Q&A: Former Ibanker / PE Associate & a former Consultant. We now run a business coaching charisma and lifestyle design

I (Ben) went to Wharton undergrad and studied Economics with a concentration in Finance. I started college as a Philosophy major but transferred to Wharton after my freshman year. Afterwards I did two years of investment banking (M&A) and two years of private equity. Now I run a business teaching men how to be consistently charismatic in any situation, such as with high status individuals, incredibly beautiful women, interviews, speeches, etc.

I (Charlie, @charlie_kickassacademy) have an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from American University and a master's degree in Business from UVA. I worked as a consultant before co-founding Kickass Academy with Ben.

Happy to answer questions on anything. Some topics you guys can feel free to touch on include:

  • University applications and decision making of where to go
  • Recruiting, Networking, and Interview advice
  • Anything related to work
  • Starting an internet business
  • Living abroad
  • How to build strong relationships with your bosses
  • Being charismatic

Comments (66)

Feb 11, 2014

Do you ever feel as if you are duping lonely and insecure men into paying exorbitant coaching fees (likely more than most therapists and psychologists charge) by promising to change them into James Bond by the end of your program?

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Best Response
Feb 11, 2014

Nope! I don't work with lonely and insecure men, I work specifically with high achievers that already have charisma and are successful with people, but want to be next level great at it. And I can't dupe anyone, because all of my clients have the right to cancel our relationship the second they don't feel that they are getting way more than their money's worth.

Lastly, I have neither the skills nor the firearms experience to train anyone to be a fictional government super spy.

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Feb 11, 2014

I didn't expect you to answer this so gracefully... Well played.

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Feb 11, 2014

What has been the biggest challenge for your internet business and how did you overcome it (I'm thinking maybe getting traffic/being worried the content won't resonate or something along those lines)?

Feb 11, 2014

When you're an employee especially at the junior levels, you show up to work when you're supposed to, you do what you know you have to do, and you get paid. And in finance, probably paid very well.

When you own your own business, you're responsible for all of these things you probably have absolutely zero experience with (website design, marketing, writing, setting up a sales funnel. etc.) and no one tells you what to do about it. No one tells you when you are fucking up, you just notice that you have less money in the bank account.

What did I over do to overcome it? Well, my first month, I paced around like an anxious cat, panicked about the mountain of tasks I had to do, stupidly focused on the urgent or the easy, not the important, and made no money. It was awesome ;-)

Several months later, my biggest takeways are:
- partnerships are crucial
- understanding your ideal cleints is more important than creating the content you feel like, and
- do whatever you can to be around smart people that have had the success you want because they have invaluable advice

Last thing: if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to fail at stuff. Do something you don't know how to do, suck at it, get better. Repeat. That's the winning formula.

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Feb 11, 2014

Do you ever regret leaving the financial world?

Feb 11, 2014

I have to acknowledge that this might be a possibility one day - life is long and the future is unknowable. It's been less than 1 year so far. That being said, I really really love life right now. I'm incredibly happy, love what I'm doing, am excited by learning the skills I need to grow a business, and have tons of time to spend with my friends / family and do whatever it is I want to do. So far, no regrets.

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Feb 11, 2014

This is hypothetical, but what would've been your next move had you stayed in finance?

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Feb 11, 2014

Hmmmm, this is hard to say for sure. I probably would have tried to recruit for a hedge fund to see if I enjoyed doing that, with the plan of business school afterwards if I didn't.

Feb 11, 2014

Thanks for the reply!

Another quick couple of Q's - Did you feel that you learned how to "think like an investor" during your PE stint? Was there a skillset that you thought you gained from your time in PE?

Feb 11, 2014

Tips on how to achieve very good grades in Uni/High School. Thanks.

Feb 11, 2014

Here's my very general advice for any success in life. Everything is going to be hard. Filter for the stuff that you're willing to put the work into because you care about it.

So for school, take classes you like because you care. This will help you do well. Also, find something like Rate My Professor. A good professor makes a world of difference. Some professors are better teachers, some are better graders, and when you find one who is both you are going to be very happy.

If your class is quantitative and they have practice exams, or even better, exams from past years, take them all. Make sure you understand anything you get wrong.

Last thing worth noting: There are more important things in college than getting a 4.0 GPA. Learn. Connect with awesome people. Read the 4HWW and start a business. Party. College is an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity - don't make it solely about grades.

