MJ DeMarco is the Founder of The Fastlane Forum, a business and Entrepreneur discussion forum, and the former Founder and CEO of Limos.com, a global ground transportation company. He didn’t stop there: MJ is also the author of the bestselling book, The Millionaire Fastlane.
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, MJ DeMarco. MJ, are you prepared to ignite?
MJ DeMarco: Yes! I’m ready. I’m ready to rock and roll!
John Lee Dumas: Alright! MJ is the founder of the The Fastlane Forum, a business and entrepreneur discussion forum, and he’s also the former founder and CEO of Limos.com, a global ground transportation company. He is the author of the bestselling book “The Millionaire Fastlane.”
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, MJ, but why don’t you take a minute? Tell us a little bit about yourself personally, and then tell us about what you have going on right now in the business world.
MJ DeMarco: Sure! Way back in the late ‘90s, I was fortunate enough to start a company called Limos.com. The interesting thing about it is I did start that with roughly $900, no real knowledge of Internet technologies or what was going on. I self-taught myself everything to build that company from website design, database administration, the whole shebang. Ultimately, I sold that company in 2000 during the Dot-com heyday. The company that bought it eventually went bankrupt and I was able to repurchase that company back in 2001. And so I ran that company for about 6, 7 years, and then at which time I did sell it again in 2007 for a multimillion dollar valuation. Of course during this time, I was able to cash flow the company for a period of about 10 years. I think I had about 72 consecutive months of profitability where I was earning anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 monthly. After I sold the company in 2007, I kind of took a brief hiatus or semi-retirement and pursued one of my dreams, which was to write the book, “The Millionaire Fastlane.” That was released in late 2010. I just have been kind of taking it easy and promoting that book a little bit and see where I go with that. That was my dream, to write a book, and I also thought the market needed to hear what I write in that book, and it’s done phenomenally well, well beyond my expectations and it kind of brings me where I am today with you.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely! That book could not resonate better with Fire Nation, with the listeners here today. Just these entrepreneurs that are looking for that same kind of insight that you found in your journey, and you just do such a great job in that book, telling your story. That’s exactly what EntrepreneurOnFire is all about. It’s about your journey. So on that note, MJ, let’s transition to the first real topic, which is the success quote. What do you have for Fire Nation today?
MJ DeMarco: Well my favorite success quote actually comes from myself. I didn’t go with something where we’ve probably heard it a thousand times. The quote I like to say is “Many people want to change their life, but they’re not willing to change their choices. And ultimately, this changes nothing.”
John Lee Dumas: Oh, I love that.
MJ DeMarco: It’s a reflection on anything that is worthwhile in life is going to have to be reflected in your daily choices. The choices you make every minute of the day has to really string together a series of habits and those habits create your lifestyle, and the lifestyle is what creates the real change. A great example is you can eat broccoli once, but that’s not going to change anything. You can go to the gym once. It’s not going to change anything because it’s only one action. One action or one choice really doesn’t change anything. You need to ultimately change the daily decision-making in so far as that it changes your lifestyle.
John Lee Dumas: I love that, MJ. I really like when entrepreneurs pull something out of their lives in a mantra or a quote that means so much to them because it just really speaks volumes of exactly what your mentality is at and where your head is at and what you’re seeing for the future and the vision of where you’re taking your journey. So thank you for sharing that with us.
MJ DeMarco: You bet!
John Lee Dumas: So let’s transition now to the next topic, and that’s failure, because MJ, as entrepreneurs we both know that our paths, our journeys are riddled with failure, with challenges, with obstacles. That’s one thing that just makes us stronger as entrepreneurs, it can inspire us on different levels to pivot or to just overcome these very difficult situations that we’re coming against. Can you take us back to a time in your journey as an entrepreneur where you came up against this obstacle, and then share with us how you overcame that?
MJ DeMarco: One of the things is to understand that success in entrepreneurship, life or wherever you want to have it, it’s really an inner game, it’s a mind game, and if you’re not right there, you’re not going to be right in the external. So I’ve always understood or it’s always been my challenge to understand that it’s about a process, and a part of that process is failure. There’s a lot of mantras out there that say fail big and you succeed big and failure is simply the market telling you, it’s giving you some feedback and it’s telling you what you’re doing isn’t really working. You need to pivot, you need to switch. This once again goes into something I like to talk about a lot. It’s the process versus the event. We’re an event-driven society and event-driven societies want things now, they want it overnight. The same thing goes with starting a business or financial success. We want it overnight and people don’t understand that overnight success takes 10 years, much like that saying. Failure is often a part of that process, and the problem is when people hit the failure, they don’t understand that that’s a part of the process. They just say, “Ah, this isn’t working” and then give up, and then they go look for something easier, something that may not have roadblocks or something that has an extreme difficulty.
That actually is the opportunity in entrepreneurship, is having something that’s pretty difficult, having something that has roadblocks, having something that has challenges because that itself poses the opportunity. So when you’re out there failing, the market is just simply saying, “Yes, you know what? This is not right. You need to adjust. You need to evaluate, you need to adjust, and then you need to react again and try it again and see, has failure come again, or does it give you some positive encouragement where it allows you to shift into a different direction?” So as entrepreneurs or just in life in general, you cannot be afraid of failure. You have to actually get out there and fail to accelerate your process.
John Lee Dumas: “Failure is the market’s feedback.” I love that quote! I pulled that out. I wrote it down. It just is such a great insight and it’s so true on so many levels. MJ, take us down to the ground level to a time when you failed. Share that with us.
MJ DeMarco: Failure is when you just give up. You just say, “Yes, screw up! I give up on my dreams. It’s over. I’m going to get up at six in the morning, I’m going to fight traffic, I’m going to go to work with a job I hate, I’m going to come home and do it all and repeat for 50 years.” That, to me, is failure. A different failure is not failure when you adjust, when you react, and a great example is when I first launched The Millionaire Fastlane. Some of you, I don’t know if you remember or not, but it had a different cover. I mean now it’s got a blue cover. When I first launched it, it had a white cover and it had a picture of a Lamborghini on it because the Lamborghini was very instrumental to my process, but I kept seeing, I kept getting emails and I kept seeing public comments, “This book is incredible. You need to read it. Pay no attention to the cover. It’s cheesy, it stinks, it’s horrible, it looks like a get rich quick thing.” That actually was a kind of common theme I kept seeing and the market was telling me, “You know, MJ, you may like that cover. You may like that Lamborghini on the cover. But the market is telling you something different. The market is telling you, you need to dump it.” So halfway, probably about a year after the book was released, I actually changed the cover and I changed it to something more gender-neutral, something that isn’t get rich quickie and flashy, and that really had an impact on sales.
So that was one of my big failures, was that first cover I put out there. Again, the market told me, “No, we don’t like it.” So I didn’t look at that as a failure. I just looked at that as the market saying, “We don’t like it.” So you adjust, you react, and then you take action to fix it.
John Lee Dumas: Very interesting, I just pulled up Google image and entered in the book title and both covers had popped up so I’m looking at both, and it is very, very interesting. It’s just as you described. The old one, it’s white with some kind of neon green lettering and a red Lamborghini kind of going down a highway, but over like a George Washington one dollar bill kind of in black, which is interesting.
MJ DeMarco: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: Then the other one, it’s like an endless road in the desert with like the sun that’s just either setting or rising. I’m not sure what you intended there, but it’s with the bluish sky and it’s a very, very cool kind of uplifting cover. I can definitely see how that would resonate differently with people. So very interesting feedback!
MJ DeMarco: Yes. I liked the first cover, but again, the market doesn’t care. The market doesn’t. The market doesn’t care what you love and what your passions are, dah, dah, dah, dah. They just want to know what’s right for them and you got to listen to what they’re saying.
John Lee Dumas: That’s just great insight, MJ. Let’s use that now to transition to the other end of the spectrum. You shared with us a failure in a sense that you had with that first cover. It just wasn’t resonating as well as you were hoping it would with your audience and you adjusted on that. The other end of the spectrum is an aha moment. As entrepreneurs, we also have these little aha moments every day, every week, every month. They inspire us, they move us forward. It’s kind of the best thing about being an entrepreneur because you can actually put these aha moments into action. I love that about being an entrepreneur. Can you share with us an aha moment that you’ve had at some point in your journey and how you put that aha moment into action to turn it into success?
