Michael Molinski | USMC Photographer and Graphic Designer | HSLD Podcast Content

This post is based on the podcast Michael Molinski | USMC Photographer and Graphic Designer

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High Speed Nation, John Lee Dumas here. I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Michael Molinski. Michael, are you prepared to ignite?

Michael: Yeah, John. I’m ready to rock. Can’t wait.

John: Michael works as a photographer and graphic designer for USMC out of high school. And after his service, moved home to settle down and build his portfolio. In 2009, Michael used his wedding gift money to open a full time studio and since then business is booming. Michael, I’ve given our listeners just a little overview. So take a minute, tell us about you personally and then we’ll dive in.

Michael: Yeah, John, not a problem. Like you said, I’m a small town guy. I graduated high school and on a whim I joined the Marine Corps, just trying to buy some time to figure out what I should do in my life. And really, when I went in, they gave me a lot of discipline and direction that I didn’t have before and I was really able to take my life to the next level with photography and everything else that they’d given me.

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John:  So give us a little insight into your personal life too. I mean, let’s get to know you as a person. I mean, High Speed Nation wants to know Michael Molinski.

 Michael: For sure. For sure, yeah. So I am an amateur blogger now. I’m a full time photographer and also an athlete. That’s one thing I never gave up, the running thing. Once I got out, I would still run and now I do tri-athlete type stuff if I can. With business going on and weddings taking up every weekend, I don’t get to do as many races as I want to. So I got to make time for that. But I still love going out there and hitting the ground running. So between that and raising a family — That’s the biggest thing. I got a three-year old daughter, my wife and I, and we just love her to death and she takes up all my time when I’m not doing the business. I love it.

 John: That’s amazing. Well, listen, High Speed Nation. We’re going to do a deep dive into Michael’s journey in the military, his transition. We’re going to talk about how the heck he just managed to make this business so booming and the entrepreneurial venture that he undertook. And we’re going to get into all of that. But before we do, we always start, Michael, with a success quote, so take it away.

 Michael: Sure. I’d like this one and it just came to me over Independence Day weekend from my uncle. I never really thought about it but it definitely applies to my life and it goes like this:

“On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest and in resting they died.”

 John: Wow. So I get a lot from that. I mean, number one, never rest. Never sleep, never do anything that doesn’t involve charging forward. But that was just my first impression of it. Michael, how do you interpret this and how do you apply this mantra to your life?

 Michael: Like I said, it just came up in conversation with my uncle because I was telling him everything that I’m doing just a couple of weeks ago and I just loved the way that he put it. He had said I had many irons in the fire. I just like the quote because it summed just what I do and it’s definitely a lot better than what my friends depend on me, which is the Lowe’s slogan, Never Stop Improving. That sounds a lot better.

 John: Yeah. We’ll take the first one over the prior a little bit. It’s not that bad of a thing to be compared to one of the most successful big box store out there, so either or. But, Michael, let’s do this now. Let’s take the spotlight of this interview and let’s shine it to your military past. Let’s talk about a story, specifically a story of what you would consider your most pivotal moment in the military. So, Michael, take us there. We want to be there with you when you’re experiencing these pivotal moments and what were the lessons you learned?

 Michael: Yes, sure. It’s hard to knock down one distinct moment.

 John: Too bad, do it.

 Michael: I know. There were like stepping stones for me.

marinesSo I just want to double down and I’ll make it quick. So after going against the grain and getting letters of recommendation from my commanding officer while I was just a little E3, a lance corporal in the Marines, I really wanted to be a MCMAP instructor. For those who don’t know, it’s Marine Corps Martial Arts. And you have to be an E4. You have to be a non-commission officer to get that position. But I really was headstrong and set on getting it, so after fighting against the grain, I got the letters of approval.

They sent me to the Corps and we were just kicking butt and taking names. And then just a few weeks before my graduation, I was given notice about a position to go back to my MOS school and get a secondary MOS as a combat photographer. At that time, I was just a graphic artist. The only condition was that I had to leave my MCMAP course five days early, meaning no graduation, no certificate of instructor, all that hard work but no proof. No proof that I had it done.

