Karen Woodin-Rodriguez interviewed me to learn more about freelancing. We ended up doing a deep dive into a tonne of topics. This video interview includes, step-by-step guides on:

  • learning ANY complex skill, with specific examples: Chinese, programming, cooking, etc.
  • getting your first freelance clients, pricing, etc.
  • how to get paid for what you are already doing for free
  • connecting w/ anyone (including the story of how I connected w/ Ramit)
  • finding your direction in life, seeing 5 years into the future, overcoming insecurities
  • getting better grades by doing less work
  • making lots of money, savings lots of money, and living abroad for 1+ year at a time


Transcript:

Karen

Hello everyone! This is Karen Woodin from Project Model UN and I am really excited to introduce you to a friend of mine who is really inspiring to me because he has done something that I’ve been wanting to do for the past four years and I’m very jealous of him.

So, Michael Alexis is a lawyer from Canada who has learned Mandarin; he worked and studied in China and he’s someone who I think you’re really going to learn something from; because he’s taken an unconventional approach to learning and a non-conventional approach to his career which is exactly what we do a project model UN. So let me tell you a little bit of his accomplishments;

Michael was a very talented writer and he was able to take this skill and he used it to pave his way through university; he used it to connect with people that he admired which included top lawyers, included multimillion dollar business owners and then he used this skill to also travel to China and just live there and have an amazing life there. So I’m really excited to introduce you to him and have him show you some of what he’s learned.

So Michael, thank you so much for joining us.

Michael

Thanks for having me.

Karen

So the first question I want to ask you Michael is when we were talking about this interview. I told you, my students the people that I serve they are very talented, very ambitious high school students, sometimes just Junior high school students and I think that; when we think about someone like you; you’re a lawyer, you’re in Canada, you’re fluent in Mandarin you lived in China; it’s oftentimes intimidating to think about someone like that, they were like oh! my God that’s so far out into the future.

So, what type of a student were you in high school? You’re like the nerdy ambitious kid because you told me that you were very internationally minded, who were you?

Michael

I don’t know that I’ve changed a lot in the last 15 years or whatever so, here’s how I am now and how I remember myself being back then. One, friendly, right just friends with every single crowd; high schools are very much people clique off, if you go into the cafeteria you’ve got like the table of Chinese guys and then the table of people from the Middle East and you have the table of skaters and I don’t know what kids in high school are now but that set right like cafeterias full of these different tables. I was happy to be friends with all of them. So… nerdy? No; good student? Absolutely!

I went to class, I paid attention, I raised my hand, I made sure I was engaged in learning.

Did I do all of the work? No.

And this will be kind of one of the hacks we talk about later on. If you want to get better grades in high school and University. OK, there’s too much work to do all of it, so ignore all the stuff that isn’t graded but the stuff that is graded aim to get one hundred percent every single time. Will you got a hundred percent every time? Probably not. But some of the subjects you will get ninety five or ninety or whatever, so you do better than you otherwise would. That applies to essays, projects, exams etc. I wasn’t the best student but I was a good student that got good enough grades.

I was social like I said, I always liked to take on new things. High School blending into university but I taught myself how to make websites; what did I do? I went to get a book and for a couple of weeks just hung out in the library figuring that out. I was always and still am a very do it yourself kind of guy; there is stuff that I outsource now because it’s not the best leverage of my time but I really get a kick out of what new skill can I learn now, and this is going to let me build it myself.

And, otherwise, how to put me in high school? Yeah, just normal I guess. I mean really internationally minded, you mentioned that early on I started travelling. I think when I was eighteen, I went to Japan and Korea, travelled around for a month on my own, when I was nineteen I went around Europe again on my own; since then the major trips have been China; I’ve been there three times about two years in total.

Karen

So I really wanted to construct this because there’s a lot of things that I want to touch on. I want to start from what you said you focused on what is graded and I love that because a lot of what I show my students, they do model United Nations and it’s a very complex activity; and I always tell them you need to work smarter not harder.

So when you said about focusing on what is graded, to me it seems the way don’t get overwhelmed with all of the work just really focus on those things that are graded and do your best on them.

The second thing I wanted to touch on, you said that you were always taking on new things. So you taught yourself how to make websites. To me I think I always see myself as somebody who likes to learn a lot of different things, but as soon as I see something like that, I was like, Oh! My God….It’s too overwhelming and I’m sure a lot of the students who are listening now they say they want to learn new things but it just seems really overwhelming. So how did you do it yourself? Or did you create a timeline for yourself? Or did you just do it for one week and then see how far you get? or was it a project based thing?. How did you do it?

Michael

Let’s break that down into two parts, talk about school first.

OK. More and more on how to be a good student that gets the best grade in your class.

So, high school, to university, to law school, the reading amount just keeps going up and up and up like law school they assign hundred of pages every night of this tiny little print; there’s no time to read all of it. You know, some of that you do need for the assignments so be selective about it. As far as the other parts of school… so I said like go to class and listen. You hear that and you think OK I do go to class and listen? but no let’s go a step deeper, you go to class and you sit in the front row because now there’s no distractions it’s just you and the teacher and this probably not too many laptops in high schools yet but university like… most people you sit the back of the class one day, you see everyone with a laptop, they’re watching Chinese dramas and they’re on Facebook and they’re playing mine craft; these are like…. OK it’s OK to do these things but not in class because you’re going to learn nothing. If you pay attention and you ask a question every now and then, learning skyrockets.

If you can’t bring your laptop to class without going on these things, leave your laptop at home. OK. The thing everybody is going to say now is oh but I used to take notes too…. well take notes by hand people have lived for thousands of years have learned in universities for at least hundreds of years without laptops and they did it better than you are now. So like don’t sabotage yourself with this technology. Here’s another thing that I think is important and a little bit less tangible. Stress is a huge factor in performance on tests, exams etc. If you go in and you’re in panic mode and you’re all uptight about how you’re going to do and you didn’t study enough and blah blah blah; you’re probably not going to do very well. Here’s what I did, every exam and I’ve written a lot of them, high school, university, law school admissions, law  bar exams, I’ve written more exams than anybody (laughs). I would study, starting early on and then towards the end I would cram, right, stuff as much as you can the last couple of days because then its going to be fresh in your mind; I would get a good sleep, I’d wake up early and have a power breakfast, maybe go for a walk or whatever, a little bit of exercise and then right before the exam, I’ll listen to another one bites the dust and then I’d go into the exam and just be very comfortable, right it was almost always a very good result.

Everybody listening, you don’t have to listen to another one bites the dust but having a routine that works for you, having a routine that pumps you up and puts you in the mindset is very important and I think more important then actually studying and being prepared.

Karen

Really! You go that far! I love what you said because most of our listeners are based out of India and in India they’re the bordered cells, I mean taking the test standard and they’re the most stressful thing that you can ever imagine, they determine your life basically depending on your score you’re either going to be a science student, a commerce student or an art student so I think what you just said about even if you feel very stressed focusing on creating a routine that works for you, I think that a lot of people will be able to apply that because it’s incredibly stressful.

Michael

I hope so. And I don’t expect everyone to let go at the same level as me right. I remember being in school and everyone would be about to go into the exams and everyone else would be like frantically going through their book and highlighting, making notes and I’d be sitting there eating a muffin. STILL, I don’t expect people to be as relaxed about this is I am. But build in those routines be a little bit more relaxed still do your preparations, you don’t have to throw that all aside but find a balance and you do well

Karen

The other thing that you said that I think is important to notice is everything that you said about paying attention in class, not bringing your laptop, sitting in the front. I used to do that all the time and my friends would criticize me all the time, we’ll enter into the class and I’d be like lets sit here at the front and they would be like ‘Oh no that’s it and they would sit at the back and I would say, I need to sit at the front otherwise I will fall asleep or I will check Facebook. So I love what you’re saying because it’s really that simple thing and it happens. So not when you when you’re in committee and the way that you are successful is you literally like it’s the simplest thing you listen to what people are saying, you ask intelligent questions and you’re following the conversation. And it’s the same thing in class but sometimes even the simplest things we just don’t do them somehow….good so thank you for that.

