Hi friends. Thanks for being here and for the interest in staying connected while I spend a bit of time away from social media. I’m just so incredibly grateful for the support that’s come from this community over time, not just in the last few months, but in the wild ride that’s been this past five years from California to now. Your notes and prayers have been an incredible source of strength and I’m just so so appreciative of you all.
Where oh where do we begin? Well, in not knowing when you’ve come in on this journey, or how much you’re up to speed on life, I think I’ll start with a little update on how I’m doing, and how I got here.
To the former, I’m doing well. Much better. Healthier, content. Good days and bad, just like the rest of you, but in a really good head space. Moving at a wildly slower pace. More focused on intentional time with the people I love most, especially Jackson, Sawyer, Ford and Noah, who all look like full grown adults now.
More than anything, I find myself grateful for the way 2022 has unfolded, even if I didn’t love the way it began.
I use an app that counts the number of days since I last had a drink, which is a new part of my life. It reads 4 months, 17 days. I plan to have it counting forever, but am only focused on today. It was back on January 4th that I’d come off a rough week that started with me away from my kids for the first time on Christmas Day and ended with me looking down the opening of an empty bottle. Again. It was the end of a long, exhausting, very dark three month window where my worst insecurities spoke loudest, through the voice of a mercilessly mean inner critic, and a return to my great source of shame to numb the pain away.
Not a good long-term plan. Trust me.
To the latter, on the most recent episodes of The Rise Together podcast on May 12 (https://apple.co/3yNFKtz) and May 9 (https://apple.co/3Lw2jpm), I described some of how this shitburger of an Oct – Dec season was born out of something unexpected around my last book release in late October. It turns out, some of the seeds that get planted in trauma from divorce just take a little bit longer to break through the soil. I digress. I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you’re newer here, once upon a time, I was married to a woman named Rachel with whom I have four amazing kids. In 2017 while I was still working at Disney and she at a small media company she’d founded, we decided her super powers as a visionary and my special set of skills as an integrator (she’d cast the “what” and I’d help figure out the “how”) could be combined in Avengers fashion were we to work together.
I’d come through a mid-life moment where having reached a place I’d been pushing toward for 20 years in Hollywood, the existential questions of “is this it?” fused with the belief in a vision for the mission ahead. Pushing against a lifetime of pragmatic wiring and a love for certainty, I disrupted a life that was pretty good on paper for the chance for what I believed would be something far greater. The hope that impact might deliver more meaning, something that felt like it mattered more. And so, in Jan of 2018 I gave notice. I’d leave my role as sales head for the film studio I served for 17 years and made a leap to move our family from LA to a small town in Texas called Dripping Springs.
May 30, 2018 was my last day in a suit. Final day knowing how to do my job well for a while. It was the first big identity shock on the journey. The next day The Hollis Company was born. The mission: place resources in people’s hands to help them have a better life. Big, simple mission. We’d do it by trying to serve an amazing community on the regular, at first with Rachel’s work, and over time with a portfolio of voices in podcasts, coaching, live events and more… including mine.
As much as I was terrified at the beginning in a world I knew little about, it was a rocketship of an adventure that would see the unimaginable come to pass. Big books, full arenas, a movie in theaters, a morning show nobody talked about and the most incredible community, where I’ll bet many of us met. The 4-person team who wore every hat in a tiny space with questionable air conditioning grew into a full-sized crew in our church-turned-office… and we did good work that impacted lives… and everyone lived happily ever after. The end.
Well, not so much. Two years to the day of last wearing a suit would be the last day I’d wear a wedding ring. Divorce had come knocking though it wasn’t expected in town. A rug pull moment in life that brought with it a heap of pain for everyone involved. It was an even bigger identity shock in round two for a person who identified himself first as husband to her, and ushered in a new chapter with wildly more questions than answers. The sadness and surprise of the news was felt as much by me as I’m sure it was many of you, and even though it was impossibly hard to consider it as the right and best thing at the time, time has shown it to be both.
But at the beginning, it was just hard. Divorce is the worst. For everyone. Public divorce didn’t make it any more fun. A divorce that leaves a community that you’ve loved so much also reeling in sadness mixed with justifiable frustration, some even anger… devastating.