But I made my decision to go to photography school and at the same time continue my MCMAP course until the last minute I had to go. Just knowing that I would go through a lot of pain and suffering, I just didn’t want let down my fellow bros and sisters who we come so far together. I just couldn’t leave them hanging. So that just changed everything with the best decision ever.

I went to my school as a lance. I picked up meritorious corporal without even attending a board. My book was good enough because of the things I did like staying true to my MCMAP course without a graduation certificate. And then I graduated as a distinguished honor grad. And the Defense Information School teaches everybody all parts of the military — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, even the Coast Guard. And I ended up being top dog, so I had to show the other side how hard we were.

John: I’m pulling a lot of things out of there. I think there’s a lot of valuable information for High Speed Nation to really absorb here, Michael. First and foremost, why not just be your authentic self in everything you do? I mean, Michael isn’t someone that’s going to just walk away from something unfinished and he’s not one person that’s going to leave his buddies in the lurch. I mean, he has really lived that authentic self throughout every different venture in his life.

And you proved it there early on. And I’m sure there’s many opportunities you’ve had after that, Michael, where you’ve had the opportunity to short or take a shortcut or maybe to cheat a little bit in certain areas. I mean, that’s life is. It comes up with these opportunities. But I’m sure your mind kind of went back often to that time that you refused to walk away from that until the last possible moment and so you could let down nobody within that actual tribe that you were created.

And I’m sure you remembered, Michael, that sense of self-satisfaction that you felt knowing that you gave it all, that you didn’t turn your back on anything, that you were as big of a person as Michael Molinski was able to be at that time. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, Michael, but was that time pivotal for a lot of future situations that you faced?

Michael: Yeah, definitely. I know if I give it my all, even without any piece of paper saying that I accomplished something, if I just know it in my heart, that’s good enough for me and I don’t need the approval of anybody else to tell me otherwise to know how hard I worked.

John:High Speed Nation, I really hope you’re taking this in. I really hope that you’re just applying this to the different paths that you’re choosing right now and know that the decisions you’re making today and the entrepreneur, the small business owner or the person in corporate America that you’re choosing to be right now as a civilian or as you’re transitioning out into the civilian world, that’s going to be a reflection upon you for life. Choose wisely.

What I want to do, Michael, now is really talk about specifically that transition out that you made. Again, we’re really dialed in on the stories here. So build it up for us. Take us down to the ground level. Walk us through what your transition out of the military was like, first and foremost. Share with us any obstacles you faced and any lessons you learned.

Michael: For sure, yeah. I had to make my decision whether I wanted to reenlist or get out, like most people do in their first four years. When I told my career recruiter that, “Hey, I’m going back home and it’s nothing bigger or better, nothing against Marines. I want to go home with my family.” They all kind of felt let down. I was what they called “model Marine.” They had my whole career planned out. But I knew it wasn’t for me.

So getting out of that where everything was high and mighty and going great, my transition was very lackluster. I moved back home with my parents. I filed for unemployment to put a few bucks in my pocket while trying to find a job. And meantime, I just helped my brother build his amazing house and really I still felt I was missing out on something. And I thought I could ride the coattails of patriotism. It was still in 2005. I figured, “Hey, I’m a decorated Marine. Anybody wants to hire me.” But not, no way. I mean, it was just a really — It was a struggle for me to find a job.

And then I just knew that I had to take my life into my own hands. That’s when I chose to be my own boss and be a photographer.

 John: So let’s really drill into that story because that’s important, that moment that your eyes opened and you said, “You know what, nobody is going to hand me anything here because of what I’ve done in the past. Yes, I’ll get a pat in the back. I’ll get a ‘We appreciate our soldiers’ song and dance.” But in the end, when it comes to the bottom line, when it comes to you, Michael, supporting yourself and supporting your family, I mean, it was on you. It was up to you to make the decisions that were going to take you to where you needed to be. So talk about that time that you made that decision and then what steps did you take, Michael, that really helped you move forward?

