Be A Pirate Not A Pioneer.
Life Lesson: Study that lives of people that are doing what you want to do, then do what they do.
**This article was written by the U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, Clay Clark. Clay Clark travels the country including Las Vegas where he serves as a Las Vegas Motivational Speaker and professional workshop trainer.
Under the guidance of Heath Dean, I felt like I was on fire! I was a sales machine. Sure I was only making $3,000 per month (tops) at the time, but to me it seemed like a huge amount of money. And it seemed like a huge amount of money to me because Vanessa and I were living below our means. Let me repeat this for added impact, IT SEEMED LIKE A HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO ME BECA– USE VANESSA AND I WERE LIVING BELOW OUR MEANS. This might strike most people reading this as odd because we live in a never-before-seen time of nearly limitless access to “cheap” borrowed money, but at the time that I am writing this (2008), I still am driving a 1984 brown conversion van that I bought for $1,000. I bought it for $1,000 because it generates huge tax write-offs (over 50 cents per mile), and because I could pay cash for it.
Each week when I go out to work, I go out to work for myself, and I put that money in my account. I don’t go out to work for the bank so I can pay interest on borrowed money/debt. And this simple act of living below my means from the very beginning has allowed Vanessa and me to weather some tough financial times. Living below our means has also given us HOPE. Since Vanessa and I started out our newly married lives by saving together, we have also been able to grow our financial wealth together; and we’ve always aspired to build and grow ourselves to the next level because we have HOPE.
Historically whenever a civilization has lived without HOPE, violence and anarchy erupted. In America, those living without financial HOPE because they are completely leveraged with debt develop ulcers, depression, and a lack of motivation. I am dwelling on this because I care. Do not abort your financial future by refusing to live below your means. Don’t spend your whole life treading water amidst a sea of financial obligations. Live below your means and create a nest egg for yourself. Rockefeller endorsed the habit of saving 20 percent of all of his gross income. Dave Ramsey (the talk radio financial guru) encourages his audiences to save 20 percent of all of their earnings. Warren Buffet calls this savings the “snowball,” and his life is a prime example of how much financial power one person can accumulate to fund their dreams by living below their means.
Anyway . . . back to the story. So there we were living below our means, and then my sales started sagging again (this up and down motion is not uncommon to average salespeople). Only this time, those sales totally bottomed out, and they stayed at the bottom. About this time (late 2001), Jeremy Thorn (my team leader) informed our team that we had to read Think and Grow Rich, a 1928 self-help classic written by Napoleon Hill. I was not down with this “required reading.” I did not have the mental capacity at the time to understand that THE MORE YOUR LEARN = THE MORE YOU EARN. I had not yet observed that rich people have big libraries while poor people have big TVs. I seriously was still an idiot at this point in my life. I made excuses for myself by saying things like, “Oh, I don’t have time to read this.”
I should have made the time. I should have pulled my head out of my butt and looked around. I should have realized that the world’s wealthiest people have all earned their fortunes through the organization and the reorganization of existing ideas. I was not smart, and I want to now apologize to anyone that I knew then for my overall aura and lack of knowledge. But since my sales were bombing, I needed something. I needed anything. I needed steroids; I needed Redbulltm (this had not been invented yet); I needed Yoda. I was sounding terrible on the phone. I had lost my soul. I had lost my mojo. And I had lost my “fevuh” and “I needed more cowbell, babies” (this is a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit). Even the losers at work were starting to laugh at my crappy sales and my downward spiraling attitude.
At the end of each month, I would look up and I would see Paul, Ron Hood, Heath Dean, Mike Matthews, and everyone all putting up big sales totals on the board. Some of them even earned a car paid for by the company for their high sales totals. I, however, should have been awarded a tricycle for being at the bottom.
And the worst thing about being a bad salesperson was that you never got any relief at the end of each month. The top salespeople all waited until the end of the month to win their awards, to get their bonuses, and to talk their trash; but we bottom feeders waited until the end of the month to feel really bad about our lack of performance. Hood would have ten times more sales ($30,000 – $40,000) than almost everyone else, and then I would be there with $2,000 in total sales. It was awesome in a non-good way. It was awesome in the way that seeing a dog get punted by a semi on the interstate highway is awesome: BOOM! and the dog goes flying 300 yards. Not good to look at, and not something you want to see. Basically I was the dog getting punted by the semi at the end of each month. Something drastic had to be done. I was going to get through to Ron Hood, or I was going to castrate myself using a butter knife.
