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7 Lessons I Learned Building A Million Dollar Business (After 10 Years Of Failure)
Last Updated June 11th, 2015

Today is an important day.


5 years ago was my last day in corporate America…

…and 5 years later, I run a seven figure education and software business that I self-funded.

And today I’ll show you how I did it.

You’ll see how I went from a punk college kid, to a successful entrepreneur, to a corporate drone, to a respected consultant, to the man I am today.

I’ll share 7 things I learned along the way. And if, nothing else, I hope it inspires you to pursue your dreams.

So, here’s to you, and here’s my story.

Why I Started My First Business

Back in 2005, when I was in college, I stumbled on a website about a guy who wrote about the dumb things he did in college. His name was Tucker Max. And he was funny.

Then, one day, I accidentally clicked “advertise here” on his site, and I noticed something: he was getting $500 a week for one ad. AND HE HAD 5 ADS THERE!

I screamed, “I CAN DO THAT!”

So I figured out how to start my first website. And I wrote about the dumb things I did in college. My first article was about “MySpace Angles,” and how people need to be careful with online dating because camera angles can drastically change how people look.

I know. Childish.

And to make matters worse… it was a complete failure. I wasn’t that funny. And the things I did weren’t really that dumb.

So I went back to the source.

How I Became A Celebrity Gossip Blogger

I fired up Tucker Max’s site to figure out what he was doing that I wasn’t doing…

…And that’s when I clicked on a link to a celebrity gossip blog.

At this point, I was an expert. I went straight to the advertising page, and noticed that he was getting like $1,000 a week for ads. AND HE HAD 5 ADS TOO.

I screamed, “I CAN DO THAT!”

And sure enough, I did. I launched a celebrity gossip blog and made money through paid advertising.

When I graduated college in 2006, I was making enough off my celebrity gossip blog that I didn’t need to work for anyone else.

Then, in 2007, I was doing so well that I bought my first place in Long Island, New York. I was 22.

Not bad considering my dad was in jail most of my life. And my mom was on welfare. And I grew up in a house filled with drug addicts, thieves, and other abusive family members. I actually remember one time, an aunt spit in my face when I didn’t “obey” her. I was 13. You can learn about my story here.

It was tough, but I made it. I had the dream. I had a good thing going, and I was only 22.

I analyzed why my celebrity gossip blog was succeeding while my other blog failed miserably. And I learned two important lessons:

The first lesson was the importance of “Promotion over Creation.” And I go over that in FULL detail in this new video I JUST posted.


Yes, you need great content. But you also need to promote that content – and that’s more important than anything else.

The second lesson was the importance of standing out.

At the time, there was no shortage of gossip blogs. However, I noticed every blogger had a brand – DListed was mean, Perez Hilton drew white marks on his photos, The Superficial wrote snarky comments.

This time around, I knew that if my blog and business were going to work, I needed to refine what made me different from those other blogs.

I applied both of those lessons to my celebrity gossip blog, and that’s why I was successful.

But I had pressure. Pressure from my family, and pressure from myself.

Family members would berate me with remarks like, “When are you getting a real job?”

Never-mind the fact that I pulled in more than $20,000 in a single month from my web business. They wanted something they could tell their friends about. I was supposed to go to law school – and I skipped it to make fun of celebrities on the web.

And I’d berate myself, too.

“You’re making a living making fun of celebrities…” I was so embarrassed that I never even put my name on my work.

I’d get invited to private parties in Hollywood Hills (they wanted me to promote it on my blog). I met Kim Kardashian before she was famous. But no one knew my real name. And I wanted it to stay that way.

Over time, it all began to wear on me. I was making a living, but I wasn’t doing it in a way that made me feel alive…

…And that’s when I read a book about Jack Welch.

Why I Outsourced My Web Business – And Joined Corporate America

Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric, and was one of the world’s most lauded CEOs. I liked his story because he got in on the ground floor and worked his way up fast.

I told my then girlfriend, “I CAN DO THAT TOO!”

My other entrepreneur friends thought I was nuts. I already had meetings with a publicly traded company who wanted to buy my company, and there I was, about to take an entry level job in corporate America.

But I thought I could do both things. I had recently read Tim Ferriss’s book, “4 Hour Work Week,” and I said, “I’m just going to outsource my blog, and do this corporate thing. I’ll be able to work my way up fast.”

And so I did. I joined the international division of a life insurance company. I wasn’t selling life insurance. I was in the home office developing compensation plans for people who sold life insurance.

This time around, I knew the importance of “Promotion Over Creation,” and I also knew the importance of “Standing Out.” And I applied that expertise to my job in corporate America.

At the time, we were running a lot of Excel reports by hand. So, I decided to figure out how to automate the reports. I knew nothing about Excel, so I bought some books and practiced at home. Eventually, I was able to run reports in about 30 seconds… when it previously took days. Then, I went around telling everyone, “you can call me the automation guy.”

And before you know it…

That’s who I was. The automation guy. And I made sure everyone knew it. And sure enough, not even 6 months into the gig, I got notice that I was getting promoted.

I was ecstatic. In their employee handbook, they clearly state that all new employees must work in the company for 2 years before they were eligible for their first promotion… and yet, I got promoted in less than 6 months. I was climbing the ladder fast, and it felt great.

Then Things Started To Fall Apart…

After that first promotion, things went well for almost a full year. I got an outstanding achievement award (this was a large monetary bonus for doing great work), had the opportunity to conduct presentations in front of C-Level executives, and was doing interesting work for a Fortune 100 company.

But then we got a new leader. And I disagreed with how they ran our team. They hired a new manager to handle Sales Reporting. But it didn’t make sense. Why? Because I was already running all the sales reports – and had the bandwidth to do more.

And that’s when I learned another important lesson about life.

Sometimes it’s not about the work you’re doing or the work you can be doing. Sometimes there’s an outside force that matters more than that work.

In this case, that outside force was the corporate bureaucracy. The leader wanted to build the team with higher level employees because that’s what leaders do, lead high level employees. This is typical in corporate america. It’s not always about the work you do. It’s about how it looks to the people in charge and leading high level employees that lead other employees looks great.

But the big problem was this: my work no longer felt right. My bosses were happy with my work, but I personally didn’t see the point doing it. I didn’t see how my work actually helped the company make more money…

…because it didn’t. In my eyes, it was nonsensical paper pushing for the sake of paper pushing.

But the straw that, as they say, broke the camel’s back was this: I got a performance review, and they gave me a mediocre rating. I asked why, and their response was: “Well, you just got promoted and an award. We need to ‘spread the money around.'”

It wasn’t about the work. And while i was unhappy about it, I knew it wasn’t their fault. This is how corporate america works. It’s not just about your work. It’s about the bureaucracy.

And for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I had no control…

…And I Lost Control Over My Life

My personal and business lives were falling apart. I hated myself, and I hated everyone around me.

I started going out and drinking with friends way too much. I also ate like a complete disaster – and I got real fat.

I knew it was time for a change, but change is hard.

At this point, the celebrity business I outsourced was still making money. And it was making enough money, but for some reason, I couldn’t pull the trigger on quitting without knowing what I was going to do next.

You see, people like to say, “Quit your job and figure it out later.” But I was never a fan of that. Despite taking calculated risks, I don’t believe people should ever jump off a cliff without a parachute and figure out how to build that parachute on the way down.

I remember telling a friend about my problems, and he said, “Why don’t you come consult for my company?” He knew I knew how to build large audiences, and he wanted me to build him a large audience.

I remember thinking, “I CAN DO THAT!”

My only concern was this: Would everything I learned from the entertainment and gossip space apply to a company who was looking to build an audience to sell more products?

I was ready to take the plunge. I gave my notice. And 5 years ago today, June 11th, 2010, was my last day in corporate America.

It was a good thing too. I was depressed, drinking way too much, and was looking for any way to escape reality. This was just what I needed.

My Life As A Six Figure Consultant

I had a skill. I knew how to build large audiences, and I knew how to do it fast. And I got hired by a software company to help them do just that.

They hired me to build their blog, and build their blog I did. Everything I learned from building my entertainment and gossip sites applied DIRECTLY to building an audience of raving prospects and customers.

(As a side note: if you’re interested in growing your business online, I share the MAIN strategy I used to grow that software company inside this FREE 17 MINUTE VIDEO).

But, I still wasn’t satisfied. While I liked working as a consultant, I didn’t like working on something that I didn’t own. I didn’t quit my job to take another job. I quit my job because I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

And that was another lesson learned. When you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to go be an entrepreneur.

So, for the majority of the day, I worked my new “day job” as a remote worker. And during the evenings I plotted out new business ideas.

My First New Business Failed Before I Even Launched It

My first idea was a website for Conferences and Speakers. I wanted to build the IMDB for Conferences and Speakers, and I worked on that for 3 full months…

…until I realized the HUGE problem:

There were already sites like that, and they were failing miserably. None of them were making any money. I knew it was time to change course and come up with a new idea.


You see, people often think that competition is a bad thing. But when you have almost no competition, and the competition you do have is failing, it’s because you have a bad business idea that nobody actually cares about it.

And that’s why competition – and competition that is succeeding – is a good thing. It’s proof that people want what you’re building.

So I needed a new idea…

It All Started With A Speaking Engagement

At this point, I was still a consultant. And I was doing really well as a consultant for a software company…

…so I applied to speak at an industry conference where I planned to share everything I knew about conversion optimization.

I got the gig, and I realized two things:

Thing #1

I was HORRIBLE at communicating what I knew to other people.


People see me on video today and think, “You’re a natural!” But that’s not how it started. In fact, I was so nervous and so bad at speaking, that you could actually see red splotches on my neck.

Thing #2

Even though I was bad at speaking, I realized that I LOVED TEACHING WHAT I KNEW.

I was bad at it. But I loved it. So I needed to get better at it so I could do what I loved.

And that’s when the idea for Social Triggers was born.

I finally had a new life mission. I wanted to share what I knew with the world. So, I knew I had to learn how to get good at teaching, and then go teach it.

And I did just that.

In March 2011, I officially launched Social Triggers. I planned on sharing everything I knew about building an audience.

It was just a rinky-dink little blog back then…

…and yet, here we are today.

Social Triggers is now a thriving online education and software company.

You’re here reading this, so I know you know the Social Triggers story. And I’ll share more about that in coming months…

…but I wanted to share the back story. And the lessons I learned a long the way.

Now if you’re curious how YOU can build an audience, I suggest you click the red button and watch this FREE video.


In this video, I walk you through 3 things you MUST know to succeed TODAY. Plus, I share a simple two-step formula that helped me build the business that I run today.

Now, to recap, here you go:

Lesson #1: Promote Your Work

I mentioned this briefly, but as Rockefeller said, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is letting people know you do the right thing.”

And this couldn’t be more true.

You need to be good at what you do. And people other than yourself (and your mom) need to know about it.

Promote your work.

Lesson #2: Stand Out From The Crowd

I’ve had a lot of life experience, and the one thing I’ve realized is this: the more you stand out, the better off you’ll be.

That means, it’s okay to become polarizing. It’s also okay to do something different than the norm. And if you want to wear red rhinestone shoes…

…like me. Wear red rhinestone shoes.

(Note: I’ve worn these for a week, and I’ve already met plenty of interesting people, including the CEO of a large steel processing corporation… because of these shoes).

Lesson #3: Incentives Are Important

I briefly mentioned this too, but remember when the Vice President wanted to hire another Assistant Vice President?

What really happened there was this: my work was important, but the incentive of the Vice President was more important than my work.

She wanted to look good for her bosses. And instead of getting angry about that, I should have found a way to make her look good for her bosses.

If I had aligned my incentives with her incentives, I could have turned that around.

Lesson #4: Failure Always Comes Before Success

When you read my backstory, you’ll notice something: I failed a lot. I failed my first website (and I even failed 3 websites BEFORE that first website). I failed my first new business after quitting corporate America. And I failed my first speaking engagement.


