Exposing The “Get Rich Slow” Dreamkiller
As a teenager, I never gave myself a chance of becoming wealthy young.
Wealth and youth was an equation that didn’t compute to me simply because I didn’t have the physical capabilities. Common roads to wealth for the young are competitive and require talent; become an actor, a musician, an entertainer, or a pro athlete- all familiar roads that had a big “ROAD CLOSED” sign that laughed “Not a chance MJ!”
So, early in life, I gave up on the idea. “Get Rich Slow” made it abundantly clear: Go to school, get a job, save 10 percent, be miserly, and, someday, I can retire rich, albeit, old, and give up on those grandiose ideas of freedom, mountainside homes, and exotic cars. Just settle for less. But, I still dreamed. It’s what teenage boys do. For me, it was all about the cars.
The 90 Seconds That Changed My Life – And Could Change Yours Too.
I grew up in Chicago and was a porky kid with few friends. I wasn’t interested in teenage girls or playing sports but donuts, video games, and bowling. My exertions at the time were epitomized by a long broken broomstick; I used it as the TV’s remote control since the real one was broken and I was to lazy to move. When I did move, the local ice cream shop was often my target; a sugary delight was a motive I could always count on.
That day was like any other day: I sought ice cream. I plotted the flavor of my next indulgence and headed toward the ice cream parlor.
I was face to face with my dream car: a Lamborghini Countach famous from hit 80’s movie, Cannonball Run. Awestruck, any thought about ice cream was banished from my brain. It was parked stoically like a king; I gazed upon it like a worshiper beholden to its God. Huge and imposing, it sat there idly like a sleeping dragon. It was also my sledgehammer that knocked my lazy ass out of park and cracked open the Fastlane shortcut.
I gawked for a few minutes until a young man left the ice cream parlor and headed toward the car. Could this be the owner? No way. He couldn’t have been more than 25-years-old. Dressed in blue jeans and an over-sized flannel shirt with what I spied to be an Iron Maiden concert shirt underneath, I reasoned this couldn’t be the owner. I expected an old guy: Wrinkled, receding gray hairline and dressed two seasons late. Not so. My neurons fired, “What the heck?” How could a young guy afford such a prolific automobile? For god sakes, that car costs more than the house I live in! It’s got to be a lottery winner I speculated. Hmmm … or maybe some rich kid who inherited the family fortune. No, it’s a pro athlete. Yes, that’s it I concluded.
Suddenly, a daring thought invaded my head: “Hey MJ, why don’t you ask the guy what he does for a living?” Could I? Naw… Or could I? I stood on the sidewalk, dumbfounded while I negotiated with myself. What’s the worst that could happen? Emboldened and overcome with adrenaline I found my legs moving toward the car as if my brain wasn’t agreeable. In the back of my mind, I heard my brother taunts, “Danger Will Robinson Danger!”
Sensing my approach, the owner tried to hide his trepidation with a smile, and opened his door. Whoa. The car’s door flung up into the sky, vertically, as opposed to swinging out sideways like a normal car. It threw me off what little game I had and I tried to maintain my composure as if cars with spaceship doors were standard fare.
What couldn’t have been more than 20 words seemed like a novel. My opportunity was here and I snatched it…. “Excuse me sir?” I nervously muttered hoping he wouldn’t ignore me. “May I ask what you do for a living that allows you to afford such an awesome car?” Sensing relief that I wasn’t a teenage derelict, the owner kindly responded: “I’m an inventor.” Perplexed that his answer didn’t match my preconception; my prepared follow-up questions were nullified, paralyzing my next move.
I stood there frozen like the ice cream I sought minutes earlier.
Sensing the opportunity for escape, the young Lamborghini owner took the driver seat, closed his door, and started the engine. The loud roar of the exhaust swept through the parking alerting all life forms to the Lamborghini’s formidable presence. Whether I liked it or not, the conversation was over.
Knowing it might be years before such a sight would happen again; I took mental inventory of the automotive unicorn before me. The man drove away and the car was gone. I left awakened as a neural pathway suddenly smacked open in my brain.
The Liberation From Fame and Talent
What changed that day? I was exposed to the Fastlane. As for the sweets I pursued that day, I never made it into the store. I turned around and went back home with a new reality. I wasn’t athletic, I couldn’t sing, and I couldn’t act, but I could get rich without fame or without physical talent.
