How did the guy who wanted to teach people how to get rich ever get rich himself?
A few years later, he sold the site.
Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. I am Andrew Warner. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. You know what? I say over and over, hey there freedom fighters, and I call my audience that so much. I wonder if anyone even pays attention to it anymore because it’s just part of the program.
I want to tell you why I say that. The idea that my audience is freedom fighters first came to me when I was living in Argentina, home of Che Guevara. Everyone in the US at the time was wearing a Che Guevara tee shirt. Who did the Argentines admire? Who are they looking to to save them? It wasn’t Che anymore, whose home country was Argentina.
It was entrepreneurs like the people I was interviewing on Mixergy. It was people who were going to free them from their location in the world, from their financial issues and political issues, and free them by getting them out of it through technology and through ideas. We are the freedom fighters both for ourselves and for our users, customers, and audiences.
I think today you’re going to get a small example of how that works. The entrepreneur I’m interviewing today is nodding as I’m saying this, because he must remember that there was a period where he felt confined by his finances. He freed himself from those issues through his business. Then, he helped thousands of other people get freedom, too.
The entrepreneur I’m interviewing today is JD Roth. He is the founder of Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance blog that he started when he was having trouble with his finances. He sold the business. He’s still there leading it. I want to find out how he came up with the idea, how he grew it, how he got an audience, why he sold it, and what happened afterwards.
As always, this interview is sponsored by my friend Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. He is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. You know that by now. So, why is he paying me? I don’t know. Maybe he’s just a good guy. Maybe he wants to keep reinforcing it. But, I’ll tell you later about him. For now, JD Roth, welcome.
JD: Hey, Andrew. Thanks. Glad to be here.
Andrew: Did you grow up rich?
JD: No, I did not. You know, when you’re young it’s kind of tough to have a frame of reference. Because what you really know is what your family has. I grew up poor, lower middle class certainly. My parents…
Andrew: …What does it mean to be poor? I’ll ask you later on about how much money you have now, how rich you are today…
Andrew: …Let me get to know what life was like growing up. When you say that you were poor or you came from a modest background, what does that mean? Give me an example.
JD: For me, that means my father was often out of work. My mother didn’t work. She raised us three boys. We lived in a trailer house that was on land that my grandfather had given us. The trailer house was beat up and run down.
There were times when my parents couldn’t put food on the table. They shopped for clothes at thrift stores not out of choice but out of necessity, because they had to. There were times when we would have to go to our church and say we can’t put food on the table. We received charity from the church. So..[??]…
Andrew: …How did you feel about that? Was that embarrassing at the time or just the way life is?
JD: No, that was just the way life was. I’ve had friends tease me that I’m kind of socially unaware. Maybe I have mild Asperger’s or something. Maybe I just didn’t pay attention to what other people had. It wasn’t until I got to junior high or high school that I realized that, oh, this isn’t the way that everybody lives.
Andrew: How did you realize that?
JD: I started hanging around people who had more than I did and people whose parents gave them things or who lived in big fancy houses. Beyond that, I started hanging around with people whose parents had average wealth. I could see, oh, not everybody lives in a 600 square foot trailer house. Not everybody drives ten year old cars. Again, it was not out of choice because in my work I advocate doing it out of choice. My parents had to do it out of necessity.
Andrew: So once you realized that, how did it make you feel?
JD: I was self-conscious, especially when I got to college. My parents couldn’t afford to put me through college. I knew it was all on me. I got scholarships to go to college. I went to a private liberal arts college called Willamette University here in Oregon.
I got there and there were a lot of legacy students whose parents had been wealthy. They worked hard, too. I’m not going to diss on them. But, they also had a lot of things that I didn’t have. I didn’t resent that, but I guess I became aware of it for the first time. One of my roommates in freshmany year was Danny, who was a great guy. His father was a doctor. They had a big house set on a hillside overlooking the valley and stuff. I became very aware that other people had more than what I had grown up with or what I had.
Andrew: You know what, JD? I had similar experiences in college, and I did resent it. I remember going to people’s homes, apartments I should say, in Manhattan. There was no way they afforded those apartments in Manhattan. There was no way they afforded NYU, and those apartments, and the cigars and other stuff that they had around the house for parties. I thought their parents are just handing it over to them. I am a nobody in comparison.
I have to fight harder than them because there is no way I’m going to allow this to go on, where everything is handed to them and they have a better life than me, just because they were fortunate enough to have come out of the right environment. But you didn’t have that. You didn’t feel like “I have to prove myself in this world?”
JD: Well, I take a different reaction. I mean, I say I didn’t feel resentful, but I was very aware and conscious of it and so the approach I took, I tried to keep up. I didn’t try to work harder, I mean, I worked just as hard as everybody else and they worked just as hard as I did. But I tried to take a shortcut. I started getting into a credit card habit. I went to the university center and signed up for credit cards.
So even though I graduated from college with no student loan debt, I had the beginning of a credit card habit. I wish I had known how much credit card debt I had at the time. It was probably only about $1,500, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was 1991 and from there it just got worst.
Andrew: What kind of things did you put on your credit card back then?
JD: Well, I remember clothes for sure. I wanted to look nice for the ladies. I don’t know whether it helped, but I wanted to. And then I also bought like a $200 electric shaver. Why I did this I have no idea. I remember going down to the department store, buying that $200 electric shaver, putting it on the credit card, and then paying it off for a year. And so I did a lot of that and also a lot of going out to eat. I didn’t drink at the time so I would go out to eat with my friends. Generally nothing worthwhile.
Andrew: But it feels like it’s putting on the clothes of someone who is better off than you are at the time.
JD: Yea, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t is what it amounted to, and I think that is what all credit card debt of that nature is. You are trying to be somebody other than who you actually are.
Andrew: So interesting that now you are better off now than you were back then. Now you are wearing a t-shirt, it was like a freebie t-shirt. It just goes to show so much is counter-intuitive. The most successful people who I see, at least in our world, end up wearing the most average clothes like…
Andrew: …Why can’t I think of the guy’s name? The guy from [??] Dave McClure. I see Dave McClure, one of the most successful people here in the Valley walking around in t-shirts tucked into his jeans, just freebie t- shirts.
JD: I think there is kind of a correlation sometimes between that. We can get into my personal finance philosophy later maybe, but I know people who are successful and I think of Chris Guillebeau whose t-shirt I’m wearing, and for the longest time he didn’t have a car, and eventually he did get a car. I also know very successful people who bike everywhere they can. The have a car and they need a cheap meter but they bike everywhere they can. I don’t know what is cause and what is effect here. Are they successful because they choose these things or are they a result of it? I don’t know.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t want to jump to too many conclusions either, but I do like that we are now separating it. We’re not saying…We are recognizing that having these clothes are not really…It’s not really the right message.
Andrew: It’s not the right way to prep for the life that you want. It’s the way to kid yourself and no one else is being fooled in the process. One more thing about your childhood that I’m curious about. I think you told our pre-interviewer that your dad founded a corrugated packaging company, or created a corrugated packaging? What does that mean?
JD: So my father, to his credit, he couldn’t handle money very well, he was always living paycheck to paycheck, but he was a serial entrepreneur. He was always started businesses. When I was a boy, and he was working for other people, he had a nursery. He raised nursery stock plants and he also mowed lawns for other people to make extra money.
