Ray Blakney was haunted by a question: If they wrote a book about your life would anyone want to read it?
His answer was no. So he stepped outside his comfort zone, quit his job, and had an adventure.
That decision lead him down a path that has taken him to a place he could never have imagined.
He’s now an entrepreneur and lives in Mexico, living a life that is much different from his day job years before.
Since starting his first business, with his wife as a business partner, in 2008, he has bootstrapped multiple 6 and 7-figure online businesses.
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In this episode you’ll learn:
- What Ray does
- How he ended up in this career
- How he addressed fear and anxiety during his transition
- How he decided to make a career transition
- What his language school is about
- How he and his wife started their own business
- The hurdles he’s faced in his business
- When is the best time to start chasing your dream
- How to find people that will help you become who you want to be
- How he helps podcasters and listeners connect
- Tips and hacks on how to get your business started
Ray’s Language School
Software Generated Transcription:
Ray, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to The Meaning Movement podcast.
Thanks for having me on.
The question I like to begin with is how do you begin to talk about the work you do in the world?
Yeah, I wish there was an easy answer for this one. So if I’m tired and I don’t want to tell, you know, go into the long explanation, my answer is I’m a computer programmer. That’s what I studied in college. That’s what I did afterwards. But really what I do is I build a bootstrap seven figure businesses from my house in my pajamas.
I love it. I love it. What kind of pajamas are you wearing today?
Today I have my Superman pajama pants on, but I did put on a nice shirt for you because, you know, I didn’t want to look bad on an interview. Right.
I love it. I love it. So you went to college, do computer science. It seems like, you know, it’s not a far leap from computer science to your building things on the Internet, but did you always envision yourself being, you know, starting things?
No, actually. And the leap is a little more convoluted than that, right? If I had just done OK, I’m a computer programmer now. I start online businesses. That would have been a pretty straight line. Yeah, but that was not the journey that I personally took. So, yeah, my journey was exactly that. So I am born in the Philippines. My dad’s American, but I grew up in Turkey. So at 15 years old, I moved to the United States, finished high school, went to college in the US and I went on the track.
I come from a very academic family, so I did what I was supposed to do. Right. What do you do after college? You get a good job which pays the bill and you say the company 30 years and you retire. You know, that was kind of what I thought and I never questioned it. So that was what I was doing. I studied computer science and I got out and started working. I worked in Silicon Valley for a few years and then I ended up working at a Fortune 500 company writing code.
And I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually hate my job. Right. It wasn’t that I woke up every day miserable about what I had to do. It was fine, but that’s it. So the transition for me actually happened through a TV commercial with all things I know. I know it sounds kind of weird saying it, but it was a TV commercial for the US. And now all my respects to those in the Army, in the Navy, my uncle was was in the Navy.
But if somebody shoots at me, I’m running the other way as fast as physically possible. So, you know, it made me want to join the Navy, but they had one quote in that commercial at the end where it said if they were to write a book about your life, would anybody want to read it? And I remember looking at that and it just hit me like a truck, I was like on this track I am right now, I’ll probably financially fine, you know, it’ll be low stress, but I wouldn’t read that book.
I’ll be stuck in a cube and if I’m lucky, a corner office somewhere writing code for the next 30 years. That is not the legacy I want to live. That’s not what I want to do with my time on the planet. So literally, within 48 hours of that, I had applied for the U.S. Peace Corps, which means I quit and almost six figure salary as a computer science person as a programmer. To work for a hundred fifty dollars a month in southern Mexico helping indigenous communities.
I did that for two years. During that time, I met my wife, who was actually one of my Spanish teachers. She worked for the Peace Corps, inspired by the Peace Corps. Your Peace Corps staff was against the rules. But the fact that half of the Spanish teachers ended up marrying a Peace Corps volunteer made that was quite a bit. And when we were done, she told me she always wanted to start a Spanish school, but she didn’t like the business of the marketing end of things.
So I told her, OK, you know, we day to join the Peace Corps. We got married right afterwards. Why don’t we try it? We’re young. We don’t have kids. Worst case scenario, we’re lucky to have loving parents on both sides. They’ll take us in for a month or two. She’s a bilingual teacher. I’m a computer engineer. We’ll get a job. We’ll be fine. Right. So let’s get a shot. That’s how I got to talk.
So we started a brick and mortar language school together. She knew she was the teacher. I was the administrator. We bootstrapped it. We slept on the floor of that school because we couldn’t afford to rent a building and a place to live when we started. Yeah, and that’s how I got into entrepreneurship. So as I said, it’s a much more convoluted mind that I’m a computer programmer to moving on. But all online marketing and that school led to lab lingo, which is the online language school after that.
Awesome. Awesome. How many years have you been in your career before you made that leap to the Peace Corps?
