Noah Kagan – How Taking Risks, Made Him Millions

Ying Lin Insights

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“Every decision you make requires taking on a certain level of risk”

Not only is this true in entrepreneurship, but the level of risk involved may even be elevated.

How should you handle risk for your online business? How can you learn to face rejection?

To answer these questions, we’re joined by Noah Kagan. If you don’t already know him, Noah’s an expert and serial entrepreneur who helps other entrepreneurs kick ass. A former Intel employee and number 30 to join Facebook, he’s currently the co-founder of Chief Sumo at sumo.com and appsumo.com.

If what you’re after is inspiration and actionable steps to apply to your business to help it grow, this is one energetic interview you do not want to miss. Noah will provide us with valuable insights about building, launching, and running a business as well as finding success.

Enjoy the podcast? Don’t forget to subscribe! Do also check out our blog for more inspirational and practical information that could help your business.

Short on time? We got you covered. Here’s a TL;DR seven-point version:

  1. If you want to accomplish anything, it will take about ten years for you to finally get there.
  2. What Noah really enjoyed about his journey to success was the interesting people he got to meet along the way.
  3. The dream is to have your work match up to your interests. Find your excellence, get even better at it, and then find ways to complement it.
  4. To be an entrepreneur, you have to be dissatisfied. There’s no satisfied entrepreneur because if you’re satisfied, you wouldn’t do it.
  5. You’re the average of the five people you learn from.
  6. Train yourself to embrace rejection with the coffee challenge: Next time you buy anything, ask for ten percent off.
  7. There’s unlimited money out there. You just have to figure out what’s important enough to people so that they’re excited to give you their money.

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The Hard Work That Goes on Behind the Scenes

Aleisha: Hey, Noah, thanks so much for coming on board Start Yours, this episode. It’s great to talk to you. You are obviously a podcast superstar, you have your own show, you’ve run a bunch of businesses, actually over 24. 

I recently watched a video, it was an excellent video, I highly recommend Start Yours listeners go to your YouTube site, it’s called “I’m Worth $10 Million. Plus, here’s every business I’ve ever done.” And not to get boast-y, but it’s pretty thorough, it’s pretty in-depth. 

Noah, tell me what it was like to go back through that list because this goes right back to early college time for you?

Noah: Yeah, yeah.

Aleisha: What was it like reliving all those businesses?

Noah: Well, thanks for having me and thank you everyone up in your ear lobes, it’s good to brrrrrr… Give you a little ear massage. It was interesting, a lot of different things came out of that. One, I didn’t realize I’ve been doing it so long, and…

Aleisha: How long have you been doing it?

Noah: Now, it’s been about 20 years.

Aleisha: Wow!

Noah: Right, and I think one of the things that came out of doing that kind of journey-down-business-idea lane, I call “the ten-year rule”. And it took me… If you want to get rich or if you wanna accomplish anything from music, to photography, to anything, what I’ve realized is, expect about ten years to finally get there. 

And that was one really wild thing from it. I think I didn’t realize how much I failed ’cause you don’t see… You know, when you eat at a restaurant, you only see what comes out of the kitchen, you don’t realize that the chef was sick, that ingredients were out, this person’s yelling, and all these… You’re just, “Oh, this dish actually was pretty nice.”

Noah Kagan quote on taking 10 years to find success

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And that’s what the audience sees. And so I think it’s helpful to open the kimonos or the kitchen doors to show that… Wow, yes, he might have some money and he’s done well, but you also don’t see… You haven’t seen all the other things that didn’t go well.

Aleisha: I’ve heard Amy Schumer talk about it with comedy when she appeared, and then she’s like, “Man, I’ve been doing this for like 15 years. I’ve been slogging my ass off for this time.” So I think we’re obsessed with everyone going, “Wow, they’re amazing, they’ve done it overnight.” And then you’re actually like, “Uh-uh, I’ve been back here working really hard and you haven’t seen any of it.” We’re obsessed.

Noah: Totally. Well, I had hair when I started this and now I’m bald, just to give you some ideas. I think of two other things that I would say I took away from that experience. Number one was really working on solving your own problems. I think with Shopify and Oberlo, it’s amazing in 2020 that you don’t even have to…

My stepdad and I were having nachos, and he’s like, “So if I had a product, how do I sell it online? How do I code it? Where do I put the server? Where do I get all that?” I’m like, “Literally, with Oberlo and Shopify, you can do this in an hour.” And so I think what’s really interesting about that is just really trying to work on problems that you’re very excited to work on for ten years. 