It’s easy to look at everything I have now and think, “Well, everything just works out so great for you!”

But it’s not true. Nothing works out great for anyone without first getting punched in the face a few times.

Lesson #5: Being Bad Is Temporary

This lesson is important because it’s so easy to get discouraged and quit when things don’t come easily and when they don’t go your way. But you MUST remember: being bad is temporary.

I was a bad writer in 2005… so I learned how to get good at it.

I was a bad business person in 2006… so I learned how to get good at it.

I was a bad speaker in 2011… so I learned how to get good at it.

And that’s the truth. If you’re not good at something now, you can learn and practice to get good at it.

Lesson #6: It’s Always Your Fault

When things don’t go our way, in the heat of the moment, we like to point fingers at everything else but ourselves.

The economy. My boss. My family.

But your success always lies in your hands. I used to think growing up with a bad childhood was bad – and it was going to affect me. But I am not my family, and I have the opportunity to do more.

I used to think that the Vice President was to blame, but in reality, it was my fault. I should have known about incentives.

The best part?

The sooner you take accountability for everything, the more powerful you feel. When you think you’re in control, you act like it.

And finally…


Like I said earlier, my backstory is paved with failure. But still, at every step of the way, I was silly enough to think, “I CAN DO THAT TOO.”

And then I went and did it because I believed I could.

I didn’t wait to take action. I didn’t think too hard or plan too much about it. I just went and did it. And then adjusted course along the way.

And you know what? You can do that too. If you have an idea, take action on it, and adjust course along the way.

To get started, watch this free video.


Now I’d like to hear from you…


Everyone has a story to tell, and I know you have one as well.

What’s YOUR backstory?

Share it in the comments.

I’d like to see where you came from and where you’re going.

And if you know anyone who might be inspired by this, feel free to pass this on.

Spread the love!

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125 comments Leave a comment

My story, Jan 1990 major car accident. Frontal Lobe nearly totally destroyed, damaged spine c6/c7.
Specialist told my there is no real chance of a good future. Told my best job was low paying like a street cleaner or changing beds in a motel and as for my spine… Why? I ended up with total memory loss pre accident. 30-years wiped out and started with a clean slate. No memory of friends, family, work, where I lived my wife or name.

Then there was no future, I had to move out of home with just the 2nd beat up car, the clothes on my back a few dollars and had to leave my 2 year old son behind.

But, there was no motivation, just a self belief something will happen. I taught myself to touch type 100 wpm 6 months after the accident. I was a mine diesel mechanic, (no memory) I got myself an office boy job at 30
I studied worked hard and Oct 1992 moved interstate as joint leadership job looking after warranty for several international Diesel companies. (yeah I was told there is no future) Also did many seminars talking from 100 – 500 training people how to complete paperwork for submission as warranty

Oh yeah mid 1992 ran the Melbourne Marathon 3hrs 40

Business moved me again to another state. Thinking how do I meet new people? I started Latin Ballroom dancing and started competitions. A few wins, 2nds and 3rds.

The local medical school heard about me. Next thing there was a nearly 2 hour documentary. Why, because I did what 98% of my injury type did nothing even close to what I’ve done so far.

So I studied and became a Remedial Sports Massage Therapist received my 2 diplomas and 98% in the Anatomy and Physiology course, I was so excited.

Then became the head trainer at city competition level Aussie Rules Comp. Also with state teams and the national comp when required. Also worked in the Australian NBL comp and with the Australian Basketball team (just a short stint)

Then my hands started to age and now working online. Which in itself was a mini disaster. I’m with a very good business. But, another person managed to scam me of all my money. Then spent 2 years looking for this guy. I was found and this Feb 2018 he is going to trial for Alleged scamming,

So the last 3-years have been very hard, spending my time hunting down this guy, and presenting the police with the evidence. I’ve lost a lot of money, unable to work due to various reasons and found it hard to get my mind pointed in the right direction. As working online is part of my future plan.

During this time the last 3-years I’ve written my autobiography and when my money is returned. Part will go to an editor to complete the book.

My aim is to speak at seminars about self confidence and if I can do the above (I’ve hit 10 major goals since the accident) then why if you have no injuries just STUCK. How can you do what I’ve done.

Future Goals
– Complete my book
– A 7-figure income
– Get out of this rut

This is where I’m at. Looking for a good mentor to rebuild my WHY! The damaged man teaching healthy people that anything is possible. Personally I heard there is a word out there “Impossible” I keep telling people that is a spelling mistake. Just remove IM

Lenny Johnson

Thanks Derek. I’m glad I found your website.


Hello Derek. Great article and great video. Loved the no nonsense approach. Good simple advice.

My story is that I work in insurance and it is slowly taking my soul away! Seriously I have to laugh or I’ll cry. One good thing is I’ve launched my website blog called http://www.wewinorlearn.com

The story behind this is i suffer with anxiety but am a really positive person. This may seem like an oxygen moron but it’s true. I believe taking action is the best cure . Either exercise, meditation or working on developing a positive can do attitude. This has helped me with my anxiety greatly.

I chose the name when I heard Conor Mcgregor say it about his trainer. It’s a great fit for my ideas. I do it to help myself and want to help others. I would love to make this my sole career. I want to build an audience and I am chipping away slowly. I’ve only wrote a few posts and hope to build on this this year.

I loved the video when you said it’s ok if you’re not sure what you will sell etc and the ideas will come to you.

I try to view this as a system that will help me gain skills to combat anxiety and also learn skills in blogging and marketing. That way I win or learn rather than putting too much pressure on myself.

One of my qualities is that I rarely give up when I start something.

Derek people like you and Tim Ferriss inspire me and help fight my anxiety more than any self help book I’ve ever read. Especially Mr Ferriss. He’s a God send for me even though my girlfriend says I’m obsessed ha.

I hope I can successfully pursue my dream and make it work. I hope some people have a look at my writing on we win or learn . It’s only got about 4 blogs on it and is very early stage but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Good luck to everyone on here. Great work Derek you deserve all your success.


Byron Arneson

Nice commentary ! I learned a lot from the analysis ! Does someone know where I might be able to access a fillable AHA Discharge Form version to edit ?


“I bought my first place in Long Island, New York. I was 22.” Great story! Very inspiring…except that you live ON an island, not IN 🙂
– Barbara from Long Island


I loved reading about your journey, and have taken away some great advice. Thank you.


Cool back story, I always wondered how you got started. I thought you were the creator of Thesis (I’m guessing that was the software company you friend asked you to build the audience for). I’m working away on my thing. Loving your videos you’re putting out too Derek.


Loved reading this Derek. It’s humble and honest and I just love it. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

James Hughes

Hi Derek. *James Hughes from the UK and Online Entrepreneur.*

Great story and I can relate to the part on Corporate America, although I’m from the UK.

About 10 years ago I started an eBay store selling memory flash drives but that failed when I had a lot of my stock stolen. I gradually moved into selling information products on Clickbank and online marketing.

I did all of this while working as an accountant, a career I went for because at the time I wasn’t sure about anything else.

Where my story relates to yours is when I switched from being an accountant which I was sick of, to move into a sales role within the same company.

The role (to cut a long story short) was POINTLESS. I was working hard and giving my all but bringing no added value to the company or it’s results. It made a mockery of the Pareto principle. I was giving 100% effort with 0% outcome. At least when I was accountant my work helped to analyse the companies performance.

I knew if I gave the same amount of effort to a personal venture, I was convinced I could make a living working from home which was my dream.

So I quit the pointless corporate job…

I then started selling my services as a Sales and Marketing provider online. And I have never looked back. I started slowly and it has grown each year.

I teach people how to start and maximise an online business, I also do the design and implementation. I absolutely love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

IT’S MY PASSION and this is the best bit by far.

I can work wherever I like too without a painful boss on my case.

Another thing it’s not POINTLESS. I’m helping people, pleasing people and it’s very rewarding.

Thanks a million

James Hughes


Very inspirational story. It’s not everyday you get to be successful. People need to realize they will face challenges and if they worked hard they will achieve their goals.


Great story Derek Halpern! Pretty inspiring you were still able to accomplish all of that in the midst of chaos on your journey to rising to greatness. I remember reading your blog a year ago, my friend shared it with me and I am back where I started a year ago. I see what you are saying when you want to be an entrepreneur and this applies to any thing you want to do that is your passion don’t wait for it.


How you write so much? I mean content creation 😀


So inspiring! Glad you did not give up. I am a retired nurse who spent many years in the corporate rat race. Since retiring, I started my own business- teaching others about preparing for a healthy retirement.

I am learning so much from you and others. learning about Internet marketing is similar to getting a advance college degree!!

Thanks again!



I LOVED reading this I was chuckling most of the way through as I can relate to sooooo much of what you shared 🙂

I grew up in a an environment around a lot of drugs. I was then in a relationship with someone who had a cocaine addiction amongst other things. Loosing that partner to AIDS, HEP C and Lymphatic TB at 24 years old and then going personally bankrupt was a fun start to my coaching career.

I took a few years off coaching and worked 6 small jobs to figure out who I was, what I had to offer to the world.

Starting from scratch I then began working with another addict, who was recovering, having burnt out working in the very top end of the corporate world and who had a self confessed Messiah complex. This ended up being, well in a word “cult-like” and was a learning curve I will be deeply grateful for my whole life.

Then going it on my own – I began to build a super successful 1-2-1 coaching and body work business. So successful that I worked myself out of hours in a day and I needed to shift the ceiling on that job. Going online was the most obvious way to do that. And so here I am….in the early days of my online experience …..

I have always known I wanted to inspire people – because lets face it when you have seen the darker side of life, drugs, death, depression – you KNOW anything is possible. You KNOW you have a choice and YOU KNOW YOU CAN…. to whatever you put your mind to. And heck if I can then I know ANYONE, who chooses to, CAN.

I love what you have shared about how you have come to be who you are today…..and I am chuckling because I have been a HORRIBLE communicator, despite the best of intentions. Enthusiasm is infectious, I can have heaps of that, and I am still mastering the art of delivering things so people know what the heck I am on about 🙂

But hey its a journey…..thats the fun bit 🙂

Getting infront of a camera has had me in blind panic….but watching many inspiring people, including your good self…..has helped me sooooo much.
I am now more focused on what I am there to share, the reason I am in front of the camera in the first place, is because I dare to care.

I get in front of the camera now…and its gets better and more fun every time. And I know I CAN do this 🙂 One step at a time….so Thank you for inspiring me to write this….I have never shared my story in this way…

Thank you for this article. Thank you for connecting. Thank you for what you do have done and I am inspired to see what you will do next 🙂

Keep being the exception 🙂 It makes the world of difference to so many.


What a motivating story this is Derek. Started following you this year and I have never regretted that very day I joined your list.

Thank you for everything. Hope your story will motivate others too.



Hi Derek,

Thank you for this post. The content of Social Triggers is always in stark contrast to most cookie cutter blogs and now I can clearly see where it comes from. You did a good job of tying everything together and I hope I get to that level where I’m able to articulate my story as well as you have.

I relate to your “I CAN DO IT TOO” mentality. In fourth grade, my friend made a website about monkeys. And when everyone in computer class was crowding around “the kid who made a website” my first reaction was “I CAN DO IT TOO!” I made my own website about dinosaurs and, while it never took off, I’ve been in love with creating things ever since.



Bro, I just want to thank you for sharing your story. I’ve learned a whole lot of valuable stuff from you and I’ve gained the confidence to be able to take what I’ve learned and put it into practice. “I CAN DO IT TOO!”

Laura | Life & Biz Coach

Thanks for sharing your story Derek!
I always love learning from you 🙂

I LOVE this part the most “I didn’t wait to take action. I didn’t think too hard or plan too much about it. I just went and did it. And then adjusted course along the way.”
This is one thing I always try to drill into my clients.