Now on the second thing that I asked you about skills; how do you go about learning new skills and not getting overwhelmed?.

Michael

I think skills can break down into two parts. One is like a smaller skill, cutting a carrot for soup; this is like a really small thing that you can probably figure out on your own without doing any research, you take the carrot you take a knife and you chop it up; fine, but tackling those big skills, things like learning computer programming which I’ve done too, things like teaching yourself Chinese. OK, we’re going beyond the carrot to master the preparation of French cuisine or Thai Cuisine or just cooking in general.

I use something I call front loaded learning. So I commit to learning the basics, the foundation for whatever appropriate period of time. For coding that meant going to the library getting the book and working through all the examples for two weeks and then afterwards although I’ll tell you for cooking, I actually did a six month program learning in class, for the Chinese I had eight months of undergraduate university where they taught….we’ll go in-depth on learning Chinese later because it deserves its own bit. But they taught like the basic grammar and pronunciation and this kind of thing; so front loaded learning concentrate on just a really strong foundation for a short period of time and then give yourself permission to learn the rest over time. I’ve learned Chinese over years now, that base foundation means that when you want to learn a new word, when you want to learn a new phrase you can just look it up and you know enough, same with web design; If you know, it’s called HTML and CSS. Do I know every single little code and tag? No! but I know how to look it up on Google and the answers just one click away; same with cooking, do I know how to make every dish in the world? No! but I know like basics of what goes into a sauce or what goes into a soup or what goes into a cake or what have you.

So, front loaded learning, two parts:

  1. strong foundation
  2. give yourself permission to learn the rest over time.

Karen

I love that! because I know when I start something I’m like I want to be perfect from the beginning and I think a lot of people especially when we get into languages that the language does not sounds perfect; You also feel self-conscious about ‘I sound like an idiot right now, ‘I don’t want to practice that then’ you need to practice other ways you’re not going to get any better.

So, tell me about…actually there is the psychology of learning like what you said by giving yourself permission to take your time. I think that is very powerful. So how do you think about that? you know this is top performers and really ambitious people who want to be good like right away! and it’s not always like.

Michael

Yes… this is something that I struggled with in the past and I’ve only kind of come to accept over time to put a different way of like, I’ve accepted that my first version is going to be terrible but it’s the only way I know to get to version number two. That’s more direct in some ways like building something tangible. But starting with Chinese right, you’re right; like the first conversation I had was a little bit embarrassing and then for the first six months or whatever you wouldn’t believe how many people in China have told me I’m cute. Right? OK lawyer from Canada is cute. Why? ‘Because he speaks Chinese like a six year old’; but you get better. Right, you continue over time.

So the psychology of it, accepting that something isn’t going to be perfect; you might just have to brute force you might just have to put it out there.

Karen

I mean I think the other thing is; this has happened to me; I’m learning Hindi and I’m learning something and a lot of times I’m just like this is not worth it; like learning this little verb right now what’s the point? Like I don’t see it adding up right… so kind of thinking you’re right; like maybe even longer term times I would say you know even if I misquote someone to say even if I had just learned one thing from this class, I’m going to continue doing that.

Michael

Yeah and also be selective about what you are learning. I mean you’re right; probably that one little verb isn’t that important right now but if you focus on I think with languages like nouns are so important, learn as many nouns as you can. I think in the past growing up in Canada we start learning French in grade 2, so grade to grade 9, I studied French; can I speak French? No… because every single year, we just learn how to conjugate verbs, grammar is almost irrelevant. if you know nouns, you can communicate most of what you want to say. Will it be perfect? No… but nobody cares because language is about communication not about being perfect and people will accept a pretty big gradient. I mean you can think about chatting with friends who speak English as their second language, they say stuff to you that sounds a little bit odd right? But like, you still understand and you work with it and if you don’t get it, it’s not like you think oh this person’s an idiot… you think oh what do you mean? And then they say it another way and you get through, it’s the same when you talk to Chinese people either they get it in context or they will ask you to write or actually depending on the culture, sometimes they just go uhmmm….uhmmm…..uhmmm (laughs) and they have no idea what you’re talking about

Karen

Yeah! You’re right and you just answered my question and I love it.

So, I want to shift gears a little bit to get into…. So I was learning I love those mindsets. I want to ask you. One of the things that I admire about you and that I think that our listeners can learn about is you at some point and I’d like to talk about this ‘you know that you wanted to be a lawyer’, so most people when they’re deciding what to study and what career they’re going to get into, I don’t even know how we get these ideas, we just feel that is what it meant to be our parents did it and then we just kind of make a choice as their brand of choice about what I’m going to be a lawyer. But you took a very different approach to deciding what you were going to study and even once you decided that you were going to study law, you took a very different approach to learning about the different types of law that happened. So can you walk us through that approach? Because I think it’s really valuable and it can be applied.

Michael

I decided I want to be a lawyer when I was five years old because I thought it would be really cool to drive a Jaguar; that’s what you know when you’re five years old as well as like five other jobs you know teacher and astronaut and fire man and it’s a pretty limited world. So you do learn more over time, I see so many people who tried to plan for the future five years ten years in the future because that’s what our teachers, our parents etc. tell us to do but quite frankly most of us are pretty bad at planning a week in advance.

So, I think having long term goals is good but again accepting in this case is they’re probably going to change; for me it was all about being in discovery mode and for all the different things that I did and tried over the years it was well maybe I can reframe this it’s not I’m starting my career as X. It’s I’m doing experiments in X. Do I like it? How can I find out if this is something and going to want to do for a long time?.

With blogging, I thought I want to be a professional blogger; I interviewed Neil Patel, Derek Halpern etc. because who better to find out from, plus I learned about it, plus I got to pass value on to other people. With law, before I finished up law school I actually interviewed; I think about a dozen lawyers, right, corporate lawyers, criminal lawyers, human rights activists more lawyers and same deal like informational interviews. What do you like about what you do? What don’t you like? What’s the real deal here? Here’s a huge misperception people have about law; everyone thinks you know I’m going to be a lawyer and I’m going to make a lot of money. Well some do and some lawyers don’t; a lot of them that do are really unhappy right. They all said things to me you know either privately or in the interview like law isn’t necessarily the thing for me but I don’t know what else I would do or you know they got hooked on the money because they’re ten years in their career and they have a wife and kids and they are making six figures at least and it’s hard to walk away from that to start something else. So these are kind of the real insights you get when you go and talk to somebody.

Karen

So can you break down that process a little bit? You spoke about testing different things and I want to get into that when you interviewed your heroes in the online marketing space. But specifically about these lawyers that you interviewed, to me it’s amazing because a lot of people don’t think about it right. I want to be a lawyer and then they just go I only study law and then will become lawyers and it is very rare that we think OK who is five years ahead of me or ten years ahead of me; let me ask them what being a lawyer is like as if this is what I think that it’s like and I think first of all that’s a profound shift that you made but once you decided to interview people. How did you do it and I think you also have a very interesting story and then later how you monetized it right? Which I think is fantastic, so please tell us further.

Michael

I do a lot of interviews for everything and it’s kind of become the default mode for me now if I’m starting something, I interview people; starting a side project, I interview; when I started my law firm. I’ve been meeting and I’m still meeting with some of the more senior lawyers in town, some more senior lawyers and trying to figure out like OK ‘how did you get from early on to where you are now’? and incredible insights come out of that. So, the actual step by step part, I decide on who I want to talk to this is sometimes really broad right out of law school it was I want to talk to lots of lawyers from all of these different industries; now it’s who are the lawyers who have had careers that look like I want mine to?

And I’m still figuring that over time. I mean when I talk to them in my hometown, they were generally like small general practices. When I go and chat with someone in Toronto, they are an international expert in whatever it happens to be; so still it’s still figuring out that path as I go. I figure out why I want to talk to reach out to them through an email, usually the mail looks like this

Hi (person’s name)

I found you via X..(so maybe it was their website or some other way that connect with them)

I am a new lawyer and my mentor is (person that they will know).

So first line is (Hi X)

Second line (some way you connect to them)

Third line (compliments about them like ‘you’ve done a terrific job building up a law practice and wealth and I have a few really specific questions I’d like to ask you about it’).

The line after that (Can we please meet for tea and then suggest a specific place and time).

The idea being that, by the end of this email their answer is yes/no or ignores you because that happens too. People always get discouraged they are like some having to about sending out that first email and they don’t get a response right away or maybe they don’t get a response at all; who cares! It’s a numbers game. If you email ten people, seven or eight of them will get back to you; if you approach them in this honest way are generally willing to help.

Karen

I love this! I want to break it down a little bit actually. So I know you are a master at connecting to people and adding value and it’s something that I like to spend a little bit more time on, because some of our students they’re new to this, they think that they want to be lawyers, they think they want to be diplomats; and they understand at some level the value of building these relationships, but they have no idea how to ask the right questions; like the description that you just provided I loved it; we’re going to share it in the blog post; It is very different than what most of my students even do nowadays they send an e-mail saying like for example a lot of them want to work at the U.N.. And they send an email saying… ‘Oh I love the U.N. I want to work there, do you have an internship? and then of course nobody responds to that! But can you walk us through the psychology of why did you write that email in that way? How do you write an email that gets responded to and how did you create an opportunity for yourself to even talk to them? There was no internship right there was no call us if you want to learn about the law you can call us at this time. So walk us through that process a little bit.

Michael

OK so when I write e-mails, when I write anything and I assume that people are lazy and they don’t want to read it or that they’re busy and they don’t want to read it; so keep it as short as possible. They don’t want paragraphs and paragraphs because then you’re creating work for them. I’ll put a post online that I want to hire an assistant and I’ll say. ‘Looking for a person with experience doing X. Don’t send me a cover letter or resumé just send me a quick e-mail and come with me for tea’ and so many people, some like multi paragraph things with their life story and I don’t want it, nobody wants that; just the facts, just enough meat to get your point across is huge because then you’re taking the time factor and then you need the compelling factor which again is where you find some kind of tie in right like the lawyer for one of the first lawyers I met with… a couple lawyers I’ve met with were from the firm that I used to work at…. the big firm that I started with; of course they’re willing to sit down with me. OK, this guy worked with us and now he’s started out on his own; like they remember starting out being on their own etc. It’s a great connection. Either people, yeah it was the simple… my mentor sees this person he recommended I chat with you. So give them a reason to talk to you and I know that’s kind of broad flighty advice but it’s going to be so different for everybody.

If you want to connect with somebody at the U.N, How would you reach them, I would start with; don’t go for the top guy but also don’t go for the lowest, find somebody in the middle and say like

‘hey I’m a student, I found you via this site, I notice that you studied at X.. Oh I studied there too.

I would love to maybe they don’t live anywhere near, you ask you a few questions are you available for a quick phone call on June 12th at 10 A.M. Eastern? Thanks.

And again not everyone is going to respond, but somebody will; there’s hundreds of mid-level people in in the U.N. that will be able to get you and then after you get that first call one of the questions that you have for them is ‘is there anybody else in the organization you recommend that I speak to’? right, asking referrals is the it’s kind of like the sales tactic of the century. We’re not selling anything here other than ourselves. But now you can go email the second person and say oh person one recommended I speak with you and that’s more likely they’re going to say yes

Karen

Oh fantastic! I love that and one thing that I’m noticing from what you’re saying is you’re reaching out to these people and it’s all about them, you’re asking them questions about their career, what they like even though maybe what you really want is someone to introduce you to people, or to introduce you to their company, or you want a job but you don’t say that, how do you come across? What is your goal when you meet someone? obviously it’s not just to get information right so can you break down that process for us.

Michael

OK so how do you mean how do you take it from a meeting to getting that end goal you actually want?

Karen

Exactly! How do you come up with good questions?. What is your goal? So presumably for me, the goal would be to come across as incredibly knowledgeable, you know having done my research about them and then being memorable to them so that when an opportunity comes along, then they know that they would fight for that

Michael

So, you are going to be extremely knowledgeable, do your research, come up with ten questions, try to answer them all yourself and if you can answer them easily, delete them put them to the bottom and start over; come up with like really good questions, show that you’ve thought about it and when you have a conversation with somebody and you…. You know…. OK if you come across as the person that just like called them and didn’t really think about it; that’s going to show. If you come across as the person that speaks their language and knows like the next two or three things that are going to happen; that shows too and you separate yourself from the vast majority of people as far as getting towards the goal of an internship, the first conversation, don’t make it about that at all, make it about learning, all you care about is learning. That was the case with law; that was the case with interviewing bloggers that was the case with when I started a tech company; it was all just informational interviews and almost without exception; all of those things ended up leading to job offers, money etc.

So yeah, first of all about the connection; you can let them know what your goal is like, OK at the beginning of the conversation, ‘thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, I really do want to focus on the learning and my goal is: I actually want to have an internship at the U.N. and I know that you’ve done that, let’s talk; and then you ask some of the questions; don’t ask them for an internship at the U.N. because you’re going to turn off everybody in the world; don’t ask them if you’re making a sales call or whatever to buy something from you, just like give them information be cool and get information back

Karen

I love that, this gets so important because it’s really hard to serve yourself. So now you decided I want to learn about law the best way to do it is I’m going to interview lawyers. How do you then make money and be paid for it? Because I mean high school student, college students you know all love money, we’d like to pay for stuff and to travel, so how did you do that?

Michael

Yes, this is like my favorite thing in the world with this. I always ask myself ‘How do I make money out of what I’m already doing for free? OK. And the way that you can do so is with this simple framework: just ask who else does this provide value to and who else could this provide value to? in the case of interviewing lawyers, I went to the careers office at the law school and I said here’s what I want to do, I want to interview a bunch of lawyers and I want the school to sponsor it and we can put these up for all the other students to watch; they loved it! All of a sudden we have this new resource because it’s gonna work for them. We have this new resource of video lessons that the students can learn from if you’re in school now like career office guidance office whatever they’re all waiting for student projects to come along, they want to champion your work, they will find a way to help you. In my case they didn’t pay for it, they went to the bar association and got money from them to pay for it. So, that’s kind of the simple framework that I’ve used in other places too. You know when I wanted to promote myself online and write guest posts, I thought well I could just write guest posts or I could write guest posts about other people and they could pay me for it and that’s where thousands and thousands of dollars came in. So, another example; what is something that your listeners, your readers do for free with a goal of turning it into something?

Karen

I think they’re in the stage before that; that’s why I want to talk about how you even came up with the idea of interviewing people, I mean by now I’ve been attending these conference, its not really a conference but they could potentially blog about them. Right, so I think they’re in the phase where they haven’t even imagined that they could be doing these things that people get paid for.

Michael

Do they do research, do they write papers etc.?

Karen

They do, they write these resolutions at the end of committees

Michael

OK, somebody will pay you to do research.

