Facing Childhood Trauma
In August of 1986, I was basking in the glow of three very successful and exciting film projects: First was the nomination of my then-associate Phillip Borsos’s documentary film, Nails, for an Academy Award; second was executive producing Till Death Do Us Part, a small feature film that received very favorable reviews in Variety, The Toronto Star, and from many of the critics in Canada and the United States. The highlight was executive producing The Grey Fox, an independent feature film starring the late Richard Farnsworth. Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios presented the film. United Artists Classics released it. The Grey Fox received worldwide critical acclaim and commercial success. It won seven Genies (Canadian Academy Awards) and was nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Foreign Picture and Best Actor for Richard Farnsworth. We were on a roll.
Buoyed by these successes, I began producing another feature film in The United States. While the cast and crew were incredible, the film lacked creative and critical cohesion. I accept responsibility for those deficiencies.
The catalyst that propelled me forward was created by the problems I was having with the financing of the film. The financing I was counting on and paid for never appeared in our bank account. We were the victims of commercial fraud. I ended up personally owing US$4 million, which was over Can$5 million at the time, and I believed in my heart of hearts that I was going to be able to pull off a miracle—just like I had so many times before—and pay everyone off.
I thought if I at least got the film finished, chances where I could recoup enough from it to achieve that goal. If I shut it down, there was zero chance of recovering anything, and my company and investors would be out over $1 million of our money. The Grey Fox had run out of money, so had Till Death Do Us Part. And we had recouped every cent, and then some.
Every night for almost three months, I would go up to my motel room, shut the door, and go into a state of shock from fear. There was no one I could talk to because everyone was counting on me to keep the picture going. Every morning, before I went downstairs to start another day of shooting, I went to the bathroom and throw up from fear.
I know from personal experience what it is like to lose everything, to face massive public criticism, and to face an economic recession—and in this case, a self-created financial depression. I survived them all and came away more prosperous, peaceful, and more purposeful than I’d ever been. I have learned how to make my life manageable, keep my word, and reclaim my life despite what appeared to be an impossible situation. In an odd way, at a micro level, my life emulated what is going on in the world today at a macro level. I had allowed greed, self-centeredness, and ego (edge good/God out) to take over my life.
At the time, I just thought I was doing what I had been told by my father would make me successful—and, I assumed, happy. Wrong again! I hate that, being wrong.
Here is what I believed and what I had been told in my childhood: make a lot of money, gain a lot of attention, acquire a beautiful home and an equally impressive car and a beautiful woman—flip the order in whichever way you want. I had all those things in spades. I had met a few wonderful women over a seven-year period, acquired a beautiful home on the Pacific Ocean in West Vancouver, shared a beach house in Malibu, and rented an apartment overlooking the East River in Manhattan and a beautiful townhouse in Toronto. I constantly moved between these four residences. Deep down, because of the violence of my childhood, I had no self-esteem. I didn’t want anyone getting too close to me. So, the lack of material resources was not my problem. My problem was recklessly borrowing money to keep up that wild lifestyle.
In addition to the US$4 million that I personally owed, I had approximately 605 lawsuits launched against me. It was not just the dark night of the soul; it had moved up to bleak, barren hopelessness, and I had nowhere to turn. There is no way to adequately describe the feelings I had at that time. As I previously mentioned, fear ran rampant. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was filled with an impending sense of doom and a real sense of despondency.
Then it dawned on me. I was either going to kill myself or crawl out of the hole I’d dug, which originally had functioned as my shelter in my childhood to survive living in an insane, alcoholic home. I had built an impenetrable wall around myself for self-protection; only now, as an adult, I couldn’t break through the barriers I had erected to protect myself to ask for the help I needed.
Because of that experience, I began to question every aspect of my life. Why did I live in a perpetual state of fear: fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of financial insecurity? When I had these overwhelming feelings, why did I insist on living out on the edge like I did? In my bravado, I used to say I had no fear of debt, but I was terrified of creditors.
I also wondered, despite all the success I’d had, why did I have such low self-esteem? I could never feel how others looked on the outside: confident, gregarious, and well-put together. Others saw me as a success, but I couldn’t. I felt like a fraud.
No matter how well I did, my mind would tell me I could have done it better. Why did I constantly blame others for my troubles? It was not the first time I had sabotaged myself.
The moment I accepted that I was out of money on the film and had no hope of any financial salvation, I knew my life as I’d led it was over. I also thought my career was over, too. The film wasn’t finished, and I was starting to think it never would be.
I didn’t follow the business advice that was suggested and declare bankruptcy. I felt if I did, I would never learn whatever it was I had to learn about managing my finances and my life. Nor would I get to the cause of why my life was out of control, financially and emotionally. If I didn’t take a stand and confront myself about why I’d acted and behaved the way I had, chances were I would find myself right back in the same position again. In this case, once was enough, and I’m grateful to say it was and has been.
