Taren Gesell, better known as Triathlon Taren, is a former financial advisor based in Winnipeg, Canada. Not exactly a stereotypical social media influencer (aside from his fondness for posting photos and videos in skimpy bathing suits). But over the past few years Taren has amassed something of a cult following of “Traniacs” (as his devotees are known). In this episode we discuss how Taren managed to turn his passion for triathlon into a successful business via social media.
In this episode we talk about:
- Why Taren left his original career as an investment advisor
- How trying to “beef up his resume” while applying for (and getting rejected from) MBA programs started Taren on the path to social media success
- Why Taren doesn’t advise people to “follow their passion” and what he did (and recommends doing) instead
- Our shared belief that traditional resumes are obsolete, and how to promote your skills instead
- Fighting back against corporate office culture (“well, that’s how we’ve always done it here”)
- Sages, sign posts, and strugglers — how to deal with “imposter syndrome” and give advice to others, even if you’re not a credentialed expert (and why credentials might not matter)
- How long it took Taren from starting to post videos on YouTube until it became a business
- How to know whether you should “burn your boats” and go all-in or play it safe and “don’t quit your day job”
- How Taren used Kickstarter to raise $45,000 and how he tests ideas before he starts projects
- The first time Taren got recognized by a fan in public
- How often you should post videos on YouTube for best results
- The difference between playing with your own money vs. someone else’s money and the advantages of bootstrapping vs taking money from investors
- The exact step-by-step process that Taren uses to figure out what to talk about, how to get views on his video, and grow his audience on YouTube (and his website)
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Triathlon Taren, welcome to never normal.
Thanks for having me today.
You’re known as triathlon Taren to your many fans around the world, but at one point you were, was it investment advisor, Taren, is that right?
Oh goodness. Yes. Barf, just for those of us who don’t know a lot about that world, what did investment advisor tear and do for a living? So I was a registered investment advisor. I was a certified financial planner, a chartered investment manager, fellow of the Canadian securities Institute. I was a life insurance planner, like all the fancy letters that you could have in behind your name. I have more fancy letters behind my name that were actually in my name. And that was actually, that was a fun goal I have. And what I did day to day was I had 50 to 60 families, entrepreneurs, individuals whose essentially investments and savings I managed for them.
So it was a lot of paperwork, a lot of picking stocks and bonds and mutual funds and selling life insurance. And when you say like, what were you meant to be in real life? I thought that that’s what I wanted to do. I actually went back to university to do that. I took a real interest in the stock market when I was about 17 and just general money management was really interesting to me. But when I ended up finally getting into the industry as a part time employee throughout university, I instantly was like, yeah, that’s really, isn’t much more than a lot of paperwork and trying to sell people on your ideas and your ideas are really no better than the ideas of the person in the office next year. And it never really felt right, but in university I was sort of conditioned that that is what you’re looking for.
You are headed towards this career, wearing a suit and a fancy office. I’ve in a Mercedes and that’s the goal. That’s what you’re really looking for. And when I got into it after university and finally started doing it for myself as an investment advisor, instead of working for an investment advisor, it still didn’t feel right. And I did it for about five years. I was making a moderate living at it, but the entire time I wasn’t really happy. I was sort of just going through the late twenties, early thirties, figuring out like, is this what life is about? And I wasn’t enjoying it and thought that that’s essentially what life was going to be, that I was going to be wearing a suit, but I didn’t feel comfortable in, at a desk that wasn’t really, I don’t know anything. Even if it was a fancy corner office desk, I was like still in an office with gross fluorescent lights.
And essentially I’m spending my entire day moving paper from one side of the desk to the other or trying to make rich people richer was never really fulfilling. So I think that’s what I was, I was supposed to be a, and this right now would be the exception to what a lot of people expected me to be when I was 17, 1825. So you went, you said you went back to school, did you, did you study something different initially and then graduate and then go and go back to university to become an investment advisor? After high school, I went and worked for my dad for about three years. He ran a custom kitchen cabinet manufacturing company for high end custom homes. So like the million dollar plus homes, which is a big, fancy home in Winnipeg. We were in a lot of those homes doing those, that type of work.
And after about three years of that, I realized that if I didn’t have any sort of training and anything, let’s say for one reason or another, if that company went under or decided not to work for my dad, I didn’t have any training to do anything in life besides make cabinets. And I saw a lot of 70 and 65 year old people that were still painting for a living because they’ve never really did anything with their life. So I went back to university when I was about 22, I believe. And so I was the old guy in class 22 is not that old. Um, but at that point, so you decided that you’re, you’re interested in finance and money and you wanted to go and make a living doing that. And you studied that and started working for someone else for a few years as, as an investment advisor before going off on your own.
Yeah. Throw a university. I cold called for an investment advisor at a local firm. So I spent my days just going from the top of the list to the bottom of the list, trying to make a hundred phone calls a day and trying to book times for them to end up coming out and basically telling the individual how smart a picture, even moving over to that room or like, you know, that is not at all what it’s like, but it’s also kind of not that different, that much different, it’s not as intense. It’s not nearly as exciting. I was not driving a Lamborghini because I made a cold call to the right person. Um, it was very, very subdued solo by myself, essentially in a closet making phone calls. Quiet. Do you ever consider moving to New York? Yeah, that’s a good question. I never really actually thought about leaving originally when I graduated, I thought that the idea of being a big fish in a small pond would be easier.
And what I’ve since found is that a small pond is still a small spot, a small pond, and becoming a big fish in a small pond still really means that you’re a small fish. There’s not a lot of opportunity here in Winnipeg. Had I continued to want to make a living in finance probably would have left. And actually one of the reasons that this whole triathlon Taren thing started is because after about five years being an investment advisor, I ended up deciding that I was going to try to go get an MBA. So to try to, to have something to leapfrog myself out of Winnipeg, had an excuse to leave and have a career change and didn’t really work out, um, thankfully. But, um, yeah, I realized basically exactly what you’re saying, that there wasn’t really a whole lot of finance to be had here.
How did wanting to go for an MBA lead to you becoming triathlon Taren? And I think I missed a few steps along the way there.
Yeah. I didn’t explain that very well. I realized that I didn’t have a very good resume when I was applying for MBA schools and I thought that to beef up my resume, I would start a YouTube channel and I would be able to put on this resume that I follow my passions and I built some following. And I think by the time I ended up applying for the MBA schools, I maybe had like 200 subscribers, but I wrote that down as like a really big accomplishment. And, um, I think even I want to say that I even wrote down something like accomplished gain gaining a thousand views, total cumulative on a YouTube channel. And now we do that too, like every 30 minutes. And that was the idea. I ended up trying to beef up my MBA application. And in doing that, I ended up realizing that I really liked making those videos.
And when all of the applications came back and I had shot for the moment I went for Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Wharton, and I think Kellogg like the tippy top of U S MBA program. Yeah. Why not? Why the hell not, um, got denied from every single one. And I was actually relieved because I had kept making videos even while I was waiting for those applications to come in and I was liking making videos and I didn’t want to have to stop making those triathlon videos to go do an MBA. How long ago was this? That would have been now five and a half years ago,
Five and a half years ago. You started making videos and sorry, I cut you off. But you were saying that you were making triathlon videos already at that point. Yeah. So, so you were applying for MBA school and this was basically just like the equivalent of the high school student. Who’s like, you know, I do extracurriculars, it had nothing really to do
With the MBA or the work you were doing at that point. It was just Like padding your resume with, “I know how to Upload something to YouTube”
A combination of that, and wanting to just do something that was somewhat different. I didn’t know what those videos were going to amount to. And I had no foresight of building a YouTube channel. I just knew that I wasn’t happy as an investment advisor. So I started throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck one of those things was the MBA program. One of those things was a YouTube channel, YouTube channel sort of ramped up to help Pat the stats of the, the MBA application. And I was just trying a bunch of different things to see what I could do to get out, to being an investment advisor. I think that’s an underrated strategy in life in general of just throwing stuff out there. And not only seeing like, you know, where, where you find success, like, you know, is the MBA program going to like that, but, but actually, do you enjoy doing it?
