Taking the Next Step

I wrote a post, a while back, on college, life, work, and beyond. I was “brutally honest”, and in return, the comments/discussion were honest, and invigorating as well. It felt great to open up, and see that type of response. I think it says a lot on both ends of the spectrum.

In any case, the purpose of this post is to serve as a follow up to the original, and once again be the personal “battle field” of my thoughts on college, life, work, and beyond.

The idea to write this post first came to me last Saturday. The source, to say the least, was unexpected and a bit startling. Sounds strange, but it literally felt like a wave crashing over me when “it” happened, and reality sunk in.

What was “it” you ask?

For the second time in a row, in my fourth year of college at the University of Central Florida, I managed to fail* “How to Start a Business” (the second time only taking me 2 weeks).

*I actually managed to pull a 59.6 in the fall semester, rounding out to a 60 D-. This is a bit irrelevant though since this class is a pre-requisite to most of my higher level classes, and a 70 or above is required for the class to qualify as a satisfactory pre-req grade. In addition, this damaged my GPA (grade point average) significantly, and called for the use of my last remaining “grade forgiveness” credit at UCF, with which you can replace an old grade in a course upon re-taking it.

Now, we’ll discuss the irony more in a moment, but of more immediate interest is the role this class played in my academic career at UCF.

The “role” this course played was essentially my “swan song” at the physical school, the last on campus course I was intending on taking for a very long time, or perhaps …ever again, although some top online college programs may be an option for the future.

In that sense, it was my last connection to an institution that has been a big part of my life for the past 4 years.

As logic reveals, I had little to no intention of continuing my “education” at UCF past this spring semester, as discussed in the previously linked post. I did not however, expect everything to end so soon, and so abruptly.

I actually sort of enjoyed riding my bike to campus, running into old friends, checking girls out (and meeting a few), and even being in class 3 hours a week. I’m not sure I learned a whole lot directly, but I did always enjoy conversing with the professor (I was the only student currently running a business, both semesters), and his lecturing always got my brain firing up ideas for The 21 Convention – which, upon further reflection, is probably the main reason I failed the class the first time around.

It all had sort of a nostalgia effect on me, not unlike visiting my old high school freshmen year of college.

Let’s continue question and answer style as I find this way of writing organizes my thoughts quite well lately.

How did you manage to fail a course, for the second time in a row, in barely 2 weeks?

Well, I obviously didn’t fail any exams! Ha

Actually, it was more a technicality than anything else. The course is setup into 8 tests. 4 short quizzes, and 4 exams. Simple.

The problem I ran into however, was that if you don’t take the first quiz of the semester, you automatically never gain access to the four course exams, effectively limiting your grade to a 15% F if one was to ace the remaining 3 quizzes.

From memory of the first semester, the quizzes were always due on a Monday evening. Class was on Tuesday, and I planned on doing the quiz towards the end of the week, Friday perhaps. Of course, a 10 question quiz was the least of my priorities that week, so it was not taken on Friday.

Come Saturday, we last minute arranged to interview Drew Baye for the documentary currently being produced.

Upon returning home, I had a bad gut feeling that the quiz was due Saturday night, not Monday (for some specific reason). I brushed it off, but decided to double check anyway.

Sure enough, I logged into the web site for the course right as the quiz ended. Sounds like I “just” missed it, but in reality I didn’t. The quizzes have to be taken on campus. I would have needed a clean 30 minutes to get to the campus testing lab, and then RUSH through the quiz before the computers shut down at 8:30 pm.

I knew damn well the consequences of missing this quiz, but, I have a lot of rapport with the professor, so despite knowing that I was doomed, I shot him an e-mail anyway.

The day I received a response leads us to our next question.

What was that “irony” comment about earlier?

Well, the answer to that question is twofold. For one, as many long time readers would guess, me failing “how to start a business”, is downright laughable.

Some history …

Not many people know this, but at 16 I started a small mobile car detailing company called “The Wash Man”. I did this after working for a more popular company in my hometown, “The Wax Man”. I made good money working for them, and they were the only cool and fair “bosses” I’ve ever had (two guys ran the company), but, I realized I could make more money, work less, and on my own time, by starting my own company – at 16.

