The road to success is paved with failure (aka experience).
During the last year of my business life I have taken on 3 employees. These college kids are wonderful...they are smart, hard working, and eager to learn what I know. They, however, entered my world AFTER I cracked the code on how to make money online. Not how to make an extra couple hundred bucks a month, but how to create a substantial income COMPLETELY from online deals. Since they arrived when money seemed easy, I find it hard to clearly communicate the crazy and wild road that I took to get where I am. Am I a dot com millionaire? No. Am I on stage with the best and brightest? No. Do I make as much as my doctor friends? Yup. Was my road to the money as hard as there's was? Probably. There are 3 10's that I keep in mind when I look where I am at and where I am going. I also share these will my protégé.
1. If you want to crack the code and become an expert it takes a substantial amount of time. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell showcases how most of the worlds experts dedicated 10,000 hours of time to their field before they "made it."
“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” ― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
Here is a CNN interview on this topic:
2. The second 10 goes with the first. In my 12th grade Civics and Economics class Mr. Neil. He drew a picture like this.
He then said,
"If you graduate with only your high school diploma you can reasonably expect to make your age x 1000 in annual salary. So at 24 you shouldn't be surprised to make 24,000 a year and so on.
If you go on to get your Bachelors you can just bump that up by about 10,000 year though some of you will do better.
If you get a Master's add another 10k and for a PhD add another 10.
You can also reasonably expect that you income will grow at a rate just above inflation. While these numbers may not hold true for all of you, these are reasonable expectations.
There are 2 more groups of people in here. Those that will never graduate high school and those that become entrepreneurs. For you drop out, all bets are off. Just be happy someone wants you to work for them and don't complain.
Now someone in this class in an entrepreneur. This person is crazy because for the next 10 years there income is going to go down. They will risk everything. Money, time, family and friends. They will get poorer than they can imagine. During the 9th years they will finally figure out how to make money and by year 10 they will have caught their other high school friends who didn't go to college. Over the following couple of years they will surpass ALL of their peers. In fact, the rest of you will end up working for this entrepreneur. You will never catch them in income.
So which one are you?"
Well it took me just the first squeak of that curved line to know who I was. That curve turned upwards for me in September of 2010. The summer of 2010 I was on foodstamps and had maxed every credit card I owned and owed every family member I loved money. I am sure glad I showed my wife this curve when we started our own business in 2003.
3. The final 10 is about making mistakes. My desktop image on my laptop and desktop is this.
I once heard that the difference between an entrepreneur and everyone else is that entrepreneurs never fail, they just have lots of learning opportunities. Some are expensive learning opportunities, some are difficult learning opportunities, but they have no failures on their list.
I thought it would be helpful to show you and everyone else who has just recently met me the path, as much as I can remember, that has led me to my current situation.
1993-4 - I chopped wood for a neighbor in exchange for her previous husband's tools he left and cleaned houses with my mom. (I learned how to be really efficient doing really boring tasks and how to stay self motivated.)
1995 - I worked for a small retail shop selling purified water. (I learned how to "do retail" and "upsell" customers on the candy and other crap we had in the store.)
1997-8 - I worked for Best Buy selling computers and then merchandising (stocking) the store. (I learned how to display product for better sales numbers and that shelving 36" tube TVs sucked)
1998-9 - I managed a Starbucks drive thru and was a Distribution Manager and deliverer for The Real Estate Book. (At Starbucks I learned about systems and working efficiently. We averaged 150 transactions an hour! At The Real Estate Book I learned how to track lots of delivery routes, setup new routes, and efficiently deliver. I also learned that where you have the FREE magazines in the store 100% affects how many are taken. Bad product placement = no product moving.)
1999 - I added on being a part-time youth director for my church. (I learned that I like teens better than there crazy parents. I learned that decision by committee means decisions take forever. I learned that I love to serve people. I also learned that I am a workaholic. I was going to school 17 credit hours, working 40 at Starbucks, delivering magazines to afternoons a week, and working the weekend at the church. Money was good, sleep was not.)
1999 - I met my wife in Denver. She really screwed up my whole "finish college like mom and dad want me to" plan. :)
2000 - I moved to SD to marry Katie and I worked as a CNA for the hospital. (I learned that I REALLY love to serve people and that hospital gore and gross stuff doesn't bother me at all.)
