You seem to only see & hear the good side of a story. I’m here to share to good, bad & the very ugly.
I’m at a coffee shop now on a sleepy snowy Sunday in rural Illinois. It’s March. To my left, an older gentleman relaxing reading his Sunday Newspaper. He’s been here for several hours as well.
To my right, a man and his kids. He’s reading them a story. I like seeing this. They seem to have a lot of love and the kids are very attentive to their father as he reads them the story. It’s something different to see where I’ve noticed lately that children have been glued to their cell phone the entire duration there with their parents etc.
I like to see how they are in the moment. They are enjoying the moment, no distractions. All their attention is on dad.
Then there’s me:
I’ve been staring at my computer screen for about an several hours now without typing anything. Part of it is shock to my system, part of it is some anxiety, part of it is an unfortunate run of big bad luck moments in the last year. I’ve been in a brain fog type of daze lately, something I haven’t felt in a while. I\’ve been back in my small sleepy hometown in Illinois the last few months for health issues.
Lately, I feel like I’ve been in a weird long dream to be quite honest. Every time the door here at the coffee shop opens though, the cold wind that briefly enters in the room slaps me across the face reminding me again that this isn’t a dream, but my current reality.
I’ve been having the same feeling that I hadn’t felt in years, from around the time of 9 years old until my mid 20’s. (I talk about this in great detail in my book “A Dark Path To Light”.) Let’s see, where do I even start? I’ll just recap my last 12 months or so.
I almost lost my junk removal company (That I started in 2015) because Google randomly kicked off my listing without any warning or reason. (They also did the same to my mom’s house cleaning business listing as well since it was linked under my Google account.)
For 11 months, I hired numerous online digital companies to help figure out this problem and spent thousands of dollars on them. No luck with them either, they were baffled. Google would send an automated message every few weeks saying, “Due to COVID, we are behind and will get back to you when we can”. When they did respond, it was another automated message saying “Your account still hasn’t been fixed. Fix it and re-send your request back to us”. Part of me think thinks this part of a larger sinister plot (a way to wipe out small businesses and the middle class, I’ll explain my thoughts on this in a future post.)
This lasted for 11 months. My debt was starting to add up due to the dump trucks I ordered, the hiring of more employees, advertising costs etc. On top of that, were in a recession. (Most customers are extra cautious on where they’re spending their $. In years past, I was getting close to 70 calls/texts/emails per day. I think so far today, I’m at 3. (Even with perfect 5.0 star ratings and a monthly marketing budget of $20K.
At this time when I received an email from Google notifying me, they de-listed my business and my mother’s business, I was in a bed ready to croak due to getting sick from a private health facility that pumped me with too many anti-biotics and other fluids in a 30-day span to tackle my flare up of Lyme disease I was having. When I was out of the country running my business remotely, I noticed this “air hunger” type of sensation.
I felt like I was suffocating. At public places, before bedtime etc. I thought several times I was going to die but couldn’t figure out what was causing it. After going to 21 different doctors and blowing $150,000+ out of pocket to try and figure out what was going on with this, I finally realized it was Bartonella & Babesia (Lyme disease coinfections) causing this type of horrible reaction to my breathing. Which is what led me to this Lyme clinic in Illinois.
I was feeling pretty icky before entering this place with the air hunger, severe fatigue and brain fog, I felt so sick halfway through their protocol, that I could barely stand up or talk clearly. I should have seen the signs, as I noticed all the nurses quit halfway through and the older lady in her 60’s was trying to help several customers all at once with needle pokes. I later found out; she was operating for over a month with no Dr. on the premises which was quite illegal. (Poof, waste of $50,000 at that facility). I got 5x worse and had to stop halfway through their treatment.
Also, to top it off, they took several months to pay me back saying finally “Sorry, we are so slow with business. We don’t think we can repay you the remaining balance you pre-paid us.” I was starting to slur my words on the phone with customers and employees. I was on the ground at times for 8-9 hours in pain and severe fatigue.