Well, it depends on how you count it. I graduated from college about four years before, but I started working to pay for college as a programmer after my sophomore year. So I’ve been working on for about six or seven years. When I made the cut, I was twenty six, twenty seven when I did it. So I wasn’t too old. But it wasn’t straight after college that I did it either.
Yeah, I love it. I just love just the way you describe that you’re doing work that it wasn’t horrible, you know, the work that you could keep doing, but you just had the sense that there’s more for you. And like, that’s just really going to resonate with the audience. You know, people listen, because I think that’s where a lot of us find ourselves and maybe even where we well, maybe there’s two paths in this journey of questioning, you know, like, what am I on this planet for?
What was I born to do? What’s the contribution I have to make and the legacy to live, to leave. And it’s either like you’re forced into it by, you know, some huge traumatic event, death in the family, sickness, you know, divorce, whatever it might be, or you kind of like to have this, like, just nagging that just grows and grows until you you kind of get pushed over the edge. It sounds like that’s a little bit of more of your story into your leap.
Is that is that accurate?
I agree with the hundred percent and I actually think it’s harder for people who are in that position I was in. Yeah. Than the former people you were talking about. Right. If there’s this big life event you’re forced to change, it’s not really a choice. But you do it if you hate your job, you know, you’re looking for a way out. But if everything’s OK, that’s actually a really dangerous place to be. Complacency is really easy when you go on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, your food and rent is taking care of.
Yeah. What is your impetus to kind of go and really make the best of your life? It’s a lot harder to make it because you actually have something to lose now as opposed to when you’re at the bottom. You have nothing to lose. But when you’re stuck in the middle, I think most of us are in that space right where you kind of there. It’s fine. But I think it was that nurse in Australia. Right, who did the studies when they were talking about the regrets in life.
And she’s the one who kind of came up with that. The idea that it’s always the things we didn’t do, not things we did. Right. So I failed a number of businesses. It was stressful at the time, but I don’t regret it. I mean, you know, it was it got me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those. Yeah. And if I hadn’t tried, I never would be where I am today.
So that’s kind of I don’t regret the decisions now, but it does take courage to get out of your comfort zone.
Yeah. Yeah. And when you took that first leap and joined the Peace Corps, did you feel at, you know, like ease in that decision won’t use the word peace to feel? Did it feel like a peaceful transition for you, like you just knew that this was the right thing? Or was there like how much was fear and anxiety a part of that process for you?
Honestly, I don’t think fear and anxiety was a huge part for me, because, again, going back to that phrase, if they were to write a book about your life, would anybody want to read it? The fear and anxiety caused by me saying no to that was much higher than any fear and anxiety I had joined the Peace Corps. Yeah, maybe there was some, but it was just so overshadowed by the alternative for me that I didn’t really it wasn’t top of mind.
And when I applied for the Peace Corps, everything kind of just fell into place for me right now. All that karma, call it whatever you will. But generally, for example, the process of applying for the Peace Corps usually takes one to two years. That was actually my my my plan. Right. I’ll apply now. I’ll be working for another two years and then I’ll quit. Yeah. For me, I applied I got accepted in less than two weeks, even though it would take three to six months and then it takes another year to get you place.
Then they told me two weeks later, yeah, you have two more months before you’re leaving. So in three months I went from the time I sent my application to the time the plane touched down in Mexico. I had to sell my house, my car, quit my job, sell all my belongings in 12 weeks. I mean, it was just but and so when I went to sell all my belongings, I was like, oh, this can take forever.
So this lady came to my condo. Well, you know, when I was living in Cleveland at the time with her daughter and she’s like, you know, my daughter’s going to study at the university, which is the university I studied at. And I was like, yeah, I know the place. And I’m looking for furniture for her dorm room. And yeah, pretty much she’s like, I love your decoration, I kind of did the Japanese style, can we buy everything?
But could you hold another two months? Because she’s not starting school for two months. And I’m like, yeah, I’m leaving in exactly two months for the Peace Corps. So they came the day before I moved out, took all my things paid before it, and I didn’t have to sell it more than one person. It was it. They took care of everything, my car to sell it. I quit my job and then my bosses counterpart in another department says, hey, my son is graduating from high school.
I need a car. I hadn’t paid off my car yet. He’s like, look, yeah, I’m not going to buy it from you. But how about if I just take over the payments? Perfect. And he took over and he would bother transferring the payments from himself to me. So my credit went up to like eight hundred while I was on the Peace Corps visiting Spain over everything on time for like those two years. I was like amazed by how so to the first person who came and looked at it within 12 hours.
That’s what I think fell into place.
Everything fell into place. I love that. What were you looking for in the Peace Corps? Was it just like an adventure? Was it something more? Or like what? Why Peace Corps? I mean, I get like that you want to have a story to tell, but was there more than just. I just needed an adventure.
So there was a few things that played into that. So the Peace Corps is actually part of my family history. My dad was in the Peace Corps in the Philippines and that’s how we met my mom. So my mom’s Filipino, my dad’s American.
