I’m Still Learning How To Embrace My Impact

On April 10th, 1996, Alice in Chains recorded a live album for MTV Unplugged.

Not only was their performance one of the best in the Unplugged series, but some rock critics (Metal Hammer) also claim it to be the greatest live rock album ever recorded. 

Alice in Chains didn’t lose their heaviness or signature sound without their amps and electric guitars.

It was present in every note played and every word sung, a testament to the band and its music.

The band was in sync, and Layne Staley (lead vocalist) was extraordinary.

His voice, one of rock history’s most unique, powerful, and stunning voices, emanated from a place deep within him. Fellow musicians said you could feel Layne’s voice coming from his chest. 

A place of sorrow, anguish, hurt, and an addiction to the needle. 

Layne invited the world into his pain and did it in a way few artists could.

Layne’s addiction was no secret, evident in his performance, missing teeth, a skeleton of a frame, and hollowed-out cheeks. 

Layne lost his battle with addiction, passing away far too early on April 5th, 2002. 

One of my all-time favorite songs comes from this performance; 


The song is a window into a soul torn in two. It speaks directly to Staley’s pain and struggle and acknowledges that he may be better off dead. 

One of my favorite pastimes is watching music videos on YouTube (I am Gen X, after all). What I particularly love is reading the comments as I listen. 

There are many tributes to Layne in the comments.

There are also an unbelievable amount of comments that are so raw, vulnerable, and honest I’m moved to tears. 

People share how the song helped them break free from their addiction, how it’s motivating them to try and break free, and how it’s been played at funerals and will be the song that forever reminds them of their loved ones.

When I read the comments, I feel an overwhelming desire to create something that would someday elicit comments that are as powerful as these. 

I wish, hope, and pray that maybe, just maybe, one day, I could reach deep enough into my soul and have this kind of impact. 

For years, I’ve wished for this. 

It would be the ultimate representation of creating something of lasting value. It would mean I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid but was too terrified to do – be seen and heard as my authentic self. 

Yesterday was one of those rare, brilliant early March days. 

The temperature was in the mid-sixties, and the spring sun was in full force. 

I counted the seconds for my afternoon meeting to be over, shoved an apple with peanut butter down my throat to appease my growling belly, and walked in one of my favorite places in town, Mulberry Point.

Even the name sounds magical to me. It’s a stunning waterfront community with some giant luxury homes and beach cottages from a different era, and almost all of it is surrounded by water. 

I put my weighted vest on, checked the time, and headed on my way. 

I’ve seen the coast and these homes countless times, and yet I always seem to find something new, probably because I’m not who I was the last time I made this walk. 

Some days, work weighs on me. Tasks still need to be done, emails I have yet to reply to, and the tasks I’ve been putting off. I feel guilty for enjoying myself when there’s so much to do. 

I feel like I have to keep filling the cup.

On other days, I’m free from work baggage, and my mind wanders into stillness. From that stillness flows creativity. I understand that I am filling my cup by disconnecting from work and connecting with nature.

The ideas that light me up from the inside strike in these moments, as do some of my greatest epiphanies. 

I was thinking about “Nutshell,” the comments, and my desire to create something of that caliber. 

And that’s when what was right in front of me became clear. I have received comments that have utterly stopped me in my tracks and humbled me.

“I was planning on killing myself until I read your blog post.”

“After reading Blank Canvas, I’m meeting with my estranged father this weekend for the 1st time in 6 years.”

“I am not sure if I found the book or it found me, nevertheless the right words at the right time. As you know, the book is more than your story; the words and ideas can transcend many experiences. Mine was the loss of my wife and the ensuing self-destruction that followed.”

I was focusing so much on what I wanted to be in front of me I missed what was behind me. 

I lived in a fantasy of what I desired, blind to what I’d created.

Why do we do that? 

Why do we lessen our own experiences, or even worse, not put them on a level playing field with what we compare ourselves to?

I won’t lie; writing this chapter is giving me some pause, specifically comparing myself to Alice In Chains and the hundreds, if not thousands, of comments that one song has received. 

There’s a part of me, the part we all have, that’s whispering to me, 

“Who the hell do you think you are to compare yourself to anyone?”

“Did people really say that about your book?”

“Maybe they did, but it was like less than a dozen, so it doesn’t count.”

“Yeah, but you’re still a nobody.”

I and so many of us put others’ accomplishments on a pedestal because they’re more famous, had more of an impact, or are just anyone but ourselves.

We give others more credit for the same accomplishments, denying a piece of who we are and the reality of what is. 

We diminish ourselves and stand in the shadows of others. 

How many of us were told as children, 

“Nobody likes a braggart.”

“Stop showing off.”

“Don’t be cocky.”

We’re conditioned not to celebrate ourselves or our accomplishments. We’re conditioned always to do our best and respond stoically to whatever may come. 

If anything is celebrated, it’s our humbleness. Just look at our fathers. Most of them were dimmed more than we were. Just imagine what it was like for our grandfathers. 

We’re conditioned not to shine our light, which is the same as saying we’re conditioned to dim our light.

For me, the lines between being braggadocious and cocky and accepting, embracing, and celebrating accomplishments have been blurred, especially after prison. 

The Mike Tyson quote rings in my ear, 

“If you’re not humble in this world, then the world will throw humbleness upon you.”

Learning to live and, in turn, die well means we must stop diminishing ourselves while simultaneously learning to stand in the power of what is. I’m still learning how to embrace my impact, and it’s an important journey.

We must expand and shine our light because it’s not selfish, and it’s not cocky.

It’s a beacon for others who are shivering in the shadows and want to feel the sun on their face.

Playing small has never helped anyone, least of all ourselves. 

📣 If you’re ready to stand in your power, and unleash your potential the Midlife Mastery Program is for you. Schedule your free call here.