In 1975 or ’76, he started a business that made wheat grinders and food dryers during the natural foods boom, and he sold that for about $300,000. I never saw one payment on that, but… He kept founding businesses right along and in 1985 after he had been selling boxes for a living, just corrugated packaging, shipping containers, that kind of thing, he decided he saw a niche in the market, so he started a box company that would make small quantity runs of corrugated boxes, and that business exists still today. I worked there for 18 years. It supports the family, it supports my mother, it supports a brother, it’s great.
Andrew: I see, and once he did that, his life turned around. He started to be doing well enough that he could even give you a job until you started to do well with your site.
JD: Here’s an interesting thing. My father was always poor with his personal finances, but good with business finances. So he could…I had never made that connection, I’m the same way, or I used to be the same way. I am just now making that connection that I got that from him. So, the business was very successful and up until the time he died, he died 10 days before his 50th birthday, which would have been the 10th anniversary of the company. The business supported him and has continued to support the family.
Andrew: Play armchair therapist with me here. If you were to psychoanalyze your dad and understand why he was better with business finances than personal finances, what obviously amateurish but still personal conclusion would you come to?
JD: I don’t know, Andrew. That’s a fine question. I don’t know. In his personal life he just had no self-control, no self-discipline. He was overweight. He spent all his money. He never took up drinking, which is good, because I can see that it would’ve been a problem. I think he was able somehow to create a partition, a wall, in his mind where the business finances were sacred.
This happened to me. I said that I graduated from college and was deep in debt. By the end of the 1990’s I had over $30,000 in consumer debt. I started a computer consulting company. I could have very easily run that just as poorly as I ran my personal finances. But, I created a wall in my mind. I said hell no. I’m going to make sure that this business is profitable, and that I run it correctly, and that I don’t do anything silly. That was the start of my financial turnaround.
Andrew: Did you cut up your credit cards before or after launching that business?
JD: I cut them up before. When my dad died in 1995 he left $5,000 of life insurance money. I promptly spent it on a computer. That was the first sign that I had problems. I wasn’t taking that money and paying off debt. My then wife was very angry, and justifiably so. By 1998 I said okay, enough is enough. I cut up my credit cards and I took out a home equity loan. I put all of my balances into that home equity loan. I just rolled it over. So, I still had the debt, but it was in a different form.
Andrew: What got you to say enough is enough?
JD: You know, I don’t remember. The low point didn’t come until 2004, six years later. I don’t know what got me to say enough is enough with the credit cards. I think the fact that each time I got a bump in the credit limit I would spend up to that. I’d go out and buy a Nintendo or whatever to max that out again. Every month I was living paycheck to paycheck and paying hundreds of dollars in credit card interest. At some point some unremembered trigger just said no, you’re done.
Andrew: That’s it, and you started to cut it up. Was it hard to live life without that flexibility, without the extra cash?
JD: Yes, but I found ways. The problem was I continued to find ways to borrow money. I borrowed money from family and friends. My wife and I kept completely separate finances. So, I would borrow money from her and pay her back. I took out personal loans. The next time I needed a computer I took out a loan from Apple and just bought a Mac that way. So, I found ways to borrow without using the credit cards.
Andrew: You know, there’s something about how personal you are just talking about this. Usually I have to pull any personal information out of guests. They almost make me feel guilty for asking. Here, I feel guilty, I don’t know, for listening. I appreciate it, too. I think it’s one of the reasons why I connect with you so much.
JD: Thanks. I’ve been very open with this story from the very beginning on my blog.
Andrew: I know. And, you were open with me in person when we met at Chris Guillebeau’s conference, the conference whose tee shirt you’re wearing right now. I knew prepping for this interview that it was going to be open, and still there’s something about being open, about sharing, that just connects people.
Andrew: You called yourself addicted to spending.
Andrew: You mean an addict just like someone who’s addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or food might be? Is that the way it was? Was it compulsive like that?
JD: I was addicted to food also at the time. I was overweight. Basically, I was unhappy with my life, Andrew. That’s what it boils down to. I was trying to look for ways to escape that unhappiness. I thought that by eating, by playing video games compulsively, and by spending I could solve that.
Andrew: I see.
JD: Or, maybe not on a conscious level, but that’s what I was trying to do – seek solace in something else. I was looking outside myself for happiness is what it amounts to, instead of looking inside.
Andrew: My interview coach keeps telling me as we go through my transcripts of past interviews don’t look for the Batman moment. Don’t keep forcing an interviewee that there was one incident – where like the parents died for Batman and then suddenly he became a superhero. Let the person be themselves.
Still, it’s such a dramatic change. You’re telling me you were addicted to food and addicted to spending. You weren’t happy with yourself.
Then, there’s some new change where you are no longer in debt, where you are now helping yourself, and where you’re expressing yourself and helping others. I want to find out what’s that inciting incident. Is there one?
JD: Yes, so there is a Batman.
JD: And that is in 2004 my wife and I bought a new house. And, again, she and I had kept separate finances. And she could afford the new house, no problem. On paper I could afford the new house and it all penciled out, just barely. And so we bought the place in June of 2004. And we moved in and immediately it needed all sorts of work. It was livable but she was unhappy with the bathroom, I was unhappy with the living room, things had to be changed.
And so we started doing this remodeling and that was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I just felt like I was drowning. I had over $35,000 in consumer debt, there was more on the horizon and so I sat down- Actually what happened first is I started complaining about this to friends. And they said, “JD, okay, maybe your finally ready to listen,” so they loaned me books about personal finance. One of them loaned me Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and another loaned me Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
And I read these books. I was like, “Well, yeah, they make sense,” and I didn’t do anything right away. Instead I went to the public library and I borrowed two more personal finance books and then I borrowed two more. And I sat down in October of 2004 and I created a plan. I called it my spending plan. And thanks to the miracle of digital technology I still have that document that I created back then. And I go back to it all the time and look at it and go, “Wow. This worked,” because I created a five-year plan where I was going to get out of debt.
And in early 2005 I wrote an article at my personal blog, I called that article “Get Rich Slowly.” I tried to summarize everything I had learned from these books which they were saying there’s no magic bullet. I always look for magic bullets. I wanted to get rich quickly. And the books said no, no. You can’t do that. But if you follow some proven principles you can get out of debt and get rich slowly. And so I said, “Alright, I’ll give it a shot.” And then eventually that became the site getrichslowly.org.
Andrew: I see [and your] personal site was called Folded Space, right?
JD: Yeah, foldedspace.org.
Andrew: And I see that article. April 26, 2005. You’re summarizing all the books and then in the comments you’re telling people that you didn’t even buy these books except for two that you were I think given. You didn’t own them.
Andrew: But here it is. It’s just ordinary people, extraordinary wealth. Secret Number 1: Carry a mortgage even if you can afford to pay it off. Secret Number 2: Don’t diversify the money. So you were just summarizing other people’s ideas. Was it with the plan that you were going to eventually create a site called Get Rich Slowly?
JD: No. No, no, no. So-
Andrew: It was just you summarizing it for the world to see.
