Confessions of a Health Coach

What happened to me?

It’s a question I received many times from those who know me best. For years, I’ve managed a growth agency that helps some of the most recognizable brands, created a yearly event for entrepreneurs, and built a fitness business that posts weekly content, sends out magazine-style emails, and works one-on-one with coaching clients. Without warning, things slowly changed. I went from being everywhere to being nowhere.

It wouldn’t have been so noticeable if…well…I didn’t always make myself so noticeable. The disappearing act wasn’t a coincidence.

On the surface, you saw the hustle and relentless mindset made popular by people like Gary Vaynerchuk.

That was until I was forced to do what’s hardest for me: slow down and temporarily stop everything. This is the reality when you’re diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder of unknown origin.

Most in the health industry wouldn’t dare admit their own health struggles, at least not publicly. For more than 10 years, it’s been my job to serve as a model of health. I train hard, eat well, and portray an image of, “If you follow what I do, you’ll be great!”

But life isn’t a perfect Instagram pic and caption. I’m not flashing my abs and declaring that I’ve got it all figured out. I’m flawed. I make mistakes. I do things that aren’t always healthy (which, sometimes, is a good thing). Most importantly, I’m human.

Sometimes you can do most things the right way and shit happens.

In my case, I wasn’t doing everything right. It’s easy to condemn those that don’t appear “healthy” and point out their flaws. It’s another thing to admit your own guilt and become a cautionary example. Let my lesson by your dose of preventative reality.

Recognize the Signs

My work ethic is my calling card. I’ve never been the smartest, strongest, or most talented. But I’ve also never viewed that as a bad thing. I embrace the journey, have invested in education and mentors, and poured my heart into my work, clients, and businesses. And it’s always paid off: relentless hard work is gratifying in every way.

This lead to a simple mentality: I’ll never quit — at anything — and trust that my grind-it-out style will lead to better outcomes.

Eventually, my way of life became who I am. The “be relentless” went from mindset to 24/7 reality. I am relentless in everything I do. It’s popped up over and over again in my life. When I left Men’s Health, the traditional “going away” gift is a mock cover of the magazine, complete with inside jokes serving as your typical magazine cover lines.

My cover? It included slugs like, “2 books <1 year: The 90-hour work week plan.”

My farewell cover at Men’s Health. A sign of things to come.

I took pride in my hustle, and I still do. I think most people don’t push themselves hard enough to see what they can become. It’s not that people don’t try or are lazy.

But, resistance is seen as a stopping point. I’ve always found that once something becomes hard, that’s when the fun begins.

If you’re trying to lose weight and you hit a wall, don’t quit. Embrace the challenge and use your desire to become better to wait out the plateau. Patience can be a superpower, as long as you’re still putting in maximum effort to create change.

Want to progress in your career? Work till you can’t see any way to advance, and then find the next level of hustle.

Relentlessness is a good trait…but it’s also very dangerous. It’s a fine line few ever discuss, especially not in fitness. The “one extra rep” sounds great on paper. But more work doesn’t always equal more results. An extra day in the gym oftentimes produces the opposite of the desired effect. But good luck finding any memes of, “Work hard! (But be careful!)

The Off Switch

I have no off switch.

It’s been my mantra for years. A representation of the hustler’s mindset. The problem? My body does. So does yours.

I ignored my body’s desire to rest for years until it shut me down. Now I have a “disease” with no cure. Maybe worst of all, my “best” traits bring out the worst symptoms.

I believe that we all have limitations or disabilities — some are just more visible than others. Mine is invisible, and it’s a threat to my life and everything that’s most important to me.

The best way to describe my situation? Imagine if Clark Kent found out he had kryptonite in his blood, but he would be fine as long as he never put on his cape, became Superman, and tried to save the world. If he did, the kryptonite would attack.

My illness is triggered when I push too hard, work too much, and don’t sleep enough. It’s also triggered every time I’m around germs or sick kids…not exactly a great recipe for a father of two young boys.

As much as I preach the importance of sleep, and even spent two chapters in my book Engineering the Alpha describing the dangers of sleep deficit, I ignored my own advice year after year.

I crave living so much that I only slept 3 to 4 hours per night. I did it because I could “get away with it.” (Or so I thought.) My mood was never disrupted, I was very happy in my day-to-day existence, and was able to still churn out work at a high rate (started 2 companies, wrote 7 books in 5 years — including a New York Times best-seller), and — in general — I felt great.

I don’t say this as a point of pride. Success can cloud weakness. Pride can override problems. And sometimes the only way to create change is to confess your mistakes, hold yourself accountable, and accept there’s always another way to design your life.

This isn’t about my autoimmune disorder. That’s my problem. The bigger issue is not paying attention to the signs when something is broken and making things worse, not better.

This is the downfall of most diet or exercise plans, too. The ones that preach how only one option works, when — in reality — it’s more about finding what works for you, rather than what works for others.

The hustler’s lifestyle worked for me, but it didn’t. Much like a diet that helps you lose weight but makes you miserable, my lifestyle was doing damage I understood but chose to ignore.

When you accept the moment of truth, the hardest part is transitioning. Not quitting, but making adjustments that still result in the end goal. If I’m being honest, I never want to slow down. I love how I work. But my body and my health didn’t.

On the surface, it should be a simple fix. When people find out what I do and what I’m dealing with, they usually ask, WHY?

Why so much? Why load — or apparently overload — each day?

Because I love it. I love it all. I love writing books, building the biggest brands in the world, and creating a personalized coaching experience, and helping entrepreneurs grow their business. These things fill up my life.

But something had to change.

The Reinvention Plan

Busy is not a badge of honor. I hate the “B” word. It’s worse than an excuse. It’s a scapegoat. In life, we either chose to make time or we don’t. I tried to make time for everything but myself.

I hustle like there’s no tomorrow. And I don’t care if people know what I do or pat me on my back. I do what I do because it’s fun, and there’s nothing better than helping others. That’s who I am.

But now, if I continue that route, my body will attack relentlessly. There is no cure for what I have other than prevention. And with the birth of my children, my life is bigger than me.

Does this mean I have to stop what I enjoy? Of course, not. But it does mean I have to reassess my old road to success and start building a new path.

I need to think about my family. My job is taking care of them first, and then taking care of my employees and clients.

Success starts with family.

I’ve decided to hit the refresh button. I’ve retired the 24/7/365 calling card, but not my relentless mentality. I’ll still hustle, still work harder than anyone, but I’ll also be smarter. I’m building a plan for me.

On the surface, it might not seem like anything has changed. I’m still up early. I’m still fighting back. And I’m still stubborn and determined to give me all and soak up every once of life.

But, I’ve realized that more time spent doesn’t mean more results earned. Some work can be outsourced. Some projects should be rejected. And some days should focus on my family and my health. Doing anything else is selfish and a greater risk to me, my family, my friends, and my businesses.

Some might call this giving in. To me, it’s evolution.

I’ve found different ways to do what I’ve always done and still support as many people as possible. That’s my purpose in life. The mission never changes, just the method.

In many ways, this mindset reflects that adjustments we make in fitness and nutrition as our priorities change. Whether you get a new job, add family members, or fight against father time, your job is to listen, learn, evolve, and become better.

In life, change doesn’t mean a shift to worse. It means a readjustment to better.

Just because you can’t do what you’ve always done, doesn’t mean you can’t be better than before.

So I’m back, but in many ways, I’m here for the first time.

Old me. New me. They meet in the same place: a never-ending quest to find ways to live better, feel great, and enjoy every moment of life.

I might take a different route to get there, but the end result will still be the same.