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My Deepest Darkest Secret

My Deepest Darkest Secret

There’s one important fact that I’ve learned about shame.

And that is, shame when exposed to the light disappears. Almost instantly, like vampires in the sun. I’ve seen it happen with my one-on-one clients, in the sacred spaces of retreats and events, and in men’s groups that I’ve facilitated or been a part of.

Poof! Just like that.

By sharing the piece of us that we are most afraid to share, we find out that wasn’t really that scary after all. And most of the time, we aren’t the only one hiding that secret. In fact, most of the time half of the room is right there with you.

I’ve done a lot of scary stuff while running this little corner of the Internet. Olympic skeleton tryouts, a spontaneous marathon, and an in-depth analysis of the results of taking two months off of booze, sex, and masturbation.

For some reason though, this one felt the hardest to write. Because I felt completely out of control and I really didn’t know if I was going to pull out of it.

So my deepest darkest secret that I’ve been hiding (for most of my life) is…

I’m terrified of running out of money.

Which is funny, because I’m not really not that afraid of dying anymore. So running out of money is actually HIGHER on my scale of fear than dying. Bizarre right?

It makes sense though considering my beliefs.

I grew up in a family where we never had enough money. Even when I was young I knew that “things were always tight” and that my parents were transferring debt from one credit card to another. I knew the importance of a 0% APR credit card way earlier than I would have liked to.

The funny thing though, we weren’t poor.

I never went hungry, I always had a roof over my head, and I essentially got whatever I wanted when I was younger. Nintendo games, the sneakers I wanted, new clothes. We went out to eat relatively regularly too.

But there was “never enough money.” I heard my parents say it all the time, so that became my truth.

On top of that, I grew up in a God-fearing household where I learned from the Bible that I should “store up treasures in heaven, instead of on Earth” and that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

So making a lot money wasn’t only discouraged in my religion, it was downright looked down upon.

When I graduated college I went out into the real world with all of these fears and beliefs about money. So do you know what I did?

I made sure that I always made more money than I spent.

And I’ve been doing that for the past ten years straight.

Even when I was making $27,000 a year out of college renting cars for 50 hours a week at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I always managed to make more than I spent. I just lived below my means.

This model continued working well when I was working my post-MBA corporate job. And it’s been working well as I’ve built my coaching practice this year.

Then I announced this little event called The Conference For Men.

And I entered into the darkest two months of my life.

Since announcing the conference at the end of September, I’ve been weighed down by the question: “What if no one comes to my conference?”

And this fear has been consuming everything that I do. And I mean everything.

It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s a little like a constant tightness in my chest and shoulders. My body has been way less springy and stretchy. And my heart has been hurting… all the time.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping because all I can think about is how no one is going to show up and I’m going to be out tens of thousands of dollars.

I considered canceling it several times. Two weeks ago I vented all over my core team telling them the stress was too much to bear.

One night last week as I was laying in bed with my thoughts racing in my head, I felt like I was having a heart attack. My chest was so tight from the anxiety of throwing this conference, that I started to have actual physical symptoms. Add “anxiety attack” to the list of experiences that I thought I’d never have.

I’ve been meeting with dozens of friends and mentors in person, over the phone, and on Skype in what I thought was “getting their input on the conference.” But really I was just complaining and venting all over them and taking on their fears as well.

I wrote no less than a dozen “I’m going to fucking kill someone and/or myself” emails to my closest friends. When I say dark, I mean really dark. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was legitimately worried about my life.

I cried myself to sleep multiple times. Once was less than two weeks ago.

And a piece of me just wanted to pack everything up and hide. Shut down my website, turn off Facebook for a couple months and hit the road again. An ashram or monastery sounded like a great place to get away from it all. Eat, Pray, Meditate.

But sometime last week, things started to shift.

With the help of Laura, I’ve been getting back to my self-care practices like my life depends on it. Because it does.

Working out even when it’s below freezing here in New York. Going for walks in the morning. Meditating first thing in the morning. Dancing. Drinking tons of water. Doing things that energize me and saying no to everything else. And moving my body as much as possible.

And through the help of an army of supporters, I’ve been chipping away at this mountain of fear standing in front of me. You all know who you are, so thank you so much. I Love You friends.

Then something happened on yesterday’s episode of The Raw Truth About Entrepreneurship. Jonathan and I interviewed Ali Shanti and Kate Northrup and our topic was “Money and Love.”

We talked all about money and debt and bankruptcy and all the scary stuff behind money that no one talks about.