In 2020, after 10+ years of doing hard physical labor work for my business daily, I was picking up heavy junk each day, 10+ hours some days. I realized at that point, I needed a break. (Even though I loved it, I felt my body falling apart.)
I had never moved out of my county in IL, so I decided to really step out of my comfort zone. I left the cornfields of Illinois to go work live run my business remotely from a beach in a tropical country in the Caribbean. (Quite the opposite of my childhood, where I was bouncing from run down motel to motel throughout my youth.)
I had a picture in my office of a palm tree on a beach. It always calmed me every morning before I would go do 5-10 junk pickups with my employees. I told myself “Alex, you’ll be there some day”. I decided finally at 33 to make that plunge.
From the beach, I was able to run multiple crews of my junk removal employees across the state of IL. It went very smoothly. From a rural farm town in the boonies of IL, to the tropics on a little island. Quite the culture shock, but amazing and very much needed. Like a cell phone, humans too, need a hard “reset” to their system. I was long overdue for something like a reset. I needed a new place, new people, new language, new everything.
Fast forward another month, I had another appointment out in South America to get stem cells to help my other health issues I was having. (Lower back and other injuries around my body I had over the years from doing from strenuous hard labor work for my business).
This is a world-famous facility where athletes from around the world come from to get healed. Long story short, another freak incident. They injured parts of my body (over a year later, which still hasn’t been healed and causes pain still on occasion.
If you’re really curious as to what my injury is, you can private message me here on the contact us link, and I can tell you). Poof, another $70,000 gone and a permanent injury that I don’t think can be fixed. At this point, I should have stopped with Drs. (My first issue I had with Drs was a chiro several years prior who adjusted my neck too hard causing neck and ear issues that still last to this day, ouch.)
Still with me? Ok good, because here’s some more craziness.
As all this was happening, the Russia/Ukraine war conflict happens. Poof, all my life savings invested into crypto and other investments, gone within a few days. About 90% lost. Millions all gone like that. Not only did I lose this once, but twice. I should have sold the first or second time I hit that big #, but I didn’t. I learned that greed got the best of me. (I acknowledge how volatile Crypto is, however, many people got blindsided and this was a solid wakeup call for millions of people.)
Whenever I would go on my sunset walks on the beach in front of my apartment, I sometimes had to remind myself how crazy my life was. From very poor to self-made multi millionaire in my early 30’s. No one, and I mean NO ONE, thought I would make something out of myself someday. (Except my grandma maybe, but she would have loved me either way). My mother was too embarrassed to tell family and friends what her son Alex was up to in my mid/late 20’s.
She was embarrassed to say “Alex picks up junk…BUT, he still has his real estate license!”. I did real-estate one year, made less than $3,000 the whole year. I ditched that to get into junk.
Fast forward to now, just had another surgery March 2023, (to repair my diastasis in my abdomen region.) For the first time in several weeks, I have finally been able to get off the couch and started driving again. It’s the first time in a public place in 4 weeks. I decided to come wobble my way into this coffee shop.
Before I get to the juicy part of this story, one last thing. My welder mechanic who custom built my first few trucks, for some crazy reason, decided to build my newest 3rd dumptruck wrong. Wrong size, shape, completely wrong from the other ones I had him build me out the previous few years. $22,500. I went to go see the new truck at his shop just now before arriving to the coffee shop.
I couldn’t help but laugh. What the hell was happening? I believe I am a rational & logical person, so lately I’ve been asking myself daily, “Is this bad luck? Or is this just …. Life?”. I haven’t come up with an answer yet, im doing some heavy self-introspection and self-assesment lately. That’s the one good thing of being on a couch for 3 weeks while recovering from an intense surgery.
Are you still with me?….. Good, take a deep breath…One more deep breath…Good. Let’s move along.
