A friend who’d studied under Dan Sullivan once told me the way you measure your traveled distance is from where you started– not the horizon. In 2015, my wife & I had to start over from scratch. It is a humbling experience to give everything you have to your dreams, fail publicly & lose it all. Four of my business had to be shut down, I had no money left as I’d reinvested it all in my businesses & education, doubling down every time I was given the chance. There was no more money coming in and I was facing the distinct possibility of losing my house.
My goal out of college had been to start a business as a sandbox to teach myself how to dream again, discover who I was and overcome depression. It was to be a heroic, Viking-style journey; a dream worthy of dreaming. This first required the will to get off the couch, then, to build a ship called “Ego” and finally to sail off through shark-infested waters. But something unexpected happened once I reached those foreign shores: there were others who’d built bigger, faster boats capable of traveling to even farther off lands. Travelers who’d dared to dream even bigger.
My goals changed. I wanted to prove I was capable, one of them, the chosen few who could overcome all odds, through sheer determination, willing to sacrifice everything for my family back at home & our financial freedom (at least this was the story I’d sold myself). So, instead of continuing on my journey of self-discovery, I got to work building a bigger boat, recharted my course and set sail.
When a storm hits, it highlights design flaws. My boat had leaks, it was poorly and quickly built and furthermore, I didn’t know how to man the sails. All came crashing into the rocks. I had marooned my family on an island and was forced to watch as the pieces of my ship came washing into the shore.
There was a board labeled: “good father”, “husband”, “entrepreneur”. Yet another with “man of integrity” and “adventurer” lying on the ground. Who was I if I had no ship? No way to provide? A man whose journey had led his family here? How would I ever arrive at my destination? Why hadn’t I just stayed the course? Life had done for me what I couldn’t do for myself- it had forced me to let go of my ship. I was on the proverbial deserted island, marooned with no rescue in sight. It was one of those Jack Sparrow talk-to-yourself-out-loud moments where, for the first time in my life, I surrendered completely.
“Fine. FINE!”, I said. Not knowing exactly who or what I was speaking to. “You want a go at this?! It’s yours. I’ll be over here, just send me a sign when you’re ready.”
And at that moment, I felt the swing of the pendulum stop. It had reached its apex in the “willpower” direction and began swinging towards it’s opposite: “letting go”. Granted, I was still on an island mind you with a family, three kids and no ship in sight. For a year, we ate only the fish we caught, drank from a lot of coconuts and may have even started talking to volleyballs. And at the one-year mark, we spotted a ship in the distance.
As it pulled up to our island and dropped anchor, I recognized the two faces of two brothers. We’d met in the last port when I’d been working on building myself the bigger boat. They’d told me then I should join them, but I had other plans.
“Matthew! How’ve you been? What are you doing all the way out here?”
I tried to play it cool, “Ah, you know. Things are pretty good, it’s sunny and really not too bad here– as far as deserted islands go!” A quick jab in the ribs from behind reminded me to not screw this one up.
“Whatever happened to your ship?” they asked.
I gestured behind me where I’d built a lean-to out of the remaining boards.
“How about you guys? I said, changing the subject “I see you finally got ole Rocket Referrals seaworthy! Good for you.”
It was just two of them, brothers who didn’t even have a crew, but the ship they’d built had quality craftsmanship & eye for detail I’d never seen before. They told me it was fashioned to be actually capable of adjusting itself and easily scaling to the size of the voyage. What was more, they told me of a place they were going where you could make good money helping others build better ships- just as they had.
Now, whether it was the cramped nature of deserted island or my wife’s running out of ways to cook coconut (she’d invented over 100 recipes!,) I realized, “Hold on a second, I actually know a little bit about boat building, sailing & what causes you to crash into rocks…maybe, this could be the sign I’ve been waiting for!”
“Looks like you fellas could use an extra hand!”
“That would be great!” they said “But, here’s what you need to know. We can’t pay you yet. Honestly, there’s barely enough food for the two of us.”
“Don’t worry about it!” I said “The pay’s not that good on the island anyway. We’ll just fish along the way and share what we eat, pirate-style!”
That was January of 2015. There were days I literally siphoned gas out of my lawnmower to drive into the office. Some days, I’d ask for an advance of $50 on a sale I’d made to prevent the water from getting turned off. But, we landed fish along the way which allowed us to bring on more builders, shipmates & fisherman. We made it to our first destination and helped many people to build better ships and word spread.