When you take your last breath, will you look back and smile deeply or will you look back and wish you had lived it differently? If that moment were your very next breath instead of your last, would your answer change? In Chasm, Bob Goulet shares his improbable life journey from tormented child, tragedy, an inmate in one of the world’s toughest prisons to his transcendence into wholeness.
He shares his deepest struggles, dead ends, achievements, and messy transformation into a being more peaceful and aligned than he ever imagined. Along the way, you may find yourself inspired to cross your own chasm and become more fully alive. Is there really anything more important?
This is the Author Hour Podcast, and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Bob Goulet, author of a brand-new book, Chasm: A Deep Journey into Meaning and Wholeness.
Frank Garza: Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob Goulet: Thanks Frank, thanks for having me.
Frank Garza: To kick things off, can you tell me why you decided to write this book?
Bob Goulet: Sure, great story. I had zero interest in writing a book and a few years ago, if you had asked me, I would have said, no way. One Sunday, I’m having a conversation with a Ukrainian priest who was a friend of mine and he sends me a text later that night that said, “Thanks for helping me realize for the first time what moving my mountain means as a biblical verse.”
The text — I thought maybe he sent it to the wrong person. That night I have a dream all night about writing this book titled Moving My Mountain. The next morning, I’m driving to work and I’m thinking, “I have to write this book.” And of course I want to test fate, so I go to work, I jump online and I look at URLs and I say, “Well, if Moving My Mountain is available, then I’ll write the book.” Of course, it was.
Then I wanted to test fate even more and I said, “Well, if “bobgoulet.com” is available then I should be an author” and it was available. So, that was really it. The next morning I was like, “Okay, I have to write a book” and I ran into Tucker not too long after that.
Frank Garza: As you wrote this book, who was the target audience that you had in mind for it?
Bob Goulet: Really, myself, at high school graduation. I really just looked back, everybody coached me to write to an avatar and I thought, “Wow, what would I really like to have known at high school graduation that I totally missed?”
Like most things in my life, I seem to have learned the hard way and what would be those really definitive things that would have helped me and had me made different decisions along the way?
Hitting Rock Bottom
Frank Garza: Chapter one is called, In A Moment and that talks about one of those hardships that you just mentioned. Can you talk about that moment and how the book starts out?
Bob Goulet: Sure. I’m laid at a bed. I’m struggling to wake up and I open my eyes, I’m in this unfamiliar room and I look up and there is a TV hanging from the wall. One of those TVs you’ve surely seen if you’ve been in a hospital room. And there was a scene on the television, and there were seats on the road, and there were markings all over the road, and there was a wrecked car and I just looked at this and I thought, “Wow, what do I have to do with that?”
Something itched on my face and I went to move my hand and my hand came to a stop and there was a big metal clank. I go to move my neck and I can’t and at the corner of my eye I could see there were handcuffs. Then I was handcuffed to this bed and there was a police officer sitting next to me.
Frank Garza: What happened from there?
Bob Goulet: That morning unfolded quickly. The police officer describes what’s going on. At one point, he looks up and there was a picture of me on the television screen and then like, the script of a movie, my mother came walking into the hospital room and I saw the look on her face and I knew it was all real.
Frank Garza: Yeah, those first couple of chapters of your book are pretty intense. I guess, Bob, how much more do you want to share about this particular time in your life?
Bob Goulet: Well, I think the big picture is, I hit the bottom of all bottoms. I mean, kind of the nightmare that nobody wants to be responsible for, the kind of thing you read in the paper and you sort of regret. I lived through it and went to prison, have the infamous distinction of actually doing time with Ted Bundy, although I never met him. I was in the same prison and my life just — it went from one moment, seemed like it was coming together a little bit and the next minute, the wheels fell off, the car wrecked, everything happens.
The great part of that piece is just that there was — that I battled back and that slowly but surely, day by day, things got better and I just kept working at it.
Frank Garza: You know I think chapter four of your book, “Wake Up” and the next chapter, “Turn The Page”, starts to talk about that kind of journey that you went on after prison and I like to know, when you got out and when you got back out into the world, how was life compared to what you thought it was going to be when you got out?
