Chapter 2 – From Rock Bottom To Rock Solid.
How I discovered “The Gratitude Switch”
You know you’ve hit rock bottom because rock bottom is the moment you find the power and the strength you’ve always been lacking to change your “now,” and go on to positively affect your future.
My partners and I started a real estate investment company in 2007. Before that I had been working as a self-employed mortgage broker for a few months, and before that I’d worked for a large mortgage and auto finance company.
In the early weeks of January 2007 as I sat in my gray walled cubicle in Salt Lake City, I decided to go try to hustle some mortgage leads in addition to the paid leads I was hammering the phone with on a daily basis.
In my attempt to drum up some business I called a good friend who I knew had been doing a lot of real estate, and I shared with him that if he needed any help facilitating any of his personal loans, or loans he was doing with investors, that I might be able to help. He politely declined, but got back in touch with me a short while after.
He and another very good friend of mine were considering starting a business together, and they were having a meeting that week, and they asked if I would be willing to come. They were going to share some of the principles they were considering building the company around, and thought I might be interested to check it out. So of course I decided to show up and found that it was real estate investing as I’d never seen it.
There were only a handful of people that showed up that night, but I caught a vision instantly of something that had the potential to be so massive and epic that there was no way I wasn’t going to get involved. Following that meeting in early 2007 it was just a matter of days before the three of us were in business together.
If you have ever been a business owner, or been a part of a start-up you know that it takes a certain type of mindset in order to tough out the rough times and stick with it. It takes a constant application of the principles of success and abundance in order to actually see the business succeed. There was however, one very big problem, I just didn’t know how big of a problem it was at the time.
The problem? I was an entitled brat. The way I interacted with life at that time was a far cry from actual reality, but because I had never been taught a different way of thinking, it it was my reality. I played the victim card constantly. Nothing bad was ever my fault… EVER!
That was my prevailing mindset as I entered this ownership agreement with my friends. You and I both know that a virus of the mind has to be dealt with, and since mine had taken up a permanent home in my brain, and I was completely oblivious to it, I did nothing to improve it or work on it during those pivotal few years of our company’s founding.
After a few painful and telling experiences where it became very clear that my business partners and our clients had been hurt and let down by my attitude and actions, I figured that perhaps I should make some changes.
Around 2009 I really began a personal development journey. It was the first time in my professional endeavors that I began to hire and invest in me in order to have mentors in my life. I began reading and listening to book after book and program after program. I started attending seminars and conferences, as many as I could and as often as time would allow.
One of the most life changing events I attended was The Big Money Speaker Bootcamp in Summer of 2010. (bigmoneyspeakerbootcamp.com)
This event was put on by a man I would later hire to be my personal coach and mentor, ABC Secret Millionaire, two-time College Speaker of The Year, and Co-author of Chicken Soup for the College Soul, James Malinchak. (malinchak.com)
Thanks to James, his content, and his straightforward approach to speaking and being an author, I actually started to believe that I too could train and speak, and that I could maybe even write a book one day. I started to meet people that had walked a similar path working with James, and I saw how successful they had become after starting with virtually nothing. I was filled with hope and potential.
With my new found knowledge and increased belief in myself, I began asking my partners if they would take a risk and let me do some speaking and training for our whole company. They agreed, and you won’t believe what happened. I was good. My messages were resonating, and we saw our company culture shift, and overall employee contentment and production increase. Our company at that time had had grown to over 50 employees. I was starting to be looked to as an inspirational speaker and a beacon of hope and wisdom inside of the walls of our little company. I even created a few original talks that, on occasion I was asked to give to other growing companies and corporations in the local area.
Here I was, speaking, and inspiring, and getting compensated to go give talks. I was starting to feel pretty confident in my abilities and knowledge. I was feeling like I was making more and more personal progress, and experiencing more success then ever before. This lasted until we made one specific hire that changed my life. Little did I know I would let this new hire lead me to the derailment of all that I had started to learn and accomplish.
The man we hired, I will call him Frank to keep his identity private, became our Marketing Director. Frank was a guy that knew his stuff. He had already experienced some massive success at a young age, and was the guy that put us on the path to starting and owning a brand new company inside of our existing Strongbrook umbrella.
In October of 2011 we had started a Direct Sales side of our company to add to all of our existing real estate investment products. This new company, and what would become thousands of its independent reps, were tasked to market and promote our real estate products all across the country using an MLM chassis.
It required a tremendous investment of time and resources, and we realized Frank was the man to run it. Frank was instrumental in helping us set up, establish and begin running this new direct sales and network marketing side of our company, so we moved him from the position of Marketing Director to the position of Managing Director of Strongbrook Direct, our Direct Sales Company.
