What Attempted Suicide Taught Me About Living & Thriving In Business

I had been in bed for 3 consecutive days only getting up to relieve myself and grab more alcohol from the fridge. After the third day the liquor was getting scarce and I was left with my own thoughts. I had moved away from my family for a man. Adventure, excitement and  love were all things I thought would be speeding into my life, just as I sped down the highway away from everything I once knew. After only a few short months it was apparent that I had made a gross misjudgment of the situation…it had been a long standing joke that I lived with “rose-colored glasses” and this time was no exception.

 

I had been an alcoholic since the age of fifteen. The moment I had taken my first drink I felt alive, more alive than I had ever felt before and any self-conscious  limiting beliefs seemed to melt away. I felt invincible. Of course, that too only lasted for a brief moment before the drink took over my life and consumed my every thought. Naturally, as any alcoholic would, I found a partner that wouldn’t be turned off by the whiskey glass glued to my right hand.

 

On the morning of my attempt the air felt heavy and I couldn’t stop crying. It felt as if years worth of emotions were coming to the surface and spilling over the top uncontrollably. Trying to explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it is challenging, if you haven’t experienced it there’s no way to truly grasp the feeling. It is like an emptiness,  the most empty feeling you could possibly imagine, there is no happiness or joy or positivity. A void as dark and grim as any monster in any fairy-tale we read as children.

 

The details of the event aren’t at all spectacular, in fact for something as pivotal as suicide they are actually quite boring. I thought taking an entire bottle of acetaminophen would do the trick but I was only able to get a handful of them down before resting for what I thought was only a few moments…  hours later I awoke to myself vomiting all over the bed. I was cold, achy and felt like I couldn’t move. The goodbye letter I had written before lay crumpled into the sheets, dripping of guilt and shame and “I love you’s”.

 

To make what could be an incredibly long and tumultuous story into a nice little article, I’ll move right along in telling you later that evening I checked myself into the Woodstock General Hospital – Psychiatric Ward. I was given an exquisite psychiatrist and stayed there for three weeks in a small room, like the movies go it had four white walls and a window that overlooked the dumpster.

 

So, what did I learn from this experience that can be transferred to business? What did one of the lowest points in my life teach me about living authentically?

 

  1. Knowing what you stand for is easier than knowing “who you are”

 

I fell into the trap of trying to “find” myself instead of just sitting down and figuring out who I wanted to be and what my values were. Not having those things narrowed down made me open to making unwise decisions like moving across the province of Ontario in pursuit of love. The business world is full of strong personalities and unless you know exactly what it is you stand for, unless you have a solid set of values and a strong conviction to those values, you’re going to get pushed around. I had to take the time to ask myself “okay, who do I admire, how did they become so successful, and what values do they have?”. The people I most admire hold values of kindness, consistency, authenticity, compassion and work ethic. It was then a matter of holding myself to a higher standard than before and emulating those values in my own life.

 

  1. Everybody has a story, everybody is trying to make it.

 

Rich Cardona, CEO of Flybys Media, actually said this to me a few months ago and I immediately remembered the moment I too came to this realization. “Everyone’s just trying to make it. I’m trying to make it, you’re trying to make it, Claude is trying to make it” he said.

 

It’s true, it’s so very true. Even Steve Babcock, Chief Creative Office of VaynerMedia posted on his Instagram yesterday: “want your life”, meaning everyone admires all of these amazing people, everyone wishes they could be someone else…but someone out there is wishing for your life. YES, this is another “be grateful for what you have” paragraph, but until you truly grasp what that means you’re going to be so deeply unfulfilled that nothing will ever be good enough. That emptiness I spoke of previously will consume you and you’ll be fighting to hold onto any amount of happiness from any direction (drugs, alcohol, food, porn) until you are simply depleted.

