Why I’m exactly like Morpheus (How to turn your life totally backward in six months)

It’s weird. I have this hypothetical scenario in my head. I know it’s hypothetical because it involves Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

I imagine going back in time six months, to the end of March of this year. And the future me eschews all of the warnings about interacting with past selves, lest I cause a temporal paradox or become my own grandfather or something, and instead goes right up to the past me and says:

“Six months from now, you won’t be doing any of the work you’re doing now. Your job as you know it will cease to exist. Your professional image and brand as you know it will cease to exist. You will no longer be billing any of the clients you work with now — that same group that, never wavering, you have steadily and reliably billed over $6000 per month and who you have come to rely upon.

“Instead, six months forward, you’ll be working for and with all new people, in a totally different business, doing work totally differently, and moving very quickly in a totally different direction.”

And past me would be like, “What new business are you talking about?”

And future me would be like, “Oh, it doesn’t exist yet. You build it now, and six months forward it’ll be all you do and will replace your current income.”

And the past me would wave a dismissive hand and be like, “Get the fuck outta here.”

Because, you see, this scenario is what a normal person in a normal situation would call, “Quitting your job.” I was an independent contractor from the beginning, so I don’t really have a job to quit. But 100% client turnover is basically the same thing. Out with the old, in with the new.

So this is my “I’m quitting my job” post.

So hey, boss, shove it. Except that the boss is me, so there shall be no shoving — of it, or of anything else.

What has transpired this year has all been very strange, looking back now.

See, ever since my wife had our son, she’s really only worked kind of on and off. For five years now, I have, for all intents and purposes, been the sole (or at least primary, by a long shot) breadwinner for this household. I have never had a steady paycheck from an employer, so each month I’ve had to scrape to make it all happen. I must bill those clients, collectively, right around $6000. I don’t do that, we suffer. And all the while, I’ve also been fighting the real estate monster. I had to borrow some here and there, but I basically relied on steady work from that client base to keep this family afloat.

And today, all of those old stalwart clients are gone. As of next month, I will bill none of them. It’s actually scary to think about.

It was around six months ago that I finally cracked the figurative seal on the copy of Online Business School that I’d gotten for Christmas (ALMOST as much fun as a video game or new Transformers) and started this thing I’m doing now.

At the time, my motivations for starting a new venture were fear and desperation. I was tired of the real estate sinkhole and wanted in the worst way to get out. I figured that my only viable solution was to earn a supplementary income. So I started listening to OBS and got in touch with Naomi and started doing my thing, and doing it hard.

And get this.

Six months later, I still don’t have a supplementary income. But… oh thank Jesus… I do have an income.

See? See how that all fell into place, how it all worked out? This is why fear is good. Without the fear, I don’t start a new business. Without the business, I’m earning right around $0.00 today. And $0.00 doesn’t go as far as it used to, let me tell you.

Let me get all cosmic on you. Ready?

DISCLAIMER: If you’re into rock-solid Johnny and don’t want to watch me get all woo-woo on you, you should click over to the Can I Have a Go? video now. If you stay, you agree to sit cross-legged and barefoot on a hemp throw rug with me while drinking tea and smoking from a seven-foot hookah.

Dude. Things really do happen for a reason.

Dude. Things really do work out for the best in the end, if you keep the faith.


I’ve spent a lot of the last 12 months afraid, worried, sometimes nearly panicked. In the middle of something like that, it is nearly impossible to convince yourself that this is all part of a process that will ultimately serve you. When the property tax bills come due and you owe $5000 that you don’t have, it’s not easy. When you have to suck up your pride and borrow money, it’s not easy. When you look forward and can’t possibly imagine how you’ll ever get out short of letting the whole house of cards collapse on you, it’s not easy.

But you have to do it. You have to hang tough, just like NKOTB told you back in the 80s. And what must happen will happen.

