Just before I started Grypmat, I gave myself every reason in the book on why I should not start a business or why I should do it later. Thoughts ran through my head like:
“I’m too young, no one will respect me.”
“I don't have enough money.”
“I don't have enough experience.”
“I should wait until I am older.”
“I don't know where to start.”
I was an engineering student and a young airman working on jets in the Air Force when I discovered the issue of tools sliding off the jets — and I really wanted to solve it. I knew it was a common problem, but I didn't know how it could be solved at the time. Days later, I noticed my mom had a non-slip mat on her dashboard to hold her phone in place while driving — and I knew that this grippy material could create a solution, but I didn't know how.
At this point in my life, I wanted to do something different, but I had a lot of fear. I was seeing an opportunity, but I couldn't see the entire road ahead of me, and it scared me a lot.
So pause this part of the story for a minute. I want to tell you about my cousin Ned. He was a student at Ohio State, about six months older than me.
Ned Burden (on the right) & Sandi Burden (his sister - on the left) Who smiles like that, Ned???
Ned’s dad (Ned Sr.) and my dad (Tom Sr.) were cousins (as you can see creativity for coming up with names was pretty low in my family). Ned Sr. is a very interesting man, to say the least. The easiest way for me to describe him is that he is the real-life version of Cousin Eddie from the movie “Christmas Vacation.”
Growing up, whenever we would see Cousin Ned (Ned Sr.) and his family, there was always some random get-rich-quick scheme they were excited about, like selling reptiles out of their car or somehow rigging the lottery with some lottery pool where they would win the lotto and never have to work again (GOD! I wish they would have hopped on Bitcoin).
Why I tell you this is to give you a little framework on how Ned Jr. grew up. He was kind of a weird guy and would come up with interesting ideas. Can you blame him? His dad was the real life Cousin Eddie…
So, during one break from college, Ned (Jr.) decides he is going to visit his sister Sani in New Mexico.
When Ned arrives, Sandi asks him, “What do you want to do while you are here?” Ned replies, “I want to catch a rattlesnake!”
Ned: “I want to catch a rattlesnake and make a belt out of it.”
Sandi: “What if you get bitten? What if you get really hurt? What if you die?”
Ned: “Well, it will make a damn cool story, won’t it?”
After going back and forth with a little sibling rivalry, Sandi gives up and Ned starts looking for rattlesnakes. Not having any idea on where to start, Ned is looking high and low, day and night, walking way out in the desert, flipping over rocks, doing anything possible to find a rattlesnake.
Ned talks to Sani’s friend, who has a Jeep Wrangler, and convinces him to drive him out in the desert so he can cover more ground to find a rattlesnake.
The guys are driving everywhere and are not having any luck.
Sandi’s neighbor hears about Ned’s search for a rattlesnake and finds a dead one alongside the road. He throws it in the back of the truck and takes it home. He coils the dead rattlesnake next to Sandi’s front door to make it appear alive. He waits out and watches for someone to come home and see it.
Ned and Sani finally come home and as they are unloading the car from the grocery store, Sandi walks right by it and doesn't see it. While Sandi was in the house, she hears Ned outside screaming, “SANDI, SANDI! HOLY FU&K! CALL 911, NOW!”. At this point, the dog is barking at the dead snake and people are starting to come out from their houses to see what is happening. Sandi is in a frantic mess searching for her phone (it’s in her pocket) to call the police, thinking this dead snake is going to attack them.
Before they call the cops, the neighbor runs over and tells them that the snake is dead and gets them to calm down. The next 10 minutes are spent hysterically laughing.
Long story short — mission accomplished. NED GOT HIS RATTLESNAKE.
Ned goes back to Ohio and starts school again after the break.
Four months later, Ned is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer
Six months later, on September 12, 2011, at the age of 21, Ned Gaylord Burden lost his battle with cancer.
After Sandi told me this rattlesnake story, it hit me.
I asked myself: What's my rattlesnake?
What's the thing I really want that I’m afraid to go for?
I wanted to be an inventor. That was my rattlesnake.
I had an idea about how to solve a problem when I was working on a jet. And I wanted to fix it (the Grypmat).
I didn't know how, I didn't know where to start, I felt I didn't know the first step.
Knowing that Ned was just six months older than me, there was no reason why he was in that hospital bed and not me. This made me realize: I may not get another summer to chase my rattlesnake. I might not get another chance to be an inventor. I might not get another chance to bring my ideas into reality. I felt that I had great ideas and if I don’t try, they all could die with me one day.
It sounds weird to me when I say it out loud, but if Ned waited for the following summer to chase his rattlesnake, he would have never gotten it. He would have died before he had the chance. If Ned waited to chase his rattlesnake, I wouldn't have created Grypmat and I wouldn't be sitting here writing this story to tell you.
