Challenging The Status Quo And Standing Out In Business With Scott McKain

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo


What does it take to stand out in this hypercompetitive world that we live in? In this episode, Scott McKain joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to share how he is challenging the status quo and helping others do the same. Scott is a globally recognized authority on how organizations and professionals create distinction to attract and retain customers to stand out in the marketplace. He exudes his WHY of Challenge as he shares valuable insight on different ways you can magnify your uniqueness in a way that serves other. Tune in to learn more from Scott with lessons from his best-selling books.

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Challenging The Status Quo And Standing Out In Business With Scott McKain

Welcome to Beyond Your WHY where we go beyond talking about your why and help you discover and then live your why. If you’re a regular reader, you know that every week we talk about 1 of the 9 whys and then we bring on somebody with that why so you can see how their why is played out in their life.

We’re going to be talking about the why of challenge, to challenge the status quo and think differently. If this is your why then you don’t believe in following the rules or drawing inside the lines. You want things to be fun, exciting and different. You rebel against the classic way of doing things. You have eccentric friends and eclectic tastes. After all, why would you want to be normal? You love to be different, think different and you aren’t afraid to challenge virtually anyone or anything that is too conventional or typical for your taste. Pushing the limit comes naturally to you.

I’ve got a great guest for you. You’re going to love this guy. His name is Scott McKain. He is a globally recognized authority on how organizations and professionals create a distinction to attract and retain customers and stand out in a hyper-competitive marketplace. Scott’s book, ICONIC: How Organizations and Leaders Attain, Sustain and Regain the Highest Level of Distinction, was named on as a top ten Best Business Book for 2018. The first edition of his book, Create Distinction: What to Do When “Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business, was named by 30 major newspapers as 1 of the ten best business books of the year.

Scott’s expertise has been quoted multiple times in USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune. His commentaries were syndicated on a weekly basis for over a decade to 80 television stations in the US, Canada and Australia. He’s appeared multiple times as a guest on Fox News Network. Arnold Schwarzenegger booked him for a presentation at the White House with the President in the audience. Scott played the villain in a movie named by esteemed critic Roger Ebert as one of the 50 greatest movies in the history of cinema directed by legendary Werner Herzog.

With a client list that represents the world’s most distinctive companies like Apple, SAP, Merrill Lynch, BMW, Cisco, CDW, Fidelity, John Deere and hundreds more. Scott McKain was honored with the induction along with Zig Ziglar, Seth Godin, Dale Carnegie and twenty more in the sales and marketing Hall of Fame. After thousands of presentations in all 50 states and 23 countries, he was honored with membership in the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame. Scott, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I got to make sure my wife listens to this so she can hear all that good stuff about me there. It’s great to be with you. I appreciate it.

This is going to be a lot of fun. I have been looking forward to interviewing you. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school? Take us on your journey to bring everybody up to speed on how you got where you are now.

I grew up in a rural community. I’m from a small town, Crothersville, Indiana. It’s about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. Our claim to fame in our local area is the bigger town in our county, Seymour, Indiana. I was born in the hospital in Seymour, Indiana. When John Mellencamp sings, “I was born in a small town,” I love that because I was born in the same small town. John is older than I am but he played all of our dances and everything in high school. It was a great place to grow up.

I remember when I was in high school, there was a basketball game where John Mellencamp played the dance after the game. Larry Bird played against our team. We went home to watch David Letterman do the weather on local television. Diane Sawyer was doing the weather on another station that we got. Fuzzy Zoeller won the golf tournament that weekend at another competing skill. I’m the failure out of the bunch. It was an incredible time and place to grow up.

My family owned the only grocery store in our small community. I stocked shelves and waited on customers. Right before my fourteenth birthday, the manager of the local radio station in Scottsburg, Indiana, another nearby community, offered me a job. It wasn’t because I had a good voice or a pleasing personality. He thought if he hired the kid of the grocery store owner, they’d buy more commercials. On my fourteenth birthday, I started working full-time at the local radio station.

My high school years were filled with a combination of working at a job and I also got involved in a student organization, FFA. At that time, it stood for Future Farmers of America. Today, it’s FFA. I became a state and national officer of that organization in the two years after I graduated from high school. By high school time, I look back on it and there’s a part of it that I wish I would have tapped the brakes a little bit and enjoyed the experience a little more. I got the chance to do a couple of things that were outside the box in terms of working in an environment where I was working with adults. I was the only kid doing that. Also, getting into a student organization was important.

Let’s talk about that. At fourteen years old, you were working for a radio station. Were they putting you on air?

Yeah. In the morning, I would do the foreign markets before I went to school. As soon as I got off school either my mom would drive me until I got my driver’s license or I would drive. I got out of school at 3:00 and went on the air at 4:00. I was on the air from 4:00 to 9:00. I would try to get my homework done during the songs. I would work there in the morning and night.

I pulled a shift on the weekend. I was working 40 hours a week and being involved in the student organization. I was competing in all the contests. I loved it. I look back on it. When my friends get together and they talk about all the stuff they did during high school, I was like, “I wasn’t there when you guys were doing that. I was at work.” It also led to a lot of the great things that happened to me later on in life. No regrets.

Let’s talk about that. The radio station is where you learned to speak. You’ve got a killer voice. Did you learn the voice or was it already your voice? How did you develop such a great voice?

There are a couple of answers to that and one is FFA is where I learned how to speak and not radio. What I learned from the radio is you had to have something to say every time you turn the mic on and it had to be condensed and it had to make sense in a short period of time. It helped me more in terms of thinking about how to make my point than it did in terms of speaking where it helped in terms of my voice. I look back now and realize that I was training it and didn’t even know it.

The ideas that were striking were the ideas that were unique or different. Click To Tweet

Remember the first time you heard your voice on a recording and how different it sounded off a recording than it sounds in your head? I had headphones on for 5 or 6 hours a day. I constantly heard my voice. When you’re fourteen is when your voice is changing. As my voice was changing, I was constantly trying to drive it down so I would sound like an adult and not like a kid on the radio. It wasn’t that I sat there and intentionally did it. I look back now and realize it might be part of it. My dad had a band and sang and all that on the weekend. My dad had a beautiful singing voice. I can’t sing but maybe some of the genes in terms of vocal quality came through.

You developed your voice through the radio station. Tell us about FFA because a lot of people are not familiar with that. What was that? How did you compete in FFA?

FFA is a unique organization because instead of being an extracurricular activity, it’s inter-curricular. For example, I took a course in agricultural sales and service that was in our high school. When we’re talking about that, the way that you learned was also to compete in a contest against folks from other schools. You would make a sales presentation and you would speak. There were public speaking contests.

I remember the summer between my eighth grade and freshman year going to Purdue University. I was sitting next to the last row and was hearing the speaker. It was the first time in my life that I realized there was more to life than Southern Indiana. Not that there’s anything wrong with Southern Indiana. It’s a great place to live in. I love it and I go back all the time. I was never exposed to what my horizons could be until that point. Something I’ll always be grateful to FFA for is giving me the privilege of seeing what life could hold.

You would travel around and compete in sales presentations or speaking presentations. What were they?

Both. I did everything from prepared public speaking contests where you work on a seven-minute speech and you deliver it and then you have to answer questions to parliamentary procedures where I would chair a meeting of other chapter members. Judges would throw you tricks of parliamentary procedure and how well did you as the chairperson handle that. I did livestock judging where you would have to go in front of judges and say, “I place this particular cow over this particular cow for these reasons.” You had to talk about how you would justify your thinking and how you justify your reasoning.

One of the interesting things I loved about that competition was you were graded to some degree on how accurately you placed in the class but what you were graded on is, how did you convince the judges of the logic of your thinking? Particularly, if you disagreed with their positioning, why? I loved that. I love that you don’t have to match everybody else’s thinking as long as you could be persuasive, interesting and accurate in why you made the choices that you made.

You had a ton of training on speaking, presence and being different from a young age.

The month after I graduated high school, I was elected state FFA president, which meant I put college on hold for a year to do nothing but travel and speak in Indiana. It’s a bad way to put it but it’s like being the Miss America of agribusiness. Every farm bureau meeting, every Corn Growers Association meeting, you were there to represent young people who had an interest in agribusiness. The following year, I was elected as a national officer. It was another year but, only this time, it was international travel representing the future of agribusiness.

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
Challenging The Status Quo: It is not just doing more communication, but how to drive narrative through our communication.


The other interesting thing was that I was not from a strict production background. A lot of the other folks came from huge farms. I had to justify why my difference was a positive thing and not a negative thing because it was different from the tradition of the organization at that particular time. That was a great growing and expanding experience as well because there was some pushback on, “How did this guy get this office?” That was a time of change in the organization when it was not going to be future farmers but future people involved in business and that business could be agriculture.

By the time you were 20 or 21, how many speeches had you given?

At least 1,000. Your average day was three high school assemblies, three service clubs and then a parent member banquet. Different audiences and different groups. Also, by the time I was 21, 22, I met in the Oval Office with the President. I had a personal meeting with the chairman of General Motors in the boardroom in Detroit. It wasn’t about me. It was about the respect and engagement they had with the organization. It’s hard to imagine having those experiences by that particular point.

What would you say was the biggest thing you learned from doing 1,000 speeches by the time you were 21?

What I learned was there was a particular aspect of the audience. The old joke was that it could have been an old yellow dog. If it helps the national FFA office, there will be people there to listen to it. I wanted to be interesting to my audiences. What do you have to say at 21 years old that adults are going to want to listen to?

I started making a list. I would ask the business people in the audience the most important thing that made their business successful. What was that? I would be able to say, “Last night at Ottumwa, Iowa, Bill Smith, who runs the local grocery store said, ‘This is the most important thing he’s learned in business.’” One or two things would happen either people would write that down or somebody would come up and go, “I got a better idea.”

You spend two full years accumulating this type of material. Now I could say things of interest to an adult group that was great information because it was from successful people but it was also practical and not solely theoretical. These were the things that these small business people were doing that made a difference.

For example, this was the first time I heard employees come first not customers. If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat your customers right. I started talking about that in the early ‘80s and people would write that down. No one was out there saying that. Somebody came up to me after a meeting and they said, “If people always say the customers are always right, they’re not. If you treat your employees better than you treat your customers, they’ll treat your customers great.” Those were the things that helped me be of interest to adults.

The ideas that were striking were the ideas that were unique and different. If somebody said, “We open every day at the same time,” big deal. It’s when people would say things that I would go, “I’ve never heard that before.” I would share that with my audiences. Behavior rewarded behavior repeated. When I would share unique, out-of-the-box ideas with audiences, they would respond more enthusiastically and more dramatically than if I was sharing platitudes.

We are chosen for our differences, not our similarities. Click To Tweet

By 21, you had not started college yet. Now you’re off to college. Where did you go to college? What did you study in college that led you to your first business?

I went to a small college in Central Indiana, Franklin College, for a primary reason. The guy that owned a radio station I worked for also owned a radio station in Franklin. He said, “You got a job.” With my family’s situation, I was going to have to work my way through school. All my buddies went to Purdue or Indiana University. I’m in between the two campuses at Franklin but I had a job. The funny part was I got so many requests to go give a speech. I pay my way through college more speaking. I had to leave the radio station because I was doing so many speeches.

Political science was my major. My goal at that time was that I was going to go to law school because that was something where I thought I could stand, speak, do trials and that kind of thing. Also, my grandmother’s sister, my great aunt, was a legal secretary involved at one of the big dynamic law firms in Indianapolis. I visit her and think, “This is cool, the big city and lawyers.” I learned along the way that was not what I wanted to do. That was the initial goal.

You graduate from Franklin College and then what happens to you?

The college offered me to go to work for them. I was a little older than the typical graduate. Also, I had all these experiences. This is such a weird combination but they offered me to be the Director of Public Relations and Annual Fund, which meant I was in charge of raising the cash gifts for the college and I was in charge of the PR for the college. They would let me speak a little bit, not a lot but they were okay with me doing some speeches on the side.

This is the funny part of the story, they offered me $12,000 a year. Honestly, at that point in my life, I thought, “How could I possibly spend $1,000 a month?” I couldn’t imagine it. I made more money than I ever thought. The previous year’s fund had raised about $240,000. I raised under $800,000. They offered me a raise to $13,000 a year. I thought, “Higher education is not for me at this particular point.” It gets back to what you were saying earlier, it didn’t fit in. I didn’t like the rules. They were like, “Percentage-wise, you’re getting this great raise.” I don’t think like that. That wasn’t with me.

You leave Franklin College. Where do you then go?

A radio station offered me. They knew that I was doing a lot of speaking. They knew of my previous work in radio. They said, “If you want to build your speaking business, we’ll put you on in mid-days. If the speech is in Indiana, you get off work early enough. You can drive anywhere in the state and make your speech that night. If you have a speech elsewhere, we’ve got somebody on staff that can pitch in for you. You can take as many speeches as you want.” It was the perfect thing because it gave me a solid income while I was building my speaking business.

At this point, I’m 27, 28 years old. I’ve developed my own philosophy. At the same time, I’m doing more of, “Here’s what I’ve learned. Here’s what I’ve heard from these experiences that I’ve had that are unique for somebody my age.” It was reporting on that more than my own philosophy and my own beliefs simply because the audiences were twice as old as I was at that particular time. That was how I could backdoor my philosophy and was using the quotes and knowledge that I gained from talking to so many interesting people.

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
Challenging The Status Quo: ICONIC: How Organizations and Leaders Attain, Sustain, and Regain the Ultimate Level of Distinction


What I was going to ask you next is, what could you possibly be speaking about at that age? Now that makes a lot of sense. For curiosity’s sake, what did you get paid back then to do a speech?

When I was in college, it was a couple of $100. I remember one group in Iowa, it was a farm co-op. I drove to Iowa and they gave me $200. They drove me to the edge of town and filled up my gas tank. I thought, “This is the best. This is cool.” I still have the contract. There was a speaker’s bureau that got interested in me, McKinney Associates.

I still have the first contract and it was from Kentucky Farm Bureau for $250. It was even in the contract, “Scott is able to join you for dinner.” I got to eat dinner with him. It was $250. I remember one speech I gave in St. Louis and after it was over, the head of the company stood up and said, “You were worth twice what we paid you.” I raised my fee to $500. I’ll remember that forever.

You started speaking. Have you been speaking nonstop since then?

Yeah. Something I find such great interest is companies would say, “What does it take to buy your brain for a year, to put you on retainer for access?” I talked about the ultimate customer experience and we own the trademark on that term, the federally registered trademark on ultimate customer experience. It helped us train and teach our people how to do that. We’ve developed coaching and training programs for those content areas. For me, the love of this is the keynote presentation.

You started writing books. What was your first book?

There’s an interesting story behind that. It’s called All Business Is Show Business. You mentioned the movie. That was because of one of these little speeches I gave. Werner Herzog, the director, this is early in his career, happened to be there doing a documentary. He was filming the group I was speaking to. We met and he called when I was a senior in college and asked if I wanted to come act in this movie. It was on Turner Classic Movies. It was such an incredible experience.

The first book came from FFA asking me to come back and speak at the convention, which was such a great honor. I’d been in FFA for years. They asked me to come back for my tenth-anniversary convention and be one of the keynote speakers. There are 20,000 people in the audience. Zig Ziglar was one of the other speakers. I didn’t know Zig. I met Zig through the National Speakers Association. I get to the hotel and check in. My wife is with me. There’s a message at the front desk, “Would you like to go to dinner tonight? Here’s my room number. Call me, Zig.” I’m like a Little League shortstop and Derek Jeter said, “Do you want to go get a bite to eat?” I can’t believe it.

We get to dinner and Zig says, “Scott, I was looking and I couldn’t find your book.” I said, “Zig, I’ve never written a book.” Zig Ziglar said, “I haven’t either.” My wife and I looked at each other. We got eight on the shelf. “What do you mean?” He said, “I get up every morning and I write three pages. After about six months somebody says, ‘Zig, you got a book.’” He smiled at me. It was a great a-ha for me. Writing a book seems so daunting of a task. I could get up the next morning and write three pages. That became the first three pages of All Businesses Is Show Business.

Distinction means you have pursued your uniqueness in a way that has significance for those groups that matter most. Click To Tweet

The reason I brought up the movie was the local television station in Louisville heard about the premiere of the movie and heard about all this. They asked me to do an interview and the news director came out and said, “We’re looking for a movie reviewer. Would you like to do that?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’d love it.” An executive with a syndication company saw it. He was in town for the Kentucky Derby. He happened to see it in his hotel room and syndicated me to 80 stations. Now I got to do all these junkets and interview celebrities.

The next phase of these interviews was the opportunity to ask Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and John Travolta, “Why did you become successful? There are a million actors. What separated you from the pack?” I’m fascinated by that. What creates uniqueness in the marketplace? What creates distinction? That and some other things that happened in my life led me to make the focal point of what I do. What does it take to stand out in this hyper-competitive world that we live in?

How many books do you have? Go through the titles so that everybody can learn about your progression.

The first one was All Businesses Is Show Business. The philosophy of that book was that what I was seeing in show business was creating these compelling, emotional experiences with the audience. You got to remember, this was years ago. It wasn’t talked about then. The term experience, customer experience or employee experience wasn’t being discussed. I would see these movies doing this with an audience and thought, “What business doesn’t want that?” That was what the philosophy of that book was.

The second was What Customers Really Want. There were gaps between what businesses were offering and what customers were looking for. I surveyed thousands of customers and reported on that. The third was called The Collapse of Distinction. Why do organizations fail to stand out? The fourth one was Create Distinction. It took that idea to the next level. The fifth one was called 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry. It was a cab ride that I had. I was telling this story in a speech. I was keynoting Express, the clothing store in the mall. They put it on YouTube and it instantly got 150,000 views. McGraw Hill saw the video and asked me to write a book about it. That was pretty cool.

Was that about, 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry? Was that the guy’s name, Terry?

Yeah. It’s a signature story in my keynote speeches about this amazing cab driver. How do you differentiate a cab? They all look the same. They all do the same Uber. It’s disrupting the business. How do you stand out in that world? This guy in Jacksonville, Florida found the ways, a system to do it. It was my observations on what every business could learn from a cab driver that is out there and being distinctive and making a difference.

How did he do it? Let’s get to that last title.

ICONIC is the next one and that’s been the biggest. Forbes was so kind about it. American Express sent all their platinum card members. It says something about it. It’s been nice. A new one that is completed but has not yet been released is called Ultimate Customer Experience. It’s a departure for me. There would not be a single thing you would learn by reading this book. It’s things you already know.

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
All Business is STILL Show Business: Create Distinction and Earn Standing Ovations from Customers in a Hyper-Competitive Marketplace

In nowadays environment, it’s the things that you would want your frontline employees to know. All my other books are pitched toward entrepreneurs, leaders and executives. This is the first one I’ve ever done. A bank buys copies for the senior executives and then they may give them to all the branch managers but you wouldn’t give them to a frontline teller. Ultimate Customer Experience is what you want to make sure that the frontline teller reads. It’s the things they need to know about delivering on the front.

It sounds like the theme that goes through all of them is how do you stand out? What did you learn from writing these books? What advice or what do we need to know on how to stand out? I know you can’t give us seven books’ worth in the time we have.

There are four cornerstones to distinction and it begins with clarity. You have to know exactly what your uniqueness is. Strangely enough, we tend to run from our uniqueness. In Australia, they call it the tall poppy syndrome. If you’re unique, you’re the first poppy that gets chopped down. There’s so much in our culture and business that encourages us to be like everybody else. We got to be clear about where our differences are.

An important aspect here is we’re chosen for our differences and not for our similarities. No customer ever says, “I love doing business with them. They’re exactly like everybody else.” I didn’t propose to my wife by saying, “Marry me. You’re like every other woman I’ve ever dated.” We’re chosen for our differences and not our similarities. You got to be specific and clear about what those are.

The second is creativity. What are you doing that’s unique? What are you doing that’s different? It’s not just different to be different. Part of the point of distinction is something that matters to the people that you’re involved with. If I slap every customer in the face, I’m different but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to grow my business. It’s creativity.

The third is communication. We look for narrative. We look for a connection. Through that connection, we build the trust that is essential nowadays. It’s not just doing more communication but it is how we drive narrative through our communication. The fourth and final one is customer experience focus. It’s constantly asking ourselves how does it feel to do business with us?

There are external customers, the folks that spend money with us. There are internal customers. That’s how we look at employees. They’re your internal customers. You have to serve them with an experience as much as your external ones. What’s the ultimate experience that somebody could have working for us or buying from us? When you go through those four cornerstones, you find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Define distinction for us.

There are three levels. The first level is sameness. Let’s take it from an external customers’ perspective. I can’t tell the difference between you and your competition. If you owned a dry cleaning business and you get my shirts done on time and at the same price, everything’s the same. Sameness is what drives commoditization. If I can’t tell any difference, the only thing I can do at that point is maybe cut my price and then customers will like that. It’s a dangerous place but it’s where a lot of businesses are.

An asset is something you invest in. It's something you nurture. An expense is something you seek to control and minimize. Click To Tweet

The second is differentiation. They say, “Here’s where we don’t do it as our competitors do.” The challenge with that is we’ve worked with so many businesses that say, “Here’s what makes us different.” You then survey the customers and it doesn’t matter. Because your logo is blue instead of green, it doesn’t mean the customer thinks you’re different. Distinction means you have pursued your uniqueness in a way that has significance for those groups that matter most.

There are a lot of restaurants in Indianapolis and I can’t tell the difference between one or the other. There are some that are different. They have a uniqueness about them. St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis is distinctive. It’s distinctive in how they treat their employees. It’s distinctive in what they do at the meal. They’ve got a shrimp cocktail sauce. My buddy, Jay Baer, calls it a talk trigger. It’s something that you got to tell everybody about. Here’s a steakhouse in Indianapolis that has higher revenue than Tavern On The Green in New York City. How does that happen? It is because they have found a way to be remarkable and distinct that they attract. To me, that’s what my business should be about and every business should be about.

It was about pursuing uniqueness that matters. You got to know your client then.

You do. That’s part of a lot of discussions I have as well. What does your client want? One of the lines I hate in businesses is, “We’re going to exceed customer expectations.” I say, “What does your customer expect? How do you see that expectation that you’re unaware of? What if they expect you’re not going to suck? You’re setting the bar high there, aren’t you?” There are these platitudes that we say. Many times, I don’t get it. They have no meaning. It’s saying the sky is blue. Your competition wants to be below customer expectations.

What should the term be? What would be a better way for companies to talk about that? You know what they’re trying to say but they didn’t say it in a way that made sense.

We are going to connect with our customers at such a level it will ensure repeat and referral business.

Much better.

If I exceed your expectations, it assumes I know your expectations. If I say, “What I’m going to do is going to be so good that you’re going to come back and buy more and you’re going to tell your friends about us.” All of a sudden, to me, not only is that a better way of phrasing it but it’s also measurable. Now I can say, “What are our retention statistics?” Now I can say, “How much referral business are we acquiring?” If we’re not getting repeat and referral business, we haven’t hit that target of being unique and compelling that we’re driving the results that we desire.

Tell us maybe another example of one that has been able to do that. Are there any examples that you can think of? Maybe a company that wasn’t doing that and then started doing that.

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
7 Tenets of Taxi Terry: How Every Employee Can Create and Deliver the Ultimate Customer

One of the case studies in the book ICONIC is the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. I did a lot of work with those folks. They were absolutely wonderful. What we did was break it down. It’s not just saying, “Our resort is going to be distinctive.” How do you do that? What’s the distinctive front desk experience? What does that look like? What does that feel like? Experience is about feeling.

One of the things that they did that I thought was brilliant was, for people who travel a lot, every front desk is the same, every experience is the same. Now they have a guy that takes care of two Golden Retrievers that are in the lobby area when you walk in. The Golden Retrievers wag their tail when they see you.

Golden Retrievers are sweet. They want you to give them a little pat on the head and that is unique. You keep layering on to that. Now, the Golden Retrievers have names, Bigsby and Griggs. They kept building on to that. You go in the room and when they’re doing the housekeeping at the end of the day and leaving the chocolate mint on your pillow, there’s a little thing with a paw print on it saying, “I won’t be curled up by your bed. I hope you two get a good night’s sleep.”

They then took the next step. They’ve got coloring books so that the mom or dad traveling could pick up the coloring book about the dogs and say, “This is where I stayed. Color in this.” The mom stays there on a business trip and then brings her whole family back the next trip because the kids want to meet the dogs and all of these things that are going on. That’s distinctive.

We also did, what’s distinctive housekeeping? What’s a distinctive gift shop? What’s a distinctive property? One of the things that they created was a wave tech pool there so that you can, in the middle of the desert in Arizona, surf the waves of the pool with a sandy beach and everything else. It’s an amazing place and amazing property. It all began with, how do we approach this differently? Yes, there are rules. If I go to the front desk, I got to get a key. I got to get checked in. I got to leave my credit card so you get paid. Why don’t we have to make that such a similar experience to everybody else? Let’s figure out how we make that unique. To me, that’s exactly what it’s about.

It feels like they’re going in the opposite direction in Las Vegas. You and I met in Las Vegas. The hotel we were at had almost the exact opposite of that. Did you happen to go by the front desk? What did you think of the experience of having nobody at the front desk, nobody to talk to, waiting in line to get your key and check in? Personally, I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like it either. That’s a hotel that’s competing on price. I don’t think that’s a good place to be in business nowadays. You and I were both there for one reason, the convention was there. The other thing is if enough people would say to the folks holding that convention, “The meeting was a great experience but the property where you had it isn’t. It’s not congruent.” If enough people would say that to them, I’m sure they’d take it out and move it someplace else. It’s too competitive now to be average. That’s the only reason I stayed there. I wouldn’t go back. Here’s the thing, it’s not like it was terrible. It was average.

The room was nice.

The room was nicer than I thought it would be based on how inferior the check-in experience was. That’s the other thing. Years ago, Jan Carlzon, who was then the President of SAS Airlines, one of his mantras was everything matters. If you’re a passenger on the plane, you drop the tray table down, it’s dirty and it’s got a coffee stain there, he said, “We look at it as, ‘We should have wiped that down better.’” The customer says, “What if you take care of your jet engines the same way you’re taking care of the tray?” I’m sure that the managers of those hotels sit there and go, “Our rooms are pretty good.” I thought, “The room is going to be a dump because look at how bad the check-in experience is going to be.” I was pleasantly surprised with the room but I’m still not going back.

Culture is the feeling of engagement that you get internally within any organization. Click To Tweet

Something simple. I love that story about the Scottsdale Princess because that makes you think about, “What little thing could I do that would make such a big difference?”

You’re exactly right, Gary. Where a lot of businesses slip up is that they think it’s going to be some hugely capital-intensive infusion that has to come to make this enormous difference. What would have happened if, in the same space we got checked in, they had enough people staffing it? Also, what if they would come around from behind the desk like they do at other properties, hand you the key and say, “We are glad that you’re here with us. Enjoy your experience. Is there anything else that we could do?” Even, “Here’s a bottle of water.” It’s less expensive to do that than it is to remodel the rooms again.

It doesn’t take this huge capital outlay. That’s where our message dovetails so well. It’s about understanding yourself and your why and then exploiting it. My friend, Larry Winget, always says when he uses that word in the best way, “Exploit can be both positive and negative.” It’s exploiting and leveraging that to its maximum potential.

