You've probably heard the quote from Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.” Well, today, I learned about someone I already know and admire, who certainly embodies this trait.
Her name is Ladan Lashkari. She is a reader of this blog, and she even listed it as being one of her favorites. But when I learned her story, I was truly humbled.
The story was written by Eric Holmlund. His blog, “Eric's Tips,” is another blog I highly recommend. As you shall soon find out, he wrote a piece that's so amazing and inspirational, that I had to tell you about it, with Eric's gracious permission. (And once you read it, you'll be amazed like I am by how powerful Ladan's story really is.)
If you think you have limitations in your life stopping you from achieving success, take some time to read about this woman's limitations. Her story is not only captivating, it's awe-inspiring in so many ways.
So without further ado…
If She Can Succeed, So Can You!
I want to tell you about a young woman who has overcome some extreme obstacles on her brief but challenging journey to Internet marketing success.
Her name is Ladan Lashkari, and when I say she's a young woman, that's an understatement. At just 20 years old, she has a youthful look that defies the maturity she's developed in such a short time.
I suppose in the online world, youthful success is not entirely unusual (I met a couple of 21-year-old Internet millionaires last month in New York), but this story hasn't even begun, yet.
The fact that she's a girl making money on the Internet becomes much more significant when you realize where she comes from.
Ladan was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and lives there to this day.
There are political, economical, and religious obstacles that make it difficult for anyone to be a successful Internet marketer in Iran, and in most cases even more difficult for a woman to do so.
With respect for Ladan, I'm not going to get into the details of the specific political and religious barriers that many women face in Iran, but just be aware that this story runs even deeper than I'm able to write about.
If Internet marketing was a wrestling match, she's starting the competition with one hand tied behind her back simply because of the place she was born into the world.
Next obstacle: the language barrier.
Although you wouldn't know it from her articles and sales letters, Ladan was not born into an English-speaking family. She started learning the language at eight years of age, and devoured every English book she could get her hands on.
Even at such a young age, she began to realize that her fluency in English would open up more doors of opportunity throughout her life. Throughout her teen years, this fervor grew as she tackled the language head-on.
A true entrepreneur, she decided that she wanted to become independent and produce her own income. When her family bought a computer, she quickly began experimenting with ways she could turn it into an income stream. She tried all kinds of business; teaching Windows, graphic designing with PhotoShop, and website design. She even learned C++ programming.
Even though she was able to make money through those avenues, she knew that there was a bigger opportunity out there.
At 16 years of age, she discovered the world of Internet marketing through the late Cory Rudl's website. She bought and studied his Internet marketing course, along with other ebooks and resources.
She knew right away that this was the business she wanted to be in.
Her friends and family tried to convince her that becoming a successful Internet marketer in Iran would be impossible, and that she shouldn't continue to waste her money. If you've ever faced the negative energy of friends and family, you'll understand that it's a powerful force that can quench your enthusiasm and ultimately abort the launch of a new business.
Fortunately, her father believed in her, and the resistance of others made her more determined than ever to find success.
After about a year of learning and studying the business, she launched her first website, and the rest — as they say — is history. But that history has not been without its fair share of bumps and valleys.
Jumping into business forced her to take her English proficiency to a new level. For a long time it was difficult to read and comprehend the many technically-oriented ebooks that she acquired.
And if reading comprehension was a challenge, writing was an even bigger issue.
It would take her six hours to write and proofread an article, but her determination paid off. Today if you search for her name on a search engine, you'll find a slew of her articles indexed all over the Internet.
And as if writing weren't enough, she wanted to write her own sales copy. Anyone who's ever successfully written a sales letter will concur that being a good writer doesn't make someone a good copywriter.
I'm amazed to say that Ladan is a good copywriter. Being a copywriter myself, I wouldn't say that if it weren't true. She applied the same vigor to learning the craft, as she applied to learning the language itself.
She studied articles and courses from the top copywriters, and practiced until she had developed her own style. While there is obviously some innate talent at work here, I'd say that she is also a testament that copywriting can be learned.
Starting her business was the beginning of a long uphill battle.
Because of the US embargo on Iran, she faces obstacles that most of us wouldn't imagine. As I mentioned, her culture has already tied one hand behind her back. The language barrier effectively tied the other one. And the following problems essentially tied her feet… a situation that would cripple most marketers and paralyze them from moving forward in business.
Most people wouldn't jump into a new business with their hands and feet tied. It's impossible, right? Just don't use the word “impossible” around Ladan…
To start with, she couldn't get a credit card. That makes it pretty tough to buy anything online, wouldn't you say?
My business relies on my credit cards for many things. Not a day goes by without several business-related charges to my credit card. As I think about it, many of the products and services that I use come from sites that only accept credit cards.
She can't open a PayPal account. Again, this limits her ability to make online purchases. It also rules her out of participating in a large number of affiliate programs that only pay commissions via PayPal.
