Five years ago I stood here at the same stand up desk in the exact same place in my office. I opened up my laptop after yet another long and stressful night at work and typed a letter to myself. I called it my manifesto. It was a letter to tell myself basically to stop making excuses, stop wasting my life, and do something about everything I always complained about in my life.
I taped two copies and put one right above my computer on the wall, where it still is, and one on my bathroom mirror, which isn’t there anymore. I knew if I put it in those two places, I would definitely see it every day. I wanted it to be a reminder of how I felt that night and what I told myself.
What I’m most proud of is that I made all of this happen.
I didn’t just wake up one day and got lucky. I decided to take control of my life instead of just hoping it would get better. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had ups and downs for sure, but I can look back at these last five years and feel proud.
I needed to stop doing what I did before in order to get different results. I figured I had nothing to lose to try. Life could not get any worse than how it was in my eyes.
Looking back these past five years, I thought about the biggest lessons I’ve taken away that will help you.
Let go of the past
If you’re holding a lot of baggage from your past, you have to find ways to let it go. By holding grudges or constantly thinking back about mistakes you made in the past, you can’t move forward.
What you’re doing is thinking about the past and getting so angry about it that is paralyzes you. You can’t get anything done. You can’t focus on the present. All you can do is think about things that happened in the past.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’ve wasted the last five or ten years or your life. You can’t get that time back. You can’t go back and do things differently.
What you can absolutely do is learn from your mistakes and your regrets so that you don’t make the same mistakes again moving forward.
It might help if you write a letter to yourself to let go of that anger you’re holding on to. Then after you write it, burn the letter or rip it to shreds. Often times, you hold in everything that’s been bothering you and you have no one to talk to about it. Get it off your chest so that you can start focusing on what you can do every day to create the type of life you want.
I could have been angry with myself for wasting my 20’s and getting nowhere in life. I could have replayed every decision that led me to where I was and wished I could have done it differently.
I decided to not focus on the past because I had for so many years. Doing so felt like a punch in the gut every time. It would leave me weak and in pain. Not helpful when trying to change.
I had to let it go in order to move forward in life.
If you want different results, you have to do different things.
If you don’t want your future to look like your past, you can’t keep doing the same old s**t. Re-read that to really let it sink in. You can’t keep doing what you have been doing and expect life to miraculously get better.
You can’t keep going to your lousy job, complain to whoever will listen about it, and watch TV four hours every night and expect a new job with a better salary to be waiting for you when you check Facebook for the one hundredth time that day.
I’ll save you time and tell you it’s not going to happen.
You’re not going to attract the man or woman of your dreams by continuously thinking of yourself failure in life and staying at home every weekend and having a pity party for one.
You’re not going to improve your marriage, lose that weight, or start a side business, by doing what you have been doing up until this point.
What you have been doing has gotten you to this exact moment. Is that where want to be? Are you happy about it?
If you want different results, you have to find a different strategy because I can guarantee if you keep doing that, five years from now, you’re going to be the same person in the same situation. The only difference will be your age.
In 2005, I was in a job I hated. In 2010, I was still in a job I hated. Why? Because I kept doing the same thing. I wasn’t taking much action. I spent my nights after work on the computer and watching TV. On my days off, I’d do the same. I rarely went out.
I kept focusing on how much I hated my life. I kept holding the same beliefs in my head like maybe it’s not possible. I kept thinking of the quickest way to make a lot of money. I kept feeling sorry for myself.
That all had to stop!
In 2015, I do work that I choose to do and I’m making more money now than at my job. All because I started doing things differently in my life.
I don’t understand it when people think it’s too late to make changes in their life and start living their life the way they want.
Is there a rule that I missed that says after we reach a certain age, that we’re stuck with our life the way it is?
Someone who’s 35 might feel like it’s too late while another person is 55 and feel it’s too late. That just proves that it doesn’t matter your age. It’s your perception.
Don’t you think the person who’s 55 will wish they were 35? They’ll wish they could go back 20 years and go after their dreams or change how their life is.