They were swamped with business back then, and while they would miss my help, they didn’t mind and encouraged me to come back if ever need be. There was some risk involved, but I went independent anyway.

I didn’t have a whole lot of business, but it was consistent cash income, on my own time, doing something I mildly enjoyed, in high school.

Upon leaving for college, I transferred my clients over to them, and did not continue the business in Orlando.

Now, that was at 16/17 years old.

At 18, my next business venture officially kicked off (unofficially kicking off at 17 years old when the idea was first introduced on a popular discussion forum), which continues to this day as The 21 Convention.

T21C is by no means some “run away” success. In fact, there was a lot of ridicule starting out, both of myself, and the event. Not only that, but in 2008 (second year of the convention) I missed budget for the event by oh… a few thousand dollars.

The hardship didn’t end there either. My best friend passed away days later from a rare type of cancer, followed by emotional depression and mental exhaustion to last for months, and then the initial flop of the 2008 convention footage during that bout of depression, combined with a very legitimate lawsuit in my inbox from Real Social Dynamics.

Scary times indeed.

But, perhaps paradoxically, it is these very hardships and rough start that add legitimacy to The 21 Convention in my eyes, and on every level.

Not only as a “business”, that quite literally sprang up out of nowhere (with no intention to ever call it “a business”), but as an event, and even “movement” to some extent, that has helped inspire individuals around the world.

It is because of the legitimacy I see and belief I have in the event, that I personally view the failing of “How to Start a Business”, with an almost humorous sense of irony (I’m sure it’s even more perplexing from an outside perspective).

In addition, the day my professor responded, sealing in stone what I already knew to be true (that he would make no exception to his policies), The 21 Convention became a registered LLC (a type of business) in the state of Florida, and with the United States.

I’m not a big believer in “fate” or “destiny”, but the coincidence was undeniable. I “officially” became a business owner the day my doom was verified, for the second time around, in How to Start a Business at UCF.

What this means, I know not, but it will sure make one hell of a story someday if I can continue to guide T21C in search of “truth” and what I perceive to be “right action”.

What do you plan to do now that school is in the past?

Well, I’m not entirely done with college. I still have an online class with work due every Friday. The effort I put into the class is very minimal however, and I do not care much what happens with it.

For all intents and purposes though, yes, I am done with “school”. Which, perhaps, is a blessing in disguise.

My attention with school was already minimal, but now that it is damn close to zero … I think this allows more deep thought and reflection with what I want to do with my life.

Or in other words, face hard decisions that I would have otherwise put off until the end of the spring semester.

Decisions like where I am going to live once my current lease ends, and how I am going to discuss this course  of action with my parents (I have little idea on how they will respond), and whether or not I will even stay in the country next fall.

Can you be any more specific, and what about on the level of “work”?

I can be more specific on the subject of logistical plans, no problem.

I will be flying to Stockholm Sweden this May, and staying with my old friend Dejan all the way through The 21 Convention being held there (in early June), and perhaps even a week after the event.

I may also travel to New York City to give a speech to some of the “lairs” there, as well as some errands regarding a second (dual) citizenship and passport. I also have family in New Jersey I would like to visit.

If this happens, which it likely will funds allowing, this would be late April or early May, right before flying out for Sweden. In fact, I may not even fly back to Orlando before leaving for Europe.

Come July 31st, the fourth (fifth overall) T21C in the United States will have happened, and my lease shall then expire at my current residence. I’m going to ask and see if I can stay an additional 6-7 weeks at my current rate, but this is not concrete since they could likely rent out my room to someone on a 12 month contract*.

*I have since spoken to my roommates parents and they tentatively agreed to a month by month lease for this time period.

If the answer is no, I will find an apartment elsewhere in the Orlando area, and relax in “the calm” following The 21 Convention. Probably go to the beach a lot =).

After a short time doing my best to relax, I will then spend the next 4-5 weeks helping prepare all footage to go out free to the world, and on DVD through a local DVD production and distribution company (which we are also in the process of finishing for all past footage at the moment).

