It was after the dinner rush, and he was sitting on a bronze and leather stool, at the high gloss mahogany bar of a trendy New York restaurant, nursing a beer.
No one else was dressed like Zak. Most of the clientele were overworked, tipping towards burnout. Manhattan lawyers, bankers, accountants and a lot of wanna-bees were the crowd. He looked out of place here.
Zak is telling his story to a customer. He’s told it a hundred times, and he never tires of it, because he knows that if he can help even one person, it’s worth telling it a hundred times.
You see, Zak owns this restaurant and bar. But just five years ago, he was living under the Brooklyn Bridge... until he was told to move on... to another bridge.
But before he made the transition into that particular lifestyle... where he accumulated his tattoos and acquired a taste for body ornaments, he was a lawyer... working in Manhattan... burning out and hanging out at the same restaurant where he’s telling his story. A bar he now owns.
On one particular day, after a normal twelve hours of work stress, preceded by a normal work month... and in his case, a work month, between days off, averaged 80 days... Zak suddenly went blind. Right at his desk. Just like that. No warning.
“Well...”, he told his listener, “not entirely with no warning...”. Years of work stress, long hours, high pressure, little sleep, little time off started to rear the ugly head of serious “burn out”... Zak had heart palpitations, thoughts of paranoia, hot flashes, cold sweats, nightmares, a fear of darkness... and recently, a fear of being in public.
And then... suddenly - darkness.
Paramedics ferried him off to the hospital where he was sedated. After about 10 hours of sleep, he awoke... and he could see! But his body felt like a lead weight. Fatigue like he had never experienced before.
The nurse asked him what he wanted to eat...and tried to help him choose from the hospital menu but he couldn’t make up his mind. He was simply not capable. He picked up a magazine to check his vision... he couldn’t read the words. He saw them... he just couldn’t make out the meaning.
His wife was notified when he was admitted to the hospital... but she only showed up after her hair dressing appointment. It was his second wife anyway... he thought. Though he was just over thirty.
They kept him in for three days. He had more evaluations and tests done then he thought even existed. The prognosis was... healthy body, fried brains. Stress.
Following a psychiatric assessment, he was prescribed medications he couldn’t even pronounce... and as a lawyer, he knew some Latin.
The docs told him that he wouldn’t be back to work for six months... at the very least. That meant - in his line of work - his career was over... and the nice seven figure income too.
The law firm assured him he’d get a job... not “his” job... but “a” job... when he’s back on his feet. But somebody had already moved into his office. It was over.
He suggested to his wife that they pack up and move to a small town. He’d set up a law practice for the locals. Do wills, real estate and such... after all, they didn’t need the money.
He was laughing as he told his story at the bar, because he said his now “ex-wife” didn’t warm to the idea. A week later, she filed for divorce, locked him out of his house, claimed he was unstable... And took all his money. Just like that.
So with $50 bucks in his pocket and with all his credit cards now cancelled, he slept under the bridge for the first time. It was a summer night... and not so bad.
But that became "home". He battled paranoia and the other bums, for prime real estate under every bridge, and over every subway grate on the street.
It was just like working at the law firm... working your way up the pipe.
Begging for a dollar... his daily grind... He met a tattoo shop owner and was offered a job... He became their poster boy. He slept in the back storeroom on a cot and was supplied with all the booze he wanted, but no real pay. He lost six months of his life while getting tats from head to toe.
He’s reminded not just when looking at himself... but every time he sees the tattoo posters on the shop window and all around the city. All of him. He was used as a billboard for artwork. And now he was stuck with it.
He did keep the hair color. “Why not?” he thought. It’s who he is now.
Back at the daily grind, after he woke up from his tattoo nightmare, Zak approached someone for a dollar. He was making at least $20 bucks a day trolling.
The guy recognized him from the law firm. Brad, was a client who owned a software company. He offered Zak a job as an online lawyer.
Zak figured that looking the way he did, he’d never practice law again, if he had to face people every day... but this might work, so he agreed.
The next day, Brad picked him up and took him to his house. He wanted to get Zak cleaned up before his wife met him.
After some heated arguments between Brad and his wife - who wouldn’t let this wild looking street person live in their house - they settled on letting him live in the shed.
As far as sheds go, it was luxurious. Brad had money, so even his shed was heated. He was set up with a cot, a porta-potty, water from the garden faucet, a camp stove, a bar fridge and a skid load of canned food... And a laptop.
He was good to go. The deal was a month of free work against room and board... then regular pay... whatever that meant.
Zak spent the next month providing legal advice to people who wrote in, online. They had all paid for his time through their online system, before he answered their questions.
Working as he did when we was official, 12 hour days, he made Brad almost a hundred grand that month... and he was the only lawyer on Brad’s staff.
When the month was up... Brad was smart enough to know that Zak could do this on his own, so he offered him an equal partnership in this website business.
Zak didn’t have to think about that too long... he took it. By the end of that first month he was even allowed to enter the house! Whoo Hoo. Once Brad’s wife got over how he looked... and got his story... things began to change.
But his nightmares, hot flashes and cold sweats didn’t change. He was afraid to leave the shed most days. So he just worked his tail off - like usual.
It took two years for Brad and Zak to build up that business. By the end of the second year, they had a dozen lawyers working online. Zak lead the charge from the shed, which had been upgraded, expanded and outfitted with real appliances! It now resembled a small in-law house - a casita.
Though the money was now pouring in, and he could afford it, he was terrified at the prospect of moving out.
One day, sitting at his desk, Brad got a call out of the blue. A guy from Silicon Valley was chomping at the bit to buy the setup. Brad and Zak talked about it, and decided to sell up - kit and caboodle for $10 million bucks. Zak’s cut was a cool 5 mill.
Now he had a bigger problem. He could live in the shed as long as he was working... but now..? What was he supposed to do?
Though he tried, the pills, therapy and counseling wasn’t really working to stop the attacks... He was so tired of it all. But in the back of his mind, he held on to something one of his online clients asked. It was a question about a root used for healing emotional traumas... apparently when you do this ceremony with this plant root, you get to meet your soul... and ask a bunch of questions... And heal yourself.
He did some research (being a lawyer he was pretty good at it), where he discovered that it could be exactly what he needed to clear all this stress and trauma. It looked exactly like what he needed.
Zak just had to do something. If he didn’t grab this chance, he may not get another one. So he booked a week long retreat... and never looked back.
Right afterwards, he went back to the same restaurant he used to frequent as a lawyer... and they almost threw him out. Then the owner recognized him. “You were a regular - where’d you go?” he asked. He sat Zak down with a cappuccino and asked why he disappeared and why he looked like he did. He wanted to hear the story. The whole story. So Zak told him.
Turned out, the owner Dino, was ready to cash in. He wanted out of the business and was looking to sell. Zak jumped at the opportunity. Right then and there - and he bought it on a handshake.
The only person barred from the place - for life - is his ex-wife.
If there’s a trauma, darkness, fear inside, from stress or an accident or long standing abuse or just about by anything, then it’s finally time to get over it. Grab your life with both hands... right NOW. Take the next step. Book a retreat.
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