Home College Julian’s Success Story: How Going $42,000 in Debt was the Greatest Decision I’ve Ever Made
Julian’s Success Story: How Going $42,000 in Debt was the Greatest Decision I’ve Ever Made

Julian’s Success Story: How Going $42,000 in Debt was the Greatest Decision I’ve Ever Made


julian-100Julian Hayes II is a fitness and lifestyle coach and writer based out of Nashville, Tennessee. He is the creator of 206 Fitness. Why 206? Not only is 206 one of his nicknames, but there are also 206 bones in the body. He believes anyone can achieve the body they’ve always wanted while still living a fun and adventurous life. Read more about him and download his free ebook on how to achieve the body you’ve always wanted while owning life at 206fitness.com and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter.

I am $42,000 in debt and I’m absolutely loving life right now.

Yes, you read that correctly.

$42k in debt.

To the majority of people, this sounds like an insanely large amount of money.

Except me.

Seriously, this is nothing to me.

Allow me to explain…

Would you rather be $42k or $300k in debt?

(Yes, that’s before interest.)

This is the situation that I was presented with not too long ago. I was mentally prepared to go more than $300,000 in debt to achieve what I thought was my calling. Little did I know that $42,000 was going to led me to discovering myself and my true calling.

I had my heart set on going to medical school and becoming an ophthalmologist. (I know, I know… eyes? They’re really cool, but this isn’t the time to nerd out.)

How could someone go from having aspirations of becoming an ophthalmologist to becoming a fitness and lifestyle coach?

Easy! I went through a series of crazy and random adventures over the course of a year that I interpreted as signs, and I encountered 5 quotes which would shape my mindset forever.

Today, I’m going to share my story, which can be summarized as an unconventional journey to discovering my true passion, finally awakening and living life on my own terms.

While reading through my story, I challenge you to ask yourself: “Am I living life each day doing what I love and living life on my own terms, or am I doing what I think is right which some would call playing it safe?”

Everyone is told to follow their dreams, do what makes them happy and be passionate about their work. How many of us actually follow this advice?

Not many, I can tell you that.

For 25 years, I was part of that group who mindlessly wandered through this thing we call life without a purpose or passion for anything. I was asleep for 25 years, scared to do what I knew I was meant to do, but I finally was awakened during this past year.

How did this awakening happen?

The birth of $42k

I remember like it was yesterday. It was early spring 2011, and I had just finished my shift as a bank teller at Bank of America.

My plans for the night were to meet some friends for happy hour at one of our favorite bars, relax, and complain about work. On my way there, I decided to check my email and saw I had one new message from the school I had applied to.

I opened the email and was informed of my acceptance to start medical school in the fall of 2011.

Needless to say, I had to leave my car at the bar since I celebrated a little too much.

Moving to NYC from Tennessee was no easy task. Since my parents weren’t rich, and I had no savings, I’d have to take out loans to afford not only the tuition, but the cost of living in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

After talking with financial aid, I elected to take the maximum amount of $42k, which would allow me to live relatively comfortably while going to school.

I had no reservations about taking this amount of money out, nor did I even consider the long-term implications of such a loan.

I viewed the $42k as a way to escape Tennessee and my dead-end job. $42k was going to help advance me toward my future career and my dream of living in a big city.

Plus, moving and going back to school was a great distraction from the fact that I really had no clear path or direction. At this point in my life, I hadn’t found my passion.

Going to med school seemed liked the right choice in an economy that was uncertain, especially for a kid who was afraid of taking risks.

What really went through my mind during school

During my time in school, my interest in nutrition and training had hit an all-time high. Even during class, I would think about how I could apply what I was learning to my training regimen. Medical application was simply an afterthought.

And while most students in med school barely have enough time to sleep, I was still in the gym every day and kept up with the latest training and nutritional information. I remember sitting in biochem, discussing amino acids and liver glycogen, and my thought process switching to how it could be applied to intermittent fasting.

I had also begun to notice my waning interest in the medical field. During several exams I would find myself zoning out, questioning what it was I was doing there. I didn’t want to be stuck in a room for three hours taking an exam over something I didn’t have much interest in. Yet, time after time, I kept returning.

It was also during this time that I began to break away from my cohorts and venture out into the city to meet new people.

During my solo adventures, I happened to meet random entrepreneurs at bars of all places. Through conversations with them, I began to notice signs that perhaps I was going down the wrong path when it came to my career.


Who knew that nights at happy hour could lead me to finding my passion?

End of NYC and school

At the end of my spring semester, I had the option to continue on in the medical program, or go home. I chose to go home.


At the time, I told myself it was because I wasn’t in love with the program any more and wanted to reapply to other schools. Looking back now, it’s because I had fallen out of love with the idea of becoming a doctor.

When I got back home, I decided to get a job as a personal trainer at my local gym. This job was far from what I expected and opened my eyes to the passion I had been missing and the opportunities that were available and within reach.

It’s where I began developing the idea of beginning a career as a fitness professional, but the idea of not applying to school, and of journeying down an unknown path, was scary. I knew the kind of backlash I would receive if I went through with it.

While I had always seen myself as someone who could start his own company, be his own boss, and be a leader for others, I wasn’t willing or ready to take such a risk. Instead of listening to myself, I allowed others to influence my decisions and direction.

So, I began preparing to retake the MCAT.

The last straw

It was a couple of hours into my MCAT exam when I felt a wave of realization wash over me.

This was not what I wanted to do with my life. It was as if everything that I had been ignoring all of a sudden came together and clicked. With that, I rushed through the rest of my exam and walked out of the testing center, knowing with full confidence that becoming a doctor was not my true calling.

