For about a week after my interview with Tim, I was thinking about all the things I could have done better:
I wish I hadn’t have been so excited or nervous
I forgot to talk about this book, or that YouTube video
I can’t believe I didn’t mention this super pivotal apprenticeship
This mentor talked me into taking the plunge and I completely forgot
I should have prepped better by retracing my steps from over the years
It’s been three weeks and I still think of topics I could have talked about. I tried hard to be as helpful as possible while on super short notice. I have no freaking idea how Tim’s high-profile guests have an answer for everything - maybe they’re used to getting asked questions, while this was only my second media interview. I was also nervous, to put it lightly.
On the bright side, the episode is actually airing! That means it passed Tim’s quality threshold, and will be helpful to his audience which is all I really wanted going into it. We also talked for over 2 hours, so obviously we couldn’t fit all this stuff in.
I’m willing to bet you listened up to the end of the episode, did a search, and stumbled across this post. Cool! Lemme tell you all the stuff I didn’t get around to mentioning on the show.
Rob Snell guides me over the threshold
Back in July 2011 when I was 24, I had taken a job working for a company that wanted me to start an ecommerce store for them. It wasn’t just a job - I was the president of the company, had equity in it, and built the whole thing by myself while they paid the upfront costs. The main problem here was that I didn’t have any ecommerce experience.
SoI did the best thing I could, which was find out what the hell our biggest competitor was using to build their website and copy them. A quick search in their HTML revealed they were using an ecommerce platform Yahoo Small Business, and another search showed that there was a ‘For Dummies’ book showing you how to build a Yahoo Store from the ground up.
The same day I was hired, I drove to maybe 3 Barnes and Noble bookstores in Dallas trying to find a copy and couldn’t. I didn’t have any friends in ecommerce or who knew what Yahoo Stores was, so I ended up sending an email to the author, Rob Snell, asking if it was outdated.
Rob sent me PDF copy of the book and a whole bunch of other resources to get started, like a link to the most popular Yahoo Store community, software recommendations, how to get a merchant account for credit card processing… what a cool dude. We ended up meeting a couple of times at Yahoo Store events at their Sunnyvale HQ.
When things went sour at that company in late 2013, I flew out to Las Vegas for an event called Pubcon that Rob likes. He knew I wanted to go out and start my own thing, but I didn’t know what to do. Rob took me to a cafe and started writing out all kinds of business ideas onto a yellow legal pad. I couldn’t believe he was willing to spend his time helping me out! It was a huge vote of confidence.
A couple weeks later ( I think), Rob and I got on a phone call that I thought would only be about 30 minutes and ended up being a couple hours. He took me behind the scenes of his ecommerce company and other companies he was managing. I learned how much revenue they were bringing it, their marketing strategies…. it was unbelievable, and he was showing it all to me. Everything clicked and made sense, and I started to believe in myself.
I haven’t seen Rob in a few years but we still text every now and then. Thank you, Rob!
Phil and the PPC apprenticeship
About a month after my online store went live in May 2014, I started looking for some freelance work doing PPC management for businesses using Google Adwords. SpyGuy wasn’t making enough money to pay the bills, and I thought I could get a lot of experience and some money by running campaigns for other people.
I found a Craigslist ad for someone out in Frisco (30 minute drive from Dallas) that was looking for an apprentice to help with his workload. I shot him an email letting him know I was looking for some side work, and that’s when I met Phil.
Phil had just moved to Texas from California (damnit) and was running Adwords for a handful of companies, including heavy hitters like See’s Candy and Simplehuman. It was too much work, so he ended up hiring me to fill in the gaps.
I ended up handling PPC for 2 ecommerce businesses, a home improvement company, and I think a consulting company. It was a lot of fun seeing how Phil went about manipulating keyword bids, creating ads, try to improve quality score… these were changes we were making to some really big websites, so there was a lot of useful data to mine.
I think I lasted about 3 months there before leaving to focus only on my own website, but Phil was a great guy to bounce ideas off of and learn marketing from.
Around 2014, I had learned about a guy named John Romaniello and quickly became a fan. His book ‘Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha’ was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. He’d written it with a guy named Adam Bornstein, whose name also kept cropping up in magazines and online articles I was reading.
