Yaro Starak, Founder of Entrepreneurs-Journey.com: 'There’s no such thing as failure, there’s only stepping stones to success'
Yaro Starak‘s an entrepreneur and content creator who’s made it his life’s mission to teach others how to make a full-time income from blogging, while also looking at everything with the mind of a curious child, always eager to learn more.
He’s the founder of the website Entrepreneurs-Journey.com, co-founder of InboxDone.com and a coach through the Blog Mastermind program. He has a few other training programs, all available on EJinsider.com.
Yaro’s been creating, managing and selling digital assets since the end of the 90s, from back in the dial-up days.
He started Entrepreneurs-Journey.com in 2005, as a hobby-site where he could share stories and lessons from the previous years he spent as an entrepreneur.
2007 was the year when he transformed his blog into his main business, and also the first year when he made $100,000 from it – only two years after he started Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. His income from the blog hasn’t dropped below $10,000 a month in the past decade.
It was only after he was earning an average $10.000 a month from his blog, with only 2 hours per day to maintain, that he put together and sold his first Blog Mastermind coaching program. Since then, through his blog, email list and training programs, he teached thousands of people how to make a full time income from blogging, grow a newsletter and sell digital products or services.
It became a lifestyle business, one that brought him the freedom that he wanted. I’m not talking about just the financial freedom, but a time freedom that enables him to control how he spends his time, work on what he wants, when he wants, and be able to enjoy his time. Born and raised in Australia, he currently resides in Canada, but was able to travel around the world and work from anywhere.
Along the way he’s been through a few failed businesses, including a software company, before he realized he missed the creative process and decided to shift his focus back on to teaching and writing.
He recently co-founded Inbox Done, a startup that takes care of emails for others, by providing them a dedicated email manager.
Yaro’s currently going through a rebranding process with his businesses, so all his projects are going under the Yaro.blog domain, which has replaced Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.
I reached out to Yaro at the beginning of this year, curious to learn more about the books that left marks on his journey and what he learned from them. Yaro answered my questions in the audio recording you can listen to below – or read, if you prefer the transcript. At the end you’ll find the links to all the books mentioned.
Thank you, Yaro, for taking your time with this!
Most people stay away from business books. The term “business” scares them and for a good reason: they’re mostly fluffy, bull*****y, scammy media-hyped products that provide no real value. I’ve also noticed a common advice given by entrepreneurs: to avoid being trapped in the bubble of “entrepreneurship porn” literature. For example: biographies, because of survivorship bias. Can you tell me more about your favorite books and in what context they were useful?
Wow, yes, that is a long question that’s actually a short question. So, thank you for clarifying that because that is important. I would have started rattling off all these biographies that I really like and I haven’t really considered anything regarding survivorship bias before so, who knows, maybe I was impacted by that myself.
I do remember though, in terms of books that have made an impact on me, what’s been important is certain stages of my life – they were important. Maybe not today, as I would read them – or listen to them, because I mostly do audiobooks now – I wouldn’t find them as impactful as I did, for example, when I read them in my early to mid-20s, as a younger entrepreneur still getting going and just a younger person trying to learn about finances and mindset and business.
So, going back in time, some of these are going to sound very cliché answers, but those are the books that are very popular. You’d go to the bookstore back then (this is before Amazon was really the main place to buy books) and whatever was on the shelf in the business section was what you’d go for.
I know some of the most early books that were impactful for me were the obvious, like “Think and Grow Rich” from Napoleon Hill. “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber was big for me in my early days, because it showed me how you can build a business that runs without you. That was one my main important criteria back then and still today, really – to find a way not just to create a business that’s a job, I didn’t want a job in the first place, I didn’t want a business that would become a job either, so I needed to make sure I’d build something that would ultimately function (at least) almost completely without me or as close as I could get to it. So, “The E-Myth” really helped ram home those kind of ideas.
But I also have to highlight – yes, some biographies, because there were a lot of tech-based biographies, and even some non-tech biographies, that were very inspiring to me. I love hearing “behind the scenes” stories of how what would eventually become very large companies start as really small ideas in the mind of an individual.
For example, hearing how EBay started by Pierre Omidyar – he built the website because he wanted to help his girlfriend sell PEZ toys online and that turned into this huge business.
Certainly, hearing how Google started – I know I read what was called “The Google Story”, can’t remember the authors of that one, it’s quite an old book now, would probably need to be updated.
There were also more traditional books or businesses I read about, like the biography of Starbucks. That was really more the biography of the CEO, Howard Schultz, a lot about his growing the Starbucks brand. Since I spent a lot of time writing in Starbucks cafés, that was an important company to me.
Then, there were a lot of smaller tech companies that I read about that would be not so well known. There is this great book in Australia called “50 Great e-Businesses and the Minds Behind Them”. It just had these short stories behind some of the websites I knew about, like RealEstate which is a big real estate website in Australia and it talked about how that was founded, and how a bunch of other sites were founded. Everything from like those of e-commerce stores for baby products, lots of Australian-centric stories. And growing up in Australia, that was really interesting to me. So I’d love those too, because they were more closer to my level – it wasn’t eBay level of multi-billion dollar companies, these were sometimes 1 million to 5 to 10 million dollar companies started by normal people, so I really liked those kind of stories.
Some of the other books that came along that were important to me: one of the really important ones was “Living the 80/20 Way”, by Richard Koch, that became a really important foundation principle. Kong before guys like Tim Ferriss started to make it mainstream as well. So that book had a huge impact, I wrote an article on my blog about it in the first year of my blog, and it’s been something that’s been part of my life and all my businesses since then, so that’s a huge one.
Lots of other stories. Like, I read the Hershey story, how Hershey’s got started. I read the Cadbury story about the Cadbury chocolates got started. As you can see, there’s a bit of a trend here: coffee and chocolate with Starbucks.
I read about how Napster got started and crashed and burned. More recently, there’s been Amazon. So many of them, sort of big tech stories and small tech stories have come and gone and been very valuable to me.
But I think in terms of like that long term impact, certainly the 80-20 rule, “Living the 80/20 Way”, has probably had the most impact.
And then you get these nuggets from perhaps like Rich Dad, Poor Dad or the Richest Man In Babylon. You get this one idea about your finances that you take forward like Richest Man in Babylon – you know, save 10% of your money every year and make sure it grows 10% every year, and that’s how you can become wealthy long-term, because of compounding – a simple idea.
Rich Dad Poor Dad teaches you how to identify where you should be spending your time and investing based on your strengths and your passions. Not just because, for example, your parents are buying property, so you get into property, which is something I did and I didn’t really care about it so I didn’t really do super well with it, but I loved all my business so I did a lot better. And, you know, just having that awareness that it’s not just about doing what everyone else does, but also understanding powerful concepts, like compounding and leverage. Those are important things.
Anyway, there’s a bunch of books I mentioned there. Hopefully that answers your first question. I’ll move on to question two.
What book had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.
I don’t wanna say the 80/20 rule book again, that certainly had a big impact on me, but I’m not sure if it changed my career path.
I’m gonna say one book – didn’t really change my career path, but really cemented it, I had this interesting moment with it. It’s called The One Minute Millionaire. You probably heard of it as another popular business and self-help book. What I loved about it: it was written as two books, so on the left side of the pages was a story, and on the right side was the kind of like the “how to steps” that you can learn from the story. So you could kind of read it both at the same time or read one then the other and you get the narrative and you get the how-to. So that was clever, sort of a smart way to make a book.
But why I found it so powerful: it was a book that I actually saw someone reading on the streets once. They were sitting in the coffee shop and they had the book, and I went up to them and asked “hey, I’m reading this book too and I’m curious” (this person was a bit older than me, probably in their 30s when I was in my 20s) and I asked, I just talked to them for 5 minutes about the book and then I asked them: “so, are you actually a millionaire now?” and they said “actually, I am”. And I wasn’t, so I was still struggling to make money at the time.
So, seeing someone read that book, knowing they were wealthy – I think in their case it has something to do with real estate investing – just made me feel like it was possible. I was looking for constant validation, reinforcement, probably more for my own confidence more than anything else. Just to see that by being an entrepreneur and not falling in a career path, like all my friends were doing, I was still potentially OK and potentially on the path of becoming a millionaire as well. So It’s more scary when you’re not there and you’re just getting started.
So reading a book like that, which was actually also powerful because it pointed out how powerful the internet can be for making money and building a list, was one of the biggest lessons that can be taken away from that book: the power of having access to an audience. And I didn’t have a blog yet, I didn’t have an email list yet, so that was another thing that kind of got highlighted from “The One Minute Millionaire”. I wouldn’t call it my best book ever or the most impactful book necessary, but it was really important back then in regards to my career path.
What about non-business book that left marks on you?
Oh, I have read probably way more non-business than business. During the early days of my life, my mother read to me the classics, like “The Hobbit”, “Lord of the Rings”, Enid Blyton – “The Land of the Faraway Tree”, “The Narnia Chronicles”, “The Neverending Story” .
All these books were really important to me as a kid and they became just as important to me as an adult because I read through most of them again, for example (obviously) The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and also The Narnia Chronicles. Went through all of those again and got something powerful out of them because you don’t realize as a child what kind of maybe more spiritual or religious or conceptual or psychological or philosophical messages are hidden within the stories, that you just can’t see them as a child, so it was really great to see them as an adult and take away that extra layer from those kind of books.
I also went through a lot of fantasy, sort of your typical dragons and goblins and elves, like David Gemmell, Terry Brooks, that was my teenage years.
Then I got into sci-fi – and I’ve always sort of loved the space-opera genre, probably more than anything else. Isaac Asimov has been huge, I actually read that only in the last 5 to 10 years, his entire Foundation series. I went through those from start to finish and they were quite amazing. So easy to read, but also big ideas in there. So they were huge in terms of leaving a mark.
The other books I think I really enjoyed are biographies. I know you kind of hinted that they can be “entrepreneurship porn”, but I don’t just read business biographies. I’m a huge tennis fan, so I’ve read a lot of tennis biographies: John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Scott Draper, Rod Laver. There’s so many I’ve read over the years. Jimmy Connors, great, I love it because I love reading the “behind the scenes” stories, the more “soap opera” aspect of tennis, I guess it’s a little bit like my soap opera sometimes. Plus having grown up watching and playing, I kind of know the events and the history, so it’s nice to hear the actual players talk about them.
