Akbar Sheikh is an international best-selling author, philanthropist, and mastermind behind using ethical persuasion principles to help businesses scale their presence online. He’s now built seven different funnels that have generated a million dollars or more, which, if you’re familiar with internet marketing, is kind of like hitting 7 home runs in the World Series.
But Akbar wasn’t always associated with success, thought leadership, and giving back.
In fact, after turning 18, he took stock of his life and did not like what he saw. He hated his job. He was in a terrible relationship. He had little money and few possessions. He was very overweight. He had no sense of spiritual interest. He reflects, “I was lacking passion in my life and lacking a why” (a meaningful purpose).
Addiction almost killed Akbar. Drinking, gambling, partying: these were constant fixtures in Akbar’s younger years. Of that time, he recalls, “I was trying to maybe numb the pain of life sucking… I think I was filling all those voids with roulette balls and alcohol.”
His low point came when he ended up in a hospital, nearly dead from “partying too much.” He says he actually should have died. He had been mixing Xanax and vodka. He credits God for saving him.
At that pivot point, Akbar saw an opportunity to change his life. He says now, “I’m blessed, honored and humbled to say I took advantage of my opportunity.” He turned away from his addictions, just dropped them and hasn’t looked back since. He even gave up cigarettes, a difficult habit for him to leave behind.
From Happy Childhood to Adult Addiction
Akbar finds it strange that he doesn’t have the kind of addiction backstory that so many other addicts have. He didn’t have an abusive father, or an unstable life growing up. His childhood was normal, healthy and happy. His large family and their many local relatives enjoyed lots of weekends getting together, playing and having fun. He lived in a pleasant, middle-class New England neighborhood. He had pets, and a nice, big back yard. He went to a good school. He wasn’t a great student, and he thinks he may have had some learning disabilities, but didn’t really feel adversely affected by that. His parents were very loving. His dad was busy during the week running his large business, but was always home enjoying time with the family on the weekends. Akbar remembers it as a very good childhood.
He says things “went weird” when he turned 18, at which moment he rapidly took inventory of all the things he could now legally do, and then did them all. He opened a bank account, rented a car, bought cigarettes, and so on. He went on to a good college, in his home state of Connecticut, where he did well. After graduation from college, he was faced with working in the family business, which he had been groomed for his entire life. But, as mentioned, he hated retail.
His whole body was a wreck by this time, which he attributes to a youth spent on hard partying with his alcoholic cronies. He loved gambling, drinking and smoking, but knew his life was “a complete mess.” There was the bad relationship, weight problem, weakness to addictions, the dreaded sales work, the sense of purposelessness. “Crazy times,” he calls those years.
In Search of a Why
Akbar took stock of his situation, then abandoned everything. He says he went, “to go find my why.” He and his brother went to California, but with almost no money, they could only rent a windowless electrical storage room at the back of an office building. It was about the size of a good walk-in closet, with no hot water or shower. There, Akbar made his fresh start. He kept up his search for his “why”. But life sucked for a while longer. He and his brother ended up homeless for about a year.
He had given up his bad habits and addicted friends, but was now destitute and still unable to find a purpose – a why. Then, things began to turn around rather quickly. Numerous good people were becoming a part of his life. He lost a lot of weight in a pretty short time, adopted better habits and started realizing some successes. He began to study religion and spirituality more. He came to understand, respect and appreciate living a life of faith.
He experienced a transformation, an inner peace he had never had before. He found himself fulfilled by just the opportunity to continue living and the chance to find a way to make a meaningful impact in the world. He now saw the value of being good to everyone, being honest, kind, and of spreading that message.
Since Akbar had this epiphany, he began working to be the best human being he could be. Things changed. People saw him differently. He had a new energy. He knew he never wanted to go back to wasting his time gambling and getting drunk. Soon, he found his purpose – his why! And, there’s a twist! It turned out that he didn’t hate business after all. He had just hated the business he was formerly in (retail).
His circuitous route to finding his niche had taken 10 brutal years to traverse. He says simply that he’d just never found any work he had liked to do. He has great empathy for people stalled in that situation. He says he knows “how much it sucks” and that he wants to help them by sharing his own story.
In his case, that dilemma led to his hospitalization and eventual homelessness. But, his long search also led to his discovery of marketing funnels and the principals of persuasion that he now applies to help people scale their businesses. He found his passion, and recalls, “It was love at first sight. It was like an awakening.”
Finding That Line Between Addictive And Healthy Behavior As An Entrepreneur
Fast forward to the past year, Akbar realized he has now become seriously addicted to his cell phoner. He’s incessantly on sales calls and doing other business on the phone. He knows that addiction hurts families, and he’s seen it impact his marriage. There have been confrontations and heated discussions, including one where his phone almost ended up in the garbage disposal. (I didn’t press further on that one!) All joking aside, Akbar sees the common thread through all of his addictions as a problem of imbalance.
Reflecting on the past year, as his business grew exponentially, he thinks he was doing way too much. He says he has now systemized a little, which has brought balance and allowed him to start leaving the phone addiction behind. He recommends that all addicts examine their lives this way, to identify and fix imbalances that lead to addiction.
Akbar recognizes there’s a fine line between a healthy passion for one’s work and an addiction to it. And showing humility, Akbar tells me he’s still trying to sharpen his sense of where that boundary is. It’s particularly difficult as a passionate entrepreneur with a business in a rapid growth phase. Of course, entrepreneurs typically work extreme hours through startup and the early years. It’s a notoriously rocky road to financial and domestic stability for families. As Akbar is weathering these life-consuming initial years of entrepreneurship, he’s also vigilantly steering away from the addictive tendencies of so-called workaholics.
On the upside, he’s already made his business a highly-effective revenue generator, and now he has started putting away the phone for family time. That puts him well on the path toward the ultimate entrepreneurial dream – sustained financial success and abundant enjoyment of a happy family life.
These tendencies and traits that led Akbar to addiction do have redeeming qualities for his business. For example, no matter how many new clients he signs, how many revenue records his business breaks, or how much money his latest webinar made, he’s not satisfied. This characteristic, which once fueled his addiction, now drives him in business. He’s found that such traits can be either good or bad, depending entirely on how they’re channeled.
A Passion for Helping
Akbar’s marketing consulting business helps companies succeed, grow, and scale through ethical marketing that does not resort to exaggeration or lies. Entrepreneurs are well aware that most businesses fail, and many fear the risk so much that they give way to embellishing their messaging. Akbar explains, “We apply principles of persuasion, messaging, branding, and content, authentic content, all the things that really help businesses grow while showing clients how that can be done while adhering to ethical principles. That’s very liberating.”
His goal is to leave a positive mark on the world, so his consulting firm doesn’t promote any company that is offering something harmful, “We want to help people. it’s about giving purpose to everything. We want to have a Why, then we can feel passion for it. Without that, life starts sucking.”
He helps businesses that are improving people’s lives. For example, one company sells a supplement that’s really helping get rid of acne, which impacts self-esteem. Helping promote that kind of offering makes his team feel good, “Money’s the last thing we’re interested in. It’s automatic that if you help people, the money comes. So, I don’t have any elaborate financial strategy. I’m just helping people, and the finances are taking care of themselves.”
Akbar is also very involved in helping through charities. One of his favorites is Sightesavers.org. The organization sponsors many blind children and adults in third-world countries for cataract eye surgery. The life-changing operation restores their sight, at a cost of just $80 per patient. Akbar thanks God for his opportunity to help others and encourages everyone to “find a cause that makes you cry, and help.”
Even back when Akbar had very little money, he still gave it. He says that one of his biggest secrets of his success doesn’t involve web marketing tools or strategies – it’s just giving. He emphasizes that the more we give, the more money will just come, and he encourages everyone to test that principle of generosity.
Apparently, Akbar’s strategy of helping others does work very well. He has overcome gambling and alcohol addictions, homelessness, weight struggle, severe anxiety disorder, smoking, and immersion in a once dissolute lifestyle. He would say he’s actually traded the old destructive addictions for his new addictions to helping people. The results of helping are extraordinary, as proven through the life of Akbar Sheikh.
Perspective on Addiction Treatment
After going through AA, counseling and other therapies for addiction recovery, Akbar came to believe that self-healing is just as effective, or more so, and that many treatment programs for recovering addicts may actually hurt more people than they help. He suggests that there appears to be a sort of off/on switch in the mind: The switch is flipped “on” by the discovery of the deeper meaning of your life. Once you find that deeper meaning, you can’t really turn it off and return to not knowing it. It’s like you’ve passed the point of no return. There’s no going back to a life where you don’t know you’re Why.
He’s concerned about the ways recovery programs train people not to think this way, and instead condition them to believe they can slip back into a lifestyle of addiction at any moment. He thinks that’s a terrible way to live.
He worries about offending some people with this perspective on traditional addiction recovery programs. He clarifies, “I’m just saying it’s not black and white. I’m not saying don’t go. But if it’s not working, try other things. There’s more than one way to win.”
Addictive and Entrepreneurial Mindsets
Akbar is asserting his unique ethical business marketing service model onto the global business marketing culture. Its principles are being eagerly received and can be predicted to become integral to modern marketing processes. The good news for other addicts is that he’s succeeding in this spectacular enterprise by employing the same skills he used as addict, to obtain what he wanted.
Of hope for a life beyond addiction, he says he’s never met anyone who refused to give up and kept trying every day to move their life forward, who hasn’t ultimately succeeded. He suggests that it may be a fact of nature that persistently working toward success will ultimately bring you to it.
More about Akbar Sheikh: His book, 7 Figure Funnels is a number one international best-seller. It is available on Amazon, and through Akbar’s website, and various other sites (see links below). Sheikh Consulting helps business leaders apply the Seven Ethical Principles of Persuasion, to scale their enterprises. To-date, his young company has helped seven funnels reach seven figures and has helped numerous smaller businesses scale up. Akbar is also a philanthropist, helping orphans and funding corrective cataract surgeries for blind children.