Turning 35 – Thoughts on Leaving Affiliate Marketing, and Life

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

I turned 35 a few days ago.
Where did the time go? Has it been five years since I wrote my 30th birthday blog post?
I’ve read so many books that encourage us to think long term – we should look ten or even twenty years into the future. What’s the big vision?
I can’t think that far ahead because the world innovates and changes too fast.
Instead, I like to think in terms of five-year increments. Every five years represents a different “era” of my life.
It’s a pitstop for me to step back and ask myself, is my life heading in the direction that I want?
So I want to give you guys a glimpse into what has happened in my life for the past few years, and what direction I want to head into.
I’ve become a more private person over the past few years, so it’s uncomfortable for me to reveal so much about what’s going on my head.
But I think that some of you might have a lot of similar feelings, and hopefully, some of my thoughts can help you.

Looking Back At the Past Five Years

Constantly Moving City to City

I move a lot – it’s surreal actually to see it written out.

  • Age 26 – Atlanta
  • Age 27 – Bangkok, Thailand
  • Age 28 – HCMC, Vietnam
  • Age 29 – Atlanta
  • Age 30 – Atlanta
  • Age 31 – Miami
  • Age 32 – Miami
  • Age 33 – New York City
  • Age 34 – New York City
  • Age 35 – Atlanta

Moving sucks – it’s stressful and expensive. You don’t know how many times I had to sit through upsells when signing up for a new gym.
So why did I move so much? I love exploring. There’s only so much you can understand about a place from a one week trip consisting of Tripadvisor’s Top 5 things to do. 
Each place I lived in changed me to some degree. The cities taught me to see life from various perspectives.
I’m back in Atlanta, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. 
I had a realization a while back. My parents are in their early 60’s. Let’s say that they live for another decade, and I only see them once a year for the Holidays.
That means I’d see them less than ten times for the rest of my life. Would I be ok with that? I couldn’t.
Now that I’m back home in Atlanta, I get to see them every week. I get to make memories with my baby, Nephew. I want my future children to have a relationship with their grandparents.
I did consider other places to live in. New York is fun, Socal would be great for networking. Other states don’t have taxes, etc. But at the end of the day, relationships and family are what matter to me the most.
I made a full circle by coming back to ATL, but I’m not the same man that left it a decade ago.

Building AFFcelerator

When I turned 30, I had the goal of building a second company. I wanted to do something besides running campaigns all day, plus it’d be nice to have multiple sources of income.
There wasn’t a strategic decision to build AFFcelerator. I started sharing information on this blog for fun, and people kept asking me to offer training.
I did a free seminar at ASW 2015 that had around 500 people show up.
I told myself, let me offer a workshop at a high price point, and see what happens. I didn’t think that many people would sign up at the five-figure price point, but we ultimately ended up selling out.
We ended up launching around 25+ in-person workshops over the next few years, and the Lead Gen Engine online course this year.
I learned a lot about business from AFFcelerator that I couldn’t get from just running campaigns all day, and I’m proud of all the success stories we created over the years.

Relationships and Friendships

I thought I would’ve been married and have kids by now (with my ex-girlfriend). But life happened differently then what I imagined.
One thing I did right in my late 20’s was to stop dating around and to start thinking of each relationship as potential wife material.
Someone might be an amazing girlfriend, but you need time to evaluate if you two can work together marriage wise. 

  • Are you two on the same page when it comes to children? 
  • What is it like to live together?
  • Do you get along with each other’s families? And if not, how can you manage that?
  • What are your values on money? Fights about money are the #1 reason about divorce. 
  • etc.

And if that doesn’t work out, you have to start the process all over again. Unfortunately, this isn’t a split test that you can run as much as you want.
It’s a race against time due to biology. I’m fortunate to have found someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Let’s talk about friendships – I’ve noticed that it’s a topic that not a lot of people talk about.
If I think back on who my closest friends were at the age of 30, I’m not close with most of them anymore. Each one has its own story that I rather keep the details private out of respect for everyone.  
I think society places too much focus on maintaining friendships. There’s a certain level of pride with “I’ve known this person since high school.” 
Guess what?
People and their values change. Environments change. Or maybe you discovered that the friendship was never a good fit in the first place.
If a romantic relationship doesn’t work out, it’s better to end it and to go your separate ways.
That’s the way I feel about friendships.
I’m grateful to anyone who was a friend to me, and I’ll cherish the time.
But some friendships aren’t meant to last forever, and I’ve made my peace with that.