JD: Right. So at the time I was writing about cats and comic books and computers.
Andrew: The previous blog post by the way – this is so cool – you’re right that you’ve brought it up and I’m sorry to interrupt you but the previous blog post is “Why Star Wars Sucks” to give people a sense of what was on the site.
JD: Goddamn George Lucas and (?). Yeah, I had forgotten I wrote that. I should go back and read it. Yeah, so I was writing about all sorts of nerd stuff. And I had a nerd following. And so that first Get Rich Slowly article at Folded Space got picked up by Boing Boing I think and maybe like- I don’t actually remember who picked it up at first. It doesn’t matter because it came to the attention of some people.
So that a year later when I started to pay down my debts, in early 2006 just had begun and I was trying to find a way to make some extra money. I read a book called The Millionaire Maker by Loral Langemeier and in it she talks about creating I don’t know what she calls them, like a cash machine or something like that. And she’s basically talking about creating passive income.
And I remember I was sitting in the bathtub, reading the book and the idea just came to me – BOOM! And I got out of the bathtub naked, dripping wet, sat down at the kitchen table. My wife said, “What the hell is going on?” And I wrote down my idea for a money making website which was a comic book website, not a website about personal finance. But as a secondary thought I wrote down, “Oh, also that Get Rich Slowly article was very popular. I could do a website based on that.”
And the comic book site didn’t pan out but I followed up with “Get Rich Slowly”. I thought I’d be the first personal finance site on the web but obviously there were more. And including Ramit from “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”. He’s got an awesome site, too. And yeah, it went from there.
Andrew: Talk about a Eureka moment like Archimedes running out of the bathtub. I got it!
JD: It cracks me up.
Andrew: Is this story touched up or literally you read it in the tub, got out naked, and just started planning?
JD: Literally, I got out naked, and sat down. I probably had a towel around me.
Andrew: But we’re talking about epiphany, in that what did for other people with your site that book did for you.
Andrew: Gave you this realization. And to launch it, I know the software but what- No actually if I know the software why am I asking? It’s just a straight-up WordPress blog with a theme that’s off the shelf, right?
JD: Yes. I used the Connections theme, if I remember right or Connections Two. I don’t even remember what it was called. I modified it. I flipped the header upside down using my fancy Photoshop skills. Other than that it was just stock.
Andrew: In the intro, I introduced you as the founder of getrichslowly.org and before we started, I said, “Does it bother you that someone else has the dot com?”
JD: Well, it didn’t at the time because my previous site was foldedspace.org. I had already gone through the experience of not having the dot com domain. When I started Get Rich Slowly, I looked for the dot com and the dot net and they were both taken. The dot com is some guy who sells domains. I can’t say he squats them, but he buys domains and then he resells them.
Eventually, once my site started making money, I contacted the guy and I said, “Dude, some of your domains …”, and he’s like, “Hell no, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” I think I probably still am. He gets a lot of traffic from people going to the dot com instead of the dot org.
Andrew: You still are, as far as I can tell, one of the best things that ever happened to that site. You told our pre-interviewer that this was 2006, you just started writing every day and then you said, “I shared my project at MetaFilter site.” What does that mean?
JD: I don’t know whether your audience is familiar with MetaFilter. It’s a community blog, in the sense that people can go … Nowadays, it can be considered kind of like Reddit, except for there’s not up and down voting. It’s just a place where this community can go and share interesting links and ask questions. They had just started a feature where you could share your projects. Because I was very active at that site and at several other sites, I brought this up in the MetaFilter Projects section.
There were some influential readers there and it just kind of spread, so I had people at Lifehacker reading the site, apparently people at Boing Boing, although maybe they picked it up from someplace else, and so, by sharing my project in communities where I was already an active member, a respected member. Not in a spammy way, just in “here’s what I’m doing”, I got some people who were able to share it and promote it when they saw fit.
Andrew: To this day, Lifehacker is a big source of traffic for you. Did you do anything to network with them or was it just them finding your articles and publishing?
JD: It was just them finding my articles and publishing. I think … I can’t remember, whether Gina Trapani had ever exchanged email directly or not. I think we have. Eventually, other editors I exchanged email now and then, but I have never met any of them in person or anything.
Andrew: Fair to say that Gina is one of the reasons why the site took off?
JD: Yes. I love Gina!
Andrew: You know what, there are a few apps out there, who because of her articles, because of her writings, ended up doing really well. She’s got to be so proud that she did it. Jim Wang had something to do with your next big step forward. Who is he and what did he have to do with it?
JD: Jim Wang is another personal finance blogger. He’s got a very different approach than me. First of all, his site is Blueprint for Finance, he calls it Bargaineering now. It was Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. It’s now bargaineering.com and he has lots of other sites too. He’s like me, just dabbles in all sorts of things. I’m a writer. I’m very much a storyteller. That’s the kind of blog that I like to do. I don’t care about SEO, I don’t care about marketing. I don’t care about any of that stuff. Jim, on the other hand, really enjoys that stuff and he’s good at it.
I don’t know if he has a business degree or not, I can’t remember, but that’s the kind of thing that he likes to focus on. In 2008, I’m trying to remember the date, I think it was March of 2008. A company from San Francisco flew a bunch of personal finance bloggers out to do a little pow- wow to look at their software that they were …
Andrew: Who did this? He flew them out or you guys all flew out?
JD: We were flown out by a software startup in San Francisco. I’m ashamed, I can’t remember the name. That’s where I met him and several other colleagues that I’ve been exchanging email with for a long time. He said to me, he said, “JD, you know that one of your biggest traffic pages is your page about savings accounts, right?” I was like, “Yeah.” He said, “Why wouldn’t you monetize that?” I was like, “I don’t know what you mean”, and he introduced me to the world of Affiliate Marketing, which I had previously been unaware of. I was making decent money. I was making enough to do this full time, $4 or $5,000.00 a month.
But I was doing it though Google ads, Amazon [??], and so on. I didn’t understand that you could market savings accounts or credit cards or whatever your niche happens to be. There are programs that you can market to make a little bit more money. So he introduced me to that and that shot my income to the next level. At the time it counts for a very profitable niche to be in.
Andrew: And you got to roughly $4,000 a month through Google Ads and though those Amazon ads and that Amazon search box that I used to see on the site.
JD: Yeah. I wish I . . . I don’t have my spreadsheet quickly available, I’m sure it’s in Dropbox someplace, but it would be fun to look at those numbers because I haven’t looked at them since I sold the site, and it’s . . . I’d be curious to see it myself.
Andrew: Would you share that publicly, or is that private?
JD: I can’t. I’m legally prohibited from sharing.
Andrew: OK. So, let’s continue then with the story. One of the things that was compelling about the site is your personal voice. Paul Gram, and actually even others on the Y Combinator, said that at first, because so much of the direction of Y Combinator and they helped that they gave entrepreneurs came from Paul Gram’s vision. It was hard or a little bit challenging to scale. Did you have a similar issue? Could you continue, could you keep it up when so much depends on your voice, you being relevant . . . ?
JD: This is a great question. I think a lot of what people connected in the beginning was my story, my struggle to get out of debt. Once I achieved that, they still hung around. But then once it became clear that my financial success was growing exponentially rather than in a linear fashion, I became less relatable I think.
