My First Panic Attack


In September of 2019 I had my first panic attack.

I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I was traveling for work, and woke up in my hotel room around 2am Paris time with shallow, rapid breathing and tightness around my upper chest and throat.

I honestly thought I was dying.

I didn’t have a clue what to do, either. My thoughts were racing…

“Do I go to the doctor? Where would I even go? How would I get there? I don’t speak a bit of French… that would definitely be problematic. What about health insurance? Would my garbage U.S. plan somehow cover this? If it even mattered, because I was probably a goner…”

I was terrified.

I called my wife in Denver, and thankfully she was awake (hooray for time zones!) and able to help me understand what was likely happening to me.

I didn’t put all the pieces together until much later β€” after many more panic attacks, frequent trips to the doctor, some very helpful medication, lots of talk therapy, and an amazing EMDR app β€” that my panic attacks seemed to be caused by my impending divorce (which finalized the following year) and the fracture that caused in my envisioned future.

These days, I am medication-free but every once in awhile I still pull out the EMDR app β€” I now know the signals of what anxiety feels like inside my body, and I can preempt it before it becomes an attack.

And while most days my anxiety isn’t present, I know it’s not gone completely.

But it is manageable.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

And you are not alone.

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JAD = Future Of Work Speaker (Again!)


TL;DR β€” I am speaking again! πŸŽ‰

If you know of any associations, companies, or podcasts looking for a Future Of Work speaker with specialty expertise in Mental Health, Change & Transformation, Leadership, and Company Culture please let me know.

My speaking page is HERE and you can download my Speaker Kit HERE.

And you can watch my brand new Speaker Demo right here… volume UP and get ready, it’s pretty epic. 😎


For the full update, keep reading below the video…

My Road To Speaking (Again) In 2024

I have this story I tell myself that when most professional speakers deliver a TEDx Talk, they grow their speaking career after the talk goes live.

Well, this is exactly what I didn’t do.

I had some pretty good reasons, though.

In 2018, the year I did TEDx, I had recently moved across the country from Los Angeles to Denver with two very small kiddos (when we arrived: a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old baby). Technically we had lived here before, but enough had changed in our decade away that it felt like we’d moved to a completely unfamiliar city.

We were definitely starting over, we just knew a few of the streets.

In addition to the natural stresses of dadhood with young kids, my business was also undergoing tectonic changes, rebranding to Helios with new business partners and refocusing on a completely new core business model of certifying coaches, consultants, and HR people.

I was also a bit burned out on work travel, having been stuck on a near-constant setting of “airplane mode” for the past decade. I wanted to stop living in airports and be home with the kiddos more. For whatever reason β€” probably good advice from enough wise people β€” I had a lot of clarity that there’s something fleeting and precious about the baby years, and I refused to be the “Cat’s In The Cradle business guy” who missed them.

So I started speaking less, not more. I focused my energy on our Helios training events, which were largely in Denver. I didn’t put any kind of real promotional juice or effort behind sharing my TEDx β€” it wouldn’t actually surprise me if some of you reading this might be just now learning, or remembering, I did one!

I considered writing another business book, but felt more compelled to build a tech product (the thing we now call #lovework). I began having meetings with tech founders and doing lots of research, convinced that A) we needed to build and own our own product instead of just offering someone else’s and B) it needed to be tech in order to be scalable enough to meet the size of The Problem.

Reminder β€” The Problem: most everyone doesn’t like work but then spends the majority of their waking lives doing it.

And then, of course, came a little global pandemic. As well as my divorce. The relatively stable Helios training business we’d built was very negatively impacted by COVID, so we accelerated our efforts to pivot to #lovework. It felt like a scramble, an extended “all hands on deck” crisis moment that would last for literally years.

I got consumed by the building of this “tech thing.” I stopped speaking, stopped doing workshops, and stopped writing anything that wasn’t content for the app. With the constant undulating challenges of fundraising, ever-evolving go to market strategies, delivering paid pilots to customers, problems with developers, forever being on the cusp of running out of money, and even a major defection in our leadership team, it took all my energy to just keep this thing on the rails.

In the time after the pandemic, #lovework rode the waves, kept afloat by the tailwinds of “The Great Resignation” and a solid labor market where workers could make demands of employers and have them heard… but then the winds changed.

2023 brought a meltdown of capital markets and a flurry of “return to office” mandates, along with a constriction of HR Tech and SaaS products (of which #lovework is both).

It seemed our buyers were largely burned out on helping their people deal with burnout.

But as happens in entrepreneurship, challenges in one area often open a new door of opportunity somewhere else…

I started noticing that I really missed being with people. I missed being on stages. I missed writing things everyone could read. I missed sharing ideas and helping people think a little different about the world. I missed encouraging us all to think a little bigger, and brighter, about the future.

I also realized that the “speaking” part of my career felt quite incomplete β€” that I hadn’t yet accomplished what I set out to do in that space.

I’m so incredibly proud of what I and the #lovework team built over the last 5 years. #lovework is the coolest thing I have ever helped create, and hopefully it’ll continue to help lots and lots people (my goal is to get it to millions)!

AND it’s time for me to re-spread my wings as a speaker and thought leader.

I’ve learned a LOT in the last 5 years… about how to be a tech founder, how to grow a team, how to raise money, how to scale culture, how to optimize work for mental health, how to build products, how to create a better future, and yes, SO much more about how work can heal the world.

So, hello stages β€” I’m back!

I can’t wait to share with you all some of the things I’ve been learning. Got something you want to chat about? Please don’t hesitate to hit me up. I hope I get to see you soon!

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