About a year after that I was written up on the Forbes website, and later on became friends with Sol Orwell through reddit - he’d also been featured on Forbes and we had stumbled across each other in the /r/entrepreneur subreddit. We had a bit in common in the 4HWW background and being solopreneurs.
Anyways, Sol hits me up and tells me he’s speaking at a conference called Two12 and that I should go. It was being organized by Adam, and was about 5x the average cost of most conferences I attended.
I balked at the price for like a second…. and then bought a ticket. It’s important to get on the plane and physically meet with the people you want to be around. The speaker lineup was full of people I’d long admired and it made sense that as a result, the audience would be full of cool people as well.
And it was! It’s almost impossible to meet everyone at a conference, plus I’m very introverted by nature. Either way, it’s inspiring to be around cool people doing cool stuff - it makes me want to do cool stuff, too. Some people I enjoyed hanging out with for the first time were Sol, Nathan Barry, Andy Morgan, and Jason Quey. I was also able to meet Tim Ferriss and tell him, “Thanks for everything!” which was pretty cathartic.
Being here taught me to dream bigger and that there wasn’t really a bunch of secrets that I needed to get in on in order to be more successful. That said, I definitely felt tremendously out of place and feel as though I need to do something ‘more important’ than selling spy gear.
DC Austin Mastermind
The same month that I took on an apprenticeship with Phil, I learned about the TropicalMBA podcast. It was like an earthquake had gone off. Here I was all alone in a suburb of Dallas, with nobody around me that gave a damn about building location independent lifestyle businesses…. and then I find a podcast with 300+ episodes that talk about exactly that.
I think I burned through most of the back catalog within a month. It became the only thing I listened to. A new episode came out each week which kept adding to the realization that there were people all over the world interested in what I was interested in. I’d finally found my people! Except I didn’t know any of them.
About 2 months after I started listening, a new episode came out that announced they were having a one-day, in-person mastermind right down the road in Austin. I bought a ticket and convinced my friend Natalie to let me crash at her place for a day.
It was super nerve wracking. The hosts, Dan and Ian, sounded exactly like they did on the podcast (go figure) and I didn’t know anyone at this thing, although there was a bit of a kinship between everyone in the conference hall.
For those who have never attended a mastermind like this, I’ll explain. Each table has 5-6 people of similar backgrounds (ecommerce, authors, marketers, programmers) that take turns in the hot seat. 5 minutes to explain your struggles and specific feedback you’re wanting, and then 25 minutes where your peers tell you exactly what they think.
It’s exhausting, energizing, demoralizing, uplifting…. it’s kickass and I think all business owners should do it. It was a long ass day, but I came away with a lot of insight and new friends. I ended up joining their paid community the Dynamite Circle and have gone to all their flagship events the last few years in countries like Spain, Vietnam, and Thailand. This podcast and Austin mastermind were the seeds that helped me make friends all around the world.
How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big
This is one of those books that I wish I could have given to myself in high school. Sometimes it’s better to be a generalist where you’re not especially good at any one skill, but combined those skills make a powerful ‘talent stack’ that’s valuable.
This was also the book that introduced me to the power of systems thinking, mental models, types of cognitive bias, and overall just having your shit together. I would strongly recommend picking up his other book, 'Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter'.
How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life
I read this book earlier in the year and think it’s fantastic. Everyone reading this post right now should pick up a copy and read it next to the fire this winter with a glass of scotch, especially if you’re suffering an existential crisis like I was at the time.
Adam Smith is typically known best as an economist, but he wrote a philosophy book about 300 years ago which was largely forgotten until this last decade or so. Humans haven’t changed much in that time and are still asking a lot of the same questions, for which Smith has answers.
From the description: “What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly entertaining.”
I love the way this book was written, the recurring themes, and how it’s given me answers to questions I’ve been wondering about as I’ve grown older.
How To Win Friends and Influence People
This makes it on everyone else’s list and I guess it makes mine, too. I haven’t even finished it yet, but the ~80% I did read was full of solid information about being a great person.
Even if you don’t actually remember each of the ‘rules’ once you’re done reading you’ll definitely start behaving differently once they’ve been explained to you through the various case studies backing it up.
80/20 Sales and Marketing
‘The Pareto Principle applied to sales and marketing’ is the best way to explain it.
