I was recently on a podcast, Millionaire Interviews, where we spoke about everything from how my business got started to all the bits of knowledge I’ve learned along the way.
For those who don’t know I had a huge mental breakdown from anxiety + stress about 10 years ago. This lead me on a journey of healing where I discovered float tanks. Fast forward 10 years, I’m CEO of a family business, and owner of a company that manufactures the world’s only affordable, at-home float tank. Here is my story:
What lead to your breakdown?
About 15 years ago, I flunked out of the University of Utah and was hiding it from most people. I was working dead end jobs, experimenting with every drug I could find, and wanted to escape life.
That’s when I found a recording school in L.A. I thought, this is perfect. I can move to L.A., start school and leave all my problems in Utah.
But when I got to LA, my problems were still with me. I turned into a workaholic, I was trying to run from all of my problems, I didn’t have friends or family around, and happened to get a roommate that was a gang member packing a gun. It was working out all very nicely.lol
For work, I went to a trade show in Las Vegas where we were pulling all-nighters and that’s when I sort of snapped. All the stress + anxiety from work, drugs, a dangerous living space, no friends and family had all caught up with me.
I was experiencing extreme anxiety and panic. Not only mentally, but physically too. My vision would tremor and shake because of the anxiety, my heart was racing. It became so I couldn’t even make it through a day without constant medication or drinking.
What happened after the breakdown?
I ended up leaving LA, moving back in with family and began a journey of psychologists, psychiatrists, medication, holistic therapies, remedies, exercise, everything to try and feel normal again.
One thing I found that naturally helped my anxiety was meditation. So I started looking for easier ways to meditate and I came across a Joe Rogan video talking about a meditation machine called The Float Tank.
Were you scared about opening up about your breakdown?
Originally, yes. I was very nervous to tell even an uncle or a cousin that I saw a psychologist or had to take medication. I felt weak and embarrassed. Then I started telling people one at a time and pushing my boundary a little more and a little more, and now I forget that some people don’t talk about this stuff openly.
What’s funny is every time I talk openly about my mental health or my medication or my psychologist, someone comes up to me in secret and says something like I have the same thing, who do you see? What do you take?
My hope is that as I talk about it more openly, other people will begin to do the same.
Do you think that opening up has helped you a lot?
Yes. There’s no faster way to build trust than to be vulnerable.
After the Breakdown, what happened to start the float company?
In my search of healing and meditation, I found Joe Rogan’s Float Video and immediately fell in love with floating, before even trying it. I knew I loved it so much, that even though there wasn’t [yet] a float center in Utah, I decided to build one in my basement.
I ended up putting these plans online and people started building these tanks all around the world. That’s how I met my future biz partner in Zen Float Co. He saw what I was doing in floating, had an idea to make a tank out of canvas, and that became the answer to the most affordable way to make a float tank.
Building the product and doing business in China:
Most of our production is done in China, and China is the wild west. There’s no good protection over there and it’s very relationship based. You need someone there who’s visiting factories and meeting with people because that’s how you’re going to get it right.
A long time ago I tried to work through china. I wanted to buy these foil tubes. I spoke to a few different factories and the best price I got was 28 cents. Which, at the time, I thought okay that’s good enough. Then, when I met William, he went and met with the factories, had tea with the owners, and came back with a price of just 4 cents for a foil tube.
Growing the business and protecting your Intellectual Property:
Zen is still a young company. In our first year we were really focused on getting the product ready and protecting the intellectual property, because it was the first of it’s kind and we thought it was a great idea.
First, if you have the funding and the money, get started with a good patent attorney quick. Have them begin doing everything they can to prevent another business or person infringing on what you’re doing.
A more affordable way to do it is to get a provisional patent. A provisional patent lasts for one year, it let’s you get your mark in the sand, but you have to get your functional product to market within that year.
My second piece of advice is find a patent guy through a referral, because it can be very costly and it’s easy to miss something.
A couple different times we pursued patents, it was expensive, things got dropped and provisionals expired. So find someone who cares about you, so you don’t risk losing or missing something.
My last piece of advice, and this is just my understanding, but most countries don’t really care what patent you have. We pursued U.S. patent first, then Canada, UK and Australia because we felt those four were worth pursuing.
When you started did you know it would be a business or was it more of a hobby at first?
I thought floating would stay more niche. But we are quickly seeing it grow in popularity and being used as a viable therapy.
So much of what has worked for me, I did for myself. For instance, the only reason I did the DIY tank plans is because I wanted one in my basement. So I assumed other people might want this too.
Another example is my book. Everyone would ask me if they should float, how it would help them, why I float, so I just thought someone needs to write a book that covers all the concepts of floating.
If you have that feeling, that something needs to be here that isn’t or it needs to be a little different, the odds are good that it go well.
The “Float Tank Cure” is the first book you’ve ever written?
Yes, it was the first one. I asked a mentor of mine about books, and he explained why they’re important and what they can do. But the biggest thing I learned from him is this:
If you were going to produce a great video, would you buy the gear, set up the tripod, jump in front of the camera, start scripting? No, you would hire someone to do that, because that’s their area of expertise, not yours.
So the same goes for writing a book. It’s your content, your story, but you’ve never written a book and you’re not a trained writer. Find someone who is and can make it look very polished.
That’s what I did. I wrote my story and content, but I wrote with no regard to structure, form, flow. Instead, I found a great editor, named Amy Anderson, and she made my book look beautiful.
If you’re thinking of writing a book, don’t just go and write a book. Instead be open and honest and get your content out and then let someone help you craft it.
How long did it take you to write it and how much would it cost if someone want to do something similar?
If you do it like I did, where you write all the content but someone turns it into a beautiful story that’s going to cost around 10k - 15k for someone great.
Two other options would be to find a freelancer, who is great at writing and do it for a few thousand dollars. Or get a book plan that is very well studied, with the purpose, the market and the demographic for about few thousand dollars.
But, I wanted a best selling book. I knew it had a purpose, I knew it was important and I didn’t want to take any chances. That’s why I spent a little extra to guarantee the result I would get. If you look on Amazon right now, it’s got near perfect reviews. So for me it was worth it.
Words of Wisdom
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover
Have you ever read a book, and within 10 minutes you feel like someone wrote it just for you? Like they know exactly who you are and what you’re going through?
That’s how this book is for me. It basically explains that the men in our generation want to do things right, and want to take care of people and make sure everyone around us is doing okay. But we do that at the sacrifice of our own needs and values. So this bok helps explain how to live in accordance with your values and take care of your needs, as well as maintaining relationships. [THERE IS NO SOUND ON THE PODCAST FROM 28:08 TO 28:40 SO I MISSED THE END AND JUST MADE SOMETHING UP TO FINISH YOUR THOUGHT, YOU CAN CHANGE IT IF YOU WANT]
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
It taught me that big changes or big events are really just the cumulation of little habits that you do everyday and don’t break for anything.
What do you wish you knew when you started and what do you want to leave entrepreneurs?
No matter what you’re doing in business, mix with people.
Go to business groups and meetups. When you’re starting out and broke, go to the free library meetups. You’re going to meet some person who helps you do one small thing that gets you a little farther along.
As you start to make more money, go to bigger and better events, where you’ll meet a higher caliber of people. Pro tip: one of the quick ways to get high caliber people is to spend more money.
That is what worked for me. I can honestly look back through everything that’s gone well and know it’s because I met someone who told me one nugget that made all the difference. Well, that combined with work ethic and habits.
Last piece of advice
If you think a business achievement or a salary will improve your happiness by more than 5%, you're probably wrong, so be careful. I would seek it through helping people, doing something you’re great at, mastering a craft. That’ll bring you more joy.