After harassing Ron for the better part of a week, and whenever I deemed it to be the most APPROPRIATE, he finally gave in to my cries for help. He agreed to meet me at Grady’s. Apparently Ron used to work there as a waiter, so I was inspired just by seeing him come in the door of his old workplace. I could not believe how far he had come. As we sat down to talk, I remember that he skipped the normal small talk thing that most people do when they sit down to discuss something important. He just jumped right into chastising me with his no-excuses mentality, and I took note. He educated me by attempting to purge me of my “stinkin’ thinkin’” as he put it. He told me, “Clay, you’ve got to get serious man.” He kept asking me, “What are you doing with your life, man? When are you going to quit making excuses?”
But for some reason, I kind of enjoyed having someone tell me with candor what I was doing wrong. And I think that this might have been one of the first times in my life where I actually was receptive to intense criticism. I wanted to hear what he had to say. I was broken and bitter; I was prepared to grovel. I listened to his every word because I was weak, and he was strong. And then it happened. Ron AGREED to train me but only if I would work hard and would agree to make 100 calls per day without complaining. He wanted me to commit to working hard and not wasting his time. In my experience, I have found that almost all successful people WILL NOT LET ANYONE WASTE THEIR TIME. They aren’t mean, THEY JUST WON’T LET PEOPLE WASTE THEIR TIME.
“Time is your most important asset.”
– Robert Kiyosaki,author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad
THINK ABOUT IT, RICH PEOPLE DO NOT — USE LAUNDROMATS OR WAIT FOR B– USES. THEY REALIZE THAT TIME IS THEIR MOST IMPORTANT ASSET.
At this point my life, I was not concerned with the conditions under which Ron was agreeing to teach me. I would have paid Ron $100 per week. I would have mowed his lawn. His knowledge had real value to me. I was going to be taught by the “Hood.” After meeting with Ron, I drove back to our apartment in the MPV DJ van (hand painted with a subwoofer in the back) thinking, I am going to do this thing. I can do it now; I am hooking up with a legend.
And thus, that is what happened. I did not realize at the time that I was learning how to put my FAITH to action and that I was going to learn the SKILL THAT SEPARATES SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE FROM UNSUCCESSFUL PEOPLE. I WAS GOING TO LEARN HOW TO SELL AND HOW TO GENERATE MY OWN MOMENTUM. I had more FAITH in Ron Hood than I had in myself, and being taught by him made me stronger.
The first workday after we talked, I immediately started rocking.
DIAL! RING! ANSWER! NO!
DIAL! RING! ANSWER! NO!
DIAL! RING! ANSWER! Yes! . . . and then YES! . . . and then another YES! Pastors were saying yes! They were buying! Within the end of the week, my boat was overflowing with fish, and Ron kept on me to keep casting my fishing pole. Each month my sales improved, and I was just getting going. Every day flew by as I “dialed and smiled.” I was finally working with a sense of urgency. Ron gave me a flute that he had picked up in Africa as a tribute to my super sales. I loved that flute. It was an orange hand-painted African flute. I would like to believe that it was painted by someone really important like Dikembe Mutombo (the former seven-foot NBA star). Every time I would book something, I would play my flute and sing out some parody rendition of some pop song that I knew. What made it awesome was that I could not play the flute; so every time I played it, I played the same dull sounding note. But I sang the words to the song in tune and with the passion that Meatloaf normally reserves for his crazy-sweaty operatic concert performances. My songs were always deep in meaning.
For extra fun, here is an example: (to the tune of Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight”)
Take me home tonight.
I just booked the crap out of a ten-spot
and I’m feeling alright.
Oh man, I miss those times (sometimes, but not often). Okay, I would never go back, EVER, but it was a good time (at the time). Meanwhile . . . at night and during our pre-work devotions, I kept reading this crazy Think and Grow Rich that Jeremy was making me read, and slowly but surely I gnawed my way through the book’s bland exterior and into its meat. This 1928 crown jewel of self-help was beginning to change my life. As I turned from one page to the next, I could feel an inner energy swelling up inside of me, like when I used to play Super Mariotm and I would encounter a magical mushroom or something that would allow Mario to throw fire and become invincible for thirty seconds. Because of this book’s inspiration, I almost immediately decided to enroll in the OSU Institute of Technology at Okmulgee to get the “practical knowledge” that Andrew Carnegie spoke so highly about in the pages of this epic book.
