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Profitably living in your parent’s garage

more percent efficient

Sam Ovens always knew he didn’t want to be a worker bee. In fact, the New Zealand entrepreneur left his first post-university corporate job after only three months and moved, classically, to his parent’s garage to start building a business of his own.

Which failed. His first business, a “reverse job board,” failed miserably after he spent nine months (and all of his money) on its development. His next two businesses followed suit. With a mounting pile of evidence supporting a claim to his own inadequacy, Ovens curled up into a tiny ball of Kiwi pain and wept…

Only he didn’t. He kept plowing forward, using the insight he had gained from his three failed attempts to launch a successful online business consulting firm that, in the past four years since its inception, has made him a millionaire ten times over. He was so successful that Entrepreneur magazine wrote an article about him, titling it, “4 Tips from a 26-Year-Old Who Built a $10 Million Consulting Business.”

I’m not here to rehash their story, though, because I have four tips of my own that I uncovered by reading between the lines of his story. The results of my research on Ovens and that Entrepreneur article will, hopefully, be just as helpful as their own words.

The first lesson is this: know what you want.

The New Zealand entrepreneur knew all along that he wanted to be self-employed working in online business, and he kept his goal front and center. Quitting your first job post-college to go out on your own is a brave move, one that most won’t consider because it would mean leaving their comfort zone. We are so used to living in a regimented universe of school, school, school our entire lives that leaving that lifestyle behind for the unrestrained freedom of the self-employed is almost inconceivable. If your current path, however, is not taking you in the direction of your ideal future self then something needs to be done. Knowing your goals and keeping them in focus is a necessary

But try different steps to get there.

Success is unlikely to come at the beginning of whatever journey you take. No matter where you decide to go, there will be obstacles in your way. For Ovens, that was three failed businesses in the course of over a year. For you, that could be any number of unknowable and unforeseen circumstances. Only through perseverance and an ability to tackle the problem from a new and unique vantage point after attempt was Ovens able to eventually succeed, and only by virtue of the same characteristics will you earn the right to success yourself.

Don’t give up too easily.

I once heard it said that you should consider your journey towards your goals to be like a game of rock-paper-scissors. You need to win three out of five rounds for a victory, but your opponent puts the first two rounds in the bag immediately. So, what do you do? You say, “Let’s make it five out of seven!”

In a simple children’s game, your opponent will quickly lose interest and quit after you up the ante several times, but when the roadblock to overcome is life’s obstacles themselves you can keep on engaging in this sort of recurring challenge until you eventually win the day. It may take a dozen rounds before you are the winner, but at that point you can be the one who says, “No more, this game is over. And I win.”

Finally, “never stop learning.”

I borrowed this final strategy from the Entrepreneur article because I thought it was too essential to skip. “Thanks to the huge availability of information these days,” Ovens said, “any entrepreneur can teach him or herself just about anything…I read hundreds of books and taught myself all about marketing, sales, accounting, strategy—even personal development methods. I knew that I needed to understand all of this if I wanted my business to work.”

Ovens’ advice is particularly relevant to my audience (mostly college students) because we are full-time learners. Most of us consider “student” to be our job title, but it is easy to forget about the importance of learning things outside of “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.” I won’t be able to grow my online business without putting in the man hours to research Google Adwords, Facebook Advertising, SEO and a dozen other foundational methods for online success. You won’t be able to reach your goals if you don’t devote yourself to becoming a master of your craft. Even if your goal is to graduate and go directly into the field you’re currently studying, you will only benefit (in measurable terms of job offers and salary-increases) if you can remove yourself from the current for a moment, think long-term and develop some supplementary skills through dedicated practice and learning.

Do you want to make a million dollars? Even more? What are you willing to go through to get there? Sam Ovens certainly no longer lives in his parent’s garage. But he didn’t get out of there without a lot of effort and (most likely) pain. Neil Patel, whom Forbes has called one of the top ten online marketers and whom the Wall Street Journal described as a top influencer on the web, wrote about his time working on his own Internet marketing agency during college, “I personally was attending college during this time as a full time student while working 60+ hours a week. To top it off, I was traveling almost every week and speaking at over 50 conferences a year by this point.”

What are you willing to do to make your life a success? Because if you don’t make up your mind to do whatever it takes, you will always end up behind the people who do.

What are you willing to do to make your life a success? Comment below or email me at to let me know your thoughts.

Jack Dolinar is a Trinity sophomore. His column, “more percent efficient,” runs on alternate Fridays.


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