I met a Cali bro who made $80,000 at 19

You walk down the street and half the vehicles are 1970’s era Volkswagen Vanagons stuffed with surfboards, suitcases, and backpackers with a permanent stench attached to their clothes. This is Byron Bay, Australia.

You don’t realize how much of a coast accent you have until you meet a Cali bro named Michael and words like “brodie,” “gnarly,” and “stoked” start flying on the regular. This Cali bro and I proceeded to surf for three days straight.

And there was something I learned about Michael maybe four days after I met him. We’d talked and immediately connected so it hadn’t really come up how he was traveling for a year on his own. It felt like something he was hesitant to talk about so I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell me. But with talking every day came the information that Michael, back in Berkeley, California, is an app developer. And he was traveling completely self-funded on money he’d made creating apps. Specifically, on the $80,000 he made creating apps. At 19 years old.

It was a bit jarring at first — it’s easy to see why he’d slightly hid that fact about himself because it’s enough to thrust a self-conscious wedge into any new friendship. At least for me. But I remember after one surf session we were walking out of the water and talking about the waves we’d smashed and the waves that’d smashed us, grinning ear to ear, absolutely elated about the surf.

Looking into those big, beautiful brown eyes of his (just kidding, but not really) not a single thought of anything outside two bro’s surfing crossed our minds. We’ve talked about money, happiness, reading, and travel and honestly, it doesn’t really fucking matter how much money he made. I was impressed by it at first, I won’t lie. His story about buying $1,500 Google Glasses and cheating on a Chinese test specifically cracked me up. But in the end, it’s who you are. He told me he grew up wealthy, and their family still had typical family problems. And making $80,000 at 19 impressed on him that money won’t buy you what you want.

But the longer we talked, the more a specific topic held the conversation — what was a life of meaning? Yeah, Google Glasses are nice to have, and super sweet if you want a 100% on your Chinese test, but they’re still just really fancy glasses that have a few tricks. They’re not going to make your life meaningful.

And there was one particular thing I was interested in. And that wasn’t how much money he made by learning app development; it was how he became so proficient in app development and marketing to sell his services for money. I was interested because once you have a structure for learning, you can extend that structure laterally across many different skills to become a pro in different areas.

And he told me there’re two components.

The first, is he sticks with things longer than others.

It usually takes a motivated person between 3 and 6 months to quit their field of practice. If you’ve ever written or attempted to learn a new skill, you know this is when a stagnant period hits and motivation goes full stop, Captain. For my writing, that stagnant period I felt was a year in. I felt I was writing the same drivel over and over, and wasn’t progressing in my work. That first serious obstacle, when you’re not getting the readers you thought you’d be getting, when you’re not selling as many apps as you thought you’d be, and you feel stuck in a rut, that’s an obstacle professionals overcome.

Second, you need other people to enter the equation. 

Peers to compete with. Mentors way better than you who can cut your learning curve severely. Rivals who’ll make you want to be so much better than you are.



And there’s also something I picked up on about Michael. He could be deemed successful for his age: he’s made more money than some 22 year old’s have made their entire lives. He’s been traveling the world for eight months and living in New Zealand. And I bet some people look at the money he’s made, the surfing he’s capable of, and they’d be envious. People want the money, they want to be able to surf a gnarly wave and look like an absolute boss doing it. And they want to be able to solve a Rubik’s cube in a minute forty-five, if you’re the appropriate level of dork like him and I totally are.

But they don’t want to spend the years learning app creation like Mike did. They don’t want to get smashed by waves over and over again, going over the falls and braving the white-wash to learn when to go for a wave, and when to hang back unless you want to get your ass railed.

They want to make the money but they don’t want to go through the beautiful struggle to get there. And it’s something I’ve felt in my writing. Not wanting to suffer and just wanting the end product; the hundreds of thousands of readers.

But as Cali bro shows, even when you get the end product, the more fulfilling part is always the actual creation. It’s gratifying to have your work read. It’s gratifying to have more money than you know what to do with. But the pain of creation is where happiness and meaning take place.

You have to focus in the early months when you have more motivation and planning than you know what to do with. You have to focus when you’re six months to a year in, and the early gains are starting to become par for the course. You have to keep at it until you read something or meet a person who shows you why you actually do what you do.

If you keep at it, you won’t need motivation like you did in the beginning. You’ll realize there’s something deeper lying under what you do. And that makes all the difference.



This is a notice; meeting Michael and reading a few key books have made me think.

And that’s why I’m proud to announce I’m writing an eBook which should be released by April 24, next month. 

It’ll be selling for $5 a download, provided I figure out how to actually sell eBooks by then. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all soon!

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply