Welcome to Influencers!
Today, we have Dan as our guest. For those of you who had listened to the last episode and tried to figure out who he is, here were the hints: He was born in Detroit but grew up mostly in Florida. He wants Will Smith to play him in a movie. The movie that would represent his life for the last year would be The Revenant. His name was almost Jamal Johnson, but instead he has a different name. Who is Dan? Let’s welcome him on.
Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.
Listen To The Podcast Here:
Constantly Develop Your Skills with Dan DiPiazza
We have with us the legendary Dan. Dan, give us your full name and a little bit about you.
My name is Daniel DiPiazza. I’m the owner and founder of Rich20Something, which is this really cool educational company. It helps young people figure out how to get their lives together before they’re 30. The cool thing is I’m an author. I’m a competitive Jiu-Jitsu athlete. I get my face ground into the mat and choked for fun. I’m a recreational cook, but not just Italian food, surprisingly. I’ve been known to snorkel in coral reefs off the coast of Florida.
Not only that, but you are an individual who’s dedicated to experimentation, which is something that I find very interesting. You put yourself out there like a human guinea pig and you test out, from what I understand, things before you recommend them or have your audience participate in them.
That’s how I think what’s been the most valuable. We talked briefly when we were doing our little secret reveal before this episode about how I hosted a TV show. That was through a series of experiments that I didn’t know what the result would be. One of the cool things about experiments is that you’re not always looking for a specific result. You’re looking to just observe the environment around you, rather than try to force the result. You can also often get a lot more interesting results without expectations than you can trying to force something.
It’s really having the experimenter’s perspective that when you’re disassociated from an emotional response, then you can have a bit more of an objective understanding of what’s going on and saying, “That’s interesting,” rather than feeling, “I’m an idiot for that having happened, or I’m the greatest.” You didn’t really know for sure how it was going to turn. Maybe you are the greatest, but maybe not. I think you’re doing yourself also a disservice. Tell us about your book.
I have this great new book out. It’s a labor of love, as some books are. The cool thing about the book is that it serves two purposes: one is this chronological breakdown of how I got from no idea what I’m doing, working at a restaurant, to building a seven-figure company that revolves around media production and educational courses, so it goes from zero to seven figures. Also, the cool thing about it is that it’s not just the 40,000-foot view from the top of the trees. There are a lot of strategic and tactical breakdowns in the book, which makes it easy, because it’s like a recipe guide. It’s not so much of an instruction manual as a paint-by-numbers where you figure out what looks good for you, and then apply those lessons, which is great because these are the things that we all needed when we were coming up. That’s what I try to incorporate into this book.
What’s the book called?
It’s called Rich20Something, to make it really easy.
I wish I had that guidance in my 20’s. Back when I was growing up, it was just the beginnings of this state of access to information. It was the dawn of the usable internet or the World Wide Web. Now, it’s incredible because you could sit in front of YouTube or go to a site like yours and for hours, just educate yourself and get more information than any MBA graduate out there. It’s incredible to me that more people don’t take advantage of that.
It’s a gift and a curse. You can go to a site like Rich20Something and you can find all this useful information. But, as you and I both now, information isn’t enough. You have to have, as you alluded to, the experimenter’s perspective. Because you can have all this useful information, but you’re going to have to test out a lot of it to see what works for you to figure out what your path is going to be. A lot of people really want to take some formula and press themselves into the mold of someone else’s life trajectory. If they try that and it doesn’t work, it’s very discouraging. It takes a good amount of creativity and curiosity almost to make some of these things to work. The information that’s out there now at my website or any other website that talks about business or life strategies or life design, those are starting points. You have to have the courage to continue down the path after you’ve gotten the information. It’s just the beginning.
One of the things I often try to emphasize is that you can’t confuse people for person, meaning that what works for people doesn’t work for everybody. It will probably work, but there are too many mitigating circumstances for any one individual to be like the average. What might cause your success is going to be really different than what caused Richard Branson’s. He also grew up in a different time with different assets and different accessibilities. Just like he would have never become an Instagram celeb growing up when he did, because Instagram didn’t exist, the tactics that he used may not lead to your success.