In the middle, or end of September, I plan to travel to Sydney Australia and visit a friend in the US Navy stationed there. He’s quite literally, and of no exaggeration, better with women than anyone I have ever met, including the mystified “Mystery” and other dating coaches.

He’s said I can stay with him for cheap, or even free if I remember correctly, as long as I wish.

I plan on staying until early December, at which point I will fly back to host the annual camping trip that has become quite popular among friends at the Florida state park Cayo Costa, and be with my family for the holidays.

Beyond that, my plans logistical plans are not set in stone, but I would be highly interested in traveling abroad once again, bartering for stay at friends’ (or even readers of this blog) houses around the world – nomad style.

Why Australia? And what about the “on the level of work” discussion?

The answers to these questions are somewhat intertwined, hence I’ve left them for a single section of the post.

For starters, Australia is a place I’ve always wanted to travel to (and perhaps New Zealand as well). When reading, hearing, or seeing video of it, Australia has always reminded me of a more “wild” or “ancient” Florida – the state which I grew up in and love – at least the Florida I grew up to know (the West Coast, the Keys, off shore in the Gulf of Mexico, and even the outlying islands west of “Key West”).

When backpacking through Central America in the Summer of 2008, I also had the good fortune of meeting a few fellow backpackers from Australia, and to be honest, they were by far the coolest “foreigners” I had ever met (a married couple in their 30’s from memory).

Now, I imagine they don’t represent their entire country, but I couldn’t help but be ever the more inclined to visit this nation that has caught my attention since before I can remember after talking with this couple.

In addition to this, there have been a limited number of requests to bring The 21 Convention to Australia.

Now, a lot of things have to happen before I can even seriously consider this, but, the requests have caught my attention – enough to “scout it out” before pulling the trigger (at some point in the distant future).

And, expanding the convention to a third part of the world is certainly on my “to do” list (as if it were a small feat! Haha).

While there, I will spend some time meeting up with groups who would be potentially interested in attending – and maybe even practice a little public speaking.

Now, on the subject of “work”, I certainly won’t be sitting at a beach all day sipping coconut milk.

This may come as a surprise to some, but I spend on average, between 35-45 hours a week, “working”.

Sometimes less, often more, but that’s a pretty good ball park figure (and ignores the spike in time required to ensure the live events run smoothly, with the week before usually being the most time and “brain” intensive).

It depends on what we are considering “work” however. Running this blog for example, can easily take 15-20 hours a week.

This one post alone (disregarding the rest of the blog), including my written responses to comments, took about 15 hours (directly), if not more, to write, edit, format, and post.

Even 15 is a bit conservative, as it ignores the social media involved, and discussion it’s sparked on various forums, of which I’ve take some time to respond to.

I don’t get paid to blog, and I’ve averaged about $10-$15 a month in Amazon Associate sales from this blog since it was up on its feet and running.

I blog because TDL is a primary way in which I express myself and voice my opinions, and as a byproduct, one way in which I can help others, who ask for help.

In other words, it’s one small way I can help change the world for the “better”, as “lofty” as that sounds.

Going further, working this much on “what I do”, isn’t some recent development – it’s something that’ has taken on a life of its own over the past few years, and gradually grown to meet whatever needs arise, and what my (often arrogant) creativity craves.

Time dedicated to “work”, does fluctuate at times too however. As previously mentioned, the crunch time before each live event, always demands more.

There are “lulls” however, such as during early December each year when I shift gears into the annual camping trip I put on for my friends. I don’t just all of a sudden stop running the convention, the blog, the forum, and whatever else I happen to be doing at the time, but I do my best to let things run independently. I ask friends to step in where I normally play a role, or allow others to step up and fill the gap I temporarily leave behind, such as with comments on this very blog.

There are also improvements in “effectiveness and efficiency” on occasion, that temporarily free up time and mental focus from tasks that I am better off without. This “free time” is soon taken up by the infinite number of tasks that require my attention though, many, self-imposed.

Funny how that works.

In any case, the reason I mention this is because the vast majority of this “work” is from my lap top, while connected to high speed internet.

Translation?