And so, there was some fall off. Still, I was able to maintain growth and continue to maintain growth right up until I sold the site in 2009. And I don’t know whether I could have continued to do that. I was pretty burned out on the site, which is one of the reasons I sold it. But, yeah, I don’t know. It’s a great question.
Andrew: So how did you get people to keep paying attention when you are no longer one of them struggling and succeeding like them?
JD: Great question. So, I recognized this was going to be an issue. And I said, “Okay. How can I address this? Because what people are relating to is my story and they relate to other peoples’ stories.” And so people were always, well [??], but after a couple years people started e-mailing me their stories saying “JD, thank you so much for helping me get out of debt or helping me figure out how to buy house or whatever.”
And so I started saying, “Hey. Do you mind if I share your story on the site?” And so I established a feature, well two features actually. On Friday’s, I would have to ask the readers post. And I try to keep those posts to date. On Fridays it was ask the readers where somebody could write in with a dilemma they had. I would share my answer and then say, ‘OK. Readers, what’s your answer.’ And then on Sunday it was just a straight up reader’s story of how they had succeeded or how they had failed or something interesting that had happened to them with money. And so, I started moving away . . .
And plus I had solicited guest posts, because I could see that was another source of getting other people’s voices. So I gradually tried to, not remove my voice from the site, but diminish it, because I recognized that what I had to say was not as interesting when you’re saying ‘Oh yeah. Good. Another thousand bucks into savings this month.’ There is nothing interesting in that.
Andrew: So I think one of the unusually shroud business moves, unusual for bloggers. Most bloggers do what I do: say ‘It’s my site. It needs to be my voice.’ And then they end up building a job for themselves, like, frankly, I do.’
Andrew: You didn’t do that. Even so much of it was you. Was it challenging to separate yourself and say, “No. JD, you have to allow other voices. It has to be more of a business. It can’t be an extension of your keys, your keyboard?”
JD: It was tough. I thought it was [??]. I started it as a hobby, and it was . . . I don’t know, I had never really . . . I wanted it to make income, but I never set out to make it a business. It was just an extension of my computer consulting business. And so, when it was a hobby, it was a [??], it was no big deal. As soon as I quit to do it full time it was no longer a [??], it became a job.
And there were some good things and some bad things about that. Most of the bad things were the pressure that I put on myself. Nobody was asking me to post twice a day. And yet, that was the expectation that I had set up for myself.
Andrew: Two posts?
JD: And as the audience grew, I wanted them to be quality posts. And so I was killing myself trying to knock out, I think it was twelve posts a week, because I’d only do one on Saturday and Sunday. And so, I was killing myself to do that to keep quality and it wasn’t sustainable. I was getting burned out. So, I had to change the expectation in my head. Okay; it’s not two posts and if you only do one a day you’re a failure. Instead I decided I’m going to do one a day and if I do two a day, oh, that’s a success or that’s a bonus.
Andrew: Why didn’t you want to do it daily?
JD: I don’t know. To this day I ask that myself all the time. To this day whenever I start working on a project I find myself trapped in the daily routine even though I see my friends like Chris Guillebeau and others be successful with three times a week or even once a week. The ideal solution is to publish only quality material and only when you have it ready to go.
Andrew: Without the deadline it’s hard to publish.
JD: I hate deadlines. Next year is the year of no deadlines for me. I’ve already decided. My girlfriend and I talked about this, no deadlines.
Andrew: Why do you hate deadlines?
JD: I don’t know. Because it’s this futileness looming over my head always in the background.
Andrew: Ah, yes. You can never enjoy sitting and watching TV or going out to dinner because you know that…
Andrew: What about this? One of the reasons why I wanted to publish daily when I was in Argentina, as I said at the top of the interview – I spent about a year there – is I knew that I couldn’t escape if I had to do it again tomorrow. So if I suck today I couldn’t escape from the commitment to improve tomorrow. I just had to… It’s not so much about escaping actually. I take it back. I knew that I sucked today I could learn from it and put what I learned into practice tomorrow.
And if I was doing it next week or whenever I felt like it, I wouldn’t remember why I sucked and I wouldn’t remember what I wanted to practice and I wouldn’t remember what did well so that I could try it again and see if it still works.
JD: That’s an interesting thing because I’m a perfectionist. That’s why I think I hate deadlines. I want my work to be perfect and a deadline says, no, it has to be done now whether it’s good or not. I get tense just thinking about it. I want it to be done… I want it to be good. I don’t want it to be done at a specific time. Maybe you’re right. The learning from failure is very important. Publishing imperfect material…
Andrew: Did that help you that if you saw that a blog post didn’t do well because you came across as too much of an expert or because you didn’t give enough substance or whatever, did it help you to come back tomorrow and do it again or do another post tomorrow to help you recover or get it out of your head about blast posts because now you’re focusing on the next one.
JD: Yeah. Most of my mistakes with the blog tend to be, yeah, assuming that I knew too much or adopting an authoritative tone or sharing too much information, not about me but about other people. And so it’s a fine line to walk. You want to share. I hear interesting stories all the time.
Just yesterday I met with my investment adviser, and he told me the story about these two brothers who have the same high net worth, but they got there in different ways. He gave me their names and all sorts of identifying information. I’m probably going to end up sharing that story on the blog. I’ll change a whole lot because it’s not my story to tell without their permission. Yet at the same time if I start changing things, when does that cross the line of true or false.
Andrew: Does anyone ever come at you and say that you’ve revealed something that you shouldn’t of?
JD: Well, my sister-in-law. I talk about my girlfriend and my wife. I should mention that I got a divorce a couple of years ago just to make that clear. My then sister-in-law didn’t like when I talked about her on the blog. I also had a friend who didn’t like it either. It didn’t matter whether I was talking about positive things or not. They just didn’t want to be characters in this story. And so…
Andrew: So what did you do? Just stop?
JD: Yeah. I worked under two identities heavily.
Andrew: Did you ever feel guilty or regret or foolish for admitting too much about yourself?
JD: No. In fact, the times that I felt that or when I didn’t reveal enough about myself, either because I couldn’t or because I was looking to prevent it or whatever, there are two examples that I’m thinking of are the divorce and the sale of the site. It took me a few months to reveal the fact that the divorce was going to occur, and it took me three years before I finally convinced the company about the site that I could talk about it.
I felt bad about concealing that from my readers for so long because I feel like I built a brand or built an identity based on being forthright, on being truthful, kind of like Pat Flynn, I guess. And here I hadn’t as transparent as I wanted to be.
Andrew: I heard it was the other way around, and this is all rumor, but people have said you were shrewd to sell the company and not reveal that you sold the company. So that, you would still be the brand and you were the brand and you wouldn’t lose any of the value of the brand in the sell. I mean the way that you would if you said “hey I’m no longer a part of the company I sold it and I moved on”. If you did that people would say the site sold out it’s no longer the site I cared about and it would lose credibility and traffic and connection.
JD: I’m trying to figure out what I can reveal here legally and not and what I’ve already revealed on the blog. I think I can say this, no I’m not the one who wanted the [??]
Andrew: They wanted that.
