Zig Ziglar once said, "Some of us learn from other people's mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people." I've been both and I'm publicly sharing my journey so you’ll either be inspired or forewarned.
Who am I? My name is Travis McAshan. I’m a father, volunteer and
expert (someone who’s failed in every possible way) in a narrow field. I believe life is about doing your best, living honestly, and giving the rest to God. I believe having something encouraging to say, and not saying it is a tragedy. Last, I believe that happiness is doing what you love; but success is getting paid to do it.
What’s my story? The quick version? I grew up in Austin. In 2000 I received a degree in Architecture from Texas A&M. I got my start as a graphic designer at a number of internet startups. For the last 10 years I have been managing director and creative director of a boutique web-marketing firm called Glide. I’ve been married to my beautiful wife Kristen for more almost three years and I have a amazing and cute daughter named Penelope.
Why should you listen to me? I’ve been there. I’ve gone through all the stuff you’re going through and still am daily. I’ve made terrible decisions and I’ve made great decisions. I’ve had disappointing failures and terrific successes. In all this I’ve gained a great mixture of knowledge and experience some would call wisdom.
Personal (Top 5)
- Epic Fail at State Track Meet (age 18) – More
- During my senior year in high school, I was the top-ranked athlete in my event in Texas. I was picked to win the state championships and break the longstanding record for 300 hurdles. However, on May 23, 1996, in front of 25,000 people, I fell on the 3rd and 4th hurdles and placed dead last. I not only blew it, I completely choked.
- I went from never having lost a race the entire season to being the “clapper.” You know the clapper—the guy so far in last place that people feel bad and clap for him. I was in shock and couldn’t fully process what this epic fail meant to my collegiate prospects. I quickly learned that most universities don’t give scholarships to people who can’t win the big races. The phone stopped ringing and the scholarship offers evaporated.
- Unwilling to sacrifice my education just to run track at a small college in west Texas, I gave up on my dream. I enrolled in Texas A&M to study architecture and went about my life. What I didn’t know was that while A&M didn’t recruit me originally, my choice to attend was one of the best decisions I could have made.
- Qualified For Olympic Trials (age 21) – More
- While attending A&M, during fall registration my freshman year, I was invited to walk-on the team. The good news was that I was that I had a phenomenally successful year. The bad news was that I fractured my foot (specifically the tarsal navicular) from overtraining by the end of the season. I spent the next two years enduring constant pain and racking up an impressive losing streak. I wasn’t on scholarship, I wasn’t winning, and I felt like someone was stabbing my foot with an ice pick every time I ran.
- It was time to make a decision, I only had two options: give up or stop complaining and make things happen. In a moment of fortitude, I looked down and literally talked trash to my foot, “I don’t care if you hurt; I’m going to do this.” From that day forward, I looked at the pain like pathetic complaints from my body—something I chose to ignore.
- My daily ritual included heat packs before practice, four ibuprofen, and trainers wrapping my foot so tight I couldn’t bend my ankle. After practice, I would head to the training room for waist-deep ice baths (yes, they were terrible).
- By the time I graduated, I had hurdled my way to a full athletic scholarship; I became a four-time All American and won the Big 12 Championships. I also qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials in Sacramento, California. More than anything else, I learned the value of never, ever giving up.
- Found Soul Mate… Married Her (age 29) – More
- At 29, I was a full-blown wokaholic with a two-bedroom apartment with zero furniture except a desk and bed.
- On January 1, 2008, I printed one word across five sheets of paper and taped them to my wall. The word was “BALANCE.” This would be the year that I found balance outside the eighteen-plus-hour workdays, usually six or seven days a week. For the first time in years, I was also ready and interested in finding a relationship.
- On January 2,, from midnight until around 6:00 a.m., I started and finished reading a book titled Date or Soul Mate. The author, Neil Clark Warren, was the founder of eHarmony and a marriage psychologist for thirty years. I followed the principles in the book, listing my “10 Must Have” and “10 Can’t Stand” requirements in a soul mate.
- You can call it coincidence or fate, but I met a woman who amazingly passed with flying colors just three days later. Our first date went terribly—she beat me at everything: arcade basketball, putt-putt golf, and air hockey. Despite this obvious setback, we soon fell in love. We dated for almost a year and married a week before my thirtieth birthday. She’s amazingly creative and sweet and I’m lucky to have found her.
- Became a Father (age 32) – More
- My daughter, Penelope Ruth McAshan, was born January 19, 2011. Her name means “faithful companion.” My sweet wife gave birth naturally with the help of a midwife and her team. I’m proud of her strength and poise. I was expecting a few curse words, but she handled it like a champ.
