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Kylon has founded and co-founded multiple businesses in the construction, fitness, food service, real estate, and online education industries since 2013. After selling his companies in 2015, he launched Successful Dropout, a podcast recently featured in BuzzFeed as a must subscribe to in 2017. Successful Dropout features interviews with inspiring and successful individuals who left school to pursue their business, idea, or dream job. Kylon is a rising authority on the subject of what it takes to succeed in business and in life without a college degree and he is passionate about providing solutions to those who want a challenge beyond formal education.
City where you’re from: Easton, WA
Hobbies: Snowboarding, eating breakfast burritos, snowboarding, building businesses, and snowboarding.
Favorite quote: “Life is always happening for us, not to us.” – Tony Robbins
Hey Kylon, tell us a bit about you. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I’m a very independent person…also stubborn…so throughout my earlier years into young adulthood I always had trouble with institutions. High school, the military (Navy), college, being an employee, even church – I always wanted to do my own thing, and so it was difficult to fit into these environments and I just knew I wouldn’t be happy in the long run. The logical solution was to create my own environment, which lead to my interest in starting my own business. That business ended up being a residential/commercial painting company and it was all downhill from there. That first foray into entrepreneurship got me hooked and I’ve been building businesses ever since.
Who were your biggest influences? Was there a defining moment in your life?
My dad. I grew up with my dad working from home, his dream home, mind you. He had built a business around work he truly loved, and work that was making a huge positive impact on other’s lives. He had meaningful work, a beautiful family, a schedule that was his own, and his dream location. I was raised with the mentality that I could design any kind of life I could dream up through hard work and faith – believing in that which is still unseen. My dad taught me this, and I’m forever grateful.
I was also (and still am) surrounded by some amazing friends. Remember, you are the average of the five people you hang around the most. My friends are ambitious and driven and it causes me to stay hungry for the next thing. I was homeschooled most of my life, but I went to formal high school my senior year. Somehow I got it into my head that I had to pick a “safe and secure” route through life and that forging my own path was too risky. I remember calling my best friend, Riley Wilkinson, and telling him that I had decided to become a dentist, and I was going to go to school for this, marry a cute blonde girl that was in my senior class, have the white picket fence and everything. I remember he was like “no, no you’re not…are you kidding me? That’s too easy”. I was like “yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking”. That short call yanked me back into the reality of who I was. Every other classmate of mine was going to do the same thing – I was meant for something different.
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Almost a year ago I was helping my sister come up with name ideas for her podcast. I wanted to start a podcast too, and one of the names I threw out was Successful Dropout. She didn’t like it, but it stuck with me, and an entire vision flooded into my head. A month and a half later I launched the podcast which features interviews with successful and inspiring individuals who dropped out of school to pursue their idea, business, or dream job. I’m a dropout myself, and so the subject is very personal.
The podcast has taken on a life of its own, growing organically by 75%-100% every month. It was my intention to set myself up as an authority in this space of alternatives to traditional education, and it worked.
We are currently working on a startup that will be a solution for the Successful Dropout audience. The goal of this new venture is to help motivated individuals completely circumvent college, and get a full time job at a startup in less than a year for under $15,000. It’s an apprenticeship program, that’s all I can say right now. Stay tuned.
I also own a hot yoga studio, a juice bar, and a house flipping LLC, but I own them with partners and my wife so they don’t take up too much time. I sold my first business, the painting company to my business partner in 2015.
How is your product/service different and unique? What has been your favorite moment with it? What’s the vision?
Successful Dropout is, on one hand, just another podcast that follows the interview format and formula. What completely sets it apart is the subject matter, the philosophy, and the attitude behind it. You won’t find another resource on the web that has a more open and in depth conversation about how to succeed without a college degree. We believe college is just a “credentialing factory”. You spend thousands of dollars and years of your life earning a credential that signals to the rest of the world that you are now ready to enter the workforce and create value. Are you really that prepared though? The majority of employers say no. Instead, we preach the concept of direct-credentialing, or auto-credentialing – a belief that says you can create your own value signal to the world by taking on real projects that give you applicable experience and skills. Take two 22 year olds applying for the same job – one just spent the last four years building their own marketing agency, the other just spent four years studying marketing in college. Which of the two would you hire? Let’s say neither of them are applying for a job, but instead they want to build their own businesses. Well, one of them is already there, miles ahead of his peer because he just got to work instead of studying theory for 4 years.
My favorite moments have been when I see the concept above “click” with my listeners. We are such an institutionalized generation, raised to follow societal norms blindly. My goal is to help people break free from the college credentialing mindset and dependency, get off the treadmill, and realize the kind of freedom they can unlock when they choose to forge their own path.
