From an early age, I think I got a funny idea about money. About how people spend money. About how people save money. About where it came from. And I had no clue of the value.
That’s all I knew. Whatever amount I had in the bank (and there’s been times where that has been significant), all I equated that to was how many more days/weeks/months/years can I sustain this insane lifestyle. I knew if I had X amount of dollars, that meant I could go out to the club X amount of days… Or if I had $100, that meant a jab of blows (1 gram of heroin). When I got older, I just (occasionally) figured in a few bills here and there… Maybe the mortgage… (if I felt generous).
Before France, I don’t recall having any relationship to money. Not much of one anyhow.. I didn’t use it much. But in France, the company paid for everything we needed…. Housing (a very nice apartment, right next to the Eiffel Tower), car, clothing, food, etc. And my dad supported all of us, his entire life, to this day. But he just left the house to make the money.. That’s all I knew. I know he worked hard, long hours, and such. He left and then came back 10 hrs later, and we always had food, games, clothing, anything we really wanted.
And when I got a little older, he would give me $100 to goto McDonalds with my friends. I didn’t have to work as a teenager. My parents didn’t realize I was using hard drugs yet, so money was very accessible to me.
Once I started becoming a slave to my drug use, my relationship to money changed. Every $10 I had equaled one bag. It didn’t matter if I needed to eat, needed to find a place to stay, needed cigarettes, needed clothing, needed gas…. Literally nothing else mattered.. Food didn’t matter. You know you are slipping away from being human, when food isn’t a motivating factor in your daily decision making. So money was just a means to an end. And it didn’t matter how I got the money, just as long as I had enough to get un-sick.
No one said junkies were poets…
Being “sick” or”dopesick” means you’re addicted to opiates (usually heroin but it could mean any opiate substance) and you are now going through withdrawal from not doing more heroin. So you are feeling sick. It’s horrible. So getting “un-sick” means to do opiates to make yourself feel normal. Therefore… un-sick.
Money meant nothing. It didn’t mean having nice things, living in a nice place, driving nice cars, feeling a sense of security… Nope. None of that. All it meant was my next fix.
In fact… If you want to know the truth.. Me going broke.. Me running out of money.. All it meant to me (up to this point) was another rehab. It meant I no longer can sustain my drug habit financially, criminally, however.. and I now have to fess up and get shipped off to some remote treatment center to supposedly get better… once again.
My third attempt to get to know money
By this point, I’m married, living in Madison, Wisconsin, and just had my second daughter Chloe.. We live in a beautiful home in the suburbs, and I was part owner of a printing company that my dad originally owned. I handled the marketing and IT department (which was me, and me). It was a small company so many of us had to wear several hats. It was a close group of employees, all whom had worked with us for decades. Which I think says a lot about the management, (the president my dad hired), the owner (my dad), and the rest of the workers there.. All amazing people. I miss them dearly..
We need a new website
I worked pretty hard the first few years there. I was in charge of redesigning the company website (I’ve never programmed in html/css/js/php or any other language for that matter) at first. I had to learn everything from books and videos. But I managed to do a decent job I think.
My other job was fixing our computers, and enterprise software, and servers, and printers, and emails, and monitors, and modems, and everything else.
Once I got those under control (and I had to learn on the job how to do any of this), I then had to figure out how to generate more business, using any method we had to our disposal. One of the first ways I learned about was online marketing.
What does this have to do with money
I’m getting there….
I started reading a lot about marketing online. Paid advertising, search engine optimization, conversion rates, social media, and so on. I learned about whitehat marketing and blackhat marketing. I was doing this, while working from 7am to 6pm many days. And when I got home, I would study how to market websites and businesses online.
I thought I could do this for my own websites as well, so I started learning about becoming an entrepreneur (which means you have great ideas, but are currently unemploy(ed/able)).
So when I got home at 6pm or whenever, I would go into my home office and learn about marketing… Taking online courses, buying PDFs, joining forums.. And buying programs to help automate all the tasks you need to promote businesses online.
I got so proficient with all the tools us SEO guys used, I started helping people learn how to use them. I would review them.. I started getting vendors giving me software for free because if I liked it and reviewed it appropriately, people would listen to my opinion and buy the software. Sometimes I was given a commission.. But usually it was just for free software, and wasn’t really incentivized much, if at all.
This in turn, allowed me access to a lot of software developers, that could create the programs I needed, to do the things I needed to do. Mainly creating false buzz about a website. That’s what Google’s algorithm was all about. Perhaps it still is, I’m unsure. I didn’t keep up with the industry.
Too late I know
To make a long story short….. I end up at a convention in Las Vegas (where else) to learn more about SEO. And I meet a guy in a bar, at 8am in Caesar’s Palace, by the lobby eating breakfast. We get to talking, and he tells me he owns a ping tree company. He tells me he has guys like me, making $10k a day in profit. And if I was any good, I should check it out.
This is a type company that receives loan applications from people like me. Not to be confused with Pingtree, Ltd. in the UK. (who I did use at one time, coincidentally). They have a list of lenders they use and send these leads to. Based on a preliminary score on how valuable a lead is, they will “ping” their “tree” of lenders, going down the line from their top tier lenders, to their lower level ones that buy any leftover leads, purely to spam them all the hell. The lenders then respond with a Yes, I will buy that lead… or No, push that junk further down the trough pls….
You end up basically making a buck a lead, at the spam level (good leads were worth $25-$40 per). So if you’re getting 2000 shitty leads a day from just me, those bottom tier lenders are making $2k from that, and they have hundreds of other sources like me, providing a similar volume of leads.. Every day… And that’s just at the bottom of all this… And it’s all profit. There’s not much overhead here… Takes a few servers, a programmer, and some money and someone to answer the phone… occasionally….
