In 2013 I was broke. Not poor, but broke. I knew a bunch of things. Things people would pay me for. Things I was willing to do the work to trade for money, but nonetheless, I had a very very negative bank account balance.
I had a construction company. In my way of talking, that meant I had a state sanctioned license, was bonded and could legally do work for money on people’s houses and buildings.
I was still broke. No money. In debt.
Kinda weird thing, I’d been to college, had a degree, attended grad school and had made money entrepreneurially. In my twenties I’d racked up three months in a row of over $30,000 profit. Before (or rather without) the internet. I’d attended Harvard graduate courses and received A grades. That didn’t seem to be the problem. In fact, at the age of 37, I really couldn’t figure out what I actually lacked. I was healthy. I liked folks and liked talking to them. I was fairly open and wanted to share. I understood a lot of topics. And yet…. I had negative money. Married. Kiddo on the way. Summa Cum Laude in undergrad. Division I athlete. A average from Harvard in Graduate level classes and for some reason I couldn’t sort out what I still needed to learn. What was I still missing?
It turned out the answer was: Nothing, and A Lot.
When you are climbing in an attic, hands and knees and feet stretched between rafters and it’s 145 degree fahrenheit, it’s tough to take a phone call. My wife had a special ring, and when I got my balance and had braced myself across a few rafters so I could answer the phone, I heard those words “I know you are going to figure this out, but….” time kinda seems to stop. The temperature doesn’t register anymore. It doesn’t seem any different than walking in northern Alaska at -60 below because you blew a radiator. All those sensations kinda fade and you go inside your head and realize you have made a mistake that you have to fix.
You made it.
You fix it.
Natalie (my wife) let me know that the utility company had turned our water off because we were late paying our bill. I had a few hours before I had to explain the situation of not taking a shower tonight to our oldest daughter, and Natalie wanted to give me some warning and heads up.
Mad. That was the emotion. That was the one I went to when I had to get something done. Mad. Mad at myself. Myself only, but good Lord, I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me because that anger engulfed a lot of space around me.
After I got out of that attic, I drove home slowly. Not just because my orange 1972 International Travelall was a slow vehicle, but because I didn’t want to face anybody right then. I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. I also knew that nobody I knew had the answer I needed. I had the cell phone numbers of Nobel laureates I had taken classes from, Olympic Athletes I’d grown up with, State Senators who I’d leased space to run my first baseball card shop business from, a couple billionaire clients I’d guided in the wilderness in Alaska and Colorado. None of them came to mind and even if they had, I was too embarrassed, ashamed and mad to ask for guidance.
The drive back to my house; all I remember was the sound of my engine. Still running.
I don’t really remember that evening. The talk with my wife and my oldest daughter about the water and utilities. I knew we weren’t going to starve to death or die of thirst. It was hotter than hades here in Phoenix, but with water, you won’t die. I didn’t want to just put a bandaid on the problem, I wanted to fix it. Actually what I wanted to do was get rid of the condition that had led to the problem. There had been an underlying element in my life: I had the wrong goals. I set goals. I achieved them.
Then I wound up with my utilities turned off. Either all of the education I’d had from academia, from the same coaches that created olympic and professional athletes, that had won Nobel prizes had been wrong, or I had missed something.
I had had money before. I’d earned it I’d spent it. It was gone. I needed more than a way to make money. I had plenty of those. Still for some reason I found myself broke.
I had an incredible relationship with my wife. I had close friends. I was close to my family, but at this point, I knew this was a problem I needed to figure out on my own.
I had (and still have) this old brick of a MacBook laptop. It didn’t work unless it was plugged in to the wall. Some battery charge control issue. I also couldn’t get on the internet at home. No budget for that home internet nonsense, but luckily Starbucks was a few hundred yards away (not meters, I’m from the US).
My starbucks (I call it that, it’s mine) opened at 4am. I was there when they unlocked the door and bought a grande brew for a couple bucks, plugged in to power and accepted the terms and conditions.
If you haven’t ever searched for “make money online” or “market my business online” you may not relate to this next piece. There is a barrage of ads. Of strange “push button millions” offers and the like. I really didn’t want any of that. I had a business and when I got customers, I made money. Problem was, I didn’t get many customers.
I kinda knew my website was OK if people found it, because several customers had wound up on my website, and then called me and commented on why they wanted to go with me based on my website and specifically what I had written and how I had positioned myself to try to help folks whose houses didn’t work well for energy efficiency or comfort. There just weren’t many people who were calling, so my idea was to get more people to my website and hopefully get more folks to see who I was and what I was offering.