And then there’s other biographies. Recently I really enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, that was really fun.
Let me pull up my Audible list here and see anything that can trigger a memory, cause there’s so many I’ve gone through…
Benjamin Franklin, his own biography was quite impressive, even though it’s a little bit old in style.
Maria Sharapova, I have to add her to the list of tennis biographies that I’ve read.
Michael Jordan and Phil Knight, the Nike founder, two different biographies, those were great. See, Michael Jordan’s was really really quite good and doesn’t seem to get talked about as much, but it’s nice and solid.
I love really detailed biographies, the thick ones, kinda like the Arnold Schwarzenegger one and also Steve Jobs, the one done a few years ago – was nice and solid, really goes into the details, I love those.
They’ve always been really impactful, whether it’s an entrepreneur or an athlete or a well-known celebrity type person, or expert or historical figure, those biographies have had a big impact on me as well, and just enjoyable to listen to them.
I’m actually just, probably shouldn’t say this because I’m probably answering one of your future questions here, I’m just about to start the biography of Rockefeller so that will be interesting.
What books would you recommend to young people interested in becoming entrepreneurs? Why?
Yeah, there’s a few. I think it really depends in the time. Some books are going to be timeless, like you can read or listen to “Think and Grow Rich” and yes, you’re going to feel that it’s dated, but then you’ll also take away some very basic concepts around mindset, simply just how to think right, and those are very important to start with.
I think same with Rich Dad Poor Dad, One Minute Millionaire, Richest Man in Babylon, those sort of foundational, money-management, business books will give you conceptual introductions to the world of essential making money.
But the specific books regarding perhaps a direction you’re taking, that’s a little different, because I wanted to get into online business so I tend to read mostly (at least when I was young) more online business based books. Like, for example, I mentioned earlier, the 50 internet businesses in Australia book – is not super popular, is not well known, it’s just this little niche book in Australia, but it happened to target all the businesses that were either just recently successful or still successful, mostly in Australia, so very niche but very relevant to me and very motivating to me.
So I’d sort of suggest to young people that you find the stories of people who have done similar things, in similar industries, similar business models to what you’re thinking of doing.
If you’re not sure what that is, then by all means, explore a range of stories. But, you know, if you’re into fashion, you could be grabbing some of these biographies or even watching the movies, I guess, of some of the famous French fashionistas that have come and gone in the past, there’s some books around about them. If you’re interested in the online business space, there’s obviously a ton, but maybe you’re just into manufacturing.
One of the books I got a lot out of and I haven’t mentioned yet is called “The Toyota Way”, which is a book that essentially looks at the Toyota car manufacturing process and why it was so revolutionary, talking about some concepts like kaizen and theory of constraints that came out of that process that Toyota developed. And the book about it will give you such an insight into manufacturing, but also just general productivity, like kaizen – became a concept that was almost as important as the 80-20 rule to me, with my own business, but with my own life as well. By the way, kaizen means… it’s like a philosophy of continuous improvement that the Japanese follow or, at least, Toyota certainly followed in their business with the car manufacturing.
So, that’s something that I think can make a difference – perhaps to any entrepreneur, but certainly if you’re looking at something to do with like an assembly line, if that was your business plan, if it included an assembly line, then you’ve gotta get yourself “The Toyota Way” book because that’s gonna be so relevant to what you’re doing and will probably give you a head start, versus trying to figure it out by yourself. So that’s another recommendation.
I’d love to find out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? What format do you prefer? Do you have a favorite place?
That’s changed. Today, I’m 100%… no, well not true. I’m 95% audiobook. And that’s with Audible and the Audible app. Sometimes, if I can’t find the book on Audible, I might try and find alternative methods, as an mp3, but nowadays, more and more books are being turned into audio versions.
So I listen a 2 speed, sometimes 2 and a half speed on Audible, which allows me to get through books so much quicker then reading. I used to take 3 months to 6 months sometimes to finish a book – even when I was reading regularly. And for me ‘regularly’ used to be perhaps in the afternoon, I’d sit in the park, or be in the cafe, and I’d certainly read at night before bed.
Nowadays and for the last long time – I’ve been doing audiobooks for over a decade, I think – a lot of that is when I’m walking. So, there’s those times in your life where you have space for audio and only audio. You can’t really read and you can’t really watch, but you can listen passively. For example, you know, walking and catching the bus, which is something I do quite frequently, so I will often listen to audio books then.
Same with walking home, catching the bus home, travelling – anytime you’re on a plane or on a train, those are opportunities. For me, though, it’s almost always been something to do with movement, so often at the gym or some kind of cardio, riding the bike, roller blading, those are times when I’ve made use of audiobooks.
I’ve done some travelling around the world, quite a lot actually, and there’s some moments in my life when I’d been travelling alone. And I’ve been in a new country, and one of the things I love to do in a new city, a new country is explore just to get the lay of the land. So pick an area, make sure it’s known for having some kind of a scene, cafes and maybe restaurants and people and culture, and I’ll just drive there… Actually, that’s not true: I’ll walk there, ride a bike there, catch a train there or a bus there, depending on what’s the best way. Sometimes I’ll drive, if I use car sharing. But almost always, in any of those methods, maybe not driving, but certainly bus / train / car / walking / riding a bike, I will use an audiobook.
