How I Hit Rock Bottom and What I Discovered on the Way Back Up: 6 lessons about Leadership and Life


Life has a way of breaking you down, especially if you choose to do the wrong things, and get stuck in a cycle of self-destruction.

For many years I led myself down a path of doing whatever I wanted, I had no master, no guiding principles, no moral compass.

I had all the money I could ask for, there wasn't anything that I couldn't have. I had freedom, but lacked discipline. This is why I am such a proponent of it.  I am speaking from a place of experience.

Along this journey, I had several revelations and I wanted to share them with you. I would love to hear your stories as well.


When you are wrong, admit it, or things might blow up

When I was 13 years old, my friends and I went on a rock climbing trip. Our plan was to be up in the hills all day testing out our new found skills. 

After we did some climbing, we sort of wandered around the area and found a sealed up mine-shaft. It had a giant steel door and went into the hillside. Our eyes shimmered with dollar signs, we were going to hit the jackpot. So we dug our way into the mine-shaft through the roof with shovels and axes, that we had gone back for. We had no idea what we were doing. 

Eventually we were able to tunnel into the top of the mine-shaft. When we entered we found several items. A 50# box of dynamite, blasting caps, and 3 or 4 bags of black powder. So I did what any reasonable 13 year old would do. I took the dynamite home and hid it under my bed.

Try explaining to your Dad, a nuclear engineer, why your room smells like sulfur. I'm not sure how I did it, but I pulled it off. 

The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing
— Seth Godin

After a day or two I started researching dynamite on the internet...using dial up. This was before columbine or I would have been locked in a high end security facility and they would be feeding me through my Hannibal mask.

I started getting scared, I didn't realize that older dynamite sweats nitroglycerin when it has been sitting for long periods of time. I knew I had to do something. I conducted a night mission to extract the dynamite out of my room and through the window, and move it to my neighbors shed. Yes, it was not a smart move.

Eventually, the guilt and shame was unbearable...that's when we turned ourselves in. We marched into the United States Forest Service office with a box of dynamite. The Managers eyes got so big it looked like a cartoon. 

We were sent to probationary court and given 1 year probation and enormous hours of community service.

When you are wrong, or have done something wrong. Admit it. Don't sit on it and let it fester.


Don't cut corners, your choices effect everyone

Every decision you make, effects other people. Especially if you are in a leadership role.

When I was in Navy Boot camp I was put in charge of the entire berthing facility (PROC of Ships Staff)  which had a total of 4 divisions of about 80 men each, I was responsible for about 40 or 50. This meant that when things went wrong, (Which they inevitably did) I was responsible.

I was supposed to be the guy leading these men, and making sure that our quarters were squared away.

When in this position, I was given collar devices to wear on my uniform. Every night before bed, those devices were supposed to be taken off and put away in a drawer. If they weren't and someone found out (Usually and Recruit Division Commander). You were immediately beaten to death through calisthenics and humiliation. 

When your best player put’s it on the line every day, the other guys can’t cut corners
— George Karl

Well, one night I didn't take them off, and it just happened to be the night that the RDC's came around to inspect. Guess what they found? Exactly, my collar devices left on my uniform.

I was ripped out of bed, my clothes were all over the deck, and I was being screamed at to clean everything up while doing endless push ups, sit-ups and flutter kicks.

It also woke everyone else up, and then they all got beaten to. We were a motivated bunch.

I made an error, I made a bad choice and thought that I could get away with not following the rules. It cost me.

In that moment, I realized that my actions affected everyone. Who was I going to be when no one was looking?

Who are you?


Embrace the Suck

Again while I was in boot-camp, we had this RDC who was notorious for giving everyone a beat-down whenever they went into his office to clean it.

Which made cleaning it almost impossible, and since it was never thoroughly clean the cycle continued. I had one guy come to me and tell me he was getting only a couple hours of sleep because he was being motivated by this RDC all night.

I told him I would go with him the next time that he had to clean the office. So I did, and when we got in there the RDC's immediate words were "DROP". This meant we had to assume the push-up position and start cranking them out. While I was doing push-ups I negotiated with the RDC to let my shipmate clean the office and in exchange I would do as many push-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, air squats, and pull-ups as he wanted me to do.

