Online Business [And Life] Lessons From Barney Stinson

barney stinsonHappy 2nd day of the new year, everyone! I was just reading through an excellent post by Richard Lazazzera on a list of things entrepreneurs need to do in the New Year, and a behemoth post by Billy Murphy on how to accomplish your New Year goals. I highly recommend checking them both out.

As for my “to-do list” and goals to accomplish, naturally, I’d like to further my online store, as well as develop Bootstrapping eCommerce into a thriving community. You guys are the best – your shares, comments, and feedback are what keep inspiring me to write on. Right on!

To kick off the New Year, and for a little bit of inspiration, I thought I’d shake things up a little bit. I’m a big fan of How I Met Your Mother, and I usually laugh the hardest at Barney Stinson’s dialogs and mannerisms. For this post, I thought I’d pick out my favorite Barney quotes – and see what wisdom I could glean from them.

In case you don’t know what HIMYM or who Barney Stinson is, here is a quick primer:

How I Met Your Mother is a TV series that focuses on how Ted Mosby, an architect living in New York, ends up meeting is wife-to-be. Accompanying him in his journey are his best friend Marshall, a super-nice-guy lawyer, his wife Lily, a sweet-but-no-nonsense teacher, Robin, a journalist that Ted fell in love with, and last but not least, Barney, Ted’s other best friend, who is a successful, overconfident, suit-loving ladies man that loves to have fun(and laser tag).

With that out of the way, let dive right into it!

(These quotes are in no particular order)

Quote #1:

Explaining his strategy for Halloween parties: “Every Halloween, I bring a spare costume, in case I strike out with the hottest girl at the party. That way, I have a second chance to make a first impression.”

“I have a second chance to make a first impression.” Pure genius. In online business, there is always an opportunity to make a second first impression. In fact, there is a chance to make a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on chance to make first impressions.

You can make as many first impressions as you want!

As you already probably know, doing business is tough. And online business is no exception. Let’s say you started a business, but you weren’t able to see it through. Even if your business was so bad that there were millions of terrible reviews, so what! That business may have bombed, but what’s to stop you from picking yourself up and starting fresh?

Open a new business – nobody is going to know that you happened to be the owner of another business that did poorly.

The internet is full of second chances. One niche didn’t work? Neither did the second? Maybe the third will! I’ll let you in on a secret – the store I am working on right now isn’t my first store. It’s actually my third! The nerd in me wants to quote Edison here: “I haven’t failed 999 times, I’ve just found 999 ways it didn’t work.”

Barney likes to take a spare costume with him. This is brilliant business advice. You should never put all of your eggs in one basket. When you start a business, especially if it’s on the side, don’t pin your hopes and dreams on it just yet. Every entrepreneur knows that success comes after trying, failing, trying, failing, trying, and failing again.

The brilliance in Barney’s plan is that he counts on failing. He doesn’t come up with the best costume in the world and pin his only chance of hooking up on it. He prepares and brings a spare!

Quote #2:

Barney, reacting to Ted’s new car: “Shotgun for eternity!”
Robin: “You can’t call shotgun for eternity.”
Barney: “I call that I can call things.”

“I call that I can call things.” If you’ve watched HIMYM, you know that Barney doesn’t live by the rules. He creates his own rules. In fact, he’s got a whole “alternate history of the world,” which he proudly explains in “fake history lessons.”

In online business, and in life too, in fact, you can make your own rules! There was once a time when a business meant having a traditional shop and waiting for people to walk in.

The internet has changed all of that. Not only has the traditional model been forgone, even traditional products are no longer necessary. Take Poo-Pourri(a genius idea, by the way), for example. There was once a time where you would only find something like that on the back shelves of some sidey novelty shop.

Today, it’s a successful business. The internet lets you define your own rules better than ever before.

In fact, businesses that are wildly successful have done just that.

Take Diamond Candles, for example. They took a regular product(soy candles), added their own pixie dust – diamond rings, in this case – and BOOM! They did over 16 million dollars in sales last year.

How about ManCrates? They send manly gifts packed in actual crates that you would need a crowbar to open. Can you imagine walking into a store that just has shelves full of wooden crates and randomly buying a crate without knowing exactly what’s in it?

If the folks behind businesses like these pitched their ideas to a traditional brick and mortar guy, they’d say “you can’t do that!”

To that, these folks would say “I call that I can call things.”

“Let me tell you about a little thing I like to call ‘mind over body’… you see, whenever I start feeling sick, I just stop being sick and be awesome instead.”

Quote #3:

My body is detoxing after years of one night stands. They don’t make gum or a patch for this Ted, but hey, billion dollar idea alert.

“Billion Dollar Idea Alert.” Many successful businesses were borne out of a need that the owner themselves had. Take BeardBrand, for example, which I had mentioned in an earlier post. Another example is Paleo To Me, which sells pre-made paleo diet meals.

The internet has blurred so many lines that business is easier than ever. If you opened a brick and mortar store, you would be geographically bound to the location where demand most probably lay.

