Sol Orwell is an entrepreneur and business developer most known for his work as the cofounder of Examine.com. He was recognized as a 2014 Game Changer by men’s fitness and profile by Forbes as a seven figure entrepreneur. He’s also on the fitness advisory board for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I’ll first be talking to Sol about how a speaker at high school taught him to look at business and failure in a very nonchalant way. He’ll touch on how every single business that he has started has originated from him solving a problem that he had for himself. And we discuss his belief that almost anyone can downgrade their current lifestyle to get started and survive in business if they really want it bad enough. And much more.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Learn more about Sol’s story of how he lived in so many places all over the world.
- Sol shares about how he came to understand that it’s okay to fail and how easy it is to start a business.
- Hear the advice Sol has for new entrepreneurs who are scared of losing before winning.
- Find out how Sol would start a business from scratch today, if he had no experience at all.
- Sol shares how he got started on a free site, selling targeted advertising from his gaming site.
- Hear the story of how Sol took a loan shark loan of $100,000, which cost him $180,000.
- Find out why entrepreneurship might not be for everyone, and why someone would quit it.
- Learn how freeing up your time as the boss can lead to bigger growth for your business.
- Understand the importance of being yourself online and offline; consistency is key.
- Discover why paying attention to the details when reaching out to other is key.
- Find out how Sol grows by putting himself outside of his comfort zone on a personal side.
- Hear Sol’s perspective of what he defines as a failure, and why he believes it’s irresponsible not to take opportunities.
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Sol Orwell — https://www.solorwell.com/
Sol on Twitter — https://twitter.com/sol_orwell
Examine — https://examine.com/
SJO — http://www.sjo.com/
The Great Canadian Bagel — http://greatcanadianbagel.com/
BELAY Solutions — https://belaysolutions.com/
World of Warcraft — https://worldofwarcraft.com
EverQuest — https://www.everquest.com
Baldur’s Gate — https://www.baldursgate.com/
Side Hustle Podcast — http://www.sidehustlenation.com/side-hustle-show/
Derek Sivers — https://sivers.org/
John Romaniello — http://romanfitnesssystems.com/
BetaKit — http://betakit.com/
MastermindTalks with Jayson Gaignard — http://www.mmtpodcast.com/
“SO: Honestly, to me business is basically in the most simplistic manner, it’s someone’s got a problem, you're going to solve that problem for them and you’re going to charge to solve that damn problem. That’s it.”
[0:00:13.1] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Fail on Podcast where we explore the hardships and obstacles today’s industry leaders face on their journey to the top of their fields, through careful insight and thoughtful conversation. By embracing failure, we’ll show you how to build momentum without being consumed by the result.
Now please welcome your host, Rob Nunnery.
[0:00:40.1] RN: Today, you and I get to learn from none other than Sol Orwell, an entrepreneur and business developer most known for his work as the cofounder of Examine.com. He was recognized as a 2014 Game Changer by men’s fitness and profile by Forbes as a seven figure entrepreneur.
I’ll be talking to Sol about how a speaker at high school taught him to look at business and failure in a very nonchalant way, how every single business that he has ever started has originated from him solving a problem that he had for himself, and how almost anyone can downgrade their current lifestyle to get started and survive in business if they really want it bad enough. Finally, what Sol would do to start a business without any money and without a business idea, and much more.
But first, if you’d like to stay up to date on all Fail On Podcast interviews and key takeaways from each guest, simply go to failon.com and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. That’s failon.com.
Now, without further ado, Mr. Sol Orwell.
[0:01:57.4] RN: Sol, really excited to have you here today man. Welcome to the Fail on Podcast.
[0:02:00.5] SO: Man, I’m excited to be on, thanks for having me.
[0:02:02.4] RN: You got it. So just for a little context, we are in Toronto Canada right now. Your home? Not your hometown, but your current city.
[0:02:09.9] SO: I consider it my hometown. I’m an immigrant, I’ve lived in I think now like 11 different cities, I have lived in seven different countries, so Toronto is my home. You know I’m from Toronto because I dropped the second T, that’s how you know I live here.
[0:02:25.5] RN: Just out of curiosity, because I think we both have traveling in common as a huge passion, what other countries have you lived?
[0:02:32.1] SO: So I’m actually Kashmiri, what Pakistan and India keep fighting over. I was born Pakistan, lived in Saudi Arabia, also lived in Japan, back to Saudi Arabia and then I’ve been all over the states, I’ve been in Houston, LA, Phoenix, El Paso, and Manhattan and then there was obviously Toronto and I’ve lived in Argentina.
[0:02:47.7] RN: That’s a crazy mish-mash in the states. What took you to those random cities?
[0:02:52.1] SO: Originally Houston and LA were with my dad or with my family. My dad worked for Saudi petro chemical company and every time they did a new plant, they had to outsource so Houston was Halliburton, LA was Kellogg, which is actually not just a cereal company. There’s separate one that’s in oil and what not.
Afterwards man, skip a lot of time, I essentially retired when I was in Toronto. To me, money was just a means to an independence and so I was like, “Yeah, we’ll wonder around, we’ll gallivant around,” and that’s when like Phoenix happened. I was married at this time, my ex-wife, she was from El Paso, she was like red and I somehow ended up in El Paso. Then eventually I did Manhattan, which I think everyone should try if they can. New York’s an amazing place to live. I lived in Greenwich, so it’s just literally ground zero of everything that was going on there.
[0:03:36.3] RN: How long were you there?
[0:03:37.5] SO: I was there for two years, but eventually New York wore me out.
[0:03:41.1] RN: Wore me out in six months, I was in the East Village.
[0:03:43.3] SO: There we go. It’s fun, but it’s too intense. I think there’s a reason why so many people in New York are on cocaine because that’s the only way you can have enough energy to keep going in that crazy place.
[0:03:52.5] RN: 100%
[0:03:53.3] SO: Then eventually Toronto called me back and I was going to move to Panama City in Panama, not Florida. But the recession hit. I had some friends there, they got crushed by it and so I just ended up being in Toronto, but I’m glad. It’s nice to have roots, it’s nice to be able to go to the community store guy and be like, “Yo, I forgot my wallet, can I have a coke?” Or go to my favorite cookie place, and it happens all the time, where I’m like, “Yo, I forgot my wallet,” they’re like, “Of course you did, but here’s a cookie anyway.” I’m like, “Yes!”
[0:04:15.4] RN: That’s awesome.
[0:04:16.9] SO: So yeah, I’m glad to be in one place.
[0:04:17.5] RN: I think one thing that most people probably don’t realize is that Toronto has got an amazing community of entrepreneurs.
[0:04:23.3] SO: Oh for sure man. I think what really happens is part of it is like the Canadian style. We’re a little bit less of self-promotional, we’re a little bit self-indulgent, if I even may. The other thing is like, when you think of the value, when you think of New York or even areas of Boston and Austin and even Seattle, you think, “Oh, you know, cooperation, we’re going to help each other.”
But in Toronto it’s almost like little schisms between these different areas where you’re just like, “I’m going to keep my head down, I’m going to kick ass, I’m going to work hard.” I was in SEO from early 2000’s and I had no idea our friend Dev was here in Toronto and he’s got 30 employees and he’s kicking ass and taking names, right? So I think it’s just part of our persona and that we just are more busy spending our head down just trying to acquire clients and being like, “Hey man…”
[0:05:06.9] RN: I’m crushing it.
[0:05:08.0] SO: Yeah, “I got to get in TechCrunch and New York Times or Business Inside or whatever.” So I think that kind of leads to that.
[0:05:12.5] RN: Got it. Just to get things started and to get a little context about you and your background, there’s actually one quote that I have from you, you probably don’t even know it or know where it is or where it came from or what, but you actually said that it was one of the defining moments of you in your business life. It was, “The combination of it’s okay to fail, plus how easy it is to get started, made a switch go off in my brain, made me understand how a business can be operated.” Do you remember this at all?
[0:05:40.0] SO: It sounds vaguely familiar, it sounds like something I would say.
[0:05:42.1] RN: Yeah, so it was actually around two points that you made. One was that you had heard a speaker give a speech about failing three times before he hit it big and this guy is worth, what? Like $50 million dollars I think you said.
[0:05:53.4] SO: He’s worth quite a bit.
[0:05:54.5] RN: Yeah. And then, the second point, do you remember the second point?
[0:05:57.6] SO: That it’s easy to startup a business, yup. Absolutely.
[0:05:59.5] RN: Yeah, exactly. That you saw a guy that incorporated a bunch of different businesses and you’re like, “Oh man, that’s all you got to do?”
[0:06:04.9] SO: Yup.
[0:06:05.3] RN: “It’s simple.” Based on that, can you give a bit more context around the statement and how you came to understand that it’s okay to fail?
[0:06:13.2] SO: For sure. Of those two points, the first one was basically, a dude came to our high school and he basically owned the second largest bagel company in Canada, The Great Canadian Bagel, or whatever the hell it’s called and he was like, “I did this and I failed and I did this and I failed,” and more than anything else, it was his nonchalance to it.
[0:06:32.6] RN: Yeah.
[0:06:32.6] SO: Where he was like, “Meh, shrug.” I was like, “Holy shit, this guy totally bounced it off.” and he didn’t seem like one of those supremely confident kind of guy, you know, who looks a little bit slick, “Oh, he’s always been a business man.” He was just, and I say this with love because that’s what he called himself, he was just this random Jewish dude who tried this thing, failed, tried another thing, failed in the bagels worked for him.
A lot of times people think entrepreneurship is some kind of like, “Oh, you’re born to be a leader or you’re some kind of an amazing person.” Not really, maybe a little bit organized, maybe a little bit more mean streak or independence streak, but I don’t think there’s anything specially unique about it.
That’s kind of where that mindset hit me, we’re like yeah, and it even makes sense, right? In real life, and I always try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. If someone comes up to me and like, “Man, I tried this business and it failed.” I’m not going to think, “Ha, ha you idiot.”
[0:07:21.7] RN: Yeah, of course man.
[0:07:22.3] SO: “Loser, get away man, cooties.” No, right? You’re like, “All right, this guy at least had the cojones to try it.”