Kate admitted that when she was coaching, she felt a little like an impostor since she was $20,000 in debt at one point and she was coaching people on money. Ali shared that she was $500,000 in debt at one point and that she filed for bankruptcy. Jonathan and I shared our own fears and hangups around money.

We talked about the difference behind creator debt and consumer debt. We talked about how “all debt is bad” is a dangerous limiting belief for an entrepreneur.

And then towards the end of our conversation, Ali said something that took the weight off that I’ve been carrying around for the past two months.

“Whatever you’re most afraid of… do that. Whatever it is. For me, it was running out of money. So I needed to run out of money. Or come as close as I could to running out of money. Because that’s what I was most afraid of.”

And in that moment, I thought… “What if I DID run out of money?”

Probably nothing.

I really, really sat with it. I imagined my bank accounts going to zero. I imagined having to tell the world that I ran out of money. I imagined all of it.

And then I let go of it.

Today when I woke up I felt light and bright again. Because I know that the worst care scenario isn’t really all that bad.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to work my ass off getting 300 men to San Diego for a weekend experience that will send ripples through the world. I know that I have a good deal of work ahead of me.

But now Fear isn’t driving the bus anymore. Love is.

I could have quit last week when I really wanted to. But that wouldn’t be playing to my edge. I would go back to my comfortable schedule coaching a handful of amazing clients, socializing, dancing, reading, and traveling. It would certainly be the easier route. But a piece of me would feel like I cheated the world.

Because I would know that there were gifts that I didn’t give.

And I want to die empty. I want to give this life my all.

And honestly, this business isn’t about me anymore. It’s not about traveling all over the world, doing stuff that scares me, or writing books about how awesome my life is. I can really care less about any of that stuff anymore.

No, it’s about service.

It’s about serving men. And giving them access to the right people, resources, conversations, and communities to support them in their growth.

And right now the best way for me to serve is to flawlessly execute on this conference and bring together 300 men for a weekend of deeper connection. Deeper connection with women, deeper connection with other men, and deeper connection with themselves.

So yeah, that’s my deepest darkest secret.

I was terrified of running out money.

So much that I cried myself to sleep multiple times. So much that I was thinking some of the craziest, darkest thoughts of my life. So much that I wanted to call it quits and run away. So much that I was worried I was never going to crawl back out from this downward spiral. So much that it was literally killing me.

But now I’m better.

And I write this only because I know I’m probably not the only one with these thoughts. And hopefully something in here will inspire you to act in the face of fear.

Because if someone says they’re fearless, they are lying. No, what they are really saying is, “I am afraid, but I’m going to get it done anyway.”

And that’s what I intend to do. Because I really, really, really care.

Now excuse me, I have work to do.


PS – If you’ve ever had money fears or you still do, then . It’s a good one.

PPS – Buy your ticket to The Conference For Men today. And yes, I’m going to keep inviting you.

[Photo Credit]

  • Amit Sonawane

    Dear Mike,

    Resonating post. The only thing between you and 300 men in San Diego on April 25th, is you. Keep getting out of your own way like this and let it rock!



    • ss

      There needs to be a site or blog or something that you can put your deepest, darkest, horrible thoughts and have no one comment, just put them there to get the horribleness out of you. I don’t want feedback. No one can help. I just want to get this out of me.

  • Ariel Diamond

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!

  • Bree Reese

    You and your timely advice :) Mike- your courage to share is such a blessing! Thank you, again.

  • Janet

    this is so true! I’ve actually run out of money several times. 0 bank account.. bouncing the account, etc. and it really ISN’T as bad as you would think. it gets better. it’s not the end of the world. i never starved, etc. now I can let go of fear and operate with love and really take care of my business!

  • David Landau

    One consistent principle of manifestation: “What you focus on, you attract into your life.”

    Focus on scarcity? Boom. Feelings of scarcity.

    Focus on not having enough? Pow. More feelings of not having enough, driving your thoughts, words and actions.

    Focus on abundance? On successfully achieving your goals, on the vision of reality you intend to create? Zing! That’s what you will exude. It’s how you will see possibility in every conversation, in every project.

    It will color your worldview. It will influence the intuitive, deep, root thoughts that rise up unfiltered. Generate, consciously, thoughts and crystal clear visions of the result you want to create, and you start seeing – and taking advantage of – possibilities that would have been invisible before.

    This isn’t magic. It isn’t a flaky new-age play on quantum physics. It’s the core principle of the most influential thought leaders in the personal success field, from Napoleon Hill, to Tony Robbins, to John Maxwell.

