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Why is raising money celebrated more than making money?

I’m concerned, a little bit, with the culture of celebrating the fund-raise.

Life has taught me that when you borrow money, It’s the worst day of your life.

I immigrated here from Nairobi with my mom and sister when I was a teenager and held 3 jobs even when we stopped off in England for a short while before moving to Buffalo NY.

I should have been in school but it was either go to school or go to work or sleep on the streets and enjoy one bowl of tuna in the dark, the daily special when you come from the dirt.

What I’m looking for are people who are not caught up in the excitement of raising money.

Even though I’ve been called a hype man and I think it’s appropriate myself, I like the practicality of it all.

People who understand how to turn a profit.

At the end of the day, you still have a business and you have to know how to operate it and run it, right?

So I’m looking for the real practical knowledge of how to actually make money, not necessarily raise it through a private investor who lives in the UK who’s filthy rich and finds your lifestyle overseas so you can live on a cliff facing the Ocean and needs to write things off at the end of the year.

And the fact of the matter is this article is really about two things.

Number one, my disproportionate belief that learning sales is a crucial skill in developing ANY successful leader in today’s market driven economy.

And number 2.

My unbelievable fascination around venture capital, and more specifically over the last 10 years I’ve watched the tech and startup community go from a place where people were trying to build products for people to use and change the world, to people building businesses around those products, to people building financial arbitrage machines (i.e Amazon, Facebook and Google) to now people raising 6 million dollars for their bullshit idea.

More and more, every day, I meet entrepreneurs, sales professionals and leaders who are really good at losing money, and then trying to raise more capital to lose more money each year.

This culture of celebrating failure and raising 14 million dollars for an unprofitable idea is ludicrous to me and can’t be sustained.

The truth is there are so many people in the world who are going to spend the next 5–10 years try to figure out how to raise money and It’s just not a smart move.

There are so many other ways to make money.

You can buy and sell, you can get rid of old junk, you can move into a smaller apartment for 2 years, you can get an extra job, you can save money and not go out, you can skip Coachella and the club and spending 500 dollars on stuff you don’t need.

And if you are patient and not excessive you will find the money you need.

I just think it’s a much greater opportunity to make $5000 selling junk and deploy all of it into Facebook, wait nine years and have $27,000 dollars to start your first business.

No debt, no equity, nothing.

I truly believe that it’s time, after almost a decade of prosperity in the public markets and the global economy, that we put pressure on the entrepreneurial community as a whole to start focusing on making money versus raising money.

Way too many 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 year olds that follow me on Instagram think that their first job during college, or out of college, or as they’re coming up, is to learn how to raise capital.

They think to be an entrepreneur, they need to learn term sheets, or learn customer acquisition costs, or learn growth metrics just to appease their next round of funding.

Because of this, we have fundamentally lost the art of building a real business, one that is profitable each month and can pay its’ own bills.

Please remember, I didn’t raise a single dollar to start my security system company and I had nothing to loan on.

At the time I was making a very modest income and I had used all of my money to invest in other things.

At the end of the day, the reason I want to make this statement, and one of the reasons why I started Flipping junk is to teach my boys and others, that you can find another way.

It may not be a million dollars but it’s something.

And of course there is going to be a lot of cynicism from people emailing me saying, “Oh yeah Zarir, you’re really going to change people’s lives by them making $48 a weekend, or $350 a month, or $1,000 a month.”

But I remind those people via email when I’m able to reply that, for somebody who’s sending me an email and thanking me for making $500 a month, that means that amount is massively meaningful.

There was a time when $500 a month was absolutely life-changing for my family not too long ago.

So it’s all very relative.

The one thing I’m actually doing is I’m teaching and pushing a different conversation than the one that has become popular, which is about unlimited fundraising and venture capital, and this unbelievable ecosystem where entrepreneurs don’t believe they can start their business until they’ve raised a million dollars.

It’s not true!

Build a real business, find real revenue, have real clients!

There is nothing special about that either.

Celebrating your fundraise or even your annual profitability is a joke.

That’s what business is.

It’s money in vs. money out.

You either make more money than you spend or you don’t.

So when I made the statement that people have $15,000 or $20,000 in their home, obviously I was talking about a middle-class, upper middle-class, wealthy family.

I took some shots at the community, and I understand that’s not always the case.

But whether it’s $100, or $1,000, or $4,000, everybody’s got more stuff in their home than they need, and they can turn that into actual cash that starts their business or gives them the opportunity to do what they really want to do.

If not, they can go work a job for a couple years, save some money, and then start buying things at thrifts stores, garage sales, AliBaba, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or Letgo and start flipping them on Etsy, by arbitraging the different marketplaces on the internet.

Over a five or six year period you can save up some real money and make a little nest egg for yourself.

Everybody’s impatience leads to them not thinking about what the impact of a profitable business means over a five-year macro.

Because there’s no 22-year-old that is excited about just getting started at 27.

That’s the opportunity.

That’s where you can strike.

Trust me, you are going to feel a whole hell of a lot worse at 27 knowing you gave up 40% of your company that is now worth 10x the value because you raised money to early.

Or it will be the opposite and your career will be over because you raised a million dollars and lost it all in 18 months.

Your reputation will be ruined and you’ll be working for someone else or hiding in another country posting videos of yourself and making everyone think that you’re successful.

The percentage of 22-year-olds that are going to go from zero to hero is one to none.

If you don’t mix passion with practicality, you are going to lose.

If you can avoid raising money, please do.

Please build a real business, learn how to sell and create something tangible.

It’s 2021.

When the shit hit’s the fan and things begin to change, I hope this article will help you make it through.

• Thanks for reading! 🙂 If you enjoyed this article, please let me know.


In my native language Kiswahili, the word NDIO means YES.

I have The Yes Virus.

What is The Yes Virus?

The Yes Virus – and I think a ton of you have this, at least the good peeps – is when you want to say yes to everything, when you feel like you can do everything, and most of all you don’t want to let people down, or you just want to check off a lot of boxes or accomplish a lot of things.

Maybe you just wanna call it “big eyes”; you feel like you can consume all the chocolate cake.

I, very much for most of my career, have had The Yes Virus, and I want to make this to relieve people from their Yes Virus.

Because the problem with The Yes Virus, and why I call it a virus, is when you’re trying to say yes to everything, you end up doing nothing.

Recently, in the last 6-9 months, I’ve been trying to say “no” more often, and it becomes so unnatural for me.

Saying no breaks my heart.

I have a lot of energy (clearly) and I feel like I can do a lot of things, so it feels selfish to say no.

But what I’m realizing as I’m getting older and the gray hairs are coming in, is that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot more this last year by giving myself a bit of a vaccine for the Yes Virus by saying no more often.

First of all, the big eye-opener for me is how many people actually respect you saying no.

Instead of just deleting that email or avoiding it, coming up front and saying “listen, I’ve got Empathy Coffee to build.”

In my career, I would never have been able to get to this point if I’d kept saying yes to everything — every interview request; every single person building their business — while neglecting mine.

As a giver, and someone who gets much more satisfaction out of helping others over helping myself, It’s very hard to say no.

It’s actually not as fun to say no.

I don’t like the selfish rewards that come along with saying no, but if you’re trying to accomplish something, if you’re trying to execute — and I’ve gotta tell you, in a world where everybody’s starting a business, and everybody’s an entrepreneur, and everybody can raise money, I’ve never been more attracted to execution — a little Dwayne Johnson is what I’m looking for.

And to be a Dwayne Johnson, to execute, I’ve had to say a whole lot of no’s lately, and I’m very thankful for the way people respect the no.

So if you have The Yes Virus, I’m really not sure what my turning point was in late summer especially this year, but if you’re able to somehow break through…

Maybe we can make tomorrow No Day.

Happy No day everybody!

If you can just respectfully say no to two or three things tomorrow, and see how that feels, I think you’ll be stunned at how much more you can accomplish over the next year.


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It’s very challenging to be a leader. I don’t think anyone will doubt that.

I’ve spoken in the past about what I think it takes to be a good leader and a greater boss but something I don’t talk about enough is how to transition into the role of leader.

And that can be the harder than actually leading once you get there.

The steps it takes to go from being a “do-er” to a leader can be very difficult.

Quite frankly, it scares the crap out of me. It’s hard to go from a straight up execution mode, where you’re used to dealing with the nitty gritty, to then becoming a manager of a team, where you need to learn to delegate and communicate goals.

These are two very different things, and they can cause issues if not handled properly.

The biggest issue?

Understanding that when you’re a leader, you have to be the bigger man or woman in any given situation.

You can’t simply impose your will because you’re now the “boss.” Period.

You swallow your pride and work to make sure the team is executing as needed.

This means you, as the leader, need to empower those around you to do their jobs, but it also means something else:

you need to be able to take the hit and eat crap once in a while.

Things won’t always be easy, and at the end of the day, you’re the ones leading the charge.

It all falls on you.

No one likes a boss that passes the buck to an employee in a tough situation.

Just take the hit and move forward.

Another big part of the transition to leader?

Accessing your empathy and emotion over your practical skills.

People don’t talk about this.

Finding this part of yourself can be challenging, and even if you’ve always been an empathetic person, being the boss or leader of a project will change how you exercise it.

Leaders need to listen and empower their team to become leaders themselves and take ownership of the work they’re given.

Leaders need to understand who they are as a person and relay that emotional understanding to those around them.

That takes courage.

As I’ve said many times before, it all boils down to self-esteem and self-awareness.

If you can understand who you truly are as a person, and as a leader, then you’ll be able to instill the same understanding in the team around you.

Do whatever you can to figure out how to know yourself better if you don’t think you do.

You owe it to your team as their leader.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

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We have just lived through the greatest era of fake entrepreneurs.

It was a second-wave dot-com boom that lasted five to six years, when money was so readily available (many have referred to it as the Age of the Unicorns) that it felt like anybody could get in on the “become-an-entrepreneur” game. People believed that raising several millions of dollars for a business meant that they were a successful entrepreneur.

But the fact is this: so many of these businesses are not going to succeed, and so many of these companies were launched by people who are just not entrepreneurs. Nine out of ten startups will fail and according to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.

The current misjudgment in the business ecosystem—that raising money means you have achieved something or is something to celebrate—is insanity to me. As the economy gets tighter, these businesses will start to disappear. Some will become acquired by other companies, but rarely does that mean anyone actually made any money. Usually it just means you get jobs. Big Company A launches, it fails, investors lose money, and now they work at Big Company B instead. It is branded as an acquisition, but the reality is very different. It’s an acqui-hire.

Both the rise in the sense of entitlement over the last couple years and the belief that becoming an entrepreneur is possible for anyone have a big role to play in this “fail and get acquired” practice. A business ecosystem that essentially says, “If you read about it and work hard, you can do it.”, is bullshit. How do we fix that? There now needs to be a reset around how we look at entrepreneurship as a skill and talent and what it takes to start and lead a successful company. Most people think entrepreneurship is a developable skill, and it’s just not.

When the NBA Meets an MBA

If someone plays a few games of pickup basketball, they don’t automatically believe that they’re ready for the NBA. But the same understanding of skill and talent just doesn’t seem to be applied when we talk about entrepreneurship. So many “entrepreneurs” over the last five years are people that one day decided they’re just going to “become an entrepreneur” and expect it to be something they can pick up and learn. Build a company. Raise some money. Done, no problem.

We all know how hard NBA players work on their craft to get to that professional level. They are taking shots and practicing their ball handling everyday for hours on end, for years and years. But we’re also equally aware of the massive amount of athleticism and talent that they were born with to harness and execute against.

Imagine if the NBA opened up tryouts to everyone and anyone who tried out made the league and became an NBA player. That’s basically how we’ve been treating entrepreneurs and the start-up culture. Someone shows up to tryouts and they’re automatically referred to as an entrepreneur and someone who builds businesses.

Why don’t we apply the same perspective, how we view the talents and skill sets of our best athletes, to how we teach entrepreneurship and becoming and entrepreneur? So little thought is given to that fact that just like the top athletes in the world, entrepreneurs who build successful businesses come from a certain breed. They have an entrepreneurial DNA that allowed them to hone in on their business skills in the first place.


Because the fact is this: entrepreneurs are born, not made. Of course, anyone can maximize any skillset, but it doesn’t necessarily make them successful at it. I could maximize my singing with vocal lessons, but I’ll still always just be a mediocre singer. To win at the very top of the chain, to make it big in the business world and in any arena, you have to be born with talent.

An Entrepreneur’s Characteristics and Skills

So what are the characteristics and skills of a good entrepreneur? What’s the “it” factor that makes for a great entrepreneur? To be a basketball star, you would most likely be extremely tall, fast, athletic, and have real hops. But the qualities of a great entrepreneur are more abstract or illusive for someone studying entrepreneurship and business. From my experience, I believe there are five major traits that mean you have the chops when it comes to building a business and living the life of an entrepreneur.

Salesmanship. The ability to sell something is absolutely necessary to knowing how to run a business at any stage. Whether you’re starting out on the floor like I did selling a physical product or the CEO of an agency selling the talented employees, you need to know how to make a sale.
A chip on your shoulder. Yes, I’m serious. And that can come in two forms. Either you were born with nothing, zero, and you’re just hungrier than the average human. Or, it’s the reverse: you born into a lot of wealth and opportunity and you want to prove that you don’t need it, and can do it on your own. In either case, some kind of chip can push you a long way, especially for the amount of hours and energy you’ll need to put into your business.
An independent spirit. Being an entrepreneur means you rely on yourself and no one else. At the end of the day, you need to be 100% comfortable with making the final call, being able to trust yourself and your intuition.
Understanding consumers and consumer attention. Zuckerberg is a fantastic example of someone who truly understands and trades consumer attention. He got it with his product: Facebook. He held onto it by identifying and acquiring Instagram. And he saw it with Snapchat too, but that deal didn’t pan out. In any case, the lesson is that not only knowing where the consumer is, but also where they are going, is crucial.
Patience. It can be a slow and lonely climb to the top. If patience is a trait you don’t currently possess, but you want to play in this world, I recommend developing it as much as you possibly can.

Listen, everybody is born with some capability to run a business. But 90% are born with the capability to run a business into the ground. There is an amazing amount of entrepreneurs who can make $80,000-$90,000 working for themselves running a small e-commerce shop around a personal interest of theirs. And the opportunities to do that have never been more available. If you want to do that, do it. It was the main thesis statement of my first book Crush It. I am all about that life and I support it.

But let’s be clear about entrepreneurs and the businesses they run: there are levels to this shit. The higher you climb and the more the business grows, the stakes become a lot bigger. More and more people are depending on you to make the right decisions for them and the company. The league you’re playing in and the skill set required jumps from pickup ball to NBA very quickly.

Sure anyone can start a business, but only the top 25% will actually grow into multi-million dollar companies with more than one employee. To see what I’m really talking about, check out this infographic on how small businesses operate:


The talent and skill set required to make it to the big time are crucial. Real entrepreneurs are born and prove out their DNA with hard work. What I’m saying is this: only a handful of people have what it takes to truly run a million dollar business.

Leader Transition

B2C and B2B leaders and sellers who pattern their leadership after self awareness are called to accomplish their business goals by meeting the needs of others, especially those they lead and those who serve customers.

“I was talking with an old colleague of mine retired from business about a project at work and his response caught me off guard.

‘Wow,’ he said. ‘Your leadership has been exemplary.’

I had trouble seeing what I was doing that warranted praise. I can’t remember a time a compliment left me feeling so unworthy.

In essence, this project involves redesigning a training program. Of all the people [on] the project, I’m the guy right in the middle.

To pull [it] off on time, we needed to do some serious hustling and the team really came through. It also required effective leadership to make all the pieces click and we are also very lucky to have that. But my approach had been to take a serving role is what I said to him.

For example, I responded quickly to [my colleagues’] requests for information, even anticipating questions and delivering answers before they asked. My goal was to provide everything needed to put together a rock solid program.

In hustling to help everyone else, I thought of myself as a servant. My job was to deliver a large amount of grunt-work so that others could shine, this makes me the happiest.

‘It’s funny that what I consider serving is perceived as leading,’ I said, I firmly believe that hard work 18 hours a day is how you can also be happy and successful if you do shit you love.

He admitted he hadn’t thought of leadership that way, but it made sense. By helping others achieve, you also end up leading them, even if you’re not the SME, through hard work, drive and tenacity.

We both walked away from the conversation resolving to be better servants and plan to make an amazing podcast episode, I’ll have to get it to you later this summer when I launch my #podcast on #apple #spotify #anchor #luminary #google I’m calling it the #airplaneproject or maybe #projectZee

Think of a project that you are leading at work or with a customer. What do people on your team need from you? How can you lead through service? Do work hard? Do you have empathy when things don’t go your way?

Another big part of the transition to leader? Accessing your empathy and emotion over your practical skills. People don’t talk about this. Finding this part of yourself can be challenging, and even if you’ve always been an empathetic person, being the boss or leader of a project will change how you exercise it.

Leaders need to listen and empower their team to become leaders themselves and take ownership of the work they’re given. Leaders need to understand who they are as a person and relay that emotional understanding to those around them. That takes courage.

As I’ve said many times before, it all boils down to self-esteem and self-awareness. If you can understand who you truly are as a person, and as a leader, then you’ll be able to instill the same understanding in the team around you. Do whatever you can to figure out how to know yourself better if you don’t think you do. You owe it to your team as their leader.

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