As a Founder of Strongbrook, and one of the owners to boot, I would often find myself moving from department to department within the company. I would go where there was a need. I would train, inspire, set up systems, hire, fire, create department hierarchies, and so on. At the point Frank took over Strongbrook Direct I had already worked in, established and turned over our loan department, the coaching department, I’d assisted with bulk property purchases, I’d done our high end sales, assisted with the fund raising through our private stock offerings, and created our entire curriculum that our clients experienced through the educational side of the company. I was also the company road warrior. I was our primary traveling speaker, and was the one that went out and spoke all over the country in our company’s behalf sometimes being out for week long stretches at a time.
With all of that behind me, we now had a need to set up, create systems, and grow the Direct Sales side of our company which as you can imagine was a monumental task. Frank as the Managing Director of Strongbrook Direct enlisted the help of me and the other two Founders as well.
Frank ultimately had autonomy in the department, and would often use me to be the primary trainer and speaker traveling and speaking all across the country for our growing team of independent sales reps. I remember loving that feeling of responsibility and being very grateful that I was able to go and do that.
At first this felt exciting, and I was excited to work alongside my fellow Founders and Frank to make this side of our company the most profitable yet. I can’t pinpoint exactly where it changed but sometime in 2012 everything changed.
At some point I woke up to life and realized I’d been relegated to the role of Project Manager. I can’t even describe the process from feeling rock solid to hitting rock bottom, but slowly over time Frank began to believe that I couldn’t be trusted with any projects. There was a very uncomfortable and palpable tension between Frank and I, and it even exploded in to full on shouting matches at times.
The tension and dislike transcended business and became personal. I remember one time, Frank very loudly told me that he was offended by the love I expressed and showed for my wife through the public and social media forum of Facebook. He thought it unfortunate that our relationship was so bad, that I couldn’t even tell my wife I love her in person, I could only do it on social media. Things got really nasty.
As a result of our increasing differences, Frank truly felt like he could not trust me to be a valid contributor of any kind.
In Frank’s defense, I had proven time and time again that I had not dealt with my entitlement mentality. Once I started to become unhappy, all of that negativity and victimhood I lived with for 30 years started to resurface, and it was as if all of that personal development, and all of the inspiration that I’d been responsible for providing to others had completely evaporated. I became an employee and was no longer acting like an owner or a Founder. I let the relationship affect me, and I was an active participant in the deteriorating relationship with Frank and I. I would pretend I respected him while in public, but in private would berate and criticize him. I was terrible to him, so it is no wonder I felt like he was being terrible to me.
I became an entitled brat who believed I was owed certain amounts of respect due to my hand in the Founding and establishing of the company. I would sit in my office and pout, and waste time, and then complain that I wasn’t respected or valued. Frank simply began to avoid giving me work or projects of any kind.
I became frustrated, and felt like I was under utilized. On top of that, I had the added guilt of drawing a salary, but really knowing deep down that I wasn’t contributing anything. I would justify it by mentally listing all the areas of the company I’d impacted, and then would let my contrived sense of pride justify payroll checks I would cash.
If I was not out speaking and traveling, I found myself bitter, resentful, unfulfilled, discontent, and somehow had devolved back to the man of 4 years earlier who did not want to do much work but had this insatiable desire to be recognized for his “contributions.”
A combination of fatigue from what felt like constant travel combined with proliferated exhaustion due to the fact that our baby boy Braxton at the time did not understand the concept of sleeping through the night, all culminated in me feeling unbelievably depressed and unsatisfied day after day after day. I was on my way to rock bottom.
Let me describe how I would interact with life during this time period of my life, and see if it sounds familiar.
I would wake up in the morning exhausted, and feeling slight resentment towards the world that I was up at all.
I was feeling fat and overweight, and I would spend many mornings sitting on the floor of the shower hoping I could just get through the day.
I had zero desire to engage in personal development or success training of any kind, and spent every free second mindlessly watching Netflix, sports, or reality TV.
I was a mildly attentive father, but seemed to especially enjoy my alone time.
I was eating a constant, almost daily stream of fast food.
I would head to the closet almost every day and be disappointed with the wardrobe choices, and feel as though nothing really fit well because of my excess weight.
I would get dressed begrudgingly to go work for this guy, Frank, who I thought was an idiot for not seeing my potential and using all of it.
I felt underpaid, under appreciated, and unhappy.
I felt like my car was just alright, and not what I envisioned driving at that point in my life. I would drive to work everyday wondering what dreadful experience would take place that day.
When it came to money it seemed like our family never had enough of it. It felt like the house was never big enough or in good enough condition and no matter how much money was in the account, I would stare at the numbers and feel a tremendous amount of scarcity that it was never enough, and would once again feel like I was under paid.
At this point in my life I was Man #2.