JD: Yes, and I wanted to publicize it from the very beginning. And in fact they offered- I didn’t have to stay on if it was sold. I had recently been offered significantly more to stay on for 3 years and I turned that down and said no, I want the option to walk away now. On the date of the sell. And so they gave me, I think it was 30% less than that. Yeah, it was 30% less. And so I gave up 30% to have the ability to walk away and then I didn’t do it. I stuck around for the 3 years that they had originally asked me to do. Because I felt this responsibility for my readers. I felt an obligation and I left a lot of money on the table by doing that.
Andrew: Did you become a millionaire from the sell?
JD: Yes, I can- I don’t think it’s surprising for me to say that, yes I did.
Andrew: Even after taxes?
JD: Even after taxes.
Andrew: Did you sell for more than 5 million?
JD: I don’t think I can get into the, I’m not going to go into numbers like that.
JD: Well see I can tell you what I’m worth today. And I’m not…
Andrew: Well please.
JD: I’m not worth five million today, so.
Andrew: You’re not? But you’re still a millionaire today?
Andrew: OK. Why did you sell? The thing was working well. You have outside writers. In fact, we share a writer. One of our writers here at Mixergy the writer is one of your writers. You had a brand that could survive. You could have kept making money, why’d you sell?
JD: There are a lot of things that went into it. I was getting burned out as I shared earlier. I just felt like there was more and more a chore. Plus that site was making a lot of money and this was during the end of 2008 when the economic downturn was occurring. And I was making as much in a month as I used to make in a year at the box factory. And so, I thought wow, can this go on? And people have offered to buy the site, they’d send me emails but I’d just ignore them.
So, I made a resolution going into 2009, I’m going to stop ignoring these emails. I’m going to actually respond to them and see what they have to offer. So the first one came in, in the very first week of 2009 and I said, okay, guy what are you offering? He said, I’ll give you $5,000 for this site. I was like no way. Then another offer came in a couple weeks later but something happened in those nerving two weeks that made me not see the email.
And that is my best friend committed suicide. So, he killed himself and it just rocked me world. Because, I had planned to do all sorts of things with Paul, travel the world, do these things. I had been putting them off, putting them off, putting them off and I don’t know I was really shaken up in a lot of ways. This actually had an effect on my marriage eventually and all sorts of other things. So when I got, when I recovered from the suicide thing it was early February and I found this email and I responded and I expected a, some trivial response, and the company said, well we don’t know how much we’re going to offer you, we need to see your financial statements. Which, I didn’t understand. I don’t know how that stuff works.
So, I contacted my attorney and accountant and they said oh yes, that’s standard let them see it. So I did and I started talking with my wife and I said, how much would we need to walk away from this? And we came up with a number and the company came back with an offer and I said no, no I want more. Their offer was more than what I needed to walk away but I still said no I want more. So they went back and they did some work calculating and they came back with a better offer.
Meanwhile, I decided maybe, you know maybe I should get some investment bankers involved. So, I found some investment bankers and they went out and found a second bidder. And the second bidder ended up buying the site.
Andrew: The second bidder being?
Andrew: Quinstreet. And I see the article here, I’ll just direct people to your site. January 31st, 2012, how and why I sold get rich slowly. I Like the details in there that we talk about why you do it as much as you can. Amazing that it only got 132 tweets. What does a guy have to do to get more tweets? I’ve heard, and frankly partially experienced, when someone commits suicide who’s close to you, it almost nearly sets off a domino effect.
I had someone close to me who almost committed suicide – who attempted and didn’t go through. I could understand that it does spread. It’s contagious almost, this depression. Depression is contagious. Was it contagious for you?
JD: Absolutely. For me, Andrew, I had spent all my life expecting happiness to come to me. I was not proactive. I kept waiting for outside forces to make me happy, to help me lose weight, to help me make money, whatever. I was also waiting to do the things I thought might make me happy, too.
I had seen that, oh, no, when I take control of my financial situation I can actually do amazing things. That seed had planted. Then, Paul committed suicide. It made me realize, shit, what am I waiting for. I wanted to travel the world with Paul. I can’t do that anymore.
Let’s see. It was January of 2009 when that happened. I was very overweight at the time. The next domino to fall was my health and my fitness. It took me a year to get going on the fitness thing. But, starting in 2010 I lost 50 pounds and got fit. From there I decided to fix my relationships. Ultimately, that led to a divorce…
Andrew: …Why? Why did it lead to a divorce? You’ve hinted at the reason for it. You’ve talked about this publicly. Why did it lead to a divorce?
JD: I haven’t actually talked about the reasons publicly, and I’m not going to go into much detail. Ultimately, the bottom line is I was unhappy and I was making my wife unhappy.
I was not myself in that relationship. I discovered through trial and error through 44 years on this Earth that the only way to really be happy is just to be yourself. It’s not to expect things of other people, not to let other people impose their expectations on you, but just be yourself…
Andrew: …How weren’t you being yourself before? I always had the sense from you that you were yourself. You liked comic books and you were unapologetic about it. You didn’t think, hey, I’m too old for that. You like playing X-Box. How were you not yourself later on after Get Rich Slowly did well?
JD: I gradually became more and more myself. That’s what was going on. But, going back to, say, 2004 before I started the site, I was trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be. Even during Get Rich Slowly I was still trying to be a person I thought my wife wanted me to be, and not doing that very well I might add, instead of just being myself. Because I thought she didn’t like who I was. I don’t think she did like who I actually was.
Andrew: Did you like who you actually were underneath?
Andrew: You did.
JD: Yeah. I feel like I’m a good guy. I have fun.
Andrew: But did that suck? Did you ever hate that you were a good guy?
Andrew: No. You were good with that.
Andrew: I used to hate that I was a good guy. I didn’t want to date a girl who would say I’m a good guy, that all the others were terrible. Because that usually meant it was fun with all the others but now I’m ready to relax and not be threatened any more, challenged any more.
JD: Well, I can see that. But, what I’ve learned from dating is you just keep dating until you find somebody who likes you for who you are. You don’t have to pretend to be somebody else. To me that works.
Andrew: I think when we met I asked you about the first time that you held someone’s hand after your wife. Do you remember that?
JD: I do, I do. It was…
Andrew: …How did it feel?
JD: It felt strange. The kissing came before the hand holding. That felt strange, too.
Andrew: Like wrong strange?
Andrew: …Just different.
JD: The kissing felt different. But, holding hands almost did feel wrong strange. That would’ve been with the woman I’m dating still. That’s weird that in a way holding hands is more of a commitment than kissing. You can…
JD: …just about go out and kiss anybody you want. Well, not anybody you want, but you can go out and find somebody to kiss. But, holding hands shows a greater level of commitment. That’s weird. I never thought of that.
Andrew: Before I officially started the interview you said I don’t give a rat’s ass what anybody thinks, and that it took you a while to get to that.
Andrew: Someone coming through? Oh, you’re showing me. How did you get to that place?
JD: Well, if I can find the book I will show it to you.
Andrew: Isn’t it a matter, JD, of just having F’ you money, as they say? That if you have that then you don’t care what anyone else thinks?
JD: Well, that helps. There is no question that helps. Because financial freedom gives you greater leverage to obtain personal freedom. But, personal freedom can come even without financial freedom.
I’m a huge fan of this book here which is called “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Brown. Harry Brown is probably best known for being the libertarian candidate for president in, I think, ’96 and 2000. But don’t hold that against him. He’s a pretty radical free thinker. He’s also a small L libertarian which is what I am and he’s all about obtaining personal freedom and exercising personal freedom and doing what is right for you regardless of what other people think.
And that doesn’t mean you should go out and be an asshole and shoot people or steal cars or stuff like that. You don’t want to infringe on other people’s happiness or freedom. But you can achieve freedom and happiness just by being yourself.
Andrew: But how do you get to that? That’s something that always makes a lot of intellectual sense but in the moment it’s hard because you can’t find yourself or because, you know, you chicken out. How do you get to that place?
JD: I don’t know. Some people reach that place very early. I feel like my girlfriend right now she reached that place when she was 17. It took me, I’m still working on getting completely to that place. It took me a little bit of therapy, it took a lot of reading, a lot of soul searching, and a lot of experience.
I think the real problem is we make decisions when we are young, when we’re 18, 19, 20 years old that affect us 20 or 30 years down the line. We pick life partners, we buy a house, we choose a career. And yet we have no way of knowing what our future selves are going to like, what we’re going to enjoy. And so sometimes we feel trapped. You reach 40 years old and you feel trapped by the decisions you made when you were younger and didn’t know as much as you do now. And so it’s a challenge.
Some people, and I admire them, are able to take those circumstances and make them work. Others, like me, have to undergo some revolution, I guess, some personal revolution. And people call that mid-life crisis. That’s fine. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We use that disparagingly in our society but there’s a reason it occurs I think.
Andrew: And do you find that life gets- like I finally make those big changes that I’ve been putting off after a crisis of some kind. Financial crisis, hopefully I haven’t had a life crisis yet but crises come up and then suddenly I’m forced to be a new person. I’m forced into the person I should have evolved into slowly.
JD: Or you get a chance to- sometimes you’re not forced. It’s like a door opens and you’re like, “Oh, okay. Now I can be that person.”
Andrew: For me I sometimes, unfortunately, I feel like I need to be forced. Like I knew I needed to change the way I dressed and the city I was living in or the way that I ate and challenge myself but I wasn’t going to do it. And then I broke up with a girlfriend and I said, “I can’t keep dating and being this dorky guy. I have to break free of it.” And then I pushed myself to try food that I wouldn’t have. I pushed myself to do things that I wouldn’t have.
Andrew: It’s those kind of situations, maybe crisis is too dramatic a word, but it’s those situations that push me.
JD: I think you’re given an opportunity, you might have felt trapped by the previous relationship. You were trying to be somebody for that person and now you’re given a chance, an opportunity, you’re not forced to take on these new habits but you have a chance to do it. And so you give it a shot and you find out you like them.
Andrew: I can’t believe the way you pulled out an actual book.
Andrew: Not your Kindle, not your phone. You told Jeremy while (?) interviewed you, “I love the smell of books.” You’re a reader. Why haven’t you moved to the Kindle yet? There you go.
JD: I smell books. It’s a bad habit. I tried to move to the Kindle and for fiction the Kindle is marvelous. But I am the type of reader – I’m trying to find an example here. Let’s take this one. How People Change, another psychology book. I’m the kind of reader who takes lots and lots of notes in the books (?).
Andrew: I see and you’re just more comfortable to write it directly into the book on the page where you read it.
JD: Yeah. A non-fiction book I have got to sit there, especially if it’s a business book or personal finance book. I jot notes. The back of the book is usually just lines, the blank pages. If there are no blank pages in the back of a non-fiction book I’m screwed.
Andrew: What is your process actually for- you obviously extract useful ideas for yourself and for your audience from books. You’ve built a business off of it and you sold the business based on it so you’re doing something right. What is your process for absorbing information from a non- fiction book like some of the ones behind you?
JD: That’s a great question. That’s a fantastic question, Andrew, because-
Andrew: I do this professionally, come up with questions. That’s my only job.
JD: I say that because what I’ve been reading and writing about lately is freedom and fear and financial independence. I just did a presentation, a two-hour presentation in Ecuador on this subject. I didn’t make the presentation in Spanish; it was in English. So that presentation was based on a year’s worth of reading about psychology and about freedom and about financial independence and about all these subjects. And I don’t know, I take the notes.
Often there’s like one key idea or two key ideas in a book that I take away. And if I can get one great idea from a book that’s all I need to think it’s worthwhile. I might throw the rest of the book out because I won’t read it. Every one that I get, that’s fantastic. Eventually they kind of percolate around in there and they I recapitulate them or restate them or use them in a new way.
Andrew: My process is if the audience wants to hear more from me, they should ask and I’ll do it. I won’t crowd your interview with my process, but I’ll just share that I look before I even start to say, if a non- fiction book that’s teaching me something I want to be clear. What is it teaching me and what am I expected or want to do after it’s done?
And then usually books will break down their big concept into smaller ideas or steps toward that big concept. You can get those steps by looking at the chapter headings and by starting to read and pick up on the author’s process. I look to pick up those steps and smaller steps that are building blocks of this bigger thing that I’m going to achieve. And that’s my second step.
And the third thing that I do is I look for examples, examples to illustrate each one of those smaller ideas or steps or examples that give credibility to them. That way I fully understand it. Now I know what I’m expected to do at the end, I know the steps toward getting there, and I have clear examples of stories that will stick in my head and be useful later on.
JD: I think that the course I’m looking at [??], the book that best fits that description, the kind of book you’re describing here is Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Andrew: Yes, he does do that well.
JD: Yeah. So he’s got the examples and he’s got each chapter driving his point that the sun rises at the end.
Andrew: If I were to read that today, I would start out by saying, “What do I want out of this, how to make friends or how to influence people?” And I would frankly pick one of those out and he even has a third goal in there, how to relate well to your family, to your wife specifically, because I think the book was written originally with a male point of view.
I would say which of these is the most important for me. And then I would say what are those ideas that will help me get there? If it’s about how to make friends, then I will focus more on those tactics and those stories and those ideas. If it’s about how to influence people because I’m reading this book because I need to influence people that I work with but then I would just try to highlight those. I tend to look for one thing.
JD: I was going to say that you’ve got a more systematic approach than I do.
Andrew: It might be too systematic, and I try to open myself up to other ideas so I’m not so anal. Sorry.
JD: For me I pick up a book because it’s interesting or because somebody has recommended it, and I might have a small idea in mind of what I want out it, but one of the most influential books that I’ve read in the past year is “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. I picked that because it was on my girlfriend’s shelf and I thought I might like that book. I’ll see what it’s about. It ended up having a tremendous influence on my person development psychologically and also influenced my work in the direction I’m trying to take my work.
Andrew: I love that you keep recommending books. In the past the audience kept saying, “Ask these guys for books. Ask people for recommendations.” I used to forget. I don’t need to remember with you. It just comes out of you the way other people probably talk about restaurants that they like or TV shows for other people.
Before I forget, and frankly I did wait a little bit longer than I wanted to, to say thank you to Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporation Law here instead of holding up this mug which apparently is reflecting a lot of light off the lights. There is Scott’s website right there.