Finding the answers to why my life was so unmanageable has been a long, slow process that is still underway today. I was incredibly depressed and wondered if I would ever be able to start overcoming any of the difficulties I was facing. I owed so much money; I didn’t know where to start. Finally, after four years of very intense personal work, I began sending out payments of $5 to various individuals whom I owed thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to. In the past, it had always just been empty talk and empty promises. At least with $5 (though admittedly a drop in the bucket), it was a real, concrete action and showed my good intentions. One lawyer in New York said I restored his faith in humanity. In the last few years, the payments have risen significantly, but with so many people I also had to prioritize my creditors. There is a whole group I’ve never even begun to repay. I was told to take care of first the people who had stood by me through the difficult years. This is where I still am today. I could sell off individual assets I owned such as screenplays, video rights, and revenues from the film to reduce the production debt to a more manageable level. I have never personally realized another penny from the film.
It was a horrific, humiliating experience for me. I have never felt so much pain, except for my childhood, from that experience of failure. But out of pain comes growth—tremendous growth. I couldn’t see it then, but in retrospect, the film gave me my life back. No one could have told me that at the time, however.
Perhaps you haven’t lost millions of dollars, but you might have lost your job or your company because of the recent economic downturn and the current political uncertainty currently swirling around North America. Maybe you lost your home during the housing crisis between 2007 and 2009 as many thousands of people did. Perhaps you are on the verge of losing your house or your car right now. Maybe you’re struggling with a substance abuse issue. Or, you might be facing bankruptcy, or your husband or wife or partner may be walking out on you because you have difficulty forming and sustaining a long-term relationship.
I know that I experienced many of these feelings and emotions and have had the same questions racing through my mind at various times. Today, I feel as if my life has been utterly changed. It doesn’t mean I still don’t feel angry and resentful from time to time or that I don’t have bad days. But I am no longer as powerless over my emotions and my fears as I once was. I am no longer run by my thoughts about the future all the time. I do have peace of mind a great deal of the time. I also have a life I could never have dreamt possible in the past.
I was married for nearly twenty years, and when my wife and I split, the divorce was done with love and compassion on both sides. I have regained the love of my son from my first marriage and reconciled with my oldest daughter and her family. I have found the ability to forgive myself for my past mistakes. I have been able to set right most those relations in my past where I hurt others—especially my family and friends. I have done the work to heal my childhood trauma, and reclaim my life.
I am happy 80 percent of the time. I also have a mind that, when I’m in the 20 percent downturn, tells me I will always feel that way. My mind lies to me. That’s why today when my mind starts to chatter about all the horrible things that are going on in the world, I just thank it for sharing.
HAVE SOME FUN WHILE AGING!
If you were born between 1945 and 1965 you will remember the refrain, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” We were the generation that created that myth, and we are the generation that can change it. Nowadays, if we are operating out of the same flawed paradigm and applying it to our lives today, we’d say, “Don’t trust anyone under fifty.” I really believe now that nothing could be further from the truth.
OUR CURRENT POLITICS OF WAR
Finding an answer to war - what do we need to do to realize we are operating out of a part of our brain that is millions of years old will never work in our current society? Violence will never solve any problem, and yet it is often the first avenue that we pursue. It is hard-wired into our brains. Our reptilian/mammalian brain is connected that way to save us from aggressive predators. The only trouble is that there are no more dinosaurs on the planet. But you can’t tell that to our brain stem. According to Dr. Paul MacLean, the triune brain stem is responsible for aggression, territorial and reproductive behavior. They are the primary triggers for all of our problems in life.
While it was helpful for our survival, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years ago, it ends up causing us untold grief, regret and pain when we let it control our body and minds. It will have us say and do things that, when we are not in our “right mind”, we should never say or do. Essentially we have outdated software in our brains. That is why we need to utilize tools like the Eight Steps, to reprogram our thinking so we can overcome these ancient triggers that create so many problems for us.
AGING AND MONEY
As it turns out, according to some economists, it is those of us well over 50, specifically the ‘baby boomers’ that are controlling the purse strings of the world’s economy these days. Apparently we are in charge of over eighty percent of wealth on the planet today. We still have a voracious appetite for spending and consuming, on either quality projects like philanthropy, art and culture, or consumer goods. Boomers just love cars, motorcycles, motor homes, vacation homes, travel, food, alcohol and gifts for those we love. But are the latter the only things we should be pursuing? If we believe they are the key to our happiness, it might be a good idea to analyze those beliefs without blindly accepting them as truth.
EGO ( Edge Good Or God Out)
If all you are doing is satisfying an insatiable urge to have more in order to appease your ego, then watch out, as you may not really be a happy camper. The question you might want ask yourself is what have you done lately to make a difference on the planet?
What about those of us who feel we aren’t in a position to help others or the planet? There are definitely those of us who haven’t planned for our futures as well as we should have. What will happen to us? Once again my mind that defaults to nasty lies starts up: “You will end up penniless, a pauper working a corner with a cup!”
If we keep our wits about us, this need not happen. Youth is fine for backbreaking and heavy slugging but, the intellect of those who are more mature, gifted with our wealth of experience, is worth its weight in gold. And we can all realize this with some simple steps and planning. If you can remember back when life was “groovy”, we didn’t have a care in the world. That is a great place to get back to. And it’s attainable.
