Ben Kovacs | Everyone is an Entrepreneur (Episode 441)

You don’t have to quit your day job in order to follow your entrepreneurial aspirations.

“I live in a state of constant retirement.” -Ben Kovacs

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What does the recreational fisherman know that the rich man does not? (4:20)
  • Being incredibly honest with yourself and others will force you to evaluate what you can do yourself and what requires help — which allows you to get more done in a day than you once believed possible. (8:35)
  • Working for “The Man” and pursuing entrepreneurial urgings don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts — in fact, they can (and should) complement each other. (12:37)
  • You don’t have to be rich or famous for people (from clients and investors to partners and workmates) to like you and want to hang out. You just have to be interesting and genuine. (17:35)
  • Is what you’re doing with your time helping you get more out of what you love from life, or taking it away? (23:20)
  • And so much more…


Do you have great ideas for entrepreneurial ventures, but hesitate to follow them because you don’t want to abandon the financial comfort of a full-time job? You might be surprised to discover that there is a middle ground that allows you to do both. Even if you work at a corporate job, you can learn how to structure your time, nurture relationships, and think like the CEO of your own business.

In episode 441 of The Art of Charm, we talk to entrepreneur and full-time Twitter employee Ben Kovacs about how he juggles the needs of three startups and a Silicon Valley heavyweight, joking with his friends all the while that he lives “in a constant state of retirement,” doing only stuff he likes “99 percent of the time.”

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To understand how Ben Kovacs views the relationship between the ways he makes his money and the value of living a fulfilling life before reaching the socially acceptable age of retirement at 65, it helps to know the fisherman’s story that he likes to tell.

A rich man sees a fisherman casting his line from the dock. He says, “What are you doing fishing on the dock? Don’t you know you could go out and catch more fish if you had a boat?”

“Okay,” says the fisherman. “Then what?”

“Well, then you could sell those fish and you could buy two boats,” says the rich man.

“Okay,” says the fisherman. “Then what?”

“Then you could hire a whole crew of people and go out catch even more fish,” says the rich man.

“Okay,” says the fisherman. “Then what?”

“Then you could be doing whatever you want to be doing with your life,” says the rich man.

“Okay,” says the fisherman. “But isn’t that what I’m doing right now?

Ben Kovacs does what he wants right now; why put off the good stuff for later when he could be enjoying it today? He loves his full-time sales job at Twitter. “I can’t imagine a better corporate environment to work in,” he says. But he also loves his side businesses — Lifted View, Myster, and Guardian Gym, a non-profit martial arts center in Oakland slated to open its doors to underprivileged youth in 2016 — because they allow him to work with great partners and follow ambitions he’d be pursuing even if money weren’t involved.

But how does he find the time to do it all?

First of all, it helps that Ben is lucky enough to work for a company that does more than simply tolerate his extra-curricular activities — it supports them. Being honest up front ensured that Ben wouldn’t have to waste time trying to keep his side businesses a secret.

Ben says: “When I went to interview at Twitter, I was very honest with them. I said, look, I do this on the side. It’s fun. It’s a passion project. I certainly don’t spend eight hours every day doing it. But I think they actually really liked that I was doing something different other than only having this corporate experience — it kind of set me apart from other people.”

Second, the experiences and contacts he gains from one job cross over to the others. When Ben almost passed up the chance to work for Twitter because he thought it would distract him from his entrepreneurial ambitions, his business partner talked him into it. But there was also the element of self-doubt that was holding him back.

“I think I was just making excuses for myself, says Ben. “I didn’t know if I could cut it. I didn’t know if I could hang with those other people. [There was a] fear of failure. I really needed to prove to myself and see, at the highest level, could I do this?”

Not having a fancy pedigree of experience, connections, or an Ivy League education, taking on the job at Twitter has given him the chance to interact with an incredible variety of people — and build his confidence as a result. “I’ve met absolutely amazing people, and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything,” says Ben, “but at the same time, I realized I’m just as smart as these people…it’s given me a tremendous amount of confidence to not only do that job or other jobs like it in the future, but also pursue the entrepreneurial endeavors.” If he hadn’t taken the job, he likely never would have met the business partner who is helping him realize the dream of Guardian Gym, nor his girlfriend — both fellow Twitter employees.

Learning the business of ad sales during a time when the media landscape is changing so drastically is another nice perk that translates to all of Ben’s businesses.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for having a main job that takes the pressure of basic survival off of his shoulders, too. His insurance is covered. He’s got the support of an accounting team. He can take paid vacations. Money doesn’t have to be taken out of the coffers of one of his startups to make it grow.

“When I add up all the perks, bonuses, salaries, commissions, food, travel, insurance, etc. [of working for Twitter],” says Ben, “I figure I’d have to make about $30k per month on my own.”

Another lesson Ben’s learned from interacting with so many people from different walks of life is that you don’t have to be rich or famous for people to like you and want to hang out. You just have to be interesting and genuine. “Once you make a hundred million dollars,” Ben says, “you don’t need to go hang out with anybody for money, anymore…you want to hang out with the people who aren’t pitching you ideas or talking about business. You want to hang out with the person who wants to talk about Burning Man next week or something more fun, right? I think once you realize…there’s no magic that happens once you hit a certain dollar amount in your bank account or get a certain title on your business card — if you can be an interesting, fun, caring person, people want to hang out with you just as much as those other people.”

He sees a by-product of building these relationships as more valuable than hoarding gold or BitCoin. “If someone took away all the money that I’ve accumulated so far in life today,” says Ben, “it doesn’t really matter in a way…I’ve made so many amazing connections and friends and people that I’ve done good things for that I feel like I could sleep at a hundred different people’s houses tomorrow, they’d say, ‘Sure! Come stay with me,’ or, “I’d love to give you a job. I know you can perform…and I’d be glad to give you one.'”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn how to stop doing things you don’t want to do (because saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do is saying “no” to something you do want to do), what it means to be a “time tyrant,” why you shouldn’t schedule meetings during your most productive time of the day, and to pick up other time management strategies that will make you more effective whether you have one job or four.


Resources from this episode:

Guardian Gym
Lifted View
The Art of Charm bootcamps

You’ll also like:

-The Art of Charm Toolbox
-Best of The Art of Charm Podcast

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1139 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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