IN THE HOSPITAL
These were the entrepreneurial phrases flowing through my head as I lay in a hospital bed in the emergency room.
I had thought I was having a heart attack and now my wife was sitting beside me looking like a mixture of worry and slight frustration.
It wasn’t a surprise why I had ended up here.
An hour earlier I had been heaving over a toilet in our home’s upstairs bathroom, vomiting what were the last drops of liquid in my digestive track.
It was black.
“Bile,” I had thought to myself in between the heaves and involuntary tears I was squeezing out.
“Great. I’m now vomiting bile.”
I had been this sick once before in my life (after an unusual case of salmonella that involved a trip to the ocean and the Alabama Department of Health informing me I had a rare strain never seen before) - and I knew that bile coming through my mouth was a bad sign of the dehydration my body was experiencing.
As I literally crawled to my home office after my less-than-joyful trip to the restroom I clumped into a pile in the middle of the floor.
“If I can just make it through the next few hours I’ll be able to keep something down and in me,” I thought foolishly.
When the chest pains started a few minutes later, accompanied by numbness in my hands and severe pain in my jaw, I knew that maybe the next few hours weren’t going to be as easy as I wanted.
My grandfather had four heart attacks with the final one ending his life just two years prior. His father, my great grandfather, died of heart disease. And my father had his first heart attack at the age of 28…
Despite regularly low blood pressure of 100/60 and a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute, I was not beyond the understanding of what was in my biological makeup.
So as my jaw clenched and my chest tightened on my office floor I suddenly became very aware of what could be happening.
Thirty minutes later later I was being asked by a friendly nurse if I could remove my shirt myself to get an EKG.
As three nurses and a doctor looked at the squiggle of lines being emitted on a small machine the words kept running through my head.
I was snapped out of it when I caught the obvious signs of relief on the medical staff’s faces.
“Your heart appears fine Mr. Way,” said the doctor as he smiled, “but you’re not 100% okay,” he continued as he put his hand on my shoulder. He then went on to explain that my body was severely dehydrated and proceeded to ask me how long I had been sick.
I gave textbook answers.
I told him about the number of times my body had expelled things that day. The fever. The chills. The cramps. My eventual moment of shock on my bedroom floor when I realized I might be in more serious trouble than a “stomach bug”.
“Well it’s good you came in. We’re going to take care of you and get you some liquids and some pain medicine immediately.” The doctor gave me a small squeeze on the shoulder and then started directing different nurses to different duties.
What I left out though from my answers to the doctor is exactly how I had ended up so sick.
I didn’t mention that I’d only slept 6 hours over a four day period, how multiple business clients had asked for extra work over the previous weekend, or how personally my family was going through a very stressful time.
And I didn’t note the irony of the fact that I’d gotten so sick while wearing a hoodie from Startup Drugz which has printed proudly on the front:
9-5 IS FOR THE WEAK
I failed to mention the fact that working beyond the 9-5 had actually made me weak, and my body was reacting in the only way it knew how to make me stop working:
By Making Me Rest
IN MY BUSINESS
The last couple of years have been amazing both personally and professionally.
At my wife’s urging I stepped away from corporate life and career ambitions and started my own business.
Through ups, downs, and countless lessons we’ve had the greatest year of our lives in many ways.
But, like all things, it has come with a cost.
My daily schedule Monday through Friday looked a little something like this:
8 AM - 1 PM Work
1 PM - 2 PM Lunch
2 PM - 5 PM Work
5 PM - 7 or 8 PM Time With Family
7 or 8 PM - 12 or 1 AM Work
Five days a week, week in and week out, with Sunday night usually involving what could be considered a nearly full 7 hour workday at time.
With approximately 50% of my client base on the other side of the world it makes it easy to talk to Europe early in the morning, North Americans during regular business hours, and the Aussies and Kiwis each night.
Despite the hectic schedule though I’ve also taken more off days, small vacations, and enjoyed life more than ever before.
“I live and die by my Google Calendar,” is a phrase which has gone from a somewhat serious jest to an absolute certain fact. So much so that I’ve sent close personal friends to an online scheduling link to book 20 minutes of time with me recently just so we could catch up like regular people.
Social pressure and self induced goals have demanded a stretch of myself, my time, my limits, and my hustle.
Yes, I’ve taken three days off this year just to binge watch Netflix. I have the pleasure of doing so because I do have my own business. But generally TV isn’t my thing at all unless I’m responding to emails and still actually working in the background.
Even when “resting” I’ve still been working.