THE TRUTH ABOUT BEING A BABY BOOMER AND AGING
What is the truth about being a ‘boomer’, becoming a Sage? Many of us still have a good sex drive. It is, however, much more emotional and psychological than physical. In many cases, it is based on true intimacy rather than raw, self-centered sexual satisfaction.
We can try new adventures or new occupations where we don’t have to feel shame or blame if we don’t bat a thousand. In his book, The Spirituality of Imperfection, Paul Kurtz points out that in baseball if you hit three hundred, you will be paid millions of dollars to join a major league baseball team. What that means is that 7 out of 10 times you will miss hitting the ball. Baseball is the only game in the world that recognizes errors as part of the process. We want to liberate ourselves from old beliefs, old self-defeating thinking that we acquired somewhere between the ages of 3 and 12. None of us are perfect, and every one of us makes mistakes – and that includes you and me!
Many of us have unresolved issues from our pasts and our childhoods. It is imperative that we let go of old, self-defeating thinking about our dreams or ideas that we had in our youth that no longer support us. It is important to age gracefully. Many of us had unhappy childhoods; unfortunately they’ve lasted fifty or sixty years. The good news is it’s never too late to have a happy childhood!
For example, holding onto the idea that I need to be liked by everyone is self-defeating. Not everyone will like us. As a matter of fact, what others think of me is none of my business. It’s more important to like ourselves, just the way we are and not worry about what others think of us, period.
The goal is to be mature (hopefully) adults who should strive to be role models of how it is to age gracefully and with purpose. This definitely does not mean trying to act like a teenager by dressing in the current style of young adults or tying to use their vernacular. My advice? It’s best to avoid playing any forms of emotional and psychological Russian roulette. It hardly suits our… well, ‘mature’ selves.
We all should all try to pursue some kind of physical fitness to add to our quality of life. Okay, I already mentioned sex, but what else can we include that’s reasonable for our aging bodies? I try to do aqua fit classes at least two days a week, but three is optimal. I also do 50 push-ups off my bathtub side three mornings a week. I walk everywhere I can. I make a point of leaving my car at home if I can. So exercise is good for mind, body and spirit. Trying to emulate the Y generation is not.
For many of us it is critical to our well being. I want to emphasize, I’m not necessarily talking about religion. I’ve personally been an agnostic a lot of my life. I had great faith when I was young and then I studied and educated myself beyond my level of comprehension. As a result, I lost my childhood faith. It didn’t make sense to me considering scientific and empirical evidence (or so I thought). If you have a traditional faith that works for you, then you are ahead of the game. For a lot of us though, our focus is on a faith in something greater than we are. It doesn’t matter if it’s your local hydro provider, the nearest electrical current or Einsteins theory of relativity. As long as it’s bigger & more powerful than you and it makes sense to you.
The truth is, faith does work. It helps us stay alive, healthy and happy. Research shows time and time again, when we have a community of like-minded people we can spend time with, we are always going to feel improved happiness. Perhaps your community is a power greater than itself that can easily help you connect to a sense of something bigger? As it turns out, isolation is aging’s worst malady. If there is one thing I’ve learned, if you want to enjoy and maybe even have some fun in your ‘golden’ years, avoid isolation like the plague.
How To Find A New View Of Aging
HOW DO WE OVERCOME ADVERSITY?
It is always interesting to look back on our lives from the position of being at peace. I don’t know about you, but my life has consisted of many, many peaks and valleys. One of the things I have learned is that when I am in a place of a being down, I have a mind that lies to me. It says it will always be like this.
I call it ‘having a faulty filter’. I believe what is not true, I interpret what is not meant, and I hear what is not said. I must always check with someone I can trust when I get into that state of mind. Fortunately for me I have a wonderful group of friends who help keep me on the straight and narrow.
So, what started this morning’s thinking?
A few days ago was the anniversary when I made the decision to change the direction of my life. It was thirty years ago. There I was, minding my own business, in a second marriage with two young children. I had just lost a lot of money on a movie I was producing, and I calculated I had a good 25 to 30 years to make a comeback. No problem. Relaxed, I went to bed and woke up at age 60. I was stunned. How could this be? I wish I’d planned better. But the time between my 30's and my 60's flew by like a rocket!
You might say that it was like riding the head of a ballistic missile, unguided, as it would turn out. When I stopped to take stock, here is where I am. I have a nice home in Vancouver, and a nice apartment in Toronto. I have a reasonable amount of savings. But it wasn’t always this way.
One day, totally out of the blue and unexpectedly I was injured and it appeared the career I had was about to end abruptly. I had to ask myself, what are my choices? I had to take stock of my life and figure out; how can I transfer some of my other assets and learn how to make a living in a hurry.
As a producer, what I had was the talent and ability to conceive an idea and translate that onto the screen so that significant numbers of people would want to watch what was created and produced. More importantly, in the past, when I made 10 pitches, I would end up with between 3 and 5 productions on average. At my lowest point four years ago I went through 335 no’s. It wouldn’t take a Las Vegas bookie to say the odds were not in my favor.
