I started my first business at 14 yr old and why that doesn’t matter

I started my first business at 14 yr old. Maybe my age makes it sounds like an impressive accomplishment or just something to say for bragging rights? I can honestly tell you, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is “starting” and defining success.


Thomas Edison once said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” Have you ever taken the time to quiz yourself or dream about this statement? The catch 22 is we have no idea what we are capable of until we enter the territory of the unknown. People seem to have no problem being “brave” and discovering the answer to the question “how much alcohol are you capable of drinking?” There seems to be little fear of the consequence of “failing” while learning the answer. When I was a child I watched many successful stock brokers, archaeologists, treasure hunters, and real estate moguls (including the one with small hands) on T.V.  I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could do that?”.

American Dream

I was fortunate enough to grow up inside one positive aspect of American culture often referred to as the “American Dream.” Americans seem to gobble up as many stories as possible about people who have gone from rags to riches. In my earlier years far more inspiring was watching teenagers who by a stroke of luck, or brilliance became successful in tech or trading stocks during the dot-com boom of the 1990’s. I’m not sure if it was my 9-year-old pride, arrogance, ignorance, insecurity or an open mind. But I remember thinking “if these kids can do this, I should be able to as well.” Any why not? Every success story comes from a baby human being, born ignorant and uneducated, right?


Starting. Often the biggest hurdle to any of my past success was the failure to even start. I phrase it that way on purpose. Failure to start is a failure. Starting something and learning after awhile that you will not be able to continue,
2 scenarios.

1.Failure to start=definate failure
2.Starting something and learning after awhile that you will not be able to continue=potential failure

What one will you choose?


I could write feel good headlines like “Quit my day job, became a travel blogger, now my life is better than yours” or “I used to suffer the 9-5 routine but now that I have mastered social media, I only work 1 hr per day from a penthouse in Singapore”.
These kinds of headlines are good and fine, but is everyone really looking to quit a “normal job” and start making a living from a computer? Probably not.  Often there are far more relevant headlines that I wish saw getting the same amount of attention. Our society is quite focused on money being a measurement of success. Until this changes, I guess we will keep focusing on these types of headlines.

defining success.

So how would your defining headline read? “I finally started going out in public with very little makeup on because I’m ok with the way I look” or “I got the courage to speak about what happened to me in my past” or “80% of my choices used to be dictated by what others thought of me, now it’s nearly 0%”
The point is that if there is something in your life you think you should start doing then do it. If it’s starting a business GREAT! Get some good books, read up about what you would like to do and learn from people who have done it or are already doing it. Work for someone (for free, if you must) who is a master in this just to learn the ropes. See what is done well, see what can be done better.


If it’s about becoming a more courageous person. Maybe consider what steps you should start taking to free yourself from fear.  As Aristotle taught, one of the best ways to become virtuous is by developing virtuous habits. For example, courage. Each time you are faced with a small choice to be courageous or fearful. (even with a silly choice of trying a new food) choose the courageous. By doing this, in time you will have series of courageous choices that amount to you being defined and growing into a courageous person. Click HERE for a pretty great write up on his teachings.


When I started my first business, a small I.T. helpdesk, and service company at 14 years old I can honestly say I didn’t know that it was possible to make a successful business out of it. But I intended to find out. I calmed my childish fears by saying. I have 4 years to figure this out then by the time I graduate I will have to be a serious adult, if things aren’t working out by then I guess I will have to get a “Real” job like everyone else. Although these thoughts seemed to pacify my fears at the time, they didn’t resolve my core fears of taking steps that most others in society didn’t often take or didn’t approve of. These fears would continue to haunt me for years. They would affect the choices I had to make in business, relationships, and life. I had some positive support from my family that I could try to do this if I wanted to. This certainly was a huge help during “difficult” times.

Commented insecurity

Most other people’s comments (extended family and often friends) only increased my insecurities if only temporarily. If I would have a slow week at work, comments like “it’s the middle of the day, why aren’t you working” or “I had a friend who tried to have a service business, but he was so sick of it after 2 years he quit” or even the innocent “I could never do that.” . These comments made it very difficult for me to stay confident in the fact that I COULD do it.

Fear & Doubt hesitation and regret.

A wise old man once told me, “Charlie, there is no room for unwanted house guests in your life. I asked him what he was talking about. “fear and doubt have been lodging with you too long,” He said. “Also their cousins’ hesitation and regret. It’s time you throw them out”. Certainly hearing someone say they saw these “house guests” in my life and defining it this way made me more aware to not allow any space for them anymore in my choices and though patterns.

Learn to define success based on your own desires and goals. Don’t get discouraged by headlines that seem impossible for you in your current situation. Likewise, don’t be discouraged by headlines that don’t reflect outcomes that would enrich your life.

The unsettled settler.


The Unsettled Settler. Life outside the lines

The unsettled settler.

“It’s time you settle down, isn’t it?”
“Maybe you should settle for this right now.”
“He/She’ll never settle down.”

These are some common phrases heard around the world. Words possibly spoke in love (or fear/anger) to a son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild.
But what does it mean to hear those words, when inside something feels more “unsettled” than permanent?
The unsettled settler.

Some call it escaping, while others call it growing; Running away or stepping forward?… Laziness or fully living?… Maybe it’s quitting? Or just beginning?

The goal isn’t to turn against society, to be obstinate or ornery. Instead, it’s to live a life enriched with experience beyond the ordinary.

To “settle” used to involve taking risks, traveling across an unknown land beyond the edge of “comfort and common”. This was not a negative trait during those early years of civilization. Rather, It was a necessary part of human nature. We still carry this nature with us today.

There are many ways to traverse across the unknown. While travel can inspire, travel itself seldom grows a person. Most importantly, it’s the choice to take interest in things unknown, to open your mind beyond the familiar to have the strength and independence to live not only according to the rule of society and expectation of those around you.

In this blog, I will share some stories of growing up as an “unsettled settler” in a rural post-industrial midwest and my journey since then. My journey started with a strong desire to travel, explore and meet new and interesting people. But after starting a business and allowing it to take over my life and well being, I responsibly quit and spent time abroad. This was my attempt at getting a balanced view on life, my purpose and passions and what I consider “of value” in my life.

I hope to have other “settlers” share some of their own passions and life experiences that will inspire others to push the boundaries they currently have around themselves and give courage that it is NEVER too late to make choices you believe in no matter how “unknown” the path, how challenging the work, or absurd the thought.

Go, explore, learn, dream.

The “unsettled settler”


Have teeth, will travel (medical tourism in Poland)

The title doesn’t sound like much fun other than the clever phrasing. But, saving a couple thousand dollars and getting to enjoy a trip abroad opened my mind and mouth to the idea of medical tourism in Poland.

My story of using dentistry in Poland started with making friends with a dentist’s’ daughter while street performing in Krakow. I was in my early 20’s and never had my wisdom teeth removed. My dentist back in the states took an x-ray and recommended I have them removed. Because I did not have insurance that covered dental services in the USA surgery to remove 4 teeth cost $2500. I mentioned this to my friend Ewa who told me her mother knew a surgeon who would likely be happy to take a look at my x-ray’s and give me an estimated cost.

$60 per tooth!

Off to Poland!

I booked a 2.5-week flight from Chicago to Krakow for around $500 dollars arrived in the morning took a bus to the clinic the same day and had my teeth pulled. I had two days where I didn’t feel like doing much, but after half a week I was already taking self-prescribed medicinal shots of pure polish vodka which served as a pain reliever and bacteria killer. 🙂

Just an interesting angle to look at when considering your next operation dental or medical. For example, Poland has E.U. standards without E.U. prices. An English publisher “The Guardian” wrote an interesting article online a few years back about UK citizens traveling to Poland for medical tourism with some helpful info on how to arrange a trip like this for yourself. Click HERE for a link to the article.

I had a total cost of around $740 dollars for flights and tooth work. I was able to spend another $750 on enjoying Poland. Having surgery in the USA would’ve cost $1000 dollars more! This left me with a clean financial conscience, extra dollars in my pocket and a few less teeth. Getting teeth pulled is never fun. But it can be if you get to travel to another country and save money while doing it!

Tricks for traveling cheap

Want to hear how I got to Europe and back for the cost of a pack of gum? Here are some tricks for traveling cheap!



This is a great way to rack up a pile of miles without spending much more money than you would typically. From time to time credit cards would grant you 40-50k bonus miles after your first purchase made on the credit card. I remember a few years ago literally buying a pack of gum as my first purchase on one of these cards and getting 40k bonus miles. This was enough to fly to USA to Europe and back during off season. I believe I paid 50 cents for the pack of gum and around $5.00 in taxes and fees when I booked my ticket from my local (very expensive) airport here in Michigan to Krakow, Poland.

Although these small-spend huge bonus cards are harder and harder to find some of the best promotions can be found at  The “hot deals” section at the top of the page gives a pretty good overview of what is out there. There are many creative ways to get to the “3k spent within the first 3 months” threshold including paying income taxes on the card for a small fee, or property tax or car and house insurance. Get creative!


There are many, many low-cost carriers these days, especially in Europe. If you are willing to be flexible with your days of travel you can find flights as low as 1 cent tax and fees may be 5 bucks. But you get the idea. If you have an open mind and let the lowest cost flights guide your next travel move you will be more likely to explore new places and be surprisingly satisfied as you may have NO expectations about the place your low cost flight is taking you. Also this often leads to a focus more on the locals and their culture, and less emphasis on tourist attractions. A spontaneous and engaging conversation in Lviv can be more memorable than a 1000 paintings in the Louvre. For some guidance about low cost airlines see below




Travel savings with deal sites like Groupon

Who doesn’t like to save money while traveling and having a great time? I use Groupon or sites like it for huge savings during my trips. Groupon and LivingSocial, among others, are available in nearly every country in the world now. Although there may be strict terms to follow, spending a short amount time on one of these sites before I travel has saved me quite a bit of money or raised the standard of food I eat or experiences I can afford. Here are a few tips

better food-lower prices

When I plan trips I try to arrange at least one meal a day through deal sites. This way I still leave room in my schedule for spontaneity with eating choices, but also know I have paid appx. 50% of what I would’ve spent buying this meal without any discount. This is especially useful if I’m only in a town for a few days and may not have a chance to find my favorite corner cafe at an affordable price before I leave.

A variety of tours and experiences may be discounted as well. These tours are often overpriced in the first place. But when I factor in the “deals” discount it’s often still LESS than choosing a tour I would find walking down the street.

The map view of Groupon is particularly useful if I know what area of the town I”ll be staying in. If the “deal” I want is on the opposite side of town, I usually reconsider.

I try to buy only deals I know will be convenient to use. Watch closely as some deals terms only allow use on certain days of the week or only with a reservation.

When I’m using discount sites in a foreign language I can easily translate the entire page inside of Google Chrome. I can simply right-click on the page and choose “translate to English”. I use Paypal to pay whenever possible to avoid paying any foreign transaction fees.

*note, each Groupon site requires a separate username and password

Click HERE for a handy link to sign up for Groupon USA
Click HERE for a handy link to sign up for Groupon Poland
Click HERE for a handy link to sign up for Groupon U.K.
Click HERE for a handy link to sign up for LivingSocial USA