The views expressed by the contributing Entrepreneurs are their own.
A billionaire beat me out of $30,000.
Yes, you read that right! He initially paid me for some of my work — but refused to pay the remaining $30,000. Now, $30,000 is potentially a significant amount of money and may even represent several months or even years of income for some. However, for a billionaire, $30,000 is a relatively small amount and may not even make a noticeable difference to his wealth. It’s like comparing a small pebble to a big mountain.
Now, you might be thinking, “How could that happen, AJ? Why does a billionaire care about $30,000?”
Both are great questions. However, you will soon see that we both learned important lessons from this process. And what many would see as potentially devastating — I have found to be invaluable. I mean, I lost $30,000 (my lawyer hates to tell you this), so it’s still hard to swallow.
In this article, I will share the lessons I learned from this experience in the hope that it will help you in business as well.
Related: I got ripped off by someone I thought was a friend. Here’s what I learned.
Who wants to be a billionaire?
Now, a billionaire is totally different from a millionaire. You may have seen those graphics that show you the difference. Of major.
There are only 3,331 billionaires on earth out of 7 billion people. I want to explain that in case you don’t understand this concept. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Just actually, it is extremely difficult to understand it.
This means that — if you measure people by net worth — “billionaire status” means you represent 0.00003% of the world’s population. This is a very specific number for an important reason.
Let’s be honest: Most people don’t understand what it actually means is a billionaire. Being a billionaire is just as amazing as it sounds.
What do you think of first when you imagine a billionaire? It’s probably things like sick houses that fit entire neighborhoods inside, a giant yacht off the coast of Monaco, beautiful people everywhere like you’re in your own music video, and a dreamy aesthetic that fills every moment of your day.
And you would be right.
They threw us out at the house of the billionaire who choked me. It was epic. His guest house alone is worth $10 million — which is more than 95% of millionaires can afford. It looks like something outside Architectural Digest, featuring custom cabinetry in a palatial bathroom, a beautiful covered porch and stunning water views.
While he owed me $30,000, he spent more than that on soft goods. No expense was spared on things like towels, napkins and linens — everything had to be of the highest quality. That, and it also had to have a high thread count!
I was told that what he bought the main house for – in one of the most expensive areas in the United States – was the most ever paid for a house in this state! Price: $60 million.
The 295-acre property wasn’t even on the market at the time. So he did what any billionaire with money to burn would do: He paid more than double the appraised property value. Not to be outdone by the guesthouse, the main house has 5 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and is 7,400 square feet!
Apparently, this man had no shortage of money. Now that I’ve given you some insight into the person who gave me a hard time, let me share a little about myself.
I’m a builder guru
I run a beautiful boutique social media content creation company in Los Angeles called The Limitless Company. I study entrepreneurs, I am an entrepreneur, and I work with world-class entrepreneurs. Basically, I’m a guru maker — and I create content for thought leaders. I have worked with the top 1% of people to grow their business with digital branding.
I make them famous for the things they are really, really good at. I then use that fame (or attention) and turn it into money, book deals, sponsorships and more.
I call it ROAC: Return On Attention Created.
We create vertical short-form video content for our clients and help them engage on social media. But it’s not just video clips. We help our clients build truly engaging and culturally relevant digital brands — brands that have the power to influence consumers with content that drives commerce.
During my 15-year digital marketing career, I’ve helped my clients generate tens of millions of dollars through physical products, digital products, brand deals, joint ventures, and more. Currently, with the few clients we work with now, we reach millions of people every month. And all that attention we help our clients generate is monetized.
Bottom line: I film people who are masters of their field. But, no, not at Seinfeld sense. He is more like someone who creates his own reality — someone who is already a force of nature.
I come to help them establish their personal brand as a “GURU” in their industry. I do this for TV stars, business moguls, tech founders and high profile people.
From a leader in their industry they become leaders For their industry.
Related: 3 Business Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way
I learned a valuable lesson in the process — and so did the billionaire (maybe)
We were hired to help this person produce vertical short-form video content. I spent time educating his team on the value of short-form vertical video. I explained that it is about connecting with modern culture.
If you want to be a successful American company, I told them, you have to be connected to American culture (and pay your bills). Social media cultures represent real life in many ways. It is the lens through which people see first — when they perceive reality. I tried to convey to them how important it was to get this right in context.
But unfortunately, he got in his own way. We gave his team the videos. They had an overseas team review it and were confused as to why we didn’t embed logos, quotes and outros throughout the video. While these were known in the past as “best practices,” these aren’t the kinds of features in a video that get attention on social media. All of these features take up valuable time, disrupt the flow, reduce engagement, and make the video seem less authentic on the platform.
I also want to mention that even before signing the contract, we allocated resources and time for the project. But that didn’t matter to him or his integrity. Because you see, when you get to that level, technically you don’t have to care about anything.
An important lesson for him and all billionaires: Just because they had that unicorn grand slam, doesn’t mean it will happen again. This new company was different from the one he had He made he is a billionaire. Clearly, billionaires fail too – and that was by a large margin. Plus, seeing a billionaire trying to navigate a company and industry they didn’t know made me realize how much power I have. It made me see the true value of skills in the digital world.
The story of the billionaire is a classic example of how things can go wrong even at the highest level. But as I said at the beginning, for a billionaire, $30,000 may not be a significant amount. It’s like a drop in the bucket for them. So, it takes a special person to be that stubborn.
Then I found out that this particular billionaire had a reputation for not paying his bills. Even when I signed the contract with him at first, I thought to myself, “I’ll have no problem getting this money.”
Normally, I collect in advance. However, this contract was written by his company, and for their convenience, I just went ahead with it. Big mistake. In the end, we both gained valuable insights from the experience. I’m probably the only one who did something about it though.
Victim or creator? Which of the two are you?
Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d been “screwed”. I am no longer the same person I was – a victim.
I realized that there are two types of people in life. There are people who are “victims” — they sit idly by and watch life happen to them. And the other group is the “creators”. These are people who see life happen to them. They are the cause. They believe that life happens to them — to create.
The fundamental difference between a victim mentality and a perpetrator mentality is where they put their attention. For victims, the focus is on what they don’t want. Problems constantly preoccupy their lives and they fear losing control or losing their purpose.
Creators focus on what they want. Instead of focusing on problems, they find (or even create) solutions. So when this billionaire guy cornered me, instead of playing the victim, I chose to use it as a lesson. And I’m taking that lesson to Limitless. I help people do one very specific thing: build a “guru” brand. It is a “vehicle” that accelerates their career.
So, just like a vehicle needs to go to a gas station and pay for gas in advance, that’s how I built my company’s services. I fuel their brand in the digital world the same way natural gas fuels a vehicle in the physical world.
Related: 8 ways you can save yourself and others from being scammed
Use this as a lesson for your own success
There are three main things I want you to take away from my experience. First, you need to value your time as a creator. You get paid in advance for the work you do. Don’t be a victim of your circumstances — or anyone else’s.
Second, never let your own success be your downfall. Get out of your way. As a guru in any field, you have a great responsibility to yourself, your team, and your audience. Take it seriously.
Third, skills in the digital world have become so valuable that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, needs them. So, get really good at it.
Remember: To be exceptional, you must be an exception. As you create and build your brand, share that greatness with your customers.