“As the sun came up on New Year’s Day 2007, I was sitting on the crescent-shaped beach of Haad Rin in Thailand, doing shots with Liam Neeson. People were passed out in the sand all around us. I had no idea where my buddies were.
Stumbling back to my hotel, a brutal hangover made it near impossible to piece together the night that started coming back to me in flashes. I’d taken the insane journey to Koh Phangan with ten friends to attend Haad Rin’s infamous Full Moon Party, which coincided closely with New Year’s Eve.
One of my last completely lucid memories was having dinner at a Mexican restaurant and popping ecstasy. It was so strong that it hit me within three minutes, and everything after that had been one giant blur of excess. If it sounds like the movie The Hangover Part II, you’re not wrong.
When we got to the beach, about twenty thousand people were already partying. Full Moon Party is an all-night banger with bars stretching the entire length of the beach, each blasting a different genre of music—hip hop, country, rock, you name it. Maybe because I was high on ecstasy, maybe because there were a gazillion people, I lost my buddies a few hours into getting there. I kept drinking on my own.
At 2:00 a.m., the party was still going, and the heat and humidity had barely let up. I was hot and tired and completely wasted, so I decided to sit down at a booth and order a smoothie to cool down. It wasn’t until I started hallucinating that I noticed the booth was shaped like a giant mushroom.
Soon, the paranoia set in.
Here I was, drunk, high, and hallucinating, alone in a foreign country plunged into chaos by a military coup and civil unrest. A few days later, officials would shut down the city, barricade our hotel, and bomb the very place that was currently packed with thousands of people.
I thought I was going to die, and I didn’t even care. But a tiny part of me knew this was it. I couldn’t take it anymore. And neither could my liver. I had been angry for so long that being reckless and excessive felt like a relief, even if only a temporary one. But as I looked around bleary-eyed at people gearing up for the after-party, I just wanted to go home.
I took the next flight to the US. I’d blown $20,000 on a vacation I spent largely too intoxicated to enjoy; gone to a brothel with a prominent (married) news anchor who would later run for Senate; partied with wealthy, successful movers and shakers; and ended it all on a beach, pounding shots with a famous actor. Around thousands of people, I only felt crushing loneliness.
I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew this wasn’t it.
I want to tell you that I got my shit together after this, but I didn’t. My daughter Arianna was born two years later, in early 2009. It still took me almost a decade to realize that my love for her was the ultimate Why that would eventually help me quit using.
We all have demons; some of us just have a few more than average (raises hand). Whether yours are addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or work, it doesn’t matter. Throw in some childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, or poverty, and you have a volatile combo that will eventually catch up with you.
One of the reasons I didn’t quit drinking earlier is because I truly believed I did my best work hungover. People loved drunk Kelly, both personally and professionally. Hell, many of my clients were my drinking buddies and vice versa. I was wild and reckless and drank everyone under the table, then got up at 5:00 a.m. to lift and put in a full day at work. It felt like a badge of honor, like proving my toughness. It got to the point where my friends coined the term “getting siegeled” for partying their asses off. Someone would pass out on my boat, in my car, or at my house, and I’d post a picture of their drunk ass on social media saying they got siegeled.
My father and grandfather’s last name Siegel had come to mean excess, addiction, and material success. My life felt hollow. I was lonely. I wanted my life and my name to mean something bigger.
What my friends didn’t know, and what I kept even from myself most of the time was that I used alcohol as a crutch. My identity as the fun drinking buddy and savvy businessman with the gregarious personality and imposing physical stature was all a mask. Nobody knew why I’d spent so much time at the gym getting huge. Nobody knew what was under the big smile. I constantly pursued the next deal, the next woman, the next material status symbol. I blew all my money on vacations, cars, boats, fancy dinners, designer clothes, and jewelry because I wanted to wash off the stink of poverty and because I thought it would make me happy.
You already know what I’ll say next: today, I’ve got more than enough money and, still, I sometimes worry about it. A comfortable life and material luxuries are nice, but they did not make me happy. It’s cliché but true.
I knew part of finding happiness and meaning was dealing with the anger, grief, and resentment left over from my childhood. I knew I had to face those demons once and for all. Until then, I knew my life would continue on as it was: I was an involved dad but never fully present as a drunk. I was successful in my business but didn’t know how to take it to the next level. I was constantly involved with different women but rarely experienced a genuine connection. I’d built my physical strength but neglected my emotional and mental health.
I had no tools, no experience, and very few role models.
I grew up dirt poor near 8 Mile in Detroit and went to high school with Eminem. If you’ve seen his movie 8 Mile, you have a pretty good idea of what my life was like (minus the rap star ambitions). I lived in a small, cramped home in South Warren, a neighborhood riddled with poverty, drugs, and violence. My mom, dad, and stepdad were alcoholics and drug addicts.
I got my first job at twelve not to buy comic books and video games but food. I’ve been in more street fights than I can count because my friends were my family, and we had to have each other’s backs. Most of these childhood friends are now dead or in prison. I’ve had knives and guns drawn on me, been arrested for selling cocaine, and gone to jail. I even made it to college against all odds, only to be kicked out. I’ve had more drinks and taken more drugs than anyone else I know. Worst of all, the people who were supposed to love and care for me tried to kill me more than once.
In other words, I shouldn’t be here today—but I am.
In this book, I’ll tell you my story and share the ten values that guide my personal and professional life: self-awareness, honesty and integrity, communication, family, loyalty, growth, health, tenacity, results, and legacy.
None of these concepts are new. I don’t have a fucking magic pill—and if I did, you can be sure I would’ve downed the entire bottle of it, with a vodka chaser to boot. This book isn’t a one-size-fits-all self-help book that lays out five easy steps to overnight success. This is my story of how I worked my ass off to build a life I love.
Maybe you can relate to having a lot of personal and professional success, loads of “friends,” and a lucrative business or career—or at least the appearance of that from the outside looking in. Perhaps you, too, are always looking over your shoulder despite your success, or know there’s a looming issue in your life that you haven’t yet dealt with. Or maybe you just know that things could be better, that you could be happier. I hope sharing my experience will inspire you to take action in your own life.
In this book, you’ll find no-bullshit mentorship and guidance for creating a personal framework for growth and development in your life. If you’re serious about getting your shit together, reach out directly (check the back of the book for my personal contact info). I’m committed to paying it forward and giving others what I wish I’d had when I needed it most.
This book isn’t just another boring dime-a-dozen, politically correct rags-to-riches story in the self-help section. My approach to personal growth and self-development is both empathetic and brutally honest. Eventually, we all have to decide whether we’re ready to embrace the suck to get what we want…or not.
In each chapter and for each value, I’ll share some outrageous stories, painful truths, practical life wisdom, and business advice that has worked for me. Most importantly, I’ll give you tools, activities, and resources to implement into your daily life. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Talk is cheap, and while I devour books all day, it’s continually putting what I learn into action that is helping me create the life I want. I’ll be the friend who commiserates with you when you’re having a hard time (for about twenty minutes), and then I’ll kick your ass to the gym and problem solve with you on how to get you healthy, fix your business, and find a therapist who will help you address your demons.
As you read this book, I want you to think of one positive change you can commit to for ninety days.
Every book I read, every podcast I listen to, and every expert I learn from has given me a piece of the puzzle at the right time. I hope you’ll find that one puzzle piece you need most right now in these pages.
Life is hard, but I’m harder. If you’re still reading, you’ve got it in you, too.
The life you want is waiting for you.”