So travelling has been one of the times when I’ve actually done the most consuming of books – which is actually surprising. Especially when I’ve been solo, because you can’t if you’re travelling with someone, you’re more likely to be talking and kind of pointing out fingers to each other, but when you’re just walking around, figuring out where stuff is, to get to where you’re going… You know, if you want to get to the Eiffel Tower, you’ve probably got like half an hour transportation need to figure out how to get there, so that’s a great time to go through an audiobook. Especially if you’re there for a month.
I realize that when you’re excited, at the beginning, you might not be inclined to listen to an audiobook, because you just want to take everything in without any other stimulation. But once you’ve gotten used to something, or certainly if you’re exploring just the good old suburbs, then that’s a great time for doing that. So, by far for me, going for a walk – that is the most common way I’ve consumed books.
I used to read a lot more. It was something I would actually enjoy doing as a relaxation thing, mostly because there wasn’t that many audiobook yet and we didn’t have mobile phones yet. So when I was in my teenage years I did enjoy a lot the whole sitting at a cafe or riding the train into the city and have my book and actually read. But, as I said, I’m much slower… three months for one book vs one week for one book with the audio at 2 times speed? I get through so many more book nowadays, so I’m very very grateful for audio. And very grateful that I’m an audio learner too, because that means I enjoy that format.
How do you make time for reading in your extremely busy schedule?
Well, you’re assuming I have an extremely busy schedule. I don’t actually, I don’t have an extremely busy schedule. I guess people think if you’re an entrepreneur, you must be extremely busy, but that’s not true at all. I’m deliberately NOT extremely busy. This is actually the only work task I’m doing today, besides a little bit of communicating with my team on Slack, so I’ll be talking to you now for about 45 minutes maybe and that will be it.
Sure, I have things to do: I’m editing a book right now, I work with my team through Slack and email and sometimes Skype or some kind of phone calls. I certainly do a lot of writing , I do interviews occasionally, podcasts, interview other people as well. But a lot of these tasks are 2 hours here, 2 hours there, so I’m not super busy. I have plenty of time for reading but I don’t really sit on the couch at home.
For me, it’s the movement, the transition, as I just talked about, the transportation time is when I tend to do most of my listening. That just works well because it’s kind of a good passive activity. If I’m ‘pure relaxing’, that’s more of a Netflix thing, that’s when I’m sitting on the couch. It’s almost strange, I can’t sit on a couch and listen to an audiobook, that seems a little off, I have to be moving for some reason. I can sit on the couch and read still, but even that isn’t quite the same. It’s all Netflix this fall, we have too much… and YouTube as well, too much of all these instant stimulation points.
So yeah, I have no problem, but I think my tip for everyone who is extremely busy: the speeding up ability of playback, both for audio and video. I listen to all my audiobooks at 2, 2 and a half, I listen to podcasts at 2, 2 and a half. I even watch YouTube videos at 2 and a half – assuming it’s non-entertainment, like music videos, cause that would be silly. But interviews, content that’s educational, non-fiction – I speed it all up. So you can fit like… most modern books that are basic non-fiction books are only seven hours in content, so if you’re listening at 2, 2 and a half speed…
I’ll give you a good example: just recently I finished a book that.. let me look at my audiobooklist here, that was not super long… Yeah, “Built From Scratch”. This is a book about the foundation of Home Depot, so the couple of founders who wrote this book and I think, let me just double check how long it actually is – OK, it’s 11 hours – It’s slightly longer but not top of the super huge long books.
The biggest book I’ve actually listened to is Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” – that was about 45 or 55 hours, and I’ve got a couple of other books in here that are around that range too. But a normal kind of non-fiction or even shorter biographies, they’re somewhere between 5 and 15 hours so, if you’ve got a 10 hour audiobook, you double speed it, you’re doing it in 5 hours, you go for an hour long walk or bike ride or something like that, it only takes you 5 of those sessions. So 5 days, 1 hour bike ride each day, and boom! You finished a book. And that’s brilliant, I love that about content today. Digital content is the best!
How do you remember what you read? Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I probably don’t do a good enough job of this. I know when I was a brand new blogger, I was so much better at this because I was writing blog posts every week and I was writing about whatever I was doing. So if I read a book, like The Story of Google, I would jot down two or three points, the really big takeaways I took from the book, and I’d actually write a blog post and possibly tie it into internet marketing or my own business or what I thought my readers were trying to do.
That was a great way to learn something, remember it, cement it and create content. And I still think that’s great advice, I just don’t do it as nearly as much as I used to do it. Primarily because I’m not writing as much on my blog, my writing has been more focused on a book for the last 6 months to a year. And even before that, my writing for blogging has decreased a lot. I spend a lot more time creating products for the last few years. And obviously with social media and multimedia, kind of less writing, you’re doing more social media posts, maybe Instagram stories, Facebook videos, YouTube videos, so that has impacted how much writing I do.
That might change in the future so, again, I will no doubt take books as a great source of inspiration. But it also helps when you’re kind of working on a new project.