I started to focus on a new career, writing nonfiction self-help books and doing inspirational and motivational speaking. I also considered a teaching position. I had won a teaching award, so I knew I have that ability. The good news is, three years later, I am back producing, and I’ve now written three books, one of which has won the Reader’s Favorite Award in New York on this very subject of Overcoming Adversity and Aging. So here is what I learned in a nutshell.
If you are about to embark on any major changes in your life due to a financial setback, the loss of a job or management position you want to know: what can I do to help myself?
You may be impacted by the financial meltdown that occurred after 2008. You may have experienced the loss of your spouse or life partner or your closest friends. You may have recently been diagnosed with a life-altering illness, whether it’s terminal or not. Or you are one of the Boomers who are fortunate enough to be retiring. It’s important for any of us, whether self-employed or as an executive or manager or as a front-line employee, to do an inventory of our assets.
That inventory should include not only our financial assets, but also our family, friends, health, mementos of our past, keepsakes from our children, awards, and a list our achievements. It is a very good idea to do this. It is also important to sit down and look at every aspect of your finances too.
Why? Because the same brain that lies to us will also try to convince us that we are completely deficient. My mind will tell me “I don’t have all the skills necessary to proceed with something that is out of my comfort zone.” It might say, “I’ve worked at Acme Tool and Gear all of my life, and now I want to start up a bookstore cafe. How crazy is that”? Not very if you are innovative and add things like coffee, comfortable chairs, author’s readings, a gift shop, book club and make it a center for the community!
While my story may be different in the sense of what I did for a living, my experience of being blind-sided by some unforeseen event is exactly what happens every day of the week across North America, the UK (Brexit was a shocker, no?) and around the world in general. And it is only exacerbated by what is going on in the world geopolitically. There are those whose lives are altered because of a serious car accident or industrial accident. You may have experienced the loss of their marriage, the death of a partner. Someone close to you is suffering from the family disease of alcoholism or drug addiction. Difficulties with our children or challenges with our siblings, or the financial meltdown over the past several years may be plaguing us.
Here is the good news. If I found a way out, so can you. And here is the key: you are not to blame. You may have to take responsibility for what’s happened to you and not get caught up in a victim stance, but you don’t have to give up.
We may also have to change course in life. For any of you who are sailors, you know that frequently we must tack when we’re heading into the wind and go in the opposite direction to get to where we are going. At times, it will appear we are going the wrong way as we go to a starboard tack to a port tack. And we may have to be ready to let go of old ideas if there is something new trying to make its way into our life.
There are countless millions of others out there going through the same thing that you and I are. The key is to find fellow travelers with whom you can share your journey in a safe environment and thus overcome whatever adversity life throws at you.
We deserve to enjoy the benefits of our hard work in these ‘golden years’ in a way our parents or grandparents could never have ever imagined. “We are the Champions” as Freddy Mercury, sang in his iconic hit song with his band Queen, back in the 70s.
So, how you ended up here was by showing up and not dying. From the point at age thirty-five until today seems like it’s only been a few years. It's over thirty! To many people, it’s half a lifetime. It’s gone by so quickly.
TAKING STOCK OF OUR LIVES
So what have I accomplished? What is the truth? Yes, we’ve had disappointments. Who hasn’t? But because of taking responsibility for them and doing the work that needed to be done, I’ve clean up the wreckage of my past. Financially I’ve probably paid back eighty, or ninety per cent of the people I harmed through indebtedness when I was in my late 20's and lost over $5 million dollars on a movie I was producing in the United States. And, more importantly I’ve never had any of those kinds of financial problems again. Another tough lesson learned. And another case that I never thought would improve. I was sure I was destined to be a pauper.
I was married a second time to a very funny lady, Deborah. Because of that union, we have two children who are now young adults, Brendan, and Laurel. They have both worked with me in the past. I have healed my relationship with my two oldest children, Andrew, Colleen and my four grandkids, Sophie, Guerin, Henry, and Conlan.
I taught as a faculty member at three universities: York University and Ryerson University in Toronto, where I was the recipient of the CESAR teaching award. Then I added one more university to my CV - Capilano University in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
In addition to my film and television productions, I’ve been President of several film and television production companies that have enjoyed tremendous critical and financial success. I've had the privilege of working with a lot of people over the years in a few disciplines, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the most intelligent, noteworthy and influential people on the planet. So there is hope.
The key is to find a group of like-minded people you can trust. I used the 8 Steps of the Master Mind to assist me in my journey. It’s easy to find on the internet. It is a blueprint for how to live your life with purpose and meaning. Or, you can go to my website www.davidbradybooks.com and read about it there or watch a few of my videos. We are designed to be with others. That is the key. Know, that you are not alone.
What have you learned on a good day? In my case, not much. It is only when I am hurled into a corner, jammed up against a wall with nowhere to go that my ego will finally allow the light of reason in. Imagine how it would feel if your face was squashed up against a panel of Plexiglas. So I can say “okay, what is my lesson?” Here’s a great starting point: clearly what you are doing is not working too well, is it?
Last night I received one of the most beautiful reviews I’ve ever had in my life or career as a writer, producer, director and especially author. It has really got me thinking about the ways that we are all the same and the challenges we all face. If you are interested in reading the review, it is on my website www.davidbradybooks.com under the title Survival: Transforming Childhood Trauma.