They met in Peace Corp Philippines.
This whole Peace Corps to meet your wife thing is working well for your family.
We joked with my son, you know, he’s like, just tell him to go to his mid 20s, have fun until then, and then just be starting, you know, get married. So that’s to be a plan for it. Right. So I’ve known about the Peace Corps my whole life. I was born while he was a Peace Corps volunteer. Right. So I jokingly say I was a Peace Corps volunteer for the first eleven months of my life.
So I’ve heard about my whole life. My parents always talked about it. And so it all has been kind of nagging, something I wanted to do. I even considered it after college. But, you know, like I studied to be a computer science, a programmer. Let me get a job. I got a good job offer. And, you know, at that point, you’re twenty one money kind of is tempting to you, right?
You’re like, I can buy a car now and I can go live on my own. So I kind of took that path. So it was always nagging me there. And as I mentioned, I like program. I like the act of creating. But there was no meaning behind. Right. The last company I worked for was a paint company. So essentially if I did my job with so more paint, that did not get me excited more right.
I mean, it was like, OK, you know, that’s not a big deal. I wanted something that, you know, filled me up a little bit more than just my bank account is getting money every month. I just didn’t know what that was. One of the things I did know is I love to travel again. I grew up in Turkey. My dad grew up in Africa and Rhodesia. My grandfather grew up in China. I come from like an expat family.
I wanted to be able to travel, maybe work overseas, but there’s actually a catch. Twenty two. When you want to work overseas in order to get an overseas job as an American, you need to have overseas experience. But without overseas experience, though, it’s going to be your job. So I was like, how can I get this experience? The Peace Corps seems an easy answer for me. I was like, OK, I joined the Peace Corps.
I’m going to have this two years experience working overseas that I can go and apply for other jobs in other places. Maybe the State Department, maybe private companies from that was my initial plan joining the Peace Corps. You even have free scholarships to go to a number of universities in the US for your master’s, a Ph.D.. So I could have got my MBA. I could have gotten my master’s in something else if, you know, the overseas job didn’t pan out.
So that was my initial plan for Peace Corps.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it sounds like it was a very. Yeah, very strategic move. You get a good dose of adventure. You get to live into the family legacy and it sets you up for lots of options, you know, down down the road, which makes makes a lot of sense. And so then you started started a language school and now you have your online live lengua, which let’s just start there just so people know, you know what we’re talking about.
What was it Lifelingua, Livelingua, right?
I usually call Lifelingua. Well, I didn’t realize people would say and “live” before that. But you’re not the first person to and I don’t think it’s grammatically incorrect either, so.
Great, great, great. So yeah. So just give us a quick rundown of what that platform does.
Sure. So of the top five language schools in the world, we’re the oldest and the only one that’s family. All right. So we didn’t get millions of dollars from VCE or anything to start this up. We bootstrap from the ground up. What we do is we pay our students around the world with teachers around the world. It’s a very different from a lot of the other sites, which is which are directorate’s right. Where you can go in there and there’s a thousand teachers and you go contact them and all the rest of it.
We actually have experts on our staff, what we call class coordinators. We work with you to find your perfect teacher at your perfect hour and get you all set up for that. And then you have a whole academic team working behind you to make sure you reach your goals of learning Spanish, Japanese, Chinese. We teach eleven languages. Yeah. And we follow you all along the way. So we based it off of our model. We started a brick and mortar school and all we did was actually we just took that model online.
We were thinking about scaling, getting ten thousand one hundred thousand users. That wasn’t our plan. Right. It was just going to get online, maybe make some side money off of this. Our brick and mortar school, we never expected it to get as big as we as it is to be.
From you know, you met your wife, Peace Corps, sleeping on the floor to where you are now, because I know that’s not as linear as you know.
Maybe that may sound.
OK, so we left the Peace Corps with the Peace Corps. When you leave the Peace Corps, they give you about three thousand dollars to move back to the United States. Did you buy your plane ticket? You buy your bit, you know, maybe your deposit on your first month’s rent when you move back to the US, that’s what it’s worth. I didn’t use it for that. We use that to start our business. So I have three thousand dollars in my bank account when we started our business.
So we used it to, you know, put the down payment on our small historic home in a city of thought of Mexico. We only had enough money to pay for two desks and two chairs. So we would move it around the rooms between classes for the students for the first month. So they would be in different classrooms. But, you know, maybe that would feel like they had a different environment.
But it would be the same desk, I’m sure they noticed. Yeah. And I learned all my marketing at that time when we were fully booked within two months, everything went really well. We luckily we have furniture at that point. Right. And my wife and I were able to move to an apartment by the train tracks. Literally, our bed was on a wall where the train passed on the other side was the only thing we could afford.
