Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

Category: Money and Hustle (page 2 of 2)

The Complete Guide To Building A Profitable Location-Independent Business

There’s one question I get asked more than all the other questions combined. No, it’s not a question about travels, although I do get asked those fairly often, too. That question is: “James, how do you fund your travels around the world?”

It’s a great question. Obviously, as you can already guess, I don’t have a regular 9-5 job. I don’t freelance remotely. I don’t work for anyone else. I don’t have a boss that I report to.

Answer: I work for myself. I run multiple online businesses. Although you’ve learned about me through this site—Maverick Traveler—that is actually just one of the many sites/brands I run. Each of these sites provides me with certain value and sells a certain product or service, giving me a certain income every month.

The income allows me to live anywhere in the world, while pursuing my interests and passions such as practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Brazil, sunbathing out in beautiful Southern Thai beaches, or surfing on the amazing beaches in Bali.

Once upon a time this type of life was a mere dream, a fantasy, something that I thought would be impossible to achieve. Now it’s a life that I’m living every second of every hour of every day of my life. It’s very real. As real as it gets.

In order to live the life you want—an unconventional life—you must do unconventional things. That means you have switch away from the 9-5 mindset and internalize the location-independent mindset. It’s a mindset where you work as much as you need, a mindset where you’re building your own dream instead of helping someone else build theirs.

In fact, there has never been a better time to start a location-independent business. We’re living in the most open society in the history of mankind. Everyone has access to the Internet and the unlimited information and knowledge that comes with it. Everyone can register a domain on the Internet for a couple of bucks, get hosting and build out a business for free.

Starting a business shouldn’t be hard, yet people stumble on it all the time.

Okay, so how do you actually build a viable business?

The keyword is value.

Do something interesting and useful, and then package it in a way that’s useful to others. In exchange for this value, you get something called money. Everybody wins.

Of course, the above is far easier said than done. Part of that is because there’re a bunch of “minor” things I’m omitting from the discussion, things like coming up with a great idea, zeroing in on your unique value proposition (UVP), marketing, selling, user acquisition, and a bunch of other things you must master to succeed.

A profitable business is like a finely tuned engine, where all the pistons are firing perfectly and all components are working in symphony with each other.

Beyond the 9-5

This is my story. Ever since quitting my lucrative and high-paying Silicon Valley job about ten years ago, I’ve been traveling around the world full time while running a series of location independent businesses. I’ve been fortunate enough that my travels have taken me to over 85 countries. (I’m currently writing this from Kiev, Ukraine).

I failed and succeeded. Then failed again. And then ultimately succeeded. Over time, through lots and lots of trial and error, I managed to learn what works.

For the past five years, I’ve been mentoring lots of guys on building their own location-independent businesses. Each time, we sat down, focused on their experience, knowledge and passion. Then, we designed a business model that enables them to do what they love, while adding immense value to other people’s lives. It’s a win/win for everyone.

All in all, I’ve helped hundreds of guys transform their passions and interests into a viable and very profitable businesses.

The result is this course. It’s a course I started working on in the beginning of this year while living in Bali, Indonesia. I continued working on it while living in Chiang Mai, aka the Digital Nomad Capital of the World. There, I connected with many digital nomads, learned their struggles and challenges, and then integrated everything that I’ve learned back into the course.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been putting in 16-hour days, trying to finish and tidy everything up.

Maverick Entrepreneur Bootcamp Video Course

The Maverick Entrepreneur Bootcamp Video Course covers everything you need to build a location-independent business tailored to your passions and interests from scratch.

There are hours of video footage that covers stuff like: 

  • Brainstorming the perfect idea
  • Finding your unique value proposition
  • Building a bulletproof brand
  • The science of marketing to the masses
  • Building products and services that people crave
  • Monetizing those products and services
  • Selling like a pro
  • And much, much more…

Of course, there are all kinds of courses on building your independent business. This course is different. The objective of this course is to focus in on your passions and interests and leverage them towards building a viable business. It’s the complete opposite of doing anything just to make some money. That’s what your miserable 9-5 job was for, remember?

This course is an interactive video course, where each module covers a crucial part of the business-building process. At the end of each module, there’s a summary of what you’ve learned and exercises that you need to complete before you go to the next module.

This course is my most monumental work yet. It’s bigger in scope than anything I’ve done in the past. It embodies absolutely everything that I learned about running location-independent businesses while traveling the world for 10 years, right after quitting the dreaded rat race. To say that I’m extremely proud of this work would be a huge understatement.

But that’s not all…

If you sign up this weekend—to sweeten the deal—I will also include my entire life’s work absolutely free. This includes all the books I’ve ever written, plus my exclusive podcasts and content that are no longer available on the site:

  • The Sovereign Man: How To Become A Strong and Resilient Man (225 pages)
  • The Way of the Maverick: Overcome Any Obstacle and Reach Your Pinnacle (205 pages)
  • The Man In Pursuit: How To Meet and Seduce Women In The Wild (217 pages)
  • The Maverick Entrepreneur Startup Kit
  • My exclusive podcasts on game, masculinity and mindset
  • My exclusive podcast on quickly and effectively learning a foreign language
  • Access to a private community of location-independent entrepreneurs

Most comprehensive courses are usually priced anywhere from $97 to $397 (and beyond). As part of the weekend launch, the course PLUS all the bonuses is only $67. This is for lifetime access.

After the weekend, the bonuses will disappear and the price of the course jumps to $97.

Let me ask you something: how would you feel if you had the blueprint to turn your passion and interests into an extra $500/month, $1,000/month, $2,000/month or more? My students are easily making that much.

I can tell you from experience that such income is more than enough to live comfortably in many of the great places around the world such as Kiev, Ukraine; Medellin, Colombia; Bali, Indonesia; and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Not to mention many other fantastic destinations.

And earning an extra $500 or $1,000/mo is extremely doable thanks to the Internet which provides you with an insatiable audience that’s hungry for your products and services.

Did I mention that not only you’re registering for the course, but you’re also joining an entire community of entrepreneurs along with tons and tons of regularly updated content?

After joining, you will have access to a part of Maverick Traveler that few other people have.

Click Here to register for the Entrepreneur Bootcamp Video Course and join the new communit

See you inside the community.

If you have any questions, issues or concerns, feel free to shoot me an email.

Don’t Build A Startup—Build A Business

A couple of months ago, I was brainstorming various business ideas with one of my mentees. He had an interesting business idea that was similar to Spotify but with a unique twist. After listening to the idea, I immediately told him that the idea was much more complex than he had envisioned, and that this idea required the resources of a startup. This meant that this wasn’t something he’d be able to do on his own; he’d have to bring another person (or two) onboard to help out. Looking for investors or advisors wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

His other idea was building an ecommerce store that would sell products in a specific niche. This was an entirely different idea, a much simpler idea. I immediately explained to him that this idea didn’t require him to find co-founders or look for investors. Indeed, this was something that he could begin working on right after our phone call.

The point I was trying to make is that building a startup is far from the only way to assert yourself and build something of your own. In some cases, it is actually an unnecessarily hard approach. This is something most people completely miss because they think that startups are the only way to make money online. Actually, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Part of the reason people don’t realize this is because they’re living in the startup bubble place such as San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York (and international cities like Berlin) where everyone and their mom (and dog) seem to be working on their startup. It’s hard to think outside the box and build a simple money-generating business when everyone around is applying to startup schools, pitching investors and salivating at becoming the next Dropbox. It’s hard to see the forest from the trees if those trees are covered with the typical thick San Francisco fog.

How startups work

Paul Graham, the founder of Y-Combinator, a venture capitalist firm that invests in startup, had this to say about the economics of startups:

Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast.

His point is that you must work very hard initially in the hopes of building something huge and getting a huge payoff later.

Another way of looking at it is that a startup works like a one-time shot, you pick a market, build a product and try to hit bulls-eye very quickly. If you succeed, the users start signing up and if you’re lucky, the revenue starts pouring in. That’s called traction.

But if you don’t succeed because you can’t market or because your product sucks (usually a combination of both), you’ll be wasting lots of time working on something that doesn’t really matter. That, in a nutshell, is the economics of startups.

Many startups fail for exactly this reason: it’s really hard to know what you’re doing the first (or second, third) time around. It takes a special cocktail of expertise, raw intelligence and luck to get it right and succeed. Having worked at several startups and even started a couple, I’ve been intimately familiar with this arduous and tricky process.

It’s a business model that requires a huge upfront cost of your time and energy. It requires you to forget everything in the world and work like hell. If you’re young and single and don’t have many commitments, then you can probably afford the time investment. But if you’re a bit older with a wife (and even children), you’ll be making an enormous sacrifice for a payout that may never come. It can also break apart your family.

But is working many hours per day the only way to become financially independent? What if you don’t want to work 16 hours per day for several years? What if you want to travel around the world while funding your travels by making a bit of money on the side? What if you want to work a good amount and still have time to enjoy life with friends and family? If what you want is a bit of free time for yourself and others, then building a startup is probably not for you.

That’s one of the crucial differences between starting a traditional business like a mom and pop ice cream store (or an ecommerce site that sells various widgets) which tends to grow slowly and predictably and building a startup, which, with the right idea and execution can grow fairly quickly, and if not, crash and burn altogether leaving you dazed and confused.

Startups are always a great deal for investors

From the point of view of a startup founder, a startup is a very tricky thing. While there’s a chance you might succeed, the odds are overwhelmingly against you if you’re not exactly sure what you’re doing. The odds are no better than playing slots at a Las Vegas casino.

