Man Up! Don’t Let Hurt Get the Best of You!

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Happy Hump Day everyone!

Hopefully most of you are either not working today or this is your last day of work for the week. I am sure many of you might be approaching tomorrow with some anxiety knowing you will be spending time with your family. I feel your pain. Don’t worry I am not going to write about how you should spend tomorrow appreciating your family. Nor am I going to talk about being thankful (although you should be.)

I wanted to talk about something that men rarely discuss, think about or seek: emotional healing. Now before you stop reading, give me just 5 more minutes and then you can feel free to ignore me.

Life is hard. I don’t care who you are or where you come from. Life and the toll it takes on our lives, especially as men, is not something to blow off. There is this assumption that as men we don’t have to deal with emotional trauma in our lives. We should simply be strong enough to take the hit and keep on going. Scars heal and as we all know chicks dig scars. That might be true but the emotional ones aren’t so well liked.espn_a_washington_gb1_576x324

The emotional issues we struggle with can come from anywhere. Perhaps you had an abusive parent, family member, teacher etc. You may have suffered a terrible injury or accident that not only destroyed parts of your physical body but also did a number on your emotions and soul. I couldn’t possibly come up with a list of all the possible scenarios where you may have experienced a deep emotional hurt. You may have lost a parent long before their time, maybe even a child. My point is, it doesn’t matter who, what or why this pain occured. Your hurt is very real. As a man you need to face that hurt and do your best to seek healing.

I know it sounds awkward to discuss among men. However, it only feels that way because guys are programmed not to share emotions with other men. And under no circumstances are we do so with the opposite sex for fear they will see us as weak. We simply can’t have that; even if such a statement is far from the truth.

Healing is not simply the idea of “getting over” something that has happened in our lives. Most of the time such an approach only means we bury it deep in our souls and ignore it, hoping it just goes away. Over time it eventually feels like that is what has happened and in our minds we think healing has occurred.

Speaking from experience I can tell you, healing has not occurred. Instead you have now planted seeds into that burial ground that will fester and take on the shadow of those things you think are gone for good. Whatever that hurt is, it will continue to color your world, decisions and especially your emotional reactions for the rest of your life. It becomes so subtle you don’t realize it, but future relationships are heavily influenced by it. Friendships, marriages and jobs ruined or destroyed because we buried things rather than uproot them and destroy them once and for all.

Depending on what you are dealing with you may not ever truly get closure to something but that is not the same as being healed. You may never get the chance to confront a parent about their abusive ways. You may never get the chance to talk through why that woman you were in love with broke your heart. The boss, who unjustly fired you, may never be available to discuss the real reasons you were let go etc.

The challenge of seeking and getting healing often times will fall to us as individuals. I always hope you will turn to God and seek healing and comfort from the greatest comforter of all.

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Yet I know not all of you feel that way about God. It is my prayer you will consider turning to God and asking for his help. There is also nothing wrong with seeking the help of a counselor or psychologist to work through your pain and hurt. I understand the stigma. When I was in college I sought counseling for some issues I was dealing with and it was difficult to make that choice, but it really did help me.

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Bo Kimble honors his friend Hank Gathers with a left handed free throw. Honoring those we love is a great tool to heal from loss.

My point is this: doing nothing is not the right answer. Burying your pain and loss in alcohol, drugs, sex and other destructive behavior only numbs the pain for so long. Eventually the crop you growing in your soul will come due for harvest and wreak havoc in your life. Continuing to chase numbness and coping mechanisms will never, ever do the trick.A long time ago I went through a very difficult emotional period in my life. It was the first time in my life when I felt physical pain because of emotional trauma. I was convinced a part of my heart, literally my physical heart, had died. Furthermore, I believed a part of my soul had been eaten away permanently. I believed it would never come back. It would be forever missing. I should have sought counseling. I didn’t. I thought about it many times. The thing that stopped me was that I had convinced myself what I was dealing with was so minor (in comparison) to what others have dealt with I should just be able to recover on my own. Despite the intense emotional and physical pain, I thought I was probably overreacting. It certainly didn’t make the pain any less. I just decided that perhaps I was being a pussy (sorry that is just being honest) and that other guys don’t feel what I felt nor get so messed up over a similar issue. 

Eventually I couldn’t do it anymore though. I was so miserable inside even if most people had no idea from the outside. I still didn’t seek counseling. However, I did turn to God. I begged him to please help me. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I had no idea what I needed so I just asked him to give me what I needed. It wasn’t any more complex than that. I remember telling him that I had no idea how I can get over this huge whole in my heart and soul but that I trusted he did. I had to confess that alone there was no way I could get out of this hole I was in. That was it. It might sound simple or even stupid but that is what I did. I just happened to do it over and over and over again.

I remember being in so much pain all I could do was lay there and cry out to God.  The only words I could mutter were “please God, please help me, please, please, please.”  I would say this over and over, sometimes sobbing, sometimes in anger but all the time in distress.

This is not the story of a miraculous healing.  I often didn’t feel better after praying to God.  Sometimes I even felt worse, as if the healing I was so desperate for was now even further away.  It took years to get to a place where I was okay with what happened.  Even then I wasn’t 100% healed.  Some emotional pain takes a long time to come back from and there might even be times when we might never get back to 100%.  I do know that only God can do that kind of restoration.autumn-forest-scenery-wallpapers-pictures-photos-images

It is a constant and continual process and we must accept this fact.  It will take time and there isn’t a lot we can do to speed up that process.  The alternative (i.e. burying it down deep inside) however, should never be an option even if it seems easier to you.

Face the pain of your hurt.  If you don’t, it will cripple future relationships with your wife, children, grand-children and every other person who cares about you.

I want to hear from you on this topic so please comment above or below and let me know your own thoughts!  In the meantime I hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving and I hope it is filled with laughs, love, food and football!

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!

 

Don’t Let Other’s Determine Your Worth

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“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah.  Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, ‘You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.’  Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him. Judges 11:1-3

The story of Jephthah is one of my favorite’s in the Bible.  Even if you aren’t a believer in the word of God you should read this story.  If it doesn’t stir up in you feelings of determination and perseverance than you might already be dead.

Jephthah was a mighty warrior but because he was the son of a prostitute his family and his people rejected him.

As men, especially young men we often go through periods of rejection, especially from our own families.  You might have had an absent father (or no father at all!) and as you have grown into manhood you feel a certain sense of rejection.  We often blame ourselves, as if it is our own fault that our father’s didnt’ stick around to raise us.  Sadly, sometimes our father’s even tell us it is our fault before they decide to pack their bags and never come home.  I hope you understand it is never your fault when a parent abandons you.

There is a list of potential reasons why as men we might have been rejected by family, friends or loved ones.  The purpose of this post isn’t to dwell on those reasons for rejection or whether they were justified or not (they weren’t.)

Instead I want to encourage you through Jephthah’s story that your life still has purpose and meaning.  He didn’t hang his head and cry about losing his inheritance and moving to a foreign land.  Instead he simply went about the business he was born to do, being a mighty warrior.  I love the imagery of him banding together with worthless men.  I can only imagine the kind of rough characters he was forced to take sides with.  No doubt it was a similarly rejected group of men.

Jephthah’s story continues…

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel.  And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.  Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.”

So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?”  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.” Judges 11:4 – 10

Even men who are told they are “worthless” still have value.  Jephthah knew in his heart that he was not a worthless man.  He was a mighty warrior and when the time came those same people who rejected him now were willing to make him their leader if he would only help them defeat their enemies.

Don’t allow others to determine your ability to dream, succeed and have victory in your own life.  The only person who needs to believe in themselves in you!  The Bible says that “Through Christ we can do all things.”  Don’t allow the shortsightedness of others and judgmental people impede your path to your dreams.

Go out and get what you want.  The victory is yours.

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!

Andrew

We Are The Champions – A Love for Baseball Pays Off

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Happy Friday everyone!

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Me and the Commissioner’s Trophy at Riviera Cafe

Welcome to the “advice free” edition (as opposed to the free advice) of the Be a Better Man Blog!  No heavy topics today.  No spiritual mumbo jumbo.  Today is a celebration of life and a celebration (again) of the World Champion Boston Red Sox!photo 1

Yesterday the Commissioner’s trophy (aka World Series trophy) made its way to New York City and made several stops at many of the Boston bars.  Stops included Riviera Cafe, Professor Thom’s and even the swanky Yale Club.  It wasn’t the first time this happened and I certainly hope it is not the last!

It was funny to listen to people on the street try to figure out why the trophy would be coming to New York since the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs.  Even more entertaining were the people who asked “Did the Yankees win the World Series?” especially those who wore Yankee hats on their heads.

