I’ve always wanted to be Superman.
Not necessarily in the “I want to look like a superhero” sense, but in the sense that I try to be all things to all people.
Forever, I’ve had an issue with wanting to “fit in”. Truth be told, I suffer from “imposter syndrome”. I feel insecure and inadequate in almost everything I do.
It’s this obsession, this constant feeling of somebody being “on my heels” that has allowed me to be successful in my online business.
But even the most “alpha” of the alphas have those thoughts that keep them up at night, though. Those small, nagging doubts that cloud your consciousness while the world sleeps and all you have is your inner demons to battle.
I’ve always had a compelling personality. My friends referred to me as the “man of extremes” in high school due to my obsessions. I’ve always been really “into” things, and did “life” large.
I was the loudest.
I was the craziest.
I was the funniest.
I was the most vocal.
I was the <insert adjective>-est of pretty much everything.
I was the………………….most “in your face” guy, so to speak.
Which always comes full circle, and boils down to the fact that I’ve always felt like I have something to prove.
I need to “keep pushing” and “stay busy” or else someone else will take my place.
I have gotten in trouble for my big mouth on many occasions. My brash honesty has always been my way of captivating an audience. It’s been a gift and a curse for my entire life. Often, more curse than gift, as I could fill a book with the number of groundings, reprimands, and verbal lashings from my superiors I’ve received.
Until this little blogging experiment got under way, that is.
Oddly enough, the one thing I could never hold back – my opinions and my thoughts – has turned into a successful endeavor.
A few years back, I became passionate about fitness. (There’s that obsession again…….)
And “obsession” doesn’t even begin to explain the desire I had to learn all things fitness.
It came at a price.
I would be naive to not acknowledge that the price of my obsession often had a negative impact on those who care about me.
Sure, on the surface, it began as a burning desire to be “ripped”. Not for the adulation, or the glory, really. Not even for my wife. She actually prefers more meat on my bones. Apparently, when you have 7% body fat, you don’t have as much…………”cushion” and your…………hip bones can become razor sharp. If you catch my drift.
(There I go running my big mouth again………)
The desire to transform came from within. To do something that nobody else had ever done (that I knew personally, anyways).
I did inherently want to transform for “shock value”. So others would say “holy crap, did you see what Helmes looks like now”? Call it vanity, call it selfishness, call it whatever the hell you want to call it.
I simply call it insecurity. I need to own this. The reason many get “ripped”, ultimately, is that they feel inadequate in other areas, and they try to find control in their physical selves.
They’re looking for something in their life that they don’t have.
My taking the “red pill” in the world of evidence based fitness wasn’t a surface exercise.
Same as anyone else, my desire to control the physical came from my inability to have full control over other aspects of my life.
One of my biggest sources of insecurity is from my primary career as a middle school teacher.
I love teaching. Well, at times I love teaching. Knowing you are making an impact, and seeing your former students doing well and remembering you is a satisfying feeling.
Teaching is something that comes naturally to me. I’ve always had the gift of being able to “connect” with kids.
Perhaps that’s because I’ve been in their shoes, loathing the authoritarian figures in front of them.
I never gave a shit about my own teachers’ knowledge.
I simply wanted them to treat me as a human.
Often times teachers don’t do that.
The ability to treat “kids” as “people” will take you a long way in the profession.
But even as I instinctively always knew I would be “good” at teaching, I was shocked when in my first year, about a month into teaching, the administration started showering me with praise, saying I was a “natural” in the classroom.
It’s true that I never really suffered from the “first year problems” many teachers faced. I handled parents well. I was strict, but fair. I graded papers on time. I was organized.
But I was still surprised when I received good reviews and evaluations. There was always the insecurity – rearing its ugly head.
The reason teaching caused me insecurity is because its pay was out of my control.
No matter what I did, my direct efforts would not translate into actual dollars and cents.
Yeah, it’s great to be philanthropic and say you’re doing it “for the kids”.
But it always came down to my own life.
I would be lying didn’t admit one of the qualities that drew me to Kate (my wife) was the fact that she was intelligent.
As in really damn intelligent.
She was the co-valedictorian of a class of roughly 1,500 kids. Graduated high school without ever receiving an A-. With a full load of A.P. classes to boot.
She graduated from Michigan with an engineering degree a few years later.
Needless to say, her salary easily doubled mine – for a very long time.
Kate married me for my loud, obnoxious, rough-around-the-edges, in your face personality.
It sure as hell wasn’t for my potential earnings as an educator.
To Kate’s credit, she never said a single word about my (lack of) earning, though.
At times, I would have to borrow money from her (we are both anal about our finances, and have different systems – a joint account would never work). She always obliged without reservation. She paid the lion’s share of the bills. It was a necessity – I simply didn’t make enough scratch to keep up with her.
Feminism be damned, it was emasculating to ask your wife to pay for dinner for the third time in a week.