I mean, it’s something that you mentioned that like, you just started making these videos and you realized, Hey, I like making videos. I think we often think of things as being so planned out that, Hey, if you want to become whatever you want to become that wall street guy, you better study this in school and then go to this university and have this type of program. And it’s like, there’s like this prescribed course for you of how you become a such and such and a, I think for a lot of the most interesting jobs and the most interesting people, it doesn’t really start that way. It doesn’t start with, uh, you know, you have to follow step a, B and C. It’s like, Oh, I just tried something and yeah, you were, you were unhappy in your job, but it doesn’t sound like at that point you had that sort of clarity of, you know, I’m going to become triathlon Taren. And it was just, I need to do something else.
I rarely get invited back to speak at the university now because I make a living in sweat pants and Lycra. So they don’t really want to put me up on a bunch of pamphlets saying, come listen to this guy who makes a living in a Speedo online. But when I have gotten invited back over the last couple of years, I don’t have a lot of like really prescriptive stuff that I say, like, this really worked for me. And I know it can work for you or like the five steps to getting your dream job. But I do know that really worked is following curiosity. And that gave me excitement. And I was curious about how to make videos. So I did it, the first few videos have nothing to do with where I’ve ended up.
And the strategy that I used was nowhere near where it needed to be, but it was just curious. And I kept being curious about making videos and then making a podcast and then writing some books and then writing an app and everything has changed along the way, but I just kept following curiosity. And that was exciting. One thing that I think is very over-hyped in the talking to university kids sort of topics like keynote speeches out there that everyone says, well, you got to find your passion. Finding your passion is a really, really hard thing. Finding a curiosity is really easy. And you might find your passion from following your, but saying, you’re not going to start until you figure out what you’re passionate about is I think it’s just too big, a leap it’s so big that nobody’s ever going to do anything because they’re not sure if they’re passionate enough about it to follow that. Um, so I always say follow your curiosity.
Yeah. I think that’s great advice. Cause I think there’s something about your passion being singular and almost like so precious that we’re afraid to make the wrong decision. And instead if it’s just, Hey, do something that, that gives you energy or excites you, or as you said, You have some curiosity around, it’s not this one. Oh my God, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. It’s just, yeah. I was curious, I tried it lowers the barrier to entry and the, not the difficulty. Exactly. But just the idea that like You’re going to make the wrong choice, or if you make the wrong choice, I get lowers the stakes,
a friend of mine, he was a university grad with me. He was actually real top-notch triathlete, like one of the top 50 or a hundred in the world in junior triathlon. And he ended up going and becoming a report because he was really curious about what being in news was like, and he started at the bottom and he didn’t really work his way up for a long time, but he started making a website for something that he volunteered for. Cause he wanted to see if he could learn how to make a website. And then in that he started learning how to customize it a little code. And then at one point he is like, huh, wonder if I could learn some more sophisticated coat? I think he either learned Python.
I think it was Python, um, just to, to do it and something to do at night. And that ended up growing into he’s. Now one of the most sought after data journalists in Canada, because he’s one of the only people that is able to code and start synthesizing all this data. And now he’s got this career that he didn’t expect because he just followed, like he created that first Weebly website and that resulted in becoming this coding data journalists and speaking at conferences all around the world. And you just kept doing these little things that he was curious about. I think that that’s, that’s the only way you’re going to do it because like you say, the barrier to entry or the stakes are just so enormous when it’s phrased in the sense of, well, you have to follow your passion. I mean, what’s a 25 year old passionate about or 30 year old. Who’s unhappy in their job passionate about like, not a whole lot. So you’re kind of saying something that can exist.
Yeah. And I think there’s, you know, obviously trying it too, because you thought at some point that like the investment advising the finance world was going to be that for you, but it was only once you tried it that you realized like, you know, Hey maybe I had some interest in this topic, but the actual day to day lifestyle of it, the work, like what it actually feels like, you know, not just saying, Hey, I have all these letters after my name, but the actual process of doing it, isn’t enjoyable. And I think that’s something that we also don’t talk about enough, especially with just the way our university systems and everything work, where it’s like, you know, go study this idea of something all this theory for years and years. And then only once you’ve done that, uh, can you actually get some like hands on practical experience of what it feels like to, to do this type of work?
Interestingly enough, when I was an investment advisor, I had made about a half a dozen videos to market myself. And that was how I started, started down this path of thinking that I want to start a YouTube channel. There were no other investment advisors that were making marketing videos about themselves, but that was something that I was curious about that I want to see if I could do in the marketing videos.
I don’t know, maybe they got one or two clients. They really want a game changer, but it was something, it was something different other than here’s your job, sit in the cubicle, move those papers from this side of the desk to the other side of the desk. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like you have a, you have a definite creative streak that just wasn’t being, um, you, weren’t having a way to apply that like in the, in the typical day to day way, that that job is done and you found a way to kind of like have an outlet. Um, I think this is, could be called stuff.
This is maybe a bit tangent to the main point of the conversation, but you bring something up that’s too, too good to ignore. And that is this idea of like showing your work or doing something a little bit different than I think, you know, most people are doing, even if you’re not trying to become triathlon Taren or an influencer of any kind or even like not a social media personality, even if you’re just doing like the most, let’s say stereotypical boring investment advisor or lawyer, like even those types of jobs.
I really believe that, um, even people doing those jobs should be creating either videos or a podcast or something. This idea that like, you know, the best way that we can figure out if you’re good at your job or not is like a resume right. Condensing all of your years of experience and education and skills down into one page. A very, let’s say low bandwidth information is like the best way to describe yourself is pretty crazy when you think about it. And uh, you know, in the it world, in the design world, we all have like portfolios, people have get hub. People have like, uh, and you can see their actual work. You’re not, you’re not reading their LinkedIn, having them describe to you, Hey, I’m good at Python programming, you can read their Python code. And I think that that’s, that’s an inevitable future for all of us in different careers. It seems like you kind of figure that out pretty early on.
I don’t know if I figured out that that was going to be valuable. I always just thought from the standpoint of, I joke about it as like it’s just the lazy way to do things. So I would look at something that was a pain in the ass to do, and I had to repeat it over and over and over. And I tried to think, how can I make this simpler and easier? So when, uh, I took a small hiatus from right before in between university and becoming an investment advisor, I helped my dad sell his business. And during that time I took this 30 year old quoting method that he used that was literally written on 30 year old paper with prices that were 30 years old. And he would add them up manually with a calculator. It was like one step beyond doing things with an Abacus.
And he runs multimillion dollar business. Uh, and I wrote a big Excel program to be able to do that. I didn’t have any, any background doing it, but I took about two and a half hours of work to quote a $70,000 job and turned it into 10 minutes. And all of a sudden that was something that he was able to Mark it when they sold the business, as this is what makes us unique. When designers contact us, we can do the work in 10 minutes. They have to wait two weeks for, from our competitors. And it took like six weeks and I had to like learn a little bit of code. And I had to really think about like, how does, how can I get the most out of Excel? But I always just kind of thought like, instead of taking a system that was given to me, what can I tweak on it? What can I automate? What can I change? What can I improve? And it was those things that it is those things that I look at as my resume, like a piece of paper, the resume. I kind of look at it as almost meaningless now. And it’s more of the projects that I look at as things that I’m proud of for sure.
Or what you described is actually behind. I mean, it’s an old saying even like behind every programmer is find every successful, good programmer is like a streak of laziness, right. That it’s like, and maybe a bit of stubbornness too. I certainly done this and I know others, uh, you know, some tasks and repetitive tasks that takes 10 minutes each time. But at some point you just get sick of it and you’ll spend like 10 hours coding it so that you never have to do it again so that you can automate it or like make it one click.
I think there are actually a lot of opportunities to do exactly what you just described. I mean, every small business that I’ve either been involved in or how to peek behind the scenes has processes like the one that your dad had for quoting things that that could have, or should have been automated a long time ago, but either they don’t have the skills or just, nobody’s looking with that outside perspective. They’re just, Hey, we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way. But I think you could walk into seriously, any small business, um, in the country and, and find some process
Like that, that you could automate. Yeah. And it doesn’t have to, I think the way we’re saying this, I don’t really know who’s listening right now, but not everything has to be done with code, but you can look at almost everything out there and just think what could be made better. What can I do? That’s a little bit differently or what pisses me off? Like what, what pisses me off and what would I rather do and not taking from the boss or the manager or just the culture of an office area. Oh, well, that’s how we’ve always done it. So that’s how you’re going to do it. Like, no, I’ve got one investment advisor friend, but still doing it. That it’s funny that the rule was, nobody has their own personal website. And he said, well, all our person, all the websites that the firm gives us suck, I’m going to build my own.
