Leading Blog


3 Things You Need to Do to Unlock Your Potential

Jeff Lerner Potential

AT 16, I began my summer job working in the office supply room at a prominent local law firm. After three weeks of being treated poorly, I expressed my frustrations to my boss. I was fired by the end of the day. That job was my first and last taste of the corporate world.

So, I did some soul searching. The experience confirmed what I already knew deep down, that I was not cut out to work a traditional job, so I decided to pursue music instead. I figured if I was going to have to trade my time for money, it should at least be for doing something I enjoyed. Seeing high school at that point as just an early form of job training, I convinced my parents to let me drop out and pursue a career in music. They allowed it and even bought me a piano to practice on, but they were also quite clear that I was making my bed and would have to spend the rest of my life sleeping in it. I agreed and got to practicing — 10, 12, and 14 hours a day. I was obsessed — anything to avoid ever having to get another job.

By my early 20s, I was earning a full-time living performing and landed some gigs playing for “the society circuit” — the upper crust of Houston society which consisted mostly of energy executives and successful entrepreneurs. I was fascinated by these wealthy people who had the creative freedom of a musician but none of the financial struggle. Once I connected the dots that most of them owned their own businesses, I became obsessed with doing the same for myself.

During my 20s, I failed at 11 businesses, but I didn’t give up. At 29, after my final failure — 2 franchise restaurants which left me almost half a million dollars in debt — I discovered the concept of making money online. I was at the proverbial rock bottom, overweight, getting a divorce, and hiding from creditors, so I figured, what did I have to lose? I maxed out my last working credit card buying a course on affiliate marketing.

And it worked, or rather I did … like a maniac. In 5 years, I generated over $10 million in commission with affiliate marketing, then launched a digital marketing agency that did roughly $30 million in sales and landed on the INC 5000 list twice. Eventually, I was presented with the opportunity to sell my agency, and I took it, but I knew I wanted to pursue something else. I wanted to help others achieve the same level of success that I had created.

In 2019, I started ENTRE, an online education company on a mission to disrupt the education system and usher a new generation of “ENTREpreneurs” into the world. The rest is history.

How Anyone Can Unlock Their Potential

I want to make it clear that I truly believe everyone is an entrepreneur and can create any life they want in the modern economy, even if you don’t have a lot of money. To put this into perspective, here is a list of my companies and their total startup budgets:

Affiliate Marketing: $14K (grossed $10M in 4 years)
Agency: $10K (grossed $30M in 6 years)
Direct sales company: $0 (grossed $15M in 2 ½ years)
ENTRE: $20k (has done over $100M in 3 years)

As you can see, you don’t need millions of dollars to start a business. Now, I’m going to list three things you need to do to unlock your potential and create the life you want in the modern world:

1. Avoid Lifestyle Creep

Avoid lifestyle creep by holding onto the extra money you receive as your income increases. The next step is to invest in things that either create passive income or reduce expenses moving forward (e.g., buying a duplex and “house hacking” or paying for a car with cash to eliminate loan payments). Just because you have more money doesn’t mean you should spend more. If you do, you’ll be stuck living paycheck to paycheck.

2. Take Action

Most people think about taking action but are scared to fail. So, they stay where it’s safe and never change or grow. However, your comfort zone prevents you from building the life you want. Anything great comes with the risk of failure.

There is no chance for success in entrepreneurship without taking a risk. No one starts off creating million-dollar businesses. They start off creating and failing at several businesses until they find the one that sticks. Even then, that one successful business may not be their million-dollar business, but action was taken, and momentum was gained.

3. Shift Your Perspective

I believe risk tolerance is the new security, or at least an essential part of it. The old 40/40 plan (find a job to work 40 hours a week for 40 years and retire) has gone the way of the dodo bird. Every day the Bureau of Labor Statistics or some research firm publishes statistics that validate what we can all feel and see around us: the top jobs of the next ten years don’t even exist today, colleges are woefully behind in teaching the skills that matter most, most employees last an average of less than two years at any given job, and the average person has less than 10% of what they need for retirement, and so on.

The institutions that we have put our faith in for the last century (college degrees, long-term job security, retirement plans, etc.) are somewhere between underwhelming and insolvent. And yet, our nervous systems, which evolved over hundreds of thousands of years during which things changed relatively slowly, still prompt us to look around for large, collective institutions we can rely on. But they aren’t there. On the contrary, we need to be relying on ourselves and taking calculated risks.

I believe that 10,000 years from now, biologists will look upon this century as the time when the nature of man’s relationship to risk shifted, entrepreneurial creativity and value innovation became the new best strategy, and intelligent risk appraisal became the new evolutionary advantage. Of course, time will tell, but in the meantime, the happiest people I know are already entrepreneurs who take control of their lives and create the life they want using business as a tool rather than a trap, so I’ll continue to take my chances.

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Leading Forum
Jeff Lerner went from a broke jazz musician to $50 million in online sales. After a decade of building multiple online businesses to over eight figures and twice landing on the Inc. 5000, Jeff turned his focus to educating and inspiring entrepreneurs about the power of digital business. In 2018, he founded ENTRE Institute, where over 50,000 students have discovered digital business. He is the author of Unlock Your Potential: The Ultimate Guide for Creating Your Dream Life in the Modern World.

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