The Delicious Motivation of Rock Bottom - The ShoeMoney Story

Many of the people who become successful only do so after falling hard. And some of the people who never fell before becoming successful often let success slip away because they lack appreciation for where they are and what they have. Shoemoney recently published his monthly email newsletter revealing his personal story...and I thought it was well worth sharing.


I am hearing a lot of great stories from people who have gone through my free course and doing some neat things generating revenue. Please keep sending me your stories. I love hearing them! That is why I made the program!

Now I don't mean to pee in your cheerios but I want to talk to you and share something with you. Something I feel is really important. Making money online is easy. Profiting from it over the long haul IS NOT.

Eventually everyone's ship comes in. When your ship comes in what will you do? Maybe your ship just came in?

This is my personal story and dealing with my first big success and how I was able to position myself for the best outcome.

I hit rock bottom about 8 years ago. I was 420 lbs, smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day, about 60k in credit card debt, and just had lost my job. I also sleeping on my friends couch.

Its important to know what rock bottom feels like. Its important to know what its like to really be hungry. Its important to know what it feels like to drive a 1990 rusty van with no muffler. Its important to know what having massive amounts of credit card debt and what appears to be no way out feels like. Its important to have that feeling that you are a failure at life and maybe that's all you will ever be.

Now I say that its important but to me it was ABSOLUTELY crucial in developing my mindset for success.

I am guessing you have seen the image of me and the Google AdSense check for 132,994.97 for one month.

Its actually hard to search for anything related to making money on the internet and NOT see it...

The one thing I have never really talked about was the back story on WHY I took a picture of me and that AdSense Check for 133k before taking it to the bank to cashing it.

As I am sure you know Google AdSense is run on your website and you get money when visitors click on your AdSense ad. Almost all of my traffic was coming from Google so I felt it was really a house of cards. If Google felt my website was no longer relevant for the keywords they were sending me traffic then over night I was done!

At the time I was totally new to making money on the internet and I never thought it was going to last.

I took the picture because I always thought that if my websites disappeared tomorrow I could leverage that picture into a book or something... I didn't really know...

I always had in the back of my mind what rock bottom felt like and I never wanted to experience that again.

In hind site it was even more brilliant then I ever thought it was going to be. Especially that that month was the last month that Google ever sent out paper checks for over $10,000.00 so really nobody will ever have a check.

But I never took my success for granted and I diversified my website income into many other forms instead of just Google AdSense.

I learned how to make money from donations, affiliate programs direct banner sales, selling my own products, and subscription. Within a few months my subscription revenue, Direct banner sales, and affiliate revenue each by themselves dwarfed my Google AdSense revenue.

So I have all this money coming in from the website im all diversified but I still did not really feel safe.

So I started the ShoeMoney blog (originally on before I obtained basically just talking about the ins and outs of making money.

Because I had the Google AdSense Check for 133k and some pretty other large screenshots of revenue that I could use to make points on what I was talking about the blog VERY quickly became an authority in the space of making money online. So much so that in its first year that we implemented advertising on we did over 2007 $100,000.00 in revenue.

In 2008 we boosted that to $490,000.00

in 2009 will make over $750,000.00 probably closer to 1m in revenue.

But lets take a step back. Because we had built this authority we were able to leverage our audience into starting our own conference called the elite retreat. We started the event in 2006 and have sold out events every year since. Even at a price tag of $5,000.00 per person.

In 2007 we leveraged the blog audience and our contacts and started our own advertising network called Auctionads. Auctionads is truly an amazing success story and one of my proudest accomplishments. We took a company from 0 to 25k active publishers doing over 3 million per month in revenue in less then 4 months and sold the company. That is simply unheard of. It would not have been possible without leveraging our previously accomplishments and taking them to the next level.

So what drives me to keep doing more things?

I can remember that feeling of hitting rock bottom like it was yesterday.

ONLY now the steaks are MUCH bigger. I am now married and have 2 kids. I also have 20 employees that I am responsible for.

So why am I telling you all this.

I want you to recognize what you have and not take it for granted.

I had to hit rock bottom to find myself and really develop a work ethic and drive for more. Maybe you don't?

Always be leveraging your current position and looking for your next thing.

I have no doubt that everyone reading this will come into money/success eventually. If you love what you do and you keep trying then its just the law of averages. Eventually its going to work. But when it does what will you do?

Until next month,

Published: October 26, 2009 by Aaron Wall in marketing


October 26, 2009 - 6:02pm

Thanks for sharing that with us this morning, Aaron. It is strengthening to hear stories like this.

October 26, 2009 - 6:25pm

Rock bottom feels like you can't leave the house cuz your broke as f*** ... it also means working your butt off at a place that pays you $8 an hour and treats you like a check to check... only to never actually get ahead... then you finally wake up and realize their is more out their..

Success however feels alot better... your financial situation changes almost overnight..after all those 15 hour days working on websites, learning seo etc.. and it finally pays off..

then you start pushing a 300c, taking people out in limos to a restaurant that doesn't list the prices on the menu... it also means you can quit that shit ass job and do this shit full time... it means all those people who laughed at you for "playing around" on the internet you can now honk at them as you drive by in your 50k car.. success feels good, but it is ESSENTIAL to know what rock bottom feels like.... you appreciate the success much more

October 26, 2009 - 8:11pm

Thanks for sharing this :)

hidden object g...
October 27, 2009 - 3:37am

Inspirational. Thanks for posting & sharing your story =)


October 27, 2009 - 4:23am

There's that old phrase : this kind of advice will not be read by those who need to read it, and read by those who already know it.

You need to work hard to succeed online*, but many people are lured by the idea of "easy money". THESE are the people who fail, because they take short-cuts, take the path of least resistance, follow the crowd, are risk-averse, don't know the concept of investing time/money NOW, get rewarded LATER. They only know NOW. They don't see timelines, only today and want results today. Then tomorrow, they're onto a new project with the same half-hearted approach that's doomed to fail. They think only about what's in it for them, not how to help their customers and that success can be a by-product of helping others.

You just cannot teach these people. They need to have a life-changing experience, or some kind of major new outlook in their life and say "Forget everything I've done in the past. I want to be HERE in 6 months time, then HERE in 12 months time, and HERE in 2 years time, and if it takes 16 hour days to achieve this, so be it". Long-term approach.

*yes there are exceptional people who lucked out and found a way to make big money easily without much skills or hard work, but forget the exceptions - hard work makes things a lot easier, and what makes hard work easy itself is enjoying what you do.

October 27, 2009 - 7:22am

Aaron I consider Mr. Jeremy Schoemaker a Marketing Genius. For example his idea of the find out the sex of your baby website. It’s hilarious as well as really a good marketing idea. I mean how many of us would have thought about such an idea when you are *planning to have your first child*?

And you Mr. Aaron, I consider a knowledge powerhouse. Each and every article of SEOBook oozes knowledge.

However as God never gives everything to one person – Jeremy may not be as knowledgeable as you are, and you may not be a great marketing guy. For example you charged someone peanuts for SEO, while they made millions and sold your SEOBook for less than 100 dollars and gave them after-sales support as well. Also you could have increased your membership price to $150 when you already had 500 members – that’s a good number to gain confidence and test.

Here in India there is a saying in Hindi – "Kismat se jayada aur waqt se pahle kisiko kuch nahi milta."

It means no one earns more than his/her fate and no one gets it before their time arrives.

You got it when your time arrived.

One question Aaron – when did you hit rock bottom?

October 27, 2009 - 6:36pm

My bottom point was probably some point when I was in the military. So many bottoms that it seemed like one multi-year bottom.

Hugh has a poster which explained this quite well

but imagine being in the military from 1997 to 2002.

on my first underway we had something break and a kid said we might die as the sub sank then exploded...that thought carried with me until I was out of that organization...thinking how I might die fighting for a cause I did not believe in.

on my second underway the boat offloaded my stuff (and I had to rebuy it all) and the base towed my car into the ghetto, where it was broke into and my stuff stolen at my expense. that underway lasted a month and a half and lost + stolen goods cost me more than what I was paid during that time period...really re-affirming that the military was a piece of shit wasting my life

my brother got AIDS

stock market meltdown + economy falling apart

no sunlight for months at a time

when the russian kursk sunk the russians did not let us come over and help them because of the pride of the government and thus their sailors died. then I realized that free-market evangelists in the US would not have let the russians helped us if we were in the same situation. I would have died without purpose and without the people who killed me caring at all.

in 2001 there was the planes flying into buildings

my grandfather died

the solution for each piece of bad news was more self-destructive behavior. and then by the time I knew I was getting off that hell hole of a boat I was sorta on a permanent high for about 6 to 12 months straight.

