Advice to My Younger Self: Don’t Base Your Identity on Your Business Success [Video]

If I could only go back in time and give my 30-year-old self some advice, I would say, “Don’t base your identity on business success, even if it causes others to pay attention to your achievements.” As Rocky Mountain Bicycle grew in its success, being in 20 countries around the world with 80 staff manufacturing some of the world’s best mountain bikes, I felt amazing. For a while success felt great, but when I was forced to sell the business, I felt an emptiness inside. You see, like so many of us, my identity was based almost entirely on the success of my company. In my video, I share the story of what happened when I lost the company.

This is a transcript of the video, provided for those that prefer reading:

If I could only go back 30 years and talk to my younger self, I would say, “Grayson, who are you? Where is your identity kept?”

In high school, I was a tall gangly kid—inept at sports and pretty bad at academics as well. And in the 12th year, we were all given a one-to-one interview with the counselor; and this is to set academic goals and to help us set a path ahead. Well, I didn’t have a path ahead: I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And he was very frustrated with me…and at the end of the interview, he said, “Mr. Bain, I don’t think you’re going to amount to much, are you? Nothing worthwhile here.” Well, that challenged me and it caused me in turn a determination, almost an anger in me, to prove people wrong…prove these friends and people who didn’t think much of me in school.

And I went off and got involved in bicycles and 20 years later, Rocky Mountain Bicycles. It was doing really well – in 20 countries of the world and with about a hundred staff making some of the best mountain bikes on the planet! And a new company, Race Face, that was making components and high-tech clothing for the same use, for mountain bikes. I was on magazine covers! I was in the news! I was quite well known. People would ask me for my autograph even and it was quite intoxicating! I found myself working and really enjoying work. Problem is, I was never home. I was always traveling—always out somewhere.

My wife said, “When are the six of us as a family going to get a chance to be together? When’s enough enough?” And I didn’t know. I just felt like what’s out there is great and what’s at home seems not very important to me. Friends, I didn’t have very many. But then due to the circumstances that I certainly could control, I was thrown into soft receivership. This was the late 90’s and BMO saw [that] all the ratios were offside and they said, “We’re going to have to put a receiver in your company to control the inflow and the outflow.” They sure did that. Every check I wrote had to be counter-signed by them. Every deposit I made was completely restricted in terms of the funds. And the first thing to go was my marketing budget, where especially our race teams, they gobbled up about $100,000 a year but it was the kind of the flagship of our operation both in US and Europe… gone. And my identity was gone too. I’d kind of lost it. It took a real hit. I thought I would be able to keep doing this. And this was who I was. I felt useless. I felt angry—very angry at the accountants I had for not noticing the direction I was going in. And the bank of course. But really, ultimately, it was all my fault.

But miraculously, and this is a different story, we managed to sell both companies. You think that would help but that actually made my crisis worse; because now I had no business card, no title [of] president. When people said, “What are you doing?” I didn’t even know. I felt useless.

Except my wife started showing me how much she cared for me. It took me about three years to exit Rocky Mountain Bicycles. And during those years, there was a lot of despair and depression in my life. I was trying… struggling with lots of issues that still existed in the company that I had to straighten out. And on my 40th birthday party I didn’t want to party. I just wanted to go home and sleep and told her that. Went home early and fell asleep. And then she shook me awake for dinner a few hours later and said, “Hey, let’s have dinner together.” And much to my shock, she had found 20 friends that still would go with me and have that surprise birthday party. They showed up and they surprised me, though I had nothing to offer them. I had no company. There’s no credibility I had and yet they still saw something in me.

If I could talk to my younger self now, I’d say, “Grayson, you could have had both. You could have held both Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Race Face and your family and friends but you had to grip Rocky Mountain so tightly that nothing else was allowed to come in. And your family and friends were always there…just held them in your open hands.” And now I’ve learned to do that, I have much more peace and contentment in my life.

How about you? Where’s your identity kept? I look forward to hearing your comments.

Comments 1

  1. Grayson many time I have ment to contact ,I have thought about you often,I had a some what strange night and have been reminiscing only because I can across an old Delirious tape. I enjoyed you looking back because that’s what I was doing.Life have been good I feel very blessed for all that has been given to me.
    Youth Leader helper John
    Hope you get this

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