Before the age of 18, Jayson was a globally recognized entrepreneur being featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS 48 Hours, and the Wall Street Journal. Fast forward 20 years and Jayson has become a world-class entrepreneur dedicated to paying forward the lessons learned and helping others transform their dreams into reality.
Q: Jayson, what is your recipe for success?
A: I don’t know if I have figured out that exact recipe yet. When I think back over the years, I have always had this flame inside me that has driven me to achieve. Of every quality, persistence is the one that has been most key. It has kept me from giving up when most people would have. Next would be a deep confidence in myself and my abilities, which minimized the fear of failure. I’ve never been afraid to try something new if it makes sense. I always try to keep an open mind and not get too married to my ideas. If I distill it to the top 3 characteristics, it would be persistence to push through, deep desire to achieve, and the discipline to create the habits necessary to succeed.
Q: You mention a flame inside you that has been there since youth. What were you like as a child?
A: Shorter and smaller, otherwise not much different.
I was always eager to achieve and prove myself to the world. I felt when I was young that I was destined to do something bigger and be someone that contributed to the world. My inner voice told me I could do anything if I set my mind to it. That minimized fears and anxieties which cleared the path for me to follow my dreams.
Q: You got started in business at a young age and dropped out of high school. What motivated you to do that and can you describe what your self-talk was like during that time?
A: That’s a deep question!
I remember certain mantras (from my mom) from when I was a boy: “always try your best,” “you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” “get good grades and you’ll be successful.”
I recall being very focused on my grades because I wanted to be a “success” in life. I was a high performer in school until I learned that I could be a success in life without getting good grades and succeeding in school. I discovered this by accident when I was in middle school and I was paid $20 to help one of my teachers with her home computer. It was very much like the light bulb going off and I said to myself “if she would pay me $20, who else would pay me and could I earn more?”
By the time I was in high school my head wasn’t in the proverbial game any more. All I could think about is how I could leverage and maximize my skill to earn money and be successful. My grades started to slide and I had zero interest in traditional education.
I recall in my 10th grade year there was an opportunity to build several hundred computers and ship them to another country. I went “all-in” (the opportunity didn’t materialize) but that didn’t deter me. I was hooked on the thrill of earning a living and building my business.
I loved computers but the thrill wasn’t from computers. It was about using my skills and abilities to create and provide value to others and then receive a reward ($) for that effort.
The decision to leave school was easy for me. I remember for a split second thinking “what’s my backup plan?” Then “do I need a backup plan?” and then “if this doesn’t work, I’ll find another way to achieve my dream.” The decision was made and there was no turning back or looking back. I never gave high school another thought, not even when my fortunes changed.
Q: What did you want “to be” when you grew up?
A: As a child I was always looking for ways to earn money. This was mostly because my mother taught us to save up for half of anything that we wanted to buy. I did everything from pull weeds to sell gum at school to make some extra walking around money.
I had an innate sense of justice and I wanted to fight evil. I always liked Batman because he was a super hero and a successful businessman. I thought I would grow up to have super powers. When I realized I wouldn’t have super powers I decided it would be neat to be a comic book artist. It was a nice idea but my grandfather told me that it would be difficult to build a business that way and I started losing interest.
As far back as I can remember I loved to solve problems, to fix things, to build things. My grandfather had a workshop where he would fix tools and he let us take broken tools and electronics apart. I remember fixing a broken electric shaver and these experiences made me want to be an inventor.
As I became a teenager became more focused on earning money and went through phases of wanting to be a doctor, and a lawyer, and a computer programmer. I was in love with problem solving and loved puzzles. Computers became my outlet during those awkward teenage years. When my brother and I built our first computer at 13 years old, I was hooked. That passion turned into my first business: “Meyer Technologies.” When I was able to combine my passion at the time (computers) with money I thought computers were my calling in life.
I didn’t know it at the time but my true passion was solving problems and making things work the best way possible. It took me years to realize that it wasn’t the computer I loved. It was commerce.
Q: What was your self-talk like as a kid? What did you think about and what motivated you?
A: As a kid I thought constantly about making money. I saw money as freedom. I wanted to work as hard as I needed to in order to build a fortune. I was very enamored by money and the freedom and flexibility that I saw people with money seemed to have. I wanted that freedom.
The voice in my head was like a motivational coach (or military boot camp instructor depending on how you look at it). When I would be ready to throw in the towel on a school project or something difficult, I can remember hearing “don’t give up, don’t be a quitter, you can do this.” Sometimes it would threaten me with “do you want to be average and ordinary? I know you aren’t lazy, are you procrastinating? Are you doing everything you can.” Mostly it was curious “how do you think that works? How could we fix this? How is this built or engineered?”
