This week we have a special episode recorded live at FinCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am excited to welcome superstar guests Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income and Harlan Luke Landes from Consumerism Commentary. My good friend and former guest Jeff Fruhwirth from Sustainable Life Blog joined us as we talked business, budgeting, social media, and more live!
Connect with the Guests
Eric Rosenberg: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome back to the Personal Profitability Podcast. As always, I am your host, Eric Rosenberg. I’m here doing something special and different that we’ve never done before on the podcast.
We’re recording live. We are on the floor at FinCon – the financial blogger conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m here with some very special guests; I’m thrilled to have.
Sitting on my right, which I know you can’t see because you are listening, is Harlan ‘Flexo’ Landes, like Luke Landes, he goes by many names. He is the mastermind behind Consumerism Commentary, one of the biggest finance blogs out there, and also the guy behind the Plutus Awards and Plutus Foundation, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
On my left is Pat Flynn, online blogging and online income superstar, I’m thrilled to have him here with me. Next to him is Jeff Fruhwirth from Sustainable Life Blog, one of my very closest friends, who I actually met at FinCon. So I’m thrilled to be here together. Phil Taylor who is walking by right now. He is the founder of FinCon. It’s great energy; it’s great to be here.
I wanted to start asking Pat some questions because I know he has a busy schedule. He is an in demand guy. Pat, could you — for those of you who are not familiar with you, can say like your elevator pitch, your background and what you are all about?
Pat Flynn: Sure! Well, you know, a lot of people know me from smartpassiveincome.com where I build businesses, kind of on the side and just share everything that happens, everything that goes right, everything that goes wrong. You know a lot of things do go wrong but it’s always a lesson for everybody involved. How that got started was actually — I used to be in the architecture industry and I got laid off in 2008 and I took some knowledge I had with an exam that I took and turned that into a business, which generated over $200,000 within a year after that. And I was just completely blown away by that. My whole perception of online business beforehand was kind of just scams, red alert, red alert and all that kind of stuff.
And here I was doing it and in a way where I was providing value through my study guides and practice exams. But not only that, I was getting all these incredible notes of ‘Thank Yous’ from people who were like, ‘Pat Flynn, I can’t believe you helped me passed my exam.’ And it was really cool to see the difference in terms of recognition from when I was an architect working really hard and not really being known to this little scrappy kid who created this website and that now everybody thinks I’m awesome. I’m just trying to help people.
Now, I have a podcast and it’s done really well, over 20 million downloads since starting it in July 2010. I have a TV channel, SPI TV on YouTube as well. I’m truly blessed to have gone through this crazy journey and I just want to share everything with people. You know a lot of people also know me because I post my income reports every month on my site. It goes up and goes down and there is always a lesson involved and again just thank you for having me.
Eric: Thanks for being here. Let’s go to the man of many names, Mr. Landes, would you share what you’re all about and where you started from.
Harlan Landes: Sure. Well, I started Consumerism Commentary from a place where I was in a really bad financial situation myself. I have been working in a non-profit, I have been making very little money, I have been spending, making poor decisions on spending. I lost my job, I lost my apartment, I lost my girlfriend, I lost my car, all within a span of couple of months and…
Eric: It’s gotta hurt.
Harlan: Yeah. It was a little bit of an eye opening experience for me. I started reading about managing my own money and figuring out what I had do to improve myself. And as a long time blogger before that I decided, ‘well I’m gonna set up a blog to kind of track my progress.’ So that’s how Consumerism Commentary started. It never started as business I didn’t plan for it to be successful. I just wanted to share what I was going through and learn more about money myself. It turned to a business in the long run. It did well, it was at a time when there weren’t a lot of personal finance blogs around so it was great to be at the forefront of this huge community that we see today. Being able to be here at FinCon 15. Twelve years after I started the blog is a great experience for me so I’m happy.
Eric: Awesome. Jeff, you’ve been a couple of times before, could you give us a quick hello for new listeners who haven’t met you, your elevator speech.
Jeff Fruhwirth: Sure. I started my blogs similar to what Luke was, I had a lot of debt. I just kind of wanted keep myself accountable and paid off so I figured why not start a blog. And what I write about mostly is how you can save your money, keep your cash, build more personal freedom in your life and also do right by the environment at the same time.
Things to Focus on When Starting an Online Business
Eric: Awesome. Let’s ask some questions. Jeff, think some questions as well. I’m going to start to put you on the spot, Pat. People find you pretty much everywhere online and I know that’s been one of your key philosophy – be everywhere. For somebody who started a new website as a business venture, something online, and they feel overwhelmed just being able to set up a blog and write the first post. Do you have any some tips in time management and how to prioritize what to do first and how to build up that audience from zero?
Pat: Yes, great question. A lot of people see what I do and I have a blog, I have a podcast, I have a YouTube channel, I have a Periscope, I have all these social media channels and stuff. It can be very overwhelming coming and say, “Oh my Gosh, I have to do all these stuff.’ But what a lot of people don’t realize is that I didn’t do all of them at the same time and neither should anybody else. You got to do them one at a time until you master them to a point where then you feel comfortable or at a point where they can be automated and then you can move to the next thing.
In terms of priority, start with the platform you are most comfortable with. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blog. It could be a podcast, it could be a YouTube channel, whatever you feel like you can contribute in the best way possible. You pick that platform first and then you can expand out from there.
A lot of people are starting business now not by creating a blog but by creating a podcast. And a podcast, if you have a voice and you have a personality, it really helps you get your message out there. Plus, when you consider there is 500 million blogs out there and only half a million podcast, it is very wide open and plus iTunes does a good job of helping to give you exposure as supposed to what most people do is they start a blog and there is all like competition out there. The only people reading it at the beginning are like your roommates, your mom and couple of friends.
Eric: Yes, I don’t even know if my mom reads my blog.
Pat: My mom doesn’t read my blog either.
Picking a Platform
Eric: If you are going for someone who sees all these different platforms, you said pick the one that you are most comfortable with. If someone is new to all of these platforms, do you have a favorite for someone starting out from scratch, you think, has the best opportunity for traction early on?
Pat: Yes, I think the podcast is the best way to go because you can form a really great real honest relationship with the people who are listening on the other end. It’s interesting because when I was started out I was a blogger. I was blogging three times a week and then I introduced to podcast in 2010. It was just a podcast that came out every other week because I heard about this thing and it took me a while to get set up but I was doing every other week.
Then I went to this conference and everybody who I spoke to couldn’t stop talking about the podcast. I was like, “What about my blog? I blog more than I podcast. Like, what about my blog?’ ‘No, we love your podcast, we listen to it.’ And everybody ends up saying the same thing. Actually, the few people who I already met here says the same thing and that is “Pat, I feel like I know you” because they are hearing your voice, and they can hear the emotion, the intonation and all the expressions and stuff which you can’t get necessarily from a written blog.
However, it is important to have a website because people are listening to podcast on the go which is cool because your brand, your personality can be part of their daily lives. But when it comes down to joining your e-mail list or clicking on links or looking at the advertisements that you have on your site, you need to have a hub and that’s where websites come into play as well.
Again, starting out with one getting to a point where feel comfortable with it then you can expand. You don’t have to do everything at once and the one recommended resource I have is a book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, it’s been a game changer for me in terms of helping with productivity, focus. Because if you expand all you energy across all these different things, you’re going to get nothing done. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus, actually there’s a great acronym for it, and it’s “Follow One Course Until Success”. One thing at a time, and focus.
Building an Audience
Eric: That’s great so next question for Flexo, to my right. You built this blog with a huge audience. You got a massive following. Once you got big enough that you felt like you have some momentum going, what were your key things you did to help keep the community there and keep the people coming back again and again?
Harlan: Yes, that’s a great question. I mean there are two things I think specifically that I kept in mind as I was going along. The first thing was to figure out what the audience was interested in in terms of how they communicate. And just to be present, I think Pat agrees with this you know, just figure out where they are and go to them.
You know one thing I did was, again like Pat, I introduced my podcast a few years into the blog and it was at a time there weren’t a lot of podcasts going on. So it was great to initially get that kind of, you know I really enjoy performing. I like the audio capabilities of a podcast. I really like putting myself out there in kind of format. My mistake was probably not spending enough time doing that. I had someone who is helping me. Our plan was to have a podcast together. I focused on the writing in the business for the blog and I allowed him to kind of focus on the podcast and he was great. Everyone loved talking to him. But it didn’t keep my voice out there as much as I would have like.
