CEO | Investor | Entrepreneur
Casey LeBlanc is the CEO of New Venture Escrow. He is a serial entrepreneur that has led several small to medium-sized businesses that have experienced rapid growth and scale. He is also a business development addict that thrives off of innovation and promotes healthy leadership.
As I have gotten older, I believe that the biggest events in my life have been able to offer me valuable lessons for my future.
I enjoy reflecting on these major milestones and spinning them around and reverse engineering them into a net positive in my life. So why not do some investigating on the taboo topic of divorce? My history suggests I may be uniquely qualified to discuss this subject given that I have endured a divorce in both my professional career and my personal life. Batting 1,000 I guess !!!
Does this history mean anything? The game of life isn’t decided at half time and there is still plenty of time left to create and build my future. But analyzing some key experiences can be fun.
Double Divorce: One Personal, One Business, Both Life-Altering
This is a deeply sensitive topic, but my thinking here is to breathe life into pain, learn from it, and hope that my story can inspire real thought around the subject of business and personal relationships. Listen, I spend so little time thinking about fear and negativity, that when I do it is with intention and purpose to learn. Divorce offers this. It forces me to look in the mirror and ask why would any relationship break. What did I do or what could I have done?
Shedding Light On Fear & Insecurity Takes Away Its Power
I recommend taking a listen to Tim Ferris’ Ted Talk “Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals”. It’s a 14-minute video about acknowledging the things we absolutely fear the most to take away the power and control those fears have over our minds.
If you think about it, divorce is one of those topics for most of us.
For this discussion, however, the Why, Who, Where, When doesn’t really matter…. it’s all semantics.
However, it is interesting enough both divorces came 8 years after inception. My therapist says it’s merely coincidental but I am still suspicious.
Another thing the two divorces have in common is that these two deeply impactful relationships that ended changed me forever. Both were life-altering and have left me a different (and hopefully better) human.
Now because this blog intermingles business and personal (and hopefully you find some of my foolishness humorous at times), I will zig-zag through thoughts, lessons, and observations of each.
In the end, and how I will sum all of this up
The key takeaway is this: divorce is awesome.
But so is marriage. So is being single. So is being in a relationship.
The absolute bottom line here and a point I hope to make at nausea is that we control our own happiness – NO ONE ELSE.
I also believe and hope to prove that life’s biggest challenges, even our most depressing and sad moments, should be used as powerful tools to learn, grow, and ultimately accept as a positive so we can move forward in life with a better and happier perspective about who and what we are.
Lesson #1: Mistakes Were Made
Ok, so let’s dive in.
First I would like to take a moment to talk about some real tragic errors that led me to these divorces. As I (sensitively) try to articulate this, let me be clear… Just as I am responsible for my own happiness, I also take 100% responsibility and blame for both of these relationships not working.
For the sake of transparency and to get my points across I will open up here, but please understand I now realize, I made some mistakes:
“The Infamous Demand Letter”
Some ideas seem so good at the time!
About a year and a half into marriage, I was not happy with the results. The proverbial honeymoon had ended. So I decided to use a tactic that had shown success in my career and, at the time, thought would translate nicely into my relationship.
To fix what was broken in the marriage, I decided I would have my attorney draft and execute a demand letter to my then-wife.
For reference, a demand letter is legal claim to performance or obligation, usually for breach of contract. Kind of makes sense, right? Talking about the issues had shown no progress, so I thought I needed to take additional action.
So I actually sat down with my attorney, itemized the things I was not able to get my ex-wife to perform on and had him draft what he calls “the first and only wife demand letter.”
I got home excited to present my well thought out and articulated points in a neatly crafted letter.
It was a 2-page document that included a detailed list of things that talking about never seemed to solve. It concluded nicely with a detail of consequences if the above items were not fully satisfied. So after dinner one night I slid the document across the table. Pretty quickly I realized….mistake!
I recognize now that I may have been acting rash, but as a serial entrepreneur, I was born and raised on results and trying new ways of achieving desired results. Unfortunately, the mistake of thinking that business and personally shared commonalities in getting those results was a real learning lesson for me.
Today, I have upped my EQ and approach these issues with a very different mindset. I ask myself “What can I do differently that is within MY power?” rather than making lists of areas in which my partner or others can improve.
I can’t change other people, but I can sure as hell change how I respond to them. The area between reaction and response is self-control – an area which I have been able to develop greatly over the years.
Lesson #2: When It’s Over, It’s Over. Keep it Movin’!
I realize that the wedding mantra is “to death due us part.” Well if that is the vow understood at weddings, what saying can we agree on for business partnerships? Turns out over 70% of those end in disaster.
This isn’t to say I believe in bouncing at the first sign of trouble, or that the grass is always greener.
On the contrary, I firmly believe in exercising every possible means to make every one of your decisions, whatever they might be, a success.
I Am All in, All The Time.
I believe in loyalty, honor, and respect. I believe in passionate and energetic relationships with everyone we love and surround ourselves with.
But be careful not to confuse that with an excuse to stay in a situation that just isn’t going to work.
I am a proud believer that we get one shot at life, and I’m damn sure that I want to take my best shot and maximize each second of each day.
Time is Your Most Valuable Asset – Don’t Waste It On Mediocrity
This means my expectations of relationships and career are extremely high.
Just a lifestyle choice for me. Maybe not for everyone, but this is my shot, and it’s what motivates and makes me happy.
So here’s the point: We know when it’s time to go. We all know when things have run their course. And yet, we procrastinate on these tough decisions. We let fear take over.