So he built his own, bought his own domain name, put it up. And they were like, take it down. I was like, make me, they were like, well, take it down. He’s like, honestly, make me. They’re like, well, well, we’ll take away your license. Like, no, you won’t because there’s no grounds for you to take away my investment advisor license. How can you do that? Well, take it down. And eventually they just went fine. And then eventually every single advisor in their office had their own personal website because this guy just went and did things that he was pissed off about or did things to solve the problems that he was pissed off about. And I think ruffling feathers is kind of something that you have to do, or you’re just gonna get your feathers ruffled by the culture, the rules society, putting you into this box that most people don’t want to be in. Yeah,
Exactly. And I think that’s, I mean, the show is called never normal. That’s, that’s exactly what we’re all about. Uh, coming back to your journey though, I’m curious how, I mean, you started making these triathlon videos when you were applying
For the MBA, you started this, this YouTube channel, but at that point, were you already a serious triathlete? Were you like thinking of even like that being a career? I mean, how did you even get into the sport? Because it’s not something most of us grow up playing or doing. I started when I was an investment advisor just shortly after university. Again, it was something to do to have a little bit of excitement because day to day, life in finance is not very exciting. So I wanted something that was challenging. That was a little bit scary that I didn’t know if I could do, and I wasn’t tremendously talented at it. Even now I would say that I am in a decent age grouper, or it would be like in the kind of elite age group or category, but still at the back of that elite age group or category.
And at the time when I first started this, I certainly didn’t know that I wanted to make a living in triathlon. What I knew is that the times that I was happiest was when I was on our twice a week hard group ride, challenging myself. And I started the YouTube channel, just thinking, alright, I know I like making videos and as an investment advisor, but I’m not allowed to make a lot of videos about being an investment advisor. So what can I make videos about that they can’t say a thing about they can’t disallow me from doing this at the office? Well, it’s gotta be something personal. And then I thought, well, what am I, when am I happiest? And I was happiest during those twice a week group rods. So I started talking about those riots and what I learned about nutrition is what it started out with.
And that was it. I wouldn’t say that I was very good at all. I would say that, um, I probably wasn’t even an elite amateur at that point after five years of doing triathlon, um, I wasn’t really much, it was kind of okay locally, but that was about it. I think a lot of people would get stuck right there, myself included just, uh, the imposter syndrome. And it sounds like it’s, I mean, imposter syndrome can come up. Even for the most talented person in the world. They can feel like, you know, one of these days I’m going to get discovered, but triathlon is something rather measurable, right? I mean, it’s literally a race. You get ranked, you have a, a time it’s not, it’s not just a feeling like I can say, Joe, actively, that you came in such and such place. Did you, I mean, did you have any sort of, I’m just trying to, trying to think of what was in your mind at the time.
Did you have any sort of feeling like who am I to be making these videos? Like, like this should be, you know, someone making a video about a triathlon should be a really, really good track athlete. At least I think that would be the self-talk for a lot of other people. Probably isn’t an answer to that people will identify with, but no, I didn’t feel that at all. My first few videos were based on nutrition. And again, you might say, well, you’re not a nutritionist. Why would you do that? But I had learned enough about nutrition and had synthesized a book about how to calculate your ideal race nutrition plan into a spreadsheet. Again, I go back to making a spreadsheet. I synthesized it into a spreadsheet. So I started sharing some videos about how to calculate that. And I knew that not a lot of people had done that.
So really I just took the things that I did know something about and something that I was curious enough to learn about. Like I would ask for a bunch of samples from a bunch of different companies and say, Hey, like I’m starting a YouTube channel. Do you want me to try this? I’ll make a video about it. And just the fact that I was trying noon, and then I was trying SOS, and then I was trying Osmo. And I was looking at each of those products, those nutrition products from the lens of analyzing it, that’s more than most people do. And I would just share my experience. And I do often get people that comment and say like, stay in your lane. You’re not a physiologist. I’m like, listen, man, you don’t have to be a PhD to have an opinion on something. And everyone has an experience, whether they are a PhD or not. And if you go through these experiences with a little bit of a critical lens and research things just a little bit, there’s probably some things that you can impart to people who are trying to learn about it, who don’t want to hear from a PhD. They want to hear from a regular person.
Yeah. I think that’s crucial. And it’s something maybe it’s even generational, you know, that I think people who are older than us probably think in a more traditional way of, of credentialism and you know, who are you to talk about this or to think about this? Because it comes from that perspective of, you know, like media was rather controlled and there were only certain people who were sort of allowed to have an opinion, versus I would guess if you would go talk to the average, like
14 year old today, this wouldn’t even be a concern because everybody’s online sort of sharing everything. So something I’ll say to that is that I had all of those letters in behind my name, as an investment advisor. They did not make me good at my job. I was spectacularly average at that job. And I have many fewer letters in behind my name as a triathlon coach. And I would say that I am a much, much better triathlon coach than I was an investment advisor, even without the designations and the master’s degrees and the exercise physiology, because I’m more curious about triathlon and exercise performance, and I’m willing to go and spend a day reading through pug net for journals, journal articles about how to improve your fat oxidation, which supplements are good and which are a waste, do things like earthing and grounding with like on and on and on. And I just didn’t care enough about that to research it as an investment advisor. I don’t think letters in behind the name are any sort of indication of how successful somebody are. Isn’t that something it’s like saying the resume tells you everything you need to know about a person’s qualifications
Going in for surgery. I want someone who’s done it a bunch of times before, but in most, most other cases, I think that that’s, that’s not necessarily the right way to be looking at it in terms of like, you know, what credentials does this person have
And especially for what you’re doing,
Because you know, I’ve watched a lot of your content and it’s not just that you’re curious about it. That’s a big piece,
Right? But I think something that also makes you successful
At what you do is that you’re not afraid to show the struggle. You’re not preaching to the audience and saying, Hey guys, I read every article on the subject and I’m really smart. And here’s what you need to know. A lot of times it’s very real. And it’s, it’s you as a human triathlon Taren talking to someone else in a very approachable way about the struggles that you yourself are going through as an athlete. And I think that’s, um, you know, I watched, uh, I wish I could attribute this quote correctly, but I dunno where it originally comes from. It was mentioned to me, I was at a book, um, sort of book launch and someone who was introducing, someone mentioned this. And they said, you know, when you’re giving advice, you can either be a Sage, right? So that’s this one person who has all the expertise in the world.
And it’s like, you know, that renowned, that renowned expert, you can be assigned post. Who’s just kind of like pointing to other people. And I think that’s a little bit of what I’m doing here, right? It’s bringing people like you on and letting us all learn from you where you can be a fellow struggler, right. Someone who is not an expert who, who is, and that’s not a bug, but rather a feature, right? Because the content that you create and the way that you approach the subject is very approachable. Right? You are like, if I see, you know, Yon for Dino, for anyone who doesn’t know very, very successful triathlete talking about triathlon or LeBron James talking about basketball, right. It’s interesting as entertainment, but it’s not necessarily helpful because the things that they’re doing to train, probably aren’t going to help me at my level.
Right. And how much of it is there, you know, when they’re at that level of fitness and everything else, like how much of it is, is genetic. And you know, all the years that they’ve already been playing or training and like all kinds of stuff that doesn’t necessarily apply to me. But when you were creating your videos, you were creating them as let’s say weekend warrior at that time, right. Someone who is doing triathlon as an amateur, still, it was a hobby, it was a hobby and you weren’t in exceptional shape, right? You were in decent shape, but you weren’t some, some like, I mean, you know, elite athletes who just has this like unmatched physiology, right.
