Is Flying First Class One Way Worth $15,000? Not At All
We all have experiences to share and while in hindsight there really are no regrets it’s pretty valuable to reflect on the lessons learned. If one doesn’t do this, they’ll find themselves repeating history over and over again, getting the same results (insanity). It’s through hardship where we truly find out who we really are and what we’re made of. It determines what the future has in store for us.
My first real turbulence started a little over 12 years ago. I was working at an e-commerce startup which had tremendous potential and I was getting paid well, excelled at what I did and had stock options to boot. The dream of becoming a millionaire was still in sight after both the dot com bubble burst and 9/11. However, reality started to sink in once the company started losing clients and cutting staff. At that point I knew it was time to move on but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was trained with creative skills but I really wasn’t passionate about pursuing another career in design like some of my colleagues that moved on.
I knew there was something different about me. When everyone was reading design magazines, I was fascinated by business books.
— Bernard Chan
Even though I was interested in business, I had absolutely no experience in it. I think the only entrepreneurial thing I’ve done was sell crafts back in high school for a fundraiser (yes, really). Frankly, like the average business grad I was groomed to becoming an awesome employee - but that just never felt right. So after consuming more business non-fiction I got the bright idea of starting one, how difficult could it be right? The principles sound simple enough. I decided to start my new life by quitting two weeks before my 26th birthday. My final day at work would also be a brand new start towards greatness...so I thought.
Over the years at work I stayed in contact with one of my best friends that moved back to Thailand. His family was wealthy and had businesses both in Canada and back home. He found out that I quit my job and asked me if I would like to join him as he was getting groomed to take over his family’s business. Even though I had very little idea of what he actually did, I jumped in without thinking twice (big mistake). He educated me on the manufacturing industry and shared with me his dreams of owning the market, I was instantly sold. I started helping him seek out suppliers and gather goods to be sent back. It was a bit challenging since I was learning on the fly all of the intricacies of something I had no clue about, but I was determined. We had a process where I would buy the goods and send it to him, he would then wire the money over after. While this wasn’t the ideal practice it didn’t bother me as I fully trusted him and he always paid. At the time the risk was low and the reward was huge as I had the opportunity to be a part of an international company.
Months of buying and exporting went by flawlessly and then all of a sudden my accounts payable bills started to rack up to $15,000 and my actual receivables did not match up
— Bernard Chan
I spoke to my friend and asked him what was going on as he was not sending payment back my way, he reassured me that everything was fine and that he’s just running into a few issues. As you’re reading this you’re probably counting the number of red flags in this venture (at this point I lost count). Finally, I had to stop the bleeding, I told him I couldn’t do this anymore and I needed some funds back. I called him but he didn’t answer, I tried e-mailing as well with no avail. I even located one of his vendors overseas and they had a hard time reaching him too. After a month or so of hounding I realized he was gone. That was the single most devastating of my entire life.
The money was one thing but I couldn’t believe my best friend would just leave me hanging like that. I felt so betrayed and wanted to do things that I probably shouldn’t mention here. I was angry and then felt so depressed, how could I be so stupid? I then began to question if I was even cut out to become an entrepreneur. Maybe I should just work on my resume and call it quits while the job market was still feasible? I was in a dark place with very little light at the end of the tunnel.
In a strange sense, it ended up giving me more confidence because I looked up to him due to his business oriented background and perceived success, but in the end I realized it didn’t matter because he failed just as bad. After sulking for some time, I decided the dream of being an entrepreneur had to be kept alive. Besides, I practically burnt all of my bridges when I left work, not the most intuitive move but I’m glad I did. It forced me to move forward as I learned much later in life.
It wasn’t all bad in the end, I did learn a few key lessons from the whole debacle:
Know what you’re doing - This may sound like common sense but sometimes entrepreneurs fall too deep in love with the action that they don’t do their due diligence. Start poking holes in everything to figure out what could go wrong as much as what can go right. This applies to your own personal finances primarily, and everything else you get yourself involved in.
Live and die by cash flow - I never really cared about money starting out and that led to my downfall, had I cared for it like my own child it wouldn’t have gotten that bad. This is your life we're talking about and in some cases, your family's.
Believe in yourself - Just because someone may seemingly have more experience than you, it doesn’t matter. While taking in advice is important nothing beats listening to yourself and your gut feeling. Your body is an amazing thing, it won't stray you wrong.
Failure is the greatest teacher - I’m jumping a bit ahead with this one but winning is the easy part and it rarely teaches us anything. When you truly fail (you’ll know because it’ll sting like a bitch), you’ll learn quickly on what to do and not to do. Failure builds resistance which is one of the important pieces on the journey to success. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.
After a few more startups and mild successes, I was starting to get really burnt out. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong as the dream of success seemed to be slipping away. But something kept me going, maybe it was the fact that losing that money still ate inside of me and I needed to prove to myself that I was going to make it no matter what. Whatever it was it just kept pushing me forward, and throughout all of the uphill battles I ended up meeting my mentor (if you don’t have one, get one) who is now my business partner. He taught me the ins and outs of running a profitable business and helped create my first source of passive income. This has allowed me to really leverage my time so I can work on larger projects, pursue personal goals and really enjoy life.
Some may read this and think I got lucky but I look at it as me paying my dues which was an absolute bargain looking back. If hadn’t gone through all the turbulence I experienced, I wouldn’t have made it anywhere close to where I am today. I would have probably been stuck in the rat race and hated myself for not going after more. The lessons and experience were absolutely priceless. My advice to those thinking of pursuing more in life, just go do it and be sure to surround yourself with the right people.