Nicolas Cole – Heroes Write Their Own Journey
11 months ago · 1:02:48
We’re on location with this episode in West Hollywood, CA. Our guest is Nicolas Cole. He is a 28 year old founder (DigitalPress) and writer. He’s gone from a skinny top-ranked gamer, to a jacked bodybuilder, to an online persona with a massive following (“King of Quora”, Inc.com, with 20 million views of his content.) But what we love about Cole isn’t his idealized lifestyle and West Hollywood address. It’s HOW he got there. He refuses to let all the typical distractions of modern life get in his way. Day in, day out. He just gets to work, over and over again. And only now does it look like an “overnight” success.
Hello, this is Nate from the opt out life I’m joined by Dana. Hello Dana.
Hello, Nate. And hello, listeners.
Hello, listeners. We are back with another episode. This one actually was recorded on location. Finally, back on the road. Here we go. I took the train up to Los Angeles. And I sat down with a guy that we actually have a video episode with, as well. If you don’t know that the opt out life does video episodes, go check out our YouTube page. We sat down with Nicholas Cole, who is the guest in this episode. We’re going to talk more about here in a second. But we did a video episode with him back in July, where we were hanging out at the Henry in West Hollywood. So go check that out to as we are aspiring Netflix people,
right? Yeah. If you want us to feel like your next Netflix binge. Go check out the videos and you’ll see Nate and I at the Henry sitting in the back corner interview. And Nicholas Cole.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I wanted to get the full story here on the proper format on the podcast, the long format. So I went up there sat down with him, we actually hung out in his living room in West Hollywood. He’s a transplant from the Midwest recently. This is a guy who’s 28 years old. It’s got a really cool story that we will go into in this episode. Before we do that, the opt out life is what Dana
Opt Out Life is about people who are trying to figure out how to make the life they want and control their time, have financial freedom, and ultimately live the life that they want. Now, not someday, when they get a retirement and Social Security.
That’s right, live the life you want. Now, not when you’re 65, maybe you hate your job, maybe you are just a student coming out of school, and you’re not sure what you want to do. And you’re scared about jumping into that corporate world. Those are two reasons you might think you want to opt out. Or maybe you’re someone who just wants to get a little side income going so you can have more flexibility with travel or your time we’re all about diversification of income streams. Dana and I do that ourselves. We live the opt out life we make our money from a variety of sources, business side gigs, real estate, all these things. And this is all based on a book that Dana wrote called opt out on Amazon, you can go check that out, check us out at opt out life. com. We are always interacting with people from the community on our email list on our Facebook group where you can also come chat. There’s a lot more practical behind all this inspiration on the stories here on the podcast. So let’s get into it. This episode of The opt out life podcast was recorded on location in West Hollywood, California. And is the opt out life story of Nicholas Cole.
You’re 28 years old. you own your own growing business with your best friend with big name clients, and a remote team of 20 that allows you to work from home and make your own schedule. You have a sweet new pad in West Hollywood with your girlfriend or your top online persona with 20 million views on your content. And you get asked to speak at events around the country without even trying.
There’s more you’re an inspiration to thousands of people young and old move read your stories of becoming a top gamer in your teens for transforming yourself from a skinny kid into a jack bodybuilder. And that was before you got your column on Inc. com. And so ebooks and courses teaching others your waves.
Our guest is Nicholas Cole. He is the 28 year old we’ve just described. And yes, he’s got a really cool story. And it’s a real story these days. Cool is living an amazing life and lifestyle. And he’s earned a bit of a spotlight online by writing about it. Getting back to his times as that skinny teenager who is obsessed with being the best World of Warcraft player on Earth. He’s a modern day hero to many because he embodies this idealized version of personal transformation. Just take one look at his Instagram account and see for yourself.
But what’s this really about? Well, I’ll tell you, we all wanted to do more. We want to be more we want to make some sort of leap forward as we pursue our own opt out life. But this stuff is hard. It takes time. No matter who you are, or where you’re at. To be more means doing something well, doing a whole lot of things over and over that aren’t necessarily the fun part the quote overnight success stories aren’t real. It takes many days, if not many years to do it.
As you’ll hear in this episode. What we love about Cole isn’t his idealized lifestyle in West Hollywood address. It’s how he got there, he refuses to let all the typical distractions of modern life get in his way. He doesn’t waste time on Netflix or whine about all the reasons he can’t make something work one of his articles at the front page of Reddit on a random Friday afternoon. he’d written hundreds of articles before that day in and day out. He just gets to work over and over again. And only now does it look like success. So dig in and get ready for a kick in the face. We’re coming to you from Cole’s living room, hollywood stuff.
opt out life is on location. We are in West Hollywood, West Hollywood, California. Today, I took the train up to meet with a man who we’ve hung out with once before. And we’ve got a great cool video episode that we will share simultaneously with this podcast. But my good friend Cole, thanks for having us. That man we are in your living room.
We are at my brand new living room. I just moved in.
This is sick, dude. We got like, we got a candle burning. We got some very contemporary shelving. Some surrounded by some books. Obviously smart, educated person lives here. Oh, the m&m book. What’s that one? Yeah, that’s cool. I love that one read like pigs part all his lyrics. And as he’s got pages photocopy of it. Yeah, very sounds, songs. I love that book. Okay, I gotta get that one right on top, the, the full works of William Shakespeare. And, and so we’ve got, we got it all get modern, and the classics. Very cool. Thank you. Thank you for having me here. I want to begin, you know, we’ve got that we’ve been through this whole conversation before. And I love your story. You’re one of my favorite stories of people that we’ve kind of met through the process of doing this, because you’re young, you’ve been through some different iterations. And you’re in your young life of kind of a person and a persona in totally different places, right, like gaming, fitness modeling. But it all comes back to your writer, and you’ve got this skill in this talent, and especially this discipline to create. And I think that is something that so many people kind of lack when they when they slow the desire to do this stuff, to create the opt out life as we call it. But whatever label you want to give it, they kind of lack the discipline and the self awareness to provide them selves with the the environment to create the things that they need to do. And more specifically, just get the shit done. They need to get done. Yeah, that’s the big part. And you have written extensively about this along your journey. You’re also a success story in and of yourself, because you are now a business owner, and you’ve made money online, and various other ways too because of all these things. So. So I want to talk about that a little bit. But I don’t know when I say that’s the framework. Where do you think we should start?
