by Benjamin Bathke
Judging from the name of his blog, John.do, John Saddington sounds like an average guy. But take a closer look, and you’ll find the 33-year-old is anything but ordinary. Saddington is a blogger, startup founder, enterprise executive, indie developer, educator, hacker, husband, parent and coach. It might be a cliche, but Saddington is what you would call the quintessential serial entrepreneur.
In his fast-paced career (his shortest job lasted only two weeks), Saddington has started no fewer than 16 businesses and projects, and worked for 36 different companies. And those are only the jobs listed on LinkedIn.
It may be hard to believe looking at his resume, but the father of two values consistency. For one, he holds the world record (he says) for consecutive daily blog posts, having published a piece of writing of at least 1,000 words daily for 15 years and counting. Why? To clarify his thoughts and make sense of the world.
“It’s an act of obedience to that commitment to understanding,” says Saddington, who was adopted from South Korea and grew up in a New Jersey suburb. “Even if no one reads it, I’d still write.”
Another recurring theme in the seemingly disjointed sequence of jobs and endeavors that is his resume is Saddington’s knack for seeing opportunities and adding value to his context.
Here are three examples of Saddington’s uncanny business sense:
As a teenager, Saddington played online computer game World of Warcraft religiously. Realizing he knew more about it than most other people in the world, he created Datecraft, the world’s first dating and social network for World of Warcraft players. Within a week, the platform had 40,000 registered users, and Saddington sold it in 2008. “This experience taught me to maximize my God-given assets,” he says.
His next coup came only a year later. As an early Twitter adopter, Saddington saw the value in social interaction and lists which he combined with his Christian faith to build Gospelr, a “ministry microblogging” tool for Christians and the first-ever non-profit Twitter app.
“It worked because I capitalized my on long-term interests” says Saddington.
Gospelr was acquired in 2009.
Sitting in a hair salon chair on a spring day in 2015, Saddington received the “rare honor” to be asked what kind of hairstyle he’d want. When a quick Google search for inspiration didn’t yield any satisfying results, he knew he was onto something: a lack of a definitive resource for cool Asian hair.
“I registered the domain while still sitting in that chair,” Saddington recalls.
Writing about the latest hair trends, styles, colors and cuts, the interest in his new blog quickly went through the roof. Within 30 days, the number of monthly views more than tripled from 40,000 to 125,000, which allowed him to make several thousand dollars per month using Google AdWords. The website, now defunct, was also acquired.
Last week, Saddington shared those stories and more with WashU students at the invitation of the Washington University Technology Entrepreneurs (WUTE) student organization, which brings together students with a common interest in technology and entrepreneurship.
Here are John’s best pieces of advice for students and anyone who wants to be successful.
Become a student of public communication
“Practice intentionally how you communicate. What you saw here today was years of practice. An earlier start would have accelerated my career much faster.”
Study leadership and relational dynamics
“Learning what great leaders do, how they behave and how they make decisions allows you to relate to other people empathetically.” Saddington took this so seriously he earned a master’s in education and got certified as a pre-marriage counselor.
Learn financial budgeting
Fiscal responsibility is something Saddington had to learn the hard way.
“I wish I had become a better fiduciary manager early on,” he says.
The high school and college jobs he held, including prep cook at Panera Bread and meat cutter at Boar’s Head, taught him to value hard work.
“I didn’t think they were menial at the time,” Saddington says. “Those were ways that I could finance my gas to get from home to high school.”
Don’t expect extraordinary achievements if you don’t put in the work
“Professional athletes transform their entire lives around one singular goal,” Saddington says. “It’s not an accident when they get there. But in business, strangely, we do not take the same level of intensity or dedication.”
But Saddington says he believes this is actually a good thing. “Not everyone is called or equipped or should become an entrepreneur. Because it is so hard. That’s why successful entrepreneurs deserve the riches and wealth and respect that is due. I call bullshit when people say ‘I’m an entrepreneur’ and then don’t do anything about it.”
Failure is just a piece of data
“If you can objectify fear, it becomes less of a problem. The question is: what do you do with the data?”
These lessons show that seeing opportunities is important, but Saddington is the first to side with Thomas Edison, who said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Watch Saddington’s lecture here.