My motto is Do > Evolve > Do > Evolve

Great work


Thank you for your story, Derek. It sounds like my life story as well. We definitely need to fail before we succeed.


Hello Derek,
Thank you for sharing your personal testimony with us, it was really inspiring.
In fact, i was like reading my own life story, I tried twice to start my own company (Web and mobile apps design and development) but because I live in a country like Lebanon, where war can start anytime. The war ruined all my hard work. Now I’m employee again, but I’m still holding on to my dream and start on my own.

Your posts are very inspiring, especially you don’t post any crap content.
I hope I can find success someday, and realize my dream.



I don’t have time to share my story. But I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. This is the inspiration I was looking for this morning.


Amazing how you took what you had and reinvented yourself over and over. Great article. This is what I got from your story–be aware of one’s self and opportunities, be open to change, and know that “I CAN DO THAT TOO”. Thanks for sharing.

Geoffrey Gordon

Hi Derek

You were right on the money today. I have not commented on a blog post in months. (embarrassing self admission), but you really got me thinking. I have been through some similar experiences to you. The story is real heart warming and motivating. I like your list of 7 lessons learned. But what i love was lesson number 7.

It is your fault, no one else’s. The sooner you take ownership and face that the better. This one was huge for me and perhaps the true essence of this post. This one humbled me and put things into crystal clear perspective.

Thanks mate. #youareawesome


Thanks. Great post.
Thanks for sharing all of the details about your personal life and the inspiration.
America’s Grumpiest Grandpa


This is such an inspiring story that you’ve written Derek. Well this is story if your interested I never graduated High School as I was in the last set so I didn’t get the chance to do my GCSE’s.

Failing this, I went to college and did a foundation course in Engineering, then I switched to 2 to 3 years of studying Info Tech. I managed to get to University, but I failed at the end of the year. So I gave up and got a job in Retail and I’ve been stuck in retail ever since wanting a change to something else career wise.

So about two years ago I decided to write and publish a book on the Kindle marketplace teaching beginners how to create websites using HTML and CSS. I was hoping that something would happen if I put myself out there, but this hasn’t happened. Last year I launched an ecommerce business selling traditional wet shaving equipment and accessories, but it’s not even gaining any traction as I get an order every couple of months. I don’t know why but I was under the impression my business could change my life but it’s not happening. I’m still stacking shelves at my local convienance store. Sometimes I think it’s easier making money when you have a job and I even think to myself I’m not even cut out for entrepreneurship. The fire seems to have just died.

I’m now in the process of changing jobs as I think I’ve found my vocation which is graphic design. But there so many obstacles I don’t have any experience, qualifications or X,Y,Z. It was a hobby and I’ve been practising for a decade but it’s only now that I’ve realised that I want to do this seriously.

There so many obstacles in my way, it’s so hard and the things I want may not even happen. But your story has proved that the fight is worth it, so I’m going to every ounce of strength to changing my career and really hope I can do this.

Nique Devereaux

I am a black female gamer, a mother, and much more, who has built the Gods of Mayhem as a platform for sharing stories that go beyond the norm. I see this site as an expression for showing the world and myself what I can do to make a difference in the world. I’ve learned a lot along the way such as understanding the reality of…

It takes money, to make money.

The problem is very similar to the chicken and the egg. If you don’t have money, working to build something of value is like trying to take an egg and grow it into a chicken. Seems easy enough, until you really get into the actual process of nurturing an egg to hatch, feeding your chick properly so it grows up to produce and then finding a market to sell your meager result. Did I mention you have to hope its a hen and not a rooster? Cause pimping out a product with a limited skill, the rooster, is even harder then trying to make money on one hen, egg production. Then there’s the issue of getting the word out about what you have to offer.


The nasty 3 letter word everyone hates but in business the reality is, unless you were fortunate enough to have a network of people in your back pocket, getting your message out to the masses takes …incentive. Having the best product, content, etc. can help create word of mouth, the best advertising your hard work can buy. But the part most people don’t figure out until they are in the thick of it is the behind the scenes everyday hum drum, better known in the business world as operations, can drive the very love you have for doing what you dream of far far away from your life. One person can’t do it all.

Everyone wants to get paid

How do you explain to people the reality of how a site makes its money without bringing up sales, ads and all the other dirty words associated with being completely inundated with shallow and meaningless noise begging for your hard earned dollar? When I first started working on this site, the original idea was to create a League of Legends team, made up of people stuck in ELO Hell, who wanted to go pro. My partner Hernunnos is one of those people and he worked hard to pull together a group of players. We both tried to put together what we needed to get it done and noticed there weren’t very many examples available. So, I worked on doing the business aspect and he worked on the team.

ELO Hell is real and isn’t just limited to gaming

The very joy that made us want to do this turned into everything we loathe about what others are doing, selling or creating. Everyone has an ego, or wants to be a part of the Cinderella story but very few understand what the media writes about when they tell you how so and so got started, sensationalizes “the struggle”. Everything looks doable when its behind you. How many times have you been able to tell others about a stressful time in your life and make them and yourself laugh? But if someone asked you how you really felt about it, you would say, “if there had been another way to do it, I damn sure would have and sometimes I wished I hadn’t even tried at all. Mostly, there was a point where I had so much invested into … it was easier to keep going than to admit I failed to accomplish something to make it all worth the effort.”

Everyday I see:
*another reason to question my sanity even trying to do all of this.
*how little I really have any clue what I’m doing
*how I have no idea how I am going to become successful without giving into being known to some as a “sellout”

I thought I would share my feelings – these are just a few – about the challenges we face trying to help build opportunities for gamers, eSports teams, other founders, etc. not for pity’s sake but to start a conversation, known in the marketing world as a “call to action”. We don’t want to do ads or give readers the impression we are trying to trick them with our content. We don’t want to take advantage of people who work hard to produce the content, writings, graphics, etc. we need to get the word out.

We want to help make a site people want to visit and support. Do you know how we should do that for an audience where “adblocker” is the norm?


Hi, this inspired me to go and write my back story.

I’ve done many things. None of them had a money-well and I never asked a lot of money for anything.

So I want to ask you a question.

Why do you think you leave an idea (like the imdb like idea) and “drop it like it’s hot” when there is no money in it, and why do you think I feel like that is “fake”.

I hope I can tell you what I mean.

It’s like: Oh I got this great idea, it’s so fun and I feel so passionate and… oh never mind others aren’t making money on it so phiew no I never liked it that much.

I think I might take this personal somehow. I think I am scared others will say they like me but are not genuine and leave you at the drop of a hat.

So somehow this translates to following the money is not genuine.
That money is like being interesting and when things go bad, everyone is gone.

Why do you think you choose to do “only” things that will get money in?

As you might have noticed I have a blind spot here so excuse me if it sounds rude.



Very inspiring experience this is, Derek.

I’m particularly indebted to you for your:

“It’s easy to look at everything I have now and think, “Well, everything just works out so great for you!

But it’s not true. Nothing works out great for anyone without first getting punched in the face a few times.”


I’m glad I signed up for your updates.


It’s always motivating to hear how others have overcome the struggles by improving themselves to the point of success. One thing you mention is promotion. I think that has been my biggest struggle, which I am always working to overcome. Reading it again here helps to shed even more light on those things which one must do to outscore the other guys.


Great post and you’re so right about just going out there and picking up the skill you lack. I had a tough time through my 20s. I lacked confidence and I severely lacked people skills. So I went out there an got them both. It’s wasn’t with the flick of a switch, it took time. Years. Lots of reading up on books and blogs and practicing what I understood. Joining toastmasters to practice public speaking. Just taking the plunge every-time basically.

Now I can talk to room full of Directors and Execs easy. At the same time I’ve started on my mission; to grow an online ratings platform for businesses and products in Pakistan.

Thanks for the great read Derek.

Has Razwi


Hey Derek love your work. We have very similar modes of thinking. The one thing you trump me on is taking action. I have to admit for a while I took a side step and almost gave up the dream of running and owning my own business. I unknowingly used a lot of these concepts in the early days of the job I do now. I work in an Australian call centre. I got the job at a call centre because I wanted to learn how to communicate in the professional world. (Believe it or not I had a similar family situation to yourself, mum on welfare, dad in jail usually). I got this job and long story short, there was no real structure in the call centre. I wanted to move up fast so I took the iniative of making things in the office more efficient and after trial and error put together a call plan template that helped all the out going calls run smoother, leading to an increase in sales. Well rather than get any sort of recognition for this my direct manager made out like it was all him and took the credit and I’m in the same position with crummy pay. I thought I could take what I learned and start a business as a distributor in health food supplements with a large company. I figured I could take what I had learned and apply it to the health business, since we all need our health. I hit a couple of road blocks and at first I wanted to blame my supervisor for not helping me the way he should. I gave up for more than a year and decided it might not be for me. I realized I had failed not because I was meant to fail but because I didn’t do everything in my power to succeed. I have been working on myself ever since. I’m not at the level I wish to be right now but have identified what I need to work on and am continuously moving forward to achieve my goals in business and life. I’m not sure if you get around to all of these but would love a reply just say to saw this if you read it. Cheers Derek, keep doing what you do.


Derek, I found you by accident ,online of course. My story is really long: 1st free enterprise at 27 in the former soviet union. 5 countries, 2 immigrations, corporate Canada and America, Oracle developer, car sales, RE sales, etc. right know building very exciting business as business & marketing coach. My approach to it creating visibility and celebrity status for the target market. I want to build stand along from my website marketing blog. Got so many great ideas from you. THANK YOU!!!!


I’m mopeing along. Failing, but it’s more like I’m flailing. 2 blogs and a youtube channel. Launching a podcast in August. Not gonna quit.


Great article Derek! And just what I needed to read today! I’m looking forward to a day when I’ll have a success story to go with my backstory.


I started young. Really young. I was selling my Oreos at lunch for $1, everyday. Hid it for 2 weeks until my single mom went to the grocery store again. As we got to the Oreos I pulled the hand full of ones out and asked if we could get two boxes this week? 🙂 I still wanted to sell them but I wanted my dessert too! This was 3rd grade.
Then moved up to SAMs club candy in middle school. Coming home with $10-30 a day. High school moved to other things *%#, but always had another job. Worked 40+ hours bussing tables. Haven’t talked to my dad in 12 years, shitty guy, but he did put me in my first real job at 13years old and taught me how to work hard. Proud of my work ethic. College was partly paid with the “sales” job that continued from high school. Always kept very low key. Never wanted to be the man. After college worked in construction with a large company. Was great but after I while I realize I wasn’t vauled. For example they used an excel sheet to bid million dollar jobs. And I noticed that the cells weren’t locked on the bid sheet. Nobody knew how the sheet worked, they rarely used computers and I was all about computers. I noticed that two different bids had odd amounts for transportation. A job that was 30 mins away had $50,000 for transportation and a job 4 hours away had $10000. I figured out that the transportation field was equal to the amount of copper bought for the job x 15%. Which make no damn sense. I then proceeded to print the entire bid sheet on drawing size sheets about 3 feet by 3 feet, then decoded and traced back every cell. By the time I was done it look like it was a never ending maze of arrows. I thought I cracked the code and took it right into the presidents office. He looked at me like I was nuts and just some nerd that needed to get away from him. He told me not to mess with anything and just leave it as is. After that I created books at home of how the company could make over 100K in the next 6 months. Again they didn’t care. I knew I had no voice. I was the youngest guy in the office by 20 years. I put in my 2 weeks went to nicaragua for a couple weeks and helped some orphanages. Came back and started a company fixing iPhones and iPads. Got a connect in Hong Kong and it was going great until I ran into issues scaling the business. Employees kept doing side deals. Could take it. So I started talking with my buddy who’s 15 years older and a pediatric dentist. I said to him what about this idea of a part time assistant that you don’t have to have on payroll but just call whenever you need shit done. He said perfect I need my sons watched fixed its under warranty, I need a tux booked for Miami, I need the cable company to fix the TV, and so on. I wrote it all down and went to work. And then it spread. I was doing odds and ends for all his friends. Whatever it was I would take it on. And I still will today. I now have 3 construction teams, 2 landscaping teams, 1 maids team, and 9 general labor employees running errand all day. It’s called OurGuys. We have 150 clients and businesses and contracts with the likes of WholeFoods and other businesses. Things are going good. We’re still small scale, in my mind,but would like to take the TaskRabbit app on with more added. The plans never go as planned but I’m always pushing forward. Email me and we’ll talk. I’m getting yelled at for not throwing the cornhole bag and that I need to stop working. Ciao

Nwori Joshua

My success story is yet to but would surely be written, as for failure, rather failures, i have had my share, i would tell them when my success story sets in, d story i now tell, is the story of my Faith, the brightest light that has kept me going in d darkest nights. in d greatest hour of my despair one morning, i picked up my pen & a paper and wrote two articles LETTER TO MY UNBORN SON & This:


My name is Nwori Joshua and I am the world’s most sorrowful young man on earth and the world’s biggest Jerk. I sought for words that could best describe this influx of emotions that overwhelmed me while I wrote and they all seemed to elude me, Life took away from me my comfort, my happiness, my education, my hope, my friends, my confidence and above all my pride, you show me a successful young man who was deprived all this and I’ll point at a million and one of them in psychiatric homes, rehabilitation centres, and prison homes. How I would dare and survive life’s harsh realities still remains a mystery but I do know one thing, of all the good things life took from me it gave me a goldmine , it gave me a father whose name would be carved in bronze as a statue upon the gates of my heart and my unborn children’s forever. A man who deserves a better son in my stead. Before my twin brother and I were born, we were already graduates at 20, such was historic lofty dreams for this unworthy son that he gave up luxury to pursue it’s fulfilment. But as I write I am past that age, yet, not out of school, the blame? Fully mine. I once had things smooth and easy, how I miss those feelings,for I now know great pain, despair, anxiety, and uncertainties. But one day shall come When men would ask me, “What kept you going, through those dark hours?” and I shall be saying with a sigh, “remember that wise old saying ‘nothing good comes easy, well, that gave me faith. On that day I shall look back upon my life, and see it as a learning threshold, equipped with a library of incessant worries, unkept promises, shattered fantasies and unfulfilled dreams. Yet with all the odds starkly against me I sought the principal thing. And that has left me beaten and broken, tattered and haggard, bruised and wounded, thus has left me with looks way past my age.

Yet I have learnt to restrain front self pity, never to cry over spilled milk, for I know now, all the hair pulling and fussing in the world won’t bring back a drop of it, so I have no more tears to shed about the mistakes of the past . When I shall look back upon the days of my youth and remember the young men who were spared all I ever went through, I shall harbour no envy whatsoever, for I would have made my mark, they only would have graced the earth. I have lapped and with my hands drank from the waters of life. They only Have bowed upon their knees and sipped and so can’t fight the battles I ever fought. I have seen, I have tested and have known things, things light , inexperienced and unknown to them. Still, I am like that one that cried, “I am the wisest of all, for I know one thing and that is that I know nothing.” The gains of humility, the brightest light I saw in these dark hours. I get the wider picture now, for I see clearly now, I see farther for the blots in my eyes are washed away by my light tears. From the great and renowned university of fatal blows, I have learnt great philosophies, doctrines and theories of life that no young man who have had a rosy life ever possess. I know better now, never to worry about tomorrow, that does more harm than good, I hold on to my surest possession, which is ‘Today ‘. The feeling of anxiety that the worry of tomorrow brings with it have made even the strongest falter. So I do all I can now to put all this fears behind me because this experiences has taught me that the things we fear the most robs us of our present Joy, for most times they never come to be, I now know that When the days we fear comes, the ability and the cunning to outwit them comes too.

Trifles no longer annoys me. I have seen my whole world of happiness, of hope crushed and trampled in ruins around me, nothing matters again, I do not care much if I was once cheated, it doesn’t matter if the soup is tasteless or if my younger one didn’t lay the bed right. I have longed borrowed the advise of Albert Einstein, in that I now live my life, as if nothing was a miracle yet live my daily life knowing everything Is a miracle. One thing I have also learnt so far is never to expect too much of people, even the ones closest to me, so, easily I greet a betraying friend with soul in my handclasp and give a warm embrace to an old friend who back stabbed. I have had to stay up most nights to weep, now there’s plenty room for humour, show me a young man who can approach disaster with a garment of smile instead of anxiety, I will show you a young man that can never be hurt much ever again. I will never regret this fatal blows I receive, I will cherish this moments, for through them and by them I sought to live a life worthy of reference. I sought to be that son every dad would wish to have.

Somewhere down the years I would remember this day upon which I picked up this pen and wrote, for I would have lived, I would have touched humanity, thanks to the hard bricks life threw at me, bricks with which I now lay the solid foundation for my children unborn. No regrets, no complains, I shall draw with the cup of Faith from the wells of reward & success, and the price which I now pay for that prize, is worth it, every bit.

Maggie Mata

I’m a huge fan of yours…and sometimes I love to hate you because you’re right!

I started my little card-making buisness in October 2011 and pretty much did it as a hobby until I took your YES ENGINES course. I implemented what I learned and to my surprise it worked. Well, I wasn’t actually surprised, but I was impressed.

I’m not making 6 figures YET! But hey like you said, I’m the exception and I can do that.

Not only are you the best at what you do, but you are also a great encourager. Thank you!



Your story resonated a lot with me, because I’ve burnt through so many different ways to start my own business before I finally succeeded. Ultimately, this business failed because I made some HUGE mistakes.

I recently blogged about my journey as well and writing it down made me realize just how important it is to reflect on past failures to help motivate you to move forward.


#ICanDoThatTo! Perfect timing Derek, that’s the exact incentive I need right now. Awesome! Thank you!!!!

O'neisha Biggs

Love this post, very inspiring.


It’s completely mind-blowing for me to read about “from where you come.” The fact that you even attended college is amazing. Even though you say that you have experienced a lot of failure, I would argue that you have also experienced a lot of success in a relatively short period of time. You’ve got something special. But, I believe we’ve all got something special. So, I’m not suggesting that “I CAN’T do that!” I’m from the “I can do that” school as well. Here’s my story:

1989: Graduated college
1989 – 1997: Worked as a programmer for various companies
1997 – 2001: Ran my own computer consulting business.
2001 – 2004: Decided to pursue my dream in life and returned to school to get a Masters of Science in Teaching Mathematics. Yes, it took me as long to get my Masters as it took me to get my B.S.!
2004 – 2005: Experienced such a traumatic student teaching experience that I spent one year in a PhD program before applying for a teaching job.
2005: Obtained first teaching job. Quit the PhD program.
2006: Non-renewed from my first teaching job. Moved to a different state to get another teaching job.
2007: Decided not to return to my second teaching job. Obtained third teaching job.
2008: Decided not to return to teaching at all, utterly defeated having failed at what I thought was my purpose in life. Yes, I spent five years in school preparing to be a teacher and then lasted as a teacher for only three years! Knocked around for the remainder of the year figuring out what to do with myself.
2009: Ran an unsuccessful handyman business. Lived off my savings and watched them decrease month after month.
2010: Decided to return to programming in January. Spent 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months teaching myself to be a web developer. Introduced myself to the world as a web developer in July and failed to get hired as a full-time employee by anybody. So, I launched my own freelance web development business.
2010 – Present: Built a successful freelance web development business.
2014: Launched a Kickstarter campaign in November to build an online training site to teach people web development that gets $651 pledged out of a $64000 budget. Signed up in December to become an instructor on Udemy.
2015: Published first course on Udemy in January.

Today: Working on transitioning to being a full-time Udemy instructor. I look at how many people are making a living teaching online and I say “I can do that too!”


Hey Derek,

Thanks for sharing the stories and lessons learned along the way.

It inspire me to become better!


Wonderful Article and so inspiring. My story us too long to share here, but I am turning 66 next month, going into retirement and plan to start a membership based platform for small businesses who cant afford starting €1000 per day consultancy fee for advice.. I lived in the USA for over 20 years and try to apply my knowledge now into the European culture, mainly Germany and Austria. I can see how the Benefit , just have to find the right wrapping to sell it.
For any succestion I would be greateful.



Derek, great article. I love how you’re all down to earth real advice vs “follow your dreams” fluff that leads nowhere. It’s awesome that you share how everyone needs to get somewhere, they don’t just pop up a success.
Nothing happens overnight, I think this is especially true for an actual physical product in e-commerce.
The question is, when does something classify as failure? How do you decide whether to keep on or fold? When do you decide that well, people just don’t get it, so instead of trying to convince them, I will quit and do something else?

As for me, the story started when I went to an art college to do something I loved, against everyone. My Dad wanted me to study biotechnology (for which I had no predisposition..). Then I quit college after 3 years, 2 years before getting my diploma, because I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it. My dream at the time was to transfer to NYC and finish my MFA there, but my school REFUSED to give me the required paperwork. That’s when I just left slamming the door and it was the last they’ve seen of me.
And I did something crazy. I moved to the other side of the world (literally.. on the globe it was on the other side) to a remote tiny Pacific island to do “I-don’t-know-what”. Best decision of my life. I did some kayak guiding. Then I took a diving class. 6 months later I was the fastest to get my pro credentials and was working for the company as a dive guide. I LOVED IT! It started my 8 year long career of working in the dive industry and traveling the world.
I worked on boats, making really good money (for me.. there were two times along the way, when all I had was a single US dollar. Really. But I always found a way to bounce back, money did nor worry me)
Until I realized, that despite making good money and doing something I love, it was a dead end. I would never expand. I would not learn new things, because I knew all that there was for me to learn and improved on it. There was nowhere to go. I would be stuck in a career I was slowly getting too old for (I was in my late twenties) with no “real world” skills to fall back on when I had to move on. I was getting tired and burned out.
So I took all my saving and went to travel, visiting all my dream dive destinations. I spent every penny on amazing experiences. It was awesome.
Then family matters (and being broke) called me home.
Once I got here two years ago, I had to do something. With no “hire-able” skills to speak of, I started my own company, Project Still Water. I went to school to learn metalsmithing and created jewelry that is ocean inspired (thus keeping me in the dive industry I love) and gives back to charities and organizations that work on conservation. I add educational materials to my packages to explain to my customers, regular people, with little direct connection to the ocean, why they ARE connected to the ocean and why it’s so important.
I get 5 star reviews, repeat customers, I have a great product and a cause.

But I’m NOT GETTING ANYWHERE. I have no idea how to promote. My sales have stopped after I went full legal and registered the company, which forced me to comply with some laws like shipping silver etc (raised shipping prices, had to add VAT etc).

Somehow, most people don’t get it. I recently had a friend of the family tell me I should ditch my business and start exporting pumpkin seeds to France (seriously, I could not make this up if I tried). As if driving a car full of pumpkin seed was so much better than what I was doing. Really?

Most of me still believes in what I’m doing, but some part of me feels doubt creeping in. I have no clue about marketing, sales, PR to get the word out. This is a huge learning curve for me, but I don’t see it as failure just yet. Just keep adjusting and learning.

Rock on!

George Darlington Hashaka

Dearest Derek,

A very encouraging story! When I retired from the National Resistance Army(NRA) now Uganda People’s Defence Forces(UPDF) in 1994 having first joined the Uganda Army in 1977, I did research on the root causes of conflicts/insecurity. The upshot of the research led to the genesis of Uganda Peace Foundation, an organization I founded to prevent conflicts/insecurity by addressing the root causes which include poverty coupled with unemployment and other social ills.
since the inception of the organization I have been able to do the following:
◆Organized seven thousand members of Uganda Peace Foundation in groups of twenties in the whole of Uganda;
◆Created awareness about the importance of peace/ security in the entire country;
◆Conducted entrepreneurship development courses for the members of Uganda Peace Foundation;
◆Advocated for payment of pension and gratuity for retired members of the present Uganda People’s Defence Forces(UPDF) and defunct armies,as well as settling former guerilla groups in Uganda;
◆Created awareness about the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) in Eastern and Central Uganda with support of publications from the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) Uganda country office;
◆Development a microfinance programme;
◆Accessed the proposal of “third world village development”, intended to economically empower one million people in ten years,with help of late Dr. Maurice Albertson the author of Village Earth organisation at Fort Collins,USA;
◆Contributed to global solutions for sustainable peace/ security in both national and international conferences most notably: international conference on peace through tourism which was organised by the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism(IIPT) at the International Conference Centre,Serena Hotel, Kampala,Uganda in mid 2000s,international conference on peace and development on the great lakes region(Uganda,Rwanda,Burundi,Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) which was organised with the support of the United Nations at Kampala, Uganda around the aforementioned mentioned period, attended the international conference on peace and security at Stockholm, Sweden in 2013 organized by the World Veterans Federation(WVF) and the Swedish Veterans Federation( SVF) with support of the Swedish Government, attended the international triennial gathering organised by the International Peace Bureau( IPB) at Stockholm,Sweden in 2015.

However,with that done I still have goals to realise and it is the realisation of these goals that will determine my successs.

The goals:

◆ organizing an international conference on peace and security,see: http://regonline.activeeurope.com/internationalconferenceonpeacesecurity
◆implementing the Village Earth Model, and
◆the microfinance programme.


I understand that failures always comes before success…
… but all who fails will not succeed automatically!
There are so many who will never succeed!
So what makes success irresistible? Other than dreams, of course 😉
To our success,

Diego Lucero

Definitely True! Man this was an article I needed to read.

I have tried SO MANY THINGS to make money as an entrepreneur and business owner. My goal was to become a millionaire several times over, while employing 100s of people through my own business(es). But when I first started 10 years ago, I had many things going against me:

1. I was afraid of people
2. I had a debilitating stutter
3. I was a poor communicator
4. I was poor at sales
5. I knew next to nothing about money
6. I knew next to nothing about business
7. I had very low levels of confidence

Essentially, in order to reach my goals, I needed to first overcome ALL of my debilitating shortcomings. I still remember how it felt — It felt more than overwhelming. It felt impossible. How on earth was I going to become the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of who I am?

I remember the looks that people gave me: when I told people who I wanted to be; what I wanted to accomplish; and how much impact I was going to have on the world. I had to learn quickly to do whatever I could to remove negative people from my life. I also learned that negative people are ALL OVER THE PLACE.

To get things rolling, I started working with a friend of mine’s side business, providing Residential Window Cleaning Solutions. He taught me more about business, money, investments, communication, sales and marketing in 6 months than I ever would have learned on my own. He became an invaluable mentor to my progress as an individual.

However, I still needed to learn business and marketing and money. My friend recommended several books to me: “You, Inc.”, “One-Minute Millionaire”, and “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. After reading those, I voraciously read everything else that those authors had written, then went out to find other gems. Among them: “The Other 90%”, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “The Speed of Trust”, and many others.

I still had an awful stutter. I still had trouble striking up conversation with the opposite sex, where girls would laugh at me, squirm uncomfortably when I tried squeezing out those words. It was awful, because when I DID end up saying what I wanted to say, it was still awkward and strange. Because of this, I never had a chance to develop the people skills that I needed. I hated it!

What’s interesting is, when I took responsibility for it, I started to find ways to fix it.

After much prayer, I found that the root of my stutter was my FEAR OF PEOPLE. I racked my brain as to how I could overcome my fear of people. At that time, it occurred to me that I needed to practice doing the things that scared me. So what scared me the most?

Presenting myself to new people.

So my next path was Door-To-Door Sales. I went through several organizations, learned all I could, and then moved on to the next organization — again and again and again. I was awful at sales for a very long time. I couldn’t sell ANYTHING. I straight up sucked.

But when I found an organization that actually gave me the tools that I felt that I needed to thrive in sales, I stayed and soaked it up. At that company, I learned the proper way to sell, and the proper way to close transactions. I learned how to develop a thick skin, how to become the expert consultant, and how to be persistent without being pushy.

When I started ACTUALLY CLOSING CONTRACTS, my confidence went through the roof! I could talk to anyone, anytime, and sell my product without skipping a beat. I call it Stutter-be-Gone.

But now that I knew that I could sell, I realized that I needed to start selling myself to be able to take control of my own destiny. Unfortunately for me, I still had no marketable skills. So what’s next?

I sought out online tutorials to learn how to code websites. And honestly, I went through a bunch of trash before I found some video tutorial products that really got some great results.

Now thanks to Treehouse, UGURUS and Digital Marketer, I am now a fully fledged web developer and online marketer. And now I can finally sell myself, my business, and my solutions to business owners in my small city of Albuquerque, NM.

Not only can I do those things, but I also now know that I can overcome ANYTHING, no matter how difficult it looks. And that makes me FEARLESS in scary situations.

Ah-nold said it best:

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
~Arnold Swarzenegger


Great inspirational story!

Sometimes when you feel stuck in your business journey, a story like this can give you that momentum to go further. Thank you for sharing, Derek.

Annika S

Love this – it’s reassuring to know the ‘greats’ went through a learning phase (what I call university) as well.
I’m reaching the end of my learning phase as I launch my 4th/5th business, at the same time as I’m embarking on a world trip.
Reading this makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing, and a great reminder to stand out! I look forward to reporting back about my success 🙂


Ah, I LOVE Tucker Max. I never would have thought about how much he made in advertising though!

You bring up a lot of great points, and just like I stated when I emailed you, you reminded me that it’s all about promotion, promotion, promotion! There are times when I feel like I shouldn’t promote, but I have to remember that I DO put out quality work. I just need to have that confidence and push.


Thank you for telling your life struggles and failures and your successes eventually. I am in a job that I used to like and used to look forward to each day, however, I feel like I am past it or just that I want something different, for myself that I own. Last year I quit a job I had been at for 24 years, thinking that was the issue. Things had changed over the years from when I started, however, now doing the same job, for the most part, although a much smaller business, I realize that I am really over doing this job. However, still unclear of what I truly want to do. Last year I took an online course and one of the things I got out of that was to “put yourself out there” and do something, it doesn’t have to be expensive and better to not be expensive. So, I started a blog as you see above. I’ve enjoyed that, updated the theme here and there, researched what to put on a blog, etc, etc. Kind of goes along w/ what you said about promoting yourself. I have many more followers on Twitter, Facebook, etc. However, I still don’t have a focus or “plan”. I like writing and decided to put myself out there more and contacted 2 publications and ended up writing 2 articles for a local newspaper and got “paid” in 24 bottles of wine! Very cool and who would have thought I’d be published. Since then I haven’t done much more other than post some on my blog and get more tired of my regular job. I don’t want to quit, I do like the people I work w/ and it does pay, but I can’t help think there is something more out there for me. I just need to keep on, keeping on and hope I figure that out, soon….

Thanks again, it helps give me hope to move forward,

Mary Kathryn

Fantastic post, Derek!

Yes, everyone has a backstory, and everyone “Can Do That Too!”

Like you, my upbringing was far from ideal…whatever ideal is, but I looked around, and said, “I want to go to college.”

It took me 7 years, but I finally graduated from U.C.Berkeley.

I married young, but waited until I was 35 to have kids, because I wanted to work on my stuff as much as possible first – hint…you are never done working on your stuff, so keep at it!

When I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, I fell and broke both my legs.

I was depressed, and whining, “Why did this happen to me?!”

Until I looked in my 3 year old’s face, and realized, “This isn’t about me, just buck up and get things done…this, too, shall pass.”

I said, “If I can make it through this with my sense of humor in tact….


I started my first online business in 2003 (18 months later), and now I’m on my third biz doing what I love – helping other parents create the entrepreneurship they dream of so they can stay home and raise their own kids rather than letting a day care worker raise them.

Thanks for listening, and Thank You so much for sharing your story!

Enjoy the Journey!


Hi Derek,
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for sending me this link TODAY! I am at crossroads at the moment. I loved your backstory mostly because of your persistence, courage and honesty in taking accountability.
Like you, I have failed more times than I can remember! I came from a corporate world but felt caged like a bird. I knew there had to be more to life than that but didn’t have a clue as to what my purpose was?
I sat down with pen and paper 8 years ago to write down all the compliments I had received from colleagues, friends etc. To my astonishment, there were a lot of, “I love listening to you, you inspire me to be the best that I can be”…..this sentence seemed to be a consensus among my peers and social circles. So…..I embarked on a Spiritual path, learning to know more about myself, reaching in, looking in the mirror etc. hence why I aligned with #6, “It’s always your fault – I am not my family and I have the opportunity to do more”.
Through each step I took, another door opened and another path was taken. Eventually, I trained with Doreen Virtue and graduated as an Angel Intuitive here in Melbourne, Australia. I then went on to become a Theta Healing and crystal energy Practitioner as well as a Neuro-Semantics and Meta-NLP Practitioner. You see, after each training, I felt there was something missing but I couldn’t quite put my finger to it?
I went back to the drawing board and asked myself, “What is it you are passionate about?” Of course I love helping others feel good about themselves, I love telling of my own personal stories whilst incentivising and motivating others via this means…
Public speaking came to mind and so I held seminars but it wasn’t enough, I felt I needed more, there was more, somewhere; it would come to me, I was sure! Always the optimist, I am. 🙂
Of course, it never occurred to me that my greatest passion had always been, WRITING! I had been doing this since childhood as it served as my very own therapy and to experiment with words….WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE? If I had a dollar for every person that has ever asked me, “When’s that book coming, How’s that book going?” etc…….
Well, I am happy to report that after having failed sooooo many times, in soooo many different ways, I have finally written THAT book! I am currently going through the editing aspect of it and adding the finishing touches before publishing! This is when step #1 & #2 step in; “Promotion over Creation & Standing Out”. 🙂
It will stand out ok! This is a very powerful book combining spirituality, quantum physics, the law of attraction, personal accountability, how the mind works with reference to our thought patterns and belief systems, history, culture and life experiences based on our perceptions. It is a guide to empowering yourself via accountability as the more responsibility you take for your personal issues in life, the more empowered you will be and I will quote YOU Derek, “The sooner I take accountability for everything, the more powerful you feel. When you think you’re in control, you act like it.” – This statement couldn’t ring truer to my book!!! I wonder if I could quote you on my book?
THANK YOU for sharing your inspiring and motivating story with us Derek and guess what, I CAN DO THAT!
Blessing to you always 😀 <3


I had no idea you had such a rough start in life. Very inspiring. The shoes are amazing. I’m a shy person and for years I made a point of wearing statement shoes. I’m going to get back into it. It really does make a difference, doesn’t it? Unlike the stupid haircuts. (Sorry. I’m still bitter about all the hair stylists that didn’t change my life. Ha!)


Wow. Really puts the woman’s statement that “You just came out of nowhere” during the Q&A at SMMW13 into perspective. You’re an OG, Derek. I wouldn’t be living my dream without everything you’ve taught us over the past three years. I’ll be nine years into my 10-year overnight success story in another three. Hopefully, I’ll have people accusing me of coming out of nowhere by then. Following your lead, I’m positive I will.

Kevin Davis

Great article, Derek, thanks for sharing! #4 held true for me!

I’ve been a web developer for 17 years, and got caught up in too many big project to grow the business….that was a fortunate minor failure as it lead me into 4 more projects/businesses that are now beginning to thrive. We’re on the upswing and scared as hell, but it’s going to be big for us. I launched a physical product a year ago that has sold about 1000 units so far in a pretty niche market, and I’m just about to launch an ecourse (thanks Zippy Courses!) in about 6 weeks, which should bring me the financial freedom to do many other things including buying more vacation rentals and using them!

You’re great, keep up the great work!


Amazing story Derek! Truly inspiring. Thank you.


One of my favorite articles I’ve read in a long time on any blog. Thanks for sharing your story, Derek!

I work a day job for a fantastic company and do freelance social media work on the side.

If I could choose to succeed at anything, it would be music. Specifically, as a singer/songwriter.

Five years ago, I pushed towards that goal for over a year and I failed. Seeing your success makes me want to try again. I didn’t practice enough or really focus on the right things.


Hi Derek,.
A truly excellent article. I’m on a journey to improve me and I’ve read some good quality stuff. And there really is some excellent information out there for people to change their thinkng and improve themsleves. Your work, in my opinion, is amongt the best because you are straight up, link your ideas to real examples and provide real help to implement change. And you are entertaining. Which is plus. The concept of open and closed mindsets is becoming more well know now. You definitely have an open mindset and your story here shows that. Never give up. Work harder. Don’t be afraid to fail.


Just wanted to say congrats and loved this story.

My energy was down today, but after reading this I said to myself… “I CAN DO THAT TOO!”

Here’s to more success Derek


Great post Derek. I have to agree to an earlier post from Vincent. Us Kiwis sometimes find your characteristic brash style a bit full on but you’ve grown on me and you have given my wife and I some great learnings. Thanks.
We came across you through Marie’s B-School where my wife won a scholarship. This post gives me hope and concern for her business. The hope part comes from the fact we have failed already by naming the business after a fairly popular movie (Memento), also people spell it wrong and we didn’t have the .com. Now we have re-launched with a .com (lovethelittlethings) with an aim to gathering an international audience. The concern I have is what you said about an idea not having merit. My wife aspires to teach people how to make (film/edit) their own little videos (personal or business) but there isn’t a lot of competition for that (apart from fairly boring sites like Lynda.com) so I’m a bit worried that the idea might not have traction or maybe she is just a little ahead of the curve. Not sure as it very early days as she has just launched. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts. Go well!


Hey Derek, I’ve been following you for over 3 years and love your work. It’s really great to hear the backstory of your life and I think audiences love to hear about the struggles of the grind.

Question: I have been really blessed with my life, amazing family and wife too. I have started a software review site as well and would like to connect with the audience like you have but I have this inner feeling that they wouldn’t care about my “blessed” life in the about page. Should I just shut it out and write how I feel?


    John, put it out there. My suggestion is to position the paragraph at the end of your “about” page so the people who aren’t interested can skip the paragraph and say, “I’ve already read the important stuff” — but for many, that last paragraph WILL resonate because they’ll know, not just who you are on the outside, but who you are inside your heart as well.


Loved reading your story and lessons learned. Thanks so much for sharing.
My story? I was a management consultant and HR professional earning six figures. But in 2012 I left my corporate career to pursue my online Tarot business. Now I have a half a million dollar company that I love teaching people how to connect with the Tarot and their intuition to create positive change. I also help tarot professionals get into the spotlight by building a thriving business online. I am SO grateful for what I have created and feel that I am truly following my soul’s path.


This is really touching. I should rather say its eye-opening, especially the ending parts #6 and #7. It’s always our fault because our worldly success is in our hands. Very well said Derek. You’re always inspiring!


Thanks for a great article. I’m an attorney who stepped away from practice to grow my family. My youngest is now almost a year and I’m ready to grow an online business. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Your words are very encouraging.

    Maggie Mata

    Stephany, whenever Derek promotes his YES ENGINES course take it! It will greatly benefit you for growing an on-line business. He takes you from A-Z, even if you’re not quite sure what you want to do. Maybe law/legal related?

    Good Luck!


Hey Derek,

This post really connected me with you and your ‘back’ story. I too come from a challenging family background, but like you said ‘I am not my family’. I’ve been reading your posts for a couple of years now.

To be honest, when I first signed up I thought, ‘this guys is so full on, I’m not sure this is for me’ (we’re a bit understated in New Zealand), yet I knew you were sharing some great information. Now I actually have even more respect for you as a person and just how much of a warrior you are.

I just want to congratulate you for having the heart and courage to share your story. Keep on rocking.




Thank you for openly sharing your story. I hear so many people offer excuses in their lives for why they aren’t making the changes they want and you are a wonderful example of making a different choice.

My background is in the arts and I’ve met a lot of people being told no about their creative interests. “Art is for girls,” “Why do you spend your time doing that?” “You are too smart for art.” I will happily share this story with them because we all need to be reminded that if we want something and are willing to work out butts off for it, it can happen.

With gratitude, a fellow long islander (now living in Muscat, Oman!)



As usual Derek, this was an excellent read with many takeaways. I have taken notes and will be making some changes.

Thanks a million for sharing so freely!

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you dug it!


Couldn’t have read this post at a better time, thanks Derek!

I’ve just come back from a stint as an art dealer aboard a cruise ship which taught me so much about sales and public speaking. Before that I was working part time as a US Operations Manager for an International Consulting Firm and blogging on my website GypsyintheCity.com

Although it’s tempting to get a “real job” I have decided not to and I am currently dedicating all my efforts into my blog full time while pursuing my entrepreneurial spirit. While at sea I came up with a brilliant product idea catered to my current multicultural audience and today has confirmed that I am on the right path. I don’t know exactly how to go about this at all because my background is in multicultural PR & Advertising and although I have been covering beauty for more than 10 years I have no idea how to get this off the ground running.

Coincidently I signed for a class with industry leaders on how to launch your own product and had an amazing chat afterwards with one of the speakers. After a really refreshing and inspiring conversation she told me that my idea was great and that would love to be my mentor and guide me through the process. In my head I thought it would take me 5 years to accomplish this and she assured me I could do it in about 2 years!

Having this fateful meeting and reading this blog post has really been an amazing confirmation for me that I need to keep pushing myself and believe in my magic. I don’t know how I’m going to make this work since I don’t have the stable income that a 9-5 brings but… “When you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to go be an entrepreneur.”

Thanks for a great read Derek! Keep shinin’


Wow, what a great story and a great life you’ve made yourself. It’s really inspirational, and it comes in just the right time for me.
Just when I have these concerns about my business as so many business coaches pop up around me, your example of the bad business convinces me to persist and keep loving doing this.
It’s so hard to believe you were once a bad writer, a bad businessman and a bad speaker since that is but all what you are!

    Derek Halpern

    Not only was I bad. I was horrible.


Derek, I this article is the best I have ever read on ST. Thank you so much for sharing not just the successes and failures-that-turned-into-successes, but also the times when you felt lost, frustrated, and miserable. A lot of people never hear these stories, and it’s important to remember that everyone goes through it, it just doesn’t get talked about.

A HUGE congratulations and keep it up!

Hope. A

OMG, I had my first TV interview yesterday and I totally bombed it.. I was so overcome with emotion after the interview, I couldn’t hold back my tears and cried on set (I’m sure this screamed professional to the tv host and producers… not!), but reading your story has made me feel better and made me realise that I need to work on becoming better in front of the camera!

Thank you Derek, & I must say your looking hott these days!



Thanks for sharing your story. I can see how self-image and self-perception definitely plays a major role on our journey to success. If you believe you can, then for the most part you can.

My story in entrepreneurship goes like this, I started selling knives straight out of college because I needed money quick, and I did good at that, it wasnt something i was going to stick with tho, because of course people were looking at me like get a real job. But my entrepreneurship hunger was open. I had the idea of making money outside of job. So that started my path of trying mlm and trying to make a direct marketing business work, but I never had any real success because I’m not that much of a people person and networking is a challenge. Like it is for most ppl. I then tried the route of getting a job and going back to school for a Master’s and I graduated. I don’t know why school is much easier but it is. I never had any intentions to do anything with my Master’s because I was just burnt out on school. Anyways, I’m still fighting for entrepreneurship tho because I don’t see myself working for someone else…i am psychologically unemployable. So this year I started my blog and #1 and something that I really have to do better. But I have never been a good promoter of myself and I think that’s why I struggle. But, I am really going to buckle down and get to promoting, because I know I have great content!!


I think you are so adorable and I always look forward to your posts. You are brash and funny and honest and I learn so much from you. Your uniqueness pops out and makes me pay attention. I’m listening!


Whoa, man.
I got to say, your story had so many similarities with me:

YOU CAN DO TOO mentality, I have similar. Whatever I do, what ever happens, I always think hyper optimisticly. To give more groundings, I am 23 yr old man who is just graduating from university, no work experience in my industry.

I started internship at workplace x, after 1½ month I had interview for future work in a company and I said there that I am asking for CMO position of a company, 4500€/month, ability to work for competitors(consulting) and work abroad.

Another example was because of my blog, another website asked me to start writing posts on their site as well for a ‘good’ wage. I didnt know how much was good price to ask, I googled and got answer 450€ and for SEO masterpiece 2000€ so I asked 1000€ per post and had 0 experience of blog writing and was at the moment in my first industry job as intern.

Every time when someone asks me for private conversation, my mind comes up with “You get promoted” “You become CMO” “They want you to become their director” and this structured positive feedback loop makes my drive for entrepreneurship very strong, even if I fail, I have full faith that someday I will succeed.

Also failing ALOT, haha I have started to enjoy the process by now actually. It is funny, before when I did something where I felt fear, I closed my eyes to do it and panicked afterwards, now if I do not feel fear, I think I am stagnated, nothing new, nothing what keeps me developing myself.

I know that every time I fail, I get better, more experienced and so can make much better decision in future. I embrace failures to its full length, because they are what makes you rich in your mind, soul and physical world.

You, Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferris, It is good to see people who are like me. It is funny that I discovered this entrepreneur culture in internet just recently, before that I have been out there surviving alone surrounded by egoistic people who take their pride from their lovelife, work or education and forces their ideologies on you. This is main reason why I just do not want to work in office environment.

I do not hate egoistic people, but I do not want to communicate with them so I usually am quite anti-social among work/school environment.

Derek, I look forward to achieve great successes and make my dreams true. Thank you for leading on the way 🙂

P.S. I would love to talk to you privately, I believe you would love that too.
hit me up. juujarvi.jero@gmail.com


Derek you will never know just how well timed this blog was for me! I am just 12 short months away from pulling my own trigger. I now have a website, online course at udemy, and am working hard at learning from experts like you how to make it happen! I am 59 years old – and have worked 9 to 5 most of my life – my two passions are writing and teaching, and I am ready. Thanks so much for all the information you share.

Peggy Nolan

Hi Derek,

Another timely message. And people keep telling me that Mercury is retrograde (whatever) and here I am reading your article and a few others with the same underlying message because I wrote the same kind of message yesterday and posted it on my website in my way of wild writing (poetry in motion) and while all this is swirling around me, it came to me the way towards success is by fumbling forward. And on I go…fumbling forward because if you can do it, so can I.



Dear Derek,
Thank you sir for this wisdom and insight. Awesome to meet you at Gabb’y Spirit Junkie Master Class! I have started following you online and just purchased Zippy Courses. Pumped!



Thanks for sharing your rocky start but awesome journey so far. I’ve failed with quite a few ventures but I just can’t see myself giving up. Although after failing a few times I am a little frightened to be honest. I think reasons for past failures was because I was trying things that didn’t fit my personality; I had a few e-commerce stores that were bringing in some money but I was so bored which kept me from pushing harder. So I sold those sites but I didn’t know what to do next.

Then a few months back when someone complimented me on all the tricks my dog Zè could do I realized something. I’m really good at teaching! I’ve been teaching dogs for years but never thought of turning it into a business. I think I need some practice on how to teach humans to work with their dogs but like you say – practice until you’re good at something.

So I threw up a website and started writing. It’s gaining momentum and I’m really happy! After reading your post on how to turn knowledge into an online course I’m about to record 4 training sessions with me and my dog, showing people how to train their dog. I’m giving those away for free to see how things go and if it’s worth creating a full course to sell. I’m super excited!

Seriously dude, this is not lip service… You really are inspiring! And as I’ve said before I’m convinced you’re telepathic!

Thanks again.


    Well first off, this article was great to read and of course what is prompting me to write a comment is similar to every one else: timing. Gabi, I wanted to reach out to you, because as I was reading the comments, I figured no one would talk about starting a business similar to mine, which is dog training (and I also do boarding) but my main passion is the thrill I get when I am communicating with a dog and I know they understand what I am trying to get at. Sometimes I can’t even teach it, but I try so hard to make people see why they are confusing their dog, and why he isn’t doing the same thing for them as he just did for me. But anyway, I was hoping to reach out to you and maybe talk about our businesses since they are similar. I am still in the beginning stages and just recently quit my corporate job so I can focus on my business full time. Exiting and scary!


“We need to ‘spread the money around.’” — this sentence resonated with me so much that I teared up! I am at a job that I hate, doing work I care nothing about but do really well at, and I have received this same feedback for the last several performance reviews. Still, I stay in this job because my misery in it is as greater driving force as my husband and son, to keep working in my business.

The call to help others, to make a difference in the world, to be an entrepreneur is strong.

But while I get my site off the ground, I have an upcoming meeting with my manager who for the first time in two years wants to talk about “my career goals”.

I am wrestling with what to tell him since I can’t say “to get the hell out of this company”! I know this upcoming conversation is not about me, but about making my manager look good on his review by showing that he fostered growth in his team –a fact that was glaringly obvious in the last review process when he claimed merit for my achievements before his joining the team! Still, he is a nice person with good intentions. Besides, isn’t the review process at its core all about self-promotion?

So Derek, thanks for sharing this article. It is nice to be reminded that others have struggled with the same things I am pushing through, and that my success is in my hands.


Man, that was a really great article and amazing to hear your experience. Really resonates with my current position. Still working full time but with 2 kids, house and wife, it’s hard to just “stop”.

Built my business last year, was going really well, then I realized that I was not doing anything else but working. That’s when it stopped being ejoyable, family time, etc., all sufferred.

I had to stop, not I’m kind of starting from scratch and figuring what the next step will be, just seems like the ‘cube’ will always be there though, tough mentality to break from.

Amazing article, once again, thanks for sharing.


Wow. Powerful stuff man. These lessons seem so simple, but it often feels like they are the hardest to remember on a daily basis.

As someone who has struggled in the past with meeting and attracting new people, especially women I was romantically interested in, I know what it’s like to feel awful about yourself because you don’t have the social skills that are going to get you where you want in life.

Since realizing I needed to make a change, I’ve gotten an amazing girlfriend, and I’ve been creating content for about a year now for my blog Social Sage: An Introvert’s Guide To Charm.

Though I’m not where I want to be with it, I’ve been taking a lot of action, and I am prepared for a lot of difficulties along the way.

Thanks for the inspiration!


Wow, Derek! What a great article and what an accomplishment. Major kudos for sharing all the twists and turns that led to your success.

You asked us to share our stories so here’s mine. I’ve reinvented myself several times since graduating college a decade and a half ago. First I went to grad school and was on-track to get my PhD in child psychology but then I realized I hated academia so I grabbed my Master’s Degree and bolted. Then I worked in the toy industry, creating hundreds of toys (many award-winners), but I realized I hated the cubicle scene and didn’t like being told what to do, so I bolted yet again. Then I went back to school for an MFA in children’s writing. I had a blast and learned a lot, but when I reflected on the MFA system, I thought “I could make this better.” So I created DIY MFA and I haven’t looked back since. Now I have students around the world, and I get to do what I love which is teach. Also, it turns out I’m a lot better at being a leader than at having a boss. Who knew?

A lot of what I learned about websites and blogging I got from you, so THANK YOU for being such an inspiration. Plus, I love that your work is always grounded in psychology because then that part of my brain gets to geek out a little every time you talk about research.

Keep doing what you’re doing! You rock!

Robyn Law

Wow Derek! I’ve been following you all that time, and the more you share of yourself the more you endear yourself to me (and the many fans you have I am sure).

Thanks for being authentic, funny and sharing your back story. I sometimes prefer these posts (like when you had your operation too) more than the other learning ones.

Well we always learn from these posts too.

I’m still in shock about your upbringing. Way to go for being the exception man!

Robyn x


Failure. Eliminating steps that didn’t work… not sure who said that, but it’s so true. I’m still failing, but at the same time I’m learning what doesn’t work. Thanks for sharing your story. Today’s tech world is confusing and there’s a lot of advice out there on how to promote and where. I think your story will help people get motivated and at least dip their toes into something they love. I’ll continue to build my web business and if it fails, well, so be it, at least I tried and can one day share “how-to-fail at starting a web business.”


Here is my situation in a nutshell. I am a “senior citizen” The housing bubble and the stock market crash took all of my savings and I am living on Social Security. Although I am no longer young, I am healthy and I figure I have +/- 30 years left. I’m not willing to spend the next 30 years scrimping and saving, but my options are limited.

Obviously, corporate America is not beating down my door – and I don’t want them to. I want to create a life of financial freedom without giving up all of my time.

I am an artist. I want to make a decent living by creating art and selling it. Currently, I’m selling note cards and prints made from my drawings and paintings in a couple of upscale gift shops.

I am also a writer. I have written a couple of children’s ebooks that have languished for lack of marketing. I earn a few bucks writing for content mills but have not learned how to attract higher paying gigs.

What I am not is a marketer. I cringe at the thought of marketing.

I need help. I need to learn how to market my skills. However, it seems like all of the coaches and gurus offering their services are focused on teaching people how to become coaches and gurus. I don’t want to be a coach or guru. I don’t want to develop programs and hold events to teach people to do what I do.

I want to market the skills I already have – and I don’t want to spend so much time marketing them that I don’t have time to create them.

This may not be in your wheelhouse. You may only be interested in young people who want to make 6 figures a year. I don’t know. But any advice pointing me in the right direction would be appreciated.


    Well, here’s the problem with being a writer in 2015. Magazines are dead, newspapers are dead, paperback book contracts for unknown writers are dead, but the people who worked on the magazines, on the newspapers, and the midlist books are NOT dead. Your competitors who want it enough to write AND market will simply push you out of the Amazon search results. Plus there’s flat out age discrimination. But I’ll say this: The market research has to come BEFORE you write a whole book. Otherwise, how do you know you’re writing something anyone wants to pay for? My first book contract/advance came from a one paragraph query! That just can’t happen any more but you still have to query first. You really do. If you google me, you’ll see I’ve written a ton including multiple traditionally published books over 30 years about pet birds. Simple reason: That’s what my buyers (editors, publishers) were willing to pay for. They didn’t want my vanity projects. As for the art, I only know that side as a customer but I’ve seen people get away from giving a stupid gift shop half the money from their sales simply by using Instagram & Etsy. I’m only on Instagram for fun but even I screwed up and sold something there the other day. It’s very visual, and people are friendly. Good Luck.


    Nancy, I’m in a similar situation — just turned 65, been an artist and writer all my life, and never made much money at any of it — partly because I don’t want to commercialize my work, and I’ve never loved marketing. It’s a conundrum. I’ve sold at craft fairs 45 years, 60 hour work weeks, and I’m getting tired. I’m taking this summer off from craft fairs to regroup. This past week, I re-edited 300 poems — NEEDED to get back to my writing. Next week, I start building a new website — adding a shopping cart, making it mobile-ready, etc — another project that’s way, way, overdue. Sometimes we need to breathe.


    You should check out http://artistswhothrive.com/
    Anne Rea is amazing and she speaks to exactly what you are struggling with.

Gina Su

Hi Derek,

I learned about you through Marie Forleo and now I am an avid follower of your work. I find it so inspiring when entrepreneurs like you share your struggle story – because it proves your success story.

I still don’t know where I am in my story because I have small successes and failures everyday. I help young professionals who are feeling unfulfilled with their career or body and use coaching to help them design a lifestyle that aligns with their ultimate goal. I also happen to sell yoga pants. 🙂 Who know if these 2 sides of my business can live together or if it’s another failure waiting to be uncovered. I guess we will see!

I am so thankful for your work and this kind of transparency. Thank you for always giving such great value Derek. I really enjoyed this article!

Much love,


Hi Derek,

I’ve been struggling to take action for the last year. Last January I started a corporate job. I had the same mindset you had; stand out, work my way up, and strive to be more successful. About 3 months into my job I read an article about how to create an app. I thought, I CAN DO THAT! And created my own app, called Pace My Run. My naive self thought that once I put the app on the App Store, it would begin to sell like crazy and is be rich! I Don’t have to tell you that it didn’t work out that way. While I’m still proud of the app, I felt like a failure. I had put time and money I to this, and had nothing to show for it. Then, I read the four hour work week, and ideas began to flood in. Too many ideas. I experienced analysis by paralysis. Should I do this? Should I do that? This idea seems better. Months went by and I did nothing. I went I to every weekend thinking “this is it! I’m taking action this weekend, and I’ll be able to quit my job soon!”. Week after week, month after month, my life passed me by while I felt miserable and stuck. I became fed up. Then, I remembered a quote I had heard in a YouTube video: “if you arent where you want to be, if you don’t have what you want to have, if you aren’t who you want to be, it has nothing to do with the system, and everything to do with you not making the sacrifice.”. I decided I could not think of ideas all week then try to implement them on the weekend. It never worked. Every Sunday evening I felt the pain of another failed weekend. It had to stop. Over the past few weeks, I have been taking small action every day. I’ve been staying up a little late, just trying to take at least one small step every day. And it’s working. I’m I. The process of building my first email list/blog. I am in the infant stages, however my list is starting to grow. I have made more progress by taking small action every day than by trying to take massive action every weekend. I also listened to an interview with Marie forleo in which she said “progress comes through motion, not standing still and thinking”. I don’t feel I am one to give some profound advice, but the most important thing I am beginning to realize is that action does come from motion. Just move! Take action! Try something new! As you do, you’ll realize more and learn faster than if you had just sat around planning these ect course of action. If you do that, you will never travel that perfect course. Thanks for sharing this Derek, I know this is helping a lot of people like me who have been feeling stuck.


    Hey there Kyle – if you get a minute, could you tell me what specific things you are using to slowly grow your list? I’m starting at literal zero and trying to be intentional about finding an audience… thanks in advance for any help and no worries if you are too pressed for time…



This one hits home with me, as it does with others. The biggest take-away for me, right now, is don’t be afraid of failure. Lean into the failing and learn from those experience, regroup, retry and take it on!


Derek! You rock, man! When you say you learned all the stuff you didn’t know. Where did you learn it? I too am not an exceptional speaker, and running a business is hard when you’re also doing all the work, so fess up! What trainings/books did you take to learn what you needed to learn? I’m ready!! Xoxo


I commend you for writing this post Derek. This year, I got a mediocre (after relocating to a new office) when in prior years, I was distinguished (this is a new manager). I was told that distinguished is never given, if it was then you shouldn’t be working for us.

Later, I followed up and the manager admitted that he had a hard time figuring out what a 5/distinguished was.

This broke my heart. How can someone so casually judge the lives of those under him without merit?

I have spent nearly 5 years in service of this agency. I manage their largest account. I relocated because I knew this account was doing poorly and I could turn it around (which I did) and have a mediocre for it. I busted my assignment to make this happen.

Believe me when I say I am angry and hurt beyond recognition. But, fine, whatever, I don’t give a damn.

I know now that I will not be here for the long run. This is likely my last year with them.

My business is my focus now so like you, I can hand in my pink slip.

Catherine | Fit Armadillo

Derek, this is an AWESOME post!

I’ve had a winding journey to my current job. Difficult bosses, multiple careers, degrees I “don’t use” you name it! Sometimes I would look at my resume and think that I was doomed.

But I now see that all of those experiences have made me uniquely qualified for my current job, the owner of my online fitness business, Fit Armadillo®, and the owner of the newest hot spot for certified fitness professionals, StartYourOwnFitnessBusines.com.

It’s hard picking a favorite tip from your list, but I love #2.

As a business coach for fitness professionals, I often have to talk people through their concern of working in a crowded industry. The truth is when you put your unique spin on any industry, it’s not all the crowded and it’s a LOT more FUN 🙂

Thanks for sharing your story with us! So glad you left corporate to lead us to be the exception!


Hi Derek,

Thanks for pulling back the curtain to reveal what it really takes to you get to where you are. Behind every success story is a list of failures but you pick yourself up, learn from it, and keep going. I’m starting a blog business myself with guidance from ZTL and it’s a struggle despite the playbook method. But your lessons learned resonate with me especially Lesson 5 and 7. Thanks for sharing your story. Love your blog posts!


All right, since you asked, I’ll share my story with you. I’ll share the real story, not the sob one that sells really well.

My entrepreneurial dreams started as little more than side projects; when I was thirteen, I built the website for my city’s Cub Scouts chapter. When I was fourteen, I bought busted Macbook Pros, refurbished them and sold them on eBay. But the “story” begins at fifteen, when all of my friends were getting food service jobs.

I was fifteen the year the iPad came out, and the idea of getting a food service job sounded awful. I knew I could do better than $7.50 an hour flipping burgers, and making an app sounded really cool. I went looking for my app idea, and found it in the then-terrible market of apps for autism (my autistic little brother exposed me to the terrible production quality) and I thought “I can do that!”

Do it I did (http://www.pufferfishapps.com/) and by sixteen I was winning a slew of high school entrepreneur awards. Despite all that, the most the apps ever made was $600-$1000 a month and I wasn’t satisfied. Neither did I want to stay in apps or the medical field – I wanted something more. This was a success in that it introduced me to the world of ‘entrepreneurship’ and got me noticed by my community but it was a failure in that the venture was never as good as I wanted it to be.

My next thing was, at seventeen, to make an app called SimpleList (http://www.getsimplelist.com). It’s still on the store, feel free to go take a look, and that project was set up for success – a rep from Apple even called me to say they wanted to feature it before it was made! Well, I messed up and the project drug on way too long, I lost the opportunity, and now it’s on the store a year and a half late and has made a whopping $0.68 for me. Big failure.

I started writing a book at the same time because I wanted to help other young teenagers build their own apps and get over their own beliefs that they can’t do it. Idea to App, by Megan Holstein, is less of a failure and pulled in about $350 since I self-published it. This was a failure because I KNOW the product is great and I had an email list of 1,500 and yet I still had an awful launch day because I didn’t target the right people and I’m crap at selling.

Now nineteen, I joined a consulting firm and am doing business analysis, content marketing and web design for this small company as well as product design for their clients. It makes better money than I’ve ever made before but it isn’t ‘the dream.’

The dream now is to be a published fiction and nonfiction author, with books ranging from personal philosophy to political philosophy to highborn fantasy fiction. Everything I’ve done before now has been a failure to some degree, and I feel like I’m going downhill. It’s hard for me to summon the courage to try anymore when I’m just getting older and less successful and farther away from my past successes.


    You are awesome! And way too young to lose faith. Our accomplishments always pale under our own self-effacing gaze but believe me, you have much to be proud of. So much so that even though I never comment on blogs I just had to say something as your comment spoke to me. Given everything you’ve listed, I was surprised at your concluding paragraph.

    Our dreams stay alive as long as we keep believing in them. As long as you’ve started writing at least one of those books I don’t see why it won’t come to pass. Just keep at it. I’d love to read the one on philosophy when you get done 😉


Great story Derek! It looks like you don’t have much to be ashamed of anymore :).

I think you are absolutely right. It takes time to build up a brand and to get things going. It’s funny that you mentioned Microsoft Excel in your article as I can relate completely. I’ve been able to become the office expert at Excel and I’ve build a website around selling and automating products in Excel.

I’m in the process of building a business that trains people on how to use Excel like I use Excel and also sell products that help people automate their business with products such as industry specific dashboards. This article made me realize that I need to really start promoting my business. I’m so focused on building new products and no focused enough on promoting existing products.

Anyway, thanks for helping me with a realignment with my strategy. Also, I must say I appreciate the fact that you’re also an Excel guru.

Cheers my friend,



Inspiring stuff indeed!

My backstory: My beginnings were pretty middle class, but my inner world has always been hampered by a father who loved me deeply while being crazy-misogynistic. I’ve felt “not good enough” for a huge chunk of my life.

But I’m enthusiastic. I’m strong. And, most of all, I’m a learner.

I’ve tried several times to start a business on the side, but this time I have that same I CAN DO THAT attitude (my, how I love your all caps – I didn’t realize that those were just what I needed to add to my own!) and at 43 my world is starting to come alive.

I keep thinking that there’s a lot to learn – but then I keep thinking that I can. Just starting my little baby site with help from Ramit Sethi’s Zero-to-Launch course, and your article just compliments his advice perfectly.

Thanks for all the great information. I continue to come back for your awesomeness. 🙂


Great read! Good timing, too. Right when I was feeling down on my luck. We work so hard at the entrepreneurial thing and you start to wonder when it’s ever going to pay off. I’m definitely going to focus #1 and #6. Thanks for the inspiration, Derek!


HI Derek,

Amazing story! But one thing that really struck chord with me is taking responsibility for your life. I come from the same shitty background but managed to turn my life around. Sadly, I can’t say the same for my siblings. They’ve always enjoyed blaming my parents for their failures. Thanks and take care!

    Ben Wilson

    We’re on the same page Bartosz. I’ve never known Derek as a tough fellow, even though I read his blogs and watch his hilarious marketing + psychology videos. I know the feeling of having an aunt who wouldn’t listen to explanation, even when she would benefit from them.

    I used to blame everyone for whatever happens to me, but I made a decision to stop doing so a few years ago, and did it change my perception about life – sure it did!

    Now I enjoy a thriving business, and I hope to continue because the joy of succeeding isn’t in the success itself, but the process and events that led you there.

    Thank you so very much Derek. I’m humbled by your story.


Inspirational and reassuring Derek!
I’m at a low point now trying to regain footing. I was at the top of the summit two years ago with my company only for the rug to be pulled out .. Due to my own ignorance.. I’ve been struggling up the side of the mountain ever since to again stand atop that summit. I’m a member of zippy courses and will be submitting my first course to help others soon… Hopefully my advice can help others avoid my mistakes. Your experience and articles are a great source of comfort mixed with a good dose of A** kicking.
Just what I need. 🙂


Followed you for a while Derek and always wanted to hear your backstory. If you wrote a book on this subject I would buy it.


I rarely comment on blogs not related to my industry but i just had to comment on this. Im right in the middle of a startup that is floundering due to unforeseen Goverment regulations. This was very encouraging.


thanks for sharing.

I especially liked the part where you say “I can do that”.


Thank you Derek! Just what I needed to read today! I am changing completely the way I do business and it will go against what most people in my industry do so I feel stuck and paralyzed before starting but worst case I fail, not the end of the world and I will still stand back up. Feeling motivated now 🙂

Charles Specht

Derek, this is a fantastic article. I appreciate your open, transparent testimony and back story. It is a breath of fresh air!

I’m getting my consulting agency kicked off, as I write this, and will be using your software product (Zippy Courses) to do it. So thanks for starting to help others a few years back, because it has allowed me to be helped today.



I have a problem with saying “I can do that too” a little to much. I see pretty things around me that other people are doing and I get distracted by it b/c I really can do that too. But I don’t have time for all of those things. I need to keep my focus. Not being focused “is my fault” (Lesson 6). I’ll work on it.

Thanks Derek for being open about your story. It’s inspiring.


Hi Derek,

Reading your story made me more confident of what i am doing now. I have to say i had more luck growing in a happier family than you. Simple people, working people. Last year i launched my blog ( i don’t know if i am allowed to tell the name, i rather don’t) I am not commenting here to get more traffic like many do. I am not against this but today is not the case for me :).
Many times i thought why i even bother, there are so many blogs in my niche. Why will mine be better. But reading your posts for a while, and other’s, why not. I can do that too, right? why are them better than me? what’s is the difference between them and me? the country we live in? age, education? what? money? what they have, i can have that too. I only have to work for my dream.
Thank you for your post again.

Sergio Felix

I’m exactly at this point right now: “Quit your job and figure it out later.”

Only I won’t figure it out later at all and I won’t be jumping with both feet either, I need some cash for at least 2-3 months so I can think clearly.

And I also have a few plans (plan A, plan B, etc) in place.

I can’t wait to literally quit my damn job and have the required time to thrive with the things I know and can do for others.


PS. I’m not doing it right now because I tried juggling both things at once (full time work and full time online business) and got really, really sick from it (in terms of health related problems).

Anthony Santiago

Hi Derek,

Awesome post about your journey where you are today. I think alot of people can relate to the fears and challenges that can keep us hostage of our own demise. Truth be told, to be successful take work, alot of it and the determination to see it through no matter what.

I agree wholeheartedly regarding taking responsibility. That is a common excuse, IF ONLY, if only this or that. When you are truthful to yourself and take responsibility for yourself that is when breakthroughs happen.

Thanks for sharing.


Do you have a conference soon?
I would like to hear details


Holy shit.

Derek, we met very briefly in NYC two years ago now at an RBT event. I’ve been following your work since then but been pretty quiet. This article hit hard and I had to tell you so. I had an inkling of your history but no idea of the whole story.

I think my favorite part is how you kept thinking “I CAN DO THAT TOO!” and how honest you are about your failures. It gives a person hope.

I graduated college around the time you did and thought I’d make the family proud by going to law school. I started my career on Wall Street and guess what? I sucked at it. I didn’t see the point of sitting at a desk when I could be creating things of value for people (and that brings me to the second huge lesson in your post – promotion).

When I lost my job, I couch surfed for a while and even moved back to my parents.

My first business failed because I didn’t do any research beforehand and realized my market had no money or interest in what I was selling. I willingly closed my second business, even though it was making me money, because it didn’t align with my true purpose and I felt it was distracting me from serving the people who need me most.

Two years ago I couldn’t imagine running a successful business or going public. Now I’m working with private clients and being invited to speak to audiences. Today I just discovered Gabby Bernstein. My dream is to do lightwork on the level she’s doing with helping people uncover their greatness and serve the world.

Thanks for sharing such a great story, Derek.


Hey Derek,

Great post! Really enjoy when you intertwine your personal experiences with actionable tips/lessons.

I was in a similar boat as you were… In 2012 I graduated college and I was let go (*cough* fired *cough*) from two different jobs. This led me to a confused, depressed time in my life where I questioned what the heck I was doing with my career. So, instead of only giving it 70% working in the corporate world, I decided to give it 100% working for myself.

Fast forward to 2015, at 24, I own a six-figure agency and consult for some of the top companies in their industry. I credit some of this success to insights I’ve learned from Social Triggers.

Like you, if I hadn’t gone through all the corporate world bologna, I would have never been pushed to start my own business.


Derek you rock. Your success story is the result of never, never giving up. Thank you for sharing, you’ve inspired me to keep going!


Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! I can relate to so many of the things you went through! I love lesson #6 because it’s so true – if you don’t take responsibility for what happens, you’ll never grow and you’ll keep doing things the same old way over and over again…


Great article! It gives me hope ;-). You are inspiring, thank you.

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