I don't have time right now to type what I'd like to say specifically to this community of fellow snowboarders, friends, smart-asses, punks, and trolls....
But I will in due time.
In the meantime, here's a cut 'n pasted email that went out to a couple hundred people yesterday. A lot of them were personal friends / people in the snowboard industry who had been in the dark as to what's happened to me for really the last 18 months now. Last fall I re-emerged for a bit thinking that I was ready to stand strong, but like an alcoholic or drug addict in battle in rehab it's been a lot of forward and backwards steps.
But this time it's for real.
And truth can be stranger than fiction sometimes....
In March of 2010 I tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide…...and a few hours later met a police roadblock on my way up to jump off of a 600 ft waterfall for the final attempt.
Any of you who have known me over my 41 years will, of course, find this news shocking.
Not only have I usually had a permanent smile on my face, but I’ve also had the humbling opportunity of being the source of motivation for many of you while being equally inspired myself. I’ve truly been blessed and profoundly touched by a lot of you throughout my life. It’s also a massive understatement to say that I’ve loved my life and all of the rare and unique experiences and adventures that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve literally met hundreds if not thousands of people who at a minimum I would call a friend – and in dozens and dozens of cases I’ve made lifelong, deeply intellectual, emotional, and spiritual connections with a lot of you.
When you throw in where I grew up and where I call home, what awesome hobbies and adventures I enjoy, and what I’ve called “work” for the last 15 years in the ski and snowboard industry…..even I have to admit that it’s just incomprehensible looking from the outside in why I’d come to the conclusion that I was better off dead.
But until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes and bore the weight of what that person might be dealing with – and whatever physical, mental, and emotional problems there might be that compound the problem – then it’s totally not fair, empathetic, or loving to label or judge them.
Believe me when I say that I have a whole new perspective on not just anxiety and stress disorders, depression, and prescription drug withdrawals…….but life itself.
When our family bought Porters almost 10 years ago now we took out a $3 Million life insurance policy on me should something unfortunate happen and they need to find someone else to run the business. Well after all of the one-time, reoccurring, and stepped up fixed costs incurred in ramping up our internet business, and business overall, our corporate debt came to just a little over $3 Million by March of 2010. That’s when I ran out of financial solutions – and gave up hope that our internet business (which was down almost 90%) could even survive.
The financial musical chairs abruptly stopped in my head……and I was left standing there alone.
Granted some things had been in my control, but two huge factors had not – the severe economic slowdown and the multi-year, internet pricing fiascos with Sierra Snowboards. While the first everyone faced, we had the added burden of trying to compete against a business in our backyard that simply would steal customers at any time by selling the exact same item cheaper – despite that being a violation of written contracts that manufacturer’s required all of their internet partners to sign.
Now not only do I have two degrees in Economics as well as an M.B.A., but I’ve been a more-than-willing participant in this economic paradigm called capitalism. So any of you who might want to immediately and even incredulously raise an eyebrow and mutter something like “talk about sour grapes” or “Chappy you’re no dumbo and you knew what downside financial risks were involved” or even “quit your bitchy whining because it’s your bed you made and now you’re unhappy lying in it”......well you’re preaching to the choir.
However, you don’t know all of the facts and nor is this the time or place to go into any of that. And trust me when I allege that the facts of what really happened to us – and yes even the facts of the decisions that were made by me – will show that something fundamentally unreasonable and unfair took place to us. Without knowing these facts, though, from the outside when you’re looking in you would assume that I – John Chapman – made my own bed and whatever financial issues Porters was now facing were just a simple and unfortunate result of those decisions.
But things are never that black and white when you have so many moving parts in a business and so many filters through which you run your decisions. In short, what people say and do influences how you view them and how you trust them and how you make decisions involving them being a long-term partner with you. So after the multiple years of an inequitable playing field – and the encouragement and assurances to fight and the things that I was told would be taken care of by who I thought were my friends and partners at Burton – they have a lot to do with a lot of where we are.
Feeling betrayed and deserted? You betcha. Concrete evidence that we were induced to make capital investments and budget decisions and pricing decisions and marketing decisions because of assurances from Burton? You betcha. Did Burton sue us this past May despite reducing our debt to them by 75% in a year while the rest of the ski and snowboard industry collectively was only 50% and our biggest creditor – Bank of America – got a 0% reduction??? You betcha. Have we counter-sued Burton? You betcha.
Well to turn back to me personally and to make a long, hellish story as short as possible here, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that I was diagnosed with – and the 2 steps forward 1 back / 1 forward 2 back / 4 forward 7 back exhausting reality of the situation – just took way longer to get me mentally back to a state where I could fully step in as the chief executive decision maker of Porters. After essentially “marrying” myself to the business about 5 years ago I increasingly devoted all of my free time to work – literally 18 hours a day from the moment I woke up until I’d shut the computer off and go to bed at 2am. 100 hours a week became the norm. Taco Bell and 7-11 were my source of energy. And the vast majority of my normal routine of adrenaline sports and nature hikes went by the wayside.
All that has changed. I’m 40 pounds lighter than I was 18 months ago. My resting blood pressure is no longer 160 / 110. And I’m my mind is repaired and fortified – despite the fact that my brain still hasn’t and might not ever fully re-wire itself and work the way it used to.
Most importantly though? I’ve had some profoundly spiritual and mystical epiphanies happen by me, to me, and for me. In due time I’m sure I’ll be able to share some of those with many of you. However the one concrete thing I would like to share now is the Native Mexican-American inspired book The Four Agreements. Some of you might be familiar with it or even own a copy. Some of you might roll your eyes with the mention of this just one of a plethora of self-help books that is out there. But if all of humanity could agree with each other to uphold these simple, four agreements our society and world would be a radically different one.
A more empathetic and loving one.
And one that I believe is necessary to come to grips with inside yourself first.
Well I love all of you unconditionally, and deeply appreciate and am thankful for the love I’ve received in return. My main focus now, ironically though, needs to be back on Porters. I’m healthy and able to do this. However it’s going to mean that my work day and what I devote my time to and what balance I create in my life will be dramatically different than what it used to be. It also means that even though I will have my crackerberry turned back on and the voicemail inbox cleaned out of perma-full, I will not be returning to the digital age like I once was. I prefer talking over emailing. I prefer texting over emailing. Really I prefer anything other than sitting in front of computer anymore. So if you’d like to reach out to me all that I ask is that it’s by phone. Please respect that this email is going out to a couple hundred people, and I have some slight anxiety over the amount of responses that I’m sure to start getting.
And I will respond to each and every one of you even if it takes a day or so.
My final words for now are that most all of you who will be receiving this email are so because you’re either a personal friend or having something to do with the ski and snowboard industry. For those who I’ve accidentally omitted I apologize, and for those on the email please forward on to anyone who you think should know about this and doesn’t. But in the end you’re receiving this or will receive it because in a large part you are family. This cottage industry is – or at least one time was – really and truly built on family and relationships. And it was built on the backs of specialty retailers. Unfortunately I’ve failed to come to a mutually acceptable resolution with Burton – and Jake directly himself now – about supporting and helping this family-owned and family-operated specialty business succeed.
Well with all of that said for now, I gotta get to work.
See you on the trail, in the water, or on top of the peak……and pray for pow!