Hive.org – Creating an Extraordinary Life – Day 3

January 21st, 2014

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Today was all about how to create an extraordinary life at Hive.  I’m calling it day three, but it’s actually the official 2nd day of content out of the 3 day training course.   It was another amazing day of great people, presentations, discussions, reflection, massages, food & san francisco views.

It started off, like each day, with an amazing breakfast at the change.org office.  Following breakfast, we had an incredibly fun yoga session, lead by a local instructor.  We practiced yoga individually and together as a team.  Doing yoga poses as a group was the funnest part for me.  For instance, we did a group chair pose with 30+ people all relying on each other to make it work.  It was just a really fun and challenging thing to do together as a team.  Ok, it wasn’t that hard, but some people almost fell over a few times.  We did that and many other group poses.

Today, the Hive team offered something new for everyone.  They put together a whiteboard which would allow people to sign up for 20 minute massages throughout the day, offered by Message Pointe, a local massage therapy company.  As much as I wanted to sign up and receive a massage at some point, everyone else was super excited about it, so I didn’t sign up for any spots so everyone else could instead.

The discussion topics for today were:

  • Creating an Authentic Purpose
  • Designing Your Life Plan
  • Life Plan Feedback and Mentoring
  • Impactful Public Speaking & Confidence
  • Becoming Unreasonable
  • Creating a Personal Financial Plan
  • Holistic Mindfulness & Health
  • Connecting With World Class Mentors
  • Peer Group Discussion

My and everyone else’s’ favorite session, was the Holistic Mindfulness & Health training, lead by Rich Fernandez from Search Inside Yourself.   Why did everyone love it?  I think it’s because Rich did an outstanding job showing technically how the brain reacts to certain situations.  Then with the group, doing meditation practices that’ll acutally help you to be mindful and think about how to react to those situations intelligently, instead of acting out with our primitive flight or fight responses.

I’ve had conversations about the amygdala before with my best friend, Cam Boehmer.  The amygdala is the actual physical, primitive part of our brain that developed first for human survival, it’s the part of the brain which signals the flight or fight responses.   Cam previously worked at Google previously and attended these mindfulness sessions, I believe by the same person.  He received a lot of value of of them.  Cam would always rave to me about the newest findings and tell me about how the primitive brain works.  But during this session was the first time I really heard it from the best speakers about it, and I finally got it.  It was incredible to learn directly from Rich and try mediation practices that’d help you to be mindful of the amygdala and how to control it.

We practiced two different types of meditation.  One was where you’d focus on your breathing and try to have a clear mind. The normal type, from my limited knowledge of meditation.  The second type was where you focus on everything external, listening, feelings, smells, sensations and everything else around you.   I enjoyed doing both of these because you could then switch between the two occasionally.  This was  a great way for me to keep my mind clear, because I didn’t always have to do it the full time.  I could better have a clear mind after I let my mind wander a bit, focusing on everything external to me for a while.

Before leaving to lunch, we really got into the core purpose of the day.  The purpose of the day was to start helping us design our life purpose & plans, which we’d work on for the day and following day.

Hive believes in order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to simply & clearly articulate your life’s purpose.

Now, some say, and I’ve read in a book lately that disagrees with the idea of having a life’s purpose.  Some argue that sometimes life is just about exploring, and that you don’t have to stress yourself out if you don’t know your purpose yet.  You may or may not find it.  They say if something comes up you can go for it, but that you shouldn’t feel obligated and bad if you haven’t figured out your life purpose yet.  But they don’t really emphasize on ever getting to finding it either.  Now Ryan, in his presentations talks about the fact that there are periods in your time where it could be good to be exploring, without having a life purpose, but, eventually and hopefully that not after too much time, you should figure out what it is that you really want to do with in life.

I am inclined to agree with Ryan and Hive’s major emphasis of how important it is to have a life purpose.    People’s life purposes, or I’ll also call missions, don’t always have to be all the way defined at first if you’re just starting out. But a general direction, or even just the simple idea of you want to roughly do in life, whether it be “helping people” or “becoming an entrepreneur” even by itself can create a huge difference in your life.

I speak from personal experience about this.  The only reason I’ve been able to live my life, and do some things, which I think are pretty amazing; traveling around the world for a year, building a company remotely, selling a company, helping people become entrepreneurs, becoming a pilot, having an awesome relationship & much more, is because I was fortunate enough to have the simplest of idea of just wanting to be an entrepreneur when I was growing up that’s now allowed me to do all of this.

