Through my own drug use and the selling of drugs, despite that, I kept up pretty good appearances. I managed to make my way through high school, get decent enough grades to get into a college, and went to the University of South Carolina. Within a month of turning eighteen and being in college, I was arrested for felony distribution. They caught me selling marijuana, enough so that I was then a felon from that point on in my life, not the way you want to enter into the world of work and certainly not what my parents would have ever hoped or wanted for me. As a result of that, I thankfully was given another chance and was only suspended from school and went back with something to prove. I did well for a little while but ultimately fell back into old behaviors. By the time I was 26 and out of college, I explored entrepreneurship quite a bit as well as software sales, digital media sales, and had a lot of success. I still didn’t think I was good enough. I always felt I was less than, and no matter what I could do in my life, I wasn’t good enough. I felt empty. I felt this burning hole inside of me, which in some ways motivates me still. I’ve closed that hole tremendously, but there’s still a bit of that that motivates me. A lot of entrepreneurs I talk to and work with share that same feeling of “I’m not good enough and I’m going to prove that I am.” That voice for me came from my father who was an entrepreneur. A very analytical man, a very much left brain and his way of showing me love was with positive intent that he was doing these things. He was always looking to show me the right way to do things. There was always a better, smarter, more sophisticated, effective, efficient way to get things done.
I like to use the example when I was five years old. I’m washing the dishes and I am thrilled. I’m excited. I’m on my little stool. This little brown hair, blue eyed boy, smiling ear to ear, bubbles flying everywhere and dad comes in, tall, skinny, focused, serious look on his face and he says, “Son, that’s awesome. That’s cool what you’re doing. I got to tell you it’s the friction of the brush that gets the food off the plate. You running the water on full blast and using hot water, it’s a waste of money, electricity and energy. To a five-year-old, you can imagine this little brown haired, blue eyed boy falling under the weight of himself. That was a continuing pattern. Despite my dad showing up in lots of meaningful ways in my life and still to this day is my hero, some of those little things that he or my mom did, the community that I grew up in, ultimately led me in the wrong direction. It didn’t set me up for success. It set me up for a life of torture and self-torture more often than not. I was responsible for so much of my own pain, discomfort, and hardship. By the time I turned 26, I found myself on my knees, with a 1911.45 caliber handgun pressed to the side of my temple. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about than others. I still to this day don’t know why I didn’t pull the trigger. I’d like to think it’s when you think of the token saying, “I was meant for bigger things. God and the universe had a plan for me,” but I don’t know. At the end of the day, I don’t know. I’m grateful that I didn’t.
When I hear that the adolescent suicide rate has quadrupled since 1950and the greatest increases are coming in the affluent demographic, I started to pay attention. I became a student of what it is that are happening in these families that are leading all these kids to not be able to deal with uncomfortable emotions. At the end of the day, that’s what it is. I’m not trying to eliminate pain from people’s experience because pain exists everywhere. Looking at the title of your podcast, I am such a believer that the greatest hardship, discomfort, and failures is what gives us our grit. It’s what gives us our edge. It’s what gives us growth and excitement in life. I’m not trying to remove everyone’s pain. I’m trying to teach them a better way to deal with it. How do you take that pain and make it an opportunity versus an end all to be all?
Thank you for sharing the story. It takes courage to share a story. The pain that we all experience at whatever stage in our life, whether it’s great pain or small pain, is a great teacher. It’s hard to see that sometimes. I’m 46, soon to be 47 years old. It’s taken me 40 plus years to understand that. It took going through some challenging things, not nearly what you’ve been through, to understand the role that that plays. At a young age, it’s something you want to run from. I look at it and go, “This is preparing me for something. There’s something here that I need to learn. I’m either exhibiting a behavior that isn’t in alignment with what I’m trying to do or I’m getting prepared for something to come. Either way, I better pay attention.” I didn’t always approach it that way. Particularly for children, it paints something you want to run away from.
It takes time and firsthand experience. Over time, you build up that resilience and that grit. You start to look at problems and challenges differently. You’re saying it took you decades to solidify and own this. One of the patterns that have become so clear and ever present in the high-performing families that I work with all over the world are that they tend to shelter their children. You’ve heard the concept of helicopter parents. I wrote an article, I haven’t put it out yet, on bubble parenting, which we’ve gone even farther. Instead of hovering over the kids and trying to protect them, “Let’s literally insulate them from having to experience discomfort. That will allow them to get into college. That will allow them to get good grades. That’ll allow them to be successful and happy. If I protect them, that’s what will allow them to experience those things.”