Ramin Mesgarlou has seen success from a number of angles. A very successful businessman by age nineteen, he was also a supremely successful athlete, winning several titles including Canadian and world elite championships as well as Canada’s Athlete of the Year honor. At the age of twenty he joined a network marketing business, and soon became the youngest person ever to reach the second-highest rank of that company’s pay plan. In the years since, he has been a master distributor for three other networking companies, created compensation plans for four direct sales companies, written two extensive practical guides to the business, Forensic Networker and Independent Home Business Owner’s Manual, and today serves as CEO of a network marketing company he founded in 2005. — J.D.M.

You’ve said that your success in traditional business informed your approach to networking. What about your experience as an athlete?

Olympic-style wrestling, which is my sport, is not a team sport. It’s very much one-on-one: you either conquer the other guy or get conquered yourself.

I competed in many tournaments where I lost, and it didn’t feel good. I had all kinds of excuses why I should not go to practice the next day, why I should just quit the sport. The other guys were going to better schools, they had better coaches and better equipment; they had more money, which meant they could go to wrestling camp.

What’s more, the injuries hurt. You come away from a tournament with all kinds of aches and pains. So you’re sitting on your couch at home, in pain, and feeling devastated because two other guys conquered you that day.

But I licked my wounds, got up and went back to it the next day.

I was not the most talented or the strongest or the fastest, but I ended up winning 126 medals, including the Canadian championship and the World Cup.

That’s what wrestling gave me that helped me win in network marketing.

In this business it’s really easy to go through an emotional roller coaster. You pick up the phone and the guy on the other end tells you, “Are you kidding? Go get a job making $8 an hour, because you’ll make more money there than in what you’re doing.”

Well, I’d felt that kind of pain before, and I knew what comes next: get up again, pick up the phone and dial the next number.

How did you first get started?

My family and I had a successful restaurant business. It was 1990, and I was twenty years old.

One day, around noon, I was kind of exhausted —we would end our days at 4:00 in the morning—and I found myself thinking, “Man, if it feels this bad at twenty, it’s going to feel a lot worse at thirty. I don’t want to be doing this for another 10 years!”

You know the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Right then one of my customers walked in, sat down and started telling me about a new business he was doing.

This guy was in the carpet cleaning business, but he had just begun working with a new business on the side. He started drawing circles, and I was fascinated. Nobody had ever approached me about network marketing, and I’d never heard of anything like it. “Wow,” I thought, “this is like a franchise. This is pretty cool.”

I signed up the next day.

And you did really well right off the bat?

Not exactly. Three months after I joined, my sponsor...