It’s a hard line to toe because you have this idea around modeling success. This is a big thing Tony Robbins is into. I agree with it to a certain extent because, for instance, you give a good analogy with people-versus-person. You can look at an overall perspective of financial wellness. You say, “This is how I want to handle my money. I’ve seen that really successful, wealthy people handle their money in such a way. They diversify. They spend thrift. They’re good with handling their shit.” There’s a lot of generality there that can be useful. But then in terms of how you made the money to get to the point where you can invest it, save it and spend it is different for everybody. You might have a room, much like your Salons or at your dinners, you have twelve wealthy people, and they’re all wealthy for different reasons. But at the end of that road, they all have some similar habits about how they spend and invest.
Where they really have their similar habits is in their work ethic. It’s in surrounding themselves with the right teams of people to accomplish what it is. It’s more in the soft skills than in the hard skills. It’s more in they’re very good at connecting with people. It’s also a self-selecting group, because the people who are so shy that they can’t handle being around people would never show up anyway. You can develop a model based on the people that come, but it’s self-selecting to some degree. Just to dive into a few different questions, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever been asked?
There have been a few recently. One person recently asked me if I had to hack one person’s Twitter account for 24 hours, who would it be and what would I say, assuming that you couldn’t get caught or traced? Do you want to know how I answered that?
The thing is I feel like Trump is just a low-hanging fruit. It’s almost not fun to say, “I want to hack Trump’s account,” because everyone wants to hack his account. I think if I had to hack anyone’s account right now, besides some crazy political figure, which is just obvious, I guess it depends. I haven’t thought about it. Who would it be? If it’s someone that you like, you wouldn’t want to hack their account. It had to be somebody that you don’t like. Who do I despise? Come back to me. Let’s ask it later.
What are three tips for people wanting to succeed in your industry?
To be clear, I think there are two ways to look at this. The first way to look at this is wanting to be successful in terms of leaving your job. Then the other one is wanting to be successful as an entrepreneur. Those are two different skill sets in my opinion, because very much like Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You have to constantly develop your skills, not just scale up but skill up. The skills that allowed me to leave a restaurant job after college and open up my own freelance business and moved that to consulting and moved that to a media personality, and moved that to an author, all those skills were things I had to develop. They were different. Sometimes, there’s a hard reality check when you meet a bridge that you can’t cross until you develop yourself.
The first thing that you need to do if you want to leave your job, which a lot of people do, is you have to be able to, one, start becoming more aware and adept in identifying problems in your world. The only reason businesses exist is to solve a problem. That could be solving it with a product. It could be solving it with a service. It could be something that you already know how to do from work that you’ve been basically paid to learn. It could be something that you learned in school, perhaps, although that’s becoming less common. It could be something that people always ask you for.
My brother-in-law, for all intents and purposes, he has a moving company. He had started this company because people kept asking him to use his truck on the weekends to move their stuff. He’s like, “Fine, okay. It’s $60 an hour,” and a business was born. There are those types of things; observational skills, figuring out what problems are existing and how you can solve them, and doing a skill inventory of what you can bring to the table to help other people out. Once you get out of the whole 9 to 5 death trap by being able to provide something for other people outside a job, learning that you have the independence and the capability of supporting yourself without that employer, then your real journey begins and you have to develop yourself as an entrepreneur, which is a whole new skill set, but it’s definitely worth the journey.
That’s incredibly thought out. What are some pitfalls that people should look out for? Do you have a story about it?
Yeah. This is a good relatively recent pitfall. I don’t know if you want to just quote Ryan Holiday directly and say, “Ego is the enemy,” or say just hubris or something that you have to look out for. Basically, 2010 through 2012, I was figuring things out. I was in the initial phase I just described to you where I was like, “I can support myself. I know how to do this. I don’t need a job.” 2011, I was out. I started working on myself. I started developing a few different companies. It started doing well. Basically, everything I was doing was working. Then 2013 through 2015, just everything started coalescing. I started to get really big on social media. I got featured in all these outlets. I was in Time Magazine. My social media channels were exploding. They gave me all the verified check box. I’m like, “I’m the man here. I’m really good at this.” That’s when I went out and bought the Mercedes instead of the groceries. I’m like, “Look, I’m really good at this. I know what I’m doing. It’s going to be hard for me to fail.”
Then, 2016, just last year, a lot of these things started to catch up to me. I thought, “Things weren’t working as well as they were before.” Certain things I tried with the business, whether they’re different marketing campaigns or different ideas weren’t sticking. I started to get depressed because of that. Then my grandmother died halfway through the year. It was horrible because I grew up with her. She’s like my mother. She’s only 65, so very young. I went into this horrible tailspin. I didn’t have the systems in the business to support that while I was in this tailspin. Things started dropping, and dropping, and dropping.