See, eventually you start to see through the smoke and mirrors. There’s only so many times that a terrible situation can crop up and yet ends up working out before it starts to feel like that boy who cried “Wolf!” It starts to feel like a bunch of empty threats, put there to either steer you in one direction or to see if you’ll flinch.

Life gives you a little kick in the nuts the first time and you panic. But then it works out all right.

The next time it happens, you panic. But again, it works out all right.

The next time you freak out some, but it’s less severe. And it works out all right again.

I’ve had like two hundred of those. And now when I get them I’m like, “Hey, dumbass! Maybe this one will work out all right.”

And I find myself thinking of that speech that Morpheus gives in the second Matrix movie. The one where he’s all shirtless with his bald head and has like USB ports all over his body and screams all loud and shit and is like, “I stand before you unafraid because after two hundred years, I remember what matters most: WE ARE STILL HERE!”

I’m totally like Morpheus. Planet overrun by sentient machines, two hundred years of underground oppression, shirtless and covered with data ports. But after two hundred tenants who won’t pay their rent and two hundred late client payments and two hundred bogus $400 citations from the city for not mowing grass that was actually mowed, I AM STILL HERE!

It doesn’t matter what has happened to you in the past. The ups, the down, the setbacks. YOU ARE STILL HERE!

If you’ve been beaten up and spit out, I’m betting that even if you think you’ve been hit hard, not many of you are near death, without family or friends, or living in a box. No, YOU ARE STILL HERE!

It’s amazing to me, what life will throw at you. And it’s amazing, if you can step back and look at it from above, what intricate and perfect design it all has. The best things in my life would not exist without the worst things in my life. Everything has had a lesson. Everything has served a purpose, has steered me in a sometimes-hard-but-ultimately-correct direction. And no matter how beat up I have felt, I am still standing. I am still here.

So keep that faith. What a difference six months makes.


  1. Martha Stewart inspired me. She was being interviewed after the jail time, and after everything had happened. And she was asked a question: What have you learned from all this.

    She didn’t go with the bullshit pat answer about growing and learning.

    Without missing a beat, and in a matter of fact way, she said…

    “That I really can never be destroyed.”

    I hated her before that moment. Now I get it.

  2. InfoNerd says:

    “The best things in my life would not exist without the worst things in my life.” This is so true. On the other side it is so awesome to sit back and sigh and say ‘oh! I had to suck that bad to make me this awesome!’
    You are that awesome, Johnny! Own it!

  3. Awesome. Thanks for making me laugh and inspiring me at the same time.

  4. Sandi Abbott says:

    You’ve made my morning. Partly because reading your post gave me a chance to once again procrastinate on writing my e-newsletter. But mostly because I can totally relate. I was scared witless last year when i started Xpresso Marketing and i could not believe how many twists and turns i took to end up where I am a year later. But it was fear that got me going and now on my good days I can laugh at fear. Other days, I have to run to Daddy God and pray like crazy. That works too 😉

    I love reading your stuff Mr. Truant … you certainly make me laugh. I’ll keep coming back for more.

  5. Johnny says:

    It’s really strange. I kind of don’t believe in coincidence anymore, and I try my best (and sometimes do fail) to see each adversity as something that is necessary.

    But mainly, the lesson here is that I, Morpheus, and Martha Stewart are all pretty much invincible.

  6. Jeb says:

    JBT, a great post. I want to offer a slight twist on your take that “Things really happen for a reason”. Thing is, I don’t disagree one bit. But the question is…what’s the reason?

    I don’t think it’s that we had some lesson to learn and so God/the Universe/Bart Simpson/whatever wanted us to see the err of our ways that we might rise above it all. I don’t think that these negative things have to happen for some ‘reason’. The reason being the lesson we learn by going through it.

    Simply put, I think we travel along the path of our expectations. So, taking my last 2 years as an example, I didn’t mind my job, but I was stressed out of my mind with worry that something bad was coming. Boy did it come, as requested.

    But had I remained a bit more carefree, a bit more grateful for what I had rather than worried that I might lose it, I think different doors would have opened for me. And I don’t think I’d have fallen so hard.