Social media as well, it’s always important to be where they are. I always kept in mind that we have to figure out the next thing is. And if the next thing isn’t a blog, figure out what it is and figure out how I need to be there.
Eric: Great! So Jeff over there, do you have any questions here coming? We are coming live by from the Trade Kings Stage at the Financial Blogger Conference. And so Jeff, any questions for Pat or Flexo?
Jeff: Not right now. But I do want to emphasize one thing that Pat said is just focus on one thing and make sure to take action. You guys said be everywhere, which is good. But you have to be somewhere first. You have to do one thing really well. And for anyone trying to build an audience online or earn some money online, you need to focus on one thing instead of telling yourself, ‘Oh well, I started to set up this thing, but then I saw this new shiny object and I started to set that up too.’ You’re not doing anything at that point. You need to focus on doing one thing until you get it down.
Eric: What’s your one thing, your favorite thing that you’ve done that’s shown the most success?
Jeff: I think my one thing has been niche sites at this point that shown the most success. And now that I’ve got that down to a point where I’m hiring out content writing, hiring out all back linking, graphics, anything I need done for the site basically, I’m not doing myself. I’m moving on to something else at this point which is really exciting and I’d love to come back on and talk about that in the future Eric.
Eric: Awesome! I’ll always have you back. Jeff is one of my closest buddies and I met him through the Financial Blogging Community which is awesome that I have friends like these.
Attending Conferences and Its Importance to Your Online Business
Eric: If you’re involved in any type of online activity, there is a conference out there for you of some sort. That’s going to be my next question. Fin Con, we’re obviously all here, so we love Fin Con. But are there any other favorite conferences, anyone has been to before outside of Fin Con that you would recommend for someone starting up online?
Harlan: I really got a lot out of Digital CoLab. This is my second year being a part of it. And they’re great people there as well. Very, very intelligent, very smart, very savvy in what they do. Certainly very successful and there’s a lot for me to learn from them. That’s pretty much between that and FinCon. That’s my limit of conferences.
I’ll attend a few here and there but I don’t feel that I get a lot out of them. I feel that the people here are fantastic and I made a lot of great friends from FinCon. That’s not the case everywhere else. I’m just really passionate about this community. I love it! I love the people and I love coming back every year.
Pat: I owe a lot to FinCon ’cause I attended the first one in 2011 in Chicago and that was my very first time on stage. And I was deathly afraid of what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing. But everybody was super friendly, very welcoming and it started this whole series of speaking events that I did afterwards so I have to, PT and everybody here at FinCon is super friendly.
If you’re looking for a first conference to attend, this is definitely a great one to go to because everybody is really friendly and welcoming and open. Yes, the sessions are great, yes the booth and the expos are great. But you know we all come here for each other. I mean we’re one big family in the personal finance space. And it’s not just personal finance bloggers who are here now. It’s a whole bunch of other people which is awesome. But I do go to a lot of conferences. I speak at a number of different ones and they each have their own great thing.
But before even choosing a conference, I would recommend trying to discover who is it that you want to connect with. Or who are you already speaking to online and try to find out where they are going as well, because that’s kind of the cool thing. We’re all friends online here but then when we come and meet in person, you can share a drink, you can hang out and talk between sessions. It’s amazing!
But in terms of other conferences, I enjoyed Podcast Movement which was in Fort Worth, Texas this past year. That was a great one. There is Social Media Marketing World in San Diego run by Michael Stelzner from socialmediaexaminer.com. That’s a great one, too. There’s also a Converted 2015 which I’m speaking at. That’s the LeadPages Conference that’s happening in Minnesota actually next month. There’s also Traffic in Conversion which is also in San Diego. I guess San Diego is a destination city. I forget that because I live there. Traffic in Conversion is a great one but that’s more getting into the tactical strategies on how to grow your business, everything from how to split test to run Facebook ads.
Make sure when you try and figure out what conferences to go to, figure out who you want to connect with, that’s why everybody goes to these, but also look at the content from previous years to see, ‘Okay, is this something I’m interested right now?’
There’s this thing that I try to get everybody to understand. It goes along with this one thing I talk about earlier and that is something I like to call “Just in Time Learning” because a lot of us get distracted by all the different kinds of contents that’s out there. There’s this thing, this new shiny object, that new bright thing and when you kind of going into these different directions, nothing gets done.