I realized, as I came out of that, that there are a few core lessons there. First is it’s not necessarily useful to only be successful. When only you can see are the good things you’re doing, you don’t put it in the necessary stop gaps and the safeguards in order to make sure that you can keep control of your life and your business if things go wrong, because inevitably they will. That’s not pessimism. That’s just the reality. One of the things I learned was we didn’t have enough good systems in our business to sustain long periods of Daniel not wanting to do work. If I didn’t feel like checking in with my team, and I went four or five months at a time without really trying, we would lose a lot of money.
Systems thinking saved me. Once I figured out that it was necessary for me to implement systems that didn’t require me to be there, and I mean it in a real way, really thinking from an engineering perspective and saying, “Where are the pieces that I have a bottle neck? Where are the pieces that only I can do, but that someone else should be doing?” Once I started systematically taking apart the business and then rebuilding it from the ground up, it started to do much better. It got much healthier. We got to a point where I knew that if anything were to ever happen again, not only would we be able to survive, but we could thrive.
That’s excellent advice, because from an entrepreneurial perspective, a lot of people feel like, “It’s my business. I’m the best one suited to do it.” If you’re really willing to let go of the idea that you’re so important, you can build a system independent of you that is far more successful. You’re freed up to do anything from enjoyed leisure time to grow different aspects of the business.
The thing is there is this trade-off, because in order to build those systems it takes actually more time in the beginning. It’s more of an investment. It’s almost like bleeding out slowly versus bleeding out quick. It’s like the dog who lies in the nail and he’s moaning and someone goes up to him and says, “Why is the dog moaning? Because the nail hurts. Why doesn’t he move? It doesn’t hurt enough for him to move.” That’s how running a business without systems is.
An easier example might be when you’re really cold and you have a sweater, but you don’t want to take off your jacket to put the sweater on.
It’s a Band-Aid solution. On a day-to-day basis, on a micro basis, it’s very easy to say, “I’ll just send the email. I’ll just write the thing. I’m better at it. I can tweak this,” and you do a million little things. You get by, but you know there’s this other level. You’re like, “It would take so much effort to train someone on it, to hire someone. They’re going to be expensive.” You think about all these things. Once you just rip that Band-Aid off, you’re like, “I’m doing this. I’m like a surgeon. I’m going in and we’re operating on the gallbladder. We’re taking it out and we’re replacing it.” It’s much better.
What’s something completely unexpected about reaching this level of success?
Something completely unexpected is the thirst is unquenchable. I have a really cool job, Jon. I’m an author. I get to run this cool business. I work whenever I want to. I work with some of my best friends. I live in Santa Monica, all these positives, plus, plus, plus. One of my best friends was in Cuba last week. I was like, “God damn it, I want to be in Cuba.” Even a simpler example, I was featured in Ebony Magazine last week. I had another friend who was featured in Essence Magazine, but he’s taking photos. I’m like, “I wish I was a photographer. That would be really cool.” You can live the coolest life but the brain is designed to search and crave, but if you can look at that from a little bit more of a curious, almost a whimsical perspective, it gets funny. This thing just will not be satisfied. It’s humorous how much the brain wants.
When you’re in those gifting suites and they offer you all this stuff, you’re like, “Yes, I want it.” Then you get home and you’re like, “I don’t need a fifth hair dryer. I have short hair. I don’t need women’s whatever lipstick. My girlfriend won’t even wear it. I don’t need any of this stuff. Why did I take it?” Because it’s in front of us and it seems shiny. Let’s get a little rapid fire.
What books or book has influenced you the most and why?
There’s a few right now. It’s hard to place a rank on there. One thing I’ll say about books, and this is important for anyone listening. There are a few books I come back to every year. One of them is The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. I come back to that a lot. One is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Those are all good books. They’re fantastic books. Remember, books, just like life, is seasonal. Don’t get too wrapped up in one book and make sure to explore what you need to learn at the right moment.
Who’s your hero?
My hero’s my mom. She’s great. Single mother.
What would have you accept an invitation from a stranger for a meeting? You get a random email or somehow somebody gets to text you, what would they have to be expressing that would actually have you meet them?