The other thing that’s been amazing in my journey that I thought was really special for me and I really appreciated was just all the people I got to meet along the way and I never really realized that. I got to meet Tobias, I’ve spoken at Shopify in Ottawa, and I’ve gotten to hang out with a lot of very interesting people because I’ve put myself in places and I was trying to find interesting categories to work on. So lately I’ve done Shopify, now I’m doing youtube.com/okdork, and doing a lot of content creators. 

And so I think for anyone out there, just think about in your week or weeks or months, how many people have you met that are interesting? 

And maybe if you’re not, put yourself in places, or start writing, or start documenting your stuff and documenting your journey and start connecting with other people. And that’s been honestly as almost as amazing as the businesses and the money and the help that I’ve been able to do over the years.

Aleisha: What I really enjoyed about the video, not only was the huge sort of diverse range of businesses that you’ve dipped your toe in over the years, it’s not… You’re not on one thing, you jump around all the time, which is fantastic to see ’cause I think that’s part of the journey, isn’t it? Just being able to sort of say, “Well, that didn’t work as well, maybe not.”

Noah: Well, the only thing I would say about that, I was talking with one of my best friends last night, and he… And what I would encourage people to do is try a lot of things out and find out what you’re amazing at. If you look at my career, you’re like, “Holy crap, mate, you’ve looked at a lot of different businesses.” Right, then my little bit of a Kiwi South Australian accent.

Aleisha: Thank you. Well, it’s good, yeah. Good on you, mate, good on you.

Noah: But, one of my friends said, and I think it’s not necessarily not jumping around, but it’s really figuring out what you’re amazing at. And that takes time or it takes facing fear or denial, and I am amazing at starting. And I’m really amazing at marketing things I love. But sticking with it, I’m pretty bad at. And it’s not to say I can’t change it or I have to limit myself, but I think with all of us, we all have… 

Everyone has a superpower, I believe. And what you have to find out though is who can you bring around you to complement that superpower.

And so for me, my superpower is igniting. That’s the word I like to think of. And so it is finding people over the years that, like, Ayman who runs AppSumo or Mitchell who runs, now, the Noah Kagan content brand. He runs that, and I’m just the voice. Not just, but I’m the voice of that. 

And so I think it is figuring out what part you love to play. And this is what I’m working on now through therapy and practice, is just also embracing that. Embracing your superpower, like going even further with it. And I think when I was younger, I would be like, “Oh, I like jumping around,” and I feel really guilty for that.

Aleisha: Do you feel guilty now or in hindsight? Or did you feel guilty at the time? Oh, this is a therapy session as well.

Noah: Yeah, it is. It is. You can send me the invoice afterward. I think both. I think for a lot of people, there’s a lot of guilt and shame. Especially starting businesses, there’s a lot of fear. And I think for ourselves we wanna be ourselves and I think with society or parents or jobs, all these different things kind of impact that. Yeah, I think even today I still feel a little guilty like, “Oh, why don’t I just stick with it. Noah, you just do all the stuff you stick with.” 

And I think where excellence comes in is finding your excellence and then sticking in that area and getting even better at that and then finding ways to complement it.

So finding the people that take the parts that I don’t like as much and really, they’re excellent. Mitchell helps find guests for the show or gets me on shows and he’s honestly excellent at it. But I did it for a day and I was like, “I’m gonna give up.”

Figuring out what you're amazing at is hard work, says Noah Kagan

Aleisha: Well, we talk about outsourcing, I think that’s something that a lot of people underestimate the power of being able to find and whether that’s being able to find a Mitchell in your life or just saying, “Someone to just run your Instagram page?” ‘Cause you go, “I freaking hate running the Instagram page. But I’ve got someone to do it and I don’t have to think about it anymore.” 

That’s a huge advantage, but I think people underestimate how much relief that can bring when you are starting a side hustle or a business or whatever you are doing.

Noah: Yeah. When you’re starting, I think almost the most important thing is giving yourself a timeline, a very fixed timeline. So a lot of the audience, I think, are starting, which is what your audience is. And we did a thing, Monthly1K.com, which is our course where I’ve helped over 10,000 people start businesses. 

And the number one thing I’ve encouraged people is, “Don’t spend any more money to start your business.”

I talked to someone today and they’re like, “Well, I’m gonna buy another course.” And I’m like, “You don’t need… There are no more secrets out there.” I still think there are secrets. I’m looking for the secret. I’m still looking.

