Posted: November 8, 2008 in Random Blurbs

I wrote this last year after losing a dear friend of mine in a car accident.  It was circulated around a few Internet communities and quite a few people were able to take something positive from it.  I figured I’d share it here in the blog.



Last week, I lost a dear friend.  Jared was killed in a car accident last Tuesday at the age of 26. Some would say Jared died far too young. I would argue, life is measured not by the number of breaths we take, but rather, it is measured by the moments that take our breath away. This may seem cliché, but it is very true in my opinion.

Some can live to an old age, and never truly live a day in their lives. Some can die at the age of 26, and live every single day to its fullest. They suck life from what they have in front of them. In a nutshell, life is what you make of it. You can sit around and wait for good things to come to you or you can go and take what you want and deserve. 

I speak with a lot of people. I like to figure out what makes them tick. By no means am I an expert on the subject of human behavior. Simply, I just like to think about what I see. Conclusions are derived from my observations and interactions. These conclusions may not be right. They may not be wrong. But it is my judgment based on the empirical evidence that has been presented to me in my life, thus far. Ultimately, the people who I’ve let into my life have shaped my perspectives.

Everyone wants to be happy, right? I mean, I haven’t met anyone who said, “It is my goal to be miserable for the rest of my life.” That said, this idea of happiness must be pretty darned important if we all want it. So how do we get it? Is it ultimately linked to achievement? Is it a state of mind? If so, can we be happy no matter what the circumstance? Is it a trait, some people being prone to happiness and others to the opposite? More importantly, how does this tie into Jared’s death and my point?

I used to envy people. Not necessarily the people I know personally. I would envy the people who achieved “greatness.” You know the people. Famous movie stars and singers. Professional athletes. CEOs of fortune 500 companies. I would envy them so much that I would discredit their successes. 

“He became a movie star by catching a lucky break.” “This bodybuilder created an awing physique because he took steroids. I could look like him too if I chose that route.” “He became CEO by kissing ass his entire life, no thanks, that is not for me.” 

I used to envy these people because I thought they were ultimately happy. Not only did I want happiness. I also wanted to be great. I wanted people to respect me. Maybe I even wanted people to envy me. Eventually, I removed my blinders and realized that while these people were certainly wealthy and respected, they were not all, ultimately happy. They too, faced challenges on a daily basis. 

More importantly, I eventually realized that my definition of “greatness” was way off base. Greatness is not measured by how others view you. Instead, greatness is completely personal and individual. By my old standards, in order to be great, you would have to have money, be a standout, and be recognized. Through the maturation process coupled with my interactions with many amazing people, I learned that greatness has nothing to do with these things. Instead, greatness is all about how you live. It is about the choices you make. It is about how you handle yourself when you are knocked down. Greatness is not an adjective that is placed over you once you reach a certain point in your life. It is rather, a way of life. A way to be, each and every day.

Jared was one of those people who helped me realize these things. Sure, he died young. But Jared was great. And Jared was happy. There is something in common with most of the people I hold close to my heart, Jared being one of them. Obviously, none of them are famous. None of them are really wealthy either. But they are all “great” by my personal definition.

What makes them great?

Take Jared for instance. As I was walking through the line waiting to say my goodbyes at his funeral, I looked at all the pictures of Jared. I thought about all the good times I shared with him. I looked around and saw how many people he touched. The line to the casket was a good distance. I would approximate the length of a football field. It stretched from the casket, out the door of the church, across the lobby, all the way across the large parking lot. The line developed at 9:00 A.M. At 12:30 P.M., there was no sign of the line shrinking. Finally, the preacher had to ask the family to sit down, and cut the line off. The service was about to begin and there were 3 people for every 1 seat available. 

