Charlie Hoehn – Speaker, Author, Marketing Strategist
Charlie Hoehn – Musings on Being a Recession Proof Graduate and Curing Workaholism and Anxiety
Eight years ago, Charlie Hoehn had no job. He submitted application after application to no avail. Only two companies offered him employment. His choices? “Back-breaking labor and a pyramid scheme,” he says.
Today, Charlie turns down work. He is a speaker, an author, and a marketing strategist. His recently-released book is Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety. At one point, the former unemployed man worked so much that it burned him out – but he triumphed over that, too, and wrote a book about curing stress. The turnaround is dramatic, and Charlie attributes his successful employment to his signature strategy: work for free.
He didn’t figure it out immediately. Charlie graduated in Colorado State University’s Class of 2008 and soon faced a job market mired in recession. Bleak. Job-seeking millennials know it well.
“I was just blasting out my resume to all these companies for jobs that I didn’t really even want … because that’s what everyone was doing,” Charlie says. “All my friends were doing that and that’s what I was told would work.”
Conventional wisdom wasn’t working. Go to school, submit applications, get a job – Charlie rejects that.
“We get caught into these dead-end careers, and once we start buying a bunch of stuff with the money that we’ve earned, we’ve built ourselves a golden cage … that’s surrounded by nice furniture and all these nice things,” Charlie says. “And then after five or ten years we think, ‘Well, I can never go back, you know, I can’t give all this stuff up.’”
At that point, Charlie says, “you’ve built your own prison.”
He looks back to his days of blasting out job applications and sees a mistake. Life isn’t a sprint, he says: it’s a marathon. There’s no need to rush for a mediocre position that doesn’t interest you. He found this out firsthand – his work-for-free strategy required patience, but it took him from being an unemployed college grad to working for Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He later landed jobs with Tucker Max and Tim Ferriss.
Back in 2008, Charlie had a college diploma in hand but little to show for it. The job market sucked. His job offers sucked. He needed a new approach.
That’s when he offered free work to influential people. He figured correctly that pay would come in the long term.
“I wasn’t asking them to do anything for me,” Charlie says of the entrepreneurs, bloggers, and authors that he approached. He focused on how he could be valuable to them: he proposed specific projects, and he made clear that he wouldn’t burden them.
“I was approaching them and I was saying, ‘Hey, I’m a huge fan of your work,” Charlie says. “Here’s the deal with Ramit for instance: ‘I notice you’re great on video, but you don’t do video, you do it very rarely … and I’m guessing it’s probably because it’s really time-consuming for you. You don’t want to have to edit. You don’t want to have to upload. Why don’t I take care of all of that for you?”
Ramit was the first big name that Charlie worked for, and in that initial email Charlie didn’t just float concrete ideas to make Ramit’s life easier – the recent grad demonstrated that he could execute them. To prove his video editing chops, he created a reel of highlights from Ramit’s speaking engagements. That showed talent and follow-through up front.
But that’s not all that Charlie did. He minimized risk for those that he contacted. Busy people didn’t have time to mentor a complete stranger and they didn’t want to risk losing money. Charlie offered to do free work requiring minimal oversight, and he said that if they didn’t like what he made, he wouldn’t pester them further. “[Successful people] just have all these barriers, and if you can overcome [them] you can get yourself in a really good position,” he says.
“[Resumes and LinkedIn] tell other people what you’re capable of doing, but they don’t show it,” Charlie says. He details the strategy in his free Recession-Proof Graduate ebook.
After working with Ramit, Charlie began online research for Tucker Max and eventually became a videographer for him. Both men recommended him to Tim Ferriss, so after an internship Charlie became Tim’s first full-time employee: Director of Special Projects. Charlie conquered unemployment.
“Overall,” he says of working with Tim, “it was a tremendously positive experience.” Responsibilities came his way, and he took up each new challenge with zeal.
But things changed.
Charlie worked hard – too hard.
Responsibility no longer empowered him – it saddled him. With each task completed, he asked for more work. He wanted to be indispensable to Tim, the best in the world at his job. “I stopped interacting with friends,” he admits. The job came to a fore when he was put in charge of organizing Tim’s Opening the Kimono Conference. Charlie worked on the conference for months, tied to his computer screen all day long. In secret, he ordered nootropics, potent brain pills that kept him awake. During the four-day event, he slept a total of six hours.