So, you know, for example, I’ve got a new startup right now that I’m building. It’s called Inbox Done and it’s essentially an email management service for busy entrepreneurs, so we can essentially take over your email for you. I’m right in the bootstrapping phase, we’re trying to get exposure for the service, we have out first few clients, and I’ve just been wrapping up a book by Chet Holmes, “The Ultimate Sales Machine”. He was a really well known and very respected sales and marketing guy, especially for sales.
Sales is not my strong point so the book, on some levels, has been a reminder of what is important in sales. It’s a lot more of person to person sales – not the kind of thing I do a lot of because I’m not on the phone trying to land clients, but it did remind me of some of the important aspects. For example, I’m gonna go out there and look for joint venture partners to promote my new service by interviewing me for a podcast on how I stopped doing email. 12 years ago I stopped doing email and that’s what kind of triggered the release of this new business. So, that’s a story I can tell and that requires to go and find people to interview me on podcasts and YouTube channels, and the book is reminding me of all kinds of thing I could do. So, I find that’s one way: if you’re actively learning, because you have to apply it in your life, that is, by far, the best to remember and learn from what you’re doing with the book.
Yeah, note taking is great. Conversations are great too. I’m a bit of, you know, what you’d call a dinner party smart-ass, I think, where I’m always quoting thing I’ve learned from books. Even when I’m just going on a date with a girl or talking to friends, I will say “yeah, I just read this in in this book” and I’ll blatantly rip off the story I heard in the book. I don’t make it my own, but it certainly helps me appear a lot smarter than I might actually be. But it also means that I do remember these stories a bit better than I otherwise would. So yeah, that’s another way to do it. I’m not a big note-taker though, I’ll say that upfront. It’s not something I’ve ever done a lot of.
How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone you consider a book-recommendations guru?
This is not something that’s happened, except for maybe the last year, but podcasters have really started to influence me because I go to the gym more frequently. To really connect the dots: I go to the gym a lot more than I used to because I’m actually staying put in one city and I’ve started enjoying the gym which I never used to do. I used to workout at home. Now I go to the gym, frequently I listen to podcasts at the gym.
I don’t know why it’s podcasts instead of audiobooks, but I guess it’s the shorter format I like at the gym. So you can get through one or two podcasts per gym session. And in those podcasts, for example, Tim Ferriss and James Altucher are two people I frequently listen to, they both have this kind of habit of bringing on people who’ve recently released a book.
I swear that James Altucher’s plan is to get the best guests on his show because they’ve just written a book. So he reads their book, he invites them into the show because they need exposure and he gets a great guest. So I’m frequently getting exposure to these new book authors. For example, Tyra Banks, the supermodel and TV host, came on his show and talked about the new book she wrote with her mom, and I actually did download it cause I had credit on Audible.
I would not tell you that I actually download a Tyra Banks book, surprising, but I really enjoyed the interview and Tyra was a lot of fun, and I thought it would come through really well in the audiobook, which it did, because Tyra and her mother actually read the audiobook.
So, that’s one way. I think that’s probably the best way right now, it’s social media. So, podcasts, Facebook streams, Instagram, that’s where I find out about books that people are reading today. I remember when Ray Dalio’s book came out recently, in 2017, and there was a lot of well-respected entrepreneurs, both the big guys as well as the more niched people in my space, that were just starting to talk about his book “Principles”. I know about Ray Dalio because he was mentioned in Tony Robbins’ book “Money Master the Game”, another book I went through a couple of years ago, another finance book, a great one. And Tony really gave a lot of props to Ray Dalio, so when his book came out and all these other people made me aware of it, I downloaded the audiobook as well, so that’s by far the most common way.
Second most common way and this probably used to be the most common way is the obvious one: walking into the bookshops. I still love to go to bookshops. Indigo Chapters here in Canada is still up and running. Back in the days, Borders was amazing, and there was a Borders in Australia, in my hometown that I loved.
Still, when I travel, you’got airport bookshops, you’ve got small boutique bookshops all around the world, and the big ones, so often I’ll go check the book section there.
And then Audible itself, because I get their emails and I go to their website and I’m a subscriber so I get… I think it’s two credits a month I can spend, or maybe three now, to get new audiobooks, so I’ll do that.
And they have the recommendation engines as well. I really like the fact though that there’s always a new stream of books coming out in certain categories, like there’s always a new business bio, whether it’s an entrepreneur or the background behind a business itself, you know.
The Amazon book comes out, the Google book comes out and then the AirBnb book came out, and the Uber story came out, and slowly getting whatever companies – new or big hits – will eventually get their bio. That always excites me and I do enjoy those.
Then there’s the more “how-to” based books and that’s different. If you’re looking to actually learn something, I still think audiobooks are one of the best ways to get a good grasp of a subject. Even better than some online courses because audiobooks are obviously a lot longer and they cover the breadth and scope of a topic. Maybe they’re not as good as a “how-to” book, some are, some aren’t, but often if you want to get a real well-rounded introduction to a topic, an audiobook will do that. So, you know, if I wanted to get into Facebook ads, I’d probably look to find a very very recent book because that’s such a changing topic. But if I wanted to get perhaps into hiring people, which in the past I did, I remember there was a book Eben Pagan recommended to me. Eben Pagan is another guy I’ve listened to over the years as another, I guess, thought leader, and there’s been a few over the years: Rich Schefren, Eben Pagan, Jeff Walker, and they’ve talked about books so I’ve grabbed their recommendations as well. Ok, hopefully that gives you an answer!