[0:07:27.5] RN: But most people that did fail would think that you’re going to say that, right?
[0:07:31.6] SO: Exactly, right? It’s so true for everything though, it’s not just about business, right? You could be dancing in a club, no one’s watching. You could be at a concert and dancing around awkwardly, no one’s watching you. Unless you’re like Elaine Benes in Seinfeld where you’re just throwing shoulders and thumbs around, right, and you’re just making a scene, sure. Otherwise, the reality is, if you think about it, you’re self-obsessed, I’m self-obsessed. You don’t care what someone else is doing. So if they’re failing, you don’t care, you’re like, “Fuck this guy, I’m busy worrying about myself, I’m busy being selfish about me,” which is fine.
I think that realization finally kind of like set me free where I’m like, “All right, no one cares.” So that was the first point. The second one, this is kind of hilarious, I used to be in the domain name industry and there’s this one guy who owns all the best .ca domains. So he owns like travel.ca, sex.ca, home.ca, whatever. I was asking him how he got it, and so back in the day, and I think this is like ’94, ’95, the University of British Columbia, UBC, they controlled the entire .ca domain and if you wanted a .ca domain you had to write a letter.
So he wrote them a letter saying, “Hey, I want to buy travel.ca,” and they’re like, “No, you need to be incorporated as a business first.” He’s like, “Sure, okay.” So he incorporates the business, he writes them a letter,” they’re like, “No, you need to be travel.ca to get travel.ca.” So he’s like, “All right.” So he registered travel.ca, he sent it and he got it. They registered I think like 56 different other businesses to do it. Again…
[0:08:53.0] RN: Charging him or? Selling it to him, or what was it?
[0:08:56.0] SO: Well back in the day, domains were free, right. Back in the day, .coms were free, back in the day, .ca…
[0:09:01.0] RN: They just owned it basically.
[0:09:03.0] SO: The university basically administered it. So you had to, I guess, apply to say, “Hey, I’ve got a business called travel.ca, this is why I need travel.ca.” He just created all this businesses and again, it’s the nonchalance to it and I’m like, “Wasn’t it a headache?” He’s like, “Why would it be a headache?” I’m like, “I have literally no answer for you.” Because in Canada, we don’t have LLC’s, we have two levels of corporations and he’s like, “Yeah, I just incorporated it and that’s it and once a year I have to file my taxes.” But because it was making no income at the time, it was just a loss/loss and the domains were free at the time. So literally he didn’t even have to even file paperwork.
I was like, “Oh. What about all the legal stuff?” He’s like, “What legal stuff? I own 100% and that’s all there is to it.” I’m like, “Oh shit.” It’s just one of those things where especially entrepreneurship, right? It always seem so daunting, it’s always seem so scary and there are parts that are headache, right? HR can be a headache, legal can be a headache. But eventually you learn, like the actual business creation part is like stupid easy. It’s like $300 bucks or something and you don’t even need to — I think back in the day it was maybe a bit more expensive, because you had to go through lawyer. Now you can just use these online services right?
[0:10:05.2] RN: Exactly.
[0:10:06.0] SO: Even Stripe is in the process of kind of they’re in the beta test for something called Stripe Atlas, which basically creates your entire business and hosting and all that stuff all through Stripe. You just pay them an incredibly low amount and they do it all for you. There’s just one of those things where I think people’s nonchalance to what actually stresses them out, that’s what kind of got me over those humps.
[0:10:28.2] RN: What kind of, I think it’s an amazing point actually because people in their heads, you know, they build up such a fear and they make things bigger than life almost, right? You could think about, “Oh, I’m going to go into business and being an entrepreneur, like that’s going to be so incredibly difficult. I’m going to lose $50,000 before I make a dollar.”
[0:10:46.2] SO: 100%.
[0:10:46.9] RN: When it doesn’t have to be like that. What kind of advice would you give to somebody that maybe has that mindset right now?
[0:10:51.3] SO: Honestly to me, business is basically, in a most simplistic manner, it’s, someone’s got a problem, you’re going to solve that problem for them and you’re going to charge to solve that damn problem. That’s it. So this idea of like $50,000, people think they need this amazing logo and then you need to have all this design and they look at Apple and they’re like, “Oh, look how much headaches or design efforts they put in?”
I mean, Apple is a company that’s worth, what? $700 billion dollars or something? If you look at Microsoft’s logo, what is that logo? If you look at Facebook’s logo, what is that logo, right? Logos don’t matter. I mean, okay, in the big picture eventually they do matter and brand matters but when you’re starting a business, people care so much about appearances, it reminds me of like the Roman story of when the Romans sacrificed meat, they would give them the gods the skin and bones.
As the story goes, it’s basically they tricked the gods the first time they did it, they put the meat there and it made it look unappealing and they put the skin and bones there and they just covered up and it made it look really nice. The gods picked what looked really nice even though the actual meat was in the other pile.
This is the same kind of logic here, right? People think they need to have this amazing presentation and this nice chairs and this office and all this stuff but none of it is needed. All you need to do is figure out what the problem is and solve it. Especially nowadays with stuff like 3D printing and even just globalism itself, an ability to access manufacturing everywhere and on demand stuff, writing books whenever you want.
Honestly man, it’s just one of those things like, go, even honestly, like the first few clients might not be the best thing to do but don’t even worry about incorporating your business or whatever, just do it as a sole proprietorship. Then, if it makes sense, spend the money on being like, “Yeah, I’m going to make this into a business or I’m going to grow it.” So yeah, that’s my thought process there.
[0:12:33.1] RN: Let’s strip you of all businesses, experiences, et cetera, and you're starting from scratch today, how are you starting?
[0:12:41.8] SO: Every business I’ve done has been through my own frustration. So I’ve had three that have hit seven figures. Examine.com is arguably worth quite a bit more now and I’ve had massive failures and every single one has been from a point of self-interest and selfishness where I’m like, “This is annoying me, I’m going to solve it.”
Honestly, if I was stripped of everything, I would likely take maybe a week or a month to figure out what the hell is annoying me in my day-to-day? It might be my watch is uncomfortable, it might be my shirts don’t fit well. It might be this shoes are uncomfortable. It might be that online, I wish I had a better way to save my passwords or whatever. Eventually, whatever that thing was that was most frustrating, that almost rattled in my brain the most, that’s what I would approach.
Do you want me to go further? Is that enough to get started?
[0:13:26.0] RN: I was just going to ask, how do you know whether it’s also a problem for others?
[0:13:30.6] SO: That’s where you just start talking to your friends, right? People think that market research, you have to hire Neilson or whatever to do. Man, your friends are the most, I would argue or likely are the most similar to you. So if you go to them and you’re like, “Hey man, are you annoyed by your shoes?” Let’s say we’re wearing running shoes, right? “Are you annoyed by your shoes that they’re too bulky?” And someone else is like, “Yeah man, me too,” and someone else is like, “Yeah man, me too.” You're like, “Okay. Maybe there’s something here.” Right?
That’s where we can go get manufactured five shoes, 10 shoes and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the cheapest thing in the world ,but you’re not plunking down $50,000 right? You’re plunking down $500 bucks, plunking down maybe a thousand. Maybe it’s expensive per shoe just to get it started. But you can be like, “Okay, let’s try this out,” and especially now with so much outsourcing available with so much executive assistance available and virtual assistants, you don’t even need to do all that research yourself, right? Like BELAY Solutions, formerly known as EA help. Their EA’s are like $40 bucks an hour. But their EA’s are really good, right?
You hire them, you spend even 10 hours of them doing research is just $400 bucks, which in the grand scheme of things is not that much money, right? You can go get a job somewhere and make that $400 to make it back. So that would be kind of my first step is just figuring out what’s frustrating me and that will then lead towards whatever it is that I’m going to solve next.
[0:14:40.9] RN: How do you examine risk in terms of let’s say you’re looking at that, right? You’re looking at spending that $400. How do you gauge whether that’s a good investment, a bad investment and are you more of a risk averse person or?
[0:14:53.2] SO: I’ve got to be honest, I don’t really know. It’s one of those things where — okay, when I got started, I start off on a free website. I started on a free domain. My parents used to give me $10 a month allowance so I found a web host that charged less than $10 a month. So I’ve always been risk averse to the sense of as long as I have liquidity, I’m going to go for it. That’s my only measure of is it worth it or not?
In terms of, you know, should I spend the $400 on this or that? I mean, it’s too specific per situation, right? If we’re talking about shoes then you may need to spend a little bit more on design because design matters and if I’m not in some kind of online solution that’s bugging me then design matters less and the technical product may matter more right? Then programming might matter more.
So I don’t really have a good answer for that. Honestly a lot of it is intuitive, that’s where experience comes into play. But I’m a big believer in being relatively cashflow positive at all times. I’m not a believer in taking and thinking, “Look, I’m making $100,000 amount, I’m going to now spend $600,000.” The VC life is not for me, if it’s free, that’s cool. It’s definitely for some people, but that’s not the way I approach business.
[0:15:59.8] RN: Sure. Bootstrap for life, right?
[0:16:02.2] SO: For sure, for me. For sure.
[0:16:04.6] RN: Take us back to on this whole note of kind of getting started in business, take us back to the first time that somebody actually gave you dollars, gave you money in exchange for something that you provided a product or service?
[0:16:17.2] SO: Right. So I was making ad money from through networks and all that but the one that was the most important was this guy — so I had a gaming site and I tried various CPA and stuff, cost per action, right? So someone downloads or buys or whatever, and they all failed for me. So this guy came to me and he had a virtual currency website. He’s like, “Hey man, I want to pay you $500 a month for your website,” and I was like, “Holy shit.” I was making maybe $200 at this time. $500? Giddy up, let’s do this. So I’m like, “Sure.”
Then he says, “You know what? I’ll also pay you 10% commission,” and I’m like, I try to dissuade him. Because in my head I’m like, “Shit, he’s going to pay me $500, he’s going to see he’s getting no sales, and he’s going to tell me to get lost,” and I’m like, there’s going to be this one, I think we had like three months, I finagled out of him.
