By Sophie Cohen:
Prologue to The Ultimate Guide To Starting a Million Dollar Business by 30
If you want to start a million dollar business by the age of thirty, you’re in the right place. Well, sort of. Physically, probably not. You may still be living next to the sputtering electric heater in your parents basement with your chest offering permanent residence to an abundance of hair and an overflowing box of 7/11 potstickers. But mentally-- you are most definitely in the right place. You picked up a transcript called “The Ultimate Guide To Starting a Million Dollar Business by 30” which means you’re either willing to do what it takes to get yourself out of Jim and Sue’s basement or, maybe, you can’t read and you just really liked the illustration on the book cover. Regardless, listen up because in this transcript, I approach the often neglected topic of “how to start a million dollar business” with the enthusiasm of a youth pastor refusing under the table adderall, and the focus and attention to detail of an accountant who clearly has a little bit of trouble refusing under the table adderall.
Many people with the same end goal as you start this process the wrong way. I know I did. The year was 1998, I was 28 years old living in Southampton, New York. I walked my shoulder padded, libertarian, Dunning-Kreruger riddled self into Barnes and Noble with one clear goal in mind: to buy every award winning self help book on leadership and saving. Now, in my mind, the purchase of these books would consolidate two goals. Firstly, I believed that Stephen R. Covey and Dale Carnegie’s words would teach me how to become a functioning adult. But moreover, I believed that these books were a good long term investment due to the fact that once I personally profited off of them, I could give them as passive aggressive gifts to my coworkers. Nothing stings more than being given a personal copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People'': that’s a lifetime of trauma packed into one secret santa gift.
After 40 minutes in the book store and a meet cute with the cashier, I trotted towards the exit with my head in my ass, books in my cart, and an individually wrapped chocolate biscotti that was clearly manufactured in unsafe working conditions. As I neared the doors, an alarm sounded. “Damnit!” I cried. Four store clerks came rushing toward me from the back of the store, white knuckling hard copies of War and Peace, wielding them above their heads like clubs.
I woke up in a prison hospital, with paper cuts where the sun doesn’t shine and two black eyes. I didn’t remember much of what happened back at Barnes and Nobles, but evidently, the clerks had knocked me out after thoroughly reviewing the store’s legal policies and asking me to sign a waiver: asserting that I wouldn’t sue if beaten up. Ahh... bureaucracy at its finest.
Napoleon once said “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than 1,000 bayonets.” On that day, after being torn to pieces by Tolstoy’s masterpiece, I learned that the astute pairing of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream flavors wasn’t the only thing Napoleon was right about. Then the next day, I learned that Napoleon didn’t have anything to do with Neopolitan ice cream... maybe the only thing he was right about was the power of words.
Now, why was I in a prison hospital? Caught up in all of my suave and probably somewhat disoriented by the smell of my cologne, the cashier had forgotten to ring up my biscotti. As I exited the store, my snack had apparently triggered the alarm system and I was convicted of larceny. So that was rock bottom. Or so I thought. After fixing up my black eyes, my doctors decided to give me an abdominal Xray to check if my intestines had been damaged by the blows. Upon examination, they discovered that there was an urn and an unopened bottle of bud light in my large intestine, but the story behind how that got there is reserved for my next manuscript, which I plan to title “It’s What’s Inside That Matters: A Statement on Character and Passing Foreign Objects.” Although I was bailed out of jail after just two days, by the cashier--who is now my wife and our family’s breadwinner--this experience deterred me from my dream of “starting a million dollar business by 30.”
So what can we learn from my tragic experience?