Well, same thing when you learn and you have to execute, you have to do things. And so I implement this thing called “Just in Time Learning” and that is, I only try and learn about things are relevant to the very next one thing that I’m doing. If it’s not relevant to that, I don’t learn it yet. I put it aside for later. I put in Evernote but unless it’s to do with that next thing, then I don’t let it distract me. By doing that, I’ve been super focused and productive recently. So, hopefully that makes sense here.
Eric: It’s very. Jeff here, have you been in any other conferences in FinCon?
Jeff: No. I’ve just been in FinCon. But I have a question for Pat and Harlan. How, you guys are kind of, to use a cliché term, you’re basically rock stars here. So how do you guys focus on getting the most out of this when everyone wants to come up and chat with you and meet you guys and pick your brain and buy you Martini so you can show off some of your dance moves?
Pat: I can’t wait to dance, that’s for sure. For me, at this level, I am here to talk to as many people I can. I love chatting. I love asking about my show. Like for people come up to me, who listen to the show, I always ask, “What do you think I could do better? Or what kinds of guests do you see on the show? Or what were your favorite episodes?’ It gives me an insight on what I can do to improve the user experience across my website.
And plus, whenever you take the time to just talk to anybody, no matter what level you’re at, you’re going to be remembered, you’re going to be talked about, you’re going to be shared. When you provide value to other people in any way, they’re going to look for ways to repay you. That law of reciprocity comes into play. That’s kind of why I’m here; it’s all about the relationship building for sure.
Harlan: I try to make myself as available as possible for anybody who wants to come up and speak to me no matter whether I’ve familiar with their blog, with their podcast or with their project or not. I’m an introvert at heart, so a lot of people, big groups of people isn’t something where I’m most comfortable with, although I do work well with large groups. You know, after a while I’ll probably retreat in my room for few minutes and relax a bit and come back down and socialize as much as possible.
For me, it’s not about going to every possible session I can go to. It’s about being available, it’s about being present. It’s about those chance encounters in the hallway where something might happen and it could really redefine the next step of not just your business but your life, just from one side conversation that you have with someone that you might not even known before. So I think for me it’s just being available and being open to new ideas and not trying to make myself to a point where people can’t approach me. I just want to be completely approachable.
Tips and Strategies on Building a Successful Online Business
Eric: That’s great. I want to change gears a little bit. The basis of the podcast came out of personal finance. And I’ve some personal finance questions for you guys. I’ll start with Pat. If someone is working on their first side income project making a few bucks, how would you recommend they reinvest in themselves and the business versus keeping profits to help pay the bills or whatever they are doing with their money?
Pat: That’s a great question! So what do you do with the income you’re earning no matter how big or little it is? I think it’s all about educating yourself and going to conferences like this. I think some of the best money you could spend is to go to a conference where you can meet people who can like Flexo was saying, literally one of those conversations could change everything. And maybe it’s somebody who knows somebody who could help you. You’ll never know unless you go and put yourself out there. I’m actually introvert by heart too but I know how important this is for my business so I do what I can and think investing a little bit back into yourself and the relationships that you could potentially build is the most important thing as well.
And then also making sure that, whatever it is that is working, you optimize that, you do more of that. I think a lot of us, we try to do too many things and we forget actually there’s something that’s already working you could actually improve that or double it or whatever the case may be. We’ve already lit a fire somewhere else, why are we trying to rub two sticks together over here, you know. So that doesn’t even often cost very much to do. Just take what you’re doing, optimize it, make it better. Maybe you could invest as well in somebody to help you do those things that you shouldn’t be doing as the owner of your business.
That’s something that took me about four years to understand was how great it was to actually hire other people who could do things better and faster than myself. So that I could only focus on things that only Pat Flynn should be focusing on my business.
Dealing with Debt while Creating a Profitable Business
Eric: Alright. So, Harlan, a little twist on that. For someone who is in debt looking to start a business as way to get out of debt, how would you recommend they approach dealing with their debt versus investing in the business?
Harlan: Yes, it’s a great question. I think, debt is one of the most important things to focus on financially if you’re in it. That’s got to be a priority at least some level. I think everyone has their own level of sensitivity to financial issues.