Incidentally, that 10% made more than $500, right? So it was that experience of not just that it gave me $500 bucks but then my traffic was converting, which just started leading me away from pure advertising and more towards what does my audience want and let’s sell it to them. Because that will make me, at the time I was making maybe $150 a month off of generic ad network. He boosted it to $500 and then eventually went to $900 I think, including the 10% and all that. Then it just went even higher and higher. That was that one moment where I was like, “Holy shit, target the traffic matters a lot.”
[0:17:32.6] RN: You said it’s a gaming site? What exactly was the site? Not necessarily the domain but what did the site do?
[0:17:38.3] SO: For sure. Back in the day, so you may have heard of World of Warcraft. Just to give you a scale, World of Warcraft came out in 2003. Before World of Warcraft, the biggest one in north America was a game called EverQuest. It peaked at I think 450,000 players. This is basically an online virtual world, people are paying I think $15 or $20 a month to explore. If you think of games like Zelda or Baldur’s Gate or whatever, imagine that in an online situation.
[0:18:03.9] RN: This must have been one of the earlier…
[0:18:05.6] SO: Yeah, Ultima Online was the original one and this is like I think came out of ’95. ever quest I think was like 97, 98, it peaked in like 2001, 2002, which is around this time that all this happened. Just to give you a scale, EverQuest was at 450,000. World of Warcraft peaked at 14 and a half million people. So it wasn’t even like remotely comparable, right? It just annihilated everyone everywhere.
What happened in this virtual worlds, which is like real world. You know? Let’s say there’s a Sword of Doom and you have to do something for 50 hours to get the Sword of Doom, you’re a busy professional, you’re like, “I don’t got 50 hours.”
[0:18:39.1] RN: Right.
[0:18:40.6] SO: So I come to you and I say, “Hey, I’ll sell you a sword of doom for $500. You do the math in your head and you’re like, “Should I spend 50 hours or just $10 bucks an hour just pay this dude $500 bucks? Done. Shut up and take my money.” What we would do then is go to this other kids who were playing 40 hours a week anyway and who are way past that level and we’re like, “Hey man, we’ll pay you $20 bucks for your 10 Swords of Dooms.
In their mind, their math is, “Yeah, now I don’t have to pay for my video game this month,” because they’re all kids anyway, they can’t really afford to. They’re like, “Absolutely, shut up and take my Sword of Doom.” That was that arbitrage, opportunity was massive and the reason I mentioned World of Warcraft is when it came, it was so big that the margins got eliminated. So yeah, that’s how that happened.
[0:19:18.9] RN: Did you always grow up kind of, you know, you hear a lot of people, “I was born entrepreneur, I was selling lemonade and cookies in your case as a kid.” Was that you as a kid or did you come to entrepreneurship later in life?
[0:19:32.2] SO: Not even remotely. So I grew up mostly in Saudi Arabia and Japan. There was no opportunities for me to sell lemonade or cookies on the street regardless of my desire. But no, I never had that. My biggest thing has always been independence. For example, I was not legally born Sol Orwell, I changed my full name. The idea that someone else got to choose my name, regardless of who it was, is absolutely absurd.
Really, it was more of independence that I don’t like, and you’ve heard me joke, like, “Don’t tell me what to do,” the idea of anyone else telling me what to do is completely unacceptable to me. That’s kind of what got me into entrepreneurship.
[0:20:04.5] RN: Got you, what was the actual first venture that you got into? Was it the gaming site?
[0:20:09.1] SO: The first actual one I did was a programming website. I was a fat, shy nerd back in the day. The internet was my refuge and so I had a programming website, I think it peaked a couple of thousand visitors a day but I then got into online gaming, I think in ’98 and in ’99 is when I tell people that’s when I started my first business because that’s when I became serious.
That was a first one it hit seven figures. Not only just virtual currency but also virtual guides. Right? Again, you’re like, you’re in this virtual world, you don’t know what to do so we’d sell you a $50 guide or whatever being like, “Hey, this is how you level up whatever stuff, yeah.” Incidentally, I never actually played this game myself, I just realized what the opportunity was there. Yeah.
[0:20:48.7] RN: You just saw how engaging it was for the communities?
[0:20:51.7] SO: Yeah, I played — So when I came from Saudi Arabia to Houston and this was before there was any internet in the Middle East, and I went to a Latino middle school and I had a massive culture shock. Like, massive. My mind was blown by everything. Online games were my refuge.
That’s how I originally started my first online gaming site was based on the one game I was in, and then people who used to play that game, they went to other games and then they started talking about this and they started making fun of people who were spending money to buy gear as a call in. I was like, “Why wouldn’t you want to get in on this?” That’s kind of how it led me into that area.
[0:21:24.4] RN: Got it. We talked a little bit earlier about how intimidating and almost like bigger than life entrepreneurship can be. Did you have that same syndrome going in entrepreneurship? Did you think it was like this big, gigantic thing that’s going to be really hard to tackle or did you just kind of lean into it?
[0:21:42.9] SO: I never really — to me there was almost two worlds. There was like, you know, Bill Gates and Buffett who ran giant companies and all that kind of stuff. To me what I was doing was never, in my mind, a level of entrepreneurship. Now, ex post facto we could look at it and be like, “Yeah, absolutely that makes sense.” But at the time I was just like, “I’m just doodling around,” and eventually I’m like, “Okay, I need someone else to help me. Okay, I need another person.”
So it was almost like I stumbled upon it but at the back of my head, I know that if I can do it, pretty much anyone else can do it. There’s nothing special about it. I mean, I might not be able to, and I might not be, I likely would not be able to do a team that’s a hundred people, right? That’s a different kind of mindset, a different kind of approach.
[0:22:24.2] RN: Skill set, yeah.
[0:22:25.8] SO: Exactly, right. Entrepreneurship to people is often times, you got to make this billion dollar unicorn and all that stuff. And it kind of fell out of favor to have these lifestyle businesses but family businesses tended to be lifestyle businesses, right? You woke up, you work nine to five, you’re a butcher or a carpenter or framer or whatever the hell and then you went home, right?
So I think that mindset’s kind of coming back and that was my mindset. I was like, “I’m just going to do this, I’m going to make some money, I’m going to be able to do whatever the hell I want.” So yeah, I kind of just stumbled into it right there.
[0:22:53.9] RN: Did you have a job while you were getting started or?
[0:22:56.4] SO: No, I’ve never had a job. I went to university on a full scholarship, I went for computer engineering, I lost the first semester because you have to keep an 80% average. I was in the 60’s, but by then, already that stuff was rolling.
[0:23:08.2] RN: Okay, so in college, you’re already making money doing side jobs?
[0:23:11.2] SO: Yeah, the only reason I went to a university is my parents being the immigrants they are is you either become an engineer or you become a doctor and I was like, “Doctor’s a lot more of a commitment, let me just get my engineering degree so they’ll leave me alone.”
Incidentally, my computer engineering degree actually did not do anything for me as an entrepreneur, including the fact that I can program and all that, it did nothing for me. It taught me how to be an adult, which is a different social side to it but educationally it never actually taught me there. Yeah.
[0:23:35.5] RN: Got it. No, it makes sense. You started business early and in college or even before?
[0:23:42.2] SO: Before, yeah.
[0:23:43.4] RN: Okay, in high school. Did you run into like any massive failures that just crash and burn? Let’s hear about it.
[0:23:51.9] SO: The worse one ever was, I was working with another company, I was in Argentina at this time and I was using them basically for my payment processing and they were a data partner. I’d been working with them for like five, six years. So I felt pretty comfortable. It basically disappeared on me and they took I think it was like a quarter of a million dollars with them.
So I’m stuck in Argentina, I haven’t been back to Toronto for a while, I’m suddenly now in the whole of like $200,000 I think I was in the hole and I wouldn’t say I was reckless with money but I was a little bit naïve with money at that time. So I had to take a loan shark loan to cover what was my existing expenses. That loan was $100,000, which is not a big deal.
[0:24:32.0] RN: What rate?
[0:24:35.7] SO: It cost me $180,000 to pay it off.
[0:24:38.3] RN: Oh god.
[0:24:39.1] SO: That hurt. Since then, I’ve become even more anal about me being in charge. So examine.com right? For example. We’re pretty well established, we’re like 70,000 visitors a day, I have a cofounder in it, I have a guy who runs it, the guy who runs it, everyone thinks he owns it but I own the company.
Now, maybe once a year do I ever override Kamal, who runs it because obviously I hired him because I think he can do the damn job. But that also made me even more in a way double-down on being independent whereas I can’t afford to have anyone else screw me or put me in a position where I’m screwed and just to go back to that.
It was a battle, I was able to battle through it, thankfully it’s been a while now since that happened but one of the habits I built was at that time, I didn’t know if my credit card would pass muster. At that time like I had two credit cards and I actually picked up a third, I stretched it almost all the way to its $10,000 limit. I think I hit like $9,000 at its peak before finally it all started like, the inertia of it all moving and the revenue started coming direct to me.
But I now have this habit where whenever I pay anything with credit, I have to wait until I see the word approved. Even though now my credit limit is just like through the roof, right? I could buy 50,000 cookies right there and still be okay, but I buy one cookie and I’m like, “Is it approved? Is it approved?”
It was really touch and go but my confidence was that even now, I met all this people I know in my worst case, I could get a good job. I could go to people I know and be like, “Listen, I’m in a bind, I fucked up, whatever, this is the honest truth, you know what I’m good at, I want to work with you for six months or 12 months.”
Hire me, I’ll kick ass, you know I can kick ass just because I need this. I was stressed but I was never bat shit stressed, I slept fine and all that kind of stuff because I knew I threw my network and through my work, I built up a safety net that no matter how bad things got, I could still get a job.
I think that’s one of like the hidden benefits of entrepreneurship is if I was in a situation where a friend of mine who I had seen his work or her work and I knew that they did good work and for whatever reason they screwed up and they needed money or they need a job or contracting job, I’d be much more open to it. Because I’m like, “I know you, you know your stuff. I know you also know the headaches of being an entrepreneur, you’re not going to give me random lip or try to get in stupid fights over little things that don’t matter.” So yeah, that was my biggest colossal blunder of all, was not having control of the payment undermining.
