Late last year I announced my plans for a 12-month Founders Live world tour. This post covers the last month and other lessons from my journey and what I have learned from taking the biggest risk of my life to date. Follow along here on this blog and here.
There comes a time when you get the call you have been afraid to receive but knew it inevitably would come. Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the world when it arrived.
It’s been a little while since I last wrote a monthly update due to some unforeseen developments in my life. This update I will combine September and October, as I was in NYC and London, respectfully, and have now eclipsed 36,000+ miles this year. You can read about my August experiences here where I visited Washington DC and Seattle. This update will also veer a bit from my normal musings and pictures due to a more reflective current state of mind. Warning, the following is much more about life and death and less about business.
I landed in London on October 2nd and started to settle into a new life, new surroundings, new accents, and new country. Staying in the Woolwich area (South East) has been an interesting experience and took a bit of getting used to as it’s outside the greater London city and takes 45-60 minutes to get into or out of the city. The Tube and public transportation are actually really easy and quick. Subways arrived every few mins so you aren’t stressing about missing one of them – unlike some of the other cities I have been in recently.
Fun fact – the time zone difference from the US is challenging to stay on top of current events + sports. One night early in the month I decided I was going to watch the Seahawks game on Thursday Night Football, which normally starts at 5:30pm Pacific time. But in London that is 1AM! So I stayed out late, went to a sports bar, hung with the locals and watched the game until about 4AM, where Hawks beat the LA Rams in a shootout. That was a long night and very early morning!
I started to get acclimated to the new timezone, new city and schedule, having a number of meetings throughout the city. I tend to book meetings in random new neighborhoods so it allows me to see the different areas of the city and have enjoyed meeting a number of different British entrepreneurs and adding in a few good happy hours. All of this was becoming fun until I got the call.
A recent favorite pic of me and Dad. I think in 2017…
Oct 10th, 2019 – There comes a time when you get the call you have been afraid to receive but knew it inevitably would come. Sitting in my London Airbnb after a nice discussion with one of our city leaders, I received a call from my sister who informed me my father was very ill and had gone into the hospital. He had been battling bladder and kidney cancer for about 3 years and up to that point stayed in fairly good health, but now he had congestive heart failure and Pneumonia and was struggling to breathe. She said, “Nick, it’s not good. And you told me to tell you when it’s time to get on a plane and fly back if you wanted to see him before he left us. Well, it’s that time.”
You can imagine what is going through my head – so many thoughts jumping back and forth. I was just getting settled into London becoming more comfortable with the city, transit, mobile tech, and my new temporary neighborhood. And I was on this really fun tour… Damn! Please, just hold on Dad! I immediately booked a flight back for the next morning, went to sleep, got up the next morning, packed up my stuff and headed straight to the airport. I flew 9 hours from London to Seattle and went directly to the hospital.
Walking into his hospital room was very tough, he was quite frail and looked many years older than when I saw him just 2 months ago. (One interesting detail here is he had not shaved for like a month so and had a nice gray beard forming which I had NEVER seen on his face. I said “welcome to the club Dad!”)
Instantly, I knew this was serious and we didn’t have much time left. The pit in my stomach tightened and I sensed this was going to be a very tough road ahead. My sister and I were able to spend the next couple of days with him as he continued to fight for every breath, mostly on oxygen, losing most of his motor skills. It is heart wrenching watching your parent struggle with even basic human movements and speech. Aren’t they supposed to be superman?!
After a few days and much effort from the nursing staff the doctor came in and informed all of us there was nothing left to do, it was time to face the reality his body was dying and all they could do was make sure he wasn’t in pain through the process. To sit with your father as he is told he has less than 24 hours to live is a surreal moment. He had accepted it – told us many times he was ready to go – and was just thankful we were there at his bedside. Just like the movies, we had our final real conversation where he talked about how proud he was of both of us – my sister raising her great family and myself with the great impact we are having around the world. I could barely stay collected as he spoke. His parting words described a prideful feeling of having the opportunity to help raise two great people, and here they were to help him transition out of this life. He was there when we arrived and now here we were as he was leaving, quite a full circle. His message to us was full of encouragement and strength to go forward with all our might. To live with as much purpose and passion as you can muster because it will be over sooner than you think.
My father passed away peacefully with his kids and best friend beside him mid-day on October 14th, at 71 years old. Watching my father transition to a new and different world is now the most powerful and impactful experience of my life. For quite a while he was clearly in between two states of consciousness and I am totally curious to know what his experience would have been like. I am very happy he is now in a better place and pain free, but knowing things are now forever altered in my life is a pill I must forcefully swallow.
My father was a great man and taught me many things, some of which you can read in I’ll Miss You Dad. The 3 Entrepreneurial Lessons My Father Taught Me.
I am so very grateful for the outpouring of support and condolences from my family, friends and the greater Founders Live community. It truly means a lot and proves what we have built thus far is indeed very special and incredibly unique. Our Founders Live Seattle event was on October 24th and I had the chance to address the audience and pay tribute to my father, holding back tears as I shared his message with the Seattle community. It was a very special moment and I could feel Dad smiling right along with us. I just hope you all extend the same amazing support and encouragement to anyone else around us who experiences similar pain. I know I will.
Ya know – time is weird. On one hand we don’t have much time here on earth to positively impact people and make a dent in the world. Our time here on earth can and will be taken at any moment – we just don’t know when that moment will be. The treadmill seems to be speeding up each year and it creates an weirdly uncomfortable feeling of FOMO and anxiety of the unknown nature of it all. Live like it’s your last day, they say. On the other hand, some moments of our life can seem like forever and the pain and frustration seems like it will never end. Seconds last forever. We wonder when we will overcome and get through these challenging times. I guess a full life oscillates between those two extremes.
