I grew up on a "Funny Farm" with a Gangster Father, an Angelic Mother, and 2 Brothers.
I was born May 8th, 1984 to Edward Hayes Richardson and Janet Marie Bruce of Crooked River Ranch, Oregon.
My father grew up in the Bronx. Both his parents where alcoholics and he took to the streets early. He was a hustler, dealer, scammer, burglar and probably worse! Eddie also had a big heart, was an effortless entertainer and an endless adventurer. He attended Wood Stock, played drums in a touring band and listening to everything from the Beatles to 50 Cent! (In 2008 my father passed away from "too many shots of heroin in his gut." )
My mom was born in Spokane, Washington to a middle-class Catholic family with four kids. Her father was a mechanic. Her mother was a nurse. They owned a lake cabin where the family swam in the Summer and skated in the Winter. Janet loves nature and Native American culture. She’s spiritual, grounded and a true giver. Cool too. (My mom lives in Redmond, Oregon.)
My parents met in Spokane. Eddie came to the West to “help a friend move” … drugs (we later found out). They fell in love and bought a 950 sq. ft. home on 5 acres. My dad put down $10,000 in cold hard cash, straight from the freezer! They started a family.
My big brother (from another mother) came out. Clint is 10 years older than me and 1/2 Puerto Rican. Growing up I remember him sleepwalking in his undies, piercing his lips, putting noodles down his nose and everything else you’d expect a cool older brother to do! As I entered adulthood he helped me get laid for the first time, got me higher than I've ever been, and convinced me to forgive our father. (Clint live’s in SE Florida).
I was born and Keegan came next.
“Keegan” means “little fiery one.” Growing up he’d go to insane lengths to get under my skin. He’s two years younger than me but more talented in many ways. I was constantly reminded. The only thing I held over him was my height. Somehow though, he willed himself to outgrow me by a quarter-inch! Just enough. Nowadays Keegan is an outstanding brother, father, husband, and son whom I look up to, not just physically. (Keegan and his family live in Redmond, Oregon too).
My father loved animals but never had the chance to own pets growing up. Once he moved to the ranch he went a little animal crazy! We had dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a potbelly pig named Magnum P.I.G., a big goat named Gumby, two miniature goats, a moody turkey, a huge tortoise my father picked up along the side of the road in Houston, Texas and a steady rotation of hamsters, gerbils, and other small furries.
My favorite animal was our pure bread Pit Bull named Brutessa. We grew up together. She wore costumes, sang happy birthday and ate cake. One of our cats died shortly after giving birth to a litter of kittens. Brutessa nursed them. A young boy at the lake fell out of his boat and was drowning. Brutessa saved him.
I was a bit of an indigo child; a “special boy.” My parents, neighbors, teacher, and strangers often told me. Compassion came easily and I had a knack for asking questions even adults couldn’t answer. I grew up believing I am meant to do something big to make a positive difference in the world.
I was also a bit of a rebel! In 3rd grade, I started my 1st business selling home-made stink-bombs. On Monday I made a couple of sales. By Wednesday word-of-stink spread and I had customers lining up to give me their lunch money. But by Friday regulators put an end to my enterprise.
Early on I excelled in Math but struggled in English. Every few years I’d take a different test to figure out: Why my handwriting was so poor? Why I mixed up “b”, “d”, “p” and “q”? Why spelling was such a challenge? And so on. (I still have to ask myself “which way does “b” go again?” but thanks to technology and lots of practice I’ve largely overcome these challenges.)
Finally, in my Junior year of high school, they put a name to it: Dysgraphia “a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting, orthographic coding, and finger sequencing.” Special concessions where made. So I coasted, downhill, along with my self-esteem.
I graduated Redmond High with a 2-point-something GPA and enrolled at the Cascade Culinary Institute. Cooking was my first love. I grew up in the kitchen and “Restaurant” was my favorite class in high-school. Even in culinary school though I couldn’t escape writing! The program included Writing 121, which I failed.
None the less I found a job working for a catering company. My boss was a verbally abusive alcoholic. I quit. I bounced from job to job and tried my hand again as an entrepreneur.
I started a construction cleanup company. Later I hand sowed leather shift-boot-covers and sold them on eBay. Then started an online poker affiliate website called WiseMansBet(dot)Net. None of them lasted long.
In my early 20s selling marijuana became my “job”. I made easy money but spent it on parties just as quick. I was depressed. One night, after a “friend” of mine hooked up with the girl I liked, at a party I was hosting, I broke down. I was not spiritual or religious but I was so desperate that I prayed. I asked God to change my life.
The next morning I woke up to a 72-hour notice of eviction on my door. So what did I do? “Re-up’d” and threw a proper eviction party!
That night I got robbed.
I had acquired my supply “on front.” Now I owed this drug dealer several-thousand-dollars! I sold my car in a “fire sale” because I figured not driving was better than not walking.
No woman. No car. No income. No drugs. I moved back in with my mom.
My prayer had been answered!
I have a cousin who’s a badass product designer and I figured that would make for a nice career change. I went to the local library looking for books on Industrial Design. They had nothing.
Instead, I found The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You Are Waking Up and Changing the World by Arjuna Ardagh. A 500-page Buddhist tome riddled with complex esoteric terminology. Not bad for my first library book! I checked it out, studied it and returned it all on my own. I’m making light but it was truly a turning point.
Next, I moved to Portland where there are many books. I read about design, dreams, psychology, and spirituality. Gandhi’s autobiography was highly influential. I started experimenting with yoga, fasting, and meditation. I had a cosmic “dream” about my father, and what Hermon Maslow would call, a “peak experience” all during my first few months in Portland.
That Fall I enrolled in a Computer Aid Design program at Portland Community College. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA but besides a brief internship at Nike, I never pursued a career in design.
