She traveled to hell and back with me
February 24th, 2012 by Agent Kevin Miller
My wife Teri says she fell in love with me because I was authentic and untethered and honest. I didn’t ‘play games’ like other guys, and I put on no facade or persona. I led with my heart and passion. Fast forward a decade and she was fed up, at the end of her rope and wanted nothing more than for me and my heart to shut up “Go get a job at freakin’ Taco Bell…show me the money!”
Literally, that’s not an exaggeration. Why? We were coming to a crashing end after five years of me ‘following my heart and passion’.
Now why on earth would I share this with you? Me…the purveyor of Calling, Heart and Passion! Most guys pursuing free agency will see this and say “Crap, this is EXACTLY what my wife is afraid of, why would you put this out?!?!”
Because like most truths, it’s not an either/or issue. It’s a yes/and reality.
You see, when Teri and I met, I was a pro cyclist and she was a pro singer/actor/dancer with a nice contract at Opryland (when it used to be a top theme park). We were fully living our dreams and loved that about each other. Then we had a baby…Caleb. Five days after birth he had a brain hemorrhage and a seizure. We ended up in the hospital for months and our world stopped. I took an independent contractor magazine ad gig to pay some bills, and ultimately took a ‘real job’. Through family friends I got a nice little title of ‘Vice President of Marketing & Client Relations’ at a mortgage company. For two years I had a job with bankers hours that paid the bills and for a j-o-b…wasn’t half bad.
But, I wasn’t cycling or doing anything active, and was quickly growing frustrated with ideas I had for the company that I couldn’t implement because…well, it wasn’t mine!
Teri had my back though. She conspired with a friend who owned a bike shop and bought me a bike for Christmas, saying “You’re a better man when you are active and training…go ride.” Hear that? SHE…cared for my heart. I wasn’t even complaining, just being…grumpy. I loved her for that. I know many guys today whose hearts are dying or dead (or numb) and at any mention of doing something about it, their spouse is mainly concerned for the security of the bank account. As if joy and fulfillment are narcissistic indulgences. What a tragedy.
Later that friend enticed me with a little sponsorship deal to start racing again and lead an elite team, which I did. At the same time, I had a business idea that I ‘knew would work and cash-flow quickly’ and I quit the j-o-b cold turkey.
So now I’m fully back in the heart/passion seat! And Teri was with me! She supported me, prayed for me, said “Yes” to all my optimism and persuasion. She cared about my heart and put as much or more value on that, then our financial security. This was 1998.
By 2003 it was a different story. She said she had this great vision of a life, and wanted me to be the guy in it. But, she’d lost faith in me and she was “Done.” Ready to pack the kids up and drive away.
Why? Let me highlight some key issues.
- No Cushion/Margin/Anything – I quit the job with no savings or source of income. My ex-employer gave me $20k, I still don’t know why. I hate to hear people put off free agency until they have no risk, that won’t ever happen. But I could have worked it out to do some work for the company I was with…part time with a little income. Or we could have spent 6-months putting some money aside. Not a years worth of income, but a little to help.
- All or nothing - I love being ‘all in’, but in this context, it wasn’t best. I could have worked this idea for a year on the side and built it up, refined it. Instead I had it justified that I MUST put full-time effort into it to get it going, and that it WOULD make cash fast. It didn’t. I’m now a fan of slow growth and a longer timeline.
- Stupid optimism - I not only AM an optimist, but I believe in optimism. I had so much content from Zig Ziglar fed to me that he felt like a second father. But I was way, way too optimistic in this idea working. I’m still optimistic, but far more realistic than ever. Your idea may be the next Facebook, but it will take longer, cost more and what you see now is probably 50% at best of what it will look like when it actually starts making money.
- Alone - I did it all…on my own. My idea, my way, my understanding… I sought counsel from noone. I didn’t ask for feedback or input. I didn’t test market. I saw a need and believed I could fill it. Pride, arrogance, ignorance, stupidity. This is why one of my core beliefs now is that the biggest problem with self-employment is…self. We want to own our work, that is the point. We can NOT…do it on our own. You’ll make it or break it by the invested counsel you do or don’t get.
- No plan – None of my ideas started off with a clear plan on HOW it would work. I never worked through it, I just pulled the trigger and dove in. This is never, ever…good. If you want your spouses support, have a viable plan that has been thoroughly reviewed by wise counsel.
- Her consent - I honestly thought I had it, but when it all came to a head, I realized I’d just sold her. Persuaded her. Not out of ill intent…I really believed! But I was only one side of the equation, and her honest input and feelings and fears should have been equally in the mix. I wasn’t open to that, she knew it, so she tried to be supportive. In all truth, what got me to stop, was her saying “NO” and stopping enabling me.
- Good intent – I always had that, and thought it would cover a multitude of errors (sins). I was committed to having time for my kids. That’s great, but doesn’t all pan out for good when there is no money for rent or food. And when we got into ‘ministry’ aspects of what I was doing, then my ‘good intent’ made sure everyone else got paid…except us. That was putting their welfare ahead of my families. I didn’t see how wrong that was till much later.
- Financial provision – I’m a huge voice against ‘provision’ being just money. As a husband and father I am to provide many things, and money is just one. Our culture and church has made it OK for a man to provide nothing BUT a paycheck. That said, there does need to be a paycheck. I threw the baby out with the bathwater.
Teri can probably cite more, but these are some hot spot issues. And I see most aspiring free agents violating some of these.
In 2003 we stopped everything to save our marriage and our financial hemorrhaging (I’d racked up nearly $100,000 in debt). Quit everything. Sold nearly everything. I took a job for a big cycling company out west doing marketing. I was an independent contractor, but even worked in a cubicle for 30 days. I gave up so much of what I’d been holding on to. In truth, it only lasted for 3 months. I somewhat feel God honored me ‘giving up’ and didn’t make me suffer long! I kept that client, we moved to Colorado, took on another client, and I started addressing all those things in the bullet points above that I violated.
Today Teri is my number one supporter, encourager and cheerleader, and more and more she’s investing herself in this business we own. She’s seen me grow more responsible and more reasonable. She takes great comfort in me seeking counsel from others (though still get’s concerned during times when I’ll fall back to isolation). The basic bills need to get paid, but she and the kids have said nothing is worth me being gone and tied to a job where I’m not available for our family, and I’m not working where God has equipped and impassioned me. Me being inspired is as important or more…than providing a paycheck. Paid bills don’t add up to much when the husband/father is brain and soul dead. Teri’s shown her true colors in caring for my heart above the cultures striving for mere safety, security and comfort. During it all she strove to be the ‘Proverbs 31 wife’ who stewarded what little we had to make it stretch and sustain us. Even as I hurt her heart.
The fruit of me caring for HER heart and me marrying some reason and wise counsel with what I felt called in, convicted in, passionate about and heart-inspired in…is that today my work has provided financially as well. We find ourselves debt free, in our custom home on Rocky Mountain land, seven kids, lacking for nothing material (which kinda bothers us) and a business that we own that is growing and serving people and headed toward an asset of wealth. It took us both though. Both caring for each other. Both being on the same page of what we believed in for our family. Both committing to God and each other.
We even have savings now! Though Teri is feeling called to a new endeavor that may take up every penny of savings. Hey, at least it’s her idea this time…
So what about you? Do you pursue your heart, passion and calling, OR you just submit to being ‘responsible’ and make a paycheck? Or…can you do both?!
And…are you caring for your spouses heart above all else?