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132. Something From Less Than Nothing with Zack Lemear
Episode 13221st March 2024 • FINE is a 4-Letter Word • Lori Saitz
00:00:00 00:55:44

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This week’s guest, Zack Lemear, is a marketing and branding strategist who, on the surface, looks and sounds pretty much like any entrepreneur consultant.

It makes sense he’s successful helping businesses with marketing and branding since his ticket in the birth lottery won him a blank slate to create and brand himself.

Here on Fine is a 4-Letter Word, you may know my first question of every guest is to ask them what values they were raised with as they were growing up.

Zack is probably the first guest to ever say he wasn’t raised with any values at all.

Rather, he was surrounded by a dysfunctional family dynamic involving poverty, drug addiction, abuse, and systemic cycles repeated by generations of his family via their life choices.

His mother was a con artist, from whom he learned sales skills, and who was constantly getting evicted. In one case, they got kicked out of an apartment and moved to another unit literally one floor above. How does that work?

Because he moved around so much, he didn’t have the opportunity to keep friends long enough for them to have much influence on him.

Attempting to trace his family lineage, he found 21 people with the last name Lemear, all of whom he knew somehow, but none he felt he could accurately organize into a family tree because the name had been handed around and relatives had had children without getting married.

So, with no learned values or traceable family tree, he had an unprecedented opportunity to brand and create himself in any way he wanted, as well as break the systemic toxic family patterns.

How did he do it?

What enabled him to be the first in his family to finish high school, much less go to college?

How did it influence his choices, including passing up a free ride to a state university to accept admission to an out-of-state school he couldn’t afford?

What values has he instilled in his own children and how has he shielded them from the family patterns that still try to influence them?

Zack’s hype song is "Something from Nothing" by the Foo Fighters.

Resources:

Invitation from Lori:

If, like Zack, you find yourself looking at your situation and seeing an opportunity to clear the slate and innovate yourself, the 5 Easy Ways to Start Living The Sabbatical Life guide is for you.

Once you read it, you’ll

✅ Discover a counter-intuitive approach to making intentional changes in mindset and lifestyle.

✅ Learn how to own your feelings and your struggles so you can address them.

✅ Find out how to face fears, step out of your comfort zone, and rewire your beliefs.

It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. Especially if it feels like you’re creating something from less than nothing, this guide provides a framework to go about it in a systematic way that honors who you authentically are and, like Zack, design (or redesign) yourself.

So, when you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine, this guide is the place to start. It’s time to blaze your own trail and allow your curiosity to take you on a new quest!

Go to https://zenrabbit.com right now to download it for free.

Now, let’s meet Zack. I bet within the next few minutes, you’ll be amazed at how little you know about yourself - and how much you may be about to learn!

Transcripts

Lori: Hello and welcome to Fine is a Four Letter Word. My guest today, Zach Lemear. Welcome to the show, Zach.

Zach: Hi, thanks for having me.

Lori: We have known each other, again, like I find so many of my guests come from my connections that I've made in Success Champions Networking, even though I'm not still a part of the organization.

Zach: Yeah, I think that there's less of a filter in SCN and there's a little bit more authenticity, so it lends itself well to your show.

Lori: Yeah, absolutely. Let's just jump right into it because your story is really incredible and there's a lot to it. So I want to make sure we get to all the pieces. What were the values and beliefs that you were raised with that contributed to you becoming who you became as a young adult and into today? I know that's a totally loaded question.

Zach: I wasn't raised with any values at all. And that's what led me to get some. So I would say that all I had were bad examples. All I had were examples of what not to do, what I did not like, what poverty and drug addiction and abuse and all the things, systemic cycles that are just constantly repeated through generation or generation by choice. In my mind, it's by choice because I was born to those same cycles and I chose a different way and I made it out. I'm still the only one in my entire family that's ever made it out, which blows me away because I don't think it's that difficult. It's just a mindset and it's consistency and it's willing to do the hard things and realize that everything in life is hard. Pick one.

Lori: Right. I want to get more into that in a moment, but tell me a little bit more about, at what point did you say, "This is not for me?" I mean, were you in school? Did you go to school? Did they send you to school? Did anybody at school notice?

Zach: I went to school, but I moved around a lot. I've moved around about 80 times in my life and I've never really left New Hampshire. I went to five junior highs in a two-year period and I never left the state. My mom was constantly getting evicted. One time we moved from the third floor to the second floor. I don't even understand why that was. We moved across the street to the next building. I don't get it. But many times I was just at the mercy of her choices. So I would say that the one thing that really—like in business, she was very entrepreneurial, because she dropped out of high school in ninth grade. So I'm like one of the first people in several generations to graduate high school, never mind go to college. So, there was very much an entrepreneurial mindset. However, what I didn't realize while I was watching and she had me slinging raffle tickets at the local stores and different things like that, I had no idea that I was facilitating her scams, because she was one of the most talented scam artists I've ever met. And I find it funny because there's certain things that I look back on and it's just incredible, the things that she could do and the things that she had. She was a very smart person for someone who's dropped out of school. She just used all of her skills for bad things and she was constantly on drugs, constantly allowing abusive people into the household, constantly making bad choices, constantly blaming everyone else and then scamming people. She was a telemarketer because she could pick up the phone anytime and then call any store. This was amazing. She could call any store, any restaurant. It did not matter. And she could say some thing. She had several aliases. So, she'd call up sometimes five times in a row and get five versions of the same thing. And she'd say, "Hi, I'm with Pop Warner Football. "Hi, I'm with Hugs Not Drugs," which made me laugh because she was on drugs. And, "Hi, I'm with DARE.” "Hi, I'm with these things.” " I'm the Boy Scouts of America.” "We're having an event, XYZ and we'd like 10 pizzas.” She'd call the Coca-Cola plant and she'd get cases of soda and cases of chips. She'd call car rental places and get free car rental. And a lot of times she would send me in to pick up the things as like a 12-year-old or an 11-year-old. So, she'd do things like she'd call, I remember specifically it was a Burger King, she called them and sent me in and they just gave me a handful of cash. It was just they have a budget. They just have a budget for these certain things and they donate. So, she just had me go from place to place picking up the cash. And I don't even know why those people gave it to a child, but nothing made sense in the '80s and '90s. There was no oversight. So, it was amazing, but I didn't know what was going on underneath. I thought this was all legit and above board. But it helped me learn sales, learn a pitch, learn things like that, learn how to see the angles and play them. But I see the angles and I play the good ones. She saw the angles and she played the other ones. But I can't tell you how many times she'd just send me out, drop me off at any random store with a roll of raffle tickets and a pitch. And I'd say, "Excuse me, sir, would you like to buy a Hugs Not Drugs raffle ticket?" And she taught me to smile when I speak so it sounds better and the whole thing. And nobody could say no to me. And I would come back and she'd give me a percentage. So, I'd get a cut every time. And I didn't know that was wrong, but there was nothing to raffle ever. There was no raffle ever. It was just how we paid rent and how she bought drugs. It was kind of amazing.

Lori: Yes, it is truly amazing. Did you have siblings?

Zach: I had one and he passed away. He was my younger sibling and he drank himself to death, unfortunately. And that's part of my story. I held him in my arms when he died and I had to pull the plug on him because he couldn't live without any kind of life support. And he had 12 or 18 IVs hooked up to him. His kidneys shut down. He had jaundice. His liver was gone. His lungs were gone. And he was secretly drinking himself—

Lori: How old was he?

Zach: He was 32. And I really loved him. And I really stayed close with him. And it was heartbreaking because he was the only person in my blood family that I really stayed connected with, that I cared for. And it was a shock to hear that he had been secretly drinking himself to death. Nobody knew, not his wife, nobody. And then all of a sudden all of his organs just failed. And the way that this works is if you suffer from some form of alcoholism, you're not qualified for a transplant unless you can prove that you can be off of alcohol for X amount of days. But he couldn't be off of a machine and breathe. So there was no way that he could live. So it was just weeks and weeks of him in the hospital. And I went down to Florida where he happened to live. And I spent the last days with him. And it was not an easy part of my life. I was having a hard time in my life and I was going through a second divorce and I had just lost my job. And it was just not a great time. So I just started school again because I put myself through schools twice. So I went back to school and I was just getting into it. Now I had to take a break, just getting in because I couldn't focus and do all those things. But I held him in my arms when he died and he coughed up blood on my shirt as I kind of rocked him into the ether, letting him know that I was there for him. There was nobody really there, some of his friends, but my mom had passed away earlier from, I don't know, karma, I'm not even sure. I didn't honestly believe anything she said. So when she called me one day, she told me she was in the hospital with cancer. And I'm like, okay—her name was Sue, which was funny because she sued everyone. She hit a cop with a frying pan and sued the cops and won. She also sued the hospital that took care of her on her last days for not catching it in time when she never went there. And they settled out of court. And it was just a mess.

Lori: I'm kind of laughing because it's humorous. It's sad, but it is kind of funny.

Zach: It is kind of funny. I see it now, but she called me or whatever, I don't know, the story goes—it's a long story, but there's a lot of pieces and parts to it.

Lori: Yeah, so going back to your brother, well, maybe the universe arranged things for you to not be working so that you could be there with him.

