The key to success

Several years ago I subscribed to Townsend Wardlaw‘s e-mail list. I don’t remember why or how I got connected, what I do know is it’s one of two subscriptions I receive where I make a point to read each one. (Contact me if you’re interested in learning about the other one!)

Here’s a response I sent him to his latest post…

I’ve been reflecting on this e-mail off and on throughout the morning.

About a month ago I quit my job to work full-time on my startup. I’ve run other businesses in the past, but this is the first time that my business is my only thing…no other safety net except for the equity payout from my last job.

That wasn’t the difficult decision that I’m replying to you about.

The difficult decision happened five years ago. I was working for a large agriculture company at a stable job with good pay. The work was easy. I kept finding myself saying each day “I’ve never been this busy and this bored”.

At the same time I was running a family ag-retail business. I’d been running it for five years but earlier that year I had the realization that it was the wrong business for me. Everything going on my life (with the exception of my family) felt like I was living someone else’s life.

I made a choice to sell out my share of the family business. By sell out I mean I basically got rid of all assets at cost, walked away with nothing. It’s difficult to put into words the pain and confusion that came as I walked through the aftermath of that decision.

I spent two years rebuilding everything – my career, finances, relationships with family members. It gave me the foundation to take my most recent leap into my startup. Thank you for your thoughts today on the journey.

I’m going through an advent study by Richard Rohr; he touched on this today as well. It’s a good reminder for me to focus on and enjoy the journey rather than the destination. Here’s a quick note from that study. It’s spiritually focused but broadly beyond just what would be traditionally called “Christian”.

We all tend to aim for the goal instead of the journey itself, but spiritually speaking, how we get there is where we arrive. The journey determines our final destination. If we manipulate our way, we end up with a manipulated, self-made god. If we allow ourselves to be drawn and chosen by love, we might just end up with the real God.

 Here is the original e-mail. If you like it please subscribe to his e-mail list here:

Some people consider me successful so I wanted to share the story of my success.

In 1991, I graduated from college and moved from Connecticut to Santa Cruz, California with $500 in my pocket. I did not have a job lined up and my only safety net was a friend who agreed to let me sleep on his couch for a month.

In 1995 I was fired from my job managing a bike shop in Boulder, Colorado. For the next year, I worked in a call center and managed a burrito shop. I was 27 years old and my W-2 for that year was $14,400.

In 1996, I got my first ‘real’ job working for a long distance reseller. This job involved making upwards of 120 cold calls per day. Luckily, the one hour commute (each way) gave me plenty of time to think about how much my life sucked.

After only three months, I talked my way into an account executive role with AT&T. As I was resigning from the job I was leaving, the branch manager told me I’d regret my decision.

After only a year with AT&T, I left to join a start-up division of a massive corporation. My manager told me I’d be branded a job hopper and never make it.

The startup was closed down after 12 months and I was reassigned to a division selling Y2K testing and validation software (it was late 1999.)

After calling the hiring manager every day for six months, I talked my way into a job with Lucent.

Within a year, my role was part of the ‘spin off’ to a new company called Avaya.

By 2001, I was married, had two young children, two car payments, and a mortgage.

Despite making more than $270,000 a year I was miserable. Every Sunday morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach dreading having to work the next day so…

I quit my job to start my own company. It was March of 2002 and the Dot Com bubble burst. Every one of my clients pulled funding for my services.

In 2005, my company reached $1M in Revenue and I paid myself for the 1st time. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept more than five hours a night.

After growing the company to 80 people, I closed the doors of my company in 2009. You can read about my failure here.

In June of that same year, I began what would be several years of an painful, ugly, and mostly self-inflicted divorce. I also declared personal bankruptcy to deal with more than $2M in personal guarantees from my failed business.

For the next year, I ended each month with less than $10 in my bank account. I struggled to pay my bills and was months behind on support payments.

In mid 2010, my divorce was finalized.

Around the same time, my lifestyle had gotten a little out of control and I was evicted from the luxury apartment I was renting in Downtown. The lawsuit alleged ‘damaging the reputation of the building.’

By 2011, I got my shit together and built up my personal consulting practice to a place where I could pay my bills.

Later that year, I realized how badly my children were struggling with the divorce.

I ‘fired’ every one of my clients because I could no longer travel and be away from my sons.

Once again, I was starting from scratch.

By the summer of 2012 I concluded an 18 month custody battle for my youngest son. The legal bills ran well into six figures.

In September of 2013, I sent my youngest son away to what I affectionately call a ‘get your shit together school.’ That was one of the hardest days of my life.

My consulting practice was thriving yet despite having what many would consider incredible income; support payments and the cost of a ‘therapeutic boarding school’ left me with almost nothing in the bank at the end of every month.

In 2016, I ended a seven year relationship with a woman I was engaged to marry. You can read my controversial article about my experience here.

Do you see a pattern here?

My success (and more importantly my happiness) has been abyproduct of difficult choices made over the course of my life.

We’ve all heard the maxim about life being about the journey than the destination right?

As far as I’m concerned, your only destination is under six feet of dirt so you better appreciate every step of the way there!

It’s 2017 now and I made countless difficult decisions over the last year… I just can’t seem to remember many of them.

I will go so far as to say I don’t remember most of the truly difficult and gut wrenching choices I have made over the course of my life.

My reasoning is simple.

Life is about choosing what you will do next.

Yesterday never happened and tomorrow may never come.

There is only this moment and in this moment you possess the power to choose what you will do next.

If you have a moment, hit reply and tell me about one of the difficult choices you have made in your lifetime.


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