MJ DeMarco: My biggest aha moment was totally underestimating the power of a good product. If you have a product that people will sell themselves, meaning they like it, they tell other people, your job as an entrepreneur becomes 10 times easier. The best example I have is my book. When I launched it, I did a little bit of marketing. I didn’t do a lot. But ultimately, I found out that most of my sales weren’t because I was doing some slick marketing or some Google AdWords or some Facebook ads. It was people were telling other people. That really struck me because it killed my marketing budget. I didn’t do any marketing anymore because the book is doing it itself.
Another good example is I’ve done dozens of podcasts and interviews, and all the common denominators there is not one of them I’ve had to approach. I mean I didn’t approach you and say, “Hey, John, I’d love to be on your podcast!” You approached me. That has been the common theme, that the product itself is doing the work for you. That is something I want to stress. If there’s entrepreneurs out there who are kind of in between their gigs and they’re trying to find to get into business, you have to have a product that will compel people to talk. I mean if I take a list, the last five products I bought, they won’t be because of marketing. It will be because someone recommended them or I went online and there’s social proof. People are saying, “Oh, you got to try this or you got to use this.” That is the power of the product. You’ve got to have a product that people will tell other people about because then you can cut your marketing budget in half or even completely eliminate it because you create this exponential growth cycle of people telling other people.
I mean if you had the cure to cancer, how easy do you think it would be to sell that? If you were selling $100 bills for $50, how easy do you think it would be to sell that? So you always should start with your product. Have a product that people will talk about.
John Lee Dumas: That is so true. A word you just keep hearing so often is “social proof.” Facebook gets it, Google+ gets it, even Bing is just spending so many millions of marketing dollars on that word “social proof” where if your friends like it, if they share it, if they’re a fan of it, then it is just such an easier sell to any individual. So I just could not agree with your insight more. It’s phenomenal. You just created an amazing product with amazing content and people are telling their friends about it. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about your book just because I love it on so many levels. So I definitely see where you’re going at there and it is so true and it is truly timeless.
On that note, MJ, have you had an I’ve made it moment yet?
MJ DeMarco: Oh yes, a while ago. The first I’ve made it moment was actually I was 27 years old, I was broke, but I had a realization that I could actually pay my bills, save a little bit of money, and I can do it on my own. I can do it in my own entrepreneurial ventures. I didn’t need a job. I didn’t need a boss. I can get up at my own will. I could smash the alarm clock in.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
MJ DeMarco: That was the first moment where I was like, this is what it’s about, and I was extremely happy at that point in life and it has only gotten better since. The aha moment in terms of like financial freedom was I remember after a night on the town, I remember stopping off at one of those exotic car dealerships and looking in the window at a Lamborghini Diablo and seeing the price tag was like $180,000 and realizing that I could afford it, that I could walk in there, pay cash for it and not be a burden to the purchase. Like I had to slim down or I have to watch my budget and all or anything like that. I could just actually go in there and buy it. I found that extremely liberating to have that choice, almost to the point where it almost took away the need or the desire to want to actually buy it. Ultimately, I ended up buying it a year or so later to get that out of my system, but that to me was a big moment where you know you can purchase something. It actually kind of helps you not need to purchase it just to know you can. There’s a certain freedom in that or liberation.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely! It’s so important as an entrepreneur to just really mark your milestones. I mean we work so hard on so many levels and we set these great goals. When we reach those, we need to take a step back and just appreciate what we’ve accomplished up to that point because it’s about the journey, it’s about the process of being an entrepreneur. So it’s so great to hear that you are on that same level and you’re continuing on that journey as well. Let’s take that and let’s move into the next part of the interview, which is your current business or just whatever you currently have going on. I know you’ve alluded to the fact you’re taking a little bit of a break, you’re letting things kind of work on their own right now, but what’s something that you have going on right now that you’re excited about?
MJ DeMarco: I’m probably going to do another book. I’m 90% sure of it. Again, that was unexpected to me because I didn’t write my book to become some kind of repetitive author or some guru or anything like that, but the market is telling me, write another book. I mean I have a folder here that stacks to the ceiling with people writing me and saying you’ve changed my life, I see things differently, I had a paradigm shift. I’m actually at the stage now where the book has been out long enough where we can start to naturally get like millionaire success stories, “Hey, I made 20 grand a month the last few months and I have you to thank” and dah, dah, dah, dah. That’s a tribute to what the fastlane represents, is you can become financially successful in a few short years. It’s not an overnight thing, but compared to the alternative where you’re working 50 hours a week or 50 hours a week for 50 years of your life and you retire when you’re 65, the alternative isn’t much happy sailing. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to be writing another book because I’m getting that request almost daily, “You got to write another book!” So that’s the point I’m at right now.
