On the Surface, This Entrepreneur Had It All: Millions, a Beachside Mansion, Luxury Cars. But His New Life Was Built on a Dark Past.
Once he acknowledged what he was really covering up, he decided to face his fears and make a change.
As I tapped away on my computer, I would look up and see my vision board: pictures of a house with electric gates, a black Ferrari and $1 million. At the time, I was living in Bath, U.K., dreaming of a life in the United States.
I'd just started my coaching company, and I was hungry for success — willing to do anything possible to hit my goal. With $50,000 of debt and a lot of fear, I nervously hired a mentor, and with my last $5,000 available, paid him the first installment of a $30,000 investment, hoping that it would pay off.
My company grew at a rapid rate after that investment, and following a streak of initial sales, I was off to the races. I worked hard and generated my first $1 million in revenue in 2015. By investing $120,000, I was able to get an E2 visa and launch my company in the U.S. My dream was starting to become a reality.
At the time, making money was addictive. Every time I hit one monthly target, I needed to beat it the following month. It became a game, an unhealthy one rooted in comparison to others who were making more money than I was, which was my definition of success.
"I desperately wanted to feel connected to others"
Within a few weeks of arriving in the U.S., I leased a $5,500 mansion in La Jolla, San Diego, and I leased my first Ferrari California at around $1,500 per month. But, being a two-seater track car (which I had no intention of driving around a track), it wasn't entirely practical. I needed to pick up multiple clients from the airport, so I went down to the Land Rover dealership and added another car and $1,500 monthly payment to my growing expenses.
After about a year, I ended a co-dependent, toxic relationship. Depressed and lonely, I decided to upgrade to a bigger 1.5-acre mansion complete with a basketball court, swimming pool and hot tub. Ferrari was also more than happy to upgrade me to a Ferrari 458, now $3,200 per month. Of course, I drove away feeling like a "boss" ready to "crush it" harder.
Vividly, I remember driving down the beach, doing loops just so that people would look at me in the car. My social-media posts were curated to appeal to those who wanted the same lifestyle. The material life. Of course, I didn't think anything of it — because I was living that life.
The novelty of the car lasted about a month although I have to say it was rewarding to allow kids to sit in the seat and take pictures with their dads, and I loved seeing my clients' faces after a drive. Those moments touched my heart.
If you hadn't guessed already, I was deeply unhappy, seeking validation and desperately wanting to feel connected to others. This was how I was attracting people, but sadly some people just wanted me for what I had, not who I was. When we present ourselves to the world in a certain way, we attract that same energy and persona.
Don't get me wrong: I don't knock anyone for having nice things, but for me personally, it wasn't healthy because I didn't collect or drive sports cars because I liked cars that much. I didn't need the extra bedrooms in the mansion. There was what my heart needed and what my ego was spending; the difference was huge and very costly.
Although I was spending wildly, I was also committed to being a better version of myself. I invested a lot in personal development and was continuously at seminars, attending events and hiring coaches. I'd kicked some of my more serious addictions, but I was still heavily smoking and drinking. I was desperate to kick these habits as well as the bursts of anger and rage I was experiencing.
Related: Greed – Is it a Virtue?
"Traumatic events like bullying interrupt our energetic system"
The more that I worked deeply on my own personal growth and development, the more I started to meditate, take trips to places like Peru and India and do the spiritual work, the more I started to get lighter, truly confident and happier. The expensive watches on my arm literally felt heavier. I started to appreciate the simple things.
When we evolve, at whatever pace we do that, the life that we have built up can start to feel very different, and this is what happened to me. My material life, the things that I'd acquired, started to feel like a burden to me. What I started to learn was that the past events of my life, especially in my childhood, had lowered my sense of self-worth and caused me to seek validation from others. My unhealthy, competitive mindset was rooted in early life experiences.
In my adult life, people would often say to me, "Simon, why don't you smile much?" I can trace my reluctance to smile back to a bullying teacher, who shouted, "Wipe that smile off your face" and sent me to a tiny room to "watch the wallpaper fall off the wall."
Then, when I was 13, I brushed past a popular kid at school. "He just touched me," he shouted for all to hear. He accused me of being gay, and I was punched and kicked on most days for three years. Consequently, men didn't feel safe, so I isolated myself for protection. The computer room became my safe place, and that's where I generated my entrepreneurial spirit, producing computer-game fanzines and selling them in newsagents.
Traumatic events like bullying interrupt our energetic system. We're doing fine, then there's a massive shock, and we don't recover: We feel paralyzed by the memory of the trauma. And we mask it by numbing ourselves through whatever means possible. We put walls up to protect ourselves. We push people away and have to be in control. Internally, we're in distress, but on the outside, we act like everything's fine. For some people, numbing takes the form of gambling or drugs; for others, it's sex or overspending. For me, it was multiple addictive behaviors.
"Having the courage to open up is a power move that defies ego"
Unhealthy, addictive behaviors won't simply disappear. If they're not dealt with, they'll spiral out of control impacting not only you, but also the people around you. But there's good news: You can start to adopt healthier behaviors and turn your life around right now.
For male entrepreneurs especially, it's incredibly challenging to admit you have a problem. But having the courage to open up is a power move that defies the ego. Just by taking ownership of your struggles, you'll begin to experience a positive emotional shift.
The key is to start the conversation, which will lead to gaining the right tools, processes and opportunities to heal. You deserve to be truly happy, and you will be.
"Giving back is the true key to happiness"
When you're no longer comparing yourself to others, you start to feel a deep sense of inner peace and calm. The frantic energy will leave your body, and you'll operate from a place of relaxed confidence. The never-ending ladder that simply never stops, finally does. You still make money, but it doesn't have the unhealthy charge that takes your mind off the things that truly matter to you and the people you love. You feel more connected than you have in your whole life — and like the best version of yourself. You feel like your most authentic self. You understand that you started with nothing, and you'll leave with nothing: Giving back is the true key to happiness.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor