[The following is a true story]
Something happened recently that I have to tell you about. It involves two of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met and upgraded how I deal with adversity.
Now, because of what I specialize in, I have a handful of clients who own nine-figure-a-year businesses.
Some of these clients I can share about publicly (as I do on this page).
Others I'm under NDA with—something common with people who make that sort of money. Especially when someone like me does the kind of work I do for them.
Not all my clients do nine figures, by the way. Most make seven or eight.
I consider the two clients in this post close friends and they've both built their nine-figure-a-year companies from the ground up.
But, because of NDAs as well as the subject matter...
I’m going to refer to them by the pseudonyms Avocado and Tony.
Avocado because he eats one with everything.
And Tony because he's a longtime devout student and private client of Tony Robbins. Robbins is his GURU. And investing time and money in his guru's teachings and consulting has paid off well for him.
I’ll start with Avocado…
In his line of work, he crosses path with some scary people. So he's guarded 24/7 by a personal security detachment.
I’m not talking about the roided-out bald bodyguards employed by rap stars to keep ’em safe in da club.
Avocado has a revolving five-man team of sharp-dressed special ops fuckers watching over him. Fitted suits, earpieces, piercing eyes. They all have piercing eyes.
They’re his own private secret service.
At his house (which could be mistaken for a small hotel), he even has a panic room and a sniper positioned in a tree overlooking the property.
It’s weird approaching his castle-like front door, feeling the eyes (piercing eyes, that is) of a master marksman with a long-ass heater spying me from a fucking tree branch.
It’s even weirder knowing that Avocado needs the guy there.
That—because of a brand of adversity most of us will never encounter—his life necessitates it.
Now, facing adversity is a big part of why I started this blog (back in 2012).
Writing these posts began as a therapeutic hobby.
A way to work through problems, remind me of how I want to live, and share a bit of what’s working for me with others.
I never expected the blog to take off like it did.
Didn’t expect posts to be shared thousands of times (like this one that’s been shared over 35,000 times)…
Didn’t anticipate so many high-profile personalities to take to such a shine to it.
Or that several production companies would want to do a television show based on the content—which probably would’ve been a disaster.
Or that so many offers would come in.
Part of me struggled with the site’s success. Imposter Syndrome self-image shit.
You see, if I try to read a post I’ve published…
My inner critic starts yapping.
A psychological rabble-rouser likely rooted in childhood trauma.
That voice chimes in—sometimes whispers, sometimes screams—and I cringe.
I see a clunky word jumble.
I see hundreds of things I want to fix.
I see what is obviously the biggest piece of shit ever written.
THAT's what I see.
Even though a non-stop parade of coaches, experts, and gurus fell in love with the posts and wanted me to coach them (and their writers) on how to create content that entertains, influences, and impacts.
Even though the posts resonated with readers on a deep level.
Even though the proof was right in front of my eyes that I was doing was working.
It's in the comments and social media shares and offers that came in.
It's in the big names in the worlds of marketing, copywriting, success, and fitness who became giant fans of the blog.
The proof is right there. But I'm often the last to see or accept it.
There I was getting offers left and right, and the entire time I felt like an imposter.
Like I knew nothing.
Like at many minute, everyone was going to figure out that I don't know a damn thing.
Now, the coaching money's always been great, but the writing offers were substantial.
A guy with almost five million social media followers and email subscribers asked…
“How much to get you to ghostwrite just like that for me?”
He made an offer that trumped any advance I’d have gotten from a big publishing house for pumping out New York Times bestsellers.
We worked out a deal and I helped him increase influence, build rapport with fans and customers on a deep, human level—and smash previous sales records.
My name got passed around and one referral led to another and another and so forth.
I became the guy who takes the entrepreneur who's the face of his or her business and helps them create kickass content that builds a cult of superfans who buy from them again and again and again (which I explain HERE).
High-ticket consultants, public figures, and gurus from all sorts of industries—especially business, success, and fitness—wanted me to create content in their voices.
These were seven-, eight-, and nine-figure earners who could afford my fee.
And some of them lived stranger-than-fiction lives that sounded like a blast to pen.
Now, I realize—in an age where everyone’s vying for attention—that what I’m about to say might sound strange to a lot people…
But after being the face of my businesses, two blogs, and dozen-plus information products over the past decade—as well as opening up publicly about some very personal shit—operating behind the scenes sounded like a much-needed breath of fresh air.
My introverted nature was eager to step out of the light and shine it on someone else.
No more podcast appearances. No more speaking in front of big crowds. No more being the brand.
No more having to be Big Chris McCombs, the one with all the marketing answers (which was exhausting because I never had all the answers).