I have a question for you. There’s a company that comes to mind for me. They have spent a fortune on having all the right stuff there but they’re struggling with, “How do I get my team to create that distinctive experience? How do you get your team up to speed, engaged or connected to it to make the difference?” If the team doesn’t do it, you’re dead in the water.

It has to begin with the CEO. It has to begin with the leader making that job one and not just giving it lip service. I’ve been at so many meetings where the CEO gets up and says, “People are our greatest asset,” and then they treat them as an expense. An asset is something I invest in. It’s something I nurture. I want it to grow. Expense is something I seek to control and minimize. Leaders get up and say, “You’re our greatest asset,” and then they go back to the office and think about, “How do we make sure that these people work 38 hours a week? They’re not working 40.” You can’t have it both ways.

To me, where it begins is that the CEO or the business owner in a small business has to say from the beginning, “This is the most important thing, our culture.” If you think about it, all the customer experience is the outward expression of your internal culture. If it’s not right on the inside, it isn’t going to be right on the outside. That’s where the tools that you have become incredibly valuable because it helps everybody attain their potential, which is the first step of a supportive positive culture. We’re here for the growth of everyone.

How do you define culture?

I’m asked that a lot and I always think of what Potter Stewart said about pornography, “I know it when when I see it.” I mean that in a different way. Culture is how it feels. That’s not precise. There are some places that, even as a customer, you walk in and you feel, “I had a feeling about the hotel that we were in. It’s from the way the valet parkers treated me as opposed to other properties.” Seeing that long line to check in but not enough people work, there are many different things like that.

You can tell internally they beat their people out. I didn’t see many people smiling and happy to be there like I see in other places. It’s overused and cliche but most of the people I encountered that work at Southwest Airlines are pretty happy working for Southwest. You don’t have to tell me that they have a positive culture. Their people show it by the way that they deal with customers. You don’t have to tell me that that hotel probably has a pretty rotten internal culture because they show it by the way they treat their customers. For lack of a better term, it’s the feeling of engagement that you get internally within any organization.

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
Challenging The Status Quo: Understand yourself and your why, and then exploit and leverage that to its maximum potential.


Is that more in line with what your last book, The Ultimate Customer Experience, is about?

Absolutely. Even ICONIC talks about the importance of the five iconic factors. The fifth one is reciprocal respect. That’s one of the things that’s difficult in organizations. The leaders want respect but they don’t think they have to demonstrate it in the other direction. Respect is reciprocal. To use as an analogy, think of a personal relationship. If I’m committed, you’re the only person in my life and the person I’m directing that to thinks, “We’re dating. We can date around.” It’s not reciprocal. That relationship isn’t going to work.

If I’m dating around and you’re sticking around, we’re great. If we have a significant relationship but we haven’t decided if it’s a fully committed one and we’re both on the same page, we’re great. When the relationship gets in trouble is when the level of commitment is not reciprocal. Why wouldn’t that be true in business? The same thing is true with customers. Businesses say, “We want loyal customers.” What are you doing to reward me for my loyalty?

Scott, last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

There was a mentor of mine in the speaking business named Grady Nutt. Unfortunately, Grady was killed in a plane crash coming over from a speech many years ago. Early in my career, he was a mentor of mine. I admired him so much that I tried to sound like him. I tried to be him. It wasn’t that I was trying to rip him off or anything like that in terms of material or style. It was sincere admiration to the point of adoration.

Grady took me out to lunch and said, “I am flattered by how much you obviously like what I do. If you’re trying to be the next Grady Nutt, the best you can hope for is second place. You got a corner on the Scott McKain market. Your job is to learn from me and other speakers and other people that you admire. Your other job is to be the best Scott McKain you could possibly be because that’s something that no one else can be.” To this day, the best advice I’ve ever received is not to run from my uniqueness and not to be content with being like everybody else. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with being somebody else. It means that the world is a better place when you and I and all of us be the best us that we can be.

It’s right in line with your why of challenging the status quo and thinking differently.

I hope so. I want to be aligned. Congruence is important.

If there are people that want to connect with you, follow you, know where you’re speaking and come to your next event, how should they get in touch with you?

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status Quo
Challenging The Status Quo: The CEO or the business owner in a small business has to see from the very beginning that the most important thing is the culture.


The best way is to go to my overall website, which is There’s information there on all the services that we provide and all the things that we do with our team spread across the country. If anybody wants to follow that, I would certainly appreciate it.

Scott, thank you so much for being here and taking the time. I look forward to staying in touch as we move forward.

Same here, my friend. I appreciate you. By the way, thank you for letting me take the assessment. That’s profound. It’s cool. That knocked me out. Thank you.

Thank you. Have a great day.

You too.

It’s time for our segment, Guess The Why. For this episode, I want to use Chris Rock because he’s been in the news a lot. What do you think Chris Rock’s why is? He was on stage where he got a slap across the face for telling a joke about Will Smith’s wife. It made me think about what would Chris Rock’s why be.

I learned a little bit about his childhood and how he was the small kid that got picked on all the time. He was different. He was unique. He didn’t fit in. That made me think that probably his why is to challenge the status quo and think differently, to think outside the box and to do things differently. He was forced to do that, he did do that and that’s been his why. What do you think Chris Rock’s why is? I’d love your opinion.

Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you can do so at You can use the code PODCAST50 and you’ll get it at half price. If you love the Beyond Your Why show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you’re using. I will see you next episode.


Important Links


About Scott McKain

BYW S4 25 | Challenging The Status QuoScott’s matchless experiences have continued throughout his life. They range from playing the villain in a Werner Herzog film that Roger Ebert called one of the 50 “great movies” in cinema history to being booked to speak by Arnold Schwarzenegger for an event on the White House lawn with the President in the audience; from being the author of business books named among the “year’s ten best” to membership of multiple Boards of Directors.

The tapestry of Scott McKain’s distinctive experiences have blended to create the inimitable content that makes him one of the world’s most in-demand business experts and speakers.


The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On Society Through Speaking With Grant Baldwin

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute


Want to be part of a greater cause, but don’t know how? Learn from this episode’s guest, who is the epitome of the WHY of Contribute. Grant Baldwin, the founder of The Speaker Lab, has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. A renowned speaker himself, Grant shares his stories and experiences with his audience to contribute to their growth. In this episode, he discusses strategies and techniques for being a great speaker. He also shares stories of challenges throughout his speaking career and how it has impacted his life and the people around him, especially his family! Tune in so you can gain valuable insights and unleash the creativity you have within you.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On Society Through Speaking With Grant Baldwin

In this episode, we are going to be talking about the why of contributing. If this is your why then you want to be part of a greater cause. Something bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish success that contributes to the team’s greater good.

You see group victories as personal victories. You are often behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, and resources to add value to other people and organizations.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Grant Baldwin. He is the Founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab. He has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last several years, he has become a sought-after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur. He’s featured in Inc 500 list, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and The Huffington Post. He has committed his expertise and insight to equip others to share their meaningful message with the masses.

With a mission to motivate other leaders and entrepreneurs, he has developed a training course with The Speaker Lab completed by over 2,000 speakers and counting and created a multitude of additional resources for speakers with varying levels of experience. His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads. His favorite moments are those spent with his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and their three daughters. They live in Nashville, Tennessee, where he enjoys playing pickleball, summer days at the pool, and living the life of Chuck Norris.

Grant, welcome to the show.

Gary, thanks for letting me hang out with you. I appreciate it.

This is going to be fun. The timing of this is perfect because there are so many people that I know in particular, and many of our readers are coaches, speakers, entrepreneurs, and going to be speakers. This is great to have you on the show. Let’s go back to your life. Tell us where did you grow up, where were you born, and what were you like in high school.

I was born and raised in Springfield in Southwest Missouri. I grew up in a normal middle-class home. My dad worked for a radio for most of his career. When I was in middle school or so, he switched careers and was working in the power co-op space doing marketing and consulting for them. A bit of a freelancer that we would think about it.

That was my first foray into him working from home, having some freedom and flexibility. I was like, “That seems like a nice gig.” I wouldn’t mind doing that, and with that entrepreneurial bug. My mom has been in healthcare her entire profession. In high school, my parents split up, which had a big impact on my world. With that, I’ve got involved in my local church.

My youth pastor had a big impact on my life. That was the path I was on. I was like, “I want to do that. That seems like a rewarding and fulfilling career. If I can make the impact on others that he made in my own life, that seems interesting.” That’s the direction I was headed. I went to Bible college as a youth pastor for a little while and got a little taste of speaking but other than my parents splitting up at the time and even looking back, I felt like a normal middle-class childhood.

In high school, I was involved in my local church and had various leadership roles there. Speaking is one of those things that I had an opportunity to get on stage a few times. The bug bit me there. It was like, “I could do this. I would love to do more of this.” Even in college, I worked for a guy who was a full-time speaker. I’ve got to see a little bit behind the scenes of what that was like. There were some highs and lows to childhood and high school life but everything led to this moment. I’m happy with how things have turned out.

You went to high school in Springfield. Where did you go to college?

I went to college in Springfield. It’s a small little private college, Central Bible College and it merged with another school, so it’s not even there. That’s where it was at.

What was your first career path or job?

Strive to make a big impact in someone’s life. Click To Tweet

My first career thing was I was a youth pastor at another church. I did that for about a year and a half, which gave me a lot of opportunities to speak. I was speaking every week to students, and then from time to time, I would get to speak on the weekend at the big church. I’ve got a couple of at-bats there. It was one of those things that I enjoyed. I felt like I was decent at it. I wanted to do more of it. When my wife was pregnant with our oldest daughter, there’s nothing like bringing a kid into the world that causes you to question everything.

As a youth pastor, there were parts of it I like and didn’t like but one of the things I enjoyed was speaking. I was like, “I want to give this speaking thing a shot but I wasn’t sure. What does that even mean? What does that look like? How do you find gigs? What do you speak about? Who hires speakers? How much do you charge? How does this mysterious black box of speaking work?”

I started emailing, stalking, and harassing speakers because, at the time, there wasn’t any coaching or training, books, resources or podcasts on this. It was a DIY figured out on your own. My best effort to figure it out was emailing a bunch of speakers, pestering them, trying to get a couple of answers, piecing some stuff together, and trying to take action on it.

Being a pastor that’s even more of a legit gig than a speaker because you’ve got to do it every week. You’ve got to be different and be on. There’s a lot of pressure, I would have guessed.

One of the pros and cons of being in ministry and speaking is that you have largely the same audience every week. Most of the time, as a professional speaker, you are telling a lot of the same stories and doing a lot of the same material. Each time you tell a story, you are getting real-time feedback from that audience. When you tell it the next time, it becomes better over time.

Whereas, in ministry, when you are speaking, you have the same audience. If you tell a story that kills this week, you can’t tell the same story next week. It forces you to come up with new content. Sunday is always coming, and you’ve got to come up with new material. There were upsides to that that helped you to figure out real quick if you could keep up with this at a sustainable pace.

I have always wondered what is it like. I speak as well, and it’s the same presentation with some tweaks here and there wherever you go but to do a different one every week, there’s a lot of skill involved there.

It takes a lot of preparation. You’ve got to have a good system. If you are doing 30, 40 to 50 new talks a year, that’s a lot of stuff. Thankfully for me, if I was speaking with the students, it’s a little bit more casual. You are having more discussions and small group-type stuff. It’s not like you are having a 60-minute keynote every single week or something like that.

Even the times that I would speak on the weekends in the main services, it wasn’t like I was speaking every single week. I might speak 5 or 6 times a year. Even though I was having to be 5 or 6 new talks, it wasn’t like a week after week where you are trying to come up with something new but I always knew what my schedule was. For example, Sunday is coming in two months, and I’ve got to have something to say, “Here’s what the series or topic is.”

It also helps you to put up your radar so that I know I was speaking about being a good parent. I’m in-between points A and B. I’m looking for things that are on my radar related to parenting and illustrations, stories or things that have happened in my life or anything related to that that I could utilize or tie in. Maybe something I saw in a magazine or an article that I read, a YouTube video or whatever but having your radar up of, “Some of type new presentation has got to come together.” You don’t want to sit down the night before like, “What are we going to talk about?”

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: One of the pros and cons of being in a ministry and speaking is you have largely the same audience every week. So most of the time as a professional speaker, you’re telling a lot of the same stories.


It’s collecting those thoughts, starting to organize them into something, and having that ready a few days out. One thing I did and still would do is to spend a lot of time practicing and preparing. There’s a misconception that the best speakers in the world scribble a couple of ideas on a napkin and then hop up there, wing it and shoot from the hip. It doesn’t work like that.

They spend a lot of time practicing, preparing, and rehearsing behind the scenes. When they hop up on stage, it looks supernatural. It looks like they are shooting from the hip and talking off the cuff but that’s not the case at all. They do spend a lot of time. I try to spend a lot of time making sure that when I’ve got up there that even though it was the first time I was presenting this that I felt confident and prepared.

What would you say is the best thing that you learned from giving a different talk every week? Most of us, if not all of us, will never do that. You did that for however many years. What’s the most valuable lesson you learned from a different talk every week?

It forces you to get good at content, finding content, identifying content, and learning what works. You and I have the same 3, 4 or 5 stories that we tell over and over again. It’s easy to become complacent, lazy and be like, “I know this material works, so I keep going back to this,” versus, “If I couldn’t tell any of those five stories again, then I’ve got to find something different.”

There’s a speaker and a friend of mine who calls it the new two. Meaning every time he speaks, even though a lot of the content is the content he’s done before, he forces himself to find a new 2, 2 minutes that he has never presented before. Sometimes maybe you present those two minutes, it goes somewhere and works, then you turn it into 5 or 7 minutes, and it worked. It makes it to the cutting room floor but it forces you to be into the rhythm and routine of, “I’ve got to try new stuff,” versus resting on what’s worked and thinking that will always be the case.

When I think back to my first speaking events versus where I am, there’s this nervousness about interacting. It was all about me. When you get up there for the first time, you are like, “I hope I don’t look stupid and sound bad,” and all the things that you go through, whereas after you have done so many, you become good at interacting with the audience or crowd and being able to engage differently with that level of comfort.

One interesting thing, especially in the church world or the ministry world is when you have the same audience, they are at least familiar with you. If you do 50 events in a year and it’s 50 different clients, then every time you speak, you are trying to build rapport and connection with the audience. They have no idea who you are.

Whereas when you are speaking to the same audience on some type of consistent basis, you will at least have some type of familiarity there, so you don’t have to go into too much background of who you are and why you are here, this song and dance but for the most of the audience, you get some type of connection there because they are already familiar with you.

It’s the difference between going to a comedy club to see any comedian, whoever’s up there that’s selling jokes, versus you bought a ticket to see a specific comedian or a band versus going to a music venue because you are like, “I want to hear some live music.” There’s at least some familiarity there that makes a big difference in terms of the rapport that has already been established.

You graduated from college and then started as a pastor at a church. You then went outside the church and started doing more secular-type talks. What prompted that direction? What were you speaking about?

Spend a lot of time practicing and preparing if you want to be a great speaker. Click To Tweet

I did a lot in the education space, in high schools and colleges. Working with students was a world that I was familiar with and understood. It landed itself well to speaking in that world. There are a couple of guys that I knew that were doing some speaking in that world. I was pretty young myself. I was 24, 25 at the time. The idea of speaking to corporate CEOs or something that are like, “You could be my son.”

Early on, I worked with a similar company. They would book me to go out, speak and present their content. I would speak on time management or organization. A lot of times they would send me to environments where I was the youngest person in the room. There’s a lot of Imposter syndrome, especially early on. I’m like, “Who am I to be here? I don’t have anything to bring to the table.”

I did a lot of school assemblies and student leadership conferences. Those were environments that forced you to be a good speaker. You have a lot of adult audiences that are polite and friendly. If you are not doing a good job, they will still smile, nod, and play along but if you are talking to a group of 15, 16, and 17-year-olds that don’t want to be there, you better be good as a speaker to keep them engaged. That also helped me to become better as a speaker over time because those are unique audiences and environments.

From education, where did you end up? How did you get into coaching other speakers?

I was a full-time speaker for several years. In the 1st year, I was doing 20 to 30 events and then 40 to 50 events. Eventually, it got to a point where I was doing about 70 gigs a year. I enjoyed it. There’s a lot of fun. The nature of speaking is that it’s a high-paying manual labor job. I would get paid well to stand on stage and talk but the nature of it was I had to leave my family, get on a plane and go somewhere. It’s like a surgeon. A surgeon makes good money but like surgeries, you’ve got to show up and do surgery. I felt like I had a good job but I didn’t necessarily have a business. There’s this limited flexibility.

I was like, “Now what? What do I do from here on?” The only way to broaden your impact, reach or income is you either have to do more gigs or charge more. I was already at the upper limit of what I felt comfortable charging in that particular industry and the education space. I didn’t necessarily want to be on the road anymore.

It was 2013 and 2014 when I started noticing more podcasts, online training, and the online business world. At the time, I had a lot of people who are asking me, “I want to be a speaker. How would I go about doing that?” A lot of times, what would happen is people would use the phrase, and we have both said this phrase to other people as well, which is, “How did you get into that?”

What I decided to do is, at the time, I was doing a lot of speaking around the topic of careers, helping people think through and figure out what they wanted to do with life, especially high school and college students, so I started a podcast called How Did You Get Into That? We were interviewing interesting, unique people who had crazy careers like a guy who was a LEGO master builder, one of the top LEGO builders in the world, a guy who worked for Nike and Michael Jordan designing the Air Jordans, a guy who was an NBA mascot and a lady who was one of the top cheese experts in the world.

These types of careers where you are talking to people going like, “I don’t personally want to do that but it’s fascinating that you make a career from that. How did you get into that? What does that look like?” I did that for a little while. I had a lot of people asking me, “How did you get into that? I want to be a speaker. How would I do that?”

At that point, I started doing a little bit of coaching and teaching around that. I enjoyed it. I felt like we were creating a solution to the problem that I had when I’ve got started. There wasn’t anyone readily available. There was no podcast, coaching, training, books or resources about how do I become a speaker. We tried to create some resources that I wish I had when I’ve got started. One thing we quickly figured out is that there are a lot of people who are interested in speaking and who could do this that need some help in the next step.

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Spend a lot of time just making sure that when you got up there that even though it was the first time you were presenting something, you are confident and prepared.


When I’ve got started, I felt like I had the potential but I needed the plan. I feel like I was a decent speaker. I wasn’t the best or worst. I always knew that there was something there but I needed a plan and someone to tell me. “I can do the work. Just show me what to do. Tell me what steps I need to take. What are the action items I need to execute here?” I felt like there were a lot of people in that same spot. That’s when we started leaning into the speaker training and coaching that has evolved into what we do.

Who would be an ideal client for you? Who are you looking to connect with you? Why would they be looking for you?

There are a lot of people who are interested in speaking and people listening who have done some speaking. Maybe it’s something that fell in your lap. It was a word-of-mouth thing, a referral or something for your company. It was something that was a friend recommended you to. A lot of times it’s like this, “We enjoy speaking and want to do more of it but we don’t know what to do next. Do I sit back and wait for other people to magically find me? Do I click my heels together, close my eyes tight, and then hopefully another gig falls in my lap?”

We both understand, and everybody reading understands that that’s not a way to build a business. Rather than being reactive, we want to teach people to be proactive and understand the steps that you need to take to build and grow a speaking business. There are going to be people who are reading that’s like, “I would love to do 60, 70, 100 gigs a year and be a full-time speaker.” Other people are like, “That has zero appeal to me. I would love to do 5 or 10 gigs a year, maybe in addition to what I’m already doing in my business or within my company. Maybe in addition to my coaching or consulting. Maybe using it as lead generation for some other stuff that I’m doing.

We want to do some level of speaking but we don’t know how to get started. We don’t know what we don’t know. “How do I find gigs? What do I charge? Who hires speakers? What do I speak about? How does this mysterious black box of speaking work?” That’s who we work with. We try to demystify that and give a roadmap and framework for how you consistently be able to find and book paid gigs and also share your message with others.

This is probably crossing the minds of people reading, and it was crossing my mind. You did 70 gigs one year. Is it positive or negative? You made a lot of money and did a lot of traveling but what’s that like?

It’s a blast and fun. I will give you the highs and the lows of it. The upside is travel can be fun. I have been to 49 US states and multiple countries and seen a lot of parts of the country that most people will never see in a lifetime. That’s cool and enjoyable. The downside of the travel part is you are away from the family, sleeping in another hotel, eating hotel food or food on the road when you want a home-cooked meal. There’s certainly a lot of that.

The upside is it’s not bad. Speaking and having hundreds or thousands of people listening to you, people wanting to shake your hand, take pictures with you, ask for your autograph or give you a standing ovation. Most people don’t get applause when they do their job. To finish sharing some ideas and everybody claps for you is pretty fun. There are a lot of upsides to it.

Being a speaker, the actual speaking part is a very small part of it. You spend a lot of time waiting. You are waiting backstage, on planes, at the airport, in hotels, in rental cars, and then you do your thing, your little dog and pony show. You then go back to waiting and heading home. Doing 60, 70 gigs a year led to being on the road 80, 90 nights a year. It’s also can be a little bit cyclical over a year. You would have seasons where you were busy. You may have 4 gigs in 7 days, and you are on the road going from city to city.

December would be slow. Nobody is booking things around the holidays. You may be gone for a long, long stretch of week to week but then you may be home for a full month and not going anywhere. My wife is going like, “You’ve got a gig or something you could go do?” It comes and goes in waves but it’s enjoyable knowing that you are doing something that’s making an impact, able to travel, connect with some great people and make a difference with the work that you are doing. There are downsides but it’s also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

Who you are is more important than what you do. Click To Tweet

I was talking to a friend of mine that does a lot of speaking more than I do. In 1 year, he did 134 events. He said it was mind-numbing and was too much. He did 4 in 1 day. I don’t know how you can function that way but the high is really high.

One of the great things is that the pandemic has been good for the speaking industry. What I mean by that is that prior to COVID, virtual speaking wasn’t even a thing. Event planners and speakers weren’t taking it seriously. When COVID hit, all events come to a screeching halt, and there were no other options. Virtual speaking becomes the only game in town.

For several months there was the Wild Wild West, and everyone was figuring out what this new normal looked like from a speaking presenting standpoint but a couple of years later, hopefully, we come out of the pandemic more and more each day, we are seeing that live events have come back with a vengeance because apart, they haven’t happened for a while, so people crave being together in person. There’s nothing that compares to being together with other human beings in a room.

Even in the handful of events that I have been to in a few months that people are like, “We are back. We are together. This is awesome,” hugs, high fives, and handshakes, people crave that type of community and atmosphere that a live event can provide. What’s happened is that although live events have come back, they have not come back in replacement for virtual events. They have come back in addition.

There are a lot of virtual events that continue to exist. We have seen more events than ever because both live and virtual events exist. We are also seeing a lot of hybrid events that are taking place where a speaker may come in and speak in person but there’s a virtual audience or where speakers are speaking in person once. Maybe they are doing three months of follow-up Zoom calls, where they are going deeper on the content or helping to apply the content that was presented.

It sounds weird but the pandemic is one of the best possible things to happen to the speaking industry and has created enormous new opportunities that didn’t previously exist. All that to say, there are a lot of opportunities for people to say, “I want to be a speaker but I don’t want to be on the road that much.” That didn’t exist in 2020. There are a lot of speakers who are killing and doing it while staying home. There are pros and cons and trade-offs to virtual speaking versus in-person speaking but the point is, there are a lot more opportunities and options that exist with virtual speaking that didn’t previously exist.

What have you noticed to be the difference between virtual speaking and live speaking?

It doesn’t compare to being together in person. One of the best parts of speaking is being able to feed off the energy of the audience and see people nodding, taking notes, laughing, smiling, elbow in their neighbor or anything like that. You lose all of that with virtual. As you and I are talking, we are each sitting in our rooms and talking to ourselves via a screen. It’s a different atmosphere and environment.

It’s not that it’s bad. It still works and is effective. By giving a virtual presentation, you are able to give multiple presentations on the same day to multiple states, audiences or countries. You can have attendees from all over the world. It opens up opportunities that physically and geographically are not possible whenever it comes to physical in-person speaking. There are pros and cons to it but there’s nothing that compares to being together live in person with an audience.

Have you noticed that the presentation has to be different for a virtual audience versus a live audience?

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: You have a lot of adult audiences that are polite and friendly, and if you’re not doing a good job, they’ll still smile and nod and play along.


Yes. Just because someone is a good in-person speaker, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good virtual speaker. What a lot of speakers found out early on in the pandemic is that some stuff that may work in person doesn’t translate online and vice versa. We have to figure out how do you engage an audience and keep an audience with you because the other thing that’s difficult in a virtual environment is all the audience is watching on a screen, where you are also going to be competing with other tabs, their email, text message, TV, Slack and other notifications that may be popping up.

Whereas when you are in person, you may still have some of those things but it’s a little bit harder for them to be massively distracted when you are sitting there right in front of them in person talking. When you are just a talking head on a screen, they can turn off their camera, muted it, and not necessarily have to talk. It’s a little bit easier for them to get distracted. You’ve got to be aware of that and make sure that you are looking for other opportunities and ways to keep them engaged.

Have you got any tips or secrets for us that can help us keep people engaged in a virtual presentation?

Some of it depends on the nature of the presentation, how long it is and how big are the audiences but one thing that you can do is utilize the chat. Simple things like every few minutes, these pattern interrupts, “If you are with me, type in with you. Tell me in the chat where you are from. If this has ever happened to you, type I in the chat.”

Anything like that where normally you might be like, “How many of you have ever experienced this? Raise your hand.” People would physically raise their hands. “Turn to your neighbor and say this. Nod your head if you have had this experience.” Some of those interactive experiences that we would do in person, we can still do virtually.

Chat is a good way to do that to force people to re-engage and lock in. Also, utilizing slides can be helpful and effective, so it’s not just a talking head but it’s giving us something to look at. If you are going through slides quickly, it keeps them engaged in the same way that you are watching a TV show or sitcom. They are changing scenes and camera angles every few seconds because they know that people’s attention span is going to start to wane, lose interest, and be distracted. You’ve got to keep people on their toes and keep mixing it up.

Also, the length of a presentation. If you are talking with a potential client and they said, “We want to do three hours on Zoom,” that sounds like a disaster. Zoom fatigue is a real thing. None of us want to do that. Keep it short, concise, and half the length of what an in-person would be. If you were going to do 3 hours, try to keep it to 1 and a half or 1 hour and tighten up everything. Even 1 and a half or 1 hour is a long time staring at a Zoom screen. It’s things that you want to be aware of. You can also do a Q&A, mix it up with that or do some type of breakout groups. There are a lot of good breakout room options within Zoom that you can do to mix up the formatting of a presentation.

When you would speak on stage, did you typically speak with a presentation deck or without one?

As far as slides, I typically have not used slides. There are pros and cons to slides. Slides can be beneficial for keeping an audience engaged but can also be a big distraction for speakers. What we always tell speakers is, “If you are going to use slides, you want to use them as an enhancement, not a replacement to your presentation.”

Here’s what I think about this. I remember a few years ago, my wife was attending a conference, and she texted me. She was in a session and said that the presenter was there. They said that they couldn’t give their talk because their slides wouldn’t work. A good litmus test would be, let’s say, you have slides, and five minutes before you are going to go up, the projector fails, the computer crashes or something happens, and you can’t give your presentation with the slides. The presentation should still be able to stand on its own. It should still be solid.

If we're great speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, business owners or coaches or consultants, but we dropped the bomb as husbands, dads, moms, wives as if we are the shell of a human being, then we've really missed the point. Click To Tweet

What happens oftentimes is that slides become a crutch and cue cards for a speaker. That takes away from the presentation. If you are going to use it, pop-up slides with tacks on them and read off everything that’s on there, then just play a video. You don’t have to be there. There’s nothing wrong with slides. Slides can be powerful and effective but they should be an enhancement and not a replacement for your talk.

It takes a better speaker to speak without slides because the focus is 100% on you. There is no getting around that one. You can’t show something funny or throw something up that’s interesting. It’s got to be all about you. It feels that way. What’s your take on that?

You’ve got to be a solid speaker. You can use a crutch in a couple of different ways like, “I’m going to put up some stuff, and the image is going to capture people’s attention. It means that I can be less engaging for a few moments there while people are looking at the image, watching a video or something like that.” When you have nothing up on the screen that people can look at, you’ve got to be good on stage. The other thing is when speakers use their slides as cue cards and go like, “I’m trying to remember what comes next, so next slide,” it can become a cop-out, and you become lazy.

I remember at a conference a couple of years ago that I was speaking at, I was backstage and talking with a speaker who was getting ready to go on. He was obsessed with his slides. I was like, “What about the talk? That’s what people are here for.” There’s nothing wrong with slides, I’m not saying it is but they should be an enhancement, not a replacement of the presentation.

How many talks do you think you’ve given in your life so far?

Live in-person over 1,000 presentations and talks, threw in virtual in there. We are in a day and age where everyone’s definition of what a presentation is looks different. Is this a presentation, webinars, podcasts, interviews, Facebook lives or anything like that versus what we typically standardly think of as a presentation like, “I was hired to do a keynote or a workshop and break out in front of this audience?” A lot of times, for sure.

The reason I’m asking you that is because I’m curious what percentage of the time when you show up to do a speaking event, let’s say live. Is there a tech glitch or something doesn’t work? How often does that happen?

Not often but it happens. I will give you a couple of thoughts. One is those moments help you to become a better speaker because something happened outside the norm, and so you’ve got to be able to roll with it. I would rarely use slides. That was one less variable that I could control that wasn’t going to be an issue but there were times, especially when I was doing a lot of speaking in high schools when it hasn’t had a great sound setup, sound system or anything like that. It wasn’t uncommon for a mic to fail or be staticky.

I remember one time I was in a gymnasium with over 1,000 students, and the mic goes down. I was looking for some help with some backup batteries or a new mic, and no one was doing anything. I was like, “Screw it.” I put the mic down, yell, project and make it work. The show must go on. When those moments happen that are outside the norm, a speaker can utilize and lean into that. Everyone loves an inside joke, and you had to be there. When something happens that is not scripted and not supposed to happen, it creates this moment that we can all laugh about.

A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference center, and a dog comes running in, zipping around the room. That’s not planned, and it was not my dog. I don’t know whose dog that was or how it got into the building but it creates this raw, real moment of like, “You had to be there. We can all laugh and joke about it,” then you move on. As a speaker, when those moments happen, it’s a good chance to build this rapport with the audience but make some humor and also realize, “This happened outside of my control. How do I address it?” Deal with it, do whatever, move on and continue the presentation.

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: If you’re talking to a group of 15, 16, 17 year olds that don’t want to be there, you better be good as a speaker to keep them engaged.


It seemed like for a while, every single event that I spoke at had different setups and attachments. Everything was different. There was no standardization of anything. Half the time, it would work, and half the time, it wouldn’t work with a Mac. Sometimes I’m putting it on a thumb drive and stick it into their computers. The screens would go out or something would happen but it ended up being something good because I almost expect it to happen and when it does, so what? It’s not a big deal.

That speaks to how important it is to do some type of test run with the AV team. Even if I wasn’t using any slides, one of the things I would always make sure is I can get some type of tech run-through so I could get a sense of like, “What’s the lighting going to be like? Where’s the audience going to be? If there are going to be cameras, where are those cameras going to be? Which microphone? Am I going to be using the handheld? Is it going to have a wire or cord to it? Am I going to use a lapel that sits on my shirt? Am I going to use more of a Countryman that fits over my ear?”

There are all these different nuances and variables. You want to be prepared for all those things. If I’m using sides, I want to plug it into my computer, hook it up and see those slides on the screen. I want to see if the orientation is correct or if something looks skewed in any way that I want to make sure we get that fixed. You are not trying to scramble and adjust those things on the fly but like, “No, I have shown up and prepared. Make sure all the variables are correct and where they need to be.”

It’s part of being a professional. Part of doing a good job is not just what you do on stage but also how you work offstage. “Were you on time? Were you nice to the tech crew? Did you make sure that you had your ducks in a row and your slides look good?” All of those little nuance things add and contribute to you as an overall presenter, whether or not people want to work with you.

Are you saying that being a professional speaker is more than taking a couple of shots of tequila, running up on stage, and talking?

Yes, 1,000%. Part of being a great speaker is what happens on stage but a big part of it is what happens offstage. You think about it from an event planners’ perspective. The speaker at an event is an important part of the event but it’s 1 of 100, if not 1,000, moving pieces that they are trying to handle, think through, and be prepared for. The easier you can be to work with, the simpler that you can make things on them, the better you can make their life, the less of a pain in the butt you are, the more likely they are going to want to work with you, refer you, recommend you and bring you back.

This isn’t exclusive to speakers. This is any type of vendor. If you were hiring someone to mow your grass and made the grass look amazing but they don’t show up on time, charge you weird, don’t do what they said they are going to do, reschedule for you, they are a pain in the butt, not like a diva or a prima donna. They are dropping the ball on simple things. Do what you say you are going to do. If you can’t do what you said you are going to do, communicate with the event planner. If you do those things and you are average on stage, you can be successful as a speaker.

Last question, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever gotten or given?

The thing that I tell our team regularly is something I used to speak about was, “Who you are is more important than what you do.” If we are great speakers, authors, entrepreneurs or business owners, coaches, and consultants but we dropped the bomb as husbands, dads, moms, and wives, as if we are the shell of human beings, then we have missed the point. I love talking about speaking. I love being an entrepreneur and business owner. I love making a little dent in the world but my most important roles on this planet are being a good husband and dad.

I’ve got married to my high school sweetheart. We’ve got three beautiful daughters. It’s me in a house full of women. It’s the absolute best. Those four ladies are the most important responsibility in my world. I love all this other business nonsense we get to play around with and this sandbox we get to play in but those things are the important thing. I try to remind people and keep it top of mind that who you are is more important than what you do.

If there are people that are reading this who want to connect with you, learn to be better speakers, and get into the speaking game, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

I would encourage you to check The Speaker Lab Podcast. We’ve got nearly 400 episodes. They are all different subjects or topics related to anything and everything about speaking. That’s a great resource. Everything else we do is over at We’ve got a lot of free resources and articles over there. We have a Speaking Fee Calculator there.

When people ask, “How much should I charge as a speaker?” The answer is it depends. There are a lot of variables that go into it. We have put together a calculator. It’s free. Answer a couple of questions, and it will spit out several what you should be charging. You can also find that directly over We try to do anything that we can to support speakers as they build and grow their businesses.

Grant, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time. I look forward to staying in touch as we go along our paths.

Gary, thanks for the time. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much for reading this episode with Grant Baldwin. If you have not yet discovered your why, then go to You can use the code PODCAST50 to discover your why at half price. If you love our show, please don’t forget to subscribe, leave us a review, and rating on whatever platform you are using. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you next time.


Important Links


About Grant Baldwin

BYW S4 24 Grant | WHY Of ContributeAs founder and CEO of The Speaker Lab, Grant Baldwin has helped thousands of people build successful and sustainable speaking businesses. Over the last 15 years Grant has become a sought after speaker, podcaster, author, and accomplished entrepreneur.
Featured on the Inc. 5000 list, Forbes, Inc. Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post, he has committed his expertise and insight to equipping others to share their meaningful message with the masses.With a mission to motivate other leaders and entrepreneurs, Grant has developed a training course with The Speaker Lab, completed by over 2,000 speakers (and counting), and created a multitude of additional resources for speakers with varying levels of experience!
His leadership and dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind organizational culture are evidenced by the impact of the team he leads. Grant’s favorite moments are those spent with his high school sweetheart, Sheila, and their three daughters. They live in Nashville, Tennessee where Grant enjoys playing pickleball, summer days at the pool, and living life like Chuck Norris.

The WHY Of Trust: Hope, Life, Grief With Katty Douraghy

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust


It’s challenging to overcome grief and many other challenges in life if you don’t trust yourself. Dr. Gary Sanchez welcomes Katty Douraghy, the President of Artisan Creative and the author of The Butterfly Years. Katty shares how losing many of her loved ones so close to each other devastated her. It took her years to learn how to live through it and gain hope. For her, the healing process began by trusting herself. Where did she slowly learn to trust herself? By belonging to a community that accepted her. Join the conversation to learn more about the WHY of Trust.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here


The WHY Of Trust: Hope, Life, Grief With Katty Douraghy

In this episode, we are going to be talking about the why of trust, to create relationships based upon trust. People with this why believe that trust is the most important thing and will work hard to create it. They will become educated as experts in a particular subject and demonstrate that expertise as a way of establishing trust.

They will do things right to demonstrate that they are trustworthy. They want to know that you believe in them and will go the extra mile to demonstrate with their actions, words, and deeds. In communication with someone with this why, you might read words along the lines of, “You can count on me.”

I have got a great guest for you. Her name is Katty Douraghy. She is President of Artisan Creative, a staffing and recruitment agency focusing on digital, creative, and marketing talent. She is the Founder of Inspiring Hiring, an online resume and a job posting portal. She is also a team and retreat facilitator working closely with entrepreneurs to become better versions of themselves.

She is the podcast host for The Artisan Podcast, sharing stories of creativity and inspiration. She is also the author of Butterfly Years, sharing the lessons learned during a long period of grief and mourning that led to a path towards hope. Her last project, the Butterfly Years Journal, a daily journal from grief to growth, came out in January 2022. She believes we all have a story to share and that our greatest journey towards hope and healing is through self-reflection and discovery. Welcome to the show.

Thank you for that illustrious intro. I appreciate it.

I have been looking forward to this, and we have been talking about doing this for quite a while because you are familiar with the 9 Whys and the Why.os and all of this. You have been doing this for quite a while. Let’s first learn a little bit about you. Tell us about your name.

It is short for Katāyoun, which is a fictitious princess’ name in old Persian folklore.

Where did you grow up? Where were you born? Tell us what you were like in high school, and take us on your journey.

I grew up in Iran until the age of thirteen. We immigrated because of the revolution in Iran. We immigrated first to England and then to the US. My high school years were tough for me. High school years were during the time that the hostages were taken. The last thing I wanted to do was be Iranian. I tried hard to suppress that side of me and my identity and shove it aside.

Not having a security blanket allows you to put yourself out there. Click To Tweet

I passport many different cultures. I pretended I was Italian, Mexican, and Indian. You name it, anything but Iranian. It has taken many years to settle into who I am. For many years, I thought I did not belong anywhere. Now I realize that I belong everywhere. I’m a mixture of Eastern, West, and everything in between. That is me in and nutshell.

Were you in England during that time or during the hostage?

We were in England for a short time right after the revolution. By the time we moved to the US, it was around the time when the hostages were taken. High school was not fun.

Where was your high school?

My high school was in Northern California in a town called Cupertino, which everybody knows now because Apple is there. Apple was not there back then. It is the same high school that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went to, Homestead High School.

Did you know him?

No, they were before me.

Take us into what it was like back then. What was a day in the life of an Iranian girl in high school like? What was it like going to high school?

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust
Not having a security blanket allows you to put yourself out there.

High school was tough because I started high school in the middle of ninth grade. High school is not easy at any age, regardless of being a foreigner in the middle of the high school years. Add to that what was happening out in the world. At the time, many people did not know where Iran was, and they only associated Iran with the Diatoula or with hostages. It was a tough time.

The beauty of what was happening during high school was that my cousin also lived with us at the time. She immigrated, and her parents were still overseas. She came and lived with us. For the first three and a half years of high school, I had her. She was my security blanket, and I stuck to her closely. She graduated early and left to go to Texas.

For the last semester in high school, I had to figure out how to navigate waters. As tough as it was, it was good for me not to have that security blanket. It allowed me to put myself out there. My English was good. It was not great but it forced me to become great. I even became an English Literature major in college. Something happened during that last year.

It forced you to trust yourself.


Where did you go to college?

I went to college in Santa Cruz, also in Northern California. At the beginning of my high school years, I did not trust anyone else because I did not trust where I was coming from. It took me a while to recognize that, and I was on solid ground as to who I was as a person. By the time I went to college, it was when I had started to learn how to spread my wings.

It was a completely different story. I was out there. I had lots of friends, and I was incredibly social. I came out of this chrysalis. I have used the butterfly chrysalis analogy throughout my life. In high school, I was in this dark place. In college, I came out and was the social butterfly. I was everywhere. It came into my own and found my voice then.

It’s important to share your story with other people. Click To Tweet

It is interesting to think about somebody with a why of trust, not even in your circumstances but in general, having to go through high school. Nobody trusts themselves in high school, at least most people do not. I know I did not. You do not know where you are going and what you are about. It is challenging anyways but with the why of trust, seeing is the most important relationship with yourself. That can cause a lot of anxiety.

The whole notion of self-trust was not there. I questioned everything. I did everything I said. If whatever I said did not land well on someone, that little voice in my head was like, “You did this wrong.” That is such a difficult thing for a young person to go through. It can set the stage for self-doubt at later ages. I’m fortunate that because of the trust that I was able to gain later on in my college years, it did not end up having a lasting impact.

Off to college in Santa Cruz, you majored in English Literature. What did you do with that?

I did not do anything with it. I did learn how to speak English better, which I certainly needed for living here. This is home for me now. What I did after that was I went to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. I was interested in the fashion space. I ended up working in retail and fashion for several years.

This is an interesting story where I could see my why. I can see it now. I was not aware of it back then but where I could see how my why had impacted my career trajectory all these years. When I started in retail, I was a personal shopper. We would get into dressing rooms with people to help consult on the fit, color, shape, and analyze body shapes to be able to make recommendations.

There is nothing more intimate than being with someone who is trusting you to undress and allow you to give them some feedback as to what could be a stronger, better version of themselves. This is through clothing and fashion but when I look back on how my trust manifested itself, that was powerful to be able to do that.

How long did you do that?

Several years.

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust
WHY Of Trust: There is nothing more intimate than being with someone who trusts you for them to undress and allow you to give them feedback.


What happened after that?

My husband, Jamie, recruited me to come and work for his company, which is the staffing and recruiting firm that I own and run. He was like, “You have all this experience. You have managed these larger teams, dollar amounts. Come, I could use your help.” I did, and that was an interesting thing starting to work with your spouse. We had to define roles. That is where trust had to come into play. He trusted me that I could run this business that he had started and founded, and I trusted myself that I was not going to let him down and do things the right way to hopefully grow the business.

For the readers that are not familiar with Jamie, he is Katty’s husband. I have had him on the show before. Jamie has got a fascinating story about how he discovered his why down in Argentina. On his way back, he decided he was going to put you in charge. You became the CEO.

It is all because of the why. I should tell this story to your readers. Jamie went on this trip to Argentina and had an opportunity to discover his why while he was on this trip. He comes back and says, “I figured out my why. I know what I’m going to be doing next. I’m stepping out of the business, and it is all yours.” I was like, “You are doing what?”

It was the beginning of this beautiful relationship. As a couple, understanding our why and being able to communicate through that has been incredibly powerful. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who has discovered their why to encourage their spouse and partner to do the same because it does impact how we communicate and show up for each other. Thanks, Gary.

It is interesting because you have the why of trust, and he has the why of contribute. That is a particularly good match, those two together. You want to make sure that you create a trust for him, and he wants to make sure that he contributes to you. It does not get any better than that. That seems to be the combination that I have seen over time work the best. You two happen to have that. What I do not know is how did you meet Jamie?

We met at a Halloween party. For your reader who knows his story, Jamie is a fencer. He was at this Halloween party in full fencing garb with his mask on his weapon and all dressed in white. I was a Persian cat, which is not imaginative. The party was at a restaurant that had closed down for that evening, and they had all these Halloween decorations everywhere. They had boards and pomegranates. That was part of the decorations. I love pomegranates. I’m a huge fan of it. I was like, “Does anybody want to share a pomegranate with me?” Jamie stepped forth. Even with his pristine white fencing outfit, he cut into this pomegranate. That was it. We met in 1992.

You took over Artisan Creative, and you have been running that for how long because I know now you have some other interests on top of that.

Live for other people, especially those who can't live anymore. Click To Tweet

I have been running the business now since 2012. I’m passionate about it. My why shows up there every day. In the recruitment space, if you cannot establish trust between both hiring managers, specifically also with candidates, it takes a lot of trust for someone to leave a job and trust you that what you are presenting to them is a better opportunity for them. I see that come into play daily. Trust shows up in my everyday interactions.

I have been running Artisan for several years. I have a great team. I’m still involved, hands-on, day-to-day but I’m also passionate about a lot of other things. I’m passionate about facilitation, bringing people together, and creating a space so they can have a trusted conversation with each other. I’m active on that side. As you mentioned, a few years ago, I embarked finally on using my English Literature degree on this journey towards hope because of some personal tragedies that had happened in my life. I knew I had to tell the story.

You wrote a book called the Butterfly Years. What is the book about? Who is the book for?

The book is about my journey through grief. I lost my stepmother in January 2011, my father in February 2011, and my mother in April 2011. In 2013, I lost my cousin, Malise, the same cousin who lived with me for years. We went to high school together. I lost her as well as my uncle. That was compounded by the loss of my stepdad several years after that. For a four-year period, it was a pretty dark time.

This journey of grief was overwhelming for me. I was not sure how to navigate it. At the same time, as I was going through grief, life and love were around me. I was in this space of this duality of love and loss, death and life, and all of that. I had a hard time coming to grasp it. Once I did, I thought it was important to share that with other people. That is what I needed to get this story out. Story sharing was cathartic to put it out there. My goal was to be able to help others who were going through what I was going through, what I had gone through, and what I had learned.

The story initially was not intended to be a memoir. It became one. I can only assume that some people up there wanted to have their story told. The journal was intended to be the only thing I was ever going to create. I wanted a self-help manual for other people to navigate this journey. My story needed to come out first, and it did.

The reason that it took three years for me to write this teeny tiny little book was going back to trust. I needed to make sure that I honored the legacy of my parents. The book is specifically about my mom and my relationship with her but other people and their stories are in there, too. I was not trusting myself that I was telling her story in the right way.

I had several drafts that I crumbled papers, threw it out, rewrote, and cried through the whole thing as I wrote it because it was important to make sure that I was doing this properly. It was honoring and trusting the relationship I had with her, not just in life but in death. I knew her story was going to continue by writing about her, and it had to be done the right way.

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust
WHY Of Trust: Create a space where people can trust they’ll be safe without judgment.


What is grief?

Grief is a different thing for different people. My biggest lesson here is that there isn’t one way to grieve, to experience loss. What it was for me was a mixture of emotions. For some reason, I had read about grief and going through grief. I thought it was this linear thing that you went through anger, denial, and this and that. It was not that. It was this big ball of a mess of emotions that went back and forth between sadness and happiness.

Talk about self-judgment, trust, and self-trust. When I had a moment of respite, I would laugh at what was going on. I did it with guilt, and I was not trusting that I was doing this the right way. I kept questioning myself, “Am I honoring properly? Should I be grieving more? If I laugh, is it the wrong thing?” What grief is whatever anyone feels that it is for them. For someone, it has an external expression, and for others, it is an internal journey that they go through. Mine was a mishmash of everything.

What happened to you? What was the turning point? What was the learning point of figuring out how to handle your grief?

It was simultaneous. At the same time that death happened, life was happening around me. I had a hard time recognizing what was going on. Driving from the hospital to my stepdad’s house, this was April 2011. My mom passed away on April 17th, 2011. They were looking out the windows as we were driving. I pushed the button to lower down the window, and looking out the window was beautiful.

I had not seen flowers that vibrant ever. I had not seen grass that green ever. Something had happened to me. It feels like I woke up. While I was distraught, I was also recognizing that something was happening. The sun did come out the next day, which I was not expecting for it to come out. The loss, grief, and learning to live with it happened simultaneously, even though I did not see it at the time.

It took a few years to recognize that but that juxtaposition of love and loss, life and death, was powerful from the first moment. The colors were vibrant. The smells were too much. My taste buds were alive. It was a hard thing to describe. At the time, I was like, “I had never tasted this before because every sense was heightened.” This is my personal belief. I believe that I was living for other people because they could not live anymore. I think everything had come to me. They trusted me with living life for them.

Why do you think you had that revelation? Why do you think that happened to you?

Be part of a community that appreciates you. Click To Tweet

If I could pinpoint what happened, I would have another book in me to be able to share that with others. I do not know what happened. All I can think about is at the moment when I watched death happen when I witnessed my mom take her last breath. For the first time, I realized how precious life was and that this was my opportunity to continue living and live it as I had never lived it before. I took over Artisan that same year, within a few months of the loss happening. The switch was turned on, and I was like, “I’m going to say yes to everything. I’m going to take life by the horns and go for it.” My only explanation is that witnessing death somehow sparked life within me.

What was the turning point that you had from high school to college, from the scared Katty to the outgoing, creative Katty? What was that moment that allowed you to switch?

It was having a belonging and a community that had acceptance. With that acceptance came the realization that I could trust myself and others. A big piece of it is in high school, I did not trust others either, but in college, I could. Everyone was from somewhere else. We were all starting at the same footing. Whereas in high school, I entered the middle of this tumultuous period that was happening in the world. In college, we all started the journey together but having this acceptance and being in the community, accepted and allowed me to trust myself.

You have all the challenges with the family members passing. It seems like you were able to start anew again.

That goes back to the community. As you know, I’m very involved with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, EO. I had several opportunities through my volunteer work with EO to share my story and be part of a community that appreciated hearing it. I have other people come up to me and say, “No one has talked about grief like this before. Thank you.” To be able to have that and realize that we do not talk about death. No one wants to talk but it is the reality for all of us. Can we create a trusted and safe space to be able to talk about death and not feel that we are being judged? Talk about grief and not feel that we need to be rushed to get over it because we are all going to go through it on our own terms and pace.

In a certain way, all the challenges you went through and the death of your family members ended up being positive. However that happened, it was flipped from grief to life.

I read a proverb, which was the beginning of the journey towards hope. It said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” That was a lifeline that I held onto it. During those darkest days, I would say, “I’m going to come out of this. This is darkness. This is a chrysalis. I’m going to come out of it and be a butterfly. I’m going take wing.” There were many days that I doubted that but that put one step in front of the next, and that is what has got me through.

When you are done with grief, is it over, is it still lingering, is it still pop up every now and then? How does that work?

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust
WHY Of Trust: A trigger is just a stimulus; how we behave towards it is on us.


It pops up all the time. I do not think it is over. There was a time that I thought maybe one would heal from it but I have realized that is not the case. We learned to accept and live with it but it is there. A smell, picture or a memory triggers it all the time. At the strangest of times, it comes up. It is a beautiful thing. I do not mind it coming up. I don’t want to ever forget. It is a reminder for me, and that is a good thing.

From there, you and Jamie have started to work with couples in the EO organization. What is your focus on your couple’s work?

I spend quite a bit of time on communication on triggers. My secret sauce or power is to create a safe environment for people to have conversations. Trust as the dominant force is there. If I can create a space where people can trust that they will be safe and share whatever they want to share without judgment, I have done my job. That is what Jamie and I spend our time with.

Jamie speaks about the why, the communication between couples, and how important that is. A lot of what we do is also experience sharing because knowing what our whys are has been a huge transformation in our relationship. Back in the day, before we knew what we know now, Jamie would get a little annoyed with me, and he thought I would be dwelling on things.

“I dwell on possibilities,” on my walls is the favorite quote for me. He had a hard time recognizing why. It took me a while to get over things, the spoken word with someone, not necessarily with him but with someone or someone who did not do what they said they were going to do or me staying up until 2:00 in the morning because I had told someone I was going to do something for them. He couldn’t understand why I was taking as much time or not getting over it as quickly as he was.

When we went through our why discovery and recognized that creating relationships based on trust is what is my driving force, and then he understood. Since then, he has never once asked me, “Why are you still dwelling on this? Why are you working until 2:00 in the morning?” He knows that it is coming from a place where I have to do it.

I can imagine that you have taught him to create a safe space because he does that as well, at least, maybe not within his marriage because sometimes that can be harder for other people that know Jamie. That is what people say about him.

He does it naturally and because his why is to contribute. He does it from that point of view. He is creating a safe space because he is contributing to the greater good so people can have conversations with each other. Our end goal ends up being the same. How we go about it is different.

Ask questions from a curiosity standpoint. Click To Tweet

Do you work in larger groups? Is it five couples? What size groups do you work with, and what do you do with them? What do you call the workshops that you and Jamie do?

The couple sizes differ at anywhere from ten couples to larger. We have done it for about eight couples. Probably it is the smallest group that we have done it. We are not couples counselors. It is not a one-to-one thing with couples. What we do is give them the tools so they can communicate and talk about things that maybe they do not naturally talk about.

We are facilitating conversations and asking questions from a curiosity standpoint, so they can feel comfortable to be able to answer that with each other. Jamie does the discovering their whys with them, creating a space so they can have a conversation around that. We utilize some of the tools. I talk about triggers and how couples get triggered. Getting triggered is not a bad thing. It is how we behave after we are triggered. That is the bad thing.

A trigger could be a positive thing. It is part of some learning that I have had with Marshall Goldsmith about triggers and a variety of other things about listening. We talk a lot about listening and laugh about it too because we experience sharing. I’m not sharing anything with anyone that I have not gone through myself. There is a lot of humor in that.

Let’s talk about triggers because that is an interesting thing for me. I was a dentist for so long, and people would get triggered by the dentist. They would walk into the dental office, and they would get triggered by a smell, a look or whatever. Do you overcome a trigger? Do you roll with it? What is your advice for people dealing with triggers? It’s because we all are.

We all get triggered all the time. The first thing would be, and this is what I learned from Marshall Goldsmith’s teachings is, a trigger is a trigger. It is a stimulus. How we behave towards it is on us. If we decide and choose to change our behavior, what are the steps we can take? An example of that is my mom passed away from lung cancer. She smoked until the very end. The last week, when she was in the hospital, was the only time she did not smoke.

Every time I would walk into her house and smell the cigarette smoke, I would get triggered. In the beginning, I would get into an argument with her, “Why are you smoking? It is not good for you. Don’t you know you are sick?” She knows she is sick. I realized one day that her time was limited. If every interaction with her is going to be a negative interaction, that is the last thing I want.

I was still triggered by the cigarette smoke but what I learned to do was to change my behavior. I would walk into the house. I would smell the cigarette smoke. I would wait a few minutes outside the door before I went into her bedroom. I would wait until she was done with the cigarette and walk in. She was not going to change smoking. The trigger was going to be the trigger but the only thing I could control was my behavior.

