The devil and god are raging inside of me.

As an entrepreneur, I am always forced to view and assess myself.

Recently, I’ve been focusing on two individuals: Travis Kalanick, C.E.O of Uber, and Hamdi Ulukaya, who is the founder and C.E.O of Chobani. Both are billionaires and are turning their respective fields on their heads, but they could not be more different. Uber is valued at roughly 70 billion dollars, but Travis and his company have started to earn a reputation of toxicity in the public eye. Hamdi, on the other hand, is an immigrant who has given 10% of his company up to his employees; 30% of his workforce is made up of immigrants.

The reason I bring up these two individuals is because I admire their accomplishments, but they also point me toward the kind of entrepreneur I want to be. I’ll be the first to admit that I can get bogged down by the bottom line, but there are moments when I understand that a job doesn’t always have to be a job. At my climbing gym in Austin, I believe that I have one of the best teams out there. I’ve studied numerous gyms in the U.S. and believe we are doing things differently. I’ve never been a fan of top-down management and that shows at our facility. I constantly get emails from employees about how to improve and I take them seriously. That said, I’m 26 years old and understand I have a lot to learn; it would be foolish for me to think I know it all.

There are examples of entrepreneurs on both sides of the spectrum and as a business owner you have a choice of how you want to do things. You can do good and make money and Hamdi is the perfect example of that. This seems to still be a pretty foreign concept, but I’m excited to explore it little more. It’s much harder to focus on company culture as opposed to the profit and loss statement, but if you are going to make it your life you might as well focus on both.

Anddddd I’ll conclude with our next episode of THAB with one of my favorite artists Jon Michael Frank. Jon Michael was the perfect guest because he forced me to get over myself and focus on the bigger picture. Most times I feel like a pretty shitty person and that’s why his art resonates with me so much but it’s also important to shift your focus back to what you are doing and make sure you are doing it right. Thanks for opening my eyes bud!

Episode 5: Cheers to you!

Episode 5 was a fun one featuring Jody Reyes from WhichCraft Taproom/Beer store.Most times I’m a little nervous about asking someone if they want a beer because you just don’t know peoples reactions but this was a pretty easy one for me.

I had the opportunity to meet Jody and his dog Bubba a few years ago when I was looking for a good craft beer store in Austin. Bubba and his fluff really caught my eye but as soon as I was done petting him I realized how good of a selection this store really had. It was crazy to think that there really wasn’t a “good” beer store around at that time. Jody and his team executed perfectly and are now reaping the benefits with 2 stores and more to come.  I hope you enjoy this episode with a nice cold one.

Cheers,

Kevin

Episode 4 – Bridget Dunlap, The Queen of Rainey St

If you haven’t heard of Bridget Dunlap you most definitely have heard of Rainey St. If you haven’t heard of Rainey Street well…you probably don’t even know Austin is a city. Bridget Dunlap went from welfare to now being well off, which is a pretty big understatement.

This episode was particularly special for 2 reasons: Bridget was the first female on our show and the day we recorded was International Women’s Day. I was a little nervous about meeting such a powerful woman, especially in my house that still smells a little bit like dogs and beer, but she walked in and made herself at home. She is the exact kind of entrepreneur I look up to: No pretense, just hard work and a little bit of shit talking. Amanda and I had a wonderful time interviewing Bridget and I hope you enjoy her wisdom, burps and good stories.

If you want to learn more about Bridget check out http://dunlapatx.com/

Onward Always,

Kevin

The Dark Side of Success

The two words you hear me using to describe myself at the beginning of this clip are “self-deprecating” and “masochist.” In my public persona, I try and shy away from using such words, but deep down I relate to them more than most people will ever know, as do many entrepreneurs. To understand what I’m trying to say I think it’s important to define each word.

Masochist: a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious.

Self-deprecating: belittling or undervaluing oneself

For the past couple of months, I’ve been feeling rather low and like most people I went straight to Google for my answer. My search read, “Entrepreneurs + Depression” and I was startled by what I found: suicide, crippling anxiety, loneliness and many other debilitating symptoms.

I find that too often, entrepreneurs are applauded for their success and courage but the public stories often end there. A major reason I wanted to start this blog/podcast was to dig deeper into each person’s life and find out the dark shit that they had been through and how they made it back. Surprisingly, I’m finding that even entrepreneurs who seem to be doing well often feel like they’re still in some kind of Hell (including myself). It takes someone slightly crazy to start a business, and that personality can lead to issues in other facets of life. I spent most of my life being told I would be a failure and would never follow in my father’s footsteps. I was never good at direction from authority. All of those things put together were the perfect recipe for a business owner. I would be lying if I said part of me never wanted to prove any of those people wrong and owning a successful business would be the catalyst.

Ten months into my first major business, many have said, “Congrats Kevin, how does it feel to have made it?” In my mind, “making it” is certain death. It means complacency and lack of innovation. From an outsider’s perspective, we are doing pretty damn well. We have an awesome membership count, make good money and are respected in our community. Despite all of those things, I still feel a heavy fog in my mind. I often ask myself what would it take to feel good and I usually cannot answer that question. Sure, more gyms, more members, more meetings would help, but I’m wired to keep wanting more and that, I think, is an issue that runs very deep in the business community. If you keep wanting more without a clear goal you will find yourself suffering with no end in sight. I’m not hear to preach and I sure as hell don’t have the perfect answer on how to fix this problem, but I find that sometimes the best thing you can do is a take a first step and admit how you feel, as cliche as it sounds.

I’m only 26, but sometimes feel 56. I’ve decided that in the next few years, I’d like to shift my perspective on life with the help of professionals, friends and family. The whole point of this blog post is to shine a light on the darker parts of success. I’m grateful for all the pats on the back, but I’m not better than anyone else for what I’ve done. My hope for all of this is that entrepreneurs start to take their mental health more seriously. I know we’ve been told suffering and 100 hour work weeks are part of the game, but a company is only as good as its leader.

Onward Always,

Kevin

 

 

 

 

Episode 2: Kevin Jorgeson, the only exception.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and messages about when this episode would drop. Well, the time is finally here. As I stated in the podcast, we try and focus on Austin entrepreneurs but when a guy like Kevin Jorgeson comes to Austin, you make sure you get him on the podcast. Kevin is one of the most accomplished rock climbers in the world. He was the perfect choice for this podcast because he is one of the few climbers I know that decided to take his fame and turn it into a business.  This episode was a true pleasure to record for numerous reasons: It touches on climbing, business and was recorded at my gym Crux Climbing Center. Kevin is one of the most eloquent people I know and it was a pleasure being able to record this podcast live surrounded by eager ears. Grab a beer and/or a blanket and have yourself a listen!

 

 

Episode 1: Drinks with Crux

Well Folks, It’s finally here. Amanda (my better half) had the opportunity to interview myself and Matt for our first episode. This wasn’t some narcissistic plug for my gym…or maybe it was but either way it gave us an opportunity to really dial in what we wanted our podcast to sound like. I’m talking everything from intro music,deleting my shitty “umm’s” and even adding a sweet beer opening sound at the beginning.

As an entrepreneur I’m always looking for new projects to sink my teeth into and this has been a really fun one! We’ve already had some amazing people sign up to be interviewed and we will be releasing those weekly from now on. Without further ado…

Listen in iTunes

https://soundcloud.com/ka-ge-383133639/episode-1-drinks-with-crux-climbing-center

Please close the door and turn off the lights.

I remember uttering this sentence many times over the past 3 years. You would think  I was getting ready for bed, but I was actually asking loved ones to leave my house so that I could drink in complete silence.

According to Forbes, “8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.” Crash and Burn are the only words that  echoed in that dark room.

Anybody that has tasted success has also experienced Hell. To go to such a dark place and come out alive is something I’ve always been fascinated by and it’s what keeps me going. To Hell and Back is a blog and soon-to-be podcast about the inner and outer turmoil that entrepreneurs, idealists and creators experience on  the journey to success.

So, why am I cut out to run this blog or interview successful human beings? At the age of 23 I met my friend Matt and set out on a journey to start our first business. Through sheer tenacity and hard work, we opened our first climbing gym called Crux Climbing Center located in Austin,Texas.

The name of this blog came from our experiences in opening this gym. I have never felt such highs and such lows before in my life. I ruined many relationships, evolved into a person I didn’t know, drank way too much alcohol and almost gave up many times. And that’s putting it lightly. I would come home most days, close my blinds, and sit on my couch in silence as I thought about how fucked up my life had become just to chase a dream I wasn’t sure I could achieve.

Fast forward 3 years and I can say with a smile that Crux is now the second home to many Austinites and a destination for traveling climbers.  As most entrepreneurs know, it’s hard to say you’ve truly “made it,” but we continue to push on in search of something greater. In dark times we search for light — stories of those who have felt what we have felt and made it out alive. Hopefully this blog/podcast duo can be a small piece in that journey.

In talking to my girlfriend today, I realized that I did not have a central place to go to find sources of inspiration. I usually bookmark my favorite stories, but today I’ve decided to put them all in one place for everyone to enjoy. The podcast will be an extension of this blog, but you’ll find out more about that in a few weeks.

I’ve got 2 goals for this project:

  1. Shine a light on those who are crazy enough to start a business
  2. Inspire those who are thinking about it to take the leap

My  go-to article whenever I’m feeling low is Elon Musk’s Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla

The entire story is worth reading but this one excerpt in particular is one I’ve printed out and kept with me.

“Antonio Gracias, a Tesla and SpaceX investor and one of Musk’s closest friends, had watched all of this transpire; 2008 told him everything he would ever need to know about Musk’s character. “He has the ability to work harder and endure more stress than anyone I’ve ever met,” Gracias said. “What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. Most people who are under that sort of pressure fray. Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyper-rational. He’s still able to make very clear, long-term decisions. The harder it gets, the better he gets.”

The reason I love this paragraph so much is because it reminds me how much I love starting and running companies. I dread waking up everyday without some sort of looming crisis. Some may call me crazy but I just really enjoy solving problems.

Before the gym opened I use to say, ” I cannot wait until this gym is open so things can slow down.” I was a fool for thinking things would ever slow down and I was a fool for thinking that’s what I wanted. I hope this post gives you a taste of what’s to come and I hope you continue to follow us to Hell and back.

Onward always,

Kevin