99.9% of the time, my physical location is completely irrelevant, in regards to the ability to do what is necessary, and often enjoyable.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m a robot and work the same anywhere – far from it. In fact I find that it’s like pulling teeth getting anything creative done when visiting my family back home. The environment just doesn’t work for me anymore.

I find myself to be a lot more productive, and creative, in Orlando – in my condo, or even at a restaurant*.

*Fun fact, I wrote a good chunk of The Dream Way at a Tijuana Flats near the infamous “Project Orlando” in the early spring of 2008.

Anyway, I think most will see where I am going with this – living in Australia will have no negative effect on my ability to “work”. I can continue to do what I love, with no obstruction from temporarily moving half way across the world.

If anything, I can imagine some of my most productive times will be had while visiting there, experiencing a new culture, and only knowing (well) one person in a zillion mile radius.

I didn’t set this up on purpose

Hell, I didn’t even start the convention with the intent to turn it into some sort of functional business, I was simply following my nose – but never the less, this is how things have played out up to this point, along with an ever advancing internet and online community/work place.

And I for one, am running with it full speed ahead.

A question was posed the other day on my Facebook (in response to the picture at the top of this very post).

Does this mean the convention will be for profit from now on?

The poster was a three year convention attendee – coincidentally the same person who won over $500 in prizes last year from The 21 Convention, including a 100% comped ticket for a friend to the 2009 event, a full printed and signed copy of The Dream Way, and no joke, a brand new Nintendo Wii shipped directly from Amazon (then $249.99).

When I first read it, I honesty wasn’t sure how to respond. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized a response on Facebook wouldn’t be appropriate for such a question – a more in depth response would be required, such as in this post – especially considering that the poster is a longtime supporter of the convention, and to put it bluntly, such a question was definitely warranted.

To some this may seem unnecessary though – which I imagine is largely determined by when each individual came across The 21 Convention, or how closely they’ve been in contact with me personally (and have closely followed my thoughts and decisions concerning the event).

Why when you ask?

In 2007, the event truly was “nonprofit”. I stated I had no intention of turning a profit on the event, and followed through with a ticket price between $20 and $40 dollars, to be collected on the day of the event, in cash only.

This turned out well, but was of an unnecessarily high risk – since I made less than $100 in profit from the event.

Translation: there almost wasn’t enough money to cover the event costs (there was NO revenue to cover more intricate costs such as fuel, web hosting, etc, hell, the camera guy even worked pro-bono, INCLUDING paying for his own airfare to Florida from California!).

Had I simply charged everyone a flat $50, I would have not been $hitting my pants the morning of about money, and we MIGHT have lost 2 or 3 guests (and the miscellaneous expenses would have been covered, and the camera guy even paid a little).

But, this was my personality at work. I state something, and I follow through on it –in spite of the consequences and/or risks (like guaranteeing the conference room with a personal credit card).

In any case, this is likely a reason why the question was asked, as “nonprofit” is where the convention’s roots lie.

Now the paradox begins though =).

In 2007, the primary reasons I started this event, were of a selfish nature. I won’t get into the specifics, but for simplicities sake, they were selfish (turning this into some sort of business however wasn’t even a brain fart until some months after reading The Four Hour Work Week).

Now, this isn’t to be condemned. In fact, I would argue “modern society” has leaned WAY too far in the unselfish direction, to the point that it is now hurting “us” collectively, and as individuals. People simply spend too much time trying to please everyone else, and in the process, please no one.

That’s a discussion for another day though – the point here is that this convention started for mostly (not completely) selfish reasons. I was 18, and thinking of me, me, me – knowingly and unknowingly.

But it was nonprofit.

Which is where this gets interesting, and the paradox begins.

As The 21 Convention has evolved over the years into an ever more “legitimate” business, (through success, failures, praise, and criticism) the event and my goals with it personally, have progressively become less selfish.

It’s strange to see this happen from a bird’s eye view, but make no mistake, the pattern is there.

I am not sure exactly why, or how this is happening, but I can share my logic for it.

For one, I have held the belief for some time now, that freely helping others, is most often, the equivalent of helping myself. In many cases, it may be of an even greater return than directly helping “myself”. Anyone who’s done any sort of “official” or even unofficial volunteer work, knows exactly what I am talking about.