That’s not the case for another type of individuals who invest in startups: venture capitalists (VC). From a venture capitalist standpoint, a promising startup is always a great investment. When VC’s invest in startups, they know that not every startup will succeed, so even if one startup out of ten hits a homerun and ends making a lot of money, they will recoup their failed investments in the other nine. As long they invest in a good number of startups and if just one startup “exits” (i.e., goes public or gets acquired) they make their investments even if all the others fail.

Here’s a top ranked review from a very popular book written by a well-known venture capitalist, Mark Horowitz (he’s partners with Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of the first Internet browser, Netscape). The book is called The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

This book is like countless “how to be a leader” books on the market, and says a lot of the same things. Only this time you get it from the perspective of a guy flailing to build a silicon valley startup to a point where he can unload it on some unsuspecting buyer and walk away with enough money to retire at 35, on the backs of the poor schlubs who wrote the code that got him there in the faint hope they’d get rich too. That’s an interesting perspective, and one that says a lot about silicon valley, the venture capital culture, and the business world in general. [emphasis added]

Thus, a startup provides a very convenient way for venture capitalists to make lots of money, which explains why startups are heavily hyped as the sole model for economic success and financial freedom. The more people start startups, the more money there’s for venture capitalists to make while not necessarily losing money on startups that fail unlike the guys that spent their waking hours toiling night and day on those startups.

In other words, you’re basically being brainwashed that the only way to strike rich is by building a startup and seeking outside investment.

“I live in a gorgeous beachfront Rio de Janeiro villa and sell screwdrivers for a living”

One of the things I discovered after I began living and traveling around the world after living for a decade in San Francisco is that most successful people aren’t building or even thinking about building a startup. Most of the self-made guys I met living and roaming in places like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Lima, Medellin, Bangkok and Bali wouldn’t know a single thing about startups if someone put a gun to their head.

What these guys do know how to do really well is to make a lot of money. They’re businessmen not startup experts. Many of them run several businesses in different niche areas. Some of them are running e-commerce stores that sell very basic things that everyone needs like screws or power tools. Many guys are running simple SaaS businesses charging customers $5-50 per month for a service. Others are building high-trafficked websites in all kinds of niches that people are interested about and sell advertising or sponsorships. None of what they’re doing even closely resembles a startup and because they’re profitable, they don’t need to seek outside investment.

It’s safe to say that these guys are living very comfortable lives. Many of them are easily making several thousand dollars per month (many guys I’ve met are easily clearing $5,000-15,000/month). This is the money that’s coming into their pockets today—right now. Plus they’re actually enjoying their lives because they’re living in an exotic foreign country, and not working in overpriced Silicon Valley/San Francisco while waiting for some “payoff” down the road.

Learn to gradually build value

Startups are inherently risky. You toil for many months and even years before realizing that no one wants what you’re selling. Fortunately, there’s another way. Instead of building a product you’re not even sure will sell, a product that won’t be profitable for a long time, start building a brand around what you already know how to do well, like yourself and what you do.

Why risk creating some product without an audience, when you can work on something that you’re sure will achieve some level of success?

Take something that you’re good at, something where you can add value and begin talking about it. Create a website and sell your knowledge. This knowledge can encompass pretty much anything. If you’ve learned to do something important, chances are it will be of value to others as well. Not only is this the most straightforward way to make money, it’s also the easiest.

The beauty of pursuing this path is that you can immediately get started with something that matters: adding value and making money. This way you’re not spending time obsessing and perfecting your idea (remember: ideas by themselves are worthless). You’re not spending time searching for a co-founder. You’re not spending time attending various workshops, seminars and meetups. You’re also not begging investors for money. You’re simply telling people what you’re doing and then selling them value. You’re the captain of your own destiny. Making money is the best validation that what you’re doing actually matters.

Many very successful people that you’ve heard about started out this way. Joel Spolsky, who everyone knows and respects in the tech/software world, first built out a very popular and then decided to build a startup, stackoverflow.com, a Q&A site for programmers, which is now in the top 10 sites in the world and is worth several hundred million dollars. Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, started out by building a simple blogging platform, that over many years grew to powering almost half the Internet and making Matt fabulously rich.

Freedom to do how you want to do

Generally speaking, starting a startup involves a few necessary steps. It’s necessary to form the proper legal and tax structure, figure out the ownership with other co-founders and investors. It’s important to also find the right tax home for your company so that you are not paying more in taxes than you should. You’ll also need tax advisor assistance when filing quarterly and annual taxes.

All of this gets in the way of you doing what you do best: build the best business you can. That’s why one really good piece of advice I’ve received over the years is to not worry about all the legal and tax structures until the business makes decent amount of money. That means start out right away and worry about building an actual company later, when it becomes a necessity from a legal or tax perspective. This keeps you nimble and free instead of being boxed into some company structure.

When you forego worrying what kind of business you must create, you simply build a sustainable and long-term business by first creating value instead of taking on investment/debt for an idea that might never materialize. Unlike a business that you’re building slowly, startups are incredibly sensitive to market conditions since they rely on cheap credit being widely available. And, as we all know this credit evaporates and money becomes expensive whenever there’s a market crisis (see the famous dotcom crash of 2001, and the financial crisis of 2008).

A business that makes money today, even if it’s not a lot initially, is always better than a business that might make money in six months or a year. Besides, if you really want to, you can always build a startup later. Since you’ve created lots of value and build a massive audience, you would know exactly what your audience is interested in and willing to pay for. This will allow you to create a product or service that you will absolutely know your audience wants and is willing to pay for. This is by far the easiest and most straightforward path to financial and location-independent success. Something that you can start doing right now.

How To Motivate Yourself To Make More Money Than You Need

I’m a huge fan of coffee shops. I always liked cities with a “coffee shop culture.” In fact, that’s one thing I really like about Chiang Mai: the abundance of coffee shops. There’re tons of coffee shops around town with really fast Internet. I buy coffee for $1.00-$1.50, and I can sit all day and build my next business.

Comfort is nice. Who doesn’t like to feel comfortable? And if I had to pick one word to describe Chiang Mai—an adjective that represents Chiang Mai better than any other adjective in the English language—it wouldn’t be “beautiful,” “picturesque,” “lively,” or “amazing.” There are plenty of other cities around the world where each of the adjectives suits much, much better.

Chiang Mai is comfortable more than anything. It’s one of the most comfortable—if not the most comfortable cities I’ve ever been to in my life.

I can’t remember the last time I flew into a city and hit the ground running so fast: rented a motorbike the next day; and the very next day signed a short-term lease on an amazing studio apartment in a great neighborhood. In many of the cities I’ve lived, this process was extremely complicated, but here it was a breeze.

Most of the cities where I’ve lived have been far from “comfortable” and “easy,” especially from a perspective of a nomadic entrepreneur. Rio de Janeiro is too dangerous to be lugging your laptop around town and isn’t very nomad work-friendly. Medellin is too bland and boring. Copenhagen is too expensive. Barcelona lacks a coffee shop culture and has slow Internet. Eastern Europe lacks coffee shop culture, has slow Internet and is very cold most of the year. Bali has slow Internet and lacks basic infrastructure.

But Chiang Mai is the city to get work done. It truly is “The Digital Nomad Capital Of The World.”

Cheap City, Cheap Motivation

Apart from being comfortable, there’s another word that comes to mind when talking about Chiang Mai: inexpensive. Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest cities I’ve ever lived in my life (at least if we’re talking about a pleasant city with great infrastructure and fast Internet).

On a small budget of only $1,000 per month, I can do pretty much whatever I want. I’m driving around a cool motorbike. I’m living in a fairly cool apartment in a fantastic neighborhood. I work out at a really nice gym. I eat several times per week at really cool restaurants. Basically, I’m having a lifestyle that would easily cost me 3-10 times in some overpriced Western city.

And, as I recently learned, while comfort and cheapness are nice, they can be more of a curse than a blessing.

For instance, I’ve been meeting lots of digital nomads here who don’t have a motivation to work hard and make bank. They mostly work from cheap coffee shops, co-working places, and treat themselves to cheap $1-3 lunches at some random hole in the wall.

They’re also talented and business savvy, running businesses, that, with the right hustle and scaling, can easily make tens of thousands per month. But they don’t care. They don’t seem too eager to optimize and increase their revenue. As long as their businesses cover their meager expenses, they’re more than happy.

One of the guys I’ve met for lunch recently runs a successful drop shipping business. He’s selling really cool products. When he was building the business, he was hustling and putting in solid 14 hour days. But once he hit the $1,500/mo mark, he slowed down and took his foot off the accelerator.

Another guy who goes to my favorite co-working space is a software guru who built a really cool SaaS business (Software As A Service). The business is sound. The business model works and has potential to grow in the next five years. (I actually wished I thought of it first). But now that he tasted a bit of success, he, too, isn’t very eager to ramp up the revenue by putting more energy. He says he’s just not as “hungry” as he was before. As long as the business covers his bills in Chiang Mai, he’s all set.

I’ve been affected by this “disease” as well. As a guy who loves to hustle, a guy who’s always testing and perfecting new ideas, I’ve also lost some of the edge after realizing how cheap and comfortable my life has become without needing to work for it.

I mean, it’s truly hard to justify working hard if you can have a huge meal for around $5 at a really good local restaurant (I even refused to pay $10 for a more “expensive” lunch if I knew that I can get one for $1-3). No wonder some of the projects I planned to launch this month are running behind schedule.

Nevertheless, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life is that the harder I work, the luckier I get. And it slowly began to annoy me to no end that lots of time was passing without me completing the things I needed to do. There’s nothing more I hate than the feeling of not accomplishing anything.

