When I was in my mid-20s I realized I had been lied to by a lot of people. They didn’t mean to spread lies, but good intentions do not change the facts. I always got good grades in college and high school and did what my teachers and parents asked me to do and didn’t complain. Yet I was $35k in student debt and living with my parents after my ‘help the world’ attempt in the Peace Corps (literally one of the things this blog warns against). Sure I had “helped the world” but I was now incredibly unhappy and mostly felt like a loser and was definitely not helping the world. I was further demoralized when I found that my $40k/year undergrad degree was not helpful at all in landing me gainful employment in my chosen college major–teaching and coaching high school–since those jobs were scarce.
I wish I’d had a better framework for success at the time (would have gone right into tech sales), but I at least had the sense that my current situation was a dead end. When I decided never to teach high school again, my parents and friends freaked and that was the beginning of me doing what felt like going against the grain (aka the masses).
I knew I needed a change but I didn’t know what. So I moved to a world class city, got a job at a top 10 restaurant, and proceeded to work and party. Leaving a shift every night with a fistful of cash, booze and women around was a recipe for hedonism and soon after, I found myself in credit card debt and unable to even pay my tax returns. The no-interest credit cards I’d taken out started charging interest and that made a bad thing worse. I turned 28 and had no 401k, and nothing to show for the life I’d led except a pile of debt. I had a moment of reflection when I asked one of the cooks at my restaurant (guy was 34) about his 401k and he chuckled and looked at me like I was nuts. Why would he save money? How would he buy beers after his shift?
It was tough at the time but I had to look myself in the mirror (final straw was a basketball game that dislocated my finger and I had no health insurance) and recognized “I am no better than that cook, and if I continue down this path I will end up just like him.” It was a blow to my ego but one that I needed to accept.
For me, the problem wasn’t working hard or having the energy to work. I’ve always been a go-getter and willing to learn, even though I’m not the fastest learner. The problem was I had the wrong mentality. I wasn’t channeling my energy into something substantial or building a client base. I was working hourly. Right around that soul-searching time there were three key mindset shifts that (finally!) occurred to me to put into action, thanks in part to stumbling onto this blog: 1) Your 20s are for working your ass off: They are not for partying your ass off 4-5 nights a week like I was doing. Your energy declines around age 30 so you had better set future you up for success. Nothing wrong with partying per say, but ideally you are combining it with work. 2) You *must* make more than an hourly wage: If you are ever going to be rich you need to be paid on performance not time for money exchanges. You must have a product or a client base to sell to. This is non-negociable. Even a consultant making $100/hour will be spinning their wheels if the end goal is early retirement. 3) Most people don’t take action: Most people over-research and don’t just dive in, even most smart people. They’ll ask a million questions but they won’t take a risk and try a new job or endeavor, because if they fail that would deflate their ego.
With these realizations, I needed to put them into action ASAP. Luckily I was in a top tier city and I was able to get a job at a technology sales company no problem by charming my manager and talking about all the good things I did with the kids in the Peace Corps (hey at least it got me something). These jobs aren’t that hard to get and starting salary was shit, but the commission was rife with potential… Six months after making it off the ‘starter’ floor I looked at the guy in the desk next to me and he was also 34 years old like the cook at the restaurant. But when I asked him about his 401k, instead of laughing he offered to take fifteen minutes and work through the math of how he wanted to retire at age 45. He was the first literal millionaire I’d met. This was obviously a stark contrast with the cook, but then again most of the masses don’t give much of a thought to their 401k and many live paycheck to paycheck, convincing themselves that “money is the root of all evil.” This is of course a way of protecting their ego from recognizing their own laziness.
I spent a lot of late nights the first year at the company while not really even making that much money, but it earned the respect of a lot of the other sales guys that I was in this to learn and was willing to put in the work. When they saw I was legit they took me under their wing and were as open as could be with all of their tips. Not only did they advise me in matters of my job, but I also soaked up their perspectives on savings, 401k etc, even life and time management. For example I will never wait in a line again for food longer than 5 minutes (pretty sure I read that on the twitter feed of this blog). I will pre-plan my day better than that. If you wait in a line for a half hour you are saying your time is worth less than $30 an hour if that food costs you $15.
I did my best to mirror what the upper tier sales guys were doing and make it my own style, and eventually was able to develop my own way of closing deals. I have a much more laid back personality, so the aggressiveness and frankness necessary for sales was not natural to me. After a while I got the hang of it by simply not giving up and reading a few books. As far as numbers go at year 1 I was at around $35k, year 2 $50k, year 4 $60k+.
