I was teased relentlessly for the first twelve years of my life. I was different than other kids my age. I was a large kid. At age eight I was the size of a twelve year old, and at twelve years old I was bigger than my sports coaches. I was home-schooled, and I played sports with other kids from public schools. I didn’t understand their jokes or the things they talked about (school, girls, teachers, homework). I was better at sports than most of them were, and they didn’t like that. I was a very quiet kid. I smiled a lot. They even teased me for smiling too much.
When I was about twelve years old I complained to my Mom about how kids were teasing me. She said, “You’re going to have to learn how to tease them back.” So I learned the art of humor redirection.
In 8th grade I met Nick Moussa, an odd-looking, half Egyptian, half Irish kid. Something about he was different, he seemed to not care what others thought about him (or maybe he cared a lot). Nick could make everyone around him laugh at will. Seeing this kid interact with group of peers was eye opening to me. Nick & I became good friends, we made each other laugh and I opened up my creative self to others.
I’ve always had an imagination, but I really didn’t let everyone know about it.
In high school sophomore Latin class a friend saw my doodles and brought me to Mr. Newberry, an art teacher at our school. Mr. Newberry was a loud, sarcastic art man. He wore Armani suits, listened to The Clash in class and didn’t seem to fit the norm in this small town. Mr. Newberry gave me more difficult assignments than he gave the other kids. “Design a record sleeve” he’d say. “Allan, yours has to be better than everyone else’s.” I turned in a design with crabs dressed as KISS. I called them “KRABS”. Mr. Newberry said, “That rocks the Casbah, man, I love the star child!” He smiled. I smiled, and I opened up more of my creative self.
Years later, I went freelance. This was in 2003 when people around me seemed to care about being professional. I met this developer named Steven Bristol, he encouraged me to further be myself. He laughed at my jokes & said to not care about the opinions of others, to do what I think is funny. We became business partners, he and I have made money together and made people smile together. Without realizing it he’s enabled me further.
Every experience changes you as a person. My personality, my humor now is a reflection of the kids teasing me growing up and a few people that have encouraged and shown me to be myself and worry less about what others think.
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