To give a little background behind the story, I need to backtrack to several years before the present.

In high school, I was a model student, straight-As, valedictorian, and student body president. That was in spite of living in severe poverty and struggling with an absent father who had serious manic depression, which also led to frequent bouts of homelessness and stints in mental institutions. He was also dealing with being an HIV-positive, gay man in early 1980’s.

I managed to survive my childhood and graduated with bright prospects; however, limited guidance, a few bad choices, and making the decision to go to a college with one of the toughest residency requirements in the country forced my hand and resulted in my early withdrawal from college.  

At the age of 29, I found myself in financial turmoil, degree-less, and in the midst of a personal crisis. That’s after struggling in my twenties, working two or three jobs simultaneously, and trying different approaches to achieve professional success. After numerous failed attempts at business and the stock market, I had the misfortune of earning a real estate license during the height of the housing crisis. By mid-2006, I found myself bankrupt and looking for options. That’s when I made the decision to go back to college.

I didn’t have the luxury of being just a student; I had to work two full-time jobs while going to school full time and maxing out all of my financial aid options. At one point, I was working on three degrees concurrently while working three jobs. During that time, I also volunteered both in education and in science.

Six years, five degrees, and two graduate degrees later, I had significantly beefed up my resume. I managed to land a post-doc position as a research scientist working on a NASA, grant-funded position at the University of Hawaii.

At that point, I thought I had it made and that the rest of my life was on track. That’s when everything started to fall apart. The budget crisis of 2012 put extra scrutiny on NASA funding and grant money in general, and in April of 2013, I learned that my position would no longer be supported. Fortunately, my masters degree in education allowed me to find a job as a science teacher, but not before the gap in pay depleted my already meager savings. It seemed, though, that things had settled down and I was on another promising career path, climbing my way out of financial hardship.

During 2013, I also had some wonderful successes. I managed to write my first book, then a second, and in January of 2014, a third, which won the 2014 silver metal of the year by Readers' Favorite for best fantasy book. I landed a respected literary manager and agent, Peter Miller, at Global Lion Management, which is why my personal crisis came out of nowhere.

Fast forward to early 2014, and a major personal crisis once again rocked the foundation of my life. For the sake of the parties involved, I won’t trouble you with the details, but let’s just say that it’s a very common challenge and one that many people deal with, especially in mid-life. On the same day I learned of this crisis, I also found out that my niece had been shot. She was in serious condition, undergoing surgery, and had to have parts of multiple organs removed. That’s when my recent challenges began.

For a short time after the same-day, one-two punch, the thought of suicide danced through my head. While I had no real consideration of following through on the thought, if only for the sake of how my family and friends would be negatively impacted by it, I did feel deeply saddened. I had accomplished so much, and I had so much promise, yet by own personal standard I had failed at some of the most basic parts of life.

After January of 2014, I went through one crisis after another, most of which, were in large part precipitated by the prior two. During that time, I was trying to finish my fourth book, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone. I found it more than challenging. My prior book, Everville: The Rise of Mallory, I wrote in six days, but this book was proving more difficult.

Moving twice, working full time as a teacher with 150+ students, and dealing with multiple crisis, any one of which might cripple anyone, may have been a good enough excuse for only writing 100 pages in a year. I just didn't believe that allowing myself to wallow in my own self-pity was constructive, so in October 2014 I made myself an action plan.

I wrote the plan with specific goals and objectives and steps on how to achieve those objects, in typical teacher fashion. I didn’t bother to look at it again until after winter break. That’s when I took the big leap. It wasn't my desire to finish the book that pushed me forward, but rather stepping on the bathroom scale at 198.8 lbs. 


I come from a family of morbid obesity, and I was always the skinny one. I told myself a long time ago that if I ever got close to 200 lbs I would take the necessary measures to get my weight and lifestyle under control.

One of the goals in my action plan was to continue working on professional development. That included searching for different forms of continuing education and training for specific skill-sets. After topping out at 198.8 lbs, I happened to stumble across an article on MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Learning Course). I am a voracious reader and learner, and this concept drew me in.

One organization mentioned in the article was called Coursera at www.coursera.org , and while browsing their courses, I came across a free, at-your-own-pace MOOC called Learning How to Learn, which was offered by UC San Diego. I devoured the entire course in six days, and I put into place a couple of the strategies discussed in the class.

