Divorce

Danny Johnson / 14 comments
I truly believe trying to build businesses that work without me was not good for me.  It created a belief that to work takes me away from my family and was something to be avoided.  It was like I became frantic about setting things up so that I didn’t have to work.  Which only dug a huge hole in me.
This post is about to get real…

Where have I been? I’ve not posted new podcast episodes in a long, long time.  I’ve not written a blog post in years. Honestly, I’ve been lost trying to find myself.

Shit Storm

Tons of shit happened both personally and professionally in 2019.  Melissa and I had serious problems that ended in divorce just last month.  There aren’t words to describe the pain of that.  I had just spent $1M building FlipPIlot 1.0 only to find out it was a mess and not what the market wanted.  That company was seriously in the red bleeding over $60k per month beyond what we were taking in.  This isn’t for the faint of heart.  All of this happened in my life at the same time.  If I seemed to have it all together during podcasts episodes last year, I did a good job of pretending.  I was so concerned with what everyone would think and kept it all within…not a good idea.

That perfect storm of shit was just what I needed, though I didn’t know it at the time and did everything I possibly could to avoid it.  But God, or Life if you prefer, had other plans for me.  God put so much on me that all I could do was surrender.

Oh, believe me, I fought as hard as I possibly could to keep it all together but it was to no avail.  It became very clear the more I tried to “fix” the marriage and “fix” the company, the worse things got.  I had to understand it wasn’t for me to control.

I was thrown onto a path of self discovery and self liberation that forced me to make changes.  For as long as I can remember, outward success was there but there was so much inner turmoil.

Don’t worry, this isn’t all doom and gloom.

I’m now working on being on the other side of that.  It’s so fascinating how all the problems seem so obvious looking back but at the time leading up to the cosmic shit storm, all I had was this low-level unease and anxiety.  I had to keep going.  I had to succeed.  I had to push, push, push.  Why?  That’s what I was discovering this last year and that’s what I want to share with you today:  what I discovered through this gift (that came in packaging that looked like something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy).

Here’s what happened…

Quick backstory: When I was just out of college and beginning a career as a software developer, my dad started flipping houses.  He was having a BLAST buying houses, driving around all day, wheelin’ and dealin’.  I knew instantly that I wanted to experience the same thing.  The “in the office from 9 to 5” was killing me already and I had just started…

I started flipping houses in 2003 after buying my first HUD home to live in and fix up.  I was scared to go full time and stayed at the well paying job for almost another 3 years!  I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to consistently find deals.  I wanted the safety net.  They finally fired me when they realized I hadn’t been very productive.  How could I be when my mind was entirely consumed by house flipping and real estate investing??!!?!

After being full-time for several years, the challenge wasn’t there as much.

I wanted to expand, I felt a pull to develop software again.  This time for the industry.  It started as just being something for Melissa and me to use in our house flipping business.

I began getting frustrated having to answer phone calls from motivated sellers.  They were pulling my attention away from software development, for which I also had an extreme passion.

This was around the time I met Justin Williams and saw how he built a company that operated with very little involvement from him.  Melissa and I joined the mastermind.  At our first meeting I told everybody that I was struggling with being so active in both businesses.  The feedback and consensus was there was more money in the software and to just focus on that.

I thought, yes, that’s the ticket.  I can hire out all of the work in the flipping business so that I have more time to develop LeadPropeller and FlipPilot.

Melissa and I slowly built up a great team that was operating very well.  But, if I’m completely honest, something was missing.  I was involved in meetings but that was it.  But it still didn’t feel fulfilling.  I now had more time to work on the software but even that was beginning to feel overwhelming.  It’s crazy, but I felt like I had developed this desire to do as little as possible.  I was hiring for the software business as well…and doing less and less….but I felt more and more pressure to succeed.

Even though the teams were doing most of the work, I felt like I was juggling so much.  Heck the software company alone was like 5 separate businesses.

