Eight Years Ago I Stepped Away From the Life I Knew

Eight years ago, I stepped away from the life I knew in order to find one that I had only dreamed of, by moving into a mobile home in South Dakota.

I was living outside of Philadelphia in the small town of West Chester, which sits within the most affluent county in Pennsylvania.

I moved to West Chester when I was 19 to be near the woman I loved. A beautiful relationship that lasted many years. Eventually we went our own ways.

I lived in West Chester for 15 years – by far the longest I had lived anywhere in my life. The second longest was Chaparral, New Mexico where I had lived for 6 years. Most of the other places are just blips, as my family moved every couple of years.

In those years, I experienced countless pivotal moments. Growing from broke college student (and later drop-out) to the owner of an 8-figure global company to a curious explorer.

Here’s the short version of what happened.

Attending Penn State as an excuse to move to PA. Dropping out of college when I ran out of money. Taking responsibility for my education by getting a ton of computer and network certifications (MCSE, A+, CCNA and so on). Working my way up through computer jobs. Jumping to a higher one as I outgrew each.

Joining the logistics software startup, G-Log. Rising from Sysadmin and desktop support to managing the R&D tech team. Designing the technical architecture of GC3, which is now called Oracle Transportation Management. Architecting and building the first two generations of OTM hosting.

Following a passion and going back to West Chester University for Theatre Arts. Learning acting, directing and design. Welding stage platforms. Feeling the energy forged while performing with an audience. Standing naked on stage before a thousand people. Winning awards for my lighting designs. Learning filmmaking and leading a team to integrate video with live performances. Being the first in my family to attain a bachelor’s degree. Feeling a surge of pride when my family attended my graduation.

Leaving G-Log after Oracle acquired it and founding MavenWire. Having no idea what I was doing. Cashing out my 401K and in order to forge a new path. Learning how to be a consultant. Learning how to hire and build a team. Learning how to support others in their growth rather than always needing to be the rockstar. Learning how to sell multi-million dollar service contracts. Learning how to lead, rather than manage. Bringing on a partner and giving him half of the company. Building the third generation of OTM hosting. Growing the company organically to over $14MM annually. Surviving the 2008 financial crisis by the skin of our teeth. Investing everything I owned and going without payroll many times. Acquiring our partners in Singapore and Australia to create a global company.

Surpassing my childhood goal of being a millionaire. Buying my first house and a bunch of cars and motorcycles. Buying every toy that I ever wanted. Consuming so much that much of my basement and garage was filled with empty Amazon boxes. Never feeling it was enough.

Becoming a full-fledged workaholic. Regularly putting in 80, 100 and 120+ hour weeks. Sacrificing relationships, health and mental stability in the pursuit of achievement. Continually putting it all on the line and fearing losing it all.

Losing my parents tragically. Stuffing it away without grieving. Distancing myself from my friends. Having shallower and shallower intimate relationships. Feeling shame over both successes and failures. Surviving deep cycles of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Having little value for my own life and health. Risking my life by driving my BMW M3 and Kawasaki Mean Streak at insane speeds in the dark. Riding the wrong way into traffic on a one-way road. Jumping railroad tracks. Having no health insurance. Getting staph infection in my knee and deciding to treat it myself with illegal hypodermic needles and antibiotics. Watching the sepsis tracking lines grow up my leg. Pushing aside the fear and care of my friends.

Walking into my dark house alone, after partying in town. Feeling isolated and alone. Feeling my stomach drop. Thinking about the 1911 pistol in the gun safe. Feeling my whole body ache. Wishing it were all over. Forcing myself to sleep, knowing that I would feel a little better in the morning and would make it through another day.

Remembering a story my friend Bob told me about the Adventurists driving silly vehicles to Mongolia. Planting a brain seed. Wishing I could. Coming back to that thought again and again. Watering the seed. Deciding to do it.

Preparing MavenWire to survive without me for 2 months. Buying an ambulance. Preparing it. Buying another one due to shipping times. (Ironic for someone in the logistics industry!) Recruiting two friends to go along with me. Driving that ambulance 10,000 miles from the UK to Mongolia. Having an incredible adventure! Getting stoned in Amsterdam. Losing our rear wheels in Russia. Getting chased by shady guys in track suits in Novosibirsk. Having an electrical fire under the hood in Mongolia. Traversing the last 1200 miles without brakes or a starter. Getting stuck in the Gobi Desert. Crashing in the dark and breaking the frame. Losing one friendship and permanently cementing the other. Reconnecting with the long-lost person inside. Finally grieving for my parents. Holding a ceremony and burying their photo in the desert. Making it to the end and realizing I had to find a healthier and more fulfilling life. Returning to MavenWire to find it running better than when I left. Being proud of the team. Choosing to do an adventure every year to re-center.

Following my gut and attending Tim Ferriss’s Open the Kimono (OTK) event even though I had no interest in writing a book. Meeting people who would become key in my life. Jayson Gaignard. Joey Coleman. Those who would introduce me to the people who would help me grow. Traveling around the world for months to have more one-on-one time with these beautiful people and foster deep friendships.

Going to Burningman and being blown away by the love, care, freedom and creativity of that space. Being mesmerized by the lights, fire and people moving around in the darkness of the playa. Trying psychedelics for the first time. Finding a tool that would help me deeply understand myself and heal decades of trauma and pain.

Going back to West Chester and no longer fitting in. Realizing I didn’t want to. Knowing in my heart that I needed to explore.

Beginning a journey to find the people, experiences and truths that would help me become more… me. Fully me.

That was when I chose to leave my life. Everything I had known for the past 15 years. Everything that was part of my identity. Everything that was holding me up. Everything that was holding me back.

Eight years ago, I bought a mobile home on a few acres in South Dakota. I moved to Rapid City, where I knew no one and no thing. I stepped forward into a new and unknown life.

I traveled. I explored. I learned who I really was…

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