Submission for Michael Ellsberg’s contest

New idea: “Living a free life“, how to accumulate enough passive income to truly be financially free.

Once upon a time, after an ex-girlfriend and I broke up, I realized two things: 1) I was depressed, and 2) I had more than $32,000 in debt, and the worst kind of debt at that: credit card, car, and school loans. Also there were no assets to my name except for a used car.

I decided to shift my life in a new direction. For three years, I worked hard and I worked overtime to pay off my debt. But, after three years, I was debt-free. Along the way, I discovered the desire to become wealthy, and set one of my life goals: to have enough money, that I never need to work another day for the rest of my life. I learned about “passive income,” and spent years building up my passive income, which now averages $1,500 per month. Enough to live in the Caribbean or Buenos Aires, but not quite New York City. But, given another year, I think NYC will be within my range.

About two and a half months ago, when I saw a post on Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week blog, inviting anybody and everybody to launch a new career/direction in 90 days, I started thinking that perhaps the time has come for me to share what I have learned. Perhaps this is an opportunity for me to actually make money in a non-employee, non-”work for hire” way.

First I bought and read Michael Ellsberg’s book, “The Education of Millionaires,” in its entirety. During the read, I realized two things: 1) I suck at marketing, and 2) I suck at sales. I have been a great database programmer for many years, and I only needed to sell myself to a hiring manager. I even found a way to be a successful entrepreneur without marketing or selling… offer myself out as a freelancer, and let recruiters do the dirty work! Easy six figure income, locked and loaded.

But the desire to “not have to work” kept growing stronger. Again, I have built up to $1,500 per month from passive income sources, and during the past 90 days, friends who had no idea I knew about this, have invited me over, or taken me out to lunch, asking me to share what I’ve learned. Maybe there IS a market for this!

Summarized as much as possible, here is what I have done:

Rather than taking a serialized, “critical path” approach (Finish Step 2 before beginning Step 3), I sort of allowed all of it to happen organically. Some areas saw stronger development than others, but this report fits the way I learn things: avail myself to all angles, taking in as much as I can process at a time, and one day I’ll wake up and unexpectedly realize I’ve gotten the hang of all of it.

Step 1: Choose a new field of learning

This is complete. I can say in full honesty that I came up with this idea after reading the contest kickoff post. Although I have been personally interested in the direction for years, I did not take first steps until I saw the blog post.

Step 2: Showcase your learning

After I announced (to eight friends) what I was up to, one friend called me on the phone, another invited me to her apartment, and two more took me out to lunch to pick my brain. None had a clue I even knew about this, let alone took major steps to achieve this milestone.

In my blog, I reviewed two books so far, with another 4-6 book reviews in draft status. I really know my stuff, and if anything, my writing is too technical. But one future step will be to solicit professional feedback on my writing so I can make proper adjustments.

Step 3: Learn the basics of good networking

I made a friend, who seems to know many people in the publishing industry. She submitted a book proposal I wrote (on an unrelated topic) to her friend, who is a senior executive at a major publishing house. I don’t like to name-drop, but suffice to say that he is above all possible gatekeepers. If he does not like the original book proposal but does like me, I could suggest “this” idea to him.

To be honest, I have not pushed myself a whole lot in this arena. I do maintain existing friendships, and sent personal happy holiday messages to at least 100 people this year (reflecting on this number with pride, as I grew up an extreme introvert). However, I have yet to really get a handle on high-powered networking. Yes, I did read The Education of Millionaires and the approach suggested in that book does make sense. I already contribute heavily to anybody who listens, in terms of spirituality, nutrition, or “financial defense” as I sometimes call it. But, aside from this one friend, I have my feet in very few high-class doors, and so I am prioritizing this one relationship (which may be smart or stupid, but I genuinely like this person and dislike the fakeness of most NYC networking events).

If it is worth anything, I am also the president of a 50-member Toastmasters club, so I naturally meet many people along the way.

