What I Would Do If I Were a Young Person Today

(NOTE: By young, I’m referring to anyone with a pulse and that still wants to add value to the world. This advice truly knows no age limits.)

I’m a lucky man. I was born at the right time in the right place to the right parents under the right circumstances. I grew up relatively poor, putting a fire in my belly for success. I came of age with the Internet. And I knew early what I wanted to do with my life (help others improve their own lives, particularly in the field of health and fitness).

Looking back, there aren’t too many things I’d do differently if I were a seventeen-year-old faced with the future today.

The success formula I followed in the early ’90s will work just as well in 2013 for a young person about to enter college. It will also work for folks in their 20s struggling to find gainful employment, for those in their 30s and 40s that are looking to switch to a more rewarding career, or it will even work for someone in their 50s or 60s that has recently lost their job and needs to start over again.

This advice is the exact path one must follow if they want to increase their income.

You will do so by developing valuable skills in an expanding field and so that you can earn rewards in exchange for adding value to the world. That’s the equation. It’s not rocket science. But each step is required to ensure success.

Accept this One Fact and Your Future Will Improve Immediately

But before we get to your action-taking blueprint, there’s one thing you must acknowledge. If you’re 18 or older, where you are now is your responsibility.

No one is going to solve your problems for you, not the government, not your boss, not your friends, not even your family.

Your future is your responsibility.

The sooner you accept this, the more freedom you will have in your life, the greater control you will have over your future, and the faster everything will improve for you.

Your Blueprint to Success

Recently I received an email from a young, intelligent woman. She’s in her first corporate job fresh out of college, but wants to do what Matt Smith and I do at Early To Rise. She wants to help other business owners build their businesses.

It’s a laudable goal. Helping others achieve financial success is one of the best feelings in the world.

But she has no experience in this field. She, bluntly put, has no value to add to potential clients. She must spend time first accumulating the skills she would like to teach.

That’s where everyone must start on the journey to success.

You don’t just walk into a welding shop without training and demand to be paid $35 an hour to yield a welding rod. You must first study, then apprentice, and then become a master of your craft.

Then you will get paid what you deserve.

This is equally true for what we consider to be white-collar jobs. Whether you want to be a real-estate salesperson, a copywriter, an information marketer selling your products or coaching online, an insurance agent, or a multi-talented entrepreneur like Matt Smith or Mark Ford, your path to success will look the same.

First, you need to identify opportunity.

Second, you must study the masters.

Third, find a mentor – and be prepared to travel far and wide for the right one. In the late 1990s Matt didn’t hesitate to move to Buffalo in the winter, all because he was given the opportunity to work under the right mentor. You must be willing to take action when the opportunity arises.

You must be willing to take your chances.

But this doesn’t mean incurring more debt or going hungry, and it might not require a journey of more than two miles.

After all, you should be able to find many virtual mentors available for free in your local public library. There you will find the must-read books like Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and Seven Years to Seven Figures by Michael Masterson.

This is where you will begin your studies of selling, the valuable skill that everyone should learn. There is no person, no employee, no role that could not benefit from a better understanding of the sales process and persuasion techniques – even if you only use what you learn to help you get a new job or raise in salary.

Your studies are not complete without practice. You must take action and apply what you learn. There’s no substitute for real world experience. Don’t hide behind books. Get out there and be willing to fail forward. Take action, get feedback on your performance, learn from your mistakes, and do better the next time.

You will eventually become so good they can’t ignore you, as Cal Newport explains in his must-read book of the same name.

That’s your golden ticket – to become so good they can’t ignore you.

“People get paid well for mastery of high-value competencies,” Dan Kennedy once wrote. What can you do to make yourself more valuable to the world?

How do I know this success blueprint works?

We have living proof in our ETR office back in Denver.

The Story of Gary

Two years ago a young, ambitious man traveled halfway across the world to learn from Matt and myself at a small seminar in Lithuania. He was in his final year of law school, but he was unhappy. More important, he saw the writing on the wall, and knew that this career path would not hold at that it once promised for young graduates.