Karen

Oh! They’re great at research, they have done research on international law, and they researched on economic development situation. OK good! So we definitely can explore… like somebody pay them to do research

Michael

Well…tutoring is another kind of simple mechanism, if you’re learning something you don’t have to be an expert at it, you just have to be teaching somebody else and preparing for that it will stick.

Karen

OK so, let’s talk a bit about it, because you made it sound like really easy; you made it sound like, ‘I have this idea of interviewing people and I’ll just go into the career center and I’m going to earn money for it. How did you position to the career office because they could have just said OK, if you want to do it, OK do it. They didn’t have to pay. So how did you make that connection?

Michael

Yep! To be fair it was really easy. They really did want a project to champion, they love that a student came to them with something but how did I frame it? I framed it as ‘this is not about me at all. It’s about two things: one this is like a really good project for the career office, it wasn’t about me right. It’s not my interview show. It’s the careers offices’ show and the second thing benefit to students. it will benefit the students in three ways right they’ll learn from lawyers that are actually doing it and this is another way to get the information and oh I notice that you know your site already has these written profiles this is a nice complement to it; right they have their agenda, they have their goals; so yeah make it all about them same with you know I mentioned writing these articles guides about other people. Yes I got the benefit of the post and the traffic that comes from that but the articles are not about me, it’s like ten thousand words about somebody else. So the benefit looks like it is all for them and not just looks like, most of it is, but I’m in there too.

Karen

Right, you’re the one who authored it and your name is also behind it, fantastic!

Now I want to talk a little bit about… I definitely want to get into Writerviews and when you are interviewing people but should we go into Writerviews first or should we go into to China first?

Michael

Writerviews happened before China

Karen

So, let’s go into Writerviews, OK

Michael you think differently and you’ve acted differently; and it’s the same thing that you use a lot because you got good at one skill, and a lot of people just keep it there but then you applied it to something else and you know like there’s no reason to get a new skill you can just change it so when you did it, there were some people that you admired online and you took a different approach in this people; I mean in everyone watching there’s somebody who we admire right… and we kind of get this fan approach and like oh my God, they are so great and we look at them and maybe one day we run into them like you take a photo but that’s it. And you took a very different approach; you actually reached out to them.

So tell us about that process of how you thought about it and how that’s different from what other people do and then tell us what you did.

OK so I actually reached out to them, connecting with them, I tried to find a way that I could add value to them and in this case write a few segments, setting up a very simple website, a website that was ugly at first; and then reach out to famous blogger that I read, interview them for one hour put it on the site, write a guest post about it. So what value are they getting from this? you know it’s not the pleasure of a one hour conversation with me, they don’t know me; they’re getting that link from my site, they’re getting a link from another site and that’s valuable to somebody that does business online.

With some of the lawyers that I reached out to, my pitch was a little bit different. It was like ‘Hey I can buy you lunch’ well actually the lunch isn’t a huge deal for them right, they have money for lunch. The second is they actually can get credit with the law society for time that they spend mentoring and so; You can go to those boring lunch time sessions where you watch a prerecorded video that everybody hates or you come out for lunch with me and chat and I’ll take them outside of make sure I’ll make sure you get the credit for it. So I’ve got to find a way that I use it, set up this website interview them and put it on there, it’s something that would work. I think in almost any industry right you want to connect with people in the U.N; you could create a website where you interview people related to the U.N. not everybody has to be in the U.N. you can go to other international organizations right and just talk to them put them online give them a platform where they’re… you know people like to tell their story. They like to educate others, they like to have a voice; not everybody, some people are really shy but you will find people that want to do that.

Karen

OK I want to just ask you a quick question about that. So you decided I want to connect with these people, I’m going to create a website where I’m going to interview them and post those interviews because they’re going to want to have that exposure. It sounds like a fantastic idea, like you want to connect with politicians, you want to connect with entrepreneurs; it’s a fantastic idea that I think other people in the online marketing space too, but I think not enough people and you know brick and mortar kind of jobs, so what were some of the fears that went through your mind or some of the barriers that you face? Because it sounds really easy like ‘oh I go to interview people…. but I’m sure that there must’ve been something to it; why do more people not do it?

Michael

I was really nervous the first time I got on the call to do an interview the first interview I did was a personal finance site called The Simple Dollar and I remember like the butterflies in the stomach and you know hand shaking and you got on the call and you do the first couple minutes and that goes away over time. In subsequent interviews that got a lot easier until I interviewed Ramit when I got in the first call with I ever meet Ramit Sethi iwillteachyoutoberich.com  I was nervous because he’s somebody that I really look up to now.

Karen

Sorry, to our viewers; for Ramit Sethi, he wrote a New York Times book, he has a blog that is very popular and he runs a multimillion dollar business.

So you have looked up to him?

Michael

Yeah. So I’m nervous about that one too but again just pushing yourself through it, forcing yourself through and it, making commitments. OK So you know pressing the send button is relatively easy, getting that schedule it is relatively easy and it’s something scheduled. I’m definitely going to show up and I’m definitely recording it and if this person spends an hour with you because you’ve told them you’re going to post online, you better post it online.

So create accountability, creating external factors to push you through the kind of negative chatter and the butterflies.

Karen

OK I love this part that you said the negative chatter we can actually want to get a little bit into that because I know that knew you were in this program True Mind and you are in there and what I’m going to say is that was a lot or something but it’s about this negative chatter that you are right so people are listening to this; in my view, when you are the top award as being the best delegate that’s what we call that right. They want to be best to get out there, they want to get into university or they want to talk internships, they want to do you great things but there’s always this chatter of like oh well I’m not good enough or Oh I am not that kind of person, and I know that you struggled with that as well So, I was wondering if you could walk us through that the process they you’ve used and that people listening to us right now can use to deconstruct those mental barriers.

Michael

Yes let’s go through the process. I’ll give you a specific example that applies to me. So process looks like this (i) set a specific goal: Yeah it’s becoming the award winning delegate or it’s starting a business or it’s networking, connecting with more people it can be really big or can be really small the next step is to (ii) write down on a piece of paper just list for me all the negative chatter that comes to mind you give the examples of Oh I’m not good enough to be the top delegate or all of that would take too much work I just don’t have time for it. There’s like so much that circles around in our mind and put it down on paper sounds so simple but it’s actually like a really powerful and therapeutic process. Now it’s on paper, now it’s tangible; a lot of people find even in that step that it’s like this huge release of pressure. So step one: set goal. Step two: list off the negative chatter. Step three: question them one by one. So the questions are, Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it wanted?.

So if I am going to be the top delegate than I have to know my grades are going to suffer. Is it true? Probably not. Is it helpful?. No. Is it wanted? No. OK you can throw that one out the door, other things are really interesting like one of mine was I I’m not as decisive as again Ramit Sethi, or I’m not the visionary that Elon Musk is; Is it true? Absolutely. Does it matter? No. Because I have all these other qualities that they don’t have and it all balances out, and I’m on my own path etc. I’ll go back into my specific example; so you question them one by one. Once you’ve done, that lists off positive statements that counter the negative chatter, it doesn’t have to be a direct word for word opposite. You know for example. This is one that applies to me. “I don’t need to sleep, I’m going to stay up and finish this”. The positive of form and that is. Sleep and exercise and good diet are the foundation of being productive; right? These are going to get some over time. So replace some of the positive statements, final phase is boil it down to one clear short statement and repeat it day after day; so true mind actually comes along with these little wooden bracelet and just one by one, say my positive statements, say my positive statement until you’re all the way around the ring and it’s just a tool but it’s really helpful it’s a constant reminder it’s always here.

You can do it before you go to bed at night, you can do it while you’re eating breakfast, you can do it when you’re on the bus, whatever, just you know it’s on your wrist you remember do it here here’s a few specific examples one of the guys in the group. He had a really short one; he just said connect, connect because his goal was to network, it goes with connect with more people never was in the social situations, he’d get nervous about it; so connect, connect, connect was enough of a boost to get him to least start talking to the person.

Now let me walk you through the whole the whole process from; when I went through it the first time. My goal was to start a business that makes X number of dollars in X period of time and I had a lot of insecurities about it. For example looking at friends who have taken safe jobs and who are getting married and having kids and like relatively simple and easy life; so the negative chatter was something like If I do this, I’m missing out on that and again comparing myself to Ramit you know, he’s decisive and extraordinary in so many ways, so I think three out of five who I was comparing myself to were the people and then the other two were something else. So when I challenge those like I said you know some of them are true some of them are not and go into the positive statements, I replace them with things like…. “I care about X” my priority is having a successful business so that I can do charity work later on my priority is not ‘have a family, kids etc. Yeah I’m on my own path; eventually what it turned into with my one concrete positive statement was ‘I am my own success story and I was acknowledging that. OK First of all, I’ve been successful a lot of things in the past and I expect that to continue and by calling it my own story, it kind of reframed it in my mind is ‘my own path’ there’s no need to compare to anybody else. It doesn’t matter how they’ve defined success, it doesn’t matter how they’ve achieved success, because I’ll find my own way to do it. That was hugely liberating.

Karen

I love it. I am my own success story and I love it because it resonates with me and I think it will resonate with a lot of the students who are listening because a lot of times we see somebody else; our age or even younger I mean it’s worse when they’re younger than you and they’re just way ahead of where you’d like to be and then something that I’ve experienced is that I’ve seen very successful people and I literally would get almost an excited attack as what am I doing with my life? Like should I be doing something else? and then it was just this really uncomfortable thing that was incredibly unproductive. So it sounds like you’re having something kind of similar like in comparing yourself to other people and then really important to say ‘I am my own success story’. I love that I absolutely love that. So, well that must’ve been a process as well.

Michael

Well yeah absolutely and I’d add one more tip at the end here which is OK we’ve listed off the five steps or whatever; don’t sit down and try to do them all in the next ten minutes! Do one step and then three or four days later a week later put in your calendar, a week later do the second step, a week later do the third step; because you’re going to have insights over that period of time like talk to other people about it you’re going to have insights that make the process that much richer.

Karen

Oh I love it. OK. The other thing is you still like you selected them right? So there was all this negative chatter and you selected the one that works better, like the one that would be most impactful for you at that time right?

Because that’s something that has been happening, right now like ‘oh I have all of these things that I want to do but I need to deal with and we get them all at once and then they don’t really do them.

So how did you make it a consistent process and not just this ten minute thing that you’re talking about

Michael

Yeah! (i) I Calendared everything (ii) I send myself more e-mails than anybody else in the world; I probably send myself one hundred emails a week and then I have a mailbox up and you can just swipe like tell me that again next week or tell me that tonight or in a couple of days and this is that I keep what I need to do in its place and time.

Karen

That’s fantastic! OK so now I want to shift gears a little bit and get into…we spoke Writerviews very little but I want to talk about when you decided to go to China. So you’ were an undergraduate-student correct?

Michael

No, the first time I went to China, I studied eight months at the end of university undergrad and the teacher offered to lead the trip there for a month I stood. I stayed four months because I figured I’m flying there anyways and it will stay all summer. And then the second time I went was after three years of law school and then the third time I went was after a year of the internship to become a lawyer.

Karen

OK So you went to China and you did an internship there; so was that was that an unusual choice? was going over the summer big deal? OK Because you went over for the summer but then doing your internship there and then moving there later.

Michael

I did my internship in Canada. Let me tell you a bit of the story, I’ll just walk us through it.

So, during  law school actually up until the law school, I had this dream of a long time for getting into the restaurant business since I was like fifteen years old, I was washing dishes and worked my way up to liking to cook, and bartender and server and the VIP dining room manager and catering all of this stuff with the goal of building a restaurant empire but when I actually looked at the landscape in Canada, it’s not good… right? very high startup costs, very high ongoing costs, small market, very often they don’t spend a lot of money; it’s like tough business to get into.

Law school though, I met this friend a classmate who was from China, he came to Canada to do this Masters in Law but him and his wife wanted to go back to Beijing and open up restaurants, so I went OK I’ve been there before, I speak like some Mandarin I could definitely get better and here is a way that I could realize my dream of opening restaurants. So when I went over, I set up in Beijing; he got over there a year before I did set up the first restaurant, it was pretty busy by the time I got there and then it was relatively easy to settle in and join him.

Karen

Really…so you spent the summer in China you came back to Canada, you graduated right?

Michael

OK so, 2008 I finished my undergrad and 2008, I spent my summer in China; I started law school September 2008 and 2011 when I finished law school is when I went back to China again.

Karen

With the restaurant business?

Michael

That’s right.

Karen

OK So, how did you decide to go to China at that point? I mean what were your peers doing? They are busy getting into these nice corporate jobs.

Michael

Yeah

Karen

So, how did you make that choice? Like how was that different?

Michael

So again that had been something I wanted to do for a long time. Actually even when I was in China the first time I was there going ‘oh should I stay in China and open a business or should I go back to Canada and be a law student’. In hindsight there’s actually a lot that points towards, I should have just stayed there and done business; when I came back and started law, I didn’t like being a law student and I love being a lawyer but I didn’t like being a law student and after the first year I kind of looked at it and I said ‘this isn’t for me, you know I want to consider other things’ but actually, I had a health crisis at a time it wasn’t practical for me to consider doing something else. It made sense to just keep going to class, writing exams because that’s about all I had energy for. So it was something that had been on the plate for a while and it was a practical opportunity to do it. I think people look at going to China and start a business and say ‘Oh that’s a really risky decision’ versus Yes they’re here and get a corporate job is a very practical safe one. But actually, whenever you have a really risky decision, you can mitigate so much of that risk; so what did I do? Before I went to China, I got a job lined up at a big firm. I applied I went through the post process though not the same process as everyone else but I had a job lined up so that if China didn’t work out, ten months later or whatever I could start at a law firm in Canada.

OK big part of the risk mitigated; I had saved up money so that when I was there I could afford to live and focus; money is another great way to mitigate risk and… Yeah just start with the big things, move on to the little ones and you’ll get there.

Karen

Got it! OK so now. You went there, you stayed there and then what happened? You were there for one year

Michael

Yes about a year

Karen

About a year… and in this process is when you were still interviewing authors, you were doing the restaurant you’re doing three things at once, right?

Michael

Yeah

Karen

I want to know about that because a lot of the people listening, they are really ambitious, they have a lot of different passions and they feel India is very much like Canada now and when you go their undergrad what you study is what you study; like you study economics and that’s all that you do and they feel that they have all these passions that they have to choose one but you kind of carved out of path for yourself when you were trying different things.

So talk to us about what you were trying and how you were thinking about your learning at that time

Michael

Yeah…. so it was discovery mode, it was… how many things can I take on recently that I’m interested in? I really focused on the way I can learn about them quickly and also how do I make money from them.

So joining my friends’ restaurant was different than starting my own, right… They were already set up; it was very simple to get integrated in there. Doing Writerviews was again discovery, do I want to be a blogger or do I want to be a professional writer? There was an app that I was working with. My Aunt was in private equity she was working with a company that wanted somebody to promote their app so I said, OK whatever; I’ll try it and that one actually burnt out pretty quickly. You know now I don’t want to do it for somebody else it was too much work with not enough payoff; I made so many phone calls and got nowhere because they had built this thing without doing any research on the market; so that one was that died first, Writerviews and then it eventually died because of the technology it was a pain in China; getting on a Skype call like this is hard when you don’t have reliable Wi-Fi and I couldn’t even watch the videos on my own site because the host was blocked in China. And also Writerviews lead to paid freelancing work and then it became more all of a sudden I could learn about being a writer and be paid pretty well to do it at the same time; so the Writerviews died for a lot of reasons and the restaurant just ran out of time. The timeline my friends had to open their second one and so I’d be involved with didn’t match very well with my timeline with the law firm in Canada and I made the decision that I can always go back into the restaurant I already have the job lined up I’m going to go work for a year in Canada and finish off this soon and then I can go. So I mean there are so many different factors to make the decisions as you go, you make them the best you can, you don’t always make them perfectly but you keep moving forward.

Karen

I love it and OK so I want to talk about you said that this writing turned into paid work. I want to talk about that transition because…I mean at some point your restaurant job was gone, and you were supporting yourself basically on your freelance income as a writer. A lot of people want to go abroad and they will be like “oh I don’t have any money, like what are people going to pay me for? and you were able to do that successfully.

So I want to know how did you turn from writing and Interviewing people; how did that turn into paid work?.

Michael

Yep… I have a really specific advice about freelancing which maybe if we can push up a little bit further and I’ll tell you about my experience doing it which is relatively unique.

So I was doing all these interviews with successful writers, bloggers etc. and I was interviewing them and then I’d write an article about it. So first time I interviewed Ramit, I interviewed him and put on my site, I wrote an article and put it on the site, (problogger.net)

Karen

So it wasn’t just the interview, it was the interview, the transcript and an article about what you would learn?

Michael

OK this is another way, providing value to for the people, also huge value to you if you talk to somebody for an hour you learn a lot; if you go back and listen to that conversation multiple times and you write an article about it, you learn it so much better. So I did that a few months later Ramit was releasing his dream job program and he reached out to me and he said ‘hey can we please do another interview and you write another article about it’? And I said yeah of course I’d love to. So we did it again, I put up the article; it turned out to be a very popular one online; it was a very long article, if your readers want to Google it, it’s called Ramit Sethi exposed how earns millions blogging. It blows 99.9% of blog posts into the water; that’s just a fact.

Karen

OK so I love that. I love that because you are just doing some interviews and then writing some half-baked article about it; you did something very specific to stand out.

Michael

Yeah so I wrote; I forget how many words it is, but it’s like 10,000 words; it has a table of contents

Karen

Okay, your lawyer training came into play there.

Michael

Yeah it has sections in it that are longer than most guest posts an extraordinary detail there’s no fluff here it’s like very good to the point where you could sell this thing as a product right people. If people paid money for this, they’d be getting good value. So what actually happened then Ramit had seen my work right; he knew that I was a good writer; that’s important technical competence, second we had e-mailed back and forth. I sent him really short emails, everyone else sent him long emails; he likes the communication style, he knows that all work well with me. So when he needed somebody to work with him to do case studies, he was like OK here’s a guy that knows how to interview; he’s like pretty nice cool guy and he he’s a good writer too, it’s perfect. So he actually reached said to me and said Hey Michael do you want to join work with me X. Y. Z.? we jumped on a call and we figured it out from there. So that’s actually something I’m quite proud of. You know when we meet puts out a job posting, hundreds if not thousands of applicants. But even though those who are accessible to him, he reached out to me; why? Again what I just told you he had seen my work, It was good and you know communication style were all excellent.

Karen

I love it! I want to ask you something about…. So Ramit is somebody that you admired and I know you still do; how do you have a negotiation conversation with somebody you admire? 

Michael

So raising rates with an existing client is very difficult and I’m not going to sit here and say I’m an expert at it. There are probably better sources. So usually when I was raising my rates, it was with new clients new clients you don’t know what you charge in the past and you get there by having great referral sources and testimonials etc. You know for example, OK first conversation with Ramit, he asked me to do this work and then he said ‘what do you usually charge’? At that time I hadn’t done a lot of freelancing in the past, I had done like a random website here or there; I’ve done a little bit of like random tutoring and stuff but not this consistent work; I didn’t know how to bill for it. So my response was ‘well you know what you’ve paid for this in the past. Let’s just use that as a base rate; that’s like that’s not good negotiations because it puts off all the power in the client’s hand; but it worked out well and Ramit is a smart guy; he didn’t try to lowball me because he knows that if you lowball somebody, they’re not going to stick around very long and so it worked out anyways.

For other people, I think you’d need to be a little bit more assertive, a little bit more by lowering your value and approach these conversations right, most clients are not as sophisticated as Ramit; so look at the work you’re doing start at like say fifty dollars an hour start out a number that makes you go ‘oh yeah that’s a little bit high’ but actually it’s not phenomenally high to start up with and negotiating moving it upwards just give them lots of heads up right don’t spring this decision on somebody, don’t make it an ultimatum just say you know this is what’s happening in my business; I’m planning to raise my rates in a couple of months, make sure I can cover X.Y.Z. and keep doing terrific work from you, I’ll offer a lot of that.

Karen

OK good, so you can tell them before hand and then you get the work done.

Michael

Yeah

Karen

Got it. Now I want to ask you just one last question about freelancing and then I want to get into learning Mandarin.

Did you ever think of it ‘You have really high profile clients, do you have like a target list of ‘I want to get these five people or was it more organic or you were this is the growth mode?

Michael

Most clients reached out to me, when I was freelancing, I was also traveling and I was also so doing the thing with the restaurant and then when I came back to Canada doing the article thing as a law student all these are like full time jobs. I didn’t need the writing to grow, having a few clients of the time with enough and recurring work. So target list of people that want to work for, other people did reach out to me right after I wrote the initial article about Ramit, there was a client who sent me an e-mail that said ‘how do I get you to write articles like this about my business? OK he became in client; same with others.

So I think if you were going to be intentional about growth, look for people who are related or similar to your existing clients; if you have one good client, there’s hundreds if not thousands of other people like them in the world and if there’s people that they’re connected to, you can get referrals again referrals are like the easiest way to make a sale in the world because you come with credibility.

Karen

I love it. I love it because you did a really good job and then people started reaching out to you and I think that’s a very fortunate position to be in; wonderful!

And then, the last section of this interview that I want to talk about is how you learn Mandarin. Right. So in this day and age, everybody wants learn Mandarin, everybody wants to go to china and this is something that you were able to do. So I want you to talk about how you thought about it and the hard part is when you’re doing it like if somebody wants to learn it; based on what you’ve learned what would you advise them to do?

Michael

OK step by step how to learn Mandarin by that Michael Alexis guy (laughs)

First thing I mention in the front loaded learning section; start with a solid foundation and don’t try to teach yourself, hire a teacher; a lot of schools are offering it now. If that’s not an option, find somebody to tutor you but make sure that they’re taking care of the structure, they’re testing you every week, like treat it like a class. And then once you have that base foundation, go to get language partners and there’s a few different places you can do that… One, there’s a website that I used five years ago or whatever called livemocha.com there’s also all kinds of apps now you just go on you create a profile, it matches you with people that speak Chinese, or who wants to learn English and matches you with those people so you can teach each other.

Language partners are like not the best way to learn because again they want to spend a lot of time learning English but it gives you a natural language component that reading out of a textbook never can. You learn how people actually speak for example you know you read a textbook and the English version of it would be ‘Hello, hello, How do you do today? I am fine thank you. And sometimes when you talk to English the second language people this is how they speak and if you just learn from a textbook that’s how you’re going to sound too. But with language partners, you get used to talking with young people, like teenagers small they’re weird slang and you get used to talking to professionals like this teachers etc that use these things you get used to dialects. Dialects are a huge thing accents that if you’re listening to the audio cassette that came with your book; it’s all perfect and easy to understand forces. You know when you actually go and hang out on the streets of China trying to negotiate with a vendor they said nothing like the book.