Hope that helps!

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Feb 11, 2014

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting an online business? What are some of the key things to consider for a online business when beginning?

Feb 11, 2014

The challenges are not unconquerable, but there's too many to list them all. Just to write a word on the internet, I needed to figure out domain hosting, content management system, wordpress theme design, etc. All totally doable, all initially mildly frustrating. Our cart crashed for months when we first started, generally due to traffic - meaning we were incapable of selling at the exact moments when sales were coming in.

The real answer is this - challenges will come and they are unpredictable. But all 100% solveable. The key is, you have to care enough about it to continue in the face of mild frustration.

Some key things to consider when beginning an online business are:

- Your name.
- Who is your ideal client and what are their wants / needs? How are these unmet by what's currently out there?
- What are your plans for driving traffic? Lots of good options, you can buy it, you can distribute content, you can use other business's distribution platforms, you can have affiliates market for you. Each has pros and cons and is a skill
- How much money do you need to make to break even? What do you need to sell of what you are offering to hit that number? What is your plan for those sales? Make sure you are making reasonable assumptions on traffic, conversion from traffic to qualified leads, and from leads to sales.

**NOTE: Some great resources for starting a business if you have interest are Running Lean, Marketing Step By Step, and The Four Hour Workweek.

There is also a company called The Foundation that will help you start a business if you are interested.

My advice for any first-time entrepreneurs - pick any idea, no matter how stupid, and run with it. It will cost you a few grand and it's the best way to learn.

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Feb 11, 2014

I have long thought about going the entrepreneurial route, but being an analytical/cynical guy, I often analyze my way out of things.

My questions:
1. How did you come up with the idea of this?
2. What got you to the point where you started viewing this as a serious business, enough for you to quit your day job? How have you, or have you, replaced income while you were getting off the ground?
3. How have you been sourcing and developing clients? I know you have an online presence but are you also reaching out to people directly, like with a sales team of sorts?

Feb 11, 2014

Great question! Also great self honesty. Just be careful - being analytical is SUPER important, but sometimes practicality is just fear in disguise.

1.) I love self improvement and growth, the idea of maximizing my potential, learning new things, and always being better than I was the year before. I got into just for fun, reading about psychology, body language, speaking with a presence, etc. I spent years working on my own charisma, and it has transformed my life incredibly. So I wanted to work with other guys that are similar to me and teach what I've learned.

2.) My thinking here was the following: I want to control my own schedule, do something I enjoy, and be geographically independent. I couldn't do that from megafund PE for at least a decade. So I knew I'd have to make a change. I quit my job not knowing if this would work or not, but knowing that I was willing to try and try again until it worked. And I have conviction that something will work because I have faith in myself to be successful. So I'll just keep trying until I succeed. This business happens to be going really well and looks like it'll be able to support me in 2014, which is awesome, but I left my job accepting that it might fail and I'd have to come up with something new. Open a hostel, throw parties for the World Cup, teach english on the side, play guitar on the street, become a stripper, I just felt like there are so many ways to make money that I'd figure it out.

3.) We don't have a sales team, but we do reach out to potential clients directly. We have the website, referrals from past clients, and we meet a lot of people in normal course life who take an interest in what we do once we've met. That's our client acquisition strategy for now. We're looking to create partnerships and affiliate with others to create a fourth channel as well, but have just started on that this month.

Feb 11, 2014

I'll be graduating in May and starting FT in July.
-What's a good way to make a strong first impression my first few months on the job?
-How can I build a good relationship with my boss without coming across as a kiss-ass to everyone else?

Feb 11, 2014

Well, you have the right idea. The first impression is huge. If they view you as a good worker and someone they like, everything you ever do gets filtered through that lens.

First, do good work. Be perfect. Sometimes you'll have to make tradeoffs between length/expansiveness and quality per page. Err on the side of making everything that leaves your desk 100% perfect, even if it has a bunch of pages that say to be done. This is a HUGE shift from school, where breadth often trumps perfection.

At any "get to know you" bring your personality immediately. Don't try to hide to feel to avoid making an impression until you know everyone better. Come prepared to crack jokes and talk about things you care about outside of work. The pattern you set in the first weeks is the pattern of interaction you'll live with for the rest of your time.