How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book recommendations guru?
No one that I would say is amazingly better than anyone else. I actually go with the flow. I don’t have a priority. Unless, of course, I am so excited about the person, the topic, the story – you know, I deliberately like tennis players, I deliberately like chocolates, so if stories around those people or businesses pop-up, I’m gonna be more excited about those.
Certainly, people who I know really well. I remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bio came out, I was quite excited about that because his life is spanned three different industries. I think that’s very unique.
Richard Branson, another guy, when his second bio came out just recently, sort of like the part two of his life, the next 20 years… I grabbed that because his bio… I should actually go back and answer your first and second question about biggest impact, and “Losing My Virginity” by Richard Branson was a huge one back in the late 90s for me, more about big thinking. The guy is crazy and I would never even consider replicating his lifestyle or life choices, but in terms of big thinking businesses. You know, he doesn’t go small, he goes big with everything he does, so I love to read his stories. And he can get into multiple industries, he can get into planes, he can get into health clubs, he can get into music, he gets into space. He doesn’t do anything by halves, so I really enjoyed his second, part two, biography which I think is called “Finding My Virginity”. Great audiobook!
So no, I don’t have any guru recommendations, I really go with the flow. So social media, podcasters, friends conversations, bookshops, and then I just see it show up in Audible.
Right now, for example, I can tell you I know what I have as choices, and some of this is based on topics. So I’ve got a book called “Attach”, which a friend recommended regarding relationship attachment styles. I’ve got “12 Rules for Life” which is by Jordan B. Peterson, which is, I guess, a personal development book by this well-known lecturer from Toronto, who also got into a bit of a hot topic with politics last year, I think it was in Canada.
I’ve got “Titan: The Life of J.D. Rockefeller”, which I just happened to see an Audible, and I was thinking I don’t know enough about the original big American entrepreneurs, besides Hershey – I think was one of the only ones I could think of from that era. There’s also Rockefeller, Ford, a lot of interesting early–day mega-mogul types, so that was interesting. “Built from Scratch” which is a story about the Home Depot, that was recommended by Tim Ferriss, after he did a podcast with the recent CEO of home Depot. So there’s some.
And then, I loved – I will give you the best recommendation this year – for me it was “Sapiens”, which was recommended I think 2 years ago by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as a favorite, and that was really enjoyable, I loved “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari.
So what I might do is open up Audible and…what kinda mood am I in? am I in a business bio mood? In a dissecting relationships mood? I’m in a sales and marketing mood? I’m in a tennis mood? Am I in a Tyra Banks mood? It really depends on what I feel like at the time, but as long as they’re in Audible, I’ll go through them. I was actually kind of reading 4 or 5 books at once.
Most successful people give you the advice “follow your passion”. What would you recommend to someone who is very young and not aware of their passion? Where should they begin their professional journey?
Oh, I like that question, that’s a good question. So I’ve been there. Everyone, I think, when they’re young – unless they knew from day one they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist – and, even then, it was probably their family forcing them to be that thing, you don’t know what to do.
And I knew I had passions, but my passion was… you know, Star Trek, chocolate, tennis. Those weren’t business ideas or things I could see myself turning into income streams. I wasn’t good enough to be a professional tennis player, I had no idea about starting a chocolate business.
These were things I enjoyed but I didn’t see them as career paths, so I had to figure that out too. And I can tell you the most important thing I would recommend is curiosity. I can’t recommend a better word to describe the way to figure this out because, and here’s the pitfall, a lot of people, especially when you’re young, tend to see things as either really successful or failures. And the truth is there is no such thing as failure, there’s only stepping stones to success, but emotionally we can label and feel things as failure. For example, we build a website and it never makes any money or never gets any traffic or we start a YouTube channel or Instagram channel but we never take off, yet these other people seem to take off doing something we don’t even think is as good as ours, whatever the case may be, so there’s plenty of opportunities to compare yourself to others.
So the important thing is to experiment and see what you like about processes. For example, probably my first full time income business was an essay editing company, and I loved building it because it was my first attempt at making a full time income from my own business, serious attempt at it, and I did it. I made a full time income and I got immense satisfaction and confidence from that outcome financially but, within 5 years, I realized I had no desire to keep growing this business, I don’t care about an editing company or continuing in this industry, so I need to find something else.
That’s when I discovered blogging and I realized oh wow, I like writing! I like creating content, I like teaching, I like podcasting. I didn’t know this about myself, until I started blogging as an experiment. So then I saw a potential pathway to make a living and started to focus on a blog, while my business paid my bills, my editing company. I eventually swapped them over and went full time blogging and sold off my editing company. And I would have had no clue if I wouldn’t just follow a bit of curiosity to kind of explore new things.
But you have to understand there’s phases. There’s the “I need money” phase which usually happens when you’re very young and you have to solve that money problem first. That’s when you tend to do things that maybe you don’t love, but you gotta do it because you need to make money. That could be a job you don’t like, could be the freelancing work you don’t love, but it pays the bills. It can even be a business that you start that you don’t necessarily love, but you love making it successful, like I did with my editing company. I loved the process of growing a company.
