How to be a lucky bastard

I’ve had two trips recently, first my 2 week vacation to the Canaries closely followed 4 days in San Francisco for Elite Retreat. The two experiences were absolutely poles apart, but both enjoyable and enlightening in different ways.

My vacation was spent with 5 other adults, one of whom is retired (my partner’s mother (girlfriend sounds a bit pants at my age) the others all have full-time jobs. After a few beers conversation sometimes gets around to what I do and I have two interesting dinner table conversations to share, this being the first.

I friend I’ve known for about 13 years had the insight to call to me lucky, as I make decent money from home, don’t have, need or want a regular job and have websites that continue to grow without taking much time. I think her exact words were “You’re a lucky bastard, you don’t work and make more money than all of us”. She’s right, as I’ve said before I’ve been pretty lucky so here’s the best way I’ve found to be a lucky bastard.

  • Learn by doing, my first “real” business was a market stall where I used to sell ethnic clothing and jewellery (Darkside Clothing and Jewellery if I remember correctly), I ran this for 18 months out side my regular day job. It turned a profit but no where near enough to leave the 9 – 5.
  • I first started using the Internet over 10 years ago (I should of registered loads of domains but I wasn’t “lucky” back then) and connected using a 14,400 modem. We had monthly “Internet users” meetings in the local pub (~20 of us). I was chatting to one guy and we decided to launch a new gaming BBS (that thing before the Internet) system. We got as far as opening business bank accounts before we ran out of steam which was a lucky break as the Internet killed off the majority of BBS pretty quickly
  • During a work placement at IBM I started programming using Borland Delphi, I learnt a lot from colleagues and trial and error as well as some early websites. I thought it would be a cool idea to start my own site and hopefully make a bit of money. After about a year of procrastinating and writing tutorials my first site Delphi Central was born, it’s had 3 URL changes (without redirection) since then. The site is still in my portfolio is responsible for my first $0.82 Adsense day back in 2004 (many years after I’d originally started the site).
  • I moved on from Delphi and left the site to stagnate somewhat when I was approached by a much larger C++ site to write with them and share profits. For 6 months I slogged my guts out, converting tutorials from Delphi to C++ and vice versa, writing new ones etc. For the majority of the 6 months I was the only contributor. We finally all met up in person and I was excited to share my visions on how we could move the site forward, run it as a proper business and make some money. At the time I thought we were all in agreement, the next day my FTP access had been revoked and I could not log into any of the control panels. After speaking to one of the partners it turns out the other two didn’t like the direction I wanted to take the site and thought it would be better without out me so that was it, I was gutted, it felt like being dumped. As we had no written agreement and domains and hosting were in other partners names I was powerless to do anything (other than complain like hell).
  • My next business was again with partners, we set up an Internet software house to provide coding services via the Net to different clients, we also planned to use the Net to outsource work when required. This was my first Limited company. The business was profitable but I feel now none of us were really committed to pushing it, we all had fulltime jobs and in the end the business petered out, it a shame as in hind sight I reckon we could of done really well out of it.
  • It would now be 2004 and I went back to looking at how to make money from the web, I re-launched my Delphi site and even wrote a few new tutorials and started learning about SEO and monetization. Over the year I’ll of launched about 10 sites but I was “unlucky” as none of them made much money.
  • In 2005 I continued to maintain my existing sites and create new ones, always looking for an idea that could take off. I did have a few profitable sites but nothing major/. During 2005 I took a 3 month sabbatical from my day job to concentrate on my Internet ventures, it was during this time I launched Coolest Gadgets you can see in it’s first years history how that went.

Sorry for that somewhat long, rant like post but am I lucky bastard? I reckon I am, it just took me a while to find my luck. There’s an old saying “The harder I work the luckier I get”, are you feeling lucky?

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. Well… I don’t think you’re “lucky” besides from the fact that you didn’t give up your dream. And I believe that it proves the point that if you keep trying then you will eventually strike gold.

