This is how my story goes.
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be
extremely rich the richest person on Earth. I had a case of superlatives. I wanted to feel superior to everyone else in the whole world… specially all the rich kids I knew about. I wanted to be the best and have the best. Anything less would be failure. I wanted the biggest, the most expensive, and the most luxurious house. I wanted to have the biggest and the most expensive car collection. Anything less would not do.
I also wanted to be the president of the world… not a single country, the whole world. To be fair, this probably sounds like what most people wanted when they were children.
I think it could have stemmed from the fact that, again like most children, growing up, there were a lot of things that I wished to have, but couldn’t, because my parents did not have enough money. We were not poor but not rich either.
As I grew up, I realized, the most efficient way to get rich is by owning a successful business. In addition to the money it will bring me, I liked the idea of seeing myself as a businessman.
A Witch’s Spell
Although I had my mind set on becoming a businessman, the idea of doing business felt like somewhat of a mysterious affair… like magic… like a witch’s spell that only works if you chant it in a certain way. That is why the idea of taking home a profit from a business of my own seemed like a distant thing to me… I felt like I needed to try very hard to figure out the complex method of casting that spell. Although very difficult, at the same time it seemed extremely rewarding and lucrative. For me, turning a profit from a business felt like making something out of nothing… like taking advantage of a loophole in the game of life… so in my opinion back then, it required a certain level of wise/cunningness.
Apart from the money, the idea of being a businessman seemed very attractive… something I should aspire to become. In my head, a businessman had achieved more than a salaried worker. He was more skilled, articulate, cunning and even shrewd (in a good way). He was not bound by any schedule. He was free to do whatever he wanted to do in his day, everyday. He knew something others didn’t know. He saw opportunities others didn’t see… and he took advantage of them. What he could do, others couldn’t do. And that appealed to me very much.
Although when I was a kid I felt like I was destined for success no matter what, as I grew up, I realized that those things were probably not going to become true on their own… it was unlikely. I knew deep down that I had to take it from the world… I couldn’t just leave it to chance. I knew I had to hustle. And that seemed fair to me. No pain no gain, I thought.
The question I was left with was how to do it. How do I become a businessman? Which business do I start? There are so many types of industries out there — which one do I pick?
Hidden in Plain Sight
Thinking back, another just-as-important question I should have asked myself was, how do I successfully run it to make a profit? But that didn’t really matter much to me back then. For me, it was all about finding the right business… a hidden gem… a business opportunity that no one else had discovered yet. In my head, that was how all the rich businesspeople had beaten the near-impossible puzzle of business to claim their prizes. And I was going to do the same to join them.
I felt I didn’t have what it takes in me to just start a business from what I had to then succeed in it… just at disadvantage in general, for some reason. So I assumed I needed to come up with some “scheme”. I needed to find a loop hole… a hidden opportunity that I could exploit… that was the only way I could be successful in business. Because, in my mind, it was all about finding a good business opportunity. And that hypothetical “good” business would be something, if stumbled upon, anyone could do to get rich, irrespective of who you were, where you were in the world or what skills you had. All that mattered was coming up with it. Once you have done that, then you are almost set for life. It was smooth sailing from there on… guaranteed success.
I would come up with the most complicated schemes to make money — wildly impractical of course. It was like planning the route of a piece of thread through a stack of needles… mapping out the holes it could pass through to emerge from the other side, having to make so many twists and turns along its way. And if you have ever done such a thing, I am sure you have not, but you can imagine how frustrating and disappointing it can feel because there really aren’t many paths you can take, and pieces of thread are notorious for being poor passers through tiny holes. That’s exactly how I felt too… frustrated and disappointed.
I spent quite a few years like that, walking around the carnival grounds of the internet with a metal detector, looking for treasure buried below, while some people were winning huge prizes at the actual games there. I thought I was the only one who was doing this, and I didn’t want others to know what I was doing, because I didn’t want them finding the treasures before me. But now I realize there were a lot of people who were running around doing the same thing as me.
Although I walked for miles tirelessly without finding any, I always assumed it was because of my lack of skill in finding them. I just needed to look harder and for longer.
For several years, I didn’t even stop to look up to take a good look at how others were playing the games, and how they were winning. Ironically, it was right there in those details where the answer I was looking for was… the details that I felt didn’t count/were invalid.
So I guess you can say I couldn’t see what was right in front of me… hidden in plain sight… for quite a few years.
Walking on Eggshells
I was looking for the secret sauce. It was a mystery for me. In my mind, successful business people all knew some secret that we others didn’t. They were like different breed to me.. a different type of people. And they were cashing in on it everyday. They knew the secret recipe to running a successful business. For me, every good business was walking on a tight rope. And the owners were experts who knew where and how to keep every step everyday. You had to. Because unless, you would fall. They were perfect. They never made a wrong move. This was the mysterious secret sauce I was looking for… the sacred wisdom about which steps to make in my own business… right from the start.
I remember feeling so insecure and scared to make any move, fearing that I will make a mistake. The thought of making a single wrong move that would cost me potential future profit scared me. So I didn’t make any real move at all.
I did start many ventures, but never made any real commitment that could have made a difference. I didn’t feel ready. I was waiting for that non-existent secret wisdom to arrive to me… the grand theory of business. I felt like a lost lamb in fox country. I didn’t know what I was doing. And I was insecure about it… like a man walking past a graveyard at night, pretending to be brave. Or like when you are desperately trying to hold in a massive load of diarrhea waiting to burst out while speaking to a crowd on a stage. Feeling feverish, hands sweating and tingling, sweat dripping down from the forehead, and it feels so freezingly cold. And you try so hard to focus on both at once… your speech and your anus muscles. And your stomach is churning and making weird noises.
Of course during this time there were things that businesses did that made me go well that’s a stupid move… that’s gonna hurt their business… specially in advertisements because I like to study about that a lot. But deep down I doubted myself… because deep down I “knew” that I couldn’t be smarter than them… there was probably something they knew about business which makes what they did make sense (and sometimes they probably did, but that’s not the point). There had to be… because, in my head, they were always one step ahead of me.
There they were, the circle of smart business elites who had everything figured out, and then there was novice me, looking in from the boundary, studying their every move religiously, trying to figure them out to hopefully join them one day. In my mind I was a bottom dweller in the pond of business waiting to rise to the top.
The danger of this mindset was that you try to see non-existent patterns and develop misleading conclusions and theories. Because according to you all the other businesses have it figured out, you try to establish theories that you assume to be true for the whole business universe… the “right” way to do business. This is the worst with huge brands and especially people that are world famous for being successful. You start to worship them. Their business decisions become gospel to you… their logos, choice of color, language, font… fashion sense or even morning routine. You make non-existent connections between their financial success and random habits. You aspire to “be like” them… the gods of business. Notice something that you think could have been done “better”? Nope, you must be wrong, there must be something that they know that you don’t.
I can gladly say that I have come a long long way from that mindset where I can confidently say I’m pretty close to the “truth”. And you should be glad too, because if you’re reading this, then it means that by the end of these lessons, you will know what I know now.