These last two years have been tough and I can’t say I wasn’t warned about it either. But like most of us, we sometimes have to experience things first hand to truly understand it. And like those who have shared their story with me, I now share my story with you. My hope is that you’ll be less stubborn than I was and more prepared for your leap.
But the truth is… “as with any growth, you can’t really be ready for it… it’s gonna be new, you’re gonna have a new life, you’re gonna be a new person.” – Jerry Seinfeld
While I was digging though my social media content to get some dates of my major milestones, I discovered (and completely coincidentally) that some of the most important ones happened in May. I though it was a perfect title because when you jump, sometimes it feels like flying, most times it feels like falling, crashing… mayday, mayday.
I’ve been wanting to tell this story while I was living it, but it was hard to when I didn’t really understand it yet. I’ll be sharing the lessons and the growth each May has given me in more detail, but here’s a quick run down of my last 3 Mays and where I’m at this moment.
May 2014: I get thrown out of a skiff and almost died. I lose my camera and sunglasses in the process.
May 2015: Recently engaged, I quit my job and moved to Florida. We were gonna live off the business and launch ActionHat.
May 2016: Living in Texas again. I’m single now. I find myself in upstate New York on an 8-day, 100 mile camping/canoe trip.
May 2017: I finalize the design of the ActionHat Mesh and ActionHat Visor and launch a KickStarter. I finally feel comfortable with the falling, sometimes it even feels like flying!
We were coming around a bend in the marsh on my buddies skiff. I was sitting on the center cooler and they were in the back. We were going pretty fast and the boat 180s, the force of the slide pulls a screw that was holding the cooler down. The cooler tilts and over the side I go. All I remembered was it dark and I didn’t know which way was up. It happened so freaking fast, but underwater I was in super slow-mo. Initially I tried to swim, then I calmed myself and let myself just float up. My head hits the bottom of the boat – I was under the boat! I put both hands up to grasp the boat to try and stop myself for shifting. I didn’t feel any pain so I didn’t think I had hit the propeller, but I kept myself in place to be sure I wouldn’t now. Then it got quiet. One of them had pulled the kill switch. I didn’t know exactly where I was at under the boat, so I remember thinking… just pick a direction and swim. I popped up to the side of the bow and they pulled me up. After they gave me a quick look over, they seemed relieved… no blood, nothing broken, and I was talking coherently. The first thing I said was, “Oh shit, where’s my hat? My sunglasses?” I remember looking around in the freshly churned, muddy chocolate milk water for some sign of my hat… my hat that had my action camera screwed into it. It was gone.
This incident gave me two things: it gave me the idea for a floating hat mount and it made me realize how quickly things can go bad.
At any moment, you could die. Gone.
That boat could have knocked me out and I could have drowned. The propeller could have shredded a limb off. We were in shallow water, that boat could have tossed me onto dry land and then plopped right on top of me. Those are the things I thought about that after the adrenaline had worn off and it made the funk of the $600 loss easier to shake off.
I don’t want to share too much of what went wrong with my relationship and engagement, but I mention it because it was THE catalyst in taking the leap of quitting my career of 10 years, leaving our families and moving to a different state to start a new life… with no set income lined out. Between both of us wanting new careers, an affinity for living by the water and a desire to physically remove ourselves away from our pasts – we decided to move to Florida. It was a move neither of us would have taken if were single, but together we could go create our lives anywhere and do anything. We had each other. It was a romantic idea and shit.
I had just launched some apparel and decals and I just placed my order for the first sample of the ActionHat. Those projects consumed most of my savings, so I secured a personal loan to help float us while we figured out the money. And I’ll admit now, that I was naive then – a bit overconfident. For the last 10 years, I had a stable career and steady pay check. That financial security gave me that confidence. The work I put in to help grow that startup company from 1.5 million to 10 million – gave me that confidence. I felt like I could do anything. Whatever it was, we could figure it out together – we would make it happen.
It’s really easy to say money isn’t everything, when you have money and have never really had to worry it. But when money is not coming in, it seems money goes out even faster. Every month, the reserve loan money shrank… it does that when you have to pay your loan payments with THE loan money. The little things we were selling online were not enough to support us, so I reached out to my former company to see if they could use any help. Having left on great terms, I was able pick up some work and do some project management remotely. That gig helped tremendously, but it still wasn’t enough. The rent was too high – I was naive to think we could afford it. I couldn’t make the money I needed to maintain the business and rent. I was naive to think I could just get contract gigs anywhere and the business would just boom over night. I was just naive.
But this money issue was all new to me and frankly, I completely underestimated it.
For the first time in my life, I had to really worry about money. And it turned out that all the confidence I had back then was wrapped up in my ability to make that steady money. And what’s even more ironic is that I finally got what I was looking for: a bad ass partner in life, a beautiful home on the water, great fishing grounds just minutes away and autonomy over my time. I didn’t have those things before, but I had steady money. Now I have those things and not enough money. I had a hard time enjoying any of it, because my mind was fixated on my financial shortcomings. I always felt guilty enjoying anything. I should be working. But when I was home I was too depressed and uninspired to work… that also made me feel guilty and even more depressed.
Money is funny, it’s definitely NOT everything, but it IS something.
I had no idea, that not having enough money would affect me that much. Every day was met with anxiety or depression and sometimes both. And the real tragedy is the effect these stresses can have on a relationship. Everything becomes amplified and more intense: the fights, the doubts, the frustrations and soon enough the distance spreads too far to bridge.