We stayed there for three months as well, but at least we went to sleeping at the school. Everyone, we were going pretty well for about a year and then Mexican swine flu hit. So anybody who can remember that that was supposed to be what it is now, right? It was supposed to be global pandemic. So they closed off the border to Mexico for the Spanish school. All of our students came from other countries. Right? They came from the US, from Europe to study with us, to get Spanish immersion.
That was kind of our business model. So that died overnight. It was actually my wife who had the idea, why don’t we contact our old students and offer classes via Skype. Keep in mind, this was two thousand eight. Nobody was doing this. And I’m like, wow, that sounds good. Is so we sent up the emails and a surprising number of people signed up. So I’m like, why don’t I just make a website and see if anybody else wants to do this?
So I threw off a website. It was awful. It was a few you know, any designer would look at it and cringe. And to our surprise, two things happen. Swine flu only lasted for like sixty days, right? I mean, it was it kind of just died out. Nothing happened. Our school was fully booked again sixty days later. But within six months, our online school was making more money than our brick and mortar school, I mean, just as a side project.
So. That all worked out, and so it took us about two years to get to a point where we decided to sell our brick and mortar school, at that point we have three branches and focused ourselves entirely on the online school, which we rebranded as Lively. At that point, I was thinking, wow, this whole business thing is easy, right? We’ve tried to they both work. How hard could this be? Yeah, they went in to buy two or three years of the shiny object syndrome, right.
Where I just launched a whole bunch of things. Never really marketed, though. They’re still sitting on websites sitting out there. I know the chocolate factory in Southeast Asia for like four years that actually was profitable given mine that I just sold my shirts to my partner because the profit wasn’t worth it for the United States. It was plenty for the Philippines. So I tried all these different kinds of businesses. And I think I let my what kind of a rested on my laurels kind of thing for lively.
Yeah. Until we got to the point where there was more competition, I had to go back to focusing on there. And that’s what’s really taken us to the next level. So that’s that’s my primary business. Now I have a new startup. We can start to talk about it later that I launched in February as well. But I’m kind of trying to keep myself to two, maximum three businesses at a time. Right now. I have an advisor on other ones, but I don’t work full time.
I love it. I love it. Well, I mean, your journey sounds it just resonates with me, especially of like trying a whole bunch of things. And like, I think I’m known for having irons in the fire. And probably one of my biggest weaknesses is spreading myself too thin. So I don’t know. I think that maybe I need to take some notes from your firm.
I won’t necessarily do all of it because. Yeah, I mean, I fail more often than I succeed.
Exactly. What I think that’s what I’m saying is like, yeah, it’s like you’ve come back, you’ve spread weight far and wide. Now you’re back to home base. It feels like a little bit. And that sounds like an important piece of the process here. When you think about your work, I’m always curious about this with entrepreneurs in particular. How do you think about things like words like legacy or I’ll give you a few words you could choose which ones you want to kind of dig out on legacy, impact calling, purpose.
Like, I’m curious how you approach those words when it comes to your work.
It’s a good I’m pausing because it’s a good question. Don’t answer it. Yeah, I will answer them in different phases. This to me like legacy impact. Don’t nest for me. At least they’re important, but the reason behind them is very different. So yeah, for the legacy. Part of the question is you and I were talking beforehand that I have an 18 month old son. What we didn’t talk about was how hard it was for my wife and I to have a kid.
It took us six years to have a child. We were told we were not we were not going to be able to have a child. Me focusing on the businesses for those six years was because I thought that was going to be since the I’m going to quote unquote say the easy legacy of passing your knowledge onto your kids, easy, not because it’s low work, but it just kind of. What does a human we’re supposed to do? I thought that door was closed to me.
I thought that was just not something that was going to happen. So I’m like, if that’s it, I need to leave something else in this world going back if they want to write a book about your life right now. Again, I don’t want to write a book about my life, but it’s just the thought there is that you do something important enough in the world, that they write a book about your life. Right. That there’s something that people would read it because this this guy had as a legacy.
So that was what motivated me for probably the last six or seven years now that my son is born. Obviously, the legacy is not necessarily from the businesses. If he wants to study music, that’s fine. He doesn’t need to be an entrepreneur, but it’s to lead. Leave him an example. I still want the businesses to have a legacy as well. But I also want the example of using creativity to live your life. Just to me, business is an art.
It’s not a science. I mean, I love it because I’m able to create every day, not because I have to kind of sit down and follow rigid rules all the time. I want to leave that as a legacy to him. So that’s the legacy side for me. Right, so that my legacy goals have changed a lot on the impact side of things. Again, I come from a family with the Peace Corps volunteers, so kind of leaving leaving the world a better place than it was when you got here is kind of very important to us.