Having that one simple mission, or in my case a desire to own my own business, even before I knew what the world entrepreneur meant, has made all of the difference in how my life’s turned out.  Having this simple idea in my head of starting a business is the reason that I was able to drop out of college without being scared was because I knew what it was I wanted, it didn’t require a college eduction.  So many of my friends and colleagues never figured out what they wanted to do in life.   Even after college they are still not sure.  Unfortunately, the reality is, without having some kind of life purpose, they never really make any meaningful change in their life.  It’s only until they do, they’ll really start making significant process.  It is incredibly useful in your life, to figure out, how you want to spend your life living.   Now, I’m not saying everyone has to have it figured out right away, but my gosh, my life has been made so much simpler knowing the simple fact of me wanting to be an entrepreneur, that ever since the age of 14, I’ve been able to work towards that goal and now be where I am today.  Without that idea, I would have never done what I’ve done. I would just be a ship floating around the ocean with no sail, no direction of where I’d want to end up.

What was also so great about the simple concept of wanting to be an entrepreneur, my single purpose at that time, that I only realized until lately, is that it was so broad that it allowed me time to figure out the specifics of how I would use entrepreneurship in my life’s purpose.  I didn’t know that I wanted to be a technology entrepreneur that’d be focused on helping small businesses acquire customers online & showing businesses how they can make a difference in the world.  All of that came later.  I was fortunate enough to have such a broad concept of my purpose, just being an entrepreneur, it was so flexible and opened ended I found out a way to make it work.   With the concept of just being an entrepreneur, you can do so many things.  It’s almost impossible not to find a way to be happy being an entrepreneur because there are so many ways to do it.  But over time, you’ll figure out what type of entrepreneur you really want to be, and that’s what the difference between now and when I was in middle school was.

So for me, I believe having that simple idea was the only way that I would ever be in this position today.  Otherwise, I would not know what I wanted to do.  So I think for everyone, the earlier the better, if you can figure out what you want to do, you’ll be able to start earlier and go for it.  Even if it’s the wrong purpose, you can always change it.  Just start making progress on something you believe your passionate about, if you find out you’re not passionate about it, you just have to change your direction.  But at least you gave it a shot, you’ll eventually find out all of the things you don’t want to do to find, and only be left with things that you enjoy doing.

So if you don’t currently have a life’s purpose. Your purpose can start broad, maybe it’s you just love movies, or you find the ideas of entrepreneurship, writing, helping people, sharing, speaking, entertainment, energy, technology, games,health, spiritual, food, engineering, space or anything else interesting to you.  Find some broad sector or category that you could be interested in.  Those simple ideas, once you start working in then, you’ll eventually figure out exactly what it is specifically in those broad topics that you want to focus the rest of your life one. Eventually, you’ll figure out what your purpose in life is.

For instance, your interest could be in food, and leave it as general as that.  Maybe then you’ll end up creating a catering company that bring awareness to businesses of the types of sustainable foods they should be eating, and why it’s important to the health of their employees.   A simple interest in space, could have you reading websites all day about space and eventually landing you a job at nasa or a company like spaceX.   For me, a general interest in wanting to be an entrepreneur, has now lead me want to be a technology entrepreneur who helps business create a more joyous, abundant and sustainable world.

So at Hive, they recommended you to try and come up with a 15 word sentence.  A sentence that describes what your life’s purpose is.  It’s supposed to contain, what you want to do and a method of acutally measuring it, if your mission was successful.  For instance, instead of your purpose to preventing global warming, your purpose could be better defined as preventing the earth from going above a specific temperature.

On the last day, everyone would share their life’s purposes.  Creating these purpose statements was difficult, it seemed most people found this task difficult.  I think most people have the difficulty of trying to make their purpose too specific but then, not too broad.  I shared a similar challenge.  To give us some time to reflection on our life’s purpose, we went and took a field trip to Bernard Heights.

There we reflected by ourselves and tried our best to write in our notebooks, what the purpose of our life could be.   We wouldn’t have fully polished purpose statements yet.  Today was just the practice, on the last day, all of the leaders from our group (everyone is considered a leader), would share their life’s purpose with everyone else.

After writing in our notebooks and reflecting, we had an amazing lunch on the hill.  We’ve had great food, every meal.   Hive’s done a great job feeding us.  After eating, we took a fun group photo, shown here. I’m on the left.

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After lunch, Hive brought in some mentors to work with our groups (we split into groups of 3-6 people always) and help members in our group better define their life’s purpose.  Moving towards the end of the day, Ryan lead a discussion on how to be financially free in life. While I think initially at first, some people challenged the idea of why you’d want to potentially be a millionaire, because they want to be selfless leaders and share everything.   They question why they should want to have a million dollars or net worth.  I think eventually who needed to hear it, got his point about doing it to be able to take care of yourself, so then you can take care of other people.

