I feel tremendously blessed to be able to share my story with you all.
I have been so blessed to have had the love and support of many people along my journey. I am also grateful to be on this adventure called Uplifted Life with my dear friend and partner Kosta… bless you buddy!
While this is my personal story, I hope that by sharing the things I’ve learned and been through, some of you might relate and be inspired to reflect on your own story. Perhaps, in some small way, it will help you on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself.
I was born in the countryside about an hour and a half outside of Montreal. I was blessed to have a childhood where I spent much of my time outdoors in nature. My mother was a passionate gardener and I have fond memories of working in the garden, planting seeds, watering them and harvesting the vegetables throughout the summer and fall. It was here that I first learned to connect with the things around me. I had a high level of intuition and was able to sense things about my environment and within people. Little did I know, this connection with nature and all my experiential learning would later lead me to my first career.
Around the time I was seven, we moved to Montreal. My parents decided it would be better for me to repeat kindergarten as I was one of the younger kids in my class. To my surprise, however, I attended an all-girls school for the next two years (I think they were short on girl students at the time!). In these formative years, I was surrounded by girls and while I would not realize it until many years later, it taught me to stay in touch with my “feminine” side and emotions.
After grade one, I would then go on to attend an all-boys school in Montreal… talk about a change of scenery! I was a “skinny” kid who was sensitive and in touch with his emotions… not your typical boy and certainly not the poster-child for an all-boys school! I quickly learned that most of the boys I hung out with, or wanted to hang out with, didn’t resonate with me. I started to suppress these feelings in an effort to be more of a “guys-guy” and fit in. Luckily, I was a very good athlete, and this helped me make it through high school relatively unscathed.
I spent my final year of high school at a highly regarded boys school in Toronto, Canada, and then I was off to Princeton University. These would become some of the greatest four years of my life, and it would be at Princeton that I would re-discover myself. I was able to be myself and I felt alive. I majored in art history and was fascinated by everything that was connected with it; art, culture, mythology, psychology, history and religion. It was here that I would develop a passion for life-long learning and connecting with others.
I moved backed to Montreal in 1995 and through a series of encounters and events, I would own and operate a retail garden store in a prestigious department store in Montreal… say what?! I knew nothing about retail, business, human resources, accounting, and inventory management. Looking back, it was an ideal learning environment, but one I struggled with the entire time. Everything felt exhausting and overwhelming, and I ended up making many mistakes that cost me financially. And so began my career…
About 1 year into my retail business, I was approached by potential clients to design a garden and landscape for their new home outside of Montreal. I had no portfolio, no contract, didn’t know what to charge or how to sell myself—but I had passion and commitment to giving them my all. I will be forever grateful that they gave me the opportunity as it would later lead to me founding my residential landscape architectural firm. As my business grew, I would eventually stop the retail store and focus on landscape design full-time. Over the next five years, I would grow my business from a staff of one to a staff of 50 with a landscape design division, landscape construction division and horticultural maintenance division. We would become recognized as an award-winning company with a solid reputation. As I had no formal training in business, like my retail adventure, I would grow and learn through countless mistakes… often painful ones. I would question my decisions constantly. I would take on projects with clients I didn’t trust who would burn me in the end. I thought receivables would just take care of themselves… I mean, who doesn’t pay their bills?! All these painful lessons would be another training ground.
It was during those years that I would meet the love of my life on a blind date. We were engaged six months to the day we met and would be married four days after September 11th, 2001. My wife had a son from her first marriage and we would have two daughters over the next few years together. Now life gets busy!
The next 9 years would be a blur of raising our children, working like crazy, growing my businesses, being active in our community and managing an active social life. During that period, my wife’s father passed away, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and my own family had to navigate through many of their own difficult challenges. It makes me almost feel nauseous thinking about it now, but at the time I believed this was what life was all about. Navigating constant challenges and pressures, feeling constant unease with brief moments of enjoyment and happiness in between.
By 2010, I believed I had it all. I had one of the best educations, healthy and happy children, a wonderful home, an amazing wife and my best year ever in business. I remember very clearly finishing off that season and thinking “is this all there is?”. I had a good amount of money in the bank and so I did what I believed at the time was the right thing to do: I renovated our house and garden, upgraded my car, went on trips… I bought stuff and spent money thinking it would make me happy. Society had taught me that once I was a “success” and achieved all these things, I would be happy. But I wasn’t.