I survived a childhood no one should ever have to. In a nutshell, my father, an important professional and church-going man in our neighborhood, while in a drunken stupor, loaded, aimed and pulled the trigger on a Remington Pump Shotgun that was pointed at my mother and I. The gun jammed. It would not fire. What saved our lives was the fact my older brother, Robert, walked through the door and disarmed my father just as the gun jammed. I was only 12-years of age.
That experience, combined with the nearly eight years of physically and emotionally abuse I’d endured by that point, led me first to a life of addiction as a teenager and then into over-achievement in academics and the arts as a young adult. I stopped drinking at the age of 22 and stopped all other mood altering substances a few years after that. I am now in my late 60s. What I didn’t understand then, is that I was self-medicating as the emotional pain was so great. Very little was known about the resulting trauma thirty odd years ago. So many of us are running on information we acquired between the ages of four and twelve-years of age. We have faulty filters: we hear what is not said; we believe (and catastrophize) what is not true, and we interpret what is not meant. These are never ending beliefs that continue running us in our adult lives regardless of what we’ve accomplished or who we’ve become to the outside world. Thank God for my mother. She was sane, sober and had faith beyond understanding. It was her support that enabled me to turn my life around.
After graduate school, I became a partner in a film company that continuously produced wonderful and award winning film, tv series and documentaries. While the success was exhilarating, it would eventually lead to my first of two financial ‘crash and burn’s’. I would end up owing over $5 Million. I was humiliated when the headlines in the New York Times & The Globe and Mail shouted out my failure. In the end, I was a victim of commercial fraud.
How do you turn that into a lesson? At the time, it only felt like an absolute disaster. But here’s what I came to learn with the passing of time: Make sure that you investigate, do your due diligence and have all of your legal agreements prepared in advance. I had tried to do this without a business plan. This is a pretty big lesson if you want to succeed at all in business. Always have a business plan. From that day to this one - over one hundred and thirty episodes of prime-time drama, comedy and documentaries - I have never once been a day late making any loan or production payments.
I learned lots about cash flow and long-range planning because of this, which became the foundation for a successful career.
But what about the personal and emotional lessons? Often these can be just as potent, if not more so, than the financial ones. First, it brought me to a place of accepting I was powerless over the individual who had misrepresented the financing of this film to my attorney and I. I would eventually come to a place of realizing that if I didn’t change, I would go bankrupt and not be able to redeem myself. And after all was said and done, I still went ahead and raised an additional three-quarter’s of a million dollars to finish the film. I had cavalierly started the film believing I would always be able to complete the financing and the film if I had any problems. But the film was a flop. I learned a few things about being overly cavalier without having the evidence to support that I was making a good choice.
But more positive life-altering results than I could ever have predicted would come from these adversities. Because I had returned to Toronto from Vancouver and Los Angeles where I had been working on this deal, I was given the opportunity to make amends to my mother who lived in Toronto, and be in her life until the day she died. What a gift that was.
I reconnected with my older children from my first marriage. It took an enormous of amount of physical and emotional work to repair those relationships but the point is I was given the opportunity. I was introduced to an excellent doctor and a group of like-minded friends who allowed me to start examining my childhood dysfunction. I began to see the deep-rooted fears that influenced most decisions I made. It was also made apparent to me that I kept choosing people who could not give me the kind of support I needed in business – especially in a crisis, with only a few exceptions. I also ended up meeting the woman who was to become the mother of my two youngest children and with whom I have a remarkable relationship today, even though we are divorced. Believe it or not, I am still paying off that debt but I am about ninety percent of the way there! It’s taken me almost thirty years to do it. Those are some pricey life lessons.
Thirteen years down the road, I would end up in another business situation that did not end well, and I am still dealing with the fallout of it all these years later. Here is what I learned from this one: I am limited in life if I don’t operate ethically. There are no shortcuts, no quick fixes or quick deals. Anything that claims to have quick rewards usually has very little ongoing benefits. As you can imagine, today I am very cautious about who I am in business with. I have not repeated either one of those two terrible mistakes, and as a result, I have had a life that has been financially manageable and solvent for the most of the past thirty years.
Adversity is the universe’s way of helping you grow. Or if you are spiritually inclined, it is the stepping stone to peace of mind. Without adversity, there is no growth, no self-esteem, no sense of accomplishment. It is why so many individuals who come from extreme wealth lose it by the third generation. They never had to pay the price their forefathers and foremothers did to get to where they are. No one is perfect and we are all the same. It just depends on the circumstances and the day. My lesson here that I want to share with you – don’t be too hard on yourself for being a human being. Only baseball recognizes errors as part of the game.
Fear is the biggest trigger for most of life’s problems and adversities. Real or imagined I might add. But they seldom become a reality. Usually it has us say and do things we should never say or do. It is our reptilian brain that worked one hundred thousand years ago to protect us from predators, but it is now an ancient and out of date hardware. We need to reload the software in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for our automatic fear reactions, because it is about as useful as the original DOS operating on top of the newest Apple or Quantum Computers. Obsolete, redundant and a tad unreliable. It’s responsible for our fight or flight reaction and our sexual impulses and the little bugger is always creating pitfalls that we must dig out of or else we fail.