    If people want to call that luck then Yes! I do feel lucky 🙂

  2. There is a book in Spain which has been a best seller. The title of it is “La Buena suerte” or “Good Luck”. It is basically a short story which explains through a fable how to find good luck. The main idea behind the story is that good luck is always there for all those who want to go out and search for it. Finding it depends only on us.

  3. Nah, I’d say your lucky to have gone to the Canaries for a couple of weeks and then head to Elite Retreat without bankrupting yourself in the process 😉

  4. I don’t think you’re that lucky because it’s obvious that you dedicated a lot of time and effort towards getting to where you’re at.

    Your friends only see what you do now when you’re hanging out and already established as compared to when you were working really hard until something finally stuck.

    • My follow up post to this is from a conversation on the same holiday where I got called a workaholic as I checked my email every day, so I’m a lucky workaholic.

  5. I wish someone on here would tell my girlfriend (partner) that hard work will pay off in the end. Im sick of the “you spend all that time on the computer after work and youve only earned $15 today” i constantly get in my earhole! When i try and explain $15 a day aint that bad seen as the sites have been going since december but i might as well be talking to the wall 🙂 . In my opinion you make your own luck as if you try hard enough sooner or later you will hit the jackpot.

    • Curt, save up 10 days of $15 and buy her something nice. That way she’ll see the WIIFM (whats in it for me) part.

      • That’s a nice suggestion Mikael,why not buy her a nice shiny new domain 🙂

        • You’re a born romantic Al 😀

        • Funnily enough I don’t get called that very often, I think the gf is still sulking at me for not buying that ring.

          I do have a friend that bought/had written his girlfriend a travel related blog, she at least feigned appreciation.

        • I really like the idea of saving 10 times $15 and getting the girlfriend something!

          Another idea would be to try to get the girlfriend to make money noline by ie. writing a blog on fashion etc. then she might realize how much a “labour of love” making money online is… 🙂

        • thx 4 the tips guys not sure what i can buy for £30 that would impress the missus. If only the dollar was at 1.4 like it used to be i would be so much happier 🙂

  6. Hi Al, If you were to define the skillset that has made coolest gadget a success what would it be.
    Aside from handcoding what tools do you use dreamweaver etc.

    • Noy a skill set as such as my primary skill was as a C++ coder and then system architect, neither of which I’m using at the moment. For me the primary success factor was perseverance and doing that bit extra when at times I didn’t want to. I think in the 3 (nearly) years that CG has been running we’ve only ever not posted on 2 days though it is a lot easier now with multiple paid writers.

      With regards to tools I use Dreamweaver but it’s total overkill for the sort of coding I do.

  7. I’m reminded of that immortal line by Edna Mold in The Incredibles, “Luck favors the prepared, Dahlink.”

  8. I actually take offense to that remark about being “lucky”. The way I see it, it only seems lucky to those who don’t understand this industry. They don’t understand what it actually took to get to where you are.

    Like you, I had many business ventures with other people, and over a span of 4 years nothing clicked, usually it just puttered during the planning stages. Those were some heart breaking years, as I’ve felt like those were solid ideas, that never got the chance. It’s only when I decided to take the helm where I actually tasted success.

    I know your friend didn’t have any ill meanings with her comment, but if you ask me, you’re not lucky. You are willing to persevere through all your failings until you found something that worked. That isn’t luck in my book, it’s hard work.

  9. Thanks for taking the time with the meaty comment John. At the time when I was called lucky it didn’t really sink in but thinking about it afterwards I was a bit pissed about the comment as like you say I know how much work is required. I did find writing this post a some what cathartic experience and will certainly admit to being lucky but not in the way it was originally said.

  10. I couldn’t agree with this post more. Too many people look at our type of work, and say “why couldn’t that be me? When will I get my break?”

    Truth be told I’ve gotten no breaks, I’ve just worked hard and learned from my mistakes.

  11. I hear ya! It took me almost eight years to become an overnight success.

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