Every once in a while, I’m prone to share a more vulnerable, personal story – a struggle, if you will. This post is one of those. It’s about evolving – the need to. More specifically, it’s about the important parts of me that have fallen and the struggles to continue to evolve.
It’s a pain in the neck – literally. Last year, I injured my neck, and I haven’t been able to recover. I might’ve pulled a muscle or so while working out, but the following Saturday, I got hit pretty hard from the back – the other player flying straight into the back of my neck. My right arm went numb for a few minutes. I rested up after that, but you know what happened? Nothing. Almost two months went by, and I didn’t feel better. My neck was in all sorts of pain. I couldn’t turn to my right to look at my girlfriend in the passenger seat of my car without feeling pain in my neck.
I went to the doctor who prescribed physical therapy. I blew past the 8 sessions, and my PT was able to get more sessions from my insurance provider. However, I had plateaued. I wasn’t getting better.
All this time, I changed everything about my workouts – lowering all the weights, changing the exercises, etc. In soccer, I moved myself towards the backline. I favored the middle of the park, but it required me to be more mobile. The back and forth and sideways movement was too much. Playing in my favored role required quick changes in direction. Apparently, changing directions on a sprint heavily involves one’s neck. That was no good. I started slotting into the backline. This, at least, kept most of the play in front of me. I could put a little distance so I could also prepare if I needed to break out into a sprint. That’s how much my pain was.
I didn’t get more sessions from insurance for PT. I had “failed out”. I went back to the doctor and was told to get an MRI. The results… was a herniated disc.
The troubling part about a herniated disc is that there is little that can be done. Like many injuries, you lean on your body to repair itself. However, it’s been so long with the herniated disc that it was clear my body had not repaired itself… and grimly, might not. We opted for a couple epidural injections over the next couple months to ease the pain while perhaps giving my body some “space” to heal.
Sadly, that hasn’t proven the case.
The next treatment? There’s really only one option – vertebrae fusion. It’s, “eff your disc, it’s not getting better. We’re just going to fuse the two vertebrae that is separated by the disc together.” Except 80% of folks I talk to say not to do it. They say most people don’t get better, and the complications that can arise from this surgery is “worth it”. Awesome.
I sit here today getting ready to play soccer in a few minutes. My neck is sore. It’s not in a lot of pain at the moment unless I articulate my neck within 15-degrees of my prior-limits (looking left, right, up, and down. That’s a lot of restriction. Tomorrow, I hope to work out. Except, I’ll approach it as a very strict “de-de-load” session.
To be honest, I’m scared. I’m scared because I’m feeling aches in my body now, and I don’t know what else can be done. Or rather, I don’t like the next options. I’ve already limited so much of what I do – weight, range of motion, exercises, etc. I’ve lowered my expectations. I apply a heat pack daily to my neck and upper traps. I stretch as much as I can. I’m scared I’m losing a big part of me – the physical me.
For years, soccer was my passion. It was who I was. In high school French class, I always volunteered at the beginning of class [for participation points] to say what I did the day prior in French. “J’ai joue au foot!” (I played soccer!) I was like a parrot I said it so often. I played soccer every day. I played soccer throughout college. Then, I kept playing after college. Then, something happened. Friends couldn’t play anymore. They were moved out-of-town. They were having kids. Organizing soccer with friends became harder.
At that point, working out had started to be THE thing for me. If soccer was hard to come by because of a lack of friends (team sport), then working out was a sport I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. It was me against myself. Weights didn’t care if I had a bad day. It was perfect.
Working out became such a big part of my life. It even became a part of my entrepreneurial life with Body Boss.