Aleisha: Oh my God, if you’re still looking, what are we doing?

Noah: You’re screwed. No, I think my point there is that in business… What I’ve recognized is that there are no more secrets. And especially if you’re starting, whether you’re doing outsourcing, if you’re doing an ecommerce business, I think there are three elements I’d really recognize, which is one, limit your time. So give yourself two days. That’s all I have. Because I noticed when I gave myself a month or two to start a business, I would take a month or two and then I wouldn’t be as creative. 

Number two, no more money. So no more time, no more money. And I think especially with business, especially with, like, Shopify businesses, or even if you’re interested in doing a consulting business or if you’re interested in doing a content business, I think what people really get missed out on is they try to be like, “How do I scale?” And then I always ask them, “Have you helped one person?” And they’re always like, “No, I haven’t. But I have been trying to scale it.” I’m like, “Well, going from zero to one is infinity.” 

So I think if you’re doing ecommerce or if you’re really doing any type of business, my observation is just… If you’re trying to sell a product, even let’s say. I saw someone trying to sell coasters. “Have you sold one coaster?” 

Or my friend this girl Alyssa who is on Shopify, she sells The Win Journal. It’s an amazing journal. It’s a journal that just… You write down all your wins.

Aleisha: Great.

Noah: And I think it’s such a cool idea. And I was like, “Alyssa, how did you get your first customer?” She’s like, “I posted on Instagram, posted on Facebook, and I texted and called and reached out to my friends.” I was like, “Alright, how many did you sell?” She’s like, “I’m making $1,000 a month,” which I think is… That is a great goal.

Aleisha: Great. Yeah.

Noah: Great. And then she asks me, so she’s like, “What marketing should I do now?” And I was like, “Well, what worked?” She’s like, “Oh, I did Instagram, I did Facebook, I reached out to my friends directly.” I was like, “Well, just do more of that.”

Aleisha: And repeat.

Noah: “And just go one by one.” That’s what she said as well. Just one by one and keep doing it, and then you’ll start thinking, “Well, let me experiment with the 20 percent,” which is the Facebook ads, with the blogging, with the YouTube, with some of these other things. I really like hand-to-hand combat in marketing in the beginning. And I think some people read a blog post of mine and be like, “Oh, this is how you get to eight figures or seven figures. I have to do ads.” 

I get it. But I like to understand the thing and get the result really actively, and then try to figure out how to hire or use software to make it more passively.

Find Inspiration From Those Around You

Aleisha: Tell me about when you first started, you speak a lot about hooking… I say hooking up, probably the wrong term, but…

Noah: I love it.

Aleisha: Well, hooking up. You’re hooking up with friends, but finding people that were like-minded. And I’ve always had the entrepreneurial sort of buzz in me. But you meet people and you’re like, “Yeah, you don’t get it. You wanna go work the nine-to-five,” which is absolutely fine. I’m not dissing at all. 

But how are we finding these connections? When did you know? ‘Cause you launched multiple businesses with friends early on and now. What was that sort of, that spidey sense that you had that you went, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s take this risk together?”

Noah: I asked my mom that question and she says that she does not believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur.

Aleisha: Interesting.

Noah: And I was like, “Oh!” I kind of appreciated that. I appreciate that she doesn’t believe in… I think the real issue here is that a lot of people think that the entrepreneurial journey will give them the freedom they want or the lifestyle they want or get them out of the rat race, but it’s just another race. 

And I think the real question is, “What do we each… ” And this is very individualistic, is that, “What do you want in your life? And what career will help you attain that, or what profession will help you attain that?” 

And I don’t think most people actually get it and that’s unfortunate for how much time we have alive and how much time we spend working. 

I think the dream to me is how do you have your work match up to your interests or passion, and then the majority of your time is around that.

Entrepreneurship is just another race, says Noah Kagan

One thing lately I’ve noticed is that I think fulfillment can come from anything. So if you’re a janitor, you could find fulfillment, really. And my struggle sometimes is that I’m… And this is probably where I’ve been successful, is to be an entrepreneur, you have to be dissatisfied.

There’s no satisfied entrepreneur because if you’re satisfied, you wouldn’t do it. You’d be like, “Well, everything’s great the way it is.” But that level of dissatisfaction leads me to never feel satisfaction. 

