How I met John Chow or how I became an online marketer

John and I hanging out at the OCWP 10 year WordPress anniversary party
John and I hanging out at the OCWP 10 year WordPress anniversary party
I've told this story in person a few times, but I don't think I've ever written about it on my blog. So I guess that with the Home Summit Event in Long Beach passed, and the San Diego Home Business Summit coming up, I thought it would be time to tell you this story. It's remarkable for me, serendipitous at the very least.

In our DNA

There are a few moments in life --people say-- that you'll remember forever and as few moments in life that will change your life forever. Having met John Chow was one of those moments for me. I know... this sounds like a bromance story, but believe me it isn't.

You see, as I've said before, I've always been an entrepreneur. My family has a large number of entrepreneurs in it and in our history. It's as Gary Vaynerchuck would say in our DNA. So ever since I was a little kid I tried doing stuff for profit. It never quite worked out in a way that I was satisfied, I have had several businesses and many of them turned a really nice profit and lasted quite a while but I got bored with them. Many failed miserably.

Combine an opportunistic mind with shiny object syndrome and you have me. Aware of many opportunities that are available and going after the one that attracts me the most, until I'm bored with it. But the one thing that I've always liked doing is making money. I'm not the best at saving money, but I can be pretty damn creative at making it.

As a kid I washed cars for the neighbors for cash, in middle school I arm wrestled for my lunch money or would have slingshot "shoot outs" of cans and bottles for money.


Pop corn at the beach

Once I tried selling pop-corn with a friend at the beach, but he was much older and was just playing with me. He set me up as a prank and never showed. As insignificant as that may sound that event changed my life tremendously.

This kid was my friend and we had this whole thing planned, but the morning of our "big day" he wasn't there.  I had spent the better part of the previous afternoon and night preparing everything. We had agreed that I'd come over there and use a code to wake him up so we could get going. He didn't show, he didn't open the door when I went to get him at 7 am.

Later on the day he made fun of me of how I was using the "clap and whistle" code we had come up with earlier to get each other outside without alerting our parents. He thought it was hilarious how I had fallen for it. I didn't think it was funny. I was around 10 or 11 years old.

I lost trust in people a lot that day. I don't think I was really hurt, but I wondered if people were like that in general and at the age of 10 or 11, that's a tough realization to come to. Probably much deeper than I could comprehend at the time.

Life went on, we moved many times and I continued to figure out little ways to make money.  But it wasn't until I was 17-18 that I started really thinking about running a business or making serious money.

Detailing cars

I started a mobile detailing business, way before doing so was popular. But again, I didn't take it too seriously because I was taught all my teenage years in school and through people that I needed to go to school and get a job. So I was always studying and looking for a "regular job" but even when I got a regular corporate job I didn't stop my auto detailing.

It was great to get a paycheck from a technology startup and then go out and make 400 - 600 bucks each weekend detailing cars. It was fun but I was spending all my cash on toys and fun, and never really thought much more about the business. No long term plan, no growth strategy. I was just having fun. I didn't plan.

One day my garage and all the supplies burned down, my home garage. All my equipment and chemicals went up in flames. I was also taking on 20 - 30 hours of overtime at week at work so I didn't rebuild my detailing business after that. I thought that was a sign that I should focus on my "job" and career instead. So I did.

It was both a blessing and a curse. I think if I had bought everything back up and continued my detailing gig, I'd be pretty rich by now. I was good  at it. And over $400/day isn't something to sneeze at. But the blessing came in that I was more focused at work and I got to learn a lot more from many different people a lot faster. I moved up in the company, from operations, to IT,  to IT management. Then the itch came back. I had to "do my own thing"

The search for more

I wanted to do more, I was getting bored at work, I tend to master a topic or task fairly quickly and then get bored of it so I have to continue to improve and make changes otherwise monotony will kill me. So I went online to see how I could make more money online. As you can see in one of my 100 things you didn't know about me list, one of them is that I wanted to make 1 million by the time I was 30. I have made a lot of money but not quite 1 million yet, probably over 1/2 but I've spent it all. I certainly don't have a lot to show for.

So I went online to look for something, and nothing seemed interesting, but blogging did. I had been blogging on and off since before it was called "blogging" I started on a platform called open diary, then I had my own html website ( and then I tried a php based blog, and eventually in 2004 I tried WordPress. I loved it and I was blogging from time to time, and then I found that you could make money online with a blog. Or so this guy claimed. This guy was John Chow.

Enter John Chow

Hanging out at John's during a recent filming session for a documentary.
Hanging out at John's during a recent filming session for a documentary.

So I tried out what this guy John Chow would say, but I only would do part of it because I thought I knew better. This guy didn't even spell check his stuff! So I would make a little bit of money and then quit, I wasn't happy about it. I tried other things, I tried following other people but it always came back to John.

