Despite having written 50+ articles on this blog about my thoughts or projects I’m working, I haven’t yet written any sort of biography or explanation of who I am or what it is I do. I just don’t really like talking about myself (I know, ironic right?). In fact, one of the reasons I never got a ‘real job’ in the first place was to avoid having to write a cover letter or CV.
So instead of fixing that oversight, I have dug out this interview I did while in Chile for Deepak Shukla’s podcast back in April 2016. It does a much better job of explaining what it is I do than I could possibly write, and saves me the embarrassment of having to blow my own trumpet. I’ve added in links to more detailed blog posts on the topics we’re discussing. Enjoy:
Deepak: It’s great to finally connect with you. Ironically we’ve been meaning to speak for ages and the first time we actually do it is being recorded. I guess the best place to start is saying in 30 seconds what you would answer if someone were to ask you are “so what do you do?”
Sam: Ahh, that is the worst question ever. I absolutely hate it. Here in my Spanish lessons, I tell people that I am an escritor, a writer. That’s the easiest thing to say but it’s not really it at all. For the last year, year and a half I’ve been writing my blog, but that’s really just a hobby. An online journal documenting all the things I do. Umm, I do all sorts of things. I sell table tennis equipment. Started a coffee shop. I spent a year playing table tennis. I’m currently travelling the world. I used to be a professional gambler. I did a tech startup, which we eventually sold… umm…
D: And how old are you?
S: I’m 27.
D: Wow. That’s amazing and I know that I interrupted you because you could have continued so I’m wondering where is the best place to start. You know what, let me ask this. So you have obviously multiple different ways of deriving an income. Why do you do the blog if that’s not the part that makes you money?
S: So… before I started doing the blog everything I was doing was kind of behind the scenes. We’re going into the era of personal branding where your CV is your online presence. And I didn’t have any online presence at all.
With the gambling, it was all in secret where everyone is competing with each other to find the next thing and make money. So even though everyone in the scene knows each other, if you asked someone on the street what we do they wouldn’t have a clue. And it would take about an hour to explain.
Then after that, we started this table tennis brand which is doing really well, but it’s not physical. It doesn’t feel real. It’s all online. I’m running it here from Santiago. Literally, just before this call, I was emailing our freight forwarder to say we have got another 4,000 bats on route. But I’m never going to see those bats. They’re going straight to the warehouse and someone else is going to do the quality control.
You know what it’s like with business. It’s not really real so I thought let’s start documenting what I’m doing. It will be interesting and I’ve got a few friends who make a living out of their blogs so maybe eventually it will become an income source of its own. I’m a big fan of people like Pat Flynn over at smart passive income. Tim Ferriss, James Altucher. And all these guys end up doing the writing stuff and building a personal brand.
It’s going quite well and starting to turn into a bit of a business.
D: Yeah and now you spend your time doing Brazilian jiu-Jitsu, going out drinking as well as obviously managing your business. Did you have a mentor? Did you just kind of Google it and then apply what you found? Or was there a process to the way you’ve been able to diverge all these different things?
S: Umm, well I listen to a lot of podcasts… apart from that, not much.
You know, when you’re doing something which is so different to everyone else. Having a mentor or following the herd is kind of the opposite of what you’re doing. So I just do trial and error, giving stuff a go. Being a ridiculous optimistic. Honestly, I’m just one of those people who thinks you can give anything a go and there’s a good chance it will work out. I’m yet to be proved wrong so I’m just going to keep doing that.
The longer I do my own thing, the more anti I get to standard forms of education. I’m a big believer in being self-taught, learning yourself, trial-and-error. Nobody can tell you how to do it. People can point you in the right direction and you can do lots of research but you’ve gotta apply it yourself.
D: Are your kids going to be hippies, is that what you’re saying?
S: Haha. I’m actually a bit of geek. I like sleeping, I like computers, I like playing video games. But I also like doing my own thing.
D: Let’s say from idea, to creation, to revenue generation. Which of all of these things that you’ve done would you say is the easiest.
S: Probably an Amazon FBA business. That’s really hot at the moment. I’ll just shoot you through it quickly. The concept is really basic. Amazon is taking over the world; everyone buys everything on Amazon. If something is on Amazon prime I’ll even buy it even if it is a bit more expensive because of the ease of use.
But it is getting flooded with bad quality goods. People are just white labeling items shipped in from China and adding their brand to it. And they are making a lot of money from it. There’s a marketplace called Alibaba where you can get in touch with factories. People just go to these factories, get some cheap product made and ship them to Amazon using a system called Amazon FBA. Which means Amazon take care of your stock and your customer service.
It’s an easy business model but it’s saturated so don’t go there, it doesn’t really work anymore. What does work is looking for people who are doing well and then improving on whatever they’re selling and just doing it better than them. So much stuff out there needs just a few little tweaks to make it a lot better. You can tell by their bestseller rating how many they’re selling. Then you can predict your future revenue. It’s just a really easy straightforward business that doesn’t take much capital upfront. It does take time to get going, but it’s pretty straightforward.
D: I love the way it’s easy when you know how. You say all that and I’m like wow, I need to get my head around the idea of Amazon FBA first of all. One of the questions I have is how do you ascertain what is the issue with the product?