One of the strategies was called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a daily timed exercise of 25 minutes (or whatever time one chooses to select). The idea is to set aside all distractions and focus for that time on a specific goal or task. At first, there will be a little mental discomfort, which will soon fade away. At the end of the time, one rewards oneself with a small reward. It might be tv, a piece of chocolate, or anything that one can construct. This trains the brain to release dopamine after the timed exercise is complete.

The second technique was to have a daily to-do list, being careful to put only what can realistically be accomplished given the time frame. Part of the exercise was to review the list the night before and put the tougher things on the list first.

I decided to implement both strategies and put a few things on my daily to-do list that were also on my action plan. One of those things was a daily journal, which was also suggested in the course. At that point, I decided that I did not want to diet or go to the gym. I figured I needed to make some lifestyle changes in order to achieve my personal goals. The two key choices I made were to abstain from alcohol and fast food.

Making the decision to completely abstain from both alcohol and fast food was the most critical decision, and it laid the groundwork for my eventual success. I added doing push-ups and set-ups at home about a month into my new strategy. While I did change my eating and drinking habits, I did not starve myself or join some dieting plan. I even continued to occasionally eat out at a restaurant, just not fast-food.

I lost 11 lbs the first four weeks and an additional 13 lbs the following eight weeks, dropping from 198.8lbs to 175 lbs. At the moment I’m writing this, I’m 38 and 5’10”, in case you were trying to calculate my BMI (Body Mass Index).  My cholesterol dropped from 225 to 156 and my blood pressure dropped by ten points as well.

Part of the reason why my health was a focus of my action plan was because I believe that having a healthy body can facilitate a healthy mind and better decision making. Along that front, I managed to write the other 100 pages of book #4 in my series during my one week off of spring break. My new book, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone, will be released the first week of May 2015.

To those people that are interested in losing weight [or any personal goal], my suggestion is not to diet or take some pseudo-scientific weight loss supplement with dubious benefits. I recommend taking a hard look at one’s personal lifestyle, and then deciding on what permanent change is doable within one's life. Make the decision to change and support that decision by 1. Writing down the goal, 2. Keeping a daily journal to monitor progress, 3. Tell supportive friends or family, 4. Support that strategy with A. The Pomodoro Technique and B. A daily to-do list.

I should also say, that one should not get hung up on a daily defeat. My first week failed miserably, and I had a slip-up or two the first few weeks in. Don’t let a temporary setback prevent you from realizing your existing gains. Also, don’t wait until New Years, make your decision to follow through with your goal today, because if you wait until tomorrow, you may be waiting for the rest of your life. 


Finally, check out Coursera and more specificially, Learning How to Learn. You just might be surprised at what wonderful free courses are being offered that could enhance your personal or professional life.

Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
 


Comments

Bev
04/19/2015 3:58am

The power of the mind is immense. We really do get what Goes through our mind whether positive or negative . Congratulations Roy on such accomplishments. I believe the program FPM would help you as well. I didn't even read Harry potter so let's hope I make the time to read your books too!

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Angela Simmons
04/19/2015 6:48am

Love this story what an inspiration you are thanks for sharing this Muah! <3

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Jim
12/05/2015 5:14am

Awesome Story... I thought I had it tough... you are inspiring...

Congrats, I hope your challenges fade away, and best wishes for your continued success.

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04/19/2015 9:09am

Roy, This is a wonderful article, both extremely open and helpful to others going through a rough time and needing some strategies to help them through. It's always a task to sit yourself down and figure out how to make changes. But that is the first, and maybe hardest, step. You certainly prove you have the skills and perseverance to do it. Inspiring and impressive. You're journey takes at least as much courage as Owen's. Congrats.

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Craig Bartlett
04/21/2015 1:56pm

Interesting read, I'll look into the Coursera class mentioned as I'm currently struggling to do a degree from home with other distractions in my life.

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Kiera M.
04/22/2015 9:58am

wow, what an inspiring story.

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Kim Hampton
04/22/2015 10:01am

Great post! I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic in October and have also been motivated to lose weight, in hopes that I will be able to go off my medication.