I would use the example of triathlon swim. So if anyone listening has ever taken up triathlon and not been a swimmer as a kid, they know that their first day back in the pool is like, Oh my God, I thought I knew how to swim. And now I can’t swim. Now. So many of the articles about how to do triathlon swimming out there written by people like Yon for Dino or the written by swim coaches who were former swimmers. And I have the firm belief that, I mean, this is more Sage like, but I have the firm belief that there are very few people better in the world to coach beginner, triathlon adults, swimmers than me. And the only reason for that is because I was a beginner triathlete, adult swimmer, who knows and remembers what it’s like to get a liter of chlorine up my nose in that first swim and be like, Oh my God, what did I get myself into?
I can’t do this. And here are all these articles and swim coaches that are like, we’ll get an early vertical form, get a firm catch on the water. And I was like getting that instruction. And I’m like, I’m trying to breathe here. Like I am trying to survive getting across the pool. Don’t tell me to get an early vertical forearm. So I have no business coaching, elite swimmers. And I cannot look at anything that is like even the slightest bit of like a fast swimmer and critique them, but I can really, really help the average person because I remember what it’s like. And I think that there’s gotta be that nuance in the world that not all advice has to come from the most expert of all experts and pros because everyone has a different experience. And somebody who is struggling with basics of swimming should probably learn from somebody who has also struggled from what basics of swimming, like the fitness gurus who have always had abs and can freely eat cupcakes and everything that they want and still have abs and go do a photo shoot the next day, giving diet advice to somebody who has regular genetics.
Like, like most of us I think is just silly. Like it’s, uh, it’s not relatable. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about with that fellow struggler idea. And I think it’s a big part of the appeal of the content that, that you’ve created. So, you know, going back to your journey, so you created these videos, you, you know, you put the first few of them out there, what was the reception like where you, I mean, was it an instant hit where people saying like, you know, Oh my God, these nutritional videos are amazing.
You obviously haven’t looked at those nutrition videos. They were not good. I had to actually script out every single word that I said, and it probably took me if I remember right. It was like, whatever the record limit is on a camera, I would max it out. So I think it’s 29 minutes on DSLR to film a 10 minute video. I would take two takes to do it. And everything was all written out in behind the camera on eight by eight and a half by 11 piece of paper that I would masking tape up to the wall. And there were terrible. I was using job site, work lights to light my face. And I would just sit there and sweat because they were super hot. They were really bad. It took around a remember the numbers of somewhere around 180 videos for me to get to, I think it was 5,000 subscribers.
That was a long time, not as like two years of doing videos to get to 5,000 subscribers. And somebody recently who just started a YouTube channel, got I think 150 subscribers after their first video. And they went, Oh, they said to me, Oh man, this is really going to take a long time. I didn’t know it was going to be this hard. Oh man, you killed it probably took me 50 videos to get a hundred subscribers. There was such terrible. So why did you keep going? Good question stubbornness, I guess, because I, I was always doing it as a hobby. I wasn’t doing it to make money. I wasn’t doing it to make a living. I was doing it to have fun making videos. Yeah. And I think this goes back to that whole find your passion thing, you know, as, as tricky as that advice is, there is something to be said for the idea of at least just doing something that you enjoy doing, right.
Let’s take away the singular high stakes, you know, your one passion, but just something that you actively enjoy the day to day process of doing you will continue doing, even when you’re not seeing immediate results or success. And if there’s like one single sort of life lesson that I find, um, more people need to learn and I’m still internalizing myself. It’s that, it’s the difference between like, you know, I want this result and I enjoy the day to day process of doing this thing, because if you just want the result and you hate the process, you will give up when you don’t get the result and the process is difficult, but if you enjoy the process, you just, you know, you get some satisfaction out of it. You’ll just keep doing it, even though, you know, yeah. You’ve made a hundred videos and you only have a hundred subscribers and there’s no guarantee or clear path to success.
There’s no, you know? Yeah. No guarantee that at the end, you’re gonna, you’re gonna end up where you want to end up what was going on in your, in your life during those two years. So you were applying to these MBA programs, you’re making videos, but obviously at that point, this was not a full time gig for you. If you were doing a video every few days, it sounds like, uh, for the timeline, I I’ll try to overlap some timelines here. So for the final year that I was an investment advisor, I was doing the investment in advising, applying for the MBA and doing the videos together that would have been, let’s call it 2014, just for easy numbers is 2013 or 14. Can’t remember exactly. Um, let’s just say it was 2014. At the end of that year, I had made a little bit of headway with some videos was, had some videos that had taken off a little bit.
And somebody locally who ran an online company that was happening and he was launching more of a social media side to his business. And he asked me to end up coming to manage that. And my wife said, well, why don’t you go do it? And I’ll say, Oh, I have all these letters in behind my name. And I’ve got all these suits in the closet. How can I leave being an investment advisor? And she’s like, you hate it. You come home at night and you don’t look at MSNBC and CNN all night. You look at social media and learn about how to do that. You’re getting an opportunity to do that. So I ended up selling my investment practice at the end of 2014 and moving to take over the social media division of this person’s company. I built it up to a number of employees and about halfway through 2015, the next year I was still doing the triathlon videos is like R and D to learn how to do it.
So like apply it to what I was managing. And, uh, we just didn’t work well together that, that person and I, so I ended up buying that division from him, starting my own company, where he ended up becoming my first client and all throughout, I was still doing the triathlon videos, as fun as a little bit of a hobby as a little bit of R and D. It was never the main thing up until three and a half or four years after starting making those first few videos. It was always something that I did off to the side, as fun as a passion project, as research as following your curiosity. Um, and, uh, and that sort of that, that starting my own company with that, that individual being the first client, that was kind of what set me on the path of having the freedom to work on the triathlon content, grow it a little bit more, continue to research it until I want to say three and a half, four years after that very first videos when it was actually a business.
Like if you think four years of slugging it out and not making anything off of something, you better love it. And I did, it was super fun. And I think that, uh, this is one of the questions I get asked most often. And that’s like, you know, should you quit and burn all your bridges or boats or whatever metaphor, whatever burning metaphor you like, um, and just go like hardcore after the thing that you want to transition to doing, or should you, you know, keep your day job. And I think depending on what it is, and depending on the personality, maybe the answer varies, but in your case, I think that idea of like keeping the day job, you were still making money, doing something else. It took the pressure off right from the triathlon videos, which obviously weren’t making you any money. If you were getting hundreds of views or hundreds of subscribers, it’s not going to earn you a whole lot on YouTube, but it gave you the time to find your, find your voice and build an audience with no, no pressure to have to earn from doing that.
Yeah. That burning the bridge, scares the hell out of me, that idea of like jumping off whatever they call it. Yeah. Jumping off the high dive without a nap or the high trapeze, or doing the trapeze thing without a net that scares the hell out of me. So I did not make the triathlon thing. It’s a full time thing until we were like 90%, 90, 95% certain that it could sustain us. And even at that, when it, when it did, there was probably only about three or four months of it being a little bit dicey that, uh, it was really the only thing that we did, that there was some risks. Um, I think that, that, you know, when you talk about that, finding your passion is a very high bar to set. I think, leaving a safe job and leaving all sources of income to pursue something that you don’t have don’t even have going yet is a very high bar to set.
And it’s so high that most people won’t ever make that decision. Right. Because it’s so scary that you’re like, well, why would I, why would I potentially lose all of my life savings to pursue this passion? And I’m like, yeah, good point, alright, it’s too scary. It puts too much pressure on it. And you end up making bad decisions because you have to make decisions for money, not for what is good for the business side, hustling for as long as you can. And getting knocked around is a great thing, because it helps you figure out what you need to figure out.
