Shingle Bells, Shahzil Smells

Last December (2018) I broke out in shingles all over the left side of my head and face. And it f**king sucked. By far the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life that I remember.

Got in a fight with shingles and it won.

This picture does not do justice to the pain that I suffered and hides 70% of the rashes that appeared all over my scalp.

The best way I can describe the pain is imagine if someone took a crow bar and was constantly trying to pop your left eye out for 6 days straight. I was a vegetable unable to do anything besides sleep the pain away for 20 hours a day.

As the pain decreased after six days the rashes became so unbearable for the next few weeks to the point where I could not sleep or work. I’m sure those who saw me thought I had a severe case of lice or poison ivy due to the way I was desperately scratching my face and scalp for relief.

I went to the ER twice and the doctor’s office four times but there was nothing they could do besides give me pain meds. I bought almost every over-the-counter itch cream from CVS and they all failed. I had to rely on my Gabapentin (nerve pain reducer) to decrease the pain and itching by putting me back to sleep.

Basically “tough it out” and wait for it to pass was the cure for shingles.

As I write this it’s now been nine weeks later and although I am 99% functional, I still have the occasional itch and feel it’s presence on my head. If you’re over 60 years old shingles usually occur due to a weakened immune system. If you’re under 60 shingles happen because of… Yes, you guessed it. Bad stress.


Imagine what goes on inside a person’s mind as they lie on their death bed for six days straight, feeling completely useless. I kept asking myself, “How the hell did it get to this point?”

It was actually quite simple: too much bad stress.

How do I differentiate bad and good stress? That’s easy for me now. Good stress pushes me to new levels and achievements. Bad stress debilitates me and gives me the shingles.

As I laid in bed helpless I promised myself that I will never let myself feel this type of pain again. I needed to start making drastic lifestyle changes both physically and mentally.


The worst pain in my life ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Here are the things I wrote down while I was on my death bed that I need to change ASAP. To hold myself accountable I’m listing them out. I’ll probably switch and iterate really quickly after I see what’s working or not working however most of them are doing really well for me so far.

Some of these will also be turned into full blog posts with more information.

1)    Minimalism

I straight up cleaned house. I threw away anything that I did not immediately need in my 870 sqft apartment. Clothes, shoes, electronics, everything was trashed or donated.

After the clutter was gone, I reorganized every segment of my apartment – from my bed to my kitchen. It was really hard letting so many useless items go, but wow. I felt instant relief shortly after and now I feel at peace every time I come home.

2)    Travel

American Airlines sent me an email telling me that I was in the top 3-4% of miles traveled in 2018. Who the hell wants to be proud of the fact that they can’t sleep in their own bed every night?

I’m over it. The continuous monthly travels for almost a decade have now added up. It was awesome when I was in my early to mid 20s but after my mid 20’s it got real old real quick. I plan to lose my AA status this year (the upgrades doe!!) and build a solid daily routine at home in Dallas.

I do believe face-to-face interaction is very important to my career so I aim to find that balance I need to continue traveling without getting sick. Maybe occasional work from the beautiful beaches in Tulum is the trick?

3)    NO!!!

Finally started saying NO to unnecessary meetings, calls, and events that take up my time. Do I feel a bit of guilt that I can’t give everyone my time? Yes of course I do. I love helping others. But you know what feels worse?


4)    Emotions

I admit it. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I can get pretty “in my feelings.” When I get agitated I immediately respond with what I’m thinking at that very second. That response is usually filled with things I wouldn’t say in a calm state of mind. My partner Rudy Karsan gave me the best advice of 2018:

respond slowly to anger.

I now take a deep breath and try very hard to “respond slowly to all my emotions,” including excitement, anger and sadness. The goal is to wait until after I have had enough time to cool down and really figure out what feelings are towards the situation.

The first few hours are usually where they are the most elevated and when I start thinking or saying things that I don’t always mean or acting in ways I should not act.

5)    Social Media

Twitter – I deleted the app and now only login through mobile web a few times a week. I got really, really addicted to the constant overload of information on Twitter due to my curious nature. This platform is also filled with negativity and a bunch of trolls however if you look hard enough it does have real gems of information. The issue is that Twitter hasn’t figured out how to display only the gems and block out 90% of the negativity yet. I’ll come back once they figure that out.

Snapchat, FB and Instagram – I realized something really important. When I view other people’s stories and posts for longer than 60 seconds my happiness level begins to decrease. I also realized that a lot of my friends that I still care about but can’t always catch up with stay updated with my life through these platforms and vice versa. That’s really important to me and to them.

So I deleted FB and FB messenger apps from my phone, only login via mobile web now to check. Snapchat I only post but never look at stories or the snapchat discover news articles because it’s all worthless gossip. Instagram my habits are similar to Snap however I focus on stories more than posts and I will occasionally view the stories of people I follow to stay updated with their lives. On all these platforms I make an effort to reply to all the direct messages I get.

LinkedIn – still useful to me for work and BD so it’ll stay. People talk a lot of smack about LinkedIn but I’m a fan because I know how to utilize it.

6)    Continued Education

I started “auditing” or sitting in on classes again. This time it’s at my university where I also happen to teach an entrepreneurship course that I am really proud of. Honestly, this has been the most fun I’ve ever had at school.

In addition to teaching I am learning about topics that are very relevant to me and that I can instantly execute on. For example, this semester I am taking a class that explains in great detail what exactly happen leading up to and after the 2008 financial crisis. I personally believe this is very important for me to understand as a responsible citizen of the world.

Also I must say it’s so wonderful not having to do any homework or partake in any of the exams. I just learn and peace out. You’re probably wondering how this relates to me not getting shingles.

Well, I love to learn. I am a curious person and learning feeds my curiosity, which in turn makes me happy and less stressed. As far as I know anecdotally, happy and less stressed people don’t get shingles.

FYI – I’m not paying for these classes, nor am I getting credit. I email the teachers before the semester and request approval to sit in. Some have said no, but many say yes. I also plan on taking classes outside of business every year such as philosophy, art, history and many others.

There are other things that didn’t make this list which are making an impact to my mental state of mind. I might write or post an Instagram story about them if I maintain the habit. The beauty of all this is that it’s so personal and always evolving so keeping an open mind as well as increasing my awareness of what my body and mind is telling me is a very important for continued success.

In any case, I never ever want to experience shingles again and thankfully Shahzil does not smell anymore.