Success stories are mostly bullsh*t.
That’s why I don’t get too wrapped up in the Hollywood retelling of stories. We’re tired of hearing about them, to be honest.
But once you know who to copy, your results in life radically change.
The $250,000 real estate mistake that changed everything
My friend Mike Thompson is a cool guy.
He’s quiet, humble, and chilled about everything. I don’t get it. I live in a busy city where everyone is hustling themselves into an early grave. Mike was too.
But those who know Mike know about how he lost $250,000.
He made some fast cash working in his job. He and his close friend decided to become property tycoons. They did some deals. Then on one fateful day it came time for Mike to get his $250,000 payout.
He dreamt of beaches, the easy life, maybe even getting a cute $10,000 puppy.
“Michael, the money isn’t coming. The deal is dead.”
Optimistic Mike shrugged off the bad news. He was born for the hustle. They’d find another buyer and get on with life. No problemo.
Then his face got ripped off.
His friend’s father had got hold of the property deed and simply crossed out Mike’s name and written his own. The stupid bank accepted the forgery.
That one fake signature changed Mike’s life forever.
All the pain led Mike to the point of escape. He did what any good American does when times get tough: go to the bar and get drunk.
He got sh*tfaced. Slurring his words.
As if I was writing my own country song, I smoked my breakfast and drank my dinner.
That’s all the broken guy did for the next 21 months. Life made no sense without his $250K which was part of his identity.
With nothing to lose, Mike jumped on a plane to Barcelona. A change of scenery was all he wanted. The environment in Barcelona was different. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. And everyone in Barcelona was slow as hell.
They didn’t rushed. They were relaxed. “All in good time” is their motto. So Mike suddenly became chilled. His $250K painful mistake started to fade. All Mike could do was walk everywhere.
He lost 60 pounds because of it.
He started to eat proper food rather than wake up to eat 3-day old pizza he found on the floor. Curiosity led him to choose a different line of work. Rather than make back the $250K and go big or go home, he chose to do work that gave him meaning. Slow work. Impactful work.
8 months into his Barcelona stay a ray of light brightened his day.
(Frankly, when he tells me the story, the ray of light [a woman] knocked him off his feet and turned him into a puppy dog wanting to play.)
They now live the slow life in a coastal town in Spain. He married the woman that made him see beauty in the world again and they have two kids.
Mike is one of the most successful people I know. Yet he defies the typical label. He’s not mega-rich … but he is happy as f*ck.
Losing everything transformed his life. That experience gave him wisdom and experience no college degree can buy.
Lose money to make money
I’ve lost large amounts of money multiple times in my life.
Each time was all my fault.
One friend said “Wow, how does someone lose that much money and wake up the next day alive?”
What a great question. I never used to know until the last time I copped an enormous financial loss. After the big event I woke up broken.
It took many hours of my life to earn the money. I felt stupid, ashamed, and unworthy to continue to write online. It felt similar to getting fired from a job I loved by a beer gut, mortgage motivation, piece of crap boss.
But I learned some important lessons:
- Always look at the risks of any potential success. If you remain blind to the downsides, your ego we’ll get in the way and you could lose everything. Don’t fear risk. Embrace risk. But know your risk.
- Always diversify. Never have all your money with one bank (in case of 2008). Never trust one person with your entire life. Never trust one employer to take care of you. Never trust one online platform to earn your living. Key benefit: diversification helps you sleep at night.
- Be careful trusting strangers. When money is involved people can easily become a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The two biggest lessons I learned
- Losing that money is how I’ll make the next million dollars, I told my friend. When failure happens you get to keep the experience for free.
- The biggest trick I learned from failure is to move on quickly. I woke up days later and forgot about it. I stopped looking at the past and started focusing on the future. Dwelling on a past you no longer control is the definition of insanity.
Successful people expect failure. So they move on fast when it happens as if it’s part of the journey.
Why successful people are liars
I run an online education company. When I talk to people who want to be successful online, it blows my mind how they can be so blind.
They look at the social proof of the so-called successful people they want to learn from as their main criteria.
I don’t care about social proof.
There is fake success everywhere. Gurus. Get-rich-quick schemes. Dudes standing next to Lambos taking selfies. Screw that.
A lot of the success you see online isn’t real. Author Morgan Housel slapped me in the face with this quote:
No one’s success is proven until they’ve survived a calamity. Serendipity often masquerades as skill, and the only way to distinguish the two is to see who’s still standing after a storm.
Many of these so-called successful people you see got lucky. They’re a trust fund baby. Or they did what TikTok-famous Mr Tate did and purposely divided people to earn a few bucks. Or they sold their soul to the devil like Dan Bilzerian did while telling no one about his rich father.
Mimicking this fake success is stupid. You can’t copy something that isn’t real.
So when I look for successful people to follow, I’m looking for battle scars. When I worked in banking I got to back many entrepreneurs. One of the best guys I ever backed had been bankrupt. He was embarrassed and kept his name off everything.
What he thought made him a permanent failure ended up being his greatest attribute. True failure kills serendipity and luck. It shows us the truth.
Because when we try to be successful at our goal, we’re guaranteed to get smacked in the head by failure.
Bringing it all together
Don’t trust most success you see. Learn from people such as Mike Thompson who’ve lost everything. And remember this…Success is paid for with failure (and rejection, falling short, or losing people you love).
When calamity strikes it’s a sign you’re on the path to eventual success.