What 7 Deaths Taught Me About Living
Trevor Turnbull is pretty successful on paper. After launching his first consultancy three years out of college, this Advisor in The Oracles became a self-taught expert in driving sales using LinkedIn. He founded multiple six- and seven-figure businesses to share his sales and networking expertise. He’s mentored thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders. He’s even known in many circles as “The LinkedIn Guy.”
But an impressive resume doesn’t equal happiness.
Turnbull has ridden the highs and lows of entrepreneurship since 2006. In his eyes, he’s faced more failure than success. Here he shares how seven deaths in his life helped him discover his “why.”
The death of his identity.
Growing up, Turnbull’s dream was to become a professional hockey player. He held onto that dream for years, making it as far as the college ranks, but it never happened.
“I was always defined as an athlete growing up,” Turnbull says. “When I had to give up that identity, I didn’t know who I was anymore—like part of me died. It took me a while to reinvent myself.”
Turnbull hung up his skates and committed to his education, earning a marketing degree and starting a career in B2B advertising sales.
Turnbull only recently realized the value of that experience. In 2015 his struggle inspired him to found Legacy After The Game, which helps amateur and student athletes transition to life after sports. He also leads several sports networking businesses.
“I wanted to combine my knowledge of networking, social media, and personal branding with my love of sports,” Turnbull says. “I learned that it’s possible to build a business around your passion.”
The death of his first marriage.
Turnbull excelled in several sales jobs before starting his first business, a web development company. But he suffered from depression, massive debt, and doubts about his direction. “I was stacking one loan on another, just to pretend that my business wasn’t on the verge of going under,” Turnbull says.
Consequently, his marriage suffered. When his wife eventually left him, Turnbull decided to leave his hometown of Saskatoon, Canada, for Vancouver, where he moved in with his mom to start over at 34-years-old.
“The divorce was painful, and I felt a lot of embarrassment and shame. But I’m grateful now because it made me realize I wasn’t happy,” Turnbull says. He started reading as many books about entrepreneurship as he could. “So often we don't realize that a breakdown in one area of our lives can create a breakthrough in another. That can be the push we need to follow our dreams.”
The death of his grandmother.
After the divorce, Turnbull began to hit his stride. He discovered that he had a talent for generating leads with LinkedIn, which became the foundation of his businesses over the next several years. Through LinkedIn, he met Lewis Howes, the entrepreneur and former professional athlete who became a friend and business partner.
Turnbull also met his future wife Sharmila, whose support fueled his momentum. But as his entrepreneurial life was looking up, Turnbull distanced himself from the rest of his family.
“I started to feel like the black sheep,” Turnbull says. “When I became an entrepreneur, I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. My family admired what I was doing, but I couldn’t talk to them about it. They supported me, but they didn’t really understand what I was going through or trying to create.”
When his grandmother died in 2015, it brought his family together. Turnbull reconnected with them on a different level. “Many entrepreneurs think we have to hustle to be successful,” Turnbull says. “But it’s not worth it. Life is too short to sacrifice your family relationships—and you don’t have to. Staying connected to those who shaped you is important. They’re a part of your story that makes you unique.”
The death of his cousin.
When Howes enrolled him in a leadership training, Turnbull didn’t expect to dig into his past. But it was an experiential workshop and he found himself uncovering strong emotions about something that happened 15 years before.
Turnbull’s cousin committed suicide, and it was only in this workshop that Turnbull was struck by how much it impacted him. "He was the cousin closest in age to me. I was angry and hurt, and had avoided talking about it,” Turnbull says. “I needed to unpack my feelings. I learned that by closing off, I was potentially damaging my future relationships.”
Turnbull says that digging into past wounds wasn’t just personal—it also impacted his business. “I learned that I could be vulnerable, honest, and loving without judging myself. That led me to build much deeper connections with my clients, staff, and family.”
The deaths of two children.
Then Turnbull and Sharmila lost two babies through pre-term births. As a result, they had to survive a rebirth of their own marriage.
“We both had massive guilt over the loss of our children,” Turnbull says. “But, we were also relieved not to be parents yet and had to come to terms with the shame we felt from that realization.”
It took time and hard work for the Turnbulls to make peace with their guilt. “We had to eradicate a lot of anger, hostility, and resentment,” he says. “The experience taught me that you can handle the worst that life can offer and become better on the other side. We have such a strong bond now.”
The Turnbulls pursued in vitro treatments and surrogacy, and they now have two boys—Logan and Bodhi (which means enlightenment). Through sleepless nights in the neonatal intensive care unit and $100,000 treatments, Turnbull grew his seven-figure business while supporting his family.
“If I can do that, I know others can, too,” he says. “I often mentor entrepreneurs through their personal challenges. Many tell me they don’t have the time or money to follow their dreams. It’s easy to let these experiences give you an excuse, or permission to be bitter. After what we endured to become parents, I know those are just self-limiting beliefs.”
The death of his business model.
For nearly a decade, Turnbull based his businesses on selling information—and he’s good at it. After making millions, he realized a glaring hole: only a handful of clients actually applied their new knowledge.
He now focuses on mentoring consultants, coaches, and speakers. This rebirth of his business is still in the early stages, but he’s already seeing clients experience their own transformations. One was in a horrific train accident and now uses her experience to inspire business leaders. Others are following their dreams since struggling with retirement after decades in the workforce.
Turnbull’s struggles have empowered him to support fellow entrepreneurs with empathy. “Whatever my students are going through is exactly what needs to happen so they can become the best versions of themselves,” Turnbull says. “I am living proof of that. Every time I experienced a death in my life—literal or figurative—it forced me to become a better version of myself.”
Turnbull says one of his favorite quotes is, “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain.”
“I feel fortunate to have experienced all the highs and lows I’ve faced,” Turnbull says. “As a business leader, husband, and father I know there are more to come, and I look forward to embracing them.”