So I’m always chasing, starting new businesses, chasing to finally get it. And so I’m exploring finding more fulfillment or enjoyment in just the thing I’m doing now instead of thinking the next thing is finally gonna give it. 

And that’s a very common entrepreneur thing, where like… This is my favorite thing with entrepreneurs, especially people starting out, they’re like, “I’ve got five business ideas. Which one should I do?” And they email me. So this happened recently. He emails me, “Dude, should I do A or B?” I honestly just replied “A”, ’cause it doesn’t matter.

Aleisha: Who cares.

Noah: And then he replied with more questions. I was like, “Just start.” And I think that in terms of the entrepreneur’s spidey sense… I think what I love is when people are like, “Hey, I built this for myself,” which I think is the way to do entrepreneurship. Solve your own problems. 

Like AppSumo, I get deals on my favorite tools to run businesses. Awesome. Now I can create content teaching people how to start their own businesses. Awesome. Can’t believe I get paid for that. 

Solve your own problems and really think about that and figure out what DOES give you fulfilment. 

And a lot of people are like, “I don’t know what gives me fulfillment.” Well, go try 24 different business ideas. Do ’em, see which one’s finally actually in it. ‘Cause I did a lot that I didn’t like. I did games, I hate games. I did payment processing for companies, I hated that.

Aleisha: Sure.

Noah Kagan quote on entrepreneurship and dissatisfaction

Noah: I worked at Intel, I worked at a cubicle at Intel. I hated that. And then eventually I found pieces that I liked. I even hated working at Facebook. I hated working at Mint. There were parts I really liked and so I did that. I think one thing that you said that I wanna highlight for the listeners, especially if you’re starting, is that you’re the average of the five people you learn from. 

So I think you have… If you’re in Melbourne or if you’re in Adelaide, or if you’re in Perth or you’re somewhere else in the world, maybe in a very small city, and you’re like, “Well, Noah, I’m not in this country. I don’t have any friends.” 

Number one, YouTube is free and literally anyone in the world you can learn from, for free. Unlimited. And so I would spend more time there. And the second thing is that within Oberlo, or within Shopify, or even YouTube, like Noah Kagan, there are a lot of groups. And so I think you need to figure out… Or start your own YouTube channel. Or go to sendfox.com, and… That’s a service we built. Start a newsletter and start meeting people ’cause I do think that you will… How do I say it eloquently? You will go to the lowest denomination of your friends. Does that make sense what I’m saying?

Aleisha: Yeah, it does.

Noah: What I mean by that is that if all your friends are doing interesting things and that’s the lowest denomination, you’ll probably rise to that level. But if you’re friends are, “Hey, yeah, let’s go to McDonald’s again. Let’s all work at McDonald’s.” Which is… Look, if they like working at McDonald’s, I don’t know, I have no problem. It’s more about what you want. And so it’s… What I’ve noticed in my lifetime, professionally and personally, is I love being around inspirational people.

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And if you meet my friends, like my friend Neville does kopywritingkourse.com and teaches people how to do copywriting. I’m staying at Andrew Chen’s house. He’s a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz. I have met some people who are now super famous like Tim Ferriss is super famous now. And I just helped him promote his book in 2007 before it came out.

And so I think the question is if you’re starting out and you’re in a remote city, each week, commit one hour or even ten minutes to helping someone else. And that is how you will build a network where eventually you’ll have cool friends or cooler professional or personal friends and it’ll help elevate your status. Not status, it’ll help elevate your fulfillment and satisfaction in life, I would say.

You're the average of the five people you learn from, says Noah Kagan

Aleisha: Yeah, and status I suppose is very… It’s a malleable thing in our society. It doesn’t necessarily mean that status has to be attached to money or status has to be attached to success as well. I think it’s something, as you said, if you’re with a group of people that inspire you and are pushing you forward, your status will rise within that little bubble.

Noah: Yeah, I just think it’s inspiring different facets to have people doing interesting things that kind of spur you. Like my friend JR… And it can be people who have day jobs. One of my best friends JR now works at a corporate company. But how he applied for the job inspired me. 

He spent probably 60 hours applying for one job.

Aleisha: Wow.

Noah: People can’t see me, I’m holding up a finger. One. But I was like, “Dude, that is insane.” And then I was like, “Well, how much time am I spending for the things I want?” I thought that was powerful.

Train to Not Fear Rejection

Aleisha: Let’s talk about risk ’cause that is sort of the loose theme of this episode. And I thought it was… You were the perfect guest for this because…

Noah: Thank you.