[0:26:59.7] RN: I think on that note that you’re just talking about, often times, I think the worst case scenario is not as bad as most people think it is. When I think about starting a business, they’re like, they’re so scared of the failure and the fear of it that they think that if it doesn’t work, their life’s over, right? They’re going to be in a box in the side of the street when in fact, that’s not even remotely true.
[0:27:19.6] SO: Funny, I was having this conversation about a year ago, I was I New York and I was hanging out with Mark Manson, Mark Fisher, and Gregory O’Gallagher. Gregory O'Gallagher is the Kinobody and Fitness, well-known. We’re talking about this where a lot of entrepreneurs started from a relatively affluent position. Part of it was because they knew that if they failed, they had a safety net. But the reality of it is today, especially like this gets into even the political side but society in general provides for you if you screw up right?
It’s relative, like most people from my experience and I say this because there’s a shelter right literally next door to where I live. People who are homeless tend to have other issues than just “I ran out of money”, right? At least in Canada. The States, is a little bit of a different beast. So it’s one of those things where no matter how bad things go, especially if you have parents, if you have friends. My parents are always being like, “Just come stay over for one night,” and I’m like, “No thank you.” Worst case — they’ve been trying forever. I’m just like, “Oh hells no. I left when I was 18 and I’m never coming back. I’ll come fore a short visit, sure, but not…
[0:28:22.5] RN: They’re in Toronto?
[0:28:23.7] SO: They’re just in Mississauga, an hour away. But it’s just one of those things where even if you screw up, even if you’re penniless, you can go to your parents, you can crash at your friend’s place, you can do little random things to generate some revenue. The idea is people is like, either you’re making $10,000 a month or you’re making $5,000 a month. You can be making a thousand dollars a month, which is not a lot of money and you can scrape by, you can have five roommates and maybe not live in downtown and maybe you have to walk a bit more than you want or not Uber or go enjoy whatever it is that you enjoy, but eventually that stuff can come back.
I experienced it, like I said, I was this massive debt. I mean, the credit card alone was I think it was 30 and 20 and the third one was 10. So I was almost $60,000 in credit card debt plus the loan shark loan and all that stuff. Still managed, right? I had to downgrade, I didn’t live in a great location, I was in a studio but you can make it work.
[0:29:17.1] RN: Were you in a nice place prior to that? Because I think it’s tough for some people to swallow when they go from let’s say a good corporate job, making a hundred, $150k a year, to put themselves at risk, maybe they have a family as well right? Putting themselves at risk saying, “I want to be an entrepreneur but the security.”
[0:29:32.5] SO: Yeah, for sure, there’s two things. One, I didn’t really live in a much nicer place before. I don’t have fancy taste. Part of it though is I’m also an immigrant. I mean, I still remember going to Pakistan and my parents would sleep on the bed and, well I have three siblings but one of them is much younger so my older brother, my older sister and I were sleeping basically on this little mattress on the floor and cockroaches will be like chilling around us, right?
It’s one of those things where I’m like, “Okay, if I survived that, I can survive pretty much anything. I like grimy or even a little bit gritty.” In regards to people who have a good job, especially if they have a family, I think the other problem, or not problem, but people have this misconception that you have to either do everything or nothing. For example, another podcast, Side Hustle, right? Great podcast, same thing right? The idea is that you don’t have to go all in, you could start something on the side, right?
If I’m doing let’s say sofas. I’m like, “Sofas suck, I’m going to make an awesome sofa.” You don’t need to be selling a thousand sofas a month or a year or whatever. You can be like, “Okay, hey you there, you know I’m making a custom sofa, is there something you really wish was in a sofa?” And they’re like, “Yeah, this,” and you’re like, “Okay. I’ll make you the sofa and I’ll charge you $2,000 and then I’ll monogram your name or something.”
There’s always little opportunities where you don’t need to go 100%. There’s this weird mindset that all these people have that it’s either everything or nothing. Whereas me, I like leisurely live, like 70, 80%. I’m never too exerted, never too stressed out, never as rich as I could be, but that’s okay.
[0:30:58.9] RN: But you're happy.
[0:31:00.0] SO: That’s an acceptable downside of being able to just do whatever I want. Come here at 3 o’clock and not be like, “Oh man…”
[0:31:05.2] RN: What’s going on at the office.
[0:31:06.2] SO: Yeah, “I have a client call, I need to talk to somebody or this.” Whatever.
[0:31:11.2] RN: So, it’s an interesting point that you just brought up because I have this conversation actually quite often with different entrepreneurs and people that have been through it already where you have the one camp that says what you just said is that you know, side hustle is a way to go. You don’t have to go all in on something. Then I have other people that are a 100% adamant that burning the ships is the right thing because your back’s against the wall, there’s higher pressure and for some people, it lights a fire in their ass that that’s the only way they’ll make it work.
[0:31:40.4] SO: For sure.
[0:31:41.1] RN: so I think it really depends on the person. What’s your take on it?
[0:31:44.0] SO: I honestly think the latter is a little bit self-indulgent. I think just because something works for you doesn’t mean it works for someone else. When I say “do a side hustle”, I’m not saying “don’t not do a side hustle”. But I’m saying, if you’re stressed out or if you want to do something, you can do a little bit. I think especially on the internet, right? We live in a world of extremes where either you’re for something or you’re against something, right? Even to invoke Colbert, he was like, “If you're not with us, you’re against us.”
We’re talking about like pie and he’s like, “If you don’t like apple pie, you’re against apple pie.” And I’d be like, “No, I’m indifferent.” “No, you’re against it!” It’s one of those things where I think people are a little bit too quick to be like, “No, it’s either this way or go fuck yourself,” right? I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear or not, but it’s already happened.
[0:32:22.9] RN: Too late now.
[0:32:23.9] SO: If we have to we’ll get a beep. But it’s one of those things where we need to calm down a little bit, maybe it works for some people for sure. You know, some people love procrastinating, they love deadlines. But for other people, there’s little bit of a consideration. Especially if you have family, you can’t be like, “Oh $100,000 job, I’m going to burn the ship and then now I’m going to go do something else.”
Because to me, if someone fails because they did that ship burning stuff, that’s kind of on you. Because you were the one who made it seem like it’s very attainable. The reality is, entrepreneurship is full of failure. In general, you are more likely to fail than you won’t.
If you win, that’s great. If you're successful, that’s great. But I know a lot of entrepreneurs who have done and I’ve been around for a long time. I know a lot of people who tried and tried, and tried it, and then they eventually became employees and not that they didn’t even want to be employees.
I know this one guy, it’s like a million and a half visitors a month. He’s very well-known, he’s done really well, I think he’s got a New York Times bestseller. He’s like, “You know what? If someone came to me and gave me a really good job, I’d take it.” I’m like, “Why?” Because to me, that’s crazy, right?
[0:33:18.0] RN: To me as well, yeah.
[0:33:19.2] SO: He’s like, “Because I want to be in something bigger than me, and I know what I’m good at and I will just focus on that.” I’m like, “That makes complete sense,” and this is a guy about every metric, you look at him by social media following or whatever. He can pretty much stop working in his website just turn their money but maybe that’s not enough, right? So I think that this burning ship is actually irresponsible is the word I would take.
I hope someone’s listening to this that is burn ships. I’m like, “You’re being irresponsible because you are impacting other people’s lives. This is not just you building up your brand or rah, rah. People will listen to you and if people listen to you and it destroys their lives, maybe you need to reconsider what you’re doing.” That got dark a little bit, but I’m okay with that.
[0:33:59.3] RN: Hey, where it went, it’s fine. No, but on the point, it’s actually funny because Jayson Gaignard and I, we were having a similar conversation, just talking about in terms of entrepreneurship’s not for everybody.
[0:34:08.5] SO: 100%.
[0:34:09.9] RN: But, we were talking about a guy he knows, it might actually even be the same guy, I don’t know but it was a guy, it might not be? But it was a guy that had like a five, six million dollar exit and then wanted to get a job, he didn’t need to right, but he wanted to go work at Facebook.
I think it was what it was, and the point was, at that point, you can basically have employment on your own terms. You can kind of name your price, you can name where you're going to work from, if you’re going to work remote, if you want what days you want to work. So at that point, you can kind of write your own ticket, but like you said earlier, he wanted to be a part of something bigger and he feels that Facebook’s changing the world with what they’re doing.
[0:34:51.5] SO: I think this weird obsession of entrepreneurship these days. It’s cool, it’s very trendy these days. The other thing is a lot of people are not even entrepreneurs, they’re freelancers and there’s a difference in being a freelancer, which is fine, contractor/freelancer and being an entrepreneur, because entrepreneur you have a responsibilities.
I was actually just talking to Deve about this. I’m like, the biggest thing that, I wouldn’t say spooked me but makes me embrace in a way entrepreneurship is there are like 50 people in this world that rely on me for the livelihood. Not just employees but their partners and spouses and their children and even their parents. That is a humbling thought if you really think about it.
That if you screw up, they’re all in trouble. Not that necessarily that they won’t find a job or whatever but there’s a stress, “I have to find a job, I have to move, or I have to do this.” Entrepreneurship is, people think it’s a game, it’s something to, like a mechanic to figure out but it’s a lot more than just that.
[0:35:43.1] RN: It’s pressure.
[0:35:43.8] SO: It can be serious pressure. I mean, again, it depends on how you set it up and how you act on it and what not. It is pressure, 100%.
[0:35:49.9] RN: In your case, you're not involved in the day to day really with examine.com?
[0:35:53.8] SO: Not at all.
[0:35:54.5] RN: Okay, so do you still feel that pressure with that company even though you’re kind of hands off on it now?
[0:35:59.3] SO: Absolutely. If anything, in a way, I feel even more pressure because by removing myself — when I was involved, I could at least be like, “Oh, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. Hey, you there.” When I’m not involved, I’m trusting my people not to screw up and I’m trusting the guy I chose not to screw up. Now, at least if it’s on me, I can be like, “Mia culpa, I made a mistake,” all that kind of stuff.