This sure wasn’t the case when I lived in NYC. When I lived in an expensive and busy city like NYC, I had to hustle. I had to constantly develop new streams of income and figure out ways of channeling my value. Everyone around seemed to be hustling. Same thing happened during my yearly sojourn in Mexico City, a true hustler’s paradise if there was one; I spend a year there working on my Nth startup, not one to be content with $1,000/mo.

But, as a chameleon, I’ve adopted the attitude of my environment; so, while I was always hustling in big and crazy cities, I became more relaxed and complacent in smaller ones.

I was facing an interesting dilemma: how do I stay productive when I don’t need to stay as productive? How do I motivate myself when even working few hours per day is enough for a comfortable life?

If you’re a digital entrepreneur who’s been living in some cheap ass place in the world and have gotten too comfortable and complacent and is looking to regain his hustle, here’s how to do it:

Don’t sweat over “expensive” $10 lunches or $15 dinners

As a very frugal guy, I don’t like to spend more than I need to. Here in SE Asia, you can eat comfortably for under $3. Just today, I had a great lunch for $1.50 at a tasty little restaurant few blocks from my apartment.

Human psychology works in interesting ways, and when you get used to such low prices, your mind sets an automatic ceiling on the amount you’re willing to pay for food. When you know you can pay $3 for a great meal, why would you ever pay $6 or $10? Why spend more when $2.50 is perfectly fine?

Your problem is perception: if you think a $5 meal is expensive, you’re going to have a serious culture shock when you realize that $5 is not enough to even ride the public transportation in some Western cities (it’s $5.50 in NYC to go somewhere and back).

Instead of adjusting to the country’s prices, establish a comfortable budget that’s a bit higher (say $15-20 per meal). That’ll keep you in the right frame of mind and force you to work harder and make more money.

Alternate between “comfortable” and “hustling” cities

It’s no accident that I’ve always been much more productive in my old stumping grounds of New York City (Brooklyn, of course) than I could ever be in some backwater village in Poland, Romania or Albania. While I dislike many things about NYC, one thing I like about the Big Apple is that everyone there is always hustling and figuring out how to make a buck. Everyone is busting ass. I felt the same when I lived in Mexico City, Moscow and Bangkok (not so much in Paris, Lisbon or Kiev).

In order to not become too comfortable and complacent, it’s important to alternate your stays between big, expensive and hustling cities like Shanghai and São Paolo and cheap and calm smaller cities like Chiang Mai and Bali.

Understand that going back to America or Western Europe would shock you financially

Some years ago, when I was rookie nomad who was barely clearing $700 per month while living in random places around the world (with roommates, of course), there was one thing I dreaded more than anything: flying back to America. (I usually return to America once or twice per year to see family).

If you haven’t been to NYC, I can tell you it’s bloody expensive. And seems to be getting more and more expensive every year. Just getting to the city from the airport in a shared van costs around $20, whereas it’s only $2-3 in Kiev or Chiang Mai.

Once you get over the shock of paying $50 for an average burger and a couple of beers, $45 sushi for two, and $2,000/month for an apartment, you’ll become much more comfortable spending $20 for a meal and $800/mo for an apartment in Asia or Latin America (which can get you a sick apartment in Chiang Mai and a villa Bali).

The good news is that this financial shock had a powerful effect on how I viewed my personal productivity. Knowing that I would need to spend $50 on an average burger and a couple of beers (true story) forced me up to become more comfortable spending $20 on premium meals in Asia, meals that were absolutely phenomenal because they were exquisitely prepared with higher quality products.

View your comfortable and cheap lifestyle as training for “real world.”

While there’s nothing wrong with living  in cheap and comfortable cities, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s “okay” to make $1,000/mo because it allows you to live like a king there. Don’t get so comfortable that you become lazy and complacent.

What happens if you want to fly to Singapore for a weekend? Or learn surfing in Bali? Or spend the summer in Europe? Or spend a week in Tokyo? You’ll quickly learn how woefully underfinanced you are. That $1,000/mo that allowed you to live like a king in Chiang Mai will be a drop in the bucket in many of the world’s greatest cities.

Think of this living as “training” for the “real” life. Understand that the rest of the world is vast and diverse and amazing and quality places come at a cost. Use these calm and comfortable cities as a place to pause and reflect, to strategize and build your next project or two. And don’t leave them until you have something to show.

Always Be Hustling (ABH)

Last but not least, if you want become a nomadic entrepreneur, you must adopt the mindset of always hustling. I’m a hustler more than anything. Hustling should be as natural to you as going to the bathroom and taking a piss. It should be as comfortable as getting on the plane and going to a new destination. It should be part of your life.

The opposite of hustling is complacency and laziness. So, if you feel you’re not making moves and putting in solid work during the day, stop and reevaluate your situation. Avoid the temptation of adjusting your personal productivity so that it just covers your low cost of living. Avoid the temptation of squeezing by on some lame $500/mo budget. As a maverick entrepreneur, your overriding goal is to create value and personal capital.

While there are lots of ways of staying alert and keeping the focus on your ball, a big red flag is if you find yourself counting pennies and stick to some “budget” in a low-cost part of the world (such as SE Asia), a region replete with $2 dinners and $300/mo apartments.

The latter only means only one thing: you’re not creating enough value and making enough cash. It’s time to step up your game and re-familiarize yourself with the fine art of the hustle.

Why My Seven Years Of Working As A Computer Programmer In Silicon Valley Were A Complete Waste Of Time

I spent around seven years working in various tech companies in Silicon Valley. I worked in small and large companies, including famous companies such as Yahoo!, Facebook and others. Looking back, I can say without a shadow of doubt that it was a complete waste of time.

I reflected back on this sad and confusing period of my life when a friend forwarded me an article that talked about how Google had introduced some new perk to its employees. I believe it was an on-site Thai massage for your dog or cat. If I’m not mistaking, that’s probably Google’s 2,633rd perk.

The next thought that popped into my mind was the sheer number of naive young men who’re salivating at the mere thought of working for a company like Google. And I immediately felt sorry for these misguided youths. Because I was a misguided youth like that once.

First off, if you’ve never been to Silicon Valley, let me transport you there so you can understand what it’s like. I’ll cut through the bullshit so that you don’t have any illusions. Imagine a piece of flat land. Fill it with concrete so that it resembles an enormous parking lot. Drop a bunch of nondescript, medium-sized grey buildings here and there. Dress up each building with a company logo. Then, drop a bunch of fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Quiznos that serve crappy food laced with chemicals. Welcome to Silicon Valley.

Santa Clara

Silicon Valley is a barren, grey and depressing piece of land. There are no cities. There’s no civilization. There’s really nothing there. During the day, its population swells when vast armies of engineers arrive, go to their cubicles (or a loud open space), write code, and then go home in the evening. If you’re coming from Europe, or pretty much any other place except America or Canada, you will be underwhelmed. Guaranteed. It’s no surprise that my friends and I joked that Silicon Valley is “the armpit of America.” It’s really that soul-destroying.

But make yourself at home there because this is where you’ll be spending the majority of your waking time, toiling many hours per day. During important product launches, you’ll be working well into the night (sometimes even pulling all nighters).

Of course, there are concentrated population areas that might resemble cities (e.g., Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara). But these are only cities on paper; calling these areas cities is a an insult to any great world metropolis such as Moscow, São Paolo or Paris. At best, those are little man-made villages with one main street on which you have your typical fast food joints mixed with a couple of half decent restaurants.

(There’s also San Francisco, a nice and picturesque city where I lived for many years. But for one reason or another it has a way of draining you if you live there for a long time. It’s ridiculously expensive and ridiculously politically correct even for many of my leftist friends. For one reason or another, most of the people I know usually spend few years living there and then move somewhere else, either back home or to another city.)

But I’m not going to try to convince why you should never work there based on how it looks from the outside; for, the actual problem runs much deeper than that.

Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to work in Silicon Valley. “The Valley” holds an almost mythical appeal among the young tech-savvy crowd. Not only do they come there from remote corners of America, but they also come from places like Europe, Brazil, India and Australia. Startup and programmer message boards are always full of guys discussing ways of obtaining the coveted work visa in order to move and work there. They come to Silicon Valley for the same reason all kinds of people come to a place like New York: to pursue their dreams and make something of themselves.

Luring The Young And Inexperienced With Promises Of Riches and Greatness

church-google

Eventually I realized that, more than anything, Silicon Valley is a symbol and nothing more. Through the use of clever mass psychology, it acts like an enormous sponge, mopping up dreams and aspirations of young people everywhere. These young souls are lured to this mythical land by money, various perks and benefits, but most importantly, by the chance to work on something “great,” “life-changing” and even “world-changing.”

“Come work on our product that’s used by 5 million or 5 billion people worldwide” is usually a popular marketing slogan. And what naive young man wouldn’t want to be part of something big?

Economically speaking, most Silicon Valley companies operate on a well-known scam called the pyramid scheme. The goal is to “growth hack” the company to a level where it has many users—regardless if it ever makes a single cent in profit (who cares about money when you have a bunch of people using the product, right?).

As soon as a product or service attains a certain number of users (not even active users, just users), it provides an illusion of future profitability. It’s like buying thousands of fake Facebook likes, in order to trick visitors and customers into thinking your site or product is much more popular than it really is. It doesn’t even matter that these likes don’t even represent living and breathing humans who adore your product.

Companies with zero revenue cleverly incentivize their employees into working long hours by dangling a carrot in front of them. Apart from working on “life changing products,” that carrot is usually in the form of some paper money: stock options, employee stock purchase plan, etc. Once the army of mechanics (aka programmers) builds the actual product, the company is then taken public, making its founders and their close friends insanely rich.

