Balancing Personal Financial Goals with a Bigger Purpose with Zack Geist

Episode Transcription

Glenn Harper 00:00:0000:00:08

Hello, everybody. Welcome to another edition of Empowering Entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Glenn Harper. My co host is Julie Smith. What’s up, Julie?

Julie Smith 00:00:0800:00:21

You know, I got some feedback this week from some people that I work out with. That said, I only talk about the weather, coffee, and some other things, so I’m taking all options that can be talked about, I guess.

Glenn Harper 00:00:2100:00:22

Well, how is the weather out there today?

Julie Smith 00:00:2200:00:25

It’s cold and I hate it, so I don’t even want to talk about it.

Glenn Harper 00:00:2500:00:31

That’s not bad today. Got some good coffee this morning. Looks like you’re double fisted over there. You got two things, which is nice.

Julie Smith 00:00:3100:00:35

Two coffees. So must have had a long night or something.

Glenn Harper 00:00:3500:00:53

What can happen? Well, we’re excited today. We’ve got a fellow entrepreneur on course today to chat with us named Zack Geist. He’s a driving force behind Student Loan Tutor and holistic finance. He has helped many college student manage their school debt from repayment to forgiveness. Thanks, Zack, for being on our show.

Zack Geist 00:00:5400:00:56

Yeah, thank you for having me on.

Glenn Harper 00:00:5600:01:01

I detect a slight polynesian accent. Did you spend some time in Hawai or something?

Zack Geist 00:01:0100:01:30

Yeah, definitely not Polynesian. I was conceived in Hawaii. Thank goodness I’m not in Hawaii right now because it’d be like 330 in the morning, so I planned this when I was in Utah, so my main offices I have two companies that are based in Utah, and then I have two companies that are based in Hawaii, so I split my time between both of them. But I got just enough lack of sleep to look like it’s 330 in the morning because one of my businesses ran until about 01:00 a.m.

Julie Smith 00:01:3000:01:34

I should have given you my extra coffee through the I think that’s what it’s for.

Glenn Harper 00:01:3400:01:35

I think you were good.

Zack Geist 00:01:3500:01:44

We’re feeling that. But my partner here is making my coffee right now, so it’s 730 in the morning, so it’s actually quite late for me, generally.

Glenn Harper 00:01:4400:01:50

Not too chev. I hear that you’re from San Francisco, which I believe is just east of Vladivostock. Is that true?

Zack Geist 00:01:5100:01:57

East of Ladiva Stoke. It’s interesting that you say it’s. East of Ladiva Stoke. My grandfather’s from Vladiva Stoke.

Glenn Harper 00:01:5700:02:05

I love it. It’s the southernmost port city in Russia. As a kid growing up, I just thought it was a cool name, a cool town. So yeah, I thought we brought all.

Zack Geist 00:02:0500:02:12

That into so synchronistic that you would mention Vladiva Stoke because you had no idea my grandfather was from no, I did not. Nobody knows that.

Glenn Harper 00:02:1200:02:19

I know. What are the ODS? Oh, goodness. Well, what was it? So you’re born in Hawai, then you moved to the Bay Area. How’d that happen?

Zack Geist 00:02:2000:02:43

Conceived. I could see why you say that. I have to come with some connection to Hawai. I was actually born in San Mateo, right out of San Francisco. But conceived means that my parents had sex there. So apparently that means, according to the hawaiians, from what I understand, which isn’t a whole lot, is that means that’s where your soul enters the world. But they believe everybody’s soul enters the world in Hawai, so that means you as well.

Glenn Harper 00:02:4400:02:53

Well, does that mean I know in Hawai it’s hard to be treated as local if you’re not like local, so I assume that you’re treated like you’re local there.

Zack Geist 00:02:5300:04:15

I’m not treated like I’m local, like my life is a dedication to try to get treated like I’m local. But growing up where I grew up, I had to kind of earn those stripes in that area too. So I do that through farming. I have a farm as well, a full production farm, regenerative farm where we practice sustainable building. We have an eco village, we hold events there, we hold retreats there. It’s 86 acres with cascading waterfalls and we grow hundreds of different tropical fruit trees. We’re fully food, energy and water sovereign, which is what I call experiential capital. And one of my main, I have many interests and I’ve kind of converted them into businesses is to help people view capital in different ways so they’re not looking at just financial capital. Financial capital essentially is an abstract piece that has moved from the natural world into the world of capitalism. Which is great in a lot of ways, but at the same time there’s things that we could do that we really enjoy. And that’s kind of people, I think, forget so much, like what the purpose of money is and it’s to spend it to create things that people experientially enjoy. I hope I didn’t stumble over that too much.

Glenn Harper 00:04:1500:04:35

No, I think you’re right. I think the whole purpose of working for a living is to have the money or the means to do the things you really love to do. And if you’re so lucky that you end up with a career that you actually enjoy and that’s fun to you, that’s the double whammy. But it’s hard to do that and especially as an entrepreneur because we’re working so hard all the time, it’s really hard to step back and enjoy a little bit.

Zack Geist 00:04:3600:04:49

And I think a lot of people like to eat and sleep and do fun things and eat at restaurants and it’s hard to build a business around those things. Although it would provide a lot of write offs because a lot of people eat out a lot.

Glenn Harper 00:04:4900:05:09

Well, who doesn’t love a good meal? Especially if you don’t have to cook and clean up. Of course there is fun to like you said, I grew up on a farm myself and when you grow your own food and you prep it, you cook it and eat it, it’s a pretty satisfying cycle. If you just go in and just get served to you, that’s a whole different feeling. Which isn’t bad either. That’s a good one too.

Julie Smith 00:05:0900:05:12

I don’t know, I’ve had both. I kind of like the latter.

Zack Geist 00:05:1300:06:09

It’s a lot of work. It’s quite funny, actually. I’ll look out my window in Hawai and I’ll see a coconut tree as I’m opening up a can of coconut milk, and I just feel kind of absurd. But you look at the fact that division of labor and exportation of costs, it’s actually cheaper and more convenient to get the can of coconut milk that has somehow been harvested in Thailand and then packaged in a factory and shipped to three different locations, arrived in a store. I’m in a car, I pick it up, I bring it back. I use a can opener, and somehow that’s faster and easier than climbing the tree that’s right outside of my window. But now I plant trees that only grow till about they fruit at about waist or knee height. So I actually have to bend over and harvest the coconuts as opposed to climbing a tree. So I’m looking forward to that changing where it’s actually more convenient.