Health and Fitness

I went back into Brazilian Jiujitsu a few years ago and I earned my blue belt. I’m still actively training several times a week and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. That’s my main source of exercise, and I supplement it once a while with Yoga and running.
Even though I still look young, I don’t feel young. I’ve had to lower my amount of BJJ training because it takes longer for my body to recover from each class.
I have to moderate my drinking because recovering from a hangover’s rough.
If I have a terrible night of sleep, then I’m a zombie the next day. Whereas in my 20’s I could chug a Redbull and walk it off. Good habits are more important than ever, and there’s less margin for error.
Now I need to monitor my testosterone levels, and I have to screen for cancer each year. 
I’m more aware of my mortality than ever. Life can end sooner than you expect.
It’s scary to see on the news that someone passed away from an illness or an accident, and realize that they’re younger than I am.

Whenever people think about health, they’re always thinking about their physical health. Society hasn’t paid enough attention to mental health.
Getting rid of social media was one of the best decisions of my life.
I don’t need to “flex” about my life and see the # of likes / comments to validate myself. I don’t need to fill my brain with updates about people I don’t really know.
Those engineers in Silicon Valley will figure out ways to make technology more addictive over time. I’m actively fighting against it for my personal life.


I made some dumb decisions when it came to money in the past few years. 
The first one was buying an Audi R8 when I moved to Miami. I knew it was a dumb decision, but I bought it anyway.
“Hey you’re young, you only live once!”
And next, is losing a ton of money in Cryptocurrency
It always sucks losing money, but I learned a ton from these experiences. Learn from your mistakes but don’t ruminate over them. I rather make these kinds of mistakes while I’m young so that I can benefit from them for the next few decades. 


I’m not going to do a deep dive into what I’ve learned work-wise because that has been sprinkled throughout the blog over the past few years.
What has surprised me is how much I’ve learned about human behavior and emotional intelligence.
I had low empathy a few years ago. I wasn’t a sociopath, but for the most part, I didn’t care too much about how others felt. I felt everyone else was “soft” and needed to toughen up. 
Living with my girlfriend changed that – let’s just say she wouldn’t let me get away with some of my more Pendejo behaviors.
I also had some experiences dealing with toxic and narcissistic people. You can’t form a relationship with certain people, and it’s better to cut them off or keep them at a distance.
I can’t emphasize this enough, but understanding behavior and emotional intelligence are probably the most undervalued skills out there.
Think about how many problems you’ve had over the past five years that were people related. The hardest point is not to point fingers at everyone, but think about how you can improve.

What I’m Planning for the Next Five Years?

Here’s a broad look at what I’m planning for the next few years. I can’t say that all of this will happen, but having a clear vision means I’ll be heading in the direction that I want. 

Marriage and Kids

Some guys go through a period where they think…do I want to be married and have kids?
And inevitably we think about sacrifices we have to make as men:
Note: I do realize that I have a pretty diverse audience, and not everyone is a cis man in a heterosexual relationship. It’s easier for me to write from my perspective. 
Oh man, I can’t pack my bags up and travel whenever I want. I can only be intimate with one person for the rest of my life? Having kids means I can’t do everything I want anymore!

All of these thoughts have gone through my head. But instead of thinking about sacrifice, I focus on what I would be gaining instead.
Gaining a partner that helps me grow, and can help me handle the ups and downs in life. I want to pass on my lessons and values to my children, and seeing what kind of impact they can make in society.
I don’t think marriage and kids are for everyone.
However, I do think that it’s something that you need to dive deep and figure out with yourself. Don’t do anything because society, your parents, or your partner wants you to.
Do you genuinely want it?
I’ve been dating my lady for around four years, and we’ve been living together for three years. They need to have a “status” that’s after girlfriend but before fiance.
I’m not in a rush to propose, and she’s ok with it. I love things the way they are now – they’re chill. I feel that once I propose, the whirlwind of wedding planning stress will come.
Maybe we should elope.

Leaving the Affiliate Marketing Industry

I want to leave the affiliate marketing space within the next few years. A clean-cut – no more affiliate campaigns, no more courses, etc. 
You’re probably thinking, “Oh no, does that mean Affiliate marketing is dying? Ngo is abandoning a sinking ship. Should I still try to enter the affiliate space?
I’ve been an affiliate marketer since the age of 22 – that’s 13 years in the space.
And after being in this space for such a long time, I feel this intense desire to do something different. I want to challenge myself and find something more fulfilling.
I want to build something.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who have 2nd or even 3rd acts in their lives. Arnold went from Bodybuilding to Acting, to being a Politician.
I don’t want to be the rapper that had a hit song in their 20’s and is still making club appearances in their 40’s.
I admire the guys like Jay Z, P Diddy, Snoop Dogg, and 50 cent. They took their knowledge and resources and found success in other industries.
If I look back on my close circle of super affiliate friends from the 2010s, there aren’t that many left in the affiliate space. Some disappeared, and I have no idea what happened to them.
But there are a few of my friends who left the space and went on to build massively successful companies in other industries. I respect that. 