S: I mean, you know this as well as I do. Half that stuff is a blag. It’s all about the way you sell it. So you can look at reviews and see what people are complaining about and then just focus on that little thing to improve. It’s all about how you market it and how good your photographs are.
I say it’s not that difficult. It is difficult. There’s a lot to learn and it takes a lot of time. I started a coffee shop. That’s a very difficult business, it’s simple but difficult. The concept is simple but it’s very difficult to make money. Amazon FBA is complicated, but once you’re doing it’s very easy to make money.
D: Okay, that makes sense. I know that you just posted a blog post about it. Which reminds me your blog is called Arbing. But your name is Sam Priestley? Help me connect the dots please?
S: Okay, so Arbing is the name of what I used to do in gambling. It’s basically a slang term for arbitrage when applied to sports betting. You bet on multiple outcomes of a horse race or a football match. If there’s three outcomes, you find three different bookies and bet on all three different outcomes and lock in a profit. You’re basically looking for places where bookies are mispricing their odds.
That’s the concept. But the thing about arbing is that it applies to everything. So take Amazon FBA. With that business, all you’re doing is buying something which has been sold too cheaply in China and selling it on a marketplace where it’s worth a lot more. You are just arbitraging the price difference. That was my concept when I started the blog. Everything in online business, life and skill acquisition is all just an arbitrage between the different marketplaces. It’s a concept I’ve kind of gone away from because that’s really geeky and it’s actually just my personal blog.
D: I didn’t realise that, I just thought it was a random name but there’s like a detailed concept behind it.
S: And it’s a six-letter domain name. How many six letter domain names are there? I’ve also got sampriestley.com, maybe one day I’ll switch over to that.
D: Yeah, now I know what it actually means I’m actually quite impressed. I think it’s cool. I have a question: professional gambling, is it as sexy as you see in Hollywood or is it really boring?
S: It’s really boring. What we were doing was simply writing computer programs which would go and monitor every bookie in the world. It would monitor and compare the prices and then tell us when there was a discrepancy in the odds. Then we would go and bet on all outcomes and lock in a profit. It was boring, took a long time and made a lot of money. But eventually, I just quit. I got bored, had made enough money and decided to go do something more interesting. So I went and played table tennis for a year.
D: Entirely different adventures, that’s OK and lets me smoothly transition into asking about table tennis. But I will ask first, what is your take on Dan Bilzerian? Is he the real deal or is it rubbish? There are conflicting reports as to the source of his wealth.
S: I think he’s the son of a hedge fund manager. I don’t think he is very well-regarded in the online poker scene. But online poker wasn’t my scene. But as far as I know he’s just a good marketer.
What most people don’t realise about online poker is when you see these top players and they list their lifetime earnings, they don’t take off their losses from that figure. So let’s say you go to a tournament and you win a million dollars, that gets added to your lifetime earnings. But you might have entered a hundred different tournaments previously with entrance fees of a hundred grand each. So you can have all these huge lifetimes earnings and actually have lost money.
I think with poker there’s a lot more blagging then you realise. A lot of marketing and people selling their expertise.
Online poker, people do make money but the people who make the most money aren’t playing against good players. They’re sharking rubbish people on the lower stakes tables. Churning hours and hours each day.
D: Oh wow ok, that’s really really interesting dude. The myth debunker Sam Priestley. Have you ever taken a paid online course?
S: Haha. No I actually haven’t. I looked into quite a few ones about online gambling when I was researching that stuff and they were all a load of rubbish, but in terms of business I haven’t. There are some which I would happily pay for. Especially the ones where you get given a group of people you can chat with. I think they call them mastermind groups. I think that would be well worth paying for. Because, in that case, you’re paying to get rid of all the people who aren’t serious.
D: That’s an amazing insight actually. The mastermind. So dude, you’re 27. Is there like a plan that you have for the next couple years? Or are you just going to keep experimenting and having a blast?
S: In business, I have a few plans lined up. I want to start doing some talks and conferences. I think that would be quite interesting. Everyone tells me to get into consultancy. Have you heard of Carity.fm? It’s basically like Skype but people pay per minute to talk to you. I signed up for that so maybe I try a little bit of consultancy. I also want to start a brewery. I’ve got this idea that…
D: I love it dude. You’re so random. It’s amazing.
S: Yeah so I’ve got this idea. Everyone has a business card. Business cards are lame. No likes receiving business cards. So I had this idea. If I had a brewery that makes beer, and on the label I could put my business card: my details and website. And I can send it out to loads of people. Everyone would get in touch if they got sent free beer. And I could go to conferences and just hand out beer to everyone with my things on it. I think it’d be really interesting. So maybe that will happen. If any readers have a brewery and want to do some sort of collaboration, please get in touch!
D: You heard it here first. Sam Priestley, out in Chile, running his personal blog, table tennis guy and former professional gambler, and all the other things I’ve missed, is now starting a brewery! I love your blasé approach.
S: Mate, have you seen my daily ideas thing on my blog? I spend most of my time just thinking up ideas, most of them I don’t act on but if something sticks with me for a while I’ll give it a go. So for most of the last year, I wrote down all my ideas on my blog. There’s about a thousand on there. Covering all sorts of things. And then if one sounds really interesting I’ll just give it a go.
D: Sam, thank you so much for your time! Goodbye.