Did you experience failure along the way? What did you learn from it?
I don’t know a successful entrepreneur who HASN’T experienced failure. I’ve failed more times than I can count. My first business almost went bankrupt, I’ve lost plenty of time and money on multiple failed ventures or failed ideas within other businesses. If you can learn from failure, it’s just a stepping stone to success. When you were young, did your parents ever cheer when you fell off a bike learning how to ride? You still need to have that mentality. Failure is good and should be celebrated because it means you are trying new things, moving forward, and it’s an opportunity to level up and get better.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
The most successful entrepreneurial ventures in my life were the ones I feared to pursue the most. Entrepreneurship is a calling, and to be successful at it you need to be willing to take risks, be bold, and do the things others are too scared to do. That’s where the opportunity is. Fear can be used as a barometer to measure whether or not you are operating in the extra-ordinary. The more scared you are of a work or calling, the more sure you can be that it’s something worth doing. Resistance (that unseen monster that causes you to procrastinate on the things you know you need to do) is like a compass that always points to true north. If you follow resistance, you will almost always look up to discover that you are living the best version of your life.
Teach us something about marketing.
Look, I’m sure this has been mentioned before, but it’s still important. People crave authenticity. The days of fancy formatted emails and expensive graphics on your ads or wherever are dwindling. My most successful auto-email that I send to my new listeners looks like I hurriedly typed it out at Starbucks before receiving my order. I just ask them how they found the podcast, and to tell me a bit about themselves. I leave typos and incorrect grammar intentionally, the subject line just says “hey” and about 5 out of 10 subscribers send me an email in response, completely unaware that its just apart of my email sequence. I’m not trying to be deceptive, I genuinely want to connect with each and every one of my subscribers, but there’s so many now I can’t type a personal email to each one, so I make sure my auto emails are formatted and look like an every day email that I would send to friends and colleagues. Very few people do this. You are all still sending these elaborate emails that take you 30 minutes to design in MailChimp. You don’t do the same for a friend you are shooting a thoughtful email to…why are you doing it for your audience? Don’t they deserve to be treated like your friends?
The line from Disney’s Aladdin comes to mind, “just beeeeeee yourself” (RIP Robin). There’s too much distinction today between your “personal brand” and your “authentic self”. People have this personal brand where they put up all sorts of fronts, and the every once in awhile they decide to tap into this authenticity trend and post something meant to draw tears with the hashtag “real talk” or “authentic” and they think their work is done. That’s crap. Your personal brand and your authentic self should be one and the same. Everything your “brand” does should flow from who you really are. People get all caught up with how to differentiate themselves from everyone else and their dog. Well, humans being are already born unique. No two are alike. Why are you making it so hard in yourself? If you would just be who you are to your audience, you are automatically differentiated because no one else is like you.
While working on your project, have you come across any interesting bit of knowledge that you’d like to share? (i.e. any new research finding, any new platforms, some novel management technique, etc)
You don’t need a college degree to be successful in business and in life. We only hear about the Bill Gates’, Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs’ of the world – these entrepreneurial gods who dropped out of school. People think you have to create the next Apple if you are going to drop out and be successful. That’s just not the case. I talk to Successful Dropouts every week who you’ve never heard of but who are out there living life on their own terms miles ahead of their peers.
Also, for podcasters out there, use Acuity Scheduling to schedule guests on your show. For streamlined scheduling, sending auto emails, creating appointment forms etc I haven’t found anything else like it.
What daily habits do you have that allow you to perform at your peak?
Meditation. Not in any kind of spiritual way, but in a way that requires you to exercise control and focus over your thoughts. This helps tremendously when it comes to staying focused on tasks throughout the day. Your mind is like a muscle – you have to exercise to make it stronger. I recommend the Headspace app for this.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Solving problems, always. That’s the calling of an entrepreneur, to solve problems no one else is solving, and if you do a great job solving the problem people will pay you for it. Focus on people, get to know them, what are their needs and pain points?
Walk us step-by-step through the process that you had to go through to get from the early stages to where you are today.
Step 1: Take action
Step 2: Take more action
Step 3: Take even more action
Step 4: Fail miserably
Step 5: Figure out what went wrong and what you need to do differently
Step 6: Take action…
What are some of your favorite books?
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
Successful Dropout will be the number one resource on the web for anyone interested in succeeding in business and in life without a college degree. We will also have a solution for our audience that will see thousands of participants getting great jobs and starting great businesses without wasting thousands of dollars and four years of their life earning a diploma.