Over the past year, I have noticed a drastic change in my attitudes towards business and work. When I was dirt broke and had no online income streams whatsoever, I was hungry for success. It was everything I ever wanted and it consumed my heart and soul with obsession. The dream of sustaining myself through entrepreneurial means felt so surreal and it would haunt me day and night. Growing up, both of my parents worked corporate jobs and sacrificed a lot in order to provide both myself and my sister with the best education and upbringing possible. By society’s standard of success, they had come pretty far. They could afford a nice big house in an affluent suburb of Maryland and had comfortable jobs with the typical benefits. As a child, their work and their lifestyle served as the model for what I could hope to achieve one day if I worked hard, got good grades in school, and really applied myself. Study hard, get into a good college, get good grades, get a good starter job, work your way up in your profession and shoot for 6 figures a year.
As I grew older and could relate to them better, the cracks under the veneer of this seemingly perfect plan became more and more obvious to me. I could see with my own eyes year after year the incredible strain their careers were having on them, how it was sucking the life and soul out of them. Even though this path was providing them both with plenty of tangible benefits, it came at the cost of their freedom and their dreams. They were enslaved to the rat race and in order to continue to reap the benefits of it, they had to sell their time diligently Monday through Friday indefinitely.
At this point in my life, I had seen examples of people who were making a living through their brand and their products to know that entrepreneurship, using the Internet as a platform, was a viable option for me without an MBA from Harvard or a multi-million dollar blessing from an angel investor, complete with an office suite in Silicon Valley.
While I was in college, the way I saw it, I had a ticking time bomb strapped to my chest with two options – either hustle and earn a living myself or succumb to the 9-5 life in order to make ends meet. I couldn’t afford to procrastinate or wait until tomorrow or next month or next year when the stars aligned and all the opportunities were perfect. All the comforts and luxuries of my current life felt absolutely meaningless to me when the threat of my dreams dying felt so real.
Fast forward 3 years. After 3 years of trial and error, successes and failures, and following the principles I talk about on this blog, I achieved my initial goal of financial freedom and was cruising on easy mode. I had attained the object of my desires and then some. While all my friends had graduated and moved on to either graduate school or working jobs in order to support myself, I was living on easy mode. I barely even had to work anymore, but the money would still come in regardless.
Long gone were the days of insecurity and worry and the immense pressure to succeed or die trying.
Then something happened that I was totally unprepared for and it totally caught me off guard.
I had fallen headfirst into the trap of entrepreneurial apathy where I could do pretty much whatever I wanted at any hour of the day, and yet I felt unfulfilled because there didn’t seem like anything left to aim for.
Instead of aspiring for more, I just settled into what I had and it took my fire away.
When I look back at where I was when I started this journey, even though I couldn’t afford to eat out at nice restaurants every night of the week or rent out the most scenic views in the city, I had something far more powerful up my sleeve.
I had a powerful dream that would animate my entire being and kept my alive. A dream that invigorated my life and gave me the power to keep pushing forward no matter what happened.
Eating Costco chicken and tuna out of a can? Living in a cramped apartment? Not having time for a girlfriend? Not being able to afford to go out with my friends?
My dream of a grand future that I would build with my own two hands kept my fulfilled day in and day out.
Somewhere along the line, money and the luxuries of this world brought the raging fire of that dream down to a tiny little spark.
I had finally woken up out of my trance and there was no way in hell I was going to let that spark die out.
I had become weak and I needed to do something drastic in order to break my mind out of the prison of comfort that I had locked myself into.
A friend of mine runs a very successful clothing business out of Los Angeles. He’s in his young thirties and has come a long way from the poverty stricken environment he grew up in back in the Ukraine. He is now a multi millionaire off his online businesses.
Although he can easily afford to live in an opulent house or penthouse apartment in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, or downtown LA, he purposefully chooses to spend most of his time living in shadier “ghetto” areas of the city. His reasoning behind it is that it forces him into the hustler mindset and keeps him mentally hungry to keep striving for more instead of settling for what he has now.
Taking inspiration from my buddy’s story, I made one of the craziest decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life. I packed up everything I cared about into 2 suitcases and left behind my cozy house in beautiful east coast Maryland, and got on a plane halfway around the world to move to Hyderabad, India.
