Lessons I Learned Pursuing Entrepreneurship

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From the moment I left nursing school I knew. As I extrapolated life paths into their extremes, like I do with most things, I had to become an entrepreneur.

I was leaving a path that almost guaranteed a steady job with a well-placed income. I could advance by taking more classes and getting into good hospitals. That good solid tick-tac-toe strategy that wins you the game.

I remember writing a post about it at the time and feeling like I would stop at nothing to become an entrepreneur. To me that meant working on projects I loved. It meant having the autonomy to make decisions for their directions. It meant working with people rather than for them.

I’ve always been a tinkerer. I started tinkering with my mindset and my belief system. I started learning about business. I designed my college major to reflect the areas I was most interested in, like psychology and communications. But most importantly I tried starting businesses.

In all my tinkering I’ve learned that if you really want to figure something out you have to dive into it head first. You have to screw it up and figure out what it is you actually have to learn. You can read all the books in the world but if you’ve never touched water I’m not sure how close you’re going to get with just a description.

But beyond all that, Braveheart wouldn’t STOP SCREAMING in my EAR!!!

FREEDOMMMM

I committed to starting business. I made my objective in the beginning the pure pursuit of ideas for the outcome of learning. To me, the only way I could fail was if I didn’t try anything. I can’t exactly remember how I picked my first business, but I remember thinking it was brilliant and I was totally going to crush it.

It was a college cleaning company. I thought of the logo one day on a long run observing the Milwaukee graffiti under the bridges. I went to work on Photoshop trying to make my idea a reality. I knew being my first time I had to put progress over perfection.

Spit Shine LLC

Time to think of a plan. I had a friend’s mom who sold green cleaning products, I would give her a call and see if she could help me find my supplies. I ran numbers for what I should be able to expect the business to make and what I could spend if I wanted to make a profit.

I thought about who I wanted to work with and started asking girlfriends if they wanted to earn some extra money and be a part of a business opportunity. I found 3-5 that seemed very interested, they could be relied on.

I also posted on forums. I found a group called something like 0-100k where the members would post their ideas and record their progress. Something about writing a process down as I go really helps me to solidify my thinking.

Members gave me suggestions and recommended books to learn about cleaning.

I came up with the name Spit Shine for some reason. Maybe I thought it appealed to the audience I was trying to market to.

Spit Shine Poster

I threw house parties weekly for a couple years during my middle years of college. It taught me a lot about business, but it also taught me how much people hated cleaning up the mess afterwards. Ah, now I remember where I came up with the idea.

I was at a friend’s house in Madison and they were all super tired getting up after a house party. I wanted one of the owners of the house to come with me to a tea shop on State Street but he said he couldn’t leave until the house got cleaned. So I set to cleaning up the house with him. Seemed more fun than sitting around the house or walking to State Street alone.

I could see no one else was excited to do it and I felt like it would be nice to help them out. Well, the work went pretty quickly. My second load of dishes goes by and I snap out of my trance to realize the place actually looks pretty nice. That wasn’t too bad, people benefited from it, the scenario repeats itself hundreds of times on a single campus so it had scalability.

College campus cleaning service. Spit shine. I’ll employ hot cleaners and dress them up in hockey uniforms with the spit shine logo on it and I’ll send them to clean up after college parties when everyone is hangover and lazy with a big mess and a bunch of extra (nothing) money.

I still remember how good it felt to have gotten out of the bank holding my first company credit card with ‘Spit Shine LLC’ on it. I can still walk out those doors and smell that breeze. Possibly because the door was directly above the dumpsters where the trucks loaded the trash from the union’s cafeteria. Regardless.

The number one lesson I learned from starting Spit Shine

I had to be passionate about what I was doing. I couldn’t care less if people wanted clean houses after their party. The daunting task of the job required great motivation to keep afloat. If I didn’t care about its overall message I knew it would be much harder to find the motivation to continue when things got really challenging. I exited quickly.

I see the debate. ‘Love what you’re doing’ goes up against ‘you have to make money.’ And the discussion seems to quickly shift into talk about ‘working hard’ and ‘pushing through tough times.’ I don’t believe we should settle for a world where those two things are not compatible.

At the end of the day, you should enjoy how you are spending your time. And I would be willing to bet that your path will be a lot sharper and go a lot quicker when you’re floating through something you love doing. We’ve all had experiences of getting lost in an experience and time floating by effortlessly as if it were a waking dream.

New perspectives from the eyes of poker

I knew from the kinds of work I was doing in other directions how much more effective I was when my passion was aligned with what I was perusing. I was so mad crazy in love with online poker I put it above pretty much all other things. Before I got into nursing school my major was pre-med. I wanted to be a doctor, because it always had the highest salary on the sheets they passed around school and I knew I could handle blood because I once responded with a clear head when I saw a close friend get blown up before our hockey meeting.

My pre-med courses had about 20% of my time. To me it was a continuation of the spelling and grammar lessons from high school. Only now I liked to read books and learning was super fun to me. I used my passion for learning to try and make it big in online poker. I worked my bankroll up from $50 and started playing games where wins and losses reached some pretty cool sizes. I got a taste of being able to spend any money I wanted and dreamed of scaling it up to that of Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, durr, Phil Galfond, and Cole south.   I invested in software that tracked my hands and coaching websites that ran you though the strategies of the games highest earners. I found favorites in pr1nnyraid and Foxwoods Fiend. I would give anything to know how to play like them.

And I did. Or I tried to. In some ways poker was a good thing. Other times I was neglecting important areas of my life that would later translate themselves into my results. I stopped drinking as much because I couldn’t afford to have a day off hangover where I couldn’t think strait.

Tberg 2knl

I stopped going downstairs to play halo with my roommates because I felt it was a distraction from learning about or playing poker. I neglected my health and my sleeping patterns. I stopped exercising and ate way too much fast food. I read a little bit about ‘the poker mindset’ but I didn’t yet realize how profound its impact could be. That wouldn’t come until a breakup made me reevaluate how I was living my life. Having 80% of my focus on poker ensured my grades wouldn’t rise above a 3.3. Thankfully this stopped me from choking myself in med school.

#1 lesson learned from online poker

Passion, drive and hard work aren’t enough if you let the other areas of your life slide. I’ve since learned that the areas I neglected have huge benefits. Both to your life in general and the outcome of the task you are attempting to accomplish. Abraham hicks would say “One who is connected is more powerful than a million who are not.” A profound statement.

I sometimes regretted not forming better relationships with my roommates because I isolated myself in my room. I didn’t know how important of an impact a couple more games of halo could have on a friendship. And that’s really all it took to get to know someone better. It taught me how important it was to cultivate and maintain relationships outside of my main focus. Those relationships help you unwind and forget about projects if they reach a sticking point.

People are fun, isolation is lonely. Not to mention people have priceless life experiences you can reflect ideas off of. I’ve realized how important connections are in moving through life and it only takes one person who knows one person to open up some of the most beautiful majestic doors you would never think about without being in their experience.

Poker was a great platform to learn these things because it felt like every decision I made would be directly reflected in my results. And those results could be the difference between poppin’ bottles and driving any car you want or having to get a part time job at Qdoba to support my burrito and quesadilla obsession. If I was feeling like S%# I made bad decisions. If I was in a fight with a friend I made bad decisions. If I wasn’t operating at my absolute highest level I would raise the chances of losing money. And every $100 lost was $200 I had to make the next day to keep progressing towards my goals.

After the breakup I shook off the trance I was in with poker and began trying to get every other area of my life in shape with the same intensity I brought to poker. It opened me up to tony Robbins tapes and philosopher notes. I shifted my desire for learning from poker to self-help books and nutrition. And I started practicing.

I would put myself in situations I felt uncomfortable with. I saw firsthand how much the rest of my life benefited each time I was able to expand my comfort zone. It allowed me to meet new people, and join different groups.

I began exercising every day and experimenting with different ways of eating. And I found meditation. Which is, to this day, one of the most powerful tools I have ever used to shape my life. I absolutely love it. A wonderful new addiction.

The new shape I was getting in allowed me to increase the challenge of the physical events I could take on. This exposed me to a whole new level of person which I never would have met as a fat stick snackin’ on chips.

Most of all I felt good. I felt soo good. My energy was as high as I could remember it. I remember watching the movie limitless and feeling so profoundly like that was an exaggeration of my exact experience. I even felt the same need to keep the house cleaned on this side effect free NZT.

My new focus gave me new passions. One of the people who got me started on my next passion was Joe Rogan. I was deeply obsessed with things that would allow me to squeeze extra functioning or power out of my mind now that I got a glimpse of what meditation could do.

Must acquire floatation tank

I heard Joe Rogan talking about the floatation tank he had in his home. He described many of the same effects I had while listening to binaural beats. I became quickly obsessed with floatation tanks. My passion for entrepreneurship did not fade in the slightest during this time.

The more I looked into floatation the more it made sense as a business. It was something I could fall in love with. I desperately wanted a tank in my own home but without 40k to spend on one my business solution ensured I would be able to float daily. It was time to try and start a floatation center.

This seemed to me like a much better project and one I was extremely serious about perusing. It didn’t take me long to convince my parents that it was a good idea, they seemed excited even. My mom helped me with the business side of the world I was entering. On top of all the reading I was doing I started reaching out to different types of people and using their services.

I met with a lot of designers and design firms. One guy in particular was a big name in Madison and only took on jobs he felt like. I drove to his place an hour away about once a week to develop a game plan. He actually developed the float hub logo for me.

Float HubI dove into the real world of starting a business far beyond what I ever through about touching with Spit Shine. I met with realtors and walked around with them to pick out buildings. I saw what it would take to run a center. My mom and I put together a really nice business plan with all the fixings. I cashed out poker winnings and bought myself a nice suit to wear when I presented the plan to bankers.

suit

I felt firsthand what it was like to present myself in a room of strong people with preconceived notions about what does and doesn’t work. Being a 23 year old kid with a dream and an unproven concept looking for $300,000 tested my selling skills.

It’s funny, even when you don’t achieve a result you originally set out to achieve, you can often end up better off afterwards than if you had gotten the result in the first place. The process taught me that I didn’t want to have to use other people’s money. It taught me a lot about business and a lot about how to go about starting one. It taught me what was important and what wasn’t. I learned a ton from every professional I had conversations and advanced my understanding greatly. It also taught me that it was important to work with what I already had.

My biggest lesson from Float Hub

Find a business that didn’t require massive amounts of startup capital. And with my new wisdom I took off again into the world. I realized also that I didn’t want a business that would become a job. Something that would trap me once I started it. After visiting Vietnam and having renewed aspirations for travel I for sure didn’t want to be tied down to some physical location I had to manage day in and day out. And in a town I am now so grateful to have moved away from.

The process was beautiful. I had so much fun pursuing these businesses and learning from the process I never felt like a failure when one of them ended for a period of time. I have no doubt that float hub will come back in some form in the future, but I couldn’t be much happier with where putting that project on the side burner has allowed me to get in my life.

The next big thing(s)

As float hub ran into difficulties with funding I set out with new intentions. I needed a business that would align with my passions but could be started on sweat equity with very little money so I wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else. I also began to realize that I didn’t want to have to start over every day. I wanted to build a snowball that would began to roll downhill. Something I could put time into once but would pay me again with little or no maintenance. I found the term ‘passive income.’ I was in love.

Passive income could be earned in a variety of ways I would come to find out. In visiting local entrepreneur meet-ups I was introduced to Nate who seemed to have his hand in more different streams of passive income than I could begin to wrap my mind around. The guy seemed to know everything there was to know about the internet.

He talked to me about outsourcing, SEO, building websites, affiliate marketing, PPC Advertising and finding leads. I searched his wisdom for an Idea I could put into action. After our second time meeting for coffee we had the idea to start ‘Live Optimized.’

It was to start as a website and a book series. We would attract an audience and provide them with affiliate products to purchase and monetize the traffic with Google AdWords. It was BRILLIANT!