What I believe today is that there is no opportunity for genuine growth, true brilliance or genius, no groundbreaking discovery without adversity. We see it time and time again, whether with the Wright Brothers, folks like Steve Jobs or the Space Program. The bigger our dreams, the greater the adversity you will encounter. Welcome it. Make it your friend. Fail fast to get it out of the way.
Am I personally immune from it? I often forget that it’s my friend when I’m in the middle of ontologically imploding. What have I learned after having faced an enormous amount of it from my childhood to losing eighty percent of my memory seven years ago after sustaining a catastrophic brain injury and losing just about everything one could lose as a result? What could I have possibly gained? A new perspective on life including an understanding of what is truly of value. My children and my grandkids. After that, I have peace of mind and a real sense of healthy self-esteem combined with an enormous amount of gratitude because my biggest adversities have been my greatest teachers. I am a better man, a better human being, a better father, and friend because I faced the challenge and rose to the occasion. And yes, I’ve now written three books and I am in the middle of adapting 31 New York Times Best Seller for broadcast in 2018.
If I can overcome a series of overwhelmingly big and challenging setback to find a way back to a better, more rewarding life, than it is my belief that absolutely anyone can.
What Is Too Old?
I am sitting here this morning thinking about what is too old? I am a "Boomer." I know, blame us for the wanton pollution, greed, self-centeredness, oh and the massive change in consciousness that came out of the 60s and turned governments and businesses on their heads. While we may have gone a tad too far with drugs, sex and rock & roll, like any self-correcting organism that wants to survive, those of us with proclivity to excess reined in our excesses and sought to turn our lives around in a way that we could actually start to become responsible, less self-centered and more open to correction in the direction of our lives. Many of us also transformed from people looking to get - to friends looking to give or share what we'd learned.
If you are one of the countless "Boomers" out there wondering - WTF - how did this happen? I went to bed at 39 and woke up at 65. Whoa, baby. That was fast. Ironically, these past several years in some ways have been the most trying I've ever encountered and paradoxically - the most transformative I've ever experienced.
I sustained a catastrophic brain injury, had to shut down my production company temporarily, go back and teach at a University. That didn't go too well given I'd lost 80% of my memory, had issues with my cognitive processing and found myself in a very scary place. What do you do when your entire life comes to a crashing halt?
First up: take an inventory. What are my assets and what are my liabilities? My biggest assets were my four children and my four grandkids. You will never understand that until you get there yourself. But trust me, if that’s all I accomplished in life, that would be enough. I feel so blessed for my family.
Liabilities: Lack of cash after investing a lot of money in offices and staff thinking that I never met an obstacle I couldn't overcome? Time for more corrections. Think sailing and having to tack. Sometimes we move away from our goal by heading in the opposite direction to where we want to go. Necessary when we are sailing upwind. I was sailing upwind. Then my mind started up. You are toast, Dave. You are too old. You've had your day in the sun, and what a day it was. Man oh man, I can never look back in my life and say, "Well, wish I'd done that." I did it all and then some. Then after a short bout of chronic infantile omnipotence - that is the ongoing ontological condition when we don't get what we want we lay on the floor (metaphorically) and kick our feet.
Then I started looking at my assets and liabilities. That was depressing. If I wanted to live in a Yurt, on Crown Land in the interior of BC - I would be in good shape. If I could hunt and trap my food, drive a 65 VW Beatle and learn how to rebuild engines myself.
Then I discovered an excellent physician who had me start doing prayer and meditation on top of some off-label medications to help profuse my temporal lobes with blood. Then a friend told me of an amazing and miraculous new medical intervention that is being used by the Doctors in Kingston Ontario treating the soldiers with PTSD from Afghanistan - it's named Neurofeedback. Undaunted, with a new position teaching at a university in Vancouver, I headed back out to Lotus Land from my house in Eastern Ontario and my apartment at Avenue Road and Heath in Toronto. In Vancouver, I began the regimen of doing two to three neurofeedback sessions a week. Miraculously after 40 of them one day my memory started flooding back in. Then my cognitive processes began firing again. I transformed David Brady Productions into two new entities; David Brady Communications and David Brady Books. I figure, what the hell. I'm proud of my name and what I've done - stick with the name people know from film and television.
Then I began to be inspired. So inspired I sat down and wrote three - not one, not two, but because I am a massive overachiever I wrote three books. My Serenity: Aging With Dignity, Living With Grace was published on December 13th by Post Hill Press in Nashville and distributed by Simon & Schuster. I have the other two up on Amazon.com
So, now I'm pushing well into my sixties when a friend who had lost about a half a million dollars with me in 1986 (my first Book - Survival: Transforming Childhood Trauma - chronicles how did I end up losing so much money after so much success) because I had cleared that up with him calls me up and says, "Hey, can you still get a movie made?" Did I mention I had the privilege of executive producing one of the most iconic Canadian Feature Films The Grey Fox that was presented by Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios and Distributed by United Artists Classics? It was directed by the late, great Phil Borsos and produced by my old pal Peter O'Brian with the help of Barry Healey? It was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards - Best Foreign Picture and Best Actor for Richard Farnsworth. It won 7 Canadian Academy Awards.
