follow your blissDepression, inspiration, and what they didn’t tell you about following your bliss.

This isn’t your typical inspirational story today.

I started by wanting to write a blog post about how my Great Grandfather inspired me to follow my dreams; but I found it impossible to write that story without writing the shadow side of that story.

Keep reading. There is a happy ending; and you just may learn how to embrace your dark times.

Parts of my “passion to profession” business story aren’t so shiny. In fact they are downright dark.

In 2005, I was finally diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and it’s something I live with every single day. Thankfully most days are good days, but that wasn’t always the case.

Depression comes with all kinds of stigmas, assumptions, and negative connotations; but sometimes good things come from bad times.

One particular depressive period resulted in what you now know as SKFitLife.

I can remember it was mid-July of 2011 and I was sitting on my couch in my Philadelphia apartment.

I was taking a “mental health” day from my cubicle job because I just couldn’t make myself drive to work.

Leading up to that day, I had several days where I cried on my way to work.

I worked with great people, but I felt like I was dying a little bit every single day. If not dying at least losing my mind.

I was uninspired and felt completely trapped. I had a fat paycheck that was tied up every single month as I tried to soothe my soul with retail therapy.

As if the uninspired, dying feeling wasn’t hard enough, I had tons of judgement from the people around me and worst of all, myself.

I felt like a spoiled brat. I earned a NICE wage. I worked with NICE people. The job I did wasn’t stressful. It was NICE.

Why was I so unhappy? 

Would I ever be happy? This wasn’t the first time I had cried myself to work, couldn’t get out of bed, and felt like I was sinking into a deep, dark hole.

Oh I was good at faking it. Until faking it because too heavy.

This is where I sat on that Tuesday morning.

On my couch. In my dark, silent Philadelphia apartment.

I was good at propping myself up. I had been doing it nearly my entire life. I try to think about when the bouts of depression started, and I can remember them back to childhood.

My go-to then was playing for hours in the woods with just me and my furry friends. Some things don’t change much.

Being around people when you feel down is exhausting. Everyone always asking you how you are doing.

Putting on a happy face for everyone else does not cure depression. It just makes you tired.

I just wanted to say, “I feel like shit, but don’t worry. I just need some time alone where I’m not explaining myself, and I will be fine. This will pass. It always does.”

But I knew people cared about me and were just trying to make me feel better. So I sucked it up and faked it the best I could to make them feel better. I’m sure in some way it made me feel better too even though I was too tired to really notice.

I knew faking it wouldn’t get me out of this funk. I knew I needed a change. If my work situation was my pain point, it was time to look at how I could change it.

I took an inventory of what made me feel ALIVE. Fitness was something I loved. And I was good at it.

So on that Tuesday, I decided I wanted to do something in the fitness industry. I wasn’t sure about how to parlay my fitness passion into a fitness profession, but figuring it out was a hell of a lot better than feeling like I was suffocating.

I was getting ready to compete in my last fitness competition and thought if I could place better, it may open more doors for me.

My researchy-engineery brain went to work:

Step 1: Listen to interviews with the promoter of the show.

Step 2: Read between the lines… since almost all of us competitors showed up with killer bodies and stage presentations, what helped the winners be winners in this 100% subjective sport? Got it… many of the winners had influence and influence came from large social media followings.

Step 3: Map out a plan to gain more influence (read: more social media followers/fans).

Step 4: Create an inventory of relevant quotes, articles, and videos to be shared on a regular basis.

This is where my Great Grandfather stepped in to help me out. 

I did a quick Google search to see what popped up when I looked myself up. “Stephanie Ward” didn’t just bring up my stuff. Right there in the middle of the search results was a YouTube video labeled “The World of Virgil Ward”.

I clicked on it.

Finally we get to the story of how my Great Grandfather inspired my leap into fitness as a profession!


HAPPY VIRGIL WARD DAY! Several years ago Missouri’s Governor Bond proclaimed October 19th as Virgil Ward Day. So, get out on the water and celebrate by going fishing.

Posted by Dan’s Fish ‘N’ Tales with Host/Writer Dan Galusha on Monday, October 19, 2015

When I clicked on that YouTube video link, then read more about my Great Grandfather, I learned that he and my Great Grandmother didn’t even have enough money to have a photograph taken at their wedding.

I grew up knowing my Great Grandfather as this successful fishing celeb who traveled the world filming nationally syndicated fishing shows. I even went to his induction into the Bass Fisherman’s Hall of Fame in 2006, but I still had NO idea what it took for him to go from an appliance shop manager (where they lived in the back of the shop) to a legend.

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The following your bliss part…

12109261_900043080044663_528509801386114491_nI wrote a post about following your bliss earlier this week.

Most people will sit back and make all kinds of assumptions about how easy it must be for you. How everything is sunshine and rainbows. And how, “it must be nice.”

And sure, it is nice. And making your own schedule and determining your own work environment will allow for more sunshine and rainbows, but it is still hard work.

What people don’t tell you about following your bliss:
☀There are more unknowns than there are knowns.
☀There are no right or wrong answers. Or maybe everything is right and everything is wrong.
☀Everything is negotiable.
☀There are no lines to color in so you have to have faith that you are creating a masterpiece.
☀People will try to steal your thunder or dampen your light because in some way, your marching to the beat of your own drum threatens everything they believe to be true.
☀Breaking from tradition requires a certain amount of madness. This path is not for the timid. It is not for the weak. This path is for warriors.

And even after everything, I wouldn’t go back.

I leave you with a few questions I ask myself on a regular basis. You never know when you may need them:

Who are your heroes?

Who inspires you?

When was the last time you thought about this?

Who do you look up to in business? In fitness? In relationships? In life?

“As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” ~Ernest Hemingway