Jared was great alright. As I thought about him, I had such a hard time remembering a time when Jared DIDN’T have a smile on his face. Not one of those fake smiles either. He smiled because he couldn’t contain his happiness. If we were fishing, he was happy. Even if it was cold outside, and the rain started falling. Jared would be happy. And it radiated from him. Happiness is definitely contagious. Because when I was in his company, I always felt happy. I also think happiness begets more happiness in most circumstances. Whatever Jared was doing, he found a way to be happy. 

People like him led me to believe that happiness is not brought on by what you are currently doing. Rather, it is brought on by how YOU feel about where you’ve been and where you are heading. It is brought on by who you’ve met and who you have yet to meet. It is brought on by the memories of your past and the possibilities of the future. 

Happiness is about believing. Believing in yourself and not letting your mistakes, flaws, and challenges stop you from progressing.

You see, many people think I am happy. They look at my life, the things I have accomplished, the way I act…. and they think I am happy. The truth is, I battle personally, to find happiness in life. 

The biggest thing I have learned from people like Jared is this: Life is full of happiness. It is also full of unhappiness. Life is beautiful. Life is also ugly. There are and always will be good times. At the same time, there will always be bad ones. 

The bad things will always be there, no matter how much you achieve in your life. I don’t care if you are working your way up or if you are at your pinnacle. The nature of life dictates that evil will always accompany good. 

This said, it should be expected that we will ALL get knocked down. It is up to you to decide if and how you will get back up. Being knocked down is a whole lot different than being knocked out. Jared would say, “Being knocked out will only happen when my heart stops beating.” If he were knocked down by life, he would ALWAYS get up with haste and heart, and push on. 

Others though, feel they are knocked out now, even though their hearts are pumping away. 

What differentiates people like this from people like Jared? I think it all comes down to focus. I don’t want this to be a motivational, peppy, self-help article. Those who know me are aware of the fact that I am a fan of positive thinking. I believe that gaining control of your self-talk plays a major role in your ultimate success in life. 

People like Jared, either by nature or by practice, focus on the good. When life knocks them down, they don’t focus on how hard or violently they were knocked down. Doing so would only lead to stagnation. Instead, they regain their composure, and focus on where they were heading before they were knocked down. When someone dies, they don’t think how tragic their death is. Rather, they remember how awesome their life was. When it rains, they don’t get depressed. They say, “At least it isn’t pouring, and the sun will surely shine tomorrow.” 

On the flipside, when things are good, they don’t worry about the good times ending. They embrace the time. I know a lot of people who ruin the momentum of goodness by worrying about the imminent bad that is ever-looming in all of our lives. Even during the good times, it all comes down to how and where you place your focus.

That is the finality of the subject at hand. Happiness. Greatness. At least in my eyes, these things are determined by how you handle yourself during both, the good and bad times.

I come to this point of writing this, and I ask myself, “What is my point?” I didn’t really intend on writing a lot. I didn’t start writing this with a purpose. I just had thoughts, a lot of them, floating around my head and I wanted to get them down on paper. Whenever you experience a tragic loss, I think you take something away from it. Maybe it is a lesson. Or, maybe it is amazing memories. Whatever the case may be, I think it is good to take something away from losing a loved one.

In this case, what I took away was the simple thought that happiness is a way of life. A way of being. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the negatives that float around on any given day. I think these negatives are what hinder most of us from ever reaching happiness on a consistent basis. It is probably also what keeps us from reaching our full potential. 

I think chronic happiness and greatness come hand in hand. Once you find a way to be happy with your life, the decisions you have made, and what you are doing to get to where you are going…. I think you will find your personal greatness. And that greatness will be seen from outsiders looking in.

It is up to you to figure out what you want. I know what I want, and I am going to work my ass off to get it. I am not going to plan for failure. I am, though, going to keep in mind that I will fail. I will have setbacks. I will get knocked down. I cannot allow acute mishaps to rock my world to its core completely throwing me off track. I want chronic happiness. I know what it takes to have it, and Jared’s death has helped me see it. 

