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From Dropout to 8-Figure Fastlane Empire: See How I did it Inside !!

Akpama Boris

New Contributor
Jun 8, 2018
10
7
A hard pill to swallow is that most people do not have the same end goal and point of view as us. Even to fundamental things like "It would be nice to never have to work again". To me and you (emotionally) this sentence almost seems like it should be a matter of fact rather than an opinion. You could still work if you want to, but now you have a choice not to. Win/Win. The problem is that when we make this statement we are thinking about it in a vacuum versus what is actually means in real life. E.g. It would also be nice to have a 6 pack of abs, but I happily choose not to every single day because I do not think it is worth the sacrifices required to achieve it. There is no free lunch!
Thank you for this explanation i never thought it that way
 

Mhesh

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Sep 11, 2021
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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

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Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
azgpgvl.jpg

qVB4zra.jpg



At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

WUpqmD5.jpg


Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.

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Hey congratulations thanks for sharing your unique story love to hear more???
 
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DavidePaco00

Bronze Contributor
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Jul 27, 2022
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I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story. I just shared your HOW TO thread with one of my friends who never heard of the fastlane forum or the fastlane books. I told her to read your thread, read the books, and get going! We both aspire to be very rich so encouraging each other by sharing resources is what we do! I don't just read though (I'm just resting now lol)...I have been taking action every day and will one day have a story to share. Thanks so much for reminding me that achieving the fastlane is possible...even for me.
Man, I've just read this post and You made some very important statement about business and life in general.

Number One:

You're in this game alone.

To reach success You need to give up on something. It maybe your friends, your family or a relationship that doens't lead to anywhere.

Just explain that you have othger priorities in life right now. If they'll understand , without showing resentment, they're positive people, otherwise, ditch them. Letting go of costraints is one of the most liberating things in life.

Number Two:

If You aren't growing, You're dying.

There is no end goal. You always need to be sharp, ready to acquire new skills. Learning to learn is probably the most important one.

Understand that multitasking does you no good. Learn to do one thing at a tme. Concetration is like a muscle , the more You train it, the stronger it gets.

Number 3 :

Don't think about how much money you want to earn, think about how much value You can give.

Money will be the consequence.

Cheers

Davide
 

fastlane_dad

8 Figure Fastlane Graduate
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Man, I've just read this post and You made some very important statement about business and life in general.

Number One:

You're in this game alone.

To reach success You need to give up on something. It maybe your friends, your family or a relationship that doens't lead to anywhere.

Just explain that you have othger priorities in life right now. If they'll understand , without showing resentment, they're positive people, otherwise, ditch them. Letting go of costraints is one of the most liberating things in life.

Number Two:

If You aren't growing, You're dying.

There is no end goal. You always need to be sharp, ready to acquire new skills. Learning to learn is probably the most important one.

Understand that multitasking does you no good. Learn to do one thing at a tme. Concetration is like a muscle , the more You train it, the stronger it gets.

Number 3 :

Don't think about how much money you want to earn, think about how much value You can give.

Money will be the consequence.

Cheers

Davide
All great points. I actually just wrote up on the perils and aftermath of FASTLANE success - that are now in my day-to-day life!

8 Lessons Learned!
 

PetitBourgeoisie

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I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
This is an extraordinary post & much appreciated. The stage-by-stage structure & story together offer a concrete example of the process of the Fastlane, in lived experience, and I've often found these sorts of posts invaluable while I was lurking.
 
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NeoDialectic

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Remember that you can change your belief that family or/and friends limit you.
Even if the best case scenario doesn't happen, don't suppress yourself that you can't move forward. Do so, and be more proud of yourself.
You can do anything with anything.....But it is an inescapable fact of life that some things improve your chances of success more than others. Your immediate environment is such a strong predictor of everything in your life (correlation and chance wise). I would never recommend someone ignore that unless they had a very good reason to.
 

NeoDialectic

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thank you for sharing your succes story, if you dont mind, your business was onligne or reality store?
Most of the revenue came from online. There were some limited distribution in doctor offices, but it was an inconsequential amount.
 
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Goodfella999

My biggest regret is not starting sooner
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Most of the revenue came from online. There were some limited distribution in doctor offices, but it was an inconsequential amount.
So basically the start began with affiliate marketing, then progressed to the car parts/ making your own physical products to sell? You mentioned warehouse too, Im guessing you held a large inventory at one point? Seeing MJ's lambo and still having the pictures is amazing. What a coincidence that both of you lived in the Scottsdale area and went to the same gym.
 

JoeTube

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Thanks for sharing your path!
I am starting right now to address the fact the I don't want to live the 9-5 anymore. I have been numbed for years for many reasons.