I don’t know, it depends on one of the things that I find most people struggle with. There’s always the two problems. first problem is I don’t know what to do with my life, you know, that’s a whole thing in itself. And then the second is, I know what I want to do with my life, how do I do it? And I think I’m probably a little bit more knowledgeable about the second, I think the first requires a lot of not just reflecting because that can be a rabbit hole of, you know, constantly thinking, What am I passionate about? Or what do I do? I’m a pretty firm believer in you discover those things, you don’t just kind of wake up and have the answer handed to you, you have to try a million different things. And for those that don’t know, as you kind of hinted to my own journey has been a conglomerate of different interests that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You know, like saying, I don’t know, no one really wakes up in the morning and this like, first I’m going to become one of the highest ranked World Warcraft players in North America, then I’m going to become a bodybuilder and then I’m going to study creative writing, and then work in advertising. And then I’m going to become an entrepreneur. And all the while I’m going to write about it. Like, that’s a very, I didn’t do any of that, because I was like, This is the roadmap for how someone makes it. I just followed my curiosity. So do you think there was something different about yourself when you were that gamer? Was it just the Curiosity we come back to curiosity a lot in our conversations, where it’s the fuel that pushes someone to try something, but also to keep pushing through to figure something out. And they almost eventually end up this endpoint because of that curiosity. But But you were curious, were there any other actions you were taking at the time that you think are unique compared to other gamers, that puts you on the path to where you are today, a few and a few that have stayed with me for a long time. One is, I was exceedingly competitive. I started I always have been, but I started playing World of Warcraft right after I fractured my spine, playing hockey and I was the kid with I, like, you know, would post up in my living room with my hockey gloves on taping my hockey stick while watching Mighty Ducks. Three being like, I’m gonna play in the NHL, you know. And so for that to happen, I felt like I had this dream that was just ripped out of my hands. I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Now. I have spent from five years old, when I stepped on the ice. I was like, I’m going to play in the NHL. And all of a sudden, I didn’t have that anymore. So I had to put that somewhere. And for me, it went into a game. I know a lot of other people have similar stories, and they put it into some other craft. But that competitiveness, I think there are circumstances where people let that die in themselves. And then there are other people that take that and go, I’m gonna find a new vehicle for it. And for me, that’s always been the thing. And then second is this idea of mentorship. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And just in terms of the people that I realized that I’ve sought out to learn from every single one in each of these chapters. I’ve had a mentor, I had a, I had a mentor, even when I played World of Warcraft, I sought out this player that whose videos I watched all the time I idolized him, I wanted to be like him. And I made a character on a server. And I was like, will you teach me and he was like, you’re a weirdo on the internet, who asks that, and I’m like, I wanted I want to learn from you. And then three years later, we had become great friends. And I had, you know, mastered the game. And I learned from them. And that same thing happened with bodybuilding with working in advertising being mentored by the creative director of the agency I worked at. And in each of those, the thing that I learned was sacrifice the short term for the long term win. And there are just examples across the board. It’s like, Don’t get caught up looking for, oh, I’m gonna hop jobs. So I can get paid five grand more per year. But I’m not going to be able to learn from someone directly. You know, like, I made no money for four years, but I was able to learn directly from the creative director. So I sacrificed all the other things I had friends be like, Hey, I can get you a job at another ad agency that will pay you double what you’re making. Now, I was like, a great, but I’m also then not going to have the opportunity to learn directly from the person I want to learn from. So I kept postponing those rewards, so that something much bigger, what happened, and then I see the payoff, you know, I left my job. And it was like, I just, I loaded up on four years of entrepreneurial knowledge. And then it was like, leap, quadruple my income, start a company and scale to 15 employees in less than a year, like it happened very quickly. But I think that slingshot was the result of postponed, postpone, postpone, and then all of a sudden, it all comes together.
Okay. Well, let’s talk more about that a minute. Since you kind of got to where we are today. Let’s, let’s tell everybody where you are today, what digital presses where it’s at, as a business, how long it’s kind of been around. We’re sitting here in the living room in LA, even how you got here, what’s the status quo,
so digital press, and maybe a year, I think we’re coming up on a year and a half ago. And it happened very, very quickly, you know, went from me and my co founder on his apartment, couch, he lives in Atlanta. So he would do flights from Chicago to Atlanta, where I lived before. And we went from us to doing the work trying to figure it all out to 1012, 1517
employees very quickly, full time, not like outsourcing and everything. And basically, what we do is we work with founders, CEOs, executives, investors, helping them write their own written content, positioning them as thought leaders in their industry. And the same thing the business speaks exactly, it’s all the same things like I didn’t just wake up one morning and start talking with, you know, my co founder drew and, and say, all this would be a great idea for a business. Like, we picked this out of thin air, it was the result of my own writing online, my own writing on Quora, seeing the return on my investment, seeing that the more that I shared, what I know, the more people sought me out as the authority. And the more that I saw, the more I started to realize, okay, other people could benefit a lot from this, because they’re not great writers, they don’t have the time to write. So let me start doing that for people. And I just did it as a freelancer took the leap from my job started doing that for a few people. All of a sudden, I was working 12 hours a day, because I was maxed out because there was a demand, people clearly wanted that. So then the next logical step is OK, now I’m going to go convince one of my closest friends, quit your job, I stumbled on something, let’s do this, then it’s us to doing it. next logical step, hire your first person, train them great, next logical step. And that’s kind of through that it’s really taught me to internalize the idea of you don’t, I think that’s the misconception. So many people have, whether it’s life purpose, starting a business, whatever is you don’t just sit down on the couch, pull an idea out of thin air and go, that’s going to be my multi million dollar idea. It’s almost always the result of I’m going to experiment with a bunch of different things. Something’s going to catch a little bit, I’m going to follow that experiment more. Another thing is going to catch and it’s just this slow process of the next logical step, the next logical step until all of a sudden momentum starts. And then you’re like, now I’m really on the right path.
What experiments were you doing that led into digital press, we should talk about, you know, how you built a following online and how much you did right to build audience. But what were some of those little experiments that were happening as you’re publishing encore and other places in working in your job leading up to
it. I started writing on Quora in 2014. I thought it was an interesting question I had graduated from, from college with a degree in creative writing. And I was like, I know, I want to become a successful author. That was like my thing, you know, I want to become a professional writer. But no one gave me the blueprint to do that. Even my own teachers and college like literally said the words, be prepared to not make a living as a writer. And I didn’t accept that. I was like, I’m gonna figure this out. Clearly, other people are, so if other people can, I can. And when I graduated, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. He’s a pro gamer, and he’s a YouTuber, really big YouTuber. And I was like, if you’re a gamer, you have YouTube, when I was into fitness, I was like, there’s Instagram, because it’s a visual, like, based on the different things that you’re in, there’s usually a social platform that kind of leans in that direction, or helps you and I was asking him as a writer, what is that, like, I’m not going to go blog on Facebook. And I’m not gonna I can’t say everything I want to say on Twitter. And I tried and experimented with it on Instagram, but it’s just, it wasn’t the right fit. And in 2014, he was like, you should look at a site called Cora. I think a lot of people are writing there. And it’s really interesting, started reading, it was obsessed. And I was obsessed, because I felt like I was learning directly from from the people who had done the thing that they’re explaining, you know, it’s not like, it’s like, if I had a question about entrepreneurship. It was a founder that answered the question, it wasn’t like someone with the formal definition of entrepreneurship. So I felt like I was learning from the source or someone who maybe just ranked for how to be an entrepreneur or something, right, which is probably just some, you know, kids sitting at home knowing how to rank for that keyword. So I was fascinated by the stories and the credibility so I sat there and I was, you know, 22 years old, graduated from college, and I was like, Okay, I might not be some overly successful founder of a company yet, you know, or have done something, but I’ve done enough and I know some things and I can pull from my gaming years and I can pull from bodybuilding. Like I can share some of the lessons that I’ve learned already. So I just started writing and I challenged myself I’m going to write a core answer every day for a year and
that’s kind of the Golden question I don’t know what makes someone decide like I’m going to commit to this but I did and three months in I started having things republished by major publications for months and I had a massive viral hit one of them it landed front page of Reddit had like a million plus views in a weekend launched my first fitness ebook from that all of a sudden started making money from that I was like oh this is how content works this is this is how you tell a story that resonates it reaches a ton of people and then it funnels down and certain some of those people are like I want to buy the deeper version of that you know so that’s how I got introduced to funnels basically and then kept writing eventually ink magazine there’s a six month period Inc was republishing one of my core answers every single week for six months. And I was like, Okay, well, if that’s happening, why don’t I have a column there. So then ended up talking with them got a column there. And this was such an important part of the journey. I think most people would have abandoned Cora that point. And they would have been like, great, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go all in on ink. And I didn’t I double timed and I wrote, I continued writing an article a day on Quora, plus a column every day on ink and Inc was when they open the door. They were like, Can you write four pieces for us per month? Because that’s what like the average columnist could do. And I was like, Can I do 30,
and they were, they were like, I mean, I guess like, Who does that you’re, you’re obsessive. And I was like, right, but this is the thing I’ve been waiting for. This is like my next step. And I walked in there and month one I went from on boarded as a writer to we’re going to oversee your first few pieces to make sure that you can hang to we’re removing any sort of obstacle whatsoever, right as often as you want to me becoming one of their most popular writers all within like 30 days, because I knew if you’re going to give me this opportunity, I’m going to run with it. And then what was interesting is that by not abandoning Cora this taught me a lot about publications is that after a year I started comparing my traffic and even though I was driving a lot of traffic for ink, it was like one fifth the traffic I was getting on Cora Cora. I was averaging a million page views a month, like consistently month over month and in guy was averaging 100,000 like quarter million, which is great, but it wasn’t close. So then that started teaching me about, you know, how does social traffic work? Like, why is that more valuable? How much time do people spend on a publication site? Why do people think that if you write for a publication, you’re going to get millions of views that’s false. I get started teaching me everything about the entire landscape. So you fast forward and you keep going year after year. By the time we started digital press, like I knew I didn’t know because I sat down and said this would be a great business idea. Let me educate myself I knew because I had written 1000 plus article on the internet.
You know, Dana, I was going to mention in the intro that I said the West Hollywood thing when I went up there and we hung out we actually after we hung out and recorded this we went to dinner back at the Henry where video episode is and we had dinner and we were in this like intense conversation and didn’t even realize that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West we’re sitting right next Of course they’re filming episode for whatever their show it I get them one of the other sisters was there and they must have been there for 20 minutes with cameras and shit. And so our didn’t even know it because we were like, I was like, I want to learn from coal and he was asking me questions about SEO and we were just locked in and then when they stood out to leave all like flashbulbs from popper. artsy were outside, so we’re like, well, Who is it? Who is it is Kim and Kanye?
You were too cool to have even notice. That’s
right. That’s right. We were so locked into this conversation. So I hope you guys are locked in listening as well. But yes, let us break in and talk about some of the things that are most important from what Cole has been telling us from his story. I mean, amazing story. As we hinted at in the intro, someone who’s still young but has these cool heroes heroes journey narratives of going from a broken spines, famous World of Warcraft player, one of the top in the world to then going into bodybuilding and going from skinny to jacked and then jumping into this, I want to be a writer. He’s writing the whole time, but like committing to writing an article every day for Inc magazine and writing answers to questions on Quora every day. I really admire the discipline that this dude has. He’s also got the cute story about how he didn’t have home internet for four years, or whatever, like, what 20 something as the discipline to do that, I don’t know. But I as I sit down with him, as we’ve gotten to know him, I really take it to heart these things where he’s like just saying, you have to commit to something a little audacious, and you have to be willing to put in the work, there’s going to be that moment every single day where you’re tired, and you don’t want to do it. And it’s cool to have a success story that he’s been doing this long enough that these cool things have happened to him from that discipline.
