“Why would the first thing I share be some weird videos of Indian monks dancing around covered in ashes and a crazy film entirely in Telugu?” I racked my brain to understand why I’d return to writing with such a random set of things to publish. The responses were rolling in, too. Because apparently, anything I’d publish to my new website automatically goes out as an email to my subscribers. And I’ve got thousands of people who almost never heard from me, for years now. I’d check in occasionally, but never enough. I wasn’t issuing out life lessons like I did in How to Hustle and Win, or in the YouTube videos that I made to talk about what the book discussed. That was all back in the day, though. I used to be everywhere back then. I was all over social media, and pretty much anywhere the people were going. For years, people always saw my better half with me, my queen Mecca Wise. She’s the one who really ran the publishing company, you know. My ass only knew how to teach and how to hustle, not necessarily how to manage inventory and accounting and customer service. All that I had to learn.
I had to learn a few lifetimes worth, really. When people stopped seeing Mecca, they soon stopped seeing me. Why? Those who followed us closely enough knew Mecca was battling breast cancer. We already had our own issues and headaches just being married, running a business and raising children together – all while I was a public figure, constantly responsible for more than most people take on a time. I gave my all to the people, however I could, while giving my all at home – and managing the balance was a way bigger lesson than any I’d learn in business alone. When we lost Mecca in 2014, I quit my 14-year career teaching with Atlanta Public Schools and stepped far back from the active work of promoting our books or creating new material. I checked in when I could, however I could, but some things just felt f*ckin repulsive after losing Mecca. Every time I tried to open a laptop or type at a keyboard I was reminded of how I’d sat at my laptop, working on books or somethin, while she went through countless hours of painful chemotherapy. And all for what? I nearly went and killed them doctors one day, but I didn’t and thats another story for another day. Annnnyway, I’m just saying all that to say, I didn’t wanna do business anymore. I didn’t even wanna check my emails anymore. Just imagine how our financial situation musta looked as a result. Just imagine how I felt dealing with our two beautiful girls, who I was raising alone, while seeing their mother everyday in their faces, but having no way to give HER back to them? I couldn’t do it for em, because that’s for them to do, but I had to ensure them safety and support through every step of a journey that really requires a true village where many don’t exist. I gave them my all, and I found ways – in the midst of that – to give all I could to the people as well. I even filmed a special on mental health, called Green Medicine. I shot a few YouTube videos here and there. I checked in on social media for the people who needed to keep up with me enough. I sent out the occasional heartfelt email. But I promise yall, I was barely there. I was concerned with my daughters. I hustled my way into being able to take care of them, even when I wasn’t able to take care of myself. Hell, even my people – the people – came first. This isn’t a complaint. It’s a mission statement.
When Mecca transitioned, I saw numbers in the clouds. I always questioned what those numbers meant, and revisited them constantly. I ultimately arrived at my keeping a promise to continue to deliver in writing the tools it would take to ensure our survival and success. Here’s the problem. How is it that Dr. Supreme Understanding, this super smart and successful motherf*cker who been able to do anything he put his mind to, cannot keep such a simple promise to his beloved and immortal Mecca Wise? Now, don’t get me – or her – wrong. Her first promise she asked me to keep – quite clearly, as any real mother would – was to ensure that our daughters were going to be okay. I promised her I would become the kind of man they needed from in every way I could. Hell, I even learned how to hem a dress and take out a sew-in! I also listened to countless crazy stories within stories about stories, which is also apparently a prerequisite part of dealing with girls. I did all that though. And I’m still doing it. Growing and learning what works and what doesn’t. As for writing however? That was about as likely as me becoming an exotic dancer. I’m pretty sure I could make a few bucks, but I’d be selling parts of myself I wouldn’t wanna. No disrespect to the dancers, keep shakin.
It’s been like five years since I published anything. If I didn’t publish anything new soon, I knew the whole company would be in trouble. We were already in debt, mostly because we hadn’t been marketing in forever. Trust me, I know how to do business now – and we weren’t doing it. We were doing sooomething as a company, and I was doing whatever random Hancock sh*t I do, but we weren’t marketing with any sort of vision or brand strategy. But that’s ALSO another story for another day. This is the story of how I accidentally sent ALL of my email subscribers a random batch of Indian-language videos one day.