Zach: Maybe, I'm not sure. But I didn't know he was going to die either. I just heard he was sick and he couldn't get in and out of the hospital. And every time he tried to get out, he wouldn't last very long. And then he'd go back and then his wife reached out to me and I just, by default, I was like, “Is this something I need to come down there for?” And she said, “I think you might want to.” So I did, and he lived in Clearwater, Florida in a very bad apartment that didn't even have a stove. I don't even know how he did that.

Lori: Was she living with him at the time?

Zach: Yes.

Lori: So the question that is screaming in my head right now, and maybe in my listeners’, how is it that you were able to break the cycle and change and completely change the direction of your life when you didn't have any role models or examples of how to do it or why you even should? I guess you had people in school or other people who were not part of your family that you may have seen who weren't like that. Did you?

Zach: Yeah, I didn't have a lot of friends growing up because I didn't stay around any place very long. I wasn't able to go in any sports programs and make any real connections. One of the skills that I did learn is how to be adaptable, how to be resilient. I developed a good sense of humor because I was also 300 pounds, not at that age.

Lori: Add another layer, wow.

Zach: I was overweight pretty much my whole life and I peaked at 300 pounds, but I was a big kid and my name was Zach, which was not a cool name back in the day, and all it was was Zach, Zach, the Lego maniac, or in my case, it was Zach, Zach with the carpenter crack. And it was not nice. So I didn't have a lot of friends, but I could make connections quickly because I was funny. And that is something I developed as a survival mechanism, but that translated into just being more charismatic in my adulthood.

But as far as your question to how did I make it out? Well, I always butted heads with my mom. I never met my dad. I've never met my grandfather. I never had a positive role model in my life that was male ever. I had one grandmother. She was nice to me, but she wasn't exactly a shining beacon of what to do. All of my aunts and uncles didn't really make anything of themselves of any consequence. My aunt was just as bad as my mom, if not worse. She abandoned all of her children. Each one had a different father and was sexually abused. And then went to go make like adult videos or something and just left them. And it was probably the best thing she could ever do because she was a trash person. And she was really not doing anything of any good. I think she's got more kids now, I don't even know.

But anyway, so I always butted heads with my mom about everything. I don't know what it was. All I did was see needles and coke lines and stuff all around my house. So I remember there was a specific time where I got in big trouble. I did not know I was doing something wrong, but my mom would always roll up little dollar bills and snort stuff off the table. So they used to have these things in the grocery store where it was like a horoscope and it was rolled up into a little tube. And they'd put—

Lori: Oh yeah, I remember those.

Zach: You know what I'm saying? Well, I was in the cart, sitting in the cart, I was little. And I grabbed one of those tubes and pretended to snort something off of the belt. And I didn't know what I was doing. I was just following. And she was mortified. And I got in big trouble for that. I'm like, why am I in trouble? I didn't even do anything. But I was always the one who got the brunt of everything. My brother was the golden child somehow. He never got in trouble. He never got hit. He never got abused. He never got left. He never even left her care. I was removed from her care at 8, and then again at 11. And then I stayed in the system and bounced around even more for a while.

I didn't even want to take aspirin because all I saw was drugs destroying everyone around me. It was abuse. I remember when I was five years old, I packed up everything that I thought I had in a paper bag. And I said, “I'm leaving.” And I knew so little about the world. I just said, “I'm out of here. I'm sick of you guys. I'm calling a cab.” I've heard so many people say that. And I thought that when you say it out into the earth, it just happened and cabs would show up. So they just said, “All right, fine, get out.” And they let me sit on the stoop for like two hours in the snow waiting for a cab that never showed up because I didn't know how to call a cab or what a cab even was. But I just knew I was calling a cab and I'm getting the F out of here. And I couldn't leave and there was no escape. My mom went to rehab a bunch of times and then me and my brother got separated into the foster care system, but he went back afterward and never got pulled out again. I probably got pulled out more because I was more oppositional defiant and just refusing to cooperate. And I was a victim of my circumstances and I was always in trouble.

But I just had this sense and feeling that this was not what I wanted my life to be ever. I didn't know what was going to happen. I was told that I wouldn't make it past 20, that I would make nothing of myself, that I was stupid and worthless. And my grades probably reflected that I wasn't the smartest because I was either catching up to another curriculum because I was moving schools again, or I'd just missed a lot. So when I went to college, I had to catch up on all these things that all these people that went to private school exclusively. Because I went to a very good school.

Lori: How in the world did you get into college after all of those moves, all of this disruption and chaos in your life growing up and not having great grades? How did you even know how to apply for college? And how did a college even accept you?

