Courtesy of quotefancy.com and Frank Zappa

The Glory & Gratitude Behind Building Anything Out of Nothing

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.” — Thomas J. Watson

Allow me to provide context on this week’s blog prior to moving forward. I’ve always enjoyed building things especially at a young age when I was fascinated with drawing and toys, but mainly legos. The process of taking pieces out of a large box, reading the instructions on how to build it (most of the time), and finishing with a completed structure or object fascinated me. Now, twenty years later, I’m still marveled at building things but now these have turned into businesses, organizations, teams, websites, blogs, and much more.

This is simply me relaying my obsession with entrepreneurship and creating opportunities, not boasting about my accomplishments because in reality I’ve done very little in a quarter century. I do remember in my late teen’s and early twenties being encouraged by individuals who had both time and financial freedom. Right there I was sold on entrepreneurship, especially taking multiple classes on the topic at W&J College, having great mentors and engulfing myself in many readings and stories of icons.

A typical entrepreneur often is a man or woman who comes up with an idea, starts a company, and then sees the process through and plays and important role in the day to day operations of the new company or startup. On the contrary, a serial entrepreneur starts and leads one business after another or, multiple businesses at the same time, until exit, selling the company, or retirement. I wasn’t sold myself on the last one or jumping from ship to ship. Either way, there’s your clarification in case you were wondering.

What I plan to do is highlight 10 feats I was able to be apart of in my early 20’s, what I learned from those experiences, and relay why the positives of being an entrepreneur outweigh the traditional system we’ve grown accustom to over the previous 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years. Let’s go!


During the summer of my junior year of college, going into the fall of my senior year, my roommate and I both interned for Csenge Advisory Group. A smaller wealth management and insurance company based out of Clearwater, Florida but operating in Washington, Pennsylvania as well. While interning with my roommate we were tasked with helping the managing partner and other financial planner build out their surrounding website and expand upon their social media efforts. Any business operating in 2001, 2014, 2017 and beyond needs a front-facing site, there’s no arguing that. What I primarily learned from this three month experience was that I need to be teachable in learning a new system like WordPress and the importance of paying for online service providers.


In addition to Csenge’s website, I helped build the site for Washington & Jefferson College’s Men’s Rugby Club. I was the Captain & President my last two years so I didn’t have much of a choice with this one! The site functioned as a tool for everyone to see fall and spring schedules, current rosters, film, our club’s story and much more. The addition of a GoPro for filming games and watching them afterwards helping our players learn the game much faster. Whether it’s business or sports, a plan is always viable and needs to be executed. What I learned here is that for any future success of the club, once we graduated, a simple and user-friendly website needed to be operational.


As a stepping stone for our WordPress site, I also created a Twitter page in order to gain a strong following for our rugby club. We mainly posted practice times, fall and spring season schedules and other fun items. It’s Twitter, make your tweets somewhat ridiculous, right! What I took away from this experience is not to take yourself too serious and to have fun more times than not. This helped our current players and Bloodbath alumnus to stay in contact.


In one of the coldest winters I’ve ever witnessed, I was one of 30 students to participate in the Fullbridge XBA Program in January of 2015. Hands down, this class changed the course of my trajectory into entrepreneurship. I’m confident in saying that after being taught by a Wall Street consultant, former NASA employee then turned hedge fund manager and having a great team to work with. Long story short, the three-week program in entrepreneurship focused on the fundamentals of success as a career entrepreneur. Below is the course description:

2015 Fullbridge XBA in Entrepreneurship Class Description

The biggest takeaway and learning experience had involved our 5 person teams last project. We had to create a company, propose its creation and business plan, support our findings with our analytics and then pitch the company to the “Fullbridge Coaches” and class during a sales presentation. Long story short, our first idea wasn’t sustainable so we had to scratch the idea with two days left and come up with a new one. Our Hibiscus company and product came out to be the final choice, and with perseverance and grit, we crafted a slam-dunk presentation that everyone was pleased with. At first some of us were discouraged by our failure but quickly we learned from it and found success elsewhere.


I promise not to bore any of my readers with the regression or economics dissertation during the spring semester of my senior year but I was proud at the time to complete this independent study. Thankfully the project was on time and met the requirements for my major and I passed the presentation in front of the entire economics department staff and other students! The study was long and my paper even longer. A lot of political data was supported, energy information too, in addition to scholarly articles from around the U.S., which taught me the importance of research and credibility. What I quickly found from this is that I did not want to continue more dissertations, regressions or data analytics in graduate school or beyond. The experiential learning was more practical than was the theoretical learning for me.


Graduating in the summer of 2015 was great, and not having to study or read all of the time anymore was even better. However, this was short lived as I began in June to study for my insurance license, as well as my investments licenses. I didn’t want to become complacent so I knew picking up books and reading again was bound to happen. It’s mind-boggling to think that some individuals never continue their self-education and stop after formal education. Nonetheless, even I’m still amazed at how much I’ve personally read in the past two years because trust me I did not grow up enjoying reading my any means! The most important lesson I learned though is that if someone has what you want you are most definitely able to attain that which they have through both hard and smart work. Knowing the average CEO reads 40–60 books each year inspired me to do the same. A continued life of learning and reading is one I’d highly suggest, I’ll say that until I’m red or blue in the


Who else use to get nervous, anxious, sweat, scared or even fainted at the thought of public speaking before? My hands raised! I certainly didn’t have the confidence at first to speak in front of 10 or 20 people let alone rooms or stages of thousands of people. Developing a public speaking skillset propelled not only my finance careers, but also my personal business career too. What I learned from this, and I could go on and on, is that the best way to start speaking in front of people is to just speak in front of people. You will not like it at first. You’ll “hate” the person that told you to go on stage but after you get up there and say what you need to say you’ll be grateful that person gave you the shot. That my friends is the only way you’ll begin to start building the skills. Repetition, exuding confidence and practice is the mother of success.


With everything you’ve read up to this point it’s fair to say I (and others too) enjoy entrepreneurship, correct? I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but when coming out of college it was incredibly challenging being in debt, having very little money, no real skills, a very small network and practically being thrown alive into a pool of sharks. What I’m grateful for are the friends who did support me during those trying times and choosing for myself to start a part-time business on the side of my full-time work in financial services. That my friends is called ancillary income and is the magic of part-time.

I understood the trends of traditional brick-and-mortar stores closing down because of high inventory and rents, employee costs, turnover, changing economic trends and much more. Where are those sales, products and services were going was online in the form of e-commerce. Makes sense to get a piece of the pie, am I right? Building upon consulting, teamwork, proven 21st century marketing and tools, as well as systemization and a genius product brokerage element are many things that I am grateful for pursuing at such a young age. What this taught me was how important it is to associate with positive people who want more out of their lives as well as their families and parents lives.


Second to last, I’m glad for the career change I experienced in 2017 moving forward into 2018. Going from full commission based pay as a financial adviser to helping to scale and build annuity sales, analytics and email marketing for a New York based insurance and financial technology startup was an interesting transition. I’m grateful to still have a job in my field of study but I still knew there was more out of life than limited pay and my hours being controlled by another human being. What I’ve learned, and am still learning from this everyday, is the importance of time management and valuing the own hours I’m able to create. I’m working for my own dreams and goals, not for the weekends anymore. Once you realize and execute on that, everything will change.


Lastly, I’m delighted to talk about this one because we’re using the platform right now! During October 2017, I’m happy to say I broke even on my Medium investment and am starting to turn a profit after 12 months of blogging. Investing in yourself, as well as Medium’s Partner Program, has been huge for me and thousands of other bloggers. It goes to show there is joy in building anything, especially a blog, out of literally thin air. The lesson here is to never give up after only one person reading or viewing your work. One is always greater than zero. Additionally, it takes time and patience for anything great to come out of life’s work. A dogged optimism is needed in entrepreneurship and in life anymore these days. I’ll continue to write, type and blog until my fingers fall off. Medium’s platform is phenomenal and I‘m not saying that to simply toot my own horn or brag. In the end, the journey’s what matters!

Ernest Hemingway quote and notebook cover I was inspired by reading in a Maui, Hawaii merchant shop

I’m confident this perspective and my journey over the past few years has inspired and motivated at least one of you to choose or continue grinding it out along the entrepreneurial path. It beats corporate america and the typical decades plus long plan and hopes to one day become financially free. 95% of the time though people are still struggling financially at 65–70 years of age. Let’s continue to think much higher level thinking and elevate our minds, skillsets and perspectives to realize time and financial freedom are attainable for anyone who is willing to put in the work. Have a great day everyone!

My Very Best,

Donovan Vogel

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