By Stefan Aarnio
Today I spent the day in Edmonton with one of my money partners at the Fast Track SuperConference hosted by Darren Weeks. Darren is the Canadian Rich Dad, one of my mentors and a man who taught me a lesson that has made me successful to this day. I owe much of my success to Darren because I developed a skill set that very few people have (and one that is almost impossible to obtain because so few people teach the art of raising capital). When I worked for Darren I learned 1) How to sell and 2) The art of raising capital.
Darren Weeks is an extremely successful Canadian entrepreneur. His company, the Fast Track Group has been in the top 100 of the fastest growing companies in Profit magazine 3 years in a row, and when I worked for Darren, his team was the 40th fastest growing company in Canada. In my opinion, Darren’s personal talent is his ability to identify and assemble groups of amazing people and with unbelievable talent who are motivated by a mission greater than themselves.
Contrary to traditional business models, The Fast Track Group was built around giving out “more education than anyone in the industry”. There are few businesses who give first and receive second.
Darren prides himself on the fact that he provides more FREE value to the market than anyone else. To some people, giving out FREE information and building a business around it sounds insane, costly and risky… but I think that consumers nowadays expect FREE gifts and services before they buy – it’s the trend in modern business.
Business models that revolve around FREE gifts and services are especially strong in the financial and real estate sectors right now.
When I was 22 I attended the Fast Track Super Conference in Edmonton, I was absolutely blown away by the calibre of the company. I loved the mission, I loved the people and I loved what the company was doing for Canadians. I wanted to be a part of the group, I could feel the energy and it was infectious.
One thing Darren always used to preach when he was educating his audiences was “if you want to get rich, work for FREE.” He would often pick out a young man or woman in the audience who would be just entering the work force and ask them “can you afford to work for FREE?”
Almost every time, the young man or woman would say “absolutely not!” and then Darren would teach the lesson.
The difference between the rich and the middle class/poor is that the rich do not work for money, they work for FREE. This may sound completely ridiculous to your belief system, but hear me out:
Lets consider two scenarios.
In my personal life, when I was in my early twenties, I had two jobs at two different times. At my first job I worked for money, at my second job I worked for FREE.
MY FIRST JOB (WORKING FOR MONEY):
At age 22 I worked at Frito Lay Canada and my job was to merchandise (which is a fancy word for putting bags of chips on the shelves at 4 in the morning at Wal-Mart).
My primary motive for working with the company was the salary and the hours. I was truly chasing the dollar in every sense of the word. I wanted a salary so I could get mortgages to buy real estate. I took that job for the wrong reasons, didn’t learn the proper skills in the field and it became harder and harder to get out of bed every day when I worked there. I had no passion for the industry and felt that there was nothing to learn.
When I left the company, I had maxed out my purchasing power for properties and but had acquired ZERO skills towards building my own business. Since I had chased the dollar, I had a small cash reserve on hand, however, I had built NO SKILLS or contacts. Although I had made a little bit of money, I had built no human equity in myself, no skills and had no way of propelling myself forward towards my goals, hopes and dreams. In a way, I had traded time for money, lost my time and had crippled myself in a way.
Most people don’t consider the skills they learn at work. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to leave their job once they stop learning the skills required to do it. Always work to learn. Move from job to job until you have all of the skills required to run the business of your choice.
Lesson: When it comes to work NEVER chase the dollars, find what excites you, find where your heart is and chase your passions. The money doesn’t matter and it always gravitates towards the most enthusiastic people.
MY NEXT JOB (WORKING FOR FREE): I had heard Darren Weeks say on stage “If you want to get Rich, work for FREE”. I took his advice, although it challenged my belief system, but I had nothing to lose so I and volunteered for his company whenever he was in town.
Every time Darren was in town, I would dress up in a suit, show up early, leave late, pack and unpack books, process paperwork, seat people, help out with sound-production and do any task that was required of me. I expected NO financial compensation and just wanted to be on the team.
I volunteered for Darren for three years and I applied to work for his company three times. Twice I was rejected for the job and the third time I applied I said, “I have been volunteering at this company over the past 3 years, I have applied twice and been rejected, I will keep applying until you hire me”.
I then flew to Edmonton and volunteered at a Fast Track Super Conference event shortly after my interview. Darren Weeks noticed that I had flown from Winnipeg to Edmonton (on my own money) to volunteer to work for him. After the event, he personally took the time out of his evening to offer me a job with the company.