Let me ask you this. Instead of giving a plug to WalkerCorporateLaw.com, I’m going to ask you instead, “Do you have a tip here for a guy who needed a lawyer to help you get advice on your finances, whether you should even show your finances to your [??]“. If you need a lawyer, of course, to sell your company apart from Scott, I don’t want you to promote Scott. He’s paying me not your, but do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs about how to pick a lawyer, what to think about in preparation for all these big moves that will come up.
JD: I think it’s important to think about possibilities. That’s absolutely true. As far as picking a lawyer, I think it’s the same for picking any kind of professional team, your attorney, your accountant, your financial adviser. Just as a start, in my mind, it’s a personal recommendation to find somebody who has done what you’re wanting to do, whether that’s sell a business, or just having a lawyer for a divorce, or a lawyer to draft your will. Find someone who’s done that before ask them, “Who did you use? Did you like them?” Ask around. Personal references to me are always the best way to do.
Andrew: I see. Okay. In Derrick Sivers’ past interview he said on his website that he made a mistake in the way that he structured his business, and as a result he had to pay way more in taxes than he should have. Did you make any of those mistakes that we can learn from?
JD: Yes. Oregon has no sales tax. Washington has no property tax, or I’m under the impression it has no property tax. I don’t actually understand how this works. Maybe Washington has a lower income tax.
The bottom line is if I had known in advance that I was selling I could have been a Washington company, sold in Washington… I’m going to get the details all wrong. There’s something going on between the differences between Oregon’s and Washington’s tax structure that people when they sell their businesses they leverage it and they save themselves a lot of money.
Andrew: I see. So, if you would have known that, and to this day you don’t have it right, but if you would’ve talked to a lawyer…
JD: …Yeah, exactly, I don’t have this right.
Andrew: And we don’t have to in this interview. But, what you’re saying is if you would’ve known that ahead of time then you would’ve talked to a lawyer and said where should I move, I’m planning to sell, I’m burning out, and gotten your residence there.
JD: Right, exactly.
Andrew: Yeah. I think the rumor was that Michael Arrington moved to Seattle in preparation for a sale because the tax structure there was better, the tax options were better. I see you got so excited. Did you knock your lamp off?
JD: Yeah, I knocked my lamp, so hold on.
Andrew: Oh, go for it. I think you’re still coming across well, though. I’m looking here through my notes. I think we’ve gotten to everything except for one.
JD: Hold on.
Andrew: Take your time. I’m going to say anyone who is interested in the way that we did this here in this kind of conversation, and blogging, and building a business off of it should sign up for mixergypremium.com. I’m going to tell you why. Because if you do, I maybe could get as rich as JD Roth. That’s number one. But, that’s selfish and you don’t care about me getting any wealthier. That’s not the reason you’re going to sign up.
Instead, I’m going to tell you that in addition to that if you do you’re going to get stories of other entrepreneurs like JD who built blogs. You can learn from them and see the mistakes that they made that you should be avoiding like maybe deciding what state to run your company from, but also the ideas that helped them get there. How often did they blog? Why did they blog? What did they do to get traffic? What did they do to not make themselves slaves of their businesses?
I’m learning from JD already that it’s having other people write, and the way that he had other people write for him. I think that was… You’re making a face, but don’t you agree with me?
JD: Yeah, I think it was a fun thing to do and it was beneficial. I was going to say I do have one piece of advice that…
Andrew: …Oh, please…
JD: …thinking about it. Just as my life had been very reactive – instead of me directing my life I was always reacting to things that happened to me – that’s how I ran my business. I managed to be successful at it, there’s no question.
But, I could have been much more successful if I had been proactive and had planned. I was scared to do that. I didn’t think I had the expertise or the knowledge. So, I didn’t do it.
My advice would be not just if you’re planning to sell your company but no matter what you’re trying to do, have a plan. Have a vision. I don’t think you need to sit down and write a business plan. I’m kind of anti-business plan to be honest. But, have some goals in mind. Have some direction. Based on those, make decisions that are appropriate.
If I had known I was going to sell the site and if I had done that in a planned, methodical sort of way instead of just reactionary I could have asked my attorney or my accountant what makes sense for me, should I move to Washington.
Andrew: Do you think it’s helpful enough to just say I’m going to follow someone else’s path, I’m going to do what JD Roth did in the student finance space, or I’m going to do what JD Roth did in the senior citizen finance space? Is it that kind of a thing that people could say I’m going to try to follow his path? No?
JD: No. In fact, I think that’s the wrong way to go. I think it’s great to find inspiration in people. Derek Sivers is very inspirational. My friend Chris Guillebeau is very inspirational for me. But, I don’t want to be Chris Guillebeau and I don’t want to be Derek Sivers, because I’m not them. I have a different set of skills, different abilities, and different interests.
I’ve seen many, many people try to be Chris Guillebeau, and to duplicate his success, and to do the things he does. It comes across flat. Their sites are nowhere near as successful. It’s not because the space is too crowded or anything like that. It’s because they’re not being true to themselves.
As an example, there are a lot of people who thought that the personal finance space was way too crowded and there was no room for another successful blog, it had played out. Along comes Pete who is Mr. Money Mustache at mrmoneymustache.com, and he’s killing it. He has millions of people come to his site every month because he’s being true to himself. He’s not trying to be JD. He’s not trying to be Jim Wang. He’s being Mr. Money Mustache. He has his own voice and vision.
Andrew: He gets a lot of press out of that, and he’s good. I love even the title.
Andrew: What did you do to get traffic? This is my final question. I’m going to do a promotion in a moment for Mixergy Premium. What did you do to get traffic?
JD: To be honest, I didn’t do a lot.
Andrew: Because you got started so soon. Because you were in the mid-2000s.
JD: I don’t know if that’s it or not. Because there were still plenty of people back then trying to do things like blog carnivals or link seeding in forums. I did some blog carnivals, but it was just too much work. I tried to be myself. I told my story. I tried to provide valuable information that other people could use. By doing that people wanted, I guess, to come back and read more. That’s how I built my site. I didn’t do anything actively to promote it.
Andrew: So, writing daily and being open, that’s what did it for you?
JD: Yeah. When I speak at blogging conferences I preach the value of telling a story, of being yourself. Because I believe strongly that no matter what business you’re in, telling a story is what connects with people.
One example that I can think of is at World Domination Summit this year we heard from Bob from Bob’s Red Mill. He’s this 82 year old guy who runs a natural foods company just down the road. He sells his company by telling his story. People connect with that.
He has great products. You’ve got to provide value, too. But, you differentiate yourself from other people by telling your story.
Andrew: He did tell his story so well that even though his slides were maybe the second worst slides of the whole conference – mine were number one, I take that, and even though he was talking about food where everyone else was talking about creating sites, and software, and ideas, and even though he talked about religion and not everyone was a Christian in the audience, because he told his story personal to him, and truthfully and openly, people connected with him. They were excited to watch him.
All right. Let me say this. If you are a person who is into blogging and wants to learn more about how to do it, I’m not going to then say copy anyone. But, I am going to recommend a few people that you can learn from.