Jon, you nailed this perfectly. I almost didn’t go to your dinner, not because I didn’t like you, but I was just like, “I’m busy. I’m doing other stuff.” We were doing a podcast in my studio. You go to the producer, you whisper in his ear, you say, “I’m going to whisper who’s going to be at the event and what’s going to happen in” Matt’s ear,” who’s the producer. “If Matt says you should go, then you should go.” You whispered very mysteriously your plot into his ear. Matt smiled, curled his lips, his ears perked up, he nodded and he said, “You should go.” I was there. It’s always social proof. If you can get one of my close friend or someone I trust to say I should do it, I’ll always do it.
Let’s explore a little bit of the human aspect. What is it that you’re passionate about or committed to, is there a non-profit or organization that you support?
The number one thing I’m committed to right now is promoting more creativity. This is why on my social channels I document the process of writing the book, the process of making the work that seems very polished at the end. I think that we’re in a creative drought, even though there’s so much access to information. A lot of the people who would be our best creators are stuck in their own heads or stuck at their jobs. They’re just consuming. I want to flip this on its head. Rather than promoting more consumerism through my channels where I have a direct influence. I want to promote more creation. I think that’s really important. Maybe there’s a foundation that can help support that. As for now, it’s just me.
Is there a secret that you feel comfortable sharing with the audience? For some people, they’ve shared, “I suffer from anxiety.” For other people, it’s been just a crazy story from their childhood. For me, it’s important that people realize how human the influential people in our society are. Is there something you’d feel comfortable sharing with our audience?
I’ve struggled with a lot of depression. This is especially pertinent because my online persona is one of an uplifting persona. It’s one of motivation and inspiration. Even when I go through those periods of depression, I still continue to have the mask of “Everything is great. Just go and do your thing.” Sometimes, there’s a difference between the avatar and then the real life persona. Sometimes, that creates a lot of cognitive dissonance, because I have to say something inspirational but I’m not inspired. To me, it’s important to realize that that’s my job. I unwillingly walked into a career where now I have literally a million people watching what I do. My job is to help them get through their day. Sometimes, I have to do that even when my day is hard, which is the difference between a rookie and an amateur. If I was a rookie, if I didn’t feel like it I wouldn’t do it. But sometimes I do it when I don’t feel like it, even when I’m really in a bad spot.
It’s interesting because in our culture, there’s this really weird promotion that you’re supposed to be happy all the time. The fact is that there is no birthright to happiness. Our species for the overwhelming majority of the time is probably miserable. Sleeping in a cave, not a fun experience. Night after night, not a fun experience. If you could be any comic book hero, who would it be?
It’s always Batman and you know why, because Batman is a regular dude with a chip on his shoulder. He somehow makes it work. I do think that he needs to get some serious help.
The interesting thing about Batman, at least this is what I’ve heard as an analysis, is that with all other heroes, their secret identity is who they are. Superman is Clark Kent, and Superman is what he can do. Whereas with Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne is a persona that Batman puts on in order to fulfill the mission. Bruce Wayne needs to be seen.
It’s interesting. How many of us are like that in our real lives?
That’s actually a really interesting question. I never thought about that. Last big question, if you could meet anyone, living, let’s say theoretically have dinner with them, pick three people you’d want to sit with the most? It’s who you would just want to meet for dinner, it could be anybody.
I’m going to tell you who I would meet and what I want to discuss. Barack Obama, because I want to know if he’s a real good guy or if he’s a shithead. I want to know. How many people have you killed? I want to know. I like you a lot. Seth Godin, how do you write so much? Every single day, how do you do it? I write a lot too, but he’s on a level. Seth Godin.
He releases a book almost every year with original content.
Every year with original content, not re-purposed, and that doesn’t even include his monstrous amount of blog posts. He’s a savage. I want to meet him. Then, I want to meet Tim Ferriss. I haven’t met him yet. I think he’s a good guy. I like him.
Dan, this was an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much for spending the time with us. Now, just so our listeners can keep following you and hearing your great wisdom, where can they find you?
I’m on all social media as @Rich20Something, same as the website, Rich20Something.com. The book is Rich20Something, it comes out May 2nd, 2017 worldwide, no matter where you’re listening to this. I am one click away. I respond to all my messages. It is really me in the inbox. It is really me everywhere you see, Daniel.
Thanks so much, Daniel.
Stay tuned for the second interview where our anonymous guest will be sharing a few hints. If you can figure out who they are, you can go to The Salon.
