Life hasn’t always been easy. I overcame being bullied as a child to graduate at the top of my class in college. My mother and I moved away from the only family I had known when I was young and I watched my grandma die of cancer in early adulthood. I married my high school sweetheart, but just under a decade into our marriage, she left me.
No, life hasn’t always been easy, but the struggles and hardships have given me so much. The difficulties formed me into who and I am and taught me what it means to pursue the wealthy life. Without the pain, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t value the things I value.
I tell you all this because I want you to know who I really am. Every other “about me” page I read when I first began researching blogging only talked about accomplishments. While I certainly have worked hard and have some accomplishments under my belt, I’ve failed a lot too.
Since I have invited you to pursue the wealthy life with me, you deserve to know who I am. If you are going to truly know who I am, you need to see my failures and the hardships I’ve faced. Every time you read one of my posts or follow one of my guides, you are trusting me and it’s only fair that I show you that same level of trust first, by sharing my story with you.
Learning How to Hustle
My mom was 19 when I was born and she never married my dad. As I grew up, my mom worked hard to make sure I had the best education available. In fact, she and I would clean my private school in the evenings so she could afford to send me there. She said I was smart and she didn’t want money to ever hold me back. Even though I was only 6 years old, I learned how to hustle from her example. She never let our disadvantages hold us back. We simply figured out how to work harder to catch up to those who started out with more.
When we weren’t cleaning my school in the evenings, she was always quick to play with me. My favorite was to pretend to be an airplane. Mom would lie on her back and hold my hands while I laid across her feet. When I was ready, she would extend her knees and lift me up in the air while we both made flying sounds. Some of my earliest memories are top down views of her smiling face.
Growing Up at Grandma’s
Because my mom was so young when I was born, we lived with my grandparents to save money. While my mom worked during the day, my grandma and I became incredibly close.
When grandma got cancer, I went to all her treatments because there was no one else to watch me. My grandma later told me that my company during those visits was a huge piece of her recovery. Because of how young I was, the seriousness of the whole situation was lost on me. I just went because the nurses gave me as many suckers as I wanted. My grandma’s example of perseverance in the face of the unknown still blows me away.
While my grandpa and I didn’t spend as much time together, we had our special moments. I would always ask to see his coin collection. When he got it out for me, I would spread them all out on the floor to look at them. I remember being especially fascinated with the buffalo nickels and the wheat pennies.
Despite my irregular childhood, I was an incredibly happy kid. I didn’t know my situation was different. I didn’t really understand that most other kids had a mom and a dad at home. All I knew was between my grandparents and my mom, there was a lot of love in our house.
Getting to Know My Dad
Eventually my mom and I moved out of my grandparent’s house into a trailer park. As I grew older, my dad was also more in the picture. He would come visit a few times a week, and eventually I was able to go stay with him on the weekends.
Looking back, he was the epitome of a 90’s cool guy. He was 5’10 and muscular with a shaved head, played guitar, and was very involved in martial arts. When I watched him fight and win tournaments, I was so impressed with him. I loved putting on his sparring gear after tournaments because he would let me beat him up. He became my hero in many ways. I was also a little obsessed with his three super fat and fluffy cats.
Just before my 8th birthday, my mom told me we would be moving from where we lived in Indiana to Nebraska to become farmers. She met a man at church and over time they became very close. Eventually they started dating, then he proposed.
Their wedding was in early April (a month before my 8th birthday) and I was so upset. Not only was allowing a step-father into my little family difficult, but being taken away from my grandma and my dad was terrifying and heartbreaking.
If only I could have clearly articulated all of that when I was 7. Instead, I remember being so upset that during the wedding I made stupid faces in all the pictures. I was also so stressed about the move that I felt sick all the time. I threw up almost daily for about 6 months. I even went to the doctor and they scoped my stomach to make sure nothing was medically wrong.
In middle elementary and middle school, I was an especially small kid, especially by Nebraska standards. This was partially because I started school a year early, but even so, I was still small. After moving to a house in the country outside a town of 500 people, I started at my new school. I was 1 of 16 kids and the small numbers made being the new kid even harder.
Most of the kids were nice and I made friends relatively quickly, but it wasn’t too long before the school bully noticed how small I was and used it against me – often.
He would exclude me from things, and encourage people to not pick me for teams because I was “small and useless.” He used a slew of nicknames for me (all of them focused on my size) and he slowly began to turn the few friends I had into bullies too. I felt so alone. Had I known the word then, I would have described myself as depressed.
