Growing up, I was never the best student when it came to academics… I would look outside and see a place of endless adventure then go into a classroom and find it rather stifling. I never seem to have the same values or goals as other people… I always wanted MORE and DIFFERENT so conformity to learning things only one way following endless steps was not of much interest to me.
Awards and my perfect attendance record!
In elementary school, there were awards to the graduating 8th grade class every year, the best student in math, best in sciences and so forth… we all knew who would win these awards at graduation but there was one award that I knew I could get that nobody paid much attention to. The PERFECT ATTENDANCE AWARD! It was easy, all I had to do was show-up for class everyday for a whole year. In other words, no sick days! I was driven to get this award… it was something within my means! Suffice it to say, after a year, I was called-up on the graduation ceremony podium and accepted my perfect attendance record with pride. I was the only student to get this award that year!
Longest serving newspaper delivery boy
I learned that there is more than one way to succeed in life… and going for things that most people think as not important are equally as satisfying. I repeated this again when I was a paper boy. I grew my newspaper route from about 10-15 customers to over 100 over the course of 10 years… I basically had a whole city section covered and if it wasn’t for my goal of working only 45 minutes a day (making 20$ in the process at a young age), it would have gotten bigger! There was an award with The Standard, the paperboy who had the oldest route… basically, the guy or gal who delivered papers for the longest period of time. Well, that was something, yet again, I could gun for and I did. I ended-up delivering newspapers for a decade… my customers saw me grow from a small 8 year old kid to an 18 year old man with a moustache! I got the recognition and only quit about a month before starting university. I saved a lot of time, collecting money from my customers only once every 2-3 weeks instead of every week… some hated this but to me, why go to somebodies door every week for a little money when I can go every few weeks for bigger money using the same effort? Making over 20$ for 45 minutes of work day after day was something my friends would both admire and joke to me about. I learned the value of money, and saved as much as possible so that I could buy my own computer.
I’m not sure why, but I always wanted to get into animation, doing 3D work was the coolest to me but I couldn’t draw if my life depended on it. My artistic skills are limited to stick figures… and sharks that look like overgrown fish! I would tell my friends about 3D and back then, the answer was “what’s that?” With the money I made from my newspaper, I bought a 5 000$ Mac IIci… it was FAST and capable of doing some rudimentary 3D stuff, mostly Strata 3D Studio Pro and Bryce but I had a computer and taught myself day and night how to make stuff. What would render in about a minute on my current machine would take days on this old computer but I never gave-up. It got to the point where I’d spend more time working on my 3D skills than doing homework at school – as long as I got 70% in a class, I was happy… and then I decided to start a 3D animation studio. I figured that I’m “alright” at 3D and nobody in my area could do this stuff so I had the market! I can’t draw, but I can build!
The beginnings of i3DS International Corporation
I soon realized trying to sell a service that costs thousands of dollars to local companies was going nowhere fast… of course, I bought a 10 000$US Dell workstation with DUAL Pentium processors! How did I get that kind of money? Well, I always wanted to fly so I went to the airport to get information about getting my pilots license and they told me of a guaranteed government program which would give me a 25 000$CND line of credit that I can borrow from to pay for the course. Well, I thought it was perfect… I can buy an industrial 3D workstation AND learn to fly at the same time! Two lifelong goals in one shot… I went for it!
The new computer was fast and back then… I had to call Dell and tell them I was an industrial customer as these computers were not available to the general public. Now I needed a way to pay it off AND 3D was going nowhere but people were asking me about website design. I kept saying “no, I do 3D, not web” but after a few weeks, I turned around and said “I do 3D and web” and a steady cash flow soon trickled in followed by an office with staff… producing websites, custom programming and now, 3D animations for industrial companies around the world! How was I able to expand globally like this? Well, my secret is that I decided to e-mail, call and send physical mail to EVERY INDUSTRIAL COMPANY IN THE WORLD. Crazy? Absolutely… but it worked! For instance, when Forbes would release their fastest growing company lists, they always include the name of the CEO… what a perfect way to get into a company! So, I’d send them a congratulatory letter and also introduce myself in the process. I got a lot of replies back, letters I’ve kept to this day from CEOs who manage billion dollar companies… inspiring me to push even harder to grow my business!
You want to deal with decision makers!
Why focus on CEOs? I never took a formal business course EVER but almost every time I was waiting for a decision on a project, I was always told that they are waiting for the CEO to make a decision so I decided “screw it, I’m dealing with the boss!” That was my sole focus unless he/she directed me to the marketing director or other high level executives. I like dealing with people given the power of DECISIONS.
I still have this database with me to this day, it took me 5 years to build it up one by one! My average was one paying customer for every 100 industrial CEOs I contacted… it was profitable and fun work! I became so well known in the industry that I was approached to build “The Industrial Sourcebook”website, which was a huge custom programming project that we built for a publishing company which essentially produced the phone book for all industrial companies in Canada!
It worked so great that I won an award for “High Tech company of the year and was nominated for ACE Canada entrepreneur of the year (only one of three across all of Canada!).
I was probably the only Brock University Biology/Geography student to ever represent my university at an international business conference in Ottawa! As I spoke fluent English and French, I had no problem communicating with visiting dignitaries from Africa and Europe!