“I was very overwhelmed with this conference,” he says. “After the conference … after the adrenaline rush wore off, I just felt extremely burnt out.” He worked for awhile longer, but it was over. “I was like a boxer who’d been knocked out but keeps trying to stand back up and fight,” he says. Stress pummelled him again and again until he fell to the ground one last time.
Burnout beat Charlie.
For months, he struggled to figure out what to do with his life. Then he formed an app startup with some friends. But he didn’t have passion for the work, so he quit that job too. Finally, he decided to work on his own books. The result is his first book, a guide to reducing stress.
It’s called Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety. Charlie states the book’s central message: “Play is essential to humans to be healthy and happy.”
He points to the problem of stress. “We just kind of ignore it until it gets out of control and we collapse,” he says.
Amidst the anxiety of daily life, Charlie says, “The only thing that pulled away that seriousness of the world and made me realize what I was doing wrong was remembering to play.”
“The more I make play a priority, the healthier and happier I feel,” he says. Doing improv, playing baseball, throwing Frisbees, playing with dogs, working out: Charlie embraces fun.
“When you’re playing, you give your mind a break,” Charlie says. “It gets to breathe and get away from this constant influx of notifications and disruptions.”
“Play is effectively anything you do voluntarily, just for its own sake – for fun,” he says. His favorite forms of play involve some kind of physical activity. “You’re not doing it to win, you’re not doing it to show off to other people. You’re doing it because it gives you an internal paycheck. It makes you feel good.”
Play It Away can be found on Amazon or on Charlie’s website, CharlieHoehn.com.
- Tactics and strategies for curing stress and anxiety
- Why we work so hard and how to slow down
- Ways to connect with highly influential people
- What Charlie learnt from working with world re-knowned entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin & Ramit Sethi
- How to become a recession proof graduate
Full Transcript of Podcast with Charlie Hoehn
Nathan: Bonjour. My name is Nathan Chan and I am the host of the “”Foundr” podcast. Just thought I’d try my French to mix things up a little bit just so I have a little bit more of a, I guess, friendly vibe because I can be a little bit dull when I open these episodes up. So today’s guest is Charlie Hoehn. He’s an extremely successful marketer. He’s been mentored by Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Ramit Sethi.
He’s been working behind the scenes with a lot of these guys behind the book launches so he’s a well-known book marketer. He recently wrote a book called “Play It Away,” and it’s around a workaholics guard for curing anxiety. And in this interview Charlie shares with me a whole ton of really interesting strategies on what it means to avoid burnout and how to live a balanced life. Because as entrepreneurs, we thrash pretty hard and when you want it bad enough you wanna do whatever it takes. You just work really fucking hard. I think it’s common to all entrepreneurs to get burnt out and become workaholics. And Charlie actually went through his own self healing process on how he cured himself.
And before we jump into today’s show I just wanted to share with you a quick little story that you might find interesting. About eight to nine months ago, we interviewed Arianna Huffington for a front cover story for “Foundr Magazine.” And I said to her, like, we exchanged e-mails and I said to her, “If there’s anything you ever need to promote your book in Melbourne just let me know, I’m here to help.”
And funnily enough about four months ago, I received an email from her inviting me to be a personal guest at a speaking event that she was going to be speaking at in Melbourne. You know, the day came, I went to this event, Arianna Huffington’s team at “The Huffington’s post” said, “Here’s the address. Here’s the detail, and your name’s on the door.” And long story short, when I got that I couldn’t actually get in, the security people of the event wouldn’t let me in. They said they didn’t know anything about me. It’s not Arianna’s event, so I couldn’t get in.
And it was just one of those things that ended up being a massive blessing in disguise because I sent, after that I sent an email to Arianna saying, “I’m really disappointed. Unfortunately we wouldn’t get to catch up. They wouldn’t let me in but maybe we’ll catch up some time soon.” And she wrote back to me and said, “Oh, well, this lady is having a book party for me at her house. Would you like to join?” And, you know, I jumped at the opportunity and she actually did this very, very intimate talk at this person’s house. There was about probably about 50 people there. And she shared you know, just face-to-face the things that helped her grow “The Huffington Post” to what it is today.