Step 4: Start working for free

A friend of mine did something quite similar to this, to launch her acupuncture practice after she graduated school. In a world of starving acupuncturists who work at Burger King a year after they graduate because they haven’t learned how to market themselves, my friend combined acupuncture with intuitive readings, and offered free “intuitive acupuncture” to all her friends. 18 months later she is rockin’, now with her own suite at Union Square New York where she books people three weeks in advance and rents rooms in her suite out to other practitioners. And it is all because she started by offering free services. But I digress…

So far, I have “worked” with four people, and three offered to give me testimonials. (The fourth was like, “Dude you do know your stuff, so if you put out a $50 product I’ll buy it. But I don’t see why you would want to quit your job, I mean it’s a big risk.” I do appreciate that he cares enough to play devil’s advocate and push back)

I could easily put out an email to 100 friends I mailed for the holidays, and get at least 40 who would accept the free consultation. I just haven’t had the time in my calendar to make room for all of that traffic (mainly because I put time and effort into Step 7).

Step 5: Develop case studies of your work.

My big case study is myself. If it works for me, it can work for you. If it doesn’t work for me, then how hypocritical would it be for me to claim it can work for you? So I am posting a monthly tally of passive income vs. expenses. My passive income averages $1,500 per month, and my expenses have come down during the past three months from $7,000/mo to $4,500/mo. Pretty big drop and if I keep this up, while increasing my passive income steadily, I will be home free within a year–anywhere in the world I want to live.

Step 6: Develop relationships with mentors.

You got me here. If there is ONE area that I have been deficient in, it’s this one. The only progress I can claim with mentors during the past 90 days is that I have DROPPED mentors who do not align with this new direction. To quote what one said, when I shared this new direction:

“You keep citing ‘living off your dividends’ as if it’s some kind of viable option. It’s not. You’re a young guy. Don’t you want to make a contribution and create a productive career?”

I attempted to explain that I wanted to be able to live off of dividends so I have financial stress-free time to pursue a sense of contribution, but we were just on different pages. Life shifts, and so do inner circles around–as I Ching so often says, “no blame.”

Because my mentorship circle is changing, there is more space for the ‘right’ mentors to come in. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I am very sensitive to what my advisors say, so I have to be sure the right advisors are around me, to support my chosen goals.

Step 7: Learn sales.

If there is one area that I have potentially begun a life-altering breakthrough, it is this area. No, I did not become the next sales expert overnight. But, I did get offered a position working with a major consulting company’s sales force. I would be using my technical/programming knowledge, to serve as a technical architect/consultant to their sales staff as they pitch major projects to major clients. During the interview process, I met with seven people: one manager, one techie, one finance guy, and four sales guys. I fell in love with how they think: “Don’t tell me what technologies you used or how. Tell me what problems you solved for your clients.” No IT manager I have ever worked with, has spoken like that. I might really learn things here, and so I hung up my freelancing shingle after 8 years. If it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to what I was doing.

I did not read Neil Rackham’s book “SPIN Selling” (although it is on my shelf), but I DID read his book “Major Account Sales Strategy” which seems appropriate for the job I am about to start. It builds on SPIN Selling, and has tons of case studies which probably saved me multiple heartbreaking learning experiences.

On a side note, I told a friend of mine, who is senior within Jeffrey Gitomer’s organization, that I was reading Rackham. He said, “Neil Rackham…oh, yeah! You know, he is really big with tech entrepreneurs.” It can be interesting to get an outside perspective.

Step 8: Sell and Deliver Your Services Within Your Social Economy

I have my first sales prospect! A friend of a friend, wrote me an extremely long message on Facebook saying he has been looking for somebody to show him the ropes in the world of passive income, for years. He wants to meet with me the first weekend in January, and when I mentioned to him the price range I have in mind, he didn’t even blink.

Other than this, I have not aggressively pursued sales leads. MUCH of my time these 90 (or for me, 75) days was spent procuring this sales staff technical advisor job. Such progress may not win me the contest sprint, but it is potentially a great step in the marathon of life.

Step 9 (Optional): Rinse and Repeat

Always.


P.S.–Unfortunately I have not been so faithful in keeping up this “my progress along this contest” blog. I have posted some good content on my subject matter blog, and I have been working steadily toward success in this direction. But, with as busy as I have been, something had to lose out and this contest-progress blog was a secondary priority.


P.P.S.–The last thing I want to offer is that I probably would not be embarking on this sales position if it were not for this contest. I specifically put out an intention for the my next opportunity to teach me things I did not know, so that I could be a successful entrepreneur. As soon as the position was described to me, I recognized it as this kind of opportunity. I recognized it because of what I read through The Education of Millionaires. So thank you.

The Education of Millionaires: chapter 1

I just finished reading the introduction and Chapter 1 of Michael Ellsberg’s new book, The Education of Millionaires. Boy did it get me thinking.