Now, it’s possibly being taken away from me. Now, I think I’m losing that, too. I’m no longer the competitive soccer player. Now, I may not be the strongest guy in the room. I may not be the guy everyone looks up to for being able to lift and do impressive feats of exercise.
I admit that when I think about how I can’t challenge myself because of the pain, it hurts real fricken deep. When I feel the pain coming when I work out, I wonder if I should just pack it up and go home. Don’t know how many people around me know this feeling. I wouldn’t wish anyone to face this. In some ways, it’s an existential crisis. If I have stern look these days, chances are, the back of my mind is trying to rush into the front of my mind – reminding me of the pain and the possibility of everything going away. I didn’t think this would happen to me, let alone so soon.
Last week, I remember rolling up from the bench press into a sitting position. I was able to lift a good heavy weight, but I knew that I used to be able to lift so much more. I knew that I used to know I could push myself. Now? Now, I’m scared to. I’m afraid of the pain. Again, I think about going home. I looked down at my watch, though, and realized my 2-minute rest was about over. Well, while I still can, “eff it”. I rolled back down on the bench and go to my next set. Might as well…
It sucks. I’m scared. I don’t want to be anyone else, yet. But looks like I might have to. Who will I have be next?
I’ve talked to several people recently who have voiced their desires to strike out on their own and others who are toying with joining a large company. So, the question becomes of staying employed or being employed. I admit that I’ve struggled with this one, too, as I’ve now been an employee since early last year. Truth be told, I struggled with this a month-and-a-half into employment. (Yikes.)
Over the last several years I’ve spoken to many who jumped in both directions only to regret the jump only months in. Then, they’re looking to change again. No surprise many jumps occurred because not “feeling valued” – either in responsibility (/ growth) or pay – most commonly.
My advice (and yes, the same advice I give and take for myself) is to think about the bigger goal (the WHY) and realize what you (read: “I”) hope to achieve here and now, and the near-future. Yes, near-future – not necessarily long-term.
It’s easy to get enamored these days with something shinier… something that pays more… something that seemslike it’s more rewarding. However, there’s a beauty in the present struggle. Why do I feel the way I do today? How can I change this feeling? Why did I move here in the first place? What am I implicitly learning?
We fail to see the incredible lessons in today’s struggles. We gloss over them while focusing on the next thing that is supposed to be greater, better. There’s a lot to learn in struggles. Remember, I wrote a book on it (see Postmortem of a Failed Startup).
And to that, focusing too much on the long-term could mean losing focus on the boundless opportunities closer. When we stare out too far, we ignore what’s in our peripheries – the very things that have a more immediate impact that can change our trajectories altogether.
Don’t jump. Walk. Walk in your current shoes, and absorb all that you can. Realize the opportunities hidden in the struggle. Then, see if you can run where you are, or if you must jump onto a different track.
I chuckle to myself at the irony when I see gym-goers drive their cars up and down aisles in the parking lot. They’re looking to win the lottery to be as close as possible to the doors. Though, travel two aisles over and there are spots aplenty. Getting fit seems to start only through gym doors, but not leading up to them.
I love the gym because it’s a setting where you see the gamut of those who work hard, those who go just to go, those who make excuses about not having time, etc. There’s a lot to absorb at the gym, and lots of great lessons from observation.
When it comes to achieving greater goals, consistency is absolutely key – true for building a startup and true for being fit. Few transactional decisions and actions achieve long-term objectives. Worthwhile objectives are achieved through journeys. It’s this very reason that time management, then, becomes the tactical execution of consistency – to balance priorities.