Bob Goulet: I think like that saying everybody uses, the “grass is greener”. You build up the story in your mind while you’re incarcerated of how great it’s going to be to get out. And in prison, there was so much structure, I did well and I started to confuse all that structure with me being fixed and getting out was a real shock.
Just somebody bumping into me for a long time was just a lot for me to handle because in prison, if you bumped into me, we were going to fight, that’s it. So when I got out, it was really kind of surprising. I think that was a big piece. Even going back to college or that first thought of going back to college was really eye opening because I had a high school diploma from a really good school but I went and took a placement test and they said, “Oh, you have like a 10th grade education, really.”
I thought, “Wow, I’ve got to start in 10th grade,” but I have this piece of paper and it was really one of those “aha moments” where the piece of paper doesn’t mean anything if I couldn’t execute what it was I was supposed to be able to do. There was just tons of moments like that where I thought, “Wow, things are going to be so much better” and I realized a lot of times they weren’t.
Frank Garza: One of the things you talked about a lot, or one of the things I noticed a lot was this fear you had as you were going through life, especially early on in those years of people finding out about the time you had served, about being exposed and just constantly trying to kind of hide that. Now, here you are, sharing your full story in a book for everyone to read. Can you talk about that journey you went on from trying to hide that from your life, to now you’re wanting to share that with the world?
Bob Goulet: Yeah sure. I think there was — on a piece of paper you sit down and you say, “Well, nobody.” Well, not even on a piece of paper, there were many times where something came up to be a convicted felon was a problem.
You can’t have this job, you can’t go to this country, you can’t do this thing. Everyone’s seen the job application that says, “Fill this out.” And so even when I left prison, they were very clear, “You’re a convicted felon now, it’s going to be really hard to get a job. You should just start your own little business and try to make ends meet.” That’s just kind of the whole package that you’re sold and it just seemed logical, you know?
A college grad doesn’t need to be a convicted felon, on and on and so you just keep it to yourself. It’s easier back then I think, before the proliferation of the Internet and background searches and I think that’s changed a lot but I just built that life. There was always a little question, you know? If a police officer got behind me, I would think, “Is he looking that up?”, or if I’d come through the airport and then I would have those incidences like I’ve shared in the book and then really, my life, achieved a lot. All the things you say that are going to make it better on paper, the job, the child, everything and something was just wrong, something was just off.
One day, I just realized that I had built this whole story of my life kind of on a false narrative and I was emitting this huge experience in my life and part of — you know, it’s not something you get to — it doesn’t go away and I realized that I had to just be my whole story, not just the good parts of my story or the pieces that I wanted to share. That really just came out and then I just started live, you know, to accept it more and share it more and then as that evolved, I thought, this is something I should write about.
That plenty of people know me and they have no idea and so it’s really this concept, a part of the concept of the book is just, you have probably have no idea of what somebody else’s experience is and so, I thought it would be useful to share that and get people thinking about what that might be like.
Frank Garza: Yeah, you spend quite a bit of time in the book talking about this, all these achievements that you were going after, one after the other and still not finding that happiness. Just to kind of give people a flavor of what some of those achievements are, could you just talk about what you have been able to accomplish, I guess, at college and with career and whatnot?
Bob Goulet: Sure, I went to University of Connecticut. I got a chemical engineering degree, graduated at the top of my class. I went to Clemson, got a graduate degree in chemical engineering, did well, later went on to Duke and got an MBA. I’ve had some amazing jobs, started a company from scratch, made it on the INC 500 twice, recently sold part of that, which was lucrative and hold a couple of dozen patents around the world, have been awarded all kinds of awards in terms of innovation and achievements, so plenty of things.
I have a great son, I’ve traveled the world, pretty much if there is a list of things I said I wanted to do, I did it.
Turning The Page
Frank Garza: Was there a turning point for you? Or one that you can think of where you thought, “Okay, I need to stop focusing on these achievements and put my energy somewhere else if I’m going to find happiness”? How did that mindset start to change for you?