I could pull the mask off and just fucking write.
So I back-burnered my blogs and info-marketing business—everything that had my name on it—and accepted a handful of clients.
I wrote for personal development gurus, fitness gurus, consultants, a cannabis mogul, a celebrity TRT doctor, politicians, a media mogul, and so forth.
I positioned coaches and gurus as the authority figures they wanted to be known as.
I helped them fascinate their followers, impact them on a deeper level, and convert them into customers, zealots, and evangelists.
Into superfans eager to buy from them again and again and again.
I took big names who seem almost superhuman because of their accomplishments and introduced their human side in a way people could identify with.
In 2018 I was writing three books—two ghostwriting jobs plus a six-hundred-page memoir of a modern-day swashbuckler (which my name will be on the cover of).
What little extra time I had went to these insane little things I’ve got scurrying around the house called children (fucking animals but I love ’em sooo much).
However, I’ve missed spilling my blood in my own blog posts and the catharsis that comes with it.
I’ve missed knowing that my experiences are benefiting others (as readers often tell me about in the comments).
I’ve also missed selling my own shit (instead of just persuading people to buy everyone else’s).
And, while as a ghostwriter I’ve enjoyed both the privacy and act of marketing other people’s brands, I’ve neglected my own brand.
Something that part of me (including, of course, my ego) has missed building.
I told myself that once I completed the three books I’d carve out some time for the blog.
Well, I recently wrapped up all three (though I’ve already started another—apparently, I can’t help myself).
And so here we are…
Now, about a month and a half ago, I was in Los Angeles teaching a group of fellow writers who write for my client BigMike Straumietis.
Like Avocado, BigMike also founded and operates a nine-figure company (I get into part of BigMike's story HERE).
Both BigMike and Avocado live and work in the same area—a part of Los Angeles where $300K sports cars roll down palm-tree-lined streets, cosmetic surgeons slice into the bronzed faces of the 1%, and cute little white dogs with massive Instagram followings trot around tethered to the patients of those cosmetic surgeons I just mentioned.
Once I was done teaching BigMike's team, I stopped by Avocado’s headquarters.
Flanked by two members of his personal protection detail, he embraced me in a hug.
Hugging Avocado is…it’s, sorta…strange.
It doesn’t just feel strange.
I caught a reflection of it in a window one time.
It fucking looks strange too.
You see, at six-foot-six, I tower over most people.
And Avocado, well, he’s as far from six-six as it gets (and by that I don’t mean he’s eight feet).
That said, he has one of the biggest personalities of anyone I know and is built like as English bulldog on a steady diet of bison, fat burners, and testosterone propionate.
The guy commands attention.
He craned his neck to look up at me. “Duuude...you’re never gonna believe what happened. C’mon.” He cocked his head for me to follow him.
We cut through a long open office staffed with hip, tat-covered millennials standing at high-top desks, eco-friendly coffee cups at the ready aside their keyboards.
With the company’s big cheese walking by, the hipsters leaned in and squinted at their monitors as if they were getting some serious shit done (I could relate—I had a day job in 2002 and gave the boss the same show).
We stepped into his private office. Bare, smaller than most kids’ bedrooms, and illuminated only by the afternoon sun, it had a natural, unassuming feel to it.
With his security guys standing watch outside the door, Avocado took a seat behind his glass desk. “Dude...” (he says dude a lot).
He swung his tanned, vascular arms out, then gripped the top of his head and cut bulging eyes at me.
Now, Avocado’s dynamic. Lots of sweeping gestures, fist clenching, and face twisting—like many successful people I know.
But in this moment, he looked as if he didn’t know where to start.
“So, what’s up?” I asked.
He sank deeper into his chair, and sighed long and loud through flared nostrils.
Whatever was going on was some heavy, in-progress shit with lots of unresolved conflict. That much I could tell.
“All right.” He clapped his palms together, rubbed them, and sat forward. He was ready. “Check this out…”
Avocado explained how a group of people close to him had conspired to steal his company.
They were surreptitiously running entire offices and warehouses on the side and embezzled an enormous amount of money. Damages in the tens of millions.
“FBI’s involved,” he said. “They’re looking at a lotta years—fed time”
After breaking it all down, Avocado fell silent. He peered out the window, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of upscale LA before him. “Had to let go of almost a hundred people.”
People he cared for. Many had been with him for years.
The heartache shone in his eyes.
He thumbed away a tear. “It's amazing I'm still in business.”
I gave him an empathetic nod.
