Losing my Identity

Originally published on Huffington Post.

In mid 2009, I left my position as CEO of a company that I had founded. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of an almost four-year process that I can only describe as losing my identity.

In this time frame I would go through heartbreak and homelessness and question every aspect of my life. I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to New York City. The new company I started went through eight pivots, four co-founders, and near bankruptcy. I spent 11 months living in my car and incurred massive debt just to keep things going. After a challenging breakup, I didn’t go on a single date for 18 months. I decided to stop eating meat and lost 15 pounds of muscle mass. I sold almost everything I owned down to my car, ultimately living on the grace of good friends. I went through immense psychological stress and periods of time where I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.

All the things that had been important to me — a nice apartment, fashionable clothes, a fancy startup, my social life, financial stability, my diet and fitness, even my sexuality — dissolved. Spending nights alone in my car, staring at rain drops sliding down the window, there was nothing to distract me from me.

As I began to let go of all these things, I came to a very challenging psychological place: I had no idea who I was. With every core identity in question, I had a very hard time even socializing with other people. If I had no identity, on what basis could I connect with others?

Identity is that collection of attributes that defines how we see ourselves. It is the answer to the question: Who am I? Anyone who has ever seriously asked themselves that question may have found that the answer is not as obvious as one might think it should be.

I am Lorenz. But who is that? The relationship that I have with the people I know, the things I do, and the stuff I own paints a very inviting image of who I am. But what happens when I take those things away? Who am I then?

When the attributes of our identity are externalized, those attributes control us. Our sense of self worth becomes dependent on external considerations. We must have enough money, means, and status in order to consider ourselves happy. In pursuit of maintaining this false sense of happiness, we cling all the more strongly to external identifiers because so much self worth emanates from them. It can take losing these things, losing our identity, to see our true nature outside of them.

Each identity is a limited interpretation of who we are. The sum of our external identities is far less than the whole of our being. True freedom arises when we are not dependent on something outside ourselves for the way we feel about ourselves. The way we feel about ourselves starts with the relationship that we have with ourselves.

We choose the people we hang out with, the things we do, and the stuff we buy. That choice comes from somewhere. The source of that choice is much closer to our identity than the product. To understand our choices we must examine why we do the things that we do.

In experiencing my loss of identity, I could see that many of my actions were motivated by a desire for external recognition. I was either trying to impress others or worried about how they would judge me. However, any situation where my self expression is contingent upon the validation of others is bound to limit me from being myself. And if I’m not being myself, how can I possibly be happy?

True identity is being true to oneself. For me this is cultivating genuine self respect and a willingness to be vulnerable. This makes for a more flexible identity that is based on how I feel about my actions rather than the outcome of my actions. If I feel good then I know my behavior is aligned with values that bring me real happiness.

Since my car-living days, I’ve raised money for my company, moved into a beautiful apartment, and started dating an amazing woman. Am I attached to these things? Absolutely. But I try not to depend on them for how I feel about myself. Most importantly, I’m learning to see myself outside of my circumstances. This hasn’t happened overnight. It’s a process of making small choices that reinforce personal dignity day by day. When my self worth is decoupled from external considerations, I allow for genuine self expression to occur. In this sense, losing identity is really about finding ones true self.

In struggling to find my identity I realized that I create my own identity. This is the most valuable lesson that I have learned. When I let go of the need to define myself, I can choose any definition I want. By accepting that I am not limited by any notion of identity, I liberate myself to just be me. Right here, right now, I am choosing my identity by how I am choosing to spend my time. In this very moment I am creating myself and this is my identity.

Transform your body with commitment


For the last eight years, I’ve worked out three to four times a week almost every single week.  I remember clearly how I started working out.  In 2001 I was 6’3″ and 175 lbs with a mild pot belly.  I was so skinny it looked like my head might roll off my body.  Like a lot of people, the first few times I tried working out I got really gung ho about it and swore that I was going to start working out every day and get “jacked.”  Three work outs later I found plenty of reasons to flake out on that promise and stop going to the gym.

