ABOUT Joe Simonds (like Diamonds)
Joe with his grandfather’s treasured World War II Fighter Pilot Jacket (I.B. “Doc” Hardy proudly served as Captain in the Navy and flew the amazing Corsair in two wars)
- Family Man / Dad
- Cancer Survivor
- Author (see Joe’s latest book, Fishing For Happiness, on Amazon here)
- Beer drinker
- Reverend (licensed to do weddings and baptisms in 48 out of 50 states. No joke)
- Chapstick addict
- Overall Fun guy to high-five
That is me skiing at age 4. Apparently the state of FL didn’t require life jackets for anyone under age 5…way to go parents
From Little Swimmer To Little Joey
I was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL as both of my parents had recently graduated from the University of South Tampa (USF).
Quite fitting that I was born in Tampa considering it is the birthplace of Salt Strong.
After a few years of living in Tampa, my parents decided that I was too much of a handful to raise without any help from my grandparents, so we moved to Winter Haven where both of my grandparents lived.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, so here is a summation of what I recall about years 4-18 while living in Winter Haven.
- My mom had me swimming at a very young age (she claims by 1 year old, but only the pool walls know the truth)
- My dad was really into water skiing as we grew up right near Cypress Gardens. He had me up on water skis by my 4th birthday, and I did everything from barefoot to the old school wooden trick skis. Was wakeboarding back when we there was nothing but a “skurfboard” to ride on. Great times on the lake!
- Played baseball, tennis, and soccer all the way from 4 years old into the varsity team in high school for all 3 sports.
- Always dreamed of being a pro baseball player but quickly realized that I had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than going pro in baseball
- I met some incredible friends, many of which I still keep in touch with today on a regular basis
- I learned that orange groves have many more uses that just producing oranges. Things such as romantic places to take high school girlfriends for make out sessions, drinking beer, fights, and even just watching the stars are also benefits of Florida orange groves.
- My dad was an Eagle Scout, and he taught my brother and I all about camping, tying knots, survival, and how to be a upstanding southern gentlemen
My dad and I catching a blue marlin in the Bahamas (They don’t make outfits in white like this anymore…for good reason)
- My mom kept us in line as it was literally impossible to pull anything by her. She was like the drill sergeant that never sleeps and always knows where you are. But she did everything with a smile and with lots of love, and I am forever grateful for both of my loving parents.
- I learned how to catch fish from my dad, a born and raised native of Florida that had fished everywhere in the state. He taught me how to catch everything from bass to lobster to king mackerel.
- I wore the exact same white shirt and blue pants/shorts every single day from kindergarten to 7th grade as I attended a private school by the name of St. Paul’s Episcopal. Met some great friends there, and I can still recall almost all 20 of my classmate’s birthdays.
Here is my St. Paul’s uniform. Man, I don’t miss wearing that every day.
- My parent’s let me go to public school starting in 8th
- This meant that my classmates went from 20 to hundreds, that I could finally wear cool clothes to school, and it also meant new girls for me to meet. Tons of them!
- At the ripe age of 14, my closest buddies orchestrated a keg party to let the older high school kids know that we meant business. Long story short, the entire city knew about this big keg party out in the orange groves, and it was busted about an hour after it began.
- The next morning when I arrived home (I had permission to spend the night out that evening), my parents were waiting on me. They ended up offering me a bet that would change my life for the best. They bet me $1,500 (my grandfather threw in $500 of it) that if I didn’t drink alcohol or do any drugs until I was at least 18 (which would put me in senior year where I could hopefully make smarter decisions), then they would pay me $1,500 (which is a HUGE sum of money for a 14 year old back in the early 90s). However, if there was even a rumor of me drinking behind their back, I owed them the full $1,500.
- Needless to say, I stayed true to the bet, it helped me stay clean, clear-headed, focused, and avoid TONS of trouble that many of my close friends managed to find themselves in on weekends.
- And once I finally hit 18 in my senior year, my friends threw me a huge keg party to celebrate. It was worth every penny of the $1,500 and then some.
- One of my fondest memories (and probably the biggest impact in my life looking back) in high school were two classes that I really didn’t even want to take. The first was drama class and the second was video production (aka BDTV, aka Blue Devil Television). But these two courses opened me up to being in front of a camera, taught me how to be funny, how to tell great stories, and how to entertain.
- One of my best friends Richard McAdams and I quickly became the comedy duo on BDTV (which aired to the entire school every morning), and the school gave us pretty much free reign on getting as creative as we wanted to…and we did. Our “Used Christmas Tree Salesmen” ongoing skit will go down in the record books as one of my best performances. If anyone at Winter Haven still has copies of this, contact me.
