Wins and Losses Series: Mike from MikedUp Blog – “So That’s What Freedom Feels Like”

So Thats What Freedom Feels Like #Debt #Family

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Happy Friday, Team!


Today, I am introducing a new series that I’m extremely excited to bring to you!


The “Wins and Losses Series” is all about examining the best and worst moments in someone’s life – and determining the life lessons that came out of the turmoil and the triumph… The Wins and Losses of life, and how they shape the path forward.


I’ll be the first guinea pig (today) but I also have a few of my old friends and some new ones lined up to share their most precious lessons learned as well.


You’ve heard that history repeats itself? We’ll with the Wins and Losses Series, that’s exactly what we’re counting on! Let’s learn from both so that we can maximize our wins and minimize our losses moving forward!


(If you have interest in participating in this series, please send me a note here) – You don’t need to be a blogger to apply. 


Here are the main criteria I’ve asked the participants to follow


It’s pretty straightforward. I’m looking for you to identify the 2 of the best moments of your life (no weddings, births of children, etc.). Why were they the best, how did they come about, and what did you learn from each?




What are 2 of the worst moments of your life (whatever you are most comfortable sharing)? Why were they so terrible, how did they happen, what did you learn from the experiences, and how have you adjusted course moving forward.


I would also like for you to highlight the main takeaway beneath the story of each moment


Check out the complete Wins and Losses Series Here



Here’s my contribution


Worst Moment #1 – Self-centered Mike


It was the summer after my Sophomore year in college. I had just sustained a back injury that ended my collegiate football career and I had decided to get away for the summer months… Maybe longer.


A great friend and I chose Maui, Hawaii as the destination and although we didn’t have jobs or a place to stay lined up, we were uber confident in our abilities to make it happen!


Well, by the grace of God it turned out well because the first job we applied for accepted our applications on the spot. For the summer, we would be Hosts & Merch’ salesmen in the Hard Rock Cafe.


It was a perfect setup. Mornings on the beach, playing hoops or getting into debauchery, afternoons and evenings at The Rock, and more debauchery after dark.


We couldn’t have asked for a better summer and about 75% of the way through, we decided to take a weekend trip to the big city of Honolulu


We had all the touristy things planned. Lunch at Duke’s, surf lessons, and some quality crusin’ at night. Honestly – it was shaping up as the best summer ever.


On the second night of our ‘vacation’ I got a phone call from my mom while we were eating dinner. I struggled to make to the words through her tears. I knew it wasn’t good. She had called to tell me that my grandfather had passed away and that the service was the following day…


My grandfather and I had a close relationship. We shared weekend trips, rounds on the golf course, and more memories than I could count. And here I was, 4,400 miles away with no conceivable means to make his funeral.


The tears fell down my face as I hung up the phone, I stood up, walked the 25 feet out of the restaurant and onto the beach, and just sat down in silence. It was one of the most helpless moments of my life.


All the moments that had passed while I was away for the summer and I hadn’t picked up the phone once to give him a call


I didn’t even know he wasn’t well and now I’d never get to say goodbye. Not only that, I wouldn’t make the funeral. It was terrible.


In the moments and days that followed, I learned the true value of family. I knew that regardless of what is going on in your life, your priorities need to be aligned appropriately.


Could I have kept him alive by not going to Maui? Of course not. Could I have called to catch up and ask how he was doing? 100%. I’m no saint with this still today, but it would serve me well to improve still.


Lesson – Value the time spent with those that mean the most to you. If you haven’t spoken with someone you love recently, reach out. The 5-minute phone call is well worth it.


Worst Moment #2 – I issued an ultimatum


With the caveat that there have been lower moments in my life, this story describes one of the worst professional mistakes I’ve ever made.


After my second year in a Ph.D. track graduate program, my life changed course in a major way. The prospect of an additional 3-5 years of graduate school without income and ultimate fulfillment no longer sounded appealing.


I had met and proposed to the woman of my dreams, she was applying to 4-year dental school programs, and frankly – our new family needed more than the $12,000 stipend my program provided. I needed to get a job. Quick.


April 20, 2010 – an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon sent over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and created one of the worst ecological disasters in recent history.


A young ecological emergency response company (Enviroscience Inc.) was located just 10 miles from Kent State (my grad school). They worked hard to secure a contract in the Gulf with a group of other emergency response companies and Enviroscience needed some ecologically trained reinforcements.


I applied to the company and found myself reporting in Mobile, Alabama May 1


It was the first time in my life I found myself taking part in an event that was sure to be historically relevant, and aside from the ecological and economic disaster all around me – I loved every minute of working in that environment.


Our company was brought in to take part in and eventually oversee all sampling activities along the Gulf coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. And as one of the first on site, I was sent to just about every location on the beach, in the Gulf, and upstream of some larger rivers.


We worked around the clock all days of the week. My record for hours worked in a week was 93, and we kept pretty close to that pace until August.


Personally, I started as a Sampling Technician. But as our team grew, so did our need for structure.


The memory is as clear as the sky I’m currently staring at (cloudless). Auditors from BP came to visit our headquarters to make sure our process would hold up in court. Our sampling procedure checked out but they demanded we create a training and auditing program.


I had been teaching undergraduate courses at Kent for 2 years, so my hand reluctantly went up. That moment catapulted my career path and ultimately afforded me the opportunities I have today.


For 2 months I worked with the VP of our company to develop and roll out our training/auditing program. We hired a staff of 5 to work on my team and by the time I left The Gulf, we were a well-oiled machine. Error rates were way down and confidence in our procedure was at an all-time high.


I left to return to grad school in the fall, but my phone rang 3 days later


“There was a pipeline that burst in Kalamazoo and [our partner company] wants your program and team in Michigan. They want you up there now. I know you’re in school but think about it and let me know.”