For the second question, Ben's second post "Technical Skills Won't Get You To Partner . . ." Don't just use the tips with the higher ups. That way you aren't playing favorites and you aren't a kissass. You're just a positive presence to everyone

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Feb 11, 2014

Ben, I truly am inspired by your story, and do not intend to be blunt or disrespectful, but I have to ask.

What makes you think that Kickass Academy is a good business idea?

Without a doubt, you've got a more impressive finance pedigree than I ever will. However, everything about this business seems to me to be a private equity investor's very worst nightmare.

I'm genuinely curious to hear why you felt that THIS startup was worth leaving a career that most WSO-ers dream of.

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Feb 11, 2014

Thanks HankyFootball, happy to inspire!

Curious, what makes you think it's a nightmare business? I'm not saying I disagree, I just want to hear your thoughts before I answer so I make sure I understand what assumptions we're coming in with. I'll probably agree with a lot of what you have to say - although I happen to think overall it's not such a terrible idea ;-)

Haha in all seriousness and to be clear, if you put Kickass Academy on my desk when I was in PE, it would have been a pass. No doubt. But I wake up and love my days and would do a lot of it for free even with $100m in the bank - like this AMA for example. So a pass for PE might still be a great small business for me to run.

Also, part of the answer is definitely this - I didn't leave finance because of THIS startup idea. Not at all.

I left because I wanted to take a shot at creating my dream life. I didn't know it would be this, I had no idea if this would work at all. But if it fell flat on its face, I would try other things. Step one for me was "what would life look like if it was perfect?", step two was "what are ten ways I could get there?", step three was leave the job, and it was only step 4 to go all-in on charisma coaching.

Feb 17, 2014

"...I left because I wanted to take a shot at creating my dream life. I didn't know it would be this, I had no idea if this would work at all. But if it fell flat on its face, I would try other things..."

awesome awesome post. kudos and respect for giving it a shot.

in ferriss' 4hww he says he learned most people are confused about life. what do you take from that? steve jobs was known to "bend" reality in order to get what he wanted from life. he seems to have be one of the less confused about life, he wanted to make badass products for as many people as possible and doing it by bridging the humanities with science and he did it. segway into my real question here.. looking back on your finance career is it possible to think that way in finance with the people you worked with? curious which companies in high finance have these cultures? do they/does it exist?

someone else on here made a comment about "self help"..
"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." -- Leonardo da Vinci

you help people master themselves, people who pay because despite their success they still have the desire to be better people and your service reflects your own personal commitment to doing exactly that. best of wishes on your enterprise.

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Feb 11, 2014

The biggest question I have is this: how committed are you to living abroad for an extended period of time?

I ask for two reasons:

1.) I am very averse to living abroad. Simply never been my thing and I'm always curious to hear from people that are down to live outside the US for 3, 5, 10, or more years. Always interesting to me.

2.) I know literally zero about running the sort of business you are running. But, I'd be curious to see how easy it is to scale. This ties to my question because it seems like a key component would be keeping your cost structure super low since you're doing it full time and living abroad would let you do that.

Curious to hear your thoughts.

Feb 11, 2014

I'm open to living in many places. I'm in Rio until August, at which point we will probably be on the move again. At that point we'll probably be in the U.S. again for a bit, probably Vegas or LA because we have a few offers to speak and teach out there. After that I'd be open to coming back to Brazil, going to Colombia, or heading off to Europe or Asia. So the plan is to stay in several places for 3-12 month periods, over time return to the ones we enjoy, and eventually have 2-3 different places to call home and have a community. That will allow me to have variety, adventure, and connection at the same time.

That being said, none of this is set in stone. I'm purposefully being open minded about it because I want to allow myself the ability to redirect course as opportunity knocks.

I think this business is very easy to scale. Coaching is the hardest part because it is time constrained by the number of hours I'm willing to coach each week [4], but price can go up and if I really wanted to, I could coach for more than four hours a week. Online book and video sales are very scalable, as are hard copy books and DVDs. With fulfillment companies and partnerships, we don't even have to necessarily take inventory - you just take a hit on margin to keep it variable. Costs are generally low or variable.

Does that answer your questions?

Feb 11, 2014

Gotcha. I guess in my view it really depends on your ability to sell pre-produced products (i.e. videos and books). I said it would be difficult to scale only because I have no clue how viable that is, but moreso because it sounds like a business that is very much reliant on your time (you get paid for time spent working). However, if the work is stuff you'd do anyway and people are willing to pay you for it, then more power to ya.