I was constantly leading the software team telling them to run up this hill and then seeing a fire on the other hill and having to divert most people back over to it and then on to another and another…endlessly. We never seemed to make much progress up any one given hill…

I talk with so many investors these days that are trying to work themselves out of their flipping business.  This is usually wrapped in the beautiful gift wrapping of ‘Passive Income’.  That’s awesome and I absolutely love passive income.  But the end shouldn’t be the focus.  We lose something by always focusing solely on the end…

One day a question dawned on me, “If we are so interested in working ourselves out of our business, out of the day to day, do we really want to be in the business?”

Seriously!

I had already stopped being involved in the flipping business by this point.  Melissa was now running it.  A part of me died then.  My identity of being a house flipper was difficult to let go of.  It was hard to accept that I was now the leader of a software company instead.

Something just felt so wrong about all of it.  But I didn’t really know why.

Then I tried to develop my dream software system for house flipping. I knew exactly what it needed because I was a customer…as my identity was still clinging to being a house flipper.  I built a team to develop the software.

That ended in disaster.  It turns out building out a huge software system that does as much as you can think of and then releasing it is a bad idea.

It was hell.  This was at the beginning of 2019.   There were so many problems because the system did so much and was trying to do so much.  Hell, our marketing idea for it was “everything in one place”.  Everything for everybody.  That to me was focused heavily on the big hitters that were a part of the mastermind we were a part of.  This is such a small subset of all house flippers but I was catering to them.

Not being in the business using it myself, I hadn’t considered the day to day usability of the system as much as I should have.  Instead I was focused on cramming a 1,000 features into it.  Turns out day to day usability is a big deal.  Go figure.

This is why so many people hate Podio.  Which is what we were developing an alternative for.

Clicking around to find all the information in Podio is a pain in the ass and so is setting it all up and configuring it.  It’s got lots of power but it’s like banging your head against a wall to get it to work.  But we had the same problem with our new software.  I had inadvertently created exactly what I was trying so hard to be the opposite of.

Several months after launching we closed the door to avoid having more people join the system…mainly because I was embarrassed and there were a lot of bugs.  We’d hoped to had even more features after releasing but were just combatting the mountain of bugs that were mounting.

So no new revenue increases and the costs of development were skyrocketing. We were trying frantically to repair the issues.  It didn’t help that I also didn’t like the lead developer very much (or at all really) and my software manager was having angry blow ups during meetings.

Oh God.  All of this with the pain of a break with the most important person in my life.  That alone drained all my energy.  I was now just along for the ride.

That’s scary as hell but I was spent.  I had no energy.  So I just sat there and became quiet.  Not for an hour.  Not for 2 hours…but for weeks.  It was time to surrender.  I was still having to make some decisions but I went to God for the answer.

That’s when things with the software company started to fix themselves.  Odd as that sounds.  God or Life wanted to show me it wasn’t all on me.  It wasn’t all about me.

I felt I couldn’t fire my software manager because he was good friends with the lead developer (the one I couldn’t stand).   He had most of the knowledge of how the system was built.  We’d be screwed if he was gone.

That’s when some of the original software team I had came to me for a private conversation.  They said I probably wouldn’t want to hear it but that they believed the current system as built was not going to work.  It relied too heavily on one person that way over-engineered it (the lead developer I didn’t like).  It was overkill and impossible to fix correctly.

Basically they were asking me to just forget that I had just spent over a $1M to build it and put my reputation on the line.

Thing is I felt this was the right thing in my gut.  I did not see how I was going to pay for rebuilding the system yet again.   I did not know how we were going to ensure our current customers were going to be helped and how they would feel about being told it would be shutting down.  I didn’t know what was going to happen.  All I knew is that it felt like what needed to happen.  I wasn’t having fun.  I was miserable.

