What would you do if you lost everything?
This time we have entrepreneur Luke Sherba with us. He lived in a town called Chico in California. One night, the whole village burned down. We will talk about the effects this disaster brought upon Luke and his identity as an entrepreneur. How do you deal with reinventing your whole life? How do you deal with purchasing the same things you already had, before everything burnt down? We will discuss the lessons Luke has learned from this life-altering experience.
November 8th, 2018 was the day that changed everything for Luke. Early in the morning, he and his wife woke up and started their day together with their 32-day old baby boy. The area of Chico is known for wildfires and his wife has dealt with fires before. So when they saw the smoke, they didn’t panic right away. They watched the news and looked up where it was exactly. It had to burn down the entire city before it could reach them, so they went to bed to get a little sleep. As new parents, that’s something they hadn’t had for a while. After an hour they get up, saw the skies were dark and started to slowly prepare to evacuate. They were very calm because this was nothing new and they thought it would just be for a couple of days.
They started to get phone calls from family, saying they need to evacuate immediately. Since they were in the canyon, they couldn’t see the flames. Social media hadn’t started saying anything yet about the severeness of the fire. Then, their power went out. Luke went outside and realized the fire was massive.
They had a small farm but weren’t able to pack up all the animals. He locked as many of them up, so they wouldn’t be running around if they weren’t able to come back in a couple of days. He put the cats in cat carriers, packed up the goats and loaded them up in the car. His wife packed up clothes and food for the baby. She left to get out of there as quickly as possible. Luke stayed for another hour and was analyzing his choices, to stay and fight for his home or go. He said: “In hindsight, it was a very interesting thought that I wanted to stay to protect stuff instead of going to my wife and son”. He decided to pack his stuff and meet up with his wife.
Luckily, he was able to escape through the canyon. A lot of other people got stuck for hours or didn’t make it out. He went to his office and started calling his staff to tell them they shouldn’t come in. Everybody he called had either left their house or already lost it to the flames. The fire was spreading quickly. He then got a call from his wife, who was staying at her mother-in-law’s house, saying they needed to evacuate a second time because the fire was coming closer again. Fortunately, she didn’t lose her house to the fire and we ended up staying there for 5 months after the fire.
Luke says he’s so grateful for his wife’s way of thinking and he was feeling blessed with the birth of his son because otherwise, he would have gone back to the city trying to help people get out. The firefighters couldn’t do much because the fire was so out of control. The only thing they could do was evacuate people. Luke naturally felt a need to help out as well, but because of his newborn son, he decided it would be better if he just stayed with them. Emotions happen and because he had to prepare mentally for years, his mind was in a state of reaction. He wanted to fight, help out or do something. When he started to analyze the situation, his cognitive thinking kicked in and made him realize he had a new life to protect.
Looking back, the fire was something that Luke and his wife bonded over. In any relationship, there are always some things you don’t agree on. For Luke, this didn’t matter because he knew his wife has the same outlook on life as him. He knew that they would agree on the big decisions that had to be made and that’s why he chose his wife as his life partner. After the fire, they stayed at his mother-in-law’s for a few months. Having no stuff, a little baby and starting completely over, made the little things seem even smaller. The only thing that mattered at the time, was to get through it together.
Before the fire, Luke stored all his favorite things and didn’t like to throw things away. In just one day, he lost everything. He feels very lucky to be able to walk into a store and replace his things and buy the necessary goods. However, losing all of his belongings felt like a fresh start. Post-fire, he became a minimalist. A lot of people brought them stuff but he didn’t want it and he had nowhere to put it anyway. He feels comfortable with just the memory of his belongings. Even now after two years, he hasn’t replaced everything. Losing everything also made him more conscious when it come to buying new things. He only buys something when he really needs it or when it brings him joy.
Because of his job in the entertainment business, he had to perform and people were constantly looking at him. Fashion was very important to him and he had to look presentable. It was part of his persona. After the fire, for six months people didn’t care what they looked like. For Luke, it felt like he was living in an alternate dimension. In just one day he lost his belongings, his businesses but also a part of his persona. This experience made him look differently at possessions and his identity. He was now a father with no possessions.
For a lot of people, it was the most traumatic thing that could ever happen to them but for Luke, it turned out to be the most amazing experience. He says this with a lot of caution because he’s aware of the gravity and sadness of this event. For him and his wife, it felt like a fantastic experience to go through. It was still very traumatic, let that be clear, but experiencing that loss made them rethink how they think about things. A lesson the fire forced him to learn was that the external things don’t matter. What matters the most is how you show up to your partner and kid and the legacy he is leaving behind for them.
Everybody knows some things are not as important as you think they are, but actually going through that experience makes it real. The key to being able to handle this situation was that they mentally prepared themselves for it. They went in with a “We can do this” mindset. This is something that Luke has also noticed when he first went into an ice bath. He hated the cold and he would completely shut down. When he made that decision in his head of being able to do it, he did it.
Another shift he has noticed in his way of thinking is that before the fire he wanted to be successful but he didn’t feel ready to actually be wealthy. He was making a lot of money but he was also spending it at a fast rate. Now he feels like he doesn’t need it but he’s earning a lot of money and feels comfortable holding onto it for a while. He has rewritten the rules of success and money and what it means to him. The results of this are positively notable in his businesses.
Now he also knows that being busy is not equal to success. A lot of people measure success with the time you spend on it, they are too focused on the “grind”. Now, Luke’s more focused on the time he spends with his family. The legacy he would like the leave behind to his family is having and sharing love. It’s the most important thing there is.
If your life would change instantly if you would lose it all, what is the one thing you can always fall back on?
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