John Lee Dumas: Very cool, MJ. That is one thing I just really enjoyed about the book when I read it and hearing other interviews that you’ve been on, is that you were just very honest and genuine in saying, “Listen, like I left it all on the table.” Like I didn’t write The Fastlane Millionaire with the intention of writing another book. Like I really wrote that book and left it all in there. That is a comprehensive of all my beliefs and everything. That’s a very powerful part of that book and time has passed now. Like you said, you’re getting these great success stories, other ideas are fostering. You can give so much more still to the entrepreneurial society and you’re doing so by providing the forum that you provide on the website and everything along those lines. On that note, what is your vision for the future?
MJ DeMarco: Again, I’m going to let the market tell me what that vision is. Right now they’re telling me to write another book, which I will do most likely. And then I’m going to see where the market takes me. I have the urge to do another startup. I’m not terribly sure about it. Again, I’m the kind of person that can only focus on one thing because I believe process deserves that. I mean if you’ve got your interests scattered in five different things – you got this, you’re selling widgets over here, you’re writing books over here and you’re doing this – I believe that’s not a good prescription for success because it’s like cheating on your wife. Your wife or your girlfriend or your significant other is going to demand that you give them the attention they deserve, and I think a business is very much the same way. You got to go all in with what you’re doing.
I mean I never heard an entrepreneur who was extremely successful say, “Yes, well I was dabbling in five different things, and all of a sudden this other business over here took off.” You have an extreme commitment. People are talking about, “I was putting in 80 hour weeks, I was down to my last dime, I put my heart and soul into this thing.” I think we need to do that to achieve entrepreneurial success, and that is to focus on one thing. So as far as what I’m going to do, I’m going to write another book, see it where goes, and then I’ll evaluate. Again, throw stuff out at the market, adjust, evaluate, and then make pivot points and changes and decisions from there.
John Lee Dumas: MJ, you and I are of the same mind. I’m a huge believer in focus. EntrepreneurOnFire has my complete focus. In fact, the acronym that’s above my computer right now is FOCUS – “Follow One Course Until Success.”
MJ DeMarco: And you have had some success. I mean when you first approached me, I mean things have changed for you dramatically in the last six months. That’s a result of focus.
John Lee Dumas: Incredibly, and I absolutely attribute it to that 100%. So MJ, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I get to ask you a series of questions and you come back at us, Fire Nation, with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
MJ DeMarco: Sure!
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
MJ DeMarco: When you write a book about money and success and entrepreneurship, you pretty much set yourself up to be attacked. You put yourself out in public. People are going to ridicule you. They’re going to say you suck or you have haters. That comes with the territory. That, to me, was one of the reasons why I almost didn’t write the book, because I just didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t need to deal with it. But ultimately, I said to myself, you know what? What other people think, you’re never going to get 100% affirmations, positive affirmations from people, but whatever anyone else thinks of you, it doesn’t change my reality. I still wake up, do what I want, live how I am. It doesn’t change a thing. So I had to get by that, that sticking point, to understand that other people’s opinions doesn’t change your reality.
John Lee Dumas: That’s why it’s so important that you have provided the type of forums and atmosphere that you have, because for entrepreneurs, one thing that we really struggle with are finding like-minded individuals that are going to support, encourage and provide us with the kind of information that we need. Places like what you’re providing, Fastlane Forum and the book, it’s so important because you’re so right when you go back to that initial resistance when people make that leap. It’s like those crabs in a bucket theory when the crabs are all in a bucket and one crab is about to get out, all of his buddies pull him back in. It happens every single time and that is because that’s the mentality of when an entrepreneur tries to launch off. So I definitely encourage everybody to check out what you’re creating over at the Fastlane Forum. It’s a great place to hang out, a great place to get some good information.
On that note, MJ, what is the best business advice that you’ve ever received?
