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

NeoDialectic

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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.
That sums it up well. I know it sounds cheesy but the key to success is changing your mindset and making a dedication to persistence and action (instead of just reading/researching/thinking). Even if your first few actions don't lead to success, you are on a journey that ends in success as you go through the iteration of try/fail/learn/adapt/try again
 
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MJ DeMarco

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knz

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Thanks for writing your story, very inspiring and helpful. A lot is recognizable as well. Enjoy your threads in general. Thanks for contributing!
 
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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 for sharing!
 

MRiabov

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Thanks for the feedback! Our stories are the same but different in various ways (and obviously some things are also taken from different perspectives).

Many (or much) of my thinking process was very similar to @NeoDialectic. I did finish undergraduate study before we started working together (again thinking that that was gonna be my golden ticket into the life of the riches).

Unless you ARE on the path to great business success or have something STABLE lined up - education still plays massive role in everyone's life (so it's NOT to be discounted lightly, like I see much of around here).

Getting a proper , well paying education for MOST people was and STILL will be their biggest chance to a well paid stable career (especially if you are of the personality that needs that in their life).
As a side note about education - I became a programmer in just 3 months before fastlane. I'm currently learning Web Design and I'll accomplish it in I think 2 weeks total. Everything's possible.

Note: Udemy has great courses.

That said, the intristic value is of course, well... meh
 
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NeoDialectic

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As a side note about education - I became a programmer in just 3 months before fastlane. I'm currently learning Web Design and I'll accomplish it in I think 2 weeks total. Everything's possible.

Note: Udemy has great courses.

That said, the intristic value is of course, well... meh
It is pretty crazy how fast some things can be learned when someone takes it seriously and dedicates all their time to it.

I know there are threads on here that discourage learning to code. I won't try to argue that it is better to learn to code yourself than hire coders. I agree that ideally you should be focusing on "bigger things" and not busying yourself with skills you can just employ.

.....BUT....

What I say is that there is value in having skills and they can pay off in dividends over a lifetime. Your ability to code and make websites may not lead to a successful product on your first go around, but that skill is yours to keep for your next ventures. It was faster for me to make my own website than it was for me to interview teams, go through all the processes and wait for them to do it. Even if you do end up hiring someone, you will be able to communicate more effectively with them and understand the process better.

As with most everything else, the value of the skills will be judged by what you DO with them. So don't just learn programming and web design and pat yourself on the back. Immediately go and apply it to some kind of entrepreneurial venture.
 

Vasudev Soni

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That was definitely worth reading. Hard work has paid off for you and @fastlane_dad.

It is very important to enjoy the journey and the process.

Good decisions can lead to massive success and bad decisions can ruin your life.
 

Vasudev Soni

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JimC

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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.

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.

SRBWj64.jpg

Amazing!
As you have mentioned that you have started a few small eCommerce projects recently, do you think it is more difficult or more competitive now? What strategy will you adopt in today's situation if you have a small budget let's say <5k?
 

NervesOfSteel

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Aug 26, 2023
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we decided we can make 1+1=3.

This is the equation of Magic. People always underestimate the power of TEAM !

Your story is very inspiring and uplifting through the hard times!
 
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Nikand

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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.

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.

SRBWj64.jpg
I am shocked to see such high caliber people on this blog. My jaw dropped when you told the truth about your first attempts not meeting CENTS requirements.

I am just starting out and after reading the book I got stuck looking and searching for a business opportunity.

Your story shows the importance of just starting and figuring out what works along the way.

Thank you so much for sharing. It inspired me to take this forum more seriously. I joined it one week ago.

Wish you an amazing day.
 

DreamLund

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Neo, this was a really motivational and cool story.
Thanks for bringing up all this value.

No more excuses as you said.. I will start immediately by putting one foot in front of the other.
 
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DonyaSze

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What an incredible story! I especially like how you were 1 year from finishing university, but still dropped out to persue business. That’s so powerful. A testament to your strength.
 

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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.

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.

SRBWj64.jpg
I have never posted anything on a forum before so this is new to me! I also just wanted to say that you for your inspiring story.

Your story especially resonates with me as I am also part of an immigrant family with similar principles when it comes to money and education such as yours. This is the very first post I have read and can already say I feel more motivated and determined to chase financial freedom.
 

NeoDialectic

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Amazing!
As you have mentioned that you have started a few small eCommerce projects recently, do you think it is more difficult or more competitive now? What strategy will you adopt in today's situation if you have a small budget let's say <5k?
I think the post linked HERE applies.

What an incredible story! I especially like how you were 1 year from finishing university, but still dropped out to persue business. That’s so powerful. A testament to your strength.
To be honest, I probably went for too long, so I'm not as brave as you make me out to be. But I appreciate the compliment! It was definitely hard, considering the social and family pressures to keep going.

I will start immediately by putting one foot in front of the other.
It's definitely one of the most important lessons I've learned. When you don't have motivation, do what you can in the right direction. Slowly putting one foot in front of the other in the right direction gets you very far over a long period of time.

The only caveat I would say is that you shouldn't let yourself off the hook for doing more when you can do more. You can lie to others, but not yourself. You know if you can do more than you're doing.

Also, make sure the actions are things that will bring you closer to your goal. We can fool ourselves easily if we want to. Printing business cards is technically directionally correct, but it doesn't bring you closer to selling your first product (if commerce is your goal). Less business card printing, more calling manufacturer's.
 
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yrybri

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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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as a young aspiring entrepreneur, this is really inspiring. I'm glad things worked out for you and I'm grateful that you took time to give us your story
 

ralphmiguel

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Thank you for taking the time to write this, it helps seeing other people who went thru the process and succeeded..
 

HackI

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Wow, really great story!
Story like those are so inspiring for beginners. And totally right. Just start and one step after another.
Thanks for sharing.
 
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Frances Kelleher

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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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Love this!Tk you so much.I m a Dating/Relationship Coach and a mum of 2 young kids and its so hard to juggle so this is really inspiring!Tks a million again and fair play to you for following your gut!
 

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