Thinking it’s too late to get a life that you want is one of the biggest myths holding you back in life.
The only time it is too late to do anything is when you’re physically not here anymore. Until then, don’t waste this only chance at life that you have.
If I compared myself to my friends, I was way behind. By the time we turned, 30 they had good jobs, got married, and even had kids. I was lost, confused, lonely, and unhappy.
I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t get married till I was 34. I didn’t achieve my dream of being my own boss till I was 36. I’m 37 and still don’t have kids yet.
Do I wish I was 27 and living the life I am now? Absolutely, but when I was 27 I was still young and naive about life. I didn’t know what I know now.
When I turned 30, reality hit me. I had nothing to show for in life. I was unhappier at 30 than when I was 20. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Instead of giving up, I made a promise to myself that my 30’s would be the best decade yet. I still have three years till 40, but I’ve done a pretty good job so far.
I could have thought I’m a loser at 30 for not knowing what I want to do in life. I could have continued to feel sorry for myself and wish I could go back and do things differently.
Sure there are some limitation as to when it’s too late to do something. If it requires physical talents like being a world class tennis player or soccer player, then it’s too late. It doesn’t mean I can’t start to learn how to play tennis or soccer. I could still find ways to compete.
If I wanted to learn the guitar and be good enough to perform, I could start to learn now at the age of 37. If I practiced just 30 minutes a day for a year, I would improve so much.
A guy went from a recreational table tennis to being ranked in the top 250 in England after playing every day for a year (see the video). What could you achieve if you did something every single day?
Other than physical limitations, most everything else has no expiration date. Who says you can’t go back to college now and get a degree? Just because your classmates could be old enough to be your child doesn’t mean you can’t go back.
Who says you can’t be an actor at any age? Watch movies and television shows, and you’ll see actors of all ages.
Do you have a book inside of you that you’ve wanted to write? Nobody wonders how old the author is being buying a book. In fact, nowhere inside of the book reveals the author’s age.
Want to start your own business? I read somewhere once that the older you are when you start your business, the better the chance of it succeeding. The reason is because of many more years of work experience. You’ve made mistakes in the past. You’ve had success in other areas. I also think there’s a different mentality. The older you are willing to work harder to make be successful. If you’re young, you think if it doesn’t work, you’ve still got more chances to try again.
Want to make a career change? Why can’t you? You have experience in one career that your next employer would probably appreciate more than a recent college graduate who’s only learned from the book.
If you can’t find the career you want, why not create it? We live in a time when companies empower people to write bestselling books, be a Youtube celebrity, make money selling handmade goods, or even sell t-shirts without any design experience or inventory.
Again it’s the mentality that you’re supposed to have everything in your life figured out by a certain age. Once you choose, you can’t change.
You have a story. I have a story. Everyone has a story. Some are willing to talk about their story while others are ashamed to let anyone know.
A good story is what makes a movie interesting. A common story is the hero’s journey. It’s starting from humble beginnings and by the end of the movie this hero has risen to greatness. It’s why Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are such great characters. In a sense, we can relate to them. We want to be like them, minus getting our hand chopped off by Darth Vader, who we didn’t realize was our father.
We want a story that we’re proud about.
I’m not happy with feeling like I wasted much of my 20’s lost and feeling stuck in life. Those were important years that I can’t get back and do again. However, I didn’t want my struggles in my 20’s and even early 30’s to be my story. I didn’t want my story to be of a person who didn’t get busy living.
I have a story now that makes me proud. I overcame being stuck in a job I hated, had no direction in life, and now have created a better version of myself to along with a new career.
My story would be boring and less relatable if I grew up in a mansion, went to an Ivy League school, got a bunch of fancy degrees and found success in every single job I did. Making an app or sell t-shirts online wouldn’t be as interesting because you would see a guy who’s never failed. You would think I’m super smart, and never have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills while starting an online business since I come from a rich family. You wouldn’t be able to relate at all. You would have stopped reading my blog a long time ago.
Because I was a regular guy, in a situation many of you can relate to, you get more inspiration out of it.
That’s what helped me realize that my dreams were not impossible. I found people online who were doing what I wanted. I could relate to them because they were just regular people with normal lives and because of various circumstances started all over again at the bottom when they began making money online.
Super successful people have also started from rock bottom. I love J.K. Rowling’s story because she wrote Harry Potter after a divorce and was raising a young child. She wrote on an old typewriter in a cafe. She did this after having a normal life and career, but after hitting rock bottom she figured she had nothing to lose so why not do what she really wanted to do. That’s the kind of story I love.
How many people would be in that situation and give up on life? Probably most, but she didn’t.
It’s hard for me to find inspiration from the people who have success because it was handed to them. I can’t relate to them. I’m sure you will agree.
This year I reflected and realized I’m glad I have a story. I didn’t like that life sucked for so long, but I’m proud to show off my scars. Fortunately, others have found my story to be interesting and have been invited on podcasts to talk about it.
But without the struggle early on, my story would be a lot less relatable to you. It’d be a story nobody would want to hear.
The biggest compliment I can get is when someone reads my story and then afterward thinks “If Benny can do it, so can I.” I want you to feel like you can do it.
You can change your life around. You can leave an unfulfilling job. You can find love and happiness.
Your story up to this point may not be what you imagined five years or even one year ago. You had hopes and dreams but things happened, and you are where you are now. Why not start today to create the future that you want? You just agreed you couldn’t have imagined life would be like this. So remove those doubt that you can achieve your goals. Five years from now you could be saying to yourself you would have never imagined life would be like this, but in a positive way.
Five years ago, I couldn’t believe that my life was how it was. I didn’t imagine that after ten years after college, I’d still have no idea what I wanted to do in life.
Five years ago if you told me I would have made six figures online selling t-shirts, I would have thought that would be like winning the lottery. It sounded cool, but doubtful it’d happen to me. Now I can say it has happened, and it feels much more amazing because I remember the years and years I struggled.
If your life isn’t the way you want it to be, you can’t go back in time and change anything. Instead, you can decide that you want to improve your story. Prove to yourself that you can and will achieve your goals and become the a person you’re proud of.
You can use the frustration that comes from being in your current situation as fuel. You can decide you want to prove wrong those who have always doubted you.
I want you to write a story that makes you smile. I want you to finally walk with your head held high.
It’s a story that you can be proud of because despite hitting rock bottom, you found a way to do it.
That’s a story that will be passed down from generation to generation.
I’m writing this 37,000 feet in the air en route from New York City to Hong Kong. I’m sitting in business class on Cathay Pacific with my wife next to me. I have so much room to type this. The bed lays down flat. I have a huge TV screen in front of me to keep me busy for the 15 hour flight. I’m so full from all the food. We’ll stay in Hong Kong for two nights then a couple days later we’re going to continue to Taipei, Taiwan and stay for four months.
I didn’t have to think twice about doing this. I didn’t have to ask a boss for permission for time off. I didn’t even pay more than $300 for these business class ticket.
I don’t share this to brag. I’m sharing to show you what is possible when you take 100% responsibility for your life.
All this didn’t happen by accident. I wasn’t handed this on a silver platter. I’m not an overnight success either. What I did was take control of my life and planned it to be this way. Was it easy? Not all the time. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
What was important was a change in how I perceived this dream. Instead of being jealous of other people’s lives, I thought “if they can do it, why not me?” Before I would think it wasn’t fair. Why were they happy and I wasn’t? Complaining to no one in particular never helped. It only dug me deeper into a hole of self pity.
So I changed how I looked at them. I understood that there were other people doing what I wanted to do. That’s why I knew it was possible. There were just regular people too. They weren’t rich. They didn’t have connections or knew exactly what they were going to do in life right out of college. These people early on were people like Pat Flynn and Chris Guillebeau for me. These were ordinary guys who I could relate to and were living their lives doing what they wanted and with much more freedom.
I always knew that I had more to me than what I had done. I know many of you feel the same way because you email me and tell me that.
What was missing was being so determined to make it a reality. I was waiting for a miracle. I was hoping someone would tell me exactly what to do and how to do it. I had this unrealistic imagination that I’d wake up one day with sudden clarity for my future.
After wasting most of my adult life feeling stuck, I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way in late 2010. Not even the pain of being a beginner, self doubt, failures, and impatience.
Over four years since I wrote a letter to myself to wake up and get busy living and I feel proud because I took 100% responsibility for my life and am enjoying the results from it.
Your dreams might be different, and that’s completely fine. What you and I have in common is a desire to enjoy life more. We want to do work that’s fulfilling. We want more excitement. We want more freedom.
“This is it. This is my manifesto. This is when I start to make changes to the life I want. It starts now. Stop wasting time. It’s been more than five years since you’ve wanted to find a new career. You need to start doing it now. Today. Tomorrow and every day until you reach your desired lifestyle. Life is too short to be unhappy when not working. You deserve the best. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have all the money in the world to go along with happiness. Start working hard every day to find your passion and reach your goals. Focus. Focus. Focus. Open your mind and allow it to attract great ideas and answers to your questions.”
121 words that came from the heart. I wrote that in October 2010. It’s still taped on my wall right above my stand up desk.
It came from being tired about how my life was at that point. I came home after a long day at a job I so badly wanted to leave for so long. It was busy that night, and I was mentally and physical tired. I drove home staring at the road. It was 11pm, so there were not many cars on the road. The music was off. I was just alone with my thoughts. The drive home and those feelings were ones I had experienced thousands of times, but something about that night was different. I don’t know why. Was this my breaking point finally? It must have been because I came home and did something I hadn’t done before.
I typed a message to myself. I called it my manifesto because I was making a declaration.
I just typed whatever was on my mind and finished. I didn’t go back to change anything. I wasn’t angry at myself though I could have easily laced that letter with expletives. At that time, I was too exhausted from a long night at work and just at life in general. The manifesto was there to lift me up and not put me down. So I think that’s why it didn’t feel as angry.
I still have this taped on my wall as a reminder of how far I have come. When I typed it, I didn’t know what was going to be the outcome, but I just knew it would be better than what I had up to that point. I was so determined to make it so.
In today’s blog post, I wanted to analyze what I wrote and why I wrote those particular words at that time.
This is it
The first words I summed it. I was tired of wanting a better life. I was tired of not doing work that made me happy. I was tired of so many things. I had tried and stopped countless times. No more excuses. No more waiting until next year to start again. It was time to change. No more half assed attempts.
Stop wasting time
All I did when I had free time was waste time. I was doing things that weren’t getting me any closer to where I wanted to be. Instead, I was doing things that distracted me from real life. I had lots of free time. Working in the restaurant business meant I didn’t have to wake up early. I did have days off and even a break in the middle of the day. I had so much free time but used it instead to watch TV and get on the computer for no reason at all.
Not only did I need to stop wasting time doing stupid stuff, but I needed to stop wasting time hoping and waiting for change to happen. I needed to do something about it.
It’s time to look back and reflect on 2014. I’ve done this for the past two years now. The reason I started doing it was because I never did it. If I wanted to get different results in life, I needed to do different things. An annual review seemed like a great idea because I could review what went well and what didn’t go as well.
Therefore the next, I could continue to do more of what was working well and less of what wasn’t.
If you’ve never done one before, I encourage you to answer those two questions.
If you want to go more in depth in your year in review, I’ve created a free worksheet that has questions to help you review your year and plan for the next. By filling it out, you will learn a lot about yourself.
Download it, print it out and find a quiet time to complete it. Don’t rush through it. These questions will really make you think. Be honest with your answers. These are just for yourself.
If you find it that you don’t have much to write down, then next year make sure you consciously do more. It could be because you’re in your comfort zone too much. Make it a goal for next year to be stretch yourself and take more risks.
If you’ve never done a year in review, try it this year. You’ll learn more about yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Don’t just fill this out and put it away. I encourage you to put it in a place where you can access it and refer back to it throughout the year. Because you need to remember the parts of your life you said you needed to eliminate or improve.
This was the first time in my life I began and ended this year as an online entrepreneur. I didn’t realize that until I began writing this.
That’s a huge accomplishment for me and a dream I’ve had since probably 2005. It’s a great feeling to know that I did that. Last year was the beginning of this new chapter.
In June 2013, I quit my full time job finally and went all in with my online business. It was scary to take that leap before I was financially ready, but I just could not take wasting my time doing a job I hated. It was scary and went through some low points before finally seeing the results of the hard work pay off at the end of 2013.
That momentum carried in 2014 and this year has been my best year yet.
Being my own boss is great but it also means that I need to get myself to do the work. I don’t have anyone telling me what I should be doing. For the most part I’ve done a pretty good job of that this year. The results have shown that.
One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to have my own online business is to be able to travel when I wanted. This year I took full advantage of that.
Last year, my wife and I didn’t travel much after June because I wasn’t getting a steady paycheck anymore and living off savings until the online income went up. So we cut back on spending in many areas of our life, including travel.
We hated that because we love traveling, but we had to.
This year we made up for it.
Febuary started off with a trip to London and Paris thanks to a mistake fare that was published a few months before. We were able to get roundtrip tickets for $400 per person. A bargain we could not turn down especially we had been dreaming about going to those cities.
We stayed two weeks total and used a combination of hotel points, cash, and Airbnb for our hotels.
On the way back we stopped in New York City for three nights. Got to try out the tallest hotel in North America which recently opened. I booked one night with points and one night with cash.
Got upgraded to a corner room with a priceless view of Central Park.
After that the traveling continued.
April – Long Beach to visit family
April to June – Taipei
July – Portland for World Domination Summit
July – Las Vegas for my birthday
August – Dallas for Podcasting Movement
September – Chicago to play tourist
September – Denver to watch a Broncos game
October – Jamaica for our three year anniversary
November – I didn’t go anywhere but my wife went to New York for a week to meet a friend who visited from Taiwan
December – Amtrak ride from Denver to San Francisco. Then flew to Minneapolis to see the Mall of America
What helped us save so much money this year was having the Southwest companion pass which I earned in early 2014. What that allows is when I book a ticket, my wife flies almost for free! She has to pay like $5 for fee but that’s it. That’s why we decided to go to so many places this year.
Early 2015 is the best time to get the companion pass. Why? Because when you qualify for it, Southwest gives it to you the rest of the year and then next year. So my companion pass was good for this year and all of 2015! And Southwest now flies internationally and the pass can be used for that too. That’s why we went to Jamaica for our anniversary.
I knew about Teespring in 2013 but didn’t understand how it could turn into a business until earlier this year when I learned that people were making lots of money. I decided to try it out because I’ve always wanted to design t-shirts. I can remember reading the 4 Hour Work week in 2007 and the idea of buying a printing machine and doing it in my garage crossed my mind. Just seemed too much to invest upfront and I had no idea how to get people to see my shirt.
Now that dream is possible thanks to Teespring and Facebook. At the end of this year I’ve been paid out by Teespring $195,000+.
It’s given me more confidence that I can do even more in life. Now I’m thinking bigger
In December when we went to San Francisco, I was able to stop by the Teespring offices to get a tour and meet some of the amazing people behind it.
Launched the podcast
Last year I was disappointed I didn’t launch the Get Busy Living podcast. I had wanted to but put it aside in order to focus on making money. I’m glad I did because I now realize how much time goes into podcasting. This year though I wanted to finally launch it.
Since I did in January I’ve had 195,000 downloads! I was featured in New and Noteworthy and climbed as high as #56 overall in the whole iTunes podcast section and #4 in the self help category. Even more important was getting feedback about how much you enjoy it.
I thought it’d be easy to just hit record and talk. It was the second episode that I realized it wasn’t. That episode took hours to finish. I kept messing up with sentences so I’d have to stop, delete what I just recorded and do it again. I almost wanted to give up. I was sweating and just tired. So the next few episodes I typed out every single word I would say. I read those episodes to sound as natural as possible.
I don’t know when the shift began but now when I record an episode I don’t have to read every single words and feel more comfortable talking in front of a mic. That just came from practice.
It’s an important lesson to remember that you’re going to be a beginner when you start and it’s going to be ugly. You’ll get better when repetition.
This was a complete surprise.
Not only was I surprised that I ended up on FOX News, but I was surprised how fast it happened.
You can read the whole story here. but this is how it looked on live TV. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. And I’m still shocked that she thought my game and Candy Crush looked similar.
What didn’t go so well
Unfortunately this is a repeat of last year. Last year I put writing aside because I was spending most of my free time on reskinning apps. This year I’ve been selling on Teespring and podcasting. I knew something had to go and it was writing.
I hate that it’s not in the section above because I didn’t do a better job of making it a priority. Could I have made more time for it? Of course. Even 30 minutes a day was possible, but I think the problem was that it wasn’t made a regular part of my day like brushing my teeth.
When I had free time, I would do something else. Instead I need to do my writing at the same time every day. That way I have a routine.
I’m going to do a better job and find a way to get this into the section above one year from now. Two years in a row in this section is not good.
I had to put podcasting in the corner as well. I started off great and in a rhythm with one episode a week. Then Teespring came along and took up a lot of my time. Then a new episode would come out once every two weeks maybe. I didn’t have a set schedule and I feel bad about that. That’s not what the top podcasters do.
If I’m serious about it, I have to treat it more than just a hobby.
What will I do in 2015 to improve? I’m thinking of choosing a day and making it my podcast day. So I know every week on that day it’s time to record. Also being a few episodes ahead is important.
Gonna improve so podcasting will not be in this section next year.
I’ve been up and down with my level of fittnes year. Most of the year has been down. With all the traveling came a lot of eating and not much exercising. The negatives I’ve seen of it have been occassional headaches and disappointment in how I feel. It’s not the number on the scale mainly but more of how I feel.
I did do a 21 day cleanse after we came back from London, Paris and NYC. I had enough of eating too much and feeling like crap. The 21 days were tough, but I did it. I felt amazing. I felt lighter. I had more confidence. Clothes were looser. I felt great, but slowly I went back to old habits.
I’d love to be more consistent with it but the problem is that I love to eat too much. I know I have to control how much I eat, but that can be hard when traveling.
This is going to be a challenge in 2015, but I don’t want to feel this same way.
Though my results were amazing this year, I know I could have done more. I didn’t track it but I bet I wasted a lot of time by multitasking, checking email, and having interruptions. But at the same time, it shows that I’m not perfect but was still able to have a great year.
In fact, I just went off and did ten other things before I realized I was in the middle of writing this section. Crazy! It’s second nature to me and I’m sure many of you.
Finding ways to stay more focused and minimize distractions is important for me. That way I’ll have enough time for Teespring, writing, podcasting, and whatever else I work on in 2015.
What’s next for 2015?
To be honest, I don’t know yet. I’m going to continue with Teespring for sure. I don’t plan creating any new apps. I didn’t do any in 2014. I want to read more books too. Again it’s a thing I just have to make time for.
I’d love to self publish a book on Kindle so that’s a goal I’d love to say I did one year for now. In January, I’m going to set aside time and figure out what I want to prioritize in the year.
I always want to make the next year even better than the previous year. 2014 was my best year yet so I have a lot of work to do to achieve that. I do believe it’s possible though.
We will do as much traveling as we can in 2015. It’s the last year for the Southwest Companion pass so we want to use it. In February, we’re going back to Taipei. Book business class seats on Cathay Pacific. A few hundred dollars out of pocket only and the rest came from points collected from credit cards. Excited about that.
It’s not going to be all pleasure next year. I know if I want to keep this level of success, I’ve still go to put in the work.
I look forward to one year from now and doing an annual review and reflecting back on what a great year it was. 2014 was full of surprises so I’m looking forward to what good surprises 2015 has.
Thank you for following along in 2014.
What about you? What went well for you and what do you want to accomplish in 2015?