All of this self-talk was driven by an innate desire to succeed and understand the things around. Mostly I wanted to understand how things worked and what other people thought about. Like most kids, I wanted to be rich and famous one day.
Q: A lot of people struggle with self-assurance and self-worth. “Fake it till you make it” is a mainstream concept that many people refer to. Even the most educated and successful among us struggle with self-confidence. Where does your confidence come from? How do you build it and how do you prevent it from controlling you?
A: First, let’s talk about “fake it till you make it.” I don’t agree with that mindset. I have seen it breed a fear of asking questions and admitting mistakes. It can cause “imposter syndrome” and actually be detrimental to personal growth. Instead I believe you should practice the art of “humble inquiry” and learn to ask questions and be authentic about strengths and limitations.
My personal philosophy is about failing forward which requires you to humbly approach new situations and apply discipline, desire, and determination towards achieving breakthrough moments. I define a breakthrough as a moment in time where the impossible becomes possible.
The more you fail and are able to recover, you start to build a “coat of armor” that protects you. This coat of armor is actually your ego and it is like the immune system to your confidence. 2 things can attack this immune system: 1) self doubt 2) hubris. Both of these can make you sick and you can even cause your own “auto-immune” disorder where you start sabotaging yourself.
I have learned that there are only 2 things that you can control and those are 1. What you think about and 2. How you respond to the things that happen. Based on this knowledge I approach each situation with the quiet confidence that no matter what happens I’ll either find a way or make a way. That helps me to stay calm inside which in turn helps me to perform at my personal best.
Q: Fear seems to be a limiting factor for just about everyone. The fears of poverty, the fear of failure, the fear of illness… What were you afraid of in the early days and what are you afraid of now? How did you conquer that fear?
A: Fear can limit even the most talented amongst us. It can also motivate us to achieve new things if it is mastered and harnessed. So what are we afraid of?
Growing up I liked to tell myself I wasn’t afraid of anything. What I was masking was a deep fear of death and a fear of losing my business and the money I had earned. Once I was able to be honest with myself and recognize my limiting thoughts and beliefs I could start to work on them. Whatever your favorite flavor, fear is a terrible master because it makes you see things that aren’t there.
The first step to mastering fear is to recognize it for what it is and put it into perspective. Then you have to work on it. I cannot say that I have mastered fear but I put it in its place.
Q: A lot of entrepreneurs talk about the challenge of having structure and staying disciplined when “you’re the boss.” What has your experience been and how do you stay disciplined?
A: Most people wake up in the morning and they don’t have a choice whether to press snooze or not on the alarm. Anyone self-employed or without a direct boss to report to each day knows you have to self-manage and self-motivate.
As children we were slaves to our impulses and as we grow into adults we become slaves to our habits. Rather than fight this I have embraced it. If I am going to be a slave to my habits I choose good and intentional habits. Each person has to decide what habits (routines and activities) will help them achieve their dreams. Then it just becomes a matter of conditioning.
I have found that discipline is like a muscle that can get stronger with practice. The best advice I can offer anyone is to paint a picture of how you “want to be” and then combine that with intense desire. That will strengthen the discipline muscle and pull you towards the habit.
Q: What motivated you to be successful when you first got started and how has that changed?
A: I wanted to win at the game of life. I wanted to be the most successful and richest person in the world. I thought money was the key to winning the game of life. I had been conditioned by society into thinking money equated to “winning.” Interestingly, I struggled to accumulate and save money while I was chasing it. It ran from me. I had been in business about 10 years (25) and I lost a client (they didn’t renew) and it stung. I learned a really valuable lesson that has stuck with me:
You rarely get fired for doing a good job. If you do a great job someone will always want to hire you. If not today, sometime soon.
Today what motivates me is much different. I like to convert my visions and dreams into reality. I enjoy solving interesting problems and doing interesting work. No matter what I am doing, I focus on the quality of the output for that job.
It really is that simple. If I focus on quality work people will want to hire me and pay me. The better the outcomes the more they will be willing to pay. It was an epiphany of the utterly obvious but it changed my approach.
Q: How do you stay motivated?
I am a learning machine. I am driven by the desire to understand how the world and the universe work. It is a hunger to learn that drives me.
For me the key has been to remain “hungry” at all times. To never let myself feel too comfortable. To do that I am always learning and growing in mind, body, and spirit.
Q: What was the largest challenge you faced earlier on? How did you overcome it?