Glenn Harper 00:06:0900:06:10

It’s a whole bonsai forest.

Zack Geist 00:06:1000:06:15

Coconut. That’s cool. Yeah. I guess you could prune it low, which is important.

Glenn Harper 00:06:1600:06:17

Well, that’s less work.

Zack Geist 00:06:1700:06:36

I think a lot of people make their entrepreneurship more hard than it needs to be, and there are smart ways to do it. They apply this idea of just like I call it the deadpool idea from the Marvel Universe is they just feel like they have to apply maximum effort. And I find that that’s almost always not the best way to go about it.

Glenn Harper 00:06:3700:06:54

It is weird when you finally realize as an entrepreneur that you have to have passion and work ethic and things, but it’s not necessarily how hard you work. You do have to work hard, but it’s how smart you work. And then that’s not just your skills, it’s leveraging all the people around you.

Julie Smith 00:06:5400:07:00

But, Zach, how long did that take you to come to that conclusion? It can’t be something that just came to your soul in Hawaii.

Zack Geist 00:07:0100:11:25

It’s a funny story. I remember the moment I came to that. It’s a funny story if you want to hear it. I was quite young. I must have been like, ten or eleven years old. I’ve been kind starting businesses. I didn’t know that I would call it that, but I’ve been doing that since maybe I was five. I read, actually, in Warren Buffett’s book Snowball, that he used to sell golf balls. And I actually started to do that when I was, like, five. I would swim in this there was a swimming pool, and there was a golf course nearby, and I would swim in there, and I’d get golf balls out. Originally, I didn’t even do it for the money. I just thought it was, like, cool that they had all these different color golf balls, so I was just collecting him. I’m like, It’s free golf balls. I mean, I guess I’m a kid, so it looks less ridiculous than a grown man in a polo shirt in the middle of his I don’t golf, so you’d think that I’d pick it up, but I just could never get into it. Didn’t have the pace. I like things that are much faster paced than golf, so I would sell golf balls. And at some other point, I started to sell candy at school. I mean, that’s pretty much what I realized entrepreneurship was about. It’s about finding something that people need and finding a way to fulfill that need. And at school, kids like candy. So I would buy candy at Costco for pretty cheap, and I’d buy candy with a big markup. And some of those candies were like airheads. And I’d have a five times markup, 500% markup. So I wanted to sell those. Although I would carry stuff that maybe didn’t have the markup because people would come to me, but I’d be out of those because I only carry so much. And I went to a school that I had kind of a rough upbringing. I grew up in what people would call the ghetto, I guess. I remember that a lot of times some of the kids would say, hey, can I get some candy and pay you later? And I would know that they’re never going to pay me. I would kind of like put up with that. It was like shrinkage in a store. And one day I remember the girl, her name was Angelika, and she comes up and she just didn’t even respect the idea of it. She’s just like, Give me candy. And I’m like, I’m not going to just give you candy. Can you pay me later? At least I can pretend I’m going to get paid. And she’s like, no, give me candy. And so I didn’t. I’m in class and I’m not kidding you here. This is intense. I don’t know if this is going to have to be edited, but she stabs me in the neck with a compass. I mean, it was like a prison movie, you know, the compass draw circles with in school and I’m bleeding out of my neck. And anyways, I end up getting called to the office and I’m thinking they’re going to just suspend her or do something, arrest her, the police are going to come. But apparently I was a big problem and they didn’t know who was selling the candy because no one actually knocked me out. But parents were calling because I was actually like, trading candy for lunch coupons and then selling the lunch coupon. I was making more money than my mom. And I’m like here in junior high and yeah, they said if they caught me selling candy again at school that I would be expelled. And here I am. I’m like, I don’t know, eleven. I don’t know what to do. And I’m like, pretty much everybody’s just going to steal candy from me at this point. So I had this at first I was kind of depressed. And I was like, scrooge McDuck in my room while I was suspended, rolling around in the money because I saw it on Ducktails and reading my comic books. And I had, like, 100 Nintendo games because what else does a kid do? They converted into entertainment capital because all the kids in the neighborhood stopped picking on me and beating me up because I wanted to play my video games and read my comic book. So it was like safety. And I think that’s been part of my story. But long story short, how I decided to work smart is I’m like, okay, I can’t sell candy. How am I going to make money? And I said, well, what if other people would be willing to sell candy for me? And so I went back to the school, and this school was broken up into families, so I only really had access to one of the families, and then I think two during lunchtime. And so I met up with a kid from each family. I’m like, hey, do you want to sell candy for me? I’ll supply it, and you could have as much candy as you want. I’ll buy you lunch, get you lunch coupons. We’ll sell other stuff. And to my great surprise, people were totally willing to sign up for this. And so I actually made way more money after I had way less risk, and I had, like, personal bodyguards at school, and I was, like, popular instead of out there personally. Hustling. And I applied this to pretty much all aspects of my life. My first main business that I owned.

Glenn Harper 00:11:2500:11:36

Was I got to interrupt you because I have two pressing questions. Number one, you’re bleeding out in the principal’s office, and they’re worried about you hustle, and they’re not giving you medical attention. That’s the first thing.

Zack Geist 00:11:3600:11:56

Apparently, I was a major problem. I didn’t know this, but, like, 60% of children’s nutrition in the ghetto and low income areas comes from their school lunch. So I was, like, totally, like, this terrible capitalist taking nutrition from kids by trading candy for lunch coupons.

Glenn Harper 00:11:5600:12:04

Well, that begets the second question. Are you using candy as a metaphor? What were you really hustling? Because this is you know, I tried that later. I’ll be honest.

Zack Geist 00:12:0500:12:15

I tried that later, but there was a lot more stiff, violent, cruel competition that didn’t really want me involved in that. So they put a stop to that real quick.

Glenn Harper 00:12:1500:12:16

That’s a different term.

Zack Geist 00:12:1600:12:34

Thank goodness. Thank goodness, too. I’ve always sold legal things, except for, like, maybe a few day stint where I made an attempt. Now it’s legal in California. Heck, everything in Oakland is decriminalized, so I could have pretty much sold anything. So thank goodness I didn’t grow up in today’s day and age.