“But you know what?” He shot a forefinger at me, thumped it on the desk. “This had to happen. Had to, had to,”—he then smacked the desk with a splayed hand—“had to fucking happen! Know why?”
“Remember, about three or four mastermind meetings ago,” Avocado said, “where Ben and Jimmy got me all pumped up on leveling up?”
About a year earlier, a few of the guys in our mastermind had encouraged Avocado to do something that, to me, sounded like a HELLUVA LOTTA work.
But Avocado fell in love with their idea…
And that day he set a MONSTER goal.
Now, Avocado is fiercely self-aware. And he’ll be the first to admit that what drives him is the same thing that powers many uber-successful people…
He didn’t feel loved as a child.
I arched an eyebrow. “When you decided to become a billionaire?”
(It seems all my clients who do nine figures are intent on doing ten).
“When I decided to become a fucking billionaire," he said.
I suddenly knew where he was going with this.
He upturned his palms. “I’m not billionaire material yet. So when I locked my sights on it, my subconscious mind was like ‘Look, motherfucker, you wanna be a billionaire, huh? Then you need to evolve into one.’”
Of course that’s how he sees it.
He waved a hand around. “And, dude, this shitstorm’s just part of my preparation.”
I gotta admit, I felt a bit feeble for how much I’d been fretting over a few relatively small-time challenges in my life.
Avocado jutted his chin at the door. “Stan, out there?”
Stan? “Who the fuck is Stan?”
“Flat-top motherfucker outside the door with a big-ass gun under his jacket.”
Oh—a member of the security team.
“Navy SEAL,” Avocado said. “Dude trained his ass off for it. Grueling, ball-busting, agonizing fucking training. Had to go through it to become a SEAL. And this”—tapping a finger on the desk—“is just an exercise. Part of my training. Same fucking thing.”
Damn. I need to upgrade my mindset, I thought.
“And you know what?” he said, throwing his hands out. “I should’ve caught on earlier. It’s my fault they were able to do this. My fault and I take total responsibility for it.”
This is the fourth time I’m aware of that Avocado’s life has imploded.
The guy’s faced an epic amount of adversity. Been down as low as he’s been high.
Crawls, climbs, soars.
Fucking keeps coming back.
Each time stronger, wiser, better.
And part of the reason he’s so resilient is that he reframes situations to serve his mission.
He chooses empowering beliefs over the easy, seductive ones that so many of us gravitate toward—the worrisome, angry, depressing beliefs that make us feel like shit and do nothing to help us reach our goals.
Beliefs I often mistake for reality.
That’s what I was thinking about as I inched toward home in rush hour traffic, Chris Stapleton on the stereo belting out songs that could speak to any lost soul.
And there are times that’s how I feel.
There's no question where I want to go. But sometimes it's as if my compass if going haywire and I've strayed from the path.
I’m blessed with a determined and passionate heart, a lucrative writing career I absolutely love, and a family I’m in awe with gratitude over every day.
By and large, life is good.
But there are times when I let the challenges shroud all the love, beauty, and abundance.
When I make small things so big they obscure the gifts right in front of me and the infinite possibilities ahead.
When I zero in on what I DON’T want to happen.
Stress about the big scary things that could go wrong.
As Chris Stapleton gave way to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash (another saver of lost souls), I wondered…
How can I take my outlook to the next level?
I don’t mean what I call “eggshell positivity.”
That fragile mindset and forced delicate smile many adopt when first exposed to self-help material (like the masses who took Oprah’s advice and watched The Secret and were going to instantaneously “manifest” their dream lives by simply thinking and feeling good about it).
Where they deny all the bad shit exists and just, “Focus on the positive! Manifest! Everything is good! I love everyone! Yay!”
(A butterfly flutters its wings as it escapes their butt.)
That can kind of attitude never holds up. At least not for me (and I have tried).
In my experience, stuffing down emotions like sadness, anger, and fear just leads to a festering emotional abscess that, at some point, is gonna start oozing its toxins into the bloodstream.
Like feeding Gizmo after midnight.
Fucking Gremlin time.
Plus, focusing only on what we want, without at least considering what could go wrong, is like constructing a house of straw in an area known for tornadoes, banditos, and big bad wolves.
So wishful thinking and eggshell positivity hold no interest for me.
I wanted to really improve my mindset and better frame adversity to serve me and my mission and make me happier.
I recalled a conversation I’d had with another longtime friend and writing client, Tony (the guy who's probably invested more money with Tony Robbins than many people make in their lifetime).
Now, Tony and Avocado are alike in a lot of ways.
They both start each day with intense exercise, eat healthy, are super fit, make decisions and mistakes fast, are hyper-competitive, have archenemies (yes—arch-fucking-enemies), and SEEM fearless.