Feb 11, 2014

Hey guys, thanks so much for doing this. I've read a couple of your posts and think it's really awesome what you guys are doing!

A few questions:

1) I find it interesting that you quit after working in PE for a bit and not during your first few years in IB. Clearly you felt that you had to do something else when you quit, but while you worked in IB did you enjoy it/feel satisfied? Or did you just keep going because you didn't know what else to do?

2) I think it's really interesting that charisma and similar traits can be "trained." To that extent, what books/activities were the most influential in improving these traits (besides some of the popular things like 'How To Win Friends and Influence People')?

3) Best case scenario, where do you see Kickass Academy in 5-10 years?

Thanks again, much appreciated and good luck with everything!

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Feb 11, 2014

Fantastic questions!

1.) I actually enjoyed private equity more than investment banking. But when I was in investment banking, I didn't leave to start a business because I wanted to finish my contract and I wanted to try private equity. Once I found private equity to be a definite improvement but still not my final calling, I decided to finish my contract and then focus on starting my own business. I wanted to see what PE was like before making my decision. Opportunity cost: two years of my life. Upside: great pay, learned a lot, made connections. I don't know what the right call would have been in hindsight, honestly the biggest factor was I wanted to finish the contract because I had said to them I would, so it was important to me to do so.

2.) Honestly, most of the books on charisma are awful. They're full of cliche advice or B.S. that barely makes a difference. That's why we're writing our own. You can get free early chapters of that book if you're interested, just sign up here and you'll be part of the first release of free stuff (http://www.kickassacademy.com/charisma-book/). Sorry I don't have more recommendations.

The best thing you can do is find people to model, in both real life and videos. Depending on your goals, that can be anyone from Russell Brand to Bill Clinton. Also How To Win Friends is absolutely an incredible book, one of the few great ones. I read it once a year.

3.) Best case scenario, here's where I see Kickass Academy in 5 years:

We change the name - this is actually already in process and should be done before the end of the month!

We focus on charisma, not just charisma with women, but charisma with high value men (mentors, CEOs, investors, etc.), giving speeches, capturing the attention of and engaging a room, interviewing, negotiating, etc. We also write more about happiness and fulfillment. This shift already started about a month ago, but I'd like to keep pushing it forward.

I coach 4 guys on Skype, probably for way more than we charge now. I also do one group coaching thing that has ~50 people in it. I spend no time doing client acquisition because our waiting list will grow faster than our clients graduate out.

We sell multiple books and videos on attraction, charisma, and leadership. Enough that I could shut down every other part of the business and not change anything about my lifestyle from a money perspective. We only write when we feel like it. Money no longer drives any of our decisions.

I give speeches to huge crowds at companies, universities, and organizations I care about. Speeches about operating at peak performance, leadership, team building, etc.

We've probably had a T.V. show.

That's my 5 year plan.

Feb 11, 2014

I am currently a junior in college at a non target business school with a 3.42. I am in the typical scramble mode for a summer analyst position. However, I have zero financial experience and what advice could you offer me at this point in my career. Ideally, I would like a front office role in IBD. However, I know that is unlikely. The main thing I have going for me is that I am a Division 1 athlete. I have applied to at least 50 places (half of them through OCR) and I managed to score two first round interviews with one BB and one large European bank. I am doing everything in power to break into this industry at this point..from cold calling and e-mailing, to chatting with alumni and what not.

Is my only option to take an unpaid internship at some small place in NYC?

I would appreciate any advice,

Feb 11, 2014

So I've never been in your exact position, but here are my thoughts:

Use your network from your athletics team. Talk to your athletics department about getting the names of alumni if at all possible and where they work. Email anyone who might be able to help.

Take the number of places you have applied. Double it. Now you should have 2x the interviews.

Nail your interviews.

Talk to your family and friends, friends of the family, anyone in your extended network. Try to use nepotism to get your foot in the door.

Go for non-NYC offices.

Feb 11, 2014

Assume you have to get a regular job at some point down the line. In that scenario, do you put 'Kick Ass Academy' as a line on your resume or do you have some alternate name for the business that you can use?