    Of course, I’m still going to take what I can from the lesson…ensure I don’t travel that path again. But rather than believe it had to happen for me to learn from, that there is some bigger plan for me that offers up these experiences at just the right times, I’m convinced that it’s all on me. It was my lack of mental discipline that brought the roof down upon me, my worry and stress and every other negative thing I embraced out of fear. Just as my coming success will be the result of doing things quite opposite of that.

    In this same way, I think your return to glory was due to your focus, your commitment, your hard work. It didn’t have to come out that way, but it did, because of you. Not because of some master plan. Some ‘reason’…just you.

    I think the responsibility implicit in this way of thinking is critical.

    Thanks for an inspiring post.

  7. Darcy says:

    Just want to applaud this post and you for the honesty and clarity and general inspiringness shot through with laughs. I get a feeling of wholeness, of the no-longer-divided split coming through, if that makes any sense at all, Anywho…. ::applause::

  8. Johnny says:

    @Jeb – Well, I can only speak to what I feel the reasons have been for me. And it feels less like a lesson to learn and more like a steering along a path. So take the real estate example. Scary, scary stuff for me. Yet it HAD to be that bad and that scary to make me desperate enough to do WHATEVER IT TOOK to get past it. In other words, I was supposed to take this path… the path that led to Johnny B. Truant here on johnnybtruant.com today, doing what I do. That wouldn’t have happened if everything had been hunky-dory. It had to get so bad that I had a reason to fight. And thank God, because if I hadn’t, I’d be SOL today.

    But you’re right about individual responsibility. I don’t believe in fate, because it’s a cop-out. Everything that has happened to me — good and bad alike — happened because of me. Nobody tricked me into my bad investments, and likewise, my successes were not due to luck. I am responsible for it all.

    Put those together and what you get isn’t an inevitable path, but rather a signal. The question is, do you go with the nudge, or do you fight it? You get the signal… and now, do you heed it? That’s the thing, I think.

    @Darcy – Thanks! I feel exactly the same way. I kept having trouble coming up with ideas recently for my two old blogs… but now, I can’t write for this one fast enough. Too many ideas!

  9. Lori Enos says:

    Okay, I needed this kick in the butt today. I’ve been down in the dumps because nothing is working out for me and I needed to be reminded that I need to just keep working it and it will work out…just like it always does.

  10. Laura says:

    I love that scene! Very well timed, by the way. Loved having tea on the hemp rug with you this morning.

  11. You see, here’s the problem. I totally relate to your position, wife and kids and mortgage to support. (Okay, only one mortgage.) But I’m not quite scared-shitless enough, the situation’s not totally busted enough, for me to be willing to do *WHATEVER IT TAKES*.

    I’m busting my ass, but playing it safe a little bit, too. I haven’t burned my boats. I’m still working the day job because hey, when you’re a wage slave, you can’t drop one client at a time. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing deal.

    If it were just me, I’d sell everything, move into the cheapest apartment I could find, and work like a demon. But the kids still need shoes (and tuition) for school (and did I mention tuition?), the dog still needs a yard to shit in, and the wife still needs me to not go postal because I’m working 28 hours a day.

    Then I read about what you’ve done and spend the rest of the day asking myself, “Hey self … he did it in six months. What the fuck are you waiting for? Get off your ass and do something.”

  12. Johnny says:

    Dudes and female dudes…

    Just to show you that God or the universe or fate or whatever just never quite stops fucking with you, I got some more “fun” real estate news today that immediately put me back in the freaked-out state of mind. This only days after I was all elated.

    So I took a few breaths.

    Tried to relax.

    And reminded myself that yet again, this is just life’s way of dicking with you and then laughing about it.

    Everything always works out.


