Everyone wants to be successful until they see what it takes to be successful in life. Yet I believe that if you’d like to know how to be successful then it is often useful to hear the stories of other people who have obtained a degree of success. This is why I have read many biographies about people who were regarded as achieving success in life, to use the lessons from their life to help guide my own life.

Now that I am nearing 40 years old, I personally believe I have obtained a measure of success, as I have started from nothing and generated nearly $2M in wealth. So perhaps sharing my story with you will help you understand what it takes to be successful and you can gleam something useful from the steps I went through that you can apply to your own life.

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices on my journey; some that I probably didn’t need to make. By reading The Millennial Gentleman you can benefit from the lessons I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made, as well as from my victories.

I first want to make this clear: You must be able to endure all hardships that come your way, overcome all obstacles that stand in your path and adapt to the changes that impact your life in order to thrive in this world. This is the wisdom I have gained from the accumulated experiences of my life.

You should also be informed that I will be paraphrasing many of the events I discuss, and you will not hear of the most tragic things I have experienced. It may surprise some people to learn that I am actually a fairly private person and there is only one person in this world who I have ever trusted enough to share my entire life story with. So, what you will be reading here is a short summary of some major events in a simplified version taken from my unpublished memoirs. Regardless, this version of my tale should be enough to give you an understanding of my personal journey as an entrepreneur, and an idea of what it has taken of me to obtain a measure of success in life.

Carey Martell’s Entrepreneurial Story

This is my story.

Early Life

I was born in December 1982 in what was at that time the fairly small town of Newberg, Oregon. The town was best known for being the location of George Fox University, a Quaker educational institution, as well as the base of A-dec, which is presently one of the largest dental manufacturers in the world. Today Newberg is best known for wine tourism and its population of former hipster Californians has substantially grown (more than my liking…), but when I grew up there it was a pretty rural area with more churches than it had bars. In fact it didn’t even have a single bar anywhere within city limits when I grew up there. Still it was one of the larger cities in Yamhill County and some parts of it were pretty ritzy.

My parent’s house was not in what could be considered the nicest part of Newberg. The house sat about less than a few hundred feet from the railroad tracks (I can still remember how annoying it was every time the train would go by) on a gravel road. But boy, I sure loved living in that house. To this day I kind of miss being there. One of my favorite things to do was to climb the cherry tree to eat the fruits right out of it, and my brother and I used to build forts in the blackberry bushes by the railroad tracks with the other kids in the neighborhood.

I don’t actually have any photos of the neighborhood from when I lived there. I took these photos a few weeks ago, back when I was visiting Newberg. The area and the house itself have not changed much.

One of the few photos that I have from my early childhood, with my younger brother Curtis and I in the living room of the old house.
One of the few photos that I have from my early childhood, with my younger brother Curtis and I in the living room of the old house.
Playing Nintendo in the living room of the old house with other kids.
Playing Nintendo in the living room of the old house with other kids.
Another rare photo of myself as a child.
Another rare photo of myself as a child.

My parents divorced when I was fairly young. My mother moved to another city and my father took a job with UPS as a delivery driver with long hours, so the choice was made for my brother Curtis and I to be raised by our grandparents on their farm in Newberg, so we could continue attending the same school. At this time we attended a private school called Open Bible, which was a religious school. It was pricey but my mother wanted my brother and I to have the best education she could afford. I had a talent for reading; while my parents had been together my mother ordered a mail order reading course for children, which she had me do every day. So I learned to read at a very young age compared to most other children; I was able to read before I went to pre-school. My mother tried to cultivate that talent.

I would only attend Open Bible until the 4th grade. When I took the placement tests for enrolling into the public school system, by the state’s standards I was considered ‘intellectually gifted‘ for having a talent for reading and writing. I do not recall exactly what grade level they said I was operating in, but I do remember the examiner said I should be a high schooler.

I was not placed into high school. I wasn’t placed into any specific special classes at all. Instead the school received extra money from the state to provide me with extra curriculum classes to develop my talents, but the school guidance counselor instead spent the money purchasing comic books for me to read every month.

