Cautionary Tale For The Successful Entrepreneur

It was February 2016.

We were going to start a skincare company and get rich.
Super rich.

We hired a team.
We got a sick office space.
Ocean views and a rooftop in La Jolla.
We paid the entire 12 month lease upfront in a lump sum.

Because why not?

We got massive flatscreen TVs, beautiful whiteboards all over the room, organic snacks, a ping pong table, hoverboards, Herman Miller chairs for everyone.

My commute was a five minute walk to work. Living the dream.

We paid $50k for a sales letter. We paid another $20k for an animated VSL.
We went to a Gazelles Scaling Up workshop.
We were ready to turn this into an INC 500 company.

We did all of the above before getting our first sale.

I know, I know, I know.
Tisk, tisk, scold, scold.

And, by the way, the $70k expense from the sales letter and VSL resulted in $0 of lifetime revenue.
Zero. Freakin. Dollars.

An expensive mistake.

The affiliate marketing business treated us very well.

And we got cocky. And arrogant.
And thought we could sell anything online with ease.

We were cash strong and not scared to outspend everyone.

We sold thousands of units per day of skincare products as affiliates.

Of course we are going to crush our own skincare line.
Because two dude marketers know and care a lot about skincare, right?

Sigh.

Having success in affiliate marketing had a twofold effect on me.

On one hand, it gave me a self-belief that I could create and succeed at anything if I truly put my mind to it.

This is good. And it’s true.

On the other hand, it made me delusional.
And careless.
I didn’t value money like I should have.

We told ourselves we wanted to impact millions with our products.

The truth is, we just wanted to make millions.

We were dabbling in the skincare company and also dabbling in the affiliate business.
The skincare company was bleeding us dry. And fast.

My partner and I went to Vegas on a Jetsmarter empty leg flight that popped up last minute.
On our flight home, I checked the bank account.

And started freaking out.

We have to stop the skincare company today.
We have to fire nearly everyone.

And we have to make money on the affiliate side to build up funds and reserves again.
And fast.

It was a painful lesson.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in sales letters, inventory and payroll.

Failing sucks.

It hit me hard too.
Self-belief began to fade away.

I started to feel like a fraud.

“Maybe I just got lucky with the affiliate business. Maybe that’s the only thing I can ever be successful in. Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought.”

I could take solace in the fact that I wasn’t truly focused on the skincare company.
Because I know that if I’m all in on something that I will go to the end of the Earth to make it work.

I wasn’t all in on it. I was dabbling.

We didn’t DECIDE to start a skincare company.
We made a decision to start a skincare company.

That’s a scary distinction.

And it cost me time, money and created unnecessary self doubt.

We were doing it because it was the logical progression.

To go from selling other companies skincare products as an affiliate to selling our own skincare products.

It was a strange time as well.

Starting a new project should be exciting. It should light you up.
Otherwise, why bother?

There was a long stretch in the summer of 2016 where I didn’t go to the office at all.
An office that was a stone’s throw from my house.
A beautiful office. An ocean view. A ping pong table.

In hindsight, this was extremely telling.

It was a very structured environment. We had a daily standup.
We talked about what we were working on that day.
It felt stuffy and suffocating.

And I hated every moment of it.

I built a team and an office and created exactly what I had been trying to escape the last decade.

Having to go to an office and work in a structured environment.

It makes me miserable. It made me stay at home nearly the whole summer.
And when I was at home, I was super unmotivated.
I simply didn’t care about the skincare company. I was burnt out on the affiliate business.

My partner was demanding things of me (rightfully so), and I simply didn’t care.

I was over it.

This was the beginning of the end for me in the online marketing world.

This was the first time that I pulled my head out of the weeds in three years.

Do I actually like what I’m doing?
Is this what I want to be remembered for?
Is this what I care most deeply about in my life?

Failing messed with my head.

And I let people down.

We had to fire people that we cared for.
People that were depending on the job.
And the paycheck.
People that had kids to feed. Very sweet kids.

It didn’t end well. And it probably hurt us as much as it hurt them.

Becoming “successful” doesn’t mean you won’t fail again.

Jordan Robert Axani shared a story about how he created a startup and charity last year that completely fell apart.

A total failure.

He let people down that believed in him. He hurt people that he cared about.
He trusted people he shouldn’t have trusted.

Successful people are still susceptible to failure.

Success brings opportunity. Doors start opening.
Opportunity can bring distraction.
Distraction can often lead to failure.

It did for me. It did for Jordan.

My failure was really dumb.
A mistake that 99% of people wouldn’t make.
Money can make you do stupid things.

We were able to right the ship on the affiliate business and build our reserves back up.
But, at this time, I only had one foot in the door.
I was scared of what to do next.

My self doubt had continued to build after our humbling failure.
I saw for the first time that maybe I can’t do anything I put my mind to.

This created a scary dilemma.

On one hand, I didn’t want to do the affiliate business any longer.
On the other hand, I now didn’t have the belief that I could do anything except the affiliate business.

So, I did what any screwed up person would do.
I went to a Philip McKernan event in Toronto.
I left his One Last Talk event with a lot of questions.

And you can’t have answers without questions, so this was a start.

I was in Toronto for a week after his event. I left my hotel room once.
And showered maybe twice.
I read. I did exercises on my life purpose. I watched Youtube videos on finding my passion.

I did everything except what I should have done.

Turned off all technology. No tv, no computer, no iPhone.

And just sit with my thoughts. And really dig into who I am at the core.
And who I want to be.
And what I’m doing.
And what I want my life to look like.

What is life?
What is my passion?
What is my purpose?

We can’t actively seek this stuff out. There is no direct answer to it.
And no one can tell you the answer.

Even Philip McKernan.

Which sucks to hear.
Especially for me.
Because I want to know steps 1-10, so that I can go execute on them.

What I have found though is that spending time with myself without distraction is powerful.

I still don’t have these answers.
But, I’m working through it.

I’m surrounding myself with good people.
I’m trying to love myself. And not beat myself up.
I’m trying to get a little better every single day.
I’m trying to be creative everyday.
I’m trying to write everyday.

I’m trying to be more like my dog, Lucy, everyday.
Non-judgmental, loving and living in the present.

Had I not gone through the experience with the skincare company, I still wouldn’t value money.

While it was a failure, it was a necessary part of my journey.

It taught me a lot about myself.
What I like, what I dislike.
What I want my life to look like.

I don’t want to be in an office with a team.

I don’t want to build a nine or ten figure empire.
I want to live a low stress life.
I want to make a huge impact on the people that find their way into my life.

I want to make great money.
I want to give most of that money away to a cause I care deeply about.
I want to have adventure and spontaneity.
I want to spend time with people I care for.
I want to develop really deep friendships, something that has been lacking in my life.

Failure is feedback. And this failure provided a lot of feedback.

For that, I’m grateful.

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