My Turning Point
This one day after a dreadful and exhausting morning, I drove to work, and I remember sitting in my car looking down at our office, and thinking, “I DO NOT want to go in there. I hate it there. I hate my job. I can’t stand Frank, and don’t want to see his smug and arrogant face, and put up with his passive aggressive comments about me. I don’t make enough money anyway. I don’t want to deal with HIM all day. I am so underutilized that it drives me nuts! I wonder if I should just go somewhere, anywhere? Should I leave the company? Would I even be missed? What’s the point of all this crap anyway?”
I was completely and utterly depressed. All of that positivity and inspiration that had once been a part of who I was seemed to have disappeared completely. It was at this point that I hit rock bottom. Remember I said earlier that I’ve come to learn that you know you’ve hit rock bottom because rock bottom is the moment you find the power and the strength you’ve always been lacking to change your “now,” and go on to positively affect your future.
I knew I couldn’t get any lower then that moment right there staring into my dreaded future from the driver’s seat of my car.
It turns out, all of that training and coaching, and reading, and inspiring of others through my speaking had not disappeared completely. I started to sense something deep down within. Inside of me there was still a tiny spark.
There was still greatness inside of me, but I’d buried it under piles of excuses, victimizations, rationalizations, and lack of self-worth. That internal spark was like a smothered little flame that just needed a little air, and as soon as I remembered the spark was there, and as soon as I acknowledged it’s existence, it was as if someone poured a drop of kerosene on it.
It flared up and much of the old training I’d recieved began to trickle back in to my consciousness. I immediately began having this thought. “If my circumstances won’t change, maybe I can change the way I look at my circumstances, and maybe as a result they actually WILL change.”
It seemed crazy. I started to think back to all that coaching and mentoring, and all the books, and all the personal development progress, and all of those seminars and bootcamps I’d attended.
Almost as soon as I flipped that switch and began considering changing the way I was looking at things, and thereby changing the way I was acting towards those things, I had this other thought come to me. Some of that powerful coaching I’d once recieved came flooding in to my mind.
During the second Malinchak Big Money Speaker Bootcamp I attended at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in the Summer of 2010, I heard from a man, who is the Publisher and Founding Editor of Success Magazine. (success.com) A gentlemen named Darren Hardy gave a talk that day that would change my life 2 years later. Now in 2012 Darren’s talk became the fuel to feed my flame.
I remembered Darren discussing how small daily actions can compound in to big results. He planted the seed, that day, and all of a sudden I remember that I had notes in my journal from that talk. I felt inspired to look up those notes and read his suggestions.
I began reading his incredible suggestions, and then as I turned the page, there it was. There was the one sentence that I had put a big fat star next to in my journal. There was the one suggestion that since has changed my life.
I had written, “Pick a frustration I have and keep for 21 days a gratitude journal about that thing.”
That is quite literally how I wrote it in my journal. I don’t know why I wrote it so grammatically backwards, but there it was. The meaning of that suggestion shone through the terrible grammar and it’s message was a clear as day.
Kevin, be thankful, and be thankful daily!
I recalled Darren telling a story about how he kept a gratitude journal for his wife, and then gave it to her. It sounded like a great idea. In fact it sounded perfect for me right now.
I began to think that maybe if I got a journal and I just started writing something down every day that I was thankful for that maybe such an act would be enough to begin changing the way I was viewing my circumstances. It just made so much sense.
Then in an instant, fear flooded my consciousness and I felt my flame flicker and almost go out. I remembered something. I had already tried the gratitude journal thing. I thought, “wait a second, I tried that already. It obviously didn’t work because here I am at rock bottom trying to crawl out.”
This is the backstory, in early 2011, a few months after I had heard Darren Hardy speak, I bought two gratitude journals, one to use to write about my wife, and one to use write about my daughter. My wife was pregnant at the time with our second baby, and my daughter had started to blossom in to this little human full of personality and humor. I faithfully wrote in those journals for about two weeks discussing what I loved and appreciated about those two girls in my life, but I let the practice go long before any sort of habit was actually created.
Wait just one second!
If you don’t understand what I’m about to teach you then this entire book will be pointless to read. This is essential to the understanding of the powerful truths and principles I’m about to share with you.
I just told you that writing daily in a gratitude journal didn’t stick for me, yet here I am about to teach you that it is the small simple daily conscious use of gratitude that will change your life. Where is the disconnect?
At that time in early 2011 I did not understand the eternal power of gratitude. At that time it was nothing more than a “good idea to kinda feel that gratitude thingy.”
At that time in my life, in 2011 I did not understand THE ONE singular truth about gratitude that has now eternally altered my life in the most exquisite ways imaginable.
Are you ready for the one thing I was missing in 2011?
Stand up and do a jumping jack and a couple of lunges, I want you perfectly alert and ready to receive what I’m about to share with you.