(Although it must sound shocking, there is a rational explanation for why the school counselor chose to spend the money on comic books, but I won’t go into the finer details here. Let’s just leave it as saying that the Newberg educational administration at that time was not well organized, and unable to accept the responsibility of handling the operation of the state’s TAG program. If the school counselor had not spent the money on comic books the school administration probably would have pocketed the money, so I am glad he chose to rebel.)

Open Bible did not have a library. So when I attended the public grade school I decided to spend my recess time in the school library reading every book on the shelves, and when I had read them all the school librarian ordered new ones just for me to read. She even gifted me an old copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which I have kept to this day. I sometimes also snuck off campus to walk to the city library across the street from the grade school. My favorite books to read were encyclopedias and dictionaries; the latter because I frequently looked up words from one book that I didn’t recognize in a dictionary. The small Webster dictionary I owned (which was meant for children) did not have every word I encountered in these books I was tackling. As a byproduct of this self-teaching I tend to mix American and British English spellings together, often preferring the British spelling of certain words over the American ones. This is probably due to influence from the predominantly British authored books I read as a child.

The reason why I mention these events is because I think it is important to understand this about me; I did not come from anything resembling wealth. I probably can’t even be considered to have come from middle class. Even if I was born with a natural affinity for language this talent was not cultivated by any specific mentor; I am mostly an autodidact. While I received the same education as my peers in school did, I was always bored with class. I would read the class textbooks many chapters ahead while other kids struggled to read the first few pages of a book, and usually before the first day of class was done I had read the entire science or history textbook, and was now bored of those subjects. So I read other books during class time. As a child I was more interested in learning things from books meant for adults, often at the expense of my grades. I didn’t really care about grades and I don’t recall ever trying very hard to get good grades except the one occasion where my dad promised to buy a Sega Genesis if I got straight As on one report card, and so I did. Otherwise I just wasn’t very interested in paying attention to the curriculum the teachers were teaching. It wasn’t until I was in junior high school that I learned if I wanted to go to college I’d have to get high marks to earn a scholarship, and I didn’t see that as a path I wanted to strive for. I decided to instead enlist into the military. I dropped out of high school when I was sixteen and enlisted when I was seventeen. I gave five years of my life to the military; two to the National Guard of Oregon and Virginia, and then three to the active duty Army.

Myself at 17 years old, fresh from boot camp in 2000. Notice the pager on my belt; you’ll never see those things again!

I served a tour of duty during OIF while assigned to a unit of the 10th Mountain that did armed convoys between camps in Kuwait and Iraq, in addition to marshaling yard operations at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, which was at that time called Camp Spearhead.

A photo taken at Camp Spearhead, Kuwait in 2004. I was participating in an officially sanctioned advanced military close quarters combatants course.
A photo taken at Camp Spearhead, Kuwait in 2004. I was participating in an advanced military close quarters combatants course.
A wall of my various military achievements at my father’s house. Only about three of those campaign coins are mine though.
A wall of my various military achievements at my father’s house. Only about three of those campaign coins are mine though.

Unfortunately after this tour I had my second round of anthrax vaccine injections, which I suffered a bad reaction to. Then for over a year after this every time that my heart rate increased, such as when I was mildly stressed or working out, I thought I was having a heart attack because every muscle in my body would tighten up. So when my chest muscles went nuts, I would be unable to breath. It’d happen sometimes for no reason at all; I’d just be siting down watching TV and suddenly I couldn’t breath anymore, and I’d fall on the ground and pass out from lack of oxygen flow. Every time I thought I was going to die, and every time I would wake up feeling shittier and more afraid of experiencing that feeling of dying again. Yet nothing I did prevented it. Almost every day I experienced an event where my chest would tighten and I could not breath, and the only thing that would often loosen the chest was losing consciousness from being unable to breath.

So, I was given a medical discharge after serving five years of my six year enlistment contract; this meant that while I was considered a disabled veteran and would receive a monthly compensation stipend, I was not entitled to the full amount of GI Bill educational benefits based on how the program operated at this time. I would have to use the Vocational Rehab program, which unlike the GI Bill must be approved by a counselor at the VA who administers the program based on what kind of work they believe you’ll be able to do with your conditions.