Michael: Setting myself apart, I just knew that with my life in my own hands, that calling people and emailing people and asking them for a job wasn’t going to get it done. So I worked my butt off. I got my name out there. I maxed down my credit card. I just really had this drive to make it successful. And then the community responded in kind knowing that I was doing good work and they appreciated everything that I did. So why not hire this young guy who’s doing great things?

And then word of mouth got out. People started recommending their friends to me. And then we just started quadrupling our business in the next two or three years, each year.

John: Is that some thunder I hear in the backgrounds?

Michael: That is thunder.

John: Yeah. That’s the thing, man. I live here in San Diego and, yeah, life is good. I mean, the sun is shining right now. Literally, it is a perfect beach day and I live right on the ocean. But it is every single day too. I’m from Maine though, man. I miss my thunderstorms. I miss my snowstorms. Sometimes, that inclimate weather makes you feel a little bit better about being cooped up inside all day getting some work done, you know what I’m saying?

Michael: Oh, yeah. I got my AC off right now. It’s humid. It’s crazy. And it’s probably 75 degrees in my studio and I’m hunkered down doing this interview but I love it.

John: Oh, we love you for it, Michael. Let’s chat real quick. Was there something that you did when you first started really getting going? You said people were appreciating your hard work. They’re appreciating just the quality and the care you put into things. Was there something that you did that sets you apart above and beyond all that?

The Photographer Success Story photoMichael: Something that set me apart was definitely my looking for detail. That’s the one thing you learn in the military, the attention to every little detail. So applying that principle to my photographing techniques and not letting any little thing ruin a good photo. I set the bar. I think I rather raised it for what people are used to in my area.

John: That’s what it is. You took the bar where it was and you said, “I’m not going to jump over this bar. I’m going to step over it because it’s so low. And then I’m going to show people where it needs to be.” And you made it happen, my friend. So let’s go and fast forward a little bit even further because you shared with us your transition out. You shared with us that first idea, that first eye opening, awakening that you had to really get going and to become the true successful booming entrepreneur that you are now.

But it’s not all roses. There’s some thorns in there as well in every single entrepreneur’s journey, small business. And if you are listening right now and you’re choosing a corporate path or you’re choosing whatever it might be, there’s going to be some ups or there’s going to be some downs. So, Michael, talk to us about the downs. I mean, business is booming. These are going great. But there’s still struggles that you faced recently and in years past. Take us through one of those struggles and how you’ve overcome that specific obstacle. And again, tell us the story.

Michael: Sure, yeah. It has to go with getting a big head. The very quick success I was gaining and people were coming into my studio — Or rather, I didn’t have the studio then. They were just coming to me and asking for jobs to do shooting weddings here and there or a couple of outside portraits. And I felt life is good, like I don’t even have to do anything. People are just going to grow my business for me. And, oh boy, was I wrong. I mean, in the wedding industry, we book out probably 18 months to a year in advanced and before I even knew it, the following year, I had lost 50% of my income just by sitting on my coattail.

John:So that’s powerful because there’s so many times as entrepreneurs, we are going to be just on this rollercoaster. You’re going to have the highs of highs and then the next day you’re going to wake up and something is going to happen. You’re going to be immediately in the lows of lows. It is such a balancing act. But one thing that you can never forget is that when you start feeling comfortable, when you start thinking, “You know what, I have this thing figured out,” you better start getting worried.

Because you don’t join the world of small business, you don’t become an entrepreneur to feel comfortable. And if you start feeling comfortable, that means you’re no longer operating at the top of your game and there are people flying by you on both sides of the road just a million miles an hour.

