In 2011, I went from working at a restaurant making $2.17/hour (plus tips…) to launching one…then two…then THREE successful, profitable businesses with literally no startup capital.
How did I do it? Did I come up with the next Google or get a loan from a rich uncle? Hell no. I simply learned how to take skills I already had and create products and services that people would pay me money for. Then, I leveraged advice from experts that I befriended to help me grow my businesses explosively.
Read on to find out exactly how I did it — and how you can use the same step-by-step process I used to create a brand new business or take your existing business to the level you’ve always dreamt of. (This will be a 2-part article)
I can remember very clearly now, the precise moment my mind underwent “the shift”.
I was in the back of the kitchen at Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta, scooping little clumps of butter into those round plastic containers so that people would have something fatty to slather all over their massive basket of carbs. Delicious.
Good ol’ Longhorn. Tacky as ever.
My manager walked up behind me and peered over my shoulder.
“Do it again. Those balls look like shit.”
“Excuse me?” I said, looking down at my pants to make sure I wasn’t exposed.
“Those balls, re-scoop them. They look like they were scooped by some kid on the short bus. You’re wasting .007 micrograms of butter per day with those uneven portions. That’s probably costing us $5.00 per year. Do you want to give me $5.00?”
What I wanted to give him was 500 punches right in the uterus.
In reality, that type of nitpicking by management happened every day. It was nothing special. But that day…something very different happened in my brain. A light went on (or perhaps several lights…) and a very strong voice filled my head with a potent question:
“Why are you wasting your potential at this job that means nothing to you, around these people who don’t inspire you?”
And for the first time in my life, I was speechless…I couldn’t even answer myself.
It’s weird, isn’t it? We come into early adulthood so full of the hope left over from our adolescence. Anything we want can be ours with the right amount of work and a little luck, right? But then, weird shit starts happening.
College has been over for a few years now…so friends start moving away and we see them less. People start getting married and having identical babies that dominate our newsfeed.
I hate everyone’s kids. Yes, yours too.
We try to settle into our new lives as adults and “figure things out” but it feels awkward, because to be honest, we still feel like kids. And before you know it, we’re 24, 25, 26. 30 is around the corner and we feel like things are starting to end before they even began.
Where is the time going? Stop this train.
And all of this time, we haven’t really made any progress towards our dreams. We may have gotten a few degrees or promotions (yay, mom is so proud)…but they feel empty. We feel empty. Something’s missing.
(Did anyone catch 2 John Mayer references in 3 lines?)
We’re stuck in this weird limbo. It’s like the holding pattern that fighter jets fly in before they’re given orders to strike. We’re told that it’s ok not to know what we want out of life yet…but deep down inside, we feel anxious because we don’t know. Not knowing what we want, or how to get it, makes us feel powerless.
“What if I never know what I want out of life? What if this is it?”
So we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, day after day…year after year…because it’s safe and we don’t really know what else to do.
When we see people in the news who are doing amazing things with their lives, the first thing that we do in our heads is come up with all the reasons why it’s easier for them than it would ever be for us. I know I used to do this ALL the time.
- Well OF COURSE Zuckerberg was able to make Facebook. He went to Harvard. And he’s Jewish.
- Well OF COURSE it’s easy for her to travel the world. She got a bunch of scholarships and her parents probably helped her.
- Well OF COURSE it was easy for him to launch a startup. His family already owns a few businesses.
Haven’t you done this before?
Haven’t you made excuses for why OTHER PEOPLE have a much easier time being successful…and why it’s so difficult for you?
Deep down in your core, you know you could be doing something spectacular with your time…like starting your own business, or growing the one you have explosively…but you just feel like you’re missing the keys to the ignition. So you make excuses for yourself and live for reruns of America’s Next Top Model.
I’ve been there.
But that day, in the back of the kitchen, with gross (butter) balls all over my hands…I decided I was done making excuses for myself, blaming other people and flying in the “holding pattern”. Yes, yes…this all sounds very “self-helpish” and corny…but I really did have a huge mental shift that day. I was ready to ditch my 9 to 5 forever and find something that could make me a lot happier AND a lot richer.
Or I was at least willing to die trying.
Have you had your “mental shift” yet?
Now, this isn’t the part where I ride off into the sunset on a unicorn cackling and clicking my heels, clutching a pot of gold. Far from it. This is actually the part where it gets even shittier.
See…here’s the thing: understanding that you are capable of starting a new business is fine and dandy.
Everybody knows they CAN, ostensibly, start a profitable business. Shit, if Kim Kardashian can start an empire…you’re probably capable too.
The question is HOW.
HOW do you come up with a good idea, turn the idea into a business that people will PAY you for…then launch that business in a way that sets you free? Especially if you basically have no money…
Funny you should ask. Before I tell you how I EVENTUALLY figured this out, I want to tell you how NOT to do it. I want to tell you how I almost DESTROYED all three of my businesses before they even got off the ground.
Just one of these traps is enough to crush you — they’ve destroyed people much smarter and richer than me. As luck would have it, I got hit by all 3 of them. Please take the time read these carefully. Are you already falling into one of these traps?
3 Deadly Traps That “Wantrepreneurs” Fall Into
Trap #1: We’re think we need an “original” or “great” idea
When I first started brainstorming different ways to make money, or possible businesses to start, I felt like taking a can of bright red spray paint, drawing an X on a concrete wall and smashing my head straight through it. Hopefully I would just hit a beam and put myself out of my misery.
I kept doing the mental marathon – coming up with dozens of ideas every day and rejecting all of them.
- “No, that won’t work”
- “Can’t do that, it’s already been done”
- “Nobody’s going to buy from me”
- “That idea is boring”
- “That idea is too complicated”
It was exhausting. On and on I went like this. Day after day. I probably came up with 729 “not good enough” ideas.
Here’s the problem with this mindset: you go through all this mental anxiety trying to come up with the “perfect” idea…and you make no progress. Meanwhile, you see other people doing completely uncreative, uninventive crap and making tons of money.
And that makes you even MORE anxious.
I remember reading an article about some guy who opened up a coffee company – but all he did was “dropship” it. Basically, he took orders for coffee on a website, then sent the order to a factory, and they just sent the coffee out under his brand name. He didn’t have ANY products. All he had was a website.
And he was making something like $92,000/year.
When I saw stuff like that, it made my blood boil.
What do THEY know that I don’t know? How do you even set something like that up? And if he’s already doing the coffee thing, now I can’t do that. Back to the drawing board.
Over and over again. How do we get out of this pattern?
Trap #2: We try to figure things out alone
I’ve had SO many odd jobs. I’ve worked at restaurants, museums, gyms, banks, at a tutoring company….even at UPS (yes, with the brown short shorts).
I think the thing I disliked most about working at many of these places was that it was so hard to actually find people who wanted MORE for themselves. Everybody seemed to be perfectly content doing the same thing, not asking for any more than they were given and doing exactly as they were told.
I specifically remember one manager (young guy..early 30’s) tell me that as far as he was concerned, he’d “pretty much missed his window to be great.” That made me sick to my stomach — not because I was looking down on him, but because I never wanted to feel like that myself.
For a while, I felt like I was alone in the universe.
So I tried to figure out this entrepreneurship thing alone too.
The first problem with trying to figure things out alone is all the wasted time we spend “researching”.
Be honest with me, how many nights have you stayed up “determined” to figure out what you want to do…Googling the hell out of different ideas, gathering more research so that you can be “sure”…reading more books on starting a business…but still come up empty-handed?
In the past 6 months, how many hours have you spent “researching” what you want to do, and how many hours have you spent actually PRODUCING something?
(hint: the root of the word “productive” is “produce”)
If you’re like I was, you hardly spend any time ACTUALLY creating something of value.
This is why trying to figure things out by ourselves is so toxic: We stay inside our heads and we have nobody to tell us when it’s time to make a move. We have nobody to turn to when we have questions. And we have LOTS of questions. But, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and let the questions overpower us.
We need an expert with experience and a proven track record of success to help us step-by-step and say “do this, don’t do that”….”try this idea and we’ll go from there”…”wait to move on that until you do A, B and C.”
We also need a group of people JUST LIKE US who understand what we’re going through, who don’t think that we’re “weird” for trying to launch a business or reading self-development books. We need a group of our peers to help us grow.
Where do you even find people like that? How do you connect with high-powered mentors and other ambitious self-starters like yourself?
If you don’t figure it out, there’s a good chance you’ll never make it. It’s too cold in the woods by yourself.
Trap #3: We don’t create any systems to hold ourselves accountable
We used to think that our habit of procrastination was cute….or even that it made us appear smarter. The logic being “Look at all this work that I can cram together 3 hours before a deadline. Holy shit, I just pumped out a 4,000 word report. I must be really brilliant and sharp.”
