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Anytime you step outside of your area of expertise, you risk falling down. You will be operating in a space where people know more than you and where they are smarter and better suited to do something than you are. My saga of wisdom, gained at the expense of my bank account, started when I was at a seminar selling SEO products for a well-known motivational personality. He believed the financial crisis was not really over. As part of this talk, he told people that the financial system as we know it was about to break down and it was an emergency: The real pain was 12 to 18 months away, and things were going to be very bad.
For $75,000, people could join him on a retreat where they could learn all about the breakdown that was about to occur in the financial system. Experts at this retreat were going tell people what to do with their money.
I have profound respect for this person, so I started to read everything I could about this imminent financial collapse. I spent a few hundred dollars on books from iBooks and read during the rest of the seminar. I was also busy selling SEO products during the seminar. My study took weeks, and it was all very interesting. I came to the conclusion that the only sane thing to do was buy a bunch of gold.
And I needed to start a gold business as well. I purchased a domain called GoldGorilla.com for a few thousand dollars and began working on the site. I bought FederalBullion.com and began working on this as well.
I met with another guy that has a friend who travels around the South Pacific Islands buying gold from the natives and sends it back home in Federal Express boxes (they are insured). I learned all about this business; he apparently makes $10 million a year.
I started planning the trip I was going to take to the South Pacific. I took my kids to Barnes and Noble and bought a stack of books about the South Pacific Islands and began thinking about where I was going to stay.
In May, I went to a precious metals conference at the J.W. Marriott in Arizona. I attended a handful of talks, and with only one exception, I had no idea what was going on. I decided it might be a good idea to purchase a Dodge Sprinter and armor it, go around to pawn shops and buy gold, and then melt the gold inside the Dodge Sprinter. This seemed like a good business.
I went out to eat with a television producer a few weeks ago who does very well (he has a very popular show on television) and told him about my idea.
A few weeks later, he called me: He wanted to quit being a well-known producer and start a gold business. He had been thrown out of a pawn shop he had visited while asking them what they would think if he pulled up in a Dodge Sprinter and bought all of their gold and melted it down in front of them. He wanted to do the business with me and started sending me all sorts of financial projections for the business.
Not long after our discussion, I drove downtown with a lunch bag containing $50,000 cash. I’d recently sold a 1971 Land Cruiser for $90,000 to some other Hollywood guy – much more than I paid for it —to buy some gold. I went into a dark building with small hallways and met with my father-in-law who is a jeweler. He gave me the coins.
As I was leaving, my cell phone rang. It was Raj at the downtown Mercedes Benz dealership.
“I just got a new G63 in,” he said. “It’ll be gone, and if you want it, you can come get it now.”
I’ve known Raj for 15 years, and he has grossly taken advantage of me in numerous business dealings. When the latest model SL500 came out, he called me, and I leased one from him. It was only after I gave the paperwork to my accountant that I realized the payments on the lease were more than the car cost. So I ended up purchasing it.
“I’ve got $50,000 worth of gold coins in my pocket,” I told Raj. “I’m not sure I should come down there now.”
“My necklace has $18,500 in gold in it at today’s prices,” Raj said.
So I went down to see Raj. I took my Lexus LX 570 SUV that was only a few months old.
Raj made a deal to pay off my Lexus and sold me a white-on-white G63 Mercedes. Everyone in the dealership liked looking at my Krugerrand gold coins while he prepped the car.
To further enlighten myself, I signed up for a number of gold newsletters. My phone began to ring constantly with people trying to sell me gold. Several times a day I got an email about gold. The message was always the same:
As I was pondering all of this gold business, something else caught my attention. I saw something for sale in my true line of business that I knew I could make a lot of money from. I realized the price of gold was crashing and that I needed to get out. I gave all of my gold to my wife. She took it to her father to sell.
“You are so stupid for buying this gold,” she said. “You bought all of the gold at $1,650 and now it’s worth $1,200.” She was furious.
So, a few days later, she brought me the $30,000 for which she had sold the gold. I wanted to treat this little stash of money like an investment and prove to myself I could turn it around and make a lot of money. Which brings me to my next adventure.