Glenn Harper 00:12:3400:12:51

It’s funny how that works, but yeah, to survive and get what you need, you got to do what you got to do. But again, you’re like, I mean, talk about a down network, how you could do that and not just do it yourself. You literally had a whole down network. Network marketing. That’s fantastic.

Zack Geist 00:12:5100:14:11

Yeah, that’s where I was going with it. My first business that I started was door to door sales business. It’s, like, the only job I could get. I had kind of like, broken teeth from growing up. I probably spent, like, $50,000 on my teeth. I really had to work my way out of this, and I started a door to door business. I was making $100,000 a year at 18. By the time I was 23, I was running door to door sales teams for a company making about a quarter million. By the time I was 26, I was a millionaire doing door to door sales running. At that point, I had my own business, and by the time I was 27, I had an almost eight figure year that year. And, I mean, this is with no college education, basically a 10th grade education. I took my high school proficiency test because school was straight up, like, living where I was living was, like, straight up dangerous. And I’m like, this is crazy. I’m learning stuff that I don’t really feel like I could apply. There was probably valuable things to learn there. Ironically, now I work primarily with doctors and people with graduate degrees, helping them manage all aspects of their finance and that story that comes much later. In the beginning, I’m just like, I’ve got to make money any way I could make it because my goal was just to get out of the hood. That was my whole main aim, and I tried to do that as prematurely as possible. I rented a place that was like 100% of my income just so I could feel like I was successful and I was out.

Glenn Harper 00:14:1100:14:32

What’s funny about that is when you have a childhood like that, and there’s a lot of people out there that had some rough childhoods, but you can’t be stopped. I mean, when you grow up like that, like, somebody telling you no at a door to door, or somebody telling you can’t do something like whatever, and you just skip. It doesn’t even phase you. Right?

Zack Geist 00:14:3300:15:43

This is an interesting thing. People are like, how did you do that? And I’m like, it was the craziest thing, because I trained 20,000 door to door sales reps over my career. I mean, that’s an estimate, but it’s somewhere around there. I just calculated on average, how many did I train per week or whatever, and it’s about 20,000. And the most common reason they weren’t successful was that they were scared of rejection. And for me, it was incomprehensible. I didn’t understand it. It’s like, wait, why do you care if a stranger says no or get off my porch? It was a concept that it took me a long time to grasp, because for me, I didn’t have it. I didn’t have the fear there. So for me, I remember, I’m like, Why doesn’t everybody do this? It was a crazy feeling. And I would start at, like, 09:00 A.m., and other people would only work from four to eight, and I’d be like, out there at 09:00 A.m.. I’d win every sales contest. And they’re like, Why? I would just listen to music. I’m like, I’m going to be at home, like, playing what? Playing video games? Or I might as well just walk around. Yeah, hardly anybody’s home, but I’m still making whatever at that time. $60 an hour at 18. I’m like, why not?

Glenn Harper 00:15:4300:15:51

It’s hard to even comprehend that you found somebody you could sell door to. Ride. I didn’t know people are home. I didn’t know people open their doors, nobody stops.

Zack Geist 00:15:5100:15:53

This is an idea of working smart and not hard.

Glenn Harper 00:15:5400:15:54

So bizarre.

Zack Geist 00:15:5600:18:29

This is one of those great examples of just thinking a little bit differently, which seems to be the thing that happens, the thing that really works. I sold telecommunications, so it was right when Internet was launching. So cable TV, internet and home phone. And I didn’t know anything about cable. I knew that Internet was fast. It I was always working, so I didn’t have a need for it. I did door to door sales. When you Internet at your home, when you’re out in the field, and then home phone, I knew it was like a phone. You pick it up, and somehow it was clearer. And so at the beginning, I was noticing I was getting rejection, and people were like, oh, no. Before I could even say a word. And then I’m like, well, wait a second. How do I outsmart this? And so I did the craziest thing. I took a shirt and I rubbed it in the dirt because I noticed that they didn’t reject outright the guy who’s coming to install the cable. So I’m like, I’m going to dress like I’m installing cable. I got a tool bell. I put tools in it. I put, like, a hard hat on sometimes. I had the glasses, like I’d be out. I looked like I hopped off of, like, a telephone line pole or whatever. And so I’d show up. I wouldn’t even make eye contact. I’d be 10ft back on my phone, talking like it was nextel at the time. Like, oh, yeah, I’m here at one, two, three Elm Street. Yeah, I just finished talking to Bob Smith that lives next door. And so the person answers the door, and they’re like, in this state of mind of total curiosity, who is this quagmire that’s at my front door? So they didn’t have what I would call a conditioned response of rejection. So my closing rate was through the roof, because once they heard that I had, like, six months free Internet to give them, then they were open to it. Most of the rejection came just as, like, a standard response for someone knocking on the door, because that’s just what they do. So I didn’t trigger that neural pathway, and I trained my salespeople to do the same thing. And I have a funny story where I was in this guy’s house in this really rich area where nobody wanted to sell, and this guy looks down because I guess he knew what tools were. I didn’t know what tools were. I grew up in the hood. I didn’t have anything to fix. I couldn’t change a doorknob if I tried. And he goes, Why do you have a water wrench in your tool belt? Like, what do you need that for? And I go, oh, I don’t know. This is just for show. I’m a salesperson. And he’s like, I had no idea. So I had a lot of cool things happen to me over the time I got to buy From You scholarship, he did. Of course. Almost everybody did. It was very rare that someone didn’t buy from me, so it made it easier, too. So not only was I not afraid of rejection, eventually I got good at it. And the better you get, the less rejection you get. So it’s this positive feedback loop, and people just got to stick with it till they get there.

Glenn Harper 00:18:2900:18:51

I think the notes to take for people are listening is everybody thinks when you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no sales involved, and it’s all sales, and if you can get really good, it’s marketing, and then the sales will happen. But when you’re at that level, you got to sell, and you just got to believe in what you’re doing. And again, you didn’t even know what the heck it was that you were selling.