Fifteen minutes of listening to Matt talk about direct marketing and copywriting changed Gary’s life. When he returned to the United States a few weeks later, Gary made the renegade decision to abandon law and delve into becoming a “Mad Man.”

He studied the masters relentlessly, buying old copywriting books and seminars. Gary practiced his craft, even though his first efforts felt amateur and mechanical. But that didn’t stop him from seeking out wise mentors to review his work. With their feedback, Gary continued to improve over time. In under a year he even won a copywriting competition.

At that time, Gary felt he had the leverage he needed to persuade Early To Rise to take a chance on him. He showed how he was dedicated to the craft. He demonstrated how he had built real-world skills that could add value to our business.

Gary was the man with the plan. It paid off. He now does what he loves, he works every day on something he has become passionate about, and he gets daily feedback from mentors (Matt and myself) who are both emotionally and financially invested in him.

I really want to see him succeed, not just because he works for me, but because he works so hard at what he does.

He deserves success. He’s adding value to the world.

And you can too. Don’t tell me you can’t, because you can.

After all, what other option do you have?

You’re not going to quit. You’re not going to give up.

Action takers and value adders rule the world.

This is a sure path to success. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it requires work, sacrifice, and a deep-rooted belief in yourself that you might not think you have. It might even feel like a gamble, and your journey might take you halfway around the world as you seek out greater and better opportunity.

But if you’re here reading Early To Rise, I know you’re up for the challenge. I know that you’ll never, ever, ever give up on what is important to you. I know that you’ve come too far to back down now. I believe in you.

And I want to hear your success story once you’ve achieved your goal.

Let us know how things are going now and how we can help in the comments section below.

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  • Thanks for this other inspiring article again. I am so happy I subscribed to Early to rise. It gives me the motivation and stamina I need to pursue my dreams and never think of giving up no matter how tough the going may be. And little by little the positive changes are taking place. Things are not as dark as they used to be. I’vé really come too far to back down now and thaks very much for believing in me. My belief in myself, my self confidence and your belief in me give me the necessary strength to keep pishing until I attain my objectives. Have a great day

  • Linda

    Thank you for a wonderful article! It is inspiring….and has been posted on my wall. “Action Takers and Value Adders rule the world!” Love it.

  • Miriam

    Hi! I love your articles.

  • Hi Craig,

    Another great article on becoming a value adder.

    This weekend, I got to introduce my skill set to a brand new group of people. This opportunity was offered to a number of professionals in my town, but I was the only one who took advantage of it. As a result, I have commitments from ten new clients to come and take class. Build your skills, then go offer them by learning how to show up and sell. It really is that simple.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Awesome Catherine!

  • Hey Craig,

    Even though I try and avoid reading emails in the morning…as you suggest…I do look forward to reading your inspirational ‘golden nuggets’ each morning before heading off to my J.O.B.

    I really appreciated this Monday morning ‘pick me up’. It was better than any west coast java.


    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thanks Ed!

  • Amanda

    Hi Craig and Matt,

    I love the article today. I am 21 years old and want to pursue a career in health, fitness, and business. I have no idea what school I should go to in order to gain the skills and experience I need to add more value to the world. I started in University in a kinesiology degree program and I am not sure I was gaining skills I need in the field that would really benefit other people and allow me to become successful. I love to help people and really want to make something out of myself so I can add value. I want to make sure I work hard so i can make a differnce. Do you have any advice you can give me on this topic? ( I also have experience traveling to a few seminars ( Tony Robbins and a fitness conference ) I also love to read and am reading whenever I can. I am just not sure if I should study fitness and become qualified by a degree program or if I should switch to business because I feel those skills would probably be more valuable ( I study a lot of fitness and health books on the side but want specialize knowledge.) any advice would be appreciated. Ps. I also had a few coaches but am also looking for another fit currently.
    Thank-you kindly!