If the company goes belly up, which happens quite often, founders usually walk off with millions of investor dollars and other bonuses, leaving the employees holding stock options that are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Such examples were rampant during the last dot com boom and bust. This also happened fairly recently when a couple of well-known companies crashed and burned, and their massive valuations came vanished into thin air.

Many people think there’s another bubble happening right this moment as a result of crazy valuations (a glorified taxi service called Uber is valued at $51B-$75B) that have no basis in reality. I completely agree.

Ripping Off Those Training Wheels

Free, At Last

But let’s forget about money for a moment. There are more important things besides money. Things like your time and your life. As you know life is short. Very short. Much shorter than you think. Furthermore, your most productive years are typically your 20s and 30s, a fraction of your entire lifespan. And if you’re someone who wants to do something important with his life, spending those years as a glorified car mechanic isn’t your path to success.

Joel Spolsky, the guy who co-founded Stack Overflow—the biggest  Q&A site for programmers—used to run a very popular blog, “Joel on Software.” He’s one of the most authoritative voices on programming and software development. I personally don’t read many blogs, but I judiciously read his because Joel is a very intelligent and articulate guy. If you’re a half decent developer, you’ve probably read his blog too.

One of his articles is called “The Development Abstraction Layer.” It’s a story about a young programmer who decides to start his own software company. Eventually, things don’t work out and the company closes down. Joel says the company failed because the young programmer underestimated what it takes to run a real software business (i.e., it’s much more than just writing code). Of course, as a software company owner, it’s in Joel’s best interest to sell you on the idea that starting your own business is so damn hard that your only option is to work for another software company, much like his own.

(In programmer speak, the abstraction layer is a blueprint or a map from where things are implemented or built. The abstraction layer could be the blueprint for a building; the implementation layer is the actual physical building that got build as a result. Joel goes further and talks about all the things that make a company successful (HR, marketing, sales, support) as product of this implementation layer. When you’re a programmer who’s working for a company, you don’t have to worry about this implementation layer; when you’re starting your company, you have to build all of this out yourself.)

But Joel is wrong here. This is exactly what you don’t want. You want to break down someone else’s “implementation layer.” You want to rip down the walls that are holding you in. You want to do things your way. And you don’t want to listen to guys like Joel who tell you that you need his implementation layer. Not just in terms of programming, but in terms of life in general.

When you’re alone, you must build it all out—you really have no other choice. You’re forced to figure out how to build your own products, how to market them to an audience and how to eventually sell these products. It’s really not that hard, and you don’t even need to make a lot of money to have a comfortable lifestyle around the world.

The point is that you’re testing yourself and learning new things. You’re learning how to create value. You’re learning how to make money. You’re learning how to build your nascent business. You’re building your kingdom, brick by brick. You’re building your empire. And there’s absolutely nothing else out there that cements you as the captain of your destiny than knowing how to make money in your own terms.

Large programmer sweatshops like Silicon Valley inhibit that. They inhibit your growth. They inhibit you from realizing your true potential. They inhibit you working on your terms and traveling/living wherever you want. They’re a cleverly disguised pyramid scheme where the owners/founders get super rich on the backs of young and naive engineers who join companies based on cleverly constructed marketing slogans that promise a chance to “change the world.”

Well, you know what? I’ll be really blunt and direct with you. You’re not going to change jack shit. Nobody cares that you helped write some obtuse peace of functionality in a program like Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, or a web app like Yahoo! Mail. It’s not your goddamn product. You didn’t create it. You don’t own the rights to it. It’s the company’s product. And you’re just a mere employee. A cog in a wheel. Nobody will remember you. All you’re doing is wasting your best years making someone else very, very rich. Unfortunately, by the time you realize this, it’ll be too late.

A World Without Silicon Valley?

After traveling and living around the world (more than 80 countries) for the past seven years, I spent a lot of time thinking whether the world would be better off without places like Silicon Valley. Would my life been more productive and fulfilling if I grew up in a country that didn’t have Silicon Valley? After lots of pondering, I reached the conclusion that, yes, I would’ve definitely been better off. The world as a whole would be better off without such programmer sweatshops.

Living around the world helped me see why. In Eastern Europe, where I’m originally from and where I’m living now, it seems that every other guy is hustling and making money some way or another. Many of these guys are very bright and understand technology (Eastern European software developers are one of the most highly sought-after in the world), so they can easily code and build websites. But because there isn’t a Silicon Valley in Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus or Russia, they’re forced to be creative and build an actual business that actually generates money (even a little) instead of constructing a pyramid scheme only to unload on the unsuspecting masses (i.e., going public, IPO).

Instead of applying for a job at some tech company that gives you a billion benefits (while there are plenty of tech companies here, due to lack of capital investments, nothing here even comes close to Silicon Valley’s might), they build a product, build a website to market that product and learn how to reach out to their customers. Before they know it, they have a small but thriving business selling software or some other products.

These guys go from having specialized skills into ruthless businessmen because they’re forced to learn how the entire process works inside and out. They have no other choice: they must learn the entire process, from front to back, everything from making the product to marketing and sales. They must learn how to feed themselves without a dedicated marketing and sales teams that does it for them.

That’s exactly what happened to my friends back in New York. While I was working in Silicon Valley, my hustler friends in Brooklyn continued to build out their businesses. They didn’t get things right on the first and even second try—who does?—but, through trial and error, they eventually stumbled on things that worked. By the time I left California seven years later and began working on my own stuff from the tropical shores of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, they already had a sizable six-figure businesses that were growing rapidly.

It’s All About You

One of my core beliefs is that everyone must become the captain of their destiny. This is what being a Maverick is all about. An integral part of that includes knowing how to make money. “Making money” is a metaphor; it isn’t so much about “making money”; it’s more about learning how to provide value by monetizing what you’re really good at. It’s about being the captain of your destiny. It’s about taking your skills and turning them into a well-oiled enterprise. Everyone must cultivate their inner entrepreneur—even if you don’t even have an inner entrepreneur and don’t consider yourself as a business person. (I’m far from a business guy, but because I need to feed myself, I run several online businesses).

It’s the fundamental skill that keeps on giving. This is what gives you freedom and allows all your dreams to come true. When you’re writing some code in some dark cubicle, you’re not cultivating any important skills. None whatsoever.

When I look back at my years of working there, I ask myself, what did I really learn? Sure, I became a better programmer. No doubt about it. I learned a couple of new languages. I learned a couple of cool frameworks. I became friends with other geeks (who are conspicuously absent from my life now). I learned how to design better software with less bugs. I learned how to use a debugger. But so what? Who cares about all that? All I learned was how to use tools that someone else built. I became a glorified mechanic and nothing else.

None of these are real world skills. None of them are. These skills don’t scale. These aren’t skills that contribute to my freedom in any way. If I were suddenly airdropped on some uninhabited island or even in the middle of Mexico or Brazil, how would these skills help me in any way? How would these skills let me live a better life? The answer: they would not help in any way whatsoever. They only have value as a component of a well-owned machine.

For seven years, I lived in a permanent bubble. I was surrounded by people whose minds were occupied 24 hours a day by some new app they were designing or building, or gossip about certain “hot” company going public. This bubble burst as soon as I moved to South America and began meeting guys who built very successful and profitable businesses using nothing but their creativity and determination. Before I left America, I had no idea such guys even existed.

These guys weren’t paper millionaires or billionaires. These guys weren’t running an elaborate pyramid scheme. And, guess what, they were also successful in other areas of lives. They had it all figured it out because they took the time to figure it out.

Can I say that those seven years were a complete waste of time. Absolutely. Without a shadow of a single doubt. Abso-fucking-lutely! If that isn’t a definition of a waste of time, I don’t know what is.

Of course, it’s not easy to do your own thing because there are no rules. There are no instruction manuals. Each of us has to leverage what we’ve got. It’s much easier to choose the path of least resistance and join an army of similarly-minded people who are already doing the kind of work you’re doing. It’s much easier to join an army than to make your own army, even if it’s a 1-person army that just includes you. It’s much easier to join the mass than to independently carve your own path.

In this sense, my biggest coup was moving as far from Silicon Valley as possible. After I left America, working for a tech company was no longer an option (there are tech companies outside America, but as a non-citizen you need to navigate lots of bureaucratic tape to get a job). This forced me to become creative and learn how to build my own things. The other option was to move back with my mother and get a job—not much of an option, at least not for me.

To reach greatness, you must make your life temporarily difficult. Like the Spanish conquistadors who arrived to the New World, you must burn all your boats. You must eradicate all paths that will make your life easier. You must destroy the “implementation” that someone else built. You must rip off and throw away those training wheels. There’s no other choice.

Because instead of spending your precious life wasting away in some nondescript, soul-sucking environment, you want to be sitting in a cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or sitting on a beach in Bali, Indonesia, or working in a co-working space in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or, like me, sitting in a nice studio apartment in the center of Kiev, Ukraine. Or maybe, instead of living a nomadic lifestyle, you want to permanently live in a new country. Such freedom isn’t free; it comes with a price. And that freedom will not be found in an enormous concrete parking lot that someone, long ago, christened, “The Valley”

As one very enlightened person once said, “You’re either building your own dream or helping someone else build theirs.” Spend your time wisely.

How To Kill Your Shitty Job And Work For Yourself

In late 2007, I quit my lucrative job in Silicon Valley and handed in my two week notice. Two weeks later I was boarding a plane bound for the beautiful Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. I haven’t had an official job ever since.

In the past 8 years I’ve been on my own, trying to make a buck anyway I could. I’ve failed. I’ve succeeded. I’ve failed again. Then I bounced back.