What Darren didn’t know was that I had already been hired to start work with the company and on the following monday I was to begin formal training.
Consider the lesson: working for FREE and volunteering had grabbed the attention of the founder of the company and had brought me onto the team OF MY CHOICE.
Now that I was positioned in the only company I wanted to work for, I got paid to learn more about the topics I was already passionate about. I was in heaven.
I got paid to sharpen my skills and become an extremely valuable asset to myself. I learned the art of sales, how to do public presentations, how to run an office, how to recruit good employees, how to fire bad employees, prospecting, sales tracking, databases, securities regulations and public speaking.
Most importantly, I learned how to raise capital and work with investors. This has been my “secret sauce” in my business and it’s what sets me apart from other real estate investors who DO NOT have the skill set.
These skills are the base of my empire and the building blocks of my portfolio. I have based my entire career and current business around skills that I acquired by working for FREE.
Had I not volunteered at the company first, I would have had no chance of working with them. I would be of no value to their tribe and I would not have learned the skill set that makes me valuable today.
Every morning, you would still see a wandering soul putting bags of Doritos on the shelf at Walmart at 5:00am. I would have throttled passions and big dreams, but no way of executing them or aligning with other people who matter.
Lesson: Every week I meet young people who are passionate about a certain field or career. Many people say they are passionate about music, art, acting, sports, television, radio etc. and don’t know how to break into those “hard to enter” industries. Whenever I study a highly successful person, I notice that almost all of them worked for FREE scrubbing toilets, mopping floors or doing the most pointless jobs at the bottom of the barrel just to be a part of the industry of their choice. Unfortunately, young people today do not see such opportunity.
Steven Spielberg began his brilliant career in film by just “showing up” to the movie studio, wearing a suit and pretending to be a director in an abandoned office. He was a film student who pretended to work there and snuck into the studio every day. The people at the studio assumed he worked there and eventually his passion for film brought him an opportunity to make his first film.
Steve Jobs of Apple was too poor to pay for his college education so he collected aluminum cans on campus and would cash them in to eat his next meal. Jobs had no money, so he would sit in the university classes for free and let his mind absorb the information. The FREE classes he attended for no credit became the building blocks of the apple philosophy. Steve was genius who blended liberal arts with technology. If he were paying for the classes and chasing marks/credits, he would not have been so creative and open in his approach.
Trent Reznor, the frontman of of the iconic band Nine Inch Nails, got a job as a janitor at a recording studio where he mopped floors and poured coffee for 8+ hours a day. He shared an apartment with a friend and ate peanut butter sandwiches for years just so that he could earn studio time to make his debut record in the middle of the night when the studio was vacant.
The most brilliant people in the world, the people who are at the top of their game and dominate their fields with enthusiasm, passion and leadership often started at the bottom working for FREE.
The reason why working for free is so powerful is:
- It gets you in the door, an employer can’t say “no” to free labor
- You make contacts in the industry of your choice immediately
- You learn the business form the “ground up”
- When a job opens up, you are first in line because you are at the business and eager to work anyways – you are the best choice!
- If you aren’t passionate about the industry you won’t last long, you will weed yourself out to find your true passion
- Over time you gain experience and you will either be hired by the company you are volunteering for OR A COMPETITOR of theirs. This is a no lose strategy if you stick with it.
- You free your mind from “chasing the dollars” which can limit your creativity. You will approach the industry with a creative, fresh perspective. This is priceless in the long run.
If I lost everything tomorrow, had no skills, no money, no contacts and no experience I would re-discover what I am excited about and offer to work for FREE in the industry.
Of course I would need some income to live, so I would get a job at McDonalds for 8 hours of the day (or another McJob) that is not too stressful, then work for the company of my choice for FREE in the other 8 hours. I would continue this 80 hour a week routine until I am hired by the company of my choice and then I would quit my McJob.
I would then gain all of the skills I need to be successful in my industry and re-evaluate my position. I would likely find a way to start my own business in the same industry and leave as fast as possible as soon as I stop learning.
Exercise: Take a step back from where you spend your time on a daily basis. Ask yourself: Are you chasing dollars? Or are you building valuable skills in an industry of your choice? Is your work based on passion and enthusiasm? Would you keep working there if they stopped paying you?
I used to say when I was in the music industry “You know you’re in the right industry when you can work 18 hours a day, lose money and still wake up the next day to do it all over again.” Follow your heart and make a choice of passion and NOT logic.
Thanks for reading,
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