As I continue to write this here in the coffee shop, now I find myself having a difficult time taking a break from writing. It feels kind of therapeutic to let everything out. I used to have more friends or people to talk to about these kinds of things, but over the years, especially after the COVID lockdowns, these friendships disappeared over time. One friend, for some reason, would continuously flake at the last second before we were supposed to hang out.
The reason he did this? I am not sure. 21 years of friendship on this date as I type. After he did this about 10-15 x in the last few years, I decided to stop reaching out to him. He will always be a friend, but in 2023, I told myself I wanted to spend time with people that actually enjoy spending time with me.
Another friend with a similar situation, an abrupt stop. I introduced him to someone else who was also a friend of mine as well. The other gentleman “Fred” asked my friend to build a particular type of niche site for him.
My friend, let’s call him “Jason”, built the site, but for himself! I couldn’t believe what he had done. He then had the nerve to go back to the other guy and told him “I’ll give you 50% of the leads you send me”. So, he essentially took his ideas and ran with it – without admitting any wrongdoing. (Big no-no, not only in business, but lack of integrity and morals.)
On a more positive note, my grandma has always been my biggest cheerleader. She’s getting older now, starting to lose it a little bit sadly. She’s currently being kept at my aunt’s place for several reasons that’ll benefit her later after my grandma passes.
This is the same aunt that hasn’t disclosed the will to us or any other family members after my grandpas passing. However, back to my grandma. She is and was always my biggest cheerleader. The unconditional love she always showed me has and made me a better person. I will forever cherish this.
I’m single. Never married. No kids. I would have liked for this happen earlier in life, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe someday. We will see. I’m just going with the flow of life.
I’m not too close with my direct family. Lot’s of internal issues. Arguments, disagreements, personality clashes etc. I have two brothers and my mother. Are these issues stemmed from the childhood where my dad was put in prison for 10 years for kidnapping? Perhaps.
I thought after all the hardships we went through; it would have made us closer. The nights sleeping in run down motels and hotels, the days of not knowing if my mom could bring any money in while she tried going door to door cleaning people’s houses etc. She was getting chased by dogs. She would get stuck in the rain and it would ruin all her hand written flyers.
My uncles were somewhat in my life after my dad got locked up. Several years later, half of them went to prison for 5+ years and others were even deported back to Europe because of something with his paperwork that was never updated. Those connections, quickly gone too.
Ok, let’s take a breather for now….Nice…Deep…Breath….Ok.
I don’t know what people will think of this. Maybe people find this interesting, maybe some people find this weird I’m letting out too much personal info, or maybe some people find this helpful. (It hasn’t been helpful, yet I’ll be getting to the helpful part later on)
I always liked the quote about what happens when you continue to hit steel more and more. The harder you hit it, the tougher and stronger it gets.
That’s how I am starting to feel at age 35. I remind myself of this analogy often. I’ve started over many times. Many business failures. Many business success stories too. It’s been an ongoing roller coaster. I think everyone to a certain degree goes through a roller coaster in life, it’s just how you learn to enjoy the ride, whether it’s going bad or well, and how extreme the roller coaster ride is. I try to tell myself this.
A life of extremes.
No one expected me to make it out as a normal person that became a self-made multi-millionaire in my early 30’s. I made it all from taking an old busted up 2004 red Ford explorer SUV (thanks papou (grandpa in Greek), RIP). I would pull up with a busted junky wooden trailer and up to customers’ houses picking up junk for a fee. What started as a hobby to pay off my credit card and college debt, turned into 200+ customers per month some months.
It was just me and some other teenager kid I hired at the time, and over time, bam, I blew it up and went all out.
Somedays I was getting over 70 phone calls a day. People couldn’t believe the call volume I was getting with such low quality equipment. (I can’t tell you how many times my suv & trailer would breakdown and not start at a customers house.
Happened over 30x in the first few years of my business. It was very awkward when the customers had to leave for work when they had their cars parked in the garage and the junk suv and trailer was stuck in the driveway.