Let me go back to the beginning of the interview, though, Nate because I think so many people that are looking for their angle for the opt out life can fall in love with the idea of an idea that’s too big that’s out there. That’s a fantasy. And that becomes a stumbling block. Because people want to start a side gig to start a business. They want to do something big and change their life. And Nicholas goals got this cool approach. It’s like, well, you just do the next thing in front of you. So that the ideas where do you go next. It’s the next logical step. If you’re going to start a business, you don’t have to dream up in patent and invention that changes the world. You don’t have to get on Shark Tank, you don’t have to get venture funding in San Francisco for the next big unicorn company, you take the next step that’s attainable for you. And you just keep taking those steps. And they’re going to lead you down a path. That’s the path of success. He just
ignores all that anything flashy, is outside of his purview. And I know he talks about being able to, you know, there’s points in a story where he could have taken a job that paid more, but he stayed in his in his lane, because he felt like he was getting benefits from mentorship and the things around him. That’s another important takeaway, but it’s in the same vein, because ultimately calls an entrepreneur and what is his business, it’s the thing that he was learning over the last several years, he didn’t jump out and do something that he didn’t understand. He’s written thousands of articles online, he’s dealt with clients in house at his job. And he’s just taking the next logical step, which is, I understand that I have a skill in writing, people are following me, they’re starting to ask me, if I can do it for them. The next logical step is to go ahead and start my own business. Does he know if it’s going to be 100 million dollar business, a $50 million business? I don’t think he does. But he’s, he’s doing what makes sense next, and he’s happy about it. And it’s working.
Yeah, and I love the power of that job. I mean, he took the opportunity to really assess what he could learn and extract from the job. And certainly that provides value to the employer. And employers love people that are doing that. And that will probably get you pay raises that a good promotions. But ultimately, you’re doing that so that you have the freedom to take off, opt out, do what you want to do,
right? Great example of the power of your job here in most of all, one of our best I think, examples of someone who’s set about a disciplined approach to just something simple, something that they enjoy doing, and something that’s a little bit hard and waiting for the long term payoff. So I hope you hear that.
Yeah. Wait, one more last thing. Nate, can you imagine publishing an article and getting a million reads basically instantaneous now, pretty cool. But we’ve had several guests that we’ve interviewed. And they’re like, Well, yeah, I’m an overnight success. It only took 10 years, right? So remember that those people that you’ve seen the media that that hit big, they paid their dues, they worked hard, they did 1000 articles before they had that one that really hit and got the million views. So you pay your dues.
So you mentioned selling an E book, did you start to purposefully send people back to your personal website, especially when that thing went viral? How are you even set up to to benefit from that I wasn’t okay.
So what happened was, I wrote it and this you want to talk about value of consistency, discipline, never knowing when something’s going to happen that day. It was a Friday, and I remember it happening very clearly. I was sitting at the office, you know, 2324 years old dad finished, I was like, before I leave, I made a promise to myself, I’m going to write this one core answer every day. So I sat down was not inspired to write at all wrote something in like 12 minutes. And it was it was just an answer to a question that was like, really easy for me. It said, Is it possible to change yourself so much that you no longer recognize yourself. And I went and I made this before and after picture of like me as a teenager, I was really sick growing up and then the after was me as a bodybuilder, just shredded. And that before and after picture was jarring. But underneath it I wrote something to the effect of what you see in that picture, like, only scratches the surface of how much I’ve changed. Like, when I look back at 17 year old me I it’s like a different person. Because I didn’t know I was allergic to gluten. I was really depressed. It was like, all these things that were going on that are beneath the surface, wrote it in seriously 12 minutes. I was like there. I did my core answer for the day. And by the time I got back to my apartment, I was living with two of my friends at the time. By the time I got back to my apartment, I walked in, and one of my friends like, dude, you know that you’re on the front page of Reddit right now? Like, what are you talking about? So he shows me on his phone pulls it up. And my inbox is just flooding with emails. And every single email started the exact same way. It was like I am the kid on the left all of them. And that showed me like, this is what resonates. This is what telling your story is all about you. I resonate with the person in an emotional way where they can see themselves in you. And I wasn’t prepared, didn’t know, like, all of a sudden was getting all this traffic, didn’t know what to do with it. And stayed up all night. That night, built a website The next day, like you know Squarespace, just like through some of the other wrote two quick ebooks, one on like my workout routines, one on my nutrition routines. And by first thing like a day on Monday morning, I launched it edited the bottom of my core answer and was like, since everyone’s asking for this, like, here you go. And I was I remember sitting at work, I was sitting in a meeting, and I just kept refreshing my stripe. And it was just like, hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars. Like I was just sitting there. And I had this feeling ROM, like, I’m at work right now. And this thing is just clocking like, for one for writing. One thing to see that I was like this is pretty impactful. And for months after that just taught myself everything. landing pages funnels the whole thing. But at a certain point, this is like the really, really important piece at a certain point, I realized that I could go down that road, I could get into the whole like funnels deep digital marketing game. And I didn’t want to, I saw a bigger opportunity for teaching people how to position themselves correctly. And I started to realize that, yes, you can be successful at that, I believe I would have made a great amount of money doing that. But the opportunity for me was again, postponing making money. I didn’t want to come to all those realizations and then immediately start asking people for things. So even though that ebook did really well sold copies, like 30 plus countries around the world, that’s amazing. But I didn’t continue going down that road. Because what I wanted was to keep giving away things for free. Because the most I gave away for free, the bigger my audience would get faster. And the bigger my audience got faster, the more influence I would command, the more opportunities that would open up so I postponed that monetization as long as I possibly could. And you could say that I didn’t even really monetize until I built digital press that was like me saying, I’ve built all of this cloud, I have this huge audience, I have all these articles I can point to do you want me to do this for you. And if you look at how long I delayed that for, its kind of No wonder, it’s like, like, instantly happened. And if you ask anybody that has read something of mine, whatever, there’s like, those few narratives that I have just continued to reinforce like, you know, I was a pro world Warcraft player, you know, that I went on the whole skinny to shredded bodybuilding journey, you know that I’ve King Acorah and I’ve reinforced those things over and over again. And the value of that that people don’t just know, here’s this person’s name, they know something about me that then they remember. And that’s the thing where you go speak, or someone wants to hear you speak, or they want to read your book, or whatever, because they know something personal about you. There’s a million different ways to do this. This was just my approach to it. I didn’t think about I want to build a highly targeted list of people that want to learn workout routines. For me, I was thinking much bigger, like, what’s going to last over 30 years? How do I build a legacy and the only way to do that is to give people things that they’re going to remember about you as a person. Because when you do that, now, when I switch now, what happens when I, you know, build digital press, and that’s like, amazing, and I’ve done that for four years. Okay, and then I’m on to the next thing. I don’t want to start all over. I want to continue the narrative. And I want people to be like, like, Oh, yeah, I remember you went from World of Warcraft, to bodybuilding to entrepreneurship to what’s the next thing? So I think about it more like, how do I connect people across the entire arc, and not just whatever niche I’m in at the moment, they care only about the niche. I don’t want them to care about the niche. I want them to care about me. Because if they care about me, then that means that they’re in it for the long haul. They they want to see how it all plays out.