Feb 11, 2014

So I'm not 100% sure what I'd do in this situation, but my first instinct is yes. I do have another name I could put, which is the name of the legal entity, it's basically a random name that means nothing and raises no eyebrows. But at this point, I think to be hired I'd have to be applying somewhere where the people doing the hiring liked the my experience with KA or at least the courage/confidence/drive that it shows to run with something like this. I don't foresee being hired by a place that frowns about KA. To hire me, they'd need a sense of humor about it or even better, to think it was a unique experience that positions me incredibly well in their world of business. Hopefully I'll never have to know the answer to this question :-)

Feb 12, 2014

You are obviously very successful and self driven. Do you think, if you had foregone working, and instead focused on your start up from day one out of college, you would be better off? Do you think 4 years building a startup>than 4 years in finance. Learning-wise vs. income wise vs. happiness wise, what do you think?

Feb 12, 2014

Interesting question. My current decisions are based on that I think the next 4 years I will be better off than if I did 4 more years of finance, so it's hard to say I shouldn't have done it earlier. The opportunity cost money wise of leaving finance is certainly higher for me now than it would have been the last four years.

The one caveat I keep running through in my head is that I am able to do this because of the money I made the last four years. But Charlie doesn't have the nest egg that I do, and he's running right along with me, so that kind of invalidates that a bit. But it does make it easier to not stress about money short-term.

I don't regret not leaving earlier, but I'm really happy I left now instead of waiting, and I'm pretty sure that holding both of those as true doesn't make logical sense! Haha

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Feb 12, 2014

Hey Ben thanks for doing this.

Can you talk a bit about your lifestyle at the megafund as a PE associate? Were the hours as bad as you had it in banking? Did you have free weekends or no?

Any suggestions to non-targets that might be in a two yr analyst program at 2nd/3rd tier ranked banks and groups on how to successfully break into PE? As I'm sure you'd agree, pedigree plays a huge factor in getting an interview from the first place. Thanks!

Feb 12, 2014

thanks i appreciate the response

Feb 12, 2014


As someone who will be undergoing IB SA recruiting next year I was wondering if you could provide some interview advice? You've secured job offers at top firms so I was wondering what do you think are some of the most important deciding factors that tip the scales in an interview? I've heard a lot of people say that decisions are made in the first 5 minutes any thoughts on this?


Feb 13, 2014

Absolutely, happy to! If people say they are interested, I was considering writing a full article on this in the coming weeks.

So step one is nail your technicals. The best way to do this: mock interview. You can study finance math as long as you want, there's no replacement for experience the interview process. The next best thing is mock interviews. Force yourself to answer questions outloud. It can be with a professional, with career services, or with a friend also going through recruiting. Anything that simulates an interview by having you answer questions on the spot out loud. Also, get interview guides. WSO has some, Vault has some. Make sure you understand what kind of questions to anticipate.

Put time into prepping.

In the actual interview here are some tips: Don't sound like a recording, Keep things positive and avoid asking any negative questions (lifestyle, worst parts of the job, etc.) until post-offer, Get them describing good traits / associating you with good traits, Whenever possible for case interviews or long technical questions - asking questions > guessing and being wrong. Ask questions that get them thinking of you as a good candidate, such as "what makes a good analyst, not a good candidate, but a good analyst once on the job? Said differently, what are the common characteristics of the best analysts" and then nod your head as he's talking so that he gets the sense that you are that guy he is describing. Make sense?

Feb 12, 2014

Thanks for doing this. Your story is incredibly inspiring. Question:

Do you have any employees? If so, what are your employees responsible for? If not, where do you see hiring needs in the next 1-2 years? Does your business currently generate enough cash flow to justify hiring an employee? How many employees does a personal coaching / content-driven business need in order to operate as a 4HWW type business? Thanks.

Feb 13, 2014

My pleasure!

We have a few people that help us with specific tasks, such as a guy that runs our social media and a guy that helps sync our videos. We don't have any full-time salaried employees. I'd like to get someone who could help with content distribution and someone else to run product launches. Long-term, basically anything in the business that I don't enjoy doing, I'd like to automate, outsource, or hire for.

For a personal coaching / content-driven business to operate as a 4HWW type business isn't as hard as you think. You just need to grow your brand to the point where your coaching services has a waitlist so there's no client acquisition work (not that hard if you cap each coach at 4 clients at a given time) and set up your products so that they are automated (fairly easy). Then, assuming no new product creation, you're looking at 4 hours of coaching a week and 4 hours of content creation a week. So the 8HWW I guess. The reason that probably never happens, and it always stays around 15-20 hours, is because I imagine there's a constant drive to continue to grow, find partnerships, create new products, give speeches, etc.