It’s been a delicate balance of mindfulness and meditation in the mornings to then pushing myself beyond all mental, emotional, and even physical limits to grow each day.
I knew I was pushing myself too hard physically and emotionally.
But the flashy catch phrases of 21st Century entrepreneurs were killing me…
And instead of slowing down, when the clients asked for more, I just gave more.
This is how I ended up sleeping 6 hours over a four day period, ignoring the basics of even eating or drinking sufficiently to care for myself when my immune system gave up and said in true 30 Rock fashion, “Shut it down!”
This is how I ended up surrounded by medical professionals watching the beats of my heart and hoping I was okay.
IN MY LIFE
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the “never give up” kind of spirit.
When I was 21 years old I was making six figures selling insurance, only to get turned around by my mindset and lack of mentorship to leave an amazing career.
I’ve built a handful of businesses over the past dozen years. Some great. Others utter failures. All of them being massive learning experiences.
But I’ve never given up because I grew up poor, and I haven’t wanted that for my kids.
Being financially poor is one thing. But I grew up emotionally poor as well with a mother who was addicted to meth.
Financial desperation in youth can cause someone to grow up before they’re meant to, but not nearly as much as being in emotional desperation.
My parents got divorced before I turned 4 years old. My mother moved from a single mother with a small town job, to a single mother addicted to prescription drugs, then harder drugs. The Christmas of 1994 I remember not seeing her from December 20 - 24 because she was arrested for drug possession and thought it best not to tell family.
My father, a young man with undiagnosed mental illness and a propensity to drink and steal, found himself behind locked bars not long after his divorce. Although I spoke to my dad on his collect calls from prison often as a kid, his letters and “Handmade Hallmark Cards” from Arts and Craft Tuesday’s at the Ionia County Correctional Facility didn’t make up for the fact that I felt alone and without someone to talk to.
My parents taught me by their example what I didn’t want in life.
So as I grew into adulthood I’ve done everything I could to go in the opposite directions.
I’ve followed people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins and Grant Cardone to ensure my life and the lives of my children would be different from my own growing up.
I’ve invested in education most would find unconventional, including incredibly expensive personal development coaching programs, because my dreams and vision for my life are bigger than even I can almost comprehend.
Like most entrepreneurs of the 21st Century, in many ways I’ve tried to live someone else’s hustle.
Working for four days straight over a weekend with only 6 hours of sleep was never part of my dream.
The #dailygrind and #alwayshustling influencers of Instagram would have you believe it’s the best thing ever.
Making thousands of dollars in a single day feels great…
But at what cost?
The cost of health?
The cost of the happiness of spending time alone with your spouse?
I am not Gary Vaynerchuk…
And guess what...
Neither are you.
We were never meant to live someone else’s life.
We were meant to live our own.
Ending up in the hospital helped me realize that I needed to recalibrate my own relationship, business, health, and spiritual goals in life.
It was a blessing.
Yes, vomiting until bile was coming out and then thinking I was having a heart attack on my office floor while wearing a 9-5 IS FOR THE WEAK sweatshirt was a great blessing.
An ironic blessing that I hope other entrepreneurs and “hustlers” in our day don’t have to experience.
WHO ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE FOR?
I’m driven because of my upbringing and because I want my kids to have joy and options that I never had.
But what drives you in your life and business? What is your “WHY”?
Are you living for the people following you on Instagram, or for your parent’s wishes, or even for your spouse’s views of what you should be?
Or are you living the life you want?
Do you hustle for your dreams, or the dreams of someone else?
A couple of days after leaving the hospital I got an email notifying me that a podcast interview I had done a couple of months previously had been released and gone live.
In that interview I actually said something prophetic that I needed to hear as I was recovering sipping Gatorade on my couch.
“Your grind and your hustle need to be your’s. You don’t need to be Gary Vaynerchuk.”
I chuckled as I listened to my own words.
I had started pushing myself beyond my own limits for others, not myself, and it cost.
It cost me a week of health. A week of work. A week of happiness.
But it paid back in huge dividends of lessons learned and priorities reshuffled.
You, me, and every other person trying to make it for themselves for the world should be doing just that:
Making it for themselves.
Not someone else.
And in a world so saturated in comparisons between ourselves and others, it’s important sometimes to step back and examine whose hustle we are truly living.
* I think it's worth noting that I LOVE the company Startup Drugz and think they make real quality items for those who are in business for themselves. They and their awesome sweatshirt are in no way responsible for my prior work habits, and I do indeed still believe that 9-5 is for the weak ;)