John Assaraf – Do Whatever It Takes

Watch John Assaraf’s personal story of growth, the lessons he learned early on in life, and how he went from robber to self-made millionaire by brushing his teeth.


I was stealing money from her. Her name was Sadie, and she was a teacher, and she used to have this big white cat, it was about 20 pounds. I used to go over to her apartment when I was 12, 13 years old, just to talk and keep her company.

When she would leave the room, I would go into her wallet, I would take 20 dollars or 40 dollars from her wallet. And she was the most loving, caring, kind woman you could ever ask, and I was taking money from her.

And, years later, I told her. And she said to me that she knew that I was taking money from her, but she was fine with it, because I was like her son. And she understood what I was doing, and why I was doing it, but she gave me so much love, and so much compassion, and so much empathy, that even though I was stealing the money from her, she was giving it to me.

I offered to pay her back all the money that I had stolen from her, plus some, and she wouldn’t take it, because she knew she was just helping me get through some of the hard times in my life.

My parents fought about the lack of money every single day, and that stemmed from my father being a gambler. He was going and gambling, on cards, and on horses, and almost every single night, he and my mother would fight about his addiction, his gambling, and the fact that there wasn’t enough money.

At a very, very young age, not only was I doing things to make money, so that I could give a little bit to my mother, or to have a little bit of money in my pocket, to feel safe. Money in my pocket made me feel like I could protect my mom, I protect my sister. And what I didn’t know, at the time, was how much of my self worth and self esteem I was stripping away because of what I was doing as a kid.

I didn’t believe I was smart enough. I didn’t believe I was good enough to do things legally. I didn’t think I was worthy enough. And the thing for me that turned it all around was one man, one decision.

The man was Alan Brown, and I had one lunch with him, on a Friday afternoon, and he asked me what my goals were, what my vision for my life was. He asked me, where do I want to travel? What kind of car do I want to drive? What kind of home do I want to live in? What kind of charities do I want to support?

He asked me questions that nobody ever asked me. And in one lunch, the trajectory of my life changed. It was this one question that changed my life. And the question was, “John, are you interested in achieving, or are you committed to achieving the stuff that you wrote?” And I remember it like it was yesterday, I said to him, I said, “Mr. Brown, what’s the difference between interested and committed?” And he said to me, he says, “if you’re interested, you’ll do what’s convenient.” He says, “if you are committed, you will do whatever it takes.” But he also gave me the how to. And I believe in this work so much that I still do it today.

So every day, when I wake up, and I brush my teeth, I have on my mirror my top three goals, and the vision for my life. And as I brush my teeth, I’m reading the words to prime my brain. So it’s brush your teeth, prime your brain. And I’m reading the words and I’m feeling what it would feel like to actually achieve the financial success I want, the physical success I want, the charitable contributions I want to make. The difference I want to make in the world.

And it all stems from not wanting to have an ordinary life. I want to have an extraordinary life. And so, everything that I do is geared towards, how do I have, and make sure, that I have an extraordinary life? And brushing your teeth, priming your brain, while you’re doing that, is one of the best habits you can ever get into. It’s only the people who are committed to achieving their goals that actually achieve them.

It’s not the people that set goals, it’s not the people that talk about them. It’s not the people that hope, and pray, and dream for them. It’s the people who actually are committed to do whatever it takes.