 But if we stop for a moment and think about Day 0, Day 1, Day n, we realize there are gaps between tasks. These gaps, then, are prime opportunities to lead us from each task to the next. If we were to fill these gaps, perhaps they help us achieve an objective faster, or perhaps these opportunistic gaps allow us to achieve greater results.

Opportunities that fill in the gaps can be learning a new skill from reading a book, meeting a sales savant, or maybe an opportunity to do more stretches in the gym.
Back to a gym example! The other day, I went to the gym when it opened – 5AM. However, the person opening the gym was late, so there was a quiet group gathering outside the gym. Folks were just standing there waiting and staring at their phones. Here, gym-goers are presented with an opportunity to take a few minutes and stretch. They could have spent the time outside getting ready for the time inside when the doors opened. Instead, people stood there doing nothing, and when they entered the gym, the started to stretch.
Realize the subtle opportunities we are all presented with in our day-to-day. What’s the objective? What are you trying to achieve? Where are the shortcuts that counter what we’re actually trying to do.
Before then, what can you do now?
Last week, I posted one of the most important blog posts since I started except… I lied. I didn’t quite take that vacation/ break.
I haven’t taken a vacation in quite a while. Even in late December and early January when I went to Orlando and San Fran for family vacations, I worked. A lot. This past Thursday, I still ended up working 6-7 hours even after everyone at work messaged me to get offline.
It’s a hard to be “okay” to turn off. Early in the week, I handled several marketing tasks, but I hadn’t finished any of my sales and customer success tasks. These efforts boiled over into Thursday, my supposed time off.
Having lived through the roller coaster of Body Boss and then last year’s anxiety-filled summer, knowing to turn off and actually doing so is a work-in-progress. In fact, like working out, exercising vulnerability, speaking, writing, etc., taking time off should be a constant practice.
Harvard Business Review has a great article about resilience – “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure”. It’s a great reminder that we, as a society, like to applaud the men and women who continue to “grind it out”. However, grinding it out leads to burning out. The brain is like a muscle – requiring time to recharge.
Professional athletes exert exemplary effort in bursts (games) but set aside time to recover. Without recovery time, athletes become susceptible to injury and operate below-par.
So, the moral of today’s post: taking time off is a constant practice. It’s easy to prescribe others to take time off, but it can be hard for us to take the very medicine we prescribe. It’s a constant practice and process that requires diligence with an eye towards the greater goal.

The other night an old friend came by needing help to create a marketing campaign. Her store was launching, but she was having all sorts of trouble sending out a couple email campaigns.
She had already visited the company’s offices after getting zero help from Support. (Yes, you do that when you’re desperate and looking for answers.) She had sought the help from friends who used to work at the company or knew of those who did. No one was able to help.
Surprisingly, I was the last resort. (Because I’m really not that technical.) But perhaps for good reason — I knew Don Pottinger. 1030PM on a Sunday night, and I knew that I could still hit him up for help on resolving my friend’s problem.
After an hour, though, we were still stumped. But here’s the difference between all the other tiers of support my friend went through: Don kept on pushing. He kept researching and troubleshooting. Coincidentally, he actually had some experience with email marketing given his startup (he is the CTO), is a marketing automation platform, Kevy.
Don realized the desperation of my friend, noticed her passion, and knew she tried her absolute best to figure out the problem. He saw someone who needed help… needed his expertise. So there’s Don, now 11:30PM on a Sunday night… CTO of an early-stage startup… with three kids under the age of 3… staying up to research and help a friend of a friend. Perhaps, he also enjoyed the challenge.
By midnight, he figured out a couple issues, and my friend was able to launch her campaigns successfully. Today, she’s even switched over to Kevy.
What my friend experienced with Don is what I experience all the time from him, and from what many others experience with Don. That is, he’ll push and push to help. He isn’t able to help everyone, but he recognizes those who have put in the effort, warrant his help. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs. He’s reliable when you need him.
Everyone needs a Don. Luckily, I’ve got one, and a few other Don-like friends.
Another Daryl Lu original (powered by Microsoft PowerPoint)

Okay, if I were to really pursue the dream that made me happiest, I’d be fighting my way into Jurgen Klinsman’s squad for the World Cup coming up on Thursday. (!!!!!!!!!! Super stoked about this!) But I’m not because there’s a gap in skill (maybe) and of course, the cost-benefit ratio/ opportunity costs to think about. There’s a graphic out there on the interwebs describing the crux of what most everyone falls into…

