This article is different than my usual writing. I am stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing some challenges and insecurities I have been dealing with over the last 10 years.
I have been ignoring these insecurities because, truthfully, I didn’t want to face them.
When reading this, I hope you are able to relate to my experience and apply it to your own journey.
Here’s what happened.
Our Family Trip to Miami
I’ve been in Miami since January 17th. I love it here. I love Florida. I love the white sand and the blue ocean.
South Florida changed my life. I got sober here and I lived here for 10 years.
In late 2021, Jules and I decided we wanted to get out of Nashville, so we booked a month long stay at an Airbnb in Miami Beach, packed the car, and hit the road. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months.
Like most of you, Jules and I have worked grueling hours over the last two years. Covid completely transformed how my business operates and I’ve spent the last two years doing nothing but writing content, closing deals, managing employees, and training Muay Thai. It’s been lonely and I’ve been experiencing intense waves of depression.
I’ve done nothing but work, and when I’m not working it’s increasingly difficult to relax. I feel guilty, like I’m not doing enough or like I’m not giving my best effort. I haven’t made any new friends and Nashville has felt more and more like a prison. It’s not a happy city and I’ve spent more time alone over the last two years than any time in my life.
I’m not writing this to give you a sob story. I’m beyond grateful for my life. The last two years brought with them continued success and the birth of our beautiful son. My wife and my family are amazing. I’m blessed.
The point is that the weight of the last few years finally got too heavy and I hit an emotional breaking point. Jules and I both needed to check out.
So we came here to get away, to enjoy the sunshine, and to drink Cuban coffee.
Unfortunately, Miami hasn’t gone as we planned.
It All Came Crashing Down
The first week in Miami was amazing.
Jules and I would go for morning walks on the beach and I would spend my nights on our rooftop villa, sitting in the hot tub and listening to the traffic and the laughter passing by on the sidewalk below.
But then something happened.
I started feeling an intense pain in my ear. I didn’t think much of it, so I went to urgent care and they told me I had an ear infection and gave me amoxicillin. I said thank you and left the urgent care, filled up my prescription, and continued on with trying to enjoy my time.
Two days went by and my ear was starting to hurt worse and worse. I could feel my heart beating in my ear and the pain was going down the side of my neck and into my jaw.
I’ve never had an ear infection before and I was shocked at how painful it was. After another day, things escalated.
A Pivotal Moment in My Life
One night, I had a terrible nightmare.
I dreamt that there was a rubber ball stuck in my ear. There was a group of doctors standing next to me, sticking exacto knives in my ear, cutting out little chunks of the rubber ball, and pulling out the little bits piece by piece.
I could hear the metal of the knives grinding against each other.
I was in the bedroom of our Airbnb. I could see Jules at the doorway and she was holding Julian in her arms. She was panicking and told me that she had to take Julian and find a way to survive. I wasn’t able to work anymore, and so I couldn’t be there for my family. As the knives are being jammed into my ear, they left me, not because they didn’t love me, but because Jules needed to find a way to take care of our son. There was nothing I could do to help, I was completely incapacitated.
She walked out the door of the bedroom and I screamed for her to come back. It was at that moment I woke up.
I woke up covered in sweat. It was terrible. I jumped up and sat on the edge of the bed.
It was then that the pain hit me. It was absolutely excruciating like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I touched my ear and there was brown gook and fluid leaking out of it and caked down my face.
The pain got worse. Jules and I went back to the urgent care and they told me that my eardrum had ruptured. They sent in a sample to the lab and when the results came back, they told me that a bacteria crept into my ear and created a fluid buildup behind my eardrum. The pressure got too great and my eardrum blew out. I was howling in pain so they stuck a shot in my butt and sent me home with powerful antibiotics.
The infection caused unbelievable pain and a fever. The fever brought with it some of the most vivid dreams and nightmares I’ve ever had. They were almost like hallucinations. I can’t explain it other than to say that I came out of it feeling like I had undergone some spiritual transformation.
It was powerful.
The Nightmares Brought Me Face to Face with My Greatest Fears
We came to Miami to take a break.
Yes, I planned on working while I was here, but I made a commitment to myself and to Jules to take it easy.
When I got here, we started having some major problems at Stodzy. To make a long story short, Stodzy had grown to the point where the internal systems and processes we had created were no longer sufficient to manage our growth. It was a domino effect, one system broke which caused another system to break which caused another system to break.
Immediately, I found myself working 12 hour days, skipping walks with my family, and stressing out about work.
I was completely filled with anxiety and angst. I needed to fix this right away. If I didn’t fix the issues, I feared my clients would be mad at me, all of my employees would quit, and everything I have worked for would mean nothing. Of course that’s not true, but that’s how it felt to me.
I was right in the middle of solving these problems when my eardrum exploded. I was completely incapacitated and I couldn’t be there to help my team. That entire week was difficult, because we were truly uncovering some breaks in our system that needed to be fixed right away, but there was nothing I could do and I was the only one who could fix them.
As I woke up from the third day, my fever broke and I felt like I could actually think again. I realized right then and there that something needed to change. I can’t even afford to get sick without my company feeling the consequences of my absence.