That is the businesses I’m working on right now. I wouldn’t say they necessarily they in and of themselves are supposed to be the impact, even though the language learning business, it connects people around the world. And we’ve gotten great, wonderful stories about it from there. But the reason I’m building these businesses is to get to a certain point financially where I would like to start a social enterprise whose goal it is to teach entrepreneurship in developing countries. So that’s kind of what I want my next phase in life to be.
That’s what I think I hope is going to be my impact on the world is going to be kind of bringing, for example, in the Philippines, if you could teach somebody there to make 500 or a thousand dollars a month. So doing something online, you would take them out of poverty and make them up the class in the US that same business, nobody would bother if I came to you in the U.S. and said, I’ll teach you how to build a five hundred dollar business if you work really hard for 12 months.
For a whole year. Yeah. Everybody’s like, no, I’m just gonna go to McDonald’s and work there. I’ll make a lot more money than that. But in the Philippines and Mexico and many parts of the world, that is life changing. And that’s the kind of organization I want to build to teach people to do that.
I love that. I love that so much. And I can testify. I’ve seen that impact even with this podcast, my wife and I with a few of our businesses, but with the podcast in particular, we have an assistant in the Philippines. His name’s John. Hi, John. I’m sure you’re listening to this right now while you edit this episode. And he’s the stay at home dad. His wife works in the city and he works for us and his evenings and weekends.
And because of that online work, they’ve been able to do some amazing things for their family, buy a house. And it’s really incredible to see how much just like you’re saying in the US, minds are US based value system or cost basis. Doesn’t feel like a lot can be, you know, absolutely. Life changing. Exactly. To other people around the world. So I love that. I love that a lot. Yeah. Yeah. I’m thinking about your journey.
It’s interesting to think I have this contrast in my mind. I’m curious if it’s if it’s true or just from my perspective, as outside of your life, outside of your outside of your brain, of like who you were as a developer doing your computer science, you’re working in your cubicle or whatever, what have you to where you are now, where you’re you’re approaching your life, your art, your work as as art, as creativity, and that it’s easy for me to feel like that’s a huge transition from who you were then to who you are now.
And it feels like, you know, that Peace Corps we talked about that kind of set your first step into that. If you hadn’t had the Peace Corps as part of your journey, you are a part of your legacy. And that hadn’t ever been on your radar. How different? Like you feel like you’d still be, of course, maybe not exactly who you are today. Right. But like, would you still have moved in a similar direction like this?
Was this inevitable for you? Was it like that you would be an entrepreneur or was it a result of some of these serendipitous things along the way?
So if you asked me, I would say it’s serendipity, but I’ll give you a story from my childhood. If you remember back in middle school and, you know, junior high school, I assume they still do this. We always used to do bake sales, right. For. Yeah. You know, to make money for field trips and all the rest of it at the even back then, I really like computers playing computer games, but also, you know, just playing around with the back of apple tags.
I wrote code on that and we were do these bake sales and for some reason everybody would always bring their cupcakes and stuff to me to sell because apparently I was really good at not company, you know, I wasn’t trying or anything, but I would be able to sell and all my friends, even in my middle school yearbook. They would say most likely to be a millionaire or most likely to start a business. They would always choose me, but it wasn’t even on my radar.
I was like, no, I like computers. I’m going to be a computer and I’m going to write computer games, which I found out later was very, very boring playing. There’s a lot more fun than actually writing them. But, you know, as a kid, I was like, oh, what are you talking about? Business. I have no interest whatsoever in business or entrepreneurship. This is what I’m going to do with my life.
And that’s pretty much what followed me until my mid 20s. Right. Until I met my wife. She wanted to do these things. And we went down this path and we found that, wow, I love this. I mean, I wake up every morning, even on stressful days, and I can’t wait to get started. So I would say serendipity, but it looks like other people saw in me something that it was there all the time.
It was just something I didn’t see myself until somebody in this case, my wife, kind of put me in a position where it came out. Yeah. So if I had to join the Peace Corps and met the right person, I think I’d probably be a computer programmer. So right now it was very as we were talking about in the beginning of all of this, it’s a very comfortable job. You know, I’d be making six figures. I’d be fine.
I’d have benefits right now. You know, even with this recent economic crisis, computer programmers did not feel I mean, they were just there simply not enough software developers in the United States. You know, you pick a choose your job. So, you know, I would be there and I’d be comfortable. I probably would still be following the, quote unquote, American dream, right where you buy a house, a car, and then you buy a bigger house and bigger a nicer car.
You know, I would be on that path with a bigger plasma screen TV on my wall that would be following right now. Would I be miserable? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
I love it. I love it. Yeah. And that just resonates so deeply with me. Something about my wife and I’ve been talking about recently is just like how similar to you. I’m not as smart as you. I didn’t study computer science. I would have been a really good thing for me. I studied music and was interested in art photography. I kind of had this parallel journey as I kind of stepped into entrepreneurship, which really led me to this podcast.
