The 10-step mental model I used to get there.
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I was 30 years old, living in LA. I ran an agency offering personal branding services with my best friend. Two other friends were on our payroll.
The big vision we had for personal branding didn’t go as we had planned. So all I did was search for paying clients. We signed clients that didn’t fit our business, but you got to pay the bills right.
My friend and I are no US residents so we were also working to get our Visas. That process is not a walk in the park so to say.
Then Covid hit.
And as with so many businesses, shit hit the fan.
Business went straight to zero. But that was not all. We moved back home and once we got there everything accelerated.
My main principle for business (or any kind of relationship for that matter) is trust. When clients expressed their unhappiness I always took the hit. I never thought to bother my best friend or my other two partners with this. I always tried to solve problems for both sides. I didn’t want to put this burden upon the shoulders of my friends.
It was only a matter of time before those problems and complaints found their way to my friends. The worst part was that they felt I had betrayed them. They thought I had a double agenda. How could they have thought otherwise since I never told them in the first place?
So there I was. No more money, no home, my dreams crushed, and the worst, no friends. I fucked it all up. I felt like I was the one not worthy of trust.
4 words that changed my situation
My rock bottom lasted 3 months. That’s when I received a text message that turned things around. It was a short line of words that got me back on track. The exact words: How are you doing? Send by my best friend.
Up until then I only received texts on business-related matters. Every time I received one my heart skipped a beat. But not this one. This one opened the door for a conversation. We talked about online gaming and started playing together again.
Not long after my big turning point came.
My friend offered me a job managing his LinkedIn account. A job that required him to share his password with me. A job that required trust.
It’s this gesture that gave me the confidence to go on.
I gave it my best and created content that got noticed by others. People started reaching out. They asked my friend who he hired to do this for him.
This info is all I needed to build a new business. A content creation business for LinkedIn. Before I knew it I was back on track, that is, speaking in financial terms.
The big opportunity
My restored confidence led me to start reaching out to people I met throughout my career. People I would love to work for. One of the emails I send out got answered.
We mailed back and forward for 12 months. I pitched him my thoughts on potential opportunities for his business. It led to a job offer. Not only that. Based on my thoughts he decided to create a whole new division. With me at the head.
12 months after I hit rock bottom I landed a 6-figure job as head of gaming for a company employing over 9000 people.
I now have a place of my own. I’m travelling the world and I’m meeting inspiring people. My money problems are history and my friends are still my friends.
Looking back at this period in my life I realise that there are some valuable lessons worth sharing.
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1. Don’t rush into things.
Don’t let outside pressure rush you.
The first thing people tend to say when you lose it all is: find a job, any job.
I don’t disagree with this, but in my case, I hated my life. I felt that getting back to the rat race without giving it a proper thought would make me hate life even more.
I can’t talk to other people because every situation is different. I was lucky that I could live with my dad. But I would say, try and lower your costs first. Cover your basic needs and then take your time to reflect.
Try to figure out what you actually love to do.
2. Think about your goals and aspirations.
- What makes you happy?
- What do you actually love to do?
Write it down. Then move it around to decide what excites you the most. For me, this was sports, gaming and personal branding.
If you work on things related to your personal interest, it’s much easier to create amazing stuff. It makes doubling down on your next opportunity much easier. The effort and time you need to invest will never exhaust you.
3. Talk to a professional.
Don’t even hesitate. If you’re in the dark like I was, talk to someone who can view your situation from a distance. Without bias.
Talking to family or friends can feel like a good idea but they are always biased. They know too much about you to give you honest advice. They can only give you advice based on their own experiences.
A professional will help you see what went wrong.
In my case, he showed me that I had always functioned as the middle man. In this position, I got hit from both sides. And because I was so used to it I always ended up in the same spot.
It was this insight that helped me turn things around. It helped me explain to my friends what happened. If you understand your situation you can use this insight to get out of it.
4. Look for positive signals.
The Law of Attraction is real. If you think positive you’ll soon find more positivity. If you look for beauty you find more beauty. But it works the other way around as well.
When you hit rock bottom all you experience is negativity. You’ll start to notice the error in everything you encounter. If you stay in this spiral it will drag you down.
A positive signal can be something as small as a text message. A simple change in tone. Anything with a positive note, grab on to it and work with it.
If you can’t find positivity, try and create it. For me, this was working out and eating healthier. I went to a local gym and started boxing lessons. I now feel better about my body and have more energy.
You need something small to get you back up on your feet again.
5. Double down on your opportunities.
If you know what you want, at least what you like, it’s easy to recognize opportunities that fit your lane. Jump on them.
While at it, give it your absolute best.
If you approach it this way, people start recognizing it. Recognizing you.
It didn’t take too long before people reached out for help with their personal branding. Before I knew it I managed 6 accounts and had an agency.
My friend paid me 100$ a month. Not a life-changing amount. But I went all-in and it compounded into an agency.
6. Reach out to your network.
Once you restore your confidence get back out there.
Six degrees of separation is a famous theory.
Six degrees of separation. The idea is that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other.
You don’t even have to reach everyone. Find people in your network who could help you get where you want to be.
I reached out to a friend from high school. He now works at a big branding firm in China. I didn’t ask for a job. I asked him how the business worked. I wanted to educate myself.
Send out messages to your network. Inform them that you’re available for a new adventure.
One of the people I wrote to got back to me. It resulted in my current job. But it didn’t happen overnight. If you want to land your dream job you need to provide value first.
7. Provide value.
No one owes you anything.
Before I got my job offer we talked for a year. 12 months I shared my thoughts on gaming. My vision of how brands should approach it. And how his business could tap into it.
This led to an offer. They said: this doesn’t exist in our company yet. But we want to get into it. What do you want and what do you need? Let’s do this!
It was a risk they took. But they took it based on 12 months of me giving without taking.
The next time you’re about to cold e-mail someone think about this. Don’t expect an offer straight away. Instead, think about how you could provide value first. Then deliver value for a long time without expecting anything in return. Your reward will follow.
8. Share your thoughts.
If people don’t know what you’re up to, why would they ever reach out?
I only talked to the CEO I mentioned before once. During that talk I shared my vision on gaming. 2 years later this single talk made him reply to my mail.
I built my personal branding business upon this concept. Decide what you like. Then share your thoughts on the topic.
You don’t need to write stories from scratch. Share stuff that excites you. Then add your personal view to it. Do this on a consistent base and people are going to associate you with the topic. You’ll build a reputation that is going to attract opportunities.
A lot of people have fancy titles but never share their thoughts. If you’ve got something to say then say it. Share your vision, and forget about your LinkedIn bio.
9. Get out of your bubble.
I heard a cool story of an agency where the team goes to a library before they work on their pitch for a new client.
They all grab a random book and start reading.
If you read or do something different than usual, you get new insights. Subconscious you are working on the problem that needs solving. Creativity happens when new concepts and the present cross.
The big disadvantage of the internet is that we tend to search for the knowing. If you click on what you know you’ll never learn something new. You only stay updated.
Once in a while do something different. Read a fiction book. Click on a podcast title that doesn’t ring a bell. Learn about concepts not familiar in your field.
10. Knowledge is the most important element
In the end, you need to know what you’re talking about. Don’t expect to land a high-paying job if you know jack about it.
The easy part. If you know what you love, it’s fun to learn more about it.
Books are a great source of knowledge if you’re trying to learn about existing concepts.
If you want to stay on top of your game then I recommend podcasts. Books move too slow. Especially in these fast-changing times.
I followed my dreams, got KO’ed and got back up again.
Looking back I realise that my pre-covid business wouldn’t have lasted anyway. Covid only speeded the process up.
Before I knew it I had a business up and running again. And I pulled the plug with ease when the next opportunity presented itself.
I know that I’m not at my final destination yet. But I am on the right path.
A career is like a puzzle. Look everywhere for the best parts. Gather pieces of knowledge in every encounter. Then put it all together at your own pace.
I’ve been passionate about gaming and personal branding my whole life. My vision never changed. Only today my words are worth twice as much. Because I’ve got a title. Crazy if you think about it right?
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