My left arm went numb, and I had tingling in my fingertips. Shortness of breath. Then the stomach pains began. Pain so bad I was curled in the fetal position on my bed.
The lights were off, and I was in my bed. My wife cracked open the door to check on me, and I asked her if she could please move the kids to the basement. We only had two kids at the time, and they weren’t being bad; they were just playing.
The noise, however, was too much for me to bear.
I felt ashamed and guilty to admit it, but I was having an anxiety attack.
What did I have to feel guilty about? A seven-figure agency, two wonderful kids, a beautiful, loving wife, a great house. I’m a man, and I was doing what I was supposed to do. Anxiety attack? Forget it. I’m supposed to tough this shit out.
So I did.
To be sure, I made some changes. More delegation at work so I could become more productive and work fewer hours. A new diet and healthy lifestyle that focused on a “primal” lifestyle with lower carbs, natural animal protein and plant-based foods, no grains or dairy, and less sugar. I replaced chronic, long-distance cardio with higher-intensity sprint workouts.
All of that helped…for a bit.
My weight dropped from 205 to the 160s. I had been on a statin “cholesterol” drug for 8 years, and I was able to ditch it. The stomach pains were fewer and farther between.
In short, I gained more freedom in my life. More time to spend with my family. Less time worrying about my physical appearance, and more important, less physical pain. But something was still missing. In short, I had gained some freedom, but I still lacked fulfillment in my life.
The guilt increased.
I had always been taught that a healthy dose of gratitude is essential to a happy life. So I focused on the fact that I should be happy because I have it better than so many people in the world. A roof over my head. Two cars. Not living paycheck-to-paycheck.
This was all accurate. I should’ve been grateful for all that I had. But I was using gratitude as an excuse for not wanting more.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
When I was in high school, I rejected Thoreau’s writings. Especially Walden. I wanted glitz. Glamour. Income. Money. Why the hell would anyone want to move to a quiet lake? The older I get, however, the more I identify with him.
Upon first reading, one might think “quiet desperation” describes someone who is outwardly unhappy, depressed, or just plain funky. Not so.
In fact, he was describing how I felt for years. Now, I describe that “quiet desperation” as living in a “comfort zone of misery.” Outwardly, everything seems fine. In reality, it’s “blah.” No passion. No excitement. And yes, despite what Thoreau wrote, many women live the same way.
Clinging on to stability instead of reaching for greatness. Putting off dreams and desires to aggressively protect the status quo.
Tony Robbins writes that “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” That’s why this comfort zone, this quiet-desperation status, is so dangerous. The pain isn’t acute, but rather more like a dull ache. You can put up with it for years — and we often do.
Our fear of rocking the boat of our lifestyle, our paycheck, or our external expectations keeps us trapped, sometimes for years. I get it. I really do. I was once there. Trapped in that comfort zone. The lock on my prison cell door was forged from the gold of a successful agency and killer revenue.
But the quiet desperation became very loud. Screaming at me. And so I escaped.
One morning, when the noise was more than I could bear, I got out of bed and told my wife, “It’s over.”
I shut down my seven-figure agency overnight and decided to live a life of freedom and fulfillment.
Now, my mission is to help others do the same.
When I finally shut down my agency, I was scared as hell. But it’s funny — I haven’t had an anxiety attack since. No more waking up with dread. I have a business with clients I love and a mission that fulfills me. With work that is aligned with my family and me. There are days that are challenges; days that suck.
But now I’m in the driver’s seat, with a clear vision and a life of freedom and fulfillment.