And something that really hit home for me was she was just talking about the power of meditation and mindfulness and really just having fun and taking stock. Ever since, you know, just being there and hearing her, you know, talk about how the strategies have helped her grow her business, it just blew my mind. And, you know, I’m massive on meditation. I’m massive on trying to have fun and lead a balanced life and not work so hard. Yeah, I do thrash hard but I’m trying to treat myself like a racehorse and a racehorse needs rest. You can’t run it every single week. You can’t take it to the races and expect you to perform the best.
So this is a really great interview where Charlie gives us a whole ton of strategies on what to do when you have anxiety and how to get ahead and I guess really take control of your life and not always be so worked up and stressed out.
So let’s jump into today’s show. If you are enjoying these interviews, please do leave us five star review. It would mean the world to me. Check out the magazine as well. Thank you for sharing a bunch with me. Let’s jump into the show.
Today I’m speaking with Charlie Hoehn. He’s an author, marketing strategist speaker, and play enthusiast. After graduating from Colorado State University in 2008, he studied under and worked with a number of best selling author such as Ramit Sethi, Seth Godin, Tucker Max, and Tim Ferriss. So, Charlie, I just like to say thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, man.
Charlie: Yeah thanks for having me, Nathan.
Nathan: Absolute pleasure, dude. So can you tell me a little bit about how you got your job?
Charlie: I guess, I need to start when I first got out of college. I graduated in 2008 which was, kind of, when the recession I guess officially hit. I struggled for a few months because I was just blasting out my resume to all these companies for jobs that I didn’t really even want because that’s what everyone was doing. You know, all my friends were doing that and that’s what I was told would work. And then I, kind of, had a breaking point when the only two companies out of more than 100 that wanted to offer me a job were basically backbreaking labor or a pyramid scheme.
Charlie: …I decided to change things and I started just reaching out to people that I wanted to work with, that it would be like a dream to work with. And I would reach out and offer to work for them for free. And I always wanted to be an entrepreneur or an inventor or an artist. Those professions really spoke to me and appealed to me most ever since I was a kid, and so I was reaching out to entrepreneurs and authors.
The first guy I worked with was Ramit Sethi, who runs the blog “I Will Teach You to be Rich.” And I was doing video editing for him at the time. And I started doing some online research for Tucker Max and, eventually, became his videographer. And then both of them recommended me to work with Tim Ferriss because they were both friends with him and I became Tim’s first full time employee.
I worked with Tim for about three years. After that I went to co-found an app startup with a couple of friends of mine. I only did that for a few months. It didn’t really work out because I just didn’t really like apps that much. And then after that, I went and started working on my own books and that’s how I got to where I am today and now I’ve just released my first book.
Nathan: Yeah, awesome. So it’s safe to say that you’ve had a pretty wild ride, that you’ve done some amazing things, and you’ve played pretty hard so to meet to your latest book. Can you tell us about that and how you got to start with working and writing “Play It Away”? And what’s the overall framework?
Charlie: So the reason I wrote “Play It Away” was I was actually working on another book that was a full length book and it was about how to get any job basically. How to set up an apprenticeship, and how to land a job that you actually want after you get out of school. And I had a section in there about dealing with burn outs and how to quit and what it’s like to overcome anxiety.
I showed that book to a number of my friends and they all said, “This information is helpful but it doesn’t belong in this book. It’s its own thing. It doesn’t fit.” So I decided I’ll just post part of it on my blog just to see the response then I wrote an essay called “How I Cured my Anxiety.” And that essay did really, really well. It became one of the most popular things I’d ever written.
Within a few weeks I received hundreds of messages from people all over the world who are suffering from anxiety and for…it’s no longer the case, but for about a year it was the number one search result on Google for curing anxiety. So it was getting a lot of traffic. And a few months after it had been doing pretty well I put up a forum that just asked at the bottom of the post, “If you would be interested in reading a short book on this topic, you should give me your email address and what you suffer from basically. Describe what it’s like to go through what you’re going through.”