Zack Geist 00:18:5100:21:17

But I didn’t know, and it was like a total drug dealer thing. I didn’t even have the thing I was selling. I mean, now I own the largest student loan advisory company in the nation for the last ten years. My corporate offices are here in Salt Lake City, but I have people located all over the world, and I’ve never had a student loan. So for whatever reason, here I am selling something that benefits people. And when I started this is a question that I think people misunderstand, that what is really enjoyable isn’t like turning a hobby like Joseph Campbell The Mythologist talks about turning following your bliss. And I feel like what people think is like, if I love gardening, I should turn it into a business. If I love DJing, I should turn it into a business. A lot of times that’ll actually maybe kill or stifle that don’t stop doing that. But what I figured out is I said, I want to do something. I started this last business with a criterion, and I said I want to do something that is at first, I wanted to do something that’s morally good, but if you try to do that, it’s very difficult to find something that’s actually morally good, where you’re like, even if you’re like, I’m going to do something great. It’s also like putting a whole bunch of people out of business. When you interrupt, it like, I’m going to start Touro, but you’re like, but wait, I’m about to put every taxicab driver out of the Lyft or Uber. I’m going to put all the taxicab drivers out of business, or whatever it is. I’m going to do something at least morally neutral where I’m not making a negative impact on people in society and other businesses. And then I’m like, I want to solve a need of people that are actually suffering. I want to be able to earn money that continuously scales, and I want to be able to work anytime from anywhere. And I want to offer a similar opportunity for those that work with me. And that was where I started. I didn’t start like, I have this interest and I’m going to do it. So I was looking at things like helping people through rehab recovery. That’s kind of where I got it, was like rehab recovery or student loans was like the final two. But there was a whole bunch of things before then. I think that’s really important when people are looking to start a business. And I’d recommend start any business because there’s things that you could learn and I wouldn’t I don’t know. I learned a lot from network marketing, too, over the years, because a lot of people say that’s a business, and I did learn a lot. But I do think there’s a real big value in starting your own business. Some people make it super successful in network marketing. I know people that have made ridiculous fortune in network marketing. So it does happen.

Glenn Harper 00:21:1700:22:04

Yeah, it comes down to about if you’ve got customers when you show up and you’re going to sell them Internet, well, then you might as well sell them a phone. Then you might as well clean their gutters. Then you might as well figure out something else to do. So when you have customers, opportunity abounds, right? And on that, the note you said about trying to decide that a hobby or a passion, when you have to do it to make money, you kind of tense up. You’re not your normal self anymore because you got the pressure on you. You can’t think creatively anymore because you got to make the money. And entrepreneurism is not about the money. It’s about doing something you love and helping people, right? And the money will come, but if you change that passion to something different, that’s a whole different game. It’s hard to make money at something because you have to. That used to be your fun thing.

Zack Geist 00:22:0500:23:09

Totally. And I think there’s a great book. It’s so simple, and I think that’s why it’s so great and so successful. It’s a book by Robert Kiyosaki called Rich Dad, Poor dad. I think every entrepreneur and if you’re highly erudite and educated, it might just be so plain and simple that you’re just like, this is hard to read. I think right now, if someone gave me that book, I’d be like, I need it to be way more complicated. But the fundamentals are so key. I remember reading that book when I was 18 and all of a sudden it made the whole world make sense. It was like, whatever the blue or the red pill ever, the one that takes you to that place where you find out what’s really going on, I’m like, that’s how everybody’s successful is that they’re building. And it comes down to this. Are you hauling buckets in your life or are you building pipelines? Because you’re going to be doing both at some point. But most people don’t ever build the pipeline, or if they do, they only do it through planning for retirement, which is important. But I think that you could build your whole process around building pipelines.

Glenn Harper 00:23:0900:23:10

But that’s hard.

Zack Geist 00:23:1000:23:28

It is hard because everybody’s looking at you going like, why are you working all the time? You’re like making less than so and so at their job. But once the pipeline is built and you turn that water spout on, nobody could haul buckets faster than the pipeline. Then your pipeline could push water out.

Julie Smith 00:23:2800:23:47

So, Zach, I’m going to go back at 18. You decided to take this leap of faith. You got to make this money before that or during that. Did you have someone that was a mentor, that someone that just stepped up to the plate, that was your rock solid that kept you going, or you just did that all by yourself?

Zack Geist 00:23:4800:26:06

You know, I wish I could say I did the closest thing I had. I had books. I’d say one of my big inspirations. I did meet them eventually, but I didn’t have anybody like, hey, taking me under my wing. That’s been part of my story. And some people, they have that story. For whatever reason, I’ve had to do this, what I would call auto didactically, where I’ve had to teach myself and find my teachers. The good news is that I eventually found out that there were these things. I mean, I knew there was libraries growing up and bookstores and stuff. I mean, now it’s on the Internet. There are people that know how to do these things. I’m one of them. I’m surprised more people don’t ask me like, you grew up hella poor and then you made millions and own four companies now and have owned other companies. How did you do that? You’d be surprised at how very few people actually sincerely ask me that question. They assume I’m either lucky or like I don’t know what they assume. I’m a trust fund baby. They assume something. I don’t get asked that question as much as you would imagine. So, no, I didn’t have a mentor, but if I had. To say who some of my mentors were. They were in books. And it was Robert Kiyosaki, who happens to be from Hilo, which is right where I live now. I have business in Hilo, and then I have my 86 acre farm about 17 miles north of there, of all places. And I would say Anthony Robbins growing up was also a big influence. I remember listening to his audio cassettes and copying his vocal tonality and his intensity. And before this call, I’m getting my body awake because I got very little sleep last night. And so I learned these little different techniques that really made an impact on my life. Was it my sole answer? No. Could books fully prepare you? Not at all. But it could get you started. It could make you feel like you’re not alone on that journey, because entrepreneurship in the beginning could really make you feel alone, because a lot of times you’re around others that you’re working with that maybe aren’t so entrepreneurial minded. So it makes you question your own sanity oftentimes. And I still do. I’m like, Am I going the right way? Is this like some hairbrained idea of God, or is it really going to work?

Glenn Harper 00:26:0600:26:56

Well, you, me, Julie, all entrepreneurs are certifiably psycho. I mean, there is no rational reason to do what we do for a living that makes no sense. The thing you said was funny without that mentor. I think the part that we really think is important is you probably not only you’re motivated because you want to get to where you wanted to get to and make your money and do your thing, but you had your team that was depending on you to lead them on these sales, right? And you had to make them believe that you had this totally under control and you didn’t want to disappoint them. And if you believed in them and they believe in you, you’re going to have a really great synergistic thing happen. And so even though it wasn’t a mentor, you just had that responsibility. Probably most entrepreneurs have that they have a responsibility to their people and their team. Did you feel like that was a motivating factor?

