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.
I want you to be able to create that.
How did I get on this flight?
This trip didn’t happen by accident. I didn’t win free seats in business class. I didn’t win the lottery so that I’d be able to spend four months away from home.
I began learning about collecting points and miles and how to redeem them three years ago. Some people call it travel hacking. I wanted to travel more, but didn’t want to pay full price to do so. I also wanted to fly in first or business class when flying overseas. That’s what I would use the majority of my points for.
I made all this happen through spending years and hours and hours of reading, learning, and asking questions. Not many people would want to do that. They don’t want to learn the ins and outs. They just want the end result.
The very first credit card I signed up for three years ago helped me with this trip. It was an Alaskan Airlines credit card with a 40,000 point bonus after your first purchase. For three years I’ve had those points in my Alaska airlines account unsure how to redeem them. Finally last year I learned that I could use them to book flights on Cathay Pacific. I just needed 160,000 more points for roundtrip tickets for the both of us. Again those didn’t just magically appear. I had Starwood points I’ve been accumulating and saving for the right opportunity to use them. I knew I’d save those points for flying internationally. Just didn’t know to where and when.
My wife and I come to Taipei every year and this year idea of flying 15 hours in business class versus economy sounded much better to me. Plus we would be allowed to have a stopover in Hong Kong for however long we wanted. It’s like two trips in one. I transferred those points to Alaska to give me the 200k points needed. The $300 were the fees I had to pay. If I paid for two economy roundtrip tickets it would be at least $2000. I saved money and I flew more luxuriously.
I said I learned that I could use Alaskan points to book Cathay Pacific flights. If I wasn’t reading travel blogs almost on a daily basis, picking up tips and advice, I would have never knew how to do it. I didn’t wait for someone to randomly email me and say “Hey Benny, by the way you don’t know me but do you happen to have 200,000 Alaskan Airline points? If so, you could use them to book two roundtrip tickets in business class on Cathay Pacific to Taipei, Taiwan. What’s even better is that you can stay however long you like in Hong Kong on the way to your final destination. Bye!” If that did really happen, that’d be creepy.
This hasn’t been the only trip we’ve enjoyed because of the time I’ve put into this. Two years ago, we had a trip of a lifetime that wouldn’t have happened without learning how to travel hack and a little bit of lucky timing.
Last year we flew somewhere almost every month thanks to my wife being able to with me and for free on Southwest airlines. They hotel we’re staying in Hong Kong for two night is completely free. A regular night costs over $400 when I looked.
Again this just didn’t happen by accident. I planned it and took the action needed to these trips to happen. I determined the type of lifestyle I wanted for my wife and I. The planning started three years ago and since then we have been able to enjoy the results of it ever since.
[If you love to travel and want to learn more about how to do this, check out Upgrade Unlocked: The Unconventional Guide to Luxury Travel on a Budget.]
Being an online entrepreneur
Since I wanted to be able to travel more, I needed a way to make money that would allow that. That’s why I wanted to make money online.
Achieving success in this area took a lot longer.
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I must have gotten it from my parents who have been entrepreneurs themselves ever since they’ve moved year over 40 years ago. I knew I wasn’t meant to be working for someone else doing work I didn’t want to do. I knew that after the restaurant my next career would be online. I didn’t know what I’d be doing but I knew I wasn’t interested in working in a cubicle. I knew I wanted more freedom in life and be able to travel so having a 9-5 job would not allow that.
There are so many ways to make money online. That is a great thing, but that can also be overwhelming. What to choose? Where to start? I didn’t have an ah-ha moment like so many people are waiting for. I just chose what I was curious about and interested in at the time and tried that. When that didn’t work, I tried something else.
It took a lot of tries, but each time I tried, it got me one step closer. It didn’t feel like it at the time. Felt more like going backwards.
It’s like if there was a long hallway with hundreds of doors and behind one door contains a hundred thousand dollars. Many people feel like they only have one opportunity to open that door and so they’ll analyze every possibility, try and get a sign from above, or wait for someone to tell them which door to open.
When they open a door and it’s empty they get upset and give up. But no one said they only had one opportunity to open a door. They created that rule and therefore added pressure to get it right the first time.
I’ve opened and closed so many doors to get to where I am now. I use to wish I’d get a blockbuster business idea or that light bulb moment when I realized exactly how I was going to make money online.
