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Posted on January 23, 2013 ยท Posted in Leadership

A year ago today, my life was completely different.

In January 2012, I was winding down a successful year of employment at Fahrenheit Marketing and looking forward to a new opportunity managing SEO for the online coupon company 58Phases. I had an awesome apartment in downtown Austin and for the first time in my life, I believed that I was truly happy.

Then in a span of 8 months, I lost it all.

The Wrong Perspective

For the first 27 years of my life, I believed success to be a combination of status and wealth and every morning that I awoke on the sixth floor of my apartment building and admired the light breaking over the dark streets of the Warehouse District, I felt I had truly made it. Growing up in an environment where fast food was a luxury item and money was tight, I had always envied people that had the nicest, latest and greatest things because the truth is: You always want what you can’t have.

For the first time in my life I had a real apartment. I had a place that I was only too proud and too eager to discuss. When I would meet up with friends, all I could seem to talk about was my new apartment, my new furniture and all the advantages of living downtown. When I would talk to friends in other cities I’d invite them over to stay as a way of letting them know that I had indeed made it.

I really began to believe that I had crossed some kind of social threshold that had transformed me into a real, legitimate person. I began to think ahead about the next upgrades in my life … maybe an expensive watch, a nice Benz or a whole new wardrobe of designer only threads to match my Adidas collection. It sounds really fake and superficial but at the time, that was how I measured my worth and sense of being because I didn’t have the courage to see myself as being worth more than what I had.

I was spending every dime I made because at the time I could afford to throw my money away. There was no sense of financial management because I thought the money would continue to roll in forever. I was clearly drunk on success and I never expected to fall so far over the next few months.

I Know Everything, I Know Nothing

Confidence in your ability to perform is incredibly important but as you gain confidence in your abilities, you lose a certain level of finesse. As Kimi Raikonnen put it earlier this year “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.”

My failure was the result of believing that the steps I had taken to achieve previous success was going to translate into my new role and it just didn’t work out the way I had planned. I didn’t push myself or my organization with the level of urgency and authority that was needed and six months later I was out of a job.

Failure stings. It hurts worse than any feeling you can imagine especially when your arrival is heralded with high expectations. People were counting on me to deliver but instead I fell flat on my face. I tried to convince myself there was nothing I could have done and that my failure was due to issues beyond my control but excuses don’t solve anything, they just linger.


In the back of my mind, I knew this was going to change everything but I still kept a positive attitude on the outside. I applied to a number of marketing positions but no one was offering a salary that was going to cover my $2,000/month rent and leave me with spending money.

Thankfully I was offered a position in Dallas with Hilton Worldwide but that would mean leaving 9 years of friends, connections and all the favorite places I liked to frequent. I was grateful for the opportunity but depressed about the prospect of change.

To make things even worse, I developed pneumonia and spent the last two weeks in town, feeling miserable. I lost a lot of weight and most of it was muscle mass that I had put on over the past few months. I looked in the mirror and saw someone who was a failure in a number of facets of life and this was honestly the lowest point for me.

Moving to Dallas was difficult because each thing that was packed into the U-Haul seemed to taunt me in its own way. As I got on 35 and began to drive north, I distinctly remember saying, “I really fucked this up.”

The new apartment in Richardson was a tiny, cramped space with a view of an empty field and garbage bins. I hadn’t seen it before moving and was sorely disappointed when I walked in. I spent September and October feeling nothing but anger. Rather than go out and try to explore Dallas, I spent my days telling anyone who would listen how much the city sucked and made a point to mention all of the city’s flaws and how it was nothing like Austin.

I was miserable and I made sure that people knew it because I had no other way to express my deep personal frustration.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Anger is a funny thing though. You either let it get the best of you and let it control you or you can shape it into something else. I began to use my anger as a tool to motivate myself. If I was mad at something I would remind myself that I was solely responsible for my situation and that if I wanted to change, I needed to work to make it happen.

With that in mind, I began the slow process of rebuilding my shattered confidence and physical form that had slipped into disarray. I set goals for the first time in my life and now I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

I still have a long way to go and there are many things in my life that I’m still not happy about but now I feel like I have finally found some peace along the way.

One Year Later

I had honestly forgotten about this post but as I sit here reading it a year after it was published, the emotions and energy I felt when typing it are still there. To be honest I still think about the what-ifs that led me to Dallas and sometimes I imagine myself in a parallel universe with a completely different life.

I spent the last year working hard in all areas of my life because I want to return to the type of life I had. Not in the sense of waste and status but more in the sense of a life that I’m living on my own terms with the freedom to go in whatever direction I should choose. It’s not easy but the path has been far more rewarding than I ever imagined.