This was a very bleak time in my life. I had expected to serve in the Army until retirement; during my OIF tour I had worked my ass off in my free time so that I could pass the physical fitness test to qualify for Special Forces training. Yet one defective dose of the anthrax vaccine stole that future I had been working hard to build. I now had to find something else to do with my life; some new dream to aspire toward.

I didn’t find it immediately. First I had to come to terms with my changed situation. I was used to being very athletic and now I could barely walk up a damn staircase without feeling like I might die. Mentally I entered a dark space where I decided I was either going to force my body to overcome this thing and develop new neural pathways in my brain to stop these panic attacks from happening, or I would go down fighting. I didn’t care if I died because I refused to live like an invalid for the rest of my life. I would beat it or I would die; there were no other options in my mind.

In the mornings I would walk down the road a few blocks away from my mother’s house (where I was living at the time) and force myself to sprint for at least an hour every day, struggling even after my chest muscles tightened up and I couldn’t breath. The rest of the day I practiced breathing exercises I had learned from my time as a martial artist, as well as other meditations I learned on the internet, with the intentions of developing a stronger mind and body connection that would allow me to over-ride whatever my body was doing to cause me to lose control over my muscles and suffocate me. I fell to the ground experiencing what always felt like a heart attack, over and over again — for weeks — until finally one day I was able to just scream so loudly in defiance of my situation that I felt my chest OPEN and I could breath while running again. For the first time in nearly a year I didn’t fall to the ground feeling like I might die, but instead realized I could control whatever the hell had happened to me after getting that bad dose of the anthrax vaccine. I could use sheer willpower and determination to force my body to listen to me again and do what I wanted it to do.

It was not an easy process. For many years I would need to use breathing exercises and mental focus techniques to halt a panic attack happening for no particular reason, whether I was just jogging or just driving a car down a road. But I learned to overcome it and gain control over the situation, little by little. I try to look at it now as a positive life event. Even though it ruined the future that I had worked so hard toward achieving as a career soldier, I gained something else by constantly experiencing the fear and pain of death; incredible willpower. I can suffer through many things that others find disagreeable or unpleasant and would never willingly do, in order to accomplish my goals; even if I have to experience these unpleasant things for a long time.

I’m not taking minutes, my friend. I’m talking enduring these things for months, or even years. And it turned out I would need to be able to endure a lot of unpleasant and difficult situations in order to acquire the knowledge and resources to achieve my new goals in life.

Becoming a YouTuber

I was honorably discharged in January 2005. This was the same time that YouTube launched and I became an avid watcher of many of the earliest channels on it, such as the Angry Nintendo Nerd (now AVGN), Mr. Safety and the Smosh boys. When I watched the Smosh boys ‘Pokemon song‘ video I fell out of my chair laughing so hard I thought I was going to die of a heart attack. I always had an interest in making movies as a child; I thought to myself, perhaps now was the right time?

I came to the belief there was going to be something to this YouTube stuff, so maybe I should try my hand at it. I created my first channel on May 31st, 2006. However my first few videos were very poor quality, recorded on my laptop’s built in webcam. I decided I should probably get an education in how to make videos but when I tried to use the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program (which disabled veterans are supposed to use to pay for college instead of the GI Bill program) every Voc Rehab counselor I tried to go through refused to allow me to use the program to pay for film school. I was told numerous times that it was “statistically unlikely I would ever find employment in the film industry” to justify their refusals to allow VA funds to pay for my education. The counselors said this because according to “their research” the film industry has a lot fewer jobs than other industries do, so my chances of being able to find work was much lower than if I learned a different trade. I tried fruitlessly to explain that my intention was to make YouTube videos and produce my own company that specialized in making web entertainment, but these Voc Rehab counselors thought I was crazy for believing anyone would ever make any money on YouTube.