Some of these jobs would be an hour to an hour and a half away. I worked pretty much for dirt cheap just to get reviews and get referrals. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed picking up junk from people’s houses. I would then have high school or college kids help me once the jobs were a little bigger in size.
I had so much fun finding all this cool weird stuff at these homes. Funny stuff, weird stuff, gross stuff, scary stuff and everything else you can imagine – I’ve seen it.
I don’t think anyone expected me to lose all the weight I did either. (I was almost 300 pounds in my early 20’s. I’m now 205 pounds at 35. I led a lone wolf type of lifestyle the majority of my life. Most of my life I’ve been a bachelor. Most of my life, I had 1-3 friends at most.
I used to be an extreme introvert in my 20’s, I was pretty much a hermit. All I would do on Friday & Saturday nights is read or watch business related content. And also religiously, I’d research “conspiracies”, which I’ve always been fascinated by. (If I didn’t write this business blog, that would be the other blog I would write up on.)
It was me that got out of a lot of the messes I was in. Was it by choice to live mostly a lone wolf lifestyle? I don’t think so, but I learned to go with it. I always felt like an outcast from society. (Which now, I am thinking was a good thing. I’ll explain this for another blog post in the future…)
When people see me now at 35, with my clean and sharp suits, they would have never guessed that this was my life in the not-too-distant past. I’ve been able to morph and interchange between introvert & extrovert now. I used to be terrified walking into a room with new people as a teen and in my 20’s, I think mostly because of my business failures, health issues, my childhood traumas, and also my appearance when I was obese.
I was always very self-conscious.
All these years later, I feel like a completely new person as far as being wiser, better & spiritually strong. I can now walk into a room to speak to an audience of seasoned business people and not even break a sweat. One of my employees described the supreme confidence as “cold blooded”. I like that analogy, because it’s very accurate now that I think about it. I’m not sure if it’s all of the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through.
That cold blooded (lack of fear) mentality, is not what will get you through only business, but through life as well.
I was always an underdog. Like I said earlier, my grandma was the only person that always had genuine love, unconditional support. I think I’ve brought her up several times already in this blog, I love you grandma. Whether I was broke, unemployed and obese, or whether I was on the beach as a semi-retired millionaire in my early 30’s. She was a very simple person. She never drove. She was a housewife to her 3 kids and husband.
She dropped out of grade school in Greece. She fled Europe to go to the states. The thing that’s odd, is that she is the complete opposite. She didn’t know anything about business, investments etc, however, the conversations were so natural and easy. She always made me feel good, whatever our conversations were about. I think that’s what kept me going. She always had a smile. She was happy to see me.
Thanks Grandma for having unconditional love for me. I will forever cherish that.
I’ve had an interesting life so far. I’m not sure how else to describe it at this point. Maybe, I’ll have a more appropriate description of my life thus far at a later date. But I think interesting is fitting for now.
All these life experiences have made me tougher. Better. Wiser. Sharper. Hungrier. Stronger.
As a business man, there is no “final win”. Life, business (same thing in a way), is always up…and down…Up…and down. Etc.
There is no final win, there is no final loss – We just keep going.
You need to realize that the harder life hits you, that there are some unseen benefits at the time. (You’re getting life experience and mental toughness). You won’t realize it at the time, but later on, you will.
Several hours have past since I started this random story about my personal life and business. I’m not sure why I decided to write this.
I just felt compelled for some reason.
The older gentleman who was reading the paper next to me, is starting to nod off. Maybe he’s tired. The other side of me, the man with his kids, have left long ago. They left some crayons and napkins on the table.
One thing I will say, is that even though the business, investment, personal & health hardships extreme roller-coasters took a huge toll on my mental, physical & spiritual wellbeing, at the same time oddly enough, it saved me.
My creative and stress release outlet throughout life was business.
Isn’t that weird?
It’s like saying the poison you take is also the same exact medicine you need to survive. That’s what entrepreneurship did to me. (I can’t stop, even if it’s doing harm to me, it’s in my DNA.)
