I started writing this post series about 6 months ago. I got 3 parts in and never wrote the last one. So here I am finishing it up. I put off writing this last one for a multitude of reasons which I’ll explore later in this post.
Coming off our first big win, we were high in spirits. We went on to visit a couple more colleges over the subsequent weeks. A recurring struggle was the inability to find a good spot to park the behemoth of a vehicle we were driving around. But we persisted and attempted to put on a few more events.
Ben still owned a landscaping business back in Michigan and it required his attention. When we left, he set his employees off on a good foot for the most part. He set expectations well, left detailed instructions, and implemented a structure that would theoretically allow him to manage the business with minimal effort from afar.
But we all know theory is different from reality.
Things started to fall apart. Employees were threatening to quit, work wasn’t getting done, and cashflow dwindled. Something had to be done.
We were in Austin, Texas when he rented a car and started driving 12 hours back to Michigan. He stopped in Chicago to visit a friend on the way, and while he was there, the car got broken into and his bag was stolen.
All our video footage was in that bag.
Meanwhile back in Texas, it was just our DJ and me.
It’s difficult to describe how I felt at this point in the journey. It felt somewhat stagnant. We had decided to do this big thing together, and a month in, a wrench had been thrown in our plans. I wasn’t sure if I could do it on my own. I felt lost. We had some plans initially, but most of what kept this tour running was our faith that we could create something out of nothing. Now that Ben had been pulled back to focus on getting his business taken care of, that faith felt severed.
We posted up in Austin for a couple weeks to put things on hold. I went to some events, met some cool people and had fun, but my actions were mostly aimless. I didn’t have much of a plan.
Ben came back two weeks later and we headed to Denver.
The next several months were pretty mild. We had some minor wins and some minor losses, but nothing big happened.
Our original plan to stop at colleges had mostly died off by this point. We felt the pressure of our diminishing bank accounts, so we shifted our focus to building some cash flow. We attempted as much as we could to see what would stick.
We sold t-shirts and books. We tried taking other entrepreneurs on tour to launch their businesses. We played music in the streets for cash. We tried to find coaching clients. We tried to launch a course to help people start a career without college. We tried to speak at colleges.
I ended up getting my book in one small book store in Colorado, but I didn’t make much money from it. It just took cold calling book stores to make this happen.
We made our way through New Mexico, Arizona, and eventually California until we couldn’t go any further west. Everything we tried was fun, difficult, and unsustainable. That initial faith that drove us to go on this crazy adventure in the first place was gone. Reality had begun to set in and time was running out.
Ben flew back to Michigan one last time to sell his business. This time he was staying until the job was done. The tour was officially over.
I was the only one left. I found myself sitting alone in an RV somewhere in California with no money and nothing of value to show for the past six months.
I followed my gut. I bought fully into my own vision and didn’t look back.
I fell flat on my face. I failed miserably.
One day, I remember sitting in the RV feeling defeated. There was a homeless man across the parking lot. I looked at him sitting there in the sun, just like I was, idle, not creating anything valuable, and probably feeling defeated too.
I guess you could call it rock bottom.
After that moment, I decided to get to work. I did the one thing I do better than anyone else. I went straight to the nearest neighborhood and started knocking on doors to find house painting customers.
It was hard without an LLC, insurance, a website, a brand name, or any evidence of a business. But I didn’t have time to make excuses. I didn’t want to run a painting business again. But the alternative was to sit still and do nothing. Within a week I had booked up a job. Within 2 weeks I had painted a house and made $4,000 cash.
It’s amazing what you can do when your back is against a wall.
After getting myself back on my feet, I got rid of the RV and the rest is history.
There were so many things I could have done differently that would have turned the experience into a success. Looking back, we could have done much better with documenting our story. We hardly made any videos and I only wrote 6 or 7 blog posts. We could have created a much better digital presence to get people to stand behind our vision.
But I wouldn’t have known any of that if I didn’t go through what I went through. I’m grateful for everything that happened and I wouldn’t change it if I could. The amount of self-knowledge I gained is unprecedented, not to mention all the good memories.