This is not how I want to live my life. This is not sustainable, and I need to make a change.
How It All Came into Perspective
A few years ago I watched a video with Gary Vaynerchuk.
He was talking about why he decided to build an agency when he could have gone in many other different directions with his career. He spoke about how his agency will serve as the marketing machine that can create content at a high level and with speed.
His client services agency will double as a “production company” that can give him a huge competitive edge in the marketplace. Over time, as he builds new companies, or buys other companies, he can put them directly into his marketing machine, which means he never has to start over from scratch. Rather, he can add new businesses and new acquisitions right into the workflow of his production company.
I remember watching that video very well. I was on the stair master at the West Boca LA Fitness. I said to myself “I want to do that”, and for the last 6 years, that’s what I’ve been building.
But there’s a problem, I’ve not been fully committed to my vision. I’ve not been building my vision with confidence and with conviction. Fundamentally, this was the giant realization I had and what my nightmares were showing me.
Let me explain …
At this point in my career, my team and I have built (or acquired) 6 cash flowing websites. The problem is that each website has it’s own team to manage it. There is money flowing in many different directions and people working across companies to achieve different results.
Sure, I have created an agency that manages everything, but internally it’s a mess. Each website has different ownership structure and my partners and I have to always compromise with each other on which website gets our focus and resources.
I am at the center point of almost all the decision making.
Why would I have designed the system to be so complicated?
At the core of this structure is fear. I’ve been hedging my bets so that if one project doesn’t work out, then I can always fall back on another project. But it’s a complete false narrative I’ve created in my mind, because creating different backup plans for each website doesn’t change the fact that some projects might succeed while others might not. In fact, managing our company the way we have been only increases the probability of failure because it deters us from perfecting a system that works across the entire media platform.
This doesn’t make any sense.
This is Me Admitting my Fears and Failures in Public
I have always known what I need to do and what I want to do, but I have held back because I have a crippling underlying fear of failure. Even today, with everything I have accomplished, my default thought is “I’m not good enough,” or “I probably don’t know how to do this,” or “I am not as good as all the other people who make it look so easy.”
It’s painful to type these words because for so much of my career, I have been reminding people not to compare themselves to others and not to let self doubt get in the way.
Somehow, these nightmares and night sweats I experienced brought these deep insecurities to the surface. I kept waking up with this awful feeling of doom, as though the world had discovered that I was nothing but a fraud and everything I have worked so hard for was just an illusion.
Over and over again, I woke up from nightmares thinking that my family, my friends, my employees and my clients were leaving me, because they discovered that what I created was a lie.
I realize it was just a dream, but it felt so real.
Here’s What I am Going to Do About It
As soon as I started feeling better, I put a plan together and started executing on it right away.
The best way for me to explain this to you is to simply itemize it one by one.
1. I put Rachel in total control of project management. We created a todoist account, and I wrote the basic code base to organize our entire task management system in one place. This way, all of our clients and internal media projects can be filtered and itemized through many different search criteria. More importantly, there is one person in charge. Everything starts and stops with Rachel. Within a few days, this new process completely streamlined everything in our system. Even I was surprised to see how quickly it fell into place. The lesson here is that many times, the only thing holding you back is that you haven’t made the decision to do what needs to be done. Choices are energy.
2. I had the hard conversations. In order to properly build my production company, it means having some difficult conversations with my teammates. Control over decision making is pulled from some people and given to others. But the idea is that everyone on my team now is put in a position to focus on only one thing. We all have been wearing many hats, because the rules were different for some projects than for others. Change is difficult and I empathize with everyone, but I believe my confidence and my clarity of vision made it easy for all of us to see why this needs to happen.
3. I immediately recruited and hired the best content producers and the best writers. This is a big investment on my part, but the foundation of all my success has been great writing. I know this is the right choice and I am thrilled to work with my new teammates. They are all very talented and it’s going to be a game changer.
4. I had to burn the ships. My vision is clear. I know what I want and I know what I have to do to get it. The only thing standing in between me and my dreams is me. I can’t second guess myself and I can’t let the “what ifs” get in my head. We are doing this, and there is no backup plan.
Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear
Miami has been a turning point in my life.
I’m 35. I have a wife and a son and the absolute best team in the business. My team and I are more than capable of executing on the actions we need to take in order to make our dreams a reality.
The only thing left to do is push past the fear.
I fear that people might make fun of me, that I might fail, that others will be angry or upset with me or that I will let people down. I have fear that I will make the wrong choices and everything I’ve worked for will implode. I have fear of losing my money and being broke and not being able to provide for my family.
So I mask my fears by giving myself emotional pressure release valves, but in reality, that only spreads the pressure out in many different places and makes it more stressful to manage.
As such, today marks day one of Stodzy Media. Although not an actual company, Stodzy Media is a metaphorical entity that centralizes everything into one place.
One team. One vision. One objective. Everyone, aiming at the same target.
I feel empowered in a way I’ve never felt before.
It took a ruptured eardrum and a handful of nightmares to come to terms with this, but I am grateful to have learned this lesson and even more grateful that I am able to share it with you.
I’m very excited about where my vision will take us. Most of all, I’m relieved to finally be at peace with my own mind.