One of the most common emails I receive is how to become location independent. So, in this article, I want to tell you everything that I learned about killing your mediocre day job and building something that you can truly call your own.

Warning: the advice below will be blunt and frank, and may hurt some feelings. Reader discretion is advised.

Focus on providing value

People keep asking: How do I start a business? What do I do? Is it hard? Is it easy? These are all wrong questions. There’s really no such thing as a “business.” All you’re doing is taking something that you know how to do well and, instead of keeping it inside, you’re offering it as a product or service to others. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate things. Forget theory and case studies. Think in concrete terms.

Can you provide me with value that’ll improve my bottom line? Can you make me richer? Can you make me more successful? Can you help me feel better about myself? Can you help me fuck hot women? Yes? Congratulations, you’ve just gotten yourself a new customer.

There are no rules

People spend countless hours reading various sites on making money. Most of these sites hold your hand and tell you exactly what to do. They force you to think along some kind of rules. They box in your mindset.

What no one tells you is that there’re no rules. The key is to be creative and think outside the box. Always think in terms of adding value. Someone out there is selling an eBook, but you don’t have to do that. Someone out there is selling a course, but you don’t have to do that. Or maybe that’s exactly what you should do. When you create an online audience by teaching them something valuable, you’ll have a better idea what kind of solutions your audience wants and is willing to pay for.

Forget what’s cool or trendy

The corollary to the above is that sometimes it’s helpful to forget what’s cool or trendy at any given time. People like writing about cool and trendy stuff because that’s what people like reading about.

But few people realize that you can make money—lots of money—selling very boring stuff, like, well, power tools. (One of my friends is doing just that and he’s making an absolute killing.) A boring solution to a pressing problem is always better than an ad-hoc solution to a fleeting problem.

Beware copying someone else’s successful idea

When people are given freedom, they tend to mimic each other. This happens subconsciously without you even knowing it. We’re all doing this to some extent. I was doing it for many years before even realizing it (I’m probably still doing it, but at least I’m more conscious about it). So, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re following a cool businessman, blogger or celebrity, and naturally structuring your future business model based on theirs.

That’s probably not going to work. The main reason is that you see a successful person, but you have absolutely no idea how they got there. Who knows, they could’ve went through a hundred different tiny iterations before finally finding their groove and succeeding—or being discovered by someone bigger.

Moreover, don’t forget that you’re a different person from the one you’re trying to emulate. The other person is leveraging his/her personality and character to attract fans and customers in ways that you cannot.

All of us are given our own set of lemons from which we must make lemonade. But your lemons and my lemons and that other guy’s lemons with 50,000 followers are completely different. It’s very crucial to learn how to make lemonade from your own lemons. You need to play with the hand you’re dealt. The good news is that the quicker you realize this, the less time you’ll waste and the quicker you’ll succeed.

A much more savvier approach would be to take what someone has done and slightly tweak it, thus creating a new angle to an existing idea that’s already successful.

Should you work on the side or build it in Argentina?

There are two ways of building your own business: you can quit your job and try to build your business full time or you can slowly build it on the side in your spare time. This really depends on your unique situation: whether you have a family to support, have other obligations, the amount of money you have in your bank account, your tolerance for risk, etc.

If you’re a young guy in his early 20s (this is also applicable to guys in their 30s), my advice is to save around $2-3k and then go live in Argentina or Thailand while trying to build your online business. In those regions of the world, you can really keep your costs down by renting an apartment or room for less than $200-300/mo, cooking your own meals and hustling the rest of the time. You’ll even have money left over to hit on women in the local bars. If I was starting out, this is the exact path I would take.

Learn marketing, branding and sales

I will tell you right off the bat that your problem will not be the nuances of your initial product. If you’re a writer who’s writing an eBook, your biggest challenge won’t be writing at such a high level so it’s good enough to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’re a software engineer, your main problem won’t be using the latest and greatest memory allocation library (trust me on this; I’m a software engineer).

Your main problem will be finding customers; your main problem will be making sure that others know you exist. It’s a noisy world and nobody knows who the fuck you are.

Think about what you represent. Now learn how to correctly package all that in a message that someone like me will understand and become interested in. Although I’m a great programmer and can build amazing apps, I know that marketing and sales will always be the key here. No one will buy my product if they don’t even know it exists.

All else remaining constant, when it comes to making cold cash, a great marketer or salesman will always win over a great programmer or writer.

Don’t marry an idea

I’m not a huge fan of the whole “Never give up” advice. There I said it. It’s a dangerous mindset because it lets you rationalize marrying an idea and then trying to make it work—despite not having any luck with it whatsoever for the past five years of your life. This happens all the time. What most people don’t tell you is that there are good and bad ideas. And you want to avoid the latter at all costs.

The way to do that is by willing to abandon (or at least scale back efforts on) an idea if it doesn’t seem to be working. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but here’s a helpful tip: you must disconnect your identity from that idea. Just because you’re working on something that you think defines you, doesn’t make the idea automatically successful and profitable; just because you’re thinking of giving up on an idea, doesn’t mean you’re giving up on yourself. There are two entirely separate entities here: you as a person and your crappy idea.

As always, abundance mentality is very applicable. Remember, there are lots of interesting ideas that are ready to be developed and executed. Lots of things that people are impatiently waiting to pay for with their hard-earned money. From your perspective, there will be work and there will be work. If it feels like work, you’re doing it wrong. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Not a born businessman, either? Not a problem

My blessing (or curse) was that growing up, I happened to be surrounded by natural hustlers who lived and breathed making money anyway they could (an old friend of mine was peddling custom made t-shirts in my High School). He’s probably a millionaire know.

I’m not like my friend at all. I have an analytical mind that’s better suited for writing code, reading books, and discussing philosophical questions. A natural businessman I’m not.

So, while I never wanted to “start a business,” what I always wanted to do was travel, something that I’m obsessed about. I’d rather be sitting in an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Barcelona or Singapore, rather than sitting in some cubicle in generic and boring Silicon Valley. This is absolutely non-negotiable.

My challenge became to figure out how to make this lifestyle possible. And that’s where making money online comes handy. Do you see what I’m getting at? For me, things happened in reverse: I wasn’t looking to become a businessman, but a businessman discovered me.

Even now, after reaching a certain level of success, I would never call myself a businessman. I’m just a hack who has—through lots and lots of trial and error—figured out how to make a few bucks online that nicely funds my travels and booze.

Nobody fucking knows anything

Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise. There’s no shortcuts in this game. There are no ways of making lots of money very quickly. If that was the case, then we’d all be rich.

Business is not a science. The outcome can’t be predicted in a lab with pinpoint accuracy. It’s nothing more than a conversation between you and other people (your prospective customers). Sometimes they like what you have to say, other times they don’t. It’s a process, not a one-time shot.

A core characteristic of successful hustlers is their willingness to be comfortable with uncertainty. Since it’s pretty rare to hit a home-run at the first (or 5th) at bat, you need to keep moving, keep testing, keep adjusting, keep improving. And then repeat the process until you get it right. I personally view it as a game and enjoy playing it. If you want to succeed, you must enjoy it as well.

If you can’t deal with uncertainty, if you can’t deal with not knowing how much money you’ll make this month or whether you’ll be able to cover next month’s rent payment, at least initially, I can tell you that you’ll have a pretty difficult time. The only way to mitigate this uncertainty is by having confidence in oneself. 

Do you think you’re capable of taking all your experience, knowledge and willpower and molding that into something provides consistent value to others? If not, there’s always a way of receiving a stable bi-weekly paycheck straight to your bank account in exchange for taking orders from someone else.

(If there’s further interest, I can continue with more money-theme posts by getting into some details of location independent businesses)

6 Reasons Why Young Men Should Not Become Programmers

My background—and one of my passions—is computer programming. I’ve been programming computers since my early teens. I can code in all the major languages for all kinds of platforms such as web, desktop, and mobile. I’ve worked for some of the largest companies in Silicon Valley, including Yahoo! and Facebook. I’ve also worked in a good number of small startups. Software development is one of my solid skills even though it’s been some time since I did it for a living.

Having said all that, quitting my lucrative job and leaving the world of programming behind was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If I could do it all over, here’s why I would never become a programmer:

You don’t develop crucial social skills

Instead of interacting with real living and breathing human beings, programmers interact with machines made of glass, plastic, and metal. It’s a surreal way of looking at it, but that’s exactly the way it is. The more you program, the better you get with communicating with machines. You learn to type code, test it out, expect a certain response, fix what doesn’t work and try again. Do it long enough and you’ll be more comfortable dealing with machines that with real humans.

You can only do one thing at a time, so if you’re sitting and building an app, you’re not at a bar, a party, a gathering where you’re mingling with new people. If you’re already introverted, then you become even more introverted. If you have decent social skills, those skills quickly atrophy. That’s even more so if you code at work and then play video games at home.

I cannot underscore the importance of social interaction. It’s pretty much the core of any male self-improvement. Do you want to have better friends? Learn how to meet people. Do you want meet new women? Learn how to meet people. Do you want to get a job or upgrade from the shitty one you have now? Learn how to meet people.

It’s ironic that something as natural as meeting other people is now in the realm of an actual skill that can be taught and improved. That wouldn’t have been the case if you were dealing with people all day, every day. For instance, I don’t think a salesperson who makes cold calls all day and deals with endless rejections has any approach anxiety at a bar—he approaches for a living. Same goes for an aggressive real estate agent, lawyer, or advertising executive.