Sadly, reading your story I realized we're similar age and a little part of me is really "destroyed" by the fact that you spent your time so much better.
No use in regrets, I know, but sometimes it is inevitable and unbearable to ponder on time lost.
The only thing I try to do is to think that in another 20-years' time (or even next year already, for that matter) I don't want to be regretting any other time lost.

If anyone wants to share something on avoiding the "time-lost" trap, it would be much appreciated!

Cheers
 

NeoDialectic

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So basically the start began with affiliate marketing, then progressed to the car parts/ making your own physical products to sell? You mentioned warehouse too, Im guessing you held a large inventory at one point? Seeing MJ's lambo and still having the pictures is amazing. What a coincidence that both of you lived in the Scottsdale area and went to the same gym.
That sounds like an about right summary!

Thanks for sharing your path!
I am starting right now to address the fact the I don't want to live the 9-5 anymore. I have been numbed for years for many reasons.

Sadly, reading your story I realized we're similar age and a little part of me is really "destroyed" by the fact that you spent your time so much better.
No use in regrets, I know, but sometimes it is inevitable and unbearable to ponder on time lost.
The only thing I try to do is to think that in another 20-years' time (or even next year already, for that matter) I don't want to be regretting any other time lost.

If anyone wants to share something on avoiding the "time-lost" trap, it would be much appreciated!

Cheers
I empathize with the way you are feeling and I think it is probably normal to feel like this when you "discover" a new value you didn't have in the past.

I think that if you really think about it, you will see it's not actually time lost. It's not like you were in a closet with your eyes closed. You were doing things that you thought were important to do and/or you wanted to do. You wouldn't be you without those experiences. Now that you realized having a business and freedom is important to you, you can choose to live your life that way. If you are surrounded by people that aren't helping the case and need some motivation, you can try my suggestions in THIS thread.

It's important to really think on why you are being bummed by this and try to address the root of it. Accept that you were doing what you thought was important at the time. It may seem foolish now but thats because you have different values now. Give yourself 15 more years and you are doing stuff today that you will think is foolish! If it helps, view it as a different person. That person no longer exists. Now you have to deal with the set of cards you have and make the best of it. There are plenty of nobodies that came from nothing and you're not starting in a worse position than that. Plenty of people are born rich and just by that fact were ahead of me by 34 years! There are plenty of people that currently have everything you currently want (big business/money/success) and are depressed wanting a family or friendship or something else.

All you got is today and what you will make of it. So go make something of it.
 
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JoeTube

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That sounds like an about right summary!


I empathize with the way you are feeling and I think it is probably normal to feel like this when you "discover" a new value you didn't have in the past.

I think that if you really think about it, you will see it's not actually time lost. It's not like you were in a closet with your eyes closed. You were doing things that you thought were important to do and/or you wanted to do. You wouldn't be you without those experiences. Now that you realized having a business and freedom is important to you, you can choose to live your life that way. If you are surrounded by people that aren't helping the case and need some motivation, you can try my suggestions in THIS thread.

It's important to really think on why you are being bummed by this and try to address the root of it. Accept that you were doing what you thought was important at the time. It may seem foolish now but thats because you have different values now. Give yourself 15 more years and you are doing stuff today that you will think is foolish! If it helps, view it as a different person. That person no longer exists. Now you have to deal with the set of cards you have and make the best of it. There are plenty of nobodies that came from nothing and your not starting in a worse position than that. Plenty of people are born rich and just by that fact were ahead of me by 34 years! There are plenty of people that currently have everything you currently want (big business/money/success) and are depressed wanting a family or friendship or something else.

All you got is today and what you will make of it. So go make something of it.
@NeoDialectic many thanks for taking the time to write your feedback and for the useful insights and advice.

It's is so true that I wouldn't be me without the past experiences, and overall I could be definitely worse as a person and on a worse life trajectory :)
So, all in all, it's not that bad!

I agree that people and their values change over time, but I definitely spent a lot of time on destructive things for the self (not generically non-productive things), so that's what bothers me during this 2022, which I regard as my "awakening".

However, I am aware that there's no use in regrets, so I always think of Rafiki and Simba to properly make use of past mistakes.

Given the growth path I am going currently on, I am very confident for the future!

 

Yasser

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I appreciate you sharing your story @NeoDialectic !
Being a phd student and working a 9 to 5 job. Everyone around me advises me to concentrate more on my doctorate and give myself some rest rather than work on my project idea in my spare time.
I gave up trying to persuade those around me that financial freedom was possible. I suppose I should connect more with others who share my objectives and interests without loosing my family and relationships.
 