Nope the sign clearly says “The Boston Red Sox World Series Trophy” but then again who has time for details?  Not New Yorkers and certainly not Yankee “fans.”  Although there was plenty of entertaining Yankee news in the city this week as well (I am starting to love A-Rod more and more each day!)

While winning a World Championship always helps, I just love this sport.  No matter what, baseball is one of those things that runs through my blood.  It also has helped ease the pain of a baseball free life for the next three months but after seeing the trophy yesterday in person I am starting to miss baseball games again.  I am not sure what I ever did before the MLB Network came along but I praise God for it every time I turn it on in the offseason. I can hear/watch baseball talk 24/7.  I know it is cheesy to say that but I literally thank God for that channel!  It keeps my blood pumping during the “cold” (read:tepid) New York winters.

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Lackey tips his game, Game 6 WS. Red Sox fans go wild!

I am already counting down to the day when pitchers and catchers report which always marks opening day as far as I am concerned.  This year the Phillies and Mariners report on February 12, 2014 (Red Sox on February 15) so opening day is actually less than 3 months away!  Official Spring Training games start February 24th  or thereabouts.  I know that 3 months isn’t a long time but with baseball on hiatus it always draws out and seems to take forever.  At least for now I have hockey and football to keep my pre-occupied until then.  Maybe with a little luck I can get away for a few Spring Training games in February or March.

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It is a beautiful thing

I think the only thing better than seeing the Commissioners Trophy yesterday would be to have the chance to take a picture with the Stanley Cup, preferably with me holding it up over my head and giving it a kiss.  Sadly I don’t think that dream will ever come to pass.  However, if any one out there knows a way we can make it happen please write to me and let me know!

I know many of you probably think baseball is boring.  I don’t fault you for that.  If you haven’t ever played the game or learned some of the more intricate parts of the sports it is easy to miss the strategy from inning to inning and pitch to pitch.  However, I am sure you probably love something or are passionate about something that is just as silly to others as baseball might be to you. 

Sports and the fandom that always attends to it is one of the most fascinating aspects of human behavior.  How we become so attached to a particular team and feel physically ill, emotional discomfort and exuberant joy all within just a few moments of each other is amazing to me.  I remember driving home (i.e. trying to drive home) after I went to the 1998 NFC Championship that the Vikings lost in overtime to Atlanta.  I was in such a state of shock and disbelief that I actually got lost on my way home from the game.  Although I didn’t get lost as much as I simply didn’t care where I was going.  Thinking back it is so crazy that sports (and being passionate about something) can cause such a reaction.

ap_Red_Sox_ac_131031_jpg_16x9_992Yet it is that passion that draws us back to our team every year.  No matter how badly they played the year before.  No matter how bad the prospects are for the new season we always come back with a certain level of optimism and hope.  “Maybe this will be our year!”  (Insert Chicago Cubs joke here.)

It doesn’t have to be sports but if you aren’t passionate about something to that degree you really should find something.  It makes you feel alive and at times will also crush your soul.  It is those wide emotional swings that keep us coming back time and time again.  As Ben said in Fever Pitch:

“I like being part of something that’s bigger than me, than I. It’s good for you to invest in something you can’t control.”

Until next week, make it a better day!

Andrew

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Pure Joy!

The Adversity of Success

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“Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” Luke 16:8-9

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” William Shakespeare

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” John Wooden

Often times people only speak about adversity in a negative context.  In other words, you probably think of adversity as being synonymous with misfortune, poverty, failure etc.  What about the adversity that comes with being successful?  Why is it few people want to talk about the challenges and adversity that follows being educated, popular, comfortable etc?  I imagine it stems from the notion that successful people don’t have adversity or that any potential adversity they encounter can be easily addressed with money, influence and/or power.  Likewise, it is probably assumed that whatever adversity a successful person has it pales in comparison to the challenges faced by someone who is less successful or born into unfortunate circumstances.

Yet there are some real potential pitfalls even for people who are successful (according to society’s standards).  Many of these really aren’t so different from the adversity faced by people who don’t achieve the same level of success.  I mentioned earlier this week that I have become addicted to the show on NBC Prime (formerly MSNBC) called “American Greed.”  While a lot of the crooks on that show start out to be fraudulent from the beginning, there are yet a fair amount of them who started out as legitimate and successful business men and women.  For a number of reasons these successful people fall into the trap of greed, lust and debauchery and many end up in prison or dead.  But why?  How did they get there?  I think part of it lies in the belief that as a successful person you have everything you need and want and never face any kind of serious problems in life.  Even more so, I don’t think many people are prepared to handle success in life because no one has bothered to coach them or warn them about some of the unexpected challenges that come with being successful.