I went to work on testing the concept. Nate made the website and took care of the SEO stuff. I had been playing with a blog previously but this would give me a platform to further develop my writing. I remembered when I first started listening to philosopher notes with Brian Johnson. I was thinking about how cool it was that he just reads books for a living and makes summaries to share them with people. And how he was crushing it.

Live OptimizedI look back at this moment with fond memories. I realize how this experience set the groundwork for everything I am doing now. Nate walked me into the world holding me by the hand and since it has been up to me to figure the whole thing out.

I’m still soaking up the lessons from Live Optimized

It set me on my current course. After our live optimized website went down I realized how important it was to learn the web design and SEO skills myself. I was able to both outsource books and release them myself. I grew in my skills of content writing and spent months rewriting copy to learn copywriting. I began to explore the online world pretty ferociously. Each skill continues to build upon the other skills.

I outsourced books, software, data scraping and ran an overseas call center that cold called leads for different companies. I’ve gotten commission checks from Amazon, Google AdWords and clickbank. I created YouTube videos, started a podcast, made websites, grew followings on blogs and social media and experimented with SEO. I love how I spend my time. Every day I write content, build websites and tinker with things like UAV’s and 3D printing. I’m able to meditate, workout, eat healthy and enjoy my relationships.

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I continue to teach myself new skills and expand my abilities. I learned how to edit graphics with Photoshop, edit video with Vegas pro and I’m currently teaching myself CAD using Solid Works. I continually get better at turning my ideas into reality.

I may not have accomplished all of my goals yet, but I don’t believe I ever will. You don’t go on vacation in order to arrive back home again, and you don’t become an entrepreneur just to have a business. It’s the process of becoming that is enjoyable. It’s the huge leaps and bounds of progress you see yourself making along the way.

Setback after setback helps you to refine what your goals are. Each experience providing you with a new level of wisdom you can apply to your later pursuits. Sticking true to my intentions, never letting up on my goal. I know now, with more clear a head than ever before, the only way I will fail is if I stop trying.

Excited for where I am, thrilled by what’s to come.  Happiest of trails.

Love,

Travis

 

Update: 2 Months Later I got asked on Reddit for an update. Here is my reply.

It seems all the things I have been dabbling in have built an understanding I am using now to create a brand for myself. I found that the best way to build an audience is to ride on the coat tails of already popular keywords or people or ideas.

I also learned that I do not want a job. It’s one thing to be great at the game you are playing, it’s another thing to be playing a great game. I feel I have finally found a great game. One that does not require my daily attention. Where I can schedule out my workflow for weeks ahead of time and tend to it on my terms. Where I hire people for their content and mold it into my vision.

I have a 7 mo old son and I have been staying home with him, which is great. I work when he sleeps or when mom comes home. My work is doing stuff I enjoy and I am outsourcing the things I don’t want to spend time on.

It’s still too early to get into many specifics but I am at the beginning stages of starting a media company. Revenue is growing quickly – it’s around $200/day and increasing daily. This is ~month 2 of things starting to click. I have some immediate plans for rapid expansion that are super low cost as of now and some medium term things I will implement as my budget increases.

Gramma is in town and with my son today and tomorrow freeing me up to work on scheduling out tasks until October so I can focus on streamlining my content creators. I recently hired 12 writers and 1 editor for creation round 1. I’m starting to get content back. Once I get the process dialed I’ll expand this rapidly. They do the work I don’t want, I focus on marketing, advertising, customer acquisition. Stuff I love to think and read about.

I believe I’ll be able to double revenue by the middle of august and schedule the bulk of my work out until October so all that is needed from me is a few weekly check-ins. Then spend the end of august and September visiting family and traveling.

Mom is planning to leave her job as a Montessori teacher at the end of this month and coming home to tend child, giving me more time. She’ll also be putting time into her personal brand. Shes been listening to podcasts on the way to work and reading 4 hour work week. Shes awesome. We want to get paid to live our lives by building personal brands, travel, do fun shit and work on projects we’re passionate about. So far so good!

 

Click Here for Entrepreneur Journey Part 2!

 

About Travis

I'm half man half spirit.
The soul of a wizard.
An expanding awareness of space.
Experience always in place.