Interview: Evan Klassen on the American Dream and the power of markets

Danny de Gracia talks with Evan Klassen on his rise from immigrant to affluent real estate and network entrepreneur. Photo: Multimillionaire Evan Klassen is one of America's leading mentors for business development.

ORLANDO, June 9, 2013 ― Evan Klassen was born behind the Iron Curtain in the Tajik SSR at the height of the Cold War in 1984. As a young boy, he would witness the fracturing of the Soviet Union and a bloody civil war before even reaching his tenth birthday. But when Klassen’s family eventually found their way to the United States, it didn’t take long for him to make full use of America’s free market to become an affluent real estate and network marketing multimillionaire.

Today, Klassen mentors entrepreneurs on how to break into difficult markets and grow their businesses. Soon to be featured in an upcoming book entitled Think and Grow Rich Today and the independent producer behind the new TV show Immigrant 2 Millionaire, Klassen’s passion is to showcase the power of entrepreneurship and to empower others to unlock the secrets of wealth generation.

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I had the chance to connect with Klassen to talk about his journey from poor beginnings in the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan to his success in the United States. As a businessman, television producer, author and even a singer, Klassen is a man who loves life and enjoys cultivating his ever-expanding repertoire of talents.

Danny de Gracia: Evan, as an immigrant to America you’ve seen two very different sides of the world, one that’s built around a scarcity mindset and another which is built around freedom, innovation and opportunity. Tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up in the East and how that shaped your perspective on life.

Evan Klassen: There have been three major episodes in my life that have really shaped a different perspective on how I grew up and who I become in the process. To begin, I was born in the poorest country in Central Asia in a city called Dushanbe.

For eight years of my life, I was shaped by the various challenges that coupled with civil war, poverty and religious persecution. Clean water and basic food were considered luxuries, and sometimes just to get those necessities my dad had to jeopardize his life due to the circumstances of war.

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There were seven children in my family at that time and I remember many times just praying that dad would make it home safely. I learned at an early age to truly appreciate the basics in life as if they were the icing on the cake, and never take even little things for granted. 

Later, I was eight years old, my family fled to Germany from the war. This was my first experience with Western culture and knowing that finally there was nothing to worry about was a huge relief.

We all felt we escaped hell and arrived in heaven, [but] I was facing different challenges now. Even though my dad was German, I was still considered not one of them. I started shaping a belief that I was just meant to be a second class person in life and actually bought into this.

I started working at age 11 just to find out a way to feel a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, but really had a hard time with it. It was not till I moved to the United States at age twenty-one that I really for the first time felt the inner freedom and opportunity to be myself and be happy with the person I was. It was at that point I realized that [what shapes your destiny] is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent what happens in you.

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DDG: Evan, I notice in your upcoming book Think and Grow Rich Today one of the things you talked about was a driving force you call the “desperate why” behind your success. It seems like to me the “desperate why” is at its core a desire for people to make real what they have imprinted in their heart, and it’s a kind of overcoming, persisting desire to break barriers and resist restrictions.

Globalization, debt and volatile markets have eroded America’s place as a world leader, but many young Americans like Evan Klassen believe private business can still save America. (NASA photo)

Klassen: I think that change in our life comes sometimes through massive challenges that we face. Many people give up on their dreams and goals because they never really took the time to find what it is that would keep them going no matter hard to the going would get.

I call it a “desperate why.” It’s that inner drive that would recharge your energy right before you like quitting and keep you going until the mission is accomplished. It’s how a father can pick up the back of a three thousand pound car just to free his daughter to save her life. When we figure out what our desperate why is, it becomes our driving force for amazing accomplishment and miracles in our life we never thought were possible.

DDG: Do you think though that if more people had a prosperity mindset ― and by this I mean, everyone seeks to mentor, nurture, encourage and help each other achieve their dreams ― we might be able to accomplish things far faster and with less heartache in the process?

Klassen: I would absolutely agree that creating an environment where you grow personally and attract the right mentor will accelerate your success to a level you never dreamed of.

DDG: What would you say is the biggest life lesson that you learned coming to the West and to America?

Klassen: Inner peace and personal fulfillment are developed not by the circumstances in life, but by how we respond to our circumstance. This determines our outcomes.

DDG: It seems to me that entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges and uphill battles just trying to get their business from dream to launch to success, but government sometimes can get in the way of business. The more regulations, rules, taxes and compliance requirements there are, the more burdensome it is to do things. Do you think that politicians and elected officials should recognize this and make it a point to not add new burdens to people?

Klassen: I really don’t like politics so I stay out of it. Entrepreneurs are the people who build great economies in countries by creating jobs and providing economic influence. Supporting them with the right laws and incentives is important for any government who wants to succeed long-term but does not secure their success.

I know that opportunity is always there. Money never disappears, it just flows a different direction and you’ve got to understand that no matter who is running the office, I believe they try to do their best to run it.

Some succeed better than others. What happens in your business is mostly determined by your attitude towards what’s happened and less by what the government does. There have been okay businesses that have thrived with bad governments and great businesses that failed with great governments. Success is up to you as an entrepreneur.

DDG: I get the impression from reading your pre-release manuscript that one of your expertise areas is in recruiting people to work for your dream, example being you were able to convince your sister to get the paper delivery job and you did the deliveries. Small beginnings, but even at a young age you had the foundation for leadership. What would you say is the key to convincing others to join a cause?

Klassen: There’s a great quote that goes “leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” And this is my philosophy toward recruiting, to identify what you really want and find other people who would be passionate to help you accomplish it.

DDG: It seems like sometimes “the time is never right” to do something new if entrepreneurs wait for favorable conditions to start their business or to move forward on a dream. Sometimes big risks have to be made and opportunities have to be forced open. What’s your advice on risk-taking?

Klassen: There’s always a cost of taking risk. As the saying goes, no risk, no fun and no real breakthrough. I think most great entrepreneurs feel the fear but do it anyway, they just do it scared.

The world’s greatest opportunities lie where the biggest problems are. Find the area you are passionate about and figure out what are the challenges in that space and create a solution for it. Go fix it and take the risk! Big mistakes are not made by people who take risk and fail but by those who fail to take risks. What we entrepreneurs do is find solutions for problems and solve them and the bigger the problem, the bigger the risk [but] the greater the rewards.

DDG: Everyone comes to a point in life from time to time where “quit” looks really good, especially when things happen outside of our control. What would you say is the key to overcoming disappointment and failure and staying motivated?

Klassen: Successful people for the most part often hate to do the things that it takes be successful, but they still do it anyway, while mediocre people on the other hand just give up. You’ve got to find your “desperate why.”

That’s when no wall, no obstacle, absolutely nothing will stop you from achieving your goals and dreams if you don’t quit. Surround yourself and take advice from people who have [achieved] what you want.

[Your critics] want you to fail so that they can feel good about their failures. [So] right before you feel like quitting, go back to your “desperate why.”

DDG: I understand you’re launching a new TV show called Immigrant 2 Millionaire. Tell us a little bit about that.

Klassen: The show was born to inspire people from all over the world who have made a transition in their life towards a better future. Whether they are immigrants or not, we want to celebrate change and bring light to inspiring stories of other people who went from nothing to become millionaires by immigrating into new fields, conquering new opportunities and developing a path of success that other people can follow to achieve their dreams.

Being an immigrant twice myself, I know how it feels to be in a new space, on unchartered territories and face challenges of starting new ideas in regards of what everybody else is saying or circumstances of the economy is dictating and create success. This show is to empower people to give it all they have to follow their dream while creating their destiny.

DDG: Last but not least, is there anything on your heart that you would like to tell our readers in Washington?

Klassen: This country was built by entrepreneurs and people who fought for their independence and freedom. It’s sad to see that many people today forgot what America’s forefathers did to lead us up till today. In [the beginning of the previous century] 90 percent of the population was self-employed and independent. [At the beginning of this century] 90 percent are dependent on a job from someone else or government to provide for them.

Many people look for what our country can do for them rather than what we can do for our country, and in doing so they’re missing out on great opportunities right in front of them.

It will take a massive group of people that carry an entrepreneurial spirit and the heart of independence who can raise up today and decide to be the catalyst of great breakthrough in our economy.

We really have to go back to the values we had when this country was formed. I am grateful for the opportunity to live here America. This is the greatest country in the world for lifestyle and opportunity. Like never before there are more opportunities out there that if people would stop complaining and looking at negativity and rather start searching for purpose of their life they could find themselves prosper beyond any measure.

A pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity and an optimist sees an opportunity in every problem. You decide which one you are. God bless America.

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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