But if Kamal screws up, now it’s just like not only did Kamal screw up, but now I have to apologize for the fact that I put Kamal in the position to screw up and affect everyone else, right? There is that — it’s a different kind of pressure. It’s not like I wake up and I’m like, “Shit, I got to get down at 9 AM or 8 AM and see what’s going on and make sure we’re on top of the latest things,” I don’t need to worry about that.
I think we email twice a week. I have no idea what’s coming out before it comes out. I don’t even know what’s happening. That’s awesome, that’s freeing in a way it also let’s me step back and be like, “Hey, what about this? What about this?” So today, I was like, “Hey, you know, all this nutrition news is coming out, why don’t we do a special on for journalist? Because they need this information.”
It also helps me in a way be better. But absolutely man, at the end of the day, still, no matter what happens, it’s on me, right? Which is both good and bad, you get the glory and you also get the shit end of the stick when things go bad.
[0:37:09.1] RN: Yeah, no, totally. So you’re not involved in the day-to-day really except here and there but what do you spend most of your time these days?
[0:37:16.0] SO: This year, I’m all about like, “Okay, what goal do I want to do every year?” And there’s always like a few skills I want to learn. Last year I want to get better at public speaking so I spoke 26 different times. I wanted to do scuba diving so I just went and did it. This year in a professional capacity is to become a better writer.
So I got into talking about entrepreneurship about a year and a half ago, and my entire schtick was like I’m not going to do courses and I hate coaching and I hate consulting, which is funny because the more I tell people that I hate coaching, the more and more people literally are begging me…
[0:37:44.1] RN: They want you to coach.
[0:37:46.1] SO: …being like, “Please, what can I do? I’ll send you cookies, I’ll do this and I’ll do that,” which is all nice but to me, the moment you take money from something, it becomes a responsibility. Right now it’s an outlet. I can write two times a month, I can write about whatever the hell I want and no one can be like, “What are you writing this for? How does this help me or what’s going on,” right?
I just even posted on Wednesday, it was about why I don’t do social media. Now, this is an entrepreneurship ting to it? Yes, but it’s more towards productivity, right? More towards lifestyle, why I don’t do Snapchat and all that kind of stuff, I can do whatever I want. That kind of takes up most of my time, but the other interesting thing is, Derek Sivers said this, who is one of the few guys like I love listening to and reading to.
Even best of all, he’s like super accessible, you send him an email, he’ll reply. He said, how somebody emailed and he’s like, “You know, I’m really sorry, I know you’re really busy but this, this, this.” Derek was like, “Why should I be busy? I’m the boss. If I’m busy, I don’t have time to think,” and that’s kind of, when people say, “Are you involved with the day-to-day of examine.com?” No.
But, because I have down time, because I have time to read, because I have time to think, I can be like, “What about this? What about this?” For example, today, when I said we should have our own specific journalist email, where we only give them the latest nutrition news, we only be like 40 or 50 journalists, right?
We get in mainstream media maybe once a weeks. But it makes sense that if we are emailing journalists every week or every other week and saying, “These are the latest studies,” it makes sense that they’ll come to us when they need quotes, when they need more information on it. It makes sense that they will trust us more. I wouldn’t have the time to mull this over if I was busy all the time. So it’s one of those things where I am busy but I am not busy at the same time, if it makes sense? Because that lack of busyness lets me explore, lets me read.
A lot of people, they give a lot of lip service to reading, they give a lot of lip service to learning. Where it’s like, “Oh, I love learning. You’ve got to develop yourself, you’ve got to invest in yourself.” That’s awesome, but how many of you do you actually do anything with it? You go to these conferences and you write all of these notes and books and whatever.
[0:39:44.0] RN: Get motivated.
[0:39:44.6] SO: And you come back and what do you do with it? Like when I talk one of my rules is don’t take any notes because the point here is to at least absorb and think over what I’m saying. So it goes back to that where even if I start something new, I’m definitely setting aside time always to read and not just read business things or thing. I’m talking about like, the most bizarre interesting article I read recently and someone sent this to me was, “How Do You Define a whole?
And I was like, “That makes no sense but it makes so much sense, but it makes so much sense.” Right? Where if you in a way, and maybe too large of a word here, but if you paradigm shift your mindset and your thinking suddenly all of these other opportunities open up that you have never considered before. So yeah, that’s what I do with my time. I just ponder, I philosophize in my own head.
[0:40:25.7] RN: No but it’s a really interesting point, right? Because on the point of busyness, this is something that I talked about recently actually with another friend, is that people are so busy in the day-to-day. They go to their job or they run a business, and they never take the time for themselves to really figure out who they are, right? You seem to really know who you are.
[0:40:46.9] SO: It’s funny you say this because I love Facebook. I post maybe once a day max. I love posting whatever is on my mind on Facebook. This is my random thought of the day of what’s going on and it all ties together where by having down-time, I get to think in a way ridiculous things. So for example I’ve posted zero pictures of my dog, I posted one picture ever of my girlfriend and I’m like, “Okay maybe I’ll post another picture of her just because it’s been over a year or something.”
So that picture that I have posted of her, it got like five, 600 likes or some ridiculous number and just out of curiosity, and I love going back to old posts just to see what I was thinking about and what was going on my mind, and I am looking at it and I am reading through it and I am looking at these comments and they’re all like, “Oh she’s too good for you. Don’t screw this,” and I was like, “Who the hell are you first of all to tell me she’s too good for me. I’m too good for her, first of all. Let’s be honest.”
But second of all I was like, “You don’t know her.” With this phrase now it’s bubbling in my head being like these interactions are always interesting to me, right? Where like, “Okay, what does it mean that she’s too good for you? Is it because she’s attractive? Are you implying that I am not attractive? Are you implying that only attractiveness matters?” And so okay, this is the one thought process. So now I’ll post this on Facebook and a conversation will ensue and discussion will happen.
What’s amazing about this is on, and I hate this phrase, personal brand stuff, my personal brand is super solid with my audience because of this and if we go back to if I wanted to sell coaching, if I wanted to sell consulting, I make jokes about $999 eBook and I legitimately have a dozen people email me saying, “I want to buy this book, let me know when it comes out,” and this is an obvious joke. I can’t imagine how many would buy it, right?
So it’s that kind of stuff, by having down time I get to think. By thinking I strategically help my business, but I also have these random thoughts, I expose these random thoughts to my audience and it makes my audience love me even more and so that’s kind of how it all intertwines overall in the big picture right there.
[0:42:33.7] RN: So in my head I am getting almost contradicting thing though because earlier you said that if you’re not for apple pie you’re against it. You know, that you believe in these really polarizing statements almost. Or that you didn’t believe in them.
[0:42:45.3] SO: It didn’t, yes. Correct.
[0:42:46.3] RN: Correct. But I feel like you have such a strong voice on Facebook that it is kind of polarizing.
[0:42:53.6] SO: It can become polarizing absolutely and there’s always people who will obsess over the exceptions. But when I say “polarizing statements”, I mean like “everyone should be an entrepreneur” or something that’s very — and I am very honest that when I post something this is my thought process and I say, “These are my opinions.” Like when someone says “Everyone should be an entrepreneur,” they are treating it like a fact. They’re not saying, “This is my opinion.”
When I say, “I think if you are getting a tribal tattoo in 2017 you should reconsider your tattoo strategy,” I’m being honest. This is my thought process, right? And so someone else, a friend of mine he posted a tribal tattoo and I said, “You do you boo.” It’s fine. It’s also meant to be an expression of you don’t have to agree with me. I don’t have to agree with you but we don’t have to hate each other for it also at the same time, which builds this fun back in.
I also found that when people put in an opinion out there let’s say a little bit unpopular and someone disagrees with it, they immediately back pedal. They’re immediately like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I don’t backpedal because I’m like, “Listen just because there’s an exception doesn’t mean the monstrosity of the entire generalization is suddenly untrue.” People love making these random exceptions. Right?
I don’t remember who it was but someone was like “Oh,” — I was like, “Oh, you shouldn’t be afraid, if you don’t have celiac disease you shouldn’t be afraid of bread,” and someone was like, “Yeah well I’ve got Hashimoto’s disease,” and I’m like, “Dude obviously if you’ve got Hashimoto’s disease it’s different.” I am not going to be, “Oh, don’t eat peanuts because someone’s got a peanut allergy.” It’s one of those things. There is an absolutism and then there’s like this is an opinion, not something that is 100% always true and you should do this.
[0:44:24.7] RN: Do you think people actually aren’t opinionated enough and stand by their feelings and thoughts?
[0:44:30.7] SO: I think they are opinionated, they don’t express them. So I talk a lot about this. People talk about, “Oh I am going to be like social media, it has to be vulnerable.” I don’t want to sound like an asshole and inevitably that means I’m going to sound like an asshole.
[0:44:42.1] RN: Let’s preface this by…
[0:44:43.5] SO: But let’s say your dad beat you, which is horrible. If you post that on Facebook you are being vulnerable but no one is going to say that is a bad idea. No one is going to say, “You suck.” No one is going to say, “Ha-ha you deserve it.” There is no level of actual vulnerability in the context of how are people going to perceive what I say and so instead what I would recommend, and I’m going to totally take credit for this. My buddy John Romaniello, New York Times bestseller, His Facebook blew up in the last year because he started spouting his opinions and thoughts. He spouts what’s in his head and so he goes, “I think this is the greatest move here.”
[0:45:17.3] RN: Also very strong opinions there, right?
[0:45:18.6] SO: Exactly, right? But it’s one of those things where you also are honest that this is my opinion. It doesn’t mean that it’s the universal truth. It doesn’t mean that it’s fact-based. Especially with me with examine.com all being fact based and stuff, it’s the level of “this is my opinion, this is what I believe in. I am open to having a conversation about it but I will dig down, you can also dig down” and so it’s that. People have these opinions, they just never put it out there and if they do then, like I said most people just backpedal, right? If someone disagrees they’ll go, “No I made a mistake,” where I just make fun of them. That’s always one.
[0:45:48.4] RN: I think they’re almost afraid to make a strong statement like that because they think that has to be their opinion forever when actually a year later, you’ve grown as a person, you can have a different opinion that’s okay.
[0:45:58.4] SO: It’s almost like we are trying so hard to be cool that you become uncool, right?
