How Being Laid Off Could Become the Best Thing for your Income, with Pat Flynn
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Can you live without internet? No, this isn’t an episode about cutting the cord, it’s what I had to do for half a week thanks to a damaged cable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t record a new episode without my connection to the outside world, but I did use the time to select an early episode that I think will inspire anyone that may have lost their job over the past year or more thanks to Covid.
Way back in episode three, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income was kind enough to join me on the show to discuss his experience in being laid off from his job during the 2008 financial crisis, and how he managed to turn the experience into a positive. Pat dishes on past side hustles, including one that may not have been legal! He also explains what inspired his book, Let Go.
I really think Pat’s message is worth bringing back to what is now a larger audience here on The MapleMoney Show, even if my skills as a host were still “in progress”, thankfully Pat helped to make this a great chat!
Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to Wealthsimple today!
- Why starting a business is a great way to supplement your income.
- Pat explains how he was let go from his employer shortly after receiving a promotion.
- Learn how a podcast changed Pat’s life.
- Why Pat’s layoff became a blessing in disguise.
- Before he was an entrepreneur, Pat explains that he was a serial side hustler.
- Most entrepreneurs give up too early because they lack this one trait.
- Pat discusses his book, Let Go, and how it can help other entrepreneurs.
Welcome to the Money Maple Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom.
Can you live without internet? No, this isn’t an episode about cutting the cord, it’s what I had to do for half a week thanks to a damaged cable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t record a new episode without my connection to the outside world, but I did use the time to select an early episode that I think will inspire anyone that may have lost their job over the past year or more thanks to Covid. Way back in episode three, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income was kind enough to join me on the show to discuss his experience in being laid off from his job during the 2008 financial crisis, and how he managed to turn the experience into a positive. Pat dishes on past side hustles, including one that may not have been legal! He also explains what inspired his book, Let Go. I really think Pat’s message is worth bringing back to what is now a larger audience here on The MapleMoney Show, even if my skills as a host were still “in progress”, thankfully Pat helped to make this a great chat! Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to https://maplemoney.com/wealthsimple today! Now let’s chat with Pat!
Tom: Hi Pat, welcome to The MapleMoney Show.
Pat: Thank you for having me Tom. I appreciate it.
Tom: I know you have a book that you’re re-launching this month. It inspired me to talk to you. It’s originally around how you were laid off and what that lead to and I saw sort of a personal finance angle there that I kind of wanted to get into with you which I don’t know if many people have really talked much to you about.
Pat: No, I like the topic idea because I typically come on and talk about business strategies and those kinds of things. In terms of money and personal finance I feel like starting a business for yourself, whether it’s on the side or it’s something you want to do full-time it is a great way to supplement your income and allow yourself a little bit more freedom but definitely, personal finance just in general is something I don’t talk much about so I’m thankful to come on today.
Tom: Great, thanks for being on. You’re a big ‘Back to the Future’ fan so let’s go back to 2008, you were at your job… can you tell us about not only what it was like to be at your job but were there any signs that a lay-off was coming? How did that feel at the time?
Pat: There were definitely signs. I mean, this was in 2008 where here, in the United States, things weren’t looking so good and there were people who were getting let go here and there but I kind of always felt that those people weren’t necessarily pulling their whole weight at the time so I figure we were just trimming the weeds, if you will. And I had worked so hard to make sure I was essentially indispensable and very necessary. I even became the youngest person to get promoted to what’s called, Job Captain, in the architectural industry where I now have clients and people working under me so it’s almost even more securing myself in my job and I’m climbing that ladder. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing because I had been taught to do that. Ever since high school and even before then, getting good grades, going to college and getting a great job, getting a promotion very early on and really planning my future here in the U.S. with 401ks and stuff. I was ready to go “all-in” with architecture my whole life. There were signs but I figured I had done enough work beforehand to make sure that I was indispensable and, obviously, that was not true because I go let go on June 17, 2008. We just passed the 10-year anniversary of that which is pretty crazy considering how much has happened since then.