(Source: https://bobbiblogger.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/rich.jpg)
This is a good portrayal, I think, in the world of Venn-Diagrams telling you what to do. However, I think we should step back a second and assess where really you want to be. In most cases, I think it’s being happy and if you were [knock-on-wood] to pass tomorrow, would you be satisfied? Or, what regrets would you have… how do we minimize regrets?
The buzzwords today are “entrepreneurship” and “startups”, and with the Hollywood flick of The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, along with the many success stories we hear about including Snapchat’s $4B acquisition offer by Google, WhatsApps liquidity event at $19B to Zuck and Co., and others, there’s obvious stardust in our eyes to dream big. That, and we all like to think we can be billionaire bosses. The truth is, though, we can’t and most aren’t.
Having spent the better part of the last few years making no money on a startup (even as a tech firm with low costs, there’s still some costs to cover) and then shuttering, we’re still one of sooo many stories of unfortunate failure and like I said, no money. You know how media goes, though… in the world of startups, hype up the big acquisitions and startup successes. That sells.
But looking at this gorgeous wedding this past weekend I attended in Jamaica, it also brings about a harsh reality some (many) entrepreneurs face… without income, you limit yourself on what you can do or how much you can enjoy things. It’s a hard road going uphill while most of those around you are in cushy positions living it up in otherwise more stable occupations. For me, I’ve traded the lavish lifestyle of consulting (let’s tone down “House of Lies”, by the way) for the uncertainty of startups.
It’s definitely sucked to go to bachelor parties at nice steak restaurants (my favorite), and hold back or not order anything at all while the rest of the group chows down on glorious meaty plates.
Luckily, I’ve got some runway from savings from years of lavish consulting and still frugal spending. However, for the last several months, I’ve eaten countless loaves of bread with peanut butter for lunch and I’ve stopped taking my whole family out to dinners just because… instead, it’s my family definitely supporting my dreams (me).
In fact, an entrepreneur once used the term “mortality of an entrepreneur” as a reason why he seeks funding for any of his endeavors. He only has so much to keep going on personally. Not that I can say I want to be beholden to someone else, or really have a living off another without a really good, profit-generating business, but it’s interesting to think about.
It’s a tough life, and one day, I hope to pay back my family and friends for the support with dinners, random gifts, vacations with friends and family, etc. For now, I’ve got to watch the wallet (especially from homeinvaders at night), and keep plugging away with the belief that I’ll pivot and find my entrepreneurial success to give me the stability and flexibility we all really crave. I don’t think financial security necessarily gives us the “freedom” we want as much as we want the “flexibility” to change our directions.
I know several friends who say they want to do their own thing one day, which could very well be true. However, looking at their lifestyles right now, you can also see how a job is just that – a job. It doesn’t come back to bite them at night. It doesn’t keep them up. However, their jobs enable them to have and live a lifestyle they’re completely happy with.
Entrepreneurship certainly doesn’t guarantee happiness, much like a current “corporate” job. If in the end, you’re happy and your job enables a lifestyle you’re happy with, you’re able to travel the world like you’ve always wanted, then that’s okay, too. We should all be okay with that, rather than push into the media-hyped world of entrepreneurship and startups.
So if you think you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s important to really understand the difficulties and be strapped in for the long run. At least for me, I subscribe to the idea of “plan for the worst, hope for the best”. At some point, if the money doesn’t come through one of these entrepreneurial endeavors, there’s going to be a harsh reality for me to mitigate my risks while perhaps embarking on a journey that may take a step back toward entrepreneurial greatness. It sucks, but taking two steps forward and one step back is still better than no steps forward.
And before I close this article up, I do have to include the obligatory bulleted list of some pros of the harsh realities of entrepreneurship:
  • Lack of income creates some creative solutions
  • Having a set meal everyday frees up time thinking and shopping for what you’re going to eat
  • Like a dog backed into a corner, you have to fight to survive
  • Without stable income, you find you can cut out a lot of extraneous niceties (#firstworldproblems be damned!)
  • Most people will never understand what you’re going through, but with a strong startup community, you’ll find a niche of those who have gone through it, ARE going through it, or will
  • You emerge from the darkness with incredible strength and mental/ emotional fortitude (I hope)
  • If you’re like me, you thrive on challenges and building something from nothing. Entrepreneurship is certainly ONE avenue to do so, and the one I’m using as a vehicle to make a bigger impact. You can find yours, too

Without great risk, it’s difficult to attain great benefit, and so yes, I definitely still view full-time pursuit of a dream is the way to go, but like I said before, it’s wise to mitigate risk through preparation personally (familial), financially, professionally, mentally, emotionally, and socially (all the other -ially’s). So if entrepreneurship is going to make you happier or help you get there, by all means, do it. If it’s not, then do what you can to achieve what makes you happy.

What are your thoughts of why you shouldn’t pursue entrepreneurship or some other passion? What are the cases to overcome the risks involved?