Jonathan Roussel: “Focus on happiness, not pleasure”

Focus on happiness, not pleasure. I used to play a lot of video games. I thought I could balance my passion for it with my work life. It seems my personality won’t let me do it in a healthy way. I decided to completely erase the games from my computer since I can’t manage to […]

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Focus on happiness, not pleasure. I used to play a lot of video games. I thought I could balance my passion for it with my work life. It seems my personality won’t let me do it in a healthy way. I decided to completely erase the games from my computer since I can’t manage to have it under control, thus trading short-term pleasure (video games), for long-term happiness which can be achieved through having a successful business and the benefits that come with it.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Roussel.

Jonathan is a French/Portuguese Digital Marketer. He is the Founder of, a sports blog dedicated to helping athletes reach their full potential.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

It is my pleasure, thank you for having me! I grew up in a public housing project near Rouen, a mid-sized city in the north-western part of France. I am of Portuguese descent on my mother’s side, French on my father’s, and I was raised in this biculturalism environment by both my parents and my maternal grandmother.

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old, I still remember the day they announced it to me. Looking back on it, this was the first executive decision I ever made. They stood before me, explaining to me the reasons why they were getting separated, when suddenly my mother asked me: “Who do you want to live with?”

As a 6-year-old kid, that’s quite a huge decision to make. At the time it sounded like “Who do you prefer, me or your dad?”. I decided to take a leaf out of King Solomon’s book and replied that I was going to live with my mother until the end of Junior High-School, and with my father afterward.

They respected my decision, and I stayed true to my word.

My school years are quite uninteresting. I was the kind of kid who did just enough to get passing grades, my thought process was quite Cartesian: If I need a C to pass, why make the extra effort to get better grades? I was already a fan of the Pareto principle, and I still am today as a business leader.

Fast-forward to the end of high-school, I wanted to go to my city’s business school because I wanted to travel the world and the program offered the opportunity to go abroad for a full-year as an exchange student. Unfortunately, this was not an option money-wise for my parents.

I still passed the entrance exam and got accepted. Now it was just a matter of finding the funds, which I eventually did in the form of a student loan.

In the second year of my undergraduate studies, I was able to go to Canada as an exchange student at the University of Windsor, Ontario. This was my first experience abroad and probably still is to this day, the most important one for me.

Before I turned 30, I had lived in 5 different countries, worked for 6 different companies, played poker professionally, and helped my mother set up her jewel crafting business. I couldn’t stay in place; I never really enjoyed the corporate world, sometimes finding it too brutal, sometimes too political, but always and above all — unfair. My unspoken goal as a young graduate was to free myself from the obligations of having a 9 to 5 job.

I guess becoming an entrepreneur was always the end-game for me, it was just a matter of finding what I was both good at, and enjoying.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Do or do not, there is no try” by Master Yoda. I know this one is a classic, not to say overused, but I have been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember and this quote resonated with me in a very particular way throughout my life.

If I had to translate this quote into business terms it would sound like this: “If you have to have a plan B, plan A is destined to fail”.

Having a plan B is playing it safe, it’s giving you the opportunity to fail. If you don’t give yourself the option to fail, you can only succeed.

Now that’s not to say I have never failed at anything, but everything I ever attempted was never done half-heartedly. In the end, it was just a matter of finding the right formula.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“The Poker Mindset” by Matthew Hilger. This dates back to my college days when I was playing a lot of it. One of the key concepts it described was not to focus on the results but the execution.

For those who are unfamiliar, poker is a strategic game with a luck factor. What the author was trying to say is that you should only work on what you can control. What you can control in poker, like with many things in life, are your actions, and your behavior. Focus at all times on taking the best decision with the information that is available to you, regardless of the result.

This is how you win at poker, and this can be applied to almost anything.

A tennis player can only control his own shots and movements, right? Therefore, he should focus on maximizing the outcome from these through proper technique and strategy.

If his opponent one-ups him, then well-played to him. Playing the right shot in the right zone is sometimes not enough to avoid a loss, but if you do that consistently, you’ll win more often than not.

I apply the same principles in every aspect of my life, and I am very happy where I am right now.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

I was working in a digital marketing agency as an Search engine expert. I had been working there for almost a year, accumulating as much experience and knowledge as I could to eventually go on my own and start an online business.

Most of my days consisted of auditing small business sites and giving recommendations on how they could improve their rankings. The results were quite decent when my recommendations were implemented so I thought to myself “Why not build an online business and apply the same principles to grow your own site?”

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

I had started a personal side project (a website) to mostly do some R&D and testing stuff. This site was in a niche I was passionate about (sports) and showed good early signs of potential.