I asked for one other thing too. I asked if I could watch wrestling on TV while I was doing all of it.

He let me do it, so that became our evening ritual until he got tired of me. 

I didn't mind getting beat-down. Exercise makes me feel good, that's why I do it. But I earned the respect of my subordinates, and that was worth it to me.

I was sore all the time, but I embraced the pain. 

Accept Failure. Enjoy it even. Embrace the suck. For the suck is part of the process
— AJ Jacobs

The lesson I learned through all of that is sometimes there are crappy situations, but you can make the best of it. It's your attitude that controls 90% of the outcome.

Doing all of that got me in the best shape of my life and prepared me for my life ahead. We are always being refined, into men, if we let ourselves be. Struggles and Challenges are what make us. Don't avoid them, rush into them, look for them, embrace them.


Stay Humble, your Ego is the Enemy

I used to think I was pretty awesome. I was a loose cannon for many years. I had money, a good job, I was being promoted fast, and it was all getting to my head. I had nothing but a selfish desire to do whatever I wanted and anything to get it.

That all came crashing down on me pretty quick. When you have a big ego, it will eventually catch up to you.

One night while in Singapore, I decided that I wanted to drink red bull and vodka all night. I wound up meeting a girl at a bar who had asked me to be there that night.

A couple of local guys didn't like me hanging out with their girl, so they started making a scene, and pushing me. I was so drunk by this point I was blacking in and out. They ended up getting me on the ground and punching and kicking me until Shore Patrol came. All I remember is waking up in the back of a van. I was urinating blood for a week and it hurt to walk.

It was after this event that I started asking a lot of questions about my life. Is this the way that I wanted to do things? 

Is this really the person that I want to be?

Everyone has a point where they hit rock bottom, sometimes more than once. This was mine. Inside, I was dead and void. I had nothing of real value and very little character.

The cost of not being humble is extremely Expensive
— Dale Partridge

It's all about people, it's not about you

Shortly after my incident in Singapore. I had another revelation of sorts.

I was in Perth, Australia. I was a mess. You would think that I had learned my lesson, but when I hit rock bottom, I hung out there for a while.

One night I began walking around Perth looking for something to fulfill me, but everything I tried ended up fruitless and only made me go searching for something else. It was about two in the morning and I was wandering the streets alone.

Finally I sat down on a curb and began to cry, I hated who I had become. 

A homeless man came down and sat beside me. I tried to give him all of my money but he wouldn't take it. The truth is, I didn't want my money either, I didn't want anything anymore.

Money can't make you happiness. It's nice to have and you can do a lot with it, but it won't mean anything when it can't by peace. I wasn't a millionaire, but I had plenty of money.

Instead, he talked to me about life. This is when I realized that life was all about other people, it wasn't about me at all.

I wasn't going to be happy or fulfilled if I was selfish or held on t everything so close. I needed to learn to give my time and resources to help people.

You don’t need a reason to help people
— Someone smarter than me

Life should be committed to something bigger than yourself

It started when I visited an orphanage in Japan. I was seated in this building where the kids would come in and learn. When they came in a little boy immediately came to me and climbed into my arms, rested his head on my chest and wrapped his little arms around my shoulders. 

I immediately started tearing up. I was broken. I realized that my life was so much bigger than me. John Ortberg asks a question in his book Life-Changing Love. "What breaks your heart?". The answer is simple for me. This is it.

I have been given more than I need, I have clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and people who love me. These boys and girls didn't have that, and they are just a small group. There are kids all over the world who don't have anyone to love them or care for them.

I am currently running a marathon and raising money for an organization based out of New Zealand called Orphans Aid International.


You can purchase a T-SHIRT showing your support!

You can encourage me on Social Media as I run.

Check out my Orphans International Page, and keep up to date.

You can Donate. (See Details Below)

I am trying to raise $5000. So far, we have raised almost $1000. All that I am asking is a donation of $1.00 or $1.00 a mile which is $26. That is the price of a meal for two at any local restaurant. You are welcome to give more. If you haven't given in the past months, please consider this as an opportunity.

I would love for you to join me on this journey, and together we can give kids a chance at life.

A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning
— Pat Riley

- Stephen

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