As I sit here writing this, I’m living in a 3 bedroom apartment in the city alongside my furry friend.
My goal was to afflict myself with discomfort and boy did I succeed. No matter how much money you have to play with, the quality of life and fun you get in India just can’t come close to competing with any major city of America. On top of that, its still a developing country so the infrastructure isn’t on par with first world western living that I was accustomed to.
It’s been nearly 3 months since I’ve moved and I’ve noticed an intense resurgence in my levels of motivation and the amount of work I’m able to get done everyday in an environment that’s free of all the wonderful luxuries that could distract me. I made a deal with myself that until I’ve met the business goals that I’ve set for myself, I’m not allowed to move back to the United States or any other European country.
There’s a lot I miss about being back in the states like the beautiful beaches, the great variety of food, the infrastructure, and the beautiful women.
But all of that can wait because there are bigger priorities in life.
Since I’ve come here I’ve had the chance to interact with quite a few different people and I began to see the same problem I had in myself manifesting in all sorts of people, with different circumstances.
The Artist and the Bank Manager
When I first moved countries, I would make frequent trips to the local bank in order to setup everything I needed financially. Over the course of a few weeks, I developed a close working relationship with the manager of the bank who was responsible for overseeing the accounts of foreigners.
As we worked together to set everything up, he would press me more and more about what I did for a living, why I was living in India, and how I made my money.
I told him I was an entrepreneur from America and I was planning on staying here for half a year while working on my businesses online. While initially floored by my non dependence on a job to pay my bills, over time he started to unveil more and more about his life. He lamented to me about how underpaid he was as a manager of a bank here in India and how he was overworked and underpaid.
From there it would escalate to him literally begging me to take him back to the states with me and employ him. I had a good laugh and told him I’d be sure to hit him up if I had an opening but from the look in his eyes I could tell he was dead serious.
Peeling back the superficial veneer of his problems, I could see that at the root of this man’s struggle was his lack of hunger for true success. He wasn’t some guy who grew up in some poor isolated village and never had any chance at an education or to learn about the modern world. He had graduated with his Masters degree and had become rather comfortable in this job of his as a manager of this bank. He obviously didn’t like his job or the meager benefits that it provided but he also didn’t feel compelled enough to search for more. His job provided him with the cushion he needed to get by with a certain threshold of comfort and he didn’t see the need to put forth any significant amount of effort or take any real risk in order to surpass that threshold.
He had already locked himself into a mental prison of a man who was doomed to endure this struggle for the rest of his earthly life. He perceived me, a young man from America, as “lucky” to have had the opportunities I had. After all, I must have known the right people or been born with an IQ of 250 to pull off what I did.
We spent many hours together over the course of the coming weeks and months and he would question me nonstop about the intricacies of my business and personal life. From the very nature of the kinds of questions he was asking, I could tell that he wasn’t interested in using me as a resource to learn more or improve his own situation. Rather he was viewing me as some sort of taxi that he could potentially ride to the good life if the stars should align. Rather than viewing himself as the vehicle that would propel him forward towards his dreams, he was attempting to take a longshot chance and use me as his vehicle.
Deep down in his heart, he had already concluded that success is for “other people” like that young American man who’s so lucky.
If only that poor sucker knew how easy it was. If only he knew that the same opportunity that was available to me was also available to him for the taking. If only he was hungry enough to seriously pursue it and crave it more than the comforts of his mediocre life.
During the first month or so of my arrival in this new city, I stayed with the family of my younger cousin while I was busy apartment hunting and setting up all the systems I needed to live in this new country independently.
Over the course of my stay I discovered that this younger cousin of mine had quite the talent for painting. Growing up I loved art but I didn’t have a whole lot of natural talent for drawing or painting. The quality of work that I saw in his work was absolutely magnificent. If I had seen it out in a store I would have gladly been willing to fork over several hundred dollars to purchase it to adorn my house back home.
I asked him if he had tried selling any of his works yet and he let me know that he had sold a few pieces to various adults within his community for prices ranging from the equivalent of $10 to $50 USD. For a 15 year old kid who painted part time, he considered that to be some decent pocket change. His parents would constantly be pressuring him to put more time into his schoolwork rather than painting or playing video games.
