The Worst Day of My Life

My client was a five-foot-six, 310 pound, 56-year-old lawyer that was stressed out and struggling with health problems. And yet on that sunny Wednesday morning I had to ask him to take me to the hospital.

It was 2006. That was the year I had a big financial breakthrough in my online fitness business. It allowed me to stop being a full-time personal trainer and to switch over to a full-time focus on growing Turbulence Training. But before that could happen, I had to go through one of my biggest struggles in life.

The struggles were my fault. I had brought them upon myself by living a hypocritical lifestyle. During the week I was training clients at the gym showing them how to lose weight, eat better, and improve their health. I would wake up at 4:30 AM to work on my online business before heading downtown to meet my first client at 6:00 AM. After a few hours of training, I’d return to my apartment and spend the rest of the day creating workouts, writing emails and shooting exercise videos for my fitness website. That was the right way to live, but then on Saturday nights I messed up. I stayed out late and drank too much alcohol, leaving me tired and stressed on Monday morning.

Burning the candle at both ends caught up with me. I wasn’t a 21-year-old anymore, but I made the mistake of living like I was.

On New Year’s Day of 2006, I experienced my first incident. That holiday season had been particularly busy with Christmas parties and early morning gym sessions resulting in missed sleep. For whatever reason, my body responded with what appeared to be an anxiety attack. For twelve hours my heart rate was elevated, my breathing was labored, and I felt terrible.

An anxiety attack, for those of you that have never had one, is a terrible experience. You feel as though you have no control of your life. I woke up in the middle of each night thinking I was having a heart attack. But I worked through that episode with sleep, a yoga session, and a week of perfectly pure living.

My feelings of invincibility returned after a few weeks and I began to slip back into my bad habits. Each night I would stay up until 11 PM and wake up at 4:30 AM to keep working on my business. These hours might seem like child’s play to a medical resident, but I simply wasn’t meant to keep them.

In March, I woke up on a Tuesday morning after a rather strange dream. Within minutes I could feel the onset of another anxiety attack. I knew it was coming and yet there was nothing I could do about it. But this time it just wouldn’t go away. No matter what I tried there was no relief. Day after day I dealt with the symptoms: a tight chest, tingles in my head and arms, and short, shallow breaths.

The next six weeks were an incredibly difficult period for me. I tried everything, from Qi Gong to meditation to yoga in order to get rid of the symptoms, but nothing worked. I even went so far as to buy a dog, a lil’ chocolate lab puppy that I named Bally, in hopes that petting the dog would help calm me down. Of course, if you’ve ever owned a puppy, especially a lab, you’ll know that they cause even more stress and anxiety. So nothing I tried brought me permanent relief.

There were good days, where the symptoms felt like background noise and there were bad days, where it took all of my power not to go to the hospital. But eventually, as I mentioned earlier, I lost that battle too…

It was a regular Wednesday morning and my client was doing bodyweight exercises in the small, upscale studio in uptown Toronto. Near the end of his workout, I gave up. I had to get out of there. The walls felt like they were closing in on me. Fortunately, my client gave me a ride to the emergency room of St. Michael’s. Just being there lessened my symptoms significantly and hours later, after a chest x-ray that showed nothing was wrong with me, I was sent home wearing a heart-rate monitor.

I sat down at my computer and began searching the Internet (again) for the solution to my problems. That’s when I stumbled across an eBook called Panic Away. Within an hour of downloading the book, I was cured by five simple words in Chapter Two. Literally cured. It was almost as though I had been shaken and told to snap out of it.

I was too busy for this, I said to myself. I had a call with my business coach in an hour and we were working on a product launch for my fitness business that would change my life forever. I needed to dedicate my energy and focus to that project, not worrying about my health.

There was nothing wrong with me. The doctors proved it. The heart rate monitor data would later confirm it. I knew what to do, what changes to make and that I needed to stop living like an immature fool. The worst day of my life became one of the best things to ever happen to me because it forced me to grow up and transform my future.

That was when I grew up, perhaps a lot later than I should have, but better late than never.

