Career Planning is similar to other long-term projections, an incomplete science best used as a guide to accomplish your goals, set success metrics along your path, and continue moving forward towards your destination. Dan Anton’s career path showcases the principles of extreme pivoting, but the foundations established towards accomplishing his goals is reminiscent of Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret, where a ship would never leave the harbor without a chosen destination.
In high school, Dan Anton was earning money online, through video game arbitrage, buying video games cheaply locally and selling nationally online to a wider audience. In college, he would segway into selling MMORPG guides for popular games such as EverQuest, where virtual items started to have real world value. Soon after graduating from Mt. Clair State University, America was attacked on 9/11. Dan would go on to lead hundreds of men into battle and retire as an Infantry Ranger Major in the United States Army
Going from a war hero with confirmed kills in Iraq, to a webmaster isn’t an easy or usual transition. Dan’s career plan included becoming a general, but becoming medically retired allowed him to rekindle his passion for video games, creating a social network for gamers, and more importantly, leading people and complex problem solving. While attempting to learn as much as he could about online marketing during his new venture, he discovered it was actually a specialized field, called SEO (search engine optimization).
More is Not Always the Solution: It’s Okay to Pivot
As a naive webmaster, Dan and brother Matt Anton assumed more traffic would help solve their business model problems. The website began to acquire hundreds of unique visitors each day, culminating in a press event with over 1000 members at one time. The custom coded website had security and scalability flaws, leading to gridlock, a hacked website, and over $100,000 in bootstrap investment lost. After years of attempting to force a business model to work, Dan put his officer hat back on, re-evaluated the situation and made the difficult, yet correct decision to pivot.
The passion project was no longer viable, and sobering reality was met with optimism as a valuable, and lucrative skillset was learned over the course of the venture; how to properly market and promote a business website online. Perhaps video game traffic wasn’t easily monetizable, but a plumber, lawyer, doctor competing for leads would gladly pay to beat out their competition in the major search engines. The number one complaint amongst webmasters in 2010 was how to get your webpages indexed and trusted by Google. Dan saw an opportunity to ease the pain and monotonous boring labor, often associated with organic SEO tasks. Other competitors or solutions existed but they were not completely DFY, and required proxies, registering to blogs, creating accounts and posting on social media. After months of internal testing, Dan coded and launched BacklinksIndexer, which to this day, nearly 7 years later, is still considered the industry leader in getting web pages found and trusted in Google according to ZontSEO’s independent case study.
What is Your “Potential” Value Add?
“To create the olive, king of all trees, a hundred years is required. An onion plant is old in nine weeks.”
-Og Mandio, The Greatest Salesman in the World
Career options are a reflection of the skillsets and abilities you currently possess to actively add value to other people’s lives, solving problems; the more difficult, the more lucrative. A honeybun helps solve the fleeting problem of a sweet tooth, whereas a brain tumor surgeon saves someone’s life, and the earning potential is a direct result of this value discrepancy. The more value you can generate, the more options are available. This is why people often recommend reading classic literature, staying abreast of the latest industry news in your field of interest or branching off into new activities. Career planning may then be better described as acquiring traits and abilities which are needed and useful to your fellow man, or may one day be useful and needed.
“You can have everything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”
Dan Anton was lucky enough to study computer science in college, not having a true plan for its use upon graduating. Without this skillset he might have joined a different industry after retiring from the Army, perhaps finance or leadership role within a major company. It was his ability to code and previous success as an online entrepreneur in his teens and throughout college which gave him the impetus to move forward with his vision to become successful online. The social network failed to add much value to gamer’s lives and became a failure, but his ability to help other people get quality traffic equated to their financial success, a true value add. He was now helping solve other people’s problems, how to get more business online and grow their business through effective marketing.
Rather than just helping a handful of people, the software allowed a scale previously not seen in the SEO industry, as the complex system helped complete tasks in minutes instead of the previous hours it took with human labor alone. Careers, much like the software are ever-evolving. Features were constantly tweaked, added and fine-tuned based on customer feedback and market demands. The core principle of the software remained the same, solve a specific problem in the search industry and for as many people as possible. Once committed to multiplying his value in the SEO space, Dan had a long term vision for his suite of products, with unwavering determination, still remaining flexible enough to adapt to micro-changes to best suit his customers. Years earlier, by peering through a narrow vista of an end goal as a problem-solver in SEO, he was able to reverse engineer and work backwards, acquiring the lessons learned and skills necessary to run a 7 figure online business, and eventually dominating the Atlanta area with his marketing agency. Dan’s passion was always leading others; he would never have been exposed to the search engine marketing world without his past experiences, nor would he have been equipped to recognize or seize the opportunity. Rather than rely on fate, passion, or other cliches, he mastered skillsets, tested, applied and pivoted when necessary to create a fulfilling career, both creatively and financially.
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Good luck in your search,