[0:46:04.1] RN: Yeah and you forget you don’t know yourself at all.
[0:46:05.5] SO: Yeah, you’re just a weird character. To me, if you are not the same online as offline, you are #failure right there and I don’t use hashtags a lot so that’s a serious thing right there. But it’s one of those things that always bugs my mind when people meet me and they’re like, “Oh, you are the same online,” or, “You are the same offline,” and I’m like, “Why the hell wouldn’t I be? What were you expecting that I am suddenly something else?” So I think that’s a big part.
Every time I see people just posting motivational quotes I’m like, “Is that what you are like in real life? Like if we hang out in real like are you going to be like, “Be the be you want to be”? I’m like, “Get away, I don’t want to hang out with you. You are boring.” So I think it’s that, right? You should just let your offline persona go into your online. Whatever it is, you may be really serious that’s fine. You may be really funny. Incidentally most people think they are funny when they’re not, which is a really unfortunate reality.
Even like, again, talking about Romaniello he posted the other day saying, “If you are going to write “f*ck” people are going to think the word “fuck” in their head anyway, what are you doing?” And so I saw that and Roman and I are good friends, so I set a reminder and I posted yesterday with a reminder was “count how many people actually used f*ck to pretend to be funny” and I was like my over under was 10, I think it was seven so the audience delivered. But it was one of those things, right? Where people, you should just be yourself. If you’re not funny…
[0:47:13.5] RN: Don’t be funny, don’t try to be funny.
[0:47:15.5] SO: Let it go, yeah.
[0:47:16.8] RN: Just to transition kind of, I know we went off on a little riff there.
[0:47:20.1] SO: Oh yeah, totally. Absolutely.
[0:47:21.5] RN: But to get back kind of into the subject, what’s been the most painful part of being an entrepreneur to you?
[0:47:27.7] SO: What’s been the most painful part of being an entrepreneur?
[0:47:30.1] RN: I think you’re pretty laid back, which is good, but obviously you’ve been through tough times. What’s been, not even necessarily the toughest time per se but just what’s the most painful in your gut?
[0:47:44.1] SO: I think the most painful originally was the inability to have a conversation about what I was experiencing with other people, especially when we were talking about the Valley and New York versus Toronto and all that jazz. I worked really hard to build up a person that worked here in Toronto where I can say, “Man, my employees annoying me and I want to punch them in the face,” and I say this with love and affection.
Normally I would never say that and I love that person. I don’t want them — them, I am not saying he or she — to go anywhere, but sometimes you need to be able to rant and my woman, as amazing as she is she doesn’t understand that and it’s not that she doesn’t want to understand but it’s the same thing. When she talks about office politics she’s like, “Yeah I don’t know why this person is doing this,” and I’m like, “Fuck her, fire her,” and she’s like, “I can’t do that. I can’t just be like “get lost”. I can’t be like go away,” and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s true.”s
So it’s that level of empathy that can sometimes be a little bit isolating and so one of the things is really trendy again is to be a digital nomad or the internet and all that kind of stuff. Which is nice, but I think being and having friends in your local area that you can talk about this stuff that are at the same level, maybe you’re a little bit higher, maybe a little bit lower, I mean if someone’s got a 1,000 employees they can’t complain to me about like, “Oh man I can’t influence my hundred employees,” I’m like, “Yeah man that sucks.”
[0:48:51.3] RN: I get that yeah.
[0:48:52.3] SO: Yeah man, geez, imagine if you had one percent of that. It’s that, right? Not having a peer group was kind of sucky. We all love to complain, we all love to whine but we want to whine to someone who understands, who’s not trying to solve your problem, who is just like, “Yeah that sucks. I know what that’s like,” and you’re like, “Cool.”
[0:49:08.3] RN: So how have you dealt with that?
[0:49:10.0] SO: Yeah so over the last few years I’ve built a personal network with guys like Dev right here usually at Five Minute Journal. At my favorite cookie place over the last four years, I have met maybe 250 entrepreneurs there now. Some I have immediately clicked with, some I haven’t. Some I’m just like, “Dear God, I’m never going to hang out with you ever again,” and I haven’t and I am proud of that fact. But it’s just one of those things where you have to go out and put yourself out there in a way.
I am relatively good at, like people are terrible — and this is maybe another tangent. People are terrible at cold networking. They’re terrible at reaching out to somebody and showing them why they should want to hang out. So as a real life example, this guy contacted me and he’s like, “Hey man I love your SJO. I’ve been a subscriber for a while, I love to pick your brain. I’m in Toronto,” and normally I ignore those. Pick your brain is the worst thing, if you are listening to this do not use the word and phrase pick your brain.
[0:50:01.0] RN: Yeah, I think I heard you put this in a post a long time ago and I’ve never said it again.
[0:50:05.0] SO: For sure. Unless it’s a good friend and pick your brain or whatever right? That was at 7 PM and I was just on my laptop because I was waiting for my woman to get home. So I wrote him a scathing reply I’m like, “Look don’t take this personally but,” and then I just went off at him. I am like, “This is what’s wrong, and what are you thinking? bBlah, blah, blah,” and he apologized and he replied and this dude is far more successful than I am.
But I didn’t have the energy to research about who the hell he was and so it was that, right? When I reach out to people I’m not just like, “Hey man, let’s pick your brain,” I’m like, “Hey I am Sol and this is what I have done,” and it’s not just “this is what I have done professionally.” It’s, “This is what I have done non-professionally. I make giant chocolate bars and I’ve done these weird food offs and whatever.” He said he was on SJO, that’s great, but he could have easily referred to a specific instance.
He could have said, “I joined because of this, or I remember this article.” So I always make a specific reference and then to me I always say, “I want to bribe you with the best chocolate chip cookies in Toronto.” Now imagine “I want to bribe you with the best chocolate chips in Toronto” versus “let’s grab lunch or let’s grab a coffee”. It’s so much more interesting and so much more unique to me and then if they go, “What cookies?” Then there’s a whole different conversation there, right? So it’s that.
I just did a lot of outreach, I’ve met a lot of interesting humans. Fridays I just basically hangout at that coffee shop and just meet with interesting people. Every Friday. It’s either read in between people coming over or I am just hanging out with people.
[0:51:23.1] RN: But it’s not like an official meet up or is it?
[0:51:25.5] SO: No, it’s not an official meet up but basically what I would say is like, “Hey I will meet you at 1 o’clock” and I’ll tell maybe Dev I’m like, “Yo come out at 1:45.” So what I try to do is also overlap them so at least you get to meet another person. So it’s not just me, so there’s that value in three and then the conversation is always more interesting to me when there is three people. If someone goes on this weird tangent, they go with it and you’re like, “Whoah, I didn’t even anticipate we’d go there,” right? So I like having a little bit of an overlap and then when no one is there, then I am just reading.
[0:51:49.6] RN: Who’s had, let’s go here just for somebody who is sitting at home right now or listening to this in the gym or in the car, somebody that doesn’t have, they’re not surrounded by people with that kind of growth mindset, what would you recommend for them?
[0:52:02.1] SO: Like how to reach out to people or?
[0:52:04.8] RN: Well, let’s just say they don’t have anybody in their life that has the same mindset.
[0:52:07.9] SO: Dude this is what Twitter and Facebook and social media is for. You can find, unless you’re in the middle of nowhere at which point that is a different problem, but even in Toronto, it wasn’t that I knew all these people beforehand. I was like, “Okay where can I find information on people in Toronto?” So there is a website called BetaKit. That’s like TechCrunch for Canada and it’s based in Toronto so I am like, “Okay I’ll start following that.”
And then they’d mentioned local Toronto entrepreneurs. I’m like, “Okay I’ll see if I’m interested in them,” and the other thing is also, if for every four people I do look at I maybe contact one. The other three I know we’re not going to get along. So I’m big on that that when I reach out to these people, I am doing it from a position where I am like, “I’m excited.” Even today, I randomly run across an article in the Globe and Mail, which is a newspaper here, about how antioxidants don’t solve anything or that they’re overrated.
I’m like, “This is awesome,” and I looked up the woman and she was in Toronto and so when I sent her an email, reading it I could almost feel my own excitement being, “That was awesome. It was no nonsense and fitness and health is full of garbage and you’re in Toronto.” I’m like, “We should be BFF’s,” and it comes naturally to me to say that. She may not respond, she may not, but it’s that kind of when you read the email you’re like, “Oh this person isn’t doing it this is a templated email. He legitimately means it, he mentioned Toronto, he mentioned Global and mail, he mentioned how he used to write for Global Mail, blah, blah, blah,” right? So outreach is not that hard.
[0:53:28.6] RN: You just have to actually care.
[0:53:30.6] SO: You have to care and the other thing is like there’s so much garbage out there. There is so many garbage emails you are getting that a modicum of effort immediately makes you much better than everyone else around and suddenly you are like, “Oh okay I want to talk to this person. I want to have a conversation.” So yeah.
[0:53:43.6] RN: I know Jayson is a big fan obviously, he’s very high touch personalized everything. He’s really good at video outreach, right? Which is another great way to cut through the noise of all the templated crappy emails people get.
[0:53:59.0] SO: The one thing that I don’t agree with Jayson, this one little tweak is…
[0:54:02.5] RN: Yes, this is the polarizing stuff I like.
[0:54:04.8] SO: I personally hate video. I don’t watch YouTube, I hate videos. So the only time I have ever used video is when I’ve established the relationship in them. For example, when I did a Cookie off in January, we had 27 bakers show up. I think I knew four of them before and so after the event, I then sent them a video and they all loved it because now if Jayson sends me a video I’m like, “Okay, I know this guy. I want to hear what he is saying. I want to see if Candice is in there, or what’s going on.”
[0:54:32.0] RN: Yeah, or Eva.
[0:54:33.0] SO: Yeah, exactly and Eva’s always in there. I don’t even have to wonder about that. I am just wondering whether Candice is going to be in there. But to me, video is once you’ve establish a relationship. I personally wouldn’t use it. With that said, a lot of Jayson’s introductions are high touch, they’ve already been introduced warmly, so when he does a video they’re open to it.
[0:54:50.1] RN: But why do you not like it? Do you find it awkward? What’s the actual reason?
