I’m going to tell you a story…
I’ll start out by saying, I’ve always wanted to start my own business. I’m not sure what it is, but the reality of working for someone else… working for “the man”, just bothers me. Every morning I would find myself sitting in traffic… watching the exhaust from the car in front of me billow out into the cold air, and all I could think as I watched it slowly drift away and fade into my front grill was, “What am I doing??!! Why am I going to this job that I hate?? Why am I going to sit in a grey cubicle for 10 hours? This can’t be my life. I have so much more potential than this. I want more from my life. I don’t want to look back after 40 years and say that I just sat in a cubicle and made spreadsheets and financial models my entire life, and have NOTHING to show for it.”
I kid you not… that moment I just described would literally happen to me on a weekly basis. Sometimes I’d be in such a daze of frustration and daydreaming that it took a honk from the car behind me to jolt me back to reality. A reality I despised.
But day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year… I kept doing it. I complained and wasn’t happy… but for some reason I just kept doing it.
Well, I guess the reason I kept doing it, is because I didn’t think I had another option; I didn’t have an escape route. I had lots of ideas, I’m a guy full of ideas… but nothing ever really caught on. Or I should say, I never really did anything with my ideas. I was too scared – even if it was subconscious fear – to do anything or act on my ideas. I knew I hated what I was doing, but at the same time, I didn’t know what I loved to do. I was searching for the one thing I could latch onto and use as my escape vehicle… but it always eluded me.
And I’ll be honest… it took a lot of trial and error before I stumbled across something that actually seemed to work for me... Something I was passionate about and something I could build into a business… but eventually, I did.
So, let me fill you in on the details.
About 4 years ago, my wife and I, and our two kids decided to make what turned out to be one of the best decisions of our life. On the surface, it wasn’t the most financially sound decision, but that is still to be determined.
We sold our home, and most everything we owned, packed everything in a storage unit and hopped on a plane to Europe. I quit my job, we set the kids up with homeschooling, and we set off on an adventure. I was going to use the time to “figure out” what I wanted to do career wise… and we were going to see the places we’d always wanted to visit, but never did because we were too busy “working”.
My goal was to figure out what business I would start, but nothing was coming to me. I couldn’t figure it out. So, I thought, “in the meantime, I’ll try to figure out a way to make some money online to supplement our savings so we can stay on our trip longer.” And that’s exactly what I did.
I started offering my services on freelance platforms. I thought to myself, “I’m a Sr. Financial Analyst and I’m good at excel and PowerPoint. I’ll help people create excel models.”
That was a dud. Nobody wanted that…. At least not from me.
So, I thought to myself, “Well… what do people want?” And that thought right there was the turning point. That single thought was the moment EVERYTHING CHANGED. Here’s why:
Before that time… I was always thinking of what I could do. What services or products do I want to offer. But you see… that thinking is all wrong. It’s not about what you want, it’s about finding what the market wants and then filling that need.
I like chess… I offered chess lessons. Nobody wanted it.
I like public speaking… I offered public speaking coaching. Nobody wanted it.
So, I started looking at different freelancing sites and seeing what people do want. That’s when I discovered brainstorming. There’s a huge market of people out there that are starting businesses, websites, blogs, selling products, writing books and much more… And guess what they want? They want someone to help them come up with names for their business. They have the idea, but they don’t know what to call it. They have the product, but they don’t know what to name it. They wrote the book, but they don’t know what the title should be. So, I filled the demand. I hung up my sign and said, “Hey, if you need name ideas… I can help!”
It started to work, but unfortunately, not soon enough. Money started getting low, my wife got pneumonia, and my father-in-law had a cancer scare. All this meant, I we had to come back to the states, and I had to go back to corporate America and jump back into the rat race. I had lost the battle, but not the war. And, even though it was a setback compared to where I wanted to be, I had a glimmer of hope and I kept going.
I started working at Micron Technology as a Sr. Financial Analyst. That was my 9-5 (actually, more like 7-7), but it was always just a temporary stop-loss for me. Every night I came home had dinner with my family, spent some time with the kids, got them in bed, and then it was WORK time from 8 or 9PM to at least midnight or later. I was helping people brainstorm names for their companies, but I also started helping people with branding concepts and ideas for their business as well. It started getting fun, and even though I was up past midnight 7 days a week, and practically falling asleep in my meetings at work – I had never been more excited about a “side hustle”. It’s like they say…. When you’re doing what you love – it doesn’t seem like work.