Within, I think, three days I’ve had over 100 people sign up which was pretty crazy. So that showed me that, like, man, there are a lot of people suffering from this and they could really use the book. So I spent a couple months just putting the book together. The book is structured.
You asked about the framework. It’s just basically the shift. I had the mental shift that allowed me to get out of an anxious mindset and the four-week plan for anybody to follow if they want to get back to health and happiness. And this isn’t just random stuff that worked for me, this is all stuff that is really…it’s backed by scientific research and data and it’s all stuff that I spent a lot of time researching myself and testing. And it’s worked for a lot of other people. But the main message of the book is that play is essential to humans to be healthy and happy. And my problem was I was chronically depriving myself of play and I didn’t realize it and I’d done it for years.
Nathan: When I first heard about your book and hearing you in another interview, it was really refreshing, man, because, I think, a lot of people go through challenges and struggles but you just don’t realize it. And we often compare ourselves to others but and we think, “Oh, that person has got such an awesome life and you know, they’re doing so well and that, you know…the amount of money.” But you don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes.
And, I think, what I heard when you spoke it really opened up doors for me because me personally I’m going through a situation where I’m thrashing so hard, man, like, you wouldn’t believe. It can be tough. And I, myself, go through a lot of stress and feeling overwhelmed and it was refreshing to hear how your story of how you overcome that.
Charlie: If you want it elaborated at all on what you’re going through, you’re more than welcome to do so. If not, I understand. But, yeah, it’s frustrating to me to always see, like, on Facebook and Instagram it’s just like we have a tendency to make that into the highlight reel of like just the positive stuff. And it’s understandable, you know, we don’t get rewarded for sharing and being open and vulnerable, or at least we’re not used to it. And we want everybody to like us so we kind of hide the negative stuff.
But the negative, the bad, the honest, and the vulnerability, kind of, the ugly side where it’s not you saying like, “Look how screwed up I am,” and, like, taking pride in it. But just being, like, “Man, can we all just admit how hard it is to be on this constant treadmill? Like, no matter what position we’re in.” I mean, I burned myself out sure but, like, I know a lot of guys who do the exact same thing in way less, I guess, prestigious or in the spotlight type of roles who deal with really severe burnout and really severe stress.
And they don’t have anybody they can talk to about this stuff because it’s just always swept under the rug, or we just, kind of, ignore it until it gets out of control and then we collapse. And, yeah, it’s just really…I was just talking to my friend about this just like workaholism. It’s one of those addictions that is not ever addressed. It’s not stigmatized, yet there are people who are literally working themselves to death. Like, in Japan, they work such long hours and they’re so accommodating to, like, intensive demands at work that tons of them are actually dropping dead at work. They actually have a name for it. It’s called “karoshi.”
Yeah. I mean, it’s just a big problem that I just didn’t really see being addressed in ways that resonated with me. A lot of people just advocate, like, “Oh, just you know, all you gotta do is meditate 10 days…or 10 minutes a day.” That’s fine and it works but like to me it doesn’t. It didn’t change, like, how I viewed the world and I would still feel like serious and be like, “Man, I’m not doing meditation right. I’m not, like, doing this perfectly.”
And the only thing that, like, pulled away that seriousness of the world and made me realize, like, what I was doing wrong was remembering to play because play is something we all did when we were kids. It became very naturally to us, something we all intuitively grasp and understand is the nature of play and just having fun and not caring and being joyful. And we all have those activities that bring us into that emotional state.
And that’s actually where our best and most honest work comes from. I think no matter…I mean, it’s not work in the sense of like, you know, business stuff but our efforts when they’re put into play, that’s what brings out our creativity and just the best parts of ourselves.
Nathan: When you talk about play, how often do you play? Out of curiosity now. Break it up with work, like, thrashing on you know, fun exciting business projects and then playing. Do you include that in your social stuff or, you know, with the girlfriend or whatever like that. Can we define play a bit more?
Charlie: So play is effectively anything you do voluntarily just for its own sake, for fun. You do because it is enjoyable to you, it’s just fun and you’re not doing it to win. You’re not doing it to show off to other people, you’re doing it because it gives you an internal paycheck. It makes you feel good. And, I think, like, for me, I try to play every day. Obviously, like, stuff gets in the way sometimes and it and it doesn’t happen and sometimes I just forget.