However, I still wasn’t 100% sure what was, though I had a hunch.

Over the couple of weeks that followed, I began seriously thinking about making fitness a full-time career, but that alone seemed too short-sighted. Sure, I love training, and I love talking fitness with people, but I also enjoy geeking out over music, nutrition, movies and a multitude of other things.

It was in the middle of the night when I realized I could be a fitness coach and integrate all my other hobbies and interests into my job. I’d be able to do this because, as an entrepreneur, I’d have no one to answer to except myself.

I’d be completely in control.

That mindset of following your dreams, doing what you’re passionate about, and loving what you’re doing is the definition of what being an entrepreneur/adventurer of life is all about.

That night was the birth of 206 Fitness.

Tough times

Even though I had found my passion, I still had a lot of friends and family members who were skeptical about me starting my own fitness company vs. going back to medical school.

I had to deal with a lot of negative comments. “Why would you give up being a doctor for fitness?” “You’ll always have a job with medicine, can you say the same with fitness?” “You’ll never make a comfortable wage with fitness!” “Writing is a hobby, not a job!”

And those were just the nice ones.

It was also during this time when I hit a low point. While working on my business and starting up my website, I depleted what little savings I had until I had 5 cents left in my account – literally. My credit cards were already maxed out from being irresponsible. With virtually no money, I began to doubt myself and my decision.

What my savings account looked like for a couple of months.

I was depressed at the way life was going. I missed out on trips to visit friends, and social engagements on the weekends were nonexistent. I even sported a pair of Nikes with holes in them, but deep down, I still knew there were brighter days ahead. This was all part of my journey into becoming who I was supposed to become.

5 quotes that live with me every day – and should be with you as well

Times were rough, and every day was a battle with criticism all around me. On the surface, it seemed I was struggling mightily and this further reinforced people’s opinions that I had made the wrong choice.

Each time I would start to feel negative thoughts or question myself, I would fall back on five quotes. These quotes reestablished my vision and purpose. These five quotes are like gold to me. With each quote listed below, I want you to stop and think about how it applies to yourself.

1. I love watching Gary Vaynerchuk videos because he has such passion for everything he talks about. He has one quote in particular that I love.

“Legacy is greater than currency.”

This meant so much to me because people always have an obsession with money and never worry about how they are going to be viewed in the long term, what their personal brand will be in the future, and how the big picture will always win in the end.

2. I was reading an ebook titled 279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau and came across the following quote.

You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”

People are quick to tell someone else how to live their life or how they should be doing something but who says you have to live this way just because everyone else is living that way. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and do what you feel is the right thing to do and forget what everyone else thinks or says.

3. There was a quote by H.L. Hunt which was extremely valuable during my low times where all my money was drained and I had to make sacrifices.

i. “Decide what you want

ii. Decide what you are willing to exchange for it

iii. Establish your priorities

iv. Go to work”

4. I was staring at my wall of basketball awards from high school and noticed a quote my basketball coach wrote on one of them which was used to describe my character. He used the word vision.

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”

This applied to me because no matter the hard times, I could always see how things were going to be in the future. I could always paint a picture – I was a big dreamer. Never let someone take your dreams away or let them marginalize your passion.

5. Lastly, one of my favorites is from Mark Twain.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This quote to me meant having no regrets, following your heart and instincts. Who cares if it goes bad? You at least lived, and at the end of the day, we only get one life so we have to make good use of it!

Coming full circle with $42k

Without $42k, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to New York and become awakened to start living life on my own terms, filling each day with passion. If I had never taken the loan, I could’ve ended up in medical school somewhere, becoming a doctor even though that wasn’t my passion.

$42k led me to feeling alive, finally feeling as if I had a pulse. It showed me what’s important in life. I learned how to conquer a lot of fears that have always controlled me and affected my life.

$42k is with me every day. There’s not a day that I don’t stop and smile as I look back. I finally found my passion, and each day I’m living life on my terms and not anyone else’s. Before the events of $42k, I never would have imagined myself writing, nor being a fitness and lifestyle coach. It’s crazy how this world operates; if you let the wind guide you, it’ll lead you to where you need to be.

As for my debt, it didn’t disappear by any means, since I’m reminded each month. These payments aren’t a huge black hole hanging over my head, though.

I view this debt as a small payment in exchange for a lifetime of freedom and living life doing as I please. Using the advice on this site has helped me create a more precise and concrete plan fro eliminating my debt and living life debt-free.

What is your $42k?

It doesn’t have to be money; it can be a series of events, a chance happening, or a few lines of text in an article/book you’ve read that pushed or is pushing you toward your true calling.

The first step in making a change is to believe you can have what you want.

Never settle for mediocrity.

Note from Joan: I’ve wanted to share Julian’s store here on Man Vs. Debt for a while. Given that we’ve been sharing posts about topics like thinking twice about graduate degrees, what better way to continue that conversation than to talk to someone who has seen both sides of that path?

The other super-interesting thing (to me) about Julian’s story is that he was willing to let go of what wasn’t working for him. I have mentioned this several times and went into detail about it when I was talking about expensive hobbies. Sometimes, we are so concerned about sunk cost – I already spent $42,000 toward this degree – that we stick with something, and spend even more money on it, that isn’t authentic.

I’m SO glad to share Julian’s story about finding his passion – and being willing to take the $42,000 he’d already invested and say, “That’s OK, but now I’m doing something else!”

What really gets you excited? Where are you willing to make a big leap like that?

We’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

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