As dawn broke and more people started streaming in to the Starbucks I was at, I put on some over the ear headphones so I could focus on what I was reading and listening to and needed to understand. This old pair of blue of white Sony headphones that my oldest daughter still uses.
Anyway, luck seems to kinda work out if you have patience and if you don’t take yourself out of the game. After a few hours, I found a video online with a guy named Mike Long sitting on a couch (of all things) talking to a dude with sleeve tats about ranking websites on Google. From here, right now, I still have to call it luck. I can’t really tell you why I clicked through on that video and why I followed the trail of the tatted guy (Greg) to this course called OMG Machines, but I did.
I could tell Mike was a marketer. The way he spoke and such, it was obvious something was for sale, but at the same time, he was drawing attention to things that weren’t normal. Rather, they weren’t common. Things about duplicatability, about a method and system. Almost underplaying the huge personality and charisma thing I’d seen elsewhere, and Greg… Well he was just someone who was ultimately believable. I wish I had a better word for it, but he was believable. You could tell he wanted to help for sure, but even more than that, you just got a sense that he really really knew what he was talking about. I kinda wish I’d bookmarked that video or saved it, but it will live on in my memory forever.
So maybe obviously, I wanted to learn more from these guys. Problem was, as I mentioned earlier, I was broke. I’d watched enough to know that if what they shared in the course actually worked, I could rank my business website on Google, create more phone calls and get out of the situation I was in. That would have been easily solvable, except that I had no money.
I didn’t ask my wife. I didn’t phone my parents. I didn’t ask my best friend who was an engineer at Intel. I went on the back porch, dug through a cardboard box with a bunch of unopened mail, stickers, silverfish bugs and dust and found the title to my truck. I drove it down to the title loan company and because it was so old and in disrepair, the terms I got were crap. $1200 bucks, and if it wasn’t paid in full in 90 days they would take the truck. I headed back to the house and called some of the subcontractors I had worked with and sold my thermal camera, my blower door fan, manometer (air pressure tools) and got enough to buy the course, and effectively burned every bridge I had to go back to being a construction worker in this capacity. For “f” sake, I am not trying to convince anyone to have to do this. I hope nobody has to. This last year when I finally told my parents about what I’d done they felt horrible about me not asking them for a loan or money or whatever, but at some point in a man’s life, he has to make some decisions that he alone pays the consequences for.
Well, I sold the stuff and got some money. Water was back on and I was back at Starbucks, every morning, when they unlocked at 4am. I watched, learned, built and then laced up my steel toed boots and went to work. I went home. Ate with the family and went back to starbucks to work until they closed at 11pm. I slept enough. I felt somewhat proud in doing what I could to build and not beg. Within 45 days I had 30 websites getting online traffic and phone calls that I could take and help folks out with. I paid off back bills. I paid off some subcontractors that I was behind paying on. At a certain point, around 60 days into my website building, I had so many phone calls coming in that I wrote up some data, sent it to Office Depot to get printed and set a meeting with a sub-contractor who did a lot of the same things I did. I brought him the data of the traffic and phone calls I was getting. I let him know which of the jobs I’d hired him for had come from the websites I’d built and ranked, and I asked him if he wanted to “buy” the phone calls from these websites. He was definitely interested, but he was also pretty coy. He said, yes, I’d like those jobs, let me think about it. I’d pressed the issue by asking if he wanted to buy. At the “let me think about it” phrase I interjected, of course, I can’t even sell because I’ve promised to meet with Company A, Company B later this week, and I’m only starting a conversation about whether we can all work together to help these folks and make money ourselves. I left his office with a check for over $10,000 that afternoon.
Lots of shit (pardon the language) has went down since that day. My mom emergency flighted from Alaska with Lymphoma, my dad having five surgeries for a heart attack and infection, my middle daughter getting a fractured skull, my wife getting diagnosed with cancer, losing an uncle to cancer… All sorts of things that life will bring, to everyone. What I am thankful for is that I had the means and life to be present for these events and get through them in a way that I never would have been able to do if I had been working in home improvement.
So, that’s the tip of the iceberg. The real good stuff that lead to all the good and displaced much of the bad is hard to explain in a simple article. I’ll be forever grateful to Mike and Greg for being on that webinar back in early 2013, and especially to David, who decades earlier had set a plan in motion that led to creating something that has led me to a place where the life I always saw for myself and my loved ones is a life that I can put together.