What I've Learned After a Decade of Ups and Downs

When I was 20 years old I had my identity stolen. At the time I was a nurse in California, and the theft led to losing my license to practice.  A civil lawsuit - another result of the theft - prohibited me from getting a decent job.  In fact, at one point I even got turned down for a cashier job at Burger King.  

I worked odd jobs to make ends meet. I cleaned carpets, painted houses, did some general house keeping -- anything to make sure I could help my mother out as much as I could.  It was around that time that I fell in love with the game of poker. Some would say this was my first real shot at entrepreneurship.

For almost three years I was frequenting Las Vegas and LA poker rooms. I'd help run home games in my home town and even helped coach a few players.  I felt as if my game was pretty solid, but my time at the table was only half the game  My bankroll management was awful, which then led to my poker career coming to an end. 

I finally took a job as a sales rep at a local SEO company.  When I say SEO company, what I really mean was a boiler room. Dozens of sales reps were cold calling business owners saying that they could get them on the first page of Google.  I decided to change companies to a what seemed to be more legitimate agency and quickly became their top selling sales rep. 

A few years later I decided to change departments.  Cold calling was getting stale and I wanted to see how the rest of the business was run so I spent some times in operations.  After realizing that I didn't agree with the practices, I decided to start my first company, 7twelve Marketing. 

Shortly after the CEO learned of my newly formed LLC, I was terminated from my job and my then business partner and I were sued for allegedly breaking a non-compete clause.

I was determined to prove that I could build a business, so I did.  Unfortunately the stress of the lawsuit led to an estranged relationship with my partner who had little to no involvement with the development of our company.  Year after year, I steadily grew sales, the strength of our brand and our team until our estranged relationship led to a toxic one. I decided to leave the company I co-founded, and in the process I lost a brand I gave my hardest and best work to build and one of my oldest friendships. 

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel a great deal of relief after leaving my company, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the heartbreak and anxiety of having to start over again. 

Today, I'm the happiest I've ever been.  I'm currently rebuilding my team, making sure that everyone involved has the opportunity to explore their creativity and passions.  I'm blessed to have some amazing clients that decided that I was an integral part of their team. I'm continuing to carry on the mission that fueled my entrepreneurial ventures in the first place: create a community of people that inspire each other to become the best versions of themselves professionally and personally. 

The last decade of my life has been a roller coaster of adventure and heart break - and I haven't even talked about my personal life yet. I've learned more about myself and people than I ever thought I would learn, and some valuable life lessons along the way.  Here are some of my rules to get through anything life might throw your way.

Be optimistic.

During one of my lowest times I listened to 'Awaken the Giant Within' by Tony Robbins. His work taught me to focus on the positive aspects of my life to be able to strategize more clearly.  I learned to associate big decisions and challenges with positive outcomes as opposed to negative ones and it was absolutely life changing.  Remember, no one ever accomplished anything with negativity or cynicism, other than bringing other people down.

Surround yourself with like-minded, optimistic people and give no time to naysayers.

I'm a firm believer that your inner circles must consist of people who have the same common goal to ensure your success. Constantly revisit your goals together and keep a good attitude about it.  It's true that one bad apple can bring down a whole group of great thinkers and workers, so choose who you allow in your circle wisely. 

Encourage, support and celebrate the wins of your peers.

When one person wins, we all win. Even when I was playing poker, we'd be sure to celebrate each other's wins to help build momentum and a positive frame of mind for our next session.  This holds true in all aspects of life, especially business.  It's important to be truly happy for the people around you to help create stronger bonds and more fulfilled individuals. 

Believe in yourself and your strengths while being very aware of your weaknesses.

Confidence in your abilities is a major key to success.  Spend time reflecting on what you are really good at, and hone in on those skills.  Conversely, spend time self-assessing and be honest with yourself about your weaknesses.  Some believe that working on your weaknesses will make you stronger, but I personally believe there's greater ROI in focusing on your strengths and filling in your gaps with the right team members. 

Stay True to Yourself

This is such a cliché statement, but it is probably the most important part of the formula. No matter what you do in your life or career, you'll have a lot of critics.  They may show up as parents, bosses or people you thought you were friends.  Don't spend too much (if any) time appeasing the people that have their opinion of your ambitions. Your goals and your mission are your own -- do what continues to make you happy and what fires you up in the morning. 


Say Hello

If you liked what you've read, and you'd like to collaborate or hire me please feel free to drop me a line. 

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Mikhail Alfon