Zack Geist 00:26:5700:30:26

It was. I wanted everybody to have kind of what I had, and a lot of them got close. I mean, I had people that were working for me that were making a quarter million dollars. One of the guys that still works for me today in student loan tutor was making about that at 19. So that was really exciting. I jokingly say I was like a blue collar version of the Wolf of Wall Street. Thank God I didn’t get into financing all of that until much later in life. I don’t think I’d be alive today on this podcast. So there was some divine wisdom there. Alive or free? I don’t know. I was never able to cheat people. That was something that never came up for me, even along the whole way, if I thought I was, like, signing people up for something that was worse, I was never able to do that. So that’s a really great trait that I had that really curbed what I could do. Because I see people doing shady stuff, making lots of money, and it’s challenging because I’ve met some of these people and I’m like, man, for a while I thought it was a flaw. And I’m like, if I could only get myself to do that. And I just couldn’t do it. And I couldn’t underpay people. I would actually often overpay people, which was an issue. And I think this comes down to a major key point. There is a major difference and I can’t stress this enough, there is a major difference between being able to earn large amounts of money and then knowing what to do with that money. And what to do with that money requires a team of people that understand how to play that game. And that game is a very different game. Otherwise, you just have that pipeline running and you have no idea what to do to keep it’s hitting you. And people are coming like vultures. They’re coming out and they’ll find ways to creatively take it all from you. And they did. And that happened to me multiple times. I’ve built multimillion dollar companies. This is my fourth time, and it’s because I didn’t have that piece figured out. So that’s a very key component. And that’s, I think, relegated to the realms of people that grew up without wealth. Most people meet these people, people that grow up wealthy. I have a person on my team that’s in charge of my market. I mean, his family has a family home office that manages billions of dollars. Like he grew up with a private jet. His family still has that car, collections of lamborghinis and all sorts of stuff. Those people already have these networks in place. And so this is what was one of my inspirations for student loan tutor and eventually holistic finances. Like, how do I help people that are normally victimized by the financial system? Because just making the money I wish I could say that was enough. You get there and make the money and then you’re cool. I’m a prime example, and I know tons of people. You look at any professional athlete, look at, like, Mike Tyson, and you watch how people could become hella rich, hella famous, and then lose it all. And you think, oh, they’re just stupid. That would never happen to me. I got news for you. It will happen to you. And even if you don’t lose it all, you’re losing tons of money because there’s a total lack of transparency. Those people in those suits smiling and making you seem like their friend, they’re getting paid a lot for that in many cases. You may be one of those few lucky people that meet a person in finance that has high integrity, that’s going to be transparent. But more likely than not, that person got into finance to make as much money as possible. And they do that by earning big commissions, and they do that by not generally in their clients best interest.

Glenn Harper 00:30:2700:31:18

It’s funny how when you come from nothing, it’s almost a burden. People cannot generally handle making money because it doesn’t necessarily change you. It changes all the people around you. And what they look at you is what you bring to the table. Now, it’s something that you’re a resource for them versus just their buddy or whatever or a colleague, because now you have something that they want a piece of that. So to that point, is it’s so hard to find that trusted advisor or somebody who, you know, has the highest integrity that will sit there, and they’re going to charge you something that’s cool, but it’s not about what they charge you or what that fee is. It’s the value that they bring to protect you from those other things. And that’s what you’re trying to find as an entrepreneur when you start getting some success, because where do you go find that?

Zack Geist 00:31:1800:32:31

And I got to find a team. And I have to find a team. You absolutely have to find a team. I mean, you hit a point. I mean, the earlier on you could find that, the better the better vetted they are. Because once you have money, it’s real hard to tell. It’s kind of like dating if you’re already really wealthy, and you never know if that person is really with you for who you are. You could think so, but you won’t know until the money runs out. But if you’ve been with them since, you’ve been on the up and coming. And for me, I’m fortunate in that regard, where I’ve been with my partner for almost eight years, and she and I met when I was right at the beginning stage of kind of the worst of all worlds, busy all the time, and all my money was going back in my business. Yeah. And I lost all my friends. When I became financially successful, they asked me to borrow money. They didn’t pay me back. And then they got mad at me to justify that. One time I bought him something and he didn’t thank me or Zach has always been something just to justify not paying me back. So that challenge of getting out of a peer group just kind of happened automatically for me because one of them tried to beat me up. I mean, it was all sorts of stuff. This is when I was doing door to door sales way in the beginning.

Glenn Harper 00:32:3100:32:32


Zack Geist 00:32:3200:33:13

Yeah. And my peer group has changed over the years, and it’s comprised of people from all different walks of life now and just people that I find to be really in integrity. Not everybody is super financially successful, but some of them are. Some of them are very financially successful. And hearing their stories is really inspiring, especially people that made it from I know one person, we were having dinner and he became a billionaire and was from nothing. So it’s a cool thing just having dinner in somebody’s house. And that’s the story that they share.

Julie Smith 00:33:1300:33:51

Yeah, I mean, I’ve heard it several times and I think the way you said it, it brought it to the forefront of mine, too. You can’t surround yourself with just yes people. You have to have one or two of those people that are like, wait, Zach, that’s stupid. Why are you doing that? And it’s those people that you end up respecting and bringing with so much more. And you hear those stories. Glenn and I have talked about that all the time. The people that don’t necessarily keep that wealth or that success are the people that just surround themselves with yes people and not anyone that’s like, hey, wait, buddy, what are you doing?

Glenn Harper 00:33:5300:34:38

When you achieve that financial success, there’s the unfettered, I guess, ability, because you never had anything before. The drive to want to spend and go buy those things, it’s too powerful. And again, like you say, the athletes and all these people that make all this money, that’s just what they do because that’s what they grew up with. And all it takes is just one freaking person to say, hey, why don’t you only spend 20% of what you make and let’s take care of the rest of this after taxes and saving stuff and then go spend like a drunken soldier on that 20%. The rest, let’s set it over here for a rainy day. And they’ll achieve that financial generational wealth, but they just can’t do it because nobody’s telling them.