This is like nitty gritty, personal branding stuff. Yes, I’m trying to think like, how does this relate to me? Or to listeners of the opt out life? Or the people who want to make the leap, opt out, whatever? How does that apply? I think it can apply? I don’t know, I guess that’s a fair question, then, like, how can this apply either to me or to Joe employee out there who is making a little money on the side and wants to make the leap. I know that’s a phrase that you’ve come to, and you have a book is it out or working, working on a book. So we kind of share this, this understanding of applying a term to that situation that people to, they want something different, they want to take back control what’s instructive about what you just walk through for them, because it’s not a requirement, I don’t think but it’s a cool way to go about it.
You’re right. It’s not a requirement. There’s a million different ways you can take control of your life, your time and your finances by being like, I’m going to be a behind the scenes digital marketer. And, you know, that’s my thing for me, I see the personal branding element as the thing that
again, the asterisk is, it depends on what you want out of life. But for me, it’s the thing that opens more doors faster. If I look at what is the ROI of me thinking about it this way, it’s the fact that I’ve never once had to send an email saying, will you feature me on your podcast, I’ve never once had to send something out and be like, Can I speak at your event, all of those things are inbound as a result of people reading, understanding who I am as a person and going I want you to come to this thing. So if you look at the doors that that can open to me, it’s a no brainer investment. You’re putting yourself out into the world to allow those things to come to you. But the challenge is, that definitely requires a mentality shift where you have to start seeing yourself differently. You have to really deliberately see yourself as I’m going to build I remember there was a great piece Gary Vee wrote this was years ago, I think it was titled, like, the day I decided to become Gary Vee. And that’s really what it is, is you have to you have to decide I’m going to be this figure this person and that doesn’t mean like makeup who you are, I am if anything I am more transparently me now than I was four years ago. Because I’ve been so transparently me out in the open. And when you do that, you’re essentially sharing who you are at scale to the point where so many other people know who you are. So many other people know intricacies of your story. And to me, that’s the difference of you can sit down and take a million coffee meetings and tell those same stories. You know, how coffee meeting goes, you sit down? Who are you? What was your childhood? Like? Like? What, what are you like, what are you interested in? Like, where did you grow up. And all I did was take all of those qualities of a coffee meeting and go, I’m going to put that into things that hundreds of thousands or millions of people can read online. So you’re scaling the intimacy of a coffee meeting. And that’s what makes people feel like they know you. And when people feel like they know you, they invite you to things they want to feature you and things they want you to be part of things. So to me, all of this is like I get it’s not for everybody. But it’s the thing for me. That goes Do you want this to move faster? Do you want more opportunity? Do you want more things to come your way? Great. Like tell the world who you are? Give them a reason to want to get to know
you do you believe that just about anyone can do that no matter what what their story is? Because Yeah, I tell you I’m a little jealous, I guess of your hero’s journey in a way and I think you can probably like knock down why I shouldn’t be jealous or whatever. Explain me to me. Why? Because it’s a really cool story. There’s some cool pictures and turning points and adversity and choices you’ve made and when I look at myself and I guess I can only speak for myself but maybe other people are feeling this to like a lot of people will be like, Well, I’m not that interesting. I don’t think I’m not interesting. I think that if I tell my personal story people just be like, well, he’s just had a good fucking I don’t know if I’ve had a point where it was like difficult or something and I feel like that’s a classic part of any story. You want to see someone come up overcome adversity
1,000% but also the part of me that swats that down is there’s a lot of people that can say the exact same thing about me. I grew up in one of the most privileged wealthy suburbs in America. I did not have the I grew up in adversity. hero’s journey, I’m the quintessential, you know, like my parents didn’t understand me, oh, I wanted to be a pro world Warcraft player, you know, like, but the thing is, for me, I think I created a lot of that I created my own mini heroes journeys. I like set these big, audacious goals for myself, and then I see if I can achieve them. And then when I do, then I pick a different one. And I move on. But that’s not the only story. That’s one story. But there’s a lot of other people that have made incredible narratives for themselves. by lifting up other people’s stories, you become the curator of stories, there’s a million different ways to do it. But I’m a firm believer that every single person has a story. And, and I know that, because I’m in the business of now I work with, you know, dozens and dozens and dozens of people, and I have to find it, I have to bring it out of them, I guess, what are some of the important questions you found are effective and bringing those out of your question clients, for lack of a better term that maybe would apply to someone listening to this they could ask themselves. When I first started on Quora, like I said, 22 years old, you don’t know a whole lot about the world, you know, a little bit, but you don’t know a whole lot. And so I had to ask myself, what do I know right now, you know, and what can I share right now. And I think the thing that people forget, is that your knowledge tends to exist in a vacuum, where you know what, you know, but you’ve become so used to it, that you forget that whatever, you know, a lot of other people don’t. So if you just start with what you’ve already got, and you share that, chances are, even if you’re at level two, there’s a lot of people at level one that need help figuring out how to get to level two. And even if you just start there, you realize that as you at level two teach level ones, that’s going to help you get to level three. And then when you’re at level three, you can help levels one and two, and you just kind of keep going down that road until all of a sudden people are like, how did you become an authority in your space? And you’re like, I just started, you know, yeah, some of the big questions for me that I really like asking people are like, what was your own turning point? What was your own? Oh, I How did I learn this lesson? I think that’s a big one is not just what do you know, but how did you learn it? And if you really ask people, they’re like, usually the first responses I go, I don’t know, I just learned it. And then the second and third and fourth responses eventually, like, Well, you know, I was, I was in eighth grade. And my teacher said this to me, and I went home, and I was and they like, then go into this whole elaborate story. And then I just sit there and go, Okay, great. everything you just said, say that again, you know, because you telling me that I can see myself and not I, as the listener can see myself in your story. That’s what makes it resonate. So for me, when I would share things with people, and they’re like, that’s so engaging, that helped me all I was doing was sharing a moment in time so that you could see yourself in my journey.