The emotions I connected with most in the beginning of that journey of rebuilding were rejection and fear. Ego telling stories of how it must have looked to have someone decide to move on, scarcity exaggerating the scale of how I’d never get back to normal now that I’d left Disney and had the thing I left for, what I thought was the mission of the rest of my life, now a thing of my past as well.
Growing up, there was something in “achievement” that was my access to being loved. If I could get good grades or memorize the most Bible verses or score the most goals in soccer, I’d be seen as good, and in that good light be loved. It worked wonders when it helped me build a career, grow a company, get brave enough to try and create my own work inside the space of a prolific creator with whom I’d been married, but of course there’s two sides to that sword. In the aftermath of divorce, the scared little boy inside started running as fast as he could to show that he was still lovable. Even if he was no longer a President. Even as he was no longer a husband. Without the air cover of a company he helped build. To prove to those in the community that were frustrated that he still meant well. And run I did.
At first, the running of the next year produced SO many amazing things. I ran myself into my best shape ever. Ran to God in a way that brought me closer than I’d ever been. Ran into a relationship with Heidi that showed new and amazing facets of love. Ran to writing my next book, and in Built Through Courage my proudest professional accomplishment. In all the running, I was becoming more and more confident in who I was and why I was here, but I never really stopped to ask why I was running. Or what I was running from. So I just kept going. To a children’s book about Tea Time and a documentary to storytell how amazing I was at getting back up (I mean, it’s good, but I see it now). I’d do a men’s conference and a fitness challenge and I’d show everyone how lovable and unrejectable and smart I still was for leaving Disney. I’d just need to keep going long enough and surely I’d convince you of a thing I didn’t actually believe myself.
That seed that had been planted back in May of 2020 popped through the ground in October of 2021. When it came time to confirm press for my second book, outlets pulled back in the aftermath of the rocket ship breaking apart and falling back to earth. No tour for you. Against the back drop of preorders at a fraction of my first release, that same insecurity in the days after divorce leveled up and took the wheel. I just needed to run faster, work harder, push more. I wasn’t achieving enough. Despite the amazing efforts of Heidi helping me scramble to build a tour and the beautiful feedback from early readers, I could only hear one voice. One loud mean voice.
You don’t deserve to be here.
Your success in this space was only because of your proximity to her.
And so, I worked myself into an unrecognizable, embarrassing, broken down state. Desperate to sell a thing I was so proud of to quiet the voices. Grasping at anything to try and show people who weren’t even watching that I was worthy of their love as measured in making a list, the number of copies sold. Ego, self-doubt and fear joined forces and in it, ruined the all the good of the release. Ruined by my believing in them… instead of believing in myself.
As my last book came out I found out what I was running from. Running from a shadow. Running from a question back then of where I fit next to her, to whether I now fit at all. Trying to outrun the pain that existed in marriage and divorce, November and December gave way to darkness. Now the worst things in my head weren’t only playing there, but echoed as confirmation bias availed itself online. The wee minority waiting for me to trip over my own feet had their dreams come true when I handed it to them, bow on top. In their celebrating in my breaking, I confirmed me as broken. And the only question was, how dark does this dark place get?
It wasn’t a fun Q4 friends. I needed help.
So I went into a treatment facility for mental health and addiction in January. Sad and scared. Embarrassed and filled with shame. Dreading the conversations I’d need to have with my kids, with Heidi, with Rachel. Each were beautifully received. Understood and supported. Proud of me… a thing I hadn’t been of myself for a while.
But in heading into a thing I knew nothing about, to handle everything that comes with confronting the unconfronted for eight straight weeks, it’s among the best and most important decisions I’ve made as an adult. I waded through the things I’d been running from. Sat naked with them for weeks on end. Normalized feeling. Tears on the daily. Met with the most skilled professionals who helped me see things I’d never seen before. With each day, there was more understanding. An invitation in group sessions to come as you are in a way that allowed me for the first time to see the parts of me that I’d hated and invite them into the room in a way that gave me a chance at self love. With each weekend trip back to see the kids, more conversations (mostly with the older boys who were ready) diving into the details of what it means to be a messy human, de-stigmatizing getting help when you need it.
