Originally from Trinidad/Tobago, Edward Hartley holds the record of being the highest earning network marketer in the history of his homeland. From very humble beginnings, he came to the “land of opportunity” with his parents, who quickly climbed the social ladder through hard work and entrepreneurial zest. Living in New York city, Edward became a musician and financial analyst, but he didn’t feel fulfilled until he became a successful network marketer. Through mentorship and personal development he rose to the top of his company and built a global business. Today Edward delights in doing what he was born to do: providing people with financial education and a vehicle for economic improvement.—J.G.

What was your childhood like?
I was born on a small island in the Caribbean called Trinidad and Tobago. Until the age of six, I lived in a one-room house or shanty. I have one sister, and our entire family of four slept in one bed.

My mother worked in a laundromat as a steam presser, and my dad was a taxi driver. They did everything to keep food on the table.

We shared a common bathroom, which was more like an outhouse. The shower was outdoors in a center courtyard and there was a kitchen across the courtyard, so it was a communal living situation.

In 1967 my mother left the family to go work in the U.S., which we considered the “promised land.” I was four when she left and I didn’t see her again till I was six. When I got to America, she had the greatest surprise for us: she had found an apartment! My sister and I shared a room, but we now had our own beds, which made me feel like a prince.

That was in Brooklyn, New York, and my parents worked multiple jobs. My mother cleaned houses and cared for children, and my father did deliveries and drove trucks. Doing everything possible to get ahead, after a few years, my parents were able to save up enough money to buy a four-bedroom home in Queens. Now we were really moving up: not only did my sister and I have our own beds, we had our own rooms. I thought life was great.

My parents always emphasized education,  because they did not get one. I excelled in school. I became a musician—I’m an accomplished pianist. I also completed a rigorous program at Brooklyn Tech, because I thought I was going to be an architect.

I was always kind of entrepreneurial. My uncle had given me a camera when I was 13, and I started my first business in high school. I would go to school events and take pictures of the football players and the cheerleaders. Then I would offer them for sale. I would put up my money and produce these contact sheets, and then show up and say, “I have this great picture of you. You want to buy it?” That’s how I financed my final year of high school and going into college.

College didn’t go exactly the way I wanted. I thought I’d be an architect, but I ran out of money. I ended up studying economics in a New York state college and I fell in love with finance. I cut my teeth working in financial services for the early stage of my career.

When did you discover network marketing?
At the age of 18, I went on a road trip with a friend I had known since 1969 when we lived in Brooklyn. He invited me and we ended up in Greensboro, North Carolina, where we attended a network marketing meeting. After the event, we got on a tour bus and drove past George Halsey’s house. He was a well-known leader and top earner in the company.

The Halsey mansion had a beautiful garden with sculptures, the landscape was just manicured, and there was an Excalibur in the driveway. Being a car fanatic, I had only seen it in magazines, and here this guy. George Halsey, had one of those. Driving by, I thought, “Look at him, he left his gardener out front waving at all the passersby.” I figured that was the gardener, because he was a black man like me. It turned out that wasn’t the gardener. That was George Halsey. I had never seen a black man in my life have riches like that. He was just like me! He looked like me, but his mansion could have housed eight families in Brooklyn.

That moment I decided, “Whatever this man is doing, I’m doing it.” It was my start in network marketing. Like most people, I failed pitifully at it. A freshman in college, I didn’t have a contact list. Going to meetings became my opportunity to get dressed up and get excited. I made no money and my family was getting mad at me. They were worried I was going to blow my career.

I quit, but then I rejoined when the company launched a sub-brand, thinking it was going to be different this time. When the sub-brand was discontinued, I quit again. I joined that company three times, determined to never give up on my dream.

When did see your first success?
Not until 1986 when I joined a young wellness company. I was the first line to a Chinese leader who was sponsored by a Chinese Hawaiian Blue Diamond. I became their entry into a diversified market in New York. Man, we went crazy. We had a group growing. My career was taking off. Then the company ran into some difficulties with the attorney generals of the state of California, Texas, and Florida. People were jumping ship. I was holding firm, but I had a partner and we were going in separate directions. I made it to the Diamond level in that company, but then I left the business to my partner and went to live in Mexico for a couple of years, selling timeshares.

I moved back to America in 1990 and decided, “No more network marketing.” I went back into my career of finance, working for Price Waterhouse Coopers in their tax department. I became their senior tax consultant in their New Jersey headquarters, making a solid income. One day I woke up and realized I just wasn’t happy. I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t have a job. I’m going to do something else,” and I started several entrepreneurial ventures.

Network marketing had not kicked in for me. I thought that after leaving my partner with the business, the next time I tried things would happen again for me. Instead, it was a long, dark, ugly tunnel of failure after failure. None of the network marketing businesses I touched really kicked off. “What am I going to do?” I asked myself. I loved network marketing, and I couldn’t understand why I had such success in the 80s, while the 90s were an abysmal dry spell.