Zach: I think I was one of those things where I was not a diversity hire, but they have to have a certain percentage of people from the garbage. So here's what happened . I was an at-risk youth and I was moving around a lot in abusive foster homes and going back and forth to group homes and halfway houses and all kinds of, every kind of punishment except for prison that I've gotten. But I was never a bad kid. I wasn't doing anything mean or wrong. I was just not following any rules and tap dancing on the line of everything because I had no consequences and I had no parents to tell me what to do. And nobody cared about whether I lived or died. So who cared.

So I was in high school because I ended up going to a foster home for three years from like 15 to 18. And that was like the longest stint of time that I've ever spent in any place. And because of that short burst of stability, I was able to accomplish something. My grades raised a little, but honestly, I've never felt like school was a place for smart people. I never believed in it. I didn't believe in qualifying my self-worth through grades. So people always wanted me to get on a roll. I did it once and I said, "Here you go. Now you know I can do it. Don't ever ask me to do it again because this is just beneath me." That's how I felt.

So I was anonymously suggested for a program called Upward Bound. Not Outward Bound, the ropes course, Upward Bound, which was for kids that have no parents or they're in a bad place or they're at-risk youth. And this was in New Hampshire. So it was through UNH, University of New Hampshire. And you'd go during the summer if you wanted to. It was completely funded. They'd pick you up on a big bus and they'd bring you there for the summer. You'd live in their dorms and you'd go through other classes and they'd teach you different things and kind of facilitate and nurture the idea of going to school or doing something more with your life. And they would, on the off season, pay you to come to study hall. They would give you stipends. And there was a whole bunch of things that they did that motivated kids that didn't have any other motivation to do it. I was probably one of the worst cases in that group because most of them had families. Most of them had parents. Most of them weren't bounced around like I was. Most of them didn't have that same level of abuse. They were still either coming from a place where there was no great role models or they just didn't have any idea how to get to the next step.

So I still didn't know if I was going to go to college. I decided in the last quarter of the last year of high school, I think I might want to be the person that destroys all of my generational cycles. And I never wanted to be adopted because the Lemear name, if you look that up in any ancestry, you'll find like 21 people and I know them all. There's no way for me to track my lineage because that came from like a grandfather that passed it down to my grandmother, that passed it down to the grandkids who never got married, who made more kids. And it's just like, I have no idea who I am, what my lineage is, what my background is. So I had to make my own. I had to create something from nothing because no one was going to save me. So I had to save myself.

So I decided to just do what I could. And I was like, what do I want to do with my life? I loved art. I've always loved art, but I also was very keen on business and sales because of my mom. I just learned how to do it the right way. So I was like, hmm, well, what's going to be a sustainable thing that I could put my time into? Because I had no money, I had no resources, no parents to help me, nobody. I had guardians more than parents. So I filled out some things and I got a bunch of rejections, but here's the thing. Back then, in order to get into an art school or an art program, you had to have a portfolio. And a portfolio wasn't just a bunch of links on your website. It was, you had to have very expensive slides made and give them like the films and the negatives. And I didn't have any money for that. So I didn't have a portfolio. I didn't have great grades. I didn't have essays. I didn't have extracurriculars. I didn't have much of anything.

So I just applied. I applied to a couple of safety schools and I applied to one or two schools that I really wanted to go to that had a program I thought was good for me. So I decided graphic design, by the way, because I loved art and there's going to never be a shortage of advertising or marketing or any of that. So this is how I could sell this. I wasn't going to go be a painter for the first person in the generations to graduate high school.

Lori: No Monet.

Zach: Right. So I had a lot of street sense. I was street smart. I wasn't as book smart. But I caught up to the book smart part and then I added it to the street smart. Now I'm a formidable force. But going back to this, I got rejected by some and it came down to like a couple of schools. One of them was the school I really wanted and the other one was a state school. And the state school gave me a free ride, 100% paid, gave me four years, room and board, work study, the whole thing. And you'd think I would have just taken it. You would think I would have taken anything that I got because I was desperate for it. But I wasn't desperate for it. I was desperate to change the history of my last name. The only people, if you look up Lemear, you'll only find criminals. You'll find the worst-case scenario of the most late fees at all the places of just nothing positive until me. So I'm like, I'm going to keep the name because I'm going to change it. I've been handed all these terrible batons and I'm going to be the one that takes it and runs my own direction. And there's no one who's going to do this for me.

So I realized this was going to be the hard road. So I rejected the state school because it was a state school. It was a party school. And I didn't want my first, I didn't want the first baton that I picked up to be trash. So instead of an in-state state school that paid the whole way, I chose to pay my way outside of state to a private school, Endicott College, which is no joke. I didn't have terrible grades, but I just didn't have the 4.0. I wasn't, you know, cum laude anything. So I didn't have the money either.