I had always been taught to ignore bullies and to be the “bigger person” – metaphorically speaking of course. For the most part, I endured silently. My mom always talked about “turning the other cheek” and “doing unto others what you would have them do unto you” and as best I could, I lived that out. I endured so I wouldn’t stoop to his level.
Until my bully spit on my face.
I got mad – really mad.
Without thinking, I kicked him as hard as I could in the shin and he dropped to the ground and cried. I kicked him a few more times while he was down. He left me alone after that, but I felt terrible about hurting him and the guilt really tore me up.
I promised myself I would never lose control like that again.
My First Business
It was around this time that the Lord of the Rings movies were being made and at my school they were incredibly popular.
One day I was at a bookstore and I saw a bookmark with a small replica of The One Ring tied to the tassel. I bought one and took the ring off and made a necklace like Frodo’s with some cheap necklace chain that my mom found for me in one of her drawers.
At school all my friends asked me where I got it. I told them I made it myself and they all asked me if I could make them necklaces too.
I went back to the bookstore, bought 10 bookmarks for $3 each, then went to Walmart and bought some very cheap necklace chains for $1 each, and made 10 Frodo necklaces. My friends paid $12 for each necklace and most even bought the leftover bookmarks for $2 each.
At 12 years old, I made about $100 and it took me less than 2 hours of effort. I felt rich!
I had a few other ideas I wanted to test out, but after my mom found out that I was making money off my friends, she told me that I couldn’t do it anymore. Even so, the idea of using my mind to make money stuck with me from that point on.
Finding My Worth
After middle school, I lost contact with my dad. When I started high school I hadn’t heard from him in about 8 months. Because my school was about an hour from my house (and because I started school early, I was still a year away from being able to get a school permit) I ended up living at school in the dorms. The school had an international program for students from Asia and Europe so I lived with them during the week and would go home and work on the family farm on the weekends.
I was an independent kid, so I wasn’t too upset about living away from home. My relationship with my step dad had also never been incredibly pleasant, so living away from home became a retreat from the tension. I also loved being around people again.
As a freshman, I was 5’1″ and 90 pounds and was sure the bullying would start up again, but instead, being the smallest kid in the school made me the top (only) contender for the smallest weight class on the wrestling team.
Unfortunately, I was terrible at wrestling, but because the team was so tight knit and they were all so encouraging I stuck with it. During the off season my coach even came to campus twice a week to help me improve. Having that positive male relationship in my life was huge for me at the time.
Thanks to my team and my coach, I truly began to believe I was worth something for the first time since moving to Nebraska.
Best Friends Forever
During high school, the wrestling team and the kids who hung out with us became my main friend group. Over the years, I grew closer to one of our student managers (who also happened to be my coach’s daughter). We became best friends.
It didn’t take too long for my friendship with Kendra to become incredibly deep. We would spend hours talking on the phone and were always hanging out whenever we could. When asked why we were together all the time, we told people we were best friends, and it was that friendship that taught me what it felt like to unconditionally love someone. Even though we truly started our relationship as friends, it wasn’t long before I felt more.
We went to a friend’s birthday party together and in the car, we held hands. It was the first perfect moment of many and the first time I thought “I think I love this girl.”
We began officially dating right after I graduated and I proposed 11 months later – the night before her graduation. The proposal was crazy cute. It involved a scrapbook I made full of notes we passed each other over the years, candles, and our favorite abandoned railroad tracks. We were both so happy and very much in love.
Late Night Sushi
Our first year of marriage was tough. Not because our relationship was bad, but because we never got to see each other. I was working for my stepdad on the family farm and would get up before she would wake up and often wouldn’t get home to our little 300 square foot apartment until 8 pm or later. I also worked part time at a local restaurant where she worked just so I could spend some time with her.
Within 6 months, we moved to Omaha for me to continue my education after taking a year off to get married. Because of my mom’s example when I was little, I placed a very high value on my education. But I didn’t want to graduate with a mountain of debt, so I began working at a local sushi restaurant downtown.
I was able to work two shifts on both Friday and Saturday starting at 9 am and ending around 2 am. This combined with working Sunday nights allowed me to work full time while still being able to go to school at an accelerated rate. Because of the hard work, I was able to graduate a semester early at the top of my class. I then went on to get my Master’s degree a few years later, graduating at the top of my class again.