From that point forward, things changed. The Lamborghini encounter lasted but 90 seconds, but it transcended a lifetime of new beliefs, directions, and choices. I decided that I would someday own a Lamborghini and I would do it while I was young. I was unwilling to wait until my next encounter, my next chance experience, the next poster: I wanted it for myself.
The Search for the Millionaire Fastlane
After the Lamborghini encounter, I made a conscious effort to study young millionaires who weren’t famous or physically talented. But I wasn’t interested in all millionaires, just those who lived a rich, extravagant lifestyle. This examination led me to study a limited, obscure group of people, a small subset of Fameless Millionaires who met these criterions:
1) They were living a rich lifestyle, or capable of such. I wasn’t interested in hearing from frugal millionaires who lived “next door” in the middle class.
2) They had to be relatively young (under 35) or they had to have acquired wealth fast. I wasn’t interested people who spent 40 years of their life jobbing and penny-pinching their way to millions. I wanted to be rich young, not old.
3) They had to be self-made. I was broke. Silver spoon winners of the lucky sperm lottery weren’t invited to my lab.
4) Their riches couldn’t be from fame, physical talent, playing pro ball, acting, singing, or entertaining.
I sought millionaires who would have started like me– an average guy without any special skill or talent who, somehow, made it big.
Through high school and college, I religiously studied this millionaire divergence. I read magazines, books, and newspapers, watched documentaries of successful businessmen; anything that provided insight into this small, subset of millionaires, I absorbed it.
Unfortunately, this zest to uncover the secret to fast wealth led me to disappointments. I was a late-night infomercial marketer’s dream come true, gullible, willing, and armed with a credit card. I bought into countless opportunities from “one tiny classified ad” to the Asian real estate mogul and his sexy bikini-clad yacht vixens. None of that delivered wealth and, despite the slick commercial and its claims, the large-breasted models never materialized. As I fed my appetite for knowledge and endured one odd job after another, my research uncovered some remarkable common denominators. I was confident that I uncovered all the components to The Millionaire Fastlane and fameless wealth. I was determined to become rich young and the journey would begin after college graduation. Little did I know what lay ahead- the roadblocks, the detours, and the mistakes.
Resistance Into Mediocrity
I graduated from Northern Illinois University with two business degrees. College was a five-year prenatal corporate brainwashing with graduation as the overrated climax. I viewed college as indoctrination into corporate droneship; an unfulfilled marriage between me and a life of jobs, bosses and being overworked and underpaid. My friends were hired for great jobs and bragged about it:
- “I work for Motorola.”
- “I got a job at Northwestern Insurance!”
- “Hertz Rental Cars hired me for a training manager!”
While I was happy for them, my friends bought the lie that I later define as “The Slowlane.” You know the drill: Get a good job, save, penny-pinch, max-out your 401(k), invest in mutual funds, and one day when you are 65 years old, you can retire rich. Me? Thanks but no thanks. I sought to avoid the Slowlane like a medieval plague.
So, I graduated from college jobless and stubbornly set on starting a business. I was 22 years old, cocky, confident, and determined. My idea was to find the Fastlane, retire rich and retire young.
Roadblocks, Detours, and Depression
Despite the confidence, the next few years fell horribly short of my expectations. I lived with my mother as I hop scotched from one business venture to another. Every month was a different business: Vitamins, jewelry, some hot “turn-key” marketing program purchased from the back of a business magazine, or some goofy long distance network marketing gig. I’d pursue fools’ gold scooped up from a pile of manure, throw it on the wall and hope it would stick. Nothing did.
My ego-crippling jobs included: A bus-boy at a Chinese restaurant (yes, there are cockroaches in the back) a day laborer in the slums of Chicago, pizza-delivery boy, flower-delivery boy, dispatcher, limo driver, early morning newspaper delivery for the Chicago Tribune, Subway sandwich restaurant salesman (WTF?), Sears stock clerk (in the freaking drapery department), charity can collector, and house painter. The only thing worse than these shitty jobs and their pay? The hours. Most required a predawn start … 3am, 4am … if any ungodly hour was involved, you could bet my job required it. Hell, money was so tight that I prostituted myself to an older woman to pay for my best friend’s wedding gift. Yes, Cougars even preyed in the 90’s.
Meanwhile, my friends progressed in their careers: They got their four-percent yearly promotions, they bought their Mustangs and Acuras, and they bought their 1,200 square foot townhouses. They appeared to be content and lived the expectant life preordained by society.
At 26 years old, I fell into depression; my businesses were not self-sufficient and neither was I. Tired of the high-school dropout jobs, I struggled to get out of bed. Physically, emotionally and financially exhausted from failure, I knew my results weren’t indicative of my true self. I knew the Fastlane way to wealth but just couldn’t get it executed. What was I doing wrong? What was holding me back? After all these years of research and education, complete with a closet full of books, magazines, and “Quick Start” videos I was still no closer to wealth. I sat stalled on the Sidewalk with the Fastlane nowhere in sight.
My deep depression sunk me into escapes but instead of drugs, sex, or alcohol, I lost myself in books and kept study of fameless millionaires. If I couldn’t be successful, I’d escape into the lives of those who were. I lost myself in books of the rich, autobiographies, success stories, financiers, and stories of survival.
But it got worse. The people in my life gave up on me.
My mom suggested, “The grocery store is hiring a deli manager, why don’t you go down there and check it out?” As if my struggles for the last five years and my college education was to eclipse at the deli slicer, cutting blocks of Mortadella and ladling potato salad to the neighborhood soccer moms. Thanks for the job tip, but I’ll pass.
My Blizzard of Awakening
It took the pain of a cold blizzard to throw me into the crossroads of life. It was a dark frigid night and I was dead tired working as a limo driver. My shoes were drenched from wet snow while I fought a migraine headache. The four aspirins I pounded two hours earlier had no effect. I wanted to get home but couldn’t. I was stuck in a blizzard and my usual routes were snowed-in. I pulled to the shoulder of a faintly lit road and felt the cold chill of melted snow crawl up my legs from my toes. I put the limo in park and faced myself in dead silence with nothing but the fall of snowflakes to remind me how much I hated winter. I dazed at the cigarette burned ceiling of the limousine and thought, “What the hell am I doing? Is this what my life has become?”
Sitting on a dark road in a blizzard in the middle of the night out in the middle of nowhere, I’d had it. Sometimes clarity washes over you like a peaceful breeze and other times it hits over the head like a falling Steinway piano. For me, it was the latter. A sharp declaration overtook my brain, “You cannot live another day like this!”
If I was going to survive, I needed to change.
The Decision to Change
The harsh winter shot me into swift action. I began by deciding to change. I took control over something that I thought was uncontrollable: My environment. I decided to relocate to where I didn’t know and, at that moment I didn’t care.
In an instant, I felt powerful. The velocity of that choice infused my miserable existence with hope and a small drip of happiness. My failures evaporated and I felt reborn. Suddenly a dead-end road converged with a dream. It just wasn’t about the decision to move, it was about taking control and knowing that I had a choice. With this new power, I considered options that never dawned on me. I asked a simple question: “If I could live anywhere in the country without restraint, where would I live?” I thought about the things important to me and circled five cities on a map. The next month I moved, or I should say, escaped.
The Merge From Slowlane to Fastlane
I arrived in Phoenix with 900 bucks, no job, no friends, and no family—just 330 days of sun and a burning desire to go to the Fastlane. My possessions included an old mattress, a ten-year-old rusty Buick Skylark with no third gear, a few side businesses that made little cash, and several hundred books. Ground zero for my new life was a small studio apartment in central Phoenix that rented for $475 per month. I transformed my studio apartment into an office. No bedroom set; no furniture- just a mattress that invaded the kitchen. I slept with the Pop Tart crumbs, a side effect of laying a mattress next to the kitchen counter. I lived poor and without security, but I felt rich. I was in control over my life.
One the many businesses I created was a website. While driving that limo, I had plenty of downtime to read books -– sometimes I’d sit idle for hours. I did not waste that time. While I waited for clients at the airport or while they got obliterated at the local watering hole, I sat in the limo and read. And read. I studied everything from finance to Internet programming to more autobiographies of the rich.
The limo job did something special; it put me at the forefront of an unsolved need that needed a solution. One of my limo clients asked if I knew of any good limo companies in New York. I dropped the passenger off at the airport but he left me with a seed of invention. If I lived in Chicago, and needed a limo in New York, where would I go to find it? I didn’t have a New York Yellow Pages handy and surely, no one else outside of New York did either. Faced with this question, I concluded that other travelers would have the same challenge. So I built a website that would solve this problem.