Now apply that to a business.

For two, I think the convention is a small demonstration of capitalism and a free market functioning correctly together, in the sense of “profit” actually being a win/win for both the business and the consumer (from my understanding “profit” is viewed as a win/lose in socialism).

As the convention continues to spread via word of mouth, and people’s quality of life improves from the event and footage, the attendees (who pay an extremely competitive price) and supporters win. In turn, more and more people are drawn to the event, even in the face of competing services – both online and similar live events.

The more people are drawn to the event, the more competitive prices can be kept as some expenses are fixed (and do not rise per attendee). When more people visit the site and attend the event, it becomes more profitable.

With more profit, more funds can be diverted into improving the quality of the event, footage, website, and even invested into future services (DVD’s, better video hosting, a full length documentary).

The higher quality the convention is (online and in person), the more it helps those who support it.

And so on.

And so forth.

It’s a positive upward spiral.

Now, it would be easy to get a bit off topic at this point, but to remain on point, I am not naïve enough to believe this happens in every business or organization. Quite the opposite can happen actually, and does happen, every day.

People who view “profit” and “money” as inherently negative, will feed into the win/lose, “value sucking” paradigm.

The same phenomena can even been seen in social and sexual interactions, when a man or woman comes under the impression that they have to constantly impress others, or that sex is something you “take” or “get” from the opposing sex (hint: I was).

This is of course, complete nonsense. People who constantly try to impress, are often seen as annoying, and “take” the fun or “life” out of a good vibe going on in a social setting – quite the opposite of what they aim to do wouldn’t you say?

And people who walk around trying to “get” sex from the opposing gender, are seen as needy as best.

“Gimmie gimmie gimmie, get get get, need need need, want want want”

All translate as: needy, clingy, or both.

I am definitely off topic at this point, but I believe the above was worth mentioning as a reference. Point being, my thinking is that I have managed to guide the convention into a win/win groove for everyone involved.

I’m not sure exactly how, but my hunch is that I got started off on the right foot, and with the help of close friends, have managed to stay on the right path (despite a few bumps here and there of various sorts).

At no point, including now, has my ambition ever been to produce large sums of money. I only wish to see the convention go far, and reach its potential. This will probably include a monumental amount of hard work, a lot of revenue, and keeping the whole thing as lean, effective, and efficient as humanly possible.

That undoubtedly translates as “profit”, but, I am not concerned – it’s just part of what has to happen, the natural “evolution” of the event. House, car, material items?

I couldn’t care less. In fact, I’d gladly sell my car (or anything else I own for that matter) again to ensure the success of the convention, as that is what is ultimately important to me.

That said, I need to support myself, and there are indeed things I value that require money (travel and food for example), and that simply isn’t possible spending upwards of 40 hours a week on what was once a strange hobby that I had difficulty explaining to friends and family.

In the closing of this post

I’d like to thank those who have helped me over the years developing the foundation of what the entire above article attempts to describe – where my life is heading. Some are reading this (long time blog readers and friends), many are not. Many are people I do not even speak with much any more, for one reason or another. Some, are even people I do not get along with, or vehemently disagree with at times. Never the less, if you’ve helped me in any of the above (even remotely), reading or not reading this, I thank you all the same.

I’ve been fortunate to have been segwayed into all of this, and been granted 4 years in college to stumble my way through self education. There is no price tag that could be stuck on the grace period that I appreciate so much – now let’s see if I can put it to good use.

Cheers

-Anthony

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at TheDreamLounge.net and Declarationism.com.

13 Responses to Taking the Next Step

  1. Matt February 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Hey Anthony – top work with this post and what you’ve been doing. I run a company myself with the hope of ‘bettering’ the world, and I know that for you to impact change in the best way possible that you need money. It’s necessary not for greed but as the most effective means to an end that you can come by.

    It’s the inherent problem with many charities. If they started a not-for-profit (i.e. not conducting business exclusively for profit) organisation rather than a non-profit, they would likely make a lot or money and infect a much larger change in the long run.

