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Origins of The Challenge

August 9th, 2006 · 12 Comments

I was chatting to someone over the weekend about The Challenge and they asked me where the idea had come from. Well, it’s not that simple. To give the full story would involve me sharing information with the reader that I hadn’t planned on doing. However, as InstaBLOKE says in his Tips for a Successful Blog article, readers want to hear your personal experiences. So pour yourself a glass of wine, pull up a comfy chair and put on some soothing music. It’s a story which will take you through broken marriages, failed businesses, blended whisky, Tom Cruise, spiralling credit card debts and dice. This might take some time…..

A few years ago I ran a business with an old friend of mine. I’m guessing that he’d like to remain anonymous so let’s call him Bill. As is often the way with start ups, it went belly up within a couple of years. My marriage went the same way within 12 months with the failure of the business as much to blame as anything else. It couldn’t have been easy living with me during that time.

Bill and I remained good friends and would often sit down over a beer planning the next venture. I believe that once you recognise the entrepreneurial spirit within yourself it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, you always believe that the next one will be The Big One.

Anyway Bill moved over to the States a few years later so the contact became more sporadic. The occasional telephone call. Brief chat on MSN Messenger. An email catch up. I’d enrolled on a post graduate course at a drama school so had temporarily put my business brain back in it’s little box and placed a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the outside.

After completing my course, I started looking around for some part time work which allowed me the freedom and flexibility to attend auditions. Within no time it was clear that finding such a job was going to prove difficult so I started designing a few websites on the side. I’d been working on a number of web based projects for the previous few years so it made sense. However the down side of it was that in a lot of ways it was no different to trying to find acting work. I still had to find the work. It wasn’t going to find me. I was spending all of my days looking for work rather than actually doing any.

I was picking up the occasional bit of acting work and the odd bit of website work but it was tough going. My new partner wasn’t happy with my career choices. She didn’t like the lack of money, the mounting debts and no obvious sign of a phone call from either Dreamworks or Dreamweaver! Eventually we broke up after two years and I found myself with no job, no money, nowhere to live.

I moved in with my sister for a while into her shoebox sized spare room, lived off my credit cards and generally felt sorry for myself for 6 months. Things picked up, though, and I got a couple of good acting jobs which meant I could move into a shared flat in London and the website work was starting to pick up. However I was still working harder trying to find work than I was actually doing it. Something needed to change.

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I brushed the dust off the box marked ‘Do Not Disturb’ and opened a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. I always think better with a drop of JWBL in me. Tom Cruise had his bat in ‘A Few Good Men‘ – I have my bottle of JWBL. By now I’d already heard of Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage and had seen the explosion of pixel based advertising sites. Whilst I had no desire to replicate what he’d done, I liked the idea. It was simple.

I can’t remember if he called me or I called him but I had a chat with Bill and it seems that we were both having similar ideas about how to generate a residual income on the internet. Over the next few weeks we started working on a couple of ideas but the simplicity of the Million Dollar Homepage kept coming back to me until one night, after a couple of glasses of JWBL, I sat down with a pencil and a piece of paper and worked out that you only have to double a dollar twenty times to make a million.

Now if it had been something like thirty five times then I would have dismissed it but twenty doesn’t sound a lot, does it? It sounds almost achievable. My initial idea was to create a site where I sold advertising at an ever increasing amount to $1M but that would have been a poor imitation of the Million Dollar Homepage. Besides, it would take too much time, effort and money to get the necessary publicity. It had to be something which would grow organically. Something which people could actively participate in. Something which I could start immediately with whatever I had in my wallet. A quick check revealed that I had just over three pounds ($6), the phone number of a local taxi company and a condom with a use by date of September 2003.

My head was spinning with ideas. Sure, I could come up with a dozen or so scenarios where I could potentially double my money but the chances were that I would crash and burn at some point and have to start again. There are only so many ideas I would be able to come up with before I had exhausted every avenue. I drained my JWBL and headed off to bed. I couldn’t sleep so picked up the book I was reading. It was The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart.

And there, dear reader, is where the Twenty Steps Challenge began. I don’t know whether you are familiar with the book but, in essence, it is the story of a respectable psychiatrist who chooses to change the pattern of his life by making decisions based on the roll of a dice. I figured that any idea I came up with for doubling my money would be equally as likely to succeed or fail at Step One as it would at Step Twenty. My problem was going to be coming up with a whole host of different ideas. So why not allow other people to come up with the ideas and let the dice decide?

The idea grew and has become what you see today. A two-part website. One part deals with The Challenge. The other part looks at the business of making money on the internet, my own personal experiences of trying to make money and hopefully creating a reader base who might learn from my mistakes, share their experiences and also enable me to come up with fresh ideas to achieve The Challenge.

Now I did warn you at the start that this was likely to be a long post, didn’t I? I do hope that your seat was comfortable, your wine was a vintage Ch�teauneuf-du-Pape rather than some grim supermarket own brand and that you chose Mozart rather than Metallica. I promise not to write anything this long ever again. Well, unless someone asks me my opinion of what 10 years of Tony Blair have done to this country……. 😉

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