I wish you all the best. I hope you find your happiness, more than you know. We all deserve it.

Steve Troutman

  1. Winifred Higgins says:

    That was beautiful Steve, and a surprise for me. As I was reading it I thought that it had been written by my grand daughter, Erica. She too experienced the wonder of Jared. I met him once at her house and guess what, he was all smiles. Thank you.

  2. Thank you. I think anyone who had the privilege of knowing, or even meeting Jared miss him and feel fortunate to have known him.

    I appreciate you stopping by to read it.

  3. Dieter says:

    There is not a day that goes by where Jared isn’t in my thoughts. What you wrote was amazing. The years i spent with JB will never fade from my mind.

  4. Do you mind me asking who this is? If you don’t want to say here, feel free to email me at steve@body-improvements.com.

    Also, thanks for your thoughts and kind words.

  5. Gary & Priscilla Brown says:

    Thank you Steve for the beautiful article on Jared. Thank you also for seeing Jared as we his Mother & Father DOES (not did). He will forever be alive in our hearts.
    The above article was written by Frank Dieter, Kurt’s dad

  6. Hi Gary and Prissy!

    I’m so happy this article made its way to you. He’s as alive in mine as he is in yours… that’s for sure. And we’re all lucky for it!

    I’ll have to catch up with you guys soon. PK and I were talking about stopping over not too long ago.

    Have a great Thanksgiving.

  7. Tracey Snyder says:

    Your article has left me with tears in my eyes. I miss my brother something terrible and can’t begin to express the void his death has left. However, knowing that Jared ALWAYS lived life to the fullest leaves me with a great sense of peace. I am truly grateful for the beautiful article you So elequently wrote portraying Jared’s life. It is an article that will stick with me for life. God Bless You.


  8. Gary & Priscilla Brown says:

    Could you please send me a copy of the picture of Jared. Gary and I really like this picture.

    Thank you,

  9. Tracey, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Prissy, I don’t have a hard copy of the picture… only an electronic version of it on the computer. If you’d like, email me at steve@body-improvements.com and I’ll send you all the digital pictures I have of Jared.

  10. This is profound, my dear Grandson and beautifully written. As you look around at your extended family as well as your immediate family, your words ring true for the most part. None of us are wealthy and most doubt, we never will be but we are a warm and happy bunch and I, for one, am extemely proud of ALL my Grandchildren and their spouses as well as loving my Great Grandson and hope to see him mature into a loving and thoughtful person such as you are. Lovely writing!!!! Mom Mom

  11. gary brown jr says:

    well done thanks for keeping jareds memory alive! i think you will be glad to know that by sharing your memories of jared you helped alot of people especially my father.

    i see my dad once a week and there hasnt been a week where he doesnt talk about jared with a sadness in his eyes and usually breaks down and cries. its to the point where we dont know what to say anymore…well prissy had reservations about showing this to my dad but decided to anyway.
    after reading this he said that for the first time since jared died he finally feels at peace.

    keep doing the things that your doing because you are changing peoples lives


    jareds older brother


  12. Joyce Linford says:

    I am a cousin to Jared’s Dad. I never knew Jared. I must say the article speaks very highly of him and done very well. I know he was special because his Grandma thought he was the best. The example that Jared lived I know was due to his parents who trusted in Jesus and it was reflected. Praise God, Jesus is coming SOON!

    Thanks again for a beautiful article,

    Joyce Linford

  13. Joyce Linford says:

    Again, beautiful article.

  14. Matthew Freshman says:

    This really has good insights about what is important and meaningful. Thanks for writing this.


  15. Karen says:


    Your post speaks to my heart. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Jared sounded very much like my own daughter, Laura who I lost in April of 2007 in a car accident. She was 19. She always had a smile on her face and always lived life like there would be no tomorrow.

    Thank you for sharing and reminding us that life is a precious gift. And thank you to Jared and Laura for giving us happy memories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s