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of Trust
WHY Of Trust: Trust yourself.


That is the only thing all of us can have any say in how we react to things, not the external stimulus. The external stimulus is going to be there. My brother is also a smoker. He and she would sit around together and have the best conversations because they were having a smoke together. That same stimulus, as negative as it was for me, was not a negative stimulus for him. Anything else was positive because they would sit around, have a chat, a cup of tea, and a cigarette together.

My perception of a trigger is probably inaccurate. What I have heard when people say, “I’m triggered,” gives me freedom and reign to blow up or react any way I want to react because I have been triggered. It is like my free pass to do whatever the heck I want to do because I have been triggered. The way you said it was different. Your trigger is a stimulus that causes a reaction but you can choose what that reaction is.

Driving is a trigger for me. I have paid attention to this. The environment clearly makes a difference. If I’m hot, late, traffic, it puts me in a bad mood. I’m triggered negatively. If I’m not late, if the AC is on, and I’m not hot, temperature and punctuality are triggers for me because of the trust thing. If I was late and it was not the right way either, I did not do what I said I was going to do. That is where it shows up for me. If I’m not late and have all the time in the world, you could put me in traffic, and I’m not triggered at all. I’m listening to music or an audiobook. All is good. I’m enjoying the extra time that I have but the traffic is the stimulus.

Last question for you, Katty. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given or what is the best piece of advice you have ever given to somebody?

Trust yourself because it took me many years to get there and realize that it is similar to triggers. All the tools are within me. I just had to trust myself to be able to rely on those tools. I have sharpened those tools over the years.

Katty, if somebody is reading this and they say, “I would love to connect with you. I would love to have you come work with our group or connect with you about Artisan,” what would be the best way for them to connect with you?

I’m on LinkedIn. You will find me, @KattyDouraghy., you can connect with me directly at All my facilitation work is on there. You can connect with me there or at

Thank you so much for being on the show. I have been looking forward to this since I saw you. For the readers, Katty is in LA now, but she is about to move as soon as the house gets built to Albuquerque. We are going to be neighbors soon. I’m looking forward to that.

Me too, Gary. Thank you for having me.

Take care.

It is time for our new segment, Guess the Why. For this one, we are going to use Will Smith. Will Smith went on stage and slapped Chris Rock because he said something derogatory or made fun of Will Smith’s wife and about her not having any hair. He called her GI Jane, and he did not like it. He went on stage and slapped Chris Rock. Some people think that it was the right thing, and some people think it was the wrong thing to do but what do you think will Smith’s why is?

If I had to guess, I would guess that his why is trust. I have heard Will Smith talk and listened to some interviews with him. He talks a lot about trusting yourself, focusing on yourself first, and being the person you can trust. I’m sure that Chris Rock talking about his wife broke their bond and trust because they were friends, and it was not okay. It was not appropriate for him to do that from Will Smith’s perspective, especially through what she has been suffering.

My guess is trust. What do you think? If you can, tell us what you think. I want to thank you for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at, with the code PODCAST50. You can get it for 50% off. If you love the show, please do not forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating. Thank you so much, and have a great week.


 Important Links


About Katty Douraghy

BYW S4 23 Katty | WHY Of TrustKatty is president of Artisan Creative, a staffing and recruitment agency focusing on digital, creative, and marketing talent, and founder of Inspiring Hiring, an online resume, and job posting portal. Katty is also a team and retreat facilitator working closely with entrepreneurs to become better versions of themselves. Katty is the podcast host for the artisan podcast, sharing stories of creativity and inspiration,
Katty is also the author of The Butterfly Years, sharing the lessons learned during a long period of grief and mourning that led to a path towards hope. Her next project, The Butterfly Years Journal, a daily journal from grief to growth will be out in Nov 2021.
Katty believes we all have a story to share and that our greatest journey towards hope and healing is through self-reflection and self-discovery.

John Livesay On Clarification: How To Win By Storytelling


For WHY on Clarify, it’s important for people to “get” what you’re saying. If clarification is your WHY, you’ll love to win by storytelling. Dr. Gary Sanchez welcomes John Livesay, aka “The Pitch Whisperer.” John is a sales keynote speaker, showing companies’ sales teams how to win more business using stories. A great story should be clear, concise, and compelling. The goal is to make it exciting enough that your readers don’t want to put it down. If you want to know more about effective storytelling, tune in!

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here



John Livesay On Clarification: How To Win By Storytelling

We’re going to be talking about the why of clarify, to clarify or make crystal clear. If this is your why, then you seek to be fully understood at all times. Everything has to be crystal clear. It is important for you to know that people get what you’re saying, and you will use numerous methods to get a point across and make sure it’s clear.

You will use analogies and metaphors to share your views in an interesting and unique manner. You feel successful when you know that, with confidence, your message has been fully understood and received. You want to reach this place of clarity and understanding before decisions are made, and people move forward with a plan of action.

I’ve got a great guest for you. I have had him on before, but a lot has changed since then. I wanted to have him on again. His name is John Livesay, also known as, The Pitch Whisper. He is a sales keynote speaker where he shows companies’ sales teams how to turn mundane case studies into compelling case stories so they win more new business.

From John’s award-winning career at Conde Nast, he shares the lessons he learned that turned sales teams into revenue rockstars. His TEDx Talk, Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life!, has over 1 million views. His new book, The Sale Is in the Tale, is a business fable set in Austin, Texas. It’s about a sales representative whose old ways of selling are not working anymore.

The reader accompanies that rep on his journey and learns how to use storytelling and strengthen their soft skills to improve their professional and personal relationships. He is also the host of The Successful Pitch Podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries. These interviews make him a sales keynote speaker with fresh and relevant content. John, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me back, Gary.

It’s going to be fun. What I want to do is let’s jump into your book. I want to hear about your book because it’s a fable. I also have a big interest in how you wrote a fable. Let’s talk about the fable and then let’s talk about how you wrote the fable.

It’s a story about storytelling and I have been impressed with a lot of other fables in the past all the way back to Who Moved My Cheese?, to The Go Giver and Getting Naked, but no one’s written a fable from the perspective of a salesperson being the hero or the main character. I thought, “It would be very entertaining hopefully to say what that feels like to be in those situations.”

I looked and fictionalized some of the things that had happened to me in my career and some of the things I wished had happened to me, like meeting people that could help me and learn how to be better storytellers sooner. That process was quite fascinating and surprisingly fun because instead of telling people, I wanted to show them in the story and they’re learning while they’re engaged in the story. As with any good story, if you care about the characters, you can’t wait to see what happens next. A little bit of drama and suspense, making that all come to life with them at the end having their methodologies available to use what you learned was the whole intent.

BYW S4 22 | Win By Storytelling
The Sale Is In The Tale

Take us into the story without telling us too much. Who’s the main character? What’s going on with them and what happens here?

The guy’s name is Ben. He’s in his early 30s, working at a medical tech sales company here in Austin, where I live. I sprinkled in some real-life locations. He’s hit a sales slump. He doesn’t get the promotion he was supposed to get because he lost a big sale. He doesn’t know why the old way of selling of memorizing a bunch of facts and figures is no longer working.

He gets a mentor in the form of a coworker who is a tech expert, who watches a lot of sales presentations, and she sees that the people who are winning are the ones that are telling stories. He’s a little skeptical at first. He then starts to try it out. Anything you try out, you don’t become an expert at whether it’s riding a bike, you need the training wheels on it at first, or driving a stick shift for the first time, it’s a little jerky.

We go through some of those bumps along the way, and then he starts to get more traction. There are some nice outcomes at the end that he has some choices that he didn’t have. He goes from feeling like, “I could get fired. I didn’t go to get promoted,” to, “I’ve got places wanting me inside and outside the company,” all through becoming more comfortable with storytelling.

Was that your story?

In a way, yes. I fictionalized some of it. There’s a situation in the first chapter or opening of any story that is going to grab you. It’s being on a plane with a boss who doesn’t like you, and everything that could possibly go wrong on a sales call, and then having to be on that plane ride back with the boss who didn’t like you to begin with. That part happened to me. It’s fictionalized. If you’ve been in business at all, you all had a boss that you didn’t get along with at some point in your career. Some of that definitely is true.

For the people that have not read the first time I had you on, tell them a little bit more about you, your story, how you got into storytelling, why it became important to you, why you switched directions in your career to be about storytelling and teach others to do this.

I first started my career selling multimillion-dollar mainframe computers in the tech industry. That was competing against IBM. It was all I thought were going to be numbers that were so logical people would buy based on speeds and things. It turns out it was an emotional buy that people had said, “Your equipment might be faster, even less expensive, and more reliable, but we’re still not going to buy it because if it breaks, IBM is going to point the finger at you,” and say, “It’s our fault for bringing you in, and we’ll get fired.”

Back then, it broke a lot. It was fear, uncertainty, and doubt that they were using to keep people from leaving. I thought, “There’s a lot of emotion to this sale process like in advertising,” which I majored in that I hadn’t thought was going to appeal in this level. I went and worked for an ad agency in Los Angeles, creating commercials for movies coming out on home video.

The people who are winning are the ones that are telling stories. Click To Tweet

I learned we could reposition the movie if it hadn’t done well theatrically and have it edited in a different way that made people want to rent it. That’s where I honed my storytelling skills. The third career I had was selling media or advertising for publications. Lexus would say, “We looked at 50 magazines. We’ve narrowed it down to 10. You’re each coming in for 30 minutes. Don’t talk about numbers. We’ve already analyzed that. We’re going to pick three.”

Some of the reps were like a deer in headlights. They’re like, “Don’t talk about numbers.” “What I don’t know if it’s regulation or the income of my readers, what I’m going to talk about?” I realized from my advertising agency background, whoever tells the best story of what the marketing idea is going to be is what’s going to win this sale. That led to a long fifteen-year career with some bumps along the way. I got laid off in 2008.

I had to reinvent myself. I learned how to sell digital, then got rehired back, won salesperson of the year, and that became the premise of the TED Talk of we all have to learn to be the lifeguard over our own life. No one’s going to come and rescue us like in a hurricane when you don’t evacuate. Now, I have a passion for helping people tell stories because it makes you feel much less pushy, and you become memorable. Whoever tells the best story, no matter what you’re selling, is the one that gets the sale.

What makes up a great story?

A great story should be three things. It should be clear, concise, and compelling. Let’s look at each one of those. If it’s not clear and you use a bunch of acronyms and confuse people, they’re never going to say they’re confused. They’re going to say, “No thanks.” Concise. Here’s the secret of why it needs to be concise. It’s so that someone can remember it. The meeting after the meeting that nobody ever thinks about.

If you put your empathy hat on of the buyers, they hear three different pitches from three different people. They then have a meeting after the meeting, and they go, “What do you all think?” “They all sound the same. We should buy the cheapest.” If you’re the one that told a story as concise enough for them to remember and retell, they become your brand ambassador. Finally, compelling. We buy emotionally, not logically. When you use words like struggle or overwhelmed to describe the pain point of someone, they feel something. When you tug at heartstrings, people open the purse strings.

Would you have an example of that, that we can feel?

I was working with a healthcare medical company. They were selling 4k resolution monitors for the doctors to use in a hospital. I’m talking about pixels and all the features of it. They tell this story. Dr. Peterson at a rural hospital in Minnesota, not known for cutting edge technology, decided to test this resolution monitor. Blake, the salesperson, was in the operating room in case there were any questions. In this particular surgery, the patient was overweight, which caused the surgery to be a little riskier, and because of that, the doctor hit a bleeder.

There was an audible gasp in the operating room because, to the naked eye, it was a sea of red. The doctor calmly looked up at the resolution monitor, and the subtle colors in red between oxygenated blood and non-oxygenated blood allowed him to find the source of the bleeder quickly and save the patient’s life. Turn to the rep and said, “We don’t always need a monitor like this, but when we need one, we need one.” That rep tells that story to another doctor who sees themselves in the story and says, “I don’t want to be caught in that situation without something to help back me up. I want that monitor too.” It’s a whole different way of selling the monitor versus describing the pixels.

BYW S4 22 | Win By Storytelling
Win By Storytelling: A great story should be three things: clear, concise, and compelling.


I remember, and I’ll continue to remember, “When you need one, you’ll need one.”

That’s the secret of telling a good story dialogue in the present tense so that you feel like you’re eavesdropping in on the story. You tell that story as if the doctor is having the conversation at the moment as opposed to saying, “The doctors did say to me this.” Say it as if it’s happening now.

You can use storytelling in almost anything, in selling yourself, books, products, anything.

I was on television being interviewed on how to use storytelling to ask for a raise. You paint a picture, tell a story of what you did as opposed to listing off a bunch of achievements. It’s much more memorable because our brains are wired to remember stories versus numbers. One of the things I have in my book is how it can help you in your personal life.

This happened to a client of mine. He said, “My eight-year-old daughter had said to me, ‘Daddy, tell me a bedtime story,’ and he goes, ‘I’ll read to you.’ ‘No, don’t read a book. Tell me one.’” He goes, “For a moment, I panicked, and then I remembered you had taught me the four steps to telling a story for business, so I used that structure to make up a story, and it went well.”

When you decided to write The Sale Is in The Tale, why did you pick a parable versus a book with a bunch of stories?

I had done a book with a bunch of stories before called Better Selling Through Storytelling. I thought, “Let’s take the reader on a journey,” because when you tell a story that someone sees themselves in, they want to go on the journey with you. The example of the 4k monitor, other doctors see themselves in that doctor’s situation. “That could have been me.” I thought, “If I have a whole story that people are cheering for the hero and seeing some of the frustrations and the wincing at familiar, ‘I had a boss like that,’” situations will make it a more of an emotional connection versus multiple stories.

I’m writing notes because every time we talk, I take a bunch of notes. I wrote, “That could have been me.” That’s an important part of all stories.

When you go see a wonderful movie, you’re seeing yourself as the superhero. That’s why kids love superheroes. They want to wear the costume for Halloween, “Maybe if I put on the cape, I’ll have a superpower and I won’t be my insecure self anymore.” The same thing when there are some challenges. Every good story has to have some problem and the stakes have to be somewhat high for us to care about what’s going on in the story.

How do you take somebody through figuring out their story? They contact you and say, “John, I got to be able to sell my new book,” or whatever it is, how do you take them through creating their story? Do you have a series of questions or what do you do?

When you have a passion for something, tell a story about why you're so passionate about what you're doing. Click To Tweet

There are three stories everybody needs. The first one is your own personal story of origin. “How did you get here?” I know you’ve got this wonderful story of the origin of being a successful dentist and then discovering the WHY Institute. We need to know that. We need to know that your background is based on something that worked and had this a-ha epiphany of discovering it, working here, and applying it to other places. If you’re an architect or a financial advisor, we need to know that you loved buildings from a child, or you’ve always been good at numbers since you were a kid, it’s not something you fell into and don’t care about. Why? It’s because people buy your energy.

When you have a passion for something, and you tell a story about why you’re so passionate about what you’re doing, that’s connecting the dots. Even if you work for yourself, you need a company story. “Here’s how we came up with the name. This is why we call it, Your Why Operating System because people understand an operating system for a phone or a computer. We want them to think of themselves as being programmed and realize what comes out is what’s being put in. That’s why we called it that.”

“We want to tell a story of how we responded to a pandemic and showed our values and action by volunteering.” “Suddenly, all of our employees were working from home, and their kids weren’t going to school. We said at the first Zoom meeting, ‘You can bring your kid to the Zoom call,’ to show we needed to have some empathy for what was going on as opposed to making sure your kids weren’t in the room. ‘Bring your kids to Zoom,’ instead of bringing your kids at work.”

The third is the real key, and that’s a traditional case study, which has been around for decades, and it’s very dry, typically a bunch of numbers. We turned that into a case story, which is what I gave that example of the 4k monitor. Instead of pixels, it became a case story. There’s actual structure to that story, and you can learn how to do it. The good news is you don’t have to be a gifted storyteller, like a gifted athlete or a singer. Even if you are a good storyteller, I help you refine it to get to the place where people see themselves in the story.

I’ll learn that those three different types of stories within the fable.

There’s a template at the back for everyone to start practicing the steps and filling them in.

I want to write a fable. Before we talked, I was speaking with the editor to put some final things on the book. For my next book, I want to write a fable. How did you learn to write a fable?

I read as many business fables as I could get my hands on. Sometimes using the structure of a fable is not good if you’re going to get stuck at, “Now, they’re in a meeting,” and then the meeting goes on for two chapters, and it’s regurgitating a bunch of information, and you don’t care about the characters. There’s somebody like Patrick Lencioni who wrote getting naked where I was listening to the Audible, and I couldn’t wait to hear what happened, even though I was already at my destination. I thought, “That’s a good story when I care enough to see what’s going to happen next.”

BYW S4 22 | Win By Storytelling
Better Selling Through Storytelling: The Essential Roadmap to Becoming a Revenue Rockstar

I listed all my characters. There’s a main character, and then they’re supporting characters that each need a name. You’re a very visual person. If you have your core character, your hero in the center, and then spikes like a bicycle coming off, “This is his sister.” The sister has a husband and a kid. That is not as core to Ben’s story, except for that one part, but then we need to have some sense of that relationship. His best friend is another, then his boss, and all these other things, and then a client that comes in.

I remember working with the editor, and I said, “I want this woman, who’s his boss, who gets the promotion that he doesn’t get to be more like, not so much Katie Couric and more like Diane Sawyer.” I started thinking of those because we know what that is. One’s got gravitas, one’s known for morning TV, lightness.

Having those subtle descriptions of these people’s personalities totally dictates what they’re going to say in the dialogue. Are they going to be chipper and happy, “Welcome everybody to the sales meeting?” That’s a Katie Couric version of that. Are they going to be more like Diane Sawyer, “Hello, everyone, let’s get to business?” What I imagine Diane Sawyer like at a meeting. Hopefully, that’s helpful for you.

Step one was figuring out the story, what you wanted to do, and the meaning of the story. Step two is listing your characters and then figuring out what you want the personality or this character is like someone you know, so you can stick them in that place. You’d know what kinds of things they might say, how they might handle stress, pressure, or whatever.

I recorded my book on Audible. That was an interesting challenge because there were multiple characters, and I had to subtly change my voice, so the listeners would know who was speaking. There’s an eight-year-old in there. That was a little challenging, but it was fun too.

How many characters are in your book?

There are about seven main characters and maybe another ten secondary characters.

How long did it take you to write the fable?

It was about a year process. I had the concept. For me, the challenge was who’s going to be the mentor that makes sense organically because every hero’s journey needs a mentor. There’s a book called The Energy Bus. That guy’s car broke down for two weeks, and the mentor in that was the bus driver. I needed to figure out what was going to happen or who it was going to be. I tried a different couple of ideas, and it’s not working. I had an ending that wasn’t working. I had to rethink that. It’s not like you go, “I got an idea.” As a sales keynote speaker, you keep refining it. When something gels together, it’s usually not your first effort.

Be resilient and get back up after life knocks you down. Click To Tweet

That was good to know for the audience and for me because not working and rewrite is okay. It’s not going to come out of your pen onto paper perfect the first time. Not even close.

No. You need to keep digging deeper. “Is this a cliché thing? I don’t want to say anything to the cliché. I want to come up with something that’s ever been done before.” One of the things that are rewarding as an author and as a speaker is when you say something or write something that people start using right away. In this case, I realized that all of us, whether we’re in sales or not, and my premise is that everyone is in sales, will get rejected, frustrated, and disappointed. “How do we get out of that? Do we stay stuck in it?”

I created this thing called the 555 Method, where you zoom out like you’re the movie director of your own life, and you say, “Will this bother me in five minutes? Somebody cut me off in traffic. Will it bother me in five hours from now?” Hopefully, not. “How about five days from now? If I keep talking about it, then yes.” It’s our ability to be resilient and get back up after life knocks us down.

When something hard happened, like when my father died, I was so sad. I wish I’d had this tool because I thought, “If I could go and see five weeks, five months, or five years from now,” I’d say, “You’re going to still miss him, but you promise you will not be this sad five years from now.” I love hearing from people going, “Something happened, I 555 it, and I’d let it go much faster than I ever would have before. Thank you.” That’s why we do what we do.

Is the 555 is part of the fable?


When is the John Livesay Fable Course coming out?

I’ve seen a course on storytelling that incorporates a lot of it already. As with anything, things keep evolving, and there are new tools and ideas. A lot of the current course involves some group coaching with me, where I add all the new things that I’ve learned from the fable into that.

When is the John Livesay How to Write a Fable Course coming out?

BYW S4 22 | Win By Storytelling
Win By Storytelling: We remember things that have a great opening and closing.


I don’t know that I’m an expert on that.

You’ve done it once because you’re way farther ahead than I am, and our readers would love to write a fable. Fables stick with you longer.

Yes, stories in general. It goes to different parts of our brain.

Is it a different part of the brain that has a better memory, or how does that work?

We remember things that have a great opening and a great closing. As a storytelling keynote speaker, you need to have that. That’s why movies live and die by a great opening and a great closing, and maybe something in the middle of the movie, but the majority of what you remember is a great opening that grabbed you, like the James Bond movies or this amazing closing where you didn’t think they were going to ever go together or you had me at hello or whatever that is.

That concept of a story being more memorable than a fact or a figure, it’s all about our brain going, “I felt something with that, and I’m tying that feeling to a memory,” as opposed to 30% faster. “Do I need to remember that? Is it going to save my life? Did I feel anything about that?” No, it’s like, “That’s nice to have. I’ll make more money or whatever.” It’s not nearly as memorable as a story that lands with you. If you see yourself in that story, then it’s immersed in your whole DNA.

You want to create a story that the majority of people will remember. Is that the thinking? Is it, “I want this story to hit the most amount of people, or do I want this story to connect with my ideal client?” What is the thinking that goes on when you decide which story to tell?

There are two things. I heard Elizabeth Gilbert interviewed about Eat, Pray, Love. She said, “I wrote that book for my best friend who could not go on the trip with me.” She had one person in mind, but because it was so universal in its appeal, hundreds of people could relate to that journey. When you tell a story, and you want to think of your brain, like a jukebox or a playlist, depending on your age, instead of songs coming out, different stories come out.

The ideal scenario is, “I have 5 to 10 stories in my head and if I’m talking to you as a former dentist, and I have a story about somebody else who used to be a dentist, and now as an entrepreneur, that’s the perfect story to tell you to you.” That’s what makes that customized. If you tell that story to someone that they see themselves in, and there are a lot of similarities, then they’re involved. We can’t have the same story to talk to everybody who’s a potential buyer. We need multiple stories for the different types of avatars that are out there.

The whole goal of storytelling is to make it compelling enough that your readers don't want to put it down. Click To Tweet

Do you have a list of stories that you know or tell? How many stories do you have?

I have about 40.

I’m trying to walk our readers through how they might go about becoming better storytellers. First, you got to have the story. You got to have your menu of stories.

You need a structure of what makes a good story, and then you’ve got one good one, and you’re like, “Now, I’ve got one that I know works, and why it works. I can duplicate that system.” I know you’re the master at scaling something once it’s proven. Once you understand the four steps to a great story, you go, “I’ve got one.” Don’t overwhelm yourself, and try to get 40. Just say, “I have three types of buyers that buy 80% of what I’m selling.”

I was working with a healthcare company in San Antonio. They offer dementia and assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s. They said, “We have three kinds of people that come to us. Somebody’s moving from out of state. Someone who has been living with an adult child and the adult child can’t take care of them anymore or someone who is at a different facility, and it wasn’t working out, and they need a new place.” Now, we know three different scenarios, and you can have three different stories ready to go that will cover you 80% of the time.

You almost have a plug-and-play type thing. “I know the scenario and story. Let’s go.”

You start telling the story. You remind me of another client. His name is Larry. They’re off and running.

Does every story have a memorable moment and saying? How do you create that?

The four parts of it are the exposition, who, what, where, when, so you paint the picture to pull them in, describing the problem in detail, the solution, and the secret is the resolution. Imagine if The Wizard of Oz stopped when Dorothy got in the balloon to go back to the end. No, there’s that scene where she’s at home. There’s no place like home. You were there and all this appreciation stuff. When you have a story that hits all four of those things, you know you’ve got a good structure going. The memorable parts come when you get sophisticated using Neuro-Linguistic Programming. If I say to you, “The car door slammed,” how do you experience that?

BYW S4 22 | Win By Storytelling
Win By Storytelling: We need multiple stories for the different types of avatars out there.


The last time, I felt somebody slam the car door.

Did you hear, feel, or see it?

I heard it.

From Neuro-Linguistic Programming, you’re an audio person. That means you say things like, “Does that ring a bell?” Your car’s sound system is probably upgraded. Things like that are important to you. Somebody else might be kinesthetic in feeling. They feel the car door slam. They talk about, “My gut doesn’t tell me this is the right thing to do.” They’ll say, “Does this feel like something you want to do?”

“Does that sound like the journey you’d like to go down?” That’s an auditory question. If you’re visual, like I am, you usually love photography. You say, “Do you see how the future could be together?” You speak in those terms. As a salesperson or communicator, it’s our job to try and hit all three. Other people can shift, but if you hit all three when you’re communicating, people don’t have to shift from their preference of how they experience the world.

Back to this, Alzheimer’s dementia situation. They said, “A patient came in, and she was so depressed. She had her head on the table.” I said, “That’s the beginning of a good story. Let’s amplify it.” We gave her a name and described it. “When Pat, who was 75, came to us six months ago, she was so depressed that we would hear a slight thud as her head hit the table. Imagine how depressed Pat had to feel to not even to want to look up and see what was going on around her.”

We’ve pulled all three of those sensations into a short little description of that person in the exposition. Now, we’re often running about what they did to help Pat feel better. That slight thud, as opposed to the visual of the head on the table, makes all the difference in the world of how you experience the story.

Let’s go back to your fable. What does the rhythm or graph look like in a fable? Is it an up and down five times or is it one up and down? What does that look like?

I was inspired by what’s known in the startup world as the trough of despair that’s mirrored in the hero’s journey. You get all excited, you’ve got this new idea for something, hit some obstacles, get depressed, and feel like, “No one else has ever been like this. What am I going to do? Am I going to reinvent myself? What’s going on?” You need some mentor or sherpa to come and get you out of that funk. It’s not a linear line out that you still have challenges and things, but you’re on your way up out of that trough of despair.

Sometimes in storytelling, you start at the trough of despair instead of giving a lot of exposition upfront. Click To Tweet

Sometimes people still get off the train at that place.

Sometimes in storytelling, you start at the trough of despair as opposed to giving a lot of exposition upfront. I tried to make mine like a James Bond movie where you’re in action right away. You’re like, “This poor guy. It’s going to be this horrible experience. He got a bad boss. He lost a sale. What’s going to happen to him?” As the story goes on and you start to hear more about his past and how he got there. That was a creative choice I made.

How many pages is the fable?

It’s three hours to listen to. It’s not long. I purposely made it like that. It is 160 pages.

You could read it in a day.

A couple of hours. That’s the whole goal. It’s compelling enough that you don’t want to put it down.

If people are reading and they’re saying, “I need to get ahold of John. I want to work with him. I want to learn to tell a better story. I want to sell the stories. I want to be a better storyteller. I want to get a fable. I got to connect with them,” what’s the best way for people to connect with you?