NeoDialectic

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I appreciate you sharing your story @NeoDialectic !
Being a phd student and working a 9 to 5 job. Everyone around me advises me to concentrate more on my doctorate and give myself some rest rather than work on my project idea in my spare time.
I gave up trying to persuade those around me that financial freedom was possible. I suppose I should connect more with others who share my objectives and interests without loosing my family and relationships.
You keep doing you. They may be living the life they want, which is great. But it's not enough for you, so don't give up!

If your lacking in motivation, you may want to think about doing something like the motivational bootcamp. Remember, you're heavily influenced by the 5 people closest to you and if everyone is hating on spending time on business, it may take a superhuman amount of discipline and motivation to go against that grain.
 
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Yasser

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If your lacking in motivation, you may want to think about doing something like the motivational bootcamp. Remember, your heavily influenced by the 5 people closest to you and if everyone is hating on spending time on business, it may take a superhuman amount of discipline and motivation to go against that grain.
Straight to the point No matter what my goals are—financial freedom, a healthy lifestyle, or anything else—I occasionally found it extremely difficult to maintain motivation and keep working toward them. I was constantly being approached by someone around me to try a junk food, join them for a movie or go to a store located in another city because it offers cheap products.

If only people understood what opportunity cost meant, they would be able to assess the relative worth of one activity against taking part in another. For example : finding a deal is helpful if you want to save some money, but spending all day doing it is bad since you could dedicate your time to other productive activities.
 

Kyle Yoon

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May 9, 2021
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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

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Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
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At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

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Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.

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A really impressive and fantastic story!! With your story as a driving force, I will work even harder!
 

NeoDialectic

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Straight to the point No matter what my goals are—financial freedom, a healthy lifestyle, or anything else—I occasionally found it extremely difficult to maintain motivation and keep working toward them. I was constantly being approached by someone around me to try a junk food, join them for a movie or go to a store located in another city because it offers cheap products.

If only people understood what opportunity cost meant, they would be able to assess the relative worth of one activity against taking part in another. For example : finding a deal is helpful if you want to save some money, but spending all day doing it is bad since you could dedicate your time to other productive activities.
Sounds exactly like alot of people I know from growing up! Including my own family and me at some points. Honestly, I think it's better than the other option (them being reckless with their money). When you work a normal job for a living, you come home after working your X hours and that's it. You have no more opportunity to make money. So the next step to improve your finances is save money. It's why so many smart people fall into the trap.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you basically open up not only your entire schedule to working towards making money but you also uncap your earning potential. All of a sudden, the math changes substantially (as you rightfully noticed).
 
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wyattnorton

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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

2BglDgJ.jpg


Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
azgpgvl.jpg

qVB4zra.jpg



At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

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Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.

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I remember looking at that house on Sothebys when I was in middle school.

Did you manufacture your own beauty products? How did you test the product?
 

NeoDialectic

Successfully Exited the Rat Race
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
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Feb 11, 2022
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Phoenix, az
Did you manufacture your own beauty products? How did you test the product?
Yes. More specifically, we contracted a large and well established USA lab to do that actual manufacturing on our behalf (based on our formulas).

What kind of testing are you referring to. Quality control tests are done on every batch. As we grew larger we commissioned safety tests like HRIPT tests to be able to make specific claims. However if you are just beginning and using commonly used and recognized to be safe ingredients, you don't need to do a barrage of tests on them. A reputable USA lab can help guide you through some of that.
 

NeoDialectic

Successfully Exited the Rat Race
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Feb 11, 2022
336
1,757
Phoenix, az
This was amazing to read! I'm new to entrepreneurship, and hearing your story alleviates my anxiety about it!
Entrepreneurship is a wild ride, but hang on for dear life and you will make it out ok!
 

Bro Rex

New Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Nov 24, 2022
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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

2BglDgJ.jpg


Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
azgpgvl.jpg

qVB4zra.jpg



At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

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Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.

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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

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Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
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At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

WUpqmD5.jpg


Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.
Great read. Thanks for sharing with us.❤
 

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@NeoDialectic

Thanks for the value you are providing. I have a few beginner questions if you don't mind.

1. As far as I understand, you sold on different channels, but most of your sales came in through Amazon. Do you think one can still start solely on Amazon today, or would it be better to start your own online shop simultaneously?

2. Can you start with just one product? Or should you have two, three, or even more products for your brand to get started?

3. Where have you looked for ideas? Did you actively search for them on Amazon, or did you do something else?

4. Did you use any tools (like Helium 10, Jungle Scout) for product research ...?

5. What minimum capital should one have to start with a first product?

6. What was the average profit margin you wanted to have on product sales? What was the minimum margin below which you discarded a project?

7. Did you source everything in China or also locally, i.e., in the United States?

8. I live in Europe and would start on the European Amazon marketplaces. What do you think about that? (Amazon.com is much bigger, but if I start on Amazon Germany, at least I know the market).