The Bible says “for he who is given much, much will be expected of him” (Luke 12:48).  With those expectations will come great temptations on a level many of us have never experienced nor are prepared for.  It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a Christian, there will be tough choices you need to make that may compromise your success in the future.  Here are just a few of them.

1. Built-In Credibility

Regardless of your career or business, when you are seen as a successful person, people will trust you simply based on what they see regardless of what comes out of your mouth.  Many of the victims on American Greed became victims because they disregarded sound logic and invested money with people because they “looked successful.”  They had expensive homes, offices, cars, sports collections etc. Thus people assume they must be legit regardless of the fact a 20% return on your investment is nearly impossible to achieve ethically in real life.overcomingadversity

The trap for successful people is to not take advantage of this built-in credibility.  People are desperate to find others they can trust and who can help them accomplish their goals and help advance their own careers or financial status.  Even if you don’t have wealth, expensive homes or the like; people will be drawn and attracted to your success.

When I first became licensed as an attorney I was amazed how many people asked me for advice, even in areas I had no experience in.  I was always quick to tell them I was a poor choice for advice in those areas and yet they still wanted my input anyway.  I was tempted many times to try and sound smarter than I was, trying to give some kind of amazing sounding advice (regardless of how accurate it might be.)  I realized, when out of my depth I simply needed to be conservative in what I said knowing these people were likely to act on whatever advice I gave them. 

People are always searching for truth and it can be easy to take advantage of that kind of situation if you aren’t careful.  Don’t allow yourself to think more highly of yourself than you should.  We really aren’t that important nor that great.  I am no different than the men and women I share a subway car with every day.  So you have to focus on being humble and down to earth as much as possible.

2. Lack of Accountability

When people are seen as successful, sometimes they aren’t required to be as accountable as others or be subject to the same level of oversight as otherwise might be required.  Obviously this leads to a great deal of temptation to cut corners, embezzle money and engage in other fraudulent/criminal activity.

For example, when I was younger I was a model student in every possible way.  I received good grades, rarely got into trouble and teachers always trusted whatever I said (which was good since I was an honest kid.)  As I started to get older I realized I could parlay this excellent record into an easier life.  In 6th or 7th grade I got braces on my face.  Anyone who has braces will tell you that monthly dentist appointments are required.  My dentist was only a 15 minute walk from my school so I usually would get a hall pass and walk strength-is-the-product-of-struggleto my dentist and then walk back.  I realized because I was seen as a “good kid” I could miss up to three hours of school on those days and rarely would anyone question me.  It was awesome!!  Later I would get into trouble and blame one of my friends who had a less than sterling reputation and I could avoid the blame.  Of course I lost a lot of friends along the way but back then I didn’t care. 

Likewise, on the last day of school our backpacks were often searched for nefarious materials such as shaving cream, toilet paper or firecrackers (no one every brough guns to school back then.)  They never searched mine.  Not once.  Thus I became the T.P. Bandit and after loading up on shaving cream I would have my own party, once again claiming innocence and blaming others.  I was caught eventually and sent to detention but it was worth it!  Later  in life I would steal on occasion and was never caught because no one would ever suspect I would do such a thing.  It wasn’t until my father caught me that I had to make a change in behavior.  Nothing is quite as scary as a father being upset with his son.

The point is, when people trust you it becomes easier to get away with bad behavior because it is assumed you don’t need to be managed closely.  You need to develop your own moral standard of accountability.  For me I am always accountable to God, my wife, my friends and other men at my church.  I always ask myself how my decisions will effect my relationship with God, my wife and everyone else connected to me.  That might not work for you I get that.  However, you need to act and behave like someone is always watching because eventually, they always are.  Don’t allow a lack of accountability tempt you into stealing from your boss, cutting corners or engaging in fraudulent activity.