So I fired the manager.  That felt good.  The lead developer stayed long enough to fix the main problems so we could slowly transition people off the system.  The core developers that stayed were super excited because they could develop the new system in a way that was maintainable and played to their strengths.  They volunteered to work after hours and weekends to help get it done fast.

They showed me they cared not just about the company and customers but about me.

Life was showing me it could do a better job if I just let it.

We beta launched FlipPilot 2.0 before the end of 2019 and it’s a complete 180 from the 1.0 system we killed.  We even had a funeral party to celebrate the closing of that chapter. 🙂

We had a team of 19 people at one point I think at the beginning of last year.  We now are a team of 7 passionate people and we’re having fun!

We changed the company vision to ‘Enjoy Life!’  That’s what it’s all about.

A good friend of mine shared a quote from Ghandi with me recently.  It was ‘The end is inherent in the means’.  Everything we do is infused with the consciousness with which we do it. It seems so obvious not to focus solely on the end, but I was totally doing that for years.  I wasn’t allowing the means to be what it was about.

That push, push, push was always because I had a covert contract with myself that stated I wouldn’t be happy until X, Y, Z.  Guess what, X, Y, Z were always moving targets!  Damn it!

The fun is in the process.  If I’m not having fun, it’s time to work on letting go of that part of myself that won’t let me enjoy it or has an issue with it.

That might seem a weird thing to say.  Seems like so many people are looking for that special opportunity to change what they are doing to become fulfilled.  Going to work is supposed to do something for them.  I’m learning it’s more about letting life do its thing.  It’s about letting go of our attempts to control it all.  It’s about truly believing we are right where we need to be and to do the best we can without expecting it to do something special for us.  That lack is internal.  It’s not from what we’re doing outside.

Anyway, I’ll be sharing more about all of that in coming months on the podcast.  It’s truly fascinating and has helped me tremendously to spark my creativity again.

Where I am now

I truly believe trying to build businesses that work without me was not good for me.  It created a belief that to work takes me away from my family and was something to be avoided.  It was like I became frantic about setting things up so that I didn’t have to work.  Which only dug a huge hole in me.

My house flipping mentor and I had lunch midway through last year.  He mentioned when HomeVestors was just starting their franchise the founder came to San Antonio to talk to him about being one of the first franchisee’s.  The founder showed my mentor all of the processes and systems and exactly how everything was supposed to run…like a McDonald’s.

My mentor told him, ‘Absolutely not!’  He asked him why he would want to do that?  My mentor’s next question is the one that struck me at my core…’Where is the creativity in that?’  If everything is spelled out. Where is the opportunity to forge his own path?  That’s where the passion and excitement is!

This was huge!

The times I had the most fun in the flipping and software businesses was when I was dreaming up ideas to experiment with.

Yeah, it’s great to get insights from other people.  But, when we’re just blindly following that advice, we’re not tapping into the intuition and creativity that we all have.  I feel like that is taking away from our potential.  We should be looking for information so that we can connect our own dots.

If we go into something like trying to determine a way of marketing to motivated sellers with the idea that it’s all been done before, we’re killing creativity from the get go. If we feel we just need to join the right mastermind and listen to the right speaker about exactly what they did…we would have success and wouldn’t have to think.

Why not imagine we can do something different and see what comes of it.  Even if we don’t come up with something completely brand new, we’ll come up with our own flavor of it and we’ll find more fun in the whole process!

Recently I had coffee with my mentor again and he asked me if after the divorce I would get back into the flipping business.  I hadn’t really given it any thought but an immediate reaction in my gut that resulted in excitement in my brain made me respond, “Yes, yes I think I will.”

Of course the next day my mind was whispering, “That’s going to be a lot of work.” But I decided to ignore that.  That’s the years of habitual thinking that the goal was to not work.

I’m not looking to build a big business.  In fact, most of the happiest investors I know, including my dad, enjoy the day to day of the business.  They aren’t looking to build a huge machine.  They’re just excited about buying houses!

