January 1st 2018.
Today, DoTheDaniel.com turns four years old, and I think I’m still in awe of everything that we have experienced and accomplished since 2014. I couldn’t be more proud of the team we have cultivated or the work that we do around the world. There is so much to be proud of. So many moments to share. But I wanted to take a minute to talk about exactly what 2017 was like for me, and why looking back, it was my marathon year.
To give some context to what I mean when I say that, I should rewind to 2012.
29 year old Daniel was in a state of flux in his life. I speak of him in the third person because I am no longer that man, but I am grateful for having been him. My ex fiancé & I were no longer together after a tumultuous break up that I instigated. I was dating another man who had previously broken my heart years prior, said all the right things to get me back, and subsequently did it again before we ended what I can only describe as a mistake of a relationship on both of our parts. After losing what felt like everything I knew, I turned to getting fit again. And though when I look back on that time now, I think I may have taken it a bit too far (becoming obsessed with having a six pack and a 28″ waist), it was what I needed at that time in my life.
If any of you have run a marathon or half marathon before, you’ll understand what I am about to compare 2017 to. For those of you who have not, allow me to explain what it all entailed. Training for the 2012 Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon was a lengthy investment in myself. It took months of interval runs, training at the gym, and slowly building up my stamina. Running 21 kilometres does not happen overnight, but I knew it was a mental and physical challenge that I had to do for no one else other than myself.
A marathon (or half) brings up a lot of emotion. Standing at the starting line, you mentally prepare yourself for that moment when it all starts. Something that you have been working towards for what feels like both an eternity and a split second all at once. When it begins, you are so happy, that chances are you are probably smiling. I’m the kind of runner (or should I say was) that needed music to encourage one foot to step in front of the other. Listening to what I can only imagine was a mixture of emotional Jann Arden classics and Missy Elliott hits from the early 2000s, I set off to accomplish what once would have seemed impossible.
Similarly, coming out of 2016 and losing my Dad suddenly, I started 2017 off on a moment of joy and sense of renewed purpose. I had accumulated more work for myself in the two first months of the year than ever before, and I knew I had hit a certain tier of success. We had become an Incorporated entity, a trademark, a successful brand, and a voice in our crowded community. Therefore I was ready to take on the world.
Back in 2012, I quickly realized that the streets of Toronto and their streetcar tracks, varying elevations, and slick conditions after a morning rain were not the streets of Ottawa where I had been training. My shoes were too tight, but there was no stopping now. My shirt was too abrasive and was irritating my skin and nipples. But my god, I was running a half marathon and nothing could stop me. This was what I wanted and this is where I needed to be.
Come the spring of 2017, it quickly became apparent that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I wanted every deal that came my way and agreed to them without a blink of an eye, even though I didn’t have the capacity to keep up with the workload I had taken on. I was too proud to stop and tie my proverbial shoes, but damn it I had worked too hard to ask for help or help myself. I would get through it. Come the end of the spring, I was apologizing for late deadlines more often than not.
Hitting the half way mark of a marathon, your body and your mind start to fight one another. Let’s make it very clear that the human body is not meant to run for hours on end, and though it is a fantastic way to get in shape, you all too often hear the horror stories of runners needing knee replacement surgery or injuring themselves to the degree where they end up in the hospital. I had made it this far, and though I was now drenched in sweat from the humidity of the Toronto rain, I had to push through. At every turn, especially at drink stations, there was a chance I could slip and fall. Like land mines laying in the road, I had to quickly pivot to adjust what I was doing, otherwise I could end what I started in a disaster. And goodness knows I almost did several times. All I could think about the entire away round the marathon route was getting home and finding a PI lawyer that could help me make a claim. I’m not sure how, but luckily I was able to stay on my feet the entire time, which was a shock to myself. I might go ahead and find a personal injury lawyer just in case I do end up slipping and falling in any future marathons or in general. It can’t hurt to find one, can it? Anyway, I would tell myself there was no time to dwell on what could have happened, only on what still can.
By Canada Day 2017, my stress levels were through the roof. Throughout the year I would still open up and be honest with you all about where I was, but for the most part I told myself that “this” was what owning a small business was. Stress, financial hardship, and “figuring it out” along the way. I felt completely out of my comfort zone. The bigger the contracts we signed with brand partners, the longer it was taking to get paid. I started to fall behind on my personal bills because I was investing every extra dollar we were making back into the business. There were weeks on end where we would pay our staff and ignore paying ourselves. The inconsistency would keep me up at night and I turned to coping mechanisms which weren’t healthy. I was eating like shit again, I wasn’t working out because I told myself I didn’t have the time, I was drinking too much, and I was smiling through the whole process. Because this was what I wanted, right?