About Dan DiPiazza
Daniel is the founder of Rich20Something and leader of the tribe. He built the company up from humble beginnings blogging away in his basement. His honest and incredible writing abilities caused his blog to “break the internet” exploding him into the spotlight getting him features in outlets such as Time Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and Yahoo! Business.He has successfully started three consecutive freelance businesses and scaled them to over six-figures in revenue with ZERO startup capital. He makes sure the day-to-day at Rich20 is going smoothly, focuses on partnerships, strategy, and growth. Fun fact, he’s a Chipotle fanatic and loves Jiu-Jitsu…Wanna rumble? You don’t need to ask twice! OSS!
Anonymous Guest Interview
In this next portion of the interview, we’re going to discover a new guest. The key is to figure out who they are before the release of the next episode. Let’s dig in. Adam, thank you so much for coming on.
I’m going to ask you a few questions to give a hint to our listeners so they can try and figure out who you are. Let’s start off with the basics. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Connecticut, although I was born in New York.
When you were growing up, was there an incident or a teacher or an experience that inspired you to go into what you’re doing now?
Yeah. I thought I was going to work in finance and then I ended up traveling through the development world in my early 20’s. A young boy that I met on the streets of India actually really inspired me to end up doing the work that I led for the last eight years or so.
I happened to ask him if he could have anything in the world, what would he want most? Expecting him to write it down on a piece of paper. I thought it would be some big lofty answer because he was a street beggar. His answer was a pencil. I don’t want to give away too much but I did have a pencil with me and I gave him a pencil and learned that he had never been in school before. That ended up inspiring a lot of the work that I pursued after that.
What is the accomplishment in your career you’re most proud of, without describing the specifics of it?
The accomplishment that I’m most proud of was when I started the venture that I started about eight years ago. Everyone told me that it was going to be impossible. Getting that first major ambition completed, which was an effort to honor my grandmother, is probably the thing that I’m most proud of. Just that first one. Everything that came after that was really icing on the cake.
Here’s a bit of a twist. In the eventual movie of your life, because there’s little doubt that you’re going to be up there with like the Patch Adams and so on, who would play you?
I’d go with Denzel Washington.
That might be a little bit of a red herring. Is there a song or movie that represents your life?
I’d say there are a couple of songs. I feel like every couple of years I discover a song that I fall in love with and it seems to really speak to that place that I’m at in my life. I would say, Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead.
If you hear the stories of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs that give their story of how everything got started, they sometimes have this craziest moment where they pulled a stunt or a dare or took on a bet that caused their success. Is there one of those in your history that stands out?
There’s probably a handful. One that really stands out for me is that I was deciding whether to leave a really great safe corporate job that I had or pursue the organization that I was founding and really go after it full-time. It was a pretty daunting task, decision in hand. Although the sense of purpose inside of me was guiding me towards leaving my job and going after the organization. I came home the day that I was given an ultimatum by my employer that I had to make a decision, one direction or the other.
As I walked up to my stoop in the apartment, a little one-bedroom that I was living in the East Village at the time, there’s an artist named De La Vega who used to tag all these parts of the East Village with graffiti and whatnot. He had tagged literally my garbage upfront. There was a cardboard box right in front of my building, my stoop. Written on it, as I’m contemplating what do I do with my life, is this De La Vega tag and it just says, “Become your dream,” literary right on my garbage in front of me. I decided to cut it out later that night. I went downstairs, it started snowing. I said, “One day, when we have our own office and this thing is real, this is going to be hanging off in the office.” Obviously, it ended up becoming real and that has hung in the office and different parts of my home ever since.
Was there a certain moment that made you feel like you arrived to some degree? Not that your work is ever complete but that you’ve reached a certain level of success and you’re, “I’ve gotten there,” to some degree.
I would say a big milestone for me personally was writing a book. I’ve always been a writer. I have literally dozens of leather bound journals that I would carry with me as I travel through the Earth and fill them out just with these internal thoughts. I always had an aspiration to one day write a book. Once you go write a book, you hope that it does well. When it came out, it went number two on the New York Times bestseller list and sold out on Amazon in five days. That’s the kind of moment that I feel like I’ve arrived.
As somebody who’s published a book, I know how difficult that is.
It felt insurmountable even a few weeks before it came out. It just started to pick up momentum. People really resonated with the content.
Who took number one?
He was a Nightline reporter. He wrote a book called 10% Happier.
Last question, what hint or riddle would you give people to figure out who you are?
Although there’s no relation whatsoever, my last name is synonymous with a company that makes home products of all kinds for many years. I have no affiliation to it whatsoever.
Listeners, you know what to do next. Try and figure out who Adam is and put in your guesses at InfluencersPodcast.com. I look forward to you joining us next week.