 

Alternatively because everyone is simply trying to make something of themselves in this world, we can be a little kinder, judge less, thank often and help whenever we can. Be kinder to yourself too, someone out there sees you hustling, grinding, putting in the effort and if you just keep going despite any setback things will come together for you.

 

  1. Strength comes from within. You were probably born with it, you just didn’t know it.

 

Can you think of a time when you were strong? Perhaps as a child when you stood up to a bully or found the courage to do something daring. Perhaps it was a few weeks ago when you overcame fear and spoke to someone new for the first time in months. Whatever the case, you probably realize you have had moments of being strong for quite some time. It wasn’t until after I had overcome addiction that I realized no one is weak, no one who is actually trying for something greater is a weak person. We all have strength, true grit, determination. How we put that determination into action is what matters. Many successful individuals have the burning desire to win…they feel it in their bellies, the fire consumes them so greatly that it is all they can think about. Their nature and fierce will makes them strong enough to overcome any obstacle in their path. And so this too brings us to the realization that strength cannot be from any outside source, to truly stay consistent in our strength it must come from that vulnerable and fierce place within.

 

Mark Metry, host of Humans 2.0 Podcast spoke with me yesterday and said “We all have the Humans 2.0 Version inside of us at all times, it’s just a matter of accessing it. I can look back in my own life and see moments where I was that version 2.0 as a young child. At 6 years old I would collect and trade baseball cards and Pokemon cards, and that’s how I got money to buy food because I didn’t want to ask my parents for money, we were very poor.”

 

You can come back from the lowest point in your life and make something out of it. You can inspire other people and create a lasting change in the world around you. And if nothing else, you always have a cool story to tell.

As my friend Wayne Mcleod once said “Don’t forget, everyone likes a comeback story”.

 

Carlee Lloyd.

 

Veterans Are Not Entry Level Talent and Rich Cardona Is Proving It.

Rich Cardona is a former Marine, turned leadership developer for Amazon, turned business owner and entrepreneur. His open, authentic style has recently caught the eye of VaynerMedia’s Chief Heart Officer Claude Silver, and the two are creating content that features Claude in a setting that makes her nothing less than perfectly relatable.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of veterans dropped from 4.3 percent to 3.7 percent in 2017. This Entrepreneur.com article mentions that 78 percent of veteran-owned businesses register sales of $100,000 or more, while more than 38% have sales of half a million or more. Veterans who would otherwise find it hard to break into the labour market, are recognizing their talents both as leaders and creatives.

Rich has a clear and powerful message: “Veteran’s are not entry level talent”. Rich wasn’t an A student in high-school like so many entrepreneurs before him.

“In high school I was crazy I played a lot of football, I was really into track, but I was always more interested in trying to be cool and popular and having a lot of friends, than I was about my grades or team. I knew moving forward that I was not going to be in a position to go to college and perform. My parent’s wouldn’t have been able to pay for it anyway. I was a junior and I decided to go into the Marine Corps delayed entry program. The contract stated that upon graduation sometime that year, in 1998, I would go to Marine-Corps bootcamp and be a recruit and eventually become a Marine.”

As I continued to interview Rich I naturally wanted to know why he chose the Marines specifically.

“The Marine Corps is a very very special place, it is the least sought after armed service, it is the smallest armed service. We take a lot of pride in being incredibly efficient and doing more with less. I started as a private and I retired early as a Captain and I never regretted that choice.”

After working at Amazon for a few years he decided to take a risk and start his own business.

“It was time to make a change, I wasn’t seeing my daughter as often, I wasn’t happy and I was starting to act out of character. My wife is the one who actually made the call and said ‘you’re done’. I had always been really interested in photography and videography and so that’s what I decided.”

LRG_DSC07118.jpg *photo of Ann Cardona taken by Rich, “she is the love of my life I never have and never will feel this way about anyone else…ever.”