So here's the thing. When I got in, I remember this like it was yesterday. I didn't have a computer. I didn't even have a typewriter. So I had to hand all my letters to the bursar's office. And I remember writing it on a yellow legal pad. I didn't even have white. So a yellow legal pad. I wrote over and over, this is how much I have. This is how many jobs I can get and still have a course load. This is how much I need. What can you do for me? And they'd send me back a letter with not enough. And I'd write it back. I'm like, “I don't remember if you read this or not, but this is how much I have. This is how much I can make. And this is how much I need.” And they kept sending it back to me. And I'm like, “I'm not taking no for an answer.” And I must've done it 10 times until they gave me enough loans and maybe a couple of grants. And then I was accepted.

Lori: Did you ever read the book Think and Grow Rich? Napoleon Hill.

Zach: I've heard of it, but I've never really read it. Yeah, I know who it is.

Lori: Okay, because there's a story in there at the very beginning about a slave girl, I think she was, and she went to ask for money from the plantation guy. She's a little girl and she's asking the master for money for her mother that he owed her. And he said no. And he hit her and tried to make her go away and she wouldn't leave until he paid her. She stood there and said, "No, you give me my money." Until he finally was like, “All right, well, this girl's not backing down.” Your story reminded me of that story of you're not taking no for an answer.

And there's that other quote about life will give you whatever you demand of it. It's a total paraphrase. But if you ask for a penny, it will give you a penny. If you ask for a million dollars, it will give you a million dollars. Life will give you what you demand of it.

Zach: So there's another pivotal moment that happened in this time. At this point, I was 300 pounds. I was about 17 years old. I was big. I'm 6'1", but 300 pounds is still 300 pounds. It's way too many pounds. And again, like, I didn't need much nurturing because I didn't have much. I've been taking care of adults since I was nine. I've been doing my own thing. I was very independent. And if I get my sights on something, I will make it happen. But this is this pivotal moment that happened. My foster dad at the time, he was working out a lot. And I was sitting down, I remember, because I didn't even have my own room. I just had a little hobble in the basement that was like covered in asbestos. And I was just playing a game and I was eating bowlfuls of Hershey's Kisses, getting fatter by the second. And I was so big that even the teachers made fun of me. It was really bad. And I don't even know how they got away with it, but they did.

Anyway, so all it took was he said, "So when are you going to start working out with me?" And I'm serious, this is exactly what happened. I said, "How about tomorrow?" And then for eight straight months, I learned how to eat right, how to run, how to lift, how to balance myself out. And what happened was I started from not being able to run from stop sign to stop sign on a street without throwing up. And I ended in eight months running six miles every day through the woods, being able to do 15 pull-ups. I remember the first time I saw veins in my hand, I was blown away. I'd never seen a vein in my hand before. I've never been able to jump rope or do anything.

So the key point is this. I thought to myself, I was convinced beyond all doubt that my body was just the way this was. I was not built for exercise. I couldn't run. It's just the way my body was made and that's okay. And I accepted it. And then when I got past that mental block and was pushed beyond my limits, and then I pushed myself beyond those limits, I was like, "Hmm.” Well, I believed it. Like I believed in gravity, that I was just fat and that's just the way it was. And I'm like, "Well, what else do I believe that's untrue?" Because here's the thing, I crushed it. I lost 100 pounds in eight months the healthy way. I went down to 180. Actually, it was more like 120 pounds. And I was unrecognizable. Like people that knew me my whole life reintroduced themselves to me when they saw me. And they're like, "Holy shit, is that Zach?" I'm like, "Yes, that's me." They thought I was a friend of somebody else that they knew. And I'm like, "Nope, that's me."

So that right there kind of carried me and gave me the confidence I'm like for all the other things starting with this college. I'm like, "You know what? I'm going to be the one that breaks all the barriers and I'm doing it on my terms. And there's no one that's going to tell me otherwise." And I also thought the last thing I want is to use this opportunity on a state school, free or not, and then like in 10 years, 20 years—I want to be proud of where I went. I want to be proud of what I've done. And really, again, I didn't believe in school. I never went to school for the education because I was smarter than people thought and gave me credit for. I just never showed them because I didn't care to show them because I didn't need their approval.

So I went to school for the connections. So I'm thinking this. If I want to change my life and I want to change the type of trajectory and the type of people that I know, I need to surround myself with that. And I wasn't going to get that at the party school that was, still to this day, well-known more for egregious partying and terrible stuff than anything else. But I was invited to go speak at a TEDx and I applied for it and I don't know if I made it, but through Endicott, because I chose. And that's full circle. And I know that that place, that brand had gone up and above and beyond, and the connections I made. And I trenched myself in the life of people that—and it was tough because no one there even appreciated a thing and they all had Mercedeses and Audis and they'd crash them and go party. And I was an art student with a minor in business and I was doing better in the business classes than the people that were full-time in business because they just didn't care.