The strongest impression I have from this book is that here is (finally?) somebody who does understand what failure is all about. Like Mr. Ellsberg, I truly dislike motivational speakers who make a living by repeating like a parrot, some variant of “Jump, and the net will appear.” This includes most life coaches, feel-good speakers, and other losers who usually have an element of hatred for humanity lurking behind their smiling faces. Yes, I have worked with a number of these types, and underneath their inspirational message, they are really unpleasant people to be around. Enough said about that.

While reading the introduction, which talks about the limitations and virtuelessness of having an MBA (or a BA), I was reminded of the Ross Perot graduation speech where he told all 4.0 students to stand up, then he told all 2.0 students to stand up, then told the 4.0 students to get a good look at those 2.0 students because that’s who they were going to work for.

Another thing that I find interesting is that just three weeks ago, I broke up with a girlfriend who is an absolutely top-notch academic success, with credentials so ridiculously qualified you might ask, “does this person even exist??” I won’t list her accomplishments here, but one thing I noticed is that I was unable to find success for myself by following the patterns that succeeded for her. It is perhaps dharmically appropriate that I came across this book (and contest) JUST after we split.

I was a 2.1 student. I barely graduated Rutgers after five full-time years, plus a part-time summer, two years later. I remember hearing from the dean over the phone that I graduated, thanking him, hanging up the phone, taking a deep breath, and saying to myself, “Now I can start learning.” And, a few years later, I was reading 50-70 books per year… about things I wanted to learn about, not some professor.

During my adult life (post-23 when I finished f/t college), I have pursued opportunity after opportunity, all while working a full-time job (or contract) to pay my bills. I explored live music performance, spirituality and lately, entrepreneurship.

I have a large gallery of amazingly interesting experiences, but financially speaking, none of the extra-curricular “opportunities” have worked out in my favor. In fact, with every single one of them I lost money. You could say that most of the money I earned was spent not on necessities, nor on luxury items, but on funding my side projects.

So I really relate with much of what I have read. At present, I consider myself to be a student of financial success. I have already experienced *SOME*, hence my blog topic of creating passive income financial freedom, but the work I have engaged in to experience this success (hands-on, technical IT consulting) does not feel wholly fulfilling to me. My current project is a big step in the direction of fulfilling a sense of self-actualization and personal contribution to the greater world.

Books arrived!

Late last week, three books I ordered from Amazon.com arrived in the mail. Yesterday, I started reading the first of them.

Here is the list:

  • The Education of Millionaires, by Michael Ellsberg
  • Spin Selling, but Neil Rackham
  • The Millionaire Messenger, by Brendon Burchard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Day 2: end of day

Today I filled in text for all pages, and wrote my first real blog post:

http://www.livingafreelife.com/update-september2011/

It felt good to get out, even if I got SO into writing the post, that I became late for my evening appointment!

Mixed blessing, I suppose. At least I got something concrete done.

Sent the site to three friends… not coincidentally, the three friends who each independently approached me for counsel about their personal finances. I am interseted in their opinion.

I am following the book Good to Great’s advice: crawl, THEN walk, and then, maybe, run.

Thoughts and intentions

I have been thinking about doing something related to “Living a free life” for a very long time. I could detail that story further, however it is too late, so I will defer any deep storytelling until another day.

The first thing I need to do is create a basic frame shell. Tonight I installed WordPress, Google Analytics, a good free WP theme, and adjusted WP settings.

Next, I sketched out a few pages I will need:

- About
- Contact (standard stuff)
- Books (recommended)
- Links (may be combined with Books page)
- Quotes
- What is financial freedom? (or, Why financial freedom?)

I have not yet implemented each of these pages, and will review my list tomorrow. However, it is helpful for me to have a road map.

Last thing for tonight: For some reason my shared hosting service (HostMonster) is running quite slow, and some updates need to be sent through twice because a 500 error pops up. Hate it when that happens!

Hello world!

I guess you could call this Day 1, although I registered both domain names during the past week.

I am writing up a public journal (and would prefer not to call it a ‘blog’) detailing progress as I am experiencing it during the three month contest (first three months of the nine month process to start a new business direction) as invited by Michael Ellsberg on Tim Ferriss’s blog.

For the next (slightly less than) three months, I will describe steps I am taking to implement this self-study training program. Wish me luck!!