Most Americans are only 2-3 bad days away from complete financial destruction. Michael Shreeve, CEO of Peaceful Profits, experienced a few bad days within 60 days, and it landed him on the streets, jobless, and homeless.
It’s a story he describes as “typically American”, sadly enough. Over half of Americans don’t have three months’ worth of emergency funds in the bank, leading to complete devastation should an unexpected string of events happen. Michael’s personal story reflects how a lot of Americans are living – completely on the edge.
Time in a Tent
Since the age of 14, Michael had been working in various kitchens. Eventually, he worked his way up to sous chef, second in command, of a high-end fine dining restaurant.
“People are oblivious to how quickly it can happen, how it doesn’t take much for you to lose everything.”
With what Michael describes as a few mistakes, a few “bad days”, he ended up living in his car. Then, eventually, the car was repossessed, and Michael was relegated to sleeping in a tent he purchased from Walmart. Michael set up camp in the wooded areas of Washington Park in Portland, an action that was completely illegal but kept him fairly well-hidden from authorities.
Michael considers himself fortunate that he was homeless in a city like Portland. Due to the resources available to those down on their luck and the more accepting nature of the city, he found it “do-able”. On top of various resources, he had the public library system. This amenity would soon prove invaluable.
Leaning on the Library
“When you’re low on the mountain, it seems impossible to climb,” Michael explains. Having come from an abusive family background that could offer no support or way out of his situation, Michael knew he only had himself to rely on.
Michael felt he was starting from the absolute bottom with no home, no education, and no skills outside of working in a kitchen.
“You really do start thinking, ‘I would be lucky if I died’, if only so you wouldn’t have to deal with any of this anymore,” he recalls.
Michael spent his days at the local library, like many homeless people seeking something to fill their days. After exhausting every cute cat video available on YouTube, he stumbled on an illegally uploaded version of “Have Your Best Year Ever” by entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn.
“It was shocking, in a good way,” he explains. Rohn spoke of value and worth, two things Michael was feeling pretty empty of. Rohn also approached the concepts of value and worth that were new to Michael and opened his eyes to a novel approach to work and making money.
“I started to think, how do I become more valuable to other people? Not only is bringing value financially lucrative, but it’s the secret to happiness,” Michael says.
He credits finding Rohn’s “Have Your Best Year Ever” with changing his life.
Going Up the Mountain
Michael had no previous ambitions of becoming an entrepreneur. The loftiest dreams he had allowed himself in the past were possibly making up to $60,000 a year as a chef someday. But, he realized being in a kitchen was not the most value he could bring to the world and that kitchen wages are not a suitable pathway out of homelessness.
When you’re starting from the bottom of the mountain, climbing to the top will take bigger leaps of faith.
On the advice of a librarian, Michael was prompted to check out writing as a source of income. He started slowly, using the library computers to cold-email potential clients and offer his writing services. Michael gathered business writing, copywriting, and blogging jobs using a free email service and the free library computer. None of his clients knew he was homeless.
“I became an entrepreneur out of survival,” he says, “It was my only vehicle out of homelessness.”
Slowly, he began to claw his way out of the Walmart tent set up in the woods of Washington Park and began gaining more speed as a writer-for-hire.
Never Going Back
In a sense, Michael knew he had finally “made it” when he was able to rent a house. Through his roster of writing clients, he had been able to rent a hotel room for a few weeks and sock away some money, enough for a downpayment on a rental house.
“I realized then, I can’t go back,” he says.
The second moment of “making it” came when Michael grew from a self-employed writer to a true entrepreneur and hired an employee. He realized that he could add value for clients beyond his own limitations. He brought on more people to help grow his business. What started as freelance writing jobs from the library eventually grew into a coaching organization built around using short books to scale businesses.
This coming January, this 7-figure business will require only 1-2 hours of “running” from Michael. The business runs itself, and Michael is free to pursue other interests that add value to his life.
The Hardest Part of the Climb
Much like mountain climbers to scale the faces of massive peaks, fear needs to be conquered when clawing your way out of poverty as well.
“When you’re poor, your life is fear,” says Michael. The worry, stress, and maneuvering it takes to simply survive when one is poor contributes to consistently living in fear. Poverty encompasses the mental, spiritual and emotional reality of those living it.
Michael has learned through his journey that to be a successful entrepreneur; you have to accept that many people want to help you succeed. Having grown up in a situation where he was left to his own devices to fend for himself, it was a lesson that was difficult to learn for Michael. Yet, since embracing this truth, that people want you to succeed and are willing to help, his businesses have only grown and thrived.
Not one to rest once the bulk of the mountain climbing is finished, Michael has further plans for his ventures. In the next year, he hopes to launch another book and reach 8-figures by the end of 2022.
He stays diligently focused on consistent improvement, working from a place of 1% daily improvement for his organization.
“Constantly. Every day. 1% better.” he says. Even given the heights he has reached with his business, Michael continues to stick to a steady climb, never forgetting how far he’s come.