Anytime I feel bad I can think of how miserable being a nuclear reactor operator on a submarine was and I instantly feel way better.

Also I am not convinced that someone is a bad marketer just because they have not maximized their earnings at every possible touch-point in life. Some people are driven by money. Others not so much. Money is only 1 type of value system...and even it is highly flawed, rigged, and gamed by the likes of the criminal elite working for companies like Goldman Sachs.

Worse yet, the monetary system in most countries is debt based. So if everyone lived below their means (as my wife and I do) then the whole system would come crashing down. After the recent economic slowdown the United States deficit has hit 9.9% of GDP. That is almost unbelievable. The debt based money systems are designed such that most people are stuck on a perpetual hamster wheel...fighting to get ahead while falling one step behind.

The easiest way to become rich is to chose to live below your means and save while appreciating all you already have. :)

Had I been more aggressive with sales and business and not given away too much value off the start I never would have had a chance to speak to my wife...who met me after buying my ebook. So my "poor marketing" / under-monetization of years past lead to something worth far more than money.

October 28, 2009 - 12:46pm

Aaron, on a personal note, yes you may have hit a rock bottom.

- Your brother got AIDS

- No sunlight for months at a time (I can’t understand why it only effected you. The whole town must be feeling really down.)

- In 2001 there was the planes flying into buildings (Again that was the depressing point of the whole world – you were not alone.)

- Your grandfather died

- And you forgot to mention that your sister went to jail. (I read it somewhere don’t know where – if this isn’t true please feel free to edit.)

But on a professional note I don’t think you had hit rock bottom. If you hated military, that’s your problem. You were paid – and moreover it is a government job. How many of us desire to have a government job? For some it’s a dream come true.

My father was in the military for 30 years – and he is happily retired.

Anyways what I want to say is, even you hated being there, it now looks like navy was your biggest motivator. As you said that you thought your life will be wasted if you stay there long – so you came out and worked your ass off to do well in life – and you did.

Also when someone talks about marketing – they mean marketing – which means getting the most dollars out of the market. It does in no way mean "charge less if you can find your friend/girlfriend/relative/spouse" in the market.

But I do agree that if you get something worth more than money that made you happy, than money means nothing.

After all money is a mean to buy happiness. Happiness is the end of all. (Though money can’t buy all the happiness in the world.)

I hit rock bottom in end 2007 – beginning 2008.

- I lost my job
- Lost all my savings in the stock market crash
- To make both ends meet I had to take a personal loan
- My wife was 5 months pregnant
- I had a mortgage to pay
- I had just moved with my wife to our new house, so the running expenses were huge
- Recession – so no guarantee of getting a job

In her full blown pregnancy my wife had to take up a job. Life was hell.

Then suddenly my business clicked and today I am a very happy man. That experience made me realize what you said: The easiest way to become rich is to choose to live below your means and save while appreciating all you already have.

That is exactly what we are doing.

Aaron I want you to have a look at my small but beautiful house and my lovely family (please show it to Giovanna too):

October 29, 2009 - 7:02am

Marketing is not just about creating maximum cash flow in a short period of time. Seth Godin gives away a lot of information that he could easily sell. But he is in it for the LONG term. And some people are more driven by learning than they are by creating the maximum cashflow possible.

Look at it this way (and I think about this often) ... society in the United States is generally built around debt slavery. You can make far more money pushing people into debt slavery than teaching them to avoid it. But the first marketer is not necessarily a better marketer...just one who is making more because they are going with the flow of existing business.

The same is true for people who push reverse billing fraud, the pharmacy companies who push addictive inferior drugs (with crazy side effects) while pushing to make some natural supplements to become illegal, and the bankers engaged in illegal predatory lending (while paying off congressmen & giving themselves tax payer funded bonuses for being incompetent).

Once you have more than enough you don't have to make every potential Dollar just because the option is there. Think of how shitty society would be if people like Tim Berners-Lee didn't share and give a lot back. I know I personally would be far worse off if he did not look far beyond short term profits.