- Finally, I had the opportunity to love, cherish, and eventually encourage someone from her first day of life. Here was my chance to literally start at the source.
- As I write this, Penny is approaching two years of age and forming her own distinct affectionate (and dramatic) personality. It’s safe to say that I madly adore her and she’s definitely a daddy’s girl. The only way I can describe the great blessing of bringing her into the world and loving her is that I simply can’t describe it.
- It might sound obvious, but my favorite moments are when she’s quietly snuggled in my arms. Since she’s on the move from the second she’s awake, these moments are few and far between. I’m sure someday when she’s fourteen she’ll say something like, “Dad, I hate you,” but for now, it’s like I’m holding unadulterated true love in my arms.
- Started This Website (age 34) – More
- All of this started with a familiar feeling. You know the one . . . that deep sense that you’re meant for more—not so much more money or more things but making more of a difference—not seeing how much you can get in life but seeing how much you can give. The best way I could describe it to you is like this: if I were going to die in twelve months, I wouldn’t spend that time building marketing websites.
- Instead, I’d start with my core values and use all of my talents and abilities to help other people find what it is that makes them come alive. Then I’d do everything in my power to help them passionately pursue their dreams and never give up, regardless of the adversity or circumstances.
- One important message I want to get across is that when you truly know what you want and have a passion for it, you find it’s not work in the traditional sense. You actually gain energy when you do it. It makes you come alive; you work harder and longer than anyone else doing it. You’re happier and your outlook on life changes for the better.
- My question is, what natural talents and abilities do you have? Do you like performing or science or memorizing numbers? Are you a moonlighting designer or an aspiring writer? We’re in a revolution where the gatekeepers to opportunity have become unnecessary and irrelevant. Everyone has the ability to simply believe in themselves and make things happen.
Professional (Top 5)
- Landed First Job as Graphic Designer (age 21) – More
- I graduated with a degree in architecture, athletic accolades, and absolutely no idea what to do with my life. I was living with my parents and working for a small “landscape design” company (i.e., taking any paying job) when my life reached a breaking point.
- We showed up to a job site, and the customer asked if we were the clean-up crew. My heart sank; I was hoping to do something creative, such as designing a fountain. Instead, we spent the next five hours doing back-breaking manual labor, clearing and dragging trees up a steep slope of loose soil. I was exhausted, dirty, and boiling in frustration. I thought to myself, I didn’t go to college for five years to drag trees up a hill.
- That night I made up my mind to find a job that was worth my time. I started by making a list of people who could possibly help me get a job doing what I enjoyed (graphic design).
- During the first three weeks, I had numerous false leads and disappointments and at least two outright rejections. Finally, I landed an interview as a graphic designer with a local Internet start-up named Credit Minders. While my portfolio was anemic, my enthusiasm was through the roof. I was hired on the spot with zero industry experience.
- Started First Company (age 22) – More
- After a year of corporate politics, cubicle life, and TPS reports (ok, not really), I put in my two-weeks’ notice. I was sick of watching my friends get laid off and hearing fellow employees complain about their crappy stock options.
- I had originally intended to go out on my own, but instead (and rather spontaneously), I spun off a video marketing service called Pixona with the company founder. It was a huge break with a serial entrepreneur who had created and sold two previous companies for millions. But there was a catch—he lived in Rogue River, Oregon, and he required that I move there.
- I took a leap of faith, reduced my possessions to what could fit in the back my SUV, and hit the road. It was a great trip, and I took my time to see the sights. I even had dinner on the edge of the Grand Canyon during a spectacular sunset. When I was 2,100 miles from Austin, I arrived at my new home for the next year. I stayed in a twenty-seven-foot RV with a shower so small you couldn’t change your mind in it.
- We partnered 50/50 with all my equity coming from blood, sweat, and tears. I worked eighteen-plus-hour days for nearly two years, mostly in a small one-man office on Main Street. While the company itself wasn’t successful, the experience was tremendously positive. I honed my skills in UI design, creative direction, and HTML/CSS coding. I also formed strong business relationships that would help support the early years of my next company, Glide Design.
- Started Glide (current company) (age 24) – More
- In 2004, it was clear that my first company was headed for trouble, and I decided to move back to Austin. It was crazy—I had a little over $1000 in my bank account and no job waiting in Austin. My only plan was to “sell web design services.” To make matters worse, my truck broke down on a remote stretch in Wyoming.
- I arrived in Austin overdrawn but excited to get started. I rented an extra room from a friend who was gracious enough to allow me to pay when I could. I had to borrow money from my parents just to set up an Internet connection. After getting situated, I started Glide Design, creating websites for small-to-medium businesses.