You know, we all do but I find that the more I make play a priority, the healthier and happier I feel. So I have been doing improv comedy for the last several months. I do that three hours every week. I play outdoor sports, occasionally. I’ll go hit baseballs at a baseball field and I just take band practice. I play with my friend’s dogs and there’s also like a dog shelter nearby and that’s pretty fun to visit. And I play with an aerobi frisbee. Pretty often, go to the park and just play catch with that. That’s, I think, a really fun form of play. It’s just, like, it’s so simple.
When you’re playin,g you give your mind a break. I think it’s kinda like sleep where it’s not that your mind turns off, it just it gets a break. It gets to breathe and get away from this constant influx of notifications and disruptions and digital information.You’re no longer looking at a screen.
And, I think, that’s an important thing to distinguish. Like, a lot of people think video games are play, they are not, with a few exceptions. Like, with video games you’re staring at a screen, you’re sitting indoors and it’s interactive and it’s cool but it’s an isolating activity. My favorite forms of play are ones that get you around other people, just good positive people that you can be yourself around and feel relaxed, having fun and doing something physically active and ideally outdoors. So I find outdoor sports are the best for fighting off anxiety.
Nathan: Yeah. Look, I feel, definitely when I go to the gym, like, that’s why me, personally, right now, I’m so ruthless about going to the gym. If somebody wants us to do something I’m like, “No, I’m gonna get the gym.” The big one…
Charlie: And what time of day do you go?
Charlie: Lunchtime, interesting. Yeah. I try to do the gym first thing, like, shortly after I wake up because I find that it has an effect on the rest of the day. It’s like laying the soil, laying the foundation for your day. And I just like knowing that I’ve done exercise…movement training taking care of my body first thing. Do you mostly just lift heavy weights or are you a treadmill kind of guy?
Nathan: I like lifting weights.
Charlie: Yeah, I think, that’s what everyone should do, I think. I don’t understand people who get on a treadmill for an hour and a half. Like, that’s miserable. That’s just miserable. Like, no one likes that. There’s no way, it just sucks. It’s uncomfortable too because you’re restricted. And you’re, like, if I trip I’m gonna die. Yeah, so just lifting heavy weights is so good for you.
Nathan: Yeah and I think like I go for like a field mountain bikes and, I think, there’s like that boys mentality which are just bad, and we catch up. Yeah, I think, like, if I wanted to go for runs I prefer to go outside.
Charlie: Yeah exactly. I agree with you. Go outside, like that’s the easier way to get to know your town or your city, too?
Nathan: Yeah. That’s right. So let’s switch gears a bit. I want to talk to you about what do you think the biggest problem that young people have now is with their expectations in life and trying to build something of value? Because what we think we find now in our generation is people who just see the end product. They see the Mark Cubans of the world, and he talks about, you know, how he didn’t take a holiday for seven years, and he thrash so extremely hard to get where he is today and that’s why he is a billionaire.
I think as entrepreneurs it’s ordered to work extremely hard and, you know, like, just run off no sleep and sacrifice absolutely everything you want. One of my favorite questions I ask people I interview is, I ask them, “What did you have to sacrifice to be where you are today?” And a lot of things that come up, you know, family, social life, all these crazy things. And I just want to know, what do you think the biggest problem is what? Why is this?
Charlie: There are a lot of reasons. I think the one big one is, like, getting kicked in the gut as soon as you get out of school and realizing like, man…at least for me, I got out of school and I was like, “Man, that didn’t prepare me at all for what the real world is like. I mean, that was a tremendous waste of time.” And it was also like I could have created my own education this whole time.
What I loved about school was being around people, you know. I made amazing friends in school. It was a nice safe little incubation area but we didn’t do anything. I mean, you do stuff but you do it, you do these arbitrary assignments that are given to you by teachers. And it’s really just conditioning you to get comfortable working on boring shit and also to look to other people to tell you what to do. Like, it took me so long to get out of that conditioning and to not look for an authority figure, to not see. Like, what do I do? What do I do?