At about year one into the job I kicked my side business into a higher gear. I quickly realized that with a few simple changes in my day I could put in at least 2-3 hours of work into the side business without even working before or after work hours. My commute was about 30 minutes each way, so that hour turned into the time I would personally message clients and gain rapport. Many were shocked that I was taking the time to do so. It also gave me a sense of accomplishment rather than just staring out the window or playing candy crush like most of the masses during their work commute.
Secondly, I simply turned my work downtime into time for my side business. This was especially useful during slow seasons and holidays. While other employees were complaining about ‘how slow it was’ and how they ‘had nothing to do,’ I would simply nod my head in agreement and slip my noise canceling headphones over my ears to tune them out while I worked like a dog on my side business (as this blog has stated many times “Smile, nod and agree”). As I became more efficient at my job and handling my client base, I was able to do more work for the side biz while I was at work. I’m pretty sure at this point companies don’t expect a full 100% output from their employees anymore, given all of the distractions for the masses (smartphones, fantasy, dating apps, etc) so just do the opposite and work on something long term while everyone else is checking their losing fantasy football team’s stats every ten minutes.
Another key factor in all this was that by the 2 year mark of working in tech sales, I was making enough money that I was able to take a risk on spending big for some ads for the side biz. Those paid off big time. People have asked me about choosing a niche and as far as that goes, Efficiency explains better than I can with many ideas for a product. The key is to get started and fail two or ten times, however many it takes. Failure is not a bad thing this is literally part of the process for finding your niche.
Now, in my 30s I am not “rich” but I am not living paycheck to paycheck. I am on the brink of quitting my job as the side business is doing very well and I need to capture the momentum, which will require full time attention. It is not an easy gig but it is product and client based, skills I developed during my time in sales. Next year I am forecasting 150-200k gross, plus the gains are passive since it is product based so I will build on top of that the following year. When it comes to choosing a niche, some passive product income is necessary if you want to get rich.
I also feel very happy that if need be I can always fall back on technology sales since it is a high need area. I would definitely look to do enterprise sales as instructed in this blog. Wish I had done that at age 21 or 22 (you can get into tech sales with an associate’s degree). If you are in a job and you are not sure about quitting or trying something else my suggestion is to look at the guy who is one rung on the ladder or so ahead of you and ask yourself “Is this who I want to be in five years?”
In my case I decided I didn’t want to be working in a restaurant with no savings in five years hooking up with 6’s. Looking back it is clear as day that I made the right decision but in the moment there was a certain inertia keeping me from pulling the trigger on trying something new. If I hadn’t dislocated my finger and had the issue pushed, who knows I might have stuck around for a few more years. Most people react to their environment and not vice versa but you can be different if you choose. It just takes some guts.
I recently went back to the restaurant I worked at and, without prompting, the few people who I knew from my time there came up to me and gave a laundry list of reasons why they were still working at a restaurant. I didn’t ask them what they were up to. It wasn’t even on my mind to be honest. But they felt the need to defend their choice to remain in a dead-end situation. This was a red flag they had something else on their mind they should be doing.
This is indeed the greatest time in history to be alive, and all the negativity we are bombarded with is shocking. Nod, play dumb when necessary, and do not waste time trying to change the minds of idiots.
One question I’ve wondered about is why WSPs keep this blog? Like the writers of this blog, I am floored that more people don’t just do the things written here and get their life in order and flood the market. But as I become more successful, I have started being asked by a few people in real life “how did I do xyz”. I tell them, and often they nod with a glazed look and I know what they’re thinking: “But that sounds so hard. I could never do that.”
You can do it but you won’t do it because of any rah-rah motivational post. Work on being a producer not a consumer on your down time and you will be surprised how far you can go. And read Efficiency – I wish I had read this book at age 18.
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For the newer readers… if you’re interested in learning more about making money, staying in shape and doing so without choking off your personality… You’ll probably like Efficiency, Get Rich Without Giving Up Your Life. The benefits include: 1) How to get into the top 10% physically with one hour a day of exercise; 2) How to eat correctly to be in the top 10%; 3) How to figure out what type of intelligence you have; 4) How to use this type of intelligence to choose a career and the *right* company: Wall Street, Technology or Sales; 5) How to start an online business and sell (the basics and all you need to start); 6) Clear outline of how to create and start an online product business with correct copywriting; 7) How to go into affiliate marketing if someone wants to take a stab at the competitive space; 8) Overview of how affiliate marketing operates and how to do it, 9) How to do all of this and maintain a normal social life (avoid choking off your personality.