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He’s Hustled His Way To The Top – Joe Rogan Started With Nothing And Is Now Worth Over $100m

Reading Time: 7 minutes

He has worked as limo driver, paper boy, bricklayer and even an assistant to a private investigator during his rise to fame, but it wasn’t until 2009, when he was 42-years-old, that the UFC commentator started a podcast that would change his and his family’s lives forever.

Elon Musk, Mike Tyson, Robert Downey Jr and even political heavyweights like Bernie Sanders are just a few of the big names that appeared on the show which regularly gets millions of viewers per episode.

The rise in popularity didn’t go unnoticed as in 2020 Spotify closed a deal with the comedian that is believed to be in the $100m mark.

Rogan has had quite a journey to get to the position that he is in now and many who know him from his UFC commentary may be surprised to know that he himself is an accomplished martial artist and also a comedian.

Rogan’s Early Life: Tough Upbringing

The podcast host doesn’t talk too much about his childhood but has mentioned that he still has “flashes” of the domestic violence he experienced at the hands of his father who he hasn’t spoken to since he was seven.

Like so many adolescents who grew up in violent households, Rogan built up a lot of anger and frustration and needed an outlet. He found the perfect outlet for his pent up aggression and that was martial arts.

Rogan took to the discipline like a duck to water and by the time he was in his early twenties he was a national champion. Don’t believe he’s that good? Check him out in the video below going through some of his repertoire.

Rogan teaching his insane kicks. Credit: YouTube

Rogan’s Career in Showbiz

After sustaining too many injuries from the competition, Rogan hung up his gloves at the tender age of 21. The sport remains his number one passion to this day but the 21-year-old had other plans for his future.

Purely on the encouragement of his fight friends who found the Taekwondo fighter to be naturally funny, he decided to pursue a career in comedy. However, the experienced martial artist didn’t approach his new career as a casual endeavor like so many would. He brought his martial arts discipline to his new occupation as he studied for months before going on stage.

The late 80s and early 90s was a golden period of comedians in the US which included the likes of Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks and Eddie Murphy. Rogan later expressed that he was inspired by Hicks’s edgy style in particular and tried to create a routine similar in style to the Georgian comedian.

Joe Rogan Performing Standup In 2006. Credit: YouTube

During this time Rogan worked a number of odd jobs to pay the bills whilst he continued to work on his material. Bricklayer, office assistant and even a Limo driver – he did anything that would allow him to chance to pursue a comedy career in the evenings and weekends.

His meticulous preparation did not go in vain as whilst he was working the comedy circuit in New York he was spotted and offered a job in Los Angeles for MTV on their hit show, Half-Hour Comedy Hour.

This was the big break that he was looking for.

Now in his 30s and working at the centre of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles, new opportunities were coming in thick and fast. Not only was he working the comedy circuit but he was now dabbling in acting, presenting – where he became host of the incredibly successful Fear Factor and even a commentator for the up and coming sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Joe Rogan Presenting Fear Factor. Credit: Comedy Central YouTube

By any objective measure Rogan was now a success but it turns out that he was just getting started.

All His Experience Comes Together: Starting the Podcast

Anyone who has watched the Steve Jobs Stanford Graduation speech can remember how the Apple founder spoke of “connecting the dots”. Follow your passions in life no matter how trivial or irrelevant they seem because down the line they will provide an integral part of your work whether you intended them to be or not.

Jobs referred to Apple’s early typography styles which later became an industry standard as a consequence of him starting a calligraphy course which he knew was not going to help him start a company at the time … but he did it anyway.

Unbeknown to the Taekwondo expert, Rogan was about to have a very similar experience when in 2009 he started a podcast. The first podcasts consisted of Rogan and his comedian friend Brian Redban telling random stories and generally just shooting the breeze.

It was very raw and there was no structure but Rogan had a lot of great stories to tell of his experience in life and his work in the entertainment industry. The podcast’s popularity was growing by the day.

Joe Podcast #1 With Brian Redban. Credit:Joe Rogan Experience YouTube

His shows were humorous, insightful and honest which was the complete opposite of the mainstream US media and it resonated with the massive online audience.

Not only was the podcast achieving phenomenal rates of growth but Rogan’s equivalent of a “side hustle” of commentating on the UFC (something he did purely for pleasure) was also gaining in popularity and reaching a mainstream audience. This is when the podcast really started to takeoff.

His connections to the fight game meant he could get a whole host of fighters from up and coming martial artists to former heavyweight champions like Mike Tyson, giving listeners access to people they may not be able to see on mainstream TV and discussing topics that they would never do on the main networks.

Rogan was arguably the pioneer of the “alternative media” which has exploded over recent years from a frustration with the legacy media, who are more concerned about creating shocking, clickbait content rather than building a relationship with their audience.

Elon Musk’s Guest Appearance Is The Most Viewed On Rogan’s YouTube Channel. Credit:YouTube

Rogan filled the gap perfectly as he provided an open-platform for legitimate debate whether it was on politics or on social issues. He doesn’t talk over his guests and gives them a fair hearing…major news networks please take note.

By 2019 the podcast was getting hundreds of millions of downloads per month and after getting increasingly weary of YouTube’s censorship he opted for a deal with Spotify that is rumored to be worth over $100m making him the highest-paid podcaster of all time.

The Reasons Why Joe Made to the Big Time

Podcast’s are easy to setup and start but very few become profitable and successful. Here are some of the reasons The Joe Rogan Experience made it.

  • Open Minded – If you watch US media today you will realise that there is no middle ground. If you from one political viewport everything the opposite side does is wrong. This is obviously not true and Rogan is basically doing the job the main networks should be doing. He is evidence that people want a well-balanced debate rather than just living in echo chambers where everything you say is correct.
  • Disciplined – A skill he acquired from thousands of hours of training and practice in martial arts. Whilst he didn’t achieve the kind of success in the fight game, every endeavor he made subsequently he took seriously and put in the same amount of effort to get good at it.
  • Funny – Making people laugh is an underrated skill. It takes timing, quick thinking and understanding your audience to do it successfully and Rogan is a master of it. You become much more memorable to people if you can make them laugh.
  • Courageous – Rogan went from job to job and hustled his way to the top. He didn’t really care what people thought of his next career move he wanted to do it for himself. He started acting with no formal training because the opportunity came up. How many of you would do that? If someone said you should start a podcast how many would actually start recording everyday even with the downloads are small.

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