How’d Derek go from frigid freakouts to six figures part-time?

Plus, how to stop time in its tracks, just for a minute

Presented by


Derek eyeballed the space heater in the corner of his office hard. Winter nights in Baton Rouge get surprisingly cold. Bone chilling, even. Especially when your furnace goes out and you can’t afford the repair bill.

On this night, he was living the dream. That is, the romanticized dream of book authors everywhere, channeling their inner Papa (you know, Ernest Hemingway). Writing by candlelight, surrounded by five-toed cats, brain lubricated with a wee dram of Scotland’s finest. It’s a thing.

But instead of an old man battling a giant fish, Derek had locked horns with an unseen monster - one that, if he didn’t beat it, would starve his child and wife… or send him back to the corporate life he’d left behind.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Hemingway didn’t actually say it, though he really should have.

Some on-ramps are hard. Book ghostwriting as a business is one of them. Doable, mind you, but not until an author makes one particularly dangerous decision. 

In this week’s edition of Entrepreneurs Gone Wild, you’ll meet one of my heroes, Derek Lewis. I first ‘met’ him through Ed Gandia, a writing business mentor I’ve followed for years. We’d both recently been on Ed’s podcast, sharing how we were making a living writing. After Derek’s episode, I was mortified to realize how small I’d been playing. Where I’d been the standard-issue freelance writer hustling for gigs, he was… well, dignified. And making serious money. I can’t wait to tell you the rest of the story.

Plus, if your brain freaks out over how FAST time is whooshing by… I gotchu.

But first… a word from that email marketing genius-slash imp, Greg Johnson. 

Think you know your stuff when it comes to email marketing? Take this quick quiz, hotshot. You might even win a cool prize.

Now, where were we? Oh yes. Derek was freezing his bippy off and about to make a life-changing decision.

Most entrepreneurs have been there. The moment of decision, where you realize that you’re doing your best imitation of Jean Claude Van Damme doing a high-stakes split between moving semi trucks. 


Before this frigid moment, Derek had made some significant decisions. 

One was between worlds. One, the world of wordsmithing. The other, a world where three squares a day were virtually guaranteed. (Not jail. Corporate life. Oh. OK, you were right. Jail.)

He’d also been applying for another job in the corporate world. Even dabbled in applications for government jobs, the steadiest of steady pay. There was an incident. Long and short of it, as Derek hung up his phone, he said, “I will be damned if I let some bureaucrat determine my fate.”

He chose words.

But the world of words brings its own choices. 

Sure, he’d landed a book ghostwriting project with a pay rate that’d give a freelancer on Upwork a stroke. 

Until then, he’d been writing like most freelancers - a constant slate of blog articles. Words ‘Я Us. Derek had done his share of those gigs. Easy to get. Easy to do. Hard to scale enough to make good money.

But writing someone’s business book? This kind of book opens doors, builds trust, and inspires awe. Write just a couple a year, and Derek would pull a nice 6-figure income. In a wild leap, he swore off taking more “short-term” writing assignments.

Tarzan made it look so easy. But there Derek was, shivering as he plucked the topsoil from his teeth. Swinging for the next vine only works well when there’s another vine to grab. He may have jumped the gun. His shivering body concurred.

He could always backtrack. Make another choice before it was too late.

But he recognized a major life crossroads when he stood in it. 

It was success or bust time. Cortez himself couldn’t have torched his ships with more buy-in than Derek was about to display.


It was about three years before Derek replaced his W2 income. In year four, the stars aligned and Derek landed about $80K worth of projects within a two week period. 

He might have been over the moon. Except he wasn’t.

His wife, bless her, suggested professional help. Turns out, Derek was clinically depressed. Genetically predisposed. 

Derek’s mind was flooded with doubts. Could he really make good money - and rely on it? Was he actually any good at his craft? Had he missed a turnoff he was divinely meant to take? 

Therapy and antidepressants kept him from… well, it got dark.

But by year five, his feet were on solid ground again. The money was consistent - a solid six figures he could bank on. The space heater days were a memory. He loved what he was doing and had rounded the corner into regular job unemployability. 

Best of all, he’d built a business that revolved around his life rather than the other way around. Last year, his wife launched her own business. His business made it possible for her to finance hers. Life was just getting to the good part.


“I had no idea that I even had an addiction.”

Over the past 15 years as a business book author, Derek’s business had grown. He’d considered ways to scale. Hire other ghostwriters? Become an agency? He’d decided these paths were a bad fit for him.

Now he’s glad, as I discovered when I asked about his long-term plan.

Derek is six months sober. He realizes how close he came to losing, well, everything that matters most to him. “By the grace of God,” is how he plucked it all from the fire of addiction. 

And now, his ghostwriting business will fund what’s next.

He’ll continue ghostwriting, but only for a couple of days per week. On the other days, he’ll be studying for a master’s degree in addiction counseling.