Only the only caveat I’ll add to that is as long as you’re the type of person who is still showing up, like during that entire time you were showing up, you were creating videos, right? I mean, I’m maybe, I don’t know, maybe there’s a week here or there where you were like, I just don’t feel like it right now, but you know, zoomed out, looking back like you were, you know, slugging through it for that entire time. Whereas I think there are some people who sort of give themselves cover of like, you know, yeah. You know, this job pays the bills and I’m going to do this passion thing, but they’re not actually doing it. Right. And they’re saying like, you know, yeah, I don’t want to burn my boats, but you were actually doing it. You were creating the videos. You were following this thing, this curiosity that you had, but you weren’t being irresponsible and saying, okay, I’m just going to throw away everything else that I’ve got going on and put all this pressure on this new creative pursuit that I’m doing to make my living. You’re sort of letting it grow naturally while you are. Cause some of it is just time. Right. And this is some of it is you could be you, you, those first videos could have been great and everything else, but it just,
It takes time to find your voice to perfect the craft, to build an audience. Certainly, especially if you’re doing something YouTube videos, but even if you’re just,
You know, building an app or building a business, like it’s not going to go from zero to a hundred overnight. Um,
Yeah. It’s not going to go from zero to a overnight. So it takes a lot of time as far as length duration. Um, but then it also takes time that people, the people have to spend like make no bones about it. It takes hard work and it doesn’t just take like, Oh, well, I’m kind of going to do hard work. It’s like every Sunday I was editing videos and that was it. Cause I had a job. But the other times I either had clients at the other the regular times a day or add people to manage or I had a job to work for. So I was editing videos at night and on the weekend and like newsflash people, like there is no easy way to build a business there just isn’t, you’re going to suffer at some point, but do you want to suffer in a job for somebody else or in a career that you’re not happy with?
Or do you want to suffer for something that might be your thing? And I would rather take the second and the nice thing about suffering for something that’s your thing is the suffering can be temporary. Whereas if you’re working for somebody else, this suffering might happen right up until retirement date. So like you hear about those people that slug it out on a job, they hate for 40 years and dislike it every single day, they go into work. In our case, my suffering was like, it’s kind of ended over the last year. Like there’s still some busy times, but the business now has momentum that I can take a day off to go golfing in the middle of a week. I can work ahead and shoot a bunch of videos and then take all of the holidays off. Like there was a lot of suffering in those first few years, but after a certain amount of time, it gets easier. Whereas other jobs get harder and worse.
I agree 100%, but I feel I have to point something out too. And that is that you had already started your own business, your own investment advisement practice by the time that you became a full time triathlon Taren, right?
Kind of yes. Kind of. No, I was my, I was my own investment advisor with my own clients, but it wasn’t my own biscuits. I was, I was essentially, well, I was working for a large Canadian bank owned firm, but everyone kind of operates us their own little business, but the manager and the HR staff, they take care of all the paying the bills. And when I started out, I got a salary of like 20,000 a year. So I had a little bit of backing and pressure taken off. Yeah.
I bring that up though, is that I think it’s, you know, it’s still possible to suffer in your own business if you’re just chasing something, that’s like, Hey, this seems like a good opportunity. You know, a mobile is hot right now and a video is hot and you know, cryptocurrencies are hot, so
Create some sort of mobile video cryptocurrency startup. And if you don’t
Hear about that at all, and it’s not your passion or you’re not passionate about it,
All right. Let’s not make it that singular passion. Um, you’re still struggling. Whereas you were, you know, you were working hard,
Hard as you said, nights, weekends editing videos,
But you were doing it because you enjoy doing it at least at some level, from what I mean,
Hearing it, wasn’t like, Oh, you know, if I go create a bunch of YouTube videos and I’m going to be,
Be super financially successful, it’s guaranteed more success.
Well than I am as an investment advisor. Like
That, that seems like a giant unknown you were doing it. It sounds like because you enjoyed it on some level. Yeah. It basically substituted scrolling through Facebook. So instead of scrolling through Facebook, I would be lying on the couch editing videos. We still have Netflix ongoing and my wife and I would be kind of watching Netflix or whatever we were watching, but I’d be editing a video instead of scrolling through Facebook along the way you, uh, you ended up
Yup. With this social media, uh, business. Was that something that you had ever set out to do or was that one opportunity that came up that you mentioned the Genesis of all this? Like, were you, were you already thinking like I want to do social media
For other people? No, that was, that was just a result of working for this one individual and him and I were like oil and water. We didn’t did not work well together, but he still needed the work done. And I knew that at some point I wanted to run my own business. Every my dad, my grandpa and my uncle, all the people that were in generations before me were business owners. So it was just always in my mind that at some point I would open a business and I still wanted to do the work because the client that we have that individual, they had a really cool business. It was just a much better scenario to not be in their business and be a subcontractor for them. So it was just, it was a really good opportunity to start. My own business was something that I was enjoying doing. Um, the structure of it was okay, essentially we bought the division with the revenue that, um, that we would get from that client. So it wasn’t a whole lot of risk, like along the way. I haven’t really taken a whole lot of risks that most people have to take everywhere you go. But
Start of that to start, if you getting involved in that you mentioned earlier, was him seeing your, your more moderate success on YouTube and saying, Hey, it seems like, you know, this, this social media thing, can you help me out? Or how did all that come about?
Yeah, it doesn’t mean it’s not, it was basically like
Obvious that you would just go to some investment advisor and be like, Hey, can you manage my social media
No, he was somebody that
I actually grew up with. He was a friend through curling. I used to be a professional curler. So I knew him through that. He had graduated from university just like before I did, we went to the same program. My wife was then doing a little bit of subcontract work for him at his business. And he was really struggling one day, like kind of spinning his wheels with what we do on social media. And she said, why don’t you go, go up and beer with terror? I don’t know. He’s kind of learning a lot about this. Maybe you guys can chat and that was it.
I mean, again, it comes back to that showing up thing with the fact that you were creating those videos and that they were out in the world. It meant that again, even if you weren’t like the world’s most successful YouTube or you were someone he knew that was local and that had proven experience doing this and it was still,
Then it sounded like anybody else he knew had. And so you were, you were the go to person just that I think is also an underrated strategy of just
Do something, put something out there. And you’ll be surprised at the people who just come to you with work and practice.
Yeah, I guess so somebody wants to described it to me as out of a hundred people. There’s probably only 20 of those people that are really willing to, or really have a focus on being successful. So instantly 80% of your competitors, aren’t there because they’re happy in a job or they’re just not people who are success minded or, or discontent with whatever their law is in life. And they’re just kind of plodding through of those 20 people that are then wanting success. Maybe only two or three are willing to work hard at most. So it’s not like everyone out there has to be slugging it out. Like Gary Vaynerchuk style and working till two in the morning, every single night, creating a triathlon Taren style of business that is enormous. You kind of just have to do like slightly more than the average person to get noticed, like the littlest bit more. And when this guy came to me, I think I have 500 subscribers. Like that’s nothing. And, but it’s just slightly more than the average person’s doing, right?
Yeah. It’s w what’s the one thing that if you, if you should not eat and get, not get eaten by a tiger, you don’t have to be the fastest. You just have to be faster than somebody else.
That applies in a lot of things. And again, the reason,
And I’m saying this again is just to set the bar a little bit lower because you know, one of the,
The internet has promised so many, you know, uh, jobs like yours, that wouldn’t be possible. Otherwise they’re businesses
That wouldn’t be possible. Otherwise, this, this show we’re recording now,
Things like this, but that the downside of all that social media is that I think inevitably we end up comparing ourselves to the who’ve already made
It right. So before you put something on YouTube, you see our, well, this person created this video and it’s already got this many likes or this many views, or they’ve got this many subscribers and it, you know, if you’re not careful psychologically, you can sort of talk yourself out of it before you even get started. And, uh, and the reason why I’m bringing up so many of these points over and over is just because there were many points along the way where you’re the success that you have today was not inevitable. It wasn’t clear that this was going to be a successful business. It wasn’t even clear that this was a business for you. It was just, Hey, I like putting videos out there and let’s see where it goes. And like, if that’s the bar that I think people set for themselves, all these fun things can happen as a result, literally every single step along the way.
I like making videos, let’s make some videos. I did some videos that were an interview and I went, Hey, we’d really like to talk to people for longer than 50 minutes and have to cut out half of that because a YouTube video has to be seven minutes. Maybe I’ll start a podcast. And then we can still have conversations. Like there was no step along the way until it actually became a business that I thought this needs to be a business lately over the last 18 months, it’s been more business decisions, but like that’s 18 months out of five and a half years all along the way, it was just kind of doing some things that seemed like it would be fun. Seemed like it would be an interesting thing to do. Seemed like it would be something people would enjoy and just kept doing it.