Go to my website, If you can’t remember my name or the book name, google The Pitch Whisperer, and all my content show up. I have a free gift for everybody, which is if you text the word PITCH to 66866. You enter your email in. I’ll send you a free chapter of the book, and that should be enough to entice you to want to read what happens next.

John, thank you so much for being here again. We got even deeper than we did last time. I’m glad we got to learn more about the fable and dive back into storytelling because I learned a ton that I don’t think we went through last time. Thank you for sharing all that.

My pleasure, Gary. It’s great being back. Thanks for having me.

I can’t wait to follow you.


Important Links


About John Livesay

BYW S4 22 | Win By StorytellingJohn Livesay, aka The Pitch Whisperer, is a sales keynote speaker where he shows companies’ sales teams how to turn mundane case studies into compelling case stories so they win more new business. From John’s award-winning career at Conde Nast, he shares the lessons he learned that turns sales teams into revenue rock stars. His TEDx talk: Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life has over 1,000,000 views.

Clients love working with John because of his ongoing support after his talk which includes implementing the storytelling skills from his best-selling book Better Selling Through Storytelling and online course “Revenue Rockstar Mastery.”

His new book, The Sale Is in the Tale, is a business fable set in Austin, TX, is about a sales representative whose old ways of selling are not working anymore. The reader accompanies the rep on his journey and learns how to use storytelling and strengthen their soft skills to improve their professional and personal relationships.

He is also the host of “The Successful Pitch” podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries. These interviews make him a sales keynote speaker with fresh and relevant content.


WHY Of Better Way With Robert Glazer: Why It Works And When It Doesn’t

BYW S4 21 | Better Way

No one starts as a successful entrepreneur, and the journey to the top isn’t always smooth. Here to share his experience is Robert Glazer, the founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners. Robert joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to share his career and business journey and how he grew his business by innovating the industry. Now, they are the largest agency globally in a specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. The two also dissect Robert’s WHY of Better Way and how it paved the way for his success while also discussing when it works against his favor and how he mitigates it. Tune in for an interesting discussion and gain business insight and honest advice to help accelerate your journey.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

WHY of Better Way with Robert Glazer: Why It Works and When It Doesn’t

We are going to be talking about the why of better way. If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator. You are constantly seeking better ways to do everything. You find yourself wanting to improve virtually anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvement with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased but never satisfied.” You are excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another, always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

I have got a great guest for you. You are going to love this. His name is Robert Glazer. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency, and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row.

He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward. He is the number one Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and international bestselling author of five books, Elevate, Friday Forward, How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace, Moving to Outcomes, and Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. Robert, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Gary.

I’m looking forward to this. This is going to be fun.

We are talking about the best why.

Let our audience get to know you a little bit. Where were you born? What were you like in high school? Take us back to that time frame.

I was born outside of Boston. I have a speech that I will give. When I gave that speech, I showed a lot of my report cards. My parents were moving out of the family house and brought them over. I went through them, and they were all on the scene. They were like, “He is capable but we can’t seem to motivate him.” I was very entrepreneurial in marketing or creative. None of that is typically rewarded in the normal education course. I was pretty bored and always told that I was underachieving. I know that has a direct impact on a lot of my why and other why.

It wasn’t until I’ve got to college that I’ve got through the standard core curriculum. I started realizing that I loved business and marketing. I liked learning. I was bored with everything that I was learning before. I was always tinkering with stuff. My mom would tell you. She would ask me to clean my room, and I would rearrange my entire room. I remember one time. I was 9 or 10 years old. I like playing electronics and thought, “I could take my battery-powered game. I could hook a plug up to it and run it.” That exploded in my hands when I did that.

Those were all the things outside the classroom. Those are maybe more now or maybe in a Montessori environment. Those were things more where it was like, “Color in the lines. Stop messing with that stuff and follow this stuff.” To this day, I ended up being diagnosed with ADD later on. I can’t pretend to be interested in something. It doesn’t work for me.

A student, B student or C student, what were you?

B student.

Off to college, did you have any idea what you wanted to do when you went to college?

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer because my dad was a lawyer. I liked the concept of it. I interned at a couple of law firms. I hated the experience and got exposed to the business. I was always running little business things. I remember I had this Now and Later. It was this candy that was super hot in our school. I was ten years old. I figured out how to take the train, buy and resell them for twice as much money. My grandmother found out about the operation. She was like, “You can shut it down or I will tell your mom.”

The things that I was doing that were entrepreneurial were negative in context. I realized that I loved business and marketing. My thinking outside of the box was like, “I’m not the guy you put in the box. I’m the guy you put to destroy the box.” It was interesting. I went abroad. I’ve got done with the core curriculum. I was getting Bs again. Once I started taking the classes I wanted, it didn’t matter how hard it was. I’ve got A’s in almost everything in my junior and senior years. My GPA was 3.0, and now that would be failing. Everyone is at 3.9. It was crazy for the first two years. It was at 3.9 in the second 2 years.

I’m not the guy you put in the box. I’m the guy that you put to destroy the box. Click To Tweet

What did you end up majoring in? Where did you go to college?

I went to Penn. Going abroad for me was a big transition point. I’m opening my mind and understanding that I love business and marketing. These are things that I can learn and get better at. This won’t be surprising to you. None of the majors I liked, so I applied to create my own major within the Individualized Major Department. It’s very on-brand. It was Business and Industrial Psychology. It allowed me to take the Business courses in Wharton with a lot of the Industrial Psychology people stuff. Running a professional organization now for over a decade has probably been the highest thing that I have used.

What was that moment when you realized it? I struggled with that myself. I went off to colleges in undeclared majors and kept that as long as I could. What was the moment that you knew, “Now, I know what I want to do?”

It was after I worked in a couple of those law firms. Honestly, I never like tests. I wasn’t good at the notion of having to study for the LSAT and more school. Also, I learn by experience. I learn more outside of the classroom. I thought about them like, “I don’t think I want to do that. I like this business, marketing, and people stuff.” That was the transition. I encourage everyone. We idolize some things like, “You should do them.” I worked in a law firm pretty terribly. One was okay. The other was terrible. I was like, “I don’t want to do this,” but it seemed fun from the outside.

I thought that was all negotiations and arguing with people. I was pretty good on my feet, and I didn’t even realize. My dad was a lawyer. He did Real Estate Law. He has never even seen a courtroom. Going abroad and being in another country, I was in Prague right after they were dealing with this restitution where they gave families back their businesses, and they didn’t know how to run them. We were doing some cool stuff like working with a brewery. I was like, “This stuff is fun. I love this.” You parachute into a situation. You don’t know what is going on. You’ve got to figure it out. That’s the stuff that makes people crazy but it’s the stuff that I like.

What was your first business? Did you start working for somebody?

I progressively worked for smaller and smaller firms until our firm was growing. The consulting firm I worked for abroad made me an offer, Arthur D Little. I went into strategy consulting for a couple of years. I worked at an incubator during the internet bubble and then a venture firm because I liked being around this company creation. I learned that early on. I liked these fast-growing companies. I was doing a lot of work for other people. I hadn’t figured out the angle I wanted to be around. Eventually, I worked for a startup. I came in outside the founding team.

I came in and made it better. I was like, “Why am I doing this for other people? I ended up finding myself in a very marginalized position helping founders make their businesses better.” I decided, “I would start a business and work with those businesses but I would own my business.” There are also bad cultures in a lot of these high-growth startups. I found a way to expose myself to that type of work but insulate myself from those cultures. That ended up being the better way culture aspect of it.

How do you feel about building something versus maintaining something?

I get bored in the maintenance mode. I’m not your maintenance person. I’m the guy who comes in. I even stepped down as the CEO of my own company because we were getting to a size. The way I explained it, I had a president who was my number two for almost a decade. When you are smaller, the R&D department is the company.

Now, the R&D department is a small piece. Keeping the trains on the track is a big piece, and that’s the CEO’s job now. I even realized, “I want to stay running the R&D department.” I moved into managing new products and services. I’m leading all of our M&A and the stuff that is new. As soon as it becomes monotonous, I’m not interested.

Tell us about your company.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: We are the largest agency globally in a field called specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. We help some of the biggest brands in the world build digital marketing programs that are made out of partnerships rather than buying clicks and impressions.

Our company is Acceleration Partners. We are the largest agency globally in a specialized field called affiliate and partner marketing. We help some of the biggest brands in the world to build digital marketing programs that are made out of partnerships rather than buying clicks and impressions.

What got you into that? That’s a different angle that people don’t typically talk about. You don’t even hear about it that much unless you happen to be in that world.

It’s a win-win industry. It’s marketing. It’s a partnership, which I was drawn to. I fell into it a little bit by accident because I helped a company build its program that was incredibly successful. It grew to $300 million and sold. People went to all the other companies and called and said, “Can you come to help us do that?” I haven’t met anyone who started an agency intentionally yet. They solve a problem. They hire some people. When people ask them to do more, they hire some more, and then soon they are running an agency.

I do remember being at a conference in our industry and reading this. It was my epiphany moment. As I think about it, it’s a better way. There was a catalog of all these ads of people that could help you with your affiliate programs in it. They were the worst ads that I have ever seen. It looked like they were drawn in crayons. I was like, “If these are the people that are hiring to do marketing for them and their marketing is so terrible, we should be able to crush this.” That was my go-for-it moment because I was horrified at the quality of marketing from people who were being hired to do marketing.

It’s interesting the way you said that because that’s something I say all the time. I’m like, “If that person over there can do it like that, I can do it way better than that.”

In fact, what frustrates me the most is we were talking about a situation like this in the management team. When there’s a company in the right place at the right time, and they seem to do everything wrong, they are still doing well because something endemic to me wants to believe that you have to do it well and good to do well. We try to do everything well and improve. It’s harder to be an agency than it is to be a hot software company sometimes.

People come to you when they want to expand their reach using partnerships versus going out and buying a ton of media.

We use software to build partner programs so that you can have 1,000 partners talking about promoting your product digitally and putting in things. The difference is they get paid only on a performance basis. In some ways, it’s a better way to do marketing. Rather than paying for a click or an impression, you are paying for an outcome or a sale.

If I said to you, Gary, like, “You are trying to get good guests for your podcast. I have the best guest podcast site in the world. I will promote people and send them to you. As you accept them, will you pay me $100 per lead?” You go, “That’s great. That’s much better than the PR service I’m using because I pay them upfront, and I have no idea what I will get.”

If you are a business owner and you have spent any kind of money marketing, it’s an amazingly frustrating experience. You have no idea what you are going to get for the amount of money.

You hear all your friends who have built their business on social media, digital marketing or paid search. If you think there’s inflation in gas and your housing, the inflation in digital marketing and the prices has gotten to the point where it’s very hard to make money unless you are a large player with sophisticated tools.

It’s a massive auction, and the whole world is buying. Auctions don’t tend to benefit the buyers. They tend to benefit the sellers. I always say a little bit about what we do. It’s SEO versus paid search. You need to do the work, put it in, and build a moat. You reap longer-term rewards. It’s not as instantly gratifying but because of that, it tends to be much more sustainable.

It’s really hard to build a competitive, sustainable advantage. Click To Tweet

How were you able to build all these partnerships? You are starting your company fresh. Maybe you already had some connections, and then you put them together and said, “How about if I connect you with someone?”

There’s a known group of people in the industry. They are called professional affiliates. There are people who are known to do this. Part of our thing is building that Rolodex and how to figure out someone who we worked with the one-part program and why they would be good for another program that’s not competitive. There’s a known group of people in this place. We are like matchmakers. There are people looking to date on both sides. Half the group has content, and half the group has the stuff to sell. We are bringing them together.

Are you always adding new partners and products? How does that work?

I’m always adding new clients and partners. Growing our partner Rolodex is a key asset for our business.

To me, from another better-way guy, that sounds like so much fun. It’s connecting people, connecting things, and finding a better, “This would be better if you did it this way.”

The model is like, “Who has figured out Snapchat? Who has figured out mobile marketing? Who has figured out TikTok marketing? How do we go get them and bring them into partnership with a retail brand?” The essence is like sales. We’ve got to find who is new, interesting, and doing something fun.

You have also written five books.

I wrote it all over five years because I’m not good at not doing stuff.

What was the first book? Take us through the sequence of your books.

I had this note that I sent to my team called Friday Forward, that I started years ago. That ended up going outside of our company, reaching a couple of hundred thousand people across the world every week. This is an inspirational and thought-provoking note. I decided to turn that into a book or compilation of the 52 best Friday Forwards. I pitched that to a bunch of places, and they said, “We love your writing but no one buys compilations.” I ran into one agent who said, “I love your writing. These are amazing. No one buys compilations but you have a book here. What is the story of these stories?”

I went back and deconstructed, “What is the framework of this into this thing called? It’s capacity.” I spent a couple of years reworking that into, “Why did Friday Forward work? What had changed my life? What was the whole thing?” I came up with this framework of capacity building. That was the basis of my second book, Elevate, which has still been the most popular. The first book I wrote was called Performance Partnerships to try to explain to the world why our industry was a better way effectively and convince people they misunderstood affiliate marketing and what it could be. That was real like, “We are going to try to turn the industry our way.”

That book has become a default training book in organizations. It was the first book written on the industry, and then there was Elevate. After Elevate, it was a huge success. I ended up going back in writing and publishing that Friday Forward book. Once I had an audience, I held on to it. We were an all-remote firm for over a decade, and COVID hit. We had been doing this for a while, and people started asking us all kinds of questions. I was giving speeches. Every time I give the speech, I would take the questions they ask and tweak them.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: There are people on both sides and half the group has content and half the group has stuff to sell, and we’re just bringing them together.

I have always said like, “My purpose is to share ideas that help people and organizations grow.” I also hate the monotony, as we talked about. I was like, “Why don’t I turn this into a book so I can stop giving the same presentation over and over again and I can answer all the things?” With my publisher, 90 days later, we’ve got it down to an eBook. I doubled and released it as a full book six months later. That was the number-one New York Times, USA Today, and WSJ bestseller.

Which one was that?

That was How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace.

You had one after that even.

That’s called Moving to Outcomes. That’s my second marketing book. It’s the sequel to Performance Partnerships five years later.

Tell us about Moving to Outcomes.

The first book was meant to explain the affiliate opportunity in the industry and what companies were missing. This is a little more of the shift that I was talking about. It’s about why people are holistically moving to partnerships and why the marketing is moving to direct marketing if you are not a brand. If you are spending marketing directly when you want to do it on an outcome basis, it’s not a click or impression basis. It’s all these reasons in digital marketing that companies need to think about what is next once the Facebook-Amazon gravy train runs its course a little more.

From where it was a few years ago to now, it’s a different animal.

It’s hard to build a competitive and sustainable advantage. You can spend a lot of money. You can get started but it’s hard, particularly as a little guy, to fight a war. You are fighting with BB guns while people have cannons, airplanes, and things that they can do to get better yield. If you think about a stock portfolio, I’m not going to get rich on Tesla, Apple, and Microsoft over the next decade. They are so big that they are not going to 10X. I need to find what is the next company. For a lot of these channels, they have reached the maturity where they are a bond now. They don’t sell your bonds but you are not going to get your huge growth off of your bond.

In this mastermind that I’m in, one of the guys spends the most money of anybody in the world on YouTube ads. It’s fascinating how often stuff changes for him, and he gets shut down.

I’m sure he could tell you it has gotten twice as expensive to buy the same thing.

Within your company, you have utilized the why with your team.

Every strength at 105 or 110 degrees is a weakness. Click To Tweet

I was exposed to this. It’s your framework through a facilitator. It was life-changing for me. I remember he was walking through the example at a conference. Jamie and I had very similar origin stories around this. It’s around how he is coaching a husband and a wife. They were going on their anniversary. She had planned every day of the trip out, and then he tried to figure out how to make every day better. It turns out I’m better way in my wife’s right way. We are the most combustible of the why from a marriage side.

It was game-changing for me and my business. I’m looking at it also for my wife, the family and me. We use the language. She will say like, “We are going to the thing tonight. Please don’t try to make this better.” When she and my son, who are both right-way and can’t pick to see if their life is pizza versus Chinese food on a Friday night, they go back to the store and come back with everything because they can’t decide or nothing. I will be like, “Make a decision. There’s no wrong choice here.”

It’s one of the things I have seen that’s interesting. I have a lot of right-way personalities in my life in the company. While that is potentially very combustible, the problem is they are the people you want to pull the plug to make a great decision but they can’t dumb down that decision-making apparatus to simple decisions. They are paralyzed by pizza or Chinese food but they would be the first person to know whether you should pull the plug or not pull the plug in a life-threatening situation.

That’s interesting what you are saying there because what I found in working with lots of companies is the missing piece for most of them is not having somebody with the right way on their team.

They frustrate the heck out of you but they will slow you down. Our team has a lot of makes-sense people, too. When you throw a big harebrained idea on them and don’t understand what it is, they get so frustrated. I know that we have something good when I’m able to make it clear enough where they are like, “That makes sense. We should do that.” In our leadership team, we joke about these archetypes. We see them all the time. They are the most powerful thing that I have seen in interpersonal communication.

I told you a guy on our team for years. His visceral reaction was like, “I don’t buy this whole thing because you can’t put in the archetype.” Everything he says, “Is it right or not fundamentally?” We have worn him down at this point. He admits it. Even admitting it for right people that you can put people in the archetypes for them, sometimes they don’t think that’s right.

Do you have anybody on your team with the why of challenge?

It’s not on my leadership team. They don’t tend to survive in the company for more than a couple of years. We had one. We are still friends with him. We talked about it. He would throw a grenade into things every six months. We have talked about this openly. It was funny. They can’t help themselves. We have another person now who is challenged. He is challenged and great. He was the one in the session who was like, “This whole thing is BS in this why thing.”

I found that to challenge people. A lot of them almost have to end up working for themselves because they will throw a grenade into a situation if they are hired on that thing. We have another one in sales. He is phenomenal but he does not like to follow the playbook or do what he is told. We learned like, “Telling me can’t do something. There’s no way you could sell in Eastern Europe.” He gets all over it. He works for the right way person. They have to figure that out a little bit.

It was interesting because you were speaking my language. You were saying the things that I say. You have noticed the things that not a lot of people notice but you did notice them. You articulated them in a way that I completely get. It’s neat to have somebody with your why to have a conversation with because you are speaking the same language.

The most powerful thing and why we teach this to our emerging leaders on the core values is interpersonal. More than any other tests, StrengthsFinder and Kolbe, this gets to the root tension between people and their understanding of that. My understanding of what a makes-sense needs, what a right way needs or what people need is the ultimate team thing.

We don’t use the language that someone is like, “That was a very deep thing to say.” What is fascinating with the makes-sense people is they say it all the time. They end sentences with, “That makes sense.” You hear it everywhere. I can tell you where people are going to struggle or do well interpersonally based on what their why is and where there are going to be natural conflicts.

You also hit on something a little bit ago that is what I have been saying about myself and about other people with the why of better way. We don’t necessarily make a good long-term CEO. We’ve got to get somebody else to replace us. We can build. This is what I have found, and maybe this will be even helpful for you. The best why that I know of for the CEO after it has been built is the why of contribute because they are now about everybody else and making everybody else better.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: The most important thing you can do early in your career is work for extraordinary leaders, go to companies with extraordinary training programs, focus on learning.

You were about, “How am I going to get this sucker to where I needed to be? Who do I get to put in place to make that happen?” If you can put somebody with the why of contribute in the CEO position, then it’s going to be phenomenal for them. They are going to love you. Your team is going to love it. Everybody is going to love it. I don’t know what the why is of the person.

He is a makes-sense. We are all very high. He probably contributes as our whats or hows. In our team, there’s a high level of contribution, trying to make people better and improve them. That’s endemic in our culture. I will tell you one of the things is self-prospection. I’m sure that I have had to learn as a better way is that every strength at 105 or 110 degrees is a weakness. I tend to exhaust myself, my team, and my family.

One of the things I have coached people on in their whys or other whys is, “If I want to improve everything in the company, I can frustrate people to the point where nothing gets improved.” I have had to learn to pick my spots of, “I’m going to make this thing better. I can’t make everything better or nothing will get better.” I do it to myself, and I know I exhaust my wife with it. At times, I’m doing family with it. It’s being aware of that. That, to me, is the biggest exhaustion.

Even we bought an investment place for a living, I’m constantly ordering extra batteries from Amazon, so we have them. I’m moving that picture on the wall, and people are like, “How come you can’t sit down and enjoy the play?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I was still stuffed this week.” I go on vacation, and I’m working half the time. It’s not work. It’s on moving stuff around or hanging this picture. It’s an optimization, both a blessing and a disease.

Here is an interesting question. Are you ever satisfied?

It’s probably not, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a hard time being present. I have always done these renovation projects. Once I had a new one, I never thought about the old one again. When looking at it, it’s almost like I need a new thing to turn my sights on to close off the old one. That’s the way I mentally detach myself. It’s not necessarily a healthy thing but it is what it is at this point.

Are you able to celebrate wins?

Our whole team is not good at that. We joke, “We are all Gen X leadership team by parents that were not effusive in praise like parents are now.” The pro side of that is we get over difficulties quickly. We don’t linger on it but we are not great at celebrating the upside. That is both my personality and very endemic. We talked about all the childhood upbringing of Gen X versus Gen Y and Z.

I wonder if that’s what it is because I feel the same way. Luckily, I have people on my team that point things out to me. Otherwise, I would be like, “We did this. Now, what is next?”

That is criticism, and we hear that. It’s both our team but also cultures that are changing. You are talking about generations that have grown up with an extreme amount of praise for, in some cases, mediocre effort. We have to be aware of that. It’s tough. We talk about it. We are a high-performance culture. People generally need more of that open praise but we also want to be careful. We probably shouldn’t hire people that want praise for mediocre effort because that doesn’t align with our culture like, “You tried hard.”

I went to my kid’s invention convention. I loved that when I was a kid, not surprisingly. Everyone got an honorable mention. People had theoretical projects that their parents did. I was like, “This is ridiculous. What the heck is this teaching?” I remember the guy who won my year. He figured out how to straw up his bike, and you could drink out of it. He won a prize. Now, everyone gets an honorable mention. Clearly, either the parents did the projects themselves, or it was a theoretical thing like, “This is a food shrinker, and I point a gun at it.” I’m like, “I don’t understand. This is supposed to be kids doing the work.”

What is next for you, Robert? Where are you headed next?

You can’t make everything better or nothing will get better. Click To Tweet

What we are talking about is I’m trying to self-identify and solve a problem. I have been 70/30 for a few years. I have been the CEO of the company. Also, I have a great team. I have been writing books and doing stuff outside the company. The issue is it has been 130% and not 70/30. I physically and mentally exhausted myself. It’s capped off by the global pandemic and doing a big deal with a private equity partner.

I realized I wanted to get down to 70/30. I will turn over the CEO role. I will continue doing the stuff that I love. I will continue writing the books but I’m not going to do it on the weekends. I’m not going to do it at night. I have got some golden years with my kids. Part of the restructure was to give me some space to think and be in the R&D department but also to practice being more present.

Initially, after the transition with new partners in the role, I tried to throw myself into new things, and then I realized like, “I can’t do this. I need to step back and recover physically and mentally from a ten-year marathon of never stopping.” A lot of that was some awareness of what I was likely to do. I’m not letting myself get into fundamentally any major new thing for a while. I’m very invested in my business. I’m continuing a different role but I’m not looking to start anything new or do anything majorly now.

I’m interested to see how that goes because that’s me as well 100%, “Let’s go.” I have not figured out or been able to not do that. I feel like I’m wasting time if I do that.

A twelve-hour day, I have nothing. I’m not bored at all. I’m learning how to do M&A for our business. I have joined some boards. I’m filling in with macro-things. I have recognized I have run myself a little too hard. I’m trying to do all of these things. I’m trying to run a company, write books and speak all this stuff. Dialing it down, it has been healthy.

I don’t think it’s a long-term solution but in some ways, it’s a little meta. I don’t want a second act now. My kids are all in high school and going to college. I want these years. If I don’t give myself some space, I will not figure out some cool things that I could do in 5 or 10 years. I need the space to figure out what that is for a few years but I’m not in any rush to do it now.

I’m going to be very interested in watching you.

You either learn something. You will say, “I told you that’s not going to work.”

It’s how we are wired.

Have you ever exhausted yourself?

For sure. I have exhausted people around me. It will be fun to watch. The last question for you, what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given or the best piece of advice you have ever given?

It’s a little bit of both. I would say this under the context of all the people shifting careers and thinking about something new otherwise. There are good and bad reasons to do that. I see a lot of people in their twenties chasing $500, $1,000 or $5,000 more irrespective of what that situation is or otherwise. The most important thing you can do early in your career is work for extraordinary leaders and go to companies with extraordinary training programs. Focus on learning. You are always underpaid in your twenties.

BYW S4 21 | Better Way
Better Way: You’re setting yourself up for what comes next by working for the right companies, the right leaders, and being in an incredible training program.

The difference to me of people who worked for great leaders, got great training, and focused on making themselves the best they could get, that $5,000 or $10,000 more that the other job offered you is irrelevant. When you turn 30, you start to be an expert in something. I would focus on the environments where you have the most learning and work for incredible leaders. Frankly, learn on someone else’s dime. Everyone is so eager in their twenties to get somewhere and get to the end. I was always underpaid in my twenties, no matter how good of the work that I was doing.

You are setting yourself up for what comes next by working for the right companies and the right leaders and being in an incredible training program. You probably know the amount of sales leaders I know who worked at Cutco. As a simple example, some of the best salespeople in the world went through this Cutco training when they were twenty. That’s what you want to do. That’s the best training and preparation that you could have.

I would add to that because there’s a common theme for many of the people I have had on the show who have done amazing things. When I pointed back to, “What was that turning moment,” a lot of them would say, “It’s when I’ve got into personal growth.”

For me, I joined a lot of people. It could be any of these organizations, whether EO or YPO. When I joined EO, I jumped into this exponential learning. It was like drugs. It was incredible. The only thing I would caution that I found myself going down this road is if you are married or in a partnership, be very careful going down that road without bringing your partner along with you.

That is why groups like EO and YPO have these spousal and partner things around trying to create that same experience. Sometimes you go to these conferences. You are going to this learning like, “In this why thing, my wife was with me there in Buenos Aires, Argentina.” These are the things that either happen together or they happen apart. I have seen it do amazing things for relationships and pull relationships apart.

If there are people that want to connect with you, follow you, see what you are up to, and maybe want to work with Acceleration Partners, what would be the best way for them to connect with you?

They can learn about Acceleration Partners. It’s easier to google it than to spell it, so just google Acceleration Partners. We are doing our job. We should come up with number one. In terms of me, I have everything under one place now, You can sign up for that free Friday Forward note. The books are listed there. I have got a course on helping to discover your personal core values, which goes well with the why stuff, and I have seen a lot of overlap. Speaking and other stuff is all on that page.

Thank you so much for being here. I was looking forward to this because we have got a lot of people in common that we know, and you have utilized the why so much. I’m going to follow you now because I want to see what happens with this little test you are doing.

You are checking the little wedding clock.

Thanks so much for being here.

Important links

About Robert Glazer

BYW S4 21 | Better WayRobert Glazer is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row.

He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, and the #1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today and international bestselling author of five books: ElevateFriday Forward, How To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace, Moving To Outcomes and Performance Partnerships.  He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast.