I did this a couple times before the gym finally became a part of my life.  One day I was at the doctor’s office and I picked up a men’s health magazine.  It had a list of motivational things to do to get back in the gym.  One of the points changed my life: “If you commit to going to the gym, you go no matter what.”  No matter what happens, you at least show up and touch the gym door.  No excuses.
Continue reading Transform your body with commitment

Full Body Stats 7/23/09

It’s been exactly a month since my last full body stat update.  I’ve spent the majority of the last month focusing on core strengthening, with little emphasis on heavy lifting or bulking up.  With that in mind, my diet has remained mostly flat, with calories in roughly equal to calories out.

(The blue line is calories out, the green line is calories in.)

Weight: 203.2
Body Fat: 10.6%
Waist: 34.75 in
Chest: 42 in
Shoulders: 49.5 in
Forearms: 11.75 in
Neck: 17 in
Thigh: 22.75 in
Calf: 17 in
Arms: 14 in

Most of my measurements have stayed the same or gotten smaller.  This makes sense since I haven’t been focused on getting big for the last month. I find lifting lighter weights and focusing on core strengthening not as satisfying as lifting really heavy.  It doesn’t give me the same stress release as killing myself in the gym.  Although I always thought that I lifted with good form, over time the little issues with the way I lift have added up to an imbalance in my muscle structure which makes me more prone to injuries.  Trevor and I have been working together to eliminate those imbalances.  It’s amazing to workout with someone who has deep anatomical knowledge and can tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong.

One major source of frustration is that I somehow managed to get tennis elbow.  This is particularly frustrating since I haven’t been lifting heavy and just don’t get why I have such a bad case of it.  I’m even having trouble shaking hands.  Hopfully this will go away real soon.  Overall, I feel good though.  My body feels more solid than ever and I feel muscles in places I never even thought of before.

My appearance hasn’t changed much since the last photo I posted.  In the next few weeks we’ll be upping the kind of weight I’m lifting, assuming I get over the tennis elbow.  I’ll start growing a lot more at that point.

Where did the body metrics go?

I stopped posting daily body metrics after July 4th.  Tracking my daily calories and workouts can be a fun and challenging process.  However, the value of it isn’t really in the daily data, but rather in the periodic analysis of the data.

I’ve been spending well over half an hour a day just posting daily stats data.  Aside from my day to day diet, which tends to repeat itself, the daily stats don’t really add value.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to save you some bandwidth and save me some time.  What I will continue to do is track every aspect of my body and post that infomation in an analytical weekly blog post designed to study trends in my progress.  I hope this will give you some insight into what works and what doesn’t.  I’d love to hear any advice you have as well.  I’ve never done a body building competition before and if you have any suggestions, I welcome them.

Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Fourth of July was a “relaxation” day.  I thoroughly enjoyed half a pizza and really didn’t think about my fitness much for a whole day.  The workout is actually from the day before, but I figured I’d just merge the Friday and Saturday post.  I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed for the last two weeks, and needed a weekend off.  I spend all of Sunday watching the Matrix trilogy.  Yes, all three movies.  It was awesome.  I’ve only ever seen them once.  I forgot how good those movies are, especially when you watch them back to back.

Calories out: 3261, Calories in: 4097, Protein: 264g, Carbs: 370g, Fat: 111g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09

I had a great workout yesterday with a lot of focus on rehabing my shoulder and spine muscles.  I spent 45 minutes just doing shoulder blade rotations, shoulder blade pushups, and stretches.  Then Eddie and I did a light back workout with a strong emphasis on perfect form.

Calories out: 3272, Calories in: 3300, Protein: 255g, Carbs: 395g, Fat: 78g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09

Daily Stats 07/01/09

I actually worked out twice today.  I had an easy going session with Trevor this morning where we mostly focused on light core training movements.  A few hours later, Eddie and I got together and did a light leg work out.  The heart rate chart is from my second workout with Eddie (my batteries were dead for the first one).

I’ve scaled down my lifting weight a lot in the last few weeks to fix my body and reprogram myself to lift with proper form.  I think one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do is to rewire my neuro-muscular communication.  Once your body gets used to doing something in a particular way, it’s very hard to change.  That’s why old habits die hard.

Continue reading Daily Stats 07/01/09