First, I want to time travel back two years, in late 2017, when I was in a much different place.
I was on a six-hour flight from San Francisco to New York. It was a Sunday, and I was coming off of a long weekend trip with family and friends celebrating my sister’s 21st birthday.
That’s always a grueling flight, especially if you’re going east since you “lose” 3 hours. Couple that with the fact I had taken off a few days of work (just started a new job) and how much alcohol I drank over the weekend, I was feeling a bit guilty.
Why was I reading this book? Because I wanted to fix things in my life. And while reading, I couldn’t help but face my insecurities about my financial situation and career:
- I had over $25k in credit card debt.
- I had over $40k in student loan debt.
- I had just moved to NYC and was living above my means.
- I had just started a new full-time job and I wasn’t passionate about it.
Obligatory note that I am grateful to only have these issues - I realize that they are nothing compared to the hardships that most people in the world are going through.
I wasn’t beating myself up though - I was feeling a surge of motivation to change things.
A few pages in, I put the book down, pulled out my iPhone and wrote this note:
The note I created in October 2017 on that flight
You might be thinking “that’s is an oddly specific statement to write”.
But early in the book, Hill walks through his simple process on how to get rich (or for me, to get out of debt).
Napoleon Hill’s six-step process to get rich
He boils it all down to six steps, designed to help anyone get the financial results they desire:
1 - Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount.
2 - Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)
3 - Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
4 - Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
5 - Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
6 - Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read, see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money.
I actually wrote it down this time
After I got home from the flight, I wrote that same statement on a physical piece of paper, stuck a nail through the top and into the wall, and hung it right next to my bed.
Some of the wear and tear it went through, it got ripped off the wall a few times!
But how many times had I done stuff like this before? Made goals and didn’t stick to them? Too many to count…
This time, I made sure to follow his instructions:
1 - $10,000 CASH was the exact amount of money I desired to have. Keep in mind that I was in $65k worth of debt, so this I needed to profit $75k to get there.
2 - What would I give in return for that money? As stated, I had to (1) keep making my full-time income (2) follow a serious budget and (3) make good money with a side project.
3 - I stated the date: Jan 1, 2019. At the time I wrote the note, that was 15 months away.
4 - Was it realistic? I needed a definite plan - so I created a spreadsheet that ran all of these numbers, and it was possible (although everything had to go perfectly).
5 - Following Hill’s instruction, I actually wrote it down on a physical piece of paper.
6 - I didn’t read it aloud twice a day, but by having it hung up by my bed, I was forced to look at it every morning and night.
I put my head down and started working
I’m not going to say that I became a different person and turned things around overnight.
I was still stuck, but this piece of paper remained constant as I slowly turned things around.
But also having this piece of paper hung up in my room was actually kind of weird for me at first…
When friends or family came into my room, I hid the sheet of paper out of embarrassment.
I was self-conscious about these goals. I thought people would think I was weird for this. I think I was afraid of failure and afraid of being myself.
But over time, people eventually found it and asked about it. It really was no big deal. Although I didn’t share this goal online, sharing this with friends helped it feel more real.
I took that sheet of paper really seriously.
Keep in mind that when I made these goals, Starter Story was not even monetized. I was making $0/month.
At the time, $3,000/month seemed incomprehensible to me, but I knew it was possible after all that I’d researched and read on the internet (thank you Indie Hackers
, Pieter Levels
, and so many more).
To reach my goal, I was assuming an average of $3k/month over the next 15 months. So if I couldn’t reach $3k in earlier months, I would have to make up for it in later months if the site grew.
It wasn’t very realistic, but you have to set big goals, and even reaching half of that I would have been happy.
I slowly chipped away at that goal:
The red line is the 15 months I had to get to $3k/month average revenue
What else could get me closer to $10k cash? Saving more money.
I’ve never been great with money, and I won’t go into that... but I needed to change that as well.
I created a spreadsheet forecast/budget and tracked my expenses in detail. I analyzed it every two weeks, digging deep into my spending, income, and understanding my financial picture better.
My old expenses tracking sheet. The column in red was how much I was putting towards my credit card principal every two weeks. Everything I saved went right into that. On another note, you can see how expensive NYC is!
Note - in this post I won’t cover a lot of the things that happened that year. But if you’re interested in more details about the business side, read this.
To make a long story short, I just kept working towards that goal, getting small wins, paying off credit cards, and learned a lot about myself through starting my own business and changing my habits.
I wasn’t going to reach $10k
Fast forward a few months…
As the fateful day loomed closer, I realized that I wasn’t even close to reaching my $10,000 cash goal.
But I wasn’t sad about it. I had a lot to be proud of:
- By August 2018, I had reached $1k monthly revenue.
- By September 2018, I paid off all my credit card debt.
- By October 2018, I quit my full-time job to put all my focus into Starter Story and the 24 Hour Startup.
All of these were massive, first-time accomplishments for me.
Although I was still far off from my $10k cash goal and still in the red, I’m certain that little piece of paper drove me much closer than if I hadn’t done it.
And then it happened (almost)
Then, in late November 2018, I got word from my newsletter sponsor that they wanted to exclusively sponsor the entire Starter Story website for the next year!
That was never in the “plans”, but one thing I learned at that point, is that I could no longer predict anything anymore.
The only thing that stayed constant was me putting in the work and trying to get closer to that goal.
Since the cash was paid upfront, it got me into “positive net worth” territory. It got me to $5,000 in cash, only $5k off from my goal!
I was so close, but at that point, I was no longer attached to reaching the $10k goal. I was surprised how I close I got, and grateful.
And then it actually happened
Sure enough, luck struck again, and this time it was even bigger.
My old coworker texted me, saying that the startup we used to work for 5 years ago had just filed for IPO. When I left the company, I purchased some stock options.
And that was the moment I had not only reached my audacious goal of $10k, but blew so much further past it than I could ever imagine.
I dug through my bag and found the piece of paper, and it was one of the best feelings of accomplishment of my life.
Note: The stock options/IPO is almost 100% luck, so I hope it’s clear that I’m not bragging or attributing this to my own success. However, I do think this shows the power of hard work + luck. I worked my ass off to get to $5k, and then this was really the icing on the cake.
What did I learn?
Visualize. Visualize. Visualize.
What you visualize over time will naturally become your reality.
If you visualize yourself running and finishing a marathon, you will do it. If you visualize yourself getting that promotion, you will get it.
But it also goes the other way.
If you can’t visualize your side project making money, then it won’t magically monetize itself. If you visualize a relationship or date going poorly, then it will. I am guilty of negative visualization in many ways.
State your goals, and then multiply them by 3.
If you think it’s possible to make $1k month after 1 year, then scribble out the 1 and replace with a 3, or a 5, or even a 10.
Because if I set my original goal to be $1k/month, then I would never have hit $3k. And if I set my goal at $10k, I probably would have hit that too.
If you visualize the ceiling, then you will won’t break through it.
And the other thing I learned? If you work hard, consistently, and do honest work, then unexpected and amazing things will happen - it just takes time.
So that’s how one little piece of paper changed my life.
The funny thing is, after I wrote the note on that flight, I picked the book back up and only read a few more pages and got bored.
It didn’t matter what the rest said - that was all I needed! Thank you Napoleon Hill :)