Tom: Yeah, I’ve seen similar things. I still have my day job as you know. We did an “Ask Pat” episode which (for those on video) I’m wearing the shirt. And in my job I’ve seen—I think I’ve gone through six different reorganizations. And every time, yes, people were laid off and I keep sticking around for some reason. I’ve seen that where it’s not a good work environment at all so yeah, I get that. What were your concerns when you were first being told you were being laid off?
Pat: My first reaction was to get really upset and angry and I’m not the kind of person who would go “incredible hulk” on everybody and smashing things but in my head I kind of wanted to do that because I thought I was doing everything the way I was supposed to and I couldn’t believe they had let me go. Just a few months earlier I was promoted so it was kind of a surprise to me even though there were signs. My initial reaction after being angry was worry. I went back to my desk and called every single architecture firm, engineering firm, electrical companies, buddies from college who were also in architecture with me just to see if there was anything available but the news was just the same all around. Nobody was hiring because everybody was firing and letting people go. I didn’t really know what to do and I starting thinking about what my parents were going to say. They had paid my way through college. Would they be disappointed in me because I now no longer have a job which, to me, was a failure? What was my fiancée, who I had proposed to month’s earlier right after I was promoted, what was she going to say? She didn’t sign up for this. How would things change for our future together? I didn’t think that she would leave me but then in the back of my head I thought, what if? You know, all the thoughts and feeling come into play. Then I started to get really sad and disappointed in myself wishing I had a time machine that I could go back into time and maybe work a little bit harder so I wouldn’t be let go, or choose a different career path or—I have no idea. I just wanted things to be different because it did not feel good at all. The one thing I got lucky about was because I had just been promoted and I had clients and since I was working with a small team under me (some of them got let go as well) they couldn’t just let me go that day. It was about two months since my termination date so I had, basically, two months to figure things out. I ended up moving back home with my parents in San Diego and taking a train every day to save some money and make a little bit more money until I was terminated. That train ride became what I call the death train because every day was one day closer to that termination date. It was really hard. You know, people would come into the train with their briefcases and laptops and I would—I remember specifically feeling so jealous of all of them and thinking to myself, “Oh, you’re so lucky you still have your job.” It was really a tough time for me, for sure.
Tom: How were your finances? Did you have a mortgage? Did you have debt?
Pat: No mortgage. I was paying rent for a place and knowing I had this wedding to help pay for and knowing that there was going to be a day where no more money was going to come in, I decided to move back in with my parents. That helped a little bit. They paid for food and did my laundry. It was like going back from college after a semester. It kind of felt like that. I really felt that that was disappointing. I’m so thankful that they took me in because I know for some people that may not be possible. But to me, it still felt like I was a failure like I was going backwards. Financially, I did save up a lot of money. Not too much, but at the time I was making about $3,000 to $4,000 per month being a Job Captain. This is after taxes. So I had enough lying around and I’m not a person who typically, even now after becoming a successful entrepreneur, I don’t go crazy with buying things. I am pretty much a saver first. I’ve always learned some good financial advice ever since I was little from my dad and then later (when I became an architect) getting really interested in the personal finance space. Actually, that’s where I got involved in the FINCON community and all the great people there from PT to JD Roth and several others. I was doing what they were telling me to do and taking the slow route to wealth-building. I did have some money saved up and I did have a retirement fund that I could potentially go back to if I needed to. Honestly, I didn’t even think about those things. I just thought that the worst thing in the world had happened to me and I didn’t really know what to do next.
Tom: I don’t know what you did next but let’s talk about that. I know you were working on another project, more for your studies. Could you go into that a bit?