This is also the time when I began really digging into personal finance and through borrowing more subsidized loans than I needed and investing the extra money, I was able to make some money off my student loans while they were in deferment. It wasn’t much extra money, but it was just a reminder that I could still use my mind to make money in ways that other people didn’t think of.
Saying Goodbye to Grandma
The April before I graduated with my undergrad degree, my grandma was diagnosed with cancer again. Kendra and I took a last minute flight to say goodbye.
Making that trip was the hardest thing I had ever done.
Due to complications with her surgery and medication, she suffered a stroke which caused her physical and mental conditions to deteriorate rapidly.
When I walked into her little hospital room, squeezing my wife’s hand, my grandma got really excited, then just started crying because she knew who I was, but couldn’t remember my name. It broke her heart and mine too. I will never forget the image of her weeping in that hospital bed.
During that time, my grandpa was so good to her. He would visit her in her room all day, every day. Even though she couldn’t talk to him, he would talk to her and read to her. He played her favorite hymns, and told her stories about their favorite trips. His example of love in the hardest of times still inspires me today.
We spent a few days with her, my wife and I holding her hand and singing her songs until she told us she was ready to go home. She died the day we flew home. My mom told me that she believed Grandma waited to die until she could say goodbye to me.
My Marriage Falls Apart
About a year later, I got my dream job working for a nation-wide non-profit and my wife and I moved to a small town about 45 min. away from downtown Omaha, NE. I was seeing lots of success and dove deep into my work in ways that were incredibly unhealthy. This was especially true considering at the time I was still pursuing my graduate degree full time and still working full time at the sushi joint downtown.
This was really tough on my wife since her heart was set on moving to Minnesota. Additionally, she ended up going to school in Omaha and the distance from her friends and school was hard on her mental state.
This is when we really began to struggle. We both made mistakes and hurt each other in some pretty serious ways. We became increasingly unhappy until she eventually left me, saying she didn’t know when or if she was coming back.
This was the hardest time of my life to date. To be completely honest, there were times when I thought we weren’t going to make it and despair would get the best of me, but I didn’t give up. My grandpa’s example of love in the tough times, my grandma’s example of perseverance in the unknown, my faith, and my close group of friends kept hope alive.
Through counseling, lots of work, and a ton of honest self-evaluation, we got back together a few months later. Since then, we have been incredibly intentional about valuing each other and our relationship in ways we simply didn’t before. We made some pretty drastic changes to our life to set our marriage up for success and it made a huge difference.
No couple is perfect, but we are closer than ever and both believe that our future together is incredibly bright.
It was during this dark time that my good friend Ryan, a close friend since college, decided that he and I should work on a little project together. His suggestion was partially to just help me fill the lonely evening hours and to have an excuse for the two of us to spend more time together since I was in a dark place.
Over the years, we both grew increasingly interested in personal finance and the FIRE movement. We consumed books and articles pretty quickly and had a solid base of good financial habits. We realized that we were both independently helping friends leverage their finances to pursue the type of life they wanted. That’s when we started dreaming about leveraging the power of the internet to help even more people.
After realizing just how many people struggled to manage their money and how few were pursuing passive income streams to set themselves up for success later in life, we decided to figure out how to help people achieve that. Because of the relational poverty I was experiencing in my marriage at the time, our conversations turned to other types of wealth and we decided we wanted to help other people pursue wealth in those areas as well.
Helping You Pursue the Wealthy Life
Since launching, our goal has always been simple. We want to help as many people as possible pursue wealth in all the areas of life that matter most.
Much of our content focuses on financial wealth. But, we are also incredibly passionate about helping our community grow wealthy mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Through both of our struggles we learned what the wealthy life meant to us and we wanted as many people as possible to join us in our pursuit. We want everyone to be free to pursue their passions, experience deep and meaningful community, live a life in puruit of their calling, and to feel like the wealthiest people alive.
You can learn more about our community of readers and join us in our pursuit of the wealthy life by signing up to get our weekly emails at the bottom of this page. If you join the community, we’d love to hear your story as well! If you’d like to share it, send us a direct message.
I hope you can see in my story that I am just a normal guy. There is nothing really special about me. I have made plenty of mistakes and gone through lots of hardships – just like you.
God has been a huge part of my story, and I am so thankful for how I have been formed into the person I am today – even if getting here wasn’t always easy.
If nothing else, I hope my story encourages you to push through the tough times, to value those you love while they are with you, and to aspire to pursue the wealthy life in all the ways that matter most.