Coming into the 3/4 mark of the marathon, my body was in agony. My feet hurt, my nipples were bleeding (which, as scary as it sounds, is quite common if you don’t prepare yourself) and I had serious doubts about my ability to finish what I foolishly assumed would be an easy endeavor. But every ounce of my being made one foot step in front of another. I had slowed down, but I hadn’t stopped. And for that I was both proud and ashamed. I wouldn’t finish this race as quickly and “successfully” as I had wanted to, but I would finish. I had to finish. I had set my mind to doing this, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t ever forgive myself.
Coming into the fall, I had serious doubts if this was a viable business or career for me.
I’ve never admitted that before.
Twice in the course of what #DoTheDaniel has become, I have seriously stopped to think about walking away from it all together. Facing personal challenges was bound to happen, because I am still human after all, but when they came out of nowhere I wasn’t prepared to handle them. I started to see my therapist again, was slowly trying to find some sense of purpose, and I knew I had to simply push through a difficult time. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday at all. I didn’t want to talk about money because by this point I had maxed out my personal credit and had to borrow money from family during those lulls between the excitement of signing five and six figure deals and actually getting paid. I started to resent being passed over by people and brands that I had dedicated so much to over the years. I felt cheated, and I’ll admit that in may instances I was taken advantage of. What was happening to me and my business? I had no idea, but I had to finish the year. So, proverbially sore and bleeding, onwards I continued.
I am an emotional person. A good commercial or beautiful song can bring me to tears, and I love that about myself. But the intensity and emotional climax of crossing the finish line was something I have yet to ever experience again. Waiting for me was the second man I mentioned above, Catherine and another very important and close friend (with whom I have sadly lost touch with after having a fall out several years ago). 1.5 kilometres before the finish line, coming up Bay St. towards Nathan Philips Square, I almost stopped. Like, full stop. I was basically walking by this point, head held down in shame. Looking into the crowd, a woman I have never met before caught my eye. She looked at me and told me that I had this and I could finish. I just had to keep going because I was so close.
I started to cry when she said that, I picked up my pace as much as I could muster, and I pushed on.
When you cross the finish line, your legs don’t want to stop running. There is this inertia pushing you forward and immediately your body and mind react to what you have put them through. During that intense moment, sweat and tears were streaming down my face. I had done it. It was harder than I could have ever realized, but I had done it. I made it through a personal, emotional and mental challenge bigger than any I had ever faced. And those I loved were waiting for me with open arms. That’s one of my favourite memories of Catherine. Always there for me, no matter what I have gone through, with open arms and unwavering support. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget that feeling.
December 2017 was one of the most difficult months of the year. Looking back, I couldn’t help but feel I had let myself down. We had made more money and created more partnerships than I could have ever expected. Success was achieved, but not the way I had wanted. But I never stopped. I pushed through. And when it all felt too much, I could turn to those I love for their own version of what that woman said to me. We ended the year with a lot of lessons learnt as a business, but more so importantly, a lot of lessons as a human being. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I didn’t need to. I had experienced a year that felt like a marathon because it pushed me to endure, adjust, heal and ultimately let go of the things that I had started the year with.
I know a lot of you who have had a similar 2017, and I want to admit that yes, it was a year of challenges. But those challenges were exactly what we needed to bring us here. To this very moment. To the people we are meant to be at the beginning of a new year. I feel tired from it all, but at the same time, not the same person I was one year ago. I am stronger for it, I am proud of it (yes, even the difficult times) and I am renewed. Learning from my mistakes, I am now excited again to do what I love. With those I love. For those I love – yes, that’s you my dear reader. Because this was the year I also realized that without you, none of this would exist.
I wonder if I’ll ever run another marathon. I know from experience what I would need to focus on, and what turned out to be irrelevant. The same can be said for future years of DoTheDaniel.com – I am ready to take this brand to the next level, and it is because I pushed through an emotionally, physically and mentally difficult year. But all of it was worth it. And I promise you that the lessons, challenges and joys of 2017 will help to make 2018 amazing for your as well.
Thank you for joining me in this journey. Now let’s enjoy an amazing new year together!