I think it’s, you have to look at the bigger picture. It’s more than just the amount of debt that you have but it’s what you have to rely on outside of your own financial situation. A lot of people I know who start businesses have a spouse, or at least have a family that is there to support them no matter what.
The good thing is a lot of the businesses that we’re talking about don’t require you to put a lot of investment into it at first. At least very beginning, you can get by. I mean it cost very little to run a website. It cost very little to start a podcast. Sure, you can go out and buy hundreds of dollars of equipment but certainly, you don’t need to. There are services where you can basically call a phone number with your phone and record from there and publish, in a service that’s already set up for you.
There are so many things that you can do without making a big investment at first. Now, down the road if you’re making money, and your business is profitable, then absolutely yes, start to pay down that debt, absolutely. In fact, when Consumerism Commentary started earning money, first of all it was a total surprise. I never thought it was going to be something that was sustainable.
So, I just looked at all the money as if it were extra and I didn’t want to live on it, and I just wanted to use it to pay down debt and not have to worry about anything and after that put into savings. It wasn’t until much, much later that I finally decided that I could quit and actually, leave my day job for this online business that was earning several multiples of my day job income.
Pat: Can I extend up for that? So, I think one of the best things to do if you are in debt and you need money now, if you try to build a passive income online business, that doesn’t happen right away. It takes a lot of time to build an audience and get to a point where you can have sponsors on your show or advertisers or create products, it takes time.
Investing in Yourself and Becoming Profitable
Pat: I think one of the best things that you could do is freelance. So you have some skills, some knowledge that somebody else also wants but doesn’t have the time to figure out on their own. You could have people hire you to do things, and it doesn’t take much to make some money on the side that can help you. Every little bit helps when you’re trying to get out of debt, right?
And the other thing that I want to mention is besides the amount of money people think they need to start a business which, like Flexo said, it isn’t all that much at all. It does take a little bit of time and I think that’s where people stop and sell. So, I don’t have time to do it, you know. I’m already doing this. There is time, just as like how, there are ways to save more money even though we don’t think there is.
In the finance world, there’s just pay yourself first strategy, right? Before you pay your bills, before any of that stuff, you put in a little bit of money into a savings account and by overtime, you’re going to amass this amazing nest egg.
Same thing with your time. So instead of what most people do, is you get up early in the morning because of an alarm to do and work on somebody else’s dream, you get up an hour earlier and pay yourself first with time. In that way, you wake up in the morning for yourself – for personal development, to work on your business, and those even thirty minutes a day can add up. Just like those little savings every single month or every single pay check.
And when you pay yourself first with time, you wake up motivated because that’s the time that you have. You’re very productive because you know that eventually you’re going to have to go to work and work for somebody else. Then what most people try to do that’s similar is they kind of tact that on to the end of the day. They say, I’m going to work on my business at the end of the day. Well, by then you’ve already expended all of your energy and there’s only a limited amount of decision making that we have in our brains every single day. If you already used that up for somebody else, then it’s going to be really difficult to move forward on your own business. So pay yourself first with time.
A Balance between Work and Family Life
Eric: To Jeff and Pat, you’re both dads, I’ll be joining the dads club in about six weeks…
Eric: Thank you. So, I’ll be in there with you. So as new parents running your own online businesses. Jeff, just like me, he has his online business on the side full time. What are your best tips to, and we’re talking a little bit about finding the best time to work on it? How do you balance your drive on your online work with your family responsibilities?
Jeff: For me, you’ll understand when you have a kid, but I would rather play with my kid than do just about anything else in the world. So that becomes a question of, well now I have to get all these other things down for my side business but I’d rather play with my kid. So, you just kind of got, give yourself like three hours one day on the weekend where you’re uninterrupted so you can work on your side stuff and one hour in the morning, two or three mornings a week. Then, spend the rest of your time with your family because for me, that’s what it’s all about.
Pat: It’s the same thing for me as well, I mean, especially because I work from home too. It’s very motivating to have the kids in the house because I want to play with them the whole time. Plus every second I waste in my business for example, if I find myself in a YouTube, rabbit hole, or if I’m wasting my time on Twitter for example, that’s time actually I’m taking away from my family. That’s how I think about it.