In hindsight, what do you think was the reason?
I didn’t realize I wasn’t paying the full price. I was doing “just enough” in network marketing, because my bread and butter were the other businesses I was running. I also was a minister of music at my church. Being a musician, I directed the choirs, and I had multiple rehearsals a week. I wasn’t giving much attention to my network marketing business, but I expected it to give me what I wanted.

I struggled through the 90s, and even into the early 2000s. It wasn’t until 2010 that things turned around. I had been so frustrated by network marketing that I said to myself, “If I ever find a mentor who will teach me and coach me and give me everything I need to be able to teach the business, I will be the best student.”

In March 2010 I found my mentor in Holton Buggs. I began to work closely with him, and that’s when my whole network marketing life changed.

A consummate mindset developer, Holton threw me a curve ball the very first day. After several hours of conversation and learning about my finance background, he said, “Listen, I’m going to mentor you in this network marketing thing, but any time you have some comments you want to share with me, don’t hesitate. Feel free to bring it on.”

I looked at him and said, “I’m not making what you’re making, so I have nothing to say. You do all the talking, and I’ll do the listening, and I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.” I think that was his test to see whether a man my age with my background could be humble enough and submit to be coached the way he needed to be.

Mentoring can make or break your success in this business. Had I not surrendered my will, I would never have been able to see and hear what was missing, and to make the adjustments. Holton had a lot of adjustments for me, and I made them. I totally transformed.

“Surrender your will…” Can you say more?
Looking at my network marketing career, I think of myself as the David Carradine character in Kung Fu. I’ve mentored quite a few people to multiple-six figures and multiple-seven figures. Often they don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t realize they haven’t surrendered. I’ve even gone so far as to show them those video clips of the old David Carradine TV series. They didn’t see it, but that’s who I was. I was Grasshopper, and Buggs was Master.

I made a decision I would just surrender everything. Sure, I’m a father of four children, and I had all these responsibilities, including other businesses, but when it came to network marketing, there was only one voice. Remember how Grasshopper would come into the temple, and he would say, “Master?” “Yes, Grasshopper.” He’d start to ask a question, and Buggs would deal with me just like that. I remember once at a leadership retreat he did a training about the rise to Diamond. He said, “You’re like a doctor, a generalist, but once you define your special skill, that’s how you’re going to rise to the higher level of Elite or Crown Diamond.”

I remember the training was at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach. After the session, I walked up to him just like the David Carradine character, and I said, “Buggs, how will I know what my specialty is?” He looked at me just like the Master would look at Grasshopper, and he said, “You will just know.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, I’m back in David Carradine’s shoes again.” That’s what it was like being mentored by Buggs, and he was right. When I knew, I knew. When I knew, I became that Blue Diamond.

What are some other lessons Holton taught you?
Understanding the four colors of personalities, and being able to identify who you’re working with. Obviously all four colors come into play with everyone, but one is the most dominant. Know yours, and then know who you’re dealing with. He taught us that. Because I was a dominant red, he taught me how to balance my dominance with the other colors that were more subdued. In the early stages, being red would allow me to have rapid growth, but it would also destroy my business.

Holton allowed me to have that aggressive personality that would go out and get it done, knowing full well that he could let me go only so far before I’d destroy it. Just before I got there, he would then intercept and teach me about the others. This was something only a true guide, a true leader, could do.

One day he pulled me aside and gave me a book. He told me to read it, because “I was going to destroy my business if I didn’t.” The book was Winning Without Intimidation by Bob Burg.

It was an eye-opener. I’m a 6’2”, 235-pound black man from Brooklyn. I didn’t realize how intimidating I was. Yet, Holton knew there were other sides of me—a fun side (the blue), an analytical side (the green), and then there was a real loving compassionate side (the yellow), which most people only saw when I was around my daughters. People always saw the red first.

Holton taught me how to balance the four colors so that I can attract by being the red, and by being intelligent and very detailed, which is the green, yet show people that I’m fun-loving (blue) and caring (yellow) as well.

Only a skilled mentor can guide you through the discovery of those facets of yourself without you losing yourself or beating yourself up for not being what you could have been. In the early stages I learned that in myself, and then he showed me how to identify it in other people, and how to magnify the elements where it balanced with others. Today I can be around people who want to save the whales and not make them feel as though, “If I say the wrong thing, this man’s going to kill me.”

Fascinating… What else did you learn?
Holton taught me how to manage money and how to dress. I had spent so many years in the church that I didn’t even realize I dressed like a Southern Baptist preacher. I was the minister of music, always modeling after my pastor. Holton showed me slight adjustments to make in my dress.

For instance, he pointed out how preachers wear four- or five-button suits. He said, “It’s a dead giveaway, and you put yourself in a pigeonhole. Get yourself some nice two-button suits, and maybe a one-button jacket.” He took me to his tailor and said, “Buy some stuff from this guy.” He enhanced my wardrobe, showed me how to add a little flair, a nice monogram on my shirts—just a whole different clean look.

He taught me how to paint a picture, how to tell a story, how to keep people on the edge of their seats, and yet draw them in, and then with vocal intonation give them just what they want, and let them make the decision to join you without being a closer.

I’m not a closer; I’m an attractor. I spent the entire six years with the company under his leadership, and out of 115 people I personally sponsored, I never once asked anyone to join my business. Remember, I’m intimidating, because that was my strong suit. I could ask you to sign up, and almost literally command you and dominate you into joining my business.

Because of my personality type, I had to take the exact reverse approach: I had to show enough value, be in a hurry, and then take it away and let you come get it from me. Be in a hurry. Show value. Take it away. I would continually show value to my prospects, and they would have to come get it, and only once they came and got it, then I would know that I could now give them even more value, and they would stay with me.

How did your business grow from there?
I became the first Diamond on the East Coast. What Holton Buggs did for me is he took the guesswork out of it. Most network marketers fail because they are hunting and pecking, learning by trial and error. The time you spend trying, going up that wrong road, you have to come back down the road. Then you’re lost, and you’re tired, trying to figure out what’s next.

I went from having no success with a company where I sponsored 17 people in two years and built my team to 260 people, to within the first 90 days with Holton making over $30,000. I hadn’t made more than $600 a month, and that was with multiple network marketing opportunities. I was building three companies, thinking that was the way. Again, hunt and peck, trial and error.

When Holton spoke of the fact that you become a specialist, he was right. Ultimately when David Carradine reached a certain point in his apprenticeship, his Master told him he had to leave the temple. Similarly, after a few years I reached the point where I now could see certain things, because I had the skillset. That, combined with my previous experience, I knew there was something else for me, and I hadn’t found it yet. 

At the end of summer 2015 I took a break from the business. I spent September traveling, not thinking about network marketing, just letting my mind wander. Unlike other leaders who might try to hold you back, Holton encouraged me to spread my wings.

Later that fall, I got inspired to create my own training program, The Night Owl, aka The Four Stages of Relationships. Based on 30 years of experience, it’s a signature course that provides tools for how to be successful in any business. Presented as an actual training session with a live audience, it helps progressive thinkers understand the importance of relationships and differentiation of pace as we move through them.

What led you to your current company?
I was watching my good friend, Igor Alberts, but I wasn’t convinced his current company was all it was cracked up to be. The unfortunate part was that media propaganda perpetuated my ignorance. To my disappointment, I didn’t pay attention. I was so busy looking at traditional network marketing that I forgot to pull out my forensic and analytic skillset to research and look at trends.

It was my daughter Elizabeth who got my attention. She is an honor student at her college, and she’s on the President’s list. One day she and I were talking randomly about what Igor was doing. She mentioned that in her International Business class she studied BitCoin. I said, “You study block chains and cryptocurrency?” She said, “Yeah, dad. It’s the future.” I said, “Really?” I was floored.

Soon thereafter I decided to jump on board and go full speed ahead with my new company, which I think was the greatest blessing of my life, because I was born for this. It’s bringing together financial education with network marketing. I have been coaching and training people in the world of finance for years.

In my previous company, our motto was, “It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s coffee.” I had to dumb myself down, because I was this high-level forensic accountant and analyst, able to dissect and assess spreadsheets and people’s financials and do ratio and variance analyses. That was my background.

The silver lining of being in this “simplified” environment is that it allowed me to hone the necessary skills so that now when I’m in a more complex financial education environment, I master both sides of the equation. Buggs simplified the business to the nth degree. Simple equals duplication. Even though we’re in financial education, I still keep it simple, because it will duplicate. That was something Holton taught us well.

Where do you go from here?
I am moving like a leaf in the wind, going where I feel my impact is needed. I’m in an emerging industry where we’re now educating people in a new avenue. Remember, I started my career in financial services. Now we’re doing it on a much larger global scale.

In my previous company I launched Malaysia in 2012; Trinidad in 2013; Nigeria and Africa in 2014. There are times where your travel schedule is so hectic that you wonder, “Is it worth it?” The answer for me is yes, because of the impact I feel I’m making.

I spoke at a university in Malaysia recently. It was not for promoting the business, but just for the education, which relates to my business. A young man came up to me and said, “I’m going to be your biggest fan.” Later I found out he had already friended me on Facebook and sent me a message. Here is a Malaysian-born Chinese kid who was moved by what I had to say, and taking action.

If I’m able to touch people through the voice God has given me, through the platform of network marketing, and through this company and its vision, and people get it and make a change, so that we can fight this war on poverty and homelessness and diseases with economic improvement, I look at it and say, “Lord, this is what I was called to do.”

It doesn’t make sense to go on a mission when you have nothing to give. You have to be able to say, “We’re giving you this, so that you can have a head start,” to feed the people, to clothe the people, to build the buildings, to clean the reservoirs and bring in clean drinking water, and all these things that we can’t rely on governments to do. It takes    entrepreneurs like us to really make a difference in the world.