One of the people who I liked doing a course with who came onto Mixergy in the early days was a woman named Annabel Candy who talked about how she guest blogged. And, by guest blogging she built traffic for herself and got people to come to her site. I first found her I think it was on Copyblogger or ProBlogger. I don’t remember which one. But, she wrote so well. I connected with her. She came and she taught how to do it.
Another person for you if you’re in the audience and are interested in this to take as a followup course or follow up program is Leo from Buffer. Buffer makes software that helps you tweet. But, the way that they got attention, and users, and revenue as a result of all of that is by content marketing. Leo breaks his process down of how he did it. He was just a guy who used to listen to Mixergy interviews. He started using some of what he learned not just from Mixergy but from all over the place. He became one of the best content marketers out there.
There’s one other one. Shoot, there are so many. I’m also going to suggest Mixergy. I teach how I do these interviews. And, yes, you can copy exactly what I do. You can go out there and create another startup interview program. Tons of people have. But, maybe what you could do is learn the idea of interviewing and learning from others and how to turn that into a product of your own. I hope you do that. Just search for interview your heroes on Mixergy.
We have those and so many other courses. The founder of the blog Art of Manliness came on to talk about how he built his company. We have courses and we have interviews all designed to help you learn from the best of the best.
JD: Brett got me started as a personal finance blogger.
Andrew: Who is?
JD: Brett McKay.
Andrew: He did?
Andrew: Did he tell me that and I don’t remember?
JD: Maybe. I don’t know. He used to be one of my colleagues. He started Art of Manliness as a lark. It was a runaway success. It’s fantastic.
Andrew: It’s such a good success, such a good site.
One of my goals since I’m living in San Francisco and paying the freaking high rents here is to have people over as often as possible. So, I’m not just saying I’m in San Francisco, this is where everyone is, and I’m hoping to meet them. I’m saying I’m inviting them to my house and I’ll get to really know them.
When I needed to do a brunch, and I’m not a cook, I said where am I going to go to learn how to cook for 12 or 10 people who are coming over. Art of Manliness. I said that guy’s going to know how to teach a guy like me to cook. And, it was an excellent success. People thought I knew what I was doing.
JD: And, you’re more manly now, Andrew.
Andrew: I am much more manly. And, look. I’m so manly now after I made that meal I grew a beard. Unfortunately, everyone else at the table did. But, it worked out for me. So, mixergypremium.com courses and interviews with people who are really doing it teaching you how they did it. I guarantee you’ll love it. Okay, and the way you know I really do guarantee it is, apparently, every time I say I guarantee it my whole face is very expressive. I guarantee you’ll love it. I’m very emphatic about that.
All right. The final question is this. You had the sale. We learned how you discovered yourself and had time to become a better person because of it. Were you able to buy something for yourself? Were you able to treat yourself? Tell me you were. What did you get?
JD: I had three things in mind with the sale. I had been writing about windfalls for many years. I had come up with a rule of thumb, it’s not my rule of thumb, but you spend 1% of a windfall on yourself. If you get $1,000.00, you can buy yourself a $10.00 doodad. I didn’t follow that rule exactly. What I did, is I had been writing for years on Get Rich Slowly about how I wanted a Mini Cooper. I just loved the cars and so when I sold the site, I went out and I bought a used Mini Cooper. I still drive it today, a yellow Mini Cooper.
Andrew: You’re still financially sound in all of your decisions.
JD: The second thing was, I wanted to travel. My wife and I took a vacation to Belize. We spent a week, ten days, something like that. That was my first, real international travel on my own. That was fun, and I bought myself some furniture. Out of these things, the furniture is the stuff I regret. It looks beautiful, it’s Stickley furniture, but some of it is really uncomfortable. If anybody wants to buy a Stickley sofa, contact me.
Andrew: I don’t know Stickley. I’m going to Google them. I have a similar situation where I think we spent a couple thousand bucks on a sofa and I can’t stand it. I can’t get comfortable in it. I’m dying to just get rid of it.
JD: Yes. I want something where I can snuggle with my girlfriend.
Andrew: Yes! I’m disappearing into the sofa, it’s so frickin big.
It’s such an honor to have you on here. Did you hesitate to do the interview? I think I asked you to do it a few months ago and we haven’t gotten you on until today.
JD: Right. Part of that is because I lost an email. In the process, it went into my Spam folder and I was waiting for the follow up email and it was there. I just didn’t know it.
Andrew: That’s good for me to know.
JD: I was happy to do the interview. I think it’s fun.
Andrew: It wasn’t like, “that Andrew asked me too many personal questions about holding hands with my girlfriend in private, what is he going to do in public?” It wasn’t anything like that?
Andrew: We didn’t get to talk about this upcoming book that I saw on Facebook. Can we talk about how people can get it or is it still just private?
JD: No. I will say that I am in the process of taking all of the things that I’ve been reading and thinking about personal independence, about financial independence. I mentioned earlier that my father was better able to manage businesses than he was his personal finances and I was too. I’m trying to take that idea and apply it and try to teach other people how to manage their finances as if they were CFOs, basically.
Andrew: How to be a CFO of your own life.
JD: Exactly right. The plan right now is to publish this. Chris Guillebeau wants to publish it. In order for that to happen, I actually have to give him a manuscript. I’m behind deadline already. I have no idea when it’s going to be available. That’s the plan. Sometime in the undefined future, there should be an unconventional guide about managing your finances.
Andrew: Between now and that future, go check out getrichslowly.org. Are you still writing on your personal blog?
JD: Yes. I write at jdroth.com.
Andrew: Jdroth.com. I see it, Alexa ranking of 245,000.
Andrew: Nicely done. Thank you so much for doing it. If you got anything in to the audience. Thank you for being here and watching. If you’ve got anything of value from this interview, I urge you to find a way to say thank you to JD. The reason I have connected with him today is because I got to talk to him in person. One of the first things that I said to him was, “You are an inspiration” and through that we got to know each other. We got to talk a little bit of shop and we got to do this interview for you.
Being a guy who’s a couch potato or a woman who is just watching the world happen from the other side of the internet, jump in from the computer monitor. Jump in. Read a blog post that you like? Contact the person. You see a business that you admire? Contact the founder. Find a way to be a part of life, not just a viewer. We are not here to be entertaining for you. Look at me. I’m not a showman. I’m not entertaining. I’m here to help you with your life and so, use what you’ve gotten here and jump into life.
Yes, what were you going to say?
JD: No, I think that’s it, right? Take action.
Andrew: Would you be upset if someone emailed you after this interview and said, “Hey, JD. Thank you for doing that interview.”
JD: No. That would be great. I’ll offer one piece of advice about contacting people. Perhaps you’ve already done this in the past. When you contact somebody, keep it short and to the point. You can ask questions, you can tell me stories, but when I get an email that’s like this, I don’t delete it, but it just gets put back into the inbox and I read it later. If it’s one paragraph, I reply to that.
Andrew: One paragraph is too much. Please, one sentence subject, one sentence body. If you can’t cut it to that, then you’ve got problems. That’s my advice, but JD is willing to go as full as a paragraph. Maybe he’s a faster reader than me.
JD, thank you so much for doing this interview. Thank you. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye guys.