I was surprised to learn that Rich didn’t have previous experience as a videographer and had to teach himself everything he knew, ultimately founding Flybysmedia. Veterans today might leave the armed services feeling stuck but Rich is the perfect example of getting creative in today’s fast paced digital world. Nothing is out of reach for individuals who are adaptable to change and willing to learn something new.

On what changed the course of his business:

“I went to VaynerMedia to meet Claude, I made a LinkedIn post about it, that my life might change forever, and I went in there and offered to vlog for her because I believe in her, I love her, and I wanted to create content for her, I wasn’t qualified really to create content, but I didn’t care. I had a one on one discussion with Gary Vaynerchuk  thanking him for all that he has done for me personally and for recognizing next-level talent in Claude.  Claude and I then came to this agreement where I would come to New York and make content for her…and I’ll never forget how she said ‘I trust you’. We had known each other for about a year and a half through phone calls and LinkedIn and emails and that changed everything. Fast forward my business now involves creating content, I am attached to my phone and always on my computer. I love to create content and tell a story and tell other people’s stories.”

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*Rich meeting Gary VaynerChuk at VaynerMedia NY.

I also had the chance to interview Claude, the woman I had heard so much about for her ability to create amazing culture, inspire others, and find talent in places others fail to look. When asked why she chose to work with Rich she responded simply but beautifully:

“Rich is untapped talent. He’s a veteran who chose to give his life for our country and there is so much courage in that. I trust him…I can trust to record my videos with him.”

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*Rich sitting with Claude Silver during one of their candid conversations.

With veterans leaving the military each day and entering the work force I asked Rich what skills he believed were characteristic of veterans and how they related to entrepreneurship.

” The Marine Corps. is notorious for discipline, attention to detail and supporting each other. It’s all about realizing the bigger picture that is it’s not about you, even as an entrepreneur, it’s about who you’re providing value too.”

When hiring a veteran you can expect:

  • Solid leadership and leadership development skills
  • Work ethic
  • Accountability
  • Attention to detail
  • Team player
  • Take initiative
  • Creativity
  • Forward thinking
  • Research/presentation skills
  • Adaptable to change
  • Problem solving skills

When I asked Rich what he thought the biggest challenge for veterans entering the work force or becoming entrepreneurs was, I was intrigued by his answer. I thought it would be to overcome serious anxiety or PTSD. Admittedly, I had watched a lot of cinematic movies on veterans returning home.

“That is humongous and I’m working on something for that [solving the challenge] we don’t know where we want to go, no-one knows what they want to do. Some veterans will just stick with what they’re doing even when they don’t want to do that anymore, meaning if I was a logistician I would go into logistics because that is where my skills are,  because we don’t have the confidence to go anywhere else. We are not entry level talent, we let people think they can get us at a bargain, when in reality in the military you don’t do the same job the whole time. We get scared, we start feeling rejection because we know our place in the military but we don’t know our place on the outside. It’s a process of rewriting your resume a million times, not trying to lose your military identity while taking on a civilian identity. It is very, very challenging.”

Rich Cardona’s advice for veterans who don’t want to feel stuck:

“The best thing you can do in my opinion is to determine how much you’re going to need to survive for X amount of months and pursue exactly what you want. Go after it or you will never know.”

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Where to find Rich: 

http://www.richcardona.net or flybysmedia.com

LinkedIn or Instagram @flybysmedia

 

Quotes: 

“Marine’s don’t like cutting corners, it’s all about the long game.”  

“Nobody cares about the company anymore, everyone cares about the people at the company.”

“Building my business is really just me building my personal brand and showing people what it looks like when a former Marine who left a “good job” says f*ck it, hustling as hard as I can.”

“I absolutely attribute all of my leadership abilities to the military.” 

“To be deemed a survivor it takes an incredible amount of failure.”  

“You are worth being in this world. You are loved and You are cared for.” 

“The right people will always see when you have their best interest in mind.” 

“I believe you can train your mind. I expect nothing from anybody. I truly mean it when I say that.” 

“Remember who you are. Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”