MJ DeMarco: It’s a quote actually from Steve Martin. “Be so good that you can’t be ignored.” What that means is if you’re good enough at what you do, you provide value and you’re solving people’s problems, the market will not be able to ignore you. This has a close resemblance to something that I call a “push-pull theory of success,” is many people push for success and they wait for permission for someone to say yes to their goals or their dreams or whatever. A great example is when I published my book. Had I submitted my book to publishers, literary agents, and said, “I want to publish this. Will you take it on?” I would have got declined and they would have said, “Why should we? You’re a virtual nobody, you’ve never written a book before,” yah, yah, yah. So that’s the push for success.
The pull for success is just saying, “You know what? Screw it. I’m going to do it myself.” So I self-published. I created my own company, got it out there, put it out to the market to see what happens, and now all of a sudden, they’re coming at me. I’m getting publishers contacting me, “Hey, do you want to publish with us for your next book? Talk to us. See if we can do something.” That’s the pull. They come to you. The same thing happened with my Internet company. I would have never gotten Internet funding or venture capital or anything. I went out and actually created something that was tangible, and all of a sudden the VCs and the equity people, they were calling me. See, that’s the pull. Get them coming to you. Be so good that you cannot be ignored. Put whatever you’re thinking about doing, make it happen, put it out to the marketplace, and if it’s good enough, these people are these decision-making people or authoritarians, they will come to you and accelerate your process.
John Lee Dumas: I love that push-pull theory. It is so clear, so, so true! So MJ, The Millionaire Fastlane, that book is highly recommended. It’s going to be in the show notes. If you had to recommend another business book to Fire Nation, what would it be?
MJ DeMarco: Other than my own book, it would be probably “The Blue Ocean Strategy” because it’s highly focused on creating needs, which is a centrist theory to the fastlane, which is solving needs, fixing problems, fixing pain points. The Blue Ocean Strategy kind of trains your eye to see what other people aren’t seeing. Again, we talked about this earlier. If you have a product that people are telling other people about, they will go. One of the great products in The Blue Ocean Strategy that they talk about is the Cirque du Soleil. That business doesn’t do a lot of advertising because it’s mostly word-of-mouth. People go to those shows and they come back and they say, “Oh my God! You got to go to it!” dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Again, that’s power of having a powerful product, and that book goes into the different types of frameworks you can use to expose those kind of product opportunities.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! So MJ, this is my last question, but it’s kind of a tricky one. So just take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew nobody. You still have all the experience and all the knowledge that you currently have right now, but only $500 in your pocket, a computer with Internet access and your food and shelter is taken care of. What do you do in the next seven days?
MJ DeMarco: I’d keep my eyes and ears open, and what I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for would be a problem, a pain point, an issue, something that needs a solution, something people are complaining about. Again, we’re going to get into this again. I would be looking for a product that I could scale to the marketplace and solve problems on a massive scale. Again, that is the core philosophy to the fastlane, is you have to have a product that can scale to the masses, that solves problems to the masses. So that’s what I would do. I would keep my eyes and ears peeled for something that I could market to the marketplace.
John Lee Dumas: MJ, that was great actionable advice and you’ve given us awesome actionable advice this entire interview and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one final piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
MJ DeMarco: Sure! Whatever you’re thinking about doing, just do it. I’m not saying take action by going out and ordering business cards. That’s what I call an “action fake.” Actually go out and create something that has tangible monetary value, see what the market says, and then adjust, react and then evaluate what you need to do. I think the most important thing that we have to do is if you’re actually engaged in the process of pursuing your entrepreneurial dream, that is the dream. You’re not living the dream if your dream is dead. The actual act of pursuing it is the dream. So if you’re pursuing the dream, that is the dream. You’re living the dream. So get out there, take action. Adjust, evaluate and then react.
John Lee Dumas: I love it! Let’s hear a plug.
MJ DeMarco: Oh sure! My book can be found on Amazon if you’re on the fence, if it’s something that would help you. There are tons of reviews on Amazon. I think there’s over 300 in all. There’s also a link at TheMillionaireFastlane.com that will explain to you the book, and also, there is another section for reviews. I get over 1,200 reviews, unsolicited and/or you can go to The Fastlane Forum, which is TheFastlaneForum.com, which is another free resource to discuss fastlane entrepreneurship at your leisure.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, MJ! All of these is going to be linked up in the show notes, EntrepreneurOnFire.com/92. Thank you so much for your generous time, insights and information. Fire Nation, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.