For me the goal isn't actually a workweek limited to 4 hours, it's a 20-30 hour workweek doing only things that excite me. But if the goal was a 4 hour workweek literally, I think it's doable with less than a handful of employees and smart automation, assuming high quality content and a good brand.

Feb 12, 2014

Thank you, guys, for doing this. Hope I'm not too late.

1) Where did you guys first meet? Where/how did this partnership form?

2) Ben, you went from IB and PE to Kickass Academy, in doing so going from the world of high finance into charismatic success with women. What are the greatest common characteristics you see in both worlds? What did IB/PE teach you that helps you succeed in doing what you're doing now?

"A modest man, with much to be modest about"

Feb 13, 2014

1.) Charlie and I met when we were 16. He was the first person that ever showed me charisma is something that can be improved and not something static like eye color. We worked on a lot of self improvement / personal development together and became very close friends, and he actually started the business and then brought me in.

2.) I learned a lot of things from the working world that are incredibly formative for KA: I got to see great leaders in action (and bad leaders in action), watch which junior guys were well respected and why, learn how different types of personalities interact and how best to interact with each archetype, etc. The workplace is an incredible place to learn because it has people of different status, backgrounds, personality types, and they all have to co-exist. Common trait and habits cause similar types of people to rise to the top almost every time.

**The biggest piece of advice I'd give anyone in IB/PE is find the most successful people (whom you like) at your level and the senior levels, and watch what they say/do and how they carry themselves in different situations. Try to learn from them and model them. Just be careful who you learn from, because you will probably pick up a lot of their habits, both good and bad.

That's probably all stuff that isn't limited to IB/PE but really any job, although IB/PE certainly let me learn from some super successful people. The IB/PE specific stuff (modeling, thinking about large-cap business as an investor, finance theory, creating ppt presentations, etc.) doesn't really translate at all to internet marketing or entrepreneurship. But I did learn a lot about office dynamics, leadership, and things of that nature.

Feb 13, 2014

Way too many exclamation points!

Feb 13, 2014

Hi Ben, thanks for doing this. Very interesting so far.

My questions:

1) What has been the scariest moment in running Kickass? Did you ever feel over your head?
2) Did you have a eureka moment, when you realised finance wasn't doing it for you? Did the Kickass idea come organically (and you decided you needed to quit finance to pursue it), or were you really focussed on finding an idea to launch a business and leave finance?

Many thanks in advance!

Feb 15, 2014

Hey Donnie, my pleasure, glad you think it's interesting :)

1.) There haven't been any really bad scares so far (knock on wood). Honestly, one of my most heart racing moments was writing my first WSO post. Normally we write for an audience that has sought us out, and now here I was writing something personal to a group of people that didn't know me and hadn't asked for it. My heart was definitely pumping. Also I went back to visit my old employer and told everyone what I was doing, that was pretty scary. But I am very lucky to have worked at an A+ firm with great people, and they were incredibly supportive and awesome about it.

As far as feeling in over my head, definitely my entire first month in Rio I felt in over my head. I didn't speak the language, didn't have an apartment, didn't have a business, had no idea what I was supposed to be doing each day, and had no one to guide me. It was definitely overwhelming. I had to take a step back and really assess the situation and read a lot about entrepreneurship and productivity. Eventually I started to read things that would inspire me to take certain action, and I got to the point where I have a massive to do list, and I don't worry about the mountain of things in front of me. I just pick a few things to do each day and as long as I do those things I'm happy knowing I'm heading in the right direction. It's like the saying "how do you eat an elephant?". "One bite at a time". So now that the business is generating revenue and I have these productivity systems in place, I don't feel in over my head and I'm much happier and more excited about building out the business.

2.) My eureka moment came while reading The Four Hour Workweek (which I highly, highly recommend despite the silly title). I was reading about all these guys that had left their jobs to live in foreign countries, travel the world, make money while they sleep, and spend their time doing what they wanted to do. The author creates a straw man of an ivy league student who works really hard and doesn't have that lifestyle, and that straw man hit home with me.