These mental frameworks are still left over from high school and college.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I abused the crap out of sparknotes and pulled all-nighters just like the rest of us. But for many of us, these mindsets still play a prominent role in our outlook on life. It’s not really our fault. Nobody taught us how to be accountable to ourselves. Our parents didn’t know either. We know how to show up for work on time if someone forces us…but beyond that, we have no idea how to keep promises to ourselves.
It just feels like we always have a ton of shit to do…and we never really have our time or lives under control. It’s like that game whack-a-mole. One thing pops up, hit it. Another thing pops up, hit it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this can be a really stressful way to go through life.
And now we want to launch our own business…but we have absolutely no idea how we would organize our lives to make it happen. It doesn’t seem like we have the time. With our 9 to 5, kids, family and other obligations…our vision for ourselves is ALWAYS taking a back seat. And even if we DID have the time…we don’t have any checklist of things to do, or a timeline/order to do them in.
It’s not as simple as just “being more productive” or “having more willpower”. It’s a total glass ceiling. You can see that there’s an entire floor above you full of people operating on a much higher level. People starting the businesses that YOU want to start – but you have no idea how to organize your time to even have a SHOT at operating on that level.
Do these guys even sleep? Are they on crack?
And the worst part is, you know that you can’t rely on yourself. You’ve tried to create new habits or set goals for yourself in the past…but you always, always, ALWAYS end up letting yourself down and letting things slide.
“It’s ok, I’ll just try again.”
That’s what you tell yourself. In reality, you’re so not disappointed that you didn’t follow through. You’re more puzzled because you don’t even know HOW to change around your time and life to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You feel powerless.
If you don’t develop a system to set clear, actionable steps towards your goals – then actually knock things out systematically…there’s no way you’ll ever be able to launch a business.
The answer is simple: You have to build a community
After agonizing over finding the “right” idea, trying to figure out everything alone and frankly, making NO progress taking actions towards my goals….I knew it was time for a change.
Something finally “clicked” in my head and I knew exactly what I had to do: I had to surround myself with people and tools that would make it impossible to fail.
I dedicated the next 11 months of my life to building a community of people around me who were willing to help me – both experts who were way smarter than me, and other young entrepreneurs who were just as hungry as me.
And guess what?
Not months…not years….WEEKS.
I can’t even tell you how amazing it felt to teach my first class of 30 students, each paying me a little over $300….and knowing that just the money from ONE class (about $10,000) would take me 4 months to make at my previous job.
Actually, I felt a little dumb. All this time, the tools to launch had been sitting in my lap. But I had no idea how to use them until I had more experienced people around to show me what to do.
Specifically, having a dedicated community of experts and supporters around you will radically increase your ability to launch your startup in TWO ways:
1.) They can tell you exactly what to do
2.) They can tell you exactly how to do it
Once you have access to VIPs, experts and other people in the entrepreneur community, you can take “quantum leaps” in your business.
Quantum leaps are stitches in time and work.
Imagine waking up tomorrow and winning the lottery. You’re now $56.3 Million richer. You didn’t have to put in the years of time and energy to make that fortune…it just appeared in your lap. And now you can INSTANTLY operate at a much higher level than ever before.
Getting advice from high-level experts is like magic. It’s the only way on earth to get years of tested advice and make dramatic improvements literally overnight.
When I had writing and marketing questions about advertising for my web development business (business #2), I was able to ask international Best Selling (multi-millionaire) authors like Seth Godin how to work through them….and actually get KEY INSIGHTS that may have taken me years to figure out on my own.
When I started creating products – I didn’t have ANY clue what I was doing. But, I was able to approach people who were doing SIX AND SEVEN-FIGURE launches and get specific instructions to improve my outlook instantly.
Even when it didn’t work out exactly how I wanted, I was still able to leverage my new connections and skills to move up the ranks quickly.
NOW ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE WHY “CONNECTING THE DOTS” AND BUILDING A COMMUNITY IS A BIG DEAL??
Imagine the power of being able to get an instant response from a woman who is ranked the 6th most powerful woman IN THE WORLD by Forbes…and have her personally ask you to come write for her.
This is the type of stuff that moves you up the ladder at WARP SPEED.
I hope this gives you a good framework for how I had to change my thinking in order to start making progress. It was a gradual shift – but once it “clicked,” My progress exploded.
On Monday, I’ll pick up where I left off and give you the exact strategies I used to connect with influencers, powerful people and mentors who’ve helped to grow my business (and improve my life).
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Parts of this post were originally published by Daniel DiPiazza at Rich20Something.comSubscribe to the Podcast