Bob Goulet: It was an incredibly abrupt change. I was — the company was doing really well. We had been awarded a great contract. My body was definitely showing signs of the abuse for a long stretch, I was working a hundred hours a week. For months at a time, I would sleep in my office on an air mattress, because I thought, “Well, if we can get to this, if I can close this deal and get the company over the hump, it is all going to be better.”
One night, I had what some people refer to as a “Dark Night of The Soul”, and they just came to this stopping point. I was sitting in the office — the room that would soon be my office in the plant — and I just sat down. I spent hours sitting there and I just had this experience that was a dead end and I realized that I wasn’t working.
Just me as a human, as a spiritual being just wasn’t working but if I didn’t change a lot of things, I don’t know how much further I would have been around. And nothing magical changed but my direction and mindset changed completely and the next morning when I woke up, I was like, “Okay, I will do anything anywhere to figure this out but I’ve got to change.”
Frank Garza: In chapter 13 — chapter 13 is called “Daily Practice” — you talk about a lot of your routines and habits in life that have helped you do that and one thing that seems like it’s been very important to you throughout decades of your life is journaling. Can you talk about the impact or the importance of journaling in your life and how you use journaling?
Bob Goulet: Well for me, the journal is the place to get real about what’s going on in my life. When I take a pen and a blank page and I just start to have a conversation with myself basically. What am I thinking, what’s going on, how do I feel, what are my challenges, what are my wins and I start to work through that and I read it and just the process of writing it, I am sure like a lot of people I think quickly but I don’t write that fast, so it just makes me slow down.
It makes me go, “Okay, what am I interested in or what’s really going on?” and really, the book came from that kind of experience of what’s going on and what does that feel like and writing the words and just kind of continuing to work through that has just been a catalyst for me of getting to know myself, getting to know what I actually do and really challenging how I see the world and how I show up every day.
Frank Garza: Another thing you talk about is training your emotional muscles. What are some things you do to train your emotional muscles?
Bob Goulet: Well, the first one was the journal. When I started the journey after that dark night, I had a psychiatrist tell me, “You know, if you can know what you feel, put a word to it and have a conversation about it, you’ll be well on your way” and I thought, “Oh, okay.” So I sat down the first time with a piece of paper and I said, “I feel —” and I stopped. You know like, Okay, I don’t know what I feel. I have no idea.
So I just challenged myself, “I’ll write a page” and when I gave myself that permission. I just started to write these things and I would literally read them and I’d be[like], “Where did that come from?” I just continued to work on that and I looked up a lot of words and I realized how few emotional words I could actually tell you what they mean and just practice, you know? I think the great part about the journal and the emotional journey is to just practice and get used to it and think about the words.
Know what you’re saying when you say something like, “I am scared” or “I am fearful” or “I am happy” or “I’m inspired.” I never said anything like that before, so those muscles really came out of first writing and then really just practicing it when I might be in a conversation with my son or my family or friends that I actually would say something about how I feel or what is going on.
Frank Garza: In the “Living to Learn” chapter, one of the things that really resonated with me was this concept of “grabbing” that you talk about. Can you talk about what is grabbing and how understanding that has been influential in your life?
Bob Goulet: Sure, grabbing is really just grasping on to something to relieve you from truly facing the current situation you find yourself in. An easy one is, “I had a bad day, I need a drink.” Well, if I had a bad day, why was it bad? The drink, grabbing for the drink just doesn’t give me space to understand what’s going on. You know, was it me? Was it the job? What’s going on that makes me think that it was a bad day and what do I need to learn from that?
Grabbing could be working out, right? I have to work out because I need this escape from my current situation. I look at grabbing as anything that removes you from just being with what you’re feeling, what’s going on and I was a master at that. That is how — back to your previous question — I really needed to work on my emotional muscles because I just grab for things, you know?
I watch TV, I’ll have a drink, I’ll eat too much, I’ll go for a drive. I’ll do things that allow me to not deal with the current situation of what is actually going on inside me and getting to know myself better.
Be Better at Being Me Today Than I Was Yesterday
Frank Garza: In chapter 15 is called “Who am I?” one of the things you talk about is your rules that you live by. How do you come up with — or how did you come up with these rules and can you talk about what are some of your rules?