I have thought about staying in the affiliate marketing industry, and just pivoting to a different business model.
Maybe I could start a SAAS product, become an advertiser, start an affiliate network, etc. Having my brand and reputation would make things easier.
But to be honest, none of that excites me. I’d be in the same spot five years from now, and wanting to do something else.
I’ve felt this way for the past ten years, but I never pulled the trigger because of various fears running in my head:

  • What about my employees? I’ve trained them well. They’ll be fine. If they aren’t, then that’s not on me. 
  • What about all the time I’ve invested in affiliate marketing? Paid traffic and marketing are transferable skills. It’s not like it has all gone to waste. 
  • What if I fail? Confidence isn’t knowing that you won’t fail; it’s knowing that you’ll be ok if you do. It took me 14 campaigns to figure out affiliate marketing – I’m willing to grind again.  
  • What will I do for money? It’s not an issue; I have enough money saved up to last me a while. 
  • What if I don’t have what it takes to start a new business? Classic imposter syndrome. Some people have created amazing companies with fewer resources and experience than me.
  • What if the absolute worst-case scenario happens? I blow through all my savings and assets, my girlfriend’s laid off from work, and we have zero money whatsoever. I’ll move back in with my parents, and I’ll use my network to get a job. Then I’ll try again.

You can be paralyzed with fear.
What I realized is that the fears that we imagine are much bigger than they are.
I think the next question naturally is, what do I want to do next?
I don’t exactly know yet, I have some ideas floating in my head that I’ll keep to myself.
What I do have are some constraints I’ve set for myself:

  • An industry that’s trending and growing. 
  • Nothing based around me as the Face of the company. I want to be behind the scenes. 
  • Nothing service-based like an agency. I’m really not a people person and don’t want clients.
  • A business model that can be exit-able one day.
  • The potential to do $5m+ a year in revenue.   
  • Recurring revenue component to it.
  • My strength’s in branding and paid traffic. So I’m interested in products where strong branding / marketing can lead to much bigger profit margins – think clothes, energy drinks, supplements, etc. 
  • etc.

I’m working backward by figuring out what I want first and then finding a business model that fits that vision.
Something that really fuels me is learning more about business. I feel that I’ve learned as much as I could about affiliate marketing and creating courses.
There is so much about business that I don’t know about:

  • The issues and metrics behind recurring revenue.
  • Focusing on the equity of a company beyond just cash and profits.
  • What is it like to raise funding?
  • Building a company that’s bigger than me
  • etc.

Thinking about all this excites me.
By the way, all this isn’t going to happen overnight.
I still have employees, I have active campaigns running, and we re-launched the Lead Gen Engine 2.0 a few months ago and will be supporting that.
Nothing’s going to change immediately. 
It’s kind of like how I mentioned that I want to get married and have kids…it doesn’t mean I’m proposing tomorrow and trying to get her pregnant this week.
My sense of urgency comes from realizing that life changes when kids enter the picture.
If I have kids then I’m going to be less risk tolerant knowing that my loved ones depend on me. Launching a new business requires undivided focus and energy. I want to get it up and running before kids come.
So the time’s now for me to hustle.
What’s going to happen to this blog?
Actually, that’s something that inspired this post. I’ve followed a lot of YouTube channels and Blogs that just stop posting overnight. Or they change the topics without explaining what’s happening.
I don’t think that’s fair to the audience if they’re giving someone years of their time and attention.
I can’t guarantee anything, but I do plan to update the blog still regularly. It fulfills me, and it’s a way of expressing myself creatively.
I think this will be a good thing in the long run. There have been so many weird topics that I’ve wanted to write about, but I held myself back because they weren’t affiliate marketing related.
I’ve written hundreds of articles about affiliate marketing; I’m dying to learn more and share the lessons from the next phase of my life.

Understanding Your Values and Being Authentic to Yourself

I’m going to be honest – transitioning to a new business will be scary. I’d argue that it’s more terrifying than when I transitioned from my 9 to 5 job to become a full-time affiliate marketer.
It doesn’t make sense, right?
I had nothing to lose back then. If I failed, I could always go back to a 9 to 5 job. I didn’t have a reputation to uphold. I didn’t have anyone else depending on me. I was only making $35k a year salary back then.
Now I’m about to give up on seven figures a year.
I have two values that drive me in life: making progress and getting out of my comfort zone.
I wouldn’t be authentic with myself if I stayed on my existing path over the next few years.
I see people lying to themselves all the time.
They’ve convinced themselves and others that they are happy with themselves when they aren’t. They convince themselves that they’re “content” with their situation, but deep down their fears and insecurities paralyze them from taking chances.
I get it because I have these fears too:

  • She might say no when I propose.
  • The marriage might not work out and we’ll get divorced.
  • I might have kids and realize that I’m not a great father.
  • The new businesses might fail horribly and I’ll blow through all my savings/assets.

Despite all these fears, I choose the challenges.
I’ve learned to trust myself. I’ve learned that even if I do fail, I’ll be ok.
And most importantly, the life that I can potentially gain is worth fighting for. 
Featured Image by Aaron Thomas

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