Step one was ‘get a formal teacher and learn’.

Step two is ‘get a language partner from one of these tools and I mention’

Step three ‘go and live in China! There is no better way to learn the language than to immerse yourself’ Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou; these are places that people usually go, big cities on the east coast? No! You can’t go to those places because almost everybody speaks English. Oh and you’re going to make friends that speak English and you’re going to go to businesses that speaks English and you’re not going to learn anything, so you have to go somewhere more remote; if you go to western China, if you go to southern China, you can find places where you’re like the only English speaking person in the city that was meek. So, you’re forced to use that in every conversation; yes it becomes difficult to check into a hotel, yes it becomes difficult to get a meal; but you have to learn it if you want to eat. You know when I went over to China the first time I thought I was so cool because I speak Chinese. But I went to a restaurant and I realized I knew how to say was like banana and rice and I wasn’t going to eat very well so I actually got cheated on the first meal; they charged me 4 or 5 dollars for a bowl of water with like two noodles of a carrot and it was ridiculous but after that I went home and I got the dictionary and I learned like ‘here’s a list of all the meat’ ‘here’s a list of all vegetable’ ‘lists of all the noodles’ and the next time I went to a restaurant, I was in a much better shape to do it. It’s still hard because when you look at the menu, it doesn’t say….Chicken and Onions, it’s like we have fancy names for something like…..

Karen

Like Cordon Bleu?

Michael

Like yeah! they’re all named after like some city or a person, whatever, but you learn it over time, so force yourself into it… same with train tickets like OK Better learn the train conversation; better the hotel conversation and then immersing yourself going somewhere make friends that don’t speak English and by don’t speak English; I mean literally they know less than ten words, it’s like ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ ‘goodbye’. That’s because if they speak more than that you’re going to be lazy and you’re going to default to English

And this goes to the next step which is if it’s possible for you, get a boyfriend or girlfriend that speaks Mandarin. There was two months that I lived in South in China and I dated a girl for about six weeks and she didn’t speak a word of English and that was perfect because this girl talked a lot, she talked to me a lot, she talked in Mandarin all the time and her pronunciation was like clear and good. So it was just forced-learning it was fun learning right like hanging out with this girl, we would go to the beach or go to the park or we’d go eat, whatever and it was just a really natural way of doing it versus trying to sit at home with a textbook is boring and again not going to learn it.

I’ve tried in the past to whether I’m in Canada or China, I listen to the audio or do the lessons and like two or three days then I’ll just stop doing it because it’s boring. So force yourself in immersion and the last thing is there’s actually an iPhone app called we chat and it lets you send text messages, it lets you send voice messages and everybody in China uses. So even now when I’m in Canada, I still practice Chinese every single day; not because I’m waking up and I’m studying for an hour but because I can just send a message that says blah blah blah and whatever.

Karen

I love that because a lot of times I know that I feel guilty and like I’m learning Hindi, I should sit down like really buckle down and read my book and I don’t do it and then I feel guilty, because I would be ‘I’m being such a lazy person’ but what you’re saying is ‘figure out what works for you, something that’s may be easy and something that may be fun for you. You don’t have to kill doing that basically you know.

Fantastic! OK the last thing that I want to ask you Michael is what I’ve been getting from this and I think that biggest learning from this conversation with you is, you have a very unique process for learning and for growing and I think, Perhaps the people listening right now are in their eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth grade it; maybe they haven’t discerned that yet but I think people that are our age will all know that ‘Oh you have to ask questions’. You know Ramit about the best $20 you ever spend are taking somebody out to lunch and yet most of us never do and you’ve consistently like systematically use this approach and I think it is incredibly valuable so I want you to wrap up with understanding your process for letting it grow and I want to do it by asking you two questions.

What is your proudest accomplishments today, what are you most proud of?

Michael

So yes…. I think I live a little outside of reality, because every now and then someone will be like ‘Oh it’s amazing that you can speak Mandarin’ or ‘Oh it’s so amazing that you went to law school and you got this job at a top firm but then you start your own practice’. It’s like I don’t know how other people view things and how I view them. I’m just… Yes I’ve taken pride in what I do right, like I was proud to work with Ramit like I said when he reached out to me and there’s some pride in being able to speak Mandarin, there’s some pride in being a lawyer but nothing that I would call like standing out pinnacle achievement of my life because that moment is still to come.

Karen

OK so now my second question

What is your goal? You’ve changed focus; you went through discovering mode and now what you’re in the what do you call it mode? You’re focused on your business and you have a little project on the side so what’s goal?

Michael

The goal right now is to make as much money as I can and save as much money as I can so that I can dedicate a very large part of my life to charity.

Karen

Wow, OK, and you know what’s the specific area in charity?

Michael

Absolutely! I’ll save that for another interview.

Karen

OK so now to wrap up with your process for learning and growing. So that’s your goal

So people listening right now they have different goals, they want to get into a top university; they want to get an amazing job.

How are you approaching that? So I heard you from the interview you said you’re setting up your law firm and you’re talking to various established lawyers. So I want you to tell us about how you’re going about accomplishing your goal so that we can kind of leap at that and see if these are the steps that I can take for my own goals.

Michael

OK First of all, smart goals right, it isn’t every business textbook everywhere and product of the textbook etc. It is more definite and that I have I have a number in mind for how much I want to make long term what that means I need to make per year etc. and then it comes down to doing math like well a law firm assuming I can get X. number of clients provide that amount of money. Well no not me personally, OK how do I get there? Well if I hire a second person, two, three, four people; actually four lawyers working reasonable hours a , charging reasonable rates can generate a million dollars a year after costs and taxes etc. that’s the kind of math; that’s the kind of thinking I do to break down a big goal as far as getting there. I wake up every morning with fire in my belly, I wake up to work and I prioritize what I want to work on and care about. Here’s an example, we had the long weekend last month and of course somebody said ‘oh Michael, if you want to go to the cottage with us for the weekend’. I would love to go to the cottage! I think you know some of the deck and drinking beers and fishing with my buddies would be a very good time but that’s like zero steps your progress towards my goal, so I chose to stay in wealth and I chose to work on it incrementally; that one weekend is going to make a big difference but something comes up pretty much every weekend and keeping those incremental things from becoming big distractions, I think is what’s so important.

One of the one of the questions that you asked me before the interview was about money and if we have time I’d love to love to go on a rant about money too.

So, money for going after the big goals; money for being able to go travel for a year; money for buying a fancy car I don’t care whatever you want to prioritize and there’s three things that I recommend for going about; one is  freelancing.  Freelancing, if you can get clients is a very good return on your time so what do you do to get clients.

Step one go to five or dot com fiverr.com and this is a site where people sell simple services for five, ten bucks apiece. You’re not going on this site to make a lot of money; you’re going on the site to get a little bit of experience; you’re going on the site because when you do a good job for somebody, they’re going to leave positive review and that’s something you can leverage later on and you’re going on the site to learn like ‘What or what is something I can do that people actually pay for’? So you go on there like people design logos and they’ll write testimonials and they’ll make little videos or they do all kinds of stuff. If somebody is paying another person to do it they’ll pay you to do it too.

OK so you go there, you do a few gigs you get the positive testimonials and now you go after higher value clients and you know we’ve talked about sending the really short emails and etc. I wouldn’t target somebody like Ramit right away but lower level like ‘I do X. I write case studies; here’s a link to an example of one I’ve done; ‘here’s a testimonial from a previous client and I’d love to write case studies for you. This is my…thanks bye’. Just like really simple and straightforward and you do that long enough you send off those emails and you’re going to get a client. And then continue in leveraging your network. So the first is Fiverr; fiverr clients are terrible. I’ve never actually provided service on there but this is how I’ve coached friends to become freelancers; they’ll go on there, they get like totally unreasonable requests; somebody will be like ‘oh can you translate this entire book for five dollars’ so I look at that I go like ‘Are you serious’?. Nobody is ready to that amount of work. But so you start with these cheap clients and then you work slightly up and up and up and then eventually your serving clients will pay you fifty or a hundred dollars an hour and those numbers add up really quickly because…. OK Going back to the travel example; you want to go live over overseas Beijing’s expensive, Shanghai’s expensive capital cities are expensive but you go live somewhere remote and your apartment is like one hundred dollars a month; if you’re charging one hundred dollars an hour. OK you work for a week and you can pay for your apartment for the entire year. And then you work for another week and you can pay for your food for an entire year; and you work for another week and you’ve got money to do whatever. So freelancing is high leverage on your time again as long as you figure out how to get clients and, it’s ideal because if it’s something you’re doing online, you can do it anywhere and I mean some client work got done the most ridiculous places I’ve been on like a twenty hour train ride from one city to another one in western China and I’ll be sitting there on my iPhone writing out an article for a client, totally ridiculous! But they don’t care; they just want the final result. And I was making more than enough money to pay for my train ride, to pay for the hotels wherever I was arriving in, to pay this kind of things; I mean save up some money before you go and then keep working while you’re there.

Another rants about money; be ruthless about cutting costs and lot of people I think know this intuitively right like if you save money, then you can spend it on something else. OK but how do you really truly be ruthless about costs and prioritize. Here are things that I’ve cut out in the past. Most of the time in Canada, I didn’t have a cell phone. I have one now because a lawyer has to have a cell phone; in the past when I was a university student, you wouldn’t believe how many conversations I had with people where they were like ‘What do you mean you don’t have a phone’? It’s just not important to me, and they’ll get in touch with you, and you can call them using Skype which is pays you go and all this and your phone bill is like twenty five dollars a year versus eight hundred fifty; this is huge and everybody listening to this are going ‘oh I can’t live without my phone that’s important to me’ again people have lived for thousands of years with phones; You can do it too. So you’re choosing what to prioritize on and that’s fine if the phones that important to you, keep it. Here’s another thing like restaurants, bars etc All of this stuff adds up really quickly. Again those examples of incremental things adding up. OK go to the restaurant spend ten, fifteen, twenty dollars not a big deal; go there two, three, four times a week and all of a sudden you’re talking to one hundred dollars a week, four hundred dollars a month, five thousand dollars a year. Five thousand dollars a year goes very far in China right that’s more than what most Chinese people earn in a year; so think of it this way and think of like breaking these small costs down into something more tangible than ‘oh my dream trip to China in the future’. I think of it as OK, when I was planning to go to China and open up a restaurant, the cost to employ a restaurant worker in China, as a server, kitchen guy whatever is about three hundred dollars a month a little bit more than that in Beijing, now but will say three hundred dollars a month. So every time I can earn or save three hundred dollars, I can employ somebody for a month; it’s huge right? well yeah I could go with my friends and have a really good time party and or whatever and it cost one hundred twenty dollars or that’s rent for an entire month. So this place started thinking about actual trade off and you should be a little bit better about sticking with it; and learn to say no to friends because friends are not good for your budget.

Karen

They’re absolutely not. And what you said about restaurant one time it’s fun and you feel going every week, four times a week.

Michael

Yes and then you get bills and it’s like “holy crap! How did I spend eight hundred dollars”

Karen

Exactly… You know I loved this, and I loved freelancing thing.

What students can do, you said Research, they can write, you’re talking about writing gigs; they can tutor you talked about if you’re really good at math or you’re really good at a particular subject, you can tutor other people.

Michael

Yep…I think websites are relatively easy want to get into; again that’s the first kind of freelance that I did; I think my first client, I charged Two thousand dollars to build him a site.

Karen

That’s pretty good money!

Michael

People are intimidated by technology and you don’t have to learn very much to get past that curve. So if you’re learning anything like website design, coding whatever, here is what I recommend; there’s a book called Head first (Head first. H.T.M.L. and C.S.S., head first pitch tree…) start with H.T.M.L. and C.S.S. 1, learn the basics and then go play around; you can set up a WordPress sites like some ridiculous amount like 25% of sites online are built on WordPress and once you can do that, you can set up a Web site in like 15 minutes and you can make it pretty in like a few hours and there are a lot of people out there that need websites. Not all of them will pay you well right, go on craigslist, go on kijiji and you’re going to get cheap people who don’t want to pay you a lot of money but starting now, that’s OK just build them a site get one hundred fifty bucks get paid up front because you don’t want to use it for people not paying you and get leverage on that. So web design is a good one.

Other things that…well once you become better at something like tutoring, but coaching or consulting, given advice.

Karen

That sounds like hard for me..

Michael

Yeah because people expect you to be very good at what you’re doing…later on if you’re a high school student you can paint people’s houses right, you can clean people’s offices and any of these things are actually like relatively easy money. So anybody that has an office probably needs it clean offer to clean it the first time for small office like twenty bucks and then all of a sudden so weekly gig and you can give them a proper quote and it’s actually fifty dollars per week and again that adds up over time two hundred dollars a month and then you do two or three offices and you’re making six hundred dollars a month and actually that’s pretty good for side freelance and come.

Karen

Very cool, very cool, I love that. So we’ve learned about how to acquire new skills, you spoke about front loading learning, committing to a small amount; we’ve learned about how you can learn and how you can grow just by interviewing people who’ve already been there and really committed to that maybe creating platform like a blog; you’ve talked to us about how to learn Mandarin and then money and I loved it. Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about that we’ve missed out on that you haven’t yet said? You’re having your notes with you.

Michael

Yeah I’ve got like five pages of notes here and I’ve been checking them off as we go. OK I talked about this by becoming a lawyer. OK more about becoming a lawyer, I think this is part and like you said a lot of people involved with the money that you earn; they have this idea that they’ll be lawyers politicians that said in the future which is great.

OK don’t become a lawyer because you think you’re going to make a lot of money right. I guess I’d like listen to that over and over and over and over again because it’s not easy money, you’re going to work much harder to be a successful lawyer than you would work to be successful in house cleaning business or the office that I just said; because a lot of school, a lot of debt; OK maybe your parents are paying for it and you don’t have a problem but I took on debt to go to law school; I finished I you know paid my way through it etc. And then becoming a lawyer you’re entering a saturated market, you’re entering a market where there’s a lot of really smart people. It’s hard!

So don’t do it for the money do it because you love being lawyers like something that you’d just intrinsic value or you see is a prerequisite for becoming something else, like you really want to become a judge or whatever. I don’t know but don’t do it for the money.

Karen

OK That’s important and I think it applies to many other things a lot of people want to be politicians think they want to work for the power or the money and I think that the message behind that is figure out what you think that think positive our power that glorious time our money. OK Well talk to them and figure out is that actually true if it’s true what does it take to get to that level and then is that something that that you want for yourself right now something we can use to buy so many different areas.

Well, Michael thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us. I’m sure we’ve learned a lot and I’ll send you of course the link; if they want to connect with you or they want to learn more about you. Where can you direct me to?

Michael

Michaelalexis.com If they want to sign up for the e-mails, and if they want to skip that michaelalexis.com/welcome

Karen

OK, So Michael thank you so much again for doing this interview. I really appreciate it.

Michael

My pleasure

Karen

And all the best that well in your business…

Michael

Thank you.