Entrepreneurs, Michael, need to feel uncomfortable. They need to push the envelope. They need to get outside of where they’re feeling like there’s no fear into a place where they’re being paralyzed by fear every now and then. I’m doing that with my business every single day, every single week, every single month. And when I go a couple of days without doing that, I’m like, “Woah, what can I do right now to make it so that I am just scared, that I’m nervous about what I’m going to do might fail?” Because I want to fail. I want to fail often so I can learn from those. And you did too. So, Michael, what do you do to turn it all around? What did you do to take that disaster in the making and bring it back in?

Michael:Well, I can sum it up in six words and it’s — I can’t believe I forgot it. It’s instilled to me in basic training: While you sleep, the enemy trains.

John:  While you sleep, the enemy trains. And there’s actually a commercial not too long ago that I loved. It was during the NFL play, NBA playoffs, where Lebron James would wake up in a cold sweat, he looked around, because he had a dream of Dwayne Wade practicing. So he’d run to the court, start practicing. It was all a dream, of course. But then what would happen. Then Dwayne Wade wake up and he’d be having that dream that Lebron James is practicing.

And while you sleep, other people are getting better. Why do I do a seven-day a week podcast? Because I know that if I lean back on my laurels — Entrepreneur On Fire won best of iTunes in 2013. I’m getting over 800,000 downloads a month. I’ve had over eight million since I’ve launched. I can go back to three times a week, maybe even once a week. I’ve built up a subscriber list. They love it. They would love it, I’m saying, but they’d be fine with it. I could keep producing content on a much less consistent level and probably still be doing pretty well.

But that will never happen because I would only be doing pretty well for a short period of time before those people that are training while I’m just off doing gosh knows what those other six days of the week when I should be producing another podcast, they’re just flying by me. Before I know it, my eyes would be opened up and I’d be like, “Woah, what happened?” And, Michael, I want to bring things to today, your business right now. Share with High Speed Nation the one thing that has you most fired up right now.

Smart Passive Income Michael: John, I’m really excited about the flexibility that’s going through my business because right now I’m working less hours than I did last year and I’m making about the same amount of money. This is because I started working in batches. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. I listen to you. I listen to Smart Passive Income, the School of Greatness. I’m addicted to podcasts. I’m just going out there. I’m batching my work. So why fill eight hours a day with work, which was what I was doing last year, to I can just hunker down and get it done in three, four hours and then I can spend the rest of the time with my family or just doing my other things that I like to do.

Like right now — I would say we, but really I bought a house at auction last year for $5,000 and I’d been blogging about the renovation process and cleaning it out and trying to do it as an environmentally friendly as possible. Like I said earlier, I’m an amateur blogger. Just having fun doing that stuff aside from photography.

John: I love that in so many reasons. And I’m sure that, Michael, you’ve heard me say on Entrepreneur On Fire, if you listen to more than one episode because I typically hey say this quite often, because I think it’s so important for entrepreneurs, for small business owners, in this case High Speed Nation to listen to, and that’s Parkinson’s law. I mean, Michael could wake up one day and have eight hours and he wants to accomplish eight things. Guess what? It will take him eight hours to accomplish those eight things in all likelihood.

But if Michael decides, “You know what, I’m going to spend time with my daughter. I’m going to take her to the park. I’m going to hang out with my wife. I’m going to do this. And then at noon until 4:00 p.m., I’m going to get myself four hours to do those eight things.” Parkinson’s law will come into effect here. Tasks will expand to the time that you allot them. So, if Michael, if he allots eight hours to some task, it will take him eight hours.

But if he only allots four hours, shockingly and surprisingly, and believe it, it’s almost like magic, High Speed Nation, that will be the reality. And you’re seeing it first hand, Michael. I mean, you are taking tasks that you used to take all day on, compressing them down, batching them, making sure that you’re back to back to back and knocking things out, just like I’m doing 16 interviews today for this podcast, for High Speed Low Drag.

I do eight interviews for Entrepreneur On Fire every single Monday. I batch so that I can do other things on other days and leverage my time, scale my knowledge. So, great point you brought out there. It’s just something really exciting I see in your future. You continue to be starting now using the time that you’ve freed up, Michael, to other paths, to other directions.