Pat: Yes. Before I was let go I had just passed a really difficult exam in the architectural industry called the Leed Exam which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was a standard that had come out pretty recently (this is at the time I was laid off) to help people understand how to create sustainable buildings and environmentally friendly designs. I remember taking the practice exam the first time and this is from somebody who always got an “A” in everything I did. Well, I got a 25 percent on the exam the first time I took it and I thought, “Okay, this is hard,” when all I did all day long was study for this for nearly a year. But, before I was let go I had built a blog. I had created a blog just to keep track of things personally. So, I created a blog to keep track of my notes for this exam. That way, when I travel, when it’s lunchtime or I want to share with my co-workers, there’s the blog. It’s just kind of situated right there to help me learn to rewrite everything I needed to memorize. After I passed that exam back in 2008 I literally just let it sit there. I had no real reason to go back to it because it had done its job so it was just sitting there. When I was let go I didn’t even consider this website as anything I could ever touch again until (on one of those train rides and after burning through my Lincoln Park angry music playlist) I discovered podcasts. There was one podcast in particular called, Internet Business Mastery. I heard an interview about a guy who was helping people pass the project management exam, the PM exam. He was doing this online and making six figures a year doing it. It just blew my mind that this person was online sharing how to pass an exam and was getting paid this much. I was like, “Wow! Holy crap! I have a website. I know people need help with this exam,” but I never even considered how it might help others outside of my world. So let’s go back to the website. I went back to the website and checked it out and said, “Okay, this could work.” I have no idea what I’m doing but what have I got to lose? The next thing I did was put a tool on the website called Google Analytics which we all use to keep track of how much traffic is coming to the site. I never had a need to track the traffic before so I put the tool on there and I came back the next day to check my stats just for fun. And it blows my mind. I see 5,000 to 6,000 visitors already visiting my website. I’m like, “What is going on here? Is this actually true? Did I visit the website 5,000 times and that’s what its tracking?” I had no idea what was going on but I saw where they were coming from. They were coming from over 30 countries around the world because this was a worldwide exam. While my site was sitting there, Google, apparently, had begun to rank a lot of the pages on my website for key terms that people were looking up. What I also found out was that people were linking to this site. Somebody had apparently found it or a few people had found it through Google then started linking to it on different forums here and there where people were coming together in an online sense, to pass this exam. It became this thing that was being spread around and nobody knew who was writing it. It was just so interesting to see people talking about it. Then I thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s something here,” so I put my face on the blog, opened up the comments and I became seen as this expert in this space. To make a long story short, several months later I ended up writing an eBook to compile this information and shared it with people in a way that I wanted it when I first started out. I sold it for $19.95. I used a tool called the E-Junkie to deliver that PDF file. I had to have someone else create that PDF file for me because I didn’t know how to do it. I just wrote this book in MS Word and gave it to somebody to help me. And, in that month of October 2008 I ended up banking $7,908.65 which, if you remember how much I was making as an architect, was almost twice as much. My initial reaction was, “Oh, I must be doing something illegal because this just does not compute. I don’t understand.” I would wake up every single morning and there would be more sales, more money in my PayPal account and it just blew me away. Not only that, the coolest part about this whole thing was not that I was able to time it perfectly and take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me, these opportunities were actually always there. That’s the cool thing. The lay-off is what gave me, basically, the boot to go and find these opportunities. They’re always there but I didn’t have a reason to go toward them until I got let go. The coolest part was not the money, it was not the fact that I was able to survive this lay-off, it was the fact that I was getting these emails (and actual hand-written notes) from people that had found my site and my info and sent emails saying, “Thank you, because you’ve helped me pass this exam after I’ve been studying it for years. I am now promoted in my job because of you. You’ve given me more money because I got promoted because I passed this exam and I just wanted to thank you for that.” Somebody even reached out to me and said, “I am a huge fan of yours!” But, I just helped you pass an exam so how could I be somebody that you’d be a fan of? I didn’t understand it at the time but this is what I practice now in my business. When you create something that really helps somebody, you can earn fans that way. It can be in a small niche but we all have information we can package and share with others who may need that help because, although we might not consider ourselves an expert—I definitely wasn’t an expert on this exam, in the eyes of somebody who is taking the exam for the first time, who has never gone through that process, I was. That’s the story of how all of this came to be. It was truly life-changing. And, although the lay-off was kind of the worst thing that ever happened to me, it became a huge blessing in disguise and that’s partly why this book that’s coming out right now is so important to me. It’s because we all have these opportunities. Even though I was let go from my job the true meaning of the being “let go” was the fact that, as I was trying this new thing and getting into these new realms I still wasn’t ready to let go of who I thought I was supposed to be. I always thought I was still going to be an architect even after I started making tens of thousands of dollars a month. I was still looking for architecture jobs. It wasn’t until I committed and said, “You know what? That was the old me. This is the new me. I have to let go of that.” And it was a lot to let go of—five years of school, my parents paying my way through college, three to four years in that career knowing I was really good at it. That was hard to let go. But when I decided to let go and commit to it things started to take off exponentially. You’ve kind of got to let go because what got you hear sometimes won’t get you there.
