In his former debut, Pulse of the Jungle, Dan Cleland, described how the Peruvian jungle awakened him, expanding his mind with new insights into entrepreneurship. This time, unprecedented global lockdowns test him to the limit, revealing the 12 primal laws of entrepreneurial survival that kept him alive and thriving in an unforgiving market.

Hey, what’s up everybody, if you are an entrepreneur, trust me, you don’t want to miss this episode about Daniel Cleland’s 12 Laws. Welcome back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host, Hussein Al-Baiaty, and today, I’m very excited to be joined by Dan Cleland who is getting ready to share his journey and tell us about his second book, The 12 Laws of the Jungle: How to Become a Lethal Entrepreneur.

Hello everyone, I’m excited to have Daniel Cleland with us today. Daniel, this is an honor for me to get to know a little bit more and a little bit about your book. Your new book that’s coming out, it’s amazing, I can’t wait to share it with our audience here. You have like a plethora of experience, it looks like you’ve been around the block.

Let’s start by just giving our listeners an idea of your life, personal background, sort of how you came to the second book but really, just a little bit about your personal background.

Daniel Cleland: Sure and thank you Hussein for having me on, it’s great to be with you. So my background is extremely normal, I would say where I am now is not a reflection of where I began but rather the effective applications of the lessons that I teach in the book.

I grew up in a very small town in rural Canada, with 5,000 people, and of those 5,000 people, approximately zero were ambitious to do anything special with their lives. It was very much the type of lifestyle that was going to college, getting a decent blue-collar job, getting married, have kids, and rinse and repeat all the way down the line.

That was not acceptable to me at the time. I don’t know whether that was by choice or because I wasn’t very effective. I wasn’t at the top of the pack so to speak in high school, I wasn’t the most popular with the ladies and you know, I got picked on and bullied a little bit. I was motivated to leave that place and go and just be in an anonymous location.

I ended up going to one of the closest cities to do college, with very lackluster grades throughout high school and college. In my last semester of high school, I passed three classes all boasting a 50, 5-0 grade point average. So, like, barely squeaked past.

In college, I flunked and dropped out and circulated through four different programs in four years until I eventually quit. Then I got into sales work and that was pretty much the only thing I could do, sales jobs. So I did a variety of sales jobs for about three or four years after college, and that did not really inspire me at all I didn’t really have much going on — and I wanted to travel.

I wanted adventure but I didn’t have any money. I made one exploratory trip, utilizing some commissions from a sales job, and then I wanted to continue that journey. So I looked for a job and I acquired a job working for a tourism company and the pay was $25 a day but I got to travel down to South America and traveled to different countries.

I got a little bit of experience in Latin America doing that, which broadened my horizons a little bit, opened me up to some different languages, and just got comfortable traveling with groups in Latin America, dealing with logistics in strange places and all that kind of stuff. I utilized that later on when I became interested in starting my own business, which of course, was leveraging the travel experience that I got while working in tourism.

So bit by bit, I just started building my own business. At first, just with myself as the sole entrepreneur working during the day in a sales job, taking night classes in the evening and then building my company in my spare time; writing the web content, managing the website, and then leading my own tours along the way.

That company is now, I mean, we’re probably doing four million US this year and growing. We’ve now moved from one location to three locations and you know, I’m personally doing quite well as the majority shareholder. That all began with just me moonlighting on the job at a sales job and then slowly growing the business from one person to two people. From two people to four people, from four people to eight, to 16.

Now, we’ve got about 35 or 40 employees from around the world that help operate your organization. Life is pretty good. When I set out to grow a business, my primary concern was that regular jobs never pay enough to get ahead. The things I wanted were time freedom, mobility, and financial freedom which is almost impossible to get with a full-time job.

You have a maximum, of three weeks a year of vacation paid. Your salaries always have to be justified politically within the company, it is really hard to get an exceptionally high salary that actually allows you to get ahead and have a good lifestyle because then if you get that much, then the next person wants that much and then the bosses say, “Well, we can’t let you have that much because then, everybody’s going to want that much.”

And I know because I say the same thing because it’s actually true. I realized that the only way to get ahead is to either get really good at sales in an uncapped commission sales job and you can make a few hundred grand a year and nobody can say anything about it because you know, then all you have to do is say, “Well then, why don’t you go do it?” and then they can say, “Well, I can’t do it because sales are really hard and you have to work really hard and there’s a lot of rejection…” And all that’s true and that’s why sales kind of sucks.

So the path I chose was to build a business that would allow me to do things that I wanted. The time, freedom and the mobility, freedom and the financial freedom and so that’s what I did. I built a company that I had to start and work really hard and invest a lot in to build it out and then, over the years, basically built myself out of it.

So you know, here I sit now, with all of those things, time freedom, mobility freedom, and financial freedom and I probably work 10 hours a week maximum. I live in a beautiful house in a gated community and I travel when I want and I stay where I want and I do what I want and I essentially have achieved the objective that I set out to but that was only through applying the 12 principles that I write about in this book that I refer to as the 12 Laws of the Jungle.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: You have a breadth of knowledge and expertise, obviously now that you’ve sort of grown this business and went through — it sounds like you went through, obviously, we all go through the trials and tribulations of figuring out how we want to pursue our own lives and careers and what objectives we want to sit and I think sometimes our beginnings are like humbling.

Because if we start in a small town or in my case, started in a refugee camp, life trajectories are going to throw us one way and then your intentions, your power, your innate abilities are going to try to set us in a different direction and I feel like it’s those leverages that we have, people around us, experiences that we either put ourselves through or they happen to us that sort of start to define our path forward.

It sounds like that’s kind of how you were able to formulate this business and really grow it because you had that innate deeper passion and now that you can really apply those hours, whether you’re studying at night or whatever, you have this vision. I think sometimes visions come at us differently and I just, I can see how in your story that started to sort of in an “awaken” right?

You talk about in your first book, the Pulse of the Jungle and how you sort of had this like awakening experience. Can you tell me a little bit about that first experience you had and sort of what awoken you if you will and then we can jump into your new book and philosophy.

Daniel’s Awakening Experience

Daniel Cleland: Yeah, well, I think what really became the lynchpin or the breaking point, perhaps, was, as I briefly explained before, I had a fairly lackluster decade in my 20s. It was fun, a lot of partying and being a vagabond and things like that but I didn’t accomplish, really, anything, and coming to the end of my 20s, I really started to feel the weight of that and I started to feel that you know, whereas when I was 21 or 22, I could kind of get away with potential.

I could get away with talking about what I wanted to do and then people would be interested or girls would be interested but then I found myself getting closer to 30 and then people would be a little more discerning, “Well, what have you done?” you know?

“What do you have going on now, what is in your realistic near term? Why would I want to associate with you?” And people are getting serious about their own lives and their own life paths at that time and I could see that I had really nothing going on for myself. So I became quite depressed. I was still kind of addicted to traveling and made a trip to Australia.

I was trying to upgrade my education at the time and I made a trip to Australia to further my education and, hopefully, meet a nice Australian girl and when I was there, I was working a sales job and just super miserable. And again, people there at that time kind of a materialistic culture, judging me based on my own revenue, my cashflow, the things I had, no car, no house, no money, no credit, no career, no future.

I was drinking heavily at the time and in a really low place. Very depressed and [at a] low place and drinking, not in a celebratory way but to just drown my sorrows, to drown my feelings and I had a culmination one night. I tried to scale a cliff in Australia, in Brisbane, a cliff called Kangaroo Point and I almost made it to the top but reach an impasse and made a lunge, and then fell all the way to the bottom.

So I had this injury that almost killed me, and sent me straight to the hospital. I spent 40 days and nights in the hospital. I had a compound fracture, the femur, it blew out of my leg. My pelvis was split in half. I had an exoskeleton screwed into my bones, just to hold me together for the first week and then extensive surgeries, plates and screws and rods to get all the bones back in the right place and to top it off, got hooked on opiates but they got me on these pain killers, OxyContin and morpheme and everything.

So you know, I was just in about the worst possible place you could be without being dead. That motivated me to go and try Ayahuasca, which I had heard about in my travels in South America. This is after my stint as a tour leader in South America and so, being that I had experience in South America and that I was at a rock bottom place in my life, I decided to go to South America and work with Ayahuasca to try to help save my damn self and it was the best decision I had ever made.

It immediately helped me turn my life around, started to take away, it just started to really peel away a lot of those dark emotions, the self-hatred, the regret, the fear of the future, the self-contempt, all these things that were just dominating my headspace, just persistently. The Ayahuasca just started to root those things out, I mean, right away and it just opened up a whole new element of beauty to my life.

