By David J. Martin
How to change your internal dialogue and change your life for the better
This article is about how my “Stupid” story became a business called Too Stupid To Fail and how I use it to help people find success by removing artificial barriers in their lives and eliminating negative internal dialogue. I would like to ask that you try not to feel bad for me as you read it as I have truly embraced every phase of my life, and I am grateful to have lived every moment of it because it has created me to be the person I am today. Every single one of us can define success our own way, through our own lenses, and, as I evaluate my life at my age and at my position in life, I consider myself to be very successful. Because of that, I have to share how I not only survived my past, but thrived in spite of it. That somewhere along the way, mostly because other people telling me I have a story to share, I learned that the events of my life can literally dramatically improve the lives of other people and help them thrive as well. So, welcome to my story. Welcome to my testimony of how I am Too Stupid To Fail.
I was born in September 1966 to an alcoholic father and chronically depressed mother. They divorced when I was two years old. My mother married another alcoholic shortly after divorcing my father. My stepfather, Frank Murphy, adopted my siblings and me when I was around 8 years old. So, my last name was Murphy for 10 years which served me well when I was in high school because everyone thought I was a pissed-off Irishman, and I believe that kept me out of a lot of fights. I smoked my first cigarette when I was 8. I also started smoking every day when I was 11, which is also when I smoked weed for the first time.
I got permission to smoke and got drunk for the first time when I was 13. When I was in eighth grade a friend of mine, Mark, used to steal rum from his parent’s liquor cabinet, and we would drink it in the back of the school bus on our way to school in the morning. I guess I wasn’t overly concerned about getting in trouble because we never stayed in one place for very long. It seemed like I went to a new school every year. I lived in 14 different houses and went to 11 different schools. When I was 11 years old, we moved to Forestville, CT. Little did I know that I would have a lifelong connection to Forestville and that my family, the way I knew it, would not survive it.
I remember my stepfather used to get drunk and pass out at either the liquor store parking lot at the A&P strip mall, our driveway at the house or at the end of Leon Rd. at the stop sign—just sitting there passed out cold. My friends and I saw him there and were like, “Murf, ain’t that your dad?”
I said, “Yeah, let’s go to Peck Park and get high.” On the other hand, my mother was in the house sitting at the table playing solitaire and crying a lot. When my stepfather finally did come into the house, he would go straight into the bedroom and sleep it off until the next day. They divorced when I was about 12. My stepfather wasn’t the only one leaving the family that year. My brother dropped out of school at the age of 16, joined the Marine Corps, and left the house at 17. It was about this same time my two sisters were running away from home all the time.
I am the youngest in the family. I pretty much hung out in the background, in the shadows, getting high and drunk…until I started getting in a little bit of trouble. No big stuff, I got caught smoking weed by the cops and was in a holding cell for half a day when I was 13. Another time, I got caught shoplifting cookie dough (I had the munchies), and then there was the time I got in trouble for skipping school and was suspended. Little stuff as far as I was concerned but later in life, when I thought about it from my mother’s perspective, I think my behavior was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She had lost control of all her kids. Her solution was to move to Canada with her soon-to-be third husband without kids. My mother brought me to my father’s house to live when I was 14, just before the beginning of my sophomore year. She dropped my suitcase next to my father, who was sitting at his table looking at a TV that wasn’t on mumbling to himself, and she said, “Now it’s your turn.” She turned and walked out. That was the last time I saw my mother. My dad didn’t give a crap about me, and I should have been happy.
He would give me money to go to the liquor store less than a block away, yes at 14, to buy him beer. The beauty of it was the same guy that sold me my dad’s beer also sold me weed! So, while my father drank himself to death, I would sit right next to him and get high. Believe it or not, that got old quick and I didn’t like living there. Also, there was no way I was going to any of the schools where my dad lived. I was going back to my old school. That meant that I had to make some decisions that many would think were, in retrospect, pretty stupid.
Going to my old school meant that I woke up at 4:00 am to get ready for the day. I would walk down from the third floor of my father’s apartment, walk a couple blocks to the bus stop and catch a public bus from New Britain to Plainville. Then I would get off of that bus and walk another block to another bus stop and take another public bus from Plainville to Forestville. Once I got to the center of Forestville, I would walk up a hill to the street to my old bus stop and wait for my school bus to pick me up and take me to school. Now, you might be thinking, “That’s pretty crazy!” or “Now that’s persistent!” and maybe I was in a way.
I really didn’t know about school districting rules at the age of 14. So, I didn’t know that if you didn’t tell the school you moved or you didn’t get in trouble, they didn’t know you no longer lived in the school district and you got to continue to go to school there. I learned a powerful life lesson from this experience, I learned we can chose to give or not give weight or power to obstacles placed in our lives. I would not live with my father for very long. I would elect to move six times in the next three years and eventually find myself living in the basement of a family who would have a profound impact on my life.
I remember the day Richard Lissy sat me down at the kitchen table as if it were yesterday. He said, “Murf, Judy and I have been talking and we know you need help. You can sleep in our basement, but you’re going to work and pay rent. You’re going to have to stay in school and pass your classes. And you’re going to have to get your own car, insurance, and gas. Oh, and stay out of trouble!” We shook hands and I officially moved into the Lissys’ basement when I was 17 years old, a junior in high school.
Little did I know just how much of a profound impact this family was going to have on my life and how much I was going to change over the next three years. Most people do not fully appreciate the impact they have on the internal conversations other people have about themselves because of what they say and how they act toward them. This is what I mean: The first 13 years of my life I grew up hearing things like, “You’re nothing but a Martin! What do you know!” and “You’re nothing but a Murphy!” From my mother, I would be told over and over again, “You know you were an accident, right?” and “You are a mistake, you should have never happened!”
This had a tremendously negative impact on my self-esteem, my sense of self-worth, and greatly damaged my confidence. I guess there are a thousand different ways to react to this kind of dysfunction. I dealt with it through drugs and alcohol, as previously mentioned, but I also sought out relationships with girls—always—and I dealt with it through humor. I was the class clown, center of attention, the bull in the china shop. I was “Murf” after all! Well, when Murf showed up at the Lissy house, a transition back to Dave Martin was about to take place.
Mr. Lissy and I pulled the queen-size mattress frame from the couch in the basement and threw a used mattress on it, and that would be my bed for the next three years. Thirty years later, as he lay dying on a VA hospital bed, I would be sitting next to him crying, just the two of us. I told him that was the most comfortable bed I ever slept on because that house was full of love! We wept together. That was the last time I saw Richard alive.
The Lissys invited me into their home and started rerecording the message in my head. They began to change my internal dialogue. I no longer heard “You’re nothing but a…” or “You’re a mistake!” What I heard from Mrs. Judy Lissy was, “Murphy, funny people are really smart and you’re really funny.” And when she said that, which was often, I heard, “You’re really SMART.” Mr. Lissy would always say things like, “Murf, you’re a good kid!”
This was the first time a man in my life taught me how to be a husband to my wife. I was able to learn how to care for my children. He was a mountain of a man and instead of the old record of “You’re nothing but a…” he laughed at my jokes and told me I was a good kid! He even went to a parent teacher conference one year when I was doing poorly in drafting class and talked my teacher into giving me a second chance, a new project he knew I could do better at. I ended up getting a B that quarter and after graduating from high school I went on to Hartford State Technical College to get an Associate degree in Architecture. Mr. and Mrs. Lissy had successfully changed my negative internal dialogue to an edifying conversation that echoed how I am smart and good.
While I feel I can talk to Richard in prayer, I still have Mrs. Lissy on this side of heaven and my favorite holiday is Mother’s Day. I send her a big bouquet of flowers every year and, at 53 years old, I still call her in tears with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the incredible impact they had on my life. And just like every year since, she always says, “David, it was in there. You were always a good man. We just gave you a place to let it out.”
So, here’s the bottom line Stupid Nation, (a term of endearment I use to refer to my Facebook family of followers) it’s time for you to look at that seemingly insurmountable obstacle for exactly what it is, ARTIFICIAL! There is almost always a way over, under, around or through it! You are thinking, “Man that’s just stupid! You don’t know what I am going through.”
To wit I would say, “You’re right! I am pretty dang stupid. Now that we agree on that, get to work. You have more power over that obstacle than you know. The decision about giving that obstacle weight and power lies solely between your ears. No one else owns it but you! Now, do something about it.” Also, it is time for a new internal dialogue, a positive internal dialogue. If you hang around people that simply put you down all the time, crap all over you every chance they get, like my parents did, it’s because you let them, and it’s time for new friends (parents in my case). But you’re like, “Ahhh, Dave you don’t know me though! I have done some pretty bad stuff and I get what I deserve.”
I call B.S.! We have all done bad stuff. You do not stay married to the same woman for 30 years without going through some rough patches. I asked her for divorce twice and I am 10 years sober, but we have to get to a point where we forgive ourselves for what we’ve done in the past, make amends where we can, and we move on.
Like Natalie Rivera says in Transformation Coaching’s Happiness Life Coaching course, “We find happiness in the NOW, not in the past and not in the future. What we had is gone and what is coming isn’t here yet. What we have is now.” You could be good to you now! Be present today and let’s do what we can. Start with a new positive internal dialogue.
You see, being Too Stupid To Fail is a choice. It is a choice to see the obstacles for what they truly are and to choose to literally remove the power and weight they have over us. Being Too Stupid To Fail is a choice to reject all of the negative tracks that have ever been recorded in our memories and rerecording new positive, affirming recordings that build us up and propel us to success in every aspect of our lives.
David J. Martin is an accomplished teacher, preacher, counselor, mentor, and master life coach with 35 years of experience. He joined the United States Air Force in 1986, served for 30 years, and ended his career as the Functional Manager of Occupational Safety and Health for the United States Air Forces in Europe and Africa, ascending to the highest attainable enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt). After retirement, he went on to Pastor a non-denominational church in Somersworth, NH, and then moved to North Carolina. Dave is the owner of a Life Strategy/Coaching Company called Too Stupid To Fail. He has helped thousands of people transform their lives and create success in their relationships, careers, families, education, health and fitness through the various roles and responsibilities he has had throughout his adult life, both on and off the job. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.