Aleisha: Thank you. Especially going back to that video of watching you go through all of the different businesses. There were risks there. There were businesses that did not make money. There were businesses that made a bit of money and you bailed or you decided this wasn’t for you. 

What is in you that says, “Yeah, damn it, I’m gonna take a risk. And then if this doesn’t go, I’ll move on to the next thing.” ‘Cause a lot of people would find that really freaking scary to do that.

Noah: I am not a risky person. I always wear condoms. So…

Aleisha: Good, good. Let’s all, let’s all wear our masks and look after ourselves.

Noah: I always wear a mask, always.

Aleisha: Good.

Noah: I do not consider myself a risky person.

Aleisha: Interesting.

Noah: Not at all. And I think people assume that incorrectly about an entrepreneur. And to be an entrepreneur ultimately, you just have to make enough money to support yourself. That is what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And the way I’ve approached it is, I think there are basically two things that… It’s not about me, it’s about the audience. It’s about the listener, that’s ultimately what’s most important. 

The two things that I would say that have helped me be risky, probably in other people’s eyes… ‘Cause when I quit Intel to go work at Facebook, my mom thought that was the riskiest thing that I could have ever done.

Aleisha: Yeah, right.

Noah Kagan quote on making enough money as an entrepreneur

Noah: In retrospect, it’s kind of crazy. It’s like, “Okay… ” Retrospect. Obviously now, it’s a $600 billion company, and being number 30 there, it was never risky. Why was it never risky? Because my cost of living was so low that even if they went out of business, I could go get a job in McDonald’s and be okay. 

So I think number one for everyone out there, just change your cost of living. Even now… And I think I’m actually still struggling with that, where now that I’ve made millions of dollars in cash, I’m still living like I’m poor, which is not a horrible thing, but I think my life could be a little bit more enjoyable. 

But I think especially if you’re starting out, just get a cost of living that’s at zero. Like I lived in my mom’s house for two years, I lived in my aunt’s basement for one year, I lived on couches for a year. So one, maybe I’m just cheap. But two, there’s no… If I don’t have to make a lot of money then I’m not pressured. 

I think some of the power, like real power is when you can do what you want and if you don’t have to make a lot of money, guess what, you’re not at the hands of anyone. 

I think the second thing that I’ve observed in terms of risk is that it’s actually a skill. So if you think about it, you’re a podcaster, that’s one of your skills.

Aleisha: Yep.

Noah: Not your only one.

Aleisha: Nope.

Noah: But how long have you been doing it for?

Aleisha: About seven years.

Noah: And then how have you… Have you improved over the seven years?

Aleisha: Damn straight I’ve improved.

Noah: Hell yeah, you have.

Aleisha: This is how I got this job. I had another podcast and then I got a job with what I’m doing now, hosting this show. So yeah, it certainly has expanded, broadened my horizons, Noah.

Noah: That’s exactly right. And that’s a skill. So now… You guys can’t see it ’cause you’re listening to her. But she’s got this booth with this foam and she’s got all this stuff in her closet because she’s a professional. She’s not an amateur. 

And to be a professional, it takes time and it takes practice.

So one of my themes in general lately is the idea of training versus playing. Like right now, we’re playing, we’re playing. I mean you are playing with this work that you do. But training is when you listen to your audio again and actually do the edits. Training is when you actually watch other experts. Training is when you try new equipment. Training is when you practice. And I think the same thing goes with risk. 

And so the thing that I’ve always encouraged people to do is the coffee challenge. And the coffee challenge… And I have more of them. But the idea is, how do you train risk? How do you train fear so you’re not afraid? 

I’m reading this book, it’s actually right here, it’s called “Return to the Little Kingdom” and it’s a fascinating older book about Steve Jobs and Apple. But one of the most inspirational quotes that was in there today was about how Steve Jobs was never afraid to ask. And I was like, “That’s interesting.” And I have Jewish parents and Jews, for some reason, I don’t know, in our culture, we ask for a lot. But I think it’s more we’re taught to question.

Aleisha: Right.

Noah: In Judaism, it’s like, “Question everything.” And so I think that’s the same in business. Where if you can train fear and the “ask” muscle, you can not be afraid of asking people for money for the exchange of things, which is what business is. 

So the coffee challenge is next time you buy anything, you just ask for ten percent off. And I want everyone to do this. Have you ever done this?

Aleisha: Oh, I have. I have. And I really enjoy this concept. I’ve got a similar version I’m gonna share with you in a second, so go for it.