Recently I began looking at buses. I’ve always dreamed of taking my family across the country in luxurious style – I thought I could start a business buying and selling luxury buses for a profit. These buses are huge – over 45 feet long. When new, some of these buses cost more than $2,000,000 – but pre-owned, they are a fraction of that price. These are the buses rock stars and others take on tour.
A few weeks ago I looked at a bus that cost more than $3,000,000 when new. All the fixtures in the bus were covered in gold. The seller hinted that the original owner was the author J.K. Rowling.
“You can sell the fixtures and remodel the bus if you want,” the owner told me.
For days I corresponded back and forth with this guy. The bus was in Palm Springs, and then he took it to Portland. I asked about the tires and requested more pictures. I wanted to know all about the AquaHot system that kept the water warm. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion this bus was far too expensive. It also had two full bathrooms for some strange reason. I guess J.K. Rowling didn’t want anyone using her personal bathroom.
I also did not like the giant lion painted on the side of the bus.
The next bus I looked at was owned by the former president of Lou Pearlman’s company (the promoter behind the Backstreet Boys and other boy bands), Mr. X. This bus had a Subzero refrigerator, a bathtub, a washer and dryer, multiple big screen televisions, automatic window shades, and more.
When I met Mr. X, we immediately began talking about how Lou Pearlman was in prison. A giant, portly man, Pearlman made literally hundreds of millions of dollars in the music business and poured it back into a Ponzi scheme that he had started some 25 years previously involving airplanes. He had used his earnings from the Backstreet Boys and other boy bands to finance his Ponzi scheme.
I arranged to view the bus and piled my six-year-old and my three-year-old into that white-on-white G63. We entered our destination into the navigation system. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling the system to take side streets instead of the highway. To my astonishment, we spent miles going through poor neighborhoods with people grilling in their front yards, and tattooed men wearing white wife-beater t-shirts gave us menacing looks. They probably thought I was a rival drug dealer. It took me almost three hours to get from Malibu to Ojai.
When we finally got to the bus, Mr. X and his two sons were waiting. They were dressed in golf shirts and clean cut. The bus was running and Mr. X was watching a giant flat screen television that hung inside from the ceiling of the bus.
It is a little known fact that people like Justin Timberlake and other musicians take private jets to the venues where they have concerts. Instead of sleeping in hotels, they often sleep in their private buses where they can use their own sheets and not be spied on by hotel staff and so forth. People never think that the star is sleeping in a bus; they always think they are inside the hotel. These buses are nice. Mr. X’s bus was good-looking on the outside, but the seats were quite worn. It was showing signs of age…
The second time I went to see the bus, it was parked at a small house in Camarillo, California. I brought my wife.
“What’s the point of this thing?” she asked. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something strange was going on. Here I was looking at this bus, and only a few weeks earlier, I had been in Orlando, Florida, to meet a person who had been a business partner of Lou Pearlman’s and now worked in his former office. We were talking about work I do in the career space when I told him about my other connection to Mr. Pearlman.
I’d been down to Orlando twice in the past month or so, and now I was looking at a bus connected to the man I was meeting with. When I told him about this, he said, “I’ve been in that bus. I saw it recently.”
Why was I meeting all of these people formerly connected to a boy band and Lou Pearlman and a bus? Was this a sign that I should start my music career in my 40s singing to teenage girls?
On the way back from seeing the bus, she got a text from her friend that the Backstreet Boys were going to be performing at the mall.
“That’s amazing,” she said. “They used to be able to fill up stadiums, and now they are performing in a mall.”
A few weeks later, I was looking at another bus in Orange County. I didn’t buy that one either. As I write this, I just got a message from a guy in Texas. A bus I was interested in there was sold.
I work seven days a week. Most of my time is spent in front of a computer, talking to people in the employment industry and learning all sorts of information about this industry. I understand this business at a very deep level – and I understand it much better than I understand gold coins, exotic automobiles, or buses.
In fact, I have no business being involved in anything other than what I do.