Beginning to get back into the business myself and this time by myself, has already paid huge dividends within our software development.

I’m very familiar with the business after being active in it for about 15 years and figured I could anticipate the needs of other wholesalers and house flippers for the software, but something is definitely missed in that.  Sitting down to “play” with software is completely different than actually using it to achieve real world results.  Seems obvious.  Remember when I talked about everyone telling me to just focus on the software and to stop flipping?  This is why I now don’t think that is such good advice…at least not for me personally.

Now that I’m marketing again for deals I’m noticing how much more creative I am in finding new ways of doing things as they happen.  Immediately as I started getting calls for leads I found myself wanting to do things we haven’t setup in the software yet.

Here’s the creative part!  This is fun!  I love that!  I missed that!

FlipPilot is now improving by leaps and bounds now that I am tapping into the full passion of allowing the creativity to happen.

I’m in a really good place right now!  This is what it’s all about.  I don’t know where it’s all gonna go.  I just know I’m right where I am supposed to be and I’m letting things happen naturally.

Podcast direction

I urge you to consider whether you are subtly having some of the same issues in the way you view your business and your work.  If you’re not, that’s awesome! If you are, make sure to subscribe to this podcast as I’m going to be sharing more and more of what I’ve learned and what I’m currently learning with regards to true personal development and maturity.

I am not an expert or scientist with tons of knowledge on psychology.  I’m just a guy that went through some shit and sharing my story.  If it resonates with you, great! If not, no problem. My goal is to provide something different.  Not surface level reviews and regurgitated info. I want to share my experience and hope to inspire you to let go of your grip and experience how life can unfold with so much creativity and beauty.

I’m also going to be sharing my adventures of getting back into the flipping business as well as the weekly insights that I have about improving the business.  I envision a ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…’ segment where I share with you ideas about being able do something that I had never thought of doing before that would benefit my flipping business.

I feel like I’ve been out of the loop with communication with this community and hope to reconnect with so many of you.  I invite you to join the FlippingJunkie Facebook group if you haven’t already and let me know what you thought of this episode and the direction I’m taking it.  That would mean the world to me.  See you in the group.

Thanks for listening to the podcast and being a part of my journey with me!

-Danny

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14 awesome responses to “Divorce”

  1. Florencia Luengo on

    Thanks for sharing your story Danny. It is really gonna help me to enjoy more my journey. Thanks a lot!
    Florencia

  2. Mark Hedley on

    Very bold Danny. I cannot remember reading a post with such wrapped attention. So very honest. I think its a reminder to us all that its easy to forget about what’s important in our lives. There is so much truth to me in your story about doing something meaningful and creative and loving the process. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  3. Mike on

    Danny,

    I have been following your work off and on since you started blogging about you marketing results (2006 ~ 2007 I think). Our paths have been eerily similar. I just want to thank you for always being so transparent about your life and business. This post has given me a lot to consider.

  4. David M Doyle on

    Hang in there Danny
    Sorry you had to go thru the shit storm of divorce.
    Ask me how I know
    Dave Doyle
    Los Angeles

  5. Tom DeVoe on

    Hi Danny, so sad to hear about you and Melissa. You are life’s example of getting back up after being knocked down. You didn’t quit. You showed guts and bared it all in this podcast. Thank you, sir. I and possibly thousands of others are rooting for you!

  6. Manny Del Val on

    Danny, I been listening to your podcast for a while now. I to have been divorce and I know the pain that causes. Thank you for sharing. I am glad your back in the flipping business. That is one thing I never got from the so called GURUS why is the goal to not work my goal is to work smart and do what I like in the business. Yea right now as I am starting I am doing all and a bit overwhelmed but like you said that is the fun in it also. Learning what works, building relationships, and getting deals. Sold my First DEAL last month and made 30K on it. Just know you are an inspiration. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

  7. Pilot Bob on

    Thanks for your openness… a trait you have that I have always admired and benefited from.