Byrd Baggett

The Stranger in Black

"Fear is a darkroom where negatives are developed."

As best as I can remember, the nightmares started in the seventh grade. In the nightmares, I was being chased by a person dressed in black clothes, a black cap and mask. I was able to outrun the person dressed in black throughout junior high and high school by focusing on my athletic and academic achievements.

The bad dreams continued throughout my college years at the University of Texas, but I was still able to outrun the stranger dressed in black, as my "successes" continued in both academics and athletics. Upon graduation from college, the nightmares persisted as I woke many mornings covered in sweat, but I was still successful in escaping the stranger by focusing on the pursuit of success in the business world.

As my life's journey continued, I married one of the most special people in the world and we had three healthy and beautiful children, but still the nightmares continued. I was still able to outrun the stranger as I acquired the nice things in life - homes, boats, cars, etc. - things that I dreamed of having in my youth.

Several years into my marriage, I was faced with many crucibles during a short period of time - my mother died, my best friend died, we lost all of our possessions in a bizarre moving van fire, I was in a plane that lost power and dropped 16,000 feet over the Rocky Mountains, and was "downsized" from a comfortable executive job at the age of 42. But I was still able to outrun the stranger in black as we rebounded from the above setbacks and built a successful multi-million dollar business. Still, many mornings I awoke covered in sweat as the stranger was getting closer.

As the years passed, I was able to keep the stranger at bay by writing many books and achieving "success" as a professional speaker - I was still in control of my destiny, or so I thought. But in 2007, my wife and I had to deal with the pain of addiction within our "perfect" family. I then realized that all of my "successes" would not heal the wounds of drugs and alcohol and I finally had to let go, something that was foreign to me. One night during this dark period of my life, I was so tired that I was unable to outrun the stranger in black. I was cornered in my bedroom and had to finally face this person. I removed the mask and was shocked to see that the stranger was me. He then hugged me and said, "Welcome back."

Life has not been easy, but I can honestly say that I have never been more at peace. The peace comes from letting go and letting God take control of my life. It also is the result of finally realizing that true peace comes when you commit to being a part of something greater than self. I don't believe in coincidence - it's just God's way of remaining anonymous.

As mentioned above, the pain of addiction hit our family in 2007, the same year that we introduced our True Growth leader development experience where people discover their purpose in life (coincidence?). During this experience, I discovered my purpose of living a life that inspires hope in others.

It has been said that one can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, but only 4 seconds without hope. My prayer is that my story will keep the flame of hope burning in your life.

Note: Even though the "Stranger in Black" is a fictional character, the story is an accurate portrayal of my journey from the Season of Self to the Season of Significance.

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Carl R. Johnson Spirit Award

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Byrd Baggett, CSP

Byrd Baggett, CSP