So, I’m actually super productive and efficient, because I know that the faster I could get through something, the more likely it is I’m going to have more time to play with my kids.
Now, it’s very easy thing to say when you are working, focus on work, when you’re with your kids, focus on the kid. But I’ve noticed that that line gets blurred very often. Sometimes I’ll be with my family and you can’t help but think about that important thing that’s happening in your business and vice versa.
Two things worked for me very well, similar to what Jeff mentioned, having a schedule for when you do things. We always say, ‘Oh, break away from the nine to five, get rid of the nine to five,’ but the nice thing about the nine to five is that five, you know you’re done. And you can go and then shift your mind to your family. But you need to have a schedule even if you’re an entrepreneur and working for yourself. So I have certain times in a day where I know that I’m in work mode and then certain times in a day where I can check out. And it’ very easy to do that because it’s in a schedule.
And the second thing is actually having a physical space to do work related things, where when I’m in that space, I’m in work mind-set. When I’m out of that space, I can’t work because I’m not in that space, and so I don’t give myself an opportunity to blur those lines.
It got to a point where couple of times I remember, this was even before I had kids. My wife and I would be talking and she’d be moving her mouth, but I really wouldn’t be paying attention because in the back of my head, there is this email I had to answer, this product I had to create. I felt really bad because she called me out on it. Like we were having a conversation one time and she’s like, ‘are you even listening to me?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes,’ and she’s like, ‘you’re thinking about your business, aren’t you?’ and I was like, you know, typical guy, I am like, ‘No!’ She’s like, ‘well, what did I just say?’ And I said the worst thing possible which was, ‘you’re thinking about your business aren’t you?’
And that led to a heated conversation, but a very necessary conversation because she was like, when we have kids, do you want to be the dad who’s always thinking about things other than your kids? And I was like, “No!” and then we figured out this, “Okay, I need a schedule, I need a physical space.’ And that helped out a lot.
Eric: I have to say I’m in a, I’ve had similar conversations with my wife and when starting a few months ago when I knew the baby was coming, I actually started really working to outsource a lot more. That has taken a lot off my plate. That was actually, as Pat was saying earlier, let’s me get more done that I did before. There are lots of things I was totally ignoring around social media, other things I wanted to do. Even some other things I was doing that I could stop like some of the blog formatting and all. Outsourcing that, I found great VA and she’s been a wonderful asset. So, that’s something I have done. I’m trying to get into that mode where I can do you’re doing and draw the line. That’s great advice. Thanks.
Jeff: Yes. Good luck
Hobbies and Passions
Eric: Thank you. So, some other open question for everybody. We always talk a lot on our blogs, on our websites about what we’re doing financially and business wise. We often don’t talk as much about our hobbies. I know there’s someone who’s a fan of a certain movie. What do you guys like to do outside of work and how do you budget hobby time with work time and all the expenses and all that particularly before you started building up your big incomes?
Jeff: So, the movie that Eric was talking about is Back to the Future. I’m a huge Back to the Future fan. And this is the year. This is the 30 year anniversary October is the month, anyway_
Eric: If you want to see a really awesome thing online, Google Pat coming into a conference that you’re going with the DeLorean.
Pat: That was at New Media Expo. Yes
Eric: So Google Pat Flynn New Media Expo keynote. The whole talk was amazing. I listened to the whole thing but if you just watched the beginning and see Pat coming out the DeLorean, I almost had a little chill go up my back and I was thinking where we’re going we don’t need roads.
Pat: No, absolutely. For me with the hobbies, I always make sure to get the work done and the family time stuff done. I also used hobbies as a reward system for myself. I say, ‘okay if I complete this next task, I’ll be able to do this’ I’ll be able to play thirty minutes to an hour of Madden. I’ll go online, go watch my favorite YouTube channels. Or I will go to the golf range and hit a couple of balls. I use that as motivation. I live in San Diego so I love to surf and stuff as well.
I make sure to take time in the weekends to do those things and I try to get the family involved as much as possible. I’ve learned to become a very big Disney fan too and my family. My wife is a huge Disney fan and my kids are too and now…
Eric: Can you sing all the theme songs?
Pat: [singing] I can show you the world… Yes I can. But anyway, yes it’s important to have those hobbies because you could work all day and still feel miserable. You need to take breaks every once in a while so you could go back into work feeling much more motivated.
Eric: How about you, Harlan, what are your big favorite things to do and how do you budget for it?
Harlan: Well I consider myself multi-passionate. I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life and I love doing them all. They may be hobbies. I don’t really consider them hobbies. They’re just as important to me in my life as my business would be. I work with the drum and bugle corps as a volunteer. I do quite a lot of work with them organizing everything that they do.
Pat: Which corps is this?
Harlan: The Bushwackers from New Jersey.
Pat: Because I used to be in drum and bugle player.
Harlan: Which corps are you with?
Eric: I was in Esperanza.
Harlan: Oh really?
Eric: Which was an offshoot at the Vanguard at the Blue Devils.
Harlan: Yes. Sure. Cool. I’ve been passionate about marching for a long time.
Pat: That’s cool.
Harlan: Photography, I’m very much into that as well. That, I haven’t had a lot of time to do lately. Mostly because of the summer with the drum corps but also it’s just finding the space and time for that. Like I said, it’s very important to me, it’s important as everything else that I do in my life. Even though it doesn’t bring any money. It’s important that I focus on these passions just as strongly as I do anything else in my life.
Eric: Alright Jeff, you want to chime in?
Jeff: Yes, I think what Luke and Pat said was kind of important. Your hobbies kind of recharge your batteries to make you really excited to go back in and kind of get to work and give you a little bit of extra motivation like, “Oh, if I do all this hard work then I can go relax and in Pat’s case, go surfing.’ I personally like to go hiking, mountain biking and things like that. So, those are kind of how I reward myself. I get to take if I work well during the week, sometimes I take the entire weekend off my side business and just spend time with my family, go hiking and what not.
Giving Back to the Community
Eric: So do any of you, Luke like you were just saying volunteer with different organizations and you just started a new community focused non-profit. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Harlan: Sure. Well, it’s an offshoot of what I’ve been doing at the Plutus Awards for the last six years, it’s the Plutus Foundation. It’s a way for the financial media to pull financial resources together so that we can make change in the world and the various causes that were all very much interested in. It’s been going great so far.
We’re working right now on identifying a number of programs that we’re going to support next year. We’ve raised some money so far. We know that the fundraising will kick into high gear once we have some programs to announce.
But we intend to work with organizations, kind of like big brothers and big sisters who are already in communities. So we’re not just visiting strange communities sharing our financial knowledge and then leaving.
Part of the problem with financial literacy is that the people who need it the most don’t have the role models in their homes. They don’t have the reinforcement. By working with organizations that are in communities who have these role models we’ll be able to have a much better effect on financial literacy across the world. So I’m really excited about that.
Eric: So, speaking of community and financial literacy, I know there’s often a debate about non-profit versus for profit to help people make a difference in people’s lives. And with our online platforms, we really do have a global reach that we can get to people that previously have very little contact with outside countries and outside world. So, how do you use your platforms in addition to the Plutus Foundation to really help people and individuals and then maybe even a larger reach to make the world a little bit better of a place?
Jeff: Yes. I mean that’s a great question. I think both on the for profit side and non-profit sides there are great things that we can all do together separately and together, work together to really improve everything that we hold so dear to us and in terms of financial literacy and financial capability.
Not just the education, not just how to pay your bills but the things that we need to do in order to change someone’s condition, perhaps over the course of a generation. It’s a long term process. It all comes down to eliminating poverty and making this world a better place.
Eric: I know you have to run in a minute, Pat, you want to chime in on that one?
Pat: Yes. I had an interview with Adam Braun, who’s the founder of Pencils of Promise, which is the organization that goes around to countries that have children who don’t have opportunities in education like we do. And that interview really inspired me because he talked about sure non-profit or for profit whatever it’s for purpose. You don’t have enough purpose behind whatever it is that you do that’s beyond kind of your normal more reach can be tremendous start a tremendous ripple effect.
That interview actually ended up working with Pencils of Promise. For my birthday last year I did a campaign to raise money to build a school in Ghana, Africa. We ended up raising over $25,000 which builds one school, and I decided to match that so we built two schools in Ghana. I visited Ghana this past June and it was such a life changing experience. It’s actually really cool to see where the money was put and meet the children, meet the students.