A: Starting at a young age, and not having formal education, I struggled to be taken seriously. I always had a boyish look and it was difficult early on to get customers to say “yes” because of the age barrier. Every time I would fail to get a contract or a job I would blame my age. It became my go to excuse. I would even add-on 2-3 years to my actual age so that I’d be taken seriously. In some ways my own limiting thoughts and beliefs about my age became a self-fulfilling prophecy (I made it true).
As I grew the company I recognized the importance of credibility. I worked diligently to be “professional.” I wore ties and did all the right things to demonstrate my credibility.
I overcame the hurdle by building a reputation of doing quality work, focusing on my professionalism, and building my credibility. I learned credibility is a form of capital in and of itself.
Q: How do you handle changes in life and business and what tips do you have for managing that change?
A: “Change isn’t easy” is a phrase that most of us have heard and many of us can relate to. If we have certainty that a change is going to benefit us in positive ways (say winning the lottery or a scratch off) we are less resistant to the change.
As human beings we are really good at recognizing patterns. One of the primary ways we learn is through pattern recognition. When we become comfortable with a pattern we feel “in control” because we know what to expect. New patterns mean uncertainty and a lack of control (at least temporarily).
The reason change is difficult is because of the uncertainty that goes along with it. There is an underlying fear that things changing might not be changing for the better. That makes us as human beings feel unsettled and a little worried.
The way I approach it is by gathering as much information as I can to minimize the uncertainty. I look for the positive outcomes that should happen from the change. If I can’t find anything positive then I just suck it up and to come to grips with the “certainty” of “uncertainty” (the only thing certain is that things will change and be uncertain).
As a co-creator in this universe (we are all co-creators) I have an obligation to make the things in my sphere of influence the best they are capable of being. If something isn’t working right I have a responsibility to make it better.
Q: You left high school when you were in your sophomore year. How did you learn the things necessary to be successful without finishing high school or attending university?
A: First, let me state that I think everyone should receive a higher education and that the value of higher education is priceless. That being stated there are different methods of higher learning and I believe university is just one of those methods.
When I was 15 I made a conscious decision to pursue my dream and vision for success. I recognized that I would have to do some learning on my own but I was naïve to how much and how intense it would be. I was desperately seeking someone to model and emulate (a mentor) and I was hungry for knowledge.
I recall thinking if I want to be successful in life and business I should read what they read at Harvard Business School. I sought out any information I could find about their curriculum, syllabus, and required reading. I read many of the same books and business case studies. The difference was I didn’t have the experience to properly interpret and filter what I was reading. So began a long series of learning through mistakes and temporary failures. The key to learning what any of us need to know is to ask the important question: “why?” My hunger for knowledge has always been insatiable and that created a drive that constantly pulls me towards my goals.
Q. What person, place, or thing has helped you the most in business?
A. I’d have to say my mom and dad. My mom engrained in me a belief that I can do anything. She helped me to believe in myself and develop a mindset of success. My dad has always believed in me and supported my dreams. They’ve both always been in my corner for moral support and advice. Ayn Rand and Napoleon Hill are two authors/philosophers that have shaped my thinking and this has had a direct impact on my success.
Q. Can you recall a breakthrough moment or lesson that helped you accelerate success?
A. Yes! Whether we realize it or not we all develop limiting thoughts and beliefs based on our experiences and failures. When we think about our dreams and goals our self talk tells us that we need to “be smart” and find balance between risk and reward. We filter our dreams or the opportunity against the backdrop of our past experiences. Our survival mind kicks in and tells us all the things that can go wrong. This automatically limits our creativity. For me, the break through moment was truly realizing that anything the mind can conceive it can achieve. When you believe this in your DNA your world will change, in amazing ways!
Q. If you could travel back in time to visit your younger self what would you tell yourself?
A. I’d tell myself to keep hustling and never give up. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and everything will work for you in amazing ways. I would encourage the younger me to have the courage to dream big and not worry so much what people say and think. I’d also remind myself that life goes by in a blink and that what truly has value are relationships and memories.
Q. How important are mission, vision, and values in your business?
A. I believe that we “live for something, or die for nothing.” If there is not a good and valid reason that we are doing something, we shouldn’t do it. We must be intentional and conduct ourselves in a manner that aligns us with the laws of nature and the universe. Mission, vision, and values aren’t just nice things to have – they are the fundamentals to everything.
Q. How do you define success?
A. Success is the balance between achievement and fulfillment. Ultimately, it is happiness. When you decide exactly what you want, your brain automatically starts to figure out what is needed. The key is clarity. The more clarity you have creates a compound effect on the critical path to success. Anyone can be successful but you can’t schedule success. You can’t push it. You have to be present when it decides to show its face.