- After losing the Homecoming King honor to my friend Rashad, I was voted “Best All Around” at our senior prom, which I guess is equivalent to Prom King (as we didn’t have an actual King and Queen), so I ended the year on a high note.
Winter Haven High School graduation – 1997 (I am 2nd from the left)
- And by this point, my pitiful English scores on the SAT combined with my near perfect Math scores, led me to start the next chapter of my life at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“Holy Crap Atlanta is Huge”
That was my initial thought as I drove through downtown Atlanta for my first time with my parents. I can still vividly recall the excitement and energy that I felt as I watched the huge building and bustling city around me.
Quite a big change from good old Winter Haven, FL in the mid 90s.
And taking an 18-year old out of Winter Haven, FL (or anywhere in Polk County for that matter), and sticking him or her in downtown Atlanta by themselves with no parental units is like leaving a kid in a candy store.
I didn’t know where to begin having fun!
But don’t worry, I managed…
And I also managed to find some great lakes to catch batch and monster catfish like this one below.
(Take note of the biceps here. And breathe it in, because you probably won’t see guns on me like this ever again)
Big ol catfish in one of my favorite ponds in Newnan, GA
Here are the main things that come to mind when I think of my college days living in downtown Atlanta for 5 years.
- I went to Tech only knowing one person (hey Courtney Spanjers), and I quickly realized that the nerd fest that constituted my dorm hallway, made it a no-brainer to join a fraternity as quickly as I could.
- I joined the cool dudes over at Sigma Chi, of which many are my closest friends still today.
- I was fortunate enough to land a co-op job at Southern Company (this is where I spent one semester in school at Georgia Tech and the next semester would be spent working at a company, getting real world experience, and money)
- My job was in the unregulated area where we had a bit more lavish expense accounts than our cohorts at Georgia Power (the sister company), and we had box suites at all of the Atlanta Braves games, Atlanta Hawks, and all concerts.
- I was the only young guy on the team that wasn’t married, so most weeknights I would get all 16 tickets to take over the entire private suite at the Atlanta Braves games. Needless to say, I was quite popular at my fraternity with box seats every (with free beer, food, etc).
- My house was broken into a couple times while living in downtown Atlanta.
- In one instance over Christmas break, some bums broke in, literally stole everything my roommates and I owned (down to our t-shirts), and then had the balls to live in our house while we were away. After my roommate Doug came home early to get his checkbook (and walking in on the bums living in our empty house), they had even more courage to come back to get one last item…the TV that they had left so that they could watch TV while they “squatted” in our home.
- My senior year I took 4 months off and did a “Study Abroad” trip where we spent most of the time in Australia and New Zealand. Of course we had to break up the long trip with a week in Hawaii, Cook Islands, and Tahiti just because we could. We actually had 16 total flights on this 4-month excursion.
Me hanging out with the kangaroos in Australia
- I spent every dollar in my bank account, and lost most of the brain cells in my brain account. But worth every dollar/brain cell to take this 4-month trip.
Of course I still managed to wet a line and catch some trout on my fly rod in Lake Taupo, New Zealand
- After 5 great years at Georgia Tech, I finally graduated (and somehow still managed to graduate with highest honors)
The Real World
After graduating college, I had always dreamed of being a financial advisor, but I also loved beer.
And quite honestly, I was torn between finding a job in the financial services industry or in the beverage industry.
After a month of deliberation and talking about it with friends and family, I had every intention of working for Anheuser Busch.
One of my great friend’s family owns the Anheuser Busch distributorship in the Atlanta area (Eagle Rock owned by the awesome Economos Family), and they hooked me up with an interview with the Bud distributorship here in Tampa (Pepin).
However, shortly after my interview I received a call from a headhunter looking for young, aggressive phone salesmen to call on financial advisors to get them to sell certain financial products (aka a wholesaler).
It was more or less a start-up company but something just felt right about it. Also, I was dating a girl that I really liked in Atlanta and this job was in Atlanta. And it had a decent salary with some pretty sick upside in terms of monthly bonuses based on my sales.
So I took a leap of faith that completely altered my future from a “beer guy” to a “financial guy”.
Here are the bulleted details of what transpired over my first 12 years in the financial serviced industry.
- I started off spending 8 hours per day on the phone recruiting financial advisors and insurance agents to appoint (to write business, aka invest their client’s money with) one of the largest insurance carriers in the world. The small start-up that I worked for recruited exclusively for this large carrier.
- After just 2 months, I had managed to become the top recruiter in the country.
- And then after 5 months, they promoted me to be a national sales director where I would own the relationship with the financial advisor clients that we had, and built up my own book of business (I was solely focused on being an expert and raising money on annuities) as a wholesaler.
- Grew one of the largest annuity books of business in America (at the time, since then my numbers have been blown away)
- Won incentive trips that enabled me to stay in some of the nicest resorts in the world like staying in the Four Seasons in Bora Bora in those huts on the water you see in pictures (2 times I won this trip), Four Seasons Nevis, Hawaii, Bahamas, and many more.
One of our many fun sailfish days in Mexico
At the docks for some pics
- After 8 years of hard work, I was ready to start out on my own, so with the help of two sharp ex-CEOs of large institutions in the financial service industry, I began my own annuity-wholesaling book of business.
- This was also shortly after I found out that I had advanced melanoma skin cancer (it was stage 2 cancer, Clarks Level 4 for those of you that are familiar or have had to battle skin cancer). But after a full day of surgery, prayers on prayers, and full faith that it wasn’t my time, I survived with a “shark bite” scar on my arm (as they took a huge chunk of meat out of my right arm), and 3 other scars where they took the lymph nodes out. I was a fortunate one for sure, and now you won’t see me out in the sun without being layered with either clothes or 70+ SPF. Just not worth it (especially for my partial Irish skin).
- I also met the love of my life just a month after being diagnoses with skin cancer, and only a year later, I was marrying my wife Loren on the beautiful beaches of Antigua.
- It was her residency program that took us from Atlanta to Austin to Houston back to Atlanta all in a 5 year period. But we also had our first beautiful daughter Shauna while over in Houston, and then popped out Savannah shortly after we arrived back in Atlanta.
- On the business side of things, I took my independence to an all-new level by starting my own annuity wholesaling and national marketing company. A few of my close friends that were also annuity wholesalers followed my lead and jumped on board, and we had an incredible time disrupting an industry with our forward thinking ideas and message on digital marketing.
Here is a picture of my team out on the balcony of our penthouse office in downtown Atlanta. Love these guys.
One more amazing picture taken from the 2nd floor of the office
- This was the time that my brother Luke quit his cushy corporate job and joined me in the retirement income world.
- A short while later, this company was acquired by my old friends that had originally founded and run the very first wholesaling company that I had started with (talk about coming around full circle).
- I would like to say that this was a hugely profitable selling of a company for me that netted me tens of millions of dollars, but in reality, I learned some incredible lessons from running my own business by myself, including that I am horrible as a manager of people (like many creative entrepreneurs, we need to stick with what we are good with, and managing people and budgets is not my strength)
- In January of 2014, my brother Luke and I started a website called AdvisorInternetMarketing.com where we taught financial advisors how to take their message, their brand, and their sales funnels online. It was an incredibly fun, fulfilling, and lucrative company.
- We met some great people, had some amazing financial advisor clients, and it opened up some great doors for us.
- I wrote and published my second book in the final quarter of 2014, just months before selling the company and leaving the industry (talk about going out with a bang).
- Dec 31st, 2014 Luke and I sell our core website (and thus our only income-generating piece of the company) to two industry experts that we have a ton of admiration and respect for.
The Salt Strong Saga
Although the Salt Strong concept and burning desire to create a FUN fishing company that teaches all walks of people how to catch more fish was created back in 2013, the website, the shirts, and the content all went live on Jan 1st, 2015.
Luke and I wanted to kick 2015 off with a bang, and we couldn’t think of a better time to launch our baby to the world.
Time will only tell how large this grows, what areas we move into, and how many people we impact across the globe.
To hear the full story of Salt Strong, click here.
Fishing For Happiness
After reading at least one new personal development book every year for 5 years on my journey to find more happiness and fulfilment in my life, I finally published the book, “Fishing For Happiness” (click here to see it on Amazon).
This book is everything I wished existed while I was going through some of the toughest times in my life (like cancer, not being fulfilled with my job, trying to figure out being a dad, etc).
I even have a 100% money-back guarantee on the book I’m so sure you will get value from it.
My family is last because they are the glue that holds this maverick together.
My wife is the critical support that always has my back and always believes in me.
My two daughters are my daily inspiration to follow my dreams and to make sure I leave a lasting legacy.
My brother Luke is a perfect balance, as he keeps me in check on a daily basis.
My brother Daniel is my inspirational reminder to never give up and always have a positive attitude no matter what situations arise.
And my incredible parents are owed so much for teaching me right from wrong, how to stand up for what you believe in, how to save, how to be a leader, how to never take shortcuts, how to fear God, and of course, how to fish.
The Simonds Crew up in my old office in downtown Atlanta
Hope you enjoyed learning about Joe Simonds.
Any questions at all?
Post your comments, questions, or funny jokes below in the comment section.
I would love to hear from you!