Ensure Your Financial Future With Whole Life Insurance With Sarry Ibrahim

BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life Insurance


Are you looking for a more secure foundation for your financial future? Whole life insurance could be the solution you’ve been looking for. Today’s guest is Sarry Ibrahim, founder of Financial Asset Protection, a financial services firm that focuses on one sole concept; the Bank On Yourself concept, also known as the Infinite Banking Concept. He also hosts their official podcast, Thinking Like a Bank. Sarry helps real estate investors, business owners, and full-time employees grow safe and predictable wealth regardless of market conditions. How? Through whole life insurance. Tune in as he joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to break down the concept using his gift, the WHY of Simplify.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here:


Ensure Your Financial Future With Whole Life Insurance With Sarry Ibrahim

If you’re a regular reader, you know that every episode we talk about 1 of the 9 Whys and then bring on somebody with that Why so you can see how their Why has played out in their life. We’re going to be talking about the Why of Simplify, which is a very rare Why. If this is your Why then you are one of the fabulous people that make everyone else’s life better. You have the unique gift of reducing the number of steps required for almost any task. If most of us believe that a procedure requires 8 sequential actions, you see how to do it in 6.

You constantly look for ways of simplifying from recipes to business systems and how you organize your garage. You feel successful when you eliminate complexity and remove unnecessary elements in a process. You streamline things for the benefit of all and break things down into their simplest form. You like things direct to the point and don’t give me the fluff. I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Sarry Ibrahim. He is a financial planner and member of the Bank On Yourself organization.

He helps real estate investors, business owners and full-time employees grow safe and predictable wealth regardless of market conditions using a financial strategy that has been around for over 160 years. Sarry started his journey when he was in grad school completing his MBA. He worked for companies like Allstate, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, HealthSpring and Humana before founding Financial Asset Protection, a financial services firm that focuses on one sole concept, the Bank On Yourself concept, also known as the Infinite Banking Concept. Sarry, welcome to the show.

Gary, thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.

This is going to be interesting. We’re going to dive back into your life. You told me already you’re in Chicago. It’s a little bit chilly there. You grew up there. Tell us about that. Where did you grow up in Chicago? What were you like in high school? What would your friends say about you?

I grew up in a Southwest suburb of Chicago. It’s Palos Hills for those familiar with the Chicago area. It’s about 30 minutes or 40 minutes South of Downtown Chicago. I was always very curious growing up. I always wanted to learn more about how the world worked more than I could handle and beyond my scope. For example, in class, I would look out the window and think about how things work outside of the classroom rather than inside the classroom. I was always a visionary.

I learned that visionaries think far ahead of steps. That could be problematic because if you’re not focused on the moment, you can miss certain things. That was also part of my life. I would make mistakes because I wasn’t present. I was thinking way too far ahead but I still enjoyed imagining different things that I still do as an entrepreneur. One of the reasons why I’m an entrepreneur is because I can’t settle for normal day-to-day things. I have to always think far ahead.

When I was a senior in high school, I took a class called Consumer Economics. It was how to write a check, how to look at a bank statement, what is a mortgage, what is interest and all these things. I liked it a lot. I understood those things back then. I wanted to make that into a career where that’s what you do for a living. You help people with financial things like that. I was still new to it. I was still young.

I didn’t know that was called financial consultant or financial planner. I got a bachelor’s degree, went to college and got an MBA with a concentration in project management. I started working for the insurance companies and seeing how they would think and evaluated risks. That led me into financial planning and helping people with financial strategies and accomplishing financial goals.


You’ll never know your passion before you actually do something. How are you going to be passionate about a career that you’ve never done before? Click To Tweet


I’m thankful that it was exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s to solve financial problems. It’s not so much of, “If you have money, you can work with me.” It’s more of, “What is it? What’s going on in your life? What are some of your financial problems? Either too little money too much money or whatever the case is, what do you need help with?” That’s what I do. I help clients in all 50 states accomplish their financial goals. That’s who I am and some of my background.

What made you go into insurance? How did you get from college into working for different insurance companies? It sounds like you worked for a couple of them as well.

Typically, the average person who works for an insurance organization is 59 years old. It’s usually an old-school industry to be in. It’s not so much with my friends. I was the only one in my social group that went into insurance. I don’t know what it was. I came across an opportunity to work at Allstate. That was the first company. I told myself, “I don’t know what to expect. I have no idea what’s on the other side of that door until I go through that door and see.” That’s what happened. It was a lesson in life. You will never know your passion before you do something.

It’s almost impossible to say, “I’m going to do this career because I like it,” when you haven’t even done that career yet. That’s how high school and college are trained. It’s like, “Choose something you’re passionate about. Stick to it.” How are you going to be passionate about a career that you’ve never done before? The same is true that I would have never chosen insurance or financial services. It doesn’t sound transparent and appealing but once I got involved in it and understood it, I liked it. It made sense. There was a lot of logic behind it. Speaking of simplifying things, there were a lot of things that you could simplify in that world.

You got your MBA. You’re done. There are many directions you could have gone. Why Allstate?

First of all, I liked the name, the brand and how it was marketed. I worked there. While I was working there, I found that a lot of clients also liked working with the brand. More importantly, they liked working with people. One of the selling points of working in insurance is working with people, not just the companies or the brands. I enjoyed working with people and then owning the process of dealing with problems, claims and things like that. It was also a self-employable field to be in. That means that you could branch off and start your business either with Allstate or other companies.

I then went from Allstate to being an independent consultant/broker so I could represent different companies. That was something attractive to me. I thought about it. I was like, “How would the future look? The future could be that I have contracts with 30 different insurance companies and financial organizations. I have thousands of clients. I can work anywhere in the world. I just need a computer and a phone.” That was the kind of industry it is.

If I was, for example, working as a mechanical engineer for a Fortune 500 company, that’s not a self-employable field. I can’t branch off, start my mechanical engineering company and do that. With insurance, you could. You have that opportunity. It’s people-to-people and small business-to-small business. It was the lifestyle that got me attracted to it. I work entirely from home. Everything is done on Zoom or over the phone. All my podcasting as a guest and as a host is done on Zoom. My wife and I have a son. We could travel and go somewhere. I’m not restricted to 9:00 to 5:00 anywhere.

It seemed like there were not too many steps to get you to where you wanted to go.


BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life Insurance
Whole Life Insurance: The people who made it through the great depression were ones who had reserves and life insurance, because the way that insurance companies operate is not directly correlated or affected by the stock market.


It’s hard work still. I had to build up the book of business. The independent insurance route has about a 95% turnover rate. For every 100 people, 95 quit and go do something else because it’s very difficult. It’s hard to attract people, work with people and keep them as clients. I positioned more into financial planning, not just insurance. Insurance is one of the tools that we have. There’s also the financial planning aspect of building out financial plans for people, saving for retirement, getting out of debt, negotiating and things like that. We do more of that too.

You got into insurance, transitioned over to financial planning, got out and started your own. You used a 160-year-old process. Tell us about that.

It’s called the Infinite Banking Concept. It was invented by Nelson Nash years ago. One of the primary routes of the Infinite Banking Concept is the use of cash value whole life insurance. For how not sexy it sounds, it’s one of the most significant things in the world. These insurance companies have been in business for over 160 years. They have been implementing these. It’s the same with companies. A lot of organizations that have been around for a long time, their backbones or reserves are in cash value life insurance. Banks have most of their reserves in cash value life insurance.

A lot of the things that happen in the world, financially speaking, revolve around life insurance companies. There are about 2,000 life insurance companies in the United States alone. If you were to take all their reserves and money and pool it together, it would be greater than all of the cash from all the banks and oil companies in the world combined. It gives you a visual of what’s happening. If a high-rise building in Switzerland is being built, a US life insurance company probably has something to do with it. They have loaned money to it and invested in that deal. A lot of things in the world are happening from the backbones of life insurance companies.

Should that make me feel good or bad?

That should make you feel good because there’s certainty and security. The people, families and corporations that made it to the Great Depression were ones who had reserves and life insurance because the way that insurance companies operate is not directly correlated or affected by the stock market and other things. In March 2020 when COVID first happened, life insurance companies’ cash reserves weren’t affected by COVID whereas the stock market was. The stock market went up since COVID happened. Initially, there was a hit to it.

From the perspective of certainty and safety, you want your money sitting somewhere or at least one place. If everything goes down and shuts down, you have one account somewhere that’s protected. It’s going to earn compound interest and growth. This is exactly what we do. We use the Infinite Banking Concept to help clients, small business owners and individuals have at least some certainty for the future and something they could predict and look onto.

We have a podcast called Thinking Like a Bank. We launched Episode 51. Check out Episode 51. We talk about what happens when there’s chaos. There’s this Ukraine-Russia situation. How does that impact us? We don’t know. Nobody knows how long that war is going to last and the magnitude of it. As business owners and individuals here, we need some certainty of how do we take our cash with us into the future, grow it into the future and no risk at all.

What is a cash value whole life insurance?


We use the infinite banking concept to help clients, small business owners, individuals have at least some sort of certainty for the future. Something they could predict and look onto. Click To Tweet


There are typically three types of life insurance out there. There’s a term, whole life and universal. The term has a set period. It’s usually 10 years, 20 years or 30 years. There is no cash value to it. It’s simple life insurance only. Use it for that certain period. There’s a start date and end date. The whole life has a start date. It’s life insurance. There’s also a savings account portion to it that grows and earns interest and dividends. Dividends are not guaranteed but there are dividends involved with whole life insurance. The cash value grows over time.

Universal life is very similar to both the term and whole life. It’s a little bit complicated to explain but it’s pretty much another form of permanent cash value life insurance. We’re focused on the middle one or cash value whole life insurance. It’s a special design. It’s not just from any company or agent but a special design cash value whole life insurance policy that allows you to build up cash in it to protect from market conditions. There are a ton of tax advantages with whole life insurance to give you the ability to always have access to that money.

Here’s one problem in 2008. For the real estate investors reading this, you know what happened in 2008. A lot of people had properties. A lot of real estate investors, contractors and construction companies had money in real estate. A couple of compounding problems happened. One problem that happened was the real estate market crashed. All the values dropped significantly. After that happened, banks stopped loaning out money because the collateral went down. It became too risky.

Plus, unemployment went up. A lot of companies shut down. The stock market took a hit. That means that it wasn’t a lendable society. A lot of people weren’t lendable anymore. That changed the way banks started lending money. What happened if you owned twenty real estate properties that were all paid off? You’re stuck because you don’t want to sell them at such a low rate if you might have to. You can’t borrow against them because there’s no bank available to loan you the money.

Even if there was a bank to loan you the money, they’re going to loan you an amount that’s much less than that because the values went down and banks loan according to the value of it. It had this spiraling effect like, “If this then that,” all spiraling together. With whole life insurance, that won’t happen because it’s not correlated with the stock market. When the stock market or the real estate market goes down, the account values don’t go down.

That’s one aspect of it. You always have the value of it increasing no matter what happens in the market. The other side to it is you have guaranteed access to the funding or the money either through loans or withdrawals regardless of how the economy does. It’s not based on credit nor is it based on economical or financial external conditions. Banks loan out money according to the person’s credit, the economy and the community we’re in.

How does your money grow in a whole life plan?

Let’s say, for example, one of the companies we work with is Lafayette Insurance Company. Lafayette Insurance Company is a private for-profit life insurance company. They have investments. They invest in the bond market, give out loans to banks, invest in real estate properties and earn profits from every year. Part of their profits every year get distributed back to the policy owners because it’s a mutually-owned life insurance company and because how they have structured their policies is to give dividends back to the policy owners. That’s one way. The second way is they guarantee you an interest rate.

It’s a very small interest rate. It’s nothing crazy. It was 4% up until 2022. Some regulations changed. They dropped down to 3% guaranteed gross. There are also the dividends. We’re expecting the dividends are going to go up because dividends are positively correlated with interest rates. As interest rates go up, it’s projected that dividend rates will go up as well. That’s how somebody could have a cash value whole life insurance policy and have the cash in it grow over time, not just from the money they’re putting into it but also from the insurance company growing and then providing dividends and interest back to the accounts.


BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life Insurance
Whole Life Insurance: If the stock market goes down, whole life insurance is still there. You want some foundations in your financial plan.


Let’s say you took $100 and put it into a whole life plan. You took $100 and put it into the stock market or the S&P 500. What happens? Take us through the scenarios.

A lot of people will project that. They will project, “What if I put $100 a month into a whole life policy versus the S&P 500 fund?” Number one is that the whole life policy is not meant to be an investment. It’s meant to be a savings account. It’s meant to be used for investments. What you could do is fund the whole life policy, borrow against that and then put it in the stock market, which a lot of people do. A lot of our clients do it. We help them structure things like that. It’s a matter of both and it’s not meant to replace either one.

There are so many different ways to give financial advice and so many rules to follow. One thing I would recommend is the whole life part is just one of the legs in your financial portfolio. It’s not the whole financial portfolio. It shouldn’t be either whole life insurance or the stock market. I believe that people should be truly diversified. They should have some money in the stock market, whole life insurance, real estate, their business and different places. I use the word truly diversified. We talked about this in Episode 51 of our show.

Some people might have money in the stock market in low risk, medium risk and aggressive. They might say that they’re diversified but all their money is in the stock market. That’s not truly diversified. Truly diversified is some money in the stock market, bonds, different markets, different areas and even places that are not correlated or connected to each other. It’s an example of whole life insurance. If the stock market goes down, whole life insurance is still there. If the real estate market goes down, you want some foundations in your financial plan.

If you put $100 into a whole life, you would get a 3% return. If you put it in the stock market, you could get a 20% return or a 20% loss. It’s not much of a gamble but it’s not much of a return.

Nobody gets rich off of whole life insurance. It’s meant to preserve capital. It’s meant to keep your wealth and have it outpace inflation and a savings account because savings accounts nowadays give 1/10 of 1% if you don’t have a percentage. At least with the whole life policy, you can at least outpace that. Plus, you get the tax advantages and you have it sitting somewhere that’s not going to be impacted by market conditions. Plus, there are no credit qualifications for the loan when you borrow against it.

Plus, there are some legal things too with litigation. In most states, it’s protected from predators and people trying to sue you. There are a lot of aspects other than the rate of return that people should consider. You mentioned a good point on the rate of return aspect. A lot of people come in and say, “What’s the rate of return on it?” We tell them, “It’s 3%.” They say, “No, thank you.” They go somewhere else and potentially earn 12% or 10% in the stock market.

I see what they’re thinking. They’re thinking they want the most value out of their money but there are still other aspects like the taxes, protection, economical conditions and other things that go into play other than the rate of return. Plus, you could use the policy for higher rates of return. We have clients who fund whole life policies. From the funds in the policy, they borrow against those and then do private money lending where they’re investing to real estate investors.

It inflates your overall return when you have a whole life with other lending and investments because what happens is you get both. You get the growth from whole life insurance and the private money you’re lending out or the other investments you have. Those together give you a much higher rate of return when it’s together rather than using one or the other. When you integrate them together, it gives you a compounding or a much higher return than choosing one without the other.


One rule of financial planning is it’s never one solution for everybody. There are different situations. Click To Tweet


Is it an interest-free loan that you give yourself?

You would borrow the money from the insurance company and pay interest to the insurance company. It’s typically a simple interest rate that’s compounded in arrears. At the end of the year, the interest is due and it doesn’t compound on it. When you earn on your policy, you’re earning compound interest. What happens is that there’s arbitrage. Arbitrage is the growth of your money even when you’re using the money. A lot of real estate investors do this.

They will borrow, for example, $100,000 from their policy and then use it for real estate. Let’s say they paid $5,000 back to their policy. They may have earned that year $10,000 from their policy. There was an arbitrage or a net gain of $5,000. They bought money at $105,000 and earned $110,000. Their split is $5,000 in that situation. There is a lot more that goes into it but it gets to the point where the money outpaces, which brings it into a whole other topic of opportunity costs. Imagine if you paid cash for everything, bought real estate or cars with cash and invested in your business with only cash.

The downside to that is you would never earn interest on your money. You would lose the opportunity cost you could have earned on that interest. You spent that money. Had you invested that money or saved it somewhere, borrowed against it and then paid it back, you would never skip a beat on your interest. You would always keep earning interest even when you are buying real estate and cars, investing in your business or whatever else you’re doing.

Are there different times in your life when a whole life makes sense and times when it doesn’t make sense? Does it always make sense?

One rule of financial planning is there’s never one solution for everybody. There are different situations. This is why you need to work with somebody who’s unbiased and who’s going to take a step back and look at your financial situation. There are some times when whole life insurance doesn’t make sense for the people who, for example, don’t have much in reserves or income. In my opinion, it wouldn’t make sense to tie up that money into a life insurance policy because there’s a capitalization period. There’s a period where you’re funding the policy.

Your cash value is not going to match directly with your premiums going into it. There’s going to be a dip. When you start a business, you’re not going to be profitable in year one. There’s going to be a slight dip in your business. Maybe a couple of years later, you would come out profitable. It’s the same thing with whole life insurance. You might do a policy. For example, in year one, you put $10,000 and your cash value in year one is $6,000. There was a cost to that insurance but it’s not about year one. If somebody is only focused on year one then I would not recommend it to them.

If somebody is focused on the next 10 or 20 years, I would recommend it to them. Those are the costs. Eventually, the cash value exceeds the premiums paid to it. You end up coming out ahead. You get more out of the policy than you put into it in the later years, not in the first year. I don’t know of any investments without taking any risks when in year one, you could come out ahead. Maybe there are some bonds and things like that you could do where you could come out ahead but for the most part, it’s a long-term play when you passively invest.

What is your goal as a financial planner?


BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life Insurance

Whole Life Insurance: When you integrate them together, it gives you a compounding return, a much higher return than just choosing one without the other.


My goal is I want to help people solve their problems. That’s how I stay in business. How I can get satisfaction out of what I do is by solving problems for people. If somebody has debt that they want to pay off efficiently and they want to get out of debt, I can help them with that. If they want to save for retirement, I can figure that out. We can go through a solution for them. If they want to transition from a full-time employee to running a business and they need help with the financial aspects of that, we can help with that. That’s what I want. I want to be able to solve problems for people and concrete problems, not just sell a mutual fund and say that it’s the solution. It’s more concrete where the client says, “This helped me a lot. This helped me out this way.” They see the benefits of it.

Who has been your biggest mentor that has taught you the most? You’re competing out there in the marketplace with guys that are 60 and have been doing this for 30 years. Why should somebody choose you over somebody that has been in the field for 30 years?

Here’s full disclosure. Thankfully, I’ve been in a situation where it was me or another advisor who has been in the industry for 30 years. I’ve been thankfully chosen over them. There are a couple of things. Number one, I’m part of an awesome team. I’m part of the Bank On Yourself group. We’re a group of 300 advisors in North America. We have weekly training calls. We had to go through a credentialing program to get accepted and be able to provide these types of policies and solutions for clients.

That had a huge impact on my success. Number two, I have a mentor too. I’ve been working with them for years. His name is Mark Willis. You could check out his podcast called Not Your Average Financial Podcast. He has helped me out a lot. He’s a big reason for my success. He is the top Bank On Yourself professional out of 300 advisors in North America. He is number one since he started with this program. I have a lot of support from the top advisors in the country. I’m thankful for that.

I like to simplify things. I’ve worked with clients before who said they have read books, listened to podcasts and still haven’t figured out this concept. After twenty minutes on the phone with me, they did. Not to brag but that has been practiced on my end. I’ve been practicing the skill, not just this skill particularly but also the skill of conveying subjects and concepts to people and breaking them down into smaller and more manageable pieces. I’m very good at that.

I’m taking complex things and situations and then breaking them down to the point where somebody who is ten years old can understand exactly what’s going on. It’s like Albert Einstein’s quote, “If you can’t explain something in very simple terms then you don’t understand it properly.” I’m a big advocate of that. Thankfully, a lot of clients have seen that in me. They have been wanting to work with me because I don’t start the conversation by talking about bond rates, the S&P 500 and all these things that are irrelevant to them.

It’s not about the company, percentage or rate of return. It’s about working with individuals who can listen to you and implement things that truly matter to you. If a client says, “I want 10% on my money,” and then you say, “I’ll find something for 10% of your money,” that’s not an adequate solution. What is it about the 10% that you want to accomplish and going further into that? That’s the advantage that I have over people who have been in this industry for a long time.

Why is it important for you? What do you see as the benefit of simplifying things for people? Why is simplicity important?

People need to understand what’s going on. They need to understand, learn and remember what you’re saying and how things work. It’s a huge factor in how they live. The way you live has a lot to do with what you know about the world. That has a huge impact on the way you live. People need to understand those things. Plus, there’s a lot of chaos and confusion out there. A lot of people don’t know the details of things.

It's not about the percentage is not about the rate of return. It's about working with individuals who can listen to you and who could implement things that truly matter to you. Click To Tweet

If you could break it down, it’s very satisfying to take something hard or complex, break it down and then make it simple to understand. It creates momentum. In my shoes, it’s good to know that I can work with a client. They’re all over the place financially and we can solve a problem. It’s important. If you’re working with a professional, they need to make sure that they’re making things very simple for you and not making things more complex or confusing.

What did it feel like to you when you took the WHY Discovery, it came up with Simplify and you started to read about it? How did that feel for you?

I was surprised but not really. There were 10 or 20 questions. I was going through each one. When I got the result, I was like, “Is that who I am?” When I thought about it further after that, I was like, “That does make sense.” I’ve done many podcasts where we finished recording. For example, we will be talking about Infinite Banking like how we were talking about it and the host will say, “It makes a lot of sense. You broke it down. I remembered everything you said. It’s very clear.” It does align with making things simple. It is what I expected.

You have one of the rarest Whys. Simplify is one of the rarest. It’s fascinating to me because people with your Why get stuff done. They’re so efficient, results-oriented and super valuable to be around. What’s the difference to you in simplifying something simple versus something complex?

It gets stuff done for sure. When you simplify things, you see a clear side of it. One problem I used to have when I couldn’t get things done is because it was too complicated to do. You weren’t even going to do it anymore. When you break it down into simpler terms, you get more things done. That’s very important. It’s getting things done especially in entrepreneurship. You can get a lot of things done efficiently because there’s a lot of work in running a business.

You need to be able to get a lot of small little things done in a day. I don’t know why but time flies by as an entrepreneur because there are so many things that need to be done and broken down. This is something that I do. Not to brag but I’m very good at doing a lot of different things, keeping track of clients, business plans, retirement accounts and taking care of my immediate family, my parents and things like that. There’s a lot going on.

I have to be able to do a lot of things in a day. One thing I do is I have systems. I have everything on a calendar. Every morning, I go into the calendar and write out each task one by one. After I complete it, I highlight it. That way, I could see what’s done. It also creates momentum to get more things done. It’s a task as simple as sending an email to this person all the way to finalizing an analysis for a client.

It varies and there are different degrees. I typically put the easier ones on top. That way, I can go through them quicker. I’ve got pushback from this. Some people will say it’s better to put the harder ones on top like the saying, “Swallow the frog first.” Test out different things. It’s going to be different for you. Those are some of the things that have worked for me. I like making things simpler. Life is already complicated as it is.

It’s great for the readers to get to experience somebody that has the Why of Simplify because there’s only 4% of the population that has your Why. People with your Why are super valuable to have on a team. People that overcomplicate things are not as valuable to have on a team because they make it so complex that the only person that can do anything with it is them. If you were to start to build your messaging, marketing and branding, do you think it would be valuable for your clients to know that your Why is to Simplify?


BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life Insurance
Whole Life Insurance: It’s very hard to predict sales because you never know what’s going on in the customer’s mind. You can’t control that, but you can control things that lead up to that. There are predictable things that you could do that will give you the results you’re looking for.


It’s important because one thing that I do and I’ve seen success with through working with clients is that I constantly reiterate both of our Whys. It’s why I’m helping them and why they are implementing too. Along the line, it’s very easy for people to forget, “What are we doing here? Why are we having this financial?” That happens a lot. People need reassurance. It’s providing them the reassurance of what’s going on and why. I’ve noticed that when you start with Why like Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, it lays out the foundation for the following things.

I’ve noticed too that even subconsciously, I’ve chosen titles of videos and podcasts to listen to and watch based on the titles. Instead of me saying why I became a financial planner, it’s going to be more appealing than how I became a financial planner or what financial planners do. It’s the most powerful word in English or any language with the word why. It’s the reason why you do things. From a marketing perspective, it’s the most intriguing part of the marketing message.

It’s especially if you take it and apply it to, “Why should I choose you?” As a prospect, I’m sitting here and I meet you for the first time. What’s going through my mind is, “Why should I choose Sarry?” There are a lot of financial advisors right there. They’re everywhere just like anything. They’re trying to figure out why should they choose you. If you don’t tell them then they won’t know.

The better able you are to articulate why you do what you do and what it is you believe, the more you will be able to attract those people that believe what you believe. Your ideal client is somebody who wants it simple and easy to understand and doesn’t want all the fluff and the extra. They just want simple and easy-to-follow instructions on, “What do I need to do? I want to make sure it’s getting done. I want to know what’s going to get me the results that I want.”

There are people who think like you. You’re most likely to attract those people.

They believe what you believe. If you’re able to articulate it, say it and use it in your messaging, marketing, podcast and when you sit down with your prospect, it instantly cuts to the chase to why they should choose you. You sat down and said, “I believe that success happens when we make things simple and easy to understand, don’t overcomplicate it and go directly to the point. Let’s figure out what you want, how to get there and what you need to get there. That’s when we’re going to have success. That’s what you can get from me.”

“I’m not going to give you all the fluff, try to sell you stuff you don’t need and try to get you to buy whatever. It’s going to be simple and easy to understand.” We have a completely different conversation than, “I wonder what this guy is going to try to sell me. He’s going to throw me into insurance because he makes the most money or whatever the story is.” We create a narrative. It’s your ability to cut to the chase and tell me what it is you believe.

We didn’t get to do your How and What yet but I’m going to take a stab at what your How and What is based on our conversation. Your Why, which we already know is to make things simple and easy to understand. How you do that is by making sense of complex and challenging concepts. Do you feel more successful when you’re able to show somebody a path or when you’re able to help them in whatever way they need help?

It’s the path for sure.


When you break it down into more simple terms, you get more things done. Click To Tweet


Ultimately, what you bring is the right way to get predictable and consistent results. Your Why is to make things simple and easy to understand so that everybody can do it. How you go about doing that is by making sense of the complex challenges that they’re facing and solving their problems. Ultimately, what you bring is the right way to get consistent and predictable results. You bring them the path and the map to get where they want to go. How does that feel to you?

I feel like I know more about myself now from hearing those things.

Does that feel right though?

It does. I do agree that it does make sense. I noticed it too. I’m laying out the path and solution. It creates more reassurance for everybody, for myself and for other people that I work with. I’ve thought about it. For example, what if I were to be a consultant for a company or a sales organization? It’s very hard to predict sales because you never know what’s going on in the customer’s mind. You can’t control that but you can control things that lead up to that. It’s the number of times you reach out to somebody and the length of time you speak to people. There are predictable things that you could do that will give you the results you’re looking for.

I have one last question for you. What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

The best piece of advice I’ve gotten was from my mentor, Mark Willis. He says, “Never take anything personally.” There are a lot of emotions out there in the world and a lot of people could take things. I do sometimes take things personally but having the ability to not take things personally will put you ahead, especially in an entrepreneurial mindset. Getting ahead is never taking anything personally. There are so many other things going on in the world and other people’s minds that for the majority of the time, it’s not intended for you or at you. It’s having that mindset of never taking anything personally.

If there are people reading and they want to get ahold of you, contact you, work with you or listen to your podcast, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

If you’re looking to take a different approach financially and you have an open mind, you can go to You can download a free eBook there, schedule an appointment with me and check out our podcast called Thinking Like a Bank. All that is from the website.

Sarry, thank you so much for being here. I enjoyed getting to know you and meeting another Simplify.

Me too. Thanks, Gary. Thanks for having me on.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your Why, you can do so at with the code Podcast50. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe below and leave us a review and rating so that you can be part of bringing the Why and the WHY.os to the world. Thank you.


Important Links


About Sarry Ibrahim

BYW S4 20 Sarry | Whole Life InsuranceSarry Ibrahim is financial planner and member of the Bank On Yourself Organization. He helps real estate investors, business owners, and full time employees grow safe and predictable wealth regardless of market conditions using a financial strategy that has been around for over 160 years. Sarry started this journey when he was in grad school completing his MBA. He worked for companies like Allstate, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna Healthspring, and Humana before founding Financial Asset Protection, a financial services firm that focuses on one sole concept; the Bank On Yourself Concept, also known as the Infinite Banking Concept.


Simplifying The Joy Of Living With Barry Shore

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living

Sometimes, the secret to the joy of living is as simple as sharing a smile. For Barry Shore, a SMILE means Seeing Miracles In Life Everyday. Barry is The Joy of Living podcast host and author of The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy. He joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to enlighten us on the power of words and the simple secret to living life to the fullest. Barry also shares personal anecdotes of overcoming challenges life has thrown his way and helping others do the same. Your words matter. When you recognize that and extend that power, you will be unstoppable, and you can go MAD (Make A Difference). Learn more of Barry’s fun and inspiring acronyms and understand his WHY of Simplify by tuning in!

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Simplifying The Joy Of Living With Barry Shore

We go beyond talking about your Why, helping you discover and live your Why. If you’re a regular reader, you know that every episode, we talk about one of the nine Whys and we bring on somebody with that Why so you can see how their Why has played out in their life. We’re going to be talking about a very rare Why, the Why of simplify.

If you have this Why, you are one of the people that makes everyone else’s life easier. You break things down to their essence, which allows others to understand each other better and see things from the same perspective. You are constantly looking for ways to simplify, from recipes you’re making at home to business systems you’re implementing at work. You feel successful when you eliminate complexity and remove unnecessary steps.

I’ve got a great guest for you. He is known as the Ambassador of JOY. Barry Shore is a mental health activist, philanthropist, multi-patent, holding entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster and former quadriplegic who is swimming around the world. The Joy of Living is heard globally by hundreds of thousands and has over 3 million downloads. His latest book, The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy is available on Amazon and Apple Books.

After a rare disease paralyzed Barry from the neck down, he created the Joy of Living Institute, a platform that teaches people to live in joy, no matter the situation. The Keep Smiling Movement has reached multiple celebrities and distributed millions of Keep Smiling cards worldwide. ChangeBowl is a philanthropic platform featured in Oprah’s Magazine. Barry, welcome to the show.

Good day, beautiful, bountiful, beloved mortal beings and good-looking people. Gary, how can I make the categorical statement that all the tens of thousands and not hundreds of thousands of people that will be reading this are all good-looking? If they tuned in to your session of Why then by definition, they’re always looking for and finding the good. That’s a definition of a good-looking person, looking for and finding the good.

That’s a great way to define that. Barry, for our audience, there was a lot to unpack there. Where are you?

We can talk about geographically, physically, mentally and spiritually. Geographically, my wife and I have decamped on Venice Beach, California, right by the water. After years of living here, we moved to Henderson, Nevada. Anybody scratching the head would say, “You left Venice Beach to move to Henderson, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas. Why?”

SMILE: Seeing Miracles In Life Everyday Click To Tweet

I can tell you three things. Number one, the entire structure of where we lived in the Los Angeles area, especially Venice Beach, has changed because of politics. There are hundreds of people living on the streets and the beach within yards of our multimillion-dollar homes. After all of this happened, I said to my wife, “Why be here?” In addition to that fact, my son and wonderful daughter-in-law and two young grandsons moved to Henderson, Nevada, the previous year.

We had every Why to move so we did. I made a completely new place, which is fascinating. We’re talking about being in one place for decades with all our family and friends around. We decided to decamp because the new Why was far more entrancing. At the age of 73, I said, “How wonderful. Let’s move.” Isn’t that a great way of getting a new perspective on life? Physically, we’re here. Mentally, I and my wife would agree that I’m in the best place mentally than I’ve ever been in my life. That happens on a daily basis. I’m better now than the day before because that’s what I live with. I live with growth.

Spiritually, it is the same thing. I am oriented towards making sure I’m ever striving forward in my spiritual life which, God-willing and thank God, touches hundreds of thousands of people and millions of people around the globe with our Joy of Living Program, our podcast, our books, our Keep Smiling cards and the things that we do.

I’ve been blessed to be a conduit of good, what I call a COG or a Child Of God. Thank you for asking. I also want to mention that in everything we do, we work with the three fundamentals of life. The three fundamentals are, number one, life has a purpose. When you live a purpose-driven life, you can have good number two. Number two is good. You can go MAD. MAD is an acronym that stands for Make A Difference. If you lead a purpose-driven life, you make a difference in the world, Gary.

Number three is to unlock the power and the secrets of everyday words in terms. The simplest example. Your show with me is being carried over the internet, that magical, mystical, mythical platform that’s touched by everybody around the world. If you ask anybody, what does www stand for? Variably, it has to do with the internet.

In our world, the world of the positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant www stands for What a Wonderful World. What is a word? Everybody reading, when you see www, you’d think, “What did he say? What a wonderful world.” You have a whole different outlook. You have a smile on your face. You say, “Where did I hear that? Dr. Gary Sanchez’s show about Why. He had this crazy guy on, Barry Shore. He is talking about joy in life.”

Whenever you hear www, what a wonderful world, right away, you think of that song. Remember that song by Louis Armstrong? You hear the opening bars of that great song, What a Wonderful World and what do you do right away? You smile. You can’t help it. Smile is one of the most important words you could ever internalize, utilize and leverage in life because SMILE stands for Seeing Miracles In Life Every Day. What a way to live. How do you like that, Gary?

I love it. I love your energy and I love the way you simplified things down to three things. Let’s go back, Barry. Take us back in your life. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid? Let us learn about you.

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The Joy of Living: If we were using the leverage of value, how do you find the value you can add? Show people the value, and you attract them. It’s called the law of attraction.

As fascinating, interesting and robust as I am now. At least my mother would say that. She’s the one who writes all my introductions and she’s in heaven. She passes them down through the heavenly host. Thank God I was raised in a place called Boston, Massachusetts. I’ll even fall into a Boston accent at some point. I was raised outside of Boston called Brookline, Massachusetts in a very wonderful, loving home.

Thank God I had a father who worked hard and a mother who was loving. I’m the oldest in the family. I have two younger sisters. We’re all close. Both my parents have passed away. It was a wonderful existence. I share with you the best part because most of my life has been involved with the business. I want to use this time to talk about business because it is part of my Why.

I have certain very important beliefs about business that is critical for people to understand. Number one, the word business is fascinating. How do you spell business? I was taught this when I was twelve years old. In the word business, the U comes before the I. Business is built on service. Most people don’t learn this until their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s.

Business is built on service. Service is the key to life. Click To Tweet

Service is the key of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dentist, a lawyer or an Indian Chief. Service is the key to life. Business, the word itself, shows us. The U comes before the I. I learned this at the age of 9, 10 or 11, growing up in Boston. Anybody can google it, look it up. It’s in the Northeast part of the United States of America. In the wintertime, it snows. Sometimes you have real deep snow.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have internet. You listen to the radio and say, “No school.” We didn’t sit around and play video games. We didn’t have them. We play and say, “I’m going to wait and sleep the rest of the day.” It was a time to go out, shovel snow and make money. What a wonderful way to live because you get exercise.

It was instructive for me because here’s what we needed to do. Ages 9, 10, 11, you go up and down the street with your boots on and get warm inside and a snow shovel. You knock on your neighbors’ doors, your neighbors. What are you going to do? You’re going to negotiate. Imagine being a 9, 10 or 11-year-old, negotiating with a householder, “I want $10.” He wants to give $5 and we settle somewhere, say $7 or $8, depending. You shovel and you’re working hard and good. Every once in a while, they give you a cup of hot chocolate. You made money.

Here’s what gets fun, Gary. I realized, “I could shovel maybe 7, 8 driveways before I get tired and go home. I can make $50, $60.” That’s a lot of money to a kid, especially in the 1950s but it got even better. My father said, “You have a lot of friends. Why don’t you get 2 or 3 of your friends and you go and get the jobs? If you get them, say, an $8 job, you give them $5 or $6, you make $2 or $3 and you’re leveraging your time.”

The bane of existence for most people is your time is limited. I don’t care if you’re charging $1,000 an hour as a lawyer, it doesn’t matter. You’re only able to negotiate your time. That’s why lawyers raise their rates. If you can leverage other people’s activities so that everybody wins, I did that. I had five friends and I got them the jobs. They had to do anything other than a shovel.

It ended up getting up to $10 for a driveway. I gave them $7, while I made $3. We’re shoveling another 30 driveways and I’m still shoveling some myself. I’m making real money, $120 sometimes. It didn’t snow every single day. When it did, it was delightful because I had money that I could choose to do what I wanted with.

That’s the whole essence for me about business. I’ve kept it going for 60-plus years. It’s finding more simple, direct ways of utilizing and leveraging time and energy so that everyone wins. This is the key. Everyone wins. It wasn’t that I got $10 and I gave them $2. It was the ability to create win-win situations. The householder won because they got their driveway and stairs shoveled. My friends won because they got money. They didn’t have to do anything. They don’t have to knock on doors and negotiate. I won because I’m helping them and making money. That’s real WWW, What a Wonderful World.

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The Joy of Living: When you have skills, it doesn’t matter what’s going on because markets move all the time. It’s the nature of life, the nature of business.

For the audience, Barry went through and did the WHY.os Discovery instead of the WHY Discovery. He came up with his Why to simplify things so that they’re easy to understand. How he does that was by finding better ways. Ultimately, what he brings is a way to contribute and add value to people around him. We saw that perfectly in that story. You simplified it down to a few things. You found a better way by getting your friends to participate with you and leverage your time. What you brought was a way for everyone to win.

May I share another story? Anybody who knows anything about America, look up Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox. I grew up in Boston. Where we lived, I could walk to Fenway Park. It was 3 miles. As a kid, a friend of mine’s family ran the concession for selling scorecards outside of Fenway Park. At the ages of 12, 13 and 14, I was selling scorecards in front of Fenway Park. You got pictures in 1960, 1961, 1962. The Red Sox weren’t what they are now. People didn’t go. Maybe this stadium is only half full.

Here’s where it gets fun. I’m selling a newspaper with a scorecard in the front and it sells for $0.08. People are busy going into the game. They give you a dime. Most of the time, they didn’t ask for the two pennies back. I made $0.02 for the paper and another $0.02. I’m vocal, selling, “Scorecards.” I have this great corner because I was out there.

There was this amazing guy who was probably 72, 73 at the time and I’m 12, 13. He’s sitting there with a large cart, about 6 feet long, 4 feet wide with roasted peanuts in bags on it. He’s sitting on a milk crate. He is an old black guy and I’m standing, doing things. He said, “Kid, come over here.” I come over. I said, “Yes, sir,” because that’s how I was raised.

The best way to learn something is to teach it. Click To Tweet

He said, “Let me hear what you’re talking.” I said, “Scorecards.” He said, “That’s very nice. You have a good voice. I like what you do but where’s the value? You’re not telling people what you do. Let me show you.” He said, “Peanuts a dime, 3 for a quarter, $0.15 in the ballpark.” He said, “I want you to tell them. How much is the scorecard in the ballpark?” I said, “$0.15.”

He goes, “Scorecard. Get your scorecard here. $0.08 here, $0.15 in the ballpark. You’re giving value and people will be attracted to you.” This is the word he used. “People will be attracted to you. You were running after people. They’re going to come to you.” His name was Elijah. I like that. He was a prophet and he helped me. We went together for almost three years.

I owned that corner because I was the best. It was the best corner. In two hours of selling, I would make over $40. I was having fun. All the people at the ballpark knew me so I got to go to most of the games for free. I saw dozens, if not hundreds, of Red Sox games. It was great.

Here is where it gets fun. I told my father the story and he said, “That’s great. Wonderful. Let’s add value. When people get your scorecard, how do they keep score?” I said, “They write down.” He said, “Do they always carry a pencil with them?” “I don’t know.” “Let’s do this.” We went out. We bought a bunch of pencils. We bought 20, 30 pencils and they’re regular long. He cut them in half like the little pencils you had at miniature golf courses.

He took a pencil, cut it in half and the pencil cost a nickel. We sold each half for a nickel. He turned a nickel into a dime but it wasn’t just that we turned a nickel into a dime. He told me about the gross margin, which is 50%. You didn’t make 100%. You made a 50% gross margin. What did you do? You gave real value. I said, “Get your scorecard, $0.08 here, $0.15 in the ballpark and a pen. Would you like a pencil with that?” “Yeah. How much is it?” “$0.10 here.” “Here’s a quarter or $0.20.”

We were using the leverage of value. How do you find the value that you can add? As Elijah told me, show people the value. You attract them. It’s called the law of attraction. Add value wherever you can, as my father did with, “Let’s give them pencils.” How wonderful. Everybody wins, the person who’s using it, me and what a wonderful world, www. Those are lessons I learned from the ages of 9 to 14 and it stood me in good steps.

I’ve done many businesses throughout my career. Some of them are spectacular successes and some of them hello, human. It’s the ability to always simplify. What can you do to make it as easy as possible for people to work with you? As we say in the sophisticated, how do you remove barriers to entry, not for your competition but for people who want to work with you?

Even in competition, I’ve learned a great lesson much later in life. It’s called co-opetition. I learned this at the University of Hard Knocks. You oftentimes will compete with people and those same people, you should look as collaborators. When you were a dentist, I don’t know if you did general dentistry but maybe there was another dentist that 1 mile away who was a specialist in pediatrics. Together, you can channel business to each other. Sometimes you collaborate sometimes you compete but it’s the ability to be open to it called co-opetition.

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The Joy of Living: CREATE: Causing, Rethinking, Enabling All To Excel

You grew up and went to high school in Boston. Did you go off to college?

I was a very good, young Jewish guy. I went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Here’s where it gets fun. After my junior year, I was a college dropout.

You and Steve Jobs.

College is interesting, nice and fun but I have wanderlust. I wanted to do something. This was 1969, 1970, around that era. It was the era of the hippies, things and growing on. I got a one-way ticket to Europe. You could do that in those days. I got landed in London. They let me in for only 30 days. They said, “We don’t want you here. Get out.”

I went to a place called Amsterdam, which was the crossroads of the world in those days. All over the world, people were coming through Amsterdam, from the Orient, from Africa, from Latin America, everywhere. I was in the middle of it. I got involved with a nice group of people. We had a little commune. How do you survive?

I had very little money and so did everybody else. We got together. We thought of things to do and we did. Out of that came a business three years later when I went back to the United States. An interesting thriving business. I’ll describe it very quickly. Imagine, let’s say a 9×12 Oriental Belgian rug that had a huge stain in someplace in it. It was sold at the flea markets. They had hundreds of these things. We would buy them for pennies. You buy a big 9×12 rug for $1 or $2, bring it back to our little commune.

We had eleven people. One of the people there was this interesting woman. She was skilled and said, “We cut this, do this. We put a back on it and make a pillow.” Imagine a carpet pillow. How about a carpet bag? How about a coat? How about a hat? We sold it there in Amsterdam. We made money so we could all live, do what we do and travel around and all over Europe for a year.

It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny. Click To Tweet

It was amazing. I said, “I feel like going back to America.” I bought a big container full of these things. I went back to Boston. Through a friend of a friend, I found somebody who also was a genius at doing this. She was a wonderful woman. She hired people and we started making bags, coats and pillows. We hung out a great sign on a place called Newbury Street in Boston.

It is a great story. Newbury Street, look it up. It is the most fashionable street in Boston for shopping. Even then, it was the hip place. Within a couple of months, I was written up in Boston Magazine and this stuff, carpet bag, carpet pillows. We had this little shop which was all Oriental rugs everywhere. It was fun. It was truly wonderful. Anybody who was a celebrity in those days who came to Boston came to the shop.

Cheech & Chong were famous at the time. They bought stuff for all their Hollywood friends and people who were ordering. We were part of this whole trend in America called the boutique business. This was where we went. We had a boutique. We were invited to do a booth in a boutique show in New York City. I said, “Yeah, of course.” They have a $3,000 booth but they gave it to her for $1,000.

We’re going to go. Myself and this nice lady, my head seamstress, we loaded up two cars. We were driving from Boston down to New York. It was a Saturday night in June 1972. We’re cruising down, getting ready to go to Manhattan for the big boutique show. Macy’s was going to be there. They have already expressed interest. A lot of them. Real people.

It was about midnight. We were traveling 60 miles an hour in the Volkswagen Beatle. Somebody fell asleep at the wheel of their big Buick car. The car hurdled over the median and smashed the Volkswagen Bug I was in and squashed it like a bug. I’m still here but it was touch and go for that night and the next day.

Thank God I didn’t pass away. My femur, my thigh bone, the hardest bone on the body to break, was smashed in many places. My leg was swinging like a gate. I didn’t pass out, thank God. The police and the fire department were amazing. They showed us pictures weeks later of what the car looked like. It’s not possible to survive but I did.

I’ll make the story very short. There was an operation that was done to put in special titanium plates and titanium screws into my thigh bone to put everything together. Over the next two and a half years, I had 2 more operations to remove a plate and 10 screws. I used that time to do what I call PTL, which saved my life. Prayer, Therapy and Love.

A lot of prayer, a lot of therapy, 2, 3 sometimes 4 hours a day of half a yoga and massage. I had friends that came by and love that was showered upon me. It took time. It was a process, not an event but looking at me, you can’t even see scars. They were picking glass out of my face for two days. I never limped. I did not limp after that.

I was, in a true sense, reborn. People call it near-death experience but I call it near life because when you get that close to not being here, I call it near life. You taste the essence of what it means to live exuberantly. Due to that, I made a renewed dedication to living life to the full in the most positive, purposeful, powerful, pleasant way that I could. That’s one story.

We’ll do another one. This show is very little about Barry Shore, nice guy that he is and even very little about Gary Sanchez, great guy that he is. This show is about you. It’s all about you becoming the best you. If these stories help or the information helps, everybody should be doing the Why.os because when you are the best you, you make the world a better place. You build more bridges of harmony. You create more joy, happiness, peace and love in the world. We need you. You make a difference. You are a MAD man or woman, Make A Difference.

You went through all the therapy, the PTL. You got yourself healthy again. Where did you go from there? Did you continue in that business? Did you end up selling it and doing something different?

That business, unfortunately, couldn’t be on because for the next two and a half years, I was out of business essentially. I said, “What do you want to do?” “I want to close loops.” I said, “I have time.” The good Lord said, “Mr. Shore, you got two and a half years. Do something with the time.” I went back to university. I only had one more year to go. I said, “I’ll go back. I’ll graduate.”

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The Joy of Living: Learn to love DOG POOP: Doing Of Good Power Of One Person

While I was in Amsterdam, I did attend a place called the Vrije University, which is very famous in Europe. There’s a number of them in Germany, as I’ve been in Amsterdam. It’s a great school and was free. I also studied while I was there. I went back and I got a double degree from the University of Massachusetts, which had opened up their first satellite campus in Boston. Before, it was always in Amherst. The University of Massachusetts is a very well-respected prestigious university of the United States of America with multiple old campuses and medical schools.

The first year they opened in Boston, I went and graduated double degree high in my class. I was looking to see, “What am I going to do?” Thank God I had a wonderful, loving family who tolerated me. I was taking the time to think about what I wanted to do. My mother had worked for a diamond dealer before she was married and even after she married for the first year before they had me. We were close to that family. My mother said, “Why don’t you think of doing something in diamonds?” I went to speak to her former employer, Mr. Guinness. He said, “You should go to a place called the GIA.”

GIA means nothing to most people. GIA stands for the Gemological Institute of America. It is the most famous school of its kind in the world. Everybody who’s anybody in the giant diamond or gem business goes to the GIA. When I went there in 1977, it was a small school. It was known only to insiders in the diamond business and some of the gem businesses.

They accepted me because I graduated college. I took the program. The program was very intensive. It was 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 6 months at a time but I wanted to do it. I was good enough, great at what I did and they said, “Barry Shore, we love you. We’d like you to teach the program. You’d be 1 of 2 instructors.” The best way to learn something is to teach it.

As I learned from Elijah and my father in leveraging and shoveling snow, you teach and learn more. It was wonderful. While I was there, two wonderful things happened to me in my life that changed me entirely. One was I became close friends was my best friend of the world at the time. His name was Frank Bonham. Together, we had decided we were going to leave the Institute after a few years.

HEALTH: Helping Everyone Achieve Life Through Happiness Click To Tweet

We were both there for almost three years. We decided to go out on our own and become diamond dealers. While I was there, I met and married the true diamond and jewel of my life, my wife, Naomi. It was the greatest possible move. It moved me from Boston where it snowed in the winter. You’re in your twenties. Who needs cold? You didn’t need a visa to come to Los Angeles.

I lived in Beverly Hills and the school was a couple of hours away. I drove across the country in my Volkswagen bus, which is not the same one but similar to what I used traveling around Europe. I’m living in Los Angeles and warm and loving and close friends and getting married. We’re going to go into business. I’ll make it short because from 1979 to 1981, Frank and I because of my personality and our skills, the market was booming. We bought and sold over $100 million dollars worth of diamonds in less than three years.

We made a lot of money, had a lot of fun and it was amazing. Before anybody gets jealous in any way whatsoever and say, “Look at these guys.” At the end of 1980 and by the middle of 1981, at least 80% of everything we made, we lost. It’s not because we made mistakes. The market crashed. An example, a diamond that would cost $50,000 for a 1-carat diamond in January of 1980 and we were buying and selling. By the end of 1980, it was down to $8,000.

We had a lot of inventory because we were moving. We made a lot of money. We’re selling. Things happened. You need to go through stuff in order to learn real lessons of when to buy, when to sell, when to lead, like a famous song by Kenny Rogers. It was fabulous. My wife’s still with me. My best friend, Frank, is still around. We ended up not having our business anymore because we didn’t have sufficient funds to keep going. The market was down for many years but it was quite the ride. We went through a lot of experiences and I learned a lot.

You went to the top and ended up back at the bottom.

We continue to move up. While we were doing that ride of $100 million, we had built the first and only limited partnership in California that allowed people to buy gemstones and put them in the partnership. We did some very creative things. As you said, simplify. We took an arcane idea, simplified it and said, “Look what you can do.” People say, “That’s interesting.” It was great.

When you have skills, it doesn’t matter what’s going on because markets move all the time. It’s the nature of life, the nature of business. It’s all about service and that’s why we’re here. Was there stress? Yes but part of wonderful living is how do you deal with stress. I had been through a deadly automobile accident. That was real stress. This is just money.

How did you end up paralyzed?

Let’s go on to this. Here’s the story. Let’s fast forward from the 1980s. I tried a couple of businesses. Some of them were moderately successful. Imagine the following. Standing up in the morning, hale and hearty, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and that evening, being in the hospital, totally completely paralyzed. It was not from an automobile accident. It was not a spinal injury.

It was a rare disease that I had never heard of the day before that took over my body and rendered me a quadriplegic. That’s what it’s called. I was completely, totally paralyzed. I was 144 days in the hospital. I was two years in a hospital bed in my own home. I couldn’t turn over by myself. Four years in a wheelchair. I had braces on both my legs, my hips to my ankles. Think of Forrest Gump completely with those big braces. That was progress.

Thank God, now I’m able to be vertical and ambulatory with the help of a seven-foot walking wand. I’m a triped, not a biped. I still can’t walk up a stair or a curb by myself. I have help 12 hours a day, 7 days a week but you hear my voice, positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant. It’s all because of that one word I told you, SMILE.

SMILE stands for Seeing Miracles In Life Every day. I have to tell you a quick story. My eight-year-old niece comes over to me and says, “Uncle Barry, can we spell smile? SMIEL.” I thought about it. It sounds the same. I said, “Why not?” I asked her, “How come?” She says, “It would stand for Seeing Miracles In Everyday Life.” Out of the mouth of babes.

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy

What was she doing, Gary? She was creating the world she wanted to live in. CREATE is a wonderful acronym. We love working with words and acronyms. CREATE stands for Causing Rethinking, Enabling All To Excel. This is what you excel at. What you built with the WHY.os is enabling people to rethink and understand that you are in charge of your own programming. We call it normal linguistic programming. You’re in charge of your own thoughts.

When you do that, you can understand the six most important words that I teach people whenever they listen. These are choice, not chance, that determines your destiny. It’s how you respond to any given situation. Do you think it was easy being paralyzed for years? No. Did I respond by being bitter and angry? No. Did I think I’d ever even move again? In the two years, I was in a hospital bed, unable to move by myself or turn over, my vision and abilities were all focused on sitting up and putting my feet over the side of the bed. That was it. That’s what I wanted. It took me years but I did it.

How did you do it?

I call upon PTL, Prayer, Therapy and Love. I’m talking about deep prayer for myself, people that cared about me, still care about me and still say prayers for me. To other people, I look like I’m “handicapped” and therapy. We hired therapists to come to the house who would move my legs and my arms, massage this, push and try everything and anything to find mechanisms to get things happening again.

Eventually, the therapy and love paid off. Personally, it’s much easier for me to give love than receive enormous amounts of love. When people tell me by the dozen, by the hundreds, when they heard and came visiting, “We love you,” it makes you feel truly humble. It’s much easier for me to say, “I love you,” to receive it, incorporate it and allow their honest, caring feelings to suffuse my physical being and energize it. I am not just a believer. I know for a fact that love creates healing.

I have an acronym for HEALTH, which is Helping Everyone Achieve Life Through Happiness. That’s real health when you have that flow. Bitter and angry are constricting. Love is expansive. This is for me. I’ve been in lots of stuff. I’ll tell you another thing about therapy because you might find it of interest. I have a friend. We have help 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When I was back home after the hospital, 144 days, sometimes, they get me into a wheelchair and take me out for a stroll on the street. One of my neighbors, who we’ve known for years, comes over and says, “I heard what happened. It’s okay. I got to tell you something. I’ll have you up and walking within a year.” I’m listening to anybody. I’m still a quad at this point. He said, “I am the best aquatic therapist in America.”

Life and death are in the hands of the tongue. You can hurt so deeply with words, and you can rise up. Click To Tweet

How do I know that was true? It’s because he told me. I love people who are confident in what they do. Gary, you were a dentist for a long while. You didn’t go and say, “I’m an okay dentist.” You didn’t ever think that. You’re the best dentist. If you’re not, you’re not going to work on my teeth. I can tell you that.

