You're the reason we all ryze.
And I’ve been through a lot to find you.
"There's women to call / there's albums to drop / there's liquor involved / there's stories to tell / we been through it all." - Drake, HYFR
My childhood was a bubble of brilliant bliss.
My life was charmed. I learned to transform bullies into buddies, everyone hung out at our place cuz my parents were ‘cool’, and I was popular.
My days flew by in a blur of drawing, reading, and writing. The soundtrack was 90s rock & rap, while my parents sheltered me from The Simpsons because it’s “too vulgar.”
Still, my fam & friends exposed me to all kinds of culture. Lecia introduced me to rare books. My siblings brought new music, and my uncle had walls of DVDs. I soaked up all I could want and quickly became an ‘art snob.’
My fave stories had eccentric sleuths & flawed superheroes, but I enjoyed everything from teen romance to documentaries to lovecraft.
I even liked The Bible (Hey, if I can be inspired by Jay-Z, why not Jesus? Dude’s a super badass inspiration who crushes it in every story.)
But I turned up my nose at most pop. I mean, I consumed it, but I sneered at it. Yeah, I get the hypocrisy. I was an arrogant punk.
Woburn Collegiate was the ‘gifted’ school I attended, where I aced art, creative writing, and philosophy. I got 90s in math & sci, but after grade 11 I stopped bothering.
Socially, I whored out my skills for popularity. Take yearbooks for example, while most kids were writing cliches, I had peeps lining up for a full-page of art or poems in theirs.
I was good at creative expression, but buying friends with it wasn’t healthy. It worked though. I had a lot of friends, chicks especially. And so began my love of female form.
Along with my collections of other media, I exposed myself to tons of erotica, both soft and hardcore. I love porn, ok?
Which clashed with my sense of 'goodness.'
Ack, more hypocrisy. ‘Cause as a kid I judged and jeered at chicks who chose to expose. I savored their beauty in secret, ashamed. I didn’t want my good, pure, public image to be shattered.
Anyway, when school bored me, I absorbed broad range of topics. I love understanding life as much as possible.
Once I gained this wisdom though, I doubled-down on buying friends, by helping peeps with options that they’d never come across themselves.
I taught optimal forms of weight-training, new web design techniques, and fresh ways of pirating software. (The latter isn’t something I’m proud of — the people who made those creations deserve much reward.)
The things I discovered were more visionary than any teacher’s lecture, and I felt disillusioned with a school system that had nothing to offer me.
The agendas of most teachers & students seemed obvious and shallow to me.
Yikes. That line sounds elitist. Sigh… if it’s not clear yet, as a kid I was conceited, preaching down to others as if I was better than them.
“You can’t talk about fucking, but if you talk about killing, that’s cool.” – Richard Pryor
No one in my family was a successful entrepreneur.
And friends pretended that they wanted to do something bigger, live a life on their own terms, but just settled for the status quo. No one I knew was an entrepreneur at all, let alone a successful one. But I gave it a shot, even as a teen.
My earliest businesses when I was a teen, were “Incredibly Clever” and “Crushed Ice Services.” They barely got off the ground, before I was distracted by women, I wasn’t ready.
It was all destined to fail, not the right recipe.
So I had to admit all my projects ‘til this point had failed, my popularity was fake, people didn’t like me for me, they liked me ’cause I could do something for you.
It was crushing for a ‘genius’ used to having everything come easy I felt more and more alone. You’d think that someone who was feeling alone would seek out people, but I still chose to cut off all my friends and family (I still had a girlfriend and occasional contact with parents though.)
I moved out, and commuted hours away to a back-breaking warehouse job, to do it.
I’d rather be alone than be in the wrong company.
I was a pot of boiling water, lid askew, left on a red-hot stove. I was ready to boil over.
I’d gone from popular kid to pretty friend-less. From a fun childhood to 9-to-5 boredom. From founding businesses to working warehouse jobs.
All to distance myself from people I felt rejected by. I was pissed. I blamed people I grew up with, who just weren’t ‘putting effort in’ but I ended up surrounded by co-workers who were just as bad.
Something had to change, so I made a choice.
I quit my job and dumped my girlfriend of two years… all in the same night. Zero plan, zero safety net. I’d lost everything I thought was important. Income, job, relationships, prospects. I blamed my work and my girlfriend.
Yep, that was me, still judging and blaming.
With no one around, I got back to biz.
I felt free. There was no one around to please, no job to perform at. I had some savings, so I used them to try new businesses. I even hired an assistant, a masseuse, and a personal chef.
My days were spent on insights from legendary mentors. Osho, Hicks, Robbins, and more.