When the pandemic hit, I decided it was the perfect timing for me to go on my own and work from home. The plan was to invest time on this site and take on clients of my own as an Search engine consultant to pay the bills.

I gave them my resignation letter and my last day was a week before our country entered into lockdown.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

I actually didn’t really have an “Aha moment”, the plan to go on my own was always there, the pandemic simply accelerated the process.

How are things going with this new initiative?

The Search engine consulting is going really well, I basically have more work than I can handle and I essentially tripled my pre-pandemic salary, working twice as less.

The website project is also doing pretty well, the revenue it’s generating is not yet anything to write home about but I am very pleased with the growth it’s experiencing. My writing and editing team is quite amazing, I am still looking to expand it and bring in more expert voices but overall, I am truly happy with how things have developed.

The goal of this initiative was to be free of any work-related constraints and travel the world. This is the only thing I have not been able to do so far for obvious reasons.

I think I have been somewhat lucky in regards to how things have developed since I quit my job, but I believe that fortune really favors the bold. The more you work, the luckier you’ll get.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I actually have met an amazing person on an Search engine-related group who is now a business associate: Thomas Niemczewski. We have been working together since April, he’s the one sending me client leads and we also build sites together to later monetize them through affiliate marketing and lead generation. We jokingly call each other the “Search engine Bros”, we exchange a lot of ideas, and he’s teaching my girlfriend to code so she can join our little organization.

We actually got drunk one Friday night on Skype to celebrate the end of the week. I was completely AWOL for the next 48 hours. It seems I am, in the words of Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies, “Getting too old for this crap”.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Actually, I inspired my girlfriend to quit her job too, which she did in August. She wants us to live life on our own terms and be able to travel wherever we want as digital nomads. This line of work we are in is amazing because it gives us this opportunity. As avid travelers, it’s the dream.

I’m currently teaching her Search engine, and Thomas is teaching her site development.

Not the most interesting story I’ll admit, life’s just boring when you have to stay home, I guess.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • Get your sleeping schedule right.

I’ve always had issues with sleeping, waking up was always as difficult as going to bed every night. My gears are always turning and have caused me numerous insomnias. Even more so now that I don’t need to wake up at a specific time.

My most productive days have been the ones where I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 4 am. During these days, you feel in control, on top of things, your productivity goes through the roof and the sense of accomplishment you get at the end of the day is priceless.

  • Money is scalable, your time isn’t.

I started by wanting to be a one-man-band and do it all to reduce costs. I realized that my days were going a lot quicker as an entrepreneur than they did as an employee. I decided to hire writers and build a team in July.

  • There’s no “one size fits all”

I used to think that to become successful, you just had to find someone who is, and replicate what he/she did. If only it were that easy. I think there are fundamentals to follow indeed, but you have to put your own twist on things and have a unique selling proposition in any business venture you decide to pursue.

  • Focus on happiness, not pleasure

I used to play a lot of video games. I thought I could balance my passion for it with my work life. It seems my personality won’t let me do it in a healthy way.

I decided to completely erase the games from my computer since I can’t manage to have it under control, thus trading short-term pleasure (video games), for long-term happiness which can be achieved through having a successful business and the benefits that come with it.

  • Don’t chase the dollar

Bad clients are not worth the trouble. Try to put yourself in a position where you can choose who you work with/for. It’s obviously a luxury and is easier said than done. But it’s truly not worth the hassle and bad clients can result in negative impacts, both for your mental sake, and your finances.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

By nature, I have never been an anxious person so maybe I’m not the best to give advice on this subject. I guess it all comes down to what you give importance to. When I quit my job, people were telling me I was mad, that it was the worst timing economically speaking to do it.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I would say.

The worst would be that my business would fail and that I would have to go back to a 9 to 5 job as an Search engine expert, a job in high-demand among companies in my region.

If you can easily accept the worst-case scenario, that should take a load off your shoulders.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I don’t really like giving lessons because when you do, you have to live by them. But I’ll make an exception this one time since I’m sure to lead by example here: “Mind your own business, but be mindful of others”. I think kindness can go a very long way. It’s a low-effort, high-effect behavior that some are naturally born with, while others definitely need to work on.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

That’s a tough one as most of the people that first come to mind are dead. Also, everyone seems to have their part of shadow which makes it tougher to pick.

That being said, I’d love to have lunch with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not only is he one of the brightest minds on earth, I believe he is tons of fun to hang out with. Getting my mind blown while laughing out loud? Yes please.

How can our readers follow you online?

I guess I should be more active on social media but you can follow or contact me here:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for your interest in my story. I wish you the best in all your endeavors and all aspects of your life.

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