Monthly Archives: July 2013

Being Uncomfortable: My 14 Month Travel & Work Trip Around The World

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I believe a life well lived, is a life full of great experiences.  Trying new things, lots of things. Experiencing everything that life has to offer you.   Try new things that excite you, scare you, challenge you and make you uncomfortable from time to time.  It’s those experiences that you’ll never forget and cherish when you’re older.   We don’t look back at our lives and think about all of the things we did that were “comfortable” and “easy to do”, we look back at the things that really challenged us, made us grow, made us think, made us ponder, made us better and how we eventually overcame those obstacles and went on to do something amazing with our lives.

I personally love the feeling of being uncomfortable.  I love the feeling of having your heart flutter a bit because you’re thinking of doing something that scares you.  You know what I’m talking about, that nervousness you get when you’re about to do something you’re scared to do.  Many people will back down form whatever they were going to do when they feel that way because it’s uncomfortable & scary, they’d rather not do it because they want to feel comfortable & safe.   Whenever you feel that way, I challenge you to go after it and do what was scares you anyways.

Whenever I start feeling uncomfortable before I do something that scares me, I just do it and dance with my fears.  Once you dance with your fears and do whatever it is that was scaring you, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad and you’ll feel outstanding afterwards, because you faced your fears and overcame then.   The old saying goes, “live an uncomfortable life now, so later on in life you’ll live comfortably”.  It’s true.  If you constantly dance with your fears by going after things even when you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’ll start to actually enjoy that state and really cherish the growth you’ll gain from constantly pushing yourself.

For me that’s what this trip is all about.  My beautiful and loving girlfriend, Gissel and I have begun our 14-month trip around the world.  We like to say world, but it’s really half the world.  As much as our trip sounds fun, which it is, it’s also incredibly uncomfortable because there are many uncertainties surrounding it, specifically around how I will get my work done.  It’s a little nerve-racking, but that has made the trip even more enjoyable & exciting than just taking a vacation for 2 months and not working at all.  Half of the fun will be realizing a dream that it is possible to make more money while traveling than staying at home and having more fun doing it.   That’s a fun thought, isn’t it?  To be even more successful, traveling all the time than you would be staying at home.  While challenging, it is possible to be more successful while traveling (or taking a vacation as some would say), it’s a different belief and it can be true if you believe it.  So going after that challenge, that’s fun, going after that goal is rewarding in itself without the things I’d see everyday traveling.

About our trip!  Our journey starts in Mexico, afterwards we’ll continue to Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, then to Thailand, China & Japan.  We’re basically doing Latin America for the first half, and Asia for the last.   Each country we’ll be visiting for about 1-3 months, we don’t want to just travel quickly to the countries, we really want to live in different places and see what it’s like to be there.  A 2 week vacation is just too short, having a month plus in each country gives us a lot more depth than we’d ever have going to and from places quickly.

I’ve been in San Francisco for almost 5 years now.  It’s been an amazing city; I’ll come back to it when we’re done traveling.  Silicon Valley is just amazing and I love what bay area is doing here.  I could pass on the expensive living of course, but I love everything else about it.  Although as much as I love the city, I’ve been here too long, it’s time to try something new.   Of course other people have lived here longer, but I’ve lived here long enough to figure it out and make it work.  That’s the problem.  My biggest growth curve was dropping out of college when I was 19, getting in my car and moving down to downtown San Francisco by myself with no friends and starting a company.  That was scary, but incredibly fun and exciting.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life and I’m incredibly happy that I did it.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Now a days, although there is still of course always more to learn there, I’ve been doing the tech thing for awhile now and it’s really gotten a bit boring.  It’s getting a bit routine.   Routines are scary for me.  I’m not growing like I did when I first moved here and put myself in an impossible situation that I had to succeed.  Living here has gotten to comfortable because I know I can do it.  Once you know you can do something, there’s no more growth from doing it.  What’s important is doing something more that you never thought you could actually do, challenging yourself.   We need to try things that we think might not actually be possible and then make it possible.  Once you start doing things you know you can do and do it, you will never grow any more, you can’t get any better because you already know how to do it.  Push yourself, become more, try to do things you don’t think you could do, once you try it  you’ll surprise yourself.