    I’m in Australia by the way, and if I’m not abroad around September I’ll hit you up with a place to stay.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    • Dream February 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words and offer Matt, I’ll keep it in mind. Which city do you live in/near?

  2. Simon February 4, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Hey Anthony,

    I remember your 1st post about your take on college life, and after reading this post, I again can say I can draw a lot of parallels with my own experiences. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but suffice to say, after 4 months of school research that I had literally no interest in, I was extremely close to dropping out. From an outside perspective I had it made. I was doing paid graduate research at McGill (one of the best schools in Canada), on my way to a Masters and great job security. But still I was extremely frustrated about my lack of motivation, focus and enjoyment. I felt guilty, both about my unearned paychecks, and the fact that many many people would kill to be in my shoes, but I was wasting it away.

    I remember so well, a nice day in early September; through a blunt lack of care, I decided to jump out the lab early to find a hill to do some reading. I had my fresh copy of 4-hour-work-week (which I have to credit you for). I remember the moment so well when it struck me that I could just walk away from all this. It was probably the most comfortable, invigorating and refreshing thought I ever had. I finally felt at ease with everything. It was like the moment in Office Space after Peter gets hypnotized, and he was left with this face that said, ‘I finally don’t give a fuck about anything, and its great’.

    In the next days I figured out a muse to break out of this 9-5 destiny. It turns out to make it happen, frequenting a school campus actually helps a lot. I ended up switching from a thesis to a course base masters; which freed up both some time and my conscience (but I had to give up my pay; but money isn’t worth my sanity). That’s where I am at now.

    I think it’s awesome that you have all these little plans to bounce around now that you are not confined by school. It seems you have a lot of uncertainties; but I think that contributes to the spontaneity and thrill of it all. A big mistake, followed by a struggle, is just going to be a great story later on. Life is about experiences; not about finding a way to have a stable but monotonous existence…

    I say to you Anthony and to others reading, by all means do everything you can dream to do and don’t look back. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of offers all around, but if you ever stumble north to Montreal, you’re of course welcome (not to mention, as you keep making the T21C more global, Montreal would be a great place for a North-East location).

    Just to wrap up (sorry it’s so long), I want to say I really respect all you do and your intentions to help other people selflessly. You’ve brought me to a path to question everything; and I know that’s what you want from your readers more than anything else. You’re right when you say we have been straying away from acting together for a collective good. Everybody does what’s good for instant gratification. It sounds cheesy, but, dammit, the world needs more people with your mentality.

    …Come to think of it, you should start a religion. I’d be your first follower.

    Simz

    • Dream February 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

      Hey Simon

      “Life is about experiences; not about finding a way to have a stable but monotonous existence…”

      Excellent quote man, although I would add life is about experiences and our close relationships with others. Semantics though.

      I’ll keep the Montreal offer in mind. Dumb question… but how often is it warm there? I really hate the cold man! lol

      “…Come to think of it, you should start a religion. I’d be your first follower.”

      LOL

      Ok, let’s do it. I hereby proclaim the beginning of the “Dreamism” religion. The mantra? Independent, critical, and rational thinking. All answers are to be found within.

      =)

      • Simon February 9, 2010 at 10:04 am #

        then you don’t want to come anytime soon here. But from May to October, the weather is awesome. To be honest it reeaally sucks that the convention is in the middle of summer. July is awesome here (just ask any of the American tourist that flood our streets and clubs)… I wish I was on a plane now going south, instead of me sitting here in bunched up long-johns, with rosy cheeks and thawing fingers.

  3. matrix February 7, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    That really sucks that you failed the pre-re

  4. matrix February 7, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    that really sucks that you failed the pre-req on a technicality man….. On a side note your new blog theme kicks ass

    • Dream February 7, 2010 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks man. I love the new theme too =). More importantly though, it is a lot smoother to use on my end. It also has threaded comments which makes discussion a lot more focused and not all over the place/hard to keep track of.

      My only complaint is that it looks so similar to The21Convention.com. We may change the color scheme to a teal shade at some point though to differentiate the two.

  5. David Black February 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    Piece of paper with a fancy qualification on it, or freedom-lifestyle-enabling business? You made the right choice man, even if it was subconsciously 🙂

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