Moreover, the people with whom you spend most of your time are programmers just like you. They’re similarly introverted and socially awkward. They’re not going to  teach you how to behave around women. They’re not going to teach you how to conquer new lands and be real men. I can probably count on one hand how many programmers I’ve known that also happened to be very social and not awkward around others. Most were introverts who were scared of women. The most inspiring people in my life were go-getters who build businesses and not sat around and wrote Javascript closures.

You don’t develop emotional intelligence

Programming is a very logical process. Computers don’t have emotions. At the core, all computer code is made up of zeros or ones. All control statements are evaluated to true or false. A computer can’t cry, get angry or feel empathy for someone else. A computer only understands zeros or ones.

That’s what happens to your brain, too. A human mind is very elastic and can adapt to pretty much any kind of work. When you spend most of your time dealing with rational problems, your mind becomes more rigid and logical instead of more flexible and emotional.

You start seeing the world as a collection of zeros and ones; colors compress to black and white instead of beautiful shades of gray. You lose that emotional/irrational “scent” that enables you to feel a person instead of asking them a logical question and expecting a logical answer. That’s called emotional intelligence. And you lose the ability to reason emotionally when you write intricate “if” and “else” statements all day.

It’s only after I stopped communicating with a monitor and a keyboard and started dealing more with people, that I finally started building this crucial emotional intelligence. Life is much richer and more rewarding when you’re not always being introspective and breaking everything down to its logical components.

You’re giving away your best value

You know the saying that, “you’ll never get rich working for someone else?” I’m pretty sure a programmer invented it.

We’re living in a capitalistic society where people with money (capital) hire workers to do stuff for them (labor). Programming is a form of labor. When you program for a salary, you’re giving away your time and expertise in exchange for money. You’re helping to create value for the company, and all you’re getting in return is money that’s eroded by inflation and the rest eaten by taxes.

That’s not an ideal situation to be in. Capitalists get richer by hiring labor because they know that after paying their wages, they’ll still come out much more ahead.

Tech companies perfectly understand this, so they provide all kinds of perks and financial incentives (stock grants, options). Nonetheless, don’t be fooled: unless you’re one of the founders (or one of the first ten employees), the amount of value you’ll give away will be always greater than the value you’ll receive. That’s just how capitalism works.

Generally speaking, it’s a good rule to avoid situations where you’re trading your time for money. I know many guys who used to make a killing in freelancing, but have moved on and started their own companies that make money even while they’re sleeping. That’s the beauty of letting capital work for you.

Programming is not an “empire” skill

People understand the above point (that you cannot get rich while working for someone else), but they still believe that being able to code is somehow different. They think they can build an app in their basement, launch it to the world and have a $25 billion valuation tomorrow.

Well, I’m going to tell you a little secret that took me some time to figure out. You will never become rich or successful because you happen to know how to code. Unless you’re one of the best programmers in the world and Microsoft or Google are luring you with a $2M signing bonus, you’ll never really strike it big. That may sound obvious, but that’s not what I thought for a long time. I thought that because I knew how to code and build the next Facebook or Google or WhatsApp and immediately strike it big.

It doesn’t work that way. Yes, I can easily build a Facebook app. Yes, many of the founders of tech companies are engineers with tech backgrounds: Bill Gates is an engineer; Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) studied engineering in school. The founders of WhatsApp have an engineering background. Even Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is a computer nerd.

But that’s not why those companies became so successful. They became successful because the founders created a great product that was in high demand. Any programmer can build a Facebook clone (it’s actually really easy), but it takes special talent and skills—and, of course, timing—for it to be a blockbuster success. It’s no surprise that many of the founders went on to more executive and strategy roles at their own companies; they have skills that are way beyond sitting at the keyboard and writing classes and functions.

A good example of an “empire” profession is marketing and sales. Another great skill is knowing how to hustle. Figuring out what customers want and being able to deliver that to them is golden. Besides, you can always hire (cheap) programmers to build your app if you have a great idea that you think will be successful.

It’s a low barrier-to-entry job that’s rapidly becoming commoditized

Someone once said that programmers are nothing but modern day mechanics. When I heard it for the first time, it didn’t click: I’m getting paid lots of money for doing something that I enjoy, so how could I be like one of those mechanics that just changed oil in my car? I have absolutely nothing in common with a mechanic at a body shop down the street. Or do I?

Now it makes sense. Perhaps I was in denial all long. The thing about programming is that absolutely anyone can be a programmer. And I mean just about anyone. Programming is now less of a science that requires a creative and imaginative mind, but something that one can learn via a book and apply the next day. One of the reasons is because lots of new tools have been created that simplified building an app by the order of magnitude.

Nowadays, pretty much anyone can find a tutorial (there’re millions of them), learn one of the web languages like PHP, Python or Ruby and build an app. It’s one thing to learn a very simple language like PHP, but it’s another thing to master an entire framework and build a Facebook clone in an hour. That process was a lot more involved just five years ago. Not anymore.

Instead of being a niche profession for a select people who are gifted with an engineering mind, coding is now a mass-market phenomenon. There are lots of boot camps and classes for pretty much anyone and their mom that guarantee that you’ll build a “complex” app in an hour or so. And it’s not even a hyperbole. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you can build a Facebook clone in an hour or two (or much less).

That leads to commoditization of the profession. There are so many people in the world who know how to build a Facebook clone, that anyone can jump on one of the freelancer sites and hire a cheap programmer from India, Russia or China, and pay him a fraction of the money that a Western engineer would get.

It’s a poor long-term career choice

If you browse any of the development or startups forums, you’ll notice that many programmers begin to question the meaning of life (and their career choice) once they get closer to 30, 35, or older. That’s because programming is mostly a young man’s game. Kind of like being an athlete but without all the money, fame and women.

It’s not surprising that software companies love to hire people straight out of college. They send their best recruiters to the top-tier universities to pimp their companies to prospective employees. Then once they hire them, they pamper these new recruits with generous perks and amenities: campuses with full-size gyms, free food, on-site massages, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. They do that so that you don’t have any reason (and why would you?) to make the trek home.

When I was in my teens and my twenties, I loved programming. I was surrounded by other ambitious guys who thought they would build some amazing operating system. Guys that lived on pizza and noodles while coding for—what seemed like—entire weeks straight without sleeping.

But once you hit the age of 30, or even the age of 35 or get a serious girlfriend or even a wife, your output will decrease compared to some new kid out of college. You’ll no longer be able to put in all-nighters at the office before a new release because you’ll have someone waiting for you at home. There will be pressure for you to move to a higher “management” position or change career paths.

This means that a programmer’s career is comparably short. I’m not saying that you would be treated any differently if you’re, say, 40+, and are looking for a job (although it’s a dirty secret in Silicon Valley that most companies only hire young whippersnappers). But even if you did get hired, you’ll probably feel strange taking orders from some pimpled-kid who’s half your age while being surrounded by a bunch of other kids who look like they’re going through puberty.

Think bigger and wider

Most guys who get into programming but later find it unsatisfying don’t realize that programming is only a tiny fraction of endeavors they can embark on. There’s a whole plethora of other problems and challenges that’s perfectly suitable for their creative and analytical minds. The key is to think bigger and wider. Start thinking in terms of people problems instead of software problems. What kind of problems are some the people might be facing that you can help solve for them?

Starting a software company that builds and distributes software services is one. Building a freelancing business that solves specific challenges for your clients is another. What else? You decide.

Think of programming as a specific tool in your toolbox that’s designed for very specific problems. For instance, I’m very fortunate that I can easily pull up a WordPress theme and implement a new feature, or quickly customize a signup form without asking anyone for help.

But these are all small problems that are done in the context of bigger and more complex challenges. Challenges that involve building real permanent capital. Challenges that are much more ambitious and rewarding than debugging an annoying Javascript function all day.

On Making Money And Living A Balanced Life — Some Contrarian Advice

I’ve tried different ways of making money, but I’ve never succeeded until I realized a very significant fact: money should come as a by-product of the actions that I truly enjoy instead of the other way around. In other words, I should decide what I enjoy and leverage that by adding value to others, who, in turn, will compensate me with pieces of paper called money. Money should be the means to an end, not the end in itself.

The reverse is chasing money just for the sake of chasing money, similar to how a donkey chases a carrot. Money, after all, is nothing more than just a piece of paper. It doesn’t mean much by itself. It also doesn’t mean much if you’re spending as much as you’re earning (or even more by borrowing on your credit cards). If you decide the whole point of your life is to chase these pieces of paper, then, do you think you’ll have a fulfilling life? Probably not.

The only certain outcome is that you might have more of these pieces of paper than someone else, such as a friend or a colleague. But then again, more is a relative term; there will be always someone else who’ll always have more than you, no matter how you much you work. But, in the process of chasing money, what have you really accomplished by swapping your time and energy for pieces of paper? Nothing — except swapping your time and energy for pieces of paper.

Your mission, should you accept it, is to structure your life so the act of earning money becomes a direct (or, likely, indirect) by-product of things the things you truly enjoy. The act of earning money must evolve from your personal economy. That means you should never try to compromise your lifestyle by exclusively focusing on stockpiling money. If you don’t enjoy doing something, there’s no reason to dedicate your life to it even if you’re promised shiny dollar bills or stock options.

Everything starts with your individual goals and desires. Start with deciding what kind of life you want to live. What’s important to you? What are your passions? What are your interests? What do you enjoy doing? Do you want to work for someone else 9-5 like a screw in the machine or do you want to venture and carve your own path (and wealth)?

I have one crucial criterion when it comes to having a balanced lifestyle: whatever I do it must be because it’s something I desire to do; it should naturally evolve from my ambitions.