Noah: Please, please.

Aleisha: Yeah yeah.

Noah: I think what I encourage people though, and I’ve posted a video of me doing it, and I’ve done it a few times, and I encourage people to do it, and I’ll keep doing it. The point of this one, and there are many ways of doing it, the challenge is not to actually get the discount, it’s actually to get rejected. The whole point is to get the rejection. And then once the rejection happens, realizing, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And then you start realizing, “Wow. What else am I not getting in life because I’m not asking for it?” 

There’s a quote which I like, which is, “There’s no cost to ask”. The downside is zero. The upside is unlimited. 

My friend was approaching a female and I said, “Man, I can’t believe you went and talked to her, that’s so scary and so bold.” He’s like, “Well, the upside is like she could be my wife or we could hang out and she’s amazing. The downside is what? I get a moment that I don’t feel comfortable and there’s a little bit of rejection.”

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And so I like that conceptually, and I think the more that we can practice that… So, like, the coffee challenge is one of them. Another one is the dollar challenge, which is when you’re starting any business, just try to get someone to give you a dollar. Just $1 or whatever Euro or Shekel or Yen or whatever you wanna call it, Pound. 

And you’d be shocked, ’cause… And I think what’s amazing about this, and we do the dollar one challenge in our Monthly1K.com course, when people are doing it, that’s the part where they actually start realizing they can do it. I think what’s more important, especially for business and probably for life in general, is that I don’t think… I think asking, generally, is more about, “Are you getting what you want?”

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: That’s really what you’re trying to say here. And I like the idea of the coffee challenge, or the hotel thing, or the dollar challenge, and more importantly, it’s, “How do I control my confidence?” And I think confidence is kind of an asset, it’s like a skill that’s built, and so like…

Aleisha: Hugely, yeah.

Confidence is an asset, according to Noah Kagan

Noah: And so even small things, like I like making my bed every morning. Why? Because I can control it and it makes me feel good that I’ve accomplished something. And I think with business, especially if you’re starting out, especially if you’re starting out, there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of doubt, there’s a lot of discouragement, there’s a lot of… 

Even when I started AppSumo… AppSumo is now a very high eight-figure profitable bootstrap company and we’re the number one site online for software deals for people that didn’t know. When I started out, my mentor was like, I don’t think this is gonna work, and I don’t think… I don’t know how you’re gonna be in business after a few months. And so yeah, of course, that’s discouraging.

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And so I think, especially if you’re starting out… What I always… I love doing the one by one. So if you’re starting out, just don’t even worry about any of the website stuff, any of this stuff, just get one person. And then after you do that, just get one more. 

And a lot of the success in business is momentum.

So I think just kinda focusing one by one, especially… I think another thing is, if you are in business, some of the people that listen to this probably are in business. Some days when I get discouraged, I just go back and help one person. Like when I’m not making a video that’s great or a business to do great or revenue, I’m just like, “What am I doing this for?” And then let me go back and do that with one person.

Reaching Out to Establish a Relationship

Aleisha: It’s good. Do you feel… Actually one thing I would like to just touch on a little bit is in a recent video you were talking about people writing to other people that they admire going, “Hey, do you want to have a coffee. Do you wanna catch up?” And they don’t have to write like that. 

But when you receive those emails, it can be pretty annoying because you’re like, “Well, this is… ” Especially in current times when we can’t physically probably go and have a coffee anymore. 

But can you just talk a little bit about the way we should approach potential mentors or people that could help us out with business ideas or any sort of assistance in a way that isn’t discouraging for the other person on the other end of the email or the phone?

Noah: Well, let me give you an example ’cause I did it this morning. I’m reading this book by Michael Moritz that I highly recommend, “Return to the Little Kingdom” about Apple. I’ve read a lot about Apple and I’ve met Steve Jobs, which is crazy. I found Mike’s email this morning and I emailed him and here’s the email. 

I mean I can look up the exact words, but the summary of the words was, “Thank you for writing this book, Michael. I’m reading the book right now, this is phenomenal. Thank you so much for doing it.” That’s it. That’s literally… Let me see. Oh, here it is. “Thanks for writing the book, loving the book, and how you’re writing. Have a great week. Sincerely, Noah Kagan.”

Aleisha: Amazing.

Noah: That’s all I said. So, I think there are different components. If you’re trying to build a network… I can give you my email address, it’s noah@sumo.com. 