Let’s go back to something a little more traditional for opt out life. So you you were working a job year and a half ago or something like that, right?
Yeah. Wow, this is not that long,
you know, painting you, rightfully so as an opt out life success story. But there’s a moment there where you’re, you’re close to saying, you know, I’m going to go off on my own. Tell me, I guess a little bit about that moment. And how you got to that point, you and you walked out the door and you went off on your own? Like, that’s a moment a lot of people want to get to maybe in a little bit different contexts and what we’ve talked about so far, how did that happen? How did that feel?
There were a lot of moments. So I worked at this advertising agency for about three and a half years. And there were a lot of moments along the way where I said to myself, I want to do my own thing already. I always knew I wanted to, it was just a matter of when. And at each one of those moments, I really had to ask myself, like, do I feel like I can do this? And what assumptions Am I making about myself, because I did not want to it was, it was a good job. And I liked the people I worked with, and I liked what I was learning. So I was like, if I’m going to do this, I want to do it right. And at every moment, every time I would ask myself that I still felt had this feeling like I’m not fully confident in my ability to execute this on my own. I still felt like I was showing up to work. And there were too many moments in a day where I was like, oh, wow, I didn’t know that. Because the, you know, the creative director was a huge mentor to me. And the moment that that started happening less is when I started to feel more confidence in it, the more I would show up, and like, of course, even when I talked to him today, we’re so great friends, like I was talking to him the other night still teaches me things, but it went from like, you’re teaching me things 10 hours a day to like, Oh, that was cool. You You taught me something this afternoon. And that’s when I started to notice a difference. And then there was this client. So I had asked him like, I’ve gotten to this point, I was making no money as a copywriter, as most copywriter stone and I asked him how do I make more money? What do I have to do here? Do I just need to get become a better writer? Like, what do I need to do to make more money here, and he was like, you need to become an earner, you need to bring in business today. agency was a small company. So I thought, Okay, I’m going to teach myself how to sell that was a whole journey in itself, you know, and I finally closed a client was a big clients who brought them in all by myself, pitched them did the proposal everything, and then I bring them in. And I realized that I had set the wrong expectation in when I sold them, which this was the first time I had done any of this, I was just winging it. And my mentor was like, he was smart, he did the right thing he wanted me to learn. So he was like, I’m not going to help you with this, like you, like, you got yourself in this mess, your going to figure it out. And all of a sudden, I found myself on the phone with lawyers and different vendors. And I was I was trying to piece this thing together, like I had made a huge mistake. And through all of it, I had to constantly like, I couldn’t run to him for help. I couldn’t be like, fix this for me, he was like you, you did this. So when I finished that, the project was like three months. And by the end of it client was ecstatic like, did the project super well, they loved it. It was the first time that I had brought in a client, I had closed a client, I had managed the project, I had executed the project, I had closed it, and the client was happy. So I went through all of those steps. By the end of it, I was exhausted. It was one of the like, it was a huge growth turning point for me. But it was the moment where I finished that. And I knew that I was ready, because I felt like I had executed all of the things that a independent, whoever would need to execute union to get the client, you need to sell them on the idea, you need to close them, you need to execute project and then you need to leave them happy. And once I did all that, then I thought, okay, now I can start thinking about what’s my exit strategy, because I knew I was capable. So one was, I proved to myself that I could handle all of the responsibilities someone would need. And most freelancers or most people that go out on their own struggle with the first part, which is how do you get the business?
Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty cool that you had the opportunity to do that inside a job.
Yeah, but I want to clarify, I gave myself that opportunity, right. And I don’t say that for my own. Like, I want to feel great. I say that for people listening. Like, if you want to learn these things, go do it. Go ask your boss, what do I have to do to make more money? Will you allow me to go start selling to clients, and if you ask them enough times, like I did, there’ll be like, fine, get on my face, go do it, you know, and then you do it. So as soon as that happened, I go, can I prove that to myself, the second was, I’ve seen saved up enough runway, I wanted at least three months of I could not get out of bed for 90 days. And I could still pay my rent, still buy myself groceries, you know, I wanted worst case scenario. And then the third was, I want to prove to myself and figure out that I can actually do this before I do it. So what I would do the pie like the two or three months before I actually left and left. My job was I would work all day, come home, go to the gym for like an hour. And then I come back and it’d be 8:39pm. And I would try and find like a client online or someone I’d reach out to people, I’d be like, Hey, can I write for your blog? Like, I would just try and find clients? And then I would do the work and I would just see, can I get the client in the door? Can I execute this project? And I worked just 15 hours a day for three months to test. Like, can I actually handle this? Can I do this? And by the end of those three months ish, I had my runway set up. I had gotten a few clients I knew from Inc alone, I was covering half my overhead. So I was like, Okay, if I leave tomorrow, I’ve got three months to figure out. How do I cover the other half of my expenses like that can’t be that difficult. I’m sure that I can do that. And when I had all those pieces in place, this is I guess, what makes it so hard for people. Even with all of that in place, I still sat there. And I was like, I’m nervous. Like, I wonder, can I can I do this. And I had a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s another huge top writer on Quora, and she had been doing this successful career, all that stuff. And she recently left her job. And we had connected because we were both top writers on the platform. And it was cool. And I called her up and I was like, I’m thinking about leaving my job. And thinking about putting in my two weeks notice my months notice, I ended up giving. And she was like, why not? What do you have to lose? If you fall on your face? I’m sure that they’ll even offered to give you your job back anyway. You know, like you’re young, what do you really have to lose, and she had to really convinced me to do it. And I finally walked in the next day, sat down with my mentor and was like, I think it’s time I go my own way,
Dana. Another reason I really enjoy Cole getting know him getting to go up and talk to him in his living room and have dinner with him is because he’s so successfully built a personal brand for himself. Now that’s tied into the story, because it’s what has allowed him to start his business. And it’s also tied into like this daily discipline of writing. That’s how we built the brand. But I am enamored with personal brands, and that I think it’s a great thing to invest in, like, what would be better for someone to invest in, then a brand if not their own personal brand, because that turns you into a center of influence, it creates opportunities for you. And it’s just the ultimate fallback plan. I think, for me, and in some ways, that’s why I wanted to do opt out life because I feel like that’s kind of what we’re creating. So I love getting this this expert rundown of how he’s done it and what the benefits have been. I love that he says, you know, he’s never asked to be on a podcast, he’s never asked to speak at these opportunities come in. And all this comes from him writing on Cora on ink on you know, medium, just kind of personal stories of his life, things he’s learned. And he always relates it back to stuff that he knows. Like, it’s interesting to think that this 28 year old can be giving all this life advice because of things he’s learned playing a game World of Warcraft things he’s learned working out in a gym and then just writing stuff on the internet like that’s basically has experienced yet he is seen 20 million views plus as a center of influence in this world, way more than you or I, or maybe just about any other guests we’ve had on optimal life. That’s really great thing to me.
Yeah, it’s extra interesting to us. Right. Nate came back from this interview. enthused, yes, because it spoke obviously, to our listeners. But it’s booked us to write you and I sat down and put on the whiteboard, we’ve got to take some of this advice from this guy that’s younger than us and maybe the sphere of influence is different. Maybe it’s smaller but he’s nailed it like the couple of key takeaways that you and I talked about right away after this was had to do with communication that personal brand isn’t just like oh here’s me the skinny kid here’s me the muscular kid it’s about showing people how you got there and we’re in a culture that inspires we’re trying to inspire people and we talked a lot about the why but the how the how gets lost and work telling people how with our courses and all of that with with the opt out life but it’s a challenge for any business to say here’s my brand and then communicate that and the the facilitator for people that say here’s how you do x y&z so I think Cole’s one of his great talent is the subtle art of great communication.
And I think that applies not only to opt out life or two people who want to build a personal brand, but to any business, right? If you want to launch a cookbook, if you have a professional service. If you sell m&a back office, stuff like that. Our friends in the office here which is kind of boring, or insurance, like the platforms that are out there today are demanding that you learn how to tell stories just in the same way that cold does with his personal story. How can you translate what your services are what you do for customers into these these narratives and it’s in the how I think a lot of people don’t realize that that they know their audience pretty well when they have a business hopefully they do and especially ones that have been in business for a while they may be forget that they can be communicating with them via social via their blog, via email by just writing about the stuff that happens every day and taking a page out of Cole’s book and thinking like, how am I going to kind of resonate emotionally a little bit, what’s the really interesting part here, we don’t just come in, you need a service, you get it, you pay us for it, we provide it, you get it. There’s more to that there’s always human interaction. There’s there’s trials and tribulations, no matter how trivial they may sound. So if you’re trying to launch a a side gig, or if you’re looking for ways to market your business in new and inspire ways, hopefully there’s some inspiration here and hopefully some how to also go back and listen to what Colson about how he’s built this brand because I am taking away from it ways that I think we can improve our marketing and quick transition. We also get this common theme Dana, where he’s telling us about how he he walks us back through the moments leading up to the moment when he he left that job, where he was being mentored some other good tidbits in there. And he’d set it up pretty good, where he had other income sources, some other places, NC, he had a skill he knew people wanted, he had a personal brand. It’s very interesting to hear him say that, you know, it was still hard to to walk out the door. He still wasn’t quite sure if this was smart. If this was the right move. It was the next logical move. But there was still a little bit of trepidation inside him as he went out on his own. And I love that. He says, you know, what was the worst that could happen? I’d go right back to that job. How many times have you heard that my friend
repeatedly repeat? I mean, we just heard it in last week’s podcast. Sometimes people will just make that decision really quickly. And they’ll just say, Yeah, I need to bail out right now. And the question is always that, what’s the worst can happen. And you know what the worst can happen is, usually you go back to a job and retrench and figure it out. And so many people don’t have to do that,
right? I mean, no one on the opt out live, if
you don’t move, interviewed, went back to work. But that is the worst that can happen. And it ain’t that bad,
right. And I think and part of that is to kind of book in this is when you go off and do something, even if it doesn’t turn out the way that you think it will. It leads to a next logical step. And that next logical step is rarely go back to your job, you figure out something else, and you’re definitely no worse for the wear.
Yep. And that’s a good part of Nicholas cool story is that he just looked at what’s next, take a little pivot into that and keep leaning into those new opportunities down and down.
I was like living the dream. And so the first thing, maybe it’s just my personality, the first thing I wanted to do was, go help the next person do that, you know, which I guess that’s exactly what you’re doing, right? It’s the whole, it’s the podcast, it’s the whole, how do you help other people do that. And I’ve tried, and I continue to try to reverse engineer how that happened. And to give that blueprint to people, but the thing that you can’t get and give you all the answers, you’ll see, to write like, you talk to a million people that have done it. And there are similarities and all the stories and the I can give you the twists and turns and you know, the hacks and all of that. But the thing that I can’t give you is the the fire to write a core answer a day for four years straight. You know, like, that’s the thing where you got to reach deep inside yourself and go, I’m going to commit to whatever thing for however long I’m going to do it for six months, and see what I learned great. If it didn’t get you to where you want to be. That’s awesome. I guarantee you won’t be wasted time, I guarantee you, you will be smarter at the end of those six months. And you will know more, it will not be wasted, I promise. But you have to commit to whatever that thing is so that you can even put yourself in a position to go. Okay, now I feel confident enough in my abilities to make the leap. But that’s the challenge, right? Like, people love reading about it. And then when it comes time, and they realize, oh, that means I actually have to turn off Netflix right now. And I have to go do the thing. That’s hard. Yeah, that’s, that’s when it all breaks down. Right? You know,
two more questions before as we wrap it up, you’re a year, year and a half into business. I know it’s a whirlwind. You’re growing quick. Sounds like it’s a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work. What’s something especially something recent, that was just you had no idea that this thing was going to happen, or this challenge would come up what it what have you learned in the last 60 to 90 days, where’s where’s been the challenge,
Oh, my gosh,
maybe a favorite
or the most surprising.