[0:54:54.5] SO: I think it’s in terms of high usage. A three minute video can be condensed into 30 seconds of text and so if it’s a first initial email to me and I could be the minority, I won’t deny that, but I will roll my eyes. I’m like, “This person wants me to see a 3 minute video.” People send me messages on audio, I’m like, “Ugh, they actually expect me to listen to this?” Because there’s the first five seconds of static and then the last 10 seconds they don’t know how to end the message.
Then they’re just droning on, and again, I am no better, which is why I don’t do it and I mean imagine if I was like “Listen to your message? Just send me text.” So that’s the one thing I disagree just on the initial messages. Afterwards then video is key, then video sets you apart. That’s when you’re like, “Okay this person is cool.”
[0:55:39.9] RN: So with text, I feel like that’s what the majority does is text. So how can you actually, I’m sure you get a lot of email. So if you get random emails from people wanting to reach out for advice, business advice whatever it is, what are the ones that actually stand out that make you open it, one and two, actually engage and respond?
[0:55:59.7] SO: Honestly, again it goes back to specific references about them or about our budding relationship. So if I was to email Jayson, I wouldn’t just be like, “Hey man, I saw MastermindTalks and I think it’s awesome.” I would be like, “Hey man,” you know let’s say in this case I know UJ, right and we’re mutual friends. I’m like, “Hey man, I love UJ and The Five Minute Journal. I know that a big reason why you got started was because of you so that’s really cool.”
Now he already knows already who I am. The other thing that’s my secret weapon that I have never seen anyone else do is I tweet at them. It’s so easy. Most people are go on Twitter. I will see though if they actually ever replied to anybody and I would just reply to their latest few tweets, if it makes sense. If I have anything relevant to add, I will. So as a real example, a lot of journalists are relatively anti-Trump and I’m not one to be shy about my political feelings or beliefs, whatever word you want to use.
And so when Trump’s EO came out, Canadians even though we have a special relationship with the States, for the first 24 hours we were also caught up in if you are Somalian-born you will not be allowed in and so Vice Magazine wrote an article about companies that are standing up for it and we were one of them. We were one of the first ones to be like, “Listen we don’t agree with this because we are evidence-based and there is no evidence behind this and we are a very diverse organization, both ethnicity wise and gender wise.”
And so when the general is tweeting about it and I tweeted out saying, “Hey I just want to say thank you. It’s a near and dear cause to us and it’s good to see when journalists are also doing it.” When I emailed her she wasn’t like, “Who the hell is this random guy?” She’s like, “This guy is cool,” and it wasn’t from a place of inauthenticity. It was from a real spot and so actually when we had a conversation, I actually linked her the Vice thing and she even liked this even more for that.
It goes back to my one out of four, which is the thing that people usually miss out on, I don’t contact those three other people because I know we are not going to get along or I know that I don’t have enough for them or I don’t even care enough about their writing. Even Roman, if I was to email Romaniello today, I would rave about his writing. I would rave about one of the emails he’s mentioned that he remembers was he used the word splendid in one of his articles.
I wrote him and I’m like, “Dude, I can’t believe you used the word splendid. That’s amazing!” and he remembers this and he mentions this. It’s that. It’s this little things like when people mention to me like, “Oh man, I never thought about using this word,” I’m like, “Giddy up.” When someone was like, “Yeah, I didn’t know what’s terribleness was an actually word,” I’m like, “Okay, see now we are having a conversation.” So it’s that kind of stuff.
[0:58:18.8] RN: Got it so just paying attention to details and referencing them right?
[0:58:22.2] SO: This is not a shotgun approach, this is a riffle approach. You got to do it one by one. It’s takes a long time, but people especially because I used to be in the SEO right? They ask me like, “Oh man, how did you get in Men’s Health or BBC or New York Times?” And I’m like, “Yo, I have built these relationships over years.” I’ve known New York Times editors for now, the first one I met was four years ago. We have that relationship where I can be like, “Yo what’s going on?” and he’ll reply.
We can talk about NBA, we can talk about this, and this is why him and I get along well it’s because he’s — the reason I got good friends with the editor in chief with Entrepreneur Magazine is because he’s a huge NBA fan. He’s a Miami Heat fan, and as the Miami Heat, for those who don’t know Miami Heat started off really bad and they are the most improbable turn on and now they’re about in the playoffs, we would have a conversation about that, right?
So it’s that kind of stuff like maybe I won’t get along with the EIC of Business Insider, that’s okay. I will survive. So I think it’s that, people want to be friends with everybody. They want to be cool with everybody, but you just need a few cool people that you get along with really well and it will just work out really well for everyone.
[0:59:24.5] RN: Got it, that’s good. So trying to transition back just a little bit. We keep going off but you start talking and then things make me go back. No it’s not bad at all but you say interesting stuff and I go down the rabbit hole with you. Just to get it back, so “Fail On” is the mantra we live by here with the idea being that if you’re not failing you are not growing. How do you in a day to day get yourself outside of your comfort zone?
[0:59:52.9] SO: Purely on personal stuff. So for example, I have a terrible singing voice so I took singing classes. I’m still terrible at singing. Terrible at dancing but I always wanted to tango because I lived in Argentina. So I took dance classes. I’ve now gone to terrible to just god-awful. So a lot of people think personal development comes from business books or marketing books. To me, personal development is more, “How do I become more interesting?”
If you were into scuba diving, we could have a conversation about scuba diving. If you are into XYE — if you’re into gardening, we can have a conversation about gardening. We can go into the history of LCD panels and that to me is my failure where I go into areas like I talked about I need to find a hole, it’s the most bizarre thing, but this is my failing is, “Okay I don’t know about this but I want to learn about it, or I am very uncomfortable with this one action,” be it dancing, I have done archery — I have done so many different types of classes.
I did rally racing with Jayson last year and I think it was 12 other people and I was the one in the automatic car because I didn’t want to learn how to drive a stick, that annoyed me. Then we were in Cassabo and we couldn’t drive to Bastian, Greece because I didn’t know how to drive. So I got super annoyed. So I learned how to drive stick. So it’s that, it’s more on the personal side than “I need to develop this in a business side”.
[1:01:05.5] RN: That’s cool and I think you said you wanted to or your focus is getting better at writing this year right? So along those lines, to be able to tell extraordinary stories, you have to live an extraordinary life. So you have that experience so you can relate it back into the writing.
[1:01:19.9] SO: Absolutely. I am reading, well I read anyway a lot but I am reading. I ask Romaniello for example, “What are good books on writing?” So he gave me some recommendations, so I am reading those.
[1:01:29.5] RN: What are they by?
[1:01:30.0] SO: I don’t know it off the top of my head. He gave me like 17 books and I am like, “I’m going to get three,” and then we’ll progress. I think one is the Art of Style of Writing by Steve Pinkler or something like that.
[1:01:41.6] RN: There’s maybe Steven Pressfield huh?
[1:01:43.6] SO: I’m not going to say yes or no because I literally don’t know. I will embrace what I don’t know. But it’s those things, right? It’s uncomfortable, people say, “You are only writing twice a month?” And I’m like, “What? I want to shoot you. Are you kidding me?” It is exhausting. Reading is exhausting, writing for me is draining. I need an hour break after I write and I write for an hour and I’m done and maybe I’ll get better, maybe I am being a baby. I don’t know but I reach the independence to be a baby if I want, so I’ve earned it. But yeah, that’s how I make that stuff happen.
[1:02:12.5] RN: What does failure mean to you?
[1:02:13.7] SO: In a personal way, failure to me is giving up before I should give up. There are things I will not be good at singing for example. My singing teacher said my buddy and I were the worst pupils she ever had. I don’t know if it was just we were legitimately bad or also because we were dumbasses. So that’s not a failure to me. For example, if I gave up on dancing right now that would be considered a failure to me.
[1:02:36.5] RN: Why? Because you know that you have more to give?
[1:02:38.4] SO: Yeah, I am getting better. I have invested, I have bought Latin dancing shoes. I have one and a half inch heel with this soft leather so it doesn’t stick to the ground, absolutely right? So to me that would be a failure and honestly, the biggest thing for failure and it goes back to the immigrant thing, is not embracing everything I can do here and it sounds maybe a little bit hokey-pokey and all that kind of stuff, but all my relatives are in Pakistan or India.
They are smarter than I am, they work harder than I am, they’re far more, let’s say, savvy than I am. Even though I am maybe a thousand times more financially successful than them. There is nothing special about me per se other than the fact that I was born to the right set of humans that moved to the west and for me to not be able to take this opportunity to do ridiculous things to have one, to enjoy to learn, that’s just irresponsible. It’s how I would perceive it as. So yeah.
[1:03:28.6] RN: That’s fair, if somebody came to you let’s say a friend that’s not necessarily an entrepreneur but you see a lot of potential in them and they’re starting to express that. They’re wanting to see it come out and they’re wanting to maybe start a business but they don’t know where to start, what’s one — I like Derek Sivers’ questions. He has all these directives, right? What’s one directive or action item that you would give to that person as a step one to get started?
[1:03:53.4] SO: Going back to what I said about frustrations, I’d have them catalog their frustrations for a month. Every time they are annoyed by — so I normally have a notebook on me, I don’t have one right now because I’m in an agreement with my woman that she buys me notebooks and she owes me a notebook and I refuse to buy one until she gets me one, that’s just how I am. But I would get a notebook and I would say, “Write down every single frustration you experienced,” and if they do it then they are always committed to solving a problem and if they don’t then they’re not..
[1:04:19.4] RN: Especially if they do it for a month.
[1:04:20.2] SO: Exactly, and you will find a lot of random things over the course of a month. It could be something as one of my favorite latest purchases is a waterproof notebook that is in my shower. I love it. I am taking a hot shower, I get a crazy idea and I write it down and I think it is maybe 20 or 30 bucks. I would gladly paid a $100 bucks for that and maybe the frustration that happen this one time I had a great idea but it was in the shower and I couldn’t write it down. Maybe I should do something about that.
[1:04:45.1] RN: That’s where all the great ideas come too.
