A Lesson I Learned the Hard Way

*Dear Readers: This is not a typical post. I did not use any keywords, write in a way Google would index this post in any way, shape, or form. I deviated a little from my niche in writing this 2,000-word post, in hopes that this post, which is about me, serves as a lesson that will help you all reach the pinnacle of your writing, and your life’s success. Enjoy this unique read.

Dear writers everywhere, I can and will be the first to tell you that passion, hard, and smart work creates success.

If you incorporate these three elements into anything you pursue, writing or not, success will find you.

How do I know this?

I inadvertently have some experience in this field, and it’s not just in writing.

Though this is a writing blog, I’m branching out a little bit today and am about to tell a story I’ve never told before except in one, single, rare instance.

The story is rather heartbreaking in nature, though it did give me a chance to reflect on the last two years of my life, a turbulent two years, which ended on a high note as I published both Northern Knights and Swords of Destiny to Amazon and saw some decent numbers and early returns.

Such numbers should grow with time and as the entire Lord of Columbia Series expands.

My Personal Story

Just so you all know, I rehearsed what I’m about to write in a conversation with myself in my car on the way home from work.

As I once mentioned on this blog before, I used to be a successful personal trainer, but those days of success fell faster than soon-to-be ex-Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell’s career….and possibly Antonio Brown’s.

So, in 2012, I had my first training gig and was “that trainer” who would show up at 5:30am to train a client without hesitation. I was also “that trainer” who stayed at the gym until 9pm to train a client. Again, without hesitation.

It was beautiful, baby.

In late 2013, about thirty clients fell into my lap and I maintained a full-time schedule for the rest of my time there, consistently training and retaining my clientele.

But Weirton, West Virginia wasn’t going to be my last stop, so in 2015, I planned an escape route in about the worst way possible, so I’m not going to rehash on the details. Let’s just say I should’ve thought things through a little more.

And bam, in late-2016, after pissing off my managers and owner, I carried out such a plan, almost without warning, telling them I was out and going to this large box club in Pittsburgh’s South Hills.

Going from a club of a little over 1,200 members to one of 5,000+ members was a gold mine waiting to be unhinged, but little did I realize at the time something else was making me want to leave the training arena.

It was around this time I’d constructed a plot to Northern Knights that worked after a few years of starts, stops, sputters, and stalls. Setback, setback, setback. The more I worked on Northern Knights, the more I liked the plot, but the more work I had to put into it before the novel was ready to be published.

This was in January 2017, and my last day as an employee in Weirton, my beta-readers returned their feedback, much of which was generous. But again, I still had a mountain to climb if I wanted to get Northern Knights (then called the Lost Book) onto Amazon’s online shelves.

I worked on Northern Knights even when on the work clock.

But months before I left Weirton, my passion shifted without my realization. I knew what I wanted but still desired to hold onto a job that I liked at the same time.

After a total of twenty-three days at that club in the South Hills (couldn’t stand the place) I found two clubs owned by the same man on the East End of Pittsburgh, or just past the region known as the East Hills.

What an area, and one that I loved working in and may have continued to love working in had I not been so rash in my decision making.

I’ll be honest, my passion backslid in 2016, took a nosedive in 2017. I thought I wasn’t in the right place so a few months after starting in the East End, I went up to the North Hills, where things would come to a standstill.

Little did I know this at the time.


North Hills Debacle

So the North Hills club was a literal goldmine, for anyone familiar with North Pittsburgh. The place has money, and a lot of it, and that’s what attracted me.

It was a new club. Construction barely started but the owner wanted a staff for a presale, which I couldn’t blame him.

But it’s here where, due to my success in Weirton and even modest success in the East End, plus the luxury of the North Hills, did I see a golden opportunity.

Not an honest one though. Never an honest one.

What did I do?

Well, during my presale shift, which was a generous $15/hr plus $10 per anyone who I signed up, I sat and edited Northern Knights (now entitled Lord of Columbia in a series I called Days of Gaia).

The owner wanted us to make calls, texts, and emails, so I did just that, only I just said I called and copied and pasted texting and email.

It was a total con at this point, but hey, I’m still working in a gym and once the damn place opens, I’m making my own hours and it’s Wexford, Pennsylvania, so the members and clients (and dough) will be rolling in, especially at the even more generous $25/hour rate I was to be given for sessions.

I’m disclosing the monetary compensation here because I want you to know just how stupid I was in refusing to take the job seriously.