Tom: That’s interesting too because you got pushed into it. You had the pressure that you had to make something work and luckily the site just happened to get traffic you didn’t even realize which is awesome. And I get the idea of your fans too. You’re putting something on the web that’s changing their life. If they’re passing that exam because of your help, you’ve just changed their career.
Pat: Absolutely. And you have fans too because if what you’re teaching online, on the podcast, on video, on your blog for years now. You’re helping people in all kinds of different ways. That’s stuff that we don’t realize has a huge impact on people. And that’s really what I feel is why we’re here. We’re here to serve others and when you serve others your earnings come, they just come. Your earnings are a by-product of how well you serve others. And that’s the way that I have learned through—I don’t want to say by accident because a lot of people say, “Hey, you’re so lucky,” and I am lucky but I also know I could have just cried about being laid off the whole time and not done anything about it. I could have gone back to school like my parents were saying. My dad told me, “You have to go back to graduate school. This is the perfect time so you might as well. And then you can come out of that and do better.” But I just couldn’t do that anymore because I had followed the path I was supposed to be on but it didn’t work out and I wanted to start to take control of my own life. And, if I were to fail I would want it to be something I did to earn that failure versus something some sort of control over me. So yeah, that’s why I’m very passionate about helping others discover how they can serve others through whatever their superpowers might be.
Tom: One thing where you and I have been different so far is you were losing your job and then you were able to start your online business. For me, I’ve been doing both of them for almost a decade and both do quite well which is why is it harder to leave it. If you were back in 2007 or 2008 would you have done things differently? Would you have looked more at having that side-gig before you really needed it?
Pat: I have always had random side-gigs. I would sell baseball cards on eBay. I used to buy tickets for things like Jimmy Eat World. I’d buy them early so that two weeks before the event and when it was sold out I would sell those tickets back which is basically scalping. I don’t even know if that’s legal or not. But anyway, I was always doing things on a side to generate more income. But it was always those small little things that were just kind of one-offs. I had never considered creating my own business because I wasn’t about to dedicate time to something knowing that I wanted to be a full time architect, really. But I guarantee you, if I didn’t get laid off I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. If I knew what I know now and it was 2007, I would absolutely be able to (hopefully) create something on the side just like you have. I think you’re doing it in a great way where you can now choose your own adventure. You can keep both jobs. And, as long as you are happy and balanced in both ways—and I say that with an asterisk because things change and when something requires more work, it takes work away from the other—it’s sort of a balancing act. There’s no such thing as perfect balance in work and life or business. But I guarantee you, if I didn’t get laid off I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. But if I knew what I know now, I would create something on the side. The cool thing about that is like you can have both or you can start something on a side and have it grow to surpass the income you’re making from your job now and then you can kind of transition. Or, you can just experiment and if something doesn’t work out, you have that job that you’ve always had and you can try again. That’s the other cool part about writing a blog or a business or a podcast to kind of build an audience and build products is that the barrier to entry is very low.
Pat: But success comes with helping others. I think that’s where a lot of people fall. They don’t give themselves enough time to see those results. I think we live in an age where—and this is how we’ve always been taught is, you work X-number of hours you get paid for X-number of hours especially now in the era of “on-demand” and “now.” I mean, we do a Google search and it tells us that we’ve literally gotten results for that search in .0000045 seconds. We want things now, but when it comes to building something on the side, it takes time. Just like with your finances, time is your friend. And the more time you give it, the more ability there is for things to grow. It’s the same thing with your business too. And that’s obvious with any investments you make, if you make the right investments. But it’s very true, the time you’re investing into things right now can help payoff in the future.
Tom: Yeah, I totally believe that what we did a decade ago in starting our sites was that investment. That first year you’re basically working for free for maybe six months even. I think it was six months before I got my first AdSense check.
Pat: Well, that’s better than me. When you think about when my site was created it was about a year and a half that website or that exam was up before I started making any money from it. Even for the site that most people know me from now (smartpassiveincome.com) that site was created at the end of 2008 and it wasn’t until a year and a half later that I made my first affiliate commission. Things take time. But at the same time—I think I got this from Gary Vee… macro-patience but micro-hustle. In the micro sense, you need to definitely focus and hustle, get things done and not spread yourself too thin across too many different things or else nothing is going to have a chance to go to where you want it to go. But things take time to get there even when you are putting in that focused effort. You just kind of have to keep going. That’s what separates the people who win versus those who don’t—it’s persistence and resilience.
Tom: We’re coming near the end of the show so I want you to tell us about this new version of your book, Let Go, and anything else that you’re up to right now.
Pat: Yes, thank you Tom. So for anybody out there who wants a story that will motivate them through tough parts of life for something to just help inspire you to enter the next levels of your life, I definitely recommend, Let Go. It was actually a story that was written in 2013 and published just on Amazon only. And for the longest time I’ve always wanted to give it a hard-cover treatment. One where big and bold on the cover are the words, Let Go, not because it’s a story about how I got let go but it’s a call to action for you to let go so you can grow into the next era of your life. It definitely goes into a lot of the really minute details of that transition after I was let go and to conversations, I had with my wife and my family on really deep emotional levels. Then the second half of the book which was added later on after I became an entrepreneur are the new things I’ve had to discover and had to let go of in order to grow into an even better entrepreneur. Things like letting go of the fact that I thought I had to do everything myself. I had done everything myself for the first six years of my business career and you get to a point where you have options—you can either keep doing what you’re doing and burn out or you keep doing what you’re doing and just remain stagnant and not ever grow. Or, you can hire a team. It was one of the hardest things for me to do, to hire a team and have people do things for me that I can do myself. It’s just such a weird thing. And I talk about a lot of that stuff so that people who want to get into business or actually start taking more responsibilities for their own career path, there’s going to be a lot of lessons learned there too. So, letting go never ends if you want to keep growing. This book is there to inspire. We are getting it designed with an illustrator and putting a whole bunch of treatment into it. You can check out the campaign likely in the show notes, I would assume?
Pat: Or, you can go to smartpassiveincome.com/10years because this came out right at the 10-year mark in terms of my anniversary. June 17, 2018 was my 10-year anniversary and this is a month-long kick-starter campaign to raise funds to really give it the design treatment that it needs. It’s more of an art piece with a built-in motivational story in it too. And there’s some fun kick-starter reward levels for other things as well. For example, you can get some of my courses at a super discounted price and even access to me for a day in San Diego so you can hang out with me, tickets to my event next year—those kinds of things. It’s a lot of fun. It was actually fully funded in less than two days and there are still many days left for the campaign to run. I hope you all check it out at least because it can be (at least for the people who have read the Amazon story) life-changing.
Tom: Yeah, I’ve read the very first version, the one that was before you did the expanded version. I’ve read that a couple of times but I’m looking forward to checking this one out.
Pat: Thank you, Tom. I appreciate you allowing me to share it with you and your tribe.
Tom: Thanks for being on the show.
Pat: Thank you.
Thank you, Pat, for your story of job loss and the life you were able to build from that moment. You can find the show notes for this episode at https://maplemoney.com/replay003
Are you a member of the MapleMoney Facebook Community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share a recent money win to encourage others. To join, head on over to maplemoney.com/community to share with the group.
Thanks as always for listening, I really appreciate the community we’ve built together, and looking back at this early episode reminded me of this even more. I look forward to seeing you back here next week, when we’ll resume regular programming!