I Just Risked Everything

By Mike Baker • May 4, 2016

I’m a 26 year-old fitness professional. I just risked everything.

I came into this industry as a young, hungry 21-year old. Growing up, I was never the hardest worker or the most motivated guy in the world. When I started working, all of that changed. I had a spark. I was doing something I loved and felt like I finally had a purpose. I felt like I had making up to do. I took on every client, no matter what time of day or whether or not it was consistent with my schedule. I took on every project, whether I was qualified or not. I threw myself in the fire. That’s how I learned. That’s how I began to have success.

Four years later, the fire was dying out. I was making great money at the time, but I wasn’t happy anymore. I felt fatigue setting in. It was the 12–13 hour days. It was taking no lunch. It was working weekends. I didn’t give myself vacation time. People always talk about the grind. I thought I had it. I sure did early on. Now I wasn’t so sure.

See at this point in time, I was working at a facility that did not offer a guaranteed salary for my position. It was a great place to work, but If I wanted to earn, I had to train. Working an 8 hour day as opposed to a 12 hour day was not only an immediate loss of income, but could be in the future if my clients decided to start working with someone else because of my schedule limitations.

I had to make a tough decision at that point. Did I have anywhere to go from here? What is the next step in my career? I knew I could not live the rest of my life this way , but how could I justify leaving the money I was making on the table?

As I contemplated daily what to do with my life, seemingly out of the blue, a job offer came across my desk. The offer was for a management position in an up-and-coming company that I respected very much. I was required to take a small pay cut, and there was a long commute involved, but the money was guaranteed. More responsibility, guaranteed salary, growth opportunity, and more reasonable hours? Perfect. I made the right career move. I made the tough call to leave the place where I had grown from an out-of-college novice to a professional. This was a tough change to make, but I knew that this is what I needed to do to be happy. I left my job on a Wednesday and started my new one on Thursday. I was starting a new chapter in my life.

Things were great. I had a new sense of being. Mondays weren’t dreadful anymore. I had say in the decision making process. I was selling. I was managing staff. I was putting out fires. I was growing a business.

Then things weren’t great. At the time I had no idea why. I loved the people I worked with. I was proud of the product we were putting on the floor. I was still working long hours. This didn’t used to bother me, but now it was.

If you had told me at my college graduation that in 5 years, I would be running a facility and making the money I was, I would have been ecstatic. After all, this is not an easy industry to get ahead in. Why wasn’t I? Was this just a quarter-life crisis? Was I depressed? I sure felt like I was. I could come home Friday night and lay in bed until Monday morning. Maybe I don’t have “The Grind” in me after all.

My bosses called me into the office one day to see what was up. They could see my performance dipping and my attitude changing. I laid it all on the table for them. At the time, I figured that the five years of grinding had caught up to me. The lack of vacation had caught up to me. The 12–13 hour days had caught up to me. I would be fine, I just needed to to take some time for myself. I burnt-out. I needed to work on being a better son, a better brother, a better boyfriend. They understood and gave 100% support. I gave them six weeks notice and that was that.

I was six weeks away from being unemployed. I felt guilt. I hated that I disappointed everyone. I was scared. I had no plan or no idea what I wanted to do. I just risked everything.

I was also as happy as I had been in a long, long time.

A load was lifted off of my shoulders. I was now responsible for my own well being. This sense of responsibility in a strange way gave me more comfort than the security of a full-time job with benefits.

You see, what I have learned about myself is that money doesn’t make me happy. Security doesn’t make me happy. Moving up the ladder doesn’t make me happy. All of the things I was chasing, and was well on my way towards, were just things I THOUGHT would make me happy. These are the things my entire life I was told to chase by teachers, parents, peers, coaches. So I did. Every time a goal was reached, there was a sense of invigoration, however it never stayed around for long. The goals I was reaching were not leading towards any life I was interested in living.

I was nervous that I didn’t have the grind in me. I absolutely fucking do. I always have, and always will. I did even back in High School when everyone, including myself, called me lazy. I have the grind in me, but I have no patience to grind towards things that I'm not 100% in on. Long hours didn’t burn me out. It wasn't working the weekends or not taking lunches. It was a lack of vision.

I have a passion for coaching people. I legitimately feel like I'm high when I’m on the floor. There is nothing I enjoy more in the world. It was all of the other stuff that was knocking me down. It's not like what my employers were doing was wrong or anything. As a matter of fact, it was me who was wrong. The fire wasn't there because it wasn’t MY vision. I was being incredibly selfish. Do I feel guilty about it. Kind of. I love and respect all of the people I have worked for. They have been some of the most important people in my life and wish I could have been around to serve them longer than I was. But when it comes down to it, if I’m choosing between my life and their business, yeah, I’m going to be a little selfish.

Building something makes me happy. Personal growth makes me happy. Family and friends make me happy. FREEDOM makes me happy.

I have a clean slate. I can do whatever I want to do with my life from this point forward. That sense of freedom is invigorating. Yes, I need to make a living. Yes, freedom comes at a cost. Yes I will need make money to buy that freedom. No it will not be easy. No it will not come tomorrow. No it will not come next year. Or the year after. I am going to have to earn it. Do I know what path I’m headed down? I'm not sure. Do I know how I am going to make a living? I think so. I sure as hell don’t know-so. Yes it’s scary. Scary as fuck. There is no certainty I will succeed. As a matter of fact, the percentages suggest that I won't. There is also no certainty I would have succeeded elsewhere or in any other field. Shit, I’m 26. I am way too damn young to be a bitter, unhappy, and regretful. So I took a shot. I risked everything. I may have just made the biggest mistake of my life. If I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail on my own terms.

But I won’t.

Getting this on paper helps. You may be hearing a lot from me. I’ve got a lot more time on my hands.

Best,

Mike Baker

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