Naturally, the Internet has no geographical limits so this venture traveled to Phoenix well. But, like my prior businesses, it didn’t make a lot of money. However, now it was different. The curtain was up and it was showtime. I was naked in a strange town with no money, job, or safety net. I had to focus.
I aggressively marketed my website. I sent out emails. Cold-called. Mailed letters. I learned search engine optimization (SEO). Because I couldn’t afford books, I visited the Phoenix library daily and persisted to read about Internet programming languages. I improved my website, learned about graphics and copywriting. Anything that could help me, I consumed.
Then one day I had a breakthrough; I received a call from a company in Kansas who raved about my website service and wanted me to design their website. Sure. I obliged with a price of $400. They thought the price was a steal and within 24 hours, I built the company their website. I was ecstatic. In 24 hours, I had most of the rent payment. Then ironically, not 24 hours later, I received another call from a company in New York asking for the same thing… a new website. I designed theirs for $600 and it took me two days to complete. I had another rent payment! Now, I know this isn’t a lot of money, but from poverty to $1000 in three days felt like winning the fifty million dollar Powerball.
My first few months in Phoenix, I gained traction and survived on my own for the first time in my life. No flower boy. No bus boy. No pizza delivery. No sponging off mom. I was purely self-employed! I was momentous acceleration, a wind at my back that foreshadowed a directional change into a new universe of wealth generation.
But, something still wasn’t right. Something was missing and I knew it.
My Fastlane studies identified that most of my income was attached to my website designs and not my website advertising business. My income was tied to my time, the construction of websites. More websites jobs meant more time spent and if I didn’t work my income would stop. My time was being sold-off for money. It didn’t seem right.
A New Wealth Equation Yields Wealth Acceleration
In the winter, I had a friend visit from Chicago. I showed him my website and he was amazed at all the traffic my service received. I’d get inquiries from around the world, every minute of the day. We’d scan my email inbox and it had 450 emails… 10 minutes passed, click refresh, and then there would be another 30 emails. Emails were coming in several per minute.
He suggested “Dude! Turn those emails into money somehow.” He was right, but how? And how can it solve a legitimate need? He left me with this challenge and I was intent to solve it. Days later, I created a risky, unproven solution and I gave it a shot. What did I do? I decided to sell leads, instead of ad space.
There was problem though. This “revenue model” was new and groundbreaking. Additionally, I had to convince my customers that this method of business was beneficial to them, and I had no data to predict if it could succeed. Remember, this was the late nineties when “lead generation” in web space was unfounded, at least until I went out and did it.
Nonetheless, I took the risk and implemented it. In the short term, I expected the change to kill my income and it did. I predicted its success would take months, if it worked at all. The first month the new system generated $473. Yikes. I built more websites to fill my income gap. The second month revenues were $694. Third month $970. Then, $1832. $2314. $3733. And it continued and continued. It worked.
My revenue, my income, and my assets grew exponentially, but not without issue. As traffic grew, so did the complaints, the feedback, and the challenges. Improvements came direct from customer suggestions. Within days, sometimes hours, I’d implement customer ideas. I was known to answer my clients’ emails within minutes, if not an hour. I learned to be receptive to the consumer and business exploded. The workdays became long and challenging … 40 hours was a vacation — typical workweeks were 60 hours long. Days and weekends blurred together.
While my new friends were out drinking and partying, I was hunkered down in my tiny apartment regurgitating code. I didn’t know if it was Thursday or Saturday, and it didn’t matter. The glory of the hard work was this: It didn’t feel like work; in fact, I enjoyed it. I didn’t have a job; I had a passion to make a difference. Thousands of people benefit from something I created which addicted me to the process. I made a difference!
I started to compile testimonials from clients.
- “Because of you, my business grew tenfold”
- “Your website led me to my biggest corporate client.”
- “Your company has been instrumental in growing my business”
This feedback was wealth currency. I wasn’t awash in riches quite yet, but I felt rich.
My “Faked” Shortcut to Wealth
In 2000, my telephone rang with a different type of inquiry. Technology start-ups started to call; they wanted to know if I would sell my business. In that year, the dot-com frenzy was in full force. Not a day went by without a tall tale about some dot-com millionaire who struck it rich by selling a tech property. Remember the fame-less millionaires? This subset of the rich grew at a staggering rate, and the wave swelled my way. So, did I want to sell my company? Hell yes! I had three offers to sell: Offer 1: $250,000, Offer 2: $550,000 and Offer 3: $1,200,000. I accepted offer three and became a millionaire… instantly… well almost.