Of course, probably the biggest disadvantage of not having a PayPal account is not being able to accept PayPal payments. She estimates that this one issue is costing her many thousands of dollars in lost sales.
It doesn't stop there. She can't get a merchant account, so it becomes very difficult to sell anything online. She can't have a bank account in US dollars. So that rules out another possibility of making or receiving payments.
To make matters worse, she can't have any bank account that accepts wire transfers. This cripples her ability to receive payments from affiliate programs to her bank account, or from merchant services for her own products. So even if she can find a way to sell a product online, getting that money into her own hands is a huge obstacle.
She can't cash any USD checks. That rules out most of the other affiliate programs.
She can't travel. It's almost impossible for her to get a visa to travel outside of Iran. This means that she has not been able to go abroad to attempt to open up accounts, and she can not attend any Internet marketing seminars.
Those are just some of the barriers created by the embargo. There are many more limitations imposed by the Iranian government.
On top of these physical barriers, she also faces another kind of discrimination that continues to this day.
In a business built upon online image and perceived trust, she has been severely disadvantaged by the way much of the world views Iranians. As she puts it, “the reactions are not very pleasant.”
She thinks it's mainly due to the way the media has portrayed Iran and Islam. This has made it difficult to be open and build relationships online, as she has found that even her own subscribers, customers, and business associates look at her differently when they discover she is from Iran.
She says, “Some people even act like I am a terrorist.” She has received hate emails through her websites and also on forums.
“I know who I am and where I stand,” says Ladan, “but what the media shows the world and what my country's government does has nothing to do with me. So I just wish people in the west — especially the United States — would understand this difference.”
Let me ask you a few questions…
- Do you have a credit card?
- Do you have a PayPal account?
- Can you open a US bank account?
- Can you receive US checks?
- Do you have the freedom to travel?
- Could you go to an Internet marketing seminar?
Maybe you didn't answer “Yes” to all of those questions, but for each question you answered “yes” to, you are starting one step ahead of Ladan.
Let me ask you a couple more questions…
Are you fluent in English? If you said “Yes”, take two more steps ahead. Do people view you as a terrorist? No? Take three more steps ahead.
If this girl can do it, so can you. It doesn't matter how old or young you are. It doesn't matter where you live in the world. It doesn't matter what other internal and external factors are trying to hold you down.
You can succeed.
In spite of all her challenges, Ladan views Internet marketing as an easy opportunity to take advantage of, and she encourages others to do as she has done.
“I think there's nothing hard about it. It's the perfect kind of business for people who want to be independent and work for themselves in a business that there's no limit to your success.”
If you're just getting started, she has more advice:
“When you are just getting started, you should know it might take some time to make the amount of money you expect, and you should keep on and don't give up — no matter how people around you try to disappoint you. I think this is the most important and difficult part… it's where most people give up.”
In the three short years that she's been in business, she's worked hard and implemented many strategies that she's learned by studying other successful marketers.
Out of everything she's tried, she deems list-building as the most important component of her business. “Nothing is more powerful than building a targeted responsive list and building a relationship with that list.”
While her income may not yet be on par with the Internet marketing superstars, she's earning a living online that would impress even those of us living in a more generous economy (she recently earned $6,300 USD in a month).
The thing that must be kept in mind is that she is making more money than about 95% of the people in her country, and bringing home more income than her countrymen who have 30+ years of experience in their careers.
I'd love to see what she'd be capable of achieving outside the restraints of her country, and so would she, which is one reason she is considering a move to a locale more conducive of her business — such as Canada or Australia.
Editor's note: Ladan, I cannot speak for my government, but I gladly welcome you to Canada with open arms.
She says the biggest key to success is, “Believing in yourself, and promising yourself that you will reach your goals and won't let anything or anyone stop you.”
When I asked her what makes her different from those who fail, she said that her success is derived from her persistence in facing and overcoming challenges and obstacles.
She points out one of her favorite quotes from Ross Perot: “Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”
When she's not working on her business, she enjoys reading self-improvement books (who would have guessed?), dancing, watching movies, spending time in nature, and going out with friends. In other words, she's just a normal girl with big plans and an indomitable positive attitude.
Today she has more than 20 websites, and she hopes to expand her business by 400% while continuing to help others find their own success. You can learn more about Ladan and her business at her own blog.
As Ladan says: “If a young girl who got started when she was only 16 years old, with no previous business experience, with English being her second language, with less than $30 to her name, in a country where you can't have a credit card or PayPal account and is under a strict embargo from United States, and so much more limitations…
“If such a girl can succeed, how is it possible that YOU can't succeed – while you may not even have one of these limitations?”
Ladan will never give up.
I hope you don't either.
Editor's note: Eric, I concur. Great article. Brilliant. And Ladan, you're one of my favorites, too, just so you know.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.