    And Drew: I heard a parable about some guy going up into the mountains to learn from the master or something (can you tell I’m paraphrasing?) and the guy says he wants to learn X. The master is like, No you don’t. That happens a few times, yada yada. Then the guy goes back and is like, Dude, I really, really want to learn X. So the master holds the guy’s head under water and the guy fights to get up and he just keeps holding it and holding it and the guy’s kicking and clawing and fighting to live, and eventually the guy comes up gasping for air. The master says, “When you want to learn it as badly as you wanted to breathe just now, you will want it enough.”

    And I think there’s a message about, like, he’ll be really successful then. I can’t remember the details or the eloquence, but the point was that there’s wanting it… and then there’s WANTING IT.

  13. Dude, that blows. I have a neighbor who does rentals. I don’t know if he’s looking to pick up any more, but if he is, would you want to talk to him?

  14. Johnny says:

    Hey Drew,

    I sincerely doubt that your neighbor would be willing to pay what I need to get out of them, but thanks. That’s the problem… the market tanked so hard that nobody will pay enough to cover the mortgages.

  15. Claire says:

    Hi Johnny. Just wanted you to know that I’ve been following your progress through much of this year and am very inspired by your writing and your ability to put yourself out there, both here and on Ittybiz, Copyblogger, etc. There’s just no escaping you! LOL

    I keep coming back here because of your writing. And for the laughs. And the deep wisdom mixed in, which my brain can’t completely process after a long day with sick kiddos and toddler testosterone which turns my home into a MMA arena but with more screaming and yelling.

  16. Johnny says:

    Thanks. That seems to be a common sentiment, actually, which is encouraging because I keep posting things that I maybe think I shouldn’t (i.e. too revealing). It’s interesting that the more I let it all hang out, the more people seem to like it. Something to think about.

    I guess it’s because we’re all just people, yet many feel they need to be so guarded online.

  17. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Johnny – I read about your story on Tim Brownson’s blog. And I know Online Business School is awesome but six months is not long to turn your life around.

    Like you say – if it wasn’t for shit hitting us, we’d never progress. It just never feels good at the time.

  18. Johnny says:

    Well, I think we have to put a “results not typical” asterisk next to this one. I’d say that rolling this fast is pretty atypical.

    I’ve been thinking recently that this is like doing sprints while dragging one of those little parachutes, or swinging a bat with one of those little weights on it. You labor with an albatross for a while, and watch how fast you go once it’s off.

  19. Coach T.I.A says:

    Now I’ve met you 🙂 And I relate. Got laid off for the first (and last) time ever in Aug 08 and went solo. Had a lot of coaching clients till last month, then decided to take a break while I figure out what’s next for me.

    Got an idea 2 days ago, joined Project Mojave the same day and here I am now, meeting cool people like you who understand that whatever happens is always perfect and a part of the bigger picture that we’re still trying to uncover.

    Timing is everything! Learning never ends. Excited about the present future, Tia aka @TiaSparkles

  20. Johnny says:

    Awesome, Tia… great to meet you!

  21. Jeff Navarro says:

    LOL grrreat post! I really needed to read this today. I’m a new fan, for sure….

  22. notneobullshit says:

    (sorry for my…”english”..) When I finished my school i started to work,let me say,in a fabric..and I worked every fu***** day since,except sundays (sometimes sundays actualy too) and I have paychek,ok..but… i have a girlfriend and i plan to marry her soon…someday…i dont know..and have kids a dog and a cat maybe (she doesnt like cats)..the problem is. the money i earn is actualy not for living,its for surviving..all of it goes….I have much to say but cant do it in english..doesnt matter..
    the point is,i’m afraid..not of,not to have enough money or something like that, a place to live,food and stuff..but i’m afraid of one thing..i’m here…Yes i’m here..God,I’m STILL here..
    How long I am damned to work. work and work..just work………..I’m just 23 years old. .. but I feel like..i have lived 2300 years..like I’m somehow connected with my previous lives…with no memories about this lives just a feeling..pain and suffer….i just want out..salvation

    • Johnny says:

      I hear you. Welcome to the modern condition. Check out the reply I left to your other comment… it’s a process. Hang in there.


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