So then you can perhaps move away from the “I need to make money” to “what do I really want to do for meaning, for purpose?”. And if that could also make you money, that’s great. I wish I could say there’s a way to figure that out for sure from day one, something that gives you money, something that gives you meaning, and you can get that happening at 18 – that’s very rare. Even at 25, 35, 45, it can be very rare, so you have to understand: curiosity is the most important thing.
And that’s why, to go back to your big topic, I think books are so critical because, for me, a lot of those early business biographies book that I read, they gave me an insight into the kind of activities a new entrepreneur has to do.
Seeing simple things like – ok, how did Pierre Omidyar actually start the first version of eBay? He’s a programmer! This guy knows how to program! So he’d actually code the website himself. I couldn’t do that, but I could see what was required to create this test website.
Now you can jump on a more recent example and find the biography of a new sort of tech service, like the AirBnb service. You listen to how those three guys got their start, and you go “oh, ok”. So it really started as a kind of very bizarre side-project, to fill a need of accommodation during a conference and you’re like “cool, so I can just look for needs in my life and maybe come up with them”.
In fact, that’s how my current startup, Inbox Done, is something I realized is very interesting to people, very much needed but for some reason, doesn’t seem to be solved. A lot of people still choose to do their own email. So I was like, let’s go out and test this. Let’s see if we can find some customers and see if they want their email done for them. And so far we’ve got these first two customers, so it’s a positive sign, so we’re going to explore further. It connects really well to my past life, to my past story.
That’s what you have to do: explore, listen to other people’s stories, keep building your own story while you’re young, obviously solve the money problem as best as you can, especially when you’re getting started. You might have to do that with things you don’t love, but that’s just part of the process. And keep that curiosity always going. No failures, it’s an experiment to see what works, it’s an experiment to learn what you enjoy, that’s what really matters.
Even if most people are aware that “overnight success” usually takes 10 years, they’re still looking for shortcuts and latest hacks. What are 3 common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?
The most common mistake, and I feel like I’m going to sound like a broken record because everyone says this but, by far, the most common mistake a new entrepreneur makes is what is commonly called “shiny object syndrome”, which means you jump from project to project, but never stick to one project long enough to make it actually work.
This is especially true when you don’t have a clear direction, because when you’re not sure on your direction, every direction seems interesting. It’s a bizarre kind of situation to be in because you’re excited about every idea you have – none on them may have worked on more than a week, but every idea you think of seems like it’s a possibility.
The funny thing is: as soon as something starts to work and you’re going “ok, I’m getting traction here”, the shiny objects don’t seem so shiny anymore because you know if you take a step away from what’s working, it’s gonna not work anymore, and you’re more excited to see this one thing take off. Then, when it starts to make money, you’re even more excited. You can see, your shiny object focus starts to focus internally on one company and you start to see all the things you can do there. But before something takes off, you look at all these different ideas, which might be 6-7 different companies. So you have to get past that and really focus and zero-in on one thing. That is, by far, the most common early-stage mistake.
Which ties into, I’ll call it the number two issue, which is a self-esteem issue. So, at the heart of the reason why people have “shiny object syndrome” is because when they do pick a certain idea, they have low confidence. So when it’s not really working very well or they hit something that’s too hard, like the technical aspect’s too challenging, or the marketing’s too challenging, and they can’t find their first customer, or can’t get their first email subscriber, or they can’t get a large enough following on a social media channel, that one feeling of negativity kills them.
And if your self-esteem is weak, that’s what happens. You haven’t got any fortitude to deal with slow results. So yes, things can take 10 years to be an overnight success. But, you start to get traction quicker than that, it can be 6 months, a year – you start to see signs. But if you don’t have the sense of consistency to move past the negative emotions you’re naturally going to feel because things are slow, because you’re not getting an outcome you want when you want it, then you’re gonna give up. And that’s why shiny object syndrome actually happens. It’s really more of a self-esteem issue.
That’s why you jump from project to project, because you’re just kind of hoping something will take off and that will be the sign you need. When, really, what happens is the reverse: you focus on something seriously even when it doesn’t seem to be working, but you do it for long enough that it does start to work, and that’s what gives you the traction and the motivation to keep going. So that’s really important. Obviously, you don’t do it forever, if it’s not working forever, but most people need to put in way more work than they actually do, and that’s where confidence and consistency come from. So that’s one and two.
I think the other thing, in terms of especially my space – when we’re talking about online entrepreneurship – technology is another big common mistake. It’s a really big of a roadblock because a lot of new entrepreneurs have the challenging situation of being broke, right? So you haven’t got any of your own money, so you’re thinking “I’ve got to do everything”. So if I have to do everything, I have to build my website, I have to build my email list, I have to build my YouTube page and make it look pretty, my Instagram pictures and make them look pretty, my Facebook, my Snapchat, my whatever.