Like, I’m pretty good at it and I’m getting better at it now just like listening to myself and following my own impulses. But, man, it’s just like it takes so long to get out of that. So I think those are two really big things that can’t be overlooked, is, like, the effect that school has on our entire population. It just makes a nation of followers who are complacent. And, I think, that’s what schooling does and it’s a byproduct of the industrial revolution.
And, like, schools were literally, the modern education system that we go by today, was literally made to churn out quality factory workers and they got them from an early age, train them for decade and a half, and then put them in factories. Well there are no factories anymore but we’re still raising kids to be factory workers. And that’s, like, a very real thing that is very rarely acknowledged. So that’s the main thing.
Another thing is just like now more than ever, we’re just constantly being disrupted. We’re never really in the present. We were always immediately gratified by something on our phones or our computers and that makes it tough because it means you have to have self-discipline to actually be effective and do stuff. So that’s a major challenge that’s only recent.
And then the third thing, I think, people don’t realize that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You know, you get to work for decades. Decades. And so, I mean, sure there’s the pressure to get some big wins early on so you can, kind of, coast or at least be comfortable and relax a little bit, right?
There’s some pressure at the beginning to have some big wins up front so you can pay your bills and everything, too. That’s important but I think people need to get into the mentality that, like, this is not a one time around the track sprint. Unless you’re in the tech startup world where billions of dollars are on the line and all that stuff, like, that’s a so miserable lifestyle, you know.
So, I think, it’s giving yourself permission to just say like, “Look, I don’t need to succeed immediately. I’m going to succeed eventually if I just keep showing up and doing the things that I love to do that are really fun for me and just keep work on getting good at them.”
The girl I’m dating, she’s 24 and she wants to be a writer. And her and I disagree on some things philosophically about, like, I think she should bring her work to the market earlier, and she thinks she’s not good enough yet. But those are minor disagreements. Reality is, I think, she’s actually gonna be a very good writer some day. Like, she’s already solid but I think she’s gonna be a successful author some day because she shows up every day and works on her craft for a couple of hours and over time. It’s, like, you just can’t screw that up.
Anybody who’s showing up every single day and doing the work and working on their craft and wanting to get good because it’s fun for them, it’s exciting, it’s internally rewarding, that will inevitably lead to success and fulfillment and all that good stuff that everybody seeks. But most of us just don’t have the patience, or we get caught into these dead end careers and once we start buying a bunch of stuff with the money that we’ve earned, we built ourselves in a golden cage around us that’s surrounded by nice furniture and all these nice things and then after 5 or 10 years we think, “Well, I can never go back. You know, I can’t give all this stuff up.” And you’ve built your own prison.
So, I think, there’s a lot of things going against people holding them back from living their dreams and, I think, the biggest one by far is school. The effect that modern schooling has on people because…and no one’s willing to say it, because it’s such a part of our lives and it’s education. How can you bash on education? Well, real education is not pumped into people by an institution for decades. Real education is evoked, it sprung out of you through experience, through real experience and we’re all chronically deprived of experience.
Nathan: Those are some very good points you are raising. And there’s a few things I’d like to unpack, and that is, you talk about school and you talk about recession proof graduate and how you were doing free work and offering your services for free and that’s how you landed and start working with people like Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi, Tucker Max. I’m curious because, you know, I read the four-hour work-week, man, and that changed the game for me. I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing today if it wasn’t a work-week. Like, that was game-changer for me.
And I’m curious, like, there must be more than just offering your services to start working with these kinds of people, man. And I wanna know what that is.
Charlie: Oh yeah yeah, for sure. There’s a lot more to it. So it sounds a lot but it’s a formula that anybody can replicate, right? So, first of all, I was showcasing my work and, I think, this is critically important. Everybody has a resume. Everybody’s on LinkedIn. I think those are useless. Relatively speaking, I think, they’re fairly useless because they don’t actually show what you’re capable of doing. They tell other people what you’re capable of doing, but they don’t show it.
And what I was doing was I was showing that what I was working on. I would show on my blog and I would write about all the experiences I was going through while I was looking for a job. Or while I was working with these guys, I would share the successes that we had. After awhile I became known as a person who helps authors marketing their books.
Okay so Ramit, Tucker, and Tim all get tons and tons of offers to work for them for free. Why do they turn down 99% of them whereas they took me? There are a few different reasons. One, I was really specific with my offer. Everyone approaches these guys and say, “Hey, I’ll work for you for free. I’ll do anything whatever you ask me like just all I need is, like…I just want you to mentor me and like blah blah blah.” I wasn’t asking them to do anything for me. I was approaching them and I was saying, “Hey, I’m a huge fan of your work. Here’s the deal.”
Like, with Ramit, for instance, “I noticed you’re great on video but you don’t do video. You do it very rarely.” This was a few years ago it does vary all the time now but I said, “You’re great on video. You rarely do it. And I’m guessing it’s probably because it’s really time consuming for you. You don’t wanna have to edit. You don’t wanna have to upload. Why don’t I take care of all that for you and I can build out your YouTube channel and we can even do some videos together? I have a number of ideas for things we can do together. In fact, I put together a speaking video for you. It’s a highlight reel of your speaking gigs that you can use to show people to help you win more speaking points.”
Well, that’s really tough to turn down. It’s very specific. It highlights a problem that they have. I say, “I’m coming to you with a solution.” I’m not telling them hypotheticals. I’m showing them, “Here’s my work. Here’s what you can expect. Do you want to do this?” And then to seal the deal, I said, “I’m gonna do this for you for free. I want to give this a shot because I think we could potentially do some really cool stuff down the line together. So why don’t we do this, why don’t we try it for a couple weeks, if you like my work let’s do it until you’re comfortable with potentially talking about us working together on a paid basis. If it doesn’t work out, scrap my work, throw it away. You don’t have to hear from me again and no hard feelings.”
So I remove all the mental barriers they have in their head of, “Do I have to train this guy? Do I have to pay this guy? Do I even have to respond to his email because I feel really guilty about it?” I take away all the guilt. I take away every potential barrier they have and I make it clear that I’m not doing this for a financial grab. I’m doing it for a relationship, because I know if I build a relationship with these people, it could potentially be a huge win for me for 5 or 10 or 20 years. And that’s what people don’t recognize.
It’s, like, for big guys, like, this who get hit up all the time like their problem is not a lack of people willing to help them, their problem is they’re so strapped on time. They have all these things that they want to do but they can’t figure them out. They don’t even have time to stop and hire somebody and systematize the process. They just have all these barriers, and if you can overcome those barriers, you can get yourself in really good position. And I’m not the only one who’s done this.
There’s countless case studies. I won’t go into it now, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve got dozens of case studies of people who’ve gotten themselves into ridiculous positions at very early ages in a very, very quick and relatively fast frame of time. And it’s consistently the most effective way of doing this is through free work.
Nathan: It’s fascinating. Look, we have to work towards wrapping things up, man. I’m just curious, before you officially burnt out, you were working with Tim. Can you give us a little bit of insight behind the scenes of what exactly happened and how burnt out and what it’s like to work with him? And, yeah, just some interesting stuff that.
Charlie: Sure. So I worked with Tim for three years. And, overall, it was a really, really tremendously positive experience for me. And I got to do a lot of amazing stuff. I met an incredible amount of amazing people. He gave me basically every opportunity that I wanted…or I wasn’t requesting much of them, but he just constantly put me in these amazing positions.
And my goal when I was working for him was to be indispensable, was to be the best at my job, and was to be as good as him. So I wanted to be his trusted advisor, his partner, not like some menial assistant. So every time I did an assignment I would ask, “What else can I do to help?” Over the course of three years, I’ve built up you know, I started by doing basic research that any virtual assistant could do.
Up until within a few years, I’d helped him edit his book. I’d helped him launch his book. And I was completely in charge of coordinating this huge conference that he put on. And that was a lot to handle for a 25-year-old. And so it was…I mean, for anybody actually. It didn’t matter my age. I just didn’t have very much experience in that stuff. And though I had, like, really good resources and a lot of help, it was really stressful.
So and I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to be so good at this stuff. So I secretly ordered without telling anybody, a pill, a brain pill that can keep you awake for days. The military uses it for their fighter pilots to keep them awake on multiple day missions and doctors sometimes prescribe it to people with narcolepsy. And I was just working around the clock. I took this thing in for four days in a row.