What isn’t apparent to most people—even those close to them—is that, like the rest of us, they’re scared of all kinds of shit.
But, unlike most people, they confront their fears without hesitation (an art I have yet to master but have gotten a lot better at over the years).
As Johnny Cash sang about Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee to Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devil's Lake, and Crater Lake for Pete's sake…
(He’s been everywhere, man.)
I thought back to a few years earlier...
I was at home scrolling the news on my phone when a headline caught my attention. Something about a bust.
And there, in the first paragraph, was the name of Tony’s corporation.
It was bad.
The government had targeted his company in a major investigation.
I read both the words and between the lines and shook my head.
His offense is standard practice in his field.
Most businesses in his industry could get popped for the same thing any day of the week.
But they’re so small the government doesn’t give two shits about ’em.
Tony, on the other hand, is the big boy on the block.
And the powers that be chose to use him as an example.
Which they did to the tune of eight figures in fines alone.
Staring at my phone screen in disbelief, I thought, Holy shit. He’s fucked.
I didn’t think anyone other than a team of thousand-dollar-an-hour attorneys could do jack shit for him, but I wanted to show my support.
I thumbed his name in my contacts. “Fuck, man, I just saw the news.”
He hacked violently into the phone. “Hold on, bro.” Cough, cough.
Tony had undoubtedly just snapped a bong rip. Something he does all day, every day and yet it never seems to slow him down (he's not the only mega-successful client of mine who burns all day, by the way).
“Man, if there’s anything I can do…” I said.
“Ahem. ’Sall good bro.” (Tony says bro as much as Avocado says dude.)
“They drop the case or…?”
I didn’t understand.
“Apparently,” he said, “there’s a lesson I need to learn.”
“What, don’t break rules?”
“Maybe. I think it’s bigger than that, though. I don’t know, bro. Could be the rule thing. I’m holding out for something better though.” He chuckled.
He then assured me that he’s “got this” and “something good will come of it. Just watch.”
Like Avocado, Tony chooses to be the author of his narrative.
Did he want the government’s boot on his larynx?
Of course not. He’s not a masochist (though, I have observed that nine-figure-a-year earners can be a species with mating habits both curious and extreme).
But Tony wasn’t going to waste time whining, worrying, and blaming.
He knows where that’ll get him.
Instead, like Avocado, he focused on how this situation could make him stronger, wiser, and better.
Tragedy strikes and they’re looking for the lessons.
For ways to transform themselves into the entrepreneurs they need to become to run the businesses they want to run and lead the lives they want to lead.
Hand ’em lemons and they've got machines and teams extracting the seeds, planting groves of lemon trees, importing sugar in fifty-five gallon drums, and setting up lemonade stands from coast to coast.
When running advertisements, my fellow direct response marketers know there’s no such thing as failure.
Test results that help you find and develop winning offers.
And my storyteller friends know the hero has to go to hell and back to become the hero. That without a succession of trials, without defeat and the death of the old self, there can be no rebirth into the hero.
Most of us know intellectually that the meaning we assign to what happens matters more than what actually happens.
We also know there’s a difference between knowing something and living it.
And, while I know the way I frame something matters more than the thing itself, living that truth has never come natural to me.
But every day is loaded with opportunities to improve.
To choose an attitude that empowers or destroys.
A simple choice.
Writing this post is part of that journey. A way to remind myself how I want to operate.
To etch the code I want to live by deeper into my soul.
C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
I believe that with every cell of my being. (In an upcoming post, I’ll share some of the miracles that sprouted during my darkest days.)
Not only has my experience taught me that hard times hold the key to doors that lead to wonderful places, but it’s a belief that empowers me.
Is there any good reason NOT to believe it?
Imagine how much ass we could kick if—with an eagerness to learn and evolve—we viewed all adversity through the lens of opportunity
I hope you enjoyed this post.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.
If you got something from it, please click the like button, share it on social media, and maybe pass it along to someone you think it would benefit.
And if you're a coach, expert, info-marketer, or run a business where YOU are the brand, DEFINITELY read what I just wrote RIGHT HERE.
It's about how I help my clients build cults of superfans who buy from them again and again and again.
Read it HERE.
Big Chris McCombs
PS. If you see a sniper perched in a tree, don’t worry. He’s with Avocado.
[*Note: To honor NDAs, aside from changing their names, I altered at least one minor detail each about Avocado and Tony that has nothing to do with their success or the trials they’ve been facing. The nine-figure revenues, security detachment, all the shit that went down, all that is real.]