From a 9-to-5 Job to the Pit of Despair Before Success: John Paragon

From a 9-to-5 Job to the Pit of Despair Before Success: John Paragon


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #84 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is John Paragon, a business coach based in the UK — John is focused on coaching struggling fathers on discovering and launching their ideal business in 30 days. His website is 30 Days To Profit is his coaching program and it has been crafted in a way that takes struggling parents from having zero clarity to launching their perfect business and making their first profit in just 30 days using his “Epic Launch” Blueprint

Warning and disclaimer: There is a brief mention of the sensitive subject of suicide.

Why did he leave a 9-to-5 job to end up in a “pit of despair” before finding more success and fulfillment? Why was he nicknamed “Honest John” when selling cars at a dealer and why was he a bad fit for having that trait of honesty? How has he succeeded in spite of dropping out of school at age 14? Why does he think every person should develop some sort of “side hustle”? Why does he focus specifically on coaching young fathers with starting businesses?

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page. Please follow, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser! You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode. This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.

Watch the Episode:

Subscribe, Follow, Support, Rate, and Review!

Please subscribe, rate, and review the podcast — that helps others find this content and you'll be sure to get future episodes as they are released weekly. You can also become a financial supporter of the show through

Other Ways to Subscribe or Follow — Apps & Email

Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban (1s):

Episode 84, John Paragon, business coach from the UK.

John Paragon (6s):

I think I've made plenty of mistakes. I think I can always take something away from every mistake.

Mark Graban (17s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at my favorite mistake, for links, show notes and more. You can go to mark, 84 as always. Thank you for listening, please follow rate and review. And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend before we start.

Mark Graban (58s):

I just want to give a quick disclaimer and warning that this podcast episode includes some sensitive subject matter regarding suicide. And today we're joined by John Paragon. He is a business coach based in the UK. He's focused particularly on coaching, struggling fathers on discovering and launching their ideal business. In 30 days, his website, you can find him And we'll learn a little bit more about that today, but John, how are you?

John Paragon (1m 30s):

Good. Thanks. I'm keeping busy.

Mark Graban (1m 34s):

Yeah, well it's a time. Yeah. Time to wind down a little bit and it might be a mistake to, to be too busy, but yeah, coming into this time of year to each their own and tell the audience a little more specifically where you're located within the UK.

John Paragon (1m 56s):

So I mean, Yorkshire more specifically Leeds in the UK. So Yorkshire is known as, as God's country. I think it's referred to us. There's some pretty spectacular places in, in your auction. Not to be mixed up with London. It's quite a bit different with the airport. I've lived here my entire life. Apart from seven months I spent in London. I've lived in Oxford the rest of my life, so.

Mark Graban (2m 18s):

Okay, well thank you. And I'm glad that you could join us today. And so, you know, before we talk about some of the work that you do, and so maybe there are other interests, you know, John, what would you say is your favorite mistake?

John Paragon (2m 32s):

I think I have a few, to be honest. I think, I think I've made plenty of mistakes, but I think I can always take something away from every mistake. One that springs to mind is rewinding a good few years ago when I decided to step into the entrepreneur journey that I'm on now, pretty much full time. I was influenced to leave my typical nine to five job. So I left and then I committed to never working in nine to five again. And I decided to warn the ever control my business, my income, my future, my safety net, you know, my security.

John Paragon (3m 13s):

And I decided to kind of go at it solo, which looking back now, given the opportunity again, I would never do again. I would never encourage other people to do it again, you know, to drop out of their typical nine to five to remove that safety net and that security simply because it led me to have probably some of the most traumatic experiences over the space of a few years. I kind of drove myself into a deep pit of despair and shame and hatred and resentment for myself. I fell into a deep depression because I basically took on too much and I wasn't sure what to do next, but I certainly learned a hell of a lot from that now where I'm at now.

John Paragon (3m 56s):

I'm glad I did it now, just because of what I've learned from it, how much I've been able to progress the pain that came from it. I can use almost everyday. And now I know exactly who I want my clients to be. I know exactly what I want to help them with, you know, everything, everything that was traumatic and painful about that particular mistake I have learned from it. And I use it almost every single day. So that is my favorite mistake of, of the big ones anywhere.

Mark Graban (4m 26s):

Yeah. Let me, let's, let's go a little bit deeper into the story. I'm curious a little bit more of the details. I mean, if you can sort of help set the stage, you know, how old were you at that point? What `was your nine to five job?

John Paragon (4m 38s):

33, a rewind in about six years ago announced a five and a half years ago. So I worked for Hyundai. I worked as a new car salesman and I worked there for about a year. I was actually nicknamed at this particular dealership. I was nicknamed Honest John. And this was from when I first started all the salesman, had the names written up on the board and everyone had forgot my surname. So they just wrote Honest John. And that was my nickname for the rest of the year. I spent work in there, but it was a type of dealership, thought everyone suspects, salesmen alike, where they try to earn as much money on a sale as possible. And they will happily sell a customer the wrong car.

John Paragon (5m 20s):

They will sell cars that they know have issues, but the customer will eventually come back. There was some really, really shady stuff going on there, and it just didn't work for me. And I think we have, we have many different managers over the space of a year. It was kind of going through new ownership, new transition, and each manager that came in when John, that your, your approach to business approach to commission sales commission, best work, just doesn't work in car sales. It just doesn't work. And I refuse to accept it. And it basically got to a point where I was heavily influenced to hand in my resignation. I think we've made clear that, you know, I wasn't wanted there just because of the approach that I took, which I undersood.

John Paragon (6m 3s):

Do you know at first I hated it. I think that they had made the wrong decision. I couldn't comprehend how they could want to remove someone like me, who, you know, I turned up to work on time. Whereas every single person that did not, I came in clean, came, ready to go. I had full intentions of helping the customers. I want, I worked for repeat business and just, it didn't really work with that culture that was there. So, so yeah, this was about five and a half years ago when this happened.

Mark Graban (6m 32s):

Yeah. That's, that's unfortunate. I mean, to, to hear of, have you or anybody working in an environment where you feel like your own personal values are not aligned with the workplace? D did you get introduced to customers as, oh, here, here's Honest John, he's going to help you now. Or that was just the behind the scenes?

John Paragon (6m 54s):

On a few occasions actually from people ask why Honest John and I, I actually explained to a few customers on a few occasions, this is true. I actually down sold customers on cars because the down sold version was a car that suited everything they needed, even though sometimes it made more profit for the company, but it was actually less revenue, less turnover. So my managers didn't like it, you know, they're almost less concerned about the profit and the customer getting the right car after were more concerned about larger amounts of money coming into the bank. So I explained this to a few customers and they also appreciate it.

Mark Graban (7m 29s):

Yeah. Cause you didn't think, you know, you're talking about repeat business that doesn't happen real frequently in the car business, but you'd, you'd think referrals, people could tell their friends and their family and you think that that could drive additional business through others, but

John Paragon (7m 48s):

I really, really want it to change the mentality that car sales doesn't get repeat business. I think car sales doesn't get repeat business because of the approach that the salesman take because of the, kind of the culture that's established there, where they take as much money as they can with the assumption they're never going to see that person again anywhere. So what's the point? I'll be nice to them and creating repeat business, but I think that's why they never received repeat business. Yeah.

Mark Graban (8m 13s):

Yeah. I mean, that falls in the category of what I would call self-defeating self fulfilling prophecy. Like if you believe that to be true and you act that way then of course it's going to be true. Yep. So what did you go into then as, as your first entrepreneurial venture? Was it the work that you're doing now or was that something different?

John Paragon (8m 35s):

No, so I, he didn't leave schools at the appropriate age. I dropped out school when I was 14, so I didn't leave school with any qualifications, anything that not much I could transparency live. So I always had to be the person who came to work on time, presented myself well, you know, always for shortcuts for the business to make more money, I had to be that person, to make it to any, any great level. So when I decided to go out things solo, I think it was more a frustration and just deciding to take control of, of, of myself, my finances, my family, but I decided to step into network marketing, which I tried a few different things over the space of a few years.

John Paragon (9m 20s):

And I did stick with one company for quite some time, but eventually moved away from all of that. It was up until three years ago. So early 2017, I moved in, I, I became interested in cryptocurrencies and I decided to create my own community of people that are interested in cryptocurrencies. We sold, we did peer to peer transactions. We did trade signals. We did any moves on cryptocurrencies. We even arranged property sales via cryptocurrency. So it was meant to be a, hopefully all things crypto related and gradually over time, the business kind of evolved based on the demand of the people in the group.

John Paragon (10m 3s):

But originally when this all started, there was me and four of the people in a Facebook Messenger group. And we'd tried a few different crypto things in the past. We decided the only way to secure a future to make sure no one could run away with our money is for us to learn to trade ourselves. But the downside to that is it can take anywhere between 2, 5, 10 years to get any experience, to do it. Even thinking about the amount of money you would lose in a process to gain the skills, to be able to do it efficiently, to rely on the profits from it. So we decided to hire a professional trader at the time we paid $2,000 per month for this trader.

John Paragon (10m 44s):

So between five of us, it was $400 per month that we will pay in each. This trader had his own client base when he submitted trades to his own clients and for his personal traits, we would copy them and post them in our groups. So we could all copy them to before long, there was another group of friends that decided they wanted to get involved. So now it was down to like $200 per month each cause there were 10 people in a group. So we decided to hire a secondary and a third trade. Well, basically what happened from that was that I realized this group was getting bigger and bigger. I decided, instead of trying to manage the forms from everyone, I'll just charge people $97 per month. And no matter how many people were in the group, I would use 95% of the income that everyone's putting into a pot to hire more and more traders.

John Paragon (11m 30s):

So we did that. So eventually we had five or six traders and we had a group of about 50 people in the group, but no matter where people were in the world, they always thought they were missing the best trades. So whether you're in Australia or the UK or the U S based on the time zones that the traders were working, people would think, you know, the best trades come while I'm sleeping while I'm eating, or while I'm at work. So we realized we want you to create some automation. So eventually I put some of the money to one side that we were gaining from the subscriptions. And I hired someone to create a very, very simple app that automated the majority of the process of placing these trades for us. And then over time that evolved more and more and more money came into the company, more subscriptions, and I just kept falling.

John Paragon (12m 16s):

So originally it was 75% of eventually, sorry, 75% of the funds that came into the company, went back to paying more for more traders. And the other 25% went to paying for the software development. So eventually I ended up creating a completely automated trading solution where the professional trade is sit on one side, the novice traders on the other, and then the software that sits in the middle store. I did that up until three months ago, I sold the majority of the company. So we're still in the transition process or I'll be consulting for the next three months or so. And yeah, that's, that was, that was the big project that I never expected to get my bacon.

Mark Graban (12m 59s):

Yeah. So, I mean, it sounds like a success story. So what led to what you described as this deep despair? Or was it just the stress of not having a more certain paycheck? I mean, car sales being based on commission, there was at least some steady salary all this

John Paragon (13m 19s):

After the car sale job. So once I decided to go out things along, stepping into the multi-level marketing world was pretty scary, pretty tricky, a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. There are a few things that contributed to it. Really, my girlfriend was struggling with some mental things at the time. My little boy had just been born. So I had a five-year-old six year old daughter at the time. And my little boy had just been born. My relationship was a mess. My mental state was a mess. My finances were a mess. I was in debt. I was about to tell the landlord, I couldn't pay the rent for the next month.

John Paragon (13m 59s):

My I, the typical car that was breaking down every single week. And I was having to spend a fortune on getting it fixed. It was just so many things big or small, kind of hit me at one time. And I just got to a place where it almost seemed impossible to even get things back on track and based on the type of person I am and the type of person I grew up surrounded by men who do not ever ask for help or allowed to show any sign of emotions. I bottled it up for awhile and you can speak to my girlfriend about it cause she was struggling with her own things at the time. So I decided to ask for professional help. So I basically called the doctors and asked to book an appointment.

John Paragon (14m 40s):

Did I remember the lady who answered the phone? She S she asked what it was for. And I said, it's personal. You know, I, I don't want to discuss it. And to be honest at the time, I didn't know what the issue was. I didn't know what I was going to speak about. Right? So we booked an appointment. I went to the doctor's office and I remember being called. We have to sit on these wooden bench, outside the doctor's room before they opened the door and invite you in. So I'm sitting this wooden bench sat there, and I remember this, this pit of the resentment and the shame and thinking the doctor's going to come out, invite me in. And they're going to think I'm attention seeking or of my problems are not that bad. Or the people who've got real issues. Why am I wasting doctors' time?

John Paragon (15m 20s):

These were the kinds of things that went through my head. Sure. So, and I still wasn't sure what I was going to say. I didn't know what the issue was. I just knew I was struggling and I felt defeated. So I remember the doctor opened the door, invited me in a lovely lady there. She sat down and I sat down opposite her. And she said to me, she says, how can I help you today? And up until this point, I still had absolutely no idea what I was going to say. But as soon as she said, how can I help? I opened my mouth and the words that fell out where I failed and those words that I said, I get goosebumps thinking about this. Now, as soon as I said that, I then realized what my issue was. And I felt like I had failed at every aspect of life that I was supposed to succeed at.

John Paragon (16m 4s):

I failed as a parent, as a partner, as a business person, as a good person. You know, I feel that every, everything I measure a good person on is kind of where I saw myself. So once I said that I broke down, she quickly prescribed me some medication and gave me a phone number to speak to a suicide hotline, which fortunately, wasn't something that had gone through my head at the time. You know, I was lucky to not be in a position where that was a consideration. I'm grateful for that. I'm glad it didn't get that far, decided to call them anyway. And I was on a phone. I was on hold before I got to speak to anyone for 30 minutes.

John Paragon (16m 46s):

And I ended up putting the phone down because even if the answered after 30 minutes, that could have been 29 minutes too long for someone who needed that help. Well, we'll put the phone down. And I carried on with, with the rest of my life for a while. I took the medication for about nine months. And I realized after some time that the medication pretty much just removed the peak emotions, good or bad. So when things were terrible, it removed that peak of it. So it wasn't quite as much also the good stuff it removed the ability to enjoy because I had a new bond song. I struggled with the ability to enjoy him and my relatives and ship and the business and stuff that was doing. So I kind of just caught that out and it worked okay.

John Paragon (17m 30s):

I mean, over the next few years, my mood went up and down and I've learned over the years now, kind of the Talton telltale signs of what influences this, what works for me, you know, what I'm actually aiming for.

Mark Graban (17m 45s):

Well, John, I mean, I got, I mean, I, gosh, I appreciate you, you know, sharing all of that. I really do. I mean, you know, to me, I mean, you know, to me, it's a sign of, it's a show of strength to admit a mistake. And, and that's where, you know, one of the themes of this whole series is, you know, for people to, you know, try to set that example myself included talking about mistakes. I think it also shows strength to ask for help. I hear what you were saying. You may be the, the environment you, you were raised in there other often kind of, you know, cultural norms around like, well, yeah, asking for help is, is, is weakness.

Mark Graban (18m 25s):

And I, I appreciate you, you know, fighting through that and, and for having the strength to share that with us here,

John Paragon (18m 33s):

I appreciate that.

Mark Graban (18m 36s):

So going back to, you know, sort of some of the things you reflected on from leaving a, a job and jumping straight into entrepreneurship, what, you know, I'm curious what advice I think this leads into, you know, the advice that you would give to others. I'm curious, you know, your, your, your company and the website is Paragon Hustle. I don't know if you, in the UK, there's a similar phrase here in the U S people in recent years, talk about a side hustle, doing something, whether that's driving Uber or one of, one of my other guests on the podcast, Dr. Greg Jacobson.

Mark Graban (19m 15s):

He is a medical doctor who has for 10 years now had a software company that I'm involved with a company called KaiNexus. He has started that most people have their side hustle at night. He was actually doing software company during the day, and still working as an emergency physician at night. And that was, that was part of his safety in that. And I've heard different schools of thought, some would say, keep the job, keep the benefits. Like in the United States, health insurance is a concern. I know that's different, you know, there, you have the NHS, but yeah. And there are some we say, well, you know, if you don't fully commit to it, you might hold yourself back.

Mark Graban (19m 58s):

I don't know what the right answer is. What, what are your thoughts? What coaching or approach do you recommend?

John Paragon (20m 4s):

I think you've got to find a balance between the two that works for you specifically. I will never recommend to someone go out alone, unless I know them on a deep level where I know they can make it work and they have at least somebody to, to coach them, someone who our resort has already achieved, what they are aiming for that can help them get there in the most efficient manner possible. Again, I made the mistake of thinking I could do it on my own. And for many years up until the point where I built the previous company, I did everything on my own. I learned to run Facebook ads and learned to build websites. I learned to build funnels. I learned to do all my own marketing, and I say, learn. I learned the absolute basics enough to survive and pay the bills.

John Paragon (20m 47s):

I never gained any traction because I was kind of just exploring and trying different stuff. I never, I don't know. I just didn't have the guidance to be able to do it so more so in the US because you need it for the health insurance, you know, that's a huge deal. I do strongly encourage people, every single person to build some kind of side hustle, whether you are generating $250 per month or a thousand dollars or two and a half thousand dollars, every person I think should have some kind of side hustle that they enjoy, that they can build up over time until it's eventually big enough for them to sustain themselves consistently.

John Paragon (21m 30s):

Then they can look at reducing their hours in their typical day job, or they can drop it completely. That's the more secure way to do it. And you don't need that many hours to build a cycle. So depending on which one is going to be, you know, you can build serious income with not too many hours. But one thing that made a major difference for me is to actually hire the people who are experts in their field. So when it came to developing the software, I hired the professionals. When it came to the traders, I hired the professionals, web design. I hired somebody mark in. I hired somebody even setting up the affiliate sales. I hired somebody to manage all of that because I genuinely believe you should do what you do.

John Paragon (22m 14s):

Best figure out what your skills are, figure out where you specialize, focus on that and outsource the rest of it, gets somebody else to do the rest of it. It really does work longterm rather than having the scarcity mindset where you think I don't want to pay someone else to do this. I can do it myself. I'll build my own website. I'll run my own Facebook ads, because then you've got yourself 10 jobs and it just, it doesn't work longterm. Yeah.

Mark Graban (22m 39s):

Yeah. Well, and a previous gastro point back to episode 21, Eran Thompson, that was one of the things he talked about as being one of his favorite mistakes, trying to do too much of it himself. And, and that seems like a common theme. And I've, I've been guilty of that myself when it comes to podcasts and websites and things that, that I've done on my own. So that's a good reminder, maybe coming in into a new year to, to make a list. What are the things I should continue doing? Whether the things that, that I should get help with

John Paragon (23m 12s):

Strongly encouraged to do that, I think it's incredibly important to understand what, what areas you work the best in and focus on that.

Mark Graban (23m 20s):

One other question I have, you know, your, your focus, especially on, you know, fathers, coaching fathers who want to launch a business is that, is there that connection because you're a father yourself and you have that desire to help others who were in that similar situation?

John Paragon (23m 39s):

Very much so. So I think part of the struggles I had when I started this journey, and I think that still has an impact on me to want to help people that have that extra commitment to fatherhood those people who do want to be able to spend more time with their families who want to be able to provide more, but don't have a lot of the time. I think it's the mental freedom to be able to do so others feel like their comfort zone is in providing that's their purpose. If they can do that well, that's their priority, then everything else is not quite as important, but if they can provide just as well with less time input, with less energy input and allow themselves more mental tacks, I guess, to be able to contribute to the families, that's kind of what I want to encourage.

John Paragon (24m 25s):

So, I mean, I sold my company very recently. Are you in significantly less doing the coaching now than I did in a previous company? What I do this, because it, it kind of fulfills me a little bit more, you know, I've got a good group of clients now in north to keep, to keep me busy and new for me to enjoy without getting swamped and being overwhelmed enough to live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. I'm not doing it to win loads and loads of money. I really not with wiser. They kept my previous company. I'm doing it because I kind of want to contribute. I think all humans by nature, we want to be able to contribute, but we need to look after ourselves. And I will family spurs before we can give back to other people.

John Paragon (25m 7s):


Mark Graban (25m 9s):

Yeah. And to be part of something larger than yourself, and that can mean your community and in helping others and being of service. So that's, that's great. That's great. So, you know, do, do you work with people exclusively in England or the UK?

John Paragon (25m 27s):

No, and also, I think the majority of my clients are from the UK, but I think that's because the majority of them have come from, I've worked with him in, worked with them in the past, through previous projects or part of the previous company that I sold. So I've already built that, that reputation with them. They already trust me anyway. So the majority of them are from the UK, but as time goes by, I am seeing more and more people from the US and I don't think I have any clients outside of the UK or us to be honest, not yet anywhere. I'm open to a first. Yeah. All right. Well, cool.

Mark Graban (26m 1s):

Well, yeah, I mean the website, again, it's I guess kind of implies on I, if it, you know, that, that might say, Hey, I help people in England, but you know, with the internet. And I imagine in this day and age with COVID, you're doing a lot of Zoom meetings, a lot of virtual coaching, is that right?

John Paragon (26m 25s):

Yeah. So, so everything is pretty much done online. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do face to face meetings. I'm looking at organizing my own mastermind here in the UK. Maybe eventually one in the US to that would be pretty cool, but everything is done online. You know, everything's, as they're done with you model, so it would help if we could do face-to-face, you know, having that extra bit of interaction as well. I do enjoy that. And I think everybody enjoys that too, but at the moment we kind of have to make online manage. Great.

Mark Graban (26m 59s):

Well, good. Well, again, our guest today has been John Paragon. John, thank you for sharing some really honest reflections. Thank you for sharing your story. That means a lot to me that, that you would do that, and I'm sure that's gonna help them inspire a lot of listeners. So again,

John Paragon (27m 17s):

I hope so. Thank you very much for having me. I do appreciate it.

Mark Graban (27m 20s):

Thank you. Be well, thanks again to John Paragon for being our guest today for show notes, links, and more go to, and I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes and how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes in their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me

Mark Graban (28m 0s):

And again, our website is

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.