3. Arrogance

The previous two items lead to this one.  When people reach a certain level of success, wealth and/or status they often believe they are better than everyone else.  As if somehow being promoted to the executive level or earning a certain amount of money equates to a moral, intellectual and monetary superiority.  The reality is they probably worked hard, caught a few breaks (i.e. got lucky) and out hustled the competition (and maybe burned some bridges) to get to that level.  None of those things means you are better than those below you.

I am not sure what leads people to feel this way about themselves.  I am amazed how some partners at this firm will talk down to me in an extremely condescending way simply because of their status at EY.  Yet when I ask them “What makes you think you can talk to me like that?” they often have no response.

Arrogance is a dangerous road to travel.  It can lead to failure to heed good advice (or any advice for that matter), broken relationships, an inability to compromise (especially important in marriage), alienation of family/friends/coworkers.  Especially troubling is the belief you can now get away with anything or if you get caught that people will look the other way.

All three items listed above, while perhaps sounding like “good problems to have” all have the very real possibility of contributing to problems no one wants to have.  I have met many homeless people in my life, especially when I have done mission trips to Los Angeles.  Many of the men and women on the street used to have a lot of money and status.  I will never forget what this one gentlemen said to me one day: “I had access to a lot of money and wealth every day, until I suddenly didn’t.”  The journey up the mountain can be a long and winding road but the journey back down is usually a steep drop.

Even in success we will have adversity.  It is important we are well grounded and prepared for that adversity long before we find success beating our door in.  I am grateful for family members who were successful yet remained down to earth and were always very generous with their time and money.  It provided me a frame-work for my own life and a goal to strive for.  I haven’t achieved the same level of success (yet) but I continue to use their example as a guiding principle in my life.

Until tomorrow, make it a better day! 

Andrew

5 Lessons Before Deciding to Start Your Own Business

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I have been talking to a number of friends recently who are thinking about or already have started their own businesses.  I have been down that road before and it wasn’t too terribly successful.  Thus, I am not really offering my advice here.  Instead I am borrowing a blog from The Art of Manliness to offer you some direction on this fine Wednesday morning.

If you have other tips or advice let’s hear about it in the comments section!

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On Friday nights, most testosterone-driven high school guys head out to the football field to either put on the pads or chase after the girls in the stands. I went to turn a profit.

At 16 years old, I started my first business among the throngs of a community gathered on muggy summer nights to cheer on the home team. Cheering means one thing: yelling. And yelling means that people will have tired, sore, dry throats.

For the penny pinchers unwilling to spend concession stand prices for their carbonated relief, the school had conveniently provided a pop machine in the stadium that would deliver an ice-cold can of heaven for 50 cents.

This pop machine had a particular quirk that lent itself fantastically to my young entrepreneurial spirit: it stubbornly required exact change.

A lot has changed since 1998, but one thing hasn’t: nobody carries exact change. I set up shop beside that beautiful, glowing, humming machine and offered people exactly what they needed: exact change.

For a small fee to compensate my kindness and service, I’d sell them two quarters. Because they needed to soak their thirst, they’d gladly give me one dollar and I’d kindly give them two quarters, easily turning a $10 profit each home game.

It wasn’t much of a payday, granted, but I learned five invaluable lessons from that pop machine that helped me build the two successful businesses that I’m running today.

Lesson #1: Be Necessary

If I’d sold can-koozies at the game, I have a hunch that I would have had far less success. Why? Because people needed a cold drink, not a holder for one. In my experience, I’ve learned that there are two types of business ideas: 1) “It would be nice if” ideas, and 2) ideas that make necessary things better.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to figure out if you have an “it would be nice if” idea or one that makes necessary things better:

  • Does this help someone do a necessary action more easily? Does it make someone’s job, responsibility, or task less of a pain in the neck?
  • Does this idea save someone money? What about time? Will the idea provide a way for people to do something more efficiently?
  • Is this idea a game changer? Does the idea change the way that people behave, operate, or think? Will this idea revolutionize an industry? How?

If you can’t answer yes to at least one of these three questions, you have an “it would be nice if” idea on your hands. Proceed with caution.

Lesson #2: Do Something You Know Something About

Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of seemingly great ideas for a moneymaking business. Some of those ideas have since been discovered and turned into great profit by someone else. I should be bitter, right? I’m not. Here’s why:

I wasn’t the right man to lead the companies that would be birthed from those ideas.

Over the last two years, I have raised over $1 million in investment capital for my technology start-up. All that nerve-conquering, sweat, presenting, and hustle served to teach me an invaluable lesson: the leader’s story (read: your story) matters.