I worked side jobs often to try to earn more.
I washed windows during the summer.
I substituted for absent teachers during my planning period.
I arrived at school early and stayed late for various, paid positions.
I coached high school baseball.
I worked through lunch to earn a few bucks doing supervision duties.
But those endeavors barely provided me with a bit of extra beer money. Sure, it helped, but it wasn’t substantial.
Eventually, I had to change my mode of thinking. I was being limited by the number of hours in the day. Every “side gig” I took on had an hourly wage. An hourly wage is nice, but it pretty much says “this is what you will receive, no matter how well you do this job”.
The compensation of an educator is 100% determined by factors beyond your control. Union contracts, the state legislature, the local school board………….I didn’t have many options to earn if education was my chosen career.
I considered administration at one point in time.
But the tens of thousands of dollars to get my administrator’s certificate for double the hours and a 25% raise made me rethink that one really fast.
Even as a principal, you are not in control of your own earnings.
The reality is……..when you have a boss, you will never be paid your fair market value.
If everyone was paid their fair, market value, the business would not be profitable.
The only people who are paid their fair, market value are the people who create the products which are brought to market.
So, this was the angle I decided to take – I decided to bring a product to market that I believed people wanted.
I wanted to make fitness accessible. Simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple.
I had spent years on crappy protocols, woo-woo diets, and reading every Yahoo Health article known to man.
None of it worked.
It wasn’t until I became a “student of the game” and started closely examining the evidence-based approaches of those who came before me that I was able to master myself physically.
And I wanted to help others through the same struggle I had been through.
My fitness obsession turned into quite a nice piece of side change. For that I am eternally grateful. To my clients, my friends, and my family who have supported me. And for all those people on social media that believe in what I’ve been doing.
Personal success comes with a dark side.
It’s a side that most people never talk about.
If we admit our deep down feelings, we will “break character”.
We must be infallible; we must be “gods of the internet”.
Who wants to work with a “beta”?
All you ever see is me posting selfies of my abs, client transformation pictures, and stories about my successes.
You hear me talk about how I “grind” and admire my work ethic.
I do work my ass off, my family will vouch for that.
My daughters will tell you of all the times they woke up at 6:15 am (as kids tend to do) and I barked at them to go back to sleep. I still had a half-hour’s worth of work to finish before I left for my “other work”.
Leave me alone, Daddy’s working.
My wife will tell you of all the times she took the girls out of the house and took them shopping as I sat at my desk on a Sunday, answering emails.
Leave me alone, Daddy’s working.
My Father-In-Law will tell you of all the times we had to leave Sunday dinners early because I had to respond to sales emails before the work week began.
Leave me alone, Daddy’s working.
My girls will tell you of all the times I’ve lost my cool over trivial nonsense.
When a 6’8″, 230 pound man screams at the top of his lungs to a 5-year old girl, you wonder how that man could be such a monster.
It’s embarrassing to the core, but I have a pretty good idea of how it can get to that point.
As I stated, there is a dark side to success, being “busy”, and trying to be everything to everyone.
The stress of teaching and running an ever-expanding side business simultaneously isn’t pedestrian.
I can’t count the number of times my girls have been begging me for their attention……..and I flat out have been rude and mean to them.
It hurts to admit that. It hurts greatly.
No, girls, I can’t play right now, I have to get tomorrow’s article up on the site.
No, girls, I won’t watch a movie with you, I have to figure out why my emails aren’t coming through fast enough.
No, girls……….I can’t……….I won’t…………I don’t have time……….I have to get this done.
Sadly, in my quest to be Superman, I have neglected the only reason I ever even started this business.
My family. My wife. And my children.
The past few summers, I’ve focused my attention on my business 100%. With only one career to attend to, I’ve been able to spend more time doing what really matters.
I’ve been able to go to swim lessons, to stay up late and make forts in the living room, and to play at the beach without being stressed to “get shit done”.
More like Hashtag “letting life pass you by”.
I’ve spoken about the immense stress of being “everything to everyone” to my Doctor at yearly checkups for the past few years.
He always offered the standard advice: Meditate. Read. Log off. Eat right. Exercise.
Right………….as if I had the time required to read a book.
Funny shit, Doc, you get to go home at 5 in your Mercedes and relax with your family. When I am done with my work, I work. And after that, I work some more.
I have not watched a single television show, during the school year, on a weekday night, in two-and-one-half years.
Not that I crave watching television…………it was the simple fact that there was no free time.
My own insecurities – and obsessions – wouldn’t allow me to “rest”.
If you “rest”, you’ll never be “the best”. Everything you built could be taken from you.
Hell, I’ve considered putting an empty milk jug by my computer so I didn’t have to waste time going to the bathroom to pee.
When you work from 5 am until 10 pm, relentlessly, every day, it’s really difficult to do what you’re “supposed to do” – which is unplug, relax, and take some time to yourself.