All these things have to be done. And if you’re doing it all, you’re gonna do all of it kind of terribly. Really you need to go lean at the start and find a person to – even just pay $100 to get the basics done for the most important things. For most people, that’s going to be a website and some kind of method for capturing an email address, because you need to build your audience up and you need to grow your list. Everything else is kind of a stepping stone marketing technique to get to that point. Without a web presence and without an email list, you don’t really have any kind of identity online. So you’ve got to start there, and tech is usually the reason that people don’t do that, they don’t have the tech skills or the design skills.
So I would recommend as a major piece of advice: work a job or keep the job you already have, save up $1000 or $2000, and that money spend on an initial good web-presence., so you’re really excited about your entry into the world, a nice website, a really powerful call to action to join your email list. Then you can get out there and do all the free stuff, all the free marketing, all the free publicity, interviews, writing articles, doing videos, doing social media, trying to get news coverage.
That stuff just takes your time, not necessarily your money. But if you’re sitting there and trying to make a website look right and you have no tech skills, that’s just gonna kill your mojo and it’s gonna really stall your starting point. So, there you go, 3 things.
Last question: What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I think I’ve covered a lot of them.
I can tell you I have been going through “Attached”, as I said before.
I just finished “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes.
I’m always going through Neale Donald Walsch’s series called “Conversations with God”. He’s got nine books in his dialogue series; I’m always going through one of them. I love “Conversations with God” from Neale Donald Walsch.
As I said, “Titan: The Life of J.D. Rockefeller”.
So there’s a few there.
What am I hoping to get from them? That’s actually a difficult question to answer, because I never go into reading, at least at the moment, I don’t have an agenda, I’m not trying to solve a problem in my business, so to speak.
I DO end up solving problems in my business, but I don’t go into the book expecting it. Saying with, if I’m going through a book called “Attached”, it’s a relationship book regarding attachment styles, I’ve always found that subject interesting in general. You know, things like the 5 love languages, and even the Myers – Briggs personality types profiling, that stuff is interesting, it’s good for conversations, it’s good for interpersonal relationships, so I’m not trying to get something out of that, but I love expansion in my awareness.
That’s why I do spirituality books and I do personal development books. I love the expansion of my financial capabilities, that’s why I love money books, same thing with business books, I love the expansion in my awareness when it comes to entrepreneurship – from both a macro perspective, so a conceptual, how I believe what’s possible gets expanded, but also a micro concept or idea, a tactical how-to level, because you read a biography and this guy got amazing traffic doing this one thing with the media, and you can potentially try and do that yourself, or maybe he just talks about one way to record content and you can can bring that into your arsenal.
And even seeing someone that did something. Oh, Tyra Banks did an audiobook with her mother. That’s actually a little different, so there’s a idea there: you can potentially look at co-writing a book and doing an audio together. That’s something I hadn’t considered before.
So yeah, I don’t try to gain anything other maybe than entertainment, that’s probably the first thing, and education, but the specifics are more reactionary to the books I’m reading so I don’t hope to get that but, inevitably, you do. Especially from the better books.
And probably the most recent example would be “Sapiens” for me – I learnt so much about our evolutionary history as animals but also our societal history, the agricultural changes, the technology changes, the animal farming changes, really eye-opening. Not sure how it’s changed my life, but it certainly was so compelling to go through those stories and hear all these interesting things about our history, some good, some not so good, so yeah, lots of stuff.
And then, of course, Neale Donald Walsch, “Conversations with God” – that’s really high-level spirituality for me and low level too. It could be very basic, very simple stuff so I get a lot out of that as well in terms of “why are we here” meaning-of-life type questions.
Ok, thank you for your eleven questions! I hope my answers will prove helpful. Thank you everyone for listening or reading – however you get my answers to these questions. Enjoy your own reading. And if you want to find out more about me, Yaro.blog – and I’ll speak to you on the internet. Thank you! Bye bye.
Links where you can follow Yaro Starak or find out more about his projects:
- Inbox Done
- Entrepreneurs Journey Insider
- Blogs Profit Blueprint
- Follow Yaro on Twitter | Instagram
All books mentioned by Yaro Starak in our interview:
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
- The Perfect Store: Inside eBay by Adam Cohen
- The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time by David A. Vise, Mark Malseed
- Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz
- 50 Great e-Businesses and the Minds Behind Them by Emily Ross, Angus Holland
- Living the 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More by Richard Koch
- Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams by Michael D’Antonio
- Cadbury’s Purple Reign: The Story Behind Chocolate’s Best-Loved Brand by John Bradley
- All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster by Joseph Menn
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
- The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen, Robert Allen
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Land of Dreams: A Faraway Tree Adventure by Enid Blyton
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
- The Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- You Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroe, James Kaplan
- A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis by Pete Sampras, Peter Bodo
- Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
- Too Good: The Scott Draper Story by Scott Draper
- Rod Laver: An autobiography by Rod Laver
- The Outsider: A Memoir by Jimmy Connors
- Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
- Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova
- The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development by Jeffrey K. Liker, Gary L. Convis
- Perfect Is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss by Tyra Banks, Carolyn London
- MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
- The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions… and Created Plenty of Controversy by Leigh Gallaher
- The Uber Story: The Founding of Uber and The Real Story Behind The Founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp by Cloud Chaplin
- Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
- Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography by Richard Branson
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes
- Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love by Amir Levine, Rachel Heller
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
- My Life and Work by Henry Ford
- Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion by Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank