Life is a mosaic, or at least it t should be. Amidst all the shapes, colors and patterns there’s this interference that compels many of us. Call it a competence hierarchy, capitalism or whatever you want, but basically, it’s a competition for resources. Some people have to immigrate illegally or are forced into war because of it, yet fortunate people like myself only have to navigate it for material abundance. We’re all impacted by it but there’s more to life than this preoccupation.
It’s hard enough to imagine the dichotomy between an artful mosaic and a race, let alone to balance the two seemingly opposing ideas. We have to be aggressive yet compassionate. We need to dance, run, rest and race. We need creativity in our lives every day to produce a sense of fulfillment but monotony is what produces results. To remain dynamic, we need to invest in ourselves, manage fears and invite struggle.
Corporate society has little interest in balancing these ideas. For this reason, I have never felt compelled by the machine. We all gotta do what we gotta do and I did it, but I’m opting out.
Seeking personal sovereignty
I’ve dedicated my professional life to understanding the concept of sovereignty. I intentionally use that word because the words liberty and freedom often imply externality, whereas sovereignty is generated from within. One aspect of finding and maintaining sovereignty comes from understanding and leveraging the mechanisms of our system. You could say it’s economic or legal and for a long time I thought it was, but it’s more than that, it’s philosophical. Philosophies are typically what make people sovereign, not money or law. With enough time, money is irrelevant. With enough money, law is irrelevant.
I opted out from the corporate machine a little over a year ago. This doesn’t mean I don’t work. It means that I don’t compromise on things that I don’t feel are right.
This became especially obvious to me some years ago while working for a nameless conglomerate when a friend suddenly passed away. At 26 years old, funerals weren’t normal for me, but was shocked to realize that because he wasn’t a family member, I was barely given any time off. To please the man, I missed important moments to reminisce with friends about the life of our fallen friend.
It’s a reality, bureaucracies don’t freely give away days off to drink beer and celebrate the life of a friend, unless you lie, cheat or steal the day away.
This wasn’t for me.
The first leap
The first time I attempted an escape from this rat race was at 23 years old. I was just out of school and massively underwhelmed by the working world. From the get-go, trading time for money didn’t feel right for me. I had a pretty good job as a securities trader but quickly started to feel boxed in.
Thankfully, I wasn’t in debt, had saved a bit of money and had done alright in the stock market. My options were open and I felt like there was no way for me to truly fail. I was young and excited about risking it all. Who needs Prozac when you’re young, full of energy, ready to ditch the standard path to build your own blazing trail and share too many beers with friends along the way.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll, right? What else was there to strive for?
I became an independent financial advisor. I had already dove pretty deep into economic theory and history, asset management and financial planning, so this was my most marketable skill. I was naive in believing it would easy and was also lured in by vague promises of buried treasure.
Thinking back on it is embarrassing because I was so ill prepared. I was a sitting duck. I had no infrastructure set up to strive and scrambled from the get-go.
My first “mentor” suggested I solicit my social network of mainly broke young students to find new clients. Let’s just say that he wasn’t particularly interested in my success as a human being, but only egoistically using me as a pawn. Years later, I realized that some financial planning firms do this as a way to open the door for tenured advisors when the rookie advisor leaves. Even as a newbie, I wasn’t buying his tactics.
It wasn’t long before I was fully out the door and telling people like him to kick rocks. I was fortunate to have little expenses as I was living at my parents but I was eager to start growing my business. Nobody was going to show me the way.
The jump and fall into online entrepreneurship
I started networking endlessly and discovered web marketing and e-commerce. This was it. I hate to say it, but those cliché Facebook ads about making money online do have an ounce of truth. You’re going to have a hard time crushing it without the Internet nowadays.
There is indeed a massive transfer of wealth occurring worldwide in the direction of those who leverage technological infrastructure and the Internet to increase productivity.
As I explored these ideas deeper, I realized that being a financial advisor online would be extremely difficult. The regulatory environment added too many barriers and legal risks. After some brainstorming and research, I settled on selling personal insurance instead. It took a while to settle on insurance as a niche because the subject of insurance is boring.
But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that what you do is less important than how you do it. I could be selling vacations for all it matters but I would still be writing content, marketing a product and selling myself. Entrepreneurship at its core is selling yourself. Without sales, a business is a hobby.
In 2011, the first iteration of my business, Canada Insurance Quotes took form.
It was a great idea and even early for its time (the insurance industry isn’t the fastest moving boat), but I still wasn’t composed enough as an entrepreneur. I was soft and lacking the discipline to properly deal with objection.
People don’t like having to buy insurance, but they still need it. They will put it off unless reminded. I hadn’t found the sweet spot of gently reminding them of this necessity without compromising the relationship. I had little understanding of the process that potential clients might want to be brought through to finally invest in these services.
Unfortunately, this realization came a bit too late because I no longer had the resources to take financial risks. You need to take gambles in business and you can’t expect them all to pay off. You should plan for the worst. I didn’t do that, didn’t have the funds to keep gambling and so had to go back to servitude.
I went back in the sandbox to play nice with the others.
Learning from failure
Stopping to my business to job hunt again was humiliating. I’d already marketed myself and my business to my social network and so giving up meant they’d all know I failed.
Plus, it’s challenging to market yourself competitively in the job market as someone who plays well with others when your experience denotes that you obviously prefer working as an independent agent.
I swallowed my pride and regrouped. I learnt and moved on.
I spent the next 6 years in sales roles refining my ability to get rejected all the while challenging my web marketing skills with various online micro-projects. None of them made money but I learnt how to find the traffic that an e-commerce business needs. I learnt how to build online sales processes and made it an art.
As I went through the motion of my 9-5, I kept my eye out on the online insurance market and eventually saw it was ripening to my type of service. I relaunched. I spent a year designing the relaunch to be more robust and ten times better than what it was before. This time, I was serious and meant business.
I took off without a hitch and started gaining altitude fast.
Finding stability with the constant hurdles
Even though the plane I’ve built is flying, there are always challenges. The idea of an online business on autopilot is ridiculous. It’s like a person on autopilot. If you think you can just coast on by without improving and upgrading, you’ll get chewed up and spit out by a whole slew of dynamic individuals and issues that’ll arise and keep evolving.
I must keep learning and adapting myself and my business to the ever-changing online landscape. Last year for example, I learnt that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, if you provide your prospects with value, they will come to you. Your prospects don’t care about you until you become useful. So, make sure they need you.
Don’t expect a kiss on the first date. They need to be wined and dined before even considering taking things to the next level.
You need to turn a cold prospect warm before you can even consider pitching your product or service. To do that, you need to find a way to make their life easier within the realm of your expertise.
With Canada Insurance Quotes, I noticed that all the insurance providers had a different way of summarizing their health plans, which even I found confusing. Ultimately, the buyer wants to compare products and pricing in a fast and easy way.
To simplify the process of comparing plans, I created a standardized product listing service free of charge. I give value by simplifying research, showing them proper product organization and a clean presentation in hopes that my prospects reward me with a sale. Often they don’t, but sometimes they do and that’s life.
A give first mentality is one of longevity.
Year 2 has actually been harder than year one because I had to think about longevity. How scalable are my processes and how robust are my systems? These are ongoing challenges that I need to confront daily while also being mindful that my life should be one of creative outlet and meaningful connections.
Monotony is still a thing and so are ups and downs. They’re actually more pronounced but at least I don’t cringe on Monday morning.
Entrepreneurship isn’t the only way to live, but a good path for me, especially as I keep striving for personal sovereignty. Even if it’s not through starting your own business, you need to make sure you’re choosing your path because if you don’t, someone else will for you.
Taking action doesn’t have to be massive. The first step is to ask yourself whether you’re living up to your potential.
Is what you are doing with your time what you would like to be doing?
Is what you are currently pursuing worth your time?
Is it a pursuit of significant enough depth to even be worthwhile?
It’s okay if you are but know that life can be as rich and beautiful as you want to make it. Others won’t care to make it beautiful for you. They have their own castles to build and it may be on your land.
Live your life day to day but have a plan. You might not enjoy each day, but be intentional with how you fill each moment. Invent yourself then reinvent yourself and not only will you find great fortune but you will find infinite depth and meaning in yourself and others.
About the author
Stephane is truly a student of life. Obsessed with learning and dedicated to cultivating greater self awareness, Stephane strives to find meaning and value in everything.
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