How did I get these leads…
SEO. Blackhat SEO. I created a paid forum dedicated to teaching blackhat seo, based off of my simultaneous success in the payday loan industry.
Basically, that mean that if someone in the UK was typing “payday loans” into a google search query, I made sure they would see my websites at the top of the results list. Not to be confused with the Paid advertising slots right above the regular listings.
The old country
This was no easy task. At this time, (2008-2013 or so), the “payday loans” keyword was one of the most difficult to compete in. All the big hitters were trying daily… The US market was saturated.. So I chose an easier market with less regulations… The United Kingdom. It was beautiful. The wild west. They allowed us to do almost anything with the data we were receiving from these loan applications. We didn’t even need to prove we were working with secure servers or secure websites. Completely unethical in today’s standards.
Back here in the states, the rules were different for every state. And some states, its illegal to operate a payday loans company, due to the predatory nature of the way these lenders operate. They’ll let you get multiple payday loans to pay off previous payday loans… They’ll own multiple companies under different names, and different websites, so you think you’re getting a loan from a different company, to pay off … them… but the whole time, they know what you’re doing. They don’t care.. They want you more in debt to them. It doesn’t matter who the check is written to, it’s still them.
And now you can just fill out a form online, and get money deposited into your bank account, and you just gotta promise to pay some ridiculous 400% interest rate. I’m willing to bet most people filling these forms out, don’t even know what the interest rate is. This is why it’s wrong. We need to stop banking on the ignorance, and start educating, so we all can benefit. But that takes patience, and patience is a virtue seemingly only given to yogi’s, and other enlightened souls 🙂
I figured out a way to cheat Google (and other search engines), into thinking my websites deserved to be number one listing… and number two.. and number three… Sometimes we owned every site on the entire first page of results.
To give you an idea of what this is worth… the first result of a “payday loans” query in the UK – would bring you around $5,000 a day, and diminishing returns for every subsequent result. Second result could be worth around $2,000 a day.. Every single weekday, weekend, holiday… it didn’t matter.. People always need more money. Google would see what we were doing, and ban our sites.. We would just duplicate them, redirect the old domain to the new one, and pop back up at #1 the next day. Sometimes, I could do it the same day.
And that was just for the front end. Money on the backend could be up to half that.
But for whatever reason, it seemed as if Google could not stop it. There would be too much collateral damage if they tried. And they did. And there was… They did it anyways. They saw how much money we were making and decided to get into the industry themselves. Now those days are over…
I made a million dollars in under 6 months after getting into the industry.
Overnight, I had access to a ton of money, and that was not good. Already, I didn’t have a good relationship with money. But give me an unlimited Amex card, a bank account that just kept getting huge deposits, with very little effort to maintain? With my addictive behaviors? Recipe for disaster. I hadn’t even grown up yet.. (Still haven’t but I’m trying).
Imagine giving a million dollars to a toddler. That was me… I spent $10k a day for awhile, on booze, drugs, girls, flying all over the world, staying in the nicest hotels, bankrupting my soul the entire time. To some people, I was the most successful at this time. Because of the money I made. Because of all the girlfriends, or things, or lifestyle. But despite all the fun, it was probably some of my darker days.. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. I didn’t have to. I didn’t care.. These aren’t my darkest moments, but its up there.
I didn’t look at price tags for ten years.. People would ask me how much this was or that was… I would have no idea. If there was something to buy, I bought the best that was offered. I wasn’t a peasant getting the “regular” version. I was the elite, getting the “premium” version. And an un-welcomed side effect of this is that the people around you… well they start treating money the same way (your money anyhow). Which made no sense to me at the time. (now it makes perfect sense).
Funny side note: I didn’t drink water that entire time either. Not one glass. I drank no water. Ever. I actually would spit it out because I was expecting vodka or some other alcoholic beverage… and literally didn’t like the taste of water.. Who the hell doesn’t like the taste of water…
Once again, I had a horrible relationship with money, even when I made it myself. Not only this, but I’m now teaching it to my daughters, my girlfriends, ex-wife, and so on.
Something they don’t teach you in school… If you don’t value anything, how can you be happy? I was teaching my daughters so many things, that just weren’t true or real, or rather, not positive or beneficial to their growth and development. Just through my own relationship with money. As parents we need to be so careful on how we live, because our kids learn how to navigate the world, based off of how we do it. They see and learn things they don’t even realize. Can’t even process yet. But it doesn’t mean its not affecting them..
I’ve had a lot of relationships with money. I’ve spent millions. I’ve had nothing. I’ve pan handled to get my drugs… for 6 months.. on the train platforms in the north suburbs of Chicago. I’ve stolen from stores, from loved ones, from friends and family.
Money never really meant anything to me, until recently… Another miracle I’ve noticed lately. One of many…
Loss brings awareness
It didn’t mean anything to me, until I didn’t have it. And that’s not what changed.. There’s many times in my life I didn’t have money. It never affected my relationship with it, other than adding anger to the mix. This time was different. It was my friends.. My friends lent me money for the first time in a very long time. Not because my friends wouldn’t have before.. Mostly because I never needed it or I didn’t tell them I did.
Any friend I asked.. They bent over backwards to help me out.. They still do. Including family (who always has before). But for some reason, this touched me in a way I can’t explain. I was so grateful for their help.. It still brings me to tears as I write this…
Not only was I grateful, but because of that grace – it made me conscious of what I was spending it on. I didn’t want to dishonor them by spending it unwisely. I still don’t. And now I know I can’t dishonor myself in this same way.
I try to explain and describe my experiences to my daughters, so I can undo the damage I already have done with them. So they can learn from my experiences.. I pray they do. I know they will.