Hey, I’m Chris Edwards.
My life did not go according to my plans. Sometimes chasing your dreams can blow up in your face, but can lead you to where you are supposed to be.
At age 26, I took my shot in this universe and went after my dream. I started my own business. WOO HOO! It was an exciting time! I was in charge of ME, doing MY thing. I was always extremely headstrong as a child at that point I’d been practicing martial arts for 2 decades. It was just a natural fit to launch a business involving the skill I’d honed for so long. I was newly married to my best friend and she supported MY dreams. We were growing, learning and I was living my dream life of inspiring others through the martial arts. I broke world records and had major joint surgeries. My wife nearly died during childbirth. Enrollment became stagnant and I had maxed out our location. Massive medical debt, mixed with major injuries all the while running a business that required the full use of my body just didn’t mix well. I HAD to do something to grow the business, to become financially free. So I pushed on as entrepreneurs do and after a year of searching found the “perfect” location for expansion. I found a space that more than doubled the square footage, had better road frontage, was in a growing area geographically, and was a killer deal on lease rate. I secured partial funding through a business loan and signed the lease. I thought I was set and finally ready to experience the growth I yearned for in my business.
Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you were just so sure it was going to turn out a certain way and then the exact opposite happens?
Then the floodgates of opposition unleashed. I tore my ACL. The city kept denying building permits, so construction was delayed for 90 days. We missed peak season for the grand opening, all the thousands of dollars spent on advertising only trickling in a few enrollments. I had spent all my working capital just to get the new location operational and half of all my students who said they’d stay during the move dropped out. Even through all this I persisted and forged onward. I got through grand opening in the late spring, had summer camp for kids, had my ACL repair surgery, got back on my feet and really began to drill down and look at the numbers. I was mentally, emotionally, physically, financially… even spiritually tapped out. Only half the bills were covered and of course I wasn’t paying myself a dime. That’s when I realized I was on a sinking ship. The longer I stayed afloat the more holes sprang up. If I continued down this path, I saw an amount of debt that continued to amas that would drown me forever. I couldn’t breath from the shear dread, panic and humiliation that I was going to have to close MY business. My DREAM that I was once so excited about had now become tormenting NIGHTMARE. All I wanted to do was crawl up in a cave and die! I thought if I could fail at the one thing I was so skilled at then how could I ever again gain success at anything in my life? I felt like I let down my students, my mentors, my children, my wife, myself… even God. I felt beyond worthless, like a HUGE F for FAILURE was tattooed on my soul!
I’ve known dark times and this was one of the darkest in my life. Depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of purpose, jumping back into the job candidate pool and just feeling so utterly lost. It was unbearable when someone would simply ask, “How’s it going?” I wanted to say, “Ah well, you know I just had to close my dream business down and I feel like my life is over… I’m in a perpetual nightmare. How about you???” I couldn’t communicate that way in small talk or else I would’ve gotten some creeped out slow walk aways. I just kept it inside and took a job that was completely wrong me, store manager trainee at a well known grocery store. I utterly hated every day there. It took away all my creativity and constantly under pressure to make completely unrealistic deadlines. Nevertheless I pressed on and got promoted to Store Operations Manager. I was making around $80k a year. I should’ve celebrated since I now had that stable career that I could retire with, but I was utterly disgusted. I felt as if I had just been sentenced to life in prison. Every day I would wake up as if being submerged in artic water. How could this be my life??? I was working 80-100 hours a week and it took its toll on me. Thankfully, yes thankfully, I injured my back. Since the role was so physically demanding I could no longer fulfill my duties. Deep down I was so relieved, but the bills never stop. I had to do something fast.
I went back into sales. Going back into commission only world is much like that of an entrepreneur, only eating what you produce. It was a shock, but honestly relieving. My confidence started to slowly build again. But there was one huge problem… I had that nagging feeling that I was called for more.
I started speaking back in the fall of 2003 as a youth leader at a local church. I instantly fell in love was “public speaking”. Where most people have terror surrounding them at the thought of giving a speech in front of a crowd, I feel more alive than any other time in my life. I spoke in churches, at community gathers, before martial arts demonstrations, at school pep rallies, at business networking events, thousands of group classes and seminars. I LOVE speaking. It’s what makes me feel alive and I’m at my best when I’m on stage. Also, if I’m honest, I wanted to “speak” as my “job” even when I started my martial arts school. I had no idea how to get started or get paid as a speaker. In my arrogance I just thought, “Hey I’m good at speaking. I’m sure people will just blow up my email asking me to speak any day now”. It never happened on the level that I hoped for. So, I just kept it local and on a small scale. I wanted to inspire others, but my focus was on myself. I thought, “Since I’m good at speaking, people should put me on stages all over the world”. But my “AHA MOMENT” hit me like a freight train while I was getting ready for a sales appointment. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!!!! I know it sounds ridiculously cliche and simple, but for me it was a complete mental paradigm shift. I now had a prerogative to put the hearer of my message ahead of my speaking my message. I began to realize I can’t speak about every topic out there, not if I want the maximum benefit for MY audience. I used to think of travelling the world and getting paid to speak as a farfetched dream that would never happen. As I began researching the business of speaking I began to see myself doing it as JOB. But I realized, for me it’s not a dream or a job, but my CALLING! After I started to heal from my nightmare with my first business I started to care about people again. I saw people settling for careers they hated, being with people they didn’t love, never stepping out and going after their dreams, feeling muzzled unable to tell their story and ultimately being riddled with regret at the end of their life. I said NO to myself and this kind of existence and I am passionate about empowering others to do what I’ve done: Arise from Failure and Tell Their Own Story. I help individuals and organizations develop their own STORIES. I do this through inspiration with clear, actionable steps to get past hurdles. I want to connect with you and provide you with the tools necessary to live your dreams! Are you up for the challenge?