- For the next few years, every conversation went the same: “(1) Do you have a website? (2) Are you happy with it?” If the answer was “no” to either question, you had better believe I was selling my wares. Friends, family, strangers—it didn’t matter. I was on the “whatever it takes” plan. I didn’t go out much; I didn’t even date, I just worked—sometimes seven days a week.
- If someone asked me, “Can you do XYZ?” I’d say with confidence, “Definitely!” Then I’d go home and learn how to do it. I even remember hand-drawing an animated GIF for my neighbor for $50 cash (interestingly, it’s still online). While I was very poor in these early years, I had come alive. For the first time in my life, I was working 100% for myself, and I felt amazing.
- Hired First Employee (age 26) – More
- I was never a great designer. I could stare for hours, endlessly wrestling with a design, agonizing over lines, color, and typography. I knew what a good design was when I saw it, but creating new ideas for every project was like a trip to the dentist.
- I placed ads on Craigslist and received over three hundred responses in less than five days. I can still remember that one guy’s portfolio looked like something from Microsoft Paint. Two weeks and five hundred disappointing Craigslist portfolios later, I finally received a referral from a friend. I called him up, we had a quick interview, and we both decided to give it a go. He was a smashing success and made an immediate impact on the quality of our work.
- Aside from coding, I was able to redirect my energy and focus on business development. Glide began to grow its reach and overall quality of work. We took on bigger and more interesting clients, and the synergy of having a second person created momentum and growth.
- Restructured Glide (w/ ZERO employees) (age 31) – More
- Five years after hiring my first employee, I had an in-house team of three and one contractor under retainer. My once-small business had monthly fixed costs at nearly $15K per month. There was always constant pressure to start and finish new sites.
- One of my lowest points was around a month before my upcoming wedding. I ran the numbers and determined my business would run out of money sometime while I was on my honeymoon.
- I reached my breaking point again when I realized I was working twice as hard as everyone else and sometimes not even paying myself. It made sense to me that someone could be either broke or working extremely hard but not both.
- I despised my job and felt like a failure. I even entertained the idea of quitting the industry completely to become a high school football coach. However, something inside me knew that wasn’t the answer. Instead, I took a hard look at my business and decided to make drastic changes.
- Over a period of six months, I transitioned my team to contract positions or jobs with other companies. It wasn’t easy, and my workload increased dramatically as I took up the slack from the reduction in staff. Despite the new challenges, I was happy about my job for the first time in nearly three years. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
- I found a renewed passion for my work and rededicated myself to the business. I read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber and learned how important it is to have great systems. I read Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and committed to providing industry-leading customer service. My business continued to increase; within a few years, I was making significantly more money than I had made before with much less overhead.
Spiritual (Top 5)
- Found God Not Religion (age 19) – More
- One night while wasting time in my dorm room, I picked up the Bible. I was pretty clueless on the difference between Jesus and God. Were they the same, different, or what? In the Bible was a reading tracttitled “Two Weeks on the Life and Teachings of Jesus.” It sounded like a good place to start.
- Somewhere in the middle of the the Book of Matthew, I read an excerpt from Paul Harvey titled “The Parable of the Lost Sparrows.”
- In the parable, a farmer settles in for a long and cold winter night but notices some sparrows on his porch outside. First, he tries opening his barn and turning on the light. Then he tries laying out food, and finally he attempts to scare the birds by waving his arms in the air. But the birds simply scatter, frightened by his actions.
- Nothing works and he retreats inside. With his head against the glass, he realizes the birds are going to freeze to death. In that moment, exasperated and unable to help, he thinks to himself, If only I could become one of them, then I could show them the way to warmth and safety. In that moment, he understood why Jesus was born.
- I accepted Jesus as my savior that night.
- Gave Up Doing Things My Way (age 22) – More
- After finding God (a better doctrine is that He found me), my life didn’t really change too much. In fact, it was two years before I even started regularly attending church. Even then I did so mostly because I had joined the worship band as a rhythm guitar player and had to be there.
- Our church was in a strip mall directly next door to a bar. The doors were literally two feet apart. I used to joke that we should switch the signs just to see what would happen. We did get occasional drunks stumbling in during Saturday band practice; you can imagine their confusion.
- Overall, I was going through the motions. I’d show up, play my music, and wait for the sermon to be done. I tried to leave as soon as possible after service. I wasn’t there for other people, and I was definitely not living for the glory of God. I was a hypocrite, and deep down I knew it.