He’s the best aquatic therapist. I’m in Southern California. We did a lot of outdoors well as indoors but pools in America have a Hoyer lift. It’s a special lift for people that are in wheelchairs, going from the wheelchair into this lift and the lift will pick you up and mechanically move you and put you in the water. Vince, the aquatic therapist, had four people working on me in the water sometimes for an hour and hour and a half at a time, with a flotation device on my legs, belly and arm so I wouldn’t sink and die and kept moving.

We did this 3, 4 times a week because I wanted something to happen. I wanted nerves to be triggered again. After about a year and a half, one day, I was in the water with people helping. I moved my arms over my head and they didn’t move my arms away. I started moving. I moved and interestingly enough, I hit my head against the side of the pool, which was great because that means I moved on my own. I said, “Let me keep doing this.”

I kept going back and forth in the pool. I was able to swim 98 minutes without stopping. They were timing me. I was in ecstasy. I swam 1 mile in 98 minutes and that was a breakthrough moment. That was not just a-ha. That was, “I couldn’t do it but I was jumping out of the water.” Imagine the whale breaching and going up high. That’s how I felt. I said, “If I could do it once, I could do it again.”

I started doing it twice a week and then 3 times a week then 4 times, 5 times a week, 6 times because I’m persevering. I am not going to let anything stop me from doing this. Over the course of the next year, it was becoming my routine. I was well-known at the pool. One day, one of my friends I swim with told me about a program. It’s a great form of swimming. I contacted the person who was responsible for it. We saw videos. I’m able to turn on my belly.

I still have flotation devices on my legs because otherwise, I’d stay sink. I was able to turn on my tummy. I have paddles on my hands. Gary, you can see my fingers don’t close. I use a snorkel. I swim on my back. I do backstroke and crawl. I swim 2 miles a day, 6 days a week. I’ve been doing this for more than a dozen years. I have over 8,400 miles that record every half-mile, mile, 2 miles, 3 miles sometimes 4 miles in a day because I’m that dedicated.

My goal is to swim around the world. I’m a mental health activist. The goal is to raise money for mental health situations. We call it Stop the Stigma. Make people aware that mental health is not something you hide from, that you can get help and it can be either cured or work with it. It’s something to be worked on and talked about.

I’m attracting Michael Phelps into my life as my swimming buddy. Together, I’ll swim 2 miles a day, he’ll swim 2 miles a day and we’ll swim 1,000 miles in a year. People will kick in their $0.02 worth. Do you know how you say, “This is my $0.02 worth of something?” I’m in for $0.02, 1,000 miles, $20. We’ll have hundreds of thousands of people giving $20 to raise millions of dollars for mental health situations.

We’ll attract more celebrities to do this and create a whole revolution so that we’re swimming around the world. It’s 24,901 miles around the world. I have 8,400 already but I got 16,000 more to go. We’ll raise awareness. We’ll raise money and have a lot of fun. Barry Shore is swimming around the world. From quadriplegic to swimming around the world. You can do something in your life also. Go MAD. Go make a difference.

Tell us about your book, The JOY of Living. How and when did that come about?

This is something for me. It came about because of lying in bed as a quadriplegic for years and thinking about it. Prior to being paralyzed, I was in business. I created two companies that I sold to other public companies, multimillion-dollar exits at the beginning of the internet, 1997, 1998. I had three US patents. I’m doing stuff.

Due to research into the human condition and being in a human condition, paralyzed, I had a lot of time to think about it. I formulated the 11 Strategies for Learning How to Live, Enjoy Daily, No Matter the Situation. The subtitle is How to Slay Stress and Be Happy. As an example of something deep, I put all of this into my mind. I’m making an analogy. Think of somebody who’s in prison. You don’t have the ability to write things down because they didn’t give you the time about real stuff.

You think about it. You dwell on it. You formulate it and you can see it. You see my hands, Gary. I thank God I can write and type out with two fingers to put it on paper or on-screen what I was thinking about. These eleven strategies are so good because they work like what you do with WHY.os. The reason people flock to you is because WHY.os works. It’s that simple. It’s something that works. That is a benefit to me.

To everybody reading, this show is about you. That’s who you care about. That’s great. You tune in because you care the most in the whole world about you. That’s wonderful. Self-enlightened interest is wonderful. What happened is that I was asked to speak to people because of the story. It’s a great story. I was articulating and writing down. People say I should write a book. I was thinking about it.

BYW 19 | The Joy of Living
The Joy of Living: Your words matter. Recognize the power you have and when you think in good, speak in good, and do good. That energy can never dissipate. It goes around the world.

After a certain amount of years, I made the time to put onto the paper what it is we want you to do, got an editor. Some of the stories I’ve already told you like the story about Elijah, about shoveling snow. They are in the book because the book is not just read about Barry Shore’s life. The first two chapters are about stress, the debilitating aspects of stress and how to leverage stress. You can use stress to your advantage.

How do you build muscle? You need the stress. You’re a doctor, Gary. It’s the ability to understand the stress and then work with the eleven strategies. One of them is SMILE, Seeing Miracles In Life Every Day. I’ll tell you one great story. Here I am at the pool and getting the Hoyer lift into the water. I’m swimming in this special lane they call the handicapped lane, special needs lane.

Next to me is a woman who’s walking in the water. Her name is Aita. At the time, she was 95. I rest once in a while and we’re talking. Over the course of a couple of weeks, she said, “Barry, I love your energy. I’m 95. I’m happy I’m alive but I want to be like you. I want to be happy as you.” I said, “You want to be me?” She said, “Yes. I want to be the best me. Will you work with me?” I said, “I’d be honored to.”

I’m going to tell you two stories. Of the eleven strategies, one of them is called Get Uncomfortable. Barry, I don’t like being uncomfortable. Get uncomfortable. We’re not talking about walking around with a pebble in your shoe all day. We’re talking about talking to Gary Sanchez as a dentist. I teach people how to brush their teeth with their non-dominant hand.

When you brush your teeth, you should do at least two minutes without stopping. When you do it with your dominant hand, it becomes a mindless activity. I don’t mean electric, even though I use electric. It’s good to do it. For me, my left hand’s non-dominant. You got to think about it, especially when you don’t do electric. Even if you do electric, you have to think about it because it’s uncomfortable. That’s the purpose, being mindful.

The strategy Aita liked the most was get uncomfortable. We worked with all eleven but this is the one that resonated with her. You should applaud this because it’s not me. It’s about her. I had the opportunity to sing. I sing to her whenever we see each other. She said, “Barry, sing me a song,” whether we’re in the pool or other places. I sang happy birthday to Aita on her 109th birthday. She’ll tell anybody who listens and say, “He’s the guy who didn’t just keep me alive. He kept me alive and happy.” Don’t take it from me. These strategies work from this book, The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy.

Gary, with your permission, we’re going to do something amazing. To anybody who wants the book, we’re going to give 22% off if you go to It sells at $15.95 on Amazon. You get it from our site. It’ll be 22% off as a physical or eBook either way. That will include shipping and handling and sales tax because we want everybody to have the book. It sells very well but it’s not just a book of stories. At the end of each chapter, it has simplified takeaways and things to do for your benefit. This is all about you.

The book is a handbook, a guidebook. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Aita. Take it from the story about David. Take the story about Heather. These Keep Smiling cards that we give out are another one of the strategies that saves lives. Dozens of people have not committed suicide. They’ve told me. I’ve gotten emails because they got to a Keep Smiling card from somebody. There was a human touch. I’m going to leave you with one last story if I may because you wanted me to speak about the best advice you’ve ever had, right?

I was about to ask you for the best advice you’ve ever been given or given.

Go forth, live exuberantly, spread the seeds of joy, happiness, peace, and love. Go MAD: Make A Difference. Click To Tweet

Here we go. Everybody put on your seatbelt. Here it is. Learn to love dog poop. Did Barry Shore say, “Learn to love dog poop?” Yes. Remember three things, three fundamentals. Life has a purpose, go MAD. Make a difference and unlock the power and the sequence of everyday words in terms. DOG POOP stands for Doing The Good, Power Of One Person.

One of the strategies is your words matter. You recognize the power that you have. When you think, speak and do good, that energy can never dissipate. It can never be stopped. It goes around the world. It will touch you, your family, your friends and all living beings. We need you more than ever. You need me. You need Gary. Every single one of us.

When you recognize that you have that power, the power of one person reaching out to another, that’s it, doing of good, power of one person. Next time you see dog poop, you say, “I love dog poop.” They’ll say, “What are you talking about?” “I heard Barry Shore and Gary Sanchez. He said you’ve got to love dog poop.” It opens up the ability to have a conversation, doesn’t it, Gary?

For sure. I was waiting to ask you the question that you answered without me asking. While you answered the question I hadn’t yet asked, you brought up something that I had written on my paper here and put a big box around it. That was the power of word choices. I’m curious, have you always focused on the words that bring you energy? Tell us what you believe about word choices.

I have been involved with words since I was below the age of 9, probably even the ages of 4 and 5. I was already involved with books. I was a conversationalist, a storyteller. I was around storytellers. My mother was a great storyteller. My father, Les, I’ll be told some stories and the people they associated with something called the Gin Club.

That doesn’t mean they drank gin. They played gin rummy. They were 5 or 6 couples. They would play cards but the cards were their way of being together as 10 or 12 people and telling stories. Listening to adults or people who were older kids tell stories is always fascinating. When I see the word, words, I look at that and I say, “What is that?” Look at that. Words are so powerful.

In Proverbs, ancient wisdom text, which is the acronym for AWE. AWE stands for Ancient Wisdom Educates. That’s what you say, AWE. Proverbs says, “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.” That is so important. You can hurt so deeply with words. You can raise up, as I have been benefited by people telling me, “I love you,” when I was from the car accident and paralyzed. Those words penetrated.

If you look at the word, words, if you move the S from the end of the words to the front, it spells a sword. A sword is a very interesting item because a sword can do several things. It cuts. It can be used as an offensive weapon. It can be used as a defensive weapon. A small sword can be called a scalpel. It can be used to heal. It’s the ability to look at this thing called words and understand their power of them.

I’ll leave you with one story. I speak to groups sometimes as few as 50 sometimes as many as 5,200. People ask me, “Where did you find the strength to do this stuff and get through and not be bitter, not be angry and feel power positive, purposeful, powerful and pleasant?” It’s because of my mother. My mother was born more than 100 years ago with a large red wine stain through three-quarters of her face.

Imagine kids in school nowadays. Is bullying something? Yes. We’re cognizant of it, all that stuff. A hundred years ago, bullies were bullies. Kids are kids. It’s amazing to say this. My mother didn’t get through the process that she had this and lived with it. She was beyond it. She learned at some age that the people who made fun of her, that was their problem, not hers.

How adult is that for a kid? How do we know some of this? It’s because as kids, we were growing up so she still kept a lot of friends. She always made friends from high school. Her high school friends would come to the house. We knew them. They say, “This is your mother. This is Frances. What do you want?” That’s who she was.

My mother always wore heavy pancake makeup and stuff because she didn’t want to have it. It was also pockmarked but it’s my mother. When she didn’t have the makeup on, it’s my mother. It wasn’t that she carried a chip. She was free from that. She lived life so fully that it was beside the point. She had the regular stresses of life, family and income but it wasn’t that. I learned very early on, this is my model for living in joy daily, no matter the circumstances.

Barry, if there are people that want to get a hold of you, follow you, learn more about you, how should they best connect with you?

Everybody should. That’s number one, Gary. The best way is to go to Go there and you’ll see that there’s a free mini-class that we give. The videos are fabulous. Thousands of people tell me this. I’m not saying it. People tell me, “This makes a difference in people’s life.” That’s free. We have a free newsletter. We’re here to serve. We’re here to grow.

We’re building a community called The Joy of Living Community. We’re making it virtually with no barrier to entry. We charge $10 a month, a very small amount because you need to charge something to be able to have people have value but the value of $10 a month, $120 a year. The value is in the thousands because you get a webinar with me. You get the full course, a $197 value. You get a copy of the book for free, a joy package. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars worth of value.

We want people to be in the community because then you learn about dog poop and share it with other people in the community. It’s not limited to the United States. We live in an interconnected global environment that everybody wants to learn how to reduce, mitigate, maybe even eliminate debilitating stress and live in joy daily. Who doesn’t want that in their life? That’s how to contact. Do it. You’ll be happy. Thank Gary.

Barry, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I’m looking forward to staying connected as we go on our journeys. I love what you’re doing. Count me in. I’m going to go over there and sign up. Thank you so much for being here and we’ll stay connected.

Can we leave everybody with a blessing? Our blessing from Gary and Barry is to go forth, live exuberantly, spread the seeds of joy, happiness, peace and love. Go MAD. Go make a difference.

I love it. That is so awesome.

Important Links:

About Barry Shore

BYW 19 | The Joy of LivingKnown as the “Ambassador of JOY,” Barry Shore is a mental health activist, philanthropist, multi-patent holding entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, and former quadriplegic who is now swimming around the world! Barry’s podcast, The JOY of LIVING, is heard globally by hundreds of thousands and has over three million downloads.His latest book, The Joy of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy is available on Amazon and Apple Books.

After a rare disease paralyzed Barry from the neck down, he created the JOY of LIVING Institute™ (a platform that teaches people to live in joy, no matter the situation), The Keep Smiling movement that has reached multiple celebrities and distributed millions of “Keep Smiling” cards worldwide, and Changebowl which is a philanthropic platform featured in Oprah’s Magazine.


Nick Kennedy: Making A Significant Rift In The Status Quo

BYW S4 18 | Status Quo


Ever since he was young, Nick Kennedy doesn’t believe in following the rules. His rebellious nature pushed him to challenge the status quo and escape the conventional. He wasn’t afraid to put anything to the test and be out of the ordinary. This mindset brought him success and transformed him into an influential leadership coach. But at some point, he has been seen as odd and is often misunderstood. Nick joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to open up about his WHY of being out of the ordinary, inviting everyone to look at life with a fresh set of eyes. He explains how successful leaders should use their unique characteristics as keys to profound self-transformation.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Nick Kennedy: Making A Significant Rift In The Status Quo

If you’re a regular reader, you know that every week, we talk about one of the nine why’s and then bring on somebody with that why so you can see how their why has played out in their life. We’re going to be talking about the why of the challenge. If this is your why then you don’t believe in following the rules or drawing inside the lines. You want things to be fun, exciting and different. You rebel against the classic way of doing things. You typically have eclectic friends and tastes because after all, why would you want to be normal?

You love to be different and think differently. You aren’t afraid to challenge virtually anyone or anything that is too conventional or typical for your tastes. Pushing the envelope comes naturally to you. I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Nick Kennedy. Nick is a serial entrepreneur and an executive life coach with over twenty years of experience building successful ventures. After accumulating over 2 million airline miles traveling for work while losing hours of productivity and family time, Nick founded RISE in 2014, a private airline.

RISE created a two-sided marketplace that connected busy business executives with private plane operators to redefine travel to regain control of wasted time. Prior to RISE, Nick began his career as a Business Development Manager for EDS. He then went on to build multiple healthcare-centered businesses. As a coach with over 4,000 hours of experience for high-powered executives, he helps stuck executives become fully integrated spouses, parents and businesspeople.

Nick was named the 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and awarded Dallas Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. He serves as a Capital Factory Mentor and is on the boards of several companies. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, D Magazine, Texas Monthly, Dallas News and the Dallas Business Journal. Nick splits his time between Texas and Colorado along with his wife Angela and kids Will, Sam and Jane. Nick, welcome to the show.

It’s great to be here. I feel seen as you were reading off the challenger. You’re spot on there.

Let’s talk about that for a moment. Take us back in your life. Where were you born? What were you like in high school? Where did you grow up? Take us back to those years. Let’s learn a little bit about you.

I was born in Colorado. I lived there until I was 10 or 11 years old and ended up moving out to San Diego, California where I spent from 11 to 12 years old until I was 18. I grew up in two of the most beautiful places in the world. I enjoyed exploring. I’m incredibly curious. I was always pushing the boundaries. My report cards when I was young were like, “Nick talks. He gets good grades but he talks too much. Tell him to be quiet.” It was the way I was born with. I had a lot of things I wanted to share. That turns out to be a great skillset for entrepreneurship.

What were you like? Give us an example of how you thought outside the box. How you didn’t follow the rules and how you were that kid that was “different?”

Honestly, during the time, I didn’t think about why I was doing it. I was annoyed that things weren’t a different way. When I would question them to the powers that be, I wasn’t satisfied with most of the answers. That led me down the path of exploring further why it couldn’t be different. 9 times out of 10, I found the answer. We’ve got thousands of years of human history that have gotten us pretty efficient with how we live our lives.

If you do that enough, you start to find these inefficiencies. That’s where goodness comes from and where entrepreneurs thrive. Entrepreneurship is building a business. It’s a French word. It means bearer of risk. Entrepreneurship is being annoyed with something and thinking about it all the time until you get it fixed. That’s what I was like as a kid. I was curious to understand why things couldn’t be different. It’s the things that particularly annoyed me.

I like that definition. I had not heard that before. Entrepreneurship is being annoyed with something long enough that you can’t stop thinking about it so you have to do something about it.

Entrepreneurship is just being annoyed with something and thinking about it all the time. Click To Tweet

That’s what it breaks it down to. Look at Elon Musk who’s the uber-entrepreneur with $200 billion in net worth. The guy is annoyed with things. I don’t think he’s a particularly healthy individual but that’s what you get when you get the extreme of, “I want something to be different. I’m going to find a way to go do it.” That is what’s so cool about that. Why I associate and identify as an entrepreneur is that’s what moves society forward. Nothing changes until someone gets annoyed enough to go do something about it. We have seen that over and over again.

In my book that came out, I posit that entrepreneurship started 80,000 years ago on the shores of Morocco where these snails live. The locals there on the shores of the beaches of Morocco would take these snail shells, paint them and put holes in them. They found them hundreds of miles inland. The theory is that they were using these to trade with other goods that the tribes further in had. 80,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens roamed the Earth together. The main reason they think Neanderthals died off is that they couldn’t share their resources.

They had bigger brains and bodies. They were stronger. They should have been the dominant race and yet here we are as Homo sapiens. What I’m putting forward is the reason we’re here and Neanderthals have died off is because we learn to share and take risks to go to the tribe down the way that didn’t look, talk or eat the same stuff like us. We said, “You’ve got a little something I need. I’ve got a little something you need. Let’s see if we can work this out.” The third invention of mankind behind the fire and stone tools is entrepreneurship. That’s what led to growth as the human species.

I hadn’t thought of it that way. You finished high school in San Diego. Take us on your journey. Did you go off to college? Did you start into business? Tell us what happened with you?

It’s still in high school. Let’s stay there because that’s the seminal moment in my life. I grew up upper-middle class and had a lot of privileges. When I was 16, my dad was sentenced to 20 years in Federal prison. If you want to put a shock in the system, you take a kid who has been given almost everything and then you tell them, “You got to go get 2 or 3 jobs to help your mom pay rent.” It was a shock. There were lots of trauma and things that I processed over the years. It forced me to reckon with this new position in my life.

I realized everybody’s starting line in life is completely different. I started ahead of the starting line as a White man in America. Some are positioned at the starting line, behind and outside the stadium but we’ve all got these different starting positions. My starting position changed drastically when that happened. I’m incredibly thankful because I got to see these vastly different lives, which was that of someone who didn’t worry for much to, “I don’t know where the next meal is coming from.”

By the grace of God, I got a baseball scholarship to go to a little school in Arkansas called Harding University. I landed in Arkansas in August. It was 120-some degrees. Everybody talked funny. The food is all fried. Everybody had funny haircuts and shotgun racks in their trucks. I grew up in San Diego. I had this long blonde hair. They called me Sunshine. They made me go get my haircut on the baseball team. You could have put me in Belgium and I would have been more at home than I was in Arkansas. Six months later, I met my wife in college. The rest is history. It was a great experience there in Arkansas.

What did you go into for your degree?

I have a Business Management degree with a minor in Finance. I was always driven towards business. That was my background. For all those out there who are wanting to get into business, Harding is a great school. I use about 3% of what I learned in college. You have to go in there and figure out how to navigate your life.

You were playing baseball, met your wife and graduated. You’re off to start your career. Where did your career start?

The only job I got out of college was a job at EDS. It was the famed company or the company that Ross Perot started. I learned two main things there. Number one, I got to witness the legacy of Ross Perot. He had left when I was joining the company but his legacy was large on that company. Few people know this. There’s a book that documented this called On Wings of Eagles. When the fall of the Shah of Iran happened, EDS employees were in Iran digitizing their health records back in the ’70s. That’s what EDS did. They took two EDS employees hostage.

BYW S4 18 | Status Quo
Status Quo: You could have an idea that had never been done before. Given enough resources, opportunity, and luck, you can create a whole new category that didn’t exist before.


Jimmy Carter famously tried to negotiate their release and failed. Ross Perot was famous for hiring a lot of Vietnam veterans that had come back. He had put them through a two-year training program and made them computer programmers because he needed computer programmers. He wanted to employ these men and women that were coming back. If you didn’t want to do computer programming, you became part of the security detail.

He ended up hiring and giving a blank check to these commandos to go rescue his employees out of Iran. It’s all documented in On Wings of Eagles. He was that employer. It went beyond profits. It was never less than profits but he felt deeply about what he was doing and who his employees were. Number one, I learned about that from Ross Perot. I was a financial analyst. The second thing I learned was that, if I did that for more than eighteen months, I was going to jump off a tall building.

I could not sit in a cube and know exactly what I was going to be doing on the 13th business day of next month. That was going to drive me nuts as a challenger. Those are the two things I learned from EDS. From there, a good friend said, “I’m going to start this business. Would you care to join?” I said, “Yes, anything to get out of here.” Everybody said, “You shouldn’t do that.” I was warned about it, “Startups are hard.” They were all right.

At the end of the day, I loved it because it opened my eyes to the idea that you could have an idea of something that had never been done before given enough resources, time, opportunity and luck. Any successful entrepreneur admits that they have had luck. You can go create a whole new category that didn’t exist before. I became addicted to the idea that I could go create new things. I got to see a lot of things I wanted to do and didn’t want to do. That became my journey of startups, which I’ve been doing for twenty-plus years.

It sounds like you weren’t a very good employee.

I’m a horrible employee, especially at this point. I’m unemployable. I say that proudly. I take that. I worked hard. I was diligent. I was always at the top but I questioned too much. These corporations thrive on processes. I get it. There are people that do that well. God bless them. We need that in a lot of ways but it’s not what I was designed or called to do. It’s not anywhere close to my why.

You started doing a lot of traveling. In your bio, you mentioned you put in 2 million miles on the airlines. Tell us about that.

Over the course of 10 years building 2 different businesses, I accumulated 2 million miles on American Airlines. I have the Executive Platinum. I was up in the first class 9 out of 10 times. I got all the best that they could give me. For the first year, it was super cool. For the next nine years, it was a beating. Nobody wanted to be involved. The flight attendants, baggage people, check-in people and passengers were frustrated. We take what is one of man’s greatest inventions, the gift of flight and made it miserable. Give us enough time and we will ruin anything.

I’m looking at this situation and going, “This is driving me nuts. I’m gaining weight. I’m unhealthy. I’m not around my friends or family. I get home on Friday night exhausted. I just get enough rest to go back out on the road on Monday.” I don’t know how it is now but at the time, only healthcare and insurance rated lower on the scale of customer satisfaction than airlines. That’s what I was doing. One of the investors in one of the startup businesses had a private plane. I got to experience that.

My eyes were opened to this idea that you could take effectively the same technology, one is a little bit larger and one is a little bit smaller and have a ten-times different experience. When you fly private, you come to the security gate, hit the intercom and tell the tail number you’re flying on. The gate magically opens. You drive right up to the plane. The attendants come out, pop your trunk and get your bags. You get on board and the flight attendant says, “Here’s your almond milk cappuccino, Wall Street Journal and New York Times.”

The pilot briefs you on the weather. It’s this unbelievable experience. You land and there’s a car waiting for you. I got to experience that. I thought, “I want a plane. I floated up on the big boys.” That was my frustration. Now that I had experienced that, I couldn’t go back. There’s a joke in the private aviation industry that private planes and crack cocaine are very similar. The only difference is you have a shot of quitting crack cocaine in the future. You can’t quit once you’ve flown private. That was my problem. I was now addicted to flying private.

Give humans enough time and they can ruin just about anything. Click To Tweet

That led you to then start your own airline.

I looked at buying a plane. The reality is buying a plane is not easy. It’s the easier of the two, which is operating a plane. They were incredibly expensive. I thought, “What if I get a bunch of my friends together? We could do this.” I realized, “I had been doing market research for a decade.” I realized that there were lots of people like me who could afford more than the first class but couldn’t afford to fly private regularly because it’s so expensive to have your own.

I wondered, “What if we could somehow mend those two together?” Right at the time, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and everything was taking off for this idea that you didn’t have to own the assets. You could sit in the middle and be the two-sided marketplace. I knew for a fact that anybody who flew private wanted to fly private. I knew for a fact that people who flew commercial airlines didn’t want to. The only thing I didn’t know is how did the aviation industry work. I had to figure out how that worked.

What I found out was at the time, the average private plane in America flew between 200 and 300 hours a year. People buy these assets. They sit around and cost a lot of money. I also realized it’s an incredibly low-margin business because it’s mainly airline guys or military guys who come out and want to be in the plane business. They do it because they love it. It’s a passion business for them. I said, “What would it be like for you if I could use your planes that are sitting around and your pilots? I’ll bring you more revenue.” Everybody hung up on me.

They’re like, “You’re insane. This doesn’t work.” Finally, a couple said, “Let’s try this out.” My theory was I would take that plane flying 200 hours, fly 2,000 hours and 10X the revenue on that plane. In exchange, you had to paint the planes with my livery, put your pilots in my uniforms and do all these different things. It turned out to be a home run because shortly thereafter, all the people that hung up on me started calling me back and saying, “How do I get access to this?”

We were driving the revenue for that. My clients on one side, customers and members called it a membership. We had a 97 NPS score. It was unbelievable the experience we were giving them. On the other side, when we would show up to a flight in a new city, we would show up and say, “We’re going to buy X amount of thousands of gallons of fuel. Give us the best price you got.” We created this marketplace immediately. It was crazy how quickly it all come together.

I could just call you. You took somebody’s private plane. How did they feel about you putting 1,800 hours on their plane? Did it matter? Did they value it?

It does a little bit. What’s interesting about planes, to get a little technical is every plane manufacturer designates certain things about the plane and what needs to be checked. It’s X amount of land deeds, hours and all these different things. Once you hit that, you have to do what’s called an overhaul. When you hit the major overhauls, you’re taking an engine apart and putting it back together. They’re several hundred-thousand-dollar operations.

Age and hours on planes are less an issue. The engines we were flying were PT6 engines. Millions of hours are on these things across the world. As long as they’re maintained well, it devalues its sum but it’s like a Land Cruiser. You buy it for $100,000. It decreases to $60,000 but it’s going to stay at $60,000 forever there on out as long as you’re selling in Colorado or wherever you are. That’s what a plane was. I should clarify for the membership, we were selling a flat fee to our members. We were an unscheduled service. It was like an airline. You couldn’t take it whenever or wherever you want it.

We scheduled tourists to specific cities but on our private plane, it was this hybrid between having your own plