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The Broken Road – Business Success in Costa Rica?

I had more or less achieved getting over Priscilla through my destined to fail relationship, it has accomplished the desired result. It was time to focus in the business portion of my life.  When you live in Costa Rica for an extended period of time,  you begin to notice that people that run scams and  are doing business in an unethical way are often the ones that are doing well financially and enjoying life the most. Obviously, this is not true in all cases. Some people just happened to come down to Costa Rica at the right time and fall into a pot of gold. 

costa rica scamsExamples of the lucky could be those that became successful financially by discovering niche markets before the crowd – travel or retirement in Costa Rica as an example.  Also, real estate has been extremely lucrative if you find yourself in the right place at the right time- an example being the agent that started at Los Suenos Marriott right at the height of the real estate bubble – couldn’t sell properties fast enough.  Those situations are becoming harder to find in Costa Rica now.

Many of the individuals making money hand over fist in Costa Rica currently are doing so in an unethical way.  Scams are a common, every day practice in Costa Rica.  These range from selling property and never building on it to building fake gambling sites being set up to just take client’s money and never paying them back.  There are also the online pharmacies selling Viagra and Cialis that never ship to the customer and fake commodity brokers that get investors to send thousands of dollars for non-existent gold and oil.

The average person looks at these scams and says to themselves that they would never get involved because of moral reasons.  Less honorable human beings avoid the illegal opportunities not because of ethical boundaries, but more because of an innate fear of getting caught and spending time in a foreign jail.  But the truth is that most of the dishonest never do get caught and rarely are forced to face the consequences of their actions.  Real estate projects file bankruptcy or the sales offices just close up and disappear.  Gambling operations capitalize on the fact that they are illegal allowing those that have sent money no recourse through the courts.   People scammed by illegal drug companies don’t complain out of shame or the fact that it is just easier to write off the loss of a few hundred dollars.   It is easy enough for those running illegal websites, such as commodity brokers, to just kill their sites and reopen their businesses under a new domain a few months later – no one ever seems to get caught or prosecuted.

As with most illegal business enterprises, at some point the scammers need to try and go “legit” in some way in order to launder the sacks of cash that they are bringing in.  Some are not as lucky as others in this regard.  An example is Brad Deering who published all over Facebook about his spending habits and all of the lavish loot he was acquiring with his ill-gotten gain.  Eventually someone got tired of reading all of the posts and not getting paid back and poor Brad was found with a bullet in the back of the head. Most of these scam runners will not be brought to trial in Costa Rica, but there are still instances when vigilante justice occurs.

Running a legitimate business is difficult anywhere in the world and Costa Rica is a harder place then most.  I find costa-rica-scamsthat most people will do something illegal if it means less work – there are large parts of the population that just want success and financial gain handed to them  – without putting in any of the time or hard work.

Since I have lived in Costa Rica, I have seen girls go out and party and make $1,500 a week or more by laying flat on their backs. I have seen acquaintances buying houses and new cars in San Jose with the money they were making.  I had to work 10 times as hard and was barely scraping by in comparison.   I had my good months and my bad months but found myself not willing to trade my soul and fall into the dark side just for money under any circumstances.

It makes for some really bad days when you are hoping a client pays (which many times they will pay late) in order to make sure all the bills are paid.  It makes you think about larger purchases differently than before as they affect your life and cashflow.  But regardless of the extra work of trying to do everything right – I lived with a clean conscience and was able to sleep at night.  I was not going to have some angry client come through my balcony window and shooting me in the head or have the OIJ (Costa Rica’s FBI) or the US FBI come banging down my door to arrest me.  Not having to continually look over your shoulder and being able to keep my honor, self respect, and principles intact was much more important to me than having a huge bank account full of ill gotten gain.

For those of you that want to live a pretty decent lifestyle in Costa Rica and are like me, basically a college graduate with no trust fund; you are going to have to work your ass off and build trust and relationships with people over a period of time in Costa Rica.  Success and financial independence does not come overnight and sometimes it does not come at all in the land of “pura vida.” It is going to require a lot of sweat and blood for you to live a comfortable lifestyle.

My Rules for Success:

Always Have 3 or More Sources of Income.

I know that this might sound ridiculous to everyone but it is basically a necessity in modern day business – a variation on the old saying  “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”.  Jobs and businesses come and go almost every day both in Costa Rica and the rest of the world. Be prepared to lose one of your income sources.  I was doing marketing for a shipping company (which can have slow months and is straight commission), SEO for several clients (some do not pay on time or decide to not continue), advertising with the newspaper (clients come and go), and website design (up and down business). Although I might have a bad month in 1 or 2 of these projects, the others will get me by.   Diversity is key.

costa rica businessJudge Your Success in Accomplishments.

Most likely you are not going to obtain a huge amount of money over night by working in Costa Rica, at least legitimately.  You have to see your success in the small steps.  This could mean going from making $1000 to $1200 to $1400 a month- small increments of improvement over time.  Although it might not be the $3000 or more a month that you want – it is moving in the right direction.  It could mean generating 100 more people a day coming to your website or generating 15 more sales leads a week.  See the accomplishments you have on a day-to-day basis as steps in the right direction.

Be Content But Want More.

When I was working 17-hour days I was making a little more money but I was also not living a life I was happy with.  When I began to cut back my hours and focus on things that I both enjoyed and were generating income I was able to take time for myself.  I am not saying to not work and be a bum, but have balance in your life. You should always strive for more but be content with what you have. When we look back on our lives at 70 or 80, we are not going to regret the time we spent enjoying the beach or spending time with friends. We are going to regret the times we did not do those things we enjoy in life because of the long hours of work we put in.  We live one time and if you are not enjoying life then you are not living it right.

I will always be a workaholic and focused on achieving success and financial independence but it is not the most important thing in my life anymore.  Being able to wake up and enjoy the day and being able to sleep with a clear conscience at night is much more important to me than having a fat bank account, nice car, or multi-million dollar mansion.  I will take a morning swim, a walk down the beach, and an afternoon nap as a part of my daily routine every day.

I now find myself in a comfortable place with money coming in and a nice balance that allows me to enjoy life and still be successful, but I found myself wanting to leave a legacy and share the important lessons I had learned with other people. You do not have to take the path that society says you need to follow in order to find happiness. Sometimes what makes you happy will be going against the grain and people might think you odd.  Truth is; it really does not matter what anyone else thinks.  The goal in life should be to have moral fiber in every aspect of your life by knowing what is wrong and right and sticking to the path you know it right.  I remember someone told me one time, being ethical is doing the right thing when no one is looking.  I think that is the truth and it also applies to doing the right thing even though you might never be caught.

I want to be able to teach young adults about the lessons I had learned during my journey and perhaps show them a different road in life- one that leads to their own happiness.  The key was trying to figure out a way to get an intern program going and accomplishing funding for this dream.

The most important thing to take from all of this is -make sure that what you are doing and striving for is going to be worth any sacrifices you will have to make along the way. Regardless if it’s a relationship, job or anything in life- always make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.

Next Up – A Six Week Distraction


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