Especially when you’re finally providing for your family the way you’ve always dreamed you could.
If you spend years making chump change, and all of a sudden, you’re a success, everything begins to feel like a house of cards. It’s existential. It’s surreal. It’s elating, sure, but it makes you truly question what’s happening.
I once saw an interview with Eminem after his masterpiece “The Marshall Mathers LP” came out.
I knew I was a good rapper.
I knew I would have success one day.
I knew my songs were good.
But when that album dropped, I sold two million copies – in one week.
I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
I couldn’t help but think………“Holy shit, am I a fad?”
And I kept waiting for it to all be taken away from me.
This is exactly how it feels when you hit the infamous “tipping point” that is talked about so frequently.
It’s awesome, it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, and it makes you question yourself in ways you never even pondered.
You decide to “up the ante”. To write more, to make more videos, to make more podcasts, to grind, grind, grind, grind – you’ve “made it” and hit the “tipping point”. You need to capitalize on this momentum……….
I’ve been able to handle this tipping point well. Some intelligent and fantastic advisers have been behind the scenes, helping me grapple with such a huge workload.
They have enabled me to go from playing “catch up” to understanding and implementing a business system. This has been a major factor in my ability to release some of the stress that has been building up over the years.
Those men know who they are – for now, they will remain anonymous, as they are both “behind the scenes” guys. If they give me the go-ahead, I will make them public. They each have helped me expand my business in ways I never thought possible, and are worth every cent I’ve given them.
Without “systems” in place, two careers would have been impossible to juggle.
And even with those “systems” in place, it can be a nightmare at times.
With expansion comes more headaches. Yes, these are First World Problems, but I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to focus 100% of my attention on one thing.
The internal “switch” I’ve had to maintain over the last 3 years has been worn down to the nub.
Last spring, when the principal at our school handed me my schedule for this upcoming school year, I looked at it with trepidation.
All new classes. Honors classes. Advanced classes. Helicopter parents.
New grade level. New hallway. New classroom. New curriculum.
I instantly began to think about how I could create a method of doing everything.
I couldn’t let go of a revenue stream – and a career – that was “safe”.
I couldn’t trade “comfort and stability” for “risk and huge upside”.
What if I did…………and I failed?
What if the success stopped? What if my clients all left me? Others are better than me. Smarter than me. More innovative than me. More tech-savvy than me.
But dude, you’re crushing it, right? That’s what I keep hearing.
Insecurity can drive a man damn near insane, I tell you.
I told myself I could do both – teach and coach online – for another year.
I’m Superman, right? Superman can do anything.
I can handle it. I just need a new “system”. A new method of optimization. A new schedule.
I’ve read “The 4-Hour Workweek”. Isn’t that supposed to give me a blueprint to doing more with less time?
As the weeks of the summer waned, the stress level began to rise along with the calendar dates.
I found the “stressed out me” coming alive. Small things began setting me off. I would scream at my girls over nothing. Over stupid, kid stuff.
I would trek back into the “dark place” and feel the guilt, the anxiety, and the inadequacy that’s always been present behind the scenes.
I discussed these issues with my doctor once more last week.
He suggested the unthinkable: To take time off of teaching.
This year, as the kids walk through the halls of my classroom, there will be a substitute teacher in my place.
I will be taking medical leave for the next few months to re-evaluate my life. To set my priorities straight. To see how much of a change I feel in my own psychology.
In reality, I’m happy my Doctor ordered me to take a step back. I’m not totally sure I would have ever done this on my own. He gave me my “out”, in a way. He made it possible to begin to start taking stock of my life, and to realize what should be important to me.
Even if I have a hard time making those realizations on my own.
I am looking forward to testing the waters of self-employment for a few months. If all goes well, this could be permanent.
But there are a few things I know.
- I know I will take full advantage of the extra flexibility this change will provide me.
- I will turn off my computer before my daughters come home from school.
- I will smile at them, and make them dinner.
- I will ask them about their day, and actually listen to what they say without going through my “other responsibilities” in my head.
- I will bring them lunch at their school, and make silly faces to their friends. 6-year olds love that shit.
- I will go out to eat with my wife. That’s something I haven’t been able to do during the school year for 12 years now.
- I will go to my daughters’ dance classes, their soccer practices, and their parent-teacher conferences, without stressing about needing to get home and do “more work”.
In short, I will try to enjoy life more.
And eat some of the “fruit” from this “tree” that I’ve grown.
I often read those cheesy “regrets from people on their deathbeds” click-bait articles. Hearing the advice people have seconds before they breathe their last breath can give you insight on how to live your own life.
Nearly every single one has the same advice:
Enjoy your time here on earth.
That’s some pretty damn good advice.
Enjoy your time here on earth.
I think I will do just that.
Because it will certainly go faster than I think.