Your background, experience, and education must align with the business that you are creating. Your business must be a part of you. I was able to raise the necessary capital for my start-up because I spent seven years preparing myself. Before building a digital marketing software product, I built a digital marketing agency. That means that I prepared myself to be the one person capable of executing my new business model.

Everyone has ideas. Successful people aren’t measured by the amount of ideas they have, but by their ability to execute a chosen few.

Lesson #3: Resolve Is Your Biggest Asset

Despite anything that you’ve heard or seen on TV, starting your own business isn’t very glamorous. It’s a grind that involves obsessive dedication and an unrelenting amount of effort and resolve.

It took five years for my digital marketing agency to fit into the “successful” label. I wanted to quit every single year before that. There were too many hurdles, too many unknowns, too many obstacles for the company to thrive. Many late nights, I laid awake justifying walking away from it all.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stuck it out. Here’s the lesson: Your resolve is the real “X” factor for your business.

Every start-up will encounter obstacles that will threaten to shut it down. Every beginning business will face seemingly insurmountable odds. Getting your idea off the ground will require your weekdays, weeknights, and weekends. There’s no getting around any of that.

To be successful, you must be resolved.

If you’re launching out to start your own business, you must be able to answer one question without a hint of hesitation: are you prepared to fight? Will you be willing to stick to the plan even if it seems that it’s failing? Are you willing to make the sacrifices today that might pan out in 5 or 10 years?

Building a successful business from the ground up requires the resolve of Leonidas and the patience of Mother Teresa.

Lesson #4: Doing Something Awesome Requires an Awesome Amount of Side Hustle

When I started my first business (which failed), I had enough cash in the bank to support myself for six months. Young, and without the wisdom of the side-hustle approach, I promptly quit my full-time job and dove into the shallow end of the pool head first.

Two years later, I was renting a bedroom in a friend’s house for $200 a month, driving a downgraded car, eating off dollar menus, and living on a salary that brought in less than $1,000 a month.

I could have saved years of my life if I started growing my business while staying employed somewhere else. If you’re toeing the line and thinking of starting a new business, consider keeping your current job. You’ll keep your income and benefits, which will help you to make more level-headed decisions about your start-up and its future.

There should be one important caveat here: If you’re side hustling, don’t cheat hours on the clock. Your priority is your current job, and a man with integrity takes that responsibility seriously. Respect the person who took a risk to hire you, keep producing at your desk, and be a valuable contributor to your current company.

Once you get your start-up off the ground, you’ll expect the same from your employees.

Lesson #5: Ideas Are Cheap, Execution Isn’t

I once had a friend approach me about a business idea that he was ready to set into motion. He wanted to build a company that would rent high-quality packing/moving crates in order to keep people from buying (and, more importantly, throwing away) boxes when they had to move. Letting him work through his business model and pricing structure, I noticed an unfortunate flaw: to make any real money off the company, he’d need to have several thousand boxes in circulation. Per week.

It’s unbelievable how the excitement of an idea can cloud our senses of judgment. It happened to me. And it happened to my friend above, who, despite my caution, dove into the shallow end of the pool head first and quickly realized there was no water.

No matter how great the idea, the numbers must add up if you’re going to be successful. Work through your overhead costs and schematics. Factor in your salary and the costs of your production. Know up front how many sales you’ll need to consistently make (and maintain) in order to turn a profit. You’re starting a business, after all, not a hobby.

The old adage holds true: You must do the math.

One Final Word

There’s one final lesson that the soda machine taught me during those humid summer nights: most people are addicted to convenience. That’s what helped me get away with charging a dollar for two quarters. Sure, I was saving them money because my product was cheaper than the concession stand, but I was also saving them time.

A lot of people will talk about starting a business and day-dream about being their own boss. Very few people will actually take the leap and invest the time. And a ridiculously small amount will actually see their dreams come to life.

That’s because building your own business isn’t convenient.

You’ll be misunderstood and frustrated along the way. While your friends are busy buying nice cars and going away on fancy vacations, you’ll be pinching pennies to pay the bills and staying up late to answer emails. There are times that you’ll feel isolated and a bit foolish, and will be close to giving up and walking away from it all. When you have these moments, remember this quote, which I used to keep on my bathroom mirror and read to myself every morning:

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Plant those seeds and hang in there. It’s worth every second.