Disclaimer: This is more of a personal post. So, if you're not interested in reading a personal post, I would highly suggest that you stop reading now. ;-)
A lot of successful people like to fool the world into believing that they never make mistakes, head down the wrong path or find themselves unhappy in spite of their success.
I'm not one of them. I've never believed in bullshitting people and never will. And I freely admit that I allowed myself to get off track from my personal goals for a long time.
In 2010 I began to reclaim myself and I've been continuing to do so in 2011.
A blast from the past
I've blogged about where I've “come from” multiple times. I fell into this industry by accident and made myself a success within it by being determined to do so. I've got no delusions that I was born with an SEO manual inside my brain or any entrepreneurship skills in my heart. I was a smart kid, from a very broken background who was a waitress. But I found my pair of balls, got motivated and made myself into something.
And while I've always managed to keep my personality in tact and be the real me, somewhere along the way, my goals changed. Now goals always evolve. But my goals changed at a core.
Back in the day, my financial situation was a struggle. I remember wanting to earn enough to be comfortable. “Being rich” never was (and never has been) important to me. Even as I started to make really good cash… I still shopped at Target. I still tried to save money on my phone bill. When I traveled, I did it on a budget.
“I would never spend 300 dollars on a purse, no matter how much money I had! That's insane! A 100 dollar shirt? That's crazy!” #truestory
But then you start hitting conferences. And you start being around other people “with money.” And sooner than you ever thought possible, you come to think there's nothing abnormal about 500 dollar bar tabs, 600 dollar purses, 2,000 dollar dinners, flying first class, buying 3,000 dollar paintings, 600 dollar a night hotel rooms, flying on private planes, partying in 50K per night suites in Las Vegas, dropping 3K at a mall on a whim, taking limos instead of taxis… it somehow becomes sane and “usual.” Then it slowly leaks from conferences into being part of your everyday life. And when you can financially keep up that lifestyle – it seems all the more “normal.” Dropping six figures on year on items you can't even hold in your hand… reading it, it sounds insane. But when you're caught up in it, not so much.
But living that kind of lifestyle means upping your earning game. Because as you get more, you want more. And you need to earn more to complete the cycle.
And suddenly my E-Myth Revisited reality was being destroyed.
I'd spent years building Sugarrae and MFE Interactive into companies I truly looked forward to working on, but didn't “need to” work on because I'd built my business to require time only when I felt like spending time on it.
If I felt like it, I took on an SEO Consulting client and did an SEO audit to keep my mind fresh. When the mood struck me, I'd pull a ten hour day working on the MFE properties. If I had something to say, I blogged on Sugarrae. When the bug hit me, I built a new affiliate site. And I made more money than 99% of Americans while working ONLY when I felt like it. I was living my original dream.
But the lifestyle game was in “on” mode (a lifestyle that “slipped in” to being one I'd ever wanted in the first place.) And suddenly life became about increasing revenue and building an empire to support it. And I sold my time. I no longer did things when I wanted, but as much as possible. I opened new companies, went new directions, enlarged my operations at current companies… suddenly multiple people and multiple companies were dependent on my continuing to sell my time.
And suddenly I was miserable. Business wise, my companies were thriving. But my personal well being was suffering.
Yes, I know… oh boo hoo for me, I had successful companies and had to work 80 hours a week because I liked my Marc Jacobs purses.
But that was the problem! I didn't HAVE to work eighty hours a week – I'd put myself in the position where I did in order to buy things and live a lifestyle that was making me miserable. I began to hate work and dread anything to do with it. And I began to struggle emotionally while trying to figure out how to fix it.
Struggling to identify the problem
In the fall of 2009, I went home to visit with my family in Florida, which if you follow me on Twitter at all, you know is where I procured my redneck roots. :) It was while not being “Sugarrae” and sitting around a bonfire drinking cheap canned beer with my cousins who don't know what I do, “who I am” and frankly wouldn't give a shit even if they did that I realized that I was missing simplicity. Simplicity that I didn't even realize I “had” because I'd taken its existence in my life so much for granted. Being at home in Florida was the best I'd felt in a long time. Not because of the locale, but because of the simplicity my family represented and my role with them.
I spent the next good while surrounding myself with offline friends that were outside the world I'd been living in. I worked a lot less. Hung out a lot more. And I took some time to get my mental well being in check.
By early 2010 I had a pretty good handle on what needed to change in order for me to be happy with work again. I continued pulling away from the online world and continued rebuilding a stronger, more normal life in the offline world. I knew some tough decisions were coming up and I knew I needed my offline life to keep me grounded and focused through them.
Finding my way again
After finally reaching a place of contentment in my offline life and knowing what needed to be done in my online life, I met my husband Sean by a weird set of coincidences in April of 2010. We met at an SEO conference… he had zero idea “who I was” (or who anyone “was” really) and it quickly became obvious that he was one of the most genuine people I've ever met in my life. He has zero interest in bullshit Internet fame and his goals line up with mine – my real ones. He is undoubtedly – aside from my children – the best thing that has ever happened to me (and my kids.)
I always thought “when you know, you know” was bullshit until I met him. Marrying him in November of 2010 (and finding out I was pregnant with my fourth child the same week) put the last missing pieces for me into perspective. It was time to do what needed to be done and take back my life.
I got rid of various business ventures that didn't fit in with my goals. I put new focus on ones that did (most don't know that I've had ownership interest in an incorporation service for over six years now that I completely ignored until a few months ago – still in redesign phase now.) I closed down my Canadian office. I'm still debating whether I'll be opening a Houston one to take its place. I pulled back my conference schedule. I rededicated a portion of my time to charity work (and I still need stroke walk supporters!) I continue to attempt to make time for and strengthen my offline relationships. I faced the fact that I'd been surrounding myself with a lot of people as Oprah says, that would never have ridden with me on the bus, accepted it and moved on.
And most importantly, I've made my family the #1 priority in my life, above my business, above everything else.
And I have made a promise to myself to never again forget:
“Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time.” ~ Margaret Bonano
The bottom line result is that I'm happy again. Not only with my personal life, but with my business life as well. I enjoy my work again. I've reconnected with what matters – for ME.
What you can learn from my experience
So why the hell am I sharing all this? Well partially because my dramatic life and business changes haven't gone unnoticed. And partially because I think everyone can learn from the mistakes I've made. Stay true to yourself, to your goals and don't allow yourselves to be sucked into losing your happiness for material things or the success others want you to or believe you should have. And above all, remember the Internet isn't reality and can be full of bullshit. ;-)