Being the curious guy that I am, I went online and did a quick google search for websites buyers and artists meet to trade canvas and oil paintings within the country of India. After finding a few websites and browsing through their merchandise, I quickly discovered that there were other artists out there who were selling similar quality work for the equivalent of $300 – $600 USD. After notifying my cousin about how much his competitors out there in the world were making off their work, I could see the sparks ignite in his eyes. He immediately lost all interest in playing PubG on my iphone or going off to play with his friends and became completely entranced with the idea of selling his paintings online for exorbitant amounts of money.
Selling a canvas work for $300 as an amateur artist in the states is a pretty decent accomplishment, but its a much more profound amount of money in a developing country like India. To put it into perspective, I pay less than that every month for my 3 bedroom apartment, complete with 2 walkout balconies and a beautiful view of the city. It would be the equivalent of a high schooler in the States making $2,000 on a single piece of artwork.
I knew that if he were to pursue this seriously and put in additional effort to improving the quality of his work, this opportunity would change his life forever both in the short term and the long term. He had the natural talent, all it would take is the desire to work for it without giving up.
I was really excited for him and hoped that he would jump on this opportunity set in front of him. I created an account on several of these websites (you have to be 18 to do so), filled out all the information, and waited on him to give me 5 pieces of his work that I could upload so that the account would get verified and the work would be publicly available for anyone to view and purchase. As it turns out, he only had 3 canvas paintings on hand (he had sold off the rest) that were available to upload and sell. Which means in order to complete his profile and start exposing his artwork to potential buyers, he would have to produce two additional works – something that would take him a couple weeks if he really hustled.
Well, two weeks eventually turned into two months and nothing really came out of it. I later learned that he had continued to create some paintings in school, which he submitted for regional competitions, but he never followed up with me and produced anymore work that I could upload. That initial fire and excitement he had for big success early on slowly died and fizzled out as the mundane everyday needs of life came and went. There would always be something to distract him – schoolwork, friends coming over and wanting to play ball, video games.
His opportunity died out because he just wasn’t hungry for him. He was perfectly content with his everyday life and didn’t see any pressing need to make money now. His attention and mindset and planning for the future was limited to 1 month increments – whenever the next test in school would be that he’d have to prepare for. He couldn’t see any pressing reason to follow up on this opportunity in the moment.
In my mind I was going nuts thinking, “Dude! You’re a freaking idiot passing this up!” The potential upside to pursuing this at 120% could have made him a 6 figure income and the freedom to travel the world and do whatever he wanted before he even reached the age of 18. But he didn’t see it that way.
His scope of vision was limited to that of a child and the future immediately in front of him, not several years out. When I look back to when I was his age and I compare out states of mind, I can see the contrast as clear as day.
Intelligence or ability wise, we were similar. But even at the age of 15, I had a burning desire to be successful, to be an entrepreneur, and to live life on my own terms. I would read everything I could get my hands on and give myself exposure to anything and everything, looking for some path that would stick with me.
How hungry are you for success? What price are you willing to pay for your dream?
Are you hungry enough to ditch a comfortable $100k salary and grind away on your hustle while your friends are buying fancy cars and toys with the spoils of their indentured servitude?
Are you hungry enough to forgo the nights out at the bar with friends?
Are you hungry enough to prioritize your business and your goals over who wins the Stupid Bowl?
Are you hungry enough to eat rice and beans while you’re grinding in a tiny apartment in a less favorable location by yourself when you could be eating steak and living it up in a cozy flat downtown working off salary?
Does your hunger for success overwhelm your hunger to get laid?
Are you hungry enough to care less about the demoralizing comments that well meaning, but mediocre family and friends throw at you about how you’re wasting your time, and you should quit and get a job and be normal like everyone else?
Are you hungry enough to wake up at 5 in the morning and work 16 hours a day, or every second that time permits, on making your dream a reality?
The reality is that most people aren’t. Most people would prefer to settle in to the comfortable, yet mediocre existence of their day to day lives rather than take drastic measures in order to make their dream a reality. It’s the path of least resistance and the path of death – death of one’s dreams and one’s own soul.
Your future lies in your own hands. How hungry are you for it?