9. Would you recommend taking a course to get started faster, or learning by doing? What did you do and why?

@fastlane_dad I would be interested in your input too.

Thanks.
 
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Isaac Odongo

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I realized I never did a proper introduction into who I am and how I achieved my Fastlane dream. So I'll do my best to go over my last ~20 years and hopefully it can inspire you to reach further as you see yourself in parts of my journey.

I was raised in an immigrant family on the east coast. My parents came to America with almost zero in their pocket but by the time I was an adult, they were solidly middle class. Looking back, I can see how this upbringing echoes throughout my entire story in both good and bad ways.

I think my journey in entrepreneurship could be split up into 6 stages.

  1. Gathering the Kindling
  2. Lighting the Flame
  3. Fanning the Flame
  4. Keeping the Flame Going
  5. Achieving the Eternal Flame
  6. Looking for New Flames
Gathering the Kindling

Growing up, money was a big part of my father's life....But in the "poor mans" way. (Looking for deals, savings every last penny, doing everything DIY, etc.) I naturally picked up many of the same habits and always thought making/saving money was very important. I knew I wanted to either be a doctor or lawyer. In my ignorance, I actually thought that getting these jobs was the zenith of wealth building. With that in mind, I always did well in school but I was consistently lambasted by my teachers for being lazy and not reaching my potential. They were right, but I wasn't interested as I did the bare minimum to be able to reach that goal. In the meantime I felt rich compared to my peers because I worked in jobs like bussing tables, which paid almost double what most my other friends were making at jobs like McDonalds. I couldn't believe people were ok with making less when they could just work a little harder and make so much more in the same time.

It's difficult for me to remember exact details and order of events through my teen years, but the gist should be right. I was very into computers and gaming during my teen years, and as far as I remember my first intro into entrepreneurship was reselling a few computer parts on eBay. Eventually I found Alibaba and it opened up my eyes to the world of wholesale. Being a gamer, I had a big AHA! moment. Why don't I resell the upcoming new console release! (X-box I think) This was around the time that Alibaba was still mostly unknown by most people, so things like counterfeits and scams were also mostly unknown and not widely publicized. The big problem I ran into was minimum order quantities. It felt like I could see the gold but it was just out of reach. I didn't have $1000s of dollars to invest and I'm not one to borrow money. Then at a family gathering, I was telling my uncle about what I found and unprovoked he offered to pay and we split the profit 50/50. Woaaah! I was ecstatic! Looking back, I have NO IDEA why he was willing to spend $5,000 based on a 14-year-olds story, but I'm sure glad he did! The short of the story is that I listed them as a pre-sale and immediately sold out of all my listings. It was all great till release day and finding out I was dealing with a fake Chinese company and had to refund all the money to pissed off customers. This was crushing. Luckily my uncle got his money back with a chargeback. But this was obviously a very embarrassing ordeal to have to fail like that. Worst of all, in front of my friends and family.

Lighting The Flame

Over the next few years, I had a few more experiences with reselling things here and there (like Pokémon cards!). I think I even partook in a MLM at one point. But pushing things onto people never felt good, so that ended quickly. Overall, the X-box experience was a serious speed bump in my early journey and really slowed down my progress at first.

Then my senior year of high school, I heard through the grapevine that people were making a lot of money with affiliate marketing. It was when Google ads, Myspace, Facebook, and other platforms were still in their infancy. Just posting a link in a profile and adding friends was enough. I had no idea what I was doing but if these guys I personally know could do it, then so could I. The xbox experience was humbling, but there is little that could fully destroy youthful hubris! Luckily youth also smuggles in hope, passion, willingness to sweat, excess free time, and if you're lucky a little bit of fire. By the end of the first day I learned how to buy a domain and within days learned how to code a website. All priorities were redirected and I spent every minute outside of high school on growing the business. For the first few weeks I teamed up with my best friend at the time. However, it was clear that he had other priorities in his life (girlfriend, friends, parties, etc) that he wasn't ready to set aside. This was the first time I felt like a literal fire was put underneath me and I was compelled to get moving. I saw where this misalignment of values was going and decided I needed to stop it before things got serious. It was agonizing to have to bring this up but luckily he agreed and it didn't affect our friendship. This is when @fastlane_dad and I started working together. I saw he was just as driven as me and after a long discussion we decided we can make 1+1=3. For the next few years, our business did very well in marketing everything from dating sites, physical products, loan leads, credit leads, surveys, etc.. The business didn't meet many of MJ's CENTS commandments, but it was very rewarding.

