One of the first exercises I did when I was mapping out the next leg of my career was to try and identify any patterns in my childhood and school life.
I was curious to see – what sort of activities did I gravitate towards when resume building and optionality preservation weren’t the main focuses of my career? What sort of tasks did I do when I had tons of free time and the agency to do whatever I wanted?
I’ve come to believe that the feeling of “play” is the deepest well of motivation there is and so I think it makes sense to try to mix work with play as much as possible. And when I say play here, I’m referring to the instinct that pushes us to learn, be curious, and take on challenges.
Here are some notable things I’ve done with my free time over the years:
- When I was in grade 8, I published a ~40k word guide on GameFAQs on an extremely niche Zelda-based MMORPG called Graal. I’m talking fewer than 5,000 players. It took me all summer long to write this behemoth of a guide and at the time, it was my magnum opus.
Fun fact, but Mark Karpelès, one of the creators of Graal, would go on to lead Mt. Gox, the infamous Bitcoin exchange that embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars.
- When I was in high school (and university), I was one of the most prolific posters on Student Awards, a Canadian forum dedicated to helping students choose universities and careers. I spent lots of my free time helping random strangers online write their school essays, pick where to go for school, and join the same clubs that I had.
- When I was in university and while working, I spent a lot of time tutoring and writing detailed guides about how to accomplish things I had done, like how to ace a certain exam or break into investment banking. I’m pretty sure my frameworks are at least still used by Ivey students today based on the stray comments I get from people.
Despite the urgency and subject matter changing over time, I’ve consistently expressed my interest in topics by converting information into guides or frameworks for others to use. And I’ve long had the belief that mentorship and quality teaching are among the key ingredients that lead to superior performance.
I have a few conclusions about my work-related preferences:
- I enjoy writing and creating content.
- I enjoy teaching and helping others.
- I like organizing information as simply as possible.
The Information Product Business
It’s probably a bit tired to keep referencing it, but one of the business models celebrated in the 4-Hour Work Week is to sell information products online.
Information products are high margin (low unit costs), scalable (relatively low fixed costs), and digital (no geographical constraints).
It’s conceivable to build a profitable one-person business in which you develop high-quality content and sell it online. Alongside dropshipping and affiliate marketing, online courses complete the trifecta of common, attainable Internet-based solo entrepreneurship options.
In fact, one of the case studies mentioned in the 4-Hour Work Week is of Mergers & Inquisitions, which is the world’s biggest investment banking prep company. Brian Dechesare, the founder of M&I, wrote the following to the author of the 4-Hour Work Week:
I sat on the ideas in your book for a while, took a quick vacation to return to Japan in October 2007, and when I came back decided that I had to get started. My muse: sell an investment banking interview guide. It’s a niche, high-demand subject and I knew I could make a better guide than anything else out there…
In November 2007 I decided to start a blog, Mergers & Inquisitions, about the investment banking industry and how to break in, aimed at a mix of college students, MBAs, and working professionals…
It has gone on to free up a ton of time, double my revenues, and put the majority of my income on autopilot. If I didn’t do any further work from this point onward, I could make 2–3x my previous monthly income simply by writing once or twice a week for my site (4–5 hours) and doing limited consulting on the side (10 hours).Brian Dechesare e-mail in the 4-Hour Work Week
I remember reading that excerpt when I was a second year in investment banking and thinking, well, I may want to do this.
It’s not particularly glamorous, it’s (probably) a lot more saturated than it was a decade ago, but hey, I know I can make a better guide than anything else out there.
The finance industry is insanely opaque, almost comedically so.
Many firms thrive off of having an information advantage to compete and I think that really trickles down into people’s attitude towards readily sharing resources. I just think about the recruiting engine of the finance industry – people are commonly given exploding offers years before they would start and are only given hours to decide. It’s predatory. I also find that most people in finance are too busy to give detailed help and many people are not inclined to teach.
This always felt like a sharp contrast to other competitive fields like engineering or design, which have tons of high-quality teaching resources and clean salary databases available online.
For the next year (at least), I’m going to spend most of my professional time launching a finance career prep business: Peak Frameworks. My goal is to make high-quality guides and materials that have transparent information on recruiting, salary, and technical requirements. I’ve spent a lot of my time lately writing blogs, creating lesson coursework, and creating YouTube videos:
Right now, we have a private equity course and a resume course available. I think the private equity course is unique because the models are based on my actual work experience and I do a deep dive into case studies and dealing with headhunters. Honestly, most people who do private equity just end up staying in it, which is why the all the current guides are kind of mediocre.
Building an information product business has been way more difficult than dropshipping because earning the trust of the customer is harder and there’s less of a proven template to follow. But it’s honestly just fun to be working on new disparate tasks. Learning how to edit videos, Photoshop different graphics, and design out a landing page for the website have all been really engaging.
In my mind, there are a couple of considerations I have:
- The finance market is too small:
- My first real course is how to break into private equity and I think you could argue that the market is not incredibly big. There might be ~3k people per year who are considering getting into private equity and the majority probably won’t use a guide of any sort.
- I recognize that and my thought is that the private equity guide is really more of a test. If it works (at all), then I’ll have the confidence to do other related guides. I think it makes sense to start with a niche I know really well and then broaden after.
- Competitors have too much of an entrenched advantage:
- There are certainly a few big names in the industry right now, but I would say their reign has still been for less than a decade or so. I would argue that none of the main competitors have a great understanding of the younger generation’s learning style (i.e. concise tutorials on YouTube). The leading resources right now are generally just oversized PDFs with no sense of interactivity. And I don’t know, every industry is competitive from the outset, you gotta believe in yourself a bit.
- From a business model standpoint, there are no switching costs to the consumer and I don’t mind being more competitive on price if I need to. It’s not a good long-term characteristic of the industry, but I think that makes it easier as an entrant here.
- Given that I disliked finance, is it hypocritical to lead people into the field? Well, I think one of the most confusing things I’ve realized is that even though I didn’t like those jobs, it was still the most responsible career path coming out of school.
- When younger students ask me about career stuff, I still recommend people to go down that path because the money and traditional prestige you accumulate is phenomenal when you’re still trying to decide what to do.
It’s kind of weird how long this idea has been gestating in my mind that it’s really cool to actually finally be doing it. I feel extremely privileged to be in a position where I can go after what I want. There’s been a lot of patience and sacrifice leading up to this point.
If you want to support me, you can do so by subscribing to my YouTube channel and casually bringing up my business in conversations with your friends and younger siblings.