Right, of like trying to figure out what to do with my life. But I’ve recently kind of remembered these things that I did, these stories from my childhood, much like you’re saying, of, you know, like I would go around, kind of hustle around the neighborhood to to find people who would pay me to mow their grass or in college would sell snacks out of my dorm room to to have funds for our floor to do cool stuff.
Like our floor was known for throwing these big parties and things like that, because because we had this little snack bar where people come and buy soda and like, all these things are like, yeah, I just did that. But then also like realizing, oh, wait, that’s not normal. Or at least that’s not what everyone was doing. And that like it’s cool to see these take the lens of who you are now and then kind of use that as a frame to look back and say, OK, wait, this didn’t just come out of nowhere.
And yes, there were serendipitous things that maybe validated or confirmed or brought out different aspects of your personality. But like there were seeds, there were threads, there were themes. What how we want to talk about it even from from early on, which is just it’s cool. It’s really neat.
We’re the lucky ones. So not everybody gets the chance to follow those threads. Right. Even if they’re not, everybody gets a chance to do it.
Yeah, well, I’d say more about that because I think that’s super important. Yeah.
So it goes back to the question about, you know, you have you talked about being a programmer where I am today? If you would ask me when I was 20 years old. Twenty five years old, if I knew who I was, I would have answered. Of course I do. You know, I know who I am now. Looking back, I’m forty now. Right. So looking back like a twenty five, I had no idea, you know, I had no idea who I wanted to be.
I probably will, you know, at sixty. Looking back at forty, I might say the same thing. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin right now than I ever did in my twenties and definitely in high school and going back past, you know. Yeah, it’s a part of it’s allowing yourself to discover yourself and having the courage to go after it. Right. If you feel that there’s something missing, look for it. Don’t just let that feeling be nagging in your life for the next 10, 20, 30 years.
Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time. Generally speaking, in my experience, look, I run to two businesses. I’ve got 150 staff around the world. I practice martial arts. I have an 18 month old son. Take singing lessons, go to the gym every morning and watch what I eat. Right. And I still have time to read every night so you can make time. I’m not saying that there are some people who simply don’t have time.
A single mother working three jobs. Yeah, my respects. But most of us do not fall into that category. It’s just you haven’t made it a priority to find yourself and to kind of follow who you are. I’m not saying quit your job and just go and do it today, too, bit by bit. You know, then you talked about your music. I’m sure you don’t do it professionally. I’m sure you still love music because everybody who studies it does.
Right? Absolutely. Make time to make music part of your life, whether it’s your full time job or not. If you’ve always wanted to learn the same instrument, learn another language, whatever it is, make the time to do that and you’ll be happier for it more. It’ll be you’ll have an adjustment period, but you will be happy.
Yeah, I love that, yeah, it’s just great, such great advice, and I think that you’re contrasting, you know, what you’re saying about you could have just continued on the path you were on living the American dream. I feel like a lot of times the American dream is just a way to medicate the underlying latent desires that we haven’t given space for.
We try to cover it up by buying something right. When I have that Ferrari, I’m going to be happy. No, you’re not.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So so choose the deeper, harder, scarier adventure I think is some of the invitation I hear hear you offering to people right now.
I think the world would be a better place and everybody would be happier if people did that.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah. So they think it’s also really neat from your journey is just how you said your your wife really was a big part of kind of drying out or maybe naming some of your entrepreneurial spirit and just the importance of surrounding yourself, you know, as part of this process, even for people listening, surrounding yourself with the kind of people who will help you become the person that you want to be.
And, you know, whether that be, you know, your life partner or whether it just be your group of friends or whatever it might be. I’m a firm believer that, you know, we become the people that we hang out with in some ways. And I think that, you know, you can just in your story that really validates, at least anecdotally, that concept. I’m curious if you have any other thoughts around that. As an entrepreneur, how do you find the people that are helping you become who you want to be?
I agree that one. I’ll say it’s not easy. It took me years to do it. So did the beginning when I was starting off as a bootstrap. I’m an introvert. Nobody believes me when I say that, but I actually am. So, yeah, I’m a very outgoing introvert. Right. I didn’t really have a network of people and I think that was stagnating my growth. There are two sides to this. The first side you were saying, you know, it is everybody knows it’s important to surround yourself with the people you want to be like.
Right. Whether you’re at that level quite yet or not, it’s you know, you will grow if you surround yourself by people you want to be like. So if your goal is to be a successful entrepreneur, hang out with successful entrepreneurs, your chances of succeeding have just shot up. Doesn’t guarantee you, but, you know, has just shot up what people leave out of that. And one of the struggles for me in the beginning is we have finite time every single day.
Right. And in our lives in general. And in order to find the right people, sometimes we have to let the wrong people go. And that’s really, really hard. These wrong people. I’m not saying these are, you know, bad influences in your life. These could be your good friends that you’ve known for years. But they are looking for something else out of life that is different from what you’re looking for. Right. So having to deciding to spend less time with them and more time with the kind of people who are going where you want to go.