So for me, traveling around the world for 14 months feels like dropping out of college when I was 19 and moving to SF to start my first web company, Tracking202.    This trip is about challenging myself and seeing if it’s possible to provide even more value to the world through entrepreneurship than I could if I was staying at home.   I love it.    This trip is seeing if I can do something I’m super passionate about and figuring out a sustainable income from it instead of just creating businesses for the sake of “making money”.  It’s the challenge of seeing if we can have an even more productive team working remotely than if we had a team of people showing up to an office everyday.  It’s about seeing if I can have an even better  & improving relationship with my girlfriend while building a better company at the same time.  It’s an exciting time, it’s a growth time and I highly recommend to anyone out there reading this to try something like it if you haven’t done it before.

I have to say thanks to my buddy Josh Wexelbaum who shared his story traveling while being an Internet marketer for 2 years with me.  It was his story and having other friends travel all the time while I was sitting at the office that eventually pushed me to do this trip.  That and my girlfriend wanted to teach English in Spain for a year but we decided to do something a bit more challenging and exciting.   If you will be traveling to any of those countries and would like to come visit us please send us an email.  If you’re stuck in the office working all the time, challenge yourself and see if you can do it remotely for a month.   Traveling doesn’t have to be a vacation; it can be a lifestyle and a productive one if you change your beliefs about what’s possible and start working on it to make it true.  So challenge yourself and explore the world if that interests you!

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How I went from rich to completely broke

This is a guest blog post by Dennis Yu.

The other day, a consultant I hired was whining about how I pay him only $260,000 a year. I’m sitting in a Motel6 eating McDonalds, wearing pants I got for $19 at TJ Maxx, on my old Droid phone.

I’m trying to display empathy at his argument about there are so many other programmers who make more than that.

On Wall Street, the clients are chauffeured to work, while the partners take the subway. Mayor Bloomberg takes the subway. David Filo, Yahoo! founder and billionaire, takes the train to work and lives in a normal apartment.  Warren Buffett lives in his old house in Omaha, Nebraska.  Insert your own examples.

A year ago an ex-employee stole the most valuable things I owned and sold them on Craigslist. That’s why he’s an ex-employee. If you’re a cycling nut, you know how much two full carbon racing bikes with Dura-Ace cost. It’s funny that his last name was Larsen and that the guy he sold them to stiffed him on one of the bikes. Larsen complained about how he got ripped off.

And some other folks ran off with all the electronics I had– a $20,000 Pinifarina projector, theater quality sound system, 30″ monitors, and other stuff. Not stuff you can get at Best Buy. Anyway.

I gave my car away to my maid, since I wasn’t even using it, as I travel so much. So I don’t own a car.

Two weeks ago, I forgot to lock my stuff up at the 24 Hour Fitness, so my MacBook Air was stolen. My fault, of course. That $2,600 machine was the last valuable possession I had.

So I bought a $249 Chromebook. Guess what? It works just fine.

And now I’m down to nearly nothing. No car, no place, no fancy things. I suppose if you really wanted it, you could steal my old iPad that’s beat up.

There’s nothing you can steal from me. How liberating is that?

And yet, the most valuable thing I have is my knowledge of online marketing, which I will freely give if you ask.

Back in 2009, you may have remembers the article I wrote on TechCrunch– “How to Spam Facebook Like a Pro“. It angered a lot of spammers in the affiliate space, though the honest folks among us loved it. The king of spammers wrote a blog post attacking me. Of course, it was untrue, but hey– this is the Internet. The Paparrazzi say whatever it takes to generate attention, moving from one trend to the next, posturing success.

You know how the game works. The most successful people don’t need to beat their chests. They’re humble, like Wes Mahler. If you’re launching a new product every week, that probably means all the others ones have lost their steam.

I was tired of pretending– going to Ad-Tech parties I didn’t really care for, buying overpriced booze for people who weren’t really friends.

Did I impress you?

How dumb is that– to pay money to torture yourself.

But back to the consultant who I’ve been paying $1,000 a day to work on our software. I was like that 15 years ago.  Easy come, easy go. Hit me up in person and we’ll swap stories about how stupidly we spent money.