Looking back, I wasn't even making that much money....At the time it felt like I was getting away with highway robbery though. Making so much money felt like it should be illegal :rofl: I think the shock wasn't from the money in absolute terms but just in comparison to what I knew coming from a sheltered immigrant upbringing. It is difficult to fully describe the feeling, but to this day I have never felt as rich or as motivated as I did during that time in my life. Putting up an ad was as good as putting a dollar bill in your pocket, and I liked dollar bills!

The most potent metaphor I got is it's like if you lived a docile life locked in a closet your entire life, then one day someone opens the door and shoves cocaine in your face. You've just went from vibing at a solid 1.5 to a rockstar 10. But on top of that your family is excited that you're doing this cocaine because it's actually good for you! Oh, and all you have to do to get more is pick up the shovel on the ground and shovel the cocaine from the ground to your plate. I'm not personally into drugs, but I think most people know cocaine is universally stereotyped as the good feeling drug, so hopefully it helps paint the picture. As a side note.... I strongly agree with MJ's sentiments about "you not being the market", that "the market doesn't care what you like", and that you should chase helping solve other people's problems and not what your passion is. However, I am a little empathetic to the "follow your passion" point of view as well. Not because of its effect on the market, but it's possible effect on your output. How could someone of outworked me at the time when for me, the work was "shoveling cocaine" into my face. Not a chance buck-o.

I did want to add that it wasn't all roses. Success added friction to many of my friendships and even caused me to lose a "good" friend because I wouldn't simply set him up with the same business. (That demand sound like it doesn't make sense? Yea didn't to me either). I am relatively unshakeable as long as I believe what I am doing is true to my values, so I handled it well. However I think this could be a big stumbling block for many people. Don't underestimate how complicated relationships could get if you let them. I would highly recommend you think about your beliefs now before being confronted by these tough situations. Once you have decided what you believe is "right"; When you inevitably stumble into the crappy situation, it is actually a very easy decision.

Anyways. Things were going well and a few months later I graduated High School and had to decide what to do. I was making great money, but it never felt stable and felt like it can be taken away at any time. Easy come, easy go. I decided to go to state school for an easy business degree in the meantime. As many of you know, the pressure from family to go to college can be intense. But honestly, it wasn't just them. I was indoctrinated myself and the pressure on myself from myself to still go to college was intense. Remember.....Like 3 seconds before this, I thought the only way people could actually make any money was getting a degree.

Things went smoothly that first year though! I mostly just showed up for orientations and exams. There was a lot of late-night crunches before exams. But I did well, so there were no issues. On the business side of things, I ended up employing 5 or so kids on my dorm room floor! This was before you could just go on freelancer websites to hire people overseas to do tasks (or at least before I knew about it!). It was pretty wild having that type of relationship with other kids my age. I paid them during the day and then I would then go to a party at night as friends. What made it easier was that I was making good money and willing to pay handsomely for their work so everyone was happy. In an amateur way, this was the beginning of a very good time filled with a wide range of experiences. I was 18/19 years old and was able to buy a corvette responsibly.

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Then @fastlane_dad and I decided we could do this from anywhere, so why stay in dreary weather for the rest of our lives. We joined a few friends and moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. I transferred schools and decided if I am spending time in school, I may as well go towards something more lucrative than a business degree. I changed my major to Biochemistry to have the proper prerequisites to get a doctorate in Pharmacy after. Pharmacists made good money without alot of the downfalls of other jobs in the medical field. Meanwhile, the affiliate business coasted with ups and downs for a good year or two. After 2 -3 years in university and making good money, I decided there was no way I would then go get a doctorate degree after my bachelors and so WTF does someone do with a general biochemistry degree then. So I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering. Thought you were the only one that goes back and forth on important decisions?

Fanning the Flame

Around this time, things started getting worse in the affiliate business. Competition was taking its toll and I found myself doing more and more work for less and less money. On top of that offers were getting worse and many competitors were just straight scamming while managers turned a blind eye as long as money was coming in. I really didn't like where it was going and didn't feel the risk and liability was worth continuing in the field. Another thing was that years of relying heavily on other people's products and the turmoil that went with that took its toll. At this point, I naturally discovered the importance of MJ's Commandment of Control. So I slowly cut ties to all affiliate marketing.



Funny side story..... It was early 2010 when I saw @MJ DeMarco 's Lambo at Lifetime Fitness. I took a picture with my phone's potato cam on 2 different occasions to send to my friends back home. I had no idea who MJ was at that time. But a Lamborghini was always the dream and the symbol of success. If I could buy that, then I knew I finally made it:
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At this time I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. Life was still great as I was young and had many years of savings, but as many of you know, it's not easy to think of something from scratch. I had a lot of experience in marketing but none in product development. A lot of ideas were worked on that ended up leading nowhere. The funny part is that many of these ideas exist in the market today as wildly successful products. I gave up too soon. But all was not lost! We were both very into cars and ended up making automotive parts that started selling well enough to support both of our low-cost single lifestyles. Around this time I started a serious relationship but my future wife was very supportive of me working on my business, so it was never a drag on it.