I didn’t know that that kind of experience was even possible, let alone within reach for me. So I became so enthusiastic about Ayahuasca that I wanted to continue working with that medicine and that was, I think, I was 30 years old right at that point. So yeah, it was kind of fortunate that I had the experience working in tourism in South America because — and that ayahuasca[’s] origin is South America.

I was able to go and start leading groups of people there as I explained earlier, just one by one person organizing and budgeting and managing and handling payments and executing the journey and then getting reviews after, testimonials. I mean, that’s what I did for like two years just part-time while I was back in Canada working a sales job and then taking night classes to finally get a university degree.

That became my purpose, my life path and as soon as things got a little bit busier, I was determined to become a self-sustaining entrepreneur. It took me a couple of years of bootstrapping and moonlighting in order to be able to do that but then in 2013, I finally was able to quit my job and that was the final job I’ve ever had and then, I moved down to South America.

I moved down, I built a retreat center in the Amazon jungle down in Peru in 2014 and then ran that for a couple of years before writing my first book, Pulse of The Jungle, which you mentioned earlier and I stayed down in Peru, learning more about the medicine path, learning more about entrepreneurship.

Living my life, living the adventure that I had dreamed of and that took me up until I was about 35 years old and at that point, I was interested in another upgrade. The Amazon is a beautiful place but it’s a little rugged, it’s a little rough and as I got older, my days of being an adventurous backpacker were becoming more and more numbered.

When I was about 35, I wanted to live in a more of developed society rather than down in the Amazon. So I sold that center in the Amazon and then raised a bunch of money and built another center on the beach in Costa Rica, except this one was in Costa Rica and Costa Rica is a completely different country than Peru.

It’s much more developed, the roads are better, the Internet’s better, the cell signal’s better, the shopping malls are better, the movie theaters are better, the people are more educated and more trustworthy and we built a luxury center here on the beach, which was also much better. So that became the new thing and the first 18 months were a really, really hard battle because we weren’t quite well capitalized enough, had to do a lot of, what do you call it? Just brute force management when it came to getting things done.

A lot of elbow grease, and a lot of manual application of force to survive the first 18 months but then we got a half-decent place. We had the right publicity, we had the right influencers coming, we were in the black, we were earning profits and we had a great team in place and everything was finally going and then, well, that was in February of 2020 and we all know what happened then.

It was an immediate shutdown of the borders, we got smacked with lockdowns without any warning just like everybody else did and then we went straight back into battle mode, which lasted pretty much throughout the rest of 2020, you know, zero revenues, no idea when the borders would open again. All of our customers who had paid deposits asking for money back, which we couldn’t pay because we need that money to stay alive to service all the rest of the customers when the borders opened again.

So that became kind of the life or death struggle that really helped me to distill and crystalize and describe my methodology, the lessons I had learned over all of these years being in entrepreneurship in a teachable format, in a simplified teachable format that’s got kind of an Amazon jungle lens on everything. So you are taking your tribe through the dangerous jungle to a certain object, which is representative of what it’s like to take your business from startup to stability.

Then so coincidentally, I partnered up with Matt Cartagena to start writing a book just in early 2020. I had no idea that this disaster was coming but it was actually the perfect way to do wartime journaling throughout the pandemic disaster because during the day I would be making moves on the business chessboard and then in the evening I would have a call with Matt and he would interview me and ask me questions and we would extract these lessons and really put it all together in a concise and communicable way.

Until we got out of the lockdowns, you know, we survived the lockdowns, the 12 laws were put to good use and we came out swinging at the end of these lockdown periods. We set ourselves up to basically as soon as we opened the door, we [were] just blasted with demand and we rapidly recovered and I mean now, less than two years later, we’ve doubled our revenues. We’ve purchased another beautiful beachfront property, which we’re about to develop.

We’re working with a couple of different joint ventures with other locations, we’ve got a massive surplus of demand, we’re paying our people more than ever, and we refunded everybody who wanted their money back from the pandemic lockdowns. I mean, everybody’s happy. We’ve had world-renowned influencers at our place. Aaron Rodgers has been all over the news, he was just at our place.

Jake Paul and his girlfriend, Julia Rose were there with him. We’ve had Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox, they were all over the news about their experience here at Soltara. I mean, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern and all these, and then, of course, the health and fitness influencers like Aubrey Marcus and Aaron Alexander and Kyle Kingsbury are all people who frequent our place.

I just did a podcast with Kyle Kingsbury today and you know, he was talking about how much he can’t wait to come back once his newborn gets a little bit older. So yeah, I mean, it’s pretty safe to say that everything is going awesome. We even have banks in Costa Rica, which I never ever, ever thought I would say, we have banks in Costa Rica that are offering us development capital to grow and I’m talking like millions of dollars.

So yeah, I mean, it’s really — I bought my first house. I’m 40, I just bought my first house. You know, it’s a million-dollar house in a beautiful gated community with great security and I got financing also from the seller. So I mean, when you’ve got a strong track record, when you are showing good numbers, when you are showing your resilience, then people are willing to help you keep the momentum going and I think that’s a good lesson.

Prepare for Snakebites

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Absolutely. So you talk a lot about these 12 laws that basically helped you transform, right? Come out of that space of like, “Man what are we going to do? How are we going to overcome this?” and there is so much unknown. It was kind of insanity, right? But you buckled down, you did what you had to do and then you broke down these 12 laws and I shifted through them yesterday and the day before just kind of doing research about you.

My thing was for a long time when I was younger, when I was starting, I had a t-shirt printing business and you talk about this briefly, it’s one of your laws called the snakebite where you had a mishap with someone that did you wrong or something happened and it kind of add salt to the wound. Sometimes that in it of itself becomes like almost like a limiting belief about you or reflection and it can push you and propel you sort of like in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy.

Can you talk a little bit about either that law or your favorite law that you embedded in your book that you’re like, “Man, this was the anchor law that helped me really take what was happening and turn it around”?

Daniel Cleland: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s hard to say which law I think is the anchor law or which is more important because I –

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I mean, all go together.

Daniel Cleland: Identify value in each one but that is one of the important laws because if you can anticipate the punch coming, you can block it and if you can’t block it, at least you know you’re ready for it, you could thicken up your skin and strengthen up your neck so you can take a punch. I think that’s law seven, “plan for snakebites”, is linked to law one, which is the “jungle doesn’t care”.

But the “plan for snakebites” is really, you know, they’re going to happen. They’re going to happen to you. If you go into business and you’re trying to build a company that’s got — if you are into the seven-figure revenue with dozens of employees, multiple points of failure, you’re going to have a compartmentalized organization that you’re not controlling every aspect of it. You have to depend on other people.

You have to depend on systems, you have to depend on external service providers, you have to depend on payment processors and supply chain, and things like that, you are definitely going to take a hit at some point. Nobody gets out of this game without getting a black eye every now and then and the issue that we brought up in the “plan for snakebites” was just three different ways to mitigate that.

One is to watch like a hawk and that goes for just don’t give anybody more credit than they deserve. Don’t assume that this person has expressed their loyalty so much that they’re never going to betray you. Don’t assume that everybody is truthful to you and what they tell you because they’re not. Everybody is two-faced and especially everybody wants to tell you all the good news.

They want to tell you what they want to hear, they want you to see them favorably so they tell you things that they don’t necessarily tell other people on the same level as them and you know, betrayals happen. People are liars as well and people operate on self-interest. So, betrayal is one example of snakebites and that happened to us on several occasions in various different scenarios.

Whether it’s security guards breaking into guest rooms in the middle of the Ayahuasca ceremony and stealing people’s shit out of their suitcases or whether that is one of my managers scooping 20% off of our construction budget to put in his own pocket and then coming back and trying to sue us for not paying his salary. Whether that’s like, we use an example in the book of payment processes, which also happened to us.

Banks shut down our accounts, and payment processors stopped serving us, it’s common things like that where that can completely eliminate your business if you don’t have a contingency plan for it and backup for it but the first step is to just be constantly analyzing your potential points of failure and constantly analyzing your dependency on different possible points of failure including people. There are some people in my organization right now that I am completely dependent on.

If they were to say, “Yo, I love you. I really appreciate everything but I’ve got this other offer over here and it is just too interesting, I am going to take it, sorry. I wish you all the best.” I mean, these things happen, right? So you want to build up contingency plans and contingency plans for your contingency plans and you want to have capital. So, I talk about snakebite capital in the book, which is money.

Simple money can make a lot of the snakebites go away. If you have someone like this guy who tried to take advantage of us legally, we shut him down. We were able to outlast him on the legal front and out-pay him on the legal front and then you know, he eventually got what he deserved at the end.

If you’ve got someone who you’re super dependent on and they come to you and say, “Yo, I got a better [offer] over here” well, you can say, “Yo, I’ll pay you a 100 G’s to stick it out for another year,” you know? Because that person might be worth a million dollars, if they leave you lose a million. If they stay, you earn a million, so pay them 100 grand, right? Something like that but if you have that in your pocket, you’ve got leverage.

Then you know, the other methodology for dealing with snakebites is just manually fixing the problem, which also usually requires capital because you have to put more human resources into it or what have you. For example, building your own in-house payment processor instead of outsourcing to Stripe or Square or PayPal, who can change their policy guidelines regularly and leave you in a pinch without any means to collect cash.

Which then of course, is a huge risk to your business and very time sensitive and then the way that ties into all one, “the jungle doesn’t care”. “The jungle doesn’t care” teaches you how to turn your skin into leather basically and to toughen yourself up mentally and emotionally and spiritually so that when you do take these snakebites, you don’t get flustered, you don’t get emotional, you don’t crack under the pressure because that’s how you lose.

You need to be extremely tough when you are leading a company because these things do happen. That’s a good example because it is a very important one and then in the context of like COVID for example, just imagine that. You’ve got all your staff asking you what the fuck is going on, you’ve got all your customers what the fuck is going on. You have dozens of furious people demanding their deposits back because they’re so freaked out that they’re cracking under the pressure.

They’re not accustomed to this kind of stress and uncertainty, so you got people that are freaking out, calling you, asking you for money and you are trying to make plans to keep your company going and surviving through a blackout. You can’t see anything, you have no idea what’s going to happen and then, just imagine the pressure of that and you need to be able to handle those kinds of things and make decisions during those situations that don’t get emotional and don’t get impulsive and don’t get reactionary.

You have to be cool-headed and chill and just keep your eye on the battlefield and the chessboard and make calm, calculated decisions in those situations.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I can’t agree more, man. I mean, I think you obviously have, you know, in a lot of ways like the things that you have gone through previous to this one situation have slowly prepared you for it in a way and then you were able to level up through utilizing these experiences and saying like, “Okay, this is how we’re going to transform.

This is how we’re going to come out on top and you broke it down into 12 Laws of the Jungle: How to Become a Lethal Entrepreneur, which I love the title man. It is going to be an incredible book. Real quickly, if you want your audience to take away one thing from the book, what would that be?

Daniel Cleland: Basically, the whole book is geared toward the singular premise of helping the reader, better equipping the reader to achieve what I call in the book, their “fuck yes life”, which is different for every person. I described earlier what my “fuck yes life” is, which is to do exactly what I’m doing right now. I have a heavy metal band and I am going to play in Mexico with one of my all-time favorite bands in two weeks.

I have a great beautiful girlfriend, [who I’d] never be able to get if it wasn’t for my successes here in Costa Rica. I have great friends, I have a great lifestyle. Now, I’m not a billion-dollar investor but that wasn’t part of my “fuck yes life”. My “fuck yes life” was to have the time to do the things I enjoy to do because I believe life is short. For some other people, that might be to be the biggest real estate developer in the tri-state area or to have 250 single-family homes or to be a millionaire by the time they’re 35 or maybe it’s even smaller scale than that.

It is different for everybody but the point is, the book teaches you to really dial into that “fuck yes life”, really imagine what that would be, and then gives you tools to be able to get to that and to keep that.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that. That is so powerful man. Well, congratulations to you. Again, this is your second book. That’s a huge feat, man. Writing one book is one thing, writing two, you’re a beast, that’s amazing. I’m excited for you Dan, this is going to be amazing. The book launch, if you are interested in learning the 12 Laws of the Jungle, I know I am picking up my copy today. This has been a pleasure meeting with you and getting to know you, Daniel.

I really appreciate you coming to the show. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Daniel Cleland: Everything really goes through my social media Instagram account at Daniel C. Cleland. There is a link in the bio there to connect by email and to order the book and to check out the stuff from our band and our music and also my business, Soltara Healing Center, you can check that out there as well. Soltara Healing Center directly can be found at soltara.co and then if you don’t have Instagram or social media, you can sign up for my emails and check out other content at my website, www.danielcleland.com.

So the Instagram is Daniel C. Cleland and then the website is just Daniel Cleland and then also there’s some podcast and YouTube and stuff up on my video at Daniel Cleland.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love it man, thank you for sharing all of that. Dan, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Like I said, thank you for coming on the show.

Daniel Cleland: I really appreciate it, Hussein. Thank you very much, bro.