Nights were for studying sexuality: Napoleon Hill, David Deida, Mantak Chia, etc.
I practiced sharing all I learned through blogging, branding, & product-launches, never realizing that I had no sustainable business model.
My life looked great from the outside, I even got a new girlfriend, Hayley, a model! I still felt pretty badass.
But I needed to come up with revenue.
I tried exhibiting my art. Failed. I tried commissioned portraits, graphic design, a clothing line. All failed. I invested tons of my time, money, and energy… but every business failed.
How the fuck could a brilliant, creative kid from the gifted program fail so insanely hard?
How could someone who’d volunteered their wisdom & art, not be rewarded?
Ugh. It was depressing. Every failure built a fuck-ton of character though.
During this time I dropped many masks.
I stopped blaming people for not being the support, fans, customers, or employees I needed. I stopped judging their progress, I mean, how could I? My own was abysmal.
Too little, too late though, I was broke and my relationship with Hayley was strained. I thought failing so many early businesses was hard, but that was tip of the iceberg.
Life had queued up some of the hardest, coldest, most soul-crushing experiences I can imagine.
Hayley falsely accused me, landing me in jail. I luckily got bail, a lawyer, and pardoned. I even forgave Hayley but shortly after, we were evicted from our Bay St. condo. I spent a few months trying to survive with her but eventually let her go, making me alone again.
All told, I spent about 800 days on the streets. Somehow though, I stayed alive, and continued serving people. Running my coaching biz under the worst living conditions. It sucked, but I touched some hearts, and even saved one girl from killing herself.
Some of my clients let me crash at their place for a week here and there to take the edge off, it was pitiful & heart-breaking, and having a taste of shelter kinda made going back out there even harder.
After 8 failed businesses & relationships...
…plus scorching betrayals from the few people I’d managed to connect with (clients, staff, girls, etc.) I finally realized that I needed to be around leading-edge empire-builders.
I needed people who aimed to realize their potential. I needed peeps who cherished and applied my fresh views on taboos. I needed heroes who wanna rise.
(Yeah, I know, took me long enough.)
It was when I was at my lowest, that I founded Ryze.
I built & ran my biz, coaching 50 people & writing over a million words, all from Toronto libraries and McDonald’s franchises.
Picture me on a payphone, using a calling-card when my skype-consult failed on the cafe wifi.
I gave on-air interviews from noisy subway platforms by day, while I shivered, curled up on wet grass at night.
And I got rave reviews in spite of these conditions.
I collab’d on projects, books, entrepreneur groups, success courses, blogs, yoga classes, and more. I was tapped to star in music videos and documentaries, the entire time, no one knew I was homeless.
I applied strategies from Oren Klaff, Jonah Berger, and Robert Scheinfeld, aiming to have Ryze really take off.
Even with a decade-long track record of failure, I did every creative thing I could think of to ryze up. Surely this business would succeed, right?
I’d grown, right? I lived on the streets, judging no one, and helping clients with my abilities.
What else did life want from me?
I’d done everything society tells you to do. I’d done everything spiritual books tell you to do.
And I was limping along, barely keeping my head above water with a client here and there.
I started to accept that my hopes and dreams may not come true. But I didn’t wanna think about that, so I kept trying, and continued carrying myself with dignity.
I learned hygiene tricks (tea tree oil), bought brand name clothes from thrift stores (winners). I even gave to others ‘worse off’ than me.
When I had occasional dinners with friends, I didn’t burden them with my condition, instead sleeping in chairs at internet cafes. There were so many dark moments, I can’t even begin to relate them all.
What god or universe would do this to someone who just wanted to help people? Why was I filled with wisdom, only to have it prove useless? Why should someone with so much love suffer so much?
And there were bright spots, kindnesses and miracles here and there. They were beautiful, and kind of strung me along.
There was Adam, who believed in me. There was Jay, who paid my bail. There was Kay & Charley who replaced my stolen laptop. There was Roy, who took me in for a few months. Jen was a soothing soul and loyal client. My family sent bits of cash occasionally.
I was humbled over and over, saved by strangers and blessed by a family I’d distanced my self from.
I lived a dark life with only pin-pricks of light.
Every ‘miracle save’ only strung me along, kept me barely existing. Like a patient on life-support… it wasn’t really a life.
I was still lonely, in a gut-wrenching limbo, giving my all and getting crumbs in return. It was heart-breaking.
So… maybe for the first time in my life, I gave up. I consciously surrendered. This is not a figure of speech.
I admitted my weakness, failure, and mortality.
I knew I’d followed my heart, offered my gifts, studied, experimented, partnered, gave and gave and gave… trying everything I could think of, and I’d still ended up alone, hopeless, and unable to make any positive steps.
Or could I?
I had one idea left. I could really give up. Surely there was one thing I could get right. I mean, I’d failed at life, might as well make it official.
I’d pour my heart into ending my life. Embracing death was my salvation.
Iconic empire-founder Steve Jobs said:
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
And as soon as I made the decision, I felt confident again… sorta.
I was confident that I could end all my pain and the bullshit-hand I’d been dealt.
I was confident there was relief from my hellish nightmare. There was a place I belonged, and it was under the earth.
So began my ryze-style suicide. Like all I do, it was well thought-out & beautifully designed.
Noose? Gun? Train? Psssh, too sloppy.
A gun felt hard to acquire, painful, and messy/disrespectful to others. Trains felt unreliable, as did ledge-jumping, and hanging. Unpleasant ways to go, I mean, I’d die having sex if I could. (grin)
Sure, I wanted the pain to end, yes, but why start betraying my self, standards, and principles just because I was killing myself?
I dug deeper and explored better methods.
Carbon Monoxide seemed good, but challenging to implement for a homeless dude.
Poison seemed best.
I wanted to do it ‘right’, I wanted to do it my way. Most people have failed ‘suicide attempts,’ fuck that, I was gonna nail it.
So I signed up for Exit International’s newsletter and explored Switzerland’s Dignitas Institute for Assisted suicide, which is how I discovered Nembutal.
Officially named pentobarbital, it’s a drug that gently stops your breathing. It wasn’t legal to buy in Toronto, but I was psyched, I’d found a smart, elegant way to go.
So I dug around and sourced some.
It was $400 for a bottle, which was basically all I could save up, but I was ready to gamble on it.
I just had to find an address for them to ship it to me.
Fuck, who was I gonna ask?
“Hey can I send an illegal suicide drug to your mailbox?” “Why?” “No reason…”
I was finally doing something that felt like relief, something I could actually get right, and I’d failed again…
…I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted.
That night I cried in an abandoned mall washroom.
I wept sloppy, messy, snotty tears, because just when it felt like I had something I could do to stop my lonely pain…
…life even stopped that.
So, the next day, numb to everything, I took my last 10 bucks and donated it to a cafe called “Little Nicky’s”, that had been smashed in by an out-of-control bus.
I was convinced I’d starve shortly after, laying in a park, but at that cafe, I found an empire-builder client.
And finding him pivoted my whole life around. It was a huge turning point. Working with him was the start of real prosperity for me.
I finally had a loyal, appreciative client, and the more I helped him, the more both our businesses grew.
And most important of all… he ‘got me.’ He understood, accepted, and encouraged me to be myself — something I’d rarely felt.
But encouraging others to be themselves is needed to get the best out of people.
When Evan and I had #ryzesessions about the power of names, he renamed his flagship product to a made-up word. When we discussed brand reputation, he removed all ads from his website. When I said ‘rap creates reality’, Evan profiled rappers on video.
We were a team, epic collaboration.
I went from walking towards self-destruction on Sunday, to helping a major thought-leader grow his empire on Monday.
I've taken this thing 4 different times, here's the results.
I guess I'm a campaigning protagonist who mediates & debates?
So what’s all this got to do with empire-building?
Well, I’d become one of Evan’s trusted inner-circle, but only ’cause I’d lived through hell, walked through fire.
The reason I was such a valuable advisor to Evan, is ’cause I’d made peace with death.
I’d speak hard truths no one else dared, ’cause in my mind, I was already dead. I’d walk away from anything that felt wrong, ’cause in my mind, I had nothing to lose.
Heroes deserve pure and authentic counsel.
Someone who’s heart they can feel. Someone they can bounce ideas off and run decisions through.
And through my insane journey, I’d been refined into that person.
Here’s 4 things I learned:
- Judge no one.
- Failure is success.
- Make peace with death.
- Trust my heart.
And now I get to give my creative ideas and bleeding edge secrets to heroes who value them.
I get to help influencers and game-changers who truly matter. I get to share my story here, now, with you.
Hopefully by sharing my journey, by serving up my life, I’ll connect with heroes like you who get it.
“26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan
Because through my whole journey, I was looking to give my creativity, clarity, and perspective to people on my wavelength.
I left so many people along the way, but I was looking for you.
For kings & queens who truly want to rise, and uplift others along with them.
I love helping people ryze. People like you.
And as you prosper and serve your tribe, like the epic leader you are, we all get a much better world.
And you deserve a real rebel, a consigliere along with you.
Together, we’ll expand the story. #TogetherWeRyze.