To build a relationship is to get me to respond to you, to get me to want to respond to you.

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: So, I’m working on a book right now about starting businesses. And if people wanna get on the beta list, they can email book@okdork.com and I’ll put them on the beta list. But here’s actually what’s really fascinating. This, honestly, was a game-changer in terms of realization for me. 

How many people can I count on to help me with this book? And that is a direct relation to how many people I have helped. And that was a really interesting mental exercise to go through. I was like, “Huh, could I count on this guy? Can I count on this girl? Can I text them a question?” 

So, I texted James Clear, whose book Atomic Habits is phenomenal, I highly recommend it. He spent an hour and a half talking to me about books. And this guy sold two million copies, which puts him in the top one percent of books. And I was like, one I’m like, “Yo, why is he responding to me?”

But on the flip side, it’s because I’ve put him on my show twice, I’ve promoted his stuff on AppSumo, or we have. I’ve gone out of my way to be helpful to him over the years without ask and without… 

And people do this sneaky thing, “I’m gonna help you.” Wink wink. “You’re gonna do this for me next.”

Aleisha: Yeah.

Noah: And it wasn’t. And so I think the question for anyone building relationships or wanting to help people is, “How do you genuinely help them in something that matters to them?” I think a lot of times when people say, “Noah, I did it, but they’re not responding.” I’m like, “Well, what you’re doing is not of enough importance to them that they don’t want to.” 

So, for instance, for me right now, it’s like AppSumo’s number one at our company. Number two, I’m working on YouTube. So if someone said, “Hey, here’s how to get 1,000 more YouTube subscribers,” or, “Here’s a product that you guys should promote on AppSumo.” Yes, I’m gonna respond. 

And I think a lot of people just were like, “Hey, can I pick your brain about this?” And so, I think what I would… One way of thinking about… I think, sometimes, it’s better to know how long it takes because then you’re like, “Oh, okay.” It’s like if you know it takes this long to do something, you’re like, “Okay, I know what to expect.”

So, I think with anyone you wanna build relationships, like genuine relationships, help them for a year. Just know that it’s gonna take a year of helping them before you should ask for anything. And I’ll tell you myself, for my show, I email people. I emailed the guy who wrote The Office today, and I complimented him. But in the past, I’ve emailed them and I’ve just been like, “Hey, can you come on my show? I wanna promote you.”

Help people for a year before asking them for anything, says Noah Kagan

Aleisha: What, Ricky Gervais?

Noah: Oh, no, Ricky is the original, but BJ Novak.

Aleisha: Oh, yeah, BJ Novak. Great. Yeah, he would be amazing for your show.

Noah: He would be phenomenal.

Aleisha: Well, obviously, BJ listens to this show. So when he listens, he can definitely then go on.

Noah: Well, I think the point there is that in terms of building relationships and building a business, frankly, I would say about 80 percent of my revenue, my personal… Let me be more clear. 

80 percent of my net worth has come from who I know.

Think about that for a second. 80 percent, probably even more. So, Tim Ferriss, Andrew Chen, Ramit Sethi, all these amazing people and companies are the reason I am worth millions of dollars. And so, it’s not, “Noah’s bragging or not bragging.” It’s more to think about, “Okay, well, what does that mean for me?” It means that, “Well, who do I wanna be?” That’s a great question I always ask but, “Who can I go and help that might be able to help me in the future?”

Aleisha: Well, your YouTube channel is amazing. I’ve spent far too long on it, I must say.

Noah: Have you really?

Aleisha: Yes. Yes.

Noah: Wow, amazing, amazing.

Aleisha: But that’s good because we are very encouraged to explore and learn. But it’s been fantastic. I enjoyed you sitting in the van. I just encourage people to go back. Noah spent some time in a van on his own. This is my therapy concluding here. But I think that was really interesting as someone that is obviously really involved in your tech life, but to be able to take yourself away and do that is really nice, especially in these times. But, yeah, I highly encourage people to go and spend an extra lot of time. They’re very enjoyable. 

I have really had a great time speaking with you, Noah. Thank you for this and I hope people feel motivated. I know they’ll feel motivated leaving this interview. Take some risk. Start some businesses.

Starting Something New Doesn’t Mean Giving Everything Else Up

Noah: Oh, big time. Do the challenges. Yeah, the challenges, I would say, a lot of times it’s just getting… The number one regret I’ve heard in business, almost the number one regret is… It’s more around email marketing, which is where I spend a lot of… Where I’ve made a lot of my money, is that, “I wish I would have started sooner.” I can’t tell you how many people were like, “I wish I started my email list sooner.” And I think that applies to all of it, my Shopify site or ecommerce business, my network, my personal growth. 