I picked up a copy along with his book teaching Adwords (which is outdated), so it’s been about 5 years since it was read. I probably need to reread it as I’m struggling to remember why it was so impactful, but I recall it being a book I couldn’t put down.
Building a StoryBrand
I loved this book!
I had the pleasure of seeing the author, Donald Miller, give a keynote at a big conference almost 2 years ago. There were a couple thousand people in the room so I assumed he was one of those dumb circuit speakers, but I was wrong. It was a great talk and had a lot of takeaways which is pretty rare for a conference keynote.
I finally read his book while in Bangkok 2 months ago. My eyes were wide open from start to finish, and I was copying entire paragraphs onto my legal pad. I was even taking photos of passages and sending it to my team over Slack.
One sentence summary: your customer is the hero of the story and everything you do needs to help them along their journey.
Anything You Want
What a fun book! I’m a massive fan of Derek Sivers and recommend all of his books and podcast appearances to other entrepreneurs.
Anything You Want made me realize that when you create a business, you’re making your own little world where you set all the rules. Some part of your business driving you crazy? Make it go away. Think it’d be fun to do this one thing nobody else is doing? Go for it!
Want the best parts of business school education for $12? Josh Kaufman was an executive at P&G and breaks down why getting an MBA is probably a waste of money. He goes over all the different aspects about creating and running a business in a conversational tone. It’s very informative and you’ll feel a lot smarter after reading it.
Ramit Sethi fans will like this a lot. Simply put, most businesses have poorly structured finances - one bank account and either there’s money to pay the bills or there isn’t.
Profit First in a nutshell basically has you hiding away money so your business can’t spend it. Most businesses are run on [Revenue-costs = profit] and PF flips it to [Revenue-profit = expenses]
You’ll open about 6 total bank accounts: income, opex, inventory, owner pay, profit, and tax. All income goes into the income account, and then a percentage of all of that gets filtered into the appropriate account.
If you’re an ecommerce business with inventory, the Inventory account might get 40% of all income, taxes might get 15%, and then you can allocate 10% to profit. You’re automatically socking away money and forcing your business to run on whatever is left over.
I credit this book for helping my company be profitable all these years.
This was the website I used to get started with SEO, except back then it was called SEOmoz. Rand Fishkin isn’t there anymore, but he was a great teacher back when he ran the company and helped me get off on the right foot in an industry that is pretty sketchy. Their SEO academy is a great place to start if you’re looking at getting into SEO.
These guys have broken down SEO to make it as easy as possible for you to understand. If they have a new blog post or resource up, you can bet I’m reading it. since their content is outstanding.
Ahrefs is great if you’re looking at getting into freelance, opening an agency, or just want to work on your own website.
This is Noah Kagan’s personal site. I originally thought Noah was a bit of a scam artist, but I’m not why - it was maybe a Facebook Ads campaign run amok and I was just seeing him everywhere.
Either way, I ended up buying a course from him called “How To Make Your First Dollar” that was supposed to get you comfortable with taking risks with entrepreneurship. I felt a little cheated at first since literally the first exercise was asking someone else for a dollar…. I can’t remember much else other than thinking the course was helpful in the end.
After that, Noah and I ended up meeting over tacos (of course) while in Austin and have run into each other a few times since then. My initial impression was wrong - he’s a smart guy, absolutely hilarious, and has been really cool to me. His blog is full of experiences he’s gone through, advice, and the sort of stuff that’s hard to come by elsewhere on the internet.
This player has an awesome productivity blog, runs an ecommerce business, manages a 6-figure content marketing agency, has a popular iOS app making him side income, and reads a shit ton. And he shares it all on his podcast and blog! Really cool dude.
I have no idea if this blog is good anymore, but back in 2014 their content was kickass and very helpful for learning Google Adwords. I came away with a lot of ideas for keyword research, structuring ad campaigns, and maximizing ROAS.
I visited their website just now and it gave me cancer, but maybe the content is still good.
I’m using this website as a proxy for DHH and Jason Fried. Their way of thinking has influenced me quite a bit and their books are awesome. Very counterintuitive business advice - don’t hustle, do less. Don’t raise money, make a profit.
The Random Show
The occasional YouTube video with Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose shooting the shit. I get a glimpse into their worlds and come away with all sorts of crazy thoughts. It’s a lot of fun, but prolly not for everyone.