How I Went From Welfare to Millionaire

A while back I published a post about how I failed my way to success and in that post, I shared the specific tactics that I used to achieve my goals.

In today’s post, I would like to dive a little deeper into the mindset needed, as well as to share a bit more of my personal story – all in the hopes that learning more about the adversity that I overcame along my journey will help you to overcome any adversity in yours.

Ready? Good! Lets dive in….

Poverty = Violence

When I was very young, my parents were poor to middle class. In other words, they always were stressed about money – or at least it seemed that way to me when I was a young kid.

Unfortunately, this money stress often lead to violent outbursts that were really scary to be around and it was from these outbursts that my child-mind concluded that a lack of money = violence in the household.

Of course, as an adult, I now realize that rich people can be violent, too. However, as a kid, I couldn’t see this and my belief that poverty = violence served as an extremely powerful motivator for me.

Looking back, I strongly remember two things: how much I hate violence, and how I always knew that I’d be rich (some day) – and these powerful beliefs both played a key role in the decisions I made about my career.

Going Bankrupt

My Dad was really good at some very important things; like spending time with me and being a supportive father who instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I wanted in life.

Sadly, he wasn’t so good with money and went bankrupt twice.

The first time was in 1981 when I was 11. If you are too young to remember what happened in 1981, ask your parents. Interest rates when through the roof and a lot of people went bankrupt. My father was one of them.

After going broke and losing our home, we found ourselves living in a welfare apartment, eating a lot of Kraft macaroni, and sitting on the ugliest green couch you’ve ever seen.

As I was only 11, this experience didn’t have the devastating negative impact on me that I think it had on my dad.

As an adult now, I can only imagine how failing financially must have made him feel. The one thing that I do know is that his self-confidence took a major beating – which as you might guess, had a very long lasting negative impact on his ability to bounce back to prosperity.

For me, living in the welfare apartment, eating macaroni, and seeing my dad have such a tough go had only one really lasting impact – it created a burning desire to succeed in life – even though I was only 11 at the time.

Key Take Away: Many very successful people have gone bankrupt at some point in their careers and instead of letting their circumstances permanently defeat them, they maintained a positive outlook, took a lot of action, and bounced back.

Fueling Your Desire

Sadly, I often hear from people who believe that the only thing standing between them and their millions is the next big idea, training course, set of SOPs, or whatever else you can think of.

Sadly, all these folks are mistaken. Their lack of success is rarely due to a lack of any of the above.

Based upon my experience, the biggest thing that people lack is desire – supported by the right mindset and hard work.

Building a business takes time. There is no easy button, and you should expect to fail more often than you succeed. My own journey has been evidence of that.

The same can be said for the 250+ entrepreneurs I have interviewed on my podcast. There isn’t a single one of them who succeeded overnight without failing numerous times along the way.

So how does desire fit into this?

Simple. If your desire….or put another way… if your reason why isn’t strong enough, then when times are tough it becomes all too easy to give up to chase the next shiny object.

Key Take Away: There is no easy button, and you should expect to fail more often than you succeed.

My Big Why

When I was a kid, the reason why I wanted to be rich was so that there wouldn’t be any violence (due to a lack of money) in my life.

As I said earlier, this is a flawed belief, but it was extremely powerful at the time.

These days my big why is pretty simple. I want to ensure that my family has enough wealth – which for me is passive income – so that no matter what happens, we always have choices that wouldn’t be available to us if we didn’t have the wealth.

I guess this could also be described another way. My #1 value is freedom; which I define as having the ability to make my own choices about how I spend my time, where I live, who I interact with, etc… and to achieve that kind of freedom requires a certain level of passive income (aka: wealth).

Key Take Away: Without a strong enough why, maintaining a high level of motivation is more difficult.


By now, I hope that you are starting to realize (if you hadn’t already), that your mindset is absolutely key to your success.

The biggest mistakes that I see people making are that they expect success to come too quickly. The reality is that success rarely comes fast – even for the people who grace the cover of your favorite business magazine.

As a student of business for the last two decades, I have come to realize that in order to achieve a very high level of success, I’m going to need to practice my craft for thousands of hours. Only then can I expect to become a true expert.

My path over the last 9 years is a perfect example of this.

After selling my offline business in 2008 for just over $1M, I realized that in the next phase of my career, I wanted to build a successful online business and to do that was going to require me to learn a lot of new skills.

For the first seven of these 9 years, I experienced moderate success, but never made anywhere near the amount of money that I’m making now.

The lesson here is this: if you don’t expect to fail a few times along the way (or many times in my case!), then you are simply setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.

Instead of seeing each failure as just that, we all have the choice to see that failure as just another ‘opportunity for education’ that is a required part of the process of ultimately becoming successful.

As evidence of this, in my reading yesterday I came across this post from the Shopify blog that shares the story of several part time entrepreneurs who eventually, over a period of years (not weeks or months) were able to transition to full time and quit their jobs.

I’ve not yet interviewed any of these folks on my podcast, but if I do, I will guarantee you that all of them experienced numerous failures along the way and the only reason each succeeded was because they didn’t give up too soon.

Key Take Away: Attitude, supported by a plan and massive action, is a recipe for success.

Successful Entrepreneurs are Resilient People

When I look at my own journey, or the journey of the many people I’ve interviewed on my show, the common character trait is resilience.

Without resilience, your chances of success are zero because when things get really difficult, getting through those times can be really hard. That is why you must develop your resilience.

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. If you are resilient, you possess toughness – and that is the fuel that will carry you through the ‘valleys of death’ that await you on your path to success.

So how does one become resilient? The short answer is that you need to practice and study the art of resilience. When I typed how to develop resilience into Google, there were plenty of results to read.

Key Take Away: Resilient people understand that setbacks are a natural part of the process so when they occur, they remind themselves that, relative to the end goal, today’s setback is no big deal.

Strategies and Tactics

I have already written about the specific strategies and tactics that I have used to become a millionaire so I won’t get into them again here.

What I will say is this; I believe that one of the most important things you can do to stack the cards in your favor is to hang around other people who either have similar goals to you, or are already in the place you want to be.

The reason that I believe this is so important is because when you spend time with others on the same mission, you pave the way for shared learning (a huge time saver!) and support.

This is the #1 reason I spend tens of thousands per year on mastermind groups and professional development. I see my brain as a muscle and in order to make it stronger, it needs regular stretching and exercise!

What Do You Think?

Have questions, thoughts or a personal story to share? Please take a moment and leave a comment below.

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