2001 - We moved to Olympic National Park after getting married and worked for a resort. (I worked the front desk and learn to have great people skills even when customers are drunk and pissed and banging on the counter.)
2002 - We moved to an orphanage and were house parents. (I learned how to drive heavy equipment, cook for 15 kids, muck stalls, and deal with abused kids. I learned to be self-sufficient and "just figure it out" when you have to. When you let the bull out and he is running down the highway...you "just figure it out"...trust me.)
2002-3 - We moved to Lawrence KS and I worked for a construction company "moving dirt" and then went to work for Martin Logan. (I learned that tractors move dirt better than I do. At Martin Logan I learned that aesthetics have value. That the depth of the shine on a pair of $120k speakers really does matter. I also learned that I would rather move dirt than work in a factory.)
2003-9 - In the summer of '03 I opened my first business BadHairCut Productions with my brother. We started by filming a few weddings and a weight training video for amateur boxers. We had no idea what we were getting into. During that period we made countless videos for companies nationwide. We opened a video transfer service that went wild but wasn't profitable. We developed who knows how many websites, flyers, posters, tshirts, business cards, etc. The industries that I can think of include:
- Water purification
- Air purification
- Greeting cards
- Military weight training
- Carpet cleaning supplies
- Networking clubs
- Natural childbirth
- Self storage
- Rammed Earth construction
- Electrical supply
- Green construction
- Organic fertilizer
- Home audio/video
- Children's photography
- Wine festival
- Chiropractic business consulting
- Debt Consolidation
- Pharmaceutical startups
- University cycling
- Cement siding
- Resume writing
- Just to name a few...
We ended up closing the business in December 2009. Before that we had sold off the duplication/transfer business and equipment. Our web clients went to a close friend and competitor. All said and done we never took home more that $18,000 in one year and closed the business each having $17k in remaining debt. If you think entrepreneurship is all peaches and cream, quit now. (During this chapter of my life I got a Master's in Hard Knocks. I found out what worked and what didn't. One thing remained true and that is we were really good and making our clients money. Just not good and making it ourselves.)
I was involved with many other startups during that period including:
- A chiropractic online best business practice site (Lost $16k)
- A small business strategy site (Lost $1k)
- An award winning social video site (never went anywhere)
- A sports facility directory (Lost $10k)
- A patented electrical wire covering (never went anywhere)
- Several 3D video technologies (never materialized even with good press)
- A weight training bag for the military (sold the piss out of them...lost $50k)
- A template website service for real estate agents (never went anywhere)
- A guitar string wholesale site (never went anywhere)
2009-10 - We moved to South Dakota and I started working with a network marketing company, Send Out Card, and a networking company, BNI. Both exploded for us. (I learned that I am damn good at networking and I love to teach adults.)
2010 - I left BNI and our finances fell apart. (I learned that credit card companies would rather have you pay late than not at all. I learned that food stamps are a blessing. Our houses flooded 4 times that summer. I learned that when life dishes it out I can take it. We also found out we were pregnant with surprise baby #3. I learned that starting a family and cracking the code of entrepreneurship simultaneously is not for the faint at heart.)
Fall of 2010 - I partnered with Brian Cook to release my first product Instant Free Lead Creator. We sold $30k in the first hour. (I learned that perseverance and partnerships can pay off. I also learned that people liked to buy my trainings.)
2010-11 - Brian and I continued on a path towards selling our stuff and other peoples' stuff online. It went well. (I learned that when you find something that work, repeat it. A lot.) During that time I also helped another online marketer, Todd Falcone systemize his business. I also marketed a training for people taking the supplement MMS. Both of those went well too.
My concern is that you and other aspiring entrepreneurs are not prepared to walk the long and difficult road to expertise. You want to buy a $97 training and have it tomorrow. It doesn't work that way. My mentality is this: I spent my 20's figuring out how to make money and what NOT to do. I will spend my 30's putting that experience to work to make back the money I lost and get ahead for my 40's. I can't fathom what my 40's will bring.
So what failures (experiences) have brought you success?