Here’s what I like: writing, reading interesting books, traveling, spending time with quality women, and working with software. These are all the way that I can express myself. These represent my domain of knowledge and experience. These are all the way I can add value. These are my exports in my personal economy.

Let’s examine something I’m doing right this second: writing. I enjoy writing and have enjoyed it for a long time. My love for writing has allowed me to constantly write posts for this blog even though there’re no economic incentives. I don’t make a cent of this blog, but I keep doing it because I genuinely enjoy sharing my thoughts with my fans. Most blogs fail because people start them for the wrong reasons (and eventually realize that they don’t like writing at all). It certainly doesn’t make much sense to start a blog if you don’t enjoy writing.

Did I mention green pieces of paper, aka money, anywhere? Nope. But because we live in a capitalistic, not communistic, society, money is a way for someone to compensate someone else for adding value to their lives. To me, receiving money doesn’t excite me. What excites me is that whatever I’m doing is in some way, shape or form contributing to someone else’s economy. Money is proof of that. That’s important.

Carving your own path will unavoidably mean a change in your lifestyle. When I quit my 9-5 job, my income predictably nose-dived from a lavish six figure salary to zero. It happened literally overnight. Although I had savings, I was still alarmed as to how I will keep spending money without it being replenished by my employer.

The transition ended up being much smoother than I thought. One of the first things I did was carefully analyze and manage my expenses. I rented a cheap apartment in a working class neighborhood. I rarely bought new clothes. I stopped going out to fancy venues and started frequenting local bars. I stopped indulging in conspicuous consumption.

Ultimately, after trying my hand at various projects, I realized that with proper determination, one could make money doing pretty much anything. We live in a consumer society so people will buy what you’re selling if they find something helpful to whatever problem they’re having. That means if you can make something that someone else wants, you will be rewarded with it in various ways, most likely with pieces of paper called money.

The most important thing is to never make obtaining pieces of paper the priority and the ultimate goal. No piece of paper should be worth your hard-earned sweat and time. Instead, work your way from the other direction and let money find you. Decide what you enjoy doing. Decide where your interests lie. Decide what kind of value you can add to other people. Decide what kind of legacy you want to leave on the world. Then start doing that. Money, like a finely calibrated magnet that’s constantly chasing value, will find its way into your pockets one way or another.

Why I Left My Programming Career And Haven’t Looked Back

Over seven years ago, I quit my programming job at a promising startup. The decision was anything but easy and straightforward, but nevertheless ended up being the absolute right choice in the long run.

My job certainly wasn’t the worst in the world. It came with lavish perks. The office was spacious and airy; it had tall ceilings and was furnished with overpriced leather chairs. We had access to complimentary snacks and drinks. We had flexible hours. In exchange for surrendering our precious time, eyesight and youth, the company dangled carrots (stock options) in front of our faces. The best part was being compensated for writing code, a very fun and addictive hobby that I enjoyed.

After finishing a critical project that I was working for several months, I collected my overdue vacation and took a three-and-a-half weeklong trip to Central America. It was one of the first “extended” trips that I took abroad. Unlike my previous vacations, this time, instead of staying at hotels, I backpacked from country to country, staying in various hostels while mingling with other backpackers and locals.

After the trip, I flew back home and rejoined the daily grind. As I attempted to settle into my old routine, something was off. It wasn’t like all my previous vacations where getting right back on the hamster wheel was as easy as jumping off it. This time, the process of going to work became an unnatural and robotic slug. Instead of seeing my work as “important” and “life-changing” (words recruiters love to use to describe a position), I began viewing it for what it really was: driving to office, writing some computer code and going home. Since the money wasn’t a strong initial motivator, It mattered even less that I was receiving a paycheck for it. The work began to feel monotonous and repetitive.

Feeling that continuing along this path wasn’t in my best interest, I met my manager, and informed him that I would be quitting. He was disappointed but sympathetic; he assured me that the job was always mine should I change my mind down the road. We shook hands, and I left the building.

I never did return. Although, I couldn’t initially pinpoint the exact causes of my discontent, over the proceeding years the jigsaw puzzle slowly started to come together. As always, the issue was the most efficient way to spend my time.

Once the fog cleared, and I had a chance to look at things in a more objective matter, I realized that I can either spend my scarce time communicating with a lifeless computer or spend it communicating with real, breathing people. And the more time I spent telling a computer what to do, the more rusty I became when dealing with humans; by perfecting my skills of talking to a computer, I was simultaneously atrophying my skills when dealing with actual living and breathing humans.

Since it’s physically impossible to do both, I had to choose one. In economics, it’s called opportunity cost. Every additional minute that I debug an obscure bug is an additional minute that I’m not reaching out to perspective clients or business contacts. Every additional minute that I look up a vague function is an additional minute that I’m not seducing a cute girl at a coffee shop or at a bar.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it all came down to whether I wanted to interact with real, living and breathing humans or keep trying to get some device with transistors to obey my commands. In the end, I chose people.

It also doesn’t hurt that I was deserting a commodity field. Thanks to the plethora of tutorials, manuals and guides available, it’s completely possible for anyone in the world right now to learn and master the same exact skills that I have, enter the market place and begin making money — competing with guys like me in the process. These days, a person doesn’t need much beyond time, dedication and an Internet connection.

Programming is a skill without barriers and competitive advantages. More competition means less job security and lower wages, something that should be concerning to anyone who relies on a commodity skill to pay his bills. That’s a great scenario if you’re an employer but terrible if you’re an employee.

In the new globalized world, in order to matter, you have to add some kind of value. And more often than not, it means dealing with people. The very best skill in the world is the ability to deal with people, whether it’s arranging deals for a new business, or seducing that cute girl in the coffee shop.

After all, it’s the people that make the world go round. And you can’t get really good at the latter if you spend most of your waking hours staring at a computer screen trying to catch some obscure memory allocation bug.

Although I no longer code for a living, I still spend a lot of time staring at a blinking cursor on the screen. I’m using the computer to communicate, but the difference this time around is that I’m communicating via a human language (English) that’s understood by actual people, instead of toiling in some dark cubicle constructing arcane instructions that only a computer can understand.

Furthermore, it makes sense to leverage the fact that there’s a vast army of developers looking for projects and are willing to work for low wages. So, for my next project, I’ll be looking to hire a developer instead of doing it myself.

I’m more than certain that the contractor I hire will be much more capable than me; in several years my programming skills would rightly atrophy as a result of spending more and more time in front of people: arranging business partnerships, seducing women, and writing in English and other human languages instead of funneling my time on a very specialized skill that only a computer can understand and appreciate.

How To Really Make Money Online and Live Anywhere In The World

If you knew me back in 2007, you’d probably be dealing with a very different person than the one who’s writing this article. Back then I was busy commuting an hour (or two) each way in an effort to please my master. I was a lifeless drone, who, apart from making someone else rich, didn’t have much time for anything else, including myself.

In late 2007 I left the cubicle farm and haven’t looked back. (Ironically, the company that I worked for eventually went public and I probably could’ve made a pretty penny cashing in my stock after the IPO, but I have absolutely zero regrets.)

In the past five years my life has changed in immeasurable ways – ways that I couldn’t even fathom on that fateful day when I handed in the two-week notice. Since then I’ve lived all over Central and South America before finally settling here in Europe.

IT’S NOT ALL PEACHES AND CREAM

I really hate the term “location-independent” because it almost always conjures images of some incredible life where all you’re doing is traveling and seeing the world. And in those rare moments when you actually do work, it’s always somewhere poolside or from the beaches of Thailand, all while drinking cold Coronas.

The reality, as always, is very different. From a purely logical standpoint you can’t work if you’re traveling. Sure, you can pull out your laptop on the planes and buses and get something done, but to be truly productive, you need to sit down and actually work – which can be hard if there’re fifteen other backpackers in your dorm room.

There’s also no such thing as the proverbial “four-hour workweek.” I personally have worked harder and logged more hours working for myself, than I’ve ever done working for someone else. Most of my weeks have been much, much longer than four hours – my average workweek is roughly 45 hours, and some weeks prior to a launch have been as high as 60-70 hours. I know it’s something you didn’t expect to hear, so I apologize in advance for bursting your bubble.

Let’s say we’re competing in the same market niche, which, with the high competition nowadays, isn’t that uncommon, and you’re working four hours a week mostly out of buses, planes, or cheap hostels, while I, on the other hand, plant my ass down in work from the privacy and comfort of my comfortable private apartment, who do you think will build the better product?

Mine will beat yours every single damn time.

I want you, to instead of imagining a carefree life of lots of travel, tons of money and little work, begin to view your future life consisting of lots of work, occasional travel and little money, at least for the first few years or so.

BITS AND BYTES

The reason I can spend one week in Serbia, another in Spain, then disappear of the grid to Canary Islands, while my friend Joe, is anchored to his San Francisco office, is because I’m providing products and services that don’t require me to have face time with my boss (I don’t have one) or my customers.

While my friend Joe has to constantly meet with clients and report his findings to his boss in weekly face-to-face meetings, I’m at luxury to work on projects and then present them to my customers over the Internet. We’re both providing value by solving other people’s problems, it’s just I can do it without physical attachment to people or places, while Joe is required to meet certain people and report to a specific physical location.

Thus, in order to remove the dependence of other people your product or service must be fully developed, marketed, and sold over the Internet.

Can you do that with your current skill? It depends. If you can make a living selling people bits and bytes then yes, however, if you’re working with tangible things or real people then it’ll be trickier, although not impossible.

THE SECRET SAUCE

There’re two ways to cut the cord to a fixed physical location: you must be good at making something or you must be good at selling something. And if you’re a rare breed who can do both, congratulations — the world is your oyster.

1) Be Really Good At Making Something

Everything starts with a product or service that’s useful to someone else. Someone has to make it and it might as well be you.

But make what? Get off Facebook, turn off the TV, and lock yourself in your room.

Think.

What is it that you like? What gets you excited? Are you passionate about programming, paragliding, or traveling to exotic places? Or do you like fishing, cooking, and seducing women?

I’m going to use software as an example because that’s my background and it’s something I’m intimately familiar with. Let’s say you’re a really good at making mobile (e.g., iPhone, Android) applications. You’re passionate about this area and read blogs/books all the time and stay abreast of all the new trends.

That’s all nice and good but if there’s money in the market, you can bet a lot of other guys will be doing the same. Why would someone pick you to get a job done? The answer: you will be only picked if you’re an authority in a specific area.

An authority is an individual or a company who the majority in the community – customers or competitors — consider to be an expert. It’s a person or a company who has the most credibility as considered by one’s peers in the market segment.

There’s a very popular computer programming language called “Python” that’s used by major Internet and software companies like Google. The authority on that language is its creator, Guido Van Rossum. Below him exist other guys who’ve, over the years, also earned the reputation as authorities and semi-authorities.

This second tier of guys who didn’t directly invent the language didn’t become authorities over night. They’ve earned their reputations by demonstrating their immense knowledge and expertise in solving other people’s problems. Chances are you’ll find these guys anywhere other software developers hang out, especially on StackOverflow, the popular software developer community.

When you’re trying to solve a problem using that language, whom are you going to call first? Who will command the highest payout? The authority – that’s who.

And that’s exactly where you want to be.

How do you make yourself known to others? Easy – communicate. Spread the word. Start a blog. Write. Write more. And then write some more. Share your posts with others via social media networks (twitter, facebook, etc.,).

Research everything you know about a particular subject, whether it’s a programming language, the fastest way to grow a blog, or how to properly feed a goldfish. Make friends with guys in your market segment, industry and community.

If what you write adds value and solves others’ problems then over time more and more people will gradually discover you and begin to view you as an expert in the domain.

The key is to position yourself as the best in a particular field. You’re not selling your services – you’re selling and positioning yourself as the authority on the particular subject matter.

Don’t quit your day job just yet. It will take a while – several years – for your knowledge to spread and gain value in the community. Keep working at your day job that’s putting the food on your table while simultaneously growing your influence.

Imagine you’re building a castle. Every new blog subscriber, commenter, twitter follower, email feedback, etc., is like laying a new brick. Soon you’ll finish building the foundation and will start working on various levels. One day you’ll realize that you’ve built a very large castle with multiple floors each containing many rooms. It certainly won’t be overnight.

While I’ve used mobile app development as an example, you’re certainly not limited to that alone. Maybe you live in New York City and love to eat steak, then you can write and sell a small guidebook to the best steak restaurants in NYC. I know a guy who loves to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and travel. So he built a blog about it and then wrote a book. Since no one else had the foresight to combine these two interests, his site and book quickly rose in popularity.

The best part of being an authority or a semi-authority is that people will come directly to you to solve their problems. That means never filling out a resume and begging anyone who might be hiring. You’re now the king of the knowledge kingdom and will solicit offers on your turf and in your castle. Should you become available to take on new projects, a simple tweet or a blog post will be all that’ll necessary to have people knocking on your door. And that’s exactly who you want to be – the king, not the peasant.

Being the king also allows you to work for someone under your own terms, negotiating what you want – and that just might include working out of your spacious beachfront apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2) Be Really Good At Selling Something

Being merely knowledgeable at something, and by extension good at building something, is not enough to put bread and milk on the table. The software authorities and semi-authorities mentioned above won’t be able to feed themselves unless someone comes along and monetizes their knowledge and skills. And that can’t be just anyone – he or she must be really good at selling.

Marketing, advertising, and selling are different means to the same end: they are a type of communication by which you convince someone to give you money in exchange for something that you possess, be it a skill, knowledge, or even a finished product or a service.

There are countless guides and books that promise to teach you any of the disciplines above, but, even with all that material, I believe very effective selling is still somewhat of a black art. It’s certainly much more of an art than a science, regardless of many to tell you the opposite. For instance, I have a good friend who cannot build anything to save his life, but he is an ace at selling anything, including ice to the Eskimos. Having read countless books on the subject, I still don’t know the ingredients to his secret sauce.

The beauty of selling is that you get to interface with the living and breathing human beings directly. You know precisely what they want and you also know what they’re willing to pay their hard earned money for. This is also the part that many guys on the build side of things fail to grasp: anyone can write the next Facebook in their basement but whether it reaches the same level of success is another story. That’s because when you’re focusing on building something you’re not in contact with the very people whose participation is crucial in whatever it is you’re building. And if you can’t sell it to them, you’ve wasted all that valuable time and should’ve worked for someone else instead.

The flip-side, and what makes selling extremely challenging, is that when entering a new market it can take a long time to really get inside the heads of your prospective customers in order to learn what is it really that they’re trying to do and pay money for. A lot of time it’s just not very obvious.

There’s one very specific market niche that I believe I understand very well and know exactly what it is that the customers really want. Many years ago I started out as a customer myself by possessing a very specific problem and searching for a solution. While I eventually did find a solution, I realized two things: one, many other people had the same problem as me; and two, many of those people were willing to pay money in order to solve this problem. Those two reasons alone were enough to convince me that there’s a potential business opportunity.

That knowledge didn’t seep into my brain overnight; I’ve been learning about the customers by participating in their activities: visiting their forums, emailing them, having coffee with them, and also analyzing the current market offerings and my future competitors. It’s very challenging – not to mention time-consuming – to get a true understanding of what the customers really want, and the more competitive the market, the greater the chance your competitive have found out those things long ago and are already many steps ahead of you.

Selling is where you actually get the money. It’s the economics side of the business. You can have the best product in the world but without people who’ll hand their hard-earned money, you won’t have enough to put food on the table. On the other hand, you don’t even need to be good at building something yourself – you can just sell other people’s stuff, which is called affiliate marketing.

Four steps to cash:

  • Research everything you know about your target audience. How old are they, how much money do they make, what are they like? You need to do everything you can to get into the shoes of your prospective customer. If you can’t “picture” a typical customer then you certainly won’t be able to sell to him or her.
  • Interact with them. Once you know your target users, you need to be able to talk to them. You need to ask them and see if what you’re selling – your product or service – will benefit them in some ways. Email, Skype, and invite those people out for coffee.
  • Build a product or sell someone else’s product. This part is covered in the first section of this guide.
  • Sell to them. Once you know what it is they’re looking for and how your product or service will meet their needs, you can finally start communicating to your potential customers. This includes writing the sales page, reaching out to your peers for cross promotions, etc.

Unlike actually building something, which is a very straight forward and logical process, selling, on the other hand, operates on many assumptions because people typically do not know what they want until you put something in front of them. No one told Steve Jobs that people wanted a touchscreen phone with only one physical button. That is something Steve derived by using his intuition, which itself was formed due to his immense understanding of the market.

That’s why I refer to selling as a sort of a “black art”: you really need to have a sixth sense in order to read your customer’s mind – without them actually telling you – and deliver it to them.

3) Be Really Good At Making And Selling Something

If you can make something really good and sell it to the widest possible audience, you’ll be able leverage both skills in perfect synergy. Doing both efficiently is like having your mini monopoly without the middleman (another builder or seller) skimming your hard-earned money from the top.

If you know your market very well and there aren’t many (or any) high barriers to entry in that market segment, then there’s absolutely no reason for you to not be a good builder and a good seller. Let’s say you plan to sell an eBook that will teach anyone how to properly train his or her parrots. On the build side, you don’t need to outsource your production to factories or partner with other companies; you can write the whole thing yourself. On the sell side, you don’t need the service of various distributors; you can simply sell the thing via your website.

While it’s more difficult to being equally good at both areas than simply at either one, it’s certainly not impossible. The Internet is full of self-made guys that have turned their passions into profitable businesses. Tim Ferriss is good at building (he’s an authority on quickly learning various skills) and selling (everyone has heard of the 4-Hour Workweek). Roosh V is good at building (he’s an authority on seducing women in America and abroad) and good at selling (general pickup guides, country-specific guides, and memoirs). There’re countless other individuals who took their passions, and through a painstaking process, translated their knowledge into products and/or services thus helping others achieve theirs.

YOUR TURN

I’m not going to conclude this guide with the popular cliché, “if I can do it, you can do it,” that I’m sure you’ve heard many times before. The cold hard truth is that you need to be really, really good at either building something and/or equally great at selling something. There’s no shortcut because if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

The most important question that you should be asking yourself is not whether you can do it or not but where do your strengths lie. Are you a builder, seller, both, or neither? I’ll go out on a limb and guess that most of you reading this article are probably neither, or, perhaps, are more inclined to the builder side.

If you’re neither then I recommend becoming a builder. Being a builder is easier than being a seller because all you have to do is follow down a very clearly defined logical road that has been charted by many others before you. The other major benefit with starting with the build side is that building allows you to learn about your target market, so that if and when you decide to sell, you’ll already have a pretty good picture of who your perspective customer is.

So before you resume your Facebook browsing, channel surfing, and similarly wasteful activities, take a moment and ask yourself if there’s something that you can do to make someone’s life easier with less pain and hassle. And if you can, then there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t have the lifestyle that you’ve always dreamed off: working poolside in some exotic location with that cold Corona bottle in one hand and that hot Brazilian chick in the other.

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