  • I really take this advice to heart. Even though I am not invested in ETR updates and articles for financial gain, I take everything I read from you Craig and I convert it into a pseudospiritual format of advice, that helps me to translate my art and creativity endeavors into a more commercial output. My artistic process as a writer and illustrator has always been slightly allergic to intentional financial transactions, but slowly and surely, I am finding a way to integrate the project I’m working on into a format that the market will understand and potentially absorb. I had never thought to bring the internal visions and ideas into the realm of commerce, because I had never made the crucial heart connection to commerce until I began to read ETR advice in the beginning of this year. Something about the way you present “success” and its deeper meaning, is very different and I honor your ability to challenge not just people seeking financial freedom, but also to inspire those people seeking to bring their specialties into the marketplace where important ideas – valuable ideas – are key to mobility. I am challenged and inspired. Thank you!

  • Tom

    Hi Craig and Matt,

    I only just recently discovered ETR. I have found it – and the resources gleaned and added to my library of “need-to-know” tactics – a priceless gem. So, first of all, thank you for your service. I am 25. I graduated college last year. At present, I am doing jobs that provide me no real sense of self or worth, though I am developing methods to extract myself from this situation. I have never been a business oriented person, even though I grew up in a business family. I was always more of a thinker, an athlete, and an artist. Now, despite myself, I find these business oriented tools and ideas necessary for achieving what I burn to achieve in this life – if not to create for myself the greatest commodity of all: time. I am a musician, and wish to do much with music. I am a writer, but find (to date) little interest outside of the worlds of scholarship, creative writing, poetry, and philosophy arenas. I wish to pursue these two routes. The commodity needed for both is time and money (and, yes I have read the “Time is Not Money ” article). Furthermore, like you stated, the third, “unwritten” commodity is “worth proven.” My educational background is scholarly, in the field of anthropology and the social sciences. As such, I find myself at an impasse. I must create the environment for time and money. Working 9-5 for someone else will not facilitate this. I am finding – through this website and the resources it contains – that creating my own wealth source gives a powerful answer. Yet, unlike skills such as copywriting, fitness, advertiseing, stocks, etc. my particular skill set is much more specialized and difficult to translate into an immediate market commodity, as the markets for either are less universal at a business level. I am struggling to find an avenue in entrepreneurship that would create needed demand for my skills set. While, developing a different skills set to suit my financial need detracts from my commodity “time” to advance my writing and music pursuits. I question whether I should I sacrifice much more needed time, and put my musical and writing goals on hold for the financial groundwork (potentially through entrepeneurship). Ideally, I would like to apply my skillset to a path that could make me money, but find the skills less likely to fit an immediate market need. Createing a market is a nice idea, but I am sure there is a lot more demand for a copywriter selling his skills at an independent level, than someone with my skills set. Do you gentlemen have any advice about where to go from here?



  • Craig,

    Absolutely! I created 9 rules for my life based on your 12 rules. One of those rules is it is all on me. You are one of the ‘masters’ I follow and study. Thank you for all that you do.

    Stay strong, Stay Positive!

    Jason Yun

  • Awesome article. I look forward to a new article everymorning.

    To sum it up in a nutt shell here is my short story. I’m 26 years of age but at a crossroad in my life. I have a BA in Sports Management. But I work in banking as a teller. Goal is to become a successful songwriter. Overall finacially I’m not doing well. At this point I need some type or turning point & purpose in my Life.

  • Tsehay


    I love the article It awakens my dormant mind. Thank you for guiding the journey, I believe I will take advantage of these readings and one day It will turn in to immense success.

    Have a nice time.

  • Seth

    If I am still working on completing my own transformation (in health and fitness), should I hold off on getting a job as a personal trainer?

    • Craig Ballantyne


      You should start studying and getting an apprentice position with a mentor.

  • priyabrat

    Thanks Craig for the nice article..I love it..