My Name is Paul. I am a Failure.
Failure Number 1
By the time I was 18 years old I had my real estate license, and that wasn’t my first stint at being an entrepreneur. Just before I got my license I attended a seminar where I was taught the art of buying bad debt for pennies on the dollar and then collecting it from the debtors by skip tracing and offering to settle their debt with them at a steep discounts thereby saving their credit.
I had just gotten an American Express Credit Card and I maxed it out spending $5000.00 to purchase the rights to about $25,000.00 worth of bad Whirlpool Credit card debt. Sounded easy enough to me. I created a DBA, some letterhead, and named it “Ecuavestors” paying homage to my mothers country of origin. Believe it or not, I was able to settle debt with 2 different people for more than $7000.00 and I helped save their credit. This was my first taste of entrepreneurship. I doubled down spending $10,000 on bad debt, but it didn’t go so well the second round and I decided to ditch my little business.
I failed and I learned. I would later use the acquired skills to find hard to locate prospective clients and or leads.
Failure Number 2
It’s 1997. I’m 19, enrolled at UCLA, and a licensed real estate agent. I was probably closing the industry average of 3-4 deals per year, but I wanted more. Third party transaction coordinators are normal these days. Back then not so much. I had the bright idea to start my own transaction coordinator company. I named my little enterprise “Escrordinate” making a play on the words escrow and coordinate. I’d charge $100 per file to manage the transaction and chase down paperwork and agents would pay me at closing. I only had a handful of agents giving me their business so I began marketing my services inside the office leaving flyers on everyone’s desks.
One time I created a flyer with a recent team photo of all the 25 or so agents in the office. I blacked out (cut out) each of the agents that hadn’t committed to my services with the headline:
“Some Agents don’t get the big picture.”
Needless to say, that didn’t go over so well. In fact, some agents were pretty upset-especially the top producers, and rightfully so. That’s when I discovered that agents had egos. Big ones. Some who didn’t deserve them either. 6 months later Escrordinate was out of business and I decided to focus on selling houses instead.
I failed and I learned. I would later use these acquired skills to teach my Real Estate Agents the benefits of delegating paper shuffling.
Failure Number 3
In 1998 I was introduced to MLM (multi level marketing) and was hooked on the idea that I could make money teaching, coaching, and mentoring others on how to build an international business from the comfort of your own home. I was taught to sell the product (long distance phone, gas, and electric service) to people I knew. Then I was taught to recruit others and instruct them on how to do the same. Sounded easy enough to me, and it felt almost second nature as I was used to visiting homes and doing presentations as a Real Estate Agent.
I eventually graduated from home meetings to hotel conference room meetings. I was the young 20 something year old in front of the room pitching the business and convincing people to join. I was taught to fake it until I made it. I bought a Mercedes convertible. I’d travel all over the country doing presentations in people’s living rooms and in hotel meeting rooms. In 6 years I had amassed a group of about 3000 representatives or independent business owners with a buy in of $499.00 totaling nearly $1.5M that was distributed to the company, my upline, and myself. In my best year I earned less than $60,000 and was spending more than that it travel expense. I’m not knocking MLM. There are plenty of people making significant incomes with this type of business model. I’m still friends with some of them, but it’s not as duplicatable as they’d like you to believe, and it is truly the owners of the MLM Company that fare the best.
I was very close to finally achieving what was the top position in that company and needed a few hundred customers to get there. Now keep in mind, I grew up in the real estate industry in which cold prospecting for clients is an everyday occurrence. The MLM company I worked for regularly advised us not to get customers door to door or over the phone and I didn’t understand why as I had been coached to do this for years in Real Estate. So, in an effort to get promoted to the top position, I led and instructed a team of about 20 people in my downline to go door to door soliciting customers offering them savings on their utility services. We were 3 weeks away from a National Conference that our MLM Company was hosting, and our goal was to acquire the customers needed to celebrate my promotion to that top position at that event.
We did it. 20 of us packed a 15 passenger van and drove for 24 hours straight to Dallas, TX in anticipation of my promotion. All the sacrifices that I had made were finally going to pay off. This promotion meant a lot to me and my wife. I will never forget the call I got the morning of the promotion informing me that I was NOT going to be promoted, and that instead of celebrating my success, my distributorship was going to be temporarily suspended. My 23 year old wife laid the bed crying. I will never forget the look on her face when she asked me, “What are we going to do now?”
Here’s what I did: I kept going. I kept hosting meetings. I kept getting customers. I kept mentoring new representatives. I kept building my downline. For 6 months I worked for no pay. Now mind you, I had already worked my first 3-4 years without any real income anyway, so what was an additional 6 months? I had become a master of delayed gratification. I probably would’ve kept going too had I not received a phone call and a letter notifying me of the company’s decision to permanently deactivate me.
They had every right to do what they did. I was told repeatedly not to solicit cold market customers, and to make matters worse, I then taught a small army to do this. I accepted full responsibility for it. The dirty little secret about MLM is that most of their products or services are more expensive, and aren’t substantially better, than their retail competition. This is why they emphasize selling their products to people you know. If it’s someone who knows you, likes you, and trusts you, they are less likely to cancel their order or subscription once they discover they aren’t saving money, are likely paying more, and the quality of the service and/or product isn’t necessarily better. The customer cancellation rate in my downline was through the roof for this exact reason. So now I’ve got hundreds, perhaps over 1000, cancellations, and to compound the situation, the company has already paid out a bunch of bonuses for them. No bueno. I was on the chopping block and it hurt.
I failed and I learned. I would later use these acquired skills to personally recruit hundreds of Real Estate Agents for my own real estate brokerage.
Failure Number 4
My brother in law would jokingly ask me, “What was the worst day of your life.” I’d give him a date in December. He would laugh, knowing that I was referring to my wedding anniversary date. It turned into a running joke, and like a raging idiot, I didn’t see the hurt or the damage it caused every time I said it.
During the first decade of my marriage to my beautiful wife I treated our personal life a lot like Al & Peg Bundy from “Married with Children.” I was the buffoon on the couch who paid the bills and hurled insults to everyone else. You’d think I knew better. You’d think that I wouldn’t be capable of something like that, but the truth was it was easier for me to act macho & gruff 100% of the time instead of being vulnerable to the needs of my wife and kids. A lot of it had to do with my upbringing, but I’d rather rather not try to shift the blame. I was a great provider, but I wasn’t connecting emotionally with my wife and I’d hide behind my work. I didn’t compliment her or my children nearly as much as I could or should have. I’d let work interrupt our conversations like they weren’t important. I’d take everyone else’s bullshit during the day, only to not tolerate hers for just a few minutes. I look back on this period of my life with such shame and embarrassment.
It nearly cost me my marriage and my best friend. Through the grace of God, we survived some stuff that would have decimated most marriages. I compliment her and my children daily. I make sure she feels like the most important person in the world. I thank her for the time she invests in her children.
I failed and I learned. I would later use the acquired skills to save & protect my family.
I’ve failed over and over and over again. A lot of my ideas don’t work out. I suffer disappointment like anyone else. I rarely reach the lofty goals I set for myself. Some people believe I take on more than I can chew, but I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.
I fail and learn.