I still remember waking up with an empty liter bottle of vodka on the floor next to me. A week of binge drinking had finally taken it’s toll. With my mind and spirit reeling in a state of chaos, I thought to myself. “What is the point of going on…”
After I came home from seven months fighting in Iraq with the US Marines, I was diagnosed with PTSD by the Veteran Affairs Administration. The trut,h however, is that I didn’t do anything special in the war. I know veterans who have suffered a lot more and done a lot more than I have. That made me feel even worse about the choices I made that led me to the brink of suicide. In that moment, I knew something needed to change.
To heal my brain, I began studying neuroscience, psychology and spirituality. Initially, I just wanted a roadmap out of the abyss. But in that three-year journey, I began a greater quest to figure out how we can all live happier and more meaningful lives. That search led me to the concept of Fearvana. I came to learn that the path to success, happiness and even enlightenment is not to escape our fears, but embrace them, for if we don’t seek out a worthy struggle, struggle will find us anyway. The greatest gift in life is knowing what that worthy struggle is and taking consistent action toward it.
I found peace by consuming myself with a new war. My mission became teaching others what I had learned. I then built a global business helping people find their worthy struggle, learn how to smile in the face of it and ultimately live a limitless lifestyle. Here are six tips I learned about building a successful business as a veteran entrepreneur:
1. Reframe and use your pain.
Among other things, I struggled with survivors guilt after the war. In my research, I learned there are no “negative” emotions, there are only emotions and it’s up to us to choose what we do with them. So I taught myself to find value in my guilt.
Today I have a picture of my friend who died in Iraq up on my wall with the words “This should have been you, earn this life.” Instead of fighting my guilt, I harnessed it. I told myself since I am still alive, let me do something meaningful with this life and honor my friend. That helped me sober up and focus on giving value to the world. Guilt is now my greatest ally.
Pain of any kind, including our so-called “negative” emotions, can be a very effective motivator for action, but it’s up to us to reframe it and leverage it as a force for good. As Sir Richard Branson says “It is important not to fear fear, but to harness it — use it as fuel to take your business to the next level. After all, fear is energy.”
2. “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” – General Patton
It’s scary bringing something out to the world, whether it be a product or service, so it’s easy to get paralyzed by perfectionism. In Iraq, we didn’t have that luxury. We had to be ready to act, even if the plan wasn’t perfect.
While building my business, it took me a little while to channel fear into imperfect action, as we did in the Marines. I spent my fair share of time procrastinating and delaying a project because I felt it wasn’t “ready” yet.
Ultimately though, I realized that the greatest lessons lie in the doing. We learned more on the ground in Iraq than we did while preparing for the war. Consuming knowledge is important, but in the end, creation is a far greater teacher than consumption. As entrepreneur Marie Forleo says, “clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”