Patrick Bet-David was just a little boy when he piled into that white Renault, next to his sister in the backseat. The ride was fast, with an undertone of urgency.
“Don’t look back!” his father yelled to them as he hit the gas and the car rocketed forward. But that command worked as well as it ever works, and Patrick turned around to see the commotion behind them.
“I looked back, and I saw the bridge coming down,” he says. Fifty yards behind their car the entire bridge dropped out. Patrick and his family would have dropped down with it a few seconds earlier, to certain death. “That stuff kind of stays,” he says softly.
It’s one of just a few brief moments in our talk that Patrick’s energy drops as his intensity rises. Just a flicker of sadness and pain before he snaps back to the present moment and continues sharing his story of how he rose from a refugee camp, to become one of this country’s top entrepreneurs, influencers, and podcasters.
Patrick Bet-David’s journey is an unlikely story of success.
Certainly, far more people with far more advantages have failed or quit before reaching anywhere near Patrick’s level of personal and professional success. Perhaps, though, it is precisely the fact that Patrick learned how to find strength and happiness despite facing odds many others would find insurmountable that set him up to succeed.
To be fair, he says, life in Iran wasn’t all bad memories. There were a lot of good memories, even if there was some weirdness attached.
Take, for instance, the pre-dawn caviar feasts he shared with an uncle. This uncle sold alcohol. In Iran, that’s tantamount to being a drug dealer. Patrick’s head shakes while he smiles, telegraphing the contrast of feelings about this uncle who was at once fun and special even while he was an outlaw and a womanizer with so many marriages behind him that the family lost count.
“Wake up,” his uncle would whisper to him. “Look what I brought you and don’t tell your mother.” Six-year-old Patrick Bet-David would slip out of bed and gorge on high-end caviar straight from the Caspian Sea. He is a die-hard caviar fan to this day.
In Iran, the workweek is six days and runs from Saturday to Thursday. The American version of a weekend takes place in one day, not two, and that day is Friday. His family had a regular routine of Friday traditions that involved his father being home, and Patrick cherishes it. There were also trips to beautiful places to counteract the other side of life – the side where friends were killed and atrocities took place. Patrick was exposed to so much evil that he decided God must be a fallacy, for how could there be a God if so many terrible things were happening to so many innocent people?
His childhood ticked by amidst this blend of “good and weird memories,” says Patrick, until his 12th birthday was imminent and his mother insisted they flee.
At twelve years old, Iranian boys become “locked in” to Iran. They are forbidden to leave because they must ultimately serve in the army. That, for his mother, signified it was time to go.
Patrick Bet-David’s family spent two years in a German refugee camp.
It could have been a difficult time for him, but Patrick remembers it as fun. “I had a blast at the refugee camp,” he says. ‘That’s what’s so weird about it.”
It was the melting pot other melting pots are dipped into. People arrived from all over the world, each with a story of survival and a dream for something more that unified them. It was there he dabbled in entrepreneurship, collecting empty beer bottles and being paid for each one he turned in. Five thousand bottles later, he was able to buy the new Super Mario Brothers game. He then gave that game to another boy in camp – a boy who was the brother of a pretty girl Patrick had his eye on, and who he could now hang out with, while her brother played the video game.
He’d identified a problem – how to find time alone with the girl he had a crush on. He’d found a solution, committed to achieving it, and done so, which is exactly what an entrepreneur must do.
That spirit experienced several evolutions throughout the next ten years. It was smothered with academics and fed itself by getting into trouble. High school was not easy for him. His GPA was 1.8. His home life deteriorated and his parents divorced.
The military, he was told, was his only option. The loudest voice speaking those words to him came from Jesus, the recruiter who stuck to his mission of recruiting him for four years. With nowhere else to go, feeling lost and unfocused, a world away from his family infighting and into a uniform the recruiter promised him would bring girls along with glory, Patrick enlisted in the United States Army.
More tough lessons were learned in more difficult ways from the moment he arrived in Boot Camp.
Ask Patrick Bet-David today and he will tell you that the things he learned in the military are what made him who he is today.
“You take the military out and I’m not who I am today,” he says in one of many of the videos he shares on his viral YouTube channel, Valuetainment. In that video, Patrick lists 19 things he learned in the military that he carries with him today. In other conversations, he will talk about the camaraderie of the military and at least one close friend he still has after all these years.
Managing choices, managing risks, leadership, adaptability, and all those other skills, heaped on top of the foundation he’d already built for many of those traits to build upon, are what Patrick tapped into back then to work hard, save enough money, identify a problem, create and build not one but two businesses that outperform others.
PHP Inc is his life insurance company, started with his own hard-earned money and grown to over 10,000 agents selling record numbers of policies. Lots of people are timid about selling a product associated with death. Death is not a goal. Death is not exciting, death is feared by most and the reality of it is denied. Insurance companies often exclude certain demographics because they do not understand cultural nuances and norms. Corporations can often fail to inspire and motivate employees.
Problem. Problem. Problem…. Solutions.
Patrick Bet-David’s life experiences, mathematical prowess, and learned business skills are the perfect storm to disrupt a stereotypically dull field and make it cool.
Rather than confine his mojo to his own company, Patrick Bet-David took to the internet, where his YouTube channel now has over a million subscribers.
He has story after story on the tip of his tongue about the people he knows he’s been able to help, and he manages to share those stories without a drop of smugness. Rather, it’s unleashed passion for his life, gratitude for this country, and the kind of certainty that comes only with experience, that he’s dialed into something greater than himself.
The man who was a self-proclaimed atheist for 25 years is now wholly embraced in his faith that God does exist and has his back. Nothing, he says, gives him more confidence than his faith.
Patrick Bet-David has witnessed the worst of humanity. Those experiences crippled his faith. He’s also witnessed the best of humanity and had his own moments of Divine Intervention that lead him to rethink his faith, learn more about it, and open his heart and soul back up to it.
His is an unlikely story of survival and success- not just in body and mind but in business and in the heart. He is an example of not just the American Spirit but the human spirit, with frailties and faith to match.
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