I learned that pure passion can only take you so far. I learned that creating value for people is the best thing you can do to earn money. I learned that you must interact with your customers as much as possible if you want to sell them something. I learned that a digital paper trail (or lack thereof) can make or break a business. I learned that you can’t find fulfillment from sitting around and learning to be OK with your current situation. I learned that creating is the most fulfilling thing you can do. I learned that I can create something out of nothing (very quickly) if I have a reason to.
Considering how the RV tour ended, it makes sense that I put off writing this final part. It’s anti-climactic, I know.
I hope you enjoyed reading my story.
This is Part 4 of a series I’m doing on my experience touring the country in an RV trying to convince people to drop out of college.
Part 3 | Back to Part 1
I love road trips. I also love flying. I love any type of travel. There’s something about physically moving my body that feels productive. It doesn’t matter if I’m walking, running, riding my bike, driving, or flying.
While I’m traveling, I’m not making any noticeable progress towards my long-term goals. It still feels productive.
When I’m driving, all I’m literally doing is sitting in a car. The physical experience is no different than sitting in a stationary house. But when I’m driving, there’s a reason behind it. I’ve decided to move myself from where I am to where I want to be. I’ve deliberately chosen a goal to achieve. On the other hand, sitting in a stationary house is aimless.
I relate it to mowing a lawn or painting a house. You can look back at what you did and physically see the progress you’ve made. When you’re on a road trip, you can look at a map and physically see the amount of distance you’ve moved.
Driving isn’t difficult. It’s monotonous and it’s boring at times, but there is a purpose behind it.
What if I drove aimlessly? What if I hopped in my car, decided to go nowhere, then started driving? Would it feel productive or would it feel like sitting in a stationary house?
What makes traveling feel productive is the reason behind it.
Productivity is not related to difficulty. Productivity is related to deliberateness of purpose.
A thought rattles around in your head, permeating your mind. It doesn’t go away.
People around you are talking but you have trouble understanding their words or empathizing with their emotions. The thought overshadows all other thoughts and things. Your immediate surroundings grow distant as the thought builds a newer and more visceral reality around you. This new reality is not the same as the reality you know. It’s new.
You stop trying to resist and let yourself focus on the thought. It permeates even more. It pulses and throbs and becomes more intense.
It is exciting, visceral, uncomfortable and painful. It’s extreme. It is euphoric or excruciating. Maybe it’s both. You can’t tell. You can’t escape it. You’re not sure if you want to.
It intensifies. You feel like there is no escape. You focus on the feeling even more. Nothing else exists.
At that moment it becomes instantly light. It feels as if the thought was air that you could cup in your hands. It still exists. So do you. You’re there next to it, sitting still, noticing and observing from a distance. You feel your self split from the thought. You look at it. You have no opinion of it. It exists on its own just like you do. It is an object.
You slowly start to notice your surroundings. You slowly start to hear people talking around you. You understand what they are saying. You feel like you’ve been here before.
You’re not sure how much time has gone by. You know the thought will come back. You know it’s not gone forever. But you also know that it was only a thought. It was something separate from you entirely. You can look at it and touch it from a distance. You understand it objectively.
Before technology made it easy to communicate with people around the globe in seconds, relationships were developed mostly based on circumstances. Your geography and the relationships of your parents primarily dictated who you spent your time with, not your ideals or fundamental beliefs.
Each person had a much smaller sample size of people to spend their time with. If they wanted to get into a certain field, they couldn’t pull advice from the best in the world–only the best in their general area.
Now, we each have access to anyone around the world in a matter of seconds. We can interact with the best in the world no matter where we’re located or where our family grew up.
Your closest network of people can exist scattered around the globe. You can build close-knit groups of people who share the same ideologies, beliefs, and practices without ever meeting them in person. You no longer have to build your network based on geography or preexisting circumstances. You build your network on based on the people who align most with your goals, ambitions, and beliefs.
If you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, then the possibilities are endless.
Humans rule the world because they have imaginations. They have an ability to believe in things that don’t actually exist. They can also convince each other to believe in these imaginary ideas which allows them to cooperate on such a large scale.
Physically, humans fall somewhere in the middle of the food chain. They do not stand a chance against lions or bears in the wild, but they can easily catch rabbits and chickens. For a long time, their cognition was only developed to a certain point. They couldn’t believe in things that they couldn’t experience with their senses, so they continued to roam the world in small bands, simply existing in the world as they knew it.
Once humans developed the ability to believe in myths that don’t exist, everything changed. They were able to imagine a world that didn’t exist yet. They were able to conjure up structures and systems and realities that nobody had ever seen or experienced before. They gained the ability to improve the reality.
Religions, corporations, philosophies, morals, economics, politics, money, don’t exist in reality. Bank notes are IOUs that represent different amounts of something that doesn’t actually exist. You can’t touch an economy or a religion. You can’t see or hear a business. You can touch the products that a business creates and you can touch the humans that make it run, but the business itself is an imaginary myth that exists only in the minds of everyone who believes it exists.
You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him an afterlife filled with unlimited bananas for the good deed. He won’t believe you. But you can convince a human of such a thing. They do it to each other all the time.
When somebody creates a business, he starts by convincing people to believe the myth that he created. This is done when he hires a team of people, registers the business legally, makes sales, and has the product built. Once there is tangible evidence of the business, more people are likely to believe it exists. But they still cannot see the business itself. Religions started the same way. They only work because X number of people have agreed to believe it works.
This is unprecedented. Physically, humans are still in the middle of the food chain. Without understanding how the human mind thinks and believes, the fact that they created cities, waged wars, and stepped foot on the moon seems utterly illogical. No other animal has come close to this type of world domination.
But this happened because they started worked together. Rather than each band of humans fending for themselves, they operated through beliefs that were outside of themselves. This opened up the possibility for cooperation on a massive scale because they didn’t have to communicate directly with one another to have the same goals. People in different parts of the world could now believe in the same things which allowed them to orient themselves toward the same outcomes. They built villages, then cities, then empires, then countries. They built religions, political systems, philosophies, and morals. The people working towards these ends were collaborating with people they would never meet who were standing on opposite sides of the globe.
Right now, we all believe that the country borders are as they are. Imagine if everyone in the world decided to believe that those borders don’t exist and the world was one big open country. It’s possible. That’s how the world actually is. Borders are made up. But humans continue to believe in these myths because it’s the very thing that allowed them to band together and create the world around them rather than existing as passive participants of it.
Experts don’t exist. Neither do students.
In any field, you will have students below you and experts above you. The students below you are seen as experts by the students below them, and so on. The experts above you are seen as students by the experts above them. Experts and students are the same thing. It’s turtles all the way down.
What makes an expert an expert isn’t that their knowledge comes from some sacred pool of expertise that only they have access to. They haven’t reached a definitive point and transitioned from being a student to an expert. They are always students. They are humble. They barely notice how they are seen by their students because they themselves feel like students.
The defining characteristic of experts is their curiosity. They consistently conduct themselves like students. Experts are experts because they’ve spent a lot of time practicing the act of learning things. They desire to learn and they let their curiosity drive them. They don’t desire to reach the status of being an expert, they simply learn things that interest them.
Once you draw a definitive line between students and experts, you are forced to identify with one or the other. You decide that you cannot be both at the same time.
Those who identify as students don’t give themselves enough credit. They believe that they haven’t yet reached a defined or undefined tier that will switch their status to an expert. They see themselves on a rung below experts. They see themselves unfit to lead people or give advice because they are merely a student and don’t have enough to teach.
Those who identify as experts give themselves too much credit. They believe they’ve learned as much as they need to know. They believe they are finished learning and they are ready to start teaching people what they know. They believe they have a pool of knowledge that other people don’t have access to. They stop indulging in their curiosity.
But they are the same thing. This is how unimpressive people on YouTube can gain a large audience. This is how any average person can start a blog and change peoples’ lives with their words. This is how a 20-year-old can write a best-selling book before he has accomplished what he plans to accomplish. He learns through the process of being an expert for people while he takes inspiration from people he views as experts.
Don’t be an expert or a student. Be a learner. Be curious.