I’ve written about inflection points before. Those quantum leaps that can catapult your career at warp speed, given just the right confluence of events. They are as rare as they are powerful.
And right now, I’m directly inside one of those moments — if only for a few more days — where the visibility of what I’ve done over the past few years is at a peak.
Finishing the book and launching it is a big deal. A BIG one!
Ain’t she pretty?
Over the last 4-5 years, my journey to becoming a published author has come through a series of somewhat haphazard, loosely connected events.
I thought it would be interesting to talk about some of the more important milestones, how everything eventually fell into place and what I see next for my career.
Who knows how I’ll feel about all this a few years from now — but I wanted to at least get the discussion going while it was on my mind.
My Brief Film Career
I don’t think I ever realized, until recently, the impact that acting — and then later producing films — had on the early stages of my career as a writer and entrepreneur.
While I don’t consider myself a skilled actor, the time that I spent learning the craft immediately after college was extremely useful.
I learned to perfect my public speaking and extemporaneous thought — which has been so useful with all the work I do now speaking on camera or to crowds of people. Social media is getting more and more “live,” so being able to turn it on when I need to has been a useful skill, and improvisation techniques are useful for when you’re not quite sure what to say next.
2009’s “Caged Dreams” was one of the first (and still favorite) films I worked on.
The business side of acting taught me about getting past gatekeepers (agents, casting directors, producers, etc.) — and getting inside the heads of the people I’m trying to impress. In entrepreneurship, there are a ton of opportunities you can create for yourself, but there are also situations when you’ll need to impress someone who can open doors for you — so it’s always useful to understand the motivations of others when pitching them.
When I decided that I didn’t want to deal with impressing others in the film business anymore, and just wanted to do my own thing, that’s when the entrepreneurial fire really started inside me.
Writing my debut short film, Blossoms For Clara, and raising ~$13,000 to produce it changed what I thought was possible for myself.
I guess making my own movies unlocked potential in me and showed me that I could design and develop a product (a film) and see the execution of that product all the way through to launch. And what’s more, it was a product based entirely on a script I’d written.*
Through my brief career in film, I’d subtly given myself permission to take my own creative work seriously.
*In my book, I talk about how important it is to have a few “Big Projects” that require months (or even years), but result in acquiring a tangible skill or completing a specific project.
California + Daniel The Copywriter
Moving to from Atlanta to California was a massive life change. I was 24, and I felt like I had something meaningful to say. I was frustrated, but before I started writing more seriously, I didn’t have any way to express that anxiety.
The move to California refreshed me and set a new pace for my writing.
During this part of the journey, I was honing my skills as a copywriter — which helped me to pay the bills, yes. But also allowed me to understand the world of selling online at a much deeper level.
From there I could see the faintest outline of something I may be able to do at a bigger level, as Rich20 was still in its infancy.
Even more important than kicking my writing career off, California put me in proximity to other people who were doing big things. There are just so many great people in California. There are so many “go-getters” out here, but there are also a lot of thoughtful, creative people as well. I’ve made so many good friends since moving here.
I got to host a TV show in Beverly Hills. That was cool!
That’s me on The Lip TV!
The interview above is with inventor and Entrepreneur Stephen Key, who’d later become a friend and mentor. Stephen was the person who introduced me to the editors at Entrepreneur, which led to my column there.
And he was also the person who introduced me to my superstar agent, Kirsten, who ended up brokering us an awesome book deal.
It’s all about friends and introductions. That’s like 80% of the game. You have to put yourself in position to connect with really smart, solid people if you want to do better. That’s a life hack, trust me.
When my grandmother died last year, and I fell through the floor, I was granted special powers on the other side.
That traumatic event made me so motherfucking strong, and also injected a ton of wisdom into me in such a short period of time that I’m almost embarrassed about how naïeve I was up to that point. I wrote about the experience in-depth here.
I’m definitely a little bit more weathered because of the last year. I’ve seen a few gray hairs popping up on my beard. And one somewhere else.
I see some wrinkle lines in my face. I was looking at pictures of 2014 and 2015 and was shocked at how much better my skin looked. I look like Obama. I need to get some microdermabrasion. I’m going to start wearing avocado masks with cucumbers over my eyes.
Overall, the last 12 months have probably been the lowest average amount of sleep I’ve ever had per night in my entire life. Probably fewer than 6 hours all year, and fewer than 5 hours often enough. So that’s not good. I’m sure it’s not helping the lines on the face, now that you mention it.
I definitely smoked more weed the past 12 months than ever before. Just in an attempt to drown out some of the noise of my own thoughts. I was sadder more often than usual, and sometimes the weed helped. Sometimes it didn’t. I’m not smoking as much now as I was last summer. But probably a bit more than I’d like, even still.
I guess the only thing I can say is that death and pain are incredibly ancient teachers and their power should not be trivialized. Interestingly enough, my experiences with various psychedelic plant medicines had prepared me for these feelings more than I realized — but it didn’t make the pain any easier to endure. Just a bit more familiar and a bit less scary perhaps.
After all I’ve been through, I feel so fucking strong. And I feel smarter. I’m a tiny bit more cynical than before, but only because I don’t want to waste my time with anything anymore.
Our time here is short.
So I’ve been through all that, and still gotten here.
29 years old and a published author with a successful business. A career I created from nothing other than writing and experimenting.
Funny enough, for me, the coolest part about having this book out is that it makes me feel a lot more confident in my own ideas — and in the value and validity of what I have to say.
For the longest time, it was:
“I’d like to write a book” — or…
“I’m trying to get an agent” — then…
“I hope someone will actually want to publish my book” — to…
“I’m writing my book” — to…
“It’s coming soon!”
Now, it’s here. We hit Amazon Bestseller and several top lists within the first 2 days and crushed the internet. That was fun.
It’s in bookstores all over the world. Something that I made in my house is in Walmart and Target. It’s a physical thing.
So far, we have received over 180 Five Star reviews on Amazon and climbing. Apparently I wrote, like, a legit good book. Wow! I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to get such good feedback on something that’s taken so long to finish.
There were times I definitely didn’t feel like doing this work AT ALL, and I’m so glad that I did. Yes, I love writing. But I also love the response to my writing — so as an author — this feels very gratifying!
What’s Next For Me & Rich20
Up to this point, I’ve been propelled a lot by the momentum of a few great ideas — but now I feel like my team and I have broken through to another level in terms of our position in the space.
This book puts us in the rarefied air of “traditionally” published authors, but also allows us to leverage even higher up the ranks in the first wave influencers and Millennial thought leaders. We are all getting older, and I want to solidify our brand now as we refine our direction.
Our team is perfect. Honestly. It’s literally perfect.
One thing I have going for me is that there is nobody who really looks like me in the space. Can you think of anybody at this level who does?
Some people probably know that I’m Black/White, but I look anything from Puerto Rican to Egyptian. When I got arrested for an expired license plate in Georgia, they put “White” on the intake form. I wasn’t even asked! Go figure.
I think this actually helps the brand because I kind of look like someone in everyone could have in their family* — so it’s hard to hate me too much.
“Daniel: For when you want a face that nobody can quite place!”
And everybody knows that I can write and speak well. I’m in TIME Magazine. But nobody gives me any shit if I talk about Tupac, or sing ALL the lyrics to your favorite Future song. Or drop a mixtape. I’m juuuuust “black” enough, I guess. There aren’t really any other people straddling the lanes like that.
Come to think of it, maybe my approach isn’t so original after all.
It’s already worked really well for Obama, Drake and Trevor Noah, hasn’t it?
*One time when I was working at Longhorn, I met some agents from the State Department. After chatting for a bit, he realized I was a smart dude and suggested that I interview with the Department. He told me that I’d be a natural fit for a diplomatic career because I have a “gray” face. A face that could blend in anywhere.
I had no idea that I’d be able to hire and befriend two of the smartest, most ambitious, hardworking people in existence. I mean holy shit.
Alicia was hire #1, and when she first accepted the job and came out here, the agreement was that she would stay for 6 months and go back to New York.
But once she got out to California, I knew there was no way I could let her leave. She has the ability to learn and execute literally any task with speed and precision the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
She’s also an important counterbalance to DT and I, who can make the company very heavy on the “bro” at times.
DT is, in no uncertain terms, a true savage. This is the guy that you call when the building is burning down, and you need somebody to come running with an oxygen mask. This is the dude that you give a bag full of rare jewels to and say, “Hold this, I’ll be right back” — and never have to check to see if any jewels are missing.
He is also my brain-twin. We rarely disagree, and I’d trust him to make decisions on my behalf. And sound better doing it.
We are doing a few things in the immediate future:
1.) We are going to continue to push the book and use it to get the brand into the public eye much more often. I want this being taught in classrooms. I want to get on national TV shows and get people speaking our language. We’ve been given a lane, let’s own it.
2.) We will be pursuing a few new projects as a company that involve partnerships with huge celebrity and corporate brands. That’s all I can say for now.
3.) I’ll be working on my second book and expanding my vision for where our culture is going. I’d like to have my second book out late 2018 and in between now and then, start doing some more high-profile talks. TED is on my radar. I’d like to pen a piece for the Atlantic and speak at the Pentagon as well.
4.) I’m taking a freaking vacation. I haven’t had a real vacation in my adult life. I have traveled a lot and gotten out of the country. I have had days of rest here and there, but I haven’t gone on a vacation yet. And I’m 29 now, so I’m ready. I need 2-3 weeks for real.
Sara and I are going to take a break this summer and go to Morocco, Barcelona and Santorini in July. I’m really excited about it and I really feel like I deserve it tbh.
That’s the update.
I love you guys and wish you nothing but the best.