I’ve found that there are two cognitive biases that prevent us from deep transformational learning to create concrete results for our businesses and they are the sayings… “I already know that” and “I disagree”. I learned this from someone who has always been very influential to me, Eben Pagan. That stated, I’d like to take you on a journey if you let me into the last 16 years of my life in a way that enriches and benefits you.
Contained within are priceless lessons which I’ve emphasized with bolds and underlines.
It’s the story of how I came to be where I am right now. This is a concentrate and condensed version but it’s going to give you a bit of insight of how I think and see reality. You’re going to find this very insightful because my hunch is that you and I are a lot alike.
As you read through this story, take note of the places where you mind rationalizes and says… “I already know that” and “I disagree” for these are the spots where you’ll find your greatest opportunities for growth.
For the sake of keeping this brief yet revealing, this story starts in 1997. During that time I first got introduced to the world of high speed Internet. And being very entrepreneurial as I was, I realized that I could use the Internet to make money.
I first started by absorbing the trends of what some of the other businesses out there were doing using the Internet. The ones that peaked my initial interest were dealing with MP3s. I’m sure there were other business online, and perhaps the MP3 business wasn’t the most legit, but I still found it fascinating. Fascinating enough that I took action and started my very own file serving business, where I got paid by generating traffic to a website. It was an “adult” based website and they would pay me up to $.25 for every visitor I sent them.
I figured out by analyzing the other competitors in this area, that it was very easy and scalable to ask somebody to visit a website in exchange for giving them the MP3s they were looking for. Back then MP3s were new and most people did not know that they exist. Word was spreading fast however, more and more people were looking online to get digital versions of their favourite songs. In business, “positioning” is everything! Being at the right place, at the right time, with the right message and the right offer, can mean the difference between radical success and drastic failure, and I was definitely ready to capitalize on this opportunity as all my positioning was spot on.
I launched my little business and within a few days I started making tens, and eventually hundreds of dollars doing this over and over again, scaling it to higher levels using automation software. I eventually stopped because I realized, it wasn’t the most legitimate way to build a business and I did not want to end up getting in trouble with the law.
The laws surrounding MP3s at that time were pretty grey but in a decade to follow, as the big music companies begin to take action, the implications of dealing with them became pretty severe. Although the business needed to be dismantled, it did give me a glimpse into myself and a realization of my entrepreneurial spirit and personality.
At a later point in my life, this time became the key reference point of realization, that I was in fact: a true, entrepreneur/businessman/opportunist. A personalty that I felt I battled with my whole life becasue I’d allow others to talk me out of it, denying who I really am.
Over the years that followed, I never went back nor revisited other more legit ways that I could build a business using the Internet, only because I didn’t have the support/mastermind/relationships/understanding, I now possess. I don’t like to live with regrets, but sometimes I do wonder how my growth rate would have been if I only stayed focused during this time when hardly anyone was using the Internet to build a business. My level of success in business might have been 300%, 800% or 5000% higher, than today. (Lesson #1, Stay focused and go deep with what/who you have right now. The most important thing/person in your life is in front of you right now, including yourself.)
What ended up happening instead was that I just went down the route of getting into the world of blue-collar jobs. I wasn’t really interested in school so I didn’t do very well at, in fact I hated it. Most of the stuff they taught me there had no practical application in the world I was interested in, the world of business. Except maybe math but even then, I was never taught how to use math to make/save/invest money, something I learned on my own at a later time in my life with the help of mentors. After working warehouse job after warehouse job, I realized that I should use some of my computer experience to land me in a job that I would actually enjoy doing.
One of my friends got me a job working at a large retailer’s warehouse in the year 2000. I noticed that they had postings for technical positions in their head office. The downside however was that they required a college or university level completion and I had nothing close to that. So I took some courses on the side to show them I had some formal education and really rely on my ability to persuade (this was the beginning of my understanding and realizations of the power of persuasion) them to want to give me the position – and it worked. (Lesson #2, Almost every problem in life can be resolved through masterful persuasion skills)
Over the next 10 years as I worked in corporate, I became obsessed with learning every aspect of business. From IT to client support, networks, dealing with conflict, understanding finance/reports, and learning about different aspects of corporate from procedures to politics, technologies, relationships and just about everything else I could learn. I’d work long hours, being the first who would show up and the last to leave the office. I used all my energy in my 20’s to master anything I could about building a business.
On the side I’d learn sales, marketing, communication, public speaking and how to persuade. I learned that the kind of communication we learn formally has nothing to doing with the kind of communication you need to learn to put solid deals together.
I studied people, I observed how they would behave in social and political situations, I would learn the games they play and how not to get taken advantage of.
I learned, the importance of having an warm heart even though the business world can at times seem cold and ruthless.
It was a very deep and reflective time in my life and a time I was very blessed to have been exposed to. I got to know these things at such a granular level that I eventually left my my position and started my first business full-time in 2009.
The realization that I wanted to go back to my entrepreneurial roots came as a result of reading two books. Number one was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book taught me that if I wanted to live a happy fulfilling life and provide massive amounts of contribution to people around me, I would have to chase my own personal legend. This reminded me of my abilities, that I saw in myself when in 1997, but never took the time and energy to develop them.
In fact, I put my skills aside and assumed that building a successful business was just a pipe dream. (Lesson #3, follow your heart and dreams, everything else will work itself out. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Who you are is magnificent! Never let anyone else tell you otherwise.)
The other book that I read was the 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. This book reminded me again that I need to go back and leverage the Internet. Now, there was far more competition in 2009, than there was in 1997. I realized that if I only spent enough time researching/implementing/testing/optimizing and growing, I can go back to doing what I really loved to do, I was born to do, and that was building a business.
These two books reminded me that if I wasn’t going to take action now, then it might not be something that I could ever revisit later on in my life. In 2009, I was 29 and I had all the energy, all the time, all the experience and all the understanding that I needed to take the leap. It was the best ever time ever to do it.
It was hard for me to leave corporate because I wanted to grow and move my way up eventually, into the role of a CEO – maybe not in that organization but perhaps another. I had met such amazing people, had amazing life experiences, was learning new things every day. I learned not just about business but also myself. To me it was an Odyssey into my own mind. I grew rapidly and developed myself up to the point where I’d become a valuable asset for any company that I’d work with.
In the summer of 2009, I officially tendered my resignation in my position to go out and build a business from scratch. The first two years were very hard. I had a house that I owned, and I put it up for rent so that I could move to downtown Toronto because there were far more opportunities over there. I realized within a few months that my tenants were deadbeats. They were very slow on paying the rent and even missed rent payments. This caused me a lot of financial strain.
Let me add more context to what I’m talking about. In 2004 I realized that I was in around $50,000 in debt, which included credit card debt and car loans. It was then when I read Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich and watched the movie “The Secret”. That book and movie had such a profound impact on me that within a few short years, I was able to clear out my debt and buy my first house.
Okay let’s fast-forward back to my tenant story now, it was devastating to realize that I would have to sell my house. I had pretty much burned through most of my bootstrapping capital and to make matters worse, I was paying a mortgage including utilities that I wasn’t getting any money for, plus I was paying rent in Toronto.
I eventually went and sold that house, because I realized that I needed to dedicate 100% of my energy on my business. To do this I had to let go of anything that was holding me back physically, mentally and emotionally. This is also when I started getting involved with minimalism. I sold off my possessions because I felt that by clearing out as much clutter of my life as possible, I can gain focus and grow my business.
The first few years in business were very hard and my business was struggling. I was taking on as many different gigs on the side as possible, such as scalping tickets, selling stuff on Craigslist, working as a dishwasher and many other things to maintain not having to go back to a job.
My business eventually started to grow. I started to focus a lot on selling/marketing and figuring out innovative ways to build my business. I started doing Internet marketing/teaching speed reading/consulting/optimizing other businesses. Eventually the money that I was making from my business allowed me to grow and sustain myself as I built my business to having 50+ clients.
I met other tech companies and we started working deals which would eventually result in them buying out my clients so that I could focus on the things that I really enjoyed in business. This was around the time where I had reduced all my possessions to living out of a backpack. I did this becasue I wanted ultimate freedom. I wanted to travel the world, run my business remotely and experience life in different countries .
Watch this video below, which shows me 2013, talking about what I have in my backpack. I still live very minimal like this give and take a few toys that I buy and sell depending on my mood…
Reducing my physical possessions also cleared my mind and put my attention on what matters to me the most in my life. I’ve met some of the coolest people and have such amazing adventures that I could have never imagined existed and are so outside of my past reality of when I first got started down this path. The projects I am involved with now are consulting, joint venturing, affiliate marketing, teaching, investing, deal making and a lot of different things that are run with the help of a team of contractors around the world who I’ve hired to support the workload and day to day tasks.
It’s amazing when I look back in retrospect and realize that this journey has been anything but smooth. There have been a lot of ups, downs, sweat and tears. In the end however, it was all worth it and I don’t look back or regret anything. Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, both in work and play is the current position and one that is a net result of all the different learning experiences, mentors and action steps taken along the way.
Throughout the entire process of corporate, building and selling a business and the many other projects that I’ve been involved with, I’ve learned the importance of focus, hard work, discipline, optimization, sales, relationships, marketing, process, systems, progressive overload and many other important components that I now have embedded in me. This is now all deeply wired in my brain, something I can call upon to tackle any problem that I have, not just in business but in any area of my life.
So again to recap, the world of business has and continues to be an exciting journey for me. The first few years are usually very hard but if you can stay through the chaos you will self-correct and things will start to get easier. This is not the path that many people take in life. This path may not even be for you…
However if this does stimulate your interest… My contribution to your journey in life is on my YouTube channel where I share valuable insights and realizations that I’ve learned through experience, as you can see above, to help you on your own specific endeavors, to achieve your own dreams whatever they may be.
I summarize and discuss different personal development books to many tens of thousands of loyal subscribers. One day, I’ll write my own series of books that will greatly benefit you like a lot of books have to me, that is also one of my intents of the Youtube channel, it is a positioning strategy.
In closing I want to leave you with the most inspirational quote I have ever read/realize/meditated upon in my life. This is a quote from Steve Jobs, which was extracted from the Stanford commencement speech, shortly prior to his passing away.
Read it over and over again. Allow the magnitude of wisdom contained to guide you to your heart and facilitate the insights and realizations of your true greatness.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs