How I Made My First $1,000,000
It took me 15 months to make my first $1,000,000.
Actually, scratch that.
It took 6 years. I had to make half-a-million, then lose it all (plus some) first. I had to be homeless — twice — and suffer through what I’ve deemed “my summer of suicidal discontent”.
Actually, scratch that too.
It took me 29 years to make $1,000,000. My whole life.
As much as I’d like to give you the step-by-step instructions to making your first $1,000,000, I can’t.
Although I’m sure someone out there is greedy/skeesy enough to take your money in exchange for a “Million Dollar Blueprint” —I’m not. Besides, you don’t want to do it like I did it.
My way is the hard way.
How To Make $1,000,000 The Hard Way
Step #1. Try Everything
If you’re like me and you absolutely suck at making decisions, then don’t.
Try stuff instead and let the results decide for you.
The kind of market research you can afford isn’t going to tell you anything significant anyway. To make good business decisions, you need hard data. You can buy it (for $1,000s) or you can get it from doing your own active testing.
By doing stuff.
One is significantly better (and cheaper too).
“Will this headline convert for my sales page?”
Run traffic to it and find out.
“Will this book I wrote actually sell?”
Publish it, market it, and find out.
“Is this blog post going to attract my dream customer/get read by anyone?”
Test it and find out.
I’ve started a chocolate candy company, a Pay-for-Performance SEO firm, a reputation management agency, an information marketing company, a t-shirt selling business, a full-blown digital ad agency, a health blog, a copywriting agency, 7 fiction pen names & one nonfiction pen name.
All but three have failed (and I’m about to ditch the other one).
I’ve written 36 books, hired and fired over 47 staff, and made and lost then made that money back again twice. I’ve grown, then downsized, then grew, then downsized again the same company at least half a dozen times in the past year.
I’ve run Facebook ads, Twitter ads, purchased email drops, run Youtube ads, wrote content, tried SEO etc., etc., etc.
I don’t wait to decide. I just do it.
If I have an idea for a book, I don’t think about writing it, I write it.
If you’re still reading this, you have things floating around in your brain that you just need to do. You need to test. Get the hard data.
Stop thinking you can predict the future. You can’t.
Try everything instead.
Step #2. Stop Whining & Start Serving
Following your passion is a terrible way to make $1,000,000.
Despite the worn-out trope of “rich-guy-as-cold-hearted-evil-doer” self-centeredness is a major hindrance in creating your first $1,000,000.
“BUT IT’S MY PASSION!” isn’t a compelling argument for money to change hands. Nobody cares what you like. No matter how many times you tweet about it.
They only care what you can do for them.
It doesn’t mean people are evil (but they are). It means they are like you — self-centered. Their world is most important to them.
Use this knowledge to your advantage.
Create things for other people. Do things for other people. Serve people.
Want to make $126,458.95 per month as a writer?
Then stop writing books for yourself, and start writing books for your audience.
Your bank account is a direct reflection of the value that you provide to others in the marketplace. Both in scope and on the individual level.
But it ain’t easy…
I hate writing. As a kid I promised myself I would never — under any circumstances — have a career chained to a desk. Now I spend 12–14 hours per day sitting in a windowless room typing on a screen.
But writing is how I serve. I’m just barely good enough at it to get paid.
Serving people is hard. They are mostly ungrateful, stingy, and negative. They are needy. You have to work long hours to keep them happy. You won’t always get to have fun while you do it. Sometimes you’ll have to work for free.
Get over it. I did.
Learn how to practice The Art Of The Grind.
If you think it’s artistic suicide to create something for an audience instead of for yourself…
… then you aren’t allowed to complain when nobody buys it (and you fundementally misunderstand art).
Find a way you can serve others. Then do it without whining, long enough to get paid for it.
You might have to try more things. I did. Turns out I can’t stand building links for a living. I can’t cold call for offline clients. I can’t sleep at night selling information products either.
But you might be able to.
Point is, find out what you can do to serve other people, then do it as much as possible. Even when it hurts.
Step #3. Do It Until…
Don’t give up. Ever.
Pick something and don’t stop doing it until you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to accomplish.
This is only my second post to Medium. My first one got precisely zero engagement from Medium’s readers.
I will be writing for Medium until I generate 1,000,000 reads. Not if, but until.
How long will it take?
What if it doesn’t happen?
What if it does? Besides, the 1,000,000 reads metric is just one benefit. Mastery is the goal.
Even if I don’t succeed, I’ll have succeeded.
And that’s the point. That’s the whole damn thing.
True Story: $1,000,000 ain’t shit.
First off, the government is gonna swoop down and take half. Your accountant, lawyers, financial managers all get a piece too. Got debt? Pay it off first or it’ll take more of your money in the future.
Let’s assume you’re a lucky bastard and you get to keep $400,000 of your $1,000,000.
That doesn’t really get you all that much.
I’m 29. I can’t retire off of $400,000 right now. I still have to work hard. The $1,000,000 didn’t buy me any sort of freedom.
If I wanted to buy myself a second home, $400,000 doesn’t really get you anything you’d want to live in here in Portland. Not with kids anyways.
… if you cared about the money, but I don’t.
The $1,000,000 is just a metric. A solid way to measure progress.
It’s like joining the cross country team in High School. You train every day to run a 5-kilometer race (the metric). You push yourself harder and harder to beat your time. You aim your entire life towards the metric — that 5-kilometer race.
But that’s not why you run cross country.
You run it for the friendships. You run to test yourself. To stay in shape. To do something after school other than getting fat on the couch at home playing video games.
Maybe you played football in High School. Be honest, you didn’t really show up to practice every day so you could put an inflated pigskin on the other side of a chalk line. There were other, auxiliary benefits you received.
The same goes for making your first $1,000,000.
That’s why you do it until.
It doesn’t matter whether you make $1,000,000. That’s not the point. Just like winning a race isn’t the point of showing up to cross country practice.
When you decide to do something until, one of two things will occur:
A. You’ll accomplish the metric you’ve set for yourself. You’ll gain both the goal and the auxiliary benefits.
B. You’ll die before you accomplish the metric. You’ll miss out on the goal, but you’ll still receive a bounty of auxiliary benefits.
Here’s the alternative:
You give up too soon. You don’t accomplish your goal and you miss out on the long list of auxiliary benefits that were waiting for you.
What else are you going to do, play video games?
Step #4. Ignore This Advice
This is the most important step.
Ignore everything you’ve just read and figure it out yourself. You’ll have to if you really want to make $1,000,000.
There is no golden ticket, no “Millionaire Blueprint”, no treasure map.
100 of you reading this will try, and maybe 1 will succeed. Maybe.
Less than that will even be able to hold on to that wealth.
“It’s about the journey, not the destination” is cliched advice. But it’s right.
Try and make $1,000,000. It’s well within your rights.
Just be ready for all of the other good things that’ll happen to you along the way.
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Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking