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Why being a drug dealer made me successful in business


“I need Andy Dew to come with me, the principle would like to see him”. It was one of the front office ladies at my school.

My entire face body turned bright red. I knew what was coming. I was about to be kicked out of 7th grade and have my life ruined (at least it felt that way at the time).

A few weeks previous, I had been talking with a friend and apparently his brother said he could get us a “decent amount” of marijuana. Now, I wasn’t very interested in getting high, but I realized something…

I was in a unique position.

Everyone at school would want some, and no one had a way to get it. I could buy this stuff at a decent price, mark it up, and double my money in no time. Plus, if I didn’t smoke any, I’d have that much more to sell! It was my first real arbitrage experiment gone horribly wrong.

I am incredibly passionate about making money in creative ways. I’ve been this way from an early age. When I collected Pokemon cards, I didn’t play the card game, I built myself the most valuable collection in all my school. I made strategic trades with people, not based on what looked cool, but off the listed resale value in my card guide. Sadly, the cards were banned from school and labeled as bad distractions for us kids. A widespread murder of hope and desire.

Even as a 6th grader, I would go to BJ’s wholesale with my mom and buy Juicy Fruit Gum. I would then sell them for $0.50/pack at school. I was doubling up my money in a day!

Around the same time, I had a friend who built miniature toy guns out of mechanical pencils and rubber bands. You could launch a crumpled up piece of paper across an entire room with the right set up. I proposed to him, that he make the shooters, and I sell them. We’d split the sales 50/50 (my first JV partnership!). People LOVED our shooters. We even had a competitor right before everything was shut down. The shooters looked like this:


Pretty fierce right?

It took the teachers almost a week to catch on, and sales of all kinds were banned :( I got into trouble for doing this, and was disappointed, but it was nothing compared to the PokeBan of 1999.

Flash forward a year, and you have a 14 year old who can’t help but creatively make money, has been discouraged by authority at every turn, and is full of hormones. Not a good combination if you ask me.

Ultimately I made the very poor decision to be a small time, middle school drug dealer. I didn’t even get my hands on the “inventory” before I was being pulled out of class, searched, and practically interrogated about my illegal business endeavor. Some might say I was a “small time, middle-school drug dealer wannabe”.

I was stupid smart enough to have a piece of paper on me with names of other kids and how much they were supposed to pay me. I had to keep track of it somehow right? iPhones weren’t a thing yet and I’m a very forgetful person. All my friends were thrilled to be featured in my little piece of paper after I got caught.

I did in fact get expelled and it added to the growing insecurity I had in my own desires and my way of thinking about the world.

From a young age, I was diagnosed with ADD and a learning disability. In 7th grade, I was taken out of my Algebra class, and put into “Math 7” where some of the kids were actually mentally handicapped. Not the biggest self-esteem booster when you’re 14.

All throughout middle school and High School, I was told (often in subtle ways) that the way I thought about life was inferior and not practical. Throughout High School, I got C’s and D’s. I actually had to sit out one basketball game because I was failing Algebra (damn you algebra).

Getting kicked out of school wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it taught me some very important things.
1. Being a Stay at Home Mother is way harder than most jobs. I had to help my mom around the house while not in school.
2. You can never be happy if you care too much about what people think. News of my expulsion was published in the local newspaper.
3. My desire to make money wasn’t wrong at all. It was just the way I tried to achieve that desire that was the problem.

It wasn’t until years later I realized how much I could learn from my experience. I was attending Ohio State, getting A’s and B’s and had a girlfriend who actually encouraged my desire to creatively make money. She even thought it was cool that I took Philosophy of Logic because it counted as a math credit. Take that Algebra.

I started leaving behind fear of my past failure, and being honest about my current desires.

It was shortly after this moment in my life, I started making money online, buying and re-selling products via Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). It’s only been more of an adventure since. I made past failure my bitch.

I had to reject all the negative aspects of my past failure and embrace the positive learning experiences. The desire to make money is good. Dealing drugs is bad.

Selling gum and doubling my initial investment is great. School just isn’t the proper place to conduct business.

Just because I didn’t excel in the classroom at my small private High School, didn’t mean I couldn’t excel in a different environment.

Much of the success I’ve had in business is a direct result of rejecting fear. Fear that often times, is rooted in past failure. Rejecting fear is the entry cost to doing what makes you truly happy. If you want a comfortable life, let fear and past failure keep you in the same place. There is much less risk and excitement involved.

If you want to achieve your deepest desires, you’ll have to deal with the fear illusion of those desires not being acceptable, practical, good, etc. The desire is almost always 100% pure. Remember, it’s how you go about achieving that desire that can get us into trouble.

Failure is just another stepping stone on the path to living a truly fulfilling and successful life. I now pay attention to my failures so I can learn as much as possible from them and teach others how to avoid the same mistakes I’ve made. It’s the best way to keep achieving my desire of making money creatively online.

Being afraid or ashamed of failure is a complete waste of energy and it kills creativity. Can you think of something in your life you’re a little embarrassed to talk about? Maybe something you want to do, but have never had much encouragement from others? A business venture you told everyone about, only to abandon the entire thing a few months later?

Whether it’s a deep desire, or an embarrassing story, leave a comment below. Don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, you’re talking to someone who once was a middle school drug dealer wannabe.

And yes, that ridiculous kid in the picture is me in High School.

26 comments… add one
  • Hey Andy, I am so proud to call you my friend. Your story will relate to so many thanks for sharing it. My story is very familiar well except for the drug dealer thing. Although I have sure had a past of doing but not dealing. I think the fact that we are both driven to share our stories and let others know that if we can come from where we did and be successful you can to. Failure can will happen. It is what you learn from them that will propel you to greatness. Always get moving forward toward your dreams.

    John Sr

    • Wow John, thank you for the encouragement. You’ve always been a great friend to me. Our stories are always more powerful than we think right?

  • Becky

    This was one of the best posts you’ve ever written. I enjoyed it very much.

    • Thank you so much Becky! I’m starting to write more how I enjoy doing it. It’s always my goal to come across as genuine and thought provoking.

  • Brad

    Great post, Andy! Thanks for sharing your story, very inspiring. The mechanical pencil shooters bring back good memories

  • Martin

    What a confidence booster to the young entrepreneur. Young men and women fit this mold that you explain in your life often.
    Problem solving, trying to serve others and fill a need. Yes, anyone can make a bad decision, that’s why we must always be investing/teaching someone. Show them the Truth!

    • Thanks Martin, I agree. Young people need to see not perfect people, but transparent people who learn from their mistakes and move forward.

  • Shawn Searcy

    Great Posting, It’s funny to think about my past and all the things I did to create money for myself; paper delivery, sold stuff for Boy Scouts, baseball, football, anything Cards, sold cigarettes and chewing tobacco at school! Amway, anything to be the “inner Businessman” inside of me 😀 I always worked hard and always wanted more than “a regular 9-5″ …

    It’s fantastic to be in a business environment where we can ” be in business for ourselves but not BY ourselves”, learn and share our backgrounds, we all come from many backgrounds and situations, great to know where you came from and one day will know more about me and John Bullard too 😊

    • Thanks Shawn! It’s so funny to look back on our past after we’ve learned from it. The more people think about it, they might realize little business ventures or quirks in their childhood that help explain desires they have now. In many ways, we are much less reserved and repressed as children. I think many of us “grow up” and leave behind so much imagination, desire, and humility.

  • Rose'lani

    Funny post! Good encouragement for me. Over the last four years, I’ve been trying one home based business after another. I did fairly well with them up to a certain point. That point was usually getting others to join in under me, which I hated. I’m thrilled to have found something I can do that is fun, has great potential, and I can increase all on my own. Thank you, Andy, for being willing to give out advice. It’s very helpful to this “failure” prone entrepreneur. I’m excited for the future of my business for the first time! Yahoo!

    • I’m glad it’s encouraging! I also did a network marketing company and never felt 100% on board with having people joining under me. Looking back though, it was a great learning experience (I got to have dinner with multi-millionairs) and I still know some cool people from that time in my life.
      Having your own streams of income is hard to beat isn’t it? Although it comes with it’s own risks and hardships, I wouldn’t choose any other way.

  • Stephanie

    Good and inspiring story man

  • jen

    Taking Philosophy of Logic as your math credit put a big smile on my face! My daughter took the same class and A+ it, considering math was never her forte. Take that High School math! Enjoyed your post!

    • I also did well in my class! I think it’s a great alternative way to understand math. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Mike Burkett

    Very well-written, thoughtful piece Andy! I love the way you’ve grown to a place where you are able to redeem your past, turning failures into learning experiences. And you articulate it with real depth and humor. So glad we are friends. Keep up the writing!

    • Thanks Mike! You’ve had such a profound and positive impact on my life. Especially when it comes to my writing. Thank you!

  • Christian

    I had a very similar experience in 7th grade as well. In my 1st period yearbook class, my friend had been telling me all about how him and his brother were splitting the cost of marijuana and selling to kids in my class along with kids at the high school (Still to this day it amazes me that the 7th grader was selling to the Juniors and Seniors.) He told me his whole business plan… but the biggest flaw was that they were smoking more than they were selling. Long story short, Some of my friends told the guidance councilor about my drug dealing endeavor and I was called into her office, soon to find my parents sitting with her. I lied through my teeth talking about how I don’t know what they are talking about and it’s not at all true. My parents took me home and told me to go to the living room to wait for them. My father went to my room to look for the drugs as my mom issued a drug test. I passed the drug test because I knew better than to use my own product, hindering my profits. Because of my amazing “sky skills,” my father was unable to find anything. Realizing that I was in deep shit and I needed to find a way to get out, I ended up spilling my guts. I told them the whole process, the suppliers, the buyers, my motives (at the time, to buy a nice big flat screen tv.) The following Monday (this all took place on a single Friday afternoon,) I was escorted into the school with my parents at my side to tell the councilor the whole story. I ended up not getting suspended or expelled because of my cooperation. But that whole experience brought me to where I am now, following in the steps of an entrepreneur.

  • Suzanne

    Andy, this story reminds me that you don’t have to be old to be wise. Thanks for sharing some of your history.

  • Burke treboni

    Wow, what a great read! Thank you for sharing!

  • Amy

    Thank you for being so transparent, Andy. You are an inspiration and reminded me how I have allowed my past failures to keep me where I dreaded to be for too long. I am learning to move forward and at least risk some things even if I fail because we don’t learn unless we’re willing to try. I look forward to learning more from you and will take this to heart next time I need to move from becoming stagnant.

  • Excellent post Dewster… This made me think of my high school days and also my entrepreneurial endeavors, selling super Mario games to other kids… You are always the one to go against the grain and after what you believe….

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