Zack Geist 00:34:3900:35:28

You know, it’s interesting because I think, Glenn, that it speaks to their heart, which I think is really beautiful. Growing up in the hood, as I would call it, people are quite generous. They will give away 100% of what they have. If they have one slice of pizza, they’ll tear it in half and share it with you. Which I don’t see in always with people that are more affluent. And I think it’s that same mindset. When I first became successful financially, I did the same thing. I would rent out the entire Sushi restaurant and bring in people and have multi thousand dollars bill. I would rent a yacht and bring 400 people on it. This is why they would tell us the blue collar.

Glenn Harper 00:35:2800:35:29

That’s fantastic.

Zack Geist 00:35:3000:38:50

I just wanted to see people having a great experience. And I think that sentiment is really important, but I wasn’t really helping them. I think that we navigate this financial matrix and I think that’s so important. And yeah, this is where it gets into that nuanced piece. I don’t know how deep I want to go, but this idea of holistic finance or like holistic wealth. And I think that the attempt of taking money to spend it all on all your friends is this idea of having some experiential wealth. And I think that piece is there’s something true in that that they’re picking up on. But to do it irresponsibly and not understand that, hey, I don’t live in things are parceled off, and if I spend all this, it’s not guaranteed to keep coming? And how do I navigate this complicated web of both making sure I’m taken care of, making sure my family is taken care of? And how can I still experience generosity and help those around me to navigate this system and to keep my friends and family? How can I keep them all at my table? And that is a big struggle for people that didn’t just come from success. And a lot of entrepreneurs, they don’t come from success. As a matter of fact, what I’ve noticed is people that come from families with wealth, they actually struggle into entrepreneurship because they struggle with the motivation, the hunger, the desire to get there. They might have it because they want to be like their father or their mother, whoever it was, their uncle. But a lot of them just I think it really has to be there for me. I wanted it so bad. I did have a mentor later in life, when I was 25. I had a lot of examples of what not to do. That’s been my thing. I’ve learned a lot from what not to do. This person was very low integrity, and he was an alcoholic. And he lived in this gigantic mansion, drove around a limo. And him and I worked together for year. I didn’t close a single deal for him, which is the first time I’ve ever failed so greatly. But I couldn’t get myself to do it because I’m like, this is not an integrity. But I talked to him and I said, what is it that drives you? And I met him at a Tony Robbins seminar and he says, every day I wake up in this village in Mexico and I run like hell from my poverty. And what I realized for him is that he was still waking up in a village in Mexico even though he was living in this gigantic mansion. His consciousness had never left that. And it was this hungry ghost that couldn’t be fed. So if you have that hungry ghost, how do you turn that into something that serves the world and serves yourself? It’s going to be a challenging balancing act. But I think that’s so important. I think that’s so present in entrepreneurs. That’s why they struggle with addiction. There’s some ideas that a lot of entrepreneurs have a dopamine deficiency. So their whole business is just actually trying to meet this chemical need. I interviewed a guy on my podcast a few years ago. He has two PhDs in psychology and he wrote a book called Driven and he talks about this very specific how is it a driven minded brain and you actually could study that dopamine is not releasing, so they have to stay in this active mode. I don’t know if that’s helpful for any entrepreneurs.

Glenn Harper 00:38:5000:39:54

I would agree with that 100%. I’d say most entrepreneurs have a severe case of I always joke around by saying it’s a severe case of Add because we can’t work operate in a real job scenario. We have to be anarchy all the time. And when we operate like that, everything is just all of a sudden we see the zeros and ones. It’s just there’s this clarity because we thrive in that anarchy. And it’s always about the what’s next. But I think what you were saying earlier that I think is important is most entrepreneurs are so busy chasing what’s next, they never take time to stop and plan out what they’re trying to do, evaluate where they’ve been, where they’re at, and for lack of a better term, a budget, right? I’m moving with purpose instead of just moving with speed. And when you can find that time, when you stop and reflect and plan, that’s a whole different conversation for what you’re trying to accomplish. And that’s something like you said, these people and yourself included myself, we’re so busy chasing, we never sit back and check it out, right, and see what happened.

Zack Geist 00:39:5400:42:13

There’s this idea of sufficiency. I love it. This woman wrote a book, she’s raised more money for philanthropic organizations from people that are super wealthy to people that are poor. She wrote a book called The Soul of Money. She talks about this term called Sufficiency, which is so valuable, figuring out how much money do you actually need to meet your sufficiency needs. Because you could only get so far as my belief, if you’re only serving yourself, there’s some part of that and there’s a freedom that’s not just like, oh, that’s my Sufficiency number. Woohoo, I’m free. But it’s this anchor. It’s kind of like practicing gratitude exercises. Like you could have a bunch of shit to be grateful for. Like you’re healthy, you’re listening to a podcast, you have an iPhone or a smartphone of some kind. Not everybody in the world has that. You’ve got internet, you’re driving a car. You have so many things to be grateful for, but unless you consciously bring your attention to feeling grateful, you won’t feel it. So a sufficiency need is important because if you know what your Sufficiency number is, you could constantly remind yourself, look, I’m making enough for my Sufficiency number. And the rest of this I’m gamifying my financial life and my entrepreneurial life. And when it becomes less about survival and more gamified, you could still you’re in it like a video game or a movie, but you could pop back out. You’re not like having those full you’re not being pulled in every direction. And so I find it’s important to figure out what your efficiency need is. There’s some numbers that say, like, 90,000 a year. After that, you could buy more fancy stuff, but you’re not really getting more of what would make you happy. It’s all decoration. It’s mostly decoration after that. I don’t know if that’s true. My needs are like, far in excess of that, but my needs are like serving other people. So when I get stuff for myself, I’m always looking at, like it’s kind of like those video games. If I’m getting video games, I’m getting it so all the kids could come over and play and they could have these experiences. So my whole life has been about that. That’s why people are like, why do you do this thing you’re doing in Hawai? And that’s really part of that. So knowing what that number is, and I think that’s where a professional could help you figure out that number and then help you plan to have that number come in passively. And then once you have that, then the entrepreneurial game, it’s not like a life or death game. It’s like playing with the game genie. If you’re old enough to know what that is, it’s unlimited lives.