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Isabel
04/23/2015 3:59am

Wow. You are a great role model. It was my first visit on your site and for sure I'll check back often.

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04/30/2015 1:58pm

Roy, that is a truly awesome and inspiring tale - what amazing strength of character. Thanks for sharing.

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Lianne
05/01/2015 6:35pm

Thanks for the great strategies!!!

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05/05/2015 5:44pm

great story --enjoyed reading about wright lose

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Cassandra Sparks
05/12/2015 4:06pm

Congrats!

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jeffrey Massey
05/23/2015 5:12pm

that is very interesting

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Jerrica Evans
05/23/2015 5:13pm

Wow, congrats!! I'm going to check into Coursera for myself, thanks for sharing.

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Elizabeth Stacy
05/23/2015 6:08pm

Wow this wonderful thanks for shared on here.

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Sheila Vives
05/23/2015 6:19pm

This sounds like a good plan. I need to get on a structured plan like this as I lack both being able to get things done every day and forget to exercise as I am too busy doing too many other things.

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Sandra Goodrich
05/23/2015 6:20pm

That is awesome! Congrats and keep up the good work.

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Doug Gerard
05/23/2015 7:12pm

you are a strong individual. I like to read things like this --it gives us all hope too

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Suzan Gregory
05/23/2015 7:59pm

sounds like much of your weight gain was due to stress and once you managed to learn stress reducing techniques, you were able to lose the unwanted weight you had. good for you.

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05/23/2015 9:04pm

Bravo for you. Your overcoming so much is inspiring. I had great success in the past using 'to do' lists but drifted away from it. I'm visiting Courseara.org & 'Learning How to Learn' to utilize the information available. Fresh start, notebook read for tomorrow's 'to do' list. Thank you. Congratulations on your success publication of all your books.

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Judith Nappa
05/24/2015 5:37am

Wow - Sounds like we both have had an "adventurous" life but were able to keep going! An inspirational story for everyone and I admire you greatly (and am a big fan of your books!) So glad to have met you and hoping for more great Everville adventures :)

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Nicole Carter
05/25/2015 10:24am

Wow, what an inspirational post! Thank you for sharing!

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Judy Schechter
05/25/2015 3:19pm

Thanks for sharing your story, it's very inspirational! I hope I can muster the strength to persevere, as you did!

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Linda Szymoniak
05/28/2015 8:54am

What a resume. And what an accomplishment. I lost a large amount of weight a number of years ago, but wasn't able to keep up the incentive to keep it off. My oldest daughter is getting married in 13 months and I really need to drop some pounds. I'll have to check into the method you had such success with. Thanks for the inspiring post.

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05/30/2015 3:11am

It is a task to sit yourself decrease in addition to discover how to create alterations. Although that's the very first, and maybe toughest, phase. You prove you could have the relevant skills in addition to persistency to do it. Inspiring in addition to outstanding. You're voyage takes no less than just as much courage while Owen's. Congrats.

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Kim Hampton
05/30/2015 1:37pm

What an inspiring story!

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bn100
06/18/2015 10:49am

nice of you to share your story

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John Ho
06/19/2015 12:49am

BEST BOOK EVER

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Isaac Sugiura
06/24/2015 10:31am

AMAZING STORY! you're a big inspiration to many, keep up the work

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John Ho
06/25/2015 12:11am

You're a true inspiration! I know know that if i put my mind to something and work hard i could do anything.

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Alicia Schultz
06/26/2015 8:41am

I really enjoyed reading your story! What an inspiration!

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Alina
06/26/2015 9:37am

Very inspiring. This basically shows that no matter what you go through in life anything is possible if you just put your mind into it and stick to the game plan !

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Zyrus Campania-Reyes
06/26/2015 11:43am

A good article for someone that wants to change their life for the better

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Ann
06/26/2015 7:18pm

A very interesting story that inspires people not to give up.

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Nathaniel yacas-Lewis
06/27/2015 11:46am

This was a very inspirational story and a very amazing one to good job and keep up the good work

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M.Clark
06/28/2015 5:22pm

Congratulations Roy, although you have had many tragedies in your like you have also had a wonderful amount of success, kudos to you.