We all suffer from anxiety, but I hope you never experience the same intensity of symptoms that I dealt with. If you do, please see your doctor and make the changes in your life that they recommend.

But for day-to-day situational anxiety, we can turn to one of my daily guiding documents (and one that should be in yours as well), the Kekich Credos. Revisiting #97 which is posted above, says, “Anxiety is usually caused by lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.”

Look at the stressful situations in your life and identify how you can overcome them through better living, organization, preparation, and action. In business, accept that at some point you will need to take action and fail forward. But if you do all the preparation work and you take small, educated risks, then you will maximize your chances of success while lowering your stress and anxiety.

You also need to set rules for your life and stick to them. (If you aren’t sure how to do this, watch this short video and read this article where I describe mine.)

Despite a handful of setbacks following that low point in my life, it’s now been years since I’ve felt even a twinge of panic. My stress levels are low, my life is filled with better people, and more importantly my external devotion to my 10 Million Transformation Mission keeps me focused on what really matters.

It was during that time I also discovered that one should never, ever give up on looking for the solution to your problems. When I read those five words in that simple eBook, I knew that after six weeks of searching, I had finally found the missing factor that would lead to my recovery.

“There’s nothing wrong with you.”

That was it. That’s all I needed to hear.

I read that again and again, and said to myself, “I’m way too busy for this.” And that was it. I wish everyone’s problems could be solved so simply. However, no matter what you are going through, I’ll leave you with this advice.

You must look at what could be, not what you are. You can change. Things can be different. It’s up to you. So much can be accomplished with a long-term vision and resilience to short-term setbacks. Stay strong, and let us know how we can help.

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  • Cathy

    I love the very last paragraph! I am printing that out and hanging at my desk so that I can see it and absorb it every day!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Excellent, thank you Cathy.


  • Your “here is what I did wrong” stories are great Craig. In addition to providing good direction, they give the rest of us hope that our own mistakes haven’t somehow disqualified us from success or happiness.

    I really appreciate your example Craig.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Happy to help.
      Thanks Jarom,

  • By the way… where did you get the “rate today’s article” system? I might like to do something like that too…

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Custom built by our guys.

  • Thanks for posting about this! A year and a half ago after being laid off and trying to make a small business out of my house happen I was working around clock, weekends too, never taking a second to pause about working smart, not hard.

    I too found myself having an anxiety attack – dizzy, sick to my stomach, pain in my chest, shortness of breath…I called a friend who recognized the symptoms and talked me down from the pressure of need to succeed ASAP. I didn’t work for 7 days, and it all when away.

    As a business owner now I guard my time and sleep, I read your articles every morning at 5:30 before heading to our gym, and I start my day with what will move me forward the most and no emails until 2pm.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way, and the symptoms have yet to return.

    Aleda Fitness

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thanks Andrea, great to hear from you. Keep up the fantastic work.


  • Ryan

    I decided to quit smoking last year via the “stop smoking pill” and went through what you described and then some!

    I had it all…elevated BP, (…a spike to 180/112), chest pain (thought I was gonna have a heart attack!), heavy breathing, and so on…only to be told after a couple of blood tests and an EKG that there was nothing wrong with me!

    After a few months of hell, the symptoms became less and less. Now, over a year later…NO symptoms at all!

    Before this one time thing, I’d never, ever, EVER had anything happen to me even remotely like this!

    Truly, wicked stuff…and yes, I stayed nicotene free through it all… and over a year later I’m still a non-smoker!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Well done Ryan, congratulations on your perseverance and commitment. Stay strong and healthy.

  • Lots of great nuggets here, Craig. Your personal stories are always powerful and well-told. Thanks for including Kekich Credo #97 – a great reminder of the 4 things that cause anxiety – and interestingly, they are also the antidote.

    Early to Rise is one of those emails that I make sure I read every day. I appreciate your delivering consistently high quality content. What you’re doing is very important work.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Meredith, I really appreciate your feedback and kind words. We are working hard to bring you even more great content.