My ego was immediately bigger than Alan Iverson’s in his heyday. I thought I was untouchable and irreplaceable to the company. This was my moment to capitalize. I called him back.


“I’m ready and willing but I’ll need you to double my pay and provide health insurance.”



Dead air



Like any experienced businessman would, he talked me down and ultimately got me to commit to working for 5 days to setup the plan and then remove myself.


I killed that relationship with one sentence and in retrospect, he probably hung up the phone and made my replacement’s hotel accommodations right away.


Lesson – Put the ego aside. If I would’ve just let the conversation play out and asked for a more reasonable raise, or at least asked in a more professional manner, a job at that company could still be mine today. I loved many things about that job, but I’ll never know what could’ve been because I let my ego grow out of control.


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Best Moment #1 – Testing the limits


My graduate research project led to me and 2 close friends spending 21 days circumnavigating one of the most biologically dangerous peninsulas in the world. The Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica.


We had planned this trip for months. There were checklists, Skype calls with local contacts, and even letters written to our loved ones if something terrible happened during the trip.

You see, there were no roads, hospitals, stores, houses… Nothing. This peninsula is 75% protected biological reserve chock full of venomous snakes, big cats, inch long poisonous ants that fall from the trees, oh and freshwater fish – my study organism of choice. It would be a day, minimum, to either walk out or get to a phone and call a boat to come to pick us up. We were literally on our own.


The kicker for my fiancee, mom, and mother-in-law was that the most venomous snakes liked to swim in rivers… Exactly where we’d be sampling for fish. (I held off on sharing that until after my trips were over).


But for three 20-something males, this sounded like the trip of a lifetime. And oh, was it!


We took all the food, sampling gear, cookware, tents, and supplies we thought we’d need for 3-weeks on our backs. And it wasn’t until about Day 17 that we ran out of rice… So that wasn’t too bad.


But we found a way. Every day we got up, checked off the next stream or river on our map and kept going until we set up camp. 90 degrees with 100% humidity on the beach, over mountains, through the rainforest. We took on all terrain and honestly loved every moment of that incredibly grueling trip. Boys turned into men during those 3 weeks… And I lost about 15 pounds (yay for weight loss!).


I remember the moment that I first saw an inhabited building after 3 weeks out under the sun and stars with no formal infrastructure in sight


It was a Costa Rican restaurant & bar about a quarter mile from the beach, and it wouldn’t have been better placed if it were written as a movie script.


Here were 3 incredibly beat down, tired, and not-so-rosy-smelling guys that had ran out of rum and food about 4 days ago and were now walking into a bar (not the start of a joke). We ordered 2 rounds of beers right away and probably 8 plates of food. And let me go on the record to say – that was the best tasting food and beer that there ever was. We had made it and the wave of accomplishment that washed over us quenched the soul.


Lesson – Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Through the greatest challenges come the greatest rewards. There are few better feelings than pushing yourself to your limits and succeeding through it all.


So Thats What Freedom Feels Like #Debt #Family

Best Moment #2 – Oh, this is what freedom feels like


My wife and I purchased our business almost exactly a year ago


Immediately after the purchase, the details of our lease had forced us to find a new office location, negotiate a 10-year lease, and draw up construction plans for a brand new dental office. Oh, and we had 30 days to knock that out.


Over the first 8 months in practice, we worked to grow our business, develop our team, and finish construction on our new office.


I’m not sure exactly how, but we grew revenue by 18.5%, received 136 reviews (averaging 5-stars), hired 2 new employees, and opened our doors at the new office – all in the first year. We were overjoyed and finally started to see the light at the end of the whirlwind tunnel.


There was only one problem… All that nonsense cost money. A. Lot. Of. Money… We’re in our early 30s, have a mortgage, student loans, and 1 daughter with another little one on the way. We’re not exactly flush with cash right now.


I sought out bank loans, handshake deals, loans from family, and drummed up some cash ourselves all to get across the finish line


After 8-months in business, we moved to the new space. We were due to pay our outstanding debts by the end of month 12.


My wife and I had honest conversations about selling the house, begging for help, and some other things I don’t care to share. After month 8 it was this balancing act of will we grow revenue enough to support the debt promises we had made to keep in month 12.


Three days ago, I made the final payment to our construction team. My wife is currently incredibly nauseous with Baby #2 but if that weren’t the case we would’ve celebrated like any 2 respectable adults would. A bottle of wine and probably some Netflix!! Yeah!! For now, the celebration entails 3 Starburst, mashed potatoes from Bob Evans, and a McDonald’s hash brown… Pregnancy.


Lesson – Plans can only take you so far. Eventually, you need to get to work and make something happen. We buckled down to earn the financial freedom we so covet. Now that our business is free from some serious debt, we’re free to use the increased revenue for things that will help us and our community improve together!


Check out the complete Wins and Losses Series Here



Reader’s Input:


Have you shared any similar situations and if so, what did you learn from them? Let’s improve in the comments below!


Thanks for reading!


If you’re interested in discovering a better version of yourself – whether with fitness, finance, or family – then subscribe below to MikedUp Blog’s FREE newsletter and let’s improve together!


I’m glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!


– Mike
Join Over 2,100 Other Team Members!
Learn valuable skills to build wealth, achieve a higher level of fitness, boost your business' profits, and more...  All in support of a healthier YOU!
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  1. Wow, what a journey. Life lessons only make us better people. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on keeping your plan ahead of schedule.

    1. Angela – Thanks so much for reading and commenting! It’s true – the past is full of lessons to learn… Now it’s just up to us to make sure we actually learn something. I appreciate the support! Have a great Friday

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