Lori: I think the lesson here is that you need to surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, people who are at the level or above where you want to get to, to be able to pull yourself up. Like even now, when you're in business, when you're in life, who has what you want or who's doing the things that you would like to be doing and get yourself around and associate with those people?

Zach: Yeah, no, absolutely. So I went to Endicott and I had six classes, I had three jobs, I had my own radio show, I developed a magazine that I turned into a thing, I had two side hustles. Half the time I was buying my books through poker and I was fixing computers on the side because I was also really interested in tech. But I didn't know what I was going to do with that. So it was just more of a passion and it wasn't the thing that I thought I wanted to do my whole life. Every summer, I worked. Every break, I worked. I didn't go to study abroad because I couldn't afford it. And I had to sit there and I had to watch everybody around me get gift care baskets from all their parents and nobody cared about me, nobody sent me anything. And it was tough because I was the one working and appreciating and doing better than them by peers. And none of them cared because they were all handed everything throughout their life and they were a bunch of trust fund kids who just didn't have any appreciation for what they had. And that was tough. That was probably one of the hardest things that was about that, was just trying to deal with those type of people and also create a version of myself that was not that.

Lori: What are the lessons that you've learned in your life that you're teaching to your kids now?

Zach: Okay. I'm teaching to my kids now, consistency. I'm teaching them, don't be afraid of doing the hard things because the lesson and the value and the gold is in the hard things. Because their mother is the opposite of me. Couldn't be any more. She committed adultery, basically, and destroyed the family because she was selfish. But she was one of those people from Endicott. She was one of those people that had everything handed to her and didn't have any appreciation for it. And she's become worse over time, worse and worse and worse. And my kids live there the majority of the time. And every time I see them, I see pockets of that. And I try to undo it. And most people will say, “Oh, they go to dad's house and he just lets them do whatever they want and I've got to unteach them.”

Well, it's the reverse with me. My kids don't shower when they're there. They get candy that they can just leave in their room and eat whenever they want. They eat junk. They're on the screen 24/7. Like I try to teach them balance. And not because there is something wrong with what you're doing, but there's something so right with balance. And you never see it. You never get it. My job is to be the example. I want to be the example in every capacity. And I realized also—I've got a daughter and a son—that my biggest job for my daughter is not only to be the example, but the father is usually the first man that they fall in love with. And that's the model that they use for the rest of their life. So if I'm an a-hole and I disrespect everyone around me and her, she will accept that. And that's how she will see love. And that's unacceptable to me because that's the entire basis of almost every single person I've ever been born from or related to. Even up to like just a month ago, a cousin of mine, still doing it. Wants to have seven babies, has no job, just idiotic. And I had her in my kitchen one day and I was trying to motivate her to do more. And I'm like, listen, I didn't have anything that you didn't have. You know where I came from more than anyone. I didn't have any resources. I had nothing. I had less than nothing because I started at negative 20 and I made it out.

Lori: So consistency, balance, what else?

Zach: Doing the hard things. I get up every day at 4:30 in the morning to go to the gym. Do I want to? Not always. I certainly didn't want to this morning. I was tired. I didn't get a lot of sleep. It was cold. But these are the voices in your head that I call the don't wannas. And they're not invited to this conversation. They're not. And I spend half my time battling the don't wannas, telling them, up yours, you're not invited. You think this is a negotiation? Bitch, please. This is happening. And you don't have a choice. Out. But they're never going to go.

Lori: Because you want the result more than you want to listen to the don't wannas.

Zach: Yeah. And I want to be the example for my kids. And I'm like, you know what? I know this is hard to work out. I know this is hard. So here's the biggest example. They go to their mom's house. There's very little boundaries. There's candy and junk anytime you want it. There's unlimited screen time. There's minimal oversight. There's no pushing them to get balance or exercise. You come to my house, this is the difference. You wake up in the morning, the first hour of your day, you are not looking at a screen. And you only get two hours a day of screen time. If you want more screen time, you can have as much screen time as you want, but you have to earn it in this way. One minute of screen time for every minute you exercise. And then there's specific chores that you can get around the house. But those chores do not include picking up after yourself, cleaning your own room. And there's one micro chore I make them do every morning. I said, every morning, let's look at the sun. Let's stretch, let's talk to each other, do a Lego set, do some art, but you're going to do a mini chore. Either you wipe down this, you do that, you're going to contribute to the household. And if you want more screen time, you can have as much as you want, but you have to earn it. And honestly, they've responded to that so well. They go back to their mom's house and I ask them, "Hey, so what'd you do over vacation?" "I sat in my bed the whole time. I didn't take a shower and I never changed my clothes." "What are you talking about? Disgusting." And these people live in a mansion. And this is what happens when you have everything handed to you and you have no concept of what's real. You've never paid rent in your life and you're living off your daddy's trust fund. This is the disgusting thing I'm trying to un-teach my children. And you know what? They love it. They fight over who gets to clean the toilets. Honestly, it's true. Sometimes they'll just opt out of screen time. They'll just say, "You know what? I get bored doing nothing but screens at mommy's house. And I really like having options here.” And we'll go for walks. And you know what? I never just put them in front of a game or a TV. I will be there with them playing the game or watching the movie or we're doing the art project. I'm doing tours too. I'm like, "I'm not making you do this because I'm not doing it. I'm showing up every second of every day and I want you to see what that looks like because you don't have that example.” And it's funny to see that the people with all the resources and all the money who did all the misdeeds are the poorest example because they had nothing to make them grow or learn.