It didn’t last.
At the time, I thought $1.2 million dollars was a lot of money. It wasn’t. Taxes. Worthless stock options. I made mistakes and invested poorly. I bought a Corvette hoping it would make me look rich. I thought I was “rich” but I really wasn’t.
By the time it was over, I had less than $300K left.
The tech bubble arrived with unforgiving consequences, at least for buyers of my company. Against my recommendations they made poor decisions; decisions that were good for short term revenue but horrific for long-term growth. They flushed money down the toilet as if in endless supply. Do we really need custom branded water bottles? And logo T-shirts? Doesn’t this impact the bottom-line? Decisions were made slowly and by committee. Customers were ignored. Incredulously, most of the company’s executive management had Harvard MBA’s; proof that the business logic doesn’t come with expensive initials after your name. Despite having $12 million in venture capital to buoy the storm, my website slowly started to die.
A few months later near the cliff of bankruptcy, it was voted that my website would be dissolved, even though it was still profitable. Tech buyers dried up and stocks were in the tank, everyone was on life support including them. Unwilling to watch my creation fade into oblivion, I offered to repurchase my website back at a fire sale price… a mere $250,000, financed by its own profit.
The offer was accepted and I regained control of the same company I just sold a year earlier. Essentially, I’d operate the business, take the profit, and pay down the carry-back loan. What was left over, I reinvested into the business. With my company back in my control, a new motivation surfaced; not only survive the dot-com crash, but to thrive.
The Birth of the Money Tree
The next 18 months I was revitalized to take my service to the next level. In hindsight, I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t just some lucky chap who got caught up in the dot-com boom.
So, I continued to improve my website; I integrated new technologies and listened to customers. My new passion was automation and process. As I streamlined my processes and systems, a slow and steady transformation took place. I worked less and less. Suddenly, I worked an hour a day instead of 10. Yet, the money rolled in. I’d go to Vegas on a gambling spree; the money rolled in. I’d be sick for four days; the money rolled in. I’d daytrade for a month; the money rolled in. I’d take a month off; the money rolled in. The realization of what I achieved hit me.
This was the Fastlane.
I built myself a real, live, breathing, fruit-bearing money tree. It was a flourishing money tree that made money 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it didn’t require my life for the trade. What did it require? A few hours a month of water and sunshine, which I happily provided. Outside of routine attention, this money tree grew, produced fruit, and gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
For the next few years, I lived a life of laziness and gluttony. Sure, I worked a few hours a month but mostly, I worked out, traveled, played video games, bought and raced fast cars, entertained myself with online dating websites, gambled– I was free because I had a money tree that surrogated for my time and yielded a bountiful monthly harvest.
Since reclaiming my business, it grew meteorically. Some months I’d profit more than $200,000 per month. Yes, profit! A bad month was $100,000. I earned in two weeks what most people earned in an entire year. Wealth poured in and I was flying low on the radar … no fame. If you earned $200,000 every month, how would your life change?
• What would you drive? How would you live?
• What vacations would you take?
• What schools would your children attend?
• Would debt be a noose around your neck?
• What time would you wake up?
• How fast would you become a millionaire?
You see, when you generate this kind of income, you become a millionaire in 5 months, not 5 decades. By the time I turned 33 years old, I was a multimillionaire. If I hadn’t sold my business initially, I would have probably gotten there faster but, when you’re eating cardboard noodles and someone tosses $1.2 million dollars in your face, not many would say, “Nah, I’ll pass.” In 2007, I decided to sell my company again. It was time to retire and think about my wildest dreams, things like writing books and screenwriting. However, this time I entertained a variety of offers ranging from $3.3 to $7.9 million. After making several million over and over in a few short years, I accepted one of the full cash offers and repeated the Fastlane process… in 10 minutes, that’s how long it took to cash the 6 checks that amounted to millions.
Since 2007, I’ve been retired and during my business hiatus, wrote The Millionaire Fastlane; a book outlining what you need to do to repeat what I’ve done. As I see it, you have two choices: Follow the Slowlane roadmap predicated on jobs, mutual funds, and stock market returns, or follow a financial roadmap the creates millionaires young and gives you control over your financial plan.