It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Thanks for following along after all this time! May 8th, 10 days from the writing of this post, marks the one year anniversary of when I stepped off on the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve been getting my life back in order. I’m working out at MKT CrossFit and I’m going to coach some classes and do personal training there starting in May. I’m working on a documentary modeled after Super Size Me. But instead of eating McDonald’s I’ve been floating in a sensory deprivation tank for 90 minutes everyday for 30 days. In mid May part one of my Appalachian Trail documentary will be released on YouTube – I’ll post a link here when that goes live.
So like I said earlier I’m getting back into personal training. I’ve been playing video games in the evening and updating Healthy Gamer regularly with new videos. What’s interesting is that this is pretty much the same path that I started off on back in 2012. In 2012 I had just graduated with my accounting degree and was trying to figure out the next step. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I just knew that being a CPA was not for me. It was that summer that I started The Healthy Gamer. I went on to get my personal training certificate and I was fully intent on working part-time as a personal trainer while I continued to play video games and produce videos and articles on Healthy Gamer.
But somewhere along the way I got sucked up into the whole start-up/entrepreneurship culture. It seemed like everyone around me was raising big capital and going on to have massive success, and I didn’t want to miss that boat. My attention shifted from the original plan to work part-time as a personal trainer and build up Healthy Gamer to let’s build up a big company and become one of these people that the magazines write about.
I started to think of being a personal trainer as “just” being a personal trainer. I started to think of Healthy Gamer as “just” a YouTube channel. I berated myself each time I loaded up a video game because I thought I was wasting precious time. Time that should be spent building the next billion dollar start-up. If you believe the magazines the road to success it paved with 100 hour work-weeks and copious amounts of caffeine.
Speaking of caffeine… at the height of this start-up craziness I was drinking 7-8 cups of coffee a day. I just had this notion that I had to do more, more, more. Because I kept comparing myself to these success stories of unicorn companies founded by people in their mid 20s.
I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Here I was, 28 years old, barely scraping enough to get by month-to-month, without one truly successful business under my belt. I was way behind the curve. Or so I thought. So I better work extra hard. Drink more caffeine. Try to take on more work.
It was crazy! Truly insane. I had completely lost sight of why I was doing any of this. I was neglecting my physical health. I was neglecting relationships. I was neglecting friends. Why? Why was I doing any of this? I never stopped to ask myself that question. The only constant thought I can remember from that period of my life was a overwhelming anxiety that said I needed to work harder, that I needed to work faster, that I needed to do more. That if I could make a bunch of money then everything would be okay. Then I would be okay. Then somehow I would be worthy of love, and admiration, and respect.
The hard work did pay off to some extent. We found investors for our start-up and we paid a lawyer to write up the convertible note. Funny aside: when we did our taxes for the company the only person that really got paid was the lawyer.
We were about to get the investment we needed to really grow the company but I was burnt out. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank. Even with 8 cups of coffee a day I couldn’t muster up the slightest bit of energy to do anything productive. I finally had to admit to myself that this was unsustainable. And if I kept moving forward I was very likely looking at an early death due to stress related illnesses. I have several patches of gray hair on my head to prove it.
During this time my partners had some job changes and more of the responsibility of the company shifted to my shoulders. I had to decide whether to continue to push it or walk away. Ultimately I decided to walk away. For all that stress, and pain, and toil I got a buyout check for $50. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. But I had nothing left. I was a burned out husk of my former self. There was no spark of life left inside. What’s the point of making money if you’re already dead?
Permission to be
You probably know the rest of the story already. I walked away from the company and hiked the Appalachian Trail.
During my float yesterday I realized that I’d gone back to my starting point. Back to the original plan of personal training part time while building up Healthy Gamer.
I think my 205 days spent hiking the Appalachian Trail really taught me that it’s okay to just be. I don’t need to be anything. I can just be. I don’t need television, magazines, or an Inc. 500 list to define success for me. I need to answer that question for myself. Who am I? What makes me happy? Why am I alive? What’s my purpose?
I really love this quote from Earl Nightingale in regards to success.
“A success is the school teacher who is teaching because that’s what he or she wants to do. A success is the entrepreneur who start his own company because that was his dream and that’s what he wanted to do. A success is the salesperson who wants to become the best salesperson in his or her company and sets forth on the pursuit of that goal.
A success is anyone who is realizing a worthy predetermined ideal, because that’s what he or she decided to do … deliberately. But only one out of 20 does that! The rest are ‘failures.'”
I was a failure because I had not deliberately decided my own life. I had let the influence of our culture dictate to me how I should live. What goals I should pursue. What I should value.
This clarity and this freedom to be is what has allowed me to come back to the starting point. To come back to personal training and Healthy Gamer. I started Healthy Gamer because I love fitness and I love video games. And with Healthy Gamer I’m able to directly impact the lives of thousands of gamers all across the globe. Just this morning I got a comment from a viewer that said he’s lost 8kg in the last 3 months because of my workouts. That’s why I started training people. Because fitness truly can change lives. And I love being able to share my experience and help others find happiness, and confidence, and fulfillment.
Now that I’ve stopped comparing myself to another person’s idea of success I’m not “just” a personal trainer. I’m not “just” a YouTuber. I am me. I am doing what makes me happy. And the interesting distinction is that I think I will find more material success following this route then I ever could have previously.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I think one of the most important steps we can take toward lasting happiness is to give ourselves permission to be who we are. Be you. You are whole, and perfect, and worthy of love and respect. Right now. This second.