    It’s not about making something happen out of thin air. It’s about psychologically priming yourself, your subconscious, to have the intrinsic motivation to act how you want yourself to act – but with an intense passion, a solid confidence, that will increase the effectiveness of everything you say and do.

    There’s always a possibility your intentions don’t manifest perfectly. In fact, there’s a high likelihood of it. Any one of us could get hit by a bus, have partners back out, or act on incomplete information. But there’s also the basic truth that if you stretch and push yourself to transcend your limitations, you’ll achieve a significantly greater degree of success.

    You’ll also learn.

    What makes you tick in new scenarios. What you need to do (or stop doing) to perform at the higher level a new professional setting demands. How insanely powerful a charged mind and spirit can be.

    And you just might surprise yourself beyond your wildest dreams.

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Thanks my second favorite David. I appreciate your phone calls and support. :)

  • Nancy

    Wow! I resonated with so many things in your post (especially the religious programming around money – btw, did that religion also discourage college? ;-). anyway, I will be sharing this with my business and life partner because I think running out of money terrifies him as well. I can almost say with certainty – count him in as 1 of your 300 men!

  • Rick Gabrielly

    Mike, great post man! You are so right on with this issue! Keep it coming my friend. We all need to hear and keep being reminded of this money thing and how to move ahead anyway. It totally disarms the freeze to just do it anyway. That’s the key to the castle. You have an army of us behind you, so just know that we are all in this together. Nice Job Mike! Thanks…Peace.

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Powerful article Mike. Thank you for getting this out there. It helped re-calibrate myself towards the thing I want without being consumed by fear.

  • emjayess

    I’ve run out of money more than once in the past decade (scarcity issues? what scarcity issues?!), most recently last month. Add children to the equation, and this fear of running out can really get out of control, if not kept in check. Every time that I can remember, something arrives (er, is manifested) with exactly the timing that it needed to. So I roll with it.

  • Kevin Diamond

    so glad you put this one out there.

    i feel as tho a weight has been lifted.
    this sent ripples.

  • Bonnie MamaNature Russell

    Last year, my husband and I lost absolutely everything- our business, three houses, three Harleys, and three cars. We hit THE bottom, but we never lost our sense of humor. We just shifted our lives into a totally new shape! We now rent a little, one bedroom house in Belize, CA and we make everything that we need.

    Here’s why this works for us: We are deeply, madly in love with each other, and with life! We know that we will always be OK no matter what happens around us or to us.

    I’m a holistic practitioner, ULC Minister and counselor. I teach about the power of attraction and the value that Love has in our lives. We focus on attracting Love above all else, and the rest just works itself out.

    Now, less than a year after moving to Belize, we have a thriving herbal medicine business, and we’ve scheduled our first seven week class, “Becoming your own Shaman”, for February and March.

    Life is Good!

  • Ellen Ercolini

    You were an Enterprise guy?! My brother-in-law started out as one too – they have a total TYPE. And are some of the most overworked, exuberant, charming guys on the planet. Glad you made it out of there and are doing something WAY better and more impactful with those skills.

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Yeah, amazing company, great training, fun co-workers… really crappy job. :)

  • Christopher South

    Wow. Thanks for this.
    As an artist/photographer I constantly question what I’m doing. “Will people like this?”, “will I make money with my photos?”.
    My biggest fear (And this is the first I’m sharing this publicly) Is not being able to take good photos on a paying job, and not being able to support my daughter. I’m so scared that I’ll crumble under pressure.
    Depression…. yeah, I understand. Going through it right now. No matter how good my photos are, I just don’t believe they are good enough. But I can’t give up!
    Thank you for being brave and sharing this with all of us. In this moment, you’ve helped me tremendously.

  • Ramona Russell

    Hi Mike!

    Great post, as usual. I’ve had clients with the same worries about putting on events/retreats/conferences, and you know what? Even if it’s a small crowd, and you lose money–which is likely since it can take years to profit from events–it will still be great. Recently, I attended a small, but very well-done marketing retreat. I know it cost my client a ton of money (it was his second year), and I don’t know if he made money. BUT it was a HUGE hit. It was casual, intimate, the networking was fantastic and my client (not to mention the speakers and panelists) gained a ton of new business. Your event will be great, and it will also be an amazing learning experience for the next one.

    On another note–regarding this post about money–Michael Kay, a financial life planner and contributor to Forbes and Psychology Today, specializes in exploring people’s money history to find out their money mindset. He believes your past experiences with money shape your values, which influence your thoughts (and actions) around financial decisions. He’s worth checking out:
    Best of luck with your conference!

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