It’s 2006. I've developed a pretty good regional reputation helping entrepreneurs who have become trapped by their business, to get un-trapped and then scale - but my wife’s sudden illness has blindsided me.
I can't function. I’m falling apart. All because inexplicably, immaturely, and quite stupidly I failed to follow my own (excellent) advice about building a business that works for you.
My wife is in severe pain and can't get out of bed.
We’re broke and about to lose our home. The stress is unbearable.
Growing up was turbulent. Dad made his fortune from real estate and white-collar crime. Yes, you read that correctly.
One night I awoke to the sound of bullets hitting our house. A business associate had sent someone to kill my Dad. Although he escaped, he later lost his fortune, remade it, and lost it again. And then the law caught up with my father. This is why I can tell you what it’s like to visit your father in jail.
And just for fun, I also had a ringside seat as my mother and stepfather built and lost a fortune in business that was at least legal and then saw them fight off creditors in bankruptcy court. In case you’re keeping score, this was all before the age of 25 by which time I’d lived at no less than 15 different home addresses.
Maybe it was the business my father was in or the way he lived his life. Or maybe it was the way my mother and stepfather lived theirs. Or maybe it was all the moving around. But no matter what the cause, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. One thing I can tell you for certain, I leaned pretty heavily on my superpower to survive all those turbulent years.
My superpower is clarification. I’ve been doing this my whole life without even realizing what it would someday do for me. As a kid, I'd sit at the dining table listening to my parents' conversations and try to help them avoid an argument when he stopped meaning him, and she stopped meaning her and pretty soon they were having two totally disconnected conversations. Sometimes they’d laugh and give me a compliment for catching the misunderstanding. Other times I’d be told to “mind your own business.” I still remember how helpless it felt having to swallow my words while the train wreck slowly unfolded in front of me - I learned to hide my superpower.
Fast forward to 2006. That’s the year I married my wife. It’s also the year she got sick. One minute life was great. So great. The next minute Ale got so sick she lost 25% of her body weight over 18 agonizing months.
Despite preaching and teaching the virtues of building a sustainable business that works for you even when you’re not working, I’d stupidly failed to follow my own (excellent) advice. I know, it was really, really stupid of me.
My so-called business was really just me working from the dining room table. I was making a lot of money, but there were no systems. There were no procedures. There was no scale. And so, within weeks of stepping away to begin nursing Ale back to health, quite predictably, everything fell apart.
We quickly burned through our savings and then went the credit. Despite selling everything of value, we lost our home to foreclosure. It was humiliating.
In 2007, I pivoted into info products while doing whatever consulting jobs I could find to pay the bills.
Although money was tight, the great blessing of the year was Ale's health improved. Which was a double blessing because she was able to begin painting again and believe it or not, that’s how we survived. By selling her paintings.
By 2011, we’d sold all the paintings and Ale couldn’t keep up with demand- turns out the same marketing and sales strategies I’d been teaching entrepreneurs to use to build multimillion-dollar businesses worked well for selling paintings, too.
My business was finally gaining some momentum, and Ale made a tough decision I’ll always be grateful for, to postpone her art career and join me in the business. But she had one SERIOUS condition: “Take All Your Excuses And Shove Them Up Your Ass.”
The next year I allowed myself NO excuses and revenues shot up to one million dollars.
We celebrated by shopping for new furniture, and at the store, my wife scribbled me a note:
"Take all your excuses, and shove them up your ass – TAYE ASTUYA!"
That became our rallying cry. That also became the name of our son.
Today, my business works for me. I only work in it about 90 days a year, and we're well into the 8 figures.
All because I stopped making excuses.