When my family and I were living in different motels as a kid, I remember reading books as a kid about how to make money, famous business people etc. This helped me learn about how to make money, get inspiration, and to also try to block out the sounds of the crazy things like gun shots and police sirens. I would see and hear this often around wherever we were staying for that week.
Reading those books helped me escape in a way.
At the core of huge motivation and drive, was insecurity for me, and for most of you reading this.
Insecurity isn‘t a bad thing necessarily. If used properly, you can move mountains with deep insecurity.
If you’re discontent, you’re going to move your a** and hustle – which is what I did.
When I was 9 years old, bussing tables at my uncles restaurant, mowing lawns, picking up dog poop, helping my mom clean houses etc. You name it. I saved all my $ and in my early 20’s started a website. (That site was featured on MTV in front of millions of viewers.
The site tanked. I was embarrassed on live TV by internet media mogul Sam Yagan when he said my website sucked (It did, he was right, but it messed with me since he said on a show where millions of people saw it.)
Crazy enough, I actually ran into Sam out of all places, in another state at a 4th of July event. I went up to him and asked him if he remembered me. He said not really, so I reminded him. We talked, and he was so impressed and surprised with how I turned it around years later. But instead of a website, it was a junk removal company. He gave me his info to talk more in the future about my current business.
(Thanks Sam for what you did on that MTV documentary, you sharpened me up as a business owner and I am forever grateful for that)
After that site failed and I lost all of my $. I started over again after a mild bout of depression (My best friend at the time also died from a car crash, this and my father just got out of prison after ten years to only be crazier when he got out.)
After all this, I tried something new again. A marketing consultant (From my mothers basement). I had some viral content websites and social media pages that got to hundreds of thousands of followers. It was wild how fast this happened. Although they didn’t make profit yet, I was just excited I had a brand people loved. (One page had 150,000+ followers on Facebook in a year.
A few months later, I woke up to see the page was suspended from Facebook with no reason why. That one stung.
I then decided to try some other wild ideas. I bought the domain name of several billionaire sports team owners. I then created a nice website for them, forwarded it to them, and wanted nothing in return. Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz & Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke.
I just wanted to be able to use their names to let other future clients that I did the websites for them. In return, they gave me an autographed jersey from each respective team. Sweet!
I also was able to run the social media page for a B list actor too. How strange and fun this was all becoming.
I eventually phased out of that and found myself years later, picking up junk.
Crazy enough, it was the junk removal business that made me wealthy. Crypto made me wealthier.
I’ve been poor, rich, poor again, rich again, poor again, and rich again.
I took huge risks. Those risks saved me. Bigger risks hurt me. Even bigger risks saved me even more.
This is my life. A roller coaster of extremes.
Up and down. Up and down.
Every business owner has their own roller coaster of life. Some have fewer crazy turns, others have more.
As I finalize my thoughts, I look over next to me and see the older gentleman snoring gently. I think he finished reading his newspaper.
I think it may be time for me to wrap up now. I only to seem to see the great times of an entrepreneur’s life. That’s what most people see only, they don’t see the true thoughts and feelings of what really is going on behind the scenes.
Not just from a business point of view, but from a personal, spiritual, and mental point of view. It felt good to throw all this out there. If you’re an entrepreneur, I hope you do the same. Everyone has a story to share, only few entrepreneurs share it though.
I’m starting this blog for enjoyment. I love business. I love writing. I love to hear other entrepreneurs stories.
All entrepreneurs have a special bond. Few people realize how hard it is to run a business. The blood, sweat and tears behind it all.
I want this to be a home to share my stories and your stories.
This site, TalkBenjamin.com, will be a site where we post daily blogs on how people can make money. I will blog on my specialties, and I will hire on other writers too to teach ways to make money. For free.
Hope you all enjoy! Here’s to life, the up, down, up and down… Chin up. Smile. This is life.
Let’s continue the roller coaster.
Graciously yours, Alex Broches.