As I continued in my corporate rat race, I decided I would start taking on side clients because the people at work would often refer me to their family and friends for computer or network or website help. Eventually this led to "website" help and I officially became an all around friendly neighborhood computer guy.

Do as I say not as I do

Funny enough, I would read and learn all these things from John and other bloggers that supported his claims, but I would never implement them for myself. I'd just think about them as if that was enough to make them work. The funny thing is that I would advise my website clients to do the same things John was telling us on his blog... and they would do these things and it would work for them. One of the reasons I didn't fully follow John's stuff was because at times, he would come across as an arrogant money hungry person.

And dummy me, I kept thinking that it was just beginners luck that my clients were making money by following John's advice.  I thought maybe I could just keep making money by helping them make money online while charging them a fee. I never really tried the techniques completely. I would read them and agree that they made perfect sense and that, "well of course that works! duh!" but then I'd go back to the water cooler chats at work, drinking my coffee or chatting about the latest episode of Lost.

Social Media shenanigans

Then Social Media became all the rage and along with website services, I began offering social media advice and consulting, strategy and design. So I was now a full service technology solutions one man show. IT, networks, support, desktop and mobile and also websites and marketing support.

Everything I know I learned from the experts and forums and practice at work. Dave Taylor and Chris Pirillo as well as support from countless forums helped me sharpen my technical edge with desktop, server and network support and tech support. Authors like Sobell gave me the insights into Unix, Linux and Networking, at the same time, slowly but surely, the online marketing experts were leaving their footprint in my mind as well.

Combine that vast knowledge resource pool and add the luck to work with two of the best sysadmins (Steve and Steve) and network admins (David) in the planet and by the time I was 29 I thought I knew it all and totally quit my corporate career. I left a company of 5 years in pursuit of one more IT leadership position. This was not exactly what I wanted but I was offered a position of Director of IT, the title was nice, the pay was good so I took it. Shortly after that, the gig ended and I was left out to pick a path. Go back to a job, or do my own thing.

Flat on my face I fall

I decided to take the few side clients I had, my knowledge and expertise and go out on my own instead of looking for a new job. I started thinking I knew it all but I fell flat on my face. I thought I knew how to sell, and how to provision and deliver. But I was wrong. I knew how to do the work but the business side of things was new to me. When you're in a corporation generally, someone else does the sales, someone else does the marketing, someone else does billing. You just do your work.

I managed to get clients and to this day, my business is flourishing, but I also started paying more attention to online marketing, and selling online and making money from the internet instead of having to seek out customers in the traditional ways. I also became a strong social networker. Now, people know me in Orange County and that's a cool thing. It's strange that sometimes people know me more by my Twitter name Notagrouch than by my name, but it's still fun.

Reinventing myself

So as I became a networker, I tried to attend as many events and meetups as possible to connect with people.. One of these meetups I found was SMMOC or Social Media Mastermind Orange County. I became a regular there and loved it. SMMOC takes place on Saturday mornings and it is where you go talk about social media in Orange County. Every other group I've been to pales in comparison. So I became a regular member and made lots of friends and connections.

John, Marc and I planning our next JV over drinks.
John, Marc and I planning our next JV over drinks.

One day I arrived late, and I had to sit on the couch in the back. But next to me my friend Denise was busy noting things down and paying attention. As I settled down I noticed a new person in the group. He looked strangely familiar but couldn't quite figure out why. After a little while, I turned to Denise and asked her "Is that John Chow?" And she just shrugged quietly.

I thought, it can't be, he lives in Vancouver, what he be doing here in Costa Mesa and at SMMOC out of all places. I had to look up his picture just to make sure I was wrong. But turns out it was him. Then I jumped on the conversation the group was having, probably about klout or something, and answered the topic at hand but also asked the group if they knew who this was. Nobody knew! I was blown away. -- That's topic for another blogpost, but let's just suffice it to say that if you're in a niche, you should know who the players are. So I introduced him to the group.

New friendship

We became friends after that. Turns out that John is actually quite a nice guy despite what many people think about him. Many people make negative assumptions about him. Probably because he portrays the success they've not been able to achieve; part of it could be jealousy or just a way to reinforce their belief that they can't or shouldn't do what he does. But not only did we become friends, good friends, but he's been kind of my mentor ever since.

John hanging out at Claire's babyshower.

I've changed a huge portion of my business to follow his advice and guidance. I feel that after "knowing" him for all these years, I simply couldn't ignore this chance. It was almost like a sign that what I want to do is the right thing and that I should be doing it. Out of all the places in the world, John decides to move to Irvine? That's was the opportunity of a lifetime and  I would be a fool if I let it go.

He's taken me under his wing to learn online marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing and all the while we've had a great time. We've been to events together like Affiliate Summit, Passion to Profit, the VIP meetup, and tons of other events going on around here. We even started the Dot Com Lifestyle meetup together. He's introduced me to big people that also have helped me grow and develop my business tremendously.

So this is how I met John. And trust me when I say it, he's an alright guy.

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