I met Charlie Hoehn back at the first App Empire event. Super smart guy with a resume that spoke for itself. Impressive to say the least.
About a month later I was messing around with the idea of writing a book. For no other reason than his being a great guy who wanted to help, he agreed to spend an hour of his life on the phone with someone he barely knew and brain dump some of the most valuable advice I have ever received (even to this day).
The most memorable quote was, “Only write a book if there's something that's in your head that you need the world to hear. Like you won't be able to live with yourself if you don't tell people. Otherwise, you're going to go insane.” A year later, I couldn't agree more.
Two weeks ago I saw Charlie post something about marketing his new book. One of the top pieces of that strategy is to reach out to bloggers and ask for reviews. Because Charlie had taken time on me, I wanted to return the favor. I shot him an email asking how I could help. He sent me a copy of the book with no instructions other than “if you like it, tell some people. Even a review on Amazon would be great, but just do whatever you feel it's worth.” Talk about having faith in your product.
So I read the book. It's called Play It Away and is all about the effects of workaholism, stress, and over-ambition on young people. But it's so much more than that. It's a modern version of the proverbial reality check. It is an easily digestible, well written manifesto from someone who seemingly had everything anyone from our generation could ever want, all while crumbling on the inside.
In a world where perception is reality, anxiety is quickly becoming a serious problem with young people who yearn to have it all…and for the rest of the world to know it. Balance is not celebrated, at least not outside of certain social circles, and that wreaks havoc on us all. Yes, I'm talking to you – you DO give a shit how many Instagram likes you get. No one liked your Facebook post either. Loser.
I have a certain history with anxiety. I have talked a lot about my past with many of you on and off this blog, but few people in my life know how hard it was for a while. What I can say is this – stress and anxiety can fucking end you. It is powerful stuff. It sucks the life out of almost anything you touch, first and foremost being your creative energy. It can single handedly eliminate your dreams and your ability to get those dreams. Even if you do get them, you will never enjoy it.
When I graduated college I was a disaster. I was surrounded by freedom, by responsibility, and by this new digital heroin called Facebook that seemed to make me feel worse and worse about my life on a daily basis. My parents had just dropped $150,000 on college, money that they had spent their entire life saving for with the full purpose being so that my brother and I wouldn't be burdened with college loans and could pursue our own dreams. They had sacrificed so much and yet here I was – no direction, partying, digging up trees with a landscape crew – doing everything I possibly could to convince myself that this was MY life and MY decisions and that I'd figure it out tomorrow.
Years went on and I got a little more serious by getting a job at a startup where I began to get a taste of power and success in the business world. I got involved with a girl which began a two year emotional roller coaster, the likes of which I had never fathomed. By 2010, I had lost it. I was 26, crushed by the ongoing voice of the world saying I was doing everything wrong. It wasn't even that I was working 19-20 hours a day. It was that I hated myself for not being stronger, for being smarter, for being richer.
I tried everything – I wrote over 300,000 words worth of email and journal entries to myself and my best friends trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I did solo trips to extreme locations and would push my body to physical limits that should have put me in the hospital. I did everything you could imagine in hopes of beating this awful stress and anxiety out of myself. A dark time, but one that has given me fortitude that I will forever be grateful for.
As the years went on, I slowly began to realize that all this yoga, exercise, juicing detox, travel, and everything in between wasn't going to save me. In fact, it was that very process of searching for the silver bullet that was causing the anxiety in the first place. I didn't have to work less, I didn't have to stop doing things I loved.
But I did need to stop pretending the future was the life I SHOULD be living. Anyone who knows me understands that when I focus on achieving something in my life, there is nothing in the world that will stop me. The problem was the one thing I wanted to achieve was to stop trying to constantly reach some goal that didn't exist in real life. Tomorrow always trumped today. The future was filled with life and color and adventure, leaving the present looking like a barren wasteland of mediocrity. That's a breeding ground for stress.
When I read Charlie's book, something clicked for me. He put it so simply that I almost started laughing while I was reading it, shocked that I had never seen it so plainly laid out for me. Get back to reality. Stop living in the future. Make the switch from the mental to the physical with more of your life and you will begin to feel the anxiety melt away.
His style of writing is easy and friendly. Having talked to him only a few times, I felt like I could invited him over for coffee and catch up like we were old friends. It's so rare to find young men who are willing to talk about issues like anxiety and stress, especially when you're in a business environment. I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to talk to people about it and the fact that Charlie not only wrote a book, but put so much effort into it, speaks highly to his character.
And so, as my official thank you to Charlie, I urge you to check out his book. If nothing else, it is a celebration of one man who defeated one of the most evil demons that the modern world has spawned. This is NOT an affiliate link and I do not benefit from this other than knowing the world will be better if more people read it.
Good luck to you Charlie. And thank you for writing this.