I actually was so much “into business” that I had to excuse myself from a very important business meeting with my universities’ executives because I forgot I was graduating on that day! They laughed… and I saw them a few hours later at the ceremony. By the way, that year I also joined the “entrepreneur’s club” at my university… they won the ACE CIBC best club across Canada. I can’t say I learned much about entrepreneurship there, but I did learn about business… notably, the power and influence you yield. I almost flunked my Entrepreneurship class (which I took after my Japanese class was canceled) because the only part that interested me was meeting entrepreneurs (they would come for seminars and talk about their businesses). I couldn’t care less about the “theory”… I wanted the “practical” stuff!
Falling on hard times
For a while, business was running great… projects getting bigger and so were the opportunities. I was in my early 20s and was interviewed for a TV show, was in national newspapers and I had a few sales people working for me – and on the afternoons I’d take a client up flying now that I was a real pilot! Life was great… I was married, talking to business owners around the world, visiting industrial shops all over the USA and Canada then I got wacked on the side of the head by the .com bust/following recession! Before this time, businesses where spending crazy money on marketing, money that was my lifeblood funding my dreams! After the stock market crashed, my large industrial clients all of a sudden has to put lots of projects on hold… I thought, no problem… I got money and enough to survive. Things were going down and I made a critical mistake. I decided to ride it out… acquiring huge debts in the process.
The stress was incredible, at the same time, after being married for about 3 years (felt like 6 months as things were flying so fast) to a woman I loved and dated internationally for several years – it got to her (both of us) and we divorced.
I was facing personal and business bankruptcy, a divorce and debts over my head. I cracked… and my appendix decided there were better opportunities outside of my body. I spent 3 days in a hospital drugged-up. After the operation, I decided that at least I wasn’t like some of the other guys in the hospital with missing limbs – my room mate was a diabetic who lost both legs and his life story was interesting but not very inspiring.
A new life
I got out of the hospital with a new lease on life. I had a new gf, decided to pay down my debts personally – I figured I spent the money, the least I can do is pay them back and started-up business again! Things were looking-up… then 9/11 hit me and I was wiped out AGAIN! I got things back-up a third time but decided that I had to take the opportunity given to me by being young and travel the world. I was again in debt and decided on my 30th birthday that I would spent my 31st in Cairns, Australia. I got a working holiday visa, a one way plane ticket and I was off! I spent my birthday on the beaches… the way I envisioned it a year earlier!
Teaching abroad… but first more misery!
While I was in Cairns, I tried in vain to find a job – the working holiday VISA was great but nobody wanted to hire a foreigner for only 6 months stints (I couldn’t find permanent employment with this VISA). I got a job working midnights in the Cairns Post and it paid very well… but I didn’t see the Sun very often. I became a hermit in paradise! I still had mounting debts that needed to be taken care of so after 4 months, I found-out about teaching English in Korea. They would pay the flight (great as I had no money), sponsor me and gave me a salary working part-time. I thought… great! Now I can automatically pay down my debts while traveling and building back my business.
My passport was stolen in the mail while applying for a Korean E2 VISA, I had to red-eye it to Sydney with less than a hundred dollars to last me a week! It was miserable… I had no money for food so I booked a room at a hostel that offered free breakfasts. I would eat for 2 hours straight in the morning till I wanted to throw-up and that would last me until the next morning! Things sorted themselves out with the consulates and I managed to appear on Sydney television as well… the rail system broke and I saw a camera crew interviewing people so I made sure to appear in the shot! Old habits die hard!
The internet was always interesting to me, it’s what made me successful with 3D earlier in my career so I decided to do some SEO testing, building DreamClue.com (dreams mean nothing, so I could easily excel in this marketplace) and then I built buzvia.com to track my internet marketing efforts.
I was doing side-projects throughout my teaching, from web to 3D but the market never recovered. I wanted to get into woodworking! I was in a foreign country, not speaking a word of their language in an apartment the size of a western bathroom with a laptop and no money!
WoodMarvels.com made perfect sense… and after a few years, it has grown very nicely, generating sales around the world! I then build 3DMarvels.com and recently, HowToChinese.com.
After a few years going back and forth from Korea, Philippines and China… we are where I am now – I got travel bug out of me, want to start a family soon and am eagerly looking forward to what this year brings to me!
Bruce Lee says become like water
One of my idols is Bruce Lee… I actually studied Martial Arts for 10 years and got my black belt right before starting university and I think his philosophy of changing your mind and body to suit local conditions is straight on.
I’ve never lived a conventional life like my friends, I’ve seen and experienced things they can only dream about and most importantly, I’m a very content and happy person. I’ve not only managed to get my finances under control but also taught myself new skills for emerging industries! I published 4 books during this “teaching” period of life, started a few businesses and developed contacts that will provide me with the challenges for the second phase of my life. Regardless of the troubles I put myself in, I never gave-up the thought that what I got myself into I can get myself out off using my mind and body. It’s important to treat both with upmost respect… smoking, drinking, taking drugs don’t solve problems, they make them worse. Like my sister who died on Christmas day a few years back, the body will only take so much abuse before it quits and when it does, there is nothing you can do to get your health or life back.
This morning, I felt for the first time in a few years… that I’m truly awake! I have a diversified income stream (gone are the days of relying on one industry or client for my income), a woman I really love by my side and now ready to kick ass again!