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Hi
06/28/2015 5:32pm

Wow

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lan
06/28/2015 6:24pm

This is a good story and inspiring me to make a plan

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Mariel
06/28/2015 9:43pm

This is very meaningful and inspirational. Thanks for sharing this story

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Joanne
06/28/2015 9:46pm

Incredible story, which can help others to never give up.

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Austin Park
06/28/2015 10:36pm

An autobiography to give a long but short message to the readers that anything is possible. A true inspiration towards all, great book and keep up the great work.

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Shiori
06/28/2015 11:21pm

This article is definitely one of the most inspirational things I've read. You've proved that with dedication and hard work you really can achieve something. Congratulations!

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10/29/2015 9:55am

I'm glad it was an inspiration to you. I hope it can provide as much positive impact in your life as it has mine.

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Adrian
06/29/2015 8:14am

A very helpful and moving topic that proves to others that all you need is self motivation and the mind track to power through it. Thank you for the advice!

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Elvis
06/29/2015 8:39am

It was very inspirarional

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Shaine
06/29/2015 9:01am

Impressive it's nice to keep in shape

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Elizabeth Hostetler
08/07/2015 6:51pm

This is awesome! Always a good thing to shed some pounds, which is what I'm trying to do now!

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adora
09/25/2015 2:17pm

Got here from the Learning How to Learn newsletter. Just want to let you know how much I admire your resilience.

As per weight loss, I find the best strategy is to have something interesting lined up after finished eating.

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Aois
09/25/2015 3:49pm

Great post! I'm inspired now to organize and set my goals clearly, I've read a lot of articles and even though I don't have a weight problem I could easily relate with the struggles, great way to focus and make it fun! I'm still like in a sort of inspiration trance after reading this, thanks a lot!

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Searl
09/25/2015 5:57pm

YOu may have changed my life -I've been flirting with many of the things you mention - from weight loss to moving into meaningful mid-life work. Thank you. And congratulations for your amazing journey.

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10/29/2015 9:52am

I'm so glad that I was able to help you. I hope you find continued success, and you achieve all your goals.

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Mike
09/25/2015 6:16pm

Hi, Roy. Congrats😀 I guess I was in that Learning how to learn class with you. It is always nice to read some ones success story👍

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Maylin Cardozo
09/25/2015 7:03pm

You are a really brave and a kind person. Thank you for share it.

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Amara Vincent
09/25/2015 10:37pm

Thank you for sharing! You've inspired me too.

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namsi
09/26/2015 2:36am

Very inspirational narrative. You just hooked on to the flow of the author's style of writing. A brilliant piece indeed.I will surely take a look at the online courses and see what I can do to enhance my knowledge.

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Amedee Sombo-Dibele
09/26/2015 2:57am

Thanks for for sharing your experience with me. I really loved this inspiring story.

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Anita Lewis
09/26/2015 5:14am

I took that course which got me the link to this post. I'm not YA, but I just gotta see what a guy like you has to say in a story.

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09/27/2015 11:09pm

HI Roy, I have also done the Coursera Learning How to Learn course, and have applied a number of techniques from it for learning a number of essential, but difficult, business skills for my work as well. My favourite is the Pomodoro technique. Your article has inspired me to go after all that I want to achieve, instead of making excuses. Thank you.

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Marie
09/29/2015 4:14am

Thank you, your story is inspiring and came at the right time. I decided to follow your example.

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01/19/2016 1:10am

Awesome Story. you are inspiring. Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience with me. I really loved this story.

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07/13/2016 2:52am

I told your story to my sister . We are so inspired , because both of us are on our journey to weight loss . Thank you friend !!

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07/13/2016 9:37am

Thank-you for your feedback. I'm grateful I could be of inspiration to you and your sister, and I wish you luck with your own journey!

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08/11/2016 12:07am

This article made my day i told my husband about this. he is also get inspired. thank you for this. god bless you.

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08/14/2016 6:40pm

Thank you so much Riya for sharing.

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09/26/2016 10:50am

Great informative post

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11/16/2016 12:33am

Thank you for the enlightening post. I found it very informative. I hope the others will think so too. Looking forward to more posts like this from you.

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11/28/2016 2:25am

Thanks for the valuable information and insights

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