Lori: Well, it's really admirable, I guess, that's not even the right word, but it's really important that they have you as their role model. Like you're such a good role model for them for so many reasons, starting with the fact that you didn't have role models and that you want them to be raised differently. And truly, you have broken the generational trauma.

Zach: And their mom fights me on this all the time, fights me on more time with them, fights me on all this stuff. And I tell them, and I fight her and I say, "Listen, there's no accountability at your house, none." She just lets them have all of their Halloween candy in their room to eat it whenever they feel like it. My son has become overweight. There's just so many things that she's perpetuating because of laziness, because the only thing that matters to her is what she looks like to the outside world and what she wants. And other than that, everything else falls to the wayside. And she will do everything she can to keep her public persona clean. But if you know her, she's not a good person.

Lori: What would you recommend to somebody who's struggling, not necessarily your kids, but somebody who's listening who's struggling with doing some hard things, having to make some hard choices? What would you say to them to encourage them to find the right thing? Like what have you done? You found exercise. What other things have you used? What other tools have you used to become this responsible, well-meaning person now, living the life that you're living?

Zach: I'm a hyper analytical person. And part of that is because I have diagnosed PTSD. So I'm hyper vigilant and I'm always looking for danger. It's not even a thing I'm even conscious about. But it does affect me. So I noticed that I'm constantly analyzing everyone. And because I never had a role model, never really ever. Even some of my foster parents, they were nice to me in some cases, but they were not people who went to college. They weren't people who had any real success in life or any ambition to be successful. They were surviving on their own too.

So what I did was because I didn't have any role models, I had to learn everything I could from the people that I saw and from TV. So I'm constantly analyzing to get little bits and pieces to learn from. And we didn't have the internet. So I didn't have a vast resources of information to pull from. I had to find it in the little pockets that I could find it. And even my teachers were making fun of me for being the fat kid. I didn't even have any great role model teachers.

So what skills I would say is be mindful of the people and the actions that you admire and question every answer and question why you feel certain ways. Don't just lean into a symptom of, I don't like this. Why don't you like this? What is it about this that is bothering you? There's certain things that I don't like that I've had to really say, okay, is this something that's something I need to heal in myself? Or is this something actually wrong in the world? And I try to build up off of that.

And I'll tell you right now, all the things that I did to get to this place, it is actually easier now when I have children to be the example than it was when nobody could care if I was living or dying, because I had to do it just for me.

Lori: Sure, that makes sense.

Zach: But here's the thing. Over time, I graduated that college, this is my 10th business that I've had. Over and over, I've proven to myself without a shadow of a doubt that I'm capable of anything. There's nothing that I can't do. I've gotten out of the ghetto by myself. I've gotten out of two divorces and recovered with no resources, no support system by myself. I have lost weight, multiple—because I gained it again. I gained 70 pounds back and I had to lose it again by myself. I had to get past all of these mental blocks and all these preconceived notions and all this bad programming by myself. And what else am I capable of? Anything. Anything I want, I can manifest. Anything is possible because I've proven it to myself. So I have insane confidence in myself, insane confidence. There is nothing that is outside my reach.

So with that, I also have to be careful where I put my focus, because I know that anything is possible for me. Anything I want in this world can be mine if I choose to. So I have to be careful because I've gotten to a point where I believe I have so many options that I just have to be careful with what I put my time into. And now with the children, it's easier because I'm not just doing it for myself. I'm doing it to be the example for them. I'm doing it to be the example for others, especially people from a place like mine, because I am a statistical anomaly. There is 3% of people in foster care, if they get a free ride, 100% paid, will go to college. And 1% of that three graduate. I bucked the trend completely, paid my own way and graduated. And then went back again and aced a master's program in IT. So I've got all the pieces and parts that I did on my own. And again, I had to deal with this through many, many layers of treachery and people that I trusted the most. I was with that woman for 20 years, because I was 15 years old to like 35 and she destroyed my life and took everything and everyone.