If he’d moved forward in hiring a team, he wouldn’t have the unfettered agility needed to make such a pivot. 

“But since I am a one-man band, I can completely restructure my business to support and accommodate this new life. I’ll still make a nice six-figure income and be able to spend the other half of my week helping people who were where I was.”

If you’ve read more than a couple issues of this newsletter, you probably know what’s coming next. Next, I will tell you how Derek uses time outdoors to do his best thinking.


In college, Derek studied Engineering. One of his professors gave him a wonderful gift. It was this approach to problem solving. Engineers, like entrepreneurs, solve problems. 

“When you run into a problem and you can’t figure it out, take a break. Walk easy from it. Go take a nap. Go take a walk,” he said. 

Derek’s taken that advice to heart. Hit a creativity block? Get outside. Listen to the birds. Go sit in a sunbeam. Don’t force it. Let your brain wander. Let your subconscious brain ramble. The answer will come.

He grew up on a timber farm. His parents are still there. Whenever he gets the chance to go visit, you’ll find him roaming the woods, feeling the stillness. “It’s almost like time slows down,” he says.

“It’s not that the world slows down in the woods. It’s that I’m getting more in tune with reality. I’ve learned the importance of being present, being centered, living in today, being in the here and now. Nature helps me recalibrate. Outside, this is the normal pace of life.”

Those minutes of self care come back to him in spades. 

They say you should never meet your heroes. It’s often a gutting disappointment. That might be accurate. But not this time. Hearing the whole story (so far) put flesh on bones and made Derek’s story one I am glad to tell. Maybe there’s a reason you’re reading today. Maybe his story will give you the borrowed courage you need. And maybe he’ll come back and tell us more as he writes this next chapter.

Quit sending emails like a dinosaur.

It’s the year 2024 and all the top newsletters are using beehiiv.

beehiiv was created by the same early Morning Brew employees who scaled their daily email to over 4 million subscribers. And now every newsletter on beehiiv has access to the same tools and winning formula.

So what exactly does beehiiv offer?

  • World-class growth tools like the referral program and recommendation network

  • Monetization via the beehiiv Ad Network and premium subscriptions (i.e. beehiiv helps you get paid)

  • Seamless content creation with a sleek collaborative editor

  • Best-in-class inbox deliverability of 98.7%

  • Oh and it’s the most affordable by a mile…

Take your newsletter to the next level — get started for free.


In the digital age, where screens blink faster than our hearts beat, we've become hostages to the ticking clock. 

The phenomenon isn't just in your head. 

It's a real psychological effect where as we age, our perception of time accelerates. For entrepreneurs, this effect is compounded by back-to-back meetings, endless to-do lists, and the never-ending quest for growth. 

The result? A life lived in fast-forward, where moments blend into a blur, and years slip through our fingers like sand.

But there's an antidote to this temporal vertigo, and it's not found in productivity apps or time management seminars. 

It's found in the raw, unfiltered embrace of nature. 

Unplugging and stepping outdoors isn't just a break. It's a rebellion against the tyranny of the clock. In the wilderness, there are no deadlines, no pings of incoming emails, just the timeless rhythm of the natural world. 

Here, in the vast expanse of the real, time stretches and breathes.

The sensation of time speeding up is a cage of our own making, constructed from obligations and digital notifications. But outside, under the open sky, time loses its grip on us. The mind, freed from the shackles of artificial urgency, can wander, explore, and simply be. This isn't escapism; it's a return to what's fundamentally real—life unscripted by human constructs of time and productivity.

How to stop time…

Schedule Unplugged Nature Time Like It's Your Most Important Meeting

Mark it in your calendar, non-negotiable. Early mornings or golden hours, whenever the world outside calls the loudest. Leave your phone behind. This meeting is with the earth, the sky, and your own soul. Let the silence speak to you, teaching you the forgotten art of just being.

Engage Deeply with Your Surroundings

Don’t just be a spectator. Touch the bark of trees; feel its ancient grooves. Inhale deeply; let the scent of pine or saltwater fill your lungs. Listen to the symphony of rustling leaves or crashing waves. 

This isn't woo-woo.

It's about rewiring your brain to experience time through the lens of nature, not through the digital constructs that bind us.

The brutal truth? 

Time will march on, with or without our consent. But by choosing to disconnect, to immerse ourselves in the timeless beauty of nature, we reclaim our lives from the jaws of perceived acceleration. 

Here, in the simplicity and vastness of the outdoors, we find our antidote to the modern malaise of fast-forward living. 

Here, we learn to breathe again, to see time not as a foe to be battled, but as a river in which we can gently float.

That’s just one reason hubby and I are on the brink of pouring everything we’ve got into building Idyllwild Woods Retreat Center. (As soon as the doggone house sells!)

We’ve experienced the magic of the 35 acres at Idyllwild Woods. And we can’t wait to share it with you.


or to participate.