Based in New York state and Western Colorado, Chris Kinney is a young Baby Boomer and home-based entrepreneur who recently relaunched his network marketing business after taking a break for several years. Unfamiliar with using social media as a business-building strategy, he quickly learned the ropes through “reverse mentoring” with his Millennial upline leaders and made Diamond faster than he ever imagined was possible.—J.G.

Share a little of your background, Chris
My story is not a “rags to riches” as we often see in network marketing. I was born in Rochester, NY in a middle-class family. In 1971 my father got a big promotion after selling life insurance—a new concept at the time—to the entire Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. As a results, we moved to Barrington, IL in a very upscale suburb of Chicago.

My dad worked literally from sun up, catching the train to Chicago, and came home after sunset. Our family was beyond “provided for,” but the only time we spent together was dinner, sporting events (mainly hockey) and some very nice vacations. I grew up fishing with my dog, playing ice hockey (we lived on a little lake), and riding and racing dirt bikes since age 11.

Sounds like every kid’s dream!
I was almost like an only child with lots of freedom, because my brother and sister were five and seven years older than I. It was the tail end of the Hippie days. The spirit of the time affected our family not in the most positive way, and as a result of my anti-authoritarian education, I developed kind of a “chip on my shoulder.” I was so rebellious that my parents, at their wits’ ends, sent me to boarding school in Maine for a year. Seeing the values and lifestyle required to succeed in Corporate America based on how my parents and many friends’ parents lived, I adopted an attitude of, “If that’s what it takes to make big money, you can have it.”

I didn’t really want to go to college in New Hampshire, but went anyway because I didn’t have another plan, other than possibly trying to make a living racing motorcycles. I played a little hockey and dropped out after the first year. The deal with my dad was, “Go to school and we will pay for it—or don’t go and you’re on your own.” I chose the latter and he was true to his word. My dad was a tough guy. He had put himself through college at Bucknell University working in a steel mill in Pittsburgh and playing football.

What did you do after dropping out of college?
First I spent seven months walking from Chicago to NYC down to Washington DC on “The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.” When people asked me why I was doing this march, I referred to Albert Einstein’s quote, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our thinking.”

I ended up in Crested Butte, CO in 1986 and became a ski bum. I was lucky to find a room for $150, which was all I had in my name. I got a job as a prep cook at the Rafters working from 3 PM till midnight four days a week. The job came with a ski pass and food. It felt good to provide for myself for the first time in my life.

We had a record-breaking snow season, so I skied almost every day. It was as an amazing year. I didn’t go to school, but I learned a ton. I noticed men and women who were doing the same job for over 10 years. I didn’t want that to happen to me. To my father’s surprise and delight, I went back to college in Gunnison, CO and graduated four years later with a Fine Arts and Communication degree.

In 1989 I was back to fending for myself. I did different jobs, fell in love. We moved to Santa Clara, CA and in 1992 I became a father. My wife was finishing up her last year of Chiropractic College and I was caring for our first child as her mom went to school. Looking for something to do from home, I took a telemarketing job for an environmental/political group opposed to CA Proposition 187, the infamous anti-immigrant ballot measure. After the elections, I became an outside account executive for a professional soccer team, the San Francisco Bay Black Hawks.

Did being a new parent change the way you approached your career?
Nothing is more motivating than having someone other than yourself to take care of. My soccer connection led me to meeting Jonathan Goldsmith, the “Most Interesting Man in the World” of the famous Dos Equis beer commercial. Jonathan was president of a direct sales company that sold a waterless car wash product. One day he said to me, “Instead of running around San Jose making 10 contacts a day with anyone from used car dealers to human resource department heads at companies like Hewlett Packard and Intel, doing your traditional sales, allow me to show you a way to make three quick contacts a day so you do not need to have your baby in daycare all day, and you can actually be exposing and potentially being paid on twelve contacts!”

“Really?” was my response, and I said yes to the concept. I started going out on the streets, sometimes with my new daughter Sage in a cloth baby wrap. I would hide my beat-up Honda Accord and look for people with nice cars to demonstrate the product. I simply asked them, “Have you seen this yet?” I would show them the bottle with cloth in hand and give a 30-second demonstration of how it worked on their car. People always loved the results, but sometimes they were not happy when they realized that, to have the rest of the car look like that and be protected, they had to buy a bottle.

Did you also recruit people?
When they bought a bottle, we would say, “Thanks, and by the way, if you know anyone who wants to make some extra money part time doing this, let me know!” If they were not interested in either the product or the opportunity, we moved right along. We knew we had something special, so it was no big deal. We did follow-up when appropriate and grew our team by holding each other accountable to “squirt the dirt” at least three times a day.

There was a rather shy person on our team who was committed to doing this no matter what. One day, as the sun was going down, he still needed to do his third demonstration, so when he saw his neighbor—whom he had never met—getting out of his nice car, he walked over to him, asked the question, and gave the demo. He sold a bottle to this Filipino gentleman named Santi Afroilan. It turned out Santi had made big money in a water filter company a few years prior. Santi joined our team and brought in hundreds of people over the next few years.

This enabled me to make four-figure monthly checks in my twenties and it changed me forever. Once I discovered the concept of creating freedom and residual income by helping others do the same, it stayed with me. Between the age of 27 and 36 I did a variety of jobs—from the ups and downs of MLM, to owning a hot power washer and doing deck and cabin wood restoration. I even worked in a coal mine for almost a year in Paonia, CO and then became a massage therapist at the Hilton Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, NJ.

Doing all those different jobs and gigs, you always remembered network marketing.
That’s right. I knew what this business model could do for me. I experienced several years of solid success building a network between 2003 and 2009, but some things happened with the company and I started second-guessing myself. I gradually lost my passion and my belief in the profession. As I was turning 50, I was wondering, “What else could I do?” I walked away and almost gave up in 2009, and I am so glad I kept that flame burning deep down inside. It got to the point where I felt “all was lost” and that my time of glory in network marketing had come and gone. Fortunately I have come back stronger and more effective than ever before.

When and how did you relaunch?
In May 2016 an old friend in Colorado called and asked me to take a look at a system. I did and that is when the magic started happening again. I simply duplicated what he did with me, calling the best people I knew. I had stayed in contact with many entrepreneurial friends from my network marketing years. I was using Facebook for fun, but social media marketing and advertising wasn’t something I wanted to spend time figuring out. Internet marketing as a whole wasn’t a strategy I was drawn to or wanted to apply in building my network marketing business at first. It all looked like spam to me. The endless positive posts and motivational quotes network marketers exchange made me ill over time. I was not in a good place in my life. I was broke financially and I had broken up with a wonderful four-year relationship. I had gotten myself into a dark place where I thought, “What’s the point of it all?”

Luckily I still had that old mentor, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” and others like Jim Rohn whom I had met at a seminar in Colorado in the late 90s. To this day I carry with me his Little Book of Quotes he autographed for me. I stayed connected to other mentors like Jerry Clark from who helped my team in the early 2000s. I had hired him as a coach in 2010, trying to figure out if I wanted to keep doing network marketing. I followed Dale Calvert, Jeffrey Combs and Tom “Big Al” Schreiter, to name a few more, and top distributors like Matt Morris whom I consider a great friend and who always believed in me, even when I didn’t.

What’s your daily mode of operation these days?
My DMO is ingrained in me: 1) make three new connections a day, five days a week, or make up for it on the weekends; 2) teach at least three people to do the same. Nowadays I’m again in heavy building mode, so I am exposing 12 people every day. If one of my three recruits stops doing what I teach them to do, I go find another person who is willing and committed. This is the foundation of our business. The rest of the day, I walk my dog Max, read or listen to something positive, touch base with leaders, and enjoy the little and big things in life. As Jim Rohn says, “Do not miss that play or concert!” and “By working hard, you get to play hard, guilt free!”

I’m currently building a team with a six-year-old established international wellness and skincare company. My new team has helped launch me into this Rising Star status again after all these years. I have enrolled 26 people in three months and have over 1,000 in my personal enrollment tree. We have over 9,000 active reps in our unique powerline. Duplication is happening faster than I have ever experienced. This is because we have a powerful system that does the heavy lifting. As soon as people join, they get massive support within our private Facebook group. Facebook and the Internet have now become my favorite playground! I reached the rank of Diamond in July 2016, my second full month in the business.

What’s the best part of what you do today?
It’s really fun and refreshing how some of my new upline mentors (we call them “the kids” as they are Millennials in their 30s) are teaching us, by example, the most effective ways of using social media for training, recognition, and prospecting. It’s exciting to see the power in these new tools and how you can leverage them. In turn, we are teaching them the “old school” ways, which boil down to phone skills, building trust, and developing relationships.

As we share with younger people what we have learned over the past two or three decades, this “reciprocal” mentoring has turned into a perfect marriage. The thing that surprised me is that it’s easy to learn the social media skills by doing (it is very mechanical) and once you learn it, it becomes second nature like riding a bike. However, what we, the older generation, have to share is not as easy to grasp at first and takes time. Becoming good at conversing and connecting with others is always the toughest. Also, the most rewarding success over time comes from ongoing personal development—doing the inner work of mindset transformation that is so crucial for real and lasting success.

Facebook Live and Google Hangouts are the two main tools we use the most and have really mastered. Our reps are able to set up, record, and code the sessions themselves. They simply add their individual username at the end of our Hangout links, and then the form below the Hangout is coded to that user name. We do that once a week, and if people want to secure a free position, they can do that right from the Hangout link.

What’s next on your dream board?
My dreams and vision for the future have never felt more real and attainable. I had been in “defense mode” for a long time, trying to hang on to what I had earned in network marketing in terms of properties and assets, not moving forward these past several years. My straw bale house on five acres in Western Colorado and my old abandoned dairy farm in The Finger Lakes, NY on 49 acres with two 1890s barns all need some TLC and repair. My dream is to transform them into a “Creative Wellness Center.” I want to travel the world with my daughters Grace, who is 22, and Sage, 24 now. We intend to make a positive difference in many lives, in many creative ways, no matter if people have success in our business and stay, or go on to follow their hearts wherever life takes them, this time with more life skills and tools than before we met.

I believe the network marketing profession has never been more poised to have a positive effect on society and our culture here in the U.S. I love to be a part of helping people around the world have a fighting chance at the true freedom that comes with a strong duplicating team. There isn’t much in life that I have found to be more exciting and gratifying than that.