To me, that was an emotional a very difficult decision. And I still struggle with it today. It’s not saying I’m not saying cut out your old friends and never talk to them again. But if you’re spending, you know, three nights a week going out, drinking with these people that, you know, from high school and they’ve all been at the same job, everybody’s complaining about the same things as they have been for the last ten years.
And you want something different, you need to make an effort to maybe take that three nights a week down to one night a week and find other people to hang out with two nights a week, you will get pushback from your friends who will still try to drag into coming out is with us this much. But if you want to be happy with yourself and get to where you want to be, that’s the tough road you can have to take.
I love it. I love it. Can’t agree more. It’s something my wife and I often talk about. Who are the people? Who are the people in our lives that are going where we want to go and how can we, you know, invest, you know, even further into those relationships? It’s just like you said, you don’t need to drop your other friends. But like, where are you putting your energy? You know, because where you put that your energy is you get out of a relationship, what you put into it.
And so are you putting your energy into relationships that are taking you places that you want to go?
Exactly. And it’s good for you and your family. Right. As it might sound selfish at first, but if you’re happy, your spouse will be happy or your kids will be happy or your family, your other friends hopefully will be happier for you. Right, because they see what’s happening to you. So don’t don’t look at it. Is that selfish?
Yeah, I love it. I love it. Well, I’d love to hear about your other. Tell me about the other project you’re working on right now. I don’t know. I’ve no idea what it is. Let’s ask you if you’re open to sharing it.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So we launched in February. I actually wasn’t planning on watching till the end of this year, but it’s a website called www.podcasthawk.com. So the back story to that is when it hit last March, my other business likely where the demand went up by 40 percent. Right. We offer online language lessons. Everybody was stuck at home. They were saying, wow, I’d love to learn. I might as well learn Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese.
Right. So I built that business primarily around SEO, search engine optimization and social media. So I was looking for another way to get in front of a new audience. So my idea was like, let me go and get on the podcast. I’ve done about thirty or forty. Up until then, over the last five years, nothing, not no concerted effort, but that works out well, so. I went to Google and I started looking for podcasts.
So if anybody’s ever tried to get on podcasts and done that before. Yeah, Google does work, right. You know, my podcast will be on herself. It just doesn’t work. Emails, wrong information. You might find the big ones like Joe Rogan and all the rest of it. But unless you’re a New York Times bestseller, you’re probably not getting on them anyway. So kind of finding podcasts for you. That was really hard. So I went to iTunes like, how about if I find podcast there?
Yeah, iTunes wasn’t built for that either. So being a computer engineer, I spent about a month just playing around. I’m like, can I get every podcast in the world into a database? Yes, I can. It took more than a month, but, you know, I physically figured I could. Can I get all their contact information? Yes, I can. So that’s how podcasting was born. We built a system where you can go in there.
Let’s say, Dan, you and I talked earlier about possibly living overseas. So let’s just say you want to move to Mexico where I am right now. Yeah. So you want to appear on a podcast about Mexico, right. Just to find out more information so you can go into podcast, OK, right now and you can say give me every podcast in the world that has the word Mexican. The description as twenty five episodes has at least a four point five star rating, has produced an episode in the last 30 days.
So I know it’s active and has a host whose name is Dan. Right. I mean, you know, quick search. And within under a second we will give you every podcast in the world that matches that criteria by the end of this month. Right now, what we allow you to do is you can kind of click on those, you download it, we give you their email so you can email by the end of this month. We’re adding our our main feature.
We’re going to actually help you with pitching as well. We’re going to send an email, a three day follow up, a seven day follow up and 40 to follow up to all the podcasts on your list, depending on your plan and all the rest of it. So we’ve been testing this out with beta groups. And if you pick the right podcast right, it won’t work if you spend every podcast in the world because you need to find the ones that work for you, but you can get about a 20 percent to 30 percent response rate.
So imagine if you pitch twenty five podcasts, which is our lowest plan. You can get on four shows a month. If you are milimeter plan, you get on eight shows a month. If you’re on a high school plan, you got to between 50 to 20 shows a month. Imagine what that could mean for your business, what that could do. If you’re an author, you’re a personal brand. Whether you have a podcast and you want to kind of grow it by getting on the podcast, growing your audience, that’s what podcasts out does.
And since we’re not easy back and I’m a bootstrap, our our pricing is like between thirty nine to fifty nine dollars a month to get you on like you know, between four to fifteen shows. Incredible. Try to go to an agency for that. They charge you thousands of dollars. I’m also really excited that we actually for all the podcast fans out there, Paatelainen is coming on as an advisor and investor podcast. No way. Wow. It’s going to be official in two weeks as a recording.
But I was doing this podcast I’m going to go out to maybe a few weeks after that. So it’ll be a of time. People, by the time people listen to it’ll be official and we’ll have announced on the website as well. But it’s coming in and helping us on this project.