So I said, "I don't want to do movies anymore. They are just too hard to do." My friend Stolp says, "What if it were a NY Times Best Seller?" I thought that would help. He said, "What if there were more than one?" All of a sudden my interest got piqued. "That would be interesting," I said.
So, here we are six months later, we've picked up 31 New York Times Best-Selling Books by an author who has written over 95 NY Times Best Sellers. And over 200 million books sold. Interesting.
Let me circle back to my opening question? What is too old. The author is in her 8th decade of her life. Like the old gunslinger in the Western's, I just don't jump too fast or too far. By keeping my gaze steady, and doing the next right thing in front of me, we are on the verge of potentially doing a deal in LA to adapt the thirty-one books as an ongoing series over five or six years.
Add to that the three books, my new take on my old university lecturing days as an inspirational and motivational speaker about overcoming adversity, finding real success in life and learning how to age with dignity and live with grace - I've decided the new too old is DEAD. I'll worry about that when I get there.
What Is Real Success in Life?
I have been very blessed and am very grateful that I have had the most fantastic opportunity in life to be the father of 4 incredible children, four beautiful grand kids and many friends in both Canada and the United States, my second home. I've also been fortunate enough to have a successful career that includes university professor and as a filmmaker. The first two-thirds of my life were spent getting. Now, I want to share my journey of overcoming adversity, finding peace of mind and prosperity and real purpose in the second half of life. To do that I have now written three books: Survival: Transforming Childhood Trauma; Success: Reflections On Money, Sex, and Power (the only areas of my life I’ve ever had any challenges with); and last Serenity: Aging With Dignity, Living With Grace. Serenity was released few weeks ago by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster in the United States and Canada. It chronicles my dramatic journey after receiving a catastrophic brain injury and trying to put my life back together.
As I sit here on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in beautiful Puerto Vallarta Mexico, here is what I know today - my life has been incredibly blessed. And here is what I've learned about life, regardless of where we are on the journey. We experience success, more success, a bump in the road, a significant disappointment, another bump in the road,a speed bump, whoa, a big success that leads one to realize - success is not all it's cracked up to be. And if that's all one's life is about; cars, houses, clothes and bobbles all lose their shine very quickly if we don't have a solid foundation under ourselves emotionally and spiritually. Then as we age, the wife/husband leaves, our parents die our best friend stops talking to us. Our business partner shafts us or betrays us; our children have issues, and we feel like life is unfair. And it is some of the time. Then we pick ourselves up, in my case do an inventory to see, "What was my part in this situation?" It's not always eas to be rigorously honest with ourselves. It is always so much more comforting to think "If it weren't for (fill in the name, gender, relationship, slight, resentment or hurt) my life would be fantastic. So my message today is welcome adversity. Embrace failure as a necessary part of succeeding and heed its lessons well, so you don't have to repeat them again. I've never had to face the kind of insanity encountered in 1986 when I ended up owing $5.2 million dollars on a feature film I was producing in the United States. That experience propelled me in a whole new direction in my life. What I thought at the time was the worst experience of my life ended up being the catalyst for the greatest change I've ever experienced, and still benefiting from it today.
I feel so lucky to know the people I know, to have met all the incredible people and to have loved the women I've loved. Not that there has been that many, but they have all been so amazing in their own ways. I am also looking forward to doing some more inspirational and corporate talks on creativity, overcoming adversity and utilizing spiritual principles to grow your business. Producers are the world's most sophisticated salespeople. We sell an idea that has no shape or form and networks and distributors invest an amount of money you could build an office building, apartment building or large commercial complex. All because I had a good idea that morning. And to think that all my high school teachers use to yell at me for daydreaming. Life really is fantastic, and I always tell people when they are in trouble, "Life will shortly be as good as it is bad for you right now." Nothing last forever and life will always change if we don't give up our dreams and have faith.
Never Give Up....
I would like to wish everyone in Canada and the United States a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Years. I was sitting here thinking, I have so much to be grateful for - my good health, my children, my grandkids, the incredible friends I have, living in two of the most beautiful cities on earth - Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON. I am so grateful to my shareholders, Sonny, Chris and Louie for standing by me through what has been an incredibly difficult time.
This past few month has seen a seismic shift in my personal, business and spiritual life. It is the result of not giving up and continuing to follow my medical and spiritual path toward healing myself physically and emotionally from the effects of my injury seven years ago that almost stopped me in my tracks.
On July 1st, 2013 I wondered if I would ever work again. As it turns out, not only will I work again, but it appears I may enter yet again into one of the most productive periods of my life. I certainly never thought this would be the case when I began writing the first iteration of what is now, Serenity: Aging With Dignity, Living With Grace in the first week of July 2013.
The book reads like a serial drama. I was chronicling the events in real time as they were happening to me - having to put my production company on hiatus, laying off my staff, wondering how in God's name I'm going to survive, pay off my shareholders, creditors and keep my company afloat. I began utilizing the 8 Steps of the Master Mind (the concept of the Master Mind and having partners was created by the late great Napoleon Hill - author of Think and Grow Rich).