I don’t have the answers here and won’t try to recreate overused clichés or anything like that but what I can say now is life has become much clearer to me in the last year, especially in the last few weeks. Life is not linear. It’s exponential. And it has compounding effects, similar to compound interest. The longer and more widely you work on something, the larger the impact and return it can have. Life is not about physical things and places. It’s about energy, creativity, spirituality, love and connectedness. Making impact (positive or negative – but we’re focusing on positive here) has a ripple effect through humanity and the world. A great life involves maximizing the creation and dissemination of positive ripples which can cross borders and touch almost every human on this planet. If you ever want to sum up Founders Live, those last two sentences would be a good place to start.
Observing someone passing away who deeply wished he could have created many more positive ripples during his lifetime (and have more time to do it) hits you at your core. You’ll sense within them resentment and disappointment for what wasn’t accomplished. Sitting on the other side of that fence with more opportunities – hopefully many more – in front of me it becomes much clearer what Founders Live can become and the number and magnitude of opportunities we have in front of us to accomplish the vision. That energy drives me now much more than before. I am not living everyday as if it’s my last. I am simply choosing to Live every day.
Now on a flight back to London to resume the tour, which is exactly what Dad wanted, I have the time to reflect and write this post. I’ll be in London until the 5th of November. Then on to Harare, Zimbabwe for a few weeks and then Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria for the last few weeks of November. In December I go to Buenos Aires, Argentina for 3 weeks and then head home to Seattle area for the holidays.
At times I overcome with a bit of aimless wander as I set back out and re-align with my larger plan. I sometimes feels foggy and numb since my world was just rocked pretty hard. It’s like I just want to shake out the cobwebs and put in my contacts. But then I remember they are already in…
Embarking on a tour like this can be tremendously intimidating, venturing out into the abyss working with unknown timelines, withering budgets, and meeting new people who I must depend on for survival. But I will not be scared away. I remember telling Dad, “I will not allow fear hold me back from experiencing new places and meeting new people all over the world.” I know there’s always a way through.
I can honestly say I am in the first funk of this year-long tour. I’m not sure if it’s due to what I just experienced with my father’s passing or if it’s the fact that I have been on the road for 11 months straight traveling more than 36,000 miles. It’s probably a little of both! The first signs appeared at the end of August when I was leaving Seattle after a brief stop for my birthday and to see family and friends over Labor Day weekend. I had a great time being back but it was pretty short-lived and something felt off as I was leaving. I now realize it was a subtle feeling of being the last time I’d see and chat with Dad in his normal state. When I arrived in NYC it didn’t go away. Talking with my coaches during the month of September the words Fear, Scared, and Worry were surfacing. Those aren’t words I use very often and I now realize I unconsciously was aware of the situation with my Dad was already in motion.
The entire month of September was a bit of a slog, mostly due to NYC being a beast of a city and my original housing situation fell through at the last minute so I was left to book Airbnb’s on a weekly basis and turned out they were quite spread out around the region. I was bouncing from one side of New York to Jersey City and then back. A few customer partnership deals were put on hold or fell through and so our quarterly and Q1-Q2 outlook took a bit of a hit. All these affected my outlook and for the first time on the tour I was feeling a bit off and shaky. This is not complaining or woe-is-me. Trust me, I had a great time in September and October, and I am still on an epic tour of my life. But after having the “best month” after “best month” back to back for 5 or 6 straight months things have naturally course corrected. S’all good. But I mention all of this so you are aware of the challenges and things even I must overcome. This thing ain’t easy.
I find myself more frequently describing my current state as Mile 22 in a marathon. I have not ran a marathon and I am not sure I ever will but I am aware of the feeling around Mile 20-22 where you pretty much hit a wall and really have to push hard to kick your adrenaline back in for the final few miles. That’s where I am now.
At this very moment I have no idea how the next parts of my international travels will come together. I don’t yet have in-line some of my places for housing later in the year. I still have flights to nail down. There are people who I don’t know in cities I can barely pronounce who will be offering their hospitality for me during my stay in their community. Can I trust people in foreign countries? (Yes.) But I keep repeating to myself “it will come together”, “I believe”, and “the universe is conspiring for our betterment.” There’s simply no other way to look at it.
One of the last things I told my Dad as he was taking his last gasps of oxygen was “I learned something very important the last few months. It’s all a big game.” Pointing to my head, “it is all a big game right here, between myself and myself. I have the power to determine how I want to play and how I want to win. I have the ability to change the way I think and speak to myself, which then changes how I interpret and experience the world. Changing how I see and experience the world leads to insights and opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.” I now believe success lies within the white spaces of our insights and opportunities.
This entire post is just part of the game I referred to in that discussion with my father. Nothing is set in stone. Each experience and outcome is a re-set of choices and opportunities, which is what I so much enjoy and respect about the Tour. Everyday is different and very random. The whole experience has taught me to keep a much more open mind, open and available to take a right vs a left, and (really work at) being lighter and friendlier to myself. It’s easy to come down on yourself if something doesn’t go exactly as planned. It’s tempting to shout obscenities when a potential deal falls through (without them hearing of course), but are these the correct actions? No, they’re not. Unknowingly, when one does this they reinforce negative energy and unproductive thought processes which create a circular influence inside their mind, repeating those exact outcomes. I am not perfect by any means, but I am working hard to remove these negative thoughts and actions from my daily habits.
I have a long ways to go! So many more miles to travel and people to see.
“Thank you Dad.”
Below are some of the pictures I took over the last few months – mostly NYC.