Those eight weeks in LA have given way to a little more than eight weeks back home. It’s been eight weeks of taking things intentionally slow, deliberately present with my people, and continuing the work that was started in this year of a reset. Another reset. This time, not a shock, but an invitation to sit back and allow space for what’s coming next. Resisting the temptation to start running again. The identity I’m growing into isn’t yet fully formed, but at least it feels like the foundation from which it’s built on is stronger than it’s been in a long, long time.
I’m on a mental health and recovery journey that will require attention and maintenance for the rest of my life. I’ve never been so aware of how much I don’t yet know, but I do know that I want to continue walking into rooms, into communities that allow me to just be me, this guy who’s proud of every single messy part of who I am and allow that imperfect work in progress to be seen and loved as is. No matter if I make another thing or not. No matter if anything I ever create sells a single copy.
I don’t know if this is how blogs to a community are supposed to go. If this is a good way to stay connected or not. Whether you liked it or thought it word salad, maybe me telling you all the things about the imperfect way that I’ve been and still am human makes you feel a little more normal with the ridiculous ways you end up being human sometimes too. I promise the next e-mails and blogs will actually have something to make you laugh too. I mean, I am still me.
If you’re going through a dark period, I would encourage you to believe that there’s light at some point in this journey for you too. If you’ve made mistakes that you don’t think you’ll recover from, I’m here to say that some of my biggest mistakes have turned out to literally save my life. I know it would be nice to not have to learn things the hard way or grow through pain. I get that being human can suck sometimes. But also, if you’re going through it, you’re not alone. We all got things. We’re way more similar than we are different in a way that makes me pretty sure I see a little of myself in you in the same way I hope you see a little of your humanity in me.
At the end of the day, a quote I dropped in early 2020 when I didn’t yet know how much it might mean comes back in to play today:
“In the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider what parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
I think I will. I’ll let you know when I figure it out, if I ever do. Between now and then, here‘s to all the good ahead.
Sending love to you, my friends. I appreciate you. Thank you for your continued support. I hope you have a fantastic week ahead.
One of the worst parts of November and December was that so much of me struggling was done alone. Yes, I have the most incredible support system like I’m sure many of you do, but still my shame and my fear kept me from fully sharing all of what it was to feel what I was feeling.
Taking a step to get help and talking honestly about what I’m working through has turned every ounce of shame I carried into power. Getting help is one of the things I’ll be proudest of for the rest of my life.
If you’re struggling, there’s help. Asking for it doesn’t make you weak, in fact it’s one of the greatest signs of strength. If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to get some help, tired of being tired, done carrying it alone, then this is your sign. I’ve added some resources below if you’re ready or in need.
And if you’re doing well, reach out and check on someone you haven’t talked to in a bit and see how they’re doing. Your call may be the one they really need today.
Possible resources for anyone in crisis:
Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-6264 or chat with us M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET.
In a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health or addiction related treatment, what it’s like, if it’s for you, reach out to Robert at CAST (323) 329-4643 and he can tell you about where I went to dive into my work, and if it’s not the right fit can help direct you to something that might fit better!
Of the things that are next for me, in the short term I’m working with some amazing organizations who are serving others well and I want to tell you about one in the hopes you’ll support them with me! National Angels.
As any of you who’ve been here from the very beginning know, foster care is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been witness to the tragedy and trauma that exists in the system from personal experience in 2016. I’ve seen first hand the heart break that comes in kids moving from house to house. The scared faces as they enter a new strange place. The way love works so powerfully to help sooth their pain. In “Scout” and “Birdie” who blessed our house as we prepared for what we believed would be a foster-to-adoption journey, and “Atticus” and “Elliott” the newborn twins who came in and unexpectedly out of our lives because of cracks in that system, my support for organizations that do what they can to pour love into foster care will continue for the rest of my life in honor of these now 8, 7 and 6-year-old girls and their journey.
I’ve been a long time supporter of National Angels and am so happy to be working with them in real time to help serve even more families and kids in care as a part of their team. National Angels is working to ensure that every single child/youth who experiences foster care has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential and every family who fosters is radically supported in their journey.
You can join me in helping to change the statistics this May for National Foster Care month by clicking here —> https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTUwMjcy This month, I’m matching $25k of your donations, so please consider supporting if you can and together we can make twice the difference. This work is changing lives, and every little bit helps. Thanks!