Instead I was often encouraged to attend programs like paralegal studies or trade schools to learn how to do things like weld. One Voc Rehab counselor tried to pressure me to instead apply to work at a Ford plant that ironically shut down later that same year. I did attend a semester of paralegal studies at a community college but quit after realizing paralegal certification is not even necessary to work as a paralegal. On my own time I attempted to teach myself how to make movies, reading many books and watching many tutorial videos on YouTube. I even sold my car to purchase a Canon GL2, which at the time was the best camcorder to use for digital indie film-making. I also started writing a webcomic called Deathfist Ninja GKaiser, and used the savings from my military career to hire an artist to draw it with the intention of developing it into a live action or animated project. But there were limits to what I could do with the resources that I had. The kinds of films I wanted to learn to make required a team based effort.

Eventually I decided to take out a student loan and pay my own way to film school, which I did from Fall of 2007 to Spring 2008. I attended the film program at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time I was in a long distance relationship with a girl who was a student in the astrophysics program at the University of Michigan, who had begged me to move across the country to be with her. However she broke up with me the day I was to board the bus, after selling all of my furniture, my game collection and ending the lease on my condo. I had to move to the city even though I had nowhere to live, and I ended up homeless for several months. I would roam the city at night in the cold, walking around to keep myself warm and then when the college opened up in the morning I would take a nap for a few hours in the college library or the film computer lab before classes started. I eventually got caught sleeping in the editing lab by another student and reluctantly explained my situation to them, who then drove me to the local VA hospital believing they would be able to assist me with a homeless program for veterans. I was fortunate in that the counselor recognized I was not homeless due to an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or suffering from any kind of other psychological problem, as the vast majority of homeless veterans are. She bent the rules for me and allowed me to stay in one of the rooms meant for short term patients awaiting surgeries instead of the regular homeless centers that would have required me to attend group counseling sessions for veterans with the usual types of problems. So I spent my Thanksgiving and my Christmas in 2007 at the VA hospital, and attended film school. I learned far more than I would have on my own, and produced several short films that I am still pretty proud of. Then in January the counselor at the VA hospital was able to help me secure some city social programs funds to rent a small room in a house.

However in April my grandmother passed away. I flew back home for the funeral and met up with my brother Curtis, who had enlisted into the Marines after I had enlisted into the Army. Together we decided to form a company called Martell Brothers Studios to produce YouTube videos professionally.

April 2008, after attending my grandmother’s funeral. I am standing above my grandfather.
April 2008, after attending my grandmother’s funeral. I am standing above my grandfather.

Curtis would also go through a divorce during this time as well as a change of duty station from California to Virginia. He became depressed with so much happening at once, and he asked me to leave school and move in with him. So I dropped out of film school and moved for my brother. While in Virginia I started doing freelance game design work for a company called KRU Interactive, making contributions to an online game called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. I had previously played it during my teenage years and then a few years after enlisting into the military, and gained something of a reputation within that community for my theorycrafting about its game mechanics and ways it could be improved to be a more fun experience. During this time I was able to get many of the things I had wanted implemented into the game but when the work didn’t turn into a full time paid position after about 6 months and many countless hours spent bent over spread sheets and number crunching as I refined algorithms, I stopped contributing. This was around when I began to realize the work I was able to do was valuable and I should be properly compensated for doing it. I also gained experience working with computer engineers, developing writing technical writing skills on how to communicate my ideas to programmers.

Curtis overcame his depression and found a new girlfriend. He also decided that film-making wasn’t his path. I decided against returning to Ann Arbor MI where I had struggled so much. Instead I moved to Texas where my mother lived. But before I could enroll into college my grandfather passed away. I had just visited him the week prior. This time I ended up staying in Newberg at my grandparent’s house for a couple months, as the family was concerned about potential thieves in the area who looked for recent deaths to find burglary targets. I have to admit, that was a pretty dark time in my life. It was hard to stay in that house with so many memories, alone and my grandparents forever gone. Yet I stayed in the house until one of my cousins moved into the house with his family. Before I left town I went back to the graveyard and, standing over my grandparents’ grave I made a bold declaration that I would became a man so great that the entire world would come to know who they were through the achievements that I accomplish with the rest of my life.

