sylvain courcoux

internet entrepreneur

my blog

Want success? Find a have-to

I think we all remember where we were on 9/11. I was working as a web designer and system administrator and my world changed too. The company I was working for at the time was a startup that was founded by my first mentor. He had left a major brokerage firm to start his own company and his vision was to create a technology-driven financial services firm. Not a bad idea but the problem was the he needed to raise about 20Mio and after the dot-com crash, this kind of investment became sparse and when 9/11 happened, he realized that no investor was going to invest that kind of money into the company. With dwindling revenue and no chance for any equity funding, the Friday after 9/11, several of us were laid off. This was a company I had joined at the earliest stage, that I had seen grow to about 30 people, and that was now in dire straits. But so was I: for me, being laid off was not just a matter of a job but also a matter of an employment visa. Indeed, I could only work for that one company in the entire US. In theory, I could also find another employer willing to sponsor me but at the time the job market was not good and if a company needed to hire someone, I knew they'd prefer someone immediately available over going through a tedious, lengthy and costly work visa process. So that Friday evening, I went home thinking I would have to leave the US and move back to France.
But that's not what I wanted at the time so the following Monday morning, I went back to the company and asked for a job in the mortgage business. I was ready for the worse: back to cold-calling and I knew how much that sucked. Of course, that was an unpaid position: no base salary. On top of that, I was living with roommates and it turns out that in August we had decided to split ways at the end of that September. So now, imagine the situation I was in: no income and no place to stay. But I also knew that if I wanted to stay in California, I HAD to make it in that new job. I didn't have the luxury of getting a job at Starbucks; I HAD to make it.
So what did I do? I cold-called like crazy. I mean 300-500+ calls a day, every day. During the day, I would call people at their job from corporate directories that the company was gracious enough to purchase and then in the evening, I would call people at home. The good thing about being homeless was that at the end of the day, I had nowhere to go to and no money to spend so the only thing I could do was prospecting. When everyone was tired and leaving for home at a casual 6pm, that was the beginning of prime time for me. And I don't mean it was time to shine in a light of glory; I mean it was time to hear "sorry, we're not interested" over and over again, for 3 hours in a row. But, that was my only option. After a few weeks at that pace, I earned a small base but that didn't mean I had enough cash for a down payment for a room: first and last month rent + security deposit was about $1,200 and I didn't have that kind of money. So in the night, I would sleep at the office, on the floor most of the time, and sometimes on a couch. The nights were short because the janitors would come and clean around 1am and the stockbrokers would come in around 6am. In the morning, I'd take my showers at the office gym. If you had met me then, you would not have guessed of my condition: I wore a suit and tie and at the beginning only a few people knew. Sometimes, I would drive to Stockton where an incredibly generous person let me sleep on a couch. That was really nice. And then one day in the morning, still barely awake under a desk, I heard someone make a joke about me "geez, I didn't think that's what he meant when he said he wanted a full-time job." That episode lasted 6 months; it was not fun but overall, I look back and think that I learned a very important skill: perseverance. I HAD to make it, I had no other choice. From that experience, I grew stronger and more determined to pursue long-term goals that don't happen overnight.
In 2010, when I realized that the only way for me to build another internet business was to learn how to program, I started with 5,000 pages of computer books, Youtube videos and online tutorials and that was kind of hard because nothing seemed to make sense. But I also knew that if I wanted to build an internet business then I HAD to learn to program, no other choice. I remember walking out of Barnes & Noble thinking "WTF is the difference between a class and an object?"
So why did I write this post? Because may be somewhere out there someone's thinking about quitting because "it's hard". I've been there, I know what it's like. The time to quit is when it's no longer possible, not when it's hard. When things become hard but still remain possible, just think that you have no choice: you HAVE to make it. Find a long-term have-to in your life, and stick to it.