Glenn Harper 00:42:1300:42:50

It’s kind of like Bud Fox asking Gordon Gecko, well, how many yachts can you ski behind? When is it enough is enough? The hard part with an entrepreneur is we just have this insatiable drive. I mean, it’s just you have it like whether you make 100 million, 500 million, a million, there is no number that you’re going to stop and say, well, that’s the number, because then what’s your purpose? Because you hit your goal. So that is a moving target. It’s how do you keep finding the joy and the purpose and the give back and all those things that makes your soul whole while you’re on that journey? Because, again, that’s one of our questions Julie loves to ask. It, what’s your end game? Right?

Zack Geist 00:42:5100:44:54

This is great. This is great. There’s a book, actually. It’s called Finite and Infinite Games. I forget the author. It always escapes me. But instead of playing a finite game of like, how am I going to earn as much financial capital for myself as possible so I could make more money than my friends or like, Jeff Bezos, have a bigger yacht than everybody else? Instead, it’s, how can I constantly improve my lifestyle? So for me, it’s constant and never ending improvement. The Leah Coca model, which I learned from Tony Robbins. But instead of constantly improving my own financial income or my own success in one industry, it’s how do I constantly improve the world and the lives of those that I am touching? How could my vocation be more of a Dharma? And then how could my finances this is an important piece of holistic finances, looking at your money. So your money as an extension of your soul’s, work in the world. So imbuing your money, your investments with your own soul. So, like, my money is serving my work because for so many people, you’ll hit a point where your money is actually creating the world that you’re living in more than what you’re doing for work. You may be a doctor doing something really amazing with your actual time, but your money becomes at some point so much more powerful than your own effort and time. So really aligning that. So my goal is to be a living representation of that type of practice in the world. So my hope is as I continue to age, we don’t know how long I’ll go, but when I’m on my deathbed, if I’m coherent enough to realize it, is that my life was constantly I’m constantly impacting future generations in a positive way. So for me that I live, I play an infinite game as opposed to a finite game. And paradoxically, I had to play a finite game for a while so I could get myself to the point where I had enough time to even play this infinite game. So I hope that makes sense and it’s not too philosophical for you.

Glenn Harper 00:44:5400:45:15

It totally makes sense. I think what you’re basically saying is achieve that total consciousness, right, where it’s not about you anymore, it’s about how you can help others and if you help others, you’ll still make money, but that’s way more satisfying because once you get a certain level, what’s the point? But why not bring with versus trying to separate from, right? Just bring all the people important with you and then you’re in.

Zack Geist 00:45:1600:45:44

Totally, yeah. It’s funny because most of the time I have a product or a service that I’m selling and I’m trying to just figure out what the heck do I charge for this? It’s the strangest problem. And I’m complaining recently because I have to start another company while I’m here in Utah in the next two and a half weeks. I already have the team that could do it, I have the people that want to buy it and I’m just literally putting the things together. I was outsourcing it and the person just kept dropping the ball and I’m like, oh my gosh, I have to start and I’m going to have a fifth company with taxes and credit card and count.

Glenn Harper 00:45:4400:45:45


Zack Geist 00:45:4600:46:41

But it’s funny to be in a situation I’m like, oh man, I have to start another company to serve eventually. If your goal is to really serve clients and it goes back to it’s, these same clients, they have a need. And I’m like, I’ve got thousands and thousands of clients that we’ve helped with student loans or with other aspects of their finance or their taxes. I know that you come from that world of accounting and so they also have other needs and I’m trying to and normally I’m able to send them to other professionals, but in this case, I haven’t found a professional to send them to. So I’m having to bring that in house, which is actually how a lot of these businesses came. It came from a need for my clients that are present, and another business is formed out of it. I think that’s what’s happened to Elon Musk on a much larger scale than me doesn’t even compare. He’s just like, there’s a need to go to space. Let’s do that electric car. And he just keeps going.

Glenn Harper 00:46:4100:46:50

You’ll probably drop some Cutco knives into your network marketing of all your clients, because you probably can sell that like it’s your job now and make a little bit extra. But I think what you used to.

Zack Geist 00:46:5000:46:52

Hire people from Cutco way back in.

Glenn Harper 00:46:5200:47:04

The day had a good training program. Yeah, but I think that’s what you’re saying. You have these ideas, you create more opportunities and for others, and you help empower them. And that’s really what life’s all about, is it not, Zach?

Julie Smith 00:47:0400:47:31

All I got out of that, and I loved how you kept going, is there’s no end game. Your mind is going 30 million mile seconds, whatever it is, per whatever we’re in, and there’s no end game. You can’t stop doing what you’re doing, because again, you’re doing it. I think your integrity is good, and you’re trying to just provide solutions. And when you’re doing that, you can’t stop. Right? You don’t want this fifth company, but you can’t not do it.

Zack Geist 00:47:3100:49:24

I can’t not serve the client. If I meet someone that could fulfill that need right now, I would for sure just send my clients to them and not go through this whole process. I remember when Elon Musk talked about that light rail and how he would design. He goes, here’s the design. Someone build a light rail from La. To San Francisco? I’ve done all the work. I’ve got a million other things going on. That’s kind of how I feel about this other company. I’m like, it’s going to make money. We just, like, estimated, like, probably like, 300 grand the first year. And I’m like, it’s like, I don’t even need that extra money. It’d be helpful. But the minute student loans have been frozen for three and a half years and all my competitors went out of business, and because we were focused on serving clients, we actually grew during that time. Growing was way more expensive than it would have normally been, but the actual number of clients had grown. I use this time to be able to do that. It’s funny because I was always looking for an end game, and when the third time, everything kind of came crashing down because I didn’t know how to manage the money that came in, which was that seed that created the next incarnation ten years ago is my end game. Was I’m going to meditate and become enlightened? So I converted that ambition into some spiritual ambition and ended up moving into a tent in the wilderness with no endgame, put all my stuff in storage, and lived in a tent, like doing yoga, meditating and reading Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle and other Eastern spiritual teachers. And I was like, maybe this is my path now. I’m going to just focus on my breathing until I die. So maybe some people that would be really beneficial. I did learn a lot from that process. I do that sometimes. I have a temple that was built over the top of a waterfall so I could go there and meditate, and it’s really beautiful, and it’s my backyard, and it’s kind of cool.