There are three big takeaways I had from this over the years:
- The fears
- How to find your rattlesnake
Why not do it? There was some type of fear that I had that was preventing me from doing it. It wasn't just laziness, it was something else. Chasing my rattlesnake has been one of the most energizing things I have done in my life, me saying “well I am just lazy” was me blaming the symptom and not the real problem. I realized that when I got to know my fears every one of them was completely outrageous. What if I lose all my money and end up homeless? After talking to hundreds of homeless people throughout my journey I can tell you, I have not met one that was homeless because they swung for the fences for their dream, 99% of the time its due to mental illness or drugs. My true fear was not losing money and being homeless, my true fear was trying to protect my ego…Not wanting to be wrong in front of my peers, not running out of money and moving back in with my parents, that was my real fear, that was the real thing holding me back. I realized whatever fear I had it was completely outrageous and usually the fear was created to protect my Ego… My fears would go down these rabbit holes of constantly thinking of the worst-case scenarios. I would catch myself doing this and I realized this is trying to protect my Ego. I knew what the worst case was, but what was the best case scenario? I owed it to myself to consider the best case scenario… its only fair for me to think of both. Doing this I still had the fear but also some excitement of the opportunity of the best case scenario. There have been countless times I considered both and I cannot tell you one time that I hit my worst case scenario, several times I hit the best case scenario and a few times it by far exceeded what I thought was the “Best” case scenario. Most of my fears were around missing an opportunity or losing money, it was never as extreme as getting bitten by an actual rattlesnake.
#2: Naysayer (3 types)
NaySayer #1: The Haters
No matter what I did, there was always someone telling me I could not do it. I would encounter people like this every once in a while, and I realized there is a difference between feedback and negative energy. People with negative energy are displaying more about themselves than me. Chasing my rattlesnake required a lot of trust in the universe and doing this took me to a higher vibration. People who are at a low vibration often don’t have the ability to give encouraging words or constructive feedback. For these people, simply being grateful for someone going on a higher vibration would raise their own vibration, but they are so low they have themselves stuck in a low-vibration black hole.
Naysayer #2: Family
Your naysayers may be mostly haters but oftentimes may be a family member. In Ned's case, it was his sister Sandi. It’s not that she did not want him to have his rattlesnake — she was worried about his safety. When having a family member who is your naysayer, keep in mind that oftentimes they are focused on safety and security. They are not focused on what your soul needs to go to the next level.
NaySayer #3: The Hardest One
I was able to doge the haters and my dad constantly telling me to get a job. But there was always one naysayer I couldn't get away from: Me. I hear a lot of stories about people who had an idea and tons of people told them that it was bad and they shouldn't do it. I didnt have that with Grypmat. I had lots of people say it is a genius idea and I should go for it. I had one person doubting it, and it was me. Doubting my abilities, my experience, feeling like the product was not good enough. 90% of the doubt was coming from me. I would think, “How significant can a rubber tray be? Why would anyone care?”
I realized that having self doubt is a common symptom of being successful. LOTS of people struggled with this. To ground myself, I would always say, “When I think I can't, I think of the ones who can and realize they are no different than me.”
People ask me, “What’s my rattlesnake?” I cannot tell you what it is. The answer is within you. It doesn't have to be this thing that is deep down that takes some type of crazy meditation to do. For me, it was a desire I always wanted. It’s the thing you are constantly ignoring — whether it's being an inventor or quitting your job as a lawyer to move to Australia to be a barista.
Saying it out loud offers this feeling of liberation — with a hint of “WTF AM I DOING?” If it doesn't sound crazy when you say it out loud then it's not your true rattlesnake. The “WTF AM I DOING?'' was my ego wanting me to keep my current situation. If I level up, if I go to a higher vibration, that means the ego is no longer needed and dies. So, of course it wanted to make me stay right where I was.
Doing this for the first time, I was jumping from the vibration of following money, security, and what society told me to do to following what my soul wants. I shifted from society being my master to my own soul being my master (I know this sounds weird AF right now, but just hang with me). Doing what society told me to do was a form of me seeking love from society. I switched that to loving my soul or basically loving myself.
I couldn't see the full road, the long-term retirement plan, the consistent paycheck, or the employee benefits. Shit, most of the time I didn’t know what I was going to do that week. Most of the time, I was just searching for the next step and I knew that would bring me to the step after that. Having trust in the universe is the only thing I needed. The one thing I could trust was always ringing In the back of my mind: “Well, it will make a damn cool story — won’t it?”
Going all in, trusting the universe, and chasing my rattlesnake — things happened that I would have never predicted. It was the same for Ned. There is no way he would have known that chasing his rattlesnake would inspire me to live my fullest life. Me chasing my rattlesnake of being an inventor, I had no idea that it would take me the places I have been — working with billionaires, Grypmat being on the Time Magazine cover, Forbes 30u30, Thomas Edison Gold Award, along with dozens of other awards. I am in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil right now and I have had three people tell me they knew what the Grypmat was before I told them.
There may be a lot of shame you have about why you haven’t started chasing your rattlesnake: “I should have started doing music a long time ago, I should have gotten a degree in X,Y, or Z.” Whatever the shame is, love yourself for that. Do not be motivated by shame, but be motivated by the fact that you love yourself enough to take the next step because you deserve to be the main character of your own movie. You deserve to live a lifestyle that is filled with risk, reward, joy, and love for yourself.
The first day of the pandemic, I booked a one-way ticket to Hawaii. I ended up staying there for a year and a half while the world was shut down by the pandemic. This was another form of me chasing my rattlesnake — of choosing me first and honoring my desire to travel.
I got this tattoo for my birthday while I was there. It is an infinity symbol of a rattlesnake. It says to me to always chase my rattlesnake.
The question I want to leave you with is this:
What is your Rattlesnake?
You might not get another summer to chase yours.
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