Now some transformational marketing and businesses that go entirely counter to the market create huge windfall profits - like Google has. But those are literally 1 in 1,000+ ... most business changes tend to be more incremental than transformational. And even as Google aged they have started conforming to a lot of existing business interests (creating additional distribution for premium publishers, pushing the importance of brand, putting tons of weight on domain authority, etc. etc. etc.).

October 29, 2009 - 2:55pm

....and if you read Seth's blog, a big majority of his posts are not directly about making money, but about improving your reputation, pleasantly surprising customers, etc which if you think about it, is still marketing, just a lot more friendly and less invasive.

October 30, 2009 - 6:28pm


I am a great fan of your writing skills.

I know people in the military are not very good at writing, but you are amazing.

Did you take up some course in writing or it just improved over time? Also any tip on how to improve writing skills will be great.

That said, sometimes it gets a bit difficult to understand what you are saying. For example this sentence was a bit more to handle:

"Now some transformational marketing and businesses that go entirely counter to the market create huge windfall profits ... most business changes tend to be more incremental than transformational"

What is the difference between transformational marketing and incremental marketing?

October 30, 2009 - 11:42pm

Transformational businesses are ones that either a.) completely disrupt the business model of a marketplace or, b.) create a new market.

When Google got started in search, most portals thought they only needed to be 80% as good as the next at search, and search was viewed as a loss leader product. Between Goto/Overture & Google the model was changed and grown significantly. What was once a loss leader product to outsource to whoever was cheapest became something worth investing 10's of billions of Dollars into (due to enhanced monetization AND advanced link analysis algorithms).

Incremental changes in business models would be making small changes to a business model rather than revolutionizing an industry. For example I started off with a blog, packaged knowledge in and promoted an ebook, converted an ebook into training modules and added to them, created training videos, bolted on a private member's forums, created a monthly newsletter, we created some tools...each of these changes was incremental rather than something transformational.

Most business changes tend to be more incremental than transformational.

As far as tips on writing...I used StyleWriter software, read hundreds of books, wrote thousands of blog posts and forum entries, had feedback from 10000+ customers, etc. All of that helped some :)

October 31, 2009 - 6:41am

Many Thanks Aaron.

It’s amazing how you take time out to reply almost all comments on your blog post and it’s quick too. I haven’t seen that in other popular blogs.

I read somewhere that entrepreneurs have that "extra" zest to help other entrepreneurs succeed – I think you absolutely fit that description.

Also since you value money and appreciate saving, I want you to check out the following blog (probably one of the best blogs on saving money and becoming rich). No its not an affiliate link. Just that I want you to know some very valuable tips on saving money while still enjoying a good life:

October 31, 2009 - 4:09pm

We have no problem saving...we just need to get more aggressive at reinvesting into growth ;)

On Stage Lighting
October 27, 2009 - 6:03pm

Shoemoney is great at what he does. Talent has nothing to do with hitting rock bottom, though a work ethic may do.

I think that too many people might consider the story and think the result is a given. Just because you have hit rock bottom and haven't got a pot to p*ss in, doesn't mean that everything will be OK in the end. People like to believe in movie scripts ....

October 27, 2009 - 6:24pm

Many people often gain the work ethic only AFTER they failed. My story is not all that much different than Shoemoney's. People wanted to label me a failure so I wanted to make sure I both proved them wrong and I could label them as I wish to thousands and thousands of people. And they certainly didn't win anything in that exchange ;)

And for some people work ethic alone is not enough to succeed. Sometimes people need someone to tell them "you are a failure" to motivate them...those are some of the most motivating words a person can ever hear, for that type of person anyhow.

October 28, 2009 - 4:29am

Agree with you Aaron about money. I find people who eek out every red cent for their business incredibly tiresome people, self-promoting in every corner of the web. Good luck to them, but it's not for me, and I find them to be rather annoying people. Perhaps even shoemoney sort-of fits that description, but he does have plenty of substance behind his self-promotion. 99% of others are empty vessels.

It's not all about money. I'm a self employed website developer/SEO and I love what I do, and I can work anywhere in the world (have worked in Japan, Thailand, UK, Australia). I work my own hours. I have autonomy, variety and creativity in my work. I could earn more if I was ruthless and self-promoting, and squeezed every possible penny out of my customers. And being that money focused would bore me to tears, and no doubt start to actually annoy my customers too.

November 5, 2009 - 10:56pm

That was definitely worth sharing. Thanks!

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.