The auto parts business was paying for my lifestyle, but it was never the end goal. The hunt continued and the majority of my time was spent trolling forums and the internet at large looking for ideas, methods, help threads, etc...

Around 2012 @fastlane_dad and I finally started something that we felt had opportunity to go somewhere. In short, it was a beauty and health product that filled a niche that no one was filling with a retail product. People online talked about making their own and their successful results, but no one was doing it right in the retail field. This process to selling our first product was the first iteration of what eventually got formalized into looking like the HOW TO thread here.

Keeping the Flame Going

I wish I could tell you that from here on in, I was just showered with dollar bills. Nope. The business did have sales, but progress was very very slow. From here on in it was a slow march forward. 1 sale every few days turned into 1 every day. 1 a day turned into 2 a day as people started reordering. 2 into 4. etc...

Once the business started making mid 6-figures, I was starting to feel very stretched. I was living with my GF, we had the mandatory cute dog that we treated as our child, I was going to school for a degree that was relatively demanding, and on the business side I still had both the automotive and health/beauty business demanding my time. Something had to change and school was the only thing that could. But I was sooo close. I was almost there. I had enough credits to graduate, but since I skipped around majors, I actually had 1 more year of Biomedical Engineering to finish. But the more workload I had from the business and the more money I was making, the more staying in university weighed heavily on me. It was a very difficult decision that culminated in me dropping out. My parents really tried to dissuade me, but ultimately accepted the situation and that it was my choice. Keep in mind that at this time I was already making more money than I could ever make with my degree, but everyone around me still thought I was making the wrong choice. That opinion didn't turn until around the time I sold the business, where for the first time I heard out of my families' mouths that I was right to make that choice. It took 15 years after I had already started making decent money for pressure to relent. So don't be afraid to dig in for the long haul and be ready to weather the storm for a looooong time.

A few years after starting the health/beauty business, it was decided to close down the automotive part business. On top of hitting a ceiling with its returns, the nature of business added unnecessary liability. This was before I knew that people are willing to buy small rickety businesses.

Achieving the Eternal Flame

Fast forward to 2020. I had a big warehouse and a few employees that successfully took care of most of the workload. The business had been coasting for a few years without any real innovation and the bottom line finally started to show it. If you aren't growing your business, you are killing your business. It was making ludicrous amounts of money, but by now this was a demotivating factor. I knew what needed to be done to scale the business, but neither of us were willing to do it. By now....Special edition Lamborghini's bought and sold.

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Other exotic cars bought and sold. New houses bought and sold. The point being that there wasn't anything left for me to buy that was worth forcing myself to do what I didn't want to do. I've seen @biophase echo alot of the same sentiment in a few of his threads.

Having a full home life didn't help the motivation either! I had my first child a few years before this and another on the way. @fastlane_dad was in a similar personal situation. It is definitely possible to start something with a job and family, but I can't stress how much easier it is when you are single with no responsibilities. So get moving!

We contacted a M/A firm and had our very first discussions about selling our business. After much thought, we realized that if we played our hands right we should have enough money to finally achieve financial freedom through mostly hands off asset investments. We buckled down and focused on growing the business for the next 6 months. During this time we added about 30% to the bottom line and the M/A firm thought it was the perfect time to put it up for sale. After signing the paperwork to start the process, things happened very fast. The business was very desirably and we closed the sale within 2 months or so of listing it for sale.

Looking for New Flames

Lambos, G-Wagon's, Rolex's, Travel...These are all great, but were never the biggest driving factor.

It was always about Freedom. Sweet sweet freedom. Some people fall in love with money/power. I never had a drive to accumulate power. I did however have a very strong aversion to others exercising power onto me. In today's society, money helps alleviate this. February 2021 I put my John Hancock on the dotted line and finally had theoretical financial freedom by selling the business for 8-figures. I finally had the freedom to never have to do what I don't want to do (because of money).

Side note..... The philosophers in the crowd will tell you I could have had freedom all along. Yes....Yes.... I know I could have just adjusted expectations and lived a life of asceticism and made do. I acknowledge that no one actually makes you do anything. Alas, I did like Lambo's and they weren't going to buy themselves. Luckily the years have brought a side of wisdom along with the money, so Lambo's are no longer the goal.

I imagine a lot of you think there would be some serious celebration here. But I'm sorry to have to disappoint! It was basically just another day. A few toasts were made with friends/family at dinner. That's it. But it's not because it wasn't a great position to be in. It's because the process was greater than the end event. Your entrepreneurial journey shouldn't be seen as a glorious end goal, but as a glorious journey!

I'm not saying the event was a bad thing. I never had any kind of buyer's remorse or sadness about selling my life's work. For a few days it felt surreal not coming into work to do the same thing I did for a decade. But within a few weeks it felt like nothing ever happened! @fastlane_dad and I were in a new "office" (nice apartment we rented to use as an office) and back to figuring out what to do next. It is truly astonishing how fast people adapt to new circumstances.

It has now been 18 months post sale and things have been great but very different. So far fastlane_dad and I have been spending most of our "work" time doing the following
  1. Investing. We were already familiar with the basics and slowly learning over the years. But since the sale, we have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of investing. So much so that if things don't work out, we could always become financial advisors!
  2. We started a few small eCommerce projects. We no longer feel any pressure on making sure these projects grow or accomplish anything special. But we saw market gaps and old habits die hard!
  3. We have been trying to slowly give back to the community by sharing our experiences here and in person with others. It's something that we have both come to enjoy. So maybe eventually we will start something more formal to supplement our participation (Book? Blog? Newsletter?). But for now we are happy just adding value, refining our thoughts, and mentoring/coaching people.
  4. We have recently decided to work remotely to allow much more flexibility in our personal lives.
On a personal level a few things have also changed
  1. Raising infants/toddlers (up to your own high standards) has been one of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. At first I may have felt a bit of resentment towards it and you naturally want to spend less time doing things that are very stressful and uncomfortable. I did a good job making sure to spend a good amount of time with my family, but all my actions still didn't live up to my own expectations. After much failure and reflection, I realized that this was an inescapable and vital area of growth. I needed to become better not just for me, but for my kids and for my lovely wife. Being a good father and husband isn't enough. I need to be the best I could be as that is what they deserve. Sappy, I know. But it's the truth.
  2. Travel. So instead of spending less time with the difficulty of raising small children, I really leaned into it and now spend much more time with them. I have started to take 2 weeks out of every month to travel somewhere with my family. It has not been easy with a 1- and 4-year old, but the time together has been invaluable and things have never been better. My family brings immense joy into my life.
A lot of time is spent by self-help gurus villainizing money and lionizing relationships. I wholeheartedly agree that relationships are the most important thing in life. But if you ask me, the message is missing a big part of the picture. I would never have had the opportunity to spend as much time as I do with my wife & kids if I didn't first make something of myself and earned a nest egg. Plus, who wouldn't rather have the money and freedom to work on your relationships while enjoying and traveling the world. It's much harder to do this after you have come home from an 8-hour soul crushing work day.

I hope those that read this could see how flawed my beginning businesses were. Even the ones that started making me money, didn't meet many of the CENTS commandments. They did end up dying because of it though! But in the meantime I made money and learned invaluable lessons that I wouldn't learn by just reading 1 more book before starting. Think you have already squandered an opportunity? Get up and try again. My first business partner that I mentioned earlier, grew up, reprioritised and is now killing it with his own business. That's why I agree with so many of @Andy Black 's posts on stopping the excuse making and just starting. One foot in front of the other. Next thing you know and you are living life you always aspired to and thinking about what your next dream is.

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Thank you
It is good to start and it is good to think like and entrepreneur and act like one. That's what your story shows.
 

NeoDialectic

Successfully Exited the Rat Race
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@NeoDialectic

Thanks for the value you are providing. I have a few beginner questions if you don't mind.

1. As far as I understand, you sold on different channels, but most of your sales came in through Amazon. Do you think one can still start solely on Amazon today, or would it be better to start your own online shop simultaneously?

2. Can you start with just one product? Or should you have two, three, or even more products for your brand to get started?

3. Where have you looked for ideas? Did you actively search for them on Amazon, or did you do something else?

4. Did you use any tools (like Helium 10, Jungle Scout) for product research ...?

5. What minimum capital should one have to start with a first product?

6. What was the average profit margin you wanted to have on product sales? What was the minimum margin below which you discarded a project?

7. Did you source everything in China or also locally, i.e., in the United States?

8. I live in Europe and would start on the European Amazon marketplaces. What do you think about that? (Amazon.com is much bigger, but if I start on Amazon Germany, at least I know the market).

9. Would you recommend taking a course to get started faster, or learning by doing? What did you do and why?

@fastlane_dad I would be interested in your input too.

Thanks.
  1. I think, in this regard, the landscape is the same. If you want to do Amazon, start on Amazon and follow up with the other channels shortly after. If you're going to leverage google ads or some other form of advertising, start with a website.
  2. One product is just fine.
  3. Check out my idea generation thread.
  4. We did not. That isn't to say that these tools aren't helpful. But, if I had to guess, the easy picking of opportunities those tools exposed was taken advantage of by the teams that made the products and then the first users. Then they made videos of how to use the tools when they were done. But I don't doubt that those tools are handy for market research or idea generation if you approach them in a novel and creative fashion.
  5. You can start at less than $100. It may make things easier to have a few thousand to invest, though. Even today, we have started things with minimal investment, as mentioned here.
  6. It started at around 75% profit margin. By the end, we were running around ~50% profit margin. The margin you are OK with highly depends on the type of business you want to run. Plenty of big companies run at 5%. We wouldn't touch anything that doesn't have the potential for 40%+
  7. We always sourced things from the USA.
  8. Unfortunately, I'm not sure. By the numbers, we had a lot of international sales. Including Germany. But I'm not sure how viable it would be to build an entire business just on Amazon Germany since we don't have experience in that.
  9. I have no courses to recommend. @fastlane_dad and I have generally been very disappointed with the quality of courses and advice we have seen regarding eCommerce. It's usually outdated, hyper situation dependant, or too unactionable. Even worse, it seems like a lot of it is made by people that may have never even walked the walk but are just experts at selling an image. So maybe we just haven't looked in the right places for high-quality content. I don't know. We have thought about making courses but go back and forth on it. We believe we could make some genuinely good contributions...but...We aren't sure if it is worth our time and whether we want to make the commitment.
Good luck!
 
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fastlane_dad

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I'll chime in on some of these as well.

@NeoDialectic

Thanks for the value you are providing. I have a few beginner questions if you don't mind.

1. As far as I understand, you sold on different channels, but most of your sales came in through Amazon. Do you think one can still start solely on Amazon today, or would it be better to start your own online shop simultaneously?
You can definitely start on Amazon, but think to expand out (other channels, including your own website) and ways of building up your own customer list as soon as you can. Amazon still has tens of millions of customers and *IS* the biggest online shopping platform there is.
2. Can you start with just one product? Or should you have two, three, or even more products for your brand to get started?
You can start with one product - the caveat here is that the one product you start with will (most likely) not be your winner (as we recently re-learned). Don't let that discourage you. You have more chance of seeing sooner success starting with multiple products, but again it's not a requirement in any way. Just start somewhere!
3. Where have you looked for ideas? Did you actively search for them on Amazon, or did you do something else?
As @NeoDialectic mentioned his idea generation thread is wonderful, especially if you are completely stuck.

OTHER products and businesses we started came from products we personally researched or used where we wanted to see an improvement on that product (even for our own personal use).

Various businesses were also started because the customers were asking for those products (and we didn't carry them). We actually at various points started businesses that were in direct competition, but it worked out and we didn't have to turn a customer away if they were looking for something 'different' then what we sold.
4. Did you use any tools (like Helium 10, Jungle Scout) for product research ...?
I'm sure there are tons of tools that can be handy, but we never relied on them to just get up and go on a product idea we thought would be worthwhile.

We also had to have *some* interest in the products we are selling, and not necessarily suggested by a 'tool'. I'm sure some of these tools can still be relevant in 2022 (but I'm guessing with dying success) - the biggest tip still is that nothing beats taking action and validating the market yourself.
5. What minimum capital should one have to start with a first product?
I say $1000 is a good place to start. Money towards the product, designs, small advertising budget, enough to get a website up and running etc. Bootstrap as much as possible initially and keep your costs and business lean until there is no choice but to expand.
6. What was the average profit margin you wanted to have on product sales? What was the minimum margin below which you discarded a project?
It all depends on business, products, work you put in etc. We looked at it mostly as a product that we can sell for 10-20X (or more) of product cost. Think a $3-$8 product that can be sold for $60-$100. That leaves enough breathing room to spend on advertising, phone centers, customer support, employees, while still leaving room to pocket a healthy profit at end of day.
7. Did you source everything in China or also locally, i.e., in the United States?
Never worked with China for product acquisition, although many we know in eCommerce do, and are very successful with it.
8. I live in Europe and would start on the European Amazon marketplaces. What do you think about that? (Amazon.com is much bigger, but if I start on Amazon Germany, at least I know the market).
With a global marketplace now, with fulfillment centers all around the world - amazon really makes it easy to sell in any part of the globe.
9. Would you recommend taking a course to get started faster, or learning by doing? What did you do and why?
What @NeoDialectic said. Good, updated resources are far and few in between. We might work on putting together one of our own in the future.
@fastlane_dad I would be interested in your input too.

Thanks.
Good luck and let us know if you have further questions!
 
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Taktik

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Wow, thanks a lot guys.

I really appreciate your super valuable answers. That made a lot of things clearer.
I don't have any further questions at the moment.

Thanks again.
 

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