I’m now a part of the advisory board for Pencils of Promise. So I’ll be able to affect more people around the world not just through contributions with finances but also through the knowledge that we have. I think, even though we might not have a lot of money to share all the time, we do have knowledge and the ability to put some sweat equity to whatever it is we can do to help too.
Eric: I was very impressed with that project, your matching on that. It was very generous and a great way. I love seeing entrepreneurs who have come and become really successful, give back. That’s such an important lesson for all of us. If you are getting successful, don’t forget about everyone who is not yet because they all need our help too.
Pat: Thank you.
Practical Personal Finance Tips
Eric: So, last question to go around for everybody. I want everyone to answer this one. If someone is floundering in maybe in debt, they don’t know what they’re doing with their finances, they don’t have a lot of direction. They just kind of lob a question out to you saying, what do I do first? Can you give me a little help? Where would you guide something to start getting their finances on track and taking control so they are running their finances and using them as a tool to better their life rather than having the finances run their life?
Harlan: Yes, well, it sounds like this person in this theoretical example has already made probably one of the best choices they can make, and that’s to start paying attention in looking at their finances and figure out what’s going on. I mean for me, that was eye opening. Once I decided to take my head out of the sand and start looking, that’s when I got inspired to make some real changes.
From that point, it’s all about passionately pursuing change in your life. It comes down to devouring all the media that you can. It’s certainly a lot more. It’s a lot easier to do that now than it was twelve, fifteen years ago. When I first started looking, basically the only resources I can find where The Motley Fool discussion boards.
Now there are thousands of people out here, writing blogs, doing podcasts trying to help people in the same exact situation and there’s so much available. In fact, it’s a little overwhelming which is why I suggest going to some conferences like these where you can figure out who’s doing exactly what you want to do, who fills the particular niche that you have. I mean, there’s so much variety now. All of your passions you can find someone who is leading people, who has the same exact feelings about life that you do. So, there’s more of a chance of you matching up with someone who’s going to inspire you. So, search that out, seek it out.
Pat: And my advice is, after you kind of understand this is what you want to do, you have to really commit. Like really commit. That’s the biggest thing to a point where you need to do whatever it takes to make sure that, that actually happens.
You get connected with the right people who can hold you accountable. You create deadlines. You make sure you can envision what life is like on the other end. And I know it’s hard but you know what, the struggle makes it all the much better when you break through that. So, commit, commit, commit. That’s what first thing I always tell people. When you’re starting online business well you can’t kind of do it half way. You can be smart with it in terms of how much time you put into it, but you can’t half commit. You have to commit fully if you want to make a change.
Jeff: I think the advice I would give to this person is if you don’t know what you’re doing with your finances, well, figure it out. It’s very, very simple. Go to Walmart, buy a little notepad that you can keep, put it in your pocket for 97 cents, or whatever they charge. And every time you spend money, write it down on your notepad.
At the end of the day, add it up, at the end of the week add it up, and then when you’re adding it up at the end of the week look at this, and say “Oh I went to Wendy’s and spent $13 on chicken nuggets and frosties. Well, looking at it four days later, is that something that you wanted to do now even four days later? Is it just something you did because you were feeling rushed or it’s habitual at this point? And then, from there you could start to slowly get your ship under control and turn it back the right way. It starts with stopping the random and relatively pointless spending that you do every day without thinking about it.
Eric: So, thanks everyone, the three of you so much for being a part of this podcast. It’s been super valuable. One last thing before we go, let’s go down the line and tell the listeners where they can find you and connect with you.
Harlan: Yes. You can find me, whether you call me Harlan or Luke, or Flexo, seems to be- Still a big question in financial blogging world. But anyway,
Eric: Your personal preferences?
Harlan: It doesn’t matter.
Harlan: You can find me at Plutus Foundation. PLUTUS Foundation.org
Pat: Yes, you can find me at SmartPassiveIncome.com or you can look me up @PatFlynn on Twitter. Everything else is connected from there.
Eric: Great. Jeff?
Jeff: You can find me at sustainablelifeblog.com
Eric: Alright. So, thanks everyone for listening to the end. You know where to find me. I’m always at personalprofitability.com. Thank you so much to the guests for being a part of it. Thank you to the FinCon community for supporting us, and letting us up here on the stage. Everyone just stay on it, keep being profitable and we’ll talk to you next time.