Driven by personal & professional conviction.
My wife and I had just left the DFW airport and were about an hour into an 8-hour flight to celebrate our 10 year anniversary trip. We’re both avid readers and wanted to use this trip as an opportunity to hit the reset buttons on our minds & focus on our marriage and how we’re going to plan the next 10 years, and then spend some time reading and listening to podcasts. I’m not sure anyone out there looks back after 10 years of marriage or life and says “That’s exactly what I thought it would be!”
While we are very happy together and have had a blessed life, it certainly hasn’t come along the way we mapped it out when we first said our vows. We’ve been given many challenges like most couples have. We’ve ridden the rollercoaster of career changes, I became an entrepreneur, we became parents, and we’ve had to fight long term chronic ailments. In the past 10 years, we’ve also moved homes & schools, lost loved ones & brought new ones into the world. We’ve made progress financially and suffered setbacks that we didn’t anticipate. But overall, we’ve lived a blessed life, and we’re still here!
When we started to discuss what the next 10 years of our life would look like, I knew it would be different. I knew I wanted something different. I knew that if I wanted something different, I had to do something different. It was time for me to take control and be myself more than I have been. I needed to stop trying to do the things I can’t, and focus on my strengths. I also felt like I needed to raise my level of commitment to my family, my business & our customers.
One of the things I struggle with personally is feeling like I’m never doing enough. Our parents raised us to value hard work (which I’m incredibly grateful for). We would routinely witness them work 12 hour days Monday-Friday, and then head back to the office on Saturdays & Sundays during some times of the year. So, naturally, if I’m not putting in 60 hours a week, I feel inadequate and like I’m letting someone down, mainly myself. I don’t know why exactly, other than that’s what I’ve equated to winning.
I’ve had many good friends and mentors tell me the past few years that I’m stretching myself to thin, and at some point, I’ll pay the price. Well, that has certainly presented itself this past year. As I progressed through the year, I found myself working even longer hours & starting earlier. There are times I tuck the family in for bed and go back to work from 10-12, only to get back up at 4:30 and do the same thing. I spend a lot of time taking 3 steps forward and 3 steps back. I find ways to slowly stop working out, slowly start eating worse, slowly stop reading, and eventually end up at the same spot every year. I end up looking like someone who used to maybe be an “athlete”, about 10-20 pounds heavier than I should be, chronically fatigued and frustrated that I found myself at the same place again.
Do you know what the worst part of this is? In the end, the work I was doing wasn’t as important as I thought it was. Most of it was busywork that I refused to punt to someone else on the team…and we have a great team. I tell myself that I’m the only one who knows how to execute what I’m thinking in my head, and in the end, we have so many people who can do a lot of the things I’ve been doing, but better, I just needed to get out of the way.
Trying to gain clarity
So, knowing all these things, you can probably understand why a trip without kids was something we both needed. My wife (Aubree) goes above and beyond for our family, and the past few years I haven’t really been as present as I had committed to being when we first said our vows. She has found herself playing the role of a single parent too many times, and I needed to find out how to do my part better, along with gaining a clear vision of what we wanted for our life in the next 10 years. I also knew I needed to evolve as a leader and adapt to what our company needs me to be.
As we reflected and looked over notes we’ve taken from books and podcasts, one thing continued to stand out to me. If I want to live the life I want to have, I have to think differently. When Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s owner) was debating at the age of 30 whether or not he wanted to quit his job on Wall Street and start an online book store, he asked himself if, when he turned 80, would he regret not taking the risk? The answer was yes. Look at what he’s built because he was willing to take that risk and pursue his dream.
One of my favorite quotes is from Les Brown, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
When I looked at my notes I had taken from Ed Mylett’s book & podcasts, this one stuck out to me: “Make sure you don’t turn your DREAM into a NIGHTMARE and regret the rest of your life that you didn’t give it everything you had.”
A mentor and friend of mine named Jeff York said “Nobody is proud of the easy things they’ve done”…..This certainly wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew I’d be proud if I could finish it. More importantly, I know I would regret not doing it in 20 years if I passed on the opportunity.
Do you see a trend here? Everything I was reading and listening to that made the biggest impact on my current state of mind, had to do with the fact that I don’t think I was truly executing my dream. I wasn’t being the dad I wanted to be, the husband I wanted to be, or the leader I wanted to be in my company. I had been pushing too hard to check items off of a to-do list, that I was no longer spending time looking at the big picture at home or at work. I had been lying to myself and told myself “if I can be busy, I’m making a difference,” but in the end, I wasn’t focusing on my strength or my dream, I was just staying busy.
Being honest with myself
As Aubree and I talked about what we wanted for our marriage and our kids, we then turned to what we wanted for our careers. It was at this moment, I decided to stop lying to myself. I’ve never been the kind to sit quietly in the back and wait. I wasn’t the kid who was asked to raise his hand, it was always up. When someone is stuck and trying to find an idea, I always volunteer one. When the teacher would ask someone to read, I would do it, and be happy about it. Slowly over the past 5 years, I had somehow turned into someone that just opened their computer and responded to emails all day, worked on spreadsheets, and spent evenings and weekends responding to trolls on our Facebook page (somehow thinking that was productive….).
I decided I was going to be happy, I needed to get back to being myself. I needed to act boldly and fearlessly. I’ve known for years that we needed to be more active on social media, that I should be doing videos & podcasts, and that I needed to get out there more to help educate our customers, and yet I didn’t. You know why? I hated the sound of my voice and didn’t want to listen to myself…Everyone has always told me that I’m a good storyteller and that I’m a great speaker, but I’ve never believed them, until now.
Acting with Conviction
Now, how was I going to take the next step and become what I knew I needed to? Well, I was going to do something that I’ve been telling myself I should do for 2 years. You see, I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t sell something unless you truly believe in it. When I worked as a personal trainer, I stopped selling training because clients didn’t want to do the work to get better. I sold supplements instead because I at least knew there was some benefit there. When I started working for my parents, I sold our foods that didn’t have corn & wheat in it, because I knew too much starch for dogs was bad for their health. Now when you look at our product lineups, you won’t find those ingredients in our foods. If we don’t believe it benefits the animal, we don’t do it.
For 2 years, I have toyed with the idea of eating our dog food for a month. Not just as an advertising bit…..far from it. I want people to know that we are so passionate about what we do, that we’ll do anything we can to make sure we’re providing the best food possible for their dog, so much so, that we’ll even eat it ourselves. Am I saying that because I did well on it, dogs will? No, that’s absurd, that’s why we work with a Ph.D. nutritionist who has over 30 years of experience in our field. I’m doing it because I want people to know that we don’t just guess about our ingredients, suppliers, and process, we trust it. I know when my brother tells me we’re making quality products and buying quality ingredients, that I don’t have to worry about the safety of the food.
The taste, well that’s another story for another day, but I also don’t care. You see when you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing, who cares if you have to pass on pizza for a month? I know I don’t.
Living out our passion
Chad and I have a vision for our business. We want to feed as many dogs as we can a healthier diet than the conventional pet food options on the market. We want to provide customized solutions tailored to individual dogs. We want to employ hundreds of people and pay them above-market rates for their talent. We want to make a difference in independent and family-owned pet stores across the country. We want to inspire others to do the same and hope that by leading a company of faith that we can slowly inspire that in other areas of the country.
In order to do that, we have to act boldly, and while I was staring at the ocean with my wife, for some reason, I felt it, and I knew that it was time for me to do something crazy and out of my comfort zone. I was trying to figure out how to compete with the voices of the National Brands who spend millions of dollars…..WITHOUT spending Millions of Dollars. I thought, “what can I do, that the CEO of Nestle, Mars or Blue Buffalo probably wouldn’t be willing to do? I looked at my wife and told her “when we get back, I’m only eating our dog food for 30 days”.
Without a beat, she looked at me, said: “You’re being serious, and if anyone can do it, it’s you”. When I returned to work, I spoke with my sales and marketing team, they’re response: “hell yeah, let’s do it!”. I called Chad and told him, he laughed and said, “ok, let’s go get em, glad it was your idea, I’ll cook it, you eat it.”
Aubree and I after I broke the news of the impending dog food breath ^
Not doing this alone
As I write this, I’m on day 20. I wasn’t sure how I would make it as far as I have, but I do now. Aubree and the kids have been so great (the kids love helping my meal prep). Our fans on Facebook and Instagram have been super supportive. My parents, mentors, and friends have called to give support & advice. Everyone from Chad, to our office, sales, marketing & production team is rooting me on and trying to eat with me when they get an opportunity (Yes, they are volunteering to eat dog food with me so I’m not alone!!! How freaking cool is that!?!?). The number of friends, retailers and even customers that have reached out wanting to join me for a meal is overwhelming! Even my doctor, nutritionist, pastors, and parents were on board with this project.
I have 10 days left of dog food only, I’m down 20 pounds and feel absolutely fantastic. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol or a cup of coffee in 3 weeks and feel better for it. I’ve never felt more confident in the products we’re producing, or the team that’s producing them. I feel like I’m living the life I was meant to live, even if it means I’m eating dog food.
4th Generation Owner
Check out our YouTube journey:
Week 1: https://youtu.be/FBzcI_GOHCw
Week 2: https://youtu.be/FBzcI_GOHCw