And before that, I had been sitting indoors in cafes organizing everything for this event. I was drinking coffee all day long. I was sitting still staring at a screen, I stopped interacting with friends. You know, you said earlier like, “What did you give up?” I stopped having fun interactions with friends. You know, I was communicating with everybody online and just in general I was very overwhelmed with this conference. And after the conference was over, we’d done an amazing job like everything went perfectly and people loved it.
After the adrenaline rush wore off, I just felt extremely burnt out. So I just wanna make it clear, like, I mean, a number of people have asked me they’re like, “Well, you know, you were working around the clock for the guy who advocates the four-hour work-week. Why couldn’t you do it?” And I was like, “Look, I never went into this with the intention of working four hours a week. I wanted to get the most from the experience.”
Who else gets to be in that position? Not very many people, literally one you know. So I wanted to take the most advantage of it as possible and that’s why I was able to be in that position in the first place. So, yeah, eventually I burned out but I kept trying to work my way through it. And that was problem with this is like I was like a boxer who’d been knocked out but keeps trying to stand back up and fight. And it’s, like, you need to stop, you need to pump the brakes now. But I would keep trying to work my way through it. And that was my issue that I just didn’t recognize for a long time, it was just giving myself a break.
Nathan: Yeah. No. Thank you for sharing that, man, because, yeah, like I said, at the start of this interview, I think, these are things that so many people face. You wouldn’t know and you wouldn’t think it’s very common but it is. It is getting more and more common in our society. You know, in our generation with the kind of stories we see amongst any entrepreneur the people we look up to that we don’t know about, you know?
So it’s really refreshing to talk to you about this kind of stuff, not just about how do you build a successful business, how do you become a successful entrepreneur, but in some essence, sometimes the aftermath when you thrash out to get where you wanna be.
Charlie: Yeah. And I’m thrilled to have a chance to talk with you about it. I think it’s a really important discussion genuinely. It’s just one that isn’t had enough, I guess, and it’s much easier to feel good than people realize and to be able to have what you want without destroying yourself in the process.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right, because, I think, sometimes when you kind of jump in and start following the processes, sometimes it’s easy to forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s so caught up. And at the end of the day, we all just want to be happy, right? We wanna do stuff that we love and we just wanna be happy, and sometimes we can get so caught up with the end goal that it doesn’t get there, right?
Charlie: Yeah. And it’s really easy…I see consistently with basically every business is, like, everyone starts from, I think, a positive place, or a lot of startups start from a good place of, like, we had a problem and we found a solution and it’s awesome and we’re happy about it. Now, let’s share it with others. Or, like, we wanted to create something that was cool for us, or we wanted to do something that was cool, we did. Great. Now let’s share it.
And then you have some financial success and you kinda get caught up in it. Either the financial aspect…I don’t really get caught up in money, fortunately, but I get caught up in ego stuff, right? And, I think, it’s really easy for anyone to fall into that trap of just like having your ego stroke and feeling important and just constantly seeking stuff that strokes your ego, yeah.
Nathan: Oh, good, man. Well look it’s been absolute pleasure talking to you, dude. I’ve had a lot of fun.
Nathan: It’s been a really interesting conversation, and, yeah, look, I just want to say thank you for taking the time, dude. If there’s any fun or words that you’d like to have, any questions that you wanted me to ask you that I haven’t asked you?
Charlie: Oh, no. Thanks again for inviting me on. This was cool. And, yeah, I definitely look forward to seeing how it turns out and if there’s a decent response. And, yeah, this was cool. I guess the only thing I would leave is, like, if they want to read the book like they can get it on Amazon.
Nathan: Yeah, for sure. There will be a full page ad in the magazine. And what’s the easiest way to find the book? Just search in Amazon or visit…
Nathan: Visit your site?
Charlie: Easiest way is to just get it on Amazon but they can go to charliehoehn.com, too.
Nathan: Awesome. Too easy man. Well, look, thanks, again, for taking the time, brother.
Charlie: Yeah, dude. My pleasure. Thanks again.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Charlie Hoehn
- Checkout Charlie Hoehn’s Book- Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety
- Checkout the Recession Proof Graduate Book
- Visit Charlie Hoehn’s Website
- Follow Charlie Hoehn on Twitter