There are studies that show that happiness increases up until about $80,000 a year. Then it goes down from there. Most of the wealthy people I know are miserable. Do you know a few of these folks, too?

I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind

I heard someone say that thinking you’ll be happy when you’re rich is like taping sandwiches to your body to solve your hunger problem.

One rich friend of mine is a billionaire who built another50,000 square foot house and started a foundation for his second wife to manage. He’s estranged from his son and now has nothing left but a lot of money and property across the globe. His ex-wife got one of the largest divorce settlements in United States history. And I’m sure his unhappiness level matches that.

So a few years ago, I decided that what made me happy was going on adventures, teaching,  and creating jobs.

And why not start a company that could enable me to do all of that?

I decided that I didn’t need to make a lot of money– or spend a lot of money to pretend I had a lot of money.  Or even change my name to be YuMoney.

The affiliate world had taught me that if you work super hard, you could make a lot of money. If you’re not there yet– keep at it. It will come.

I had met a lot of good people, but there were a few bad people that poison the industry.  They further the notion of scarcity– the zero sum game that means my gain can come only at your loss. So I need to barricade myself in my hut from the wolves outside.

But the reality is that they are Neaderthals in a cave, while it’s sunny and tropical outside. It’s self-imprisonment. Don’t listen to them.

If everyone is doing the same thing and pushing the same products, then perhaps others can rip you off. And if whatever you’ve done is so simple that you can be ripped off in a heartbeat, then it really wasn’t unique enough, was it?

If you create your own product of sufficient value, you don’t have this issue. Wes created Tracking202 and now Follow. And I created BlitzMetrics.

And in our products, ironically, the more we share our techniques openly, the more demand we generate for our stuff.   The more broadly you teach your best stuff, the more people are attracted to what you’ve built.

It’s no longer about stuff that is easily copied– some keyword list, landing page design, special affiliate payout, or whatever.

It’s unlikely anyone will try to copy our product.  We’ve worked super hard, so anyone who follows must work just as hard and write content that is just as fresh.  Heck, if anyone can build a stronger analytics system to measure Facebook traffic, they deserve to win. In fact, I’d want to partner with them.

When I first started doing affiliate marketing back in 2005, I ran Google AdWords to True.com on Neverblue and CPX.  I already knew something about PPC, since I ran it for Yahoo! Personals.

After a week of messing around, I was breaking even. Two weeks in, I was making $100 a day in margin on super long tail keywords at 4 cents a click. A month later, sitting in front of the computer in my pajamas day and night eating Hot Pockets and drinking Gatorade, I was making $700 a day in profit on $1,500 in spend.

The FedEx guy would come every few days to deliver my check, which I didn’t believe was even real. Some weeks, it was $20-30,000. I’m sure the teller at US Bank thought I sold drugs or something. They’d see a guy who looked like a bum– hadn’t shaved, clothes wrinkled, making deposits in the middle of the day, coming in on his bicycle.

But that was necessary training to build the software we’re building now. Had I not spent those years learning how to hands-on optimize campaigns 24×7, I wouldn’t be able to write the logic for our Facebook ads tool.

Okay, I’ll admit that probably 60% of that time was just logging in to click refresh on my revenues and expenses every two minutes. It’s as if the act of clicking refresh somehow helped support the campaign, like a baseball player’s lucky underwear or something. I’ll bet you’re superstitious like that, too.

It’s the knowledge that you gain from working hard that is your true value. I saw Warren Buffett say that Uncle Sam can tax you on the things you own, but not on the knowledge you have. So the best investment is that of yourself.

We give away our software totally free to schools and non-profits. We have training materials on Facebook ads– free, too.  Some people say it’s good enough to publish. But all I really care is that people get some value. And if they see these techniques to be valuable, they can either manually implement it themselves or use our software to automate them.

If you build a really solid product, your training guides and software usage manual are the same thing.

It’s the know-how you’ve accumulated that you can turn into rules that a machine can follow. And that’s what software is.

So I’ve started years ago as a dot-com millionaire who sold his Yahoo stock and bought fancy things. To now, I’m a guy who probably owns less than you do. I’m not some Buddhist monk who lives an ascetic lifestyle. But I’ve not let things get in the way of doing what I enjoy.

What is it that you really want to do?