I got tired of not seeing success and did give up for awhile, but in 2010 I was determined to keep opening doors as long as it took. So I didn’t get here by accident and nothing was given to me. I earned it and I feel proud about that.
The ways I make money still didn’t come easy. Even when I started with apps and t-shirts, I have had sleepiness nights wondering if it was all going to work out. I’ve had to learn to be patient. That is the hardest part. Putting in the work and wondering if and when I’d see positive results.
I have failed. I have lost at least $10,000 making apps that I’ll never get my money back on. These were apps I hoped would make so much money that I could finally quit my job.
Despite that, getting a regular job was never an option. I just had to figure out what to try next. That’s all I’ve done for years until I finally got success.
Being able to make money online didn’t happen accidentally. I’ve worked hard to make it finally a reality for me.
I told you I used to wish someone would tell me what I should do and exactly how to achieve it. I knew that had to change if I wanted to be 100% responsible for my life.
I had to be a self starter. I needed to motivate myself to take action. I didn’t need gimmicks or go online to read more advice. I knew I just needed to stop making excuses and take massive action.
I know some of you are thinking, “I don’t even know where to begin?” That’s just a lazy excuse. You’re waiting for someone else to tell you what you should be doing. If you are unsure about which areas you want to improve, just think about what you complain the most about. What you complain about are things that can be changed.
You should first look at what you can control directly. Those are things like what you read, what you watch on TV, what you eat, how much you exercise, how you talk, how you think, and who you choose to hang out with. Basically you should start with yourself.
I knew I wanted to change my life and I wanted to make money online but I didn’t focus on that first. Why not? Because I knew I couldn’t control that outcome. I didn’t know when I was going to finally have a profitable business. I didn’t even have an idea.
So I began by exercising, eating healthier, flushing out the dirty water and filling it up with clean water. Those were things I knew I could control right away. Those were parts of me I definitely wanted to change anyways. So why not start there first.
Food doesn’t just jump into my mouth. What I eat has to be deliberately put inside. If i wanted to exercise, I could control that. I could choose if I wanted to watch the new or read the newspaper. I had a choice of what I was going to read on a daily basis. Was it going to be stupid useless stuff online or something that is more helpful to me? Those were things I could control.
All those things I did were related to changing me. I wasn’t focusing on how I was going to attempt to make money online yet.
I didn’t realize at the time, but what I was doing was rebuilding my foundation for success. If I wanted to have success, I needed to have a strong foundation to handle the obstacles and the tough times.
I’m glad I didn’t go and try start making money online first. I’m glad I decided to focus on me first. Before I did the complete opposite. I was trying to make money online because I assumed that would bring me happiness.
Another common excuse I hear all the time is “I don’t even know how to begin.” Since that time I decided to take control of my life, I’ve never complained to anyone or to myself on how to begin something. I knew any answer I want it is out there but I have to find it.
When someone emails me and tells me they don’t know how to do something, I just want to yell through my computer screen and say “Google it!” Seriously how hard is that? How can Google not be the first place to look? Google anything you want right now and there will probably be over a million results. Click on the top five or ten and read. That’s what I do to learn how to get started with anything.
Another way is to find someone online who has done what you want to do. Learn how they were able to do it. They may have blogged about it. Sometimes they might be selling a product. Buy it to get started. To start outsourcing my first app and sell my first t-shirt I bought two basic courses on how to do so. I was learning from people who already had success and were sharing how to get started.
That’s why I’ve created the life I want. These two excuses aren’t a part of my mindset. If you want to change your life, you need to do the same as well.
I want to have the life that you want. It might not include flying business class overseas or working online and that’s fine. Everyone has a different vision for their life. You have to be clear about what it is you want, make a plan on how you’ll get there, take action, readjust, then continue to those last two steps until you do so.
Don’t know what you want? Focus on personal development first because if you want to succeed in anything, you’ve got to improve first.
Nothing is going to be handed to you. You’ve got to face fear in the face and do it always. You’ve got to stop making excuses on why you can’t do it and think why can’t you do it. You have to stop thinking what if you fail and think what if you succeed. You have to take massive action.
I was once that guy wishing for a better life. I envied those who seemed happy with job. Now I’m that guy who has a better life and I want to show you that you can do it as well.
If I can do it, then I know you can as well.