So let’s talk about that inflection point though. Like where did it go from, you know, Taren’s nights and weekends hobby too, to like, you know, you walk into a room and you introduce yourself and the business card, you hand out isn’t that like, you know, legal size paper that I imagine you would’ve needed to fit all this acronyms after your name, but like where, you know, you introduced yourself as triathlon Taren, or like where you think of yourself as a, you know, a YouTuber or, or a social media personality, or however you describe yourself. Uh, well, I, I, I don’t have a business card anymore and actively don’t when I’m at conferences and people are like, can I get your card? Like, no, I’m sorry, catching it. Like, I’m on Instagram, DM me there.
That’s getting to me. Um, it would have been, the big inflection point would have been February 1st, uh, two and a half or no, now three and a half years ago. And at that point I’d had that 180 videos, both 5,000 subscribers. And one of the things that I wanted to research was I was seeing people like Casey Neistat and John Olsen, and a few people on YouTube doing these daily videos and really blowing up. And I figured, you know, what, if I, if I did some daily videos and then labored about it for a few months, cause it’s a lot of work and talk to my wife about it. And I said, you know, if it really works, it could change our life. If it doesn’t work, it’s a lot of work for three months. And then we stopped. Well, at that point, we committed to doing this daily video all about triathlon.
And I had the social media company with a couple of staff. So I had some people to help editing the videos. And, uh, it was just supposed to be like 20 to 30 minutes out of my day. And that’s about what it ended up taking as far as shooting everything and coming up with an idea. So it wasn’t a tremendous amount of work, but we did those daily videos and that’s when everything kind of took off. And what happened was really interesting. It was about six weeks after that I was out of race. And when I was at this race, I was with a friend who was a pro in the field. It was her first pro race. And it was in Campeche, Mexico. So nobody spoke English. I didn’t think anyone would know me and these people come up and they say, can we take a picture?
And I say, yeah, sure. I’ll take a picture for you. And I go to grab her camera, assuming that she wants to take a picture with my friend who is a pro and like this really cute blonde, athletic, like super talented athlete. And then she goes, no, no, no. I want to take a picture with you. Cause you’re on YouTube. Like, Oh, people watch this Holy smokes. And actually during that weekend we passed 10,000 subscribers. And that, that started the snowball of it growing. And it was still another two and a half years beyond that, but it still wasn’t a business, but we just kept going because the momentum was growing. The channel was growing by instead of a few hundred, each month, it was growing by a few thousand each month we started a podcast in addition to it, just to have a place to have interviews.
And, and that was that, that was when it started rolling into something where there was enough people watching that. I thought, all right, there’s something here. When I still didn’t go at it with the intention of I’m going to turn this into a business. I just knew that there was something there that there was something special there that you kept going. And I kept going at it until I figured out what the business side of it was. And at that point, once there was all that momentum and went from say 10,000 total followers to 40,000 and then 200,000 and now like 400,000 figuring out what the business is, is a lot easier. That’s part probably the easy part. Cause you can just start listening to your followers and finding out what they want based on what they’re telling you. But that is the real inflection point that, that turned it into something that could be a business.
So that was this, this inflection point of like seeing people actually recognize you and realizing that like the stuff that you were putting out in the world was not falling on deaf ears, but it was actually reaching real people. That sounds like that was the initial inflection point. And then just seeing the numbers go up from there. Yeah, yeah. That was it. That was when it really did go towards that. What I said to my wife could be either a flop or could change our lives and it changed our lives. And you mentioned three months, where did, where did that come from? So you, you saw that other YouTubers are creators, we’re doing daily content, which I’ve heard over and over again from people like yourself who are successful, seems to be this like magic difference between sort of showing up kind of occasionally sort of often versus I do this every day.
There seems to be a big distinction there. Yeah. It used to be the YouTube algorithm for a few years. It really warranted that. And it stopped rewarding that probably about 18 months ago. And now it’s either like two or three videos a week or 20 videos a week. And those 20 video channels are more the news organizations where they’ve got a bunch of people contributing and it’s kind of short snappers, like they’re going to do three videos a day. And each video is by a different correspondent. You don’t see a lot of daily. YouTube is still doing it and doing it successfully anymore. But at the time it really worked out and I just committed to three months. I figured within three months I would have all the information that I wanted, that I would be able to look back at a 90 day period and see if there was an inflection, if things change.
And it was a big enough sample size to know if it was worth our time or if it was just going to be more work for the same result. And really quickly within like a few weeks we started maybe even a few days, we noticed that it was making a big difference. I love it. But so three months was just something, it was basically arbitrary. It was a number that you picked that you felt would give you enough of a enough data to decide. I think making a small bet like that. Again, we keep coming back to this idea of like lowering the stakes. Tim Ferriss talked about this when he started this podcast that he just, I remember it was six or 10 episodes, but either way he just told himself like, I’m going to create six or 10 episodes and best case scenario, it’ll turn into something useful and I’ll keep doing it.
And obviously now he’s, you know, hundreds of episodes later and one of the most downloaded shows of all time. Um, but worst case you figured, okay, I’ll improve my interviewing skills. I’ll, you know, I’ll learn how to say, unless often things like that. And you know, whatever, maybe I’ll have wasted a few hours of my life doing this thing, but it wasn’t this like, you know, forever commitment of, you know, in case this doesn’t work out, I’m now stuck with it forever. Right. I love that small bet strategy. Yeah. People get so stressed out about every decision having to be a life or death decision or like a career change. Like, Oh shit, I go do this. Should I like in a lot of cases, the answer is just do things, just do things and see what works and if you end up doing it and it doesn’t work out, go do another thing. It’s not that hard. Like you’re, I, I started out or our channel name was a race nutrition originally. And then it was a race triathlon Taren, and then just triathlon Taren and spoiler alerts. Our name is probably going to change a little bit in the next six months. Um, and at no point, was there a catastrophe of goodness, like built into this name and this brand everyone’s going to leave us? Like you just changed things like people changed. It’s not hard.
Yeah. Well, I mean, again, I think for a lot of us, you know, we set the bar very high for all of these kinds of things and uh, and make everything super precious and then sort of, you know, spend more time thinking about what the name should be than we ever do, either creating content or showing up in any way
Sort of meaningful way. Yeah. You mentioned something else interesting
Back to, and that’s this idea that the easy part, once you had an audience was sort of figuring out how to turn it into a business because people were
Asking you for things. So
You didn’t sort of start with this idea of, you know, step one, build a channel, grow an audience, step two, create guides and online courses and things like that,
That where people just sort of asked you at a point, or how did all that come about? Yeah. Basically as we started going and creating this big audience, we started getting a lot of comments, a lot of questions that were along the lines of, do you offer coaching? Well, no, I don’t. Um, and I had to say, well, no, I don’t enough that then I realized, Oh, well maybe I should offer coaching, but then going back to, well, should I be going back to being a little bit unique? I started thinking, well, there’s, I think the number is something like 10,000 certified triathlon coaches out there. Do I really want to be doing one on one triathlon coaching and just being number 9,992 out of 10,000 and the answer was no. So I started looking at what isn’t well-served out there and it’s well, a well designed automated triathlon app is something that isn’t served isn’t well-served.
And instead of spending a hundred thousand dollars on an app, I came up with a prototype again with a spreadsheet, just kind of laid out how something could work, did a Kickstarter to see if people would, would pay for it. And we made the rewards for the Kickstarter several months of training on the app and we raised $45,000 be able to build the Apple. Right. So that was the test to see if people wanted that. Um, same thing with books. I came up with an idea for a beginner triathlon swimming book, and we did a bunch of presales and based on those presales, we decided how well it would be received. And then based off of that, we wrote three more books and it just kinda went like that. Like, just look at what people are getting or asking questions on when you’re starting to get, uh, or we’re getting tons and tons of questions about running at a low heart rate. How do they do that? Okay, well we wrote the beginner triathlon running foundations book, um, and started putting in all the answers that we would get. We just started seeing what people were asking for over and over and over and create a product based off that
This has come up on this show before, but it’s, it’s so important. It bears repeating. And that is this idea that there’s this pervasive almost dangerous. I think myth of, of entrepreneurs or business people as being these like inherent risk takers, right? These people who just love to, as you said, I think, what is it
Out of an airplane and build a parachute on the way down again, maybe there’s times when that’s the right strategy, depending on the individual, but what I hear over and over from people who are actually successful,
It’s almost the opposite. It’s like, you know, mitigate
The risk in a way, not by not trying, but like what you’re saying. So before you, you know, spent any kind of money building a product, you’d already sold it on Kickstarter. And not only that, not only did you sell it, but you figured out what there was a market for, right. Listening to people talking to your audience, you weren’t
Just sort of blindly guessing and building something and then saying, okay, now can I sell it six months later after you’ve spent all this time building it? Yeah.