I returned to Texas and enrolled into the film program at the Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas. At the same time I began uploading my first RPG Fanatic videos where I reviewed old roleplaying computer games in a style not too different than the Angry Video Game Nerd channel, whom I like so many YouTubers at the time was inspired by. My original take involved a puppet sword, which I built myself by hot-gluing Groucho Marx glasses to a Nerf sword. I originally had the videos on my jfreedan channel but then moved them to a dedicated RPG Fanatic channel. These two channels would generate millions of views and I would eventually earn enough consistently from my channels that I could pay my bills from being a full-time YouTuber. I even purchased a two-story, three bedroom house just outside of Austin, Texas and transformed a bedroom into a set for my show. I also worked as a video game journalist for a local site called Original Gamer, where I received advance copies of games to review on my channel in addition to attending many professional gaming industry events and conventions as press.

Interviewing famous Japanese anime director Shinichi ‘Nabeshin’ Watanabe at San Japan 2011
Interviewing famous Japanese anime director Shinichi ‘Nabeshin’ Watanabe at San Japan 2011
Photo from the 2012 Gamestop Expo.
Photo from the 2012 Gamestop Expo.

But I came to realize that I was better suited for the business side of the industry. I just didn’t have the talent to BE talent; I wasn’t going to become a famous actor, director or anything like that. But I understood the mechanics of how the business worked; I understood how to do SEO and how to identify the things that made a channel succeed or fail. So I started a small YouTube network called Martell Brothers Studios and at the same time, I enrolled into a startup accelerator course called Tech Ranch based in Austin, Texas. But Martell Brothers wasn’t doing so well as an MCN; about a month after I gained approval from YouTube to operate as an MCN they raised the viewership requirements for MCNs on me, and wouldn’t allow me to add any new channels to my CMS account, claiming I was too small in viewership to warrant support. So the MCN couldn’t grow. I also didn’t have the money to pay the full tuition so I bartered and did video production work and other volunteerism for the accelerator in exchange for being allowed to attend the program. I was introduced to the lean startup model and how to use validated bootstraping techniques to launch a new business.

My team from Startup Weekend 2013 at the Tech Ranch. We built a demo of a product called ‘Code Arcade’.
My team from Startup Weekend 2013 at the Tech Ranch. We built a demo of a product called ‘Code Arcade’.

I was involved in the Ranch program from 2012 to 2014, at which time I rebranded the failed Martell Brothers Studios as Power Up TV and sorted out my growth problems with YouTube that had held it back in the past. I also boarded a plane to Los Angeles, CA and pitched my heart out to anyone who would meet with me about a potential investment opportunity into my company.

Within a few months of rebranding and implementing many of the things I had learned at the Tech Ranch, I grew Power Up TV to hundreds of partners and it was generating several thousand dollars of profit a month. But I wanted to do more; starting in 2013 I had developed an IDEA for a new video streaming platform that would allow me to operate more like a traditional TV network did and generate higher revenues. This was still early in the video streaming market; Sling TV wouldn’t launch until January 2015. I couldn’t find an investment into my startup from the people I met because they weren’t convinced that audiences would want “old school ideas” like program schedules on the internet. I spent around $15,000 to build a demo of how I wanted the application to function and demonstrated how it was possible to stitch prerecorded and livestreamed content together into a channel guide in a purely virtualized environment, with all aspects of broadcast automation achievable with a web app loaded on a mere Chromebook.

A photo of myself from 2013, posing with a mockup of what I envisioned my video streaming platform interface to look like.
A photo of myself from 2013, posing with a mockup of what I envisioned my video streaming platform interface to look like.

For several months I lived out of the old youth hostel in Hollywood that sat across the street from the Chinese Theatre, meeting with and pitching to investors while managing the Power Up TV network by myself from a laptop. But I couldn’t find any investors. I eventually became fed up and declared that I would just keep building up Power Up TV until I had enough revenue pouring in that I could fund the development myself. I was about to secure a lease on a small photography studio in Austin when I got a phone call out of the blue from a gentleman based in LA. He owned a movie studio and was interested in acquiring Power Up TV. This was about 9 months after I had launched it and by this point it had acquired over a thousand partner channels, was generating tens of million videos a month and had across all its channels over a million combined subscribers. It was still a small MCN but it was growing fast.