[1:04:46.6] SO: For sure man. When you have downtime, that’s when you have these shower of thoughts because you finally have some downtime to actually mull over things.
[1:04:52.9] RN: Yeah, if you have to name one person who’s had the absolute most profound impact on your life.
[1:04:57.8] SO: Are we talking about on a personal level or like a business way?
[1:05:00.5] RN: Sure.
[1:05:02.0] SO: All right, if I was to go on a business level, I actually would choose Derek Sivers. He has set his own rules and he’s done what he wants. For example until the beginning of this year, he answered all the emails like any question you;d ask him he’d answer it and at the beginning of this year, he’s like, “I’m done with it. I am no longer answering questions.” That’s awesome. Most people are so scared of changing their personality. For example I have this bizarre thing called Cookie Life where basically people send me cookies. So over the last 13 months I’ve had 133 people now send me cookies.
[1:05:29.8] RN: How are you not super fat?
[1:05:31.4] SO: I just share with everybody. This is why I have so many friends in this world not because I just share it, but I am shutting it down. And people are like, “Why would you shut down? It’s amazing,” and I am like, “Yeah well I am bored of it.” They’re like, “Yeah, but you are getting so many cookies.” So I was just in, I wrote originally for Men’s Health about it. I was just in The Independent and I was just in the Sydney Morning Herald, this is all in the last two weeks and more and more people are reaching out or journalists are like, “Oh, we want to write about this story, there’s so much potential, you could do this, you could this.”
I’m like, “Sure but why don’t you do it? I am done with it. I have had my fun.” It was always meant to be a lark. Can I get one person, five, 10 whatever. I think that’s a big thing he’s done where he’s got bored of it and he’s like, “I’m going to move onto the next thing,” and he’s like, “I don’t need to know what I am exactly doing or I don’t have to have a grand plan to it.”
On a personal level, it would likely be my father. Almost going to sound like me and that I am throwing him under the bridge but he’s a brilliant man but he’s the most, I don’t want to use the word miserable but he was so heavily involved in his work that his social life, he’s great with my mom but that’s it. His social life is non-existent and so for me it was a big deal to work hard whenever I could. I get the compensation for it, but also find that balance between work and not work.
[1:06:36.7] RN: Was it just because he was not a social guy or?
[1:06:41.7] SO: Both; so he was not a social guy and he loved his work and as I mentioned earlier, I was a fat shy nerd. I was never good with people, it wasn’t like I was born with the ability to have a conversation. It was something incredibly uncomfortable. If you were to actually go back and say what is the one best thing I have developed it’s the ability to have a conversation. Even people talk about, “Oh, small talk is so boring.” Small talk is basically you starting to figure out what the other person wants to talk about or what they are interested in.
If you are a good talker you love small talk because you have 19 different things from a little bit of small talk to jump into and if you aren’t good at conversations, then small talk is just small talk. It’s just perfunctory. So just seeing my dad I was like, you know when you were just like, “I’m not going to be my dad,” I’ve lived that to the extremes.
[1:07:26.6] RN: Yeah, absolutely. So you are shutting down Cookie Life, which sorry for all those cookie lovers out there. You guys can take it over for him. What is on the horizon for you that has you most excited?
[1:07:36.4] SO: Nothing per se. I’ve got to be honest. I’m a relatively non-excitable person.
[1:07:44.9] RN: Yeah, you seem very stoic.
[1:07:45.5] SO: Yeah, things happen. They don’t happen. Okay, there’s a stoic of like oh things happen whatever. I’m not necessarily like that. I am more just, “It will happen, it won’t happen, things come together, they don’t come together but”…
[1:07:58.2] RN: What gets you really excited though? There’s got to be something.
[1:07:59.7] SO: One thing I am kind of excited about is the intersection of entrepreneurship with networking, with food and with philanthropy. A lot of entrepreneurs to them philanthropy is “I’m going to sell $50 million and then I’m going to now start cutting checks for a 100,000”. But entrepreneurs like you and I, we can afford to give a thousand a month, we can afford to give $5,000 a year. That’s not going to be dent.
So I do these weird food offs. Early this year, I did a chocolate chip cookie off, right? I mentioned we had 27 pro showed up, we had 140 people show up and we were able to raise $2,500 for a local food sustainable charity and that’s awesome but then I was like, “What can we do even crazier?” and this is where I am completely selfish. I suggested this to other people, they thought it was a terrible idea but I was like, “I don’t care about you,” and so in the end of June, I think mentioned this to you, I am doing a sausage party, which is a sausage food off.
[1:08:52.1] RN: Sausage Fest.
[1:08:53.0] SO: Exactly, a 100% and I think Sausage Party is the final name we settle on because there are all these obvious permutations. But I think we already have 64, 65 tickets sold. It’s $100 a ticket. I want to hit 100 tickets so we raise $10,000 so I was a little bit more excited earlier when it was a challenge when I was like, “Am I going to get a 100 tickets? Can I get that?” Because my thought process was stealing what Jayson does, I will use my reputation to sell 50 tickets and then I’ll go after the sausage makers.
But I know in restaurants and chefs now that I started reaching out to the ones I knew. A few years ago there used to be now defunked Sausage League and the guy who always kicked ass, Jessie Valance, for example, is coming to my sausage party. The number one and number two butchers in Toronto are coming to the sausage party. Well-known chefs are coming. I maybe a little bit less excited because the challenge of it is gone.
I know it is going to sound completely almost oblivious, but now that I know some of them, to me it’s like, “Okay I’ve upped it this time. Next time we’ll do double. Next time we’ll get sponsors or this or this.” To me it’s always like, “Okay I’ve upped it once, I’m not going to change it on the fly.”
[1:09:56.3] RN: But even still that’s amazing, a hundred tickets, a hundred bucks a piece, $10,000 that’s awesome.
[1:10:00.4] SO: Yes, it’s one of those things but it also reaffirms building relationships. I literally just went to people and I said, “Hey man, I’m doing this for $100 a ticket,” I think two people have said, “A $100?” and then I just said — and they said, “I don’t if I wasn't to do this,” and I just said, “Okay well you don’t have to. No one is forcing you to do it.” I personally think it’s worth the time at all. It’s not for the food alone even though the food alone is worth it but all the humans that will be there. All the knowledge and savvy that will be there beyond that, then there’s all the journalist that will be there and all the chefs are all there. So yeah I was really excited about that.
[1:10:32.4] RN: Not to mention the cause, right?
[1:10:33.6] SO: Exactly, that’s kind of what brings it in and so actually what’s happening is a 100% of that is going to the charity. I am covering all the costs and to me, it will be $2,500, let’s say it’s $2,000. That’s a five X return on my initial $2,000 and now we suddenly got $10,000 and now we have more people to take to charity and we have all these chefs who got to make these sausages and I get to eat all of these sausages and be like, “I am the king of the sausage party.”
[1:10:56.7] RN: This almost year one, right? Who knows what it could go to? So it ties back into the idea of “don’t be paralyzed by getting started, just start something”. Even though this isn’t your business per se, but it is a project, right? So you are getting it started and then who knows what it could turn into down the road?
[1:11:14.2] SO: Like my Cookie Off was just because the original cookie I was talking between three people. I’m like, “We’ll do blind taste test,” that happened. The Cookie Life is people sending me cookies. It all happened because I posted a picture and people started saying, “I can make better cookies,” and I said, “Okay send it to me,” and most people would have never said that. Most people are like, “Okay cool. Ha-ha, one day we’ll see,” I was like, “All right, no F-that. Show me now,” right?
And so it’s that. There’s no loss in asking. Obviously there is a time when you don’t ask something. You don’t ever want to put people in a spot. I was giving a talk at Toronto City Hall and some guy is like, “My fiancé is coming on Friday. We should go for cookies” and in my head I was like, “Why would I care if your fiancé’s coming?” I don’t want to sound like jerk but what does your fiancé have anything to do with anything? I don’t know who is your fiancé is. You didn’t even mention who your fiancé is.
Maybe she’s a super star, I don’t know? And two he put me on the spot. He put me in an unfortunate position where saying no is not as easy. So my big thing is always go for the ask but in a position where they can easily say no and there’s no hard feelings and that you should know that they can say no.
[1:12:13.2] RN: Don’t put them in a corner.
[1:12:14.0] SO: Absolutely, that is a better way of saying it. I will say it like that, “Don’t put them in a corner.” Excellent.
[1:12:15.2] RN: Write that down man.
[1:12:16.2] SO: Damn straight, oh it’s stuck in there now.
[1:12:21.2] RN: All right cool. So we have been running a while now so I want to respect your time but yes the beautiful part about this conversation is that you have the time to do this, right?
[1:12:28.8] SO: Yes, it flows naturally. I do actually have I think a call soon. Someone wants to, well I mean, call, someone wants to come record the Sausage Party and the experience of it which is a commitment but it is one of those where I’m like, “Okay I don’t need to stress out about it.” There is no do or die. If they say no, that’s okay. If I say no actually it is okay. If you make this happen that’s okay too, but yeah, it keeps life interesting.
[1:12:53.4] RN: Cool man. Well thank you so much for sitting down today and taking the time to record.
[1:12:57.2] SO: Dude my pleasure. This was — I got to just basically babble on for an hour. So actually, I should be thanking you for listening to me to just go on and on.
[1:13:05.7] RN: No, you’ve got to have somebody to vent to.
[1:13:06.8] SO: That’s right.
[1:13:07.4] RN: No, but I really like doing this in person over and I am sure you do a lot of podcasts. I am assuming most are over Skype and audio only so I think us both sitting on a couch is a lot…
[1:13:18.9] SO: It’s way different.
[1:13:19.4] RN: It’s way different, it’s more of a conversation.
[1:13:22.1] SO: A 100%, it’s more natural.
[1:13:23.9] RN: But until next time, we’ll catch you later.
[1:12:25.2] SO: Have a good one. See you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[1:13:29.6] RN: All right, you can find Sol at sjo.com where he shares all of his unfiltered views on business, fitness, and networking. He’s @sol_orwell on Twitter and of course, all the links and resources Sol and I discussed including more information on his latest projects and ventures can be found at the page created specifically for this episode. You will find it all at failon.com/005.
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