I wish I knew how to handle that failure better. I wish I was stronger then, to be able to deal with it all. I wish I could have been bigger than my own feelings to do what needed to be done in work, life and love.
When experiences are new, it’s hard to know how those things will impact you until you’re in it. And sometimes (most times), it doesn’t always go as you planned it.
I start the New Year off in Texas. The move back was a huge financial relief. I set up shop (and home) in my family’s country home – which had pretty much become a storage facility but it was unoccupied. No more stupid waterfront rent (God I miss those views though)! Despite all the emotional and financial struggles in Florida, I had managed to get the ActionHat to production. Launch sales were awesome, dealers came on board, we were in 7 countries! I felt like I had made it. All that struggle had FINALLY paid off! I still had my contract job to help with the finances, but I slowed down on it… ActionHat money was coming in baby!
Well, between legal fees for trademarks and patents, reordering inventory, setting up the house for operations and a seasonal sales slow down – that money disappeared. More than once, I remember looking at my personal and business bank accounts and both were negative. I literally couldn’t even overdraft anymore. Then orders would kick up again, a new dealer would come on and I was okay again. And repeat.
When you are living off your business and sales are not steady yet – you’ll see huge swing in your cashflow. Cherish every dollar that comes in. Cut costs where you can. Expect those swings.
Those swings hit me hard. It was a such a tease. I had just learned how it is was to not have enough money in Florida, then I’m blessed with momentary success and now I’m back on the dollar menu at McDonalds. Old feelings creeped back in. The new business high had worn off and the reality was very… REAL. I wasn’t just broke, I felt broken. In addition to learning how to handle those business swings, my mind would travel back to my Florida failures often, the breakup feels still so fresh. All that stuff was exemplified so perfectly, by the fact that I spent most days, by myself, alone in my house on 10 acres of woods, stuck in my head. I was lonely, but I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t even want to go fishing.
Depression sucks because it compounds and builds, it grows and pulls you down deeper… unless you DO something about it.
I knew I could be working harder on my business. I knew I could put away the pride and just work more contract hours to help stabilize my finances. But all I wanted to do was turn off the lights, in the middle of the day and just go to sleep. Then I would wake up suddenly and just feel so guilty. I slept half my day away and now I was so anxious about all the stuff I had to get done… today!
I’ll be honest… sharing shit like that is embarrassing. You’d like to think of yourself as above it or you’re stronger than that, but when it hits you – it’s damn near debilitating. But eventually you have to make a choice and DO something about it. For me, I didn’t want to be on medication.
So I remember thinking, if I feel DEAD inside… why don’t I go DO something that makes you feel ALIVE?
So I did, I hit the road and went fishing and that’s how we arrive at this May milestone…
The Adirondacks was the hardest and most intense trip of the year. Two days travel to upstate New York, then 8 day and 100 mile long canoe/camping trip. This trip gave me the perspective I needed. Here I was just feeling sorry of myself for the not wanting to do the work I needed to do. And there we were in the Adirondacks, waking up early every single day, physically paddling ourself for every inch of the 100 mile trip, and even carrying hundreds of pounds of gear and canoes across land between waterways. And for those that don’t know, it’s still cold in New York in May and it even snowed. And for those that don’t know, I’m a tropical person… I freaking hate being cold.
That trip showed me what hard work was and how easy we have it now. It shocked me out of my depression and helped me get back focused. See, I knew I was depressed, so here was my logic: if you’re just gonna waste your days away anyways… and not work, and just sleep and wallow in your depression… you might as well go “waste” your time outdoors and fishing. The magic to this strategy is that doing things that make you feel alive is both celebratory and therapuetic. You come back from those activities energized. You’re reminded what good feels like. It lifts you up.
You’re well-being and happiness is important… just as important as work and money.
I ended up fishing and traveling a lot that year and those trips didn’t necessarily cure me of depression, because I think we ALL get depressed at times. But those trips helped lift me up when I was falling. Those trips made me fly. I now knew how to fight back.
Despite the mental, financial, and emotional ups and downs, I know I am damn lucky. I am lucky to have a home to live and operate out of. I am grateful for my supportive family, friends and fishing community. I am fortunate to have contract work to help float me while I build this life and business. I am lucky to have found something I can be passionate about and work towards. I am lucky to live in this day and age and in this country, where a person who is willing to really work for it, can design and live their purpose.
I didn’t plan to launch the KickStarter in May. We filmed it back in February and it took sometime to work into Rob’s busy video production schedule. But here we are in May again. Looking back at my timeline and through writing this blog post, I feel like I have come to a much a better understanding of this journey. I honestly don’t know what the next steps will be, but I know I will work my ass off for it and make sure I enjoy it too.
The truth is I am already doing what I love: I’m fishing, filming, editing, telling stories, developing new products, writing, and designing a fresh batch of t-shirts, hat and stickers. I’m spending my time how I want to. The money? It’ll come eventually.
Through out this adventure, I have been frantically jotting thoughts as they came, some my own and some borrowed, with the intention of sharing them one day. So, here’s a collection of things to think about for those looking to take a jump in their life.
At any moment, you could die. Gone.
When you feel DEAD inside… go DO something that makes you feel ALIVE.
DOing things that make you feel ALIVE is important for your well-being. It’s just as important as working and making money. Give yourself the time to DO those things.
Plan as much as you can, but learn to adapt. Things happen.
If it were easy, everybody would be DOing it.
Work for yourself like someone else is paying you to DO it.
Nothing happens until you DO it.
When you jump, you will fall.
Be a DOer. Feel ALIVE. #LIVELIVENOW
Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you… or does it?