What if I am making a mistake? What if I am alone?
The unknown can be debilitating.
Hire Slow, Fire (Kinda) Fast
Fact is, I believe that in both divorces, I left years late.
I was several years into a business partnership and I knew we were headed in different directions. It was years later that I confronted this head-on.
I met with my then-business partner to discuss long-term strategy and vision. As I suspected, we couldn’t have been further apart from agreeing. I still tried to stay and figure out a way to make it work, even though I knew everyone would be better suited in a split. Years lost here.
I am friends with several executives that are all happily married. I talk to them a lot and found one of the conversations particularly interesting.
He was celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary and I wanted to understand how he did it.
He acknowledged that dating/marrying an entrepreneur isn’t easy and that his wife understood all that it entailed.
But the key was something more: they both agreed to renew their vows every 5 years.
They would take a 4-day trip every 5 years. They would sit down and have an honest conversation with each other. The conversation centered around where they were in their lives at the time, how the last 5 years went, and if they each wanted to commit to the next 5 given all of the above.
They didn’t commit to life, they committed to 5 years. Interesting, right?
So here’s what I preach: do not make a big decision hastily. But also, time is our greatest commodity and it should be respected and cared for as the most precious asset you will ever have and never get back.
Be bold in your life. Expect the best of your relationships and career. Pivot away from the ones that break you down more than lift you up.
As an aside, both my ex-wife and my ex-business partner are healthy, happy, and successful in their current lives. Break-ups can be a win/win and should be a net positive for everyone.
Lesson #3: Marriage is a Business, and Business is a Marriage
My ex-wife’s favorite movie was The Notebook.
I have probably been forced to watch that flick (ok, I actually like it) an uncomfortable amount of times.
Call me cynical, but I just do not believe life is a fairy tale or romantic comedy or some Hollywood script.
Marriage is more like a business. And Business is more like a Marriage.
Seem cold? It shouldn’t. I still get butterfly’s when I like someone. I still feel a rush like no other when I win a business deal. I am not dead inside, but rather realistic with how it all fits in my current life.
Prenup It In the Bud
Ok, another fun story of a kid (26-year-old me) doing dumb.
I had a contract (some people call it a “prenup”) that, at the time, I thought would protect my future wife and I in the event things didn’t work out.
We both had strong careers and I figured we should outline things in the event a split-up was to occur. Nothing wrong with a little innocent document to describe this, right?
I had this document drafted 6 months prior to the big day. Tick tock, tick tock – and when it came to discussing this innocent little piece of paper, I procrastinated all the way up until 2 days before the wedding.
Let me politely describe a fiancé’s reaction when she realizes I have a nice little document for her to sign (by the way in bold letters at the top of the document it read PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT) 2 days before the big day: it didn’t go over with the joy and excitement I had anticipated.
With no time to spare, I was able to navigate the rough waters and bring the document back to my attorney 36 hours before we were about to proclaim our love in front of hundreds of family and friends.
My attorney (not the same one who drew up the infamous demand letter) began to laugh and shouted I was the biggest idiot he had ever worked with.
I sighed and thought that was an uncomfortable way to greet a client who had just performed a miracle to get this damn document signed while still keeping the wedding on schedule.
The attorney paused, looked at me, and screamed “You dumb a**, there is a 7 day cooling-off period for this agreement. I told you that 6 months ago when I drafted the damn agreement!” This basically indicated that my newly minted document was null and void.
Welp, there goes that idea.
I kindly took the document home and proceeded to rip it up in front of my then-fiancé and tell her that it was a test of love and that we didn’t need the damn document because WE WERE GOING TO BEAT THE ODDS.
Both Business & Marriage Require Financially Sound Decision Making
The lesson is that these decisions have a big impact financially when things do not go as planned.
Call me a hopeless romantic, but I believe in a prenup no matter what each party has walking into a relationship. Trust me, you have $10 bucks in your pocket and you have to give someone $5, it stings.
The same goes for business – if you take on a partner, the first thing you should agree upon is a buy/sell. Seems counter-intuitive, but facts are facts.
Life changes, people change, and with the numbers alarmingly against us, do we really want to base our future on Hollywood endings and fairy tale love stories?
This may seem harsh, and I may have a very difficult time finding another wife (sorry mom) but I just cannot ignore reality.
I Don’t Make the Laws, but I do Live in CA
The courts have decided what marriage is financially. The courts have decided how business assets split when things go bad. To blindly walk into these major decisions without protection is at the very least risky, and on the flip side catastrophic.
You Do You
Ok, let’s wrap this up neatly after my sentimental notion that all relationships end poorly.
That is not what I am saying. I believe in love. I believe in marriage. I believe in family and do hope to someday fall madly in love and we die together in a hospital bed ALA The Notebook.
I also believe people can AND should take on business partners if they see fit to do so for their business and opportunity.
In my case, I would never take back either experience. They have both led me to today, and I am forever grateful to both for that.
I believe these decisions have a massive impact on one’s life and that the important decisions should be done with a full scope of opinions, both business and personal. So at the very least, I hope it at least got you thinking, what is right for you?
And in the end (queue my fairytale goodbye), we all have a duty to ourselves to pick wisely, to choose people in all aspects of our lives that light us up and offer us inspiration, that positivity inspire us to be shining lights in this world.
Be bold in your choices, work hard to make them successful.
In the end, divorce has proven awesome for me. It has also proven awesome for my former partners too.
See, life has a way of working itself out. And in the end, when it does, we should all introspect fully, look back on those experiences, and interpret and learn from them.