After the club opened, well, three days after the club opened, the owner and I had a spat which resulted in me leaving the club for a week, only reconciling after a conversation with about a dozen friends and family.

Feel free to call me what you want to at this point.

After starting back up the following Monday, I saw some initial success but again I didn’t want the training sales numbers burdened to me because at the time I was Todd Matthews and what I said is what goes and if they didn’t like it, they were going to learn to like it.

They, as in, the people who hired me, gave me a generous deal, and were decent enough to allow me to continue working for them.

I’m also a huge proponent of property rights, but given the fact I pulled this I was a total hypocrite to myself.


Blowing the Opportunity

Damn, they should’ve fired me.

And they didn’t.

I also knew the guy was rather easy to con, so I continued making more money than I’d ever made in my life, while working on Northern Knights (still entitled Lord of Columbia, but it later became the series name over what was at this point Age of Columbia) during hours I could’ve been doing the following:

1. Working the floor and recruiting clients.

2. Working the phones and recruiting clients.

3. Helping the general manager out with recruiting members (and potential clients).

4. Putting my heart and soul into my work when at work rather than knowing I was getting paid on someone else’s time for my own work.

This lasted from late-2017 until well into 2018; around April.

In April, either someone caught onto the ruse, a member rightfully blew my cover, or the cameras caught me in action, because it was at this time I was stripped from 30-40 to fifteen hours per week.

I was pissed.

And wrongfully so.

I blamed the manager, I blamed the owner, I blamed the members, I blamed the people who wouldn’t sign up for training, I blamed everyone but the person who deserved 100% of the blame: Me.

The manager didn’t screw Todd.

The owner didn’t screw Todd.

Todd screwed Todd.

I thought that due to my success in Weirton that success would follow me like a twelve-year-old-girl following around her singing idol. I thought I attracted success, and that just as I had in Weirton my presence would bring it.

Just like in Weirton, the lucky sevens were in my corner and clients (and money) fell into my lap. All I had to do was train them with passion and retain them.

Wait, what was that?

Train them with what?


Give what to the gym?


Give what to my place of work?


Be a passionate trainer and be passionate about my job, just as I was with writing.


The End of an Era

I published Swords of Destiny shortly after leaving the fitness industry.

It was then I’d reached the end of an era. My income tanked. My training hours tanked. The manager would get annoyed with me after stating he’d just set up a new member who’d just signed up to change their life a fitness consultation with me….only to state I’d rather workout at that time as I’d planned on doing so.

I didn’t just do this once.

I did it a few times.

Again, he should’ve just let me go without even consulting the owner. I would’ve let myself go at this point.

But he didn’t.

Where was the passion?


Where was the trainer from Weirton?


You know what the NFL Network said about Antonio Brown, the former sixth-round pick who chose to wear eighty-four because 8 * 4 = 32, in other words, thirty-two NFL teams passing on him and he wanted to remember it?

He had to go back to being that guy.

That humble guy instead of the smug prick he became.

I can relate.

And I’m no longer in the fitness industry.

As my writing continues to improve and this blog, that’s if my story didn’t scare you all away, I long to return to the field. Return to working in the gym. Return to the fitness scene. Become the trainer I was once upon a time.


Me Today

Know what this post is saying?

1. Be passionate in your approach to pursue your own writing passion.

2. But if your current job is or was a passion, continue to be passionate about it.

I’m living proof in stating that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

If only I’d played my cards better and took real advantage of a real opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would’ve pursued writing 100%, but to do so while on the work clock was just plain wrong. To know when the owner was coming in and lying to them if they did happen to come in, stating that I just preferred a laptop over a desktop computer to “work.”

And what did I do?

I told everyone who the bad guy was.

I said it was him, and not me, that I was innocent and mistreated.

I wasn’t mistreated. I did the mistreating, and I made a massive mistake.

And now, as I toiled away in side gigs, the desire to return to my home gig, the job that I once loved, once couldn’t wait to get to, day in and day out (how many of us in our early to mid-20s can say this?) and looked forward to every single shift….a split shift!

And it hit me hard back in November-December, which is why I’m writing this kind of non-typical post right now. Because I feel the time is right to come clean with something, and hope that I can help one of you, reading this article right now, and stop you from making a giant error.

I just want to get back to doing what I love for a living, and this time refrain from cutting corners, while doing what I love in the meantime to build into an empire, and perhaps perform both gigs on a full-time basis, each, someday.

This article has documented my fallback, now I’m going to write a Part II, either one or two years from today, in January 2020 or 2021, where I’ll document the Great Comeback.