There’s too many to count. I think, I think a big one for me has been, I’ve been really humbled by the entrepreneurs journey. You know, I think before you start, I vividly remember me sitting at my nine to five job and being like, I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to take control of my life, I want to, like, do all these things. And I had a lot of judgment around people that didn’t, you know, I really like even though I was working a nine to five, I really had this like, chip on my shoulder and was like, if you’re not doing your own thing in life, then you’re failing yourself. You know, and it hasn’t been until I’ve stepped into the opposite of that, where you are responsible for putting food on the table, right? You got to make sure that everybody’s getting their paycheck, and the businesses running and all that. And that it asks things of you that you don’t, you don’t know, you can imagine how it feels. But you don’t know how it feels until you’re in it. And when you do, you’re humbled like you’re really like, this isn’t this isn’t just some journey that everybody does, and everyone should do, it’s a sport, and you got to be built for it. And you have to continue building yourself for it. So I think for me, it’s just been, you know, we were at 17 people now, you know, in a little over a year. And that’s not something that happens like every day, it’s a pretty rare thing. And to expect variance that and to go through even just the growing pains there. And now to be asking new questions, you know, how do you go from 17 to 27, and you go from 27 to 47, the game keeps changing, like, literally every single day, the game changes, and you have to think, well, now I make decisions differently up, there’s one more person on the team now, I make decisions differently. And it just when you go through that whirlwind so much, you just start to look at the world differently. And you have a lot of compassion for people that it’s like, there’s a lot to be said, for having an amazing job and, and for helping inside an organization. You know, and I would I’d even say, kind of, on the whole, the opt out life just mentality is there’s a lot of people that think, how do I get out of my current situation? You know, I would also challenge that there’s a reframe, to say, How can I get the most out of the situation I’m currently in, you know, because chances are a lot of the opportunities that people want are right in front of them. They just either aren’t asking for it, or they’re too busy trying to prove how much they know, instead of asking for answers for the things they don’t know. It’s like a really big thing to tell someone I know, you want to get out of your monotonous whatever right now, or you want to leave your nine to five, or you want to be one of those people. That is the Rockstar entrepreneur now, you know, like all these things, but I would just my own story to just look back at that and realize you don’t just do that, but you prepare yourself accordingly. And a lot of the things that allowed me to do the things I’m doing now started with me being in a situation and and just asking for help asking for people to teach me asking, looking for answers my question, preparing myself for that.
That’s good perspective. Man, I’m excited for you to go through this journey. As an entrepreneur. I know it’s going to end successfully and it’ll be cool to get the story. I don’t know if years down the road of all the stuff that’s happened. And it’s a good way to book and this this whole conversation, I think, I guess for one last little fun thing. I was gonna ask you about travel, because I know you went on a trip recently, and we both been on a few longer trips, but instead of that you’re a fellow Midwest. So Cal transplant, you’re here in LA, we’re in West Hollywood, we’re in the belly of the beast, a little more of a thing, then go into San Diego, where I’m at, what’s a thing you’ve learned about la where there was a misconception? Or, or why even chose to be here? Something you want to say about your, your fair new town here?
Oh, man, another topic of thought a lot. Because I’ve been here like a year, year and a half now. And it’s it’s knowledge Chicago, I’ll tell you that. It’s very different. I remember a close friend of mine. He’s in the music industry. So that’s always a different perspective. You know, he manages some big artists, and we met in Chicago, and he became a great friend of mine. And he for the three, four months before I left, right, I was like, I’m moving to LA. And truthfully, just as a caveat, I didn’t come here with the whole like, I want to be a star, you know, like, I came because my girlfriend’s living in Arizona, and we were doing long to and we were like, we’ll move somewhere together. But let’s make it like even territory. Let’s pick somewhere that neither of us is from, so that it’s even. Yeah, and it worked out. And so when I came out here, my my expectations were not like I’m trying to make it in LA, you know, it was just where I was going with my girlfriend. And I remember those three or four months leading up leaving Chicago, my friend just kept saying, hell it like, Don’t La La change you man, watch out for LA Don’t let la change you because, you know, isn’t music he’d spent all this time out here and everything. And there’s definitely that component here for sure. But I also am really appreciative that I’m not in entertainment, or I’m not in the music industry or in movies, or whatever, like I’m in entrepreneurship. And what I’ve found I knew one person shout out, you know, Bryan Evans is the CMO of a company called ship chain, nice, founded a publication called influences. And we became friends like years ago, just working with each other on the internet. He said, when you move out here, let me know and I’ll plug you in. And of course, when people most people say that it’s just kind of like cool things like that probably won’t pan out, Brian changed my life, you know, like, I came out here, and he was like, great, go to this event. Like, you’ll meet everybody. Like, here’s an intro to this person. You know, they ended up becoming a mentor to me, like, he just, he plugged me in. And the entrepreneurship scene out here is very different than entertainment. It is I’ve found it to be really just collaborative, I found a lot of people to be very willing to just like, how can I help you. I think entrepreneurs in general tend to be like that. And very quickly, I just, I made some really great friends. And I realized that I had the ability to learn from some really, really smart people out here. And that has been the biggest difference from Chicago. I love Chicago. amazing city. But it’s not it’s like, so hard for me to say, because I feel like I’ve, you know, I’ve throwing Chicago under the bus. And I’m not but it’s just it’s different. Out here. I would say La is playing a different game with just bigger ideas, and you feel it. So for me, the time that I see myself spending here is very like, this is the game I’m playing. I want to become the best I want to be surrounded by the best I want to learn from the best only compete against the best. That’s why I’m here. I love it.
Cool. And LeBron taken on this now. Yeah, now that’s cool, man. I appreciate all the stories. Everything we’re talking about is going to be so easy to like voiceover and tell a narrative about from the opt out life because you’re illustrating all these points about relationships and mentorship and putting yourself in the right position and working hard and I love it. So appreciate you. Thank you for having me into your humble abode. Yeah, man, thanks for making the trip out and time anytime. Let’s Let’s go hang out. If you like what Dana and I are doing these stories of cool people sprinkled with our insights are valuable to you. Do me a favor. Wherever you get your podcasts, go and click the subscribe button right now. Our goal is to spread these stories to as many people as possible and change lives. Let’s do that we need subscribers. Hopefully, we’ve helped you to start to see things differently. And there’s more to come after you subscribe to the podcast. Go over to opt out live. com, get on our email list and join the opt out life movement. Being on that list will get you early access to our course which is called the opt out life blueprint as well as our tribe membership and upcoming events hosted by the opt out life. I promise you. I’m sitting watching my inbox right now waiting for you to sign up. So come say hi.