We were sitting in the car in front of our apartment when my wife told me we were drowning.
It was a Thursday and I had come home early as I did on Thursdays every week in order to pick up my son from his occupational therapy appointment downtown. A small concession for the seven-day-per-week work schedule I had maintained at that time.
We had a very simple system up to that point. I did my best to bring in income. She did her best to allocate that income in a sensible way.
But nearly three years into starting a new business those two points weren’t satisfying each other. In fact they had grown further apart. Any money we had saved and earned from selling our apartment was rapidly fading.
We were drowning.
Part of the problem is neither of us care about money all that much. Not that we are oblivious to the power of money, but there are people out there (and perhaps some of you who are reading this) that are very driven or even consumed by financial gain. That’s not us. So we never really put a huge effort into managing our finances. If we could pay the bills and have a decent sense of security, that was enough for us.
Unfortunately, that ability and safety were rapidly depleting.
The second issue was more straightforward, I simply wasn’t bringing home enough money.
The big red flag was when my wife, always someone who has prioritized relationships with oneself and with others over cash said something along the lines of:
“We need to do whatever it takes. Even if that means you can’t come home early on Thursdays. We need to figure this out. Quickly.”
As the early Summer storm clouds rolled in and big drops of rain started hitting the windshield I was panicked.
I hadn’t been able to figure this out over the past three years. What made me think I could figure this out now?
When an old buddy from my advertising days couldn’t find work as an editor, he had picked up some part time work as a driver for FedEx. I knew that I couldn’t follow that route and maintain my commitments at the gym. The hours didn’t work.
But I did have the idea that I could work a few overnight shifts per week at a UPS or FedEx warehouse loading trucks. I mean, I do all this working out. Might as well put my muscles to good use. Plus my wife wouldn’t need the car to take my son to school at night so I could solve my commuting issue that way.
So I silently searched the internet to see how I could apply for the gig.
(Small aside: I’ve never admitted this to anyone before. This is my first time “speaking” about any of this.)
Lo and behold this was a position that did exist! But when I did the math on the time and money it would take to get to the job, how much I’d get paid and, probably most importantly, the fact that I’d likely die during the drive due to lack of sleep, I scrapped the idea entirely.
Back to the drawing board.
I’d love for this story to end with me telling you that I am typing this from a yacht in the Caribbean as I am seafaring between the three private islands I now own but I think most of you know that isn’t the case.
We still struggled for years after that front seat conversation in the car that we still own to this day. Racking up debt and going through many more rough patches along the way (hello global pandemic when you are in an in-person service business!).
And while I can’t say that we are flush, I can say that things are much better than they were back then. So, if you find yourself like I did, putting in what felt like a dedicated effort without getting what you need out of it, I’d like to share the few things that I found worked for me and that I wish I knew or implemented way sooner.
(Small caveats. This is not financial advice. I’m not qualified to dole that out. Secondly, I’d recommend taking financial (or, really, most) advice from someone who has already done the thing that you want to do. For most of you this is a place to start, not the thing that is going to get you where you want to go).
Lose The Scarcity Mindset
When you feel like you don’t have enough, there is a tendency to feel like enough doesn’t exist. That the deck is stacked against you and there aren’t enough people out there who believe in your vision and believe in you.
You need to shake this as soon as possible. There is no progress without belief. It is the number one essential thing that you must have to improve yourself and your situation. This is not only true for your career or your finances but also for your fitness (or anything else you want to accomplish).
That famous axiom of “whether you believe you can or you believe you can not, you are correct” really holds water here.
It’s a difficult thing when you are not coming from a place of power or you haven’t proven to yourself that you can actually come through and deliver, but you need to build your self confidence, pronto! So give yourself a pep talk and have some belief. You are a special person who can contribute to the world.
Sorry if that was some overly corny shit.
Invest In Yourself
This is very difficult to do when you already feel like resources are limited. But developing new skills and making yourself more valuable is essential to your success.
When Kyle and I were totally stuck we spent money we didn’t have on a gym business coach that we weren’t sure would work. It was expensive. It was terrifying. It was probably the main reason we are still in business and attempting to rapidly expand.
Trade your time. Borrow money and invest in yourself. Identify the thing you are lacking to get you from point A to point B, find the person who knows and pay for the answer. It’s the fastest way to get over the hump.
It should feel scary, That’s how you’ll know it works.
Create A Series Of Practices
This could be a journal or a spreadsheet or a daily walk or whatever works for you. But you need a way of revisiting your overarching goal every day and the things that are in your control that you can do that will most likely bring about that outcome.
The more you do this, the more you will learn exactly what practices lead to those outcomes. Here’s an easy example.
You need to add five more clients to your business. In the beginning, you have no idea how to do this but you figure, at the very least, you need to contact people who could, maybe, possibly, be a good fit for you. So, on day one, you DM five people on Instagram and you get no response. The next day, you DM 10 and one person gets back to you but it isn’t the right time for them. You keep going through this process (honing your writing and communication skills in the process) and you finally realize that you can get one client for every fifty messages you send.
Now, when you need to add five clients, you know that you need to reach out to 250 people.
Six months later, when you need to add ten clients, you write down the goal (I need 10 more clients) and the action (need to make 100 contacts per day for the next 5 days) because you know the faster you contact 500 people, the faster you will get the ten.
If this sounds too simple chances are you are someone who really likes to make things complicated.
Save It For Later
I am someone who is driven by a sense of security. Some people love the thrill of the unknown. I love knowing, more or less, what tomorrow is going to look like.
So, if you are like me, you can feed that need for security by making sure that you are squirreling away something at the end of each week.
Again, this is really tough if you’re just squeaking by. But even if you are making $10 and can set aside a nickel, I highly recommend that you do so.
Because it will help you start to prove all of the above to yourself. That you don’t need to live in scarcity. That you do have the resources to invest in yourself. That the practices that you’ve put in place are working. That you are secure.
So the next time the rain drops start to hit the windshield you can take a deep breath and honestly convince yourself that there is a way out.
That you don’t have to drown.