When I sold that 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser for $90,000, I told myself that I could turn the money from tens of thousands into millions. I know what I am doing in the employment industry and learn something new every single day. The level of understanding I have about online job sites is also very good. However, when I sold that ridiculous Land Cruiser I wanted to prove that I was not just an expert in the employment business. I wanted to show that I could do anything and be successful.
I was going to be a gold tycoon like that guy making $10 million a year buying gold in the South Pacific.
I was going to get into the business of buying expensive buses and flipping them: that could be a huge business too.
I was going to do something different.
At the height of his popularity, Michael Jordan decided to walk away from basketball to become a professional baseball player. He was 31. He did something completely different and outside of his expertise, and he ended up not being a very good baseball player.
Another story closer to home comes to mind. When I was around 12 years old, my mother and her best friend planned to buy a dude ranch in Wyoming. They were going to quit their jobs and raise cattle —something they knew nothing about.
They were both civil rights investigators for the State of Michigan. Once a month, they filed reports about who was and who was not discriminated against. My mom and her friend were exceptional at their jobs and had been doing this work for more than fifteen years.
But they spent their nights primarily talking about different things they wanted to do. The dude ranch idea was something they took pretty seriously and they talked about it often. They even bought cowboy boots and started wearing them.
You generally cannot stop being a civil rights investigator and all of a sudden become an expert in raising cattle on a Wyoming dude ranch. People do that sort of stuff for generations and still are not complete experts in it.
You cannot suddenly stop playing professional basketball and start playing baseball instead. People do this sort of work for years, and they often fail at it as well. The more you do something, the better you will be.
So I threw away $20,000 in my gold investment, and there I was sitting on the $30,000 of my investment I had left, and another $30,000 left over from the sale of my truck. I went about my business focusing on what I do in the employment industry.
I bought a small business in the employment industry for $50,000. It was a good deal because I knew a few people to whom it would be worth a lot. Within a few hours of purchasing it, I sold it for $1,000,000.
Does that sound remarkable? It’s really not that remarkable because I knew what I was doing.
I am in the career business and I understand this space. I am not in the gold business, and I am not in the bus business, and I am not in the exotic car business. I am in the employment business.
I have seen countless attorneys attempt to pursue alternative careers. This is not always a good idea.
When attorneys seek to do something else, it’s important that they understand if they really are an “attorney.” Since law schools admit a wide variety of people who are motivated, but have no business being attorneys, the proof of success comes later on the job.
Real attorneys (the good ones) are obsessed with detail, interested in working long hours behind a desk alone, and tend to be quite calculating. This is something that those in the know can see right away. They also have a good level of self-confidence that enables them to plow through and take a side in most matters they are dealing with.
Conversely, “fake attorneys” (those who should not be attorneys) tend not to care as much about detail, tend to be image conscious and do not want to sit behind a desk – but want the rewards that people who do this often get. They are also not calculating and tend to back down when others are right. Most attorneys fall into the “fake” category.
Surprisingly, fake attorneys often do quite well when out of a law firm or legal environment. They are often good at spotting social signals and can do well in sales, entrepreneurship, management, creative pursuits and more. There are many “fake attorneys” out there because many people with liberal arts backgrounds end up going into law.
Unfortunately, due to the state of the legal market, many “real attorneys” find themselves looking for work outside of the practice of law. This is a serious problem because “real attorney” skills do not often translate well into people-oriented pursuits like sales, entrepreneurship and so forth. Real attorneys, in most cases, should continue practicing law. They also can do well in finance and certain management roles like compliance inside large companies.
I have seen many “real attorneys” try other things, and it is usually a disaster. While being a real attorney can be tremendously lucrative if they stick with it, the state of the market is that there are few opportunities. If someone really likes being an attorney and feels comfortable in their skin, then they should continue doing it at all costs. Similarly, if someone does not like being an attorney and feels uncomfortable, the odds are they would be better doing something else.
You need to stick with what you do and are good at. When you step outside of your true skill set, bad things can happen. In most cases, there is a world of opportunity sitting right in front of you waiting to be realized if you are suited to what you are doing.