To greatly abbreviate my tenure at OSU-Okmulgee, it was a great experience in terms of providing me with hands-on experience, and Dr. Welch (who was the director of the program) was a solid dude. My graphic design teacher was also a solid dude. Greg Graham and Lindsey Stout got me through each day with their friendship, and I met interesting male humans who were really in to tagging (spray painting) any public building that they could. And, as well intentioned as the school was, it focused too much time on theoretical useless information for my brain. I realize that since it was a university setting, they had to make me memorize vocabulary terms like “chiaroscuro” (the artistic term for shading a sphere), but I honestly did not, and do not, give a crap about the theory behind shading a sphere. I wanted to know who pays for graphic design, whom they paid, and why they paid whom they paid. Then I wanted to learn to do what the people getting paid could do so that I could get paid. Today, I am pretty much the same way. Shading circles might be an important thing for people in the art circles, but for me it was square (horrible attempt at humor). After I had shaded around ten spheres, I was mentally done with school altogether. Due to the grace shown to me from Jeremy Thorn, I was driving to school every day while still working part-time at Impact and working my DJ leads at night.
While driving the hour and a half round trip to Okmulgee and back every day, I would make my DJ bookings (man, was I making bookings). All of those cards and flyers that I had been putting out were starting to generate calls. Former ORU students or ORU graduates were getting married, and they remembered me when they were looking for a DJ. I was finally starting to bring in some money. I was only booking six shows or so a month at $300 or less, but I was bringing in some cheddar after having spent years nearly bringing in nothing with my new DJ gear.
And then one day, while listening to Mr. Combs (one of my OSU art professors) talk about chiaroscuro and other mindless modern-art terminologies and theories, a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City. As soon as news spread to our classroom, one of our professors headed out of the room with a look of panic on his face (we found out later that his son worked at the World Trade Center and lived in New York City). When one professor left, I think Mr. Combs assumed that this signified that our class was done, so he dismissed us and told us to “be safe.” I headed to the cafeteria to graze on some bagels and to drink some chocolate milk while reading Think and Grow Rich in between classes.
As I was reading the book (the mother of all books), I paused for a moment to look up at the non-stop CNNtm coverage that was being televised on the huge-screen TV in the campus cafeteria and then BOOM—another plane hit the towers. It was like WWIII was happening right in front of me. Then reports came out that the Pentagon got hit, and then another plane crashed. It was insane. I called Vanessa at ORU, and she told me that they were watching the footage there as well. All the while my mind began thinking of all the useless knowledge that I was currently spending my life to obtain. I could not get my mind off this topic. Here I was reading a book about Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Roy Firestone, J.P. Morgan, and Thomas Edison that was continually hammering home the importance of gaining “practical education,” and yet I was paying vast sums of money to hear long-winded lectures about chiaroscuro.
As America sorted through its thoughts and fears during this incredibly horrible time in American history, and as the workers at Impact talked about it later that afternoon, I was mentally stuck on one reality. I WAS WASTING MY LIFE STUDYING NEBULOUS-IMPRACTICAL-THEORETICAL-TIME-CONSUMING NON-SENSE. I wasn’t planning on being on Jeopardytm anytime soon (which is the only place where their nebulous-impractical-time-consuming nonsense has merit), and so I was now convinced by this terrible terrorist act, the words of Napoleon Hill, and the death of my best friend Mark that I needed to start creating my ideal life now. THE TIME TO ACT WAS NOW.
“Act now. The time will never be just right.”
A few days after 9/11 occurred, and approximately around the time that I was finishing reading Think and Grow Rich, I started to lose the vision in my right eye. This is my bad eye anyway (I have 20/100 vision in his eye), but after seeing a doctor (which I never do), it was determined that my vision loss was stress-related which was almost funny to hear because I was well aware of my crazy schedule (I guess I was just waiting for affirmation from the medical community). Just to give you an insight in to my schedule, here is what it looked like back then (and, yes, I did actually write down a schedule like this because I had heard Brian Tracy (the motivational speaker and success guru) say that successful people make a plan and then work their plan.
6:00 a.m. Wake up and work out
8:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. Work at Impact
12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. School at OSU-Okmulgee (while traveling I was booking shows via cell phone)
3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Impact
5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Work on DJ Connection
10:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Husband/Wife time
**Every 30 minutes throughout the day I would also frantically check my voicemail to make sure I did not miss any big DJ bookings.
Now that I had medical evidence to support Vanessa’s theory that I was overworking myself, it was determined by my wife and I that something had to give. The world’s wealthiest investor Warren Buffet says, “Whenever something new comes in to my life, I take something old out,” but for me this was hard because I was not very intelligent at this time in my life. But reluctantly, I called up Jeremy and set up a time to talk. I talked to Jeremy, but I was a wuss and did not take action to alleviate this job from my life. Thus, I did not put in my two-week notice.