With the internet, the geography bit is gone. Sure, you still have to find your customers, but they could be anywhere in the world. And so can you! There are so many lifestyle entrepreneurs nowadays – these are people that have thriving businesses that they maintain from wherever the hell they want to be.

The reason I’m saying this is because we all have certain pain points that we can’t get solutions for right off the bat. Perhaps you’ve created an ingenious solution to that pain point. And if you have a need for this solution, chances are someone else does, too. You can hop over to Google’s Keyword Planner tool and find out if there is demand for it or not.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical product – it could also be an informational product.

Pat Flynn started his online business by making an ebook to help people pass the LEED exam, a test that architects have to take. He did it from his own pain point – he is an architect by profession, and he saw that there were no good resources to help people with the test – so what did he do? He went out and made his own resource! According to his latest income report(November 2013), he’s made $4112.44 from that site alone last month.

Not exactly a “Billion Dollar Idea Alert,” but this is $4000 of passive income!

Quote #4:

Describing the simplicity of running a marathon: “Step one, you start running. There is no step two.”

Starting an online business, much like the game of life, is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Barney puts the recipe to success pretty succinctly: there is no step two. Far too many shady marketers offer magical solutions that will get you earning zillions of dollars in no time.

As the old adage goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Anyway, let’s look at this in two ways. Situation A: you win the lottery, and bring home a check for $5,000,000. What is the first thing you buy? Probably something extravagant like a Maybach, right? Then you’d drive it to Vegas and hit the casino floors for another large chunk of cash.

You might also buy a helicopter, or a giant frame of your name studded with gold and diamonds(just kidding).

To sum up, all of your purchases from the money you won will be impulsive – and most of the stuff you buy will lose their value and thrill really quickly. There’s a show called “Lottery Changed My Life” on TLC which shows what people did with lottery winnings – and many of them did exactly what was written above.

The same thing has happened to countless actors and sports stars. Too much money came too easily, and it quickly lost its value.

Now let’s go to situation B: You build a business with your blood, sweat, and tears that brings in a fair share of money – more than enough to support yourself and your family. What do you do with this money? You will pay off your mortgage, you will invest it in your children’s college fund. Maybe you’ll do some much needed renovations on your home. You’d also put some of it back in the business to grow it even more. Most importantly, you’d also invest it and save it so some of it multiplies passively. Right?

Do you see the difference?

Treat online business as a marathon – not only will you enjoy the ride more, but you will come out successful, too. Remember – there is no step two!

Quote #5:

Chicago? Is that even a real place?

Barney usually throws this quip around when he’s in denial about Ted moving to Chicago(spoilers, sorry!), but there’s a deeper lesson here. It also happens to be the most important lesson in life and in business.

That lesson is confidence. Chicago is the largest city in the midwest, but Barney denies it so confidently that an unassuming foreigner may guess otherwise!

When you sell something online, or even give away information for free(such as through an article or blog), you have to sound confident. You have to be the expert, the utmost authority. And for that, you need confidence. When someone visits your store, you have to show(not in a pushy way, though) that you are the place to buy item X.

Have a look at the homepage of Right Channel Radios, for example:

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 8.53.21 PM

The entire space above the fold is taken up just by RCR making a show of their confidence. If you show confidence in yourself, others will be confident of you.

Not convinced? Let’s say you go to a doctor’s office. This doctor is the most brilliant doctor in the world, having graduated with higher grades than anyone else ever in the history of Harvard. As he diagnoses you, he says “Umm….I think…..medicine so and so….should cure you…yeah….yup…that’s ok.”

What is going through your mind at that time?

Now a friend of yours stationed in a remote region with the peace corps goes to a village doctor with questionable credentials. This doctor tells him “Take so and so, and you’ll be fine in 2 days. There’s nothing to worry about!”

What is going through his mind at that time?

“Medicine? Does that even work?”


Woah. It’s been fun writing about life lessons, and I hope you had as much(or preferably more) fun reading it as I did writing. It’s a welcome change, I think, from the usual how-to articles I’ve been doing so far. What do you guys think?

If you’ve got some insights you want to share, or just want to say “Good job, man!” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Please share the love on your social networks!

Thanks to,, and for the quotes and thanks to QuicheIsInsane for the picture!

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  1. Good job man! I love Barney’s witticisms too. And actually, the 2 articles you mentioned in the first paragraph are the 2 that were already open on my computer to work through this week. Which means I really should hop off of reading my email and get to it!!

  2. Happy New Year Shabbir!

    Great post. I really enjoyed reading this.

    I appreciate the mention as well.

  3. Hi Shabbir, I think this blog is a great discovery – love the your writing style and sense of humour!

  4. Hi Shabbir,

    A bit late, but better late then never ya. I just stumbled across this post and its brilliant. I am a huge HIMYM and Barney fan and this is super cool and honestly quite sensible.

    Thanks for your effort.

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