You have this blogging thing. It’s exciting that you have this free time now. What is one thing on the horizon that you’re really excited about?

Michael: Well, right now, it’s my dream home. My wife and I, we just closed less than a week ago — People said the American dream is dead but not for us. We got our 11 acres with a pond and a stream and a little house on it and life is good. We just can’t wait to get in there. She’s been cracking the whip on me to get it painted and cleaned up and ready to move in the next couple of weeks. So we’re just so excited to be out in our “dream home”.

John: How great, High Speed Nation, does that sound? And I will say that, Michael, I mean, hopefully that roof is patched up too with those thunderstorms you have there.

Michael: Oh, yeah. It’s solid.

John: Solid as a rock, baby. So, Michael, we’re going to transition now into the lightning rounds. You’re going to share some incredible resources, some mind blowing answers. Are you prepared?

Michael: I’m ready to go.

 John: What was the most difficult adjustment that you had to make to the civilian world?

Michael: Honestly, it was being lonely. I mean, going from being surrounded by hundreds of brothers and sisters in arms that you have such a tight connection with because of the similar way of life and the conditions you’ve all been through together to being self-employed with no teammate on my left or right. I was literally all by myself.

John: Scary place to be. What business advice would you pass along to those making the transition now?

Michael: Invest in yourself and start now.

John: And listen to podcast.

Michael: And listen to podcast.

John:  Well, everybody that’s hearing these words is listening to a podcast, so give yourselves a pat in the back. Michael, what is one of your habits that contributes to your success?

 Michael: The consistent need to prove people wrong. Like getting promoted in my MOS. It was a closed field. People said I’ll never get promoted. I ended up being a sergeant in two and a half years. And then when I opened up my studio, other photographers are, “What are you doing? Everybody is closing their doors and going outside for photos.” And I said, “Not me. We’re going to make this happen.”

John: Love that. What would you say the biggest generalization, if any, that you’ve ever had to overcome in the civilian world?

 Michael: That I’m not brainwashed. People just assume that you go through the military and you come out like a robot. But it’s not the case.

John: In fact, oftentimes it’s the opposite. A lot of people that spent the last four years or plus in the civilian world have been poorly brainwashed. So, Michael, what book do you recommend to our listeners?

Finding Ultra by Rich RollMichael: Finding Ultra by Rich Roll.

John: He has a great podcast, do you know that?

Michael: I listen to it all the time.

John: It’s an amazing book.

Michael: That’s what got me started in listening to podcast. I read his book. I decided I want to be a tri-athlete. I started training and then having all these hours on the bike. I had to fill in my time and I can’t listen to Pandora so then I got into podcast, the School of Greatness, and then I found Pat Flynn. And then from his, I found you. Now, it’s just like I’m not training anymore but I’m still filling up my day with awesome content and not listening to mind numbing music.

 John:  No more Miley Cyrus, Michael. No more Miley.

Michael: Negative.

John: And thank God there’s that crazy guy with that seven day a week podcast, right? I mean, come on.

Michael: I’ll never be bored again.

John: So, Michael, you’ve been so inspiring, so open and honest with High Speed Nation today and we thank you for that. Give us one parting piece of guidance. Share the best way that we can find you and then we’ll say goodbye

Michael: My parting piece of guidance would be, again, just to invest in yourself, to take the time to figure out what you want. Even if you don’t know what you want, take the time to try something and then if it doesn’t work out, just change the direction. Go somewhere else but keep going until you find your own path. Get your own voice out in the world. And where you can find me? I’m everywhere, Michael Molinski. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook. And then check out my website, 49columbia.com. That’s the blog I’m writing about my adventure with house renovation.

John: I love it. Well, High Speed Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with Michael and myself today so keep up the heat. And, Michael, thank you for being so generous with your time, with your expertise and experience. Fire Nation salutes you. And we’ll catch you on the flip side.

Michael:Thanks, John. Semper fi.

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