Instead, I fancied myself a businessman. To help pay for CAD school I took a job selling remanufactured ink cartridges and worked my way into management. Then I started taking business school prereqs, including Writing 121, which I aced!
I took a job at Umpqua Bank as a “Universal Associate” and transferred to Portland State University.
I took the summer off and flew to Japan (inspired by that badass cousin again!). I picked up a little Japanese and a ton of perspective. Then I returned to my roles as banker and student.
A year later, I left the bank and started a seasonal business installing Christmas Lights. We broke even our 1st season. Profited in years 2 and 3. Fell apart year 4.
Initially at PSU, I tracked towards a Finance degree but I didn’t love it. Somehow abroad I picked up a case of the logistics-sickness but one term with professor pocket-protector cleared that up. Running short on potential business majors I declared myself a marketer.
Initially my focus was on global marketing and more specifically East Asia. I did a study abroad: Business, Language and Culture at East China Normal University in Shanghai. The next summer I did a yoga/Mandarin self-study in Taiwan.
The Global Marketing track ended up being too “get a job at a major corporation” focused for me though. I changed my focus to Marketing Information and Technology.
Intermixed throughout my time in college I took several writing classes, a couple acting classes, Piano 1 … twice, and other less memorable classes. I actually ended up with a handful of F’s on my transcripts but still managed to graduate with a 3.3 GPA.
I also racked up a ton of volunteer experience in college. I volunteered for Banking on Our Future, Habitat for Humanity, Celebration Church, Generation Waking Up and others.
Upon graduation, I easily established a freelance marketing career. I took on clients like Barry A. Dennis (my speaking mentor), Laura Handke (my voice coach) and Peaceful Media (my marketing guru).
Around that time I also graduated from Turbo Leadership Systems’ 10-week long Leadership Development Lab. I went on to help teach 5 additional LDLs and led various other projects with Turbo.
Then I became the Marketing coordinator for Vertical City, a nonprofit organization inspiring the creation of sustainable, human-centric cities. I played a major role in establishing the vision and direction of the organization. I ran a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign. Hosted a popular podcast, newsletter, and blog. Coordinated the production of a documentary short. And coordinated our SEO, social media and other marketing efforts.
After graduation, I also started a personal website called Go Hero where I blogged about leadership, personal growth and development, travel and more. The impetus behind Go Hero was the question: How do I live the most meaningful and heroic life possible? In many ways, I see this website as the 2.0 version of Go Hero.
A few years after graduation I had an amazing lifestyle. I was doing meaningful work and gaining notoriety both in my roles at Go Hero and at Vertical City. I worked remotely and traveled extensively throughout Asia. I was in great shape, enjoyed many meaningful friendships and dated beautiful women. Eventually, I fell for a web designer I met in Shanghai and we started traveling together. After years of growth, I was finally living the life of my dreams.
The truth is though, I was suffering inside but was in denial of my feelings. What right did I have to be upset? I have so much and others have so little.
While traveling I witnessed the conditions of abject poverty that much of humanity lives under. I felt ashamed to be an American and a part of the capitalistic system which, at the expense of others, I have benefited from.
I began to question if I was really making a positive difference in the world and if I ever could. I also realized I had not fallen in love with the women I was traveling with, but rather a false conception of who she was. In the matter of a week, I broke up with her, gave us both food poising and wrecked a scooter with her on the back!
I fell out of my positive habits of healthy diet, exercise, and meditation. I stopped working but continued to travel until I exhausted all my savings. Then I moved home and lived with my mom again. Upon arrival to central Oregon, I learned that my mother has dementia. I quickly fell back into old habits and started smoking weed daily. I took a job as a cook for the first time in over a decade. Then I worked as a farmer and a laborer.
My first year home was terrible. I made very little progress in any area of life. I tried many things to break my depression but nothing worked. It wasn’t until I accepted that I had reasons to be depressed that I actually started making progress. Instead of beating myself up for feeling down and getting high, I’d say things like “I don’t know why I feel so down and why I have felt this way for so long, but that’s the way I feel! I’m going to smoke some weed now and even though I know that’s not ideal and that in the past I’ve controlled my emotions more effetely without it, I also know it will lift my mood, even if just for a moment.”
Prior to accepting my condition, I found myself in a self-perpetuating downward cycle:
Feel sad -> Smoke weed -> Feel guilty -> Feel sad -> Smoke weed -> Feel guilty ->
By releasing my feelings of shame I was able to disempower the entire system. Little by little I began to instill positive habits, lift my mood and lessen my dependency.
On October 1st, 2017, exactly one year after arriving home, I set 5-year goals. I now write them out daily and find that having a vision has further aided my recovery.
Continuing to retrace my steps, in the Summer of 2018, I moved back to Portland. I spent a few months living upstairs in my cousin's design studio and worked to get my head and heart into a good place again. Then I reconnected with old clients and reestablished myself a professional marketer and leadership trainer.
On October 1st, 2018, exactly two years after moving home and exactly one year after setting 5-year goals, I moved into a room all my own.
2019 had its ups and downs. My mother came to live with me so that I could become her care provider. It's the most difficult challenge I've ever faced! I fell in and out of destructive habits throughout the year. But I also got back in good shape and reignited my quest to master Mandarin Chinese.
Now entering 2020, I’m stronger than ever and am determined to use my moment of hardship to help others who might be dealing with similar struggles in their lives. 2020 is the Chinese Year of the Rat. I was born in the year of the Rat, so this is literally my year, and my vision is clear! 20/20
With the relaunch of lennon.life I'm sure many great things lie ahead!
Thank you for reading my backstory. I hope you found it interesting and valuable. If you did please comment. I looking forward to sharing more with you soon.
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