I couldn’t kick the curse. Remember, I associated the act of typing itself, and even writing (as I used to write in a journal as well), with the torturous process of losing my best friend. How the hell was I gonna make books again? I thought about video, but I ain’t really even wanna do videos. I cut off almost all interviews and speaking engagements. If you saw me, it was special. I only did random sh*t and sometimes invited people to whatever it was. I told people to follow me in the woods and I made em climb waterfalls so they could hear me teach – about the power within themselves. That’s what Green Medicine was based off, actually. We chopped up some of the footage and my brother IAtomic made it a movie. It’s an amazing project. What you don’t know is that it’s entirely unscripted, because I stilll.couldn’t.write.sh*tttt.
I hope you understand my pain here. Hell, this is what I do. Or did? I know I’m a teacher, but teachers are best preserved in written records that speaks to the hearts and souls of the readers – where we can share a thought as one mind and truly be on the same page – where even the most distant experience becomes relatable as one’s own memory – the feeling you only get from touching the words themselves and letting their ideas seep into your consciousness? That’s what the written word is for, and all the great teachers who we immortalize for their ideas are best preserved because they have written words attached to those ideas? This is what I do, and I mean dooooo – like that Japanese concept of ikigayai (or something like that – I be saying Icky Guy and hoping people don’t ask me spell it!) – where your passion, purpose, talent, and possibilities all meet in the middle and it’s what you’re really meant to do. I can do a lotta shit, but if you’re still reading, it’s cause this is what I do. For reasons bigger than myself. My ego is all out of it, actually. That’s why you’ve watched countless people and business (and nonprofits!) “borrow” from my formulas or ideas and carry on as if they invented them. I used to trip, but I gave up credit in exchange for time with Mecca. And now I just treat all of it like its the fruits of seeds I planted in hearts and minds for so many years there’s not always a way to trace who got it from who or how. So who cares?
I had sacrificed so much for causes greater than myself, but I somehow couldn’t wrap my mind around sitting down to publish anything. And yet it was critical. I was stuck. Even while appearing to be in motion, really f*ckin stuck. That’s why it was a curse.
Then something spontaneous happened. A few months ago, after a wave of several other spontaneous but good things happening – my mother told me she wanted to go to India, to see some family, and that it would be her last time.
That’s heavy, cause my mother is 76. She invited me to go. I ain’t have enough money coming in at the time, so I went out there about as broke as I was the last time I went to India – twenty-two years ago, at fifteen. I wrote about it in How to Hustle and Win. I thought I was gonna walk around like a cool little thug from Jersey City, but ended up in a poor village road where my American dollars ain’t work – so I was instantly poor as the goonies looking at me funny, with their machetes and loincloths and whatnot. It was crazy getting out of there (I nearly died from the heat) but experiences like that helped form me and shape my worldview. So, definitely, take your kids travelling.
On this trip to India, however, it was gonna be mostly me. At least, that’s what I figured, not having the kids with me. “With my mother visiting the elder members of our family, I’ll have plenty of time to myself,” I thought. Nope. Turns out, we’re Bengali. Like the tiger. Yeah, that’s cool. Turns out that means every woman in your family tries to feed you or make you drink tea all day long, from sunup to sundown. It don’t matter if you full, whoever cooked is gonna give you more. And stand over you and watch you eat – whatever it is. That’s not so cool. Especially when you’re like me. Whatever that means. But being Bengali, for me, as it turns out, also means that I’m related to some of the greatest revolutionary figures of the Indian people,
including those who fought as guerrillas against British rule and those who raised up the courage and self-love of the people like poet Rabindranath Tagore. I had to out drink members of a revolutionary militia, got anointed in the oldest Shivaite temple in Orissa, nearly slapped a temple priest with a broken coconut, broke bread in trash heaps with the lowlifes, and climbed mountains in flipflops to sit in a monastery cut out the rock with the enlightened…and a bunch of monkeys.