Are going to be building an app, can be, uh, you know, thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the app. And it can take months or even years again, depending on how complicated it is. So instead of starting there and maybe going and raising capital and doing all of that stuff, and then when it’s finished saying, okay,
Let’s see if anybody wants it. You saw that people want it
Coaching in this case instead. Okay.
Well, how can I scale that to something
More than just, you know, me, I can only do so many one on one coaching sessions. So
Do you have an app and then came up with a Kickstarter, which is genius. I love that as a way of seeing, okay, people say they want this, but if I actually give them a chance to buy it, will they buy it?
Right? Yeah. And there’s, there’s two things in there that I found that are part of this like business risk taker, myth that I think are really detrimental to the average person. One is that what we hear about so much as like the venture capital success story, where people have at minimum, like a pitch deck with a bunch of blank slides and idea, and they say, well, my thesis was blah, blah, blah, blah. And then they go raise $10 million and then does it work or not? Then they find out and some people become stinky, rich millionaires. And, but the vast majority of people go lose every last dollar because they’re guessing. And I think many people try to apply that mindset of burn the ships and put all your money into this idea and seeing if it works to this concept where venture capitalists, aren’t playing with their own money and neither are the entrepreneurs.
So they’re going to take those risks. But then most of the people listening to this are thinking about burning the ships and they are playing with their own money and still taking the risks that venture capitalists and entrepreneurs we’re raising capital are taking. So I think that there’s something really missing, missing in the message that people are, are, are not communicating well. The media is not communicating well, that this is a game that venture capitalists in Silicon Valley or tech entrepreneurs can play because they’re not playing with their own money. But when you’re playing with your own money, I am not spending a few thousand dollars. I’m not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to guess if, if an idea is working. The second part of this is the one time that I came up with something while I’m sure there’s a bunch, but the one time that I can really think of that, I came up with something that I didn’t test whatsoever and just came out with it, did a bunch of work and didn’t really test the market at all.
It was a total flop. I came up with an idea of, of training camps here in Winnipeg. And the timeline that I planned them in was kind of short. I think it was like maybe two months ahead of time. We did not sell a single course, not one. And I had spent weeks planning. I had booked Airbnbs. I had booked restaurants. I had come up with like temporaries. I’ve done marketing. When I did that again, a year later, I gave six months notice I kind of fixed a few things that people said was a problem. And I did it as a, not even as a presale, but get on a waiting list to get notified. When we come up and the waiting list, it said went how much it was going to cost. Um, what the dates were, basically, everything you’d want to know, but instead of taking payments, I took a waiting list and we got enough people on the waiting list that have, COVID not happened. We would have sold out instantly. But that concept of testing, especially when you’re doing things with your own money, it’s like is critical because it’s all about everything that we’ve talked about. We keep coming back to is lowering that bar of what it takes to take a risk, because you’re going to have to take a risk if you want to do something different, but how do you, de-risked it. And you do it by lowering the bar. Absolutely.
And just building on that point about the venture capitalist. And I’ve had some exposure to that world. And I can say that, uh,
For most people, the risk isn’t even that they’re gonna take the venture capitalist money and then lose it, trying their, their business idea. Cause in some ways that would even be a win. If you’ve got a chance to try your hypothesis, the real risk is, you know, you go after VC money for a long time, you spin your wheels for years and you never even get it right. I mean, most of those pitch decks never even lead to a meeting, let alone lead to funding. So the people who are going that route, I mean, it’s appropriate for some businesses, but the people are going that route. Like it’s not like they’re all getting funding. Um, and, and the VCs who do invest, unless you, you know, you’re one of these wonder kids, you know, you’ve had a bunch of successful startups and you’ve got a name in Silicon Valley for the most part.
They’re not just throwing money at people with a good idea. They’re giving money to people who have a successful business that needs more money to scale faster, even then, right? Even those businesses that are going that route that are successful, they already have some traction. They’ve already done something like what you’ve described and tested the market. And it’s something where, okay, you know, in order to make this business really grow to its full potential, we need to hire a bunch of sales reps now, or we need to build their own data center or whatever the, you know, whatever the cost limiting factor is. It’s almost always something that for like, we need money to do more of this, not to try this idea that we have no idea if the market wants or not. It’s also a dicey game. I have no scenario where somebody with private money wanting to buy into our company and he wanted to give us a $1 million valuation.
I went like, I don’t believe that that’s accurate because if you took a million dollars a cop cost-wise, we have much, we have almost that, maybe not that, but if you take all of our hours, we’ve probably got that into the business. And I guarantee you that you wouldn’t be able to build what we’ve built with a million dollars. And that was proven out by a competitor, essentially spending two and a half million dollars to get 10,000 followers. And we’ve got 400,000. So like venture capitalists or private equity or angel investors or partners or whatever it is, they are in the business of making money. And if things go sour, it isn’t going to go well for you. Because if you need money, you’re probably taking money from somebody who has a lot of it and has the ability to hire lawyers and, and craft contracts in a way that it’s not gonna work out for the person who has no money or somebody else.
So it’s just, it’s a very, very dicey game. And I, I really believe in the bootstrapping method for something, for a person who, uh, doesn’t yet have that Silicon Valley name to be able to, uh, how do I want, how do I phrase this? It doesn’t yet have that Silicon Valley name to push back and get a contract in their agreement that is in their favor. It might your, you remind me of my dad has a, has a favorite saying, which is his golden rule. And his golden rule is that the man with the gold gets to make the rules. Yeah. And I don’t have to. So be careful of people who have about exactly. I, yeah. I agree. 100% with your bootstrapper thing and what we keep coming back to of, of lowering the bar. And I think also, you know, it gives you more agency, right?
Because it’s easy to just send out a bunch of pitch decks and then say, well, you know, I didn’t get any funding. It didn’t work out. You know, you’re, you’re sort of offloading the responsibility of making the thing, a success on somebody else. But when it’s you, and you’re just uploading your YouTube videos weekend and week out, you keep showing up, you keep doing that. That’s the only bar it’s like, did I make the video this week? Right? Or this day, or this hour, whatever the, you know, the algorithm happens to be rewarding at that time. There’s no other outside source to sort of blame it on if, uh, if it never goes anywhere, what would you, for someone who is listening to this? And who’s like, okay, I buy into this, right? Like I, this, this, you know, I want to do this. Uh, I want to be, you know, if it’s not triathlon Taren, maybe it’s, you know, “Gardening Giselle” or “Cooking so and so”, or whatever it is like, there’s someone who’s got their passion, their niche, their thing that they love doing that they’re curious about. And they’d love to find a way to make a living doing that as you’ve done with, with triathlon what’s step one. You know how, if you were doing this all over again today, knowing what you know now, where would you start? What would you do first? Yeah, foldable bat a little bit, because over the course of 2020, I’ve actually taken up retaken up golf as a kid. I really, really loved golf. That was, if I have had a passion in my life, it was golf as a kid in my mid-teens. And I’m refounded, I basically gave up the game for the past 15 years. And now that I’m not training 20 hours a week, because there aren’t any races this year and we’re not traveling, I’ve got a lot more time.
So I’ve reignited my passion for golf. And some people have said, Hey, you should be tee off Taren and start that YouTube channel again and duplicate your success. And that’s not going to happen because I want to have something that isn’t about work. I want to have just a hobby and I want to keep golf, just a hobby, but a thought, how would I do it again if I were to do it? And the thing that I would say was, if anything that we had was a bit of a secret sauce was finding something that was a topic that had a lot of search traffic and didn’t have a lot of answers for it. And that’s what we try to do over and over still five and a half years later, as now, the second largest triathlon YouTube channel in the world. I’m still looking for topics that have people searching for information, but there isn’t information out there.