And then one my first big breaks happened. I can’t remember who called, but somebody told me that the Tulsa World wanted to talk to me about my nomination for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award presented by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce (of which I was a member). And through a crazy series of events and nominations from my peers in the wedding industry, WE WON!
The Tulsa World then interviewed us. When Debbie Blossom (the business section writer for the Tulsa World) and her photographer arrived in our apartment, I don’t think that they were ready for what they saw. I know that they were not ready for what they witnessed. At the ripe old age of twenty, Vanessa and I were operating the largest mobile entertainment service in the city out of our one-bedroom apartment. We had turned our bedroom into a recording studio, so we had a mattress that sat in the living room that we were sleeping on. Our furniture was obviously of the Walmarttm variety, and everything about the operation except for our results and our end product/service was amateur. The more Debbie interviewed me, the more she grew to understand that I was a highly motivated person that had started with nothing, and I was willing to financially, physically, and mentally sacrifice to achieve my goals. I think Debbie left thinking that my wife was a saint, and that I was odd yet highly motivated. After Debbie had concluded the interview, I recall thinking, Oh man, I wonder how this story will turn out? I wonder if they will even print it.
A few days later some of my old college buddies called me and told me that we were on the front cover of the Tulsa World’s business section! We made the cover of the business section! The headline read, “LIFE OF THE PARTY: SURGE IN BOOKINGS HAS DJ SERVICE SPINNING.”
Things were happening now, so I wore a tie to work (which I then started doing every day, and which I should have already been doing every day up until that point). The tie was originally in preparation for the Tulsa Metro Chamber awards ceremony that was set to be held that night. My newfound professional appearance compelled one of my co-workers named Andrecia to say “Uh oh! You know what to do! Go ahead, DJ!” People at Impact started drinking the DJ Connection kool-aid. People who had always known me as DJ Clay started respecting me as actually being a credible entertainer. My phone started ringing too. I started walking and communicating with an unyielding faith in the validity of my business. I felt a renewed sense of energy entering into my soul as a direct result of knowing that all the work that I had been doing up to that point had now been stamped with a Young Entrepreneur of the Year award/seal of approval. I was now professionally on the map. My vision in my right eye had returned, and any doubts and fears that I had were now eliminated. I was not sleeping much, but I was fueled by passion. And now I was actually able to exchange my passion for paychecks.
During this whirlwind of events, I recruited DJ Rich D. (my deceased friend Mark DePetris’s dad), DJ Shawn Rubidoux, DJ Josh Atkinson, DJ Josh Gamble, DJ Steve Smith (from KBEZ), DJ Doug Decker, DJ Andy Mathurin, DJ Ezekiel Etuk, DJ Luke Spencer-Gardner, and DJ Chris Hettick. Oh, the business was expanding! Two to four events per week were now the norm. Our time to move had come, and so that is what we did.
We bought our first condo for $43,000, and we painfully paid around $7,000 in closing costs. My parents again came to the rescue (first to cosign for my apartment and then to help us get the money together to pay the closing costs of which we have since been paid back). Thank you, Mom and Dad! We got raped on our closing costs. It was almost criminal. Fifteen percent closing costs! Looking back at it, I would have to say the whole sales process was scam-like. We were totally taken advantage of as first-time buyers. If we had not been making so much money at the time, I really would have unloaded my full rage, fury, and wrath on the realtor, the lenders, and myself for being so naïve (read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki to keep this fate from happening to you). If you are reading this . . . DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. Call me before you buy your first place; let’s talk.
**(918) 481-2010 – DJ Connection – www.djconnectiontulsa.com.
When we moved in to our new (but still old-school looking) gated condo community, I was pumped. 6714 S. Lewis #504 became our new place, and man, was it great. I could record in one room and sleep in another. I never thought I would have a 5,300 square-foot home back then. I thought this two-bedroom, old-school condo was our little slice of heaven. My wife decorated it based on what we could afford (eight dollars, I think), and then we moved in without furniture (other than the futon) and six-foot wooden banquet tables that we used to DJ with.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.”
– Thomas Edison
Help me to help you by helping us not let this chapter become less meaningful than the government’s comprehensive plan to wean America off of foreign oil—just answer the following introspective questions about your life.
What can you do this week to begin pursuing your passion to the fullest extent?
If you knew that reading one book could double or triple your lifetime income (at least) would you read that book?
Read Think and Grow Rich. It will double, triple, or exponentially increase your lifetime-earning capacity. Andrew Carnegie said it best when he said, “Reputation + Education = Compensation.”
When do you plan on reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill?
**For more information about Clay’s various business ventures, and coaching clients call the office today or click the link to see the best dallas wedding photography company in texas.