While of course, myself, being an entrepreneur, I completely agree with importance of mastering money, so you can use it to assist you in your life’s purpose. While your goal may not be to acquire wealth in life, you should be aware that finances are very important part of life, it’s energy you need to pursue your mission.  If you want to affect change in the world, you need to know how to invest & save your money, so you’ll have the financial resources to take care of your family, take risks and pursue your life’s passion at the same time.  If you don’t have your financial plan figured out, you’ll never be able to have the time, resources and energy to do what the world needs you to be doing. It’s extremely important.

To end the amazing day, the entire group traveled to Treasure Island.  Hive put together an outstanding dinner at one of the old converted military buildings there.  While I’ve been to Treasure Island many times, I’ve never ate dinner there, so it was even a new experience for me that I throughly enjoyed.  The team at Hive has done an incredible job showing the class some amazing views of our city, San Francisco.  Dinner would close at 10, and after that, I needed to go to sleep.  I went to bed at 2am, and I’d have to wake up at 6:30am to prepare for the 3rd and final training day.

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Hive.org – Understanding Our World – Day 2

January 18th, 2014

It was another amazing day.  Today, was the first, of our 3 day training for Hive.  The first day was really just a fun networking event, but now we’ve started the core of the training.   The training took place at the change.org office in San Francisco.

This is a list of all of today’s curriculum:

Day 1: Understanding Our World

  • Species-level Philosophy (John Rawls & The Original Position)
  • Global Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Human Progress Measurement
  • How to Create a Sustainable & Abundant World
  • Systems Thinking
  • The Future of Science & Technology (Clean Energy, Nanotech, Genomics, Neuroscience, MedTech, NUI, Mobile, Big Data)
  • Understanding Exponential Technologies (Taught by Singularity University)
  • Using Business for Scalable & Sustainable Change
  • Philanthropy & Impact Investing
  • Peer Group Discussion

The key points I personally took away were:

  • Species-level Philosophy – How to feel empathic for & think in terms of what’s good for not just yourself, your family,  community,  nation, gender, humanity, but all species, everyone, everything in the world and even outside of our world.
  • Future of Science & Technology and our everything is exponentially growing - One of the things I didn’t realize, or at least think of this way.  Is that I’m familiar with 3d printing. But I never realized 3d printing is now a method of people of sending, digitally, physical products to other people. For instance, you could buy a “clock” from someone online, and then print it out in your home.   It almost feels like transportation of physical goods, but it’s just re-printing structures and I never thought of it in that way.
  • Using Business for Scalable & Sustainable ChangeI’ve already started talking about this concept of creating businesses that serve huge purposes that affect positive change in this world.  But it was great to re-affirm it and see more examples of how it’s being done.
  • Integrity discussions & presentations - While I’m unable to share my exact experiences on this blog because it’s so personal, it was great to dive deep into learning & discussions about an individuals integrity and how little everything can affect everything.  While I already know, and most people know that integrity is important, it’s acutally a huge challenge and opportunity to really have full integrity.  It’s more than just being a good person, it’s also about being committed and following through, doing everything you said you’d do, whether they were for to yourself or expectations you’ve set with other people.

All of the food was being catered by one of our class members, Rebecca Jean Alonzi who runs a catering company.  All of the food was amazing.  Lunch was served at the change.org office.  For dinner, after arriving on a crazy hive.org bus with loud dance music.  We all went to an art gallery, networked and ate dinner together.

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Hive.org – Becoming a purpose driven leader – Day 1

January 18th, 2014

I just got back from my 7 month trip in latin america, i will write about it more.  We’ll later go to asia for another 5-6+ months soon.  But before we go we stopped back in san francisco and I was lucky enough to arrive the day before the Hive leadership training, which started today and I’m going to share with you now. 

I recently applied to, and was accepted into the first hive.org leadership class.  Hive is a leadership organization that trains and connects extraordinary leaders between the ages of 21 and 39.    It was started by my friend, Ryan Allis and Adam Pumm, whom I just recently met. Both amazing people.

In addition to the amazing organization’s volunteer group, there are some outstanding individuals in our class from 16 countries, ranging from a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, to a co-founder of a multi-million dollar business focused on social impact, to a Rwandan genocide survivor who is now a touring public speaker and many more. 

I joined Hive because I wanted to lead a more purpose-driven life.  I want to be more than just an entrepreneur who creates businesses. I want to become a missionary entrepreneur who will create a sustainable & long-living organization that’ll positively change the world, and teach other entrepreneurs how to do the same.

Today was the first event, a dinner at the “starship,” basically the headquarters of both Connect.com, Ryan’s startup and the Hive organization.   We were able to network and meet many of the 30+ individuals that were accepted into the group.   I’ve never networked with so many social entrepreneurship & non-for-profit leaders.  It’s been incredibly interesting to meet & learn from these people who have a huge passion for helping the world.  It’s much different than our normal networking events at various difference entrepreneurship or internet conferences where people are always just talking about money and building “successful” companies.

While it’s great to learn from the rest of the group, on how others are making a difference in the world.  I see a need, and I’m excited to share my knowledge with them, on how to make the financial aspects of their organization grow so they can fulfill their purposes in life.   The intersection between wanting to help, and being able to help people while knowing how to drive a financial vehicle that’ll fulfill that mission, is really, where I believe, all of the magic lies in.  I’m excited to bridge that gap with some of the people here.

For me, it’s learning how to have a better purpose that helps others.  For them, it’s how to become better at driving the entrepreneurial vehicle that’ll allow them the financial independence and capital to see their mission succeed.

At the dinner, we split up into groups of 6.  We shared out stories, what we wanted to get out of our life and the event and learned a lot about each other.  In our group was;

Lauren Burke, an outstanding leader who helps developing immigrant youth, human trafficking rights and much more.   She wants to change the world by having every human to be recognized of equal worth, despite birthplace and nationality.

Jessica Steffens, a 2 time USA Olympian with a silver and gold medal in water polo who wants to change the world by inspiring active, healthy lifestyles that both appreciate and improve the world.

Peter Bonanno, who works in social enterprises and is helping bring enlightenment to schools.  He wants to change the world by giving everyone a greater well-being, sanity, peace and happiness.

and Nadia Anggraini, an Indonesian native who works in an organization who funds social enterprises and wants to change the world by using business to alleviate poverty in Indonesia & Southeast Asia.

Last by not least, Yasi Baiani, our fearless group leader who is a volunteer at Hive. She’s from Iran originally, and wants to help people in the middle east reach their full potential like she was able to do.

I have yet to really meet everyone else in our class, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.  The dinner was just to kick things off.  The next 3 days will be all day training, I’m excited to see what the hive team puts together next.

PS:  If you’re interested in checking out Hive, they’ll have their next Global Leaders Program during March 21-24, and CEO program from Feb 21-24.  You can learn more about it by going to their website, hive.org.

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Being Uncomfortable: My 14 Month Travel & Work Trip Around The World

July 29th, 2013

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I believe a life well lived, is a life full of great experiences.  Trying new things, lots of things. Experiencing everything that life has to offer you.   Try new things that excite you, scare you, challenge you and make you uncomfortable from time to time.  It’s those experiences that you’ll never forget and cherish when you’re older.   We don’t look back at our lives and think about all of the things we did that were “comfortable” and “easy to do”, we look back at the things that really challenged us, made us grow, made us think, made us ponder, made us better and how we eventually overcame those obstacles and went on to do something amazing with our lives.

I personally love the feeling of being uncomfortable.  I love the feeling of having your heart flutter a bit because you’re thinking of doing something that scares you.  You know what I’m talking about, that nervousness you get when you’re about to do something you’re scared to do.  Many people will back down form whatever they were going to do when they feel that way because it’s uncomfortable & scary, they’d rather not do it because they want to feel comfortable & safe.   Whenever you feel that way, I challenge you to go after it and do what was scares you anyways.

Whenever I start feeling uncomfortable before I do something that scares me, I just do it and dance with my fears.  Once you dance with your fears and do whatever it is that was scaring you, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad and you’ll feel outstanding afterwards, because you faced your fears and overcame then.   The old saying goes, “live an uncomfortable life now, so later on in life you’ll live comfortably”.  It’s true.  If you constantly dance with your fears by going after things even when you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’ll start to actually enjoy that state and really cherish the growth you’ll gain from constantly pushing yourself.

For me that’s what this trip is all about.  My beautiful and loving girlfriend, Gissel and I have begun our 14-month trip around the world.  We like to say world, but it’s really half the world.  As much as our trip sounds fun, which it is, it’s also incredibly uncomfortable because there are many uncertainties surrounding it, specifically around how I will get my work done.  It’s a little nerve-racking, but that has made the trip even more enjoyable & exciting than just taking a vacation for 2 months and not working at all.  Half of the fun will be realizing a dream that it is possible to make more money while traveling than staying at home and having more fun doing it.   That’s a fun thought, isn’t it?  To be even more successful, traveling all the time than you would be staying at home.  While challenging, it is possible to be more successful while traveling (or taking a vacation as some would say), it’s a different belief and it can be true if you believe it.  So going after that challenge, that’s fun, going after that goal is rewarding in itself without the things I’d see everyday traveling.

About our trip!  Our journey starts in Mexico, afterwards we’ll continue to Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, then to Thailand, China & Japan.  We’re basically doing Latin America for the first half, and Asia for the last.   Each country we’ll be visiting for about 1-3 months, we don’t want to just travel quickly to the countries, we really want to live in different places and see what it’s like to be there.  A 2 week vacation is just too short, having a month plus in each country gives us a lot more depth than we’d ever have going to and from places quickly.