I had to relearn my native language, my first tongue, Bengali. I couldn’t speak English to almost anyone. Before long, I could barely speak English at all. Before I left I was nearly speaking Hindi and Telugu. I was only out there like two weeks, but that kinda immersion – the kind you can only experience in the world’s second-most populated country – where you NEVER get a moment alone? I mean, there’s so many people that, even in the villages, even if you go out on the road at night, there’s gonna be people out in the street selling food, taxis, rickshaws, horses, stray dogs, cows, the occasional bull, and now Uber drivers, thanks to fact everyone out there – even the tribal people – have phones with the internet now. I could never avoid people. So I embraced it all. All I know is that the experience changed me. Deeply. Maybe it was the food. You can eat delicious who-knows-what (its usually clearly vegetarian tho!) for less than a dollar, almost anywhere. All I’m saying is I had to relearn English when I got back. I came back different. Really I did. I saw some things and made some commitments I’ll have to explain later (yet another story!), but I came back so deeply “different” that I started dating my own time by the number of days I’d been back. You know, back to the West. Back from this mythically epic journey to the East. Back to where my ancestors lived and died and worked the land for thousands of years, where they grew in wisdom and power and became Gods and lived out the stuff of legends today. I soaked my feet in the Ganges River and waded in the nighttime tides of the Indian Ocean, where the sky and the sea meet in an infinite blackness. They call her Kalaratri. I called her Mecca, cause she took the pack of bidis I was smoking in disapproval. Don’t let me get too deep with yall, I’m almost done. I’m just saying, I’m a time traveler now. Wait, what? Yeah really. When I flew to the other side of the Earth, while everyone back home was in their nighttime, I was already living in the next day’s daytime. I mean, I ain’t tryin to be fancy, but I was living in the future. When I flew back – and yes I could see the curve of the Earth from up there, you’ll see it too if you go travel with your kids! yall can debate the dumb sh*t in the air! – I came back home to the present and it was BOUT AS SURREAL as having really traveled in time. Maybe West Bengal was just that different.
Whatever it was, my first day home felt like my first day on Earth. Or as me. Or as the new me. Hell, I was relearning English, getting back used to American food, rethinking so many of the norms I’d had to rethink already.
Do you know they don’t really be using toilet paper out there? It’s crazy. And yet somehow, nobody’s hands stink. I feel like I’ve smelled more booboo fingers here than over there. Anyway, I started counting my days. Fittingly, each new day has been full of both wondrous learning and unforeseen catastrophes – and not in that order. But on Day 3 I realized something. The numbers in the clouds, and there were two of em, could be like this magic gateway (I told you I was thinkin different!) representing the Days within which if I wrote and published something, I’d be free of this curse – a curse that keeps from fulfilling this whole cosmic mission I’m bound to both by love and by duty!
I heard the fight music from Baahubali playing in my head. (Okay I was high too.) But here’s the thing. It happened.
I did end up writing something that day. It was random as f*ck. Probably not helpful to most people, at least not strangers to who I am or what I do. Probably some really interesting stuff for just about anyone. But DEEP and visually amazing for those who SERIOUSLY have been studying my works, whether they knew I’d just been to India or not.
But it was just a draft for the site. I didn’t plan for it to actually “publish” and be shared with this huge audience of email subscribers and social media followers. I was still only a few days in from India, and everything still felt weird. I still wasn’t ready to write and publish, despite the fabled gateway closing. I’d just leave it as it is.
This afternoon, as Atlanta gets blanketed by the kinda snow that shuts the whole city down – my brother He Ruler, who runs my website, came running in to tell me about all the responses. “Supreme, that was perfect!” he says, as we go over the responses to this email I didn’t know about. Turns out it happens automatically because of some random nerdese setting I don’t understand. Basically, I published some writing. And I’m not saying the curse is broken, cause that would be weird, right? But clearly, I’m writing.
It feels easy now. I’m sitting at a keyboard, even. And typing. Without that gross and icky feeling. I mean, really, its all in your head, ain’t it? It’s always something in you. But I broke my own curse. Now, before you think this is all some otherworldly mystical journey, please know that I’m serious when I say every day has come with learning and catastrophes, meaning I’ve had to weather all the same (and actually many more) challenges that I enjoyed before I left, but I came back with new purpose and conviction, and that’s a great gateway in and of itself. I approach those challenges with more patience and compassion, and wealth of other insights that all come from a central principle – Love – which if applied to self and others is, by its nature, more powerful than Fear, its polar opposite, just as light is more powerful than its absence. All that kinda stuff is the stuff I needed before I published again. It makes sense to me at least, does it make sense to you? Are you on a mystical journey too, or nah? Can you imagine that every event in your life is somehow rich with meaning? Imagine if you could easily access the tools you need to decode it all, as you go through it? That’s what I’m working on for you. Of course, since it’s coming from me, it’s gonna be called How to Stop the Bullsh*t: A Guide to Stopping the Bullsh*t. I think that’s about perfect. This is going in the back of the book – like a backstory. Tell me the parts that made you barf and I’ll edit em out. Peace!