Lori: You probably have heard this before. Your life is like a movie.

Zach: Yeah, I know.

Lori: Like a movie waiting to be made. It already has been, you've already lived it. I look at The Blind Side and I go, “Ha, The Blind Side.” He got picked up by some rich white lady and still had a family and didn't move around as much as I did. I'm like, listen, they need to make a movie about me. You want to talk about The Blind Side? I'll tell you about The Blind Side.

Lori: That would be a good movie.

Zach: All racism, races outside of creeds, exception. But it's just the story. I just felt like, man, they made a movie about that? I did that in my first 10 minutes and nobody ever rescued me. And they certainly didn't rescue me with money and resources.

Lori: Was music a part of your life? Because you know my next question is, what's your hype song? What's the song you listen to?

Zach: Music was always a big part of my life. And honestly, I've been really called to music my entire life. I've always wanted to play an instrument and I never had the time or the stability or the consistency to do it. And now I'm actually teaching myself piano because I feel like it's the tool that I can use. And if I master this, then I can make it play any kind of instrument and I can hook it up to a computer and there's a whole bunch of things you can do with it.

But as far as listening to music, since I was like 11, I was listening to Dire Straits and Pink Floyd and just really, really into music. And I'm into all different kinds of music. I really don't like pop music because it's pandering to the lowest common denominator and there's nothing unique or creative about it for the most part. So yes, I actually have terrible tinnitus because I've been to so many shows that I blew my ears out and I can hear the high pitched ringing right now. But music has always been a super important part of my life.

Lori: So if you had to pick one song for your hype song, what is it?

Zach: Oh, this is easy. It's Something from Nothing by The Foo Fighters. And if you listen to the lyrics, it's literally about me, it feels like. The story I just told you, they have a lyric in there that says, "I had to make something from nothing. I had to be what never was. You can't make me change my name." And it's such a good positive song. And man, it hypes me up every single time. And it even brings a little tear to my eye a little bit, because I am something from nothing. I'm something from less than nothing. And I want to be the shining beacon for everyone around me. I want to be the example for the people that came from the trash and thought that just because they only saw trash that they are trash. That's baloney. I had no resources, no money, no extra anything, no grades, no anything. And I made it out. You can make it out too. I want to be the shining example of what's possible. Not because I'm special, because I don't believe I'm special. A statistical anomaly, the exception, maybe. But I'm not special, I'm not overly intelligent, I don't have more resources or skills than you. You all can do this. Every single person that's listening to me right now, you all have everything that I have in me right now, right this second you have it. All you gotta do is want it bad enough. That is it. That is all the difference between you and me right now is I wanted it bad enough and I was willing to do the work. That is it, that is all. That's the secret sauce. You have it in you right now, period.

Lori: Mic drop right there.

Zach: And I want to be on stages and I want to blow people's minds and have them just leave the session with more hope than they've ever had in their life because they saw somebody that did it. And they didn't do it because they got picked up from the blind side and thrown into some rich lady's house. They didn't get any extra anything. I didn't get grants for school. I'm still paying off 70 grand worth of loans, but that's the cost that I was willing to pay to break the cycles.

Lori: If someone wants to put you on a stage or even just continue this conversation with you, what's the best place for them to reach you?

Zach: Oh, they can reach me through LinkedIn. They can reach me through my email, but LinkedIn's probably the best. I spend the most time on LinkedIn.

Lori: I'll put a link to that in the show notes as well as a link to the Foo Fighters song.

Zach: Oh yeah, and the Foo Fighters song, honestly, it is the greatest. And I love the Foo Fighters, you know? And if you just listen to the lyrics, you know, it talks about being something from nothing. And they say, looking for a dime and found a quarter. Like, you can't make me change my name. And that resonates hard with me because I've intentionally kept my crappy Lemear name that has no lineage that you can trace anywhere, because it was misspelled somewhere down the line, probably by a drunk, and it just kept getting passed on to people that had no value so couldn't get married, just kept having kids out of wedlock over and over, passing the name on forever. And now my kids have the name that they have no trace. It's kind of crazy, but you know what? I had to make something out of nothing, and I did. And I'm not stopping. I'm just getting started.

Lori: I'm here cheering you on. I appreciate you joining me today for the show on Fine is a Four-Letter Word. Zach, thanks for being here.

Zach: Thanks for having me. I always love to inspire people. And if anybody's out there, really hit me up through LinkedIn. I'm happy to talk. I'm very transparent. And my advice comes sugar-free because I've experienced about 80 years’ worth of life in my 40-year time on this planet. And I'm willing to share openly on anything I can do to level you up.

Lori: Thank you.

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