After just a couple months of brainstorming, I started thinking of ways to expand, and once again, I started looking for the demand in the market to lead the way. This is when I discovered copywriting.
Think about it… we are in a new digital age. With websites and social media and blogs… the need for content and information to engage your customers is NEVER ENDING! Everyone needs it, and the demand isn’t going away anytime soon. Add all this to the traditional marketing materials such as brochures, advertisements, video and radio scripts… etc… and you can see that the demand for this service is GIGANTIC. So, I expanded into copywriting, and that’s when things really started to take off.
Now it wasn’t midnight… it was 2AM in the morning, just to keep up. So, I hired a writer to help. And then another, and then another. And then an account manager to help me keep track of all the jobs, quote customers, manage the writers and deal with things like revisions and client questions. My wife came on full-time as well, and that’s how 36 Ink was born. I named it 36 because that’s how old I was when I “officially” started the company, and Ink because… well… because we write! (Among other things)
There was a problem though… I still had a day job. And it paid pretty well.
I remember having a discussion with my wife one night. I was telling her I couldn’t do this anymore… it was just too much to keep up with, and I was killing myself (Literally, taking years off the end of my life) staying up all night, every night trying to build this business. I said, “I should just pause all of this and go back to working one day job at Micron… it will just be so much easier, and I’ll actually have time for my life (and sleep), instead of working 24/7!”
Her answer didn’t surprise me because she’s the most supportive wife in the entire world… she believes in me way more than I believe in myself…. But her answer was about as wise as they come. She said, “WHAT!!!??? Are you crazy!? You want to quit 36 Ink and go back to Micron??!! If anything, you should quit Micron and focus 100% of your efforts on 36 Ink! You’ve been looking for this opportunity and working for this opportunity since the day I met you… and now you’ve finally found it. You’ve found something you love to do… you’ve built a business from nothing… you can finally be your own boss, and you’re going to stop and go back to working at Micron?? Absolutely NOT!”
My counter was the typical scared and fearful answer that most all of us have… “But how can I just give up a steady income? What if this doesn’t work? What if… what if… what if… what if….”
But she stood firm in her belief of what we were creating, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. “It’s going to work” she said, “You’ve been building this for over two years now, and it continues to grow each and every month. Why would it stop now? Especially if you have 100% of your time to work on it?!”
So, we made plans for me to quit.
We started getting our ducks in a row, and we started planning how things would work when our income dropped temporarily. We figured out insurance, we prepared ourselves for a leap of faith.
Ma 12th was my last day at Micron Technology. It’s always a little sad to leave a job you’ve been working at for two years… but as I walked out of that building for the last time, it felt like I was walking on clouds. Was I scared? Of course. Am I still scared… yea, a little. But the future is so exciting it’s hard to make time for fear. There’s so much to do and so much to accomplish.
So, now that you know my story, my question is this:
What will your leap of faith be? And when will you make it?
I’m betting that many of you out there are just like I was… searching for something more… searching for the key to unlock your true potential… Maybe it’s a business like me, or maybe for you it’s reaching a certain level in your company, or maybe it’s a dream to travel the world as a food connoisseur… It doesn’t matter what it is, my advice is GO FOR IT!! Keep going and don’t give up.
If you’re not doing what you love, then change it! You have the power to change it and make your life what you want it to be. It might be scary… And it will probably be a lot of hard work. It might mean staying up until 2AM every night for two years, it might not. The thing that you need to know is that you can do it. You can chase your dreams and realize your potential. You don’t have to be like everyone else. You don’t have to work for “the man”. You don’t have to live inside a box. Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone, and if you want it, you’ve got to take a leap of faith.
So, what do you say! Let’s put fear behind us, and chase some dreams!
A special thanks to Katie Mehnert for giving me the platform to share my story. She’s given me the opportunity to write for Pink Petro, and I truly appreciate everything she is doing for me and women across the world!