At that time in my life, I thought gratitude was a noun.
I thought it was an emotion.
I considered it a thought, but it wasn’t a “thing.” It wasn’t yet a tangible and very real power in my mind, it was just a good idea. At that time, although I knew I could sense a quiet power inherent in gratitude, gratitude had not yet permeated my very being and embedded itself in my soul.
Creating My Gratitude Success
If I was going to pick up the practice of expressing daily gratitude again I knew I needed to try something different this time. I was at rock bottom, and I was not interested in staying there, so instead of trying and failing again with a gratitude journal, I chose to try a different technique.
I created an experiment. I made a recurring task in my iPhone to remind me every morning at 8am, that I needed to choose to feel gratitude at some point that day. Every morning my phone would beep, and it would tell me to find something to feel thankful for.
At first I would just kind of see the alert, but wouldn’t do much. I would see it off and on through the day, and at some point during the day i would isolate something and try to feel thankful for it.
It seemed like it was working better than the gratitude journal for me, but there were still a few days where I just wouldn’t get around to feeling the gratitude.
I decided again to change the way I was choosing to experience gratitude. I’d begun to see some very positive results in my life, and I felt like the old, much more tolerable me from 2009 and 2010 was starting to make its return, but I wasn’t progressing fast enough in my mind, so I needed to choose yet a different way to experience daily gratitude.
Next I tried each day at 8am in the very moment the alert sounded to look around and find something that I could be thankful for. Maybe it was my wife, maybe it was my daughter. Maybe it was simply that I was standing upright, it didn’t matter, I just tried to find something. As soon as I picked something to be thankful for, I would check off the checklist on my phone that I had experienced gratitude. Task completed.
I started making more progress, but I still was not pleased with the velocity of personal and emotional recovery from rock bottom. It was at this point that I discovered the secret to my success, and what will become the secret to your success.
I finally abandoned the thought that gratitude was a noun, and I embraced the fact that gratitude was actually an active, powerful, and exciting VERB.
That’s right, I came to discover the secret to using gratitude to change my life was that I had to view it as actionable. I had to make it feel like it was a push-up or a bicep curl, or an ab crunch. I started to view it as a physical choice, a conscious decision to use gratitude at very key moments throughout the day.
I made a decision to start using gratitude differently. I began to pick one experience each day that was frustrating or difficult, and I would simply take a moment, reflect on it then find a way to feel gratitude for it, or for what I learned from it.
It was exactly what I’d written down in my journal. Pick a frustration and choose to feel gratitude for it.
Eureka, I’d found it. Here are some examples.
Frank would make a snide remark about a task I didn’t complete well enough, and I would feel a rush of anger, but would curb it, and replace it with the thought that, “I’m thankful Frank wants to do his job well. I’m thankful that he is willing to take a walk down to my office to express his dissatisfaction. That can’t be easy for him. I’m glad we have him in that position. He really is committed to the success of the company.”
I’d go in the bathroom and after washing my hands discover that there were no paper towels. I would feel a sense of frustration, but would immediately flip the frustration to a thought of, “No big deal, I have running water, and indoor plumbing. That’s pretty awesome, I’m actually really thankful for that.”
Within a few days I’d become Man #1. Each of the things that used to frustrate or anger me as Man #2 would melt away and become blessings like they were to Man #1.
The biggest demonstration, and when I really proved to myself that I had begun to master this actionable gratitude thing, was one day when I looked at the bank account, and there was barely enough there to get us through the next week, if it would even get us that far.
Kevin, as Man #2 would have viewed that number as rotten, and miserable, and ridiculous, and would have immediately felt that feeling of under paid, under appreciated, and over worked. However, I had really began to be more comfortable with me playing the role of Man #1. So I looked at that bank account, I looked at that balance, and I CHOSE to feel gratitude that we didn’t have any less that what was in the account at that moment. I mean, we had a warm home, a roof over our head, food in the refrigerator and cupboard. We were immensely blessed, far more than many in this world who were significantly poorer than we were. The account balance didn’t appear too little to me, it appeared as something much greater than any amount of money could ever buy…
It… was… ENOUGH!
I thought, “We aren’t homeless or hungry, so that amount in the account right now must be perfectly enough, because right now in this moment we are perfectly okay!”
It was that moment that the principle of “Flipping The Gratitude Switch” was born. I knew I had taken a conscious active set of actions to feel gratitude for something I normally would have experienced fear and anger for. It wasn’t a passive emotion I felt, it was something I DID.
Not only was it something I DID, it was something I did in an instant, and it felt like all that was required in that moment was this physical, conscious, internal flipping of a switch. At that moment, a thought entered my head, “Hey, I just Flipped the Gratitude Switch!”
I had gone from rock bottom to rock solid, and it was all because of Flipping The Gratitude Switch.