In fact, the opposite happened. I woke up every day feeling like each day was the same. I felt overwhelmed, heavy, fragmented, contracted, stressed, lost… but mostly, I felt empty inside. I became very disengaged with everything, especially my business. I had no motivation and would do my best every day to put on a face of positivity. Getting out of bed each day was difficult and I was always exhausted. I carried around a huge sense of responsibility on my shoulders and felt guilty about everything. I started to spend more and more of my time on the foundations, boards and community organizations I was involved in. I thought that giving back would help fill this void inside me. Instead, it took more time away from my family and businesses. The end result was that my businesses would suffer, we would have a series of bad years financially, and I would start increasing my debts.
Then, in 2011, when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a horribly traumatic event happened in my life. While it did not happen directly to me, it was the proverbial “paddles to the chest” moment that shook me to my core. I remember, a few days after, sitting in my car with my head against the wheel, sobbing like crazy. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and so completely lost.
For some reason, I’m still not exactly sure why, I took a deep breath, lifted my head and decided that I was not going to live the rest of my life this way. I intuitively knew that there had to be a better way and that there was more to life than this. I just didn’t know what that was.
Despite a few breakdowns, the next few years were filled with countless days and hours of self-reflection and introspection. I would ask myself questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? I would read countless books, attend retreats, do yoga and meditation, see therapists, readers and energy workers. I would take personality tests and ask lots of questions about myself to those who cared about me—all in an effort to know myself. I played around with my diet, cleanses, supplements. In short, I became a self-help testing lab until I found the right path.
Those years of soul searching were both fascinating and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, I was like a sponge soaking up all this new knowledge, but the more I became aware of myself and the laws of the universe, the more frustrated I became. I desperately wanted things to change in my life, but I didn’t feel anything shifting. I could feel a deeper calling to do more than what I was doing, to help others and to give back but I didn’t know what it was leading me towards. What I did know was that I was becoming deeply passionate about personal growth and learning and had a immense desire to share it with others.
Then, in October of 2014, I was given one of the greatest gifts of my life… my wife introduced me to Kosta. From the moment we met, I knew he would be an important part of my life. He helped me understand life’s bigger picture, and he shifted my perspective so that I could find acceptance, let go, and empower myself. Once I became 100% responsible for my life and realized that I was the one who designed it through how I see the world and the choices I make, everything shifted. The impact it had on me, my life and and everything everyone around me was profound.
It was so powerful that within a few months, I expressed to Kosta that this journey of personal growth was by far the greatest thing I had ever done in my life. It was at that moment that we decided we needed to come together to share this knowledge with as many people as we could. Since then, I have become passionate about teaching and sharing the knowledge we have acquired to help lighten the lives of others and to allow businesses, organizations and individuals realize their fullest potential.
What we now teach is at the root of everything. It is about how to live a life of meaning and purpose, it is about designing your life whereby the by-product is happiness, it is about living in a state of openness and lightness, it is about contribution.
I feel blessed to now live each day with gratitude and an inner calmness. I find meaning and purpose to each and every day and I continue practicing being the best version I can be. I continue to face many of the issues that have been present all my life. I still make mistakes and go through challenging times, but I now see these as opportunities for growth and learning. I now have the tools to experience life in a very different way. I am at peace and feel content.
I see so many people living their life the way I did for so many years and it breaks my heart to see them not living to their fullest potential. I do not want anyone to get to the end of their life feeling like they left many songs unsung inside them. I want them to be able to look back and know that they left nothing on the table and that they lived a damn good life!
Looking back from where I sit now, I believe the universe was whispering “plant seeds” into me from a very young age. For a while, I took this quite literally, as I worked to help people transform their gardens and landscapes. Now I realize that I was always meant to plant seeds in others and help them transform their life!
I hope one day that I will have the opportunity plant a seed in you that will transform your life so that you may live the life you have always desired and realize your fullest potential.
Here’s to living an uplifted life!
If you were provided with the insights to transform the quality of your life…would you choose to do so?