And I’ll give the exact hack that we use to do it. It is start typing in a question into YouTube or Google. YouTube is easier to figure it out, but type in something like how to get, get rid of your duck hook for forever, how to get rid of your golfing.com, something like that. And it made the videos that pop up either aren’t that relevant to actually answering the questions. Or there are a couple of videos that do answer the question, but then the rest of them don’t really answer the question and the few videos that do so somewhat answer the question, have more views than that channel has subscribers. That’s a good topic because when there are 50,000 views on a channel that has maybe a thousand subscribers, that means that there are 49,000 non subscribed people that can only be coming to that video because there’s enough search traffic, that it isn’t a high competition video.
So that’s what we try to do over and over and over. And that strategy works no matter what the topic is. If you’re using Google and you’re creating written content, you can use something like SEM rush, or H rafts to find out if there’s high competition for YouTube, it’s really easy to just do that strategy. And it works for every single topic because when it comes right down to it, if you’re in the content marketing game, all you have to do is answer people’s questions, but you can’t be answering the question for the hundredth time when 99 other people have already answered the question. If you’re the first person to answer a question that is getting asked a whole bunch, that’s how you build a fall. I love it. This is, this is like gold for anyone who’s, who’s listening. And, and, uh, that’s an incredible answer.
I was actually, as you mentioned, the YouTube part of this, I was going to say that almost sounds like, you know, the basics of SEO search engine optimization for a website. And then you, you mentioned a couple of the popular SEO tools. So really, I mean, what you’re, what you’re describing is this idea of yeah. Finding what people are looking for help with, and then helping them with it. It sounds so obvious, but at the same time, you know, there’s still so much that can be done. Some of the opportunities that are out there because most people don’t start by doing that. Right. They start with all this other business plan, stuff that we talked about. And in this case, you’re saying, it goes back to the fellow struggler thing that we started with and just, you know, what are people struggling with, help them with that thing, create content around that.
And you’ll find an audience because people are already looking for that fish where the fish are, as they say, yeah, there’s lots and lots of real estate out there. It’s not a free for all. Like it was 20 years ago that you put up any content about anything and you’re going to build a business out of it. But we are doing that same strategy with SEM, rush and triathlon right now is we’re focusing on our blog and our SEO strategy more right now with an editor in chief that we just hired. And he was coming at it from the standpoint of his old methods where they would just come up with topics off the top of their head. We’re coming at it from the data perspective now. And triathlon has been around for 40 years. And he’s sitting here now going, this is like the biggest opportunity I’ve ever seen in SEL. Like, not from, from a standpoint of we’re going to get a hundred million page views a month, but like, he’s like, it’s just so ignored. And here it is 40 years later. And there’s still this chasm of certain topics in triathlon that are completely ignored from 40 years of people publishing content.
I’d venture a guess that, that you could find similar opportunities in anywhere that you’d looked within reason. I mean, there may be a few that are just like, you know, a lot of people have already gone down this road, but for the most part, I would think if you find yourself a little niche that you enjoy, you know,
Talking about enjoy working in that, if you, if you do the work that you’re describing, if someone does the work that you’re describing, they can find aspects of that that have been ignored. Correct? Yeah. In our aspect, our niche is typically the beginner triathlete, for example, most, most content marketing strategies. Most coaches have approached it from the let’s help. People who want to perform well. We’re coming at it from the standpoint of let’s help people who feel unfulfilled in their life, feel like a little bit of a badass and using Durham sports to do it. And from that standpoint, we’re answering the questions like, do you put underwear on under your cycling kit? Do you change after the swim? Um, how long is the swim, like the most basic of basic questions that you can imagine that I don’t need a PhD to answer. That’s where the goal is for us. And it’s still to,
It’s more beginner triathletes, so sorry to interrupt you, but there’s more beginner triathletes, and there are, you know, extreme elite, professional, super high end triathletes. And the same is true again for virtually anything that
You could think of. There’s a lot more amateur soccer players in the world than there are people, you know, playing in the world cup.
And, and again, the same for any group
Or any profession. There’s more people who are starting out and were interested in it. Then there are extreme experts who are going to know more than you do. Yeah. Yeah. Moms who want to fish, like something like that is probably a very ignored topic that if you’re an aunt likes to fish, probably a really big opportunity. Um, and it’s, you know, it’s a very good podcast to start with, but Pat Flynn’s podcast where he says the riches are in the niches, it is that’s where you start in a small little niche. And then you can broad note too, if it’s fishing brought up to fishing in general later, but you can do your first land grab in the small little niche
I want to wrap up. But just one last point, I feel like I’d be remiss if I, if I didn’t mention. And that is support of, of family. Um, you mentioned your wife kind of encouraging you, uh, early on in the sense of, um, you know, starting the social media side of the business and going after that and reminding you that you love this. Um, I’m incredibly supported by my wife and all the things that I do. I feel like, again, there’s one of these myths out there that, that, especially as a guy,
You can only do these things
When you’re at a certain age when you have no family
And you’re, you know, 18 or 20 or 21 years old, maybe in a college dorm, that’s the time to start a business. Can you talk a little bit about the role that your wife has in your business? Yeah, absolutely. So she works with me now. She started working for me full time in December. She left her job with the university where she was doing some marketing there and started working for me full time, which the idea was to allow us to travel together so that she wasn’t stuck at home while I was off traveling and then 20, 20 hit and no traveling. So that worked out super well. But throughout this entire thing, she has been so supportive from the standpoint of understanding that happiness, following curiosity, following a passion, finding your thing was more important than mine. And, uh, we kind of established that unintentionally early on with one of my first years as an investment advisor. I think I, my total income in a year was in between about eight and $12,000 and solid. Oh yeah. I yeah, really nailed it that year.
Um, and she never put pressure on, on me. Uh, from that standpoint, she always was more encouraging about following a passion and finding something that I was happy doing, which then made her happy in being supportive by seeing me happy, made her happy. And since it’s caught up that now this business, that was a hobby that really started out with the Genesis of it was in that $8,000 income year as an investment advisor where I was trying anything to market myself. It came from that. And now all of a sudden this business that we do from our pajamas on the couch and are able to travel the world and take a day off to go to the Lake really whenever we want or whatever it might be. It only came from understanding that money and success didn’t come right away early on when you’re figuring out what you need to figure out money has to take a backseat. And, and it did. And, um, I mean, we got through it. We didn’t buy fancy vehicles or a fancy house or a new house, or, uh, go on trips that weren’t paid for by the business. And we didn’t have a business reason to go to meet and really do those things. But now we can’t because we went through that hard stuff at the beginning, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if she had also put that pressure on, of having to make income right away.
Right. And it sounds like also just kind of encouraging you. I mean, I imagine it’s pretty lonely, you know, in those early days when you’re just putting videos up on YouTube and you know, not too many people are watching them and, uh, you know, you’re, again, you’re not sure is this going to work out? Is this going to go anywhere? Like, do people care? Am I any good at this? I’m on my third take and I’ve got all these notes taped up on the wall, having someone who’s encouraging you and saying like,
Yes, like you love this, keep doing it. It’s incredibly valuable. Yeah. She kind of just let me go because I’m stubborn. And had I said, I’m going to do a YouTube challenge. She said, no, I wouldn’t be like, well, I’m going to do it while you’re asleep. So they’re okay.
Shout out to NTK for her, for unwavering support them.
Yeah. Yeah. No triathlon Kim. Uh, yeah, like she’s, she’s a huge part of this. Um, there aren’t a lot of spouses out there that would be okay with somebody saying, you know what? I think there’s a future in going in a Speedo online. That’s it? That’s our thing.
This has been incredible. Thank you so much for, for all that you’ve shared today. I think that some of these tips that we’ve talked about are, as I said, just gold for anyone who wants to start their own kind of business, or even just start experimenting. As we said, along these lines, for those people who want to check you out online to follow you, what’s the best place to
Triathlon Taren everywhere. Taren is T A R E N, Google triathlon, anything. And we should pop up on all the socials, YouTube podcasts, Google, everything. Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of triathlon Terrance out there. So I didn’t have to have to buy the domain name from a squatter. But, uh, yeah, if you’re interested in triathlon, that is where we can be found.
I would make sure to include links to your site and YouTube and Instagram at all in the show notes. Taren, thank you so much.
Thanks for having me, man. This is fun.