I definitely didn't decide to quit finance because I wanted to start this particular business. I just knew I wanted to leave and try to create something. I decided to leave finance because I wanted to go to a foreign country, live in warm weather on the beach, and start a business that would give me freedom of location and time. When I left finance I had no idea what I'd be doing, I had a big list of ideas and really no definitive plans. I didn't even know what country I was going to, for a long time I thought I would go to Indonesia (which I would still like to do at some point). All I knew was what I wanted my life to look like a few years out.

Feb 17, 2014

Hey @Ben_KickassAcademy just wanted to thank you for the reply. Very interesting perspective, and I definitely look forward to hearing how your adventure transforms. I'm sure it will be interesting and enriching (not necessarily financially), which look to be your main motivations.

Will pick up a copy of the 4HWW this weekend!

Feb 16, 2014

What was your GPA? Just curious? Above or below 3.7. Interesting posts so far!

My posts will be fraught with grammatical errors since I post from my phone. I will try my best not to post an incoherent babble.

Feb 17, 2014


Feb 16, 2014

So how do you price your offering? and how exactly are you marketing your venture. is it primarily social media?

Also I want to be the devil in the room and say I would not like anyone in my office or school to know I am receiving "charisma training" from kickass academy...it just sounds so loser...heck! im the kind who would make fun of guys whose browser history showed " 10 ways to improve your....." kinda posts.

Iam sorry to be bad fly but wanted to get your views on this. Surely no matter how good your credentials are and how good your offering is, it still broadly falls loosely into "self-help" category and that doesn't exactly hold the aces with regards to consumer sentiments.

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it." ~George Moore

Feb 17, 2014

I don't exactly understand what you're asking in terms of pricing. In terms of marketing, it's primarily word of mouth and writing online. Writing online can be for our website, forums, other blogs, etc.

Sure, totally understand, there are certainly always going to be people that don't like self improvement. But there are other people that are really into personal development and leveling up / investing in themselves to learn how to be better at things. That's our client base, people that want to learn how to be incredibly charismatic. People that don't want to learn things or focus on self improvement aren't going to like what we do, but you can't please everyone, so it's more important for us to be a 10 out of 10 to the people looking to be their best.

Feb 16, 2014

Do you feel like you "wasted" your prestigious background? Going from Wharton--->Elite Boutique--->Megafund takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. I realize that you've answered the question of whether or not you want to be in finance, but how does it make you feel that there are basically no barriers to enter your current business--that you could've been a telemarketer for 3 years then continued on your current path(albeit with a lot less cash)

Do you like the idea of having a safety net of always being able to get a high profile finance job or prestigious MBA?

Feb 17, 2014

I don't feel like I'm wasting my prestigious background. I feel like in order to feel like I was wasting it, I would have to feel like there was something else I'd rather be doing at this moment.

Maybe your question is "Do I regret taking all of the time, energy, and effort to get a prestigious background in an area that doesn't currently help me with my desired goals?" - is that what you're asking?

I feel fine about the barriers to entry or lack thereof. I believe that we have best in class knowledge of human psychology and the science of charisma, and we're quickly upping our marketing ability, and if we can be better than our competition in those two areas, then we'll be successful. The ease with which other people can or can't try to do what I'm doing doesn't bother me.

In terms of my background giving me safety net, I would always rather have a safety net than not have one, but I wouldn't say it's a necessary part of starting a business. To anyone reading this who is considering something entrepreneurial, my advice would not be that you absolutely must go work four years beforehand.

Feb 17, 2014

Hey Ben,

Thank you very much for doing this. Contributions like these are what makes WSO so valuable, for me anyway.

I had a question about forming relationships with your bosses. I am going into IB full time in the Fall at the same bank where I did my summer analyst term. I had a good working relationship with my bosses (I believe they thought I was a good employee and trusted my work, believed I was a good addition to the team, etc)

However, in all of my jobs, I have found it hard to develop more personal relationships with my bosses. I sometimes have a difficult time talking about things other than work. I don't know if I feel uncomfortable because I don't want to be inappropriate or I don't want them to see me as not focused on work.

Some of my colleagues seem to have more personal relationships with my bosses, and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to develop those.


Feb 17, 2014

Absolutely! I think this is a frustration that a lot of people share, wanting to connect more with their bosses. It's a tricky thing to master, because you want to avoid being seen as a suckup or a try-hard, but you also do really want to connect with those people.

My #1 piece of advice, if I could only give one, would be this: notice which people in the office have close relationships with the senior people, and see what they talk about / do, what their relationship is. That will give you insight into what each of the high level people likes in his relationships with the junior people.