Well, as luck and persistence would have it, I finished my book and brought it out initially through a hybrid publishing company out of Texas. It is now being published in the United States and Canada by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster. I am in the process of setting up meetings with banks, insurance companies and a large organization in the USA about the possibility of co-venturing with me for their clients as my book focuses on overcoming adversity, finding peace of mind and real purpose in the second half of life. I believe the subject is timely as the cohort of Baby Boomers is the largest in history and we don’t appear to be going quietly into the night.
I can now attest - it works! What was interesting is I went back and read the book at the start of this month and thought, "Wow, this is quite good. Where did I get this from?" It made me realize I was inspired writing it. In that process, I laid myself open emotionally. If you have never been involved in the arts or where you just put yourself out there to be vulnerable and judged, it is a terrifying experience, at least for me it was.
Here is what I believe I've learned. No setback, regardless of how difficult it is, should ever cause any of us to give up on life. What it does do is show me that when I think I have lost all hope of a solution, I should stop and take stock. It also showed me that I needed to give up trying to solve the problem with the same mind that created the problem. I had to expand my horizons. And, I also had to seek medical help. Ironically, the Doctor I saw was a huge fan of "Spiritual Solutions" in addition to traditional medication. I have been part of a "Master Mind Group" for over a dozen years, so that was not a big stretch for me.
As a result of the difficulties, I encountered because of my injuries I've had to reevaluate my life. I know that the people who've worked with me (with the exception of one or two) have enjoyed their time with us. I love people and teaching, and when the position teaching at Capilano University appeared in 2013, it was the catalyst needed to create the change I was hoping for when I returned to Vancouver.
It gave me time to breathe and let go and let God (Good Orderly Direction) take over in my life. I stopped fighting and just surrendered after three hundred and thirty no's for television projects I was pitching to networks in Canada and the United States. I'd never gone more than ten or fifteen no's in my life up until then. It also allowed me to undertake a new radical medical treatment called Neurofeedback which has completely rebooted my brain and allowed me to regain about 80% of the memory I lost.
So as I sit here now, here is where I am: I signed two, 13 episode series development deals in the last year. I have acquired the rights to thirty-one NY Times Best Selling books that I hope to adapt as streaming series for one of the major US streaming or cable networks. I received an offer today to co-venture with me on the project from the third largest company in Canada.
For anyone who saw our award-winning CTV/Bravo! Yonge Street Toronto Rock & Roll Stories, directed by Bruce McDonald we are about to follow it up with part two - another feature Documentary that will take a journey from Yonge Street to Big Pink. My old friend and executive producer of Yonge Street, Jan Haust who is the fellow in the back of the car and doing the interviews - won the Grammy in 2015 after remixing the original Basement Tapes with Garth Hudson of the Band and featuring the musical genius Bob Dylan.
As of today, there are 37, five-star reviews of my book, Aging With Dignity, Living With Grace on Amazon.com and another 4 or 5 on Amzon.ca. If you'd like to hear more about my books, feel free to take a look at some of the reviews.
I have spent about 90% of my career writing, producing or directing over 100 episodes of scripted drama or comedy and about 60 hours of documentaries and docudramas as well as 4 feature films for studios and companies like CBC, CTV, Discovery, CBS, Vision Television, Untied Artists, Zoetrope Studios and Disney. In addition I have had the privilege to teach at York University, Ryerson University (where I won the CESAR Teaching Award) and Capilano University in North Vancouver British Columbia. I have also given about 100 talks on overcoming adversity.
In 2010 I was assaulted by a young man with mental illness. As a result of that assault I sustained a concussion, which led to a severe brain injury. Up until that point my production company, David Brady Productions had been going full tilt with one production after another either being the highest rated for the year or one of the top 3, and winning countless awards (Around The World with Tippi for Discovery, France 5, Craig Broadcasting) that was nominated at Banff for Best Children's Series) CBC Doc Zone's The Pagan Christ, second highest rated for the year, Gangster Next Door, Doc Zone's second or third highest rated in 2011 and last years Super Volcano, Doc Zone's 2013 highest rated for the year and currently airing on the Smithsonian Channel in the USA. In between those productions was the critically acclaimed series (Bruce McDonald directed) Yonge Street, Toronto Rock & Roll Stories that John Doyle did a full page on, The Toronto Star gave it the cover of The Star Week and several pages in the actual newspaper, as well as 80 other major pieces on it. It was all looking and feeling so good.
My first book Get Me To the Temple of Serenity...And Step On It!, chronicled the challenges I faced as a young man and the obstacles I had to overcome in order to be successful. That book is spiritual in nature and uses the same 8 Steps. What I can say in my own case is, life can certainly be unpredictable and never boring. I am just grateful I've been able to come along for the ride and what an amazing, challenging and wonderful ride its been!
David Brady has 30 years of experience as an award-winning writer, producer and director of feature film and international television productions. In June, 2015 he founded David Brady Communications and changed his focus on writing nonfiction books.