Bob Goulet: Sure, I have a — one of my favorite things to do is the journaling, as we’ve talked about, and I frequently will work on a concept for a while. So I will start writing each day about something and I won’t allow myself to rewrite or even look at what I wrote yesterday and for me, that starts to bring out my truth not some random thought I had. I really like that kind of concept at over days and weeks and months, you start to feel the same things come up and I start to feel them.
Like, “Okay, this is real. This is what’s true for me.” So by rules, really, they change and in the book, by the time — first of all, by the time I would read it, they’re evolving all the time and I like to revisit them but I really love a few ideas and one of those is to get better every day. My biggest rule is every day I get up and I think, “How can I be better at being me than I was yesterday?”
The beauty of that is, I don’t have to make a monstrous gain at any given day but if each day I get up and I am better than I was at being me, then I am moving forward. And what I’ve learned five years after that dark night, is five years of little improvements make a huge difference and I love the saying that we often overestimate what we can do in a week or month and we wildly underestimate what we can do in five or ten years. So that’s really my number one rule, is be better at being me today than I was yesterday.
Frank Garza: I like that. That’s going to stay with me because I feel — I thought you were going to say, “How can I be better at something?” but just being better at being yourself, that’s so challenging and so important, so I love that. That’s going to stay with me after we get done talking here. Thank you for that.
Bob Goulet: For sure.
Frank Garza: You talk about at the beginning of your book, and at the end of the book, and in the middle of it as well about your 54th birthday. Why do you spend so much time talking about your 54th birthday in the book?
Bob Goulet: Well, in 1998 I got a call that my dad was sick in the hospital and so I rushed to Florida. We didn’t have a great relationship but it turns out that he had attempted suicide and subsequently, he died a few days later from the complications of that. While I was going through his things after the funeral and cleaning up, I came across my grandfather’s obituary or actually his death certificate and it said, “Death by suicide, salicylic acid and alcohol poisoning at 54.”
That experience so unsettled me because I thought first of all, I have no idea who my father was and what his struggles were and I think like a lot of kids, you know whenever — we’re not mature enough probably when we’re young to ever think, “Wow, what did our folks go through?” and then when I realized both my grandfather and my father had killed themselves at 54 and that concept of generational suicide jumps in, I kind of put that away in 1998.
But as that dark night I spoke of earlier came on, I was a few years away from 54 and I thought, “Wow, I have got to do something” because there was obvious this lingering thought in the back of my head that maybe my genes or maybe this road just leads to that for me and that’s all there is, so I better get my act together and make sure I am at least in the best shape I can be for 54.
Frank Garza: How did you 54th birthday end up being for you?
Bob Goulet: Well 54 was interesting, 55 was better. 54 was kind of you wake up and you go, “Okay, 365 days in a wake up.” 55 was a validation of all the work that I had put in and a lot of regards that year was an amazing gift because a lot of people — and I am sure I would have been one of them — think about it, talk about maybe wanting to do something to be a little better.
I had this pressing thing in my mind that said “If I don’t get this right, I mean it could cost me my life” and so I never would have let up and it just became that pursuit. So really like I said, I think it was a blessed gift to have to push through that and to have to face that.
Frank Garza: Well, writing a book is such a feat so congratulations on getting this done. Is here anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know before we wrap up?
Bob Goulet: Well, writing the book was a great experience and the funny side story is the first book I wrote was completely finished and as soon as I finished it, I actually spoke with one of the editors and I said, “Wow, I just don’t like this book. It is not my book” and they said, “Well, then just put it away and start again.” So I took the first book and I filed it away and I’ve never even read it.
It took that first experience, which took months to kind of get that out of my system and finally sit down and write a book that I actually wanted to write and that I thought was a great reflection of my journey and what I’ve learned and wanted to share.
Frank Garza: Well Bob, this has been such a pleasure. I am so grateful that you are willing to share your story with the world through your book. The book is called, Chasm: A Deep Journey into Meaning and Wholeness. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Bob Goulet: The best place to catch me is at bobgoulet.com.
Frank Garza: Great, thank you, Bob.
Bob Goulet: Thank you, Frank. I appreciate it.