That’s awesome. For anyone who doesn’t know, Pamplin is behind smart, passive income, which is probably one of, if not the biggest, you know, entrepreneurship focused, online business focused podcast. So he’s a big deal. Big deal on the podcast. We’re a big deal in the online business world. So congrats on that. That’s huge. And what a cool, cool product. I’ve seen the pricing for placement services like you talk about with agencies and it’s expensive.
And so I’m very interested in learning more. I’ll follow up with you about that after the show because it sounds like a really fantastic service. So, yeah, cool. What a fun project.
Yeah, I’m excited about it.
I’m excited about a project for a while. It’s going back to the focus we were talking about. I’m focused, so lively while I have staff, I have a COO. My wife is also kind of a managing partner over there. So I kind of have all the people running that business right now. I kind of go to the board meeting every week, but podcast is where I’m putting most of my focus and energy and these days.
I love it.
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, just as we move towards wrapping up here, you know, a lot of people are listening. Our in place is probably a lot like where you were before you started your journey beyond the cubicle when you joined the Peace Corps were there. They just have a sense that they want to give more, you know, whether or not they want, you know, massive life overhaul or just a small tweak in their life.
But there’s not sure what to do, where to go. What words of advice would you have for someone who’s in a position like that?
OK, my first word of advice would be kind of on the motivational side, you shouldn’t be OK with being OK. That was something I had to learn the hard way, you know. So feel like, OK, look for some, you know, it could be better. You know, there’s there’s more to life than just being OK every single day. If you’re looking to get started in your business, I strongly recommend just doing it. The one hack I give people for starting it all my business.
So the basic process, I would say is if you want to start your own business, do it. This is kind of a side hustle just to see the viability of your business. Right. So you spend an hour after work every day, working on the website, selling the products, making a podcast, write whatever it is you do. If you find that that works and it can get you up at least a five hundred or one thousand dollar income, supplemental income on top of your day job, strongly consider depending on where you are in your life, moving to a beach.
And I know that sounds weird, but the. There is a move to a country that’s cheaper than the United States and Western Europe. That’s the premise. So if you’re in the United States, I strongly recommend, like Mexico, Costa Rica, Latin America say pretty much the same time zones, cost of living. You just cut off 80 percent of your cost of living. So that thousand dollars, which used to maybe not be enough for you to live on, is now something for you to live on.
Move to Puerto Vallarta. I go to play that comment. Imagine the sipping, you know, sipping Mai Tai on the beach, looking out over the ocean in Mexico instead of whatever it is you’re doing right now at a thousand dollars a month. You are middle class, middle upper class in these most of these countries go to Bali. Bali is the same thing. Right? If you want to go to Asia, focus on your business. You can not that if you were making a thousand dollars one hour a week, you can easily take that to four or five, ten thousand dollars while sitting on the beach and then you can move back home.
It’s not a permanent thing. Right, but this is wonderful hack exploring the world. Spend two or three years doing that, building up your business, getting up your savings, and then move back wherever you are in the US, probably with more income, more freedom, more happiness than you had when you left.
I love it. I love it. What a fun. What a fun invitation. It’s fantastic. It’s really fantastic. Well, yeah, I feel like there’s so much so much I could dove into there because this is like you and I have talked about it offline like that. This is something that my wife and I are thinking about, you know, with our kids, like taking our kids and going to Mexico. We spend February in Mexico for the month of February and looking for, you know, looking at a longer term adventure on the horizon here.
So I’m like, oh, man, I want to dig in more of it. But also I know where we’re moving towards wrapping up. So I’ll just have to bait the listeners on that and say, you know, hopefully we’ll have more to explore, you know, geographic arbitrage, I guess, down the line. So thank you so much for just your inspiration. You’re sharing your story. If people are resonating with what you do and want to follow along, is there any specific action steps you’d like to invite people to?
Sure. So the best way to do it is actually to contact me through my businesses. I always joke that, you know, you can follow me on Facebook if you want more pictures of my kid, but I don’t you know, I don’t have time to post inspirational quotes every single day. Yes, I appreciate that. Otherwise, just follow me in my business is livelingua.com, podcasthawk.com, rayblakney.com. My is actually on both of those websites.
I believe in transparency on the businesses. So if anybody wants to contact me, just go there, go to the about us page and my email is right there. It’s not hidden behind the info or customer service. You can contact me directly if you do want to contact me on social media, Facebook, look for me. But for a person swordfight, that’s what I do as a hobby. So if you find that photo, you thought, we love it.
I love it so much, I’ll make sure to link up to your businesses in the show notes as well so people can follow along there. Right. Thank you so much for this. This isn’t so fun. I know we’re going to stay in touch and really appreciate you sharing everything with us here today.
Thanks again. It’s been a blast.