- Eventually, between disliking my job and disliking myself, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was severely depressed; every time I answered the phone, people asked, “What’s wrong?” I never seriously contemplated suicide, but I did pray regularly that God would take my life because I didn’t feel like I had anything worth living for.
- I remember my tipping point as if it were five minutes ago. I was driving home late at night. I could show you the exact country road and intersection where I cried out to God, saying, “I give up! I’m done doing things my way. I want to try things your way.”
- While the prayer was simple, it put my life on the fast track for change. Within one week, with no prior knowledge or planning, I was presented with an opportunity to start a new company 2,000 miles away, and I jumped on it. It was a drastic change, leaving my entire life behind to make a home in a new city, but God knew what I needed more than I did.
- Looking back (ten years later), I can say with conviction that every day since that prayer has been better than the one before. Yes, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, but living for something bigger than myself has given me an unshakeable joy. It’s a hope that never goes away, faith that compels me forward, and love that keeps me going. It’s Jesus Christ.
- Started Living For Others (age 23) – More
- I was living in near isolation in a small RV “down by the river” (for Chris Farley fans) with my newly adopted puppy, Molly. I was a stranger in a small town (Rogue River, Oregon). Sometimes I’d go days without truly interacting with another person, except maybe to purchase gas or groceries.
- I felt like my life was wasting away. I knew this wasn’t what I was meant to do, so once again I called out to God. I made a simple prayer that He would use my life. Later that week, I met a guy who would change my life forever. He invited me to a college Bible study in the nearby town of Grants Pass
- At the Bible study, I specifically remember immediately feeling like I was in the right place. It became a period of intense spiritual and emotional growth, and I consciously made the decision to spend the rest of my life helping and serving others.
- Now, I’m not trying to sound like Mother Teresa. It’s not like I gave away all my possessions and walked the freeways like a peace pilgrim (though she was a neat person). But there was a noticeable change in my perspective and attitude. When I walked into a room, I would seek out the hurting and downtrodden—anyone who seemed like he or she could use a friend.
- I found that when I started to look at the world this way, everything changed. I started seeing people everywhere who were in pain and needed help. I remember filling my backpack with ninety-nine-cent hamburgers from Jack in the Box and giving them out to homeless people.
- Became Youth Pastor (age 24) – More
- I decided to move back to Austin (my hometown) from Oregon in 2004. I offered to volunteer as youth pastor at a local church called Grace Outreach. It was rough my first few years because I had no idea what I was doing.
- One night after a youth meeting, I expressed my disappointment with the kids and youth ministry and said I was ready to quit. My pastor told me something I’ll never forget. He said that Wednesday night was like a business card, a small piece of communication you give someone. It’s what you do between Wednesdays that matters most. I translated this to a quote I had heard years before: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- I started learning more about the kids and what they liked to do. I started attending school functions and placed more focus on encouraging and helping them as much as possible. The difference was dramatic and immediate, and our group grew in size and (much more importantly) spirituality.
- I’ll never forget the first time one of the kids came up to me and meekly said she was ready to give her life to Christ. I grabbed a few of the student leaders, and we prayed with her. I fumbled because I had never helped someone do this before, but we got through it. These were the moments that made youth ministry awesome.
- Became “Associate” Pastor (age 33) – More
- Toward the end of 2011, I was married and the father of a small baby. I was running a successful business and volunteering weekly with the youth group. My ability to spend time with the kids in the youth group was in steady decline.
- Because of this and the fact that eighty to ninety percent of our kids had graduated in the last two years, our group was relatively small. We decided it was best to transition the youth group and redirect the existing kids to helping with kids’ church instead.
- I then took on the role of associate pastor; my duties are still a bit unclear to me. Essentially, my role is to support my pastor and also continue learning from him. If you were to ask me today, I would say that I have no intentions of becoming a senior pastor and still don’t know how I am where I am today. But that’s the interesting path we take when we open up our lives to God.
- I love God, and I want to help people, so I suppose this is just where I’m supposed to be. I do know that one of my favorite roles is having the chance to teach the sermon on a Sunday morning. There’s always a rush when I have the chance to speak to our church about something I’m passionate about. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I’m glad to be used by God.
Sometimes I had a crystal clear plan and others I was flying by the seat of my pants.
Inside of you and I is the remarkable gift of imagination. Many times I used this gift to conceive a world beyond my current circumstances. A life where I was getting paid to do what I loved, surrounded by people that care about me and living for the good of others. Sometimes I had a crystal clear plan and others I was flying by the seat of my pants. Regardless, and in almost every circumstance, it wasn’t until I took action that these ideas took shape. What ideas are waiting to be created in your life?