Glenn Harper 00:49:2400:49:33

I don’t think you sleep at all. You sound like a total normal entrepreneur. Like, there’s just always something in the hopper. Well, we really appreciate you being on the show today. Do you want to give a little plug?

Julie Smith 00:49:3300:49:36

Wait a couple of times. I have one more question.

Zack Geist 00:49:3600:49:37


Julie Smith 00:49:3700:49:43

And I think you’ve talked about it, you just haven’t outright said it. What is your superpower?

Zack Geist 00:49:4300:51:59

Oh, what is my superpower? Yeah. I remember seeing this on your questions that you asked some people. Yeah, I think that my superpower is I’m really good at not wanting to do the thing. I know a lot of people, they want to be the one doing the thing. It’s almost like a weakness. Once I figure out how to do the thing, it’s like, I am totally bored of it. I’m like, okay, I know how to solve this Rubik’s Cube. I’m not going to sit there and try to solve it blindfolded or with one eye or whatever. I’m just like, here everybody. This is how you solve Rubik’s Cube. Go solve Rubik’s Cubes. And I have no interest in anymore where I see a lot of people, they get really obsessed with something, and they want to keep doing it. I do not get tangled up in my work, which is actually kind of frustrating because it’s, like, lonely because I’m like, okay, that’s how you build that thing. Okay, now that I know how to build it uninterested, what can I learn next? So maybe my server power is like, I want to learn things, and I’m really good at untangling myself from them and going to the next thing and getting someone in that place to do it and being willing and able and happy to go. You do that thing now and then putting it into something that’s coherent, and I think it’s funny. We started this podcast with coffee, and as you could see, my demeanor has changed. There are some theories that coffee is actually maybe the leading cause of entrepreneurship. Coffee was actually being drunk in New York in a coffee shop, and that’s actually where the stock market came from, was during the initial times of coffee being drunk. And it was, like, written on paper. And they’re like, hey, this is how we could parcel together companies and play this wild. Game, which I think is a finite game, the whole stock market, it needs to shift. There needs to be more than just capital return as the goal, because eventually I think there’s going to be an end to what we can convert into capital, financial capital. But it’s interesting to see, like, even the natural world is participating in whatever this game is. What were you saying?

Glenn Harper 00:51:5900:52:05

They not only had coffee, but they’re also drinking the original Coca Cola. So there was all kinds of crazy stuff happening trying to figure it out.

Zack Geist 00:52:0500:52:07

That was the next incarnation.

Glenn Harper 00:52:0700:52:07

There you go.

Zack Geist 00:52:0700:52:12

Maybe the greater industrial Revolution came from.

Glenn Harper 00:52:1200:52:25

Awesome. Well, hey, we really appreciate you being on board today. This is going to be a great show. And if you want to put a couple of plugs to your companies real quick, when we’ll make sure that people want to get hold of you for something they find intriguing, they certainly can do so.

Zack Geist 00:52:2500:53:46

Yeah, sounds good. So the main company is Student Loan Tutor, and I know that I help people that have student loans. Me and my team are the experts. We know more than anyone about how to navigate student debt, how to pay as little to nothing as possible. Sounds unbelievable. There is no student loan crisis, the crisis of ignorance. We’ve saved people hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. And it’s not just for people that are poor. It’s mostly for entrepreneurs. If you’re self employed, if you have an LLC or an S Corp or you’re a sole Prop or even have options for that, but even if you’re an employee, there’s ways to navigate especially high balance student loan debt. And essentially we talked about sales. I’m selling money and then guaranteeing our clients that we save them money. So it’s really cool to be able to sell a dollar for a nickel, which is exactly what I’m doing. And then Holistic Finance is kind of the whole capture piece, and we’re transitioning over from being an actual investment advisory company into a more educational platform. So be patient as the website is developing more. But that’s been going for the last six years. If you ever install Lake City, you can come to Ecstatic Dance. And if you’re ever on the Big Island Rainbow Bridge, hawai is the Eco Village Farm Retreat Center and is a new business on its way?

Julie Smith 00:53:4600:53:51

Well, that’s what I was going to say. We’re going to have to have you back on in three weeks to talk about the new business.

Zack Geist 00:53:5100:54:03

Yeah, we’ve been doing it, but the paperwork and all of that has been on the other end. I was just doing the marketing arm of it, but essentially it’s corporate formation with the formation of nonprofits and showing people how to manage that instead of payroll.

Julie Smith 00:54:0300:54:05

The paperwork, it’s the worst, right?

Glenn Harper 00:54:0500:54:06

Oh, God.

Zack Geist 00:54:0600:54:21

That’s it. Yeah. That’s another thing for entrepreneurs. If you find something that really sucks and people don’t like to do. It like door to door or paperwork or a lot of those things. There’s generally garbage men. Garbage men and plumbers are a great example of being able to make a lot of money doing things people don’t want to do.

Glenn Harper 00:54:2100:54:33

I agree. Well, again, appreciate you on the show, Zack. Enjoy and keep working hard and having fun and keep creating those opportunities for the people around you that you want to bring with. Take care. Thank you.

Zack Geist 00:54:3300:54:34

I can’t help myself.

Glenn Harper 00:54:3400:54:36

That’s it. Well, Julie, that was a good one.

Julie Smith 00:54:3600:54:37

That was a good one.

Glenn Harper 00:54:3700:54:41

All right, well, until the next time. This is Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith 00:54:4100:54:41

Julie Smith.

Glenn Harper 00:54:4100:54:42

See you later.

Episode Show Notes

Zack Geist is our guest. He is the founder and owner of Student Loan Tutor, the US’s largest student loan advisory company.

Zach shares his journey to entrepreneurship and how books inspired him to achieve success. He stresses the importance of finding one’s sufficiency number and how serving others is personal sufficiency.

Zach discusses his experiences with networking marketing, selling something they didn’t have, and overcoming rejection. He also talks about his dedication to serving clients, their spiritual ambitions, and their aversion to underpaying people.

Listeners will gain insight into navigating the financial matrix, playing an infinite game, and balancing personal financial goals with being generous.

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Episode Transcription Glenn Harper [00:00:00]: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of the Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. I'm Glenn Harper. Julie Smith [00:00:04]: Julie Smith. Glenn Harper [00:00:05]: How are you doing, Julie? You don't have any coffee over...

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