  • Rebecca Tabbert

    Craig you often seem to write what I need to be reminded of right when I could use it most. I started hearing you and Bedros speak on the importance of a Vision a little over a year ago. It was life changing and solidifying my vision has given me strength to get through”setbacks” of my own

    I appreciate that you are so bold in speech, transparent and humbled. Your Point about being vulnerable and transparent in order to help others was a blessing to me today. I know that to be true and practice the habit. However the reminder today was extremely helpful.

    . I am speaking this weekend at FBBC World on mindset and plan to be transparent about recent life events/challenges that took place as my business life has grown tremendously. Transparency can be a bit scary. But without it people might assume it is easy for some of us. They should be given a peak into the behind the scenes life so they can feel encouraged and inspired that success is possible amongst challenges….when you have a clear vision, the right mindset, coaches and sheer determination and drive to make that vision your reality.

    Thanks again Craig

    Hope you are doing well.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Awesome, Rebecca, have a great time and I know you will deliver an amazing presentation.

  • Great article, Craig. I can see how it can be embarrassing to you but most of the people I know well (Well enough to share such things) including myself have had much more embarrassing things happen in our lives. I am very impressed that you are willing to share things with strangers that might be helpful to them even though it may be painful to you. Recently I had some minor surgery and the anxiety I suffered before and after totally changed my personality for awhile. I wasn’t fit to live with. I am old enough to have to go through such things from time to time but this is the first time I have had that kind of anxiety. I used a couple of slogans which some people may be familiar with: “This too shall pass” and “Let go and let God”. Once I thought to do that I finally got back on an even keel. Thanks for all the help you give us in ETR every day!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      “This too shall pass” is a great one. I have something similar to that in my life rules.

  • derek williams

    I’m running an up and coming business that is my only source of revenue. Of course there are good and better days. Burning the candle at both ends was a way of life for me for much of my life, as a way to avoid anxiety. Thankfully, i survived it. Now, in these more appreciative days of my life i’ve learned to change what i can and accept what i will. Your last paragraph resonated with me, giving me validation. thanx

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you for your feedback, Derek, greatly appreciated. Keep up the fantastic work, and wishing you continued success.

  • somebody I love (really, it’s not me 🙂 struggles with anxiety, and I would love to get the book for him which so helped you so much. Is this still available?

    • Craig Ballantyne

      I’m sure you will find it if you Google it.

  • David

    Great article, Craig.

    What were the 5 words from the book that cured your anxiety?



    • Craig Ballantyne

      There’s nothing wrong with you.

  • Dylan

    I always had this anxiety problem, I wouldn’t say I am totally cured now but it definitely not as serious as when I failed my first business venture. Workout/reading does help to ease the problem. Now I have found another way, that is telling myself “There’s nothing wrong with you.” Thanks and I love ETR.

  • Kenny223

    for me, reading up on panic attacks and realizing that it was all physiological, hyperventilation-induced, chemical — that was enough to make me realize that I was simply doing it to myself. It only happened once, but thinking you’re having a heart attack while speeding to make a shipping deadline is indeed a dramatic and scary event. Oh, and also, do not buy into the ADD/ADHD medication lies — amphetamines will increase your odds of having a panic attack. Thinking that you have an especially easily-distracted brain is another way that people “do it” to themselves– meaning, selling themselves short, not fulfilling their potential, taking the easy/lazy path, feeling sorry for themselves..

    • ttcert

      Thanks Kenny!

  • Great read. Big fan of your work. It’s funny, the source of my anxiety comes from too much organization and from having too much structure. I just need to let things go and live in the moment, to be happy. Balance, for me, is really difficult because I do want to do a certain amount of things every day.

  • Charlie Rose

    Your article on anxiety and how you conquered it is inspirational. I battled and won mine too. Anxiety and unwarranted fear are useless to humans, whoever designed this game of life has a warped sense of humour. Anxiety is one of the biggest problems facing all ages of mankind and the millions that continually suffer need help, from people such as yourself. Charlie Rose, Sydney.

    • Thank you Charlie, I appreciate your feedback. – Craig