So in December 2014 I decided to sell Power Up TV to Thunder Studios, where I also became a vice president as part of the deal in order to help the transition of Thunder Studios (historically primarily in the business of leasing studio stages and equipment to commercials, music videos and TV series productions) into a digital media company able to do its own productions. That makes me the only person in the world who has ever started an MCN, sold it within a year and then became an executive at a large movie studio within the TMZ (thirty mile zone) of Hollywood.

On a panel at Playlist Live DC 2015

In September 2015 I exited the studio and renewed my focus on developing my idea for a video streaming platform, which I now called Zenither. I started my own consultancy and drove around the country working for clients, living out of my car. To reduce my expenses I showered at Planet Fitness locations and avoided paid lodging as much as possible in order to save up the capital needed to develop Zenither. So I slept in my car most of the time.

The Cadillac that I lived in during 2016 and parts of 2017, driving around the country working as a consultant.
The Cadillac that I lived in during 2016 and parts of 2017, driving around the country working as a consultant.

I also raised $1.2M from private angel investors. It took several years to fully develop the Zenither platform but as of right now my company has obtained 10 patents related to its unique technologies and design, and it has been in a stable open beta release for about a year and a half, with a small library of around 2,000 titles.

Which brings us to present day in the year 2020. I originally expected to attend conventions like SXSW to pitch Zenither and raise the millions I need to scale the business further, but as we all know the worldwide epidemic brought the world to a screeching halt. I also haven’t been able to do as much consulting as I used to. The majority of my income this year has been from various passive income funnels I setup in my early days as a YouTuber, with several videos still generating revenue for me even though my channels haven’t been in the Partner program since YouTube updated the minimum viewership requirements to hurt small channels. I no longer have the time to devote to personally producing YouTube videos and managing channels, as Zenither occupies my full attention. I also travel the country as a digital vagabond with my truck and Airstream travel trailer. I manage all of my businesses remotely from a laptop while living life to the fullest that I can having adventures with great people I meet.

Carey’s truck and Airstream travel trailer
VIP Bottle Service at the Hollywood speakeasy No Vacancy with friends.
Pool party at 1600 Vine in the heart of Hollywood, California.

I have come far from the days I played in blackberry bushes by the train tracks. Heck, I’ve come far from the darker days of struggling against every conceivable obstacle. I proved those Voc Rehab counselors at the VA 100% wrong by building my own pathway into the film and TV industry despite their insistence that I was “statistically unlikely” to succeed.

What to Learn From My Story About What it Takes to Succeed in Life

Many people have really unhelpful ideas about many things today. They think the virtues that have allowed people to be successful in the past simply do not apply anymore; that success is based on whether you were born into something. If you’re skin color is this, or your gender is that, or if you started out wealthy to begin with.

Look at my story. Yeah, so I was born by happenchance as a Caucasian man. So what?

  • Did being “white” result in being born to parents who lived in a nice middle class suburb? No.
  • Did being “white” get me any benefits from the public education system? No.
  • Did being “white” give me any benefits for college? Fuck no; even when I earned my college benefits through five years of military service, I STILL got screwed over by some random assholes who had the audacity to try to decide what I was capable of based on the failures of others.
  • Did being “white” benefit me in any fucking way at all? NO.

Let me tell you something. Throughout my life I’ve had to live in the very same low income areas that many other people do, and dealt with the same nonsense from police. I once spent a night in jail after being arrested for having a driver license that was a few days expired, which a judge dismissed. In another incident I received a ticket for driving my mother’s car and showing her insurance policy, and had to go to court to get it dismissed. I even got a ticket once for wearing my seatbelt “improperly” ( the way that it hung, it was covering my neck so I had put it under my armpit), and I had to take time off work to get that dismissed, too. And when I lived for a few months in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles (which is considered to be a ghetto) while consulting, I even had police pull shotguns on me while I was jogging; someone thought my weighted vest was a bomb vest, and they called the police on me, who jumped out of squad cars and pulled their guns before checking to see what was going on. So don’t tell me that I have been benefited by being born with any kind of privileges that somehow makes me immune from police incompetence. It hasn’t. Anyone living in low income areas has a higher chance of being hassled by police, because low income areas are high crime areas. I’ve had people call the police on me for just sleeping in my car by a park, so I fully understand how this works and have been subjected to the same kinds of harassment others believe is racially motivated. I don’t think it’s all racially motivated though, since I’m white and the same stuff happened to me when I lived in low income areas. It’s more because you look poor and out of place, and police view that as potential criminal activity; people don’t usually go jogging in ghettos and people don’t usually sleep in their cars there, either.

So, if I can make something of myself despite the many obstacles that stood between me and my ambitions, then so can you.

The secret to becoming successful in life is not based in having “privileges”. It’s based in having the will to succeed regardless of the obstacles that stand before you. You can’t give in to depressions and you can’t give in to the temptation to give up when things are challenging. What other people say about you can hurt your feelings, but you get to decide if you will allow what they say to be the final word about you.

I didn’t mention this before but early in my school years I was bullied a lot. After I left the private school and started attending public school I went several years having no friends at school, which is part of the reason why I had spent so much time in the libraries. And you know where those other kids who bullied me ended up in life? I do, because I’ve looked them up on Facebook. I’ve accomplished more than all of them combined. Some of them even made such poor choices in life it led to their early deaths.

Many people today easily turn to drugs to escape the harsh realities of life. Yet no matter how dark anything has gotten in my life, I’ve never turned to meth or crack or anything like that. And I only drink socially; hell, I didn’t even really start drinking much until after I had already turned 30. My 20s were dry years where I focused my money into trying one business venture or another, learning from the school of hard knocks. If I had drank or smoked my money away then I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

There are some people who give many excuses for why they cannot achieve something they claim they want to do. It usually has to do with having no money to move somewhere they believe they will find more job opportunities, or other limitations that stand in their way. But look, I once tossed nearly all my furniture in a dumpster and moved across the country to a city where I was homeless for months while I went to college. And then later on I lived out of my car while working as a consultant. So don’t tell me you can’t “afford” to create a new opportunity for yourself, because it doesn’t actually cost money to create a new opportunity; what it costs is a willingness to endure hardships and go without comforts. Let me show you something I took a photo of so you can understand what I mean here,

You see these old ratty shoes? I had bought them in 2005 when I left the Army. I wore them until 2012 pretty much every day for seven years. That’s why they look that way. By the end I was actually feeling rocks pierce through the soles when I walked home with groceries, which is why I was forced to replace them. I took a photo of these shoes before I threw them away because I wanted to remember that I went through this.

And yeah I walked to the grocery store because even when I had a car, I couldn’t afford to waste fuel driving frivolously. That’s how poor I was during these years. I even had a car repossessed on me and trashed my credit score for years, to the point that even when I finally did have some income I couldn’t get a loan.

I have experienced some really great highs in life but only after suffering through some deep lows. Those experiences are forever etched into my personality and it is part of why I have little patience for fools, people who engage in trickery or just outright lie to my face. I dislike wasting money because I understand how far a dollar can stretch, and what it really means to many people.

So that is my answer on what it takes to be successful. Some people may stumble into a position of great wealth, but that doesn’t necessarily make one successful. Success isn’t about owning things; rather success is about trying to achieve some goal and making it happen. If your goal is stuff, sure then you can achieve those goals by acquiring the wealth to get that stuff. There are many ways to do that. But my brand of success isn’t just about owning things, it’s about building things. I’ve overcome tremendous obstacles to do that and first I had to build myself before I could build other things that I wanted to make.

So now that I have given you my answer on what it takes to be successful, here is my question for you: what are you going to achieve? What is it that you are going to do to rebel against the odds and succeed?

Do you have an answer? If so, then show me and the rest of the world what it is that you can do.

Cheers. I wish you luck in your endeavors.

Carey Martell is Editor in Chief for The Millennial Gentleman. A thirty something modern man who is politically independent, non-religious but a firm believer in ideals of chivalry and traditional family values. Carey lives his life as a vagabond digital nomad traveling and living life to the fullest while managing his businesses remotely with a laptop and internet hotspot connection.