I’ve been in San Francisco for almost 5 years now.  It’s been an amazing city; I’ll come back to it when we’re done traveling.  Silicon Valley is just amazing and I love what bay area is doing here.  I could pass on the expensive living of course, but I love everything else about it.  Although as much as I love the city, I’ve been here too long, it’s time to try something new.   Of course other people have lived here longer, but I’ve lived here long enough to figure it out and make it work.  That’s the problem.  My biggest growth curve was dropping out of college when I was 19, getting in my car and moving down to downtown San Francisco by myself with no friends and starting a company.  That was scary, but incredibly fun and exciting.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life and I’m incredibly happy that I did it.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Now a days, although there is still of course always more to learn there, I’ve been doing the tech thing for awhile now and it’s really gotten a bit boring.  It’s getting a bit routine.   Routines are scary for me.  I’m not growing like I did when I first moved here and put myself in an impossible situation that I had to succeed.  Living here has gotten to comfortable because I know I can do it.  Once you know you can do something, there’s no more growth from doing it.  What’s important is doing something more that you never thought you could actually do, challenging yourself.   We need to try things that we think might not actually be possible and then make it possible.  Once you start doing things you know you can do and do it, you will never grow any more, you can’t get any better because you already know how to do it.  Push yourself, become more, try to do things you don’t think you could do, once you try it  you’ll surprise yourself.

So for me, traveling around the world for 14 months feels like dropping out of college when I was 19 and moving to SF to start my first web company, Tracking202.    This trip is about challenging myself and seeing if it’s possible to provide even more value to the world through entrepreneurship than I could if I was staying at home.   I love it.    This trip is seeing if I can do something I’m super passionate about and figuring out a sustainable income from it instead of just creating businesses for the sake of “making money”.  It’s the challenge of seeing if we can have an even more productive team working remotely than if we had a team of people showing up to an office everyday.  It’s about seeing if I can have an even better  & improving relationship with my girlfriend while building a better company at the same time.  It’s an exciting time, it’s a growth time and I highly recommend to anyone out there reading this to try something like it if you haven’t done it before.

I have to say thanks to my buddy Josh Wexelbaum who shared his story traveling while being an Internet marketer for 2 years with me.  It was his story and having other friends travel all the time while I was sitting at the office that eventually pushed me to do this trip.  That and my girlfriend wanted to teach English in Spain for a year but we decided to do something a bit more challenging and exciting.   If you will be traveling to any of those countries and would like to come visit us please send us an email.  If you’re stuck in the office working all the time, challenge yourself and see if you can do it remotely for a month.   Traveling doesn’t have to be a vacation; it can be a lifestyle and a productive one if you change your beliefs about what’s possible and start working on it to make it true.  So challenge yourself and explore the world if that interests you!

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How I went from rich to completely broke

July 23rd, 2013

This is a guest blog post by Dennis Yu.

The other day, a consultant I hired was whining about how I pay him only $260,000 a year. I’m sitting in a Motel6 eating McDonalds, wearing pants I got for $19 at TJ Maxx, on my old Droid phone.

I’m trying to display empathy at his argument about there are so many other programmers who make more than that.

On Wall Street, the clients are chauffeured to work, while the partners take the subway. Mayor Bloomberg takes the subway. David Filo, Yahoo! founder and billionaire, takes the train to work and lives in a normal apartment.  Warren Buffett lives in his old house in Omaha, Nebraska.  Insert your own examples.

A year ago an ex-employee stole the most valuable things I owned and sold them on Craigslist. That’s why he’s an ex-employee. If you’re a cycling nut, you know how much two full carbon racing bikes with Dura-Ace cost. It’s funny that his last name was Larsen and that the guy he sold them to stiffed him on one of the bikes. Larsen complained about how he got ripped off.

And some other folks ran off with all the electronics I had– a $20,000 Pinifarina projector, theater quality sound system, 30″ monitors, and other stuff. Not stuff you can get at Best Buy. Anyway.

I gave my car away to my maid, since I wasn’t even using it, as I travel so much. So I don’t own a car.

Two weeks ago, I forgot to lock my stuff up at the 24 Hour Fitness, so my MacBook Air was stolen. My fault, of course. That $2,600 machine was the last valuable possession I had.

So I bought a $249 Chromebook. Guess what? It works just fine.

And now I’m down to nearly nothing. No car, no place, no fancy things. I suppose if you really wanted it, you could steal my old iPad that’s beat up.

There’s nothing you can steal from me. How liberating is that?

And yet, the most valuable thing I have is my knowledge of online marketing, which I will freely give if you ask.

Back in 2009, you may have remembers the article I wrote on TechCrunch– “How to Spam Facebook Like a Pro“. It angered a lot of spammers in the affiliate space, though the honest folks among us loved it. The king of spammers wrote a blog post attacking me. Of course, it was untrue, but hey– this is the Internet. The Paparrazzi say whatever it takes to generate attention, moving from one trend to the next, posturing success.

You know how the game works. The most successful people don’t need to beat their chests. They’re humble, like Wes Mahler. If you’re launching a new product every week, that probably means all the others ones have lost their steam.

I was tired of pretending– going to Ad-Tech parties I didn’t really care for, buying overpriced booze for people who weren’t really friends.

Did I impress you?

How dumb is that– to pay money to torture yourself.

But back to the consultant who I’ve been paying $1,000 a day to work on our software. I was like that 15 years ago.  Easy come, easy go. Hit me up in person and we’ll swap stories about how stupidly we spent money.

There are studies that show that happiness increases up until about $80,000 a year. Then it goes down from there. Most of the wealthy people I know are miserable. Do you know a few of these folks, too?

I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind

I heard someone say that thinking you’ll be happy when you’re rich is like taping sandwiches to your body to solve your hunger problem.

One rich friend of mine is a billionaire who built another50,000 square foot house and started a foundation for his second wife to manage. He’s estranged from his son and now has nothing left but a lot of money and property across the globe. His ex-wife got one of the largest divorce settlements in United States history. And I’m sure his unhappiness level matches that.

So a few years ago, I decided that what made me happy was going on adventures, teaching,  and creating jobs.

And why not start a company that could enable me to do all of that?

I decided that I didn’t need to make a lot of money– or spend a lot of money to pretend I had a lot of money.  Or even change my name to be YuMoney.

The affiliate world had taught me that if you work super hard, you could make a lot of money. If you’re not there yet– keep at it. It will come.

I had met a lot of good people, but there were a few bad people that poison the industry.  They further the notion of scarcity– the zero sum game that means my gain can come only at your loss. So I need to barricade myself in my hut from the wolves outside.

But the reality is that they are Neaderthals in a cave, while it’s sunny and tropical outside. It’s self-imprisonment. Don’t listen to them.

If everyone is doing the same thing and pushing the same products, then perhaps others can rip you off. And if whatever you’ve done is so simple that you can be ripped off in a heartbeat, then it really wasn’t unique enough, was it?

If you create your own product of sufficient value, you don’t have this issue. Wes created Tracking202 and now Follow. And I created BlitzMetrics.

And in our products, ironically, the more we share our techniques openly, the more demand we generate for our stuff.   The more broadly you teach your best stuff, the more people are attracted to what you’ve built.

It’s no longer about stuff that is easily copied– some keyword list, landing page design, special affiliate payout, or whatever.

It’s unlikely anyone will try to copy our product.  We’ve worked super hard, so anyone who follows must work just as hard and write content that is just as fresh.  Heck, if anyone can build a stronger analytics system to measure Facebook traffic, they deserve to win. In fact, I’d want to partner with them.

When I first started doing affiliate marketing back in 2005, I ran Google AdWords to True.com on Neverblue and CPX.  I already knew something about PPC, since I ran it for Yahoo! Personals.

After a week of messing around, I was breaking even. Two weeks in, I was making $100 a day in margin on super long tail keywords at 4 cents a click. A month later, sitting in front of the computer in my pajamas day and night eating Hot Pockets and drinking Gatorade, I was making $700 a day in profit on $1,500 in spend.

The FedEx guy would come every few days to deliver my check, which I didn’t believe was even real. Some weeks, it was $20-30,000. I’m sure the teller at US Bank thought I sold drugs or something. They’d see a guy who looked like a bum– hadn’t shaved, clothes wrinkled, making deposits in the middle of the day, coming in on his bicycle.

But that was necessary training to build the software we’re building now. Had I not spent those years learning how to hands-on optimize campaigns 24×7, I wouldn’t be able to write the logic for our Facebook ads tool.

Okay, I’ll admit that probably 60% of that time was just logging in to click refresh on my revenues and expenses every two minutes. It’s as if the act of clicking refresh somehow helped support the campaign, like a baseball player’s lucky underwear or something. I’ll bet you’re superstitious like that, too.

It’s the knowledge that you gain from working hard that is your true value. I saw Warren Buffett say that Uncle Sam can tax you on the things you own, but not on the knowledge you have. So the best investment is that of yourself.

We give away our software totally free to schools and non-profits. We have training materials on Facebook ads– free, too.  Some people say it’s good enough to publish. But all I really care is that people get some value. And if they see these techniques to be valuable, they can either manually implement it themselves or use our software to automate them.

If you build a really solid product, your training guides and software usage manual are the same thing.

It’s the know-how you’ve accumulated that you can turn into rules that a machine can follow. And that’s what software is.

So I’ve started years ago as a dot-com millionaire who sold his Yahoo stock and bought fancy things. To now, I’m a guy who probably owns less than you do. I’m not some Buddhist monk who lives an ascetic lifestyle. But I’ve not let things get in the way of doing what I enjoy.

What is it that you really want to do?

Missionary vs Mercenary CEOs

December 2nd, 2012

Missionaries build better products and companies than mercenaries do.  This is an idea that both Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, and John Doerr, a legendary investor at Kleiner Perkins both agree upon.

Over the last several years, I’ve started to have a great admiration for certain CEOs; leaders whom have built companies that generally awed me.   I always knew I liked them, but I could never exactly articulate the reasons why.   Finally, after watching Jeff Bezo talk about the difference between Missionary and Mercenary CEOs this weekend, I finally found a clear framework that could explain my feelings better than I could say them myself.  The CEOs who I admired were the Missionary CEOs.

The main difference between the two is that the Missionaries are entrepreneurs who are deeply passionate about their mission; they’ll do whatever possible to achieve that mission.  The mercenaries on the other hand, are primarily interested in making money.   Although making money is not the primary motivator for missionaries,  they still do understand the need to run a profitable business because it’s essential for them to fulfill their mission.

Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of a missionary CEO.   Mark said that his mission was to help people share more, he was not interested in creating a business. But eventually he had to create the business because it was the only vehicle that would allow him to carry out his mission; to make the world more open and connected by helping people share information.

The mercenary is likely to have a specific amount of money they want to make, and they’d feel like a failure if they didn’t make it.  A Mercenary CEO goes into their business wanting to demolish other competitors by acquiring all of the competitors customers, but not necessarily by providing the best products & services possible to those customers.  Their primary objective is to reach their monetary goal and they’ll create a business around it to achieve their financial goals.  They would more likely be in it to flip the company and that’s all they care about.  They want to make money quick and they do not generally care as much about their customers, their customers are only there to provide them with what they want.  Instead of measuring their success by the impact they are making in the world, they are primarily measuring their success by reviewing their financial statements.

You probably know of some mercenaries already; they would be someone whose told you that they want to make X amount of money in a certain amount of years, or Y amount of month per month: not about how much they want to change the world.

A missionary would say something different; they might say something like they want to help X amount of companies in the world or affect Y number of people positively during their lifetimes.  The missionary CEO gauges their success by the value they provide to the world, not just the amount of they make.    They want to provide the absolute best service possible, and don’t take many shortcuts. They would only sell the company if it genuinely helped them to achieve their original mission, and not because it would just be a huge financial windfall.

This is why both John Doerr and Jeff Bezos prefer to work with Missionary CEOs.  The Missionary CEOs build better products, and greater and longer lasting companies.

The irony of it all, says Bezos, is that the Missionaries are the ones who generally make more money than the Mercenaries in the long run anyways.

In the past I was a Mercenary CEO.   While I was in high school, I saw an article about Kevin Rose in BusinessWeek; that this kid made 60 million dollars in 18 months.  The article of course, was misleading, but that  point doesn’t matter.  What was important, was that after reading it, I decided that I would drop out of college later, move to Silicon Valley, start a tech company and sell it.  And that’s exactly what I did, just like a Mercenary would do.  But after all of that, something was missing, it felt a little empty because that’s all that it was.  It was a quick race to get in and out; there was nothing grander than that.

While what we built was admirable at the time, we could have done a lot more if I was more of a Missionary CEO who had a larger vision of where we could be in the next 10 years and be dedicated to getting there.  Instead I came with a Mercenary plan, to build the company and exit it.  I built something a lot less impressive than I could have had I not been so persistent in wanting to sell a company.   I thought that was success.   I should have started a company that I wanted to continue growing and be apart of long term, something that I was genuinely passionate about.  If I had that, it’s possible that I would still be building some great today with huge value, and not starting all over on a new company again.

The companies making the largest impacts in the world are mostly being lead by Missionary CEOs.  Think of CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Phil Libin of EverNote; all of these CEOs have a passionate mission for building something great by doing whatever they do are doing.   Phil Libin has said he wants to build a company that’ll last over 100 years; he is thinking long term and fulfilling a mission to simply help people securely store their notes forever.  He does not care about selling the company, he wants to build something amazing, because he cares.  He is passionate about it and that is why he will build a better product than someone else who simply wants to build a note-sharing app flip within 5 years.  Steve Jobs went back to work for Apple without pay for a period of time, he was genuinely interested in helping Apple fulfill it’s mission to provide the best computers possible.  If he were a mercenary trying to make a profit, the Apple company we know today wouldn’t be the same.

