MF 106 : What John Tan Had on His LinkedIn Profile That Got Him on Moving Forward
Updated: Jun 17
John Tan is an internet marketer and founder of a digital marketing agency. Today, you’ll learn about John’s journey out of corporate America and why internet marketing isn’t as easy as it looks.
Successes at a glance:
Experience working in front end engineering, application development and data strategy & operations.
Founder of a digital marketing agency.
Volunteer Work & Causes:
English Teacher & Caregiver w/ UBELONG in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Volunteer Nurse, Tampa General Hospital.
Setback failure or time when things fell apart:
John’s journey in personal development began 3 years ago. Like many of us, John was hungry to find his passion and discover what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. But for John, this wasn’t simply about a certain job or title, it was discovering what aligned w/ his core values. But before we get to that, John shares what his core values are. Shortly after college, John volunteered w/ UBELONG to do work in Vietnam. During his time there, John saw what it was like to live in the 3rd world and this is when he had the realization that life is truly precious. This shifted his perspective which had been of an “average person who went to college” and worked in a corporate environment. The idea of working in a corporate job, 9-5, until retirement was a mindset that John had instilled in him since a young age. John had settled into a career in software engineering, thinking this would be the end-all and be-all to happiness. However, his experience in Vietnam really made John question this notion. John realized that his current career path was not driven by a core purpose. Instead, it was simply a pattern that he was following bc it had been ingrained in him. John was also in a long distance relationship which was difficult to maintain. John candidly admits he was selfish and didn’t always take into consideration his partner’s needs. John had spent so much of his time and energy in school, getting good grades and focusing on making a lot of money in corporate America, he neglected to developed the interpersonal skills necessary to maintain the relationships in his life. This all contributed to a vicious cycle of self-esteem issues which further strained his relationships. That’s when John decided he needed to focus on his self-development.
As John’s story illustrates, coming to a crossroads in your career and personal life is neither easy nor trouble-free. John decided to leave his job w/ a prominent bank and move out of Florida. John had started listening to EOFire w/ John Lee Dumas and the stories of entrepreneurs who were working towards a life of personal and financial freedom. At the same time, John had reconnected w/ a friend from middle school who introduced him to network marketing. John tried out the products, loved them, and decided to make the leap into network marketing. As John shares, he faced a lot of rejection. Meanwhile, he was getting negative feedback and comments from friends who were warning him that networking marketing was nothing more than a “pyramid scheme.” Although network marketing wasn’t as easy as many made it looked, John learned business and sales skills that he never had as an engineer. John also started learning about the power of social media, using Facebook and Instagram, learning how to engage virtually. John later joined a personal development and marketing program, where he honed what he was reading in self-help books. John eventually went from networking marketing into affiliate marketing. Seeing how so many gurus made it look so easy, John was further captivated. To expedite his own progress, John invested $20k in mentors to help guide him. This is when John hit a harsh disconnect between expectation and reality. John’s expectation was that by paying these mentors, they would help him w/ results. John has since learned from influencers like Neil Patel, that paying marketing agencies may help w/ certain tasks but not necessarily the results you’re looking for. As John shares, marketing is all about testing and a lot of trial and error. When you pay a marketing agency or a marketing mentor, you are not necessarily guaranteed results. John also learned that marketing on Facebook is not a one-size fits all. What works for one marketer may not work for you.
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
After realizing that hiring mentors could guide him in certain areas but were not the “magic bullet” to quick riches, John learned that behind the curtain of the gurus who made it look so easy was a lot of time and hard work building platforms, reputations, and followers. There is no easy or quick path to riches. Whether you’re building a product, service or engaged in network marketing, you have to put in the hard work, do lots of trial and error, and figure out your own path to success. Thus, John shares w/ us an important aha moment when it comes to personal development. Coming to the realize that a career or life in corporate America is not for you is a huge step forward. However, this does not mean that your path will be an easy one. Quite the opposite. Pursuing a life of freedom that aligns w/ your core values is far less certain than collecting a regular paycheck. It requires a lot of rejection, perseverance, failures and as in John’s case, some hard wake-up calls about the reality of what looks easy on the outside.
John also learned an important lesson about sales. For many of us, the word “sales” has a sleazy or deceptive connotation to it. However, and somewhat ironically, John learned what sales was really about while on his journey thru internet and affiliate marketing. The key to sales is giving value to your customers; value that justifies the money that is given in exchange. As an internet marketer, John was advised to build up his sales experience from his mentors. As a result, John started focusing his efforts into online marketing; helping people increase sales and conversions. The way John did this was by selling solo ads to mail lists; also known email marketing. As John explains, the way solo ads work is that a customer buys a one-time email blast from a vendor who maintains a list of emails which in theory are potential customers. John’s business model was based on a per click basis, charging $0.45 – $1.00 per click which would lead to the customers’ landing page or url. All of this would be measured by tracking software which would allow John to charge accordingly. The aha moment came when John took a step back and realized that what he was selling wasn’t necessarily leading to actual sales or conversations. There was a simple yet important realization that had up until this point eluded him. These were not just “clicks” and numbers but somewhere behind that network of wires and ports was a real human being w/ specific needs, wants and aspirations. This caused John to ask himself an important question, “what am I doing?” The only answer John could come up w/ was to make back the money he had invested in mentors and programs. That’s when John had both a shock and an aha moment as he was more removed from his personal development goals than when he left corporate America. The way he was selling clicks and solo ads did not align w/ his core values especially since he was not building a value-based relationship w/ his followers. John isn’t saying that solo ads or internet marketing is bad or inherently wrong. What John is sharing is that like any successful business, internet marketing should always be based on the core values of building relationships and providing value. John is continuing on his journey w/ sales but has since walked away from solo ads and selling clicks online. Sometimes listeners, when we start on a journey we have noble intentions. We aspire to escape the drudgery of corporate America only to find ourselves trapped in a cycle that isn’t much better. That’s why it’s so important to every once in while step back and remind yourself of what you’re doing and why. As John’s story illustrates, sometimes moving forward is really about moving back to the values that we found ourselves straying from.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired John to move forward:
The Four Agreements: A Practice Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz (Paperback | Kindle): this was one of the books that started John on his journey of personal development and shifting his mindset.
The One Thing by Gary Keller (Paperback | Kindle): this book has taught John the importance of prioritizing. John now lives by the mantra, until the one thing is done, everything else is a distraction.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
How John recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
John also makes it a habit of going to sleep early and waking up early to make sure he gets a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.
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Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
Keep an open mind and try not to be cynical. Don’t be afraid to try different things. When you look back at your life you want to be the person who said “I’m glad I did,” not the person who said, “I wish I had.”
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Action is what counts.”