And so, I think the question I would encourage everyone is, “What is the one thing you’ve thought of doing that you could do today?” 

And you’re like, “Well, it’s so big.” I have a morning routine. My morning routine takes me about an hour, and I put a video out about it on YouTube. And people are like, “What’s an hour? I don’t have an hour, I have kids,” which is crazy. If you have kids and you’re trying to do a startup and all this stuff, much respect. 

But the question is like, “How do you do one small thing today and just do that every day?” And then you add that up over enough days, something significant happens.

Aleisha: Yeah and you don’t have to quit your day job to do this. I love that you also said this ’cause we’re big cheerleaders of saying, “You don’t have to give up your whole life just to start something.” It doesn’t need that and also that’s risky. That’s a huge risk, to give it up.

Noah: I think that it is…

Aleisha: This is a whole other podcast.

Noah: No, it’s an interesting topic. I think for starting businesses, I think one of the ideas that I’ve had, Aleisha, is just making money is easy. And it’s not like, “Oh no, he’s gifted.” It’s just easy. There’s unlimited money out there. You just have to figure out what’s important enough that people are excited to give it to you. Excited. And I think what a lot of people do in starting businesses is that they read a blog post, they see that you can do dropshipping, they get Shopify, put it up, they don’t make money, they’re not a millionaire in the first month, and they give up. 

And I think what you have to figure out is either what is something that you’re excited to explore for the next ten years.

It could be writing. It could be making a video. It could be selling products. It could be, instead of being the person selling products on Shopify, you could be reviewing the products. I’ve seen this woman on Instagram, I don’t know her exact name, but all she does is review all the new D2C, direct-to-consumer, brands. She gets free products and reviews them. And now she’s built like a six or seven-figure business out of that.

And I’m like, “Oh, you don’t even have to make the products. You can actually… ” Or there’s Marques Brown, the guy who reviews tech gadgets on YouTube. He’s super, super popular. He doesn’t make any products. He’s just reviewing them. And I think the point is that you can tell he loves to do that. And so I think it is finding those things and then spending your time in that zone.

Noah Kagan quote on unlimited money

Aleisha: That’s great. Noah, if people wanna get in touch, you’ve given your email. Thank you very much for that. Also, there’s the YouTube channel. Anything else you wanna… Where do we wanna send people to learn more about you?

Noah: Yeah, man. Well, if they’re in the podcast world, I do have “Noah Kagan Presents” podcast, which is… A lot of it is how to overcome fear and success on the business journey. It’s more for underdogs, it’s what I like to call my audience. We’re all the underdogs. 

If you are starting or growing a business and you want tools, appsumo.com is the number one place for that, for getting good prices and the best tools. If you’re starting a business and you want help with Shopify or Oberlo, I would say Monthly1K.com. It’s basically… It’s $7 and we give you your money back after you make it. But I think it is the number one best way for anyone who’s looking for support and a strategy on success in business. 

And then my number one priority is YouTube. So I’m looking to help people get results on their business journey. So it’s youtube.com/okdork.

Aleisha: Fantastic. Noah, thank you so much for sharing this time with us and your insights and your accents.

Noah: Oh, thank you.

Aleisha: I feel like… I don’t wanna school you on it. I like to do my… I can do my American accent, but I think your Australian accent needs a little bit of work. But we can work on that next time. How about that?

Noah: We will. You know who’s phenomenal? Hugh Jackman.

Aleisha: Yeah, he’s very clever. He’s a good guy. He’s a national hero. We love him.

Noah: Dude, that guy. Wow. Seriously. One gorgeous, talented, singing… What can’t he do?

Aleisha: He’s a triple, quadruple threat and we need to keep him safe. Whatever happens, we need to keep him safe.

Noah: Hugh Jackman for president or prime minister of every country.

Aleisha: I’ll take it. I’ll take it. We can share him around. I feel like this might work for us all.

Noah: I do like Hugh.

Aleisha: Thank you so much, Noah.

Noah: Thank you for having me.

Aleisha: Thanks.

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Ying Lin
Ying Lin
Ying Lin is a journalist-turned-content marketer who is on a journey to help companies scale. She is also the co-founder of Dear Content, a content marketing boutique.