I should say before ending this too, that there is nothing wrong about being a Mercenary.  It’s just a different path.  But it’s good to understand both of them because it can make a profound difference in your entrepreneurial future,  3, 5, or 10+ year’s from now (if you even still continue to build your company).  I know many Mercenaries that are happy with what they do; they are not trying to change the world.  They know that, some of them.  They are in business to provide a lifestyle they want and desire, and that is what they do, and there is nothing wrong with that too.  But now you know the difference.  Do you want to just make money, or do you want to go on a mission to solve a huge problem?  What are you right now, a Missionary or a Mercenary, and what will you be in the future?

If you liked this article, please “Like” it, share it and comment below. :)

Extra Reading:

 

Why You Should Share More & The Blog Is Back!

November 29th, 2012

Sharing makes you bigger. If you hear a good idea, share it. If you share a life changing idea with ten people, they get to hear it once, but you get to hear it ten times. So it’s in your best interest to share it with others! We call this, “enlightened self-interest.”

Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.

I plan on doing a lot of sharing this year.  I want to share ideas through this blog, to help both you and me.  I want to  help you learn from my experiences.  And I need a place to write and reflect on everything that has happend to me.  This blog will be my sharing platform, and I hope to give you every ounce of quality reading material I can possibly create for you.

So I just threw together a quick amazon EC2 server and RDS server, updated my wordpress and we are back online!  It’s been over three years since I last wrote on this blog.  A lot has happend since then.  The blog still needs to be updated and will be shortly.  But as far as what to expect,  I have a lot of experiences to share with everyone and it’ll be a fun read.  This blog will include articles about entrepreneurship, personal development, philosophies, books, great ideas, relationships, both business and personal, legal matters, technology trends, flying, traveling and working abroad, great food and how to get the most out of life.  Oh and we’ll show you how to go from zero to one million dollars a year in sales too, this blog’s headline is out of date and we can now share with you how to do it :).

Please subscribe to my RSS feed if you haven’t done so already.  More post will follow shortly!

The Team On This Day July 29th, 2009

July 29th, 2009

Here is a snap-shot of our team on this day. We’ve recently brought on a lot of help.


Wes Mahler
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Twitter: @wesmahler
Username: T202Wes

September 2007

Steven Truong
Chief Operating Officer (COO), President
Twitter: @steventruong
Username: T202Steven

September 2007

Jennifer Louie
Web & Graphic Designer
Twitter: @jenniferlouie
Username: T202Jennifer
Since August 2008

Aaron Glinski
IT Support Rep, Video Production Manager
Twitter: @paperdonut
Username: T202Aaron
Since January 2009

Man Ma
Software Engineer
Twitter: @t202man
Username: T202Man
Since February 2009

Roland Navarro
VP of Business Development
Twitter: @reachroland
Username: T202Roland
Since April 2009

Nana Gilbert-Baffoe
VP of Sales
Twitter: @nanagilbertb
Username: T202Nana
Since April 2009

Justin Barr
Publisher Manager
Twitter: @justinbarr
Username: T202Justin
Since July 2009

Feldo Nartapura
Publisher Manager
Twitter: @wheresfeldo
Username: T202Feldo
Since July 2009

Wes Moehlenbruck
Advertising Manager
Twitter: @masterlesamurai
Username: T202Brooks
Since July 2009

Alexander Tsatkin
Publisher Manager
Twitter: @tsatkin
Username: T202Alex
Since July 2009

Rachelle Navarro
Operations Manager
Twitter: N/A
Username: T202Rachelle
Since July 2009

Introducing Alerts202 – Offer Email Alert Notifications

July 16th, 2009

Alerts202 is a new product we are proud to release today. Alerts202 is a simple offer alert notification system that we’ve built using our new Offers202 API. The alerts service allows you to monitor new offers being added into Offers202.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to see all of the new "credit report" offers coming out. Simply login to Alerts202 and add a new offer alert for "credit report." Now any time a new "credit report" offer is added you will receive an email notification telling you about the offer.
Now you will know every time a new "credit report" offer comes out. This is especially useful if you are an advertiser. Now you can monitor your own niche and see anytime a new advertiser comes out with a competing product or service. You will always be up to date every time a new offer comes in that you’d like to know about.

Alerts202 is a free application; you can use it by logging in our Tracking202 Dashboard and clicking over to the Alerts202 tab. We have also have created an Alerts202 API for any developers out there.

Here is an example screenshot from an "acai" offer alert, shown in gmail. Click the image to enlarge it.

Denver Affiliate Conference Keynote On Transparency, Collaboration, Trust and Innovation

July 16th, 2009

MediaTrust CEO, Peter Bordes, gave the keynote presentation at this year’s Affiliate Convention in Denver. He talked a lot about the need for transparency, collaboration, trust and innovation. He was joined by Steve Hartman of eBay, Wes Mahler of Tracking202, Steve Schaffer of Vertive and Rebecca Madigan of the Performance Marketing Alliance.

Here it is in it’s entirety.