Also, befriend those mid-level people that have good relationships with the most senior level people. They will help you connect with those higher level folks and will speak highly of you when you aren't around.

Also, check out my second article on WSO, it touches on this. Find out what they like outside of work, and talk to them about that. Everyone has other things they love about work.

Take them up on any opportunities to go for drinks, lunch, or coffee, even if it means potentially staying a bit later that day for work.

Do high quality work and over deliver. That will get them to like you as well.

When you first start, if you want, you can take a quick walk around the office and introduce yourself to people. Tell them your name and that you just started. Tell them that you know they are very busy, but if they would be open to it, you'd love to talk to their assistants about scheduling a few minutes for coffee or lunch, so you can sit down with them and hear about their story, how they got their, etc.

Feb 17, 2014


I am sure, I will not be the last person to say this idea is great and not the first person.

My questions are what made you change from Philosophy to Econ and why in the first place you wanted to study philosophy? You also mentioned that you moved to Wharton, were you at different university?

"It is our fate to be tormented with large and small dilemmas as we daily wind our way through the risky, fractious world that gave us birth" Edward O. Wilson.

Feb 17, 2014

Thanks! Can never hear it too much :-)

So I started in Philosophy because I love discussing philosophy. But I had an intro class that didn't really elicit the students' opinions on philosophy, and was mostly on synthesizing famous philosophers. I'm sure this is just because it was an intro class, but at the time I was disappointed at the lack of discussion around strengthening or rebutting my views on if there was a god, what life is about, etc. So I decided to drop the major.

So now I'm an undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences at U Penn. I made friends with a few kids that really wanted to transfer into Wharton, thought Wharton was the best school at Penn, and made a big deal about it. It made me interested in transferring as well (although part of me thinks in hindsight it was also just to see if I could make it). I was always at Penn, I simply internally transferred from the College to Wharton undergrad.

I first wanted to be a Philosophy major because I love the discussion, I love the mental exercise of thinking about big philosophical issues, and because I think it's the best training ground for being logically sound. Charlie (my co-founder) was a Philosophy major, and it has given him an incredible ability to see the holes in arguments and quickly slice apart opposing positions. I also think that giving great thought to Philosophy increases your own integrity and gives you good perspective on the world.

Feb 17, 2014

Great posts thus far. One of the things that comes across in your posts (and I imagine this comes across in person as well) is a sky high energy level and positive outlook.

Do you think you've always been this way? Or is this something you've improved after your realizations about charisma in general?

Feb 17, 2014

Thanks @"PetEng". It's definitely something that has improved as I've studied and worked on my charisma.

One of the things I've realized in the last few years is that while we should all be ourselves, we should also CHOOSE ourselves. I had encountered throughout my life several people that were incredibly charismatic, everyone liked them. They were also effusive, positive, loving, and full of energy / full of life. It seemed like they were always having the best time anywhere they went, like their conversation was always the most interesting thing going on in the room.

I learned a lot from those people and modeled part of my behavior from each of them. It made my interactions with people more fun, which in turn made me more positive and effusive, and it became a virtuous cycle.

I was once a fairly sarcastic guy, looking (for humors sake) at the negative side of things, poking fun at things and at people. I realized it was making the people around me feel badly, because even if just for a moment, jokes still have the power to hurt. And by making negative jokes, it made me focus on the negative, and what you focus on = how you feel. So I eventually dropped that habit because it wasn't the type of person I wanted to be.

Another quick note, I changed my language choices a bit. There's an easy temptation when someone asks "How was the party?" or "How are you feeling?" to just say "fine" or "good". But if you take the extra second to actually think about the question, and instead of responding "good" you respond with something specific like "it was awesome, the music was great, the people were super friendly, and we were out til the sun came up!" it will actually make you stop and appreciate your life more, and make you a happier person. If you start using more effusively positive words, it will make you feel more positive.

Similarly, replace the negative words with weaker negative words. So instead of saying "I'm so depressed right now - ugh!", if you say "I'm a little bummed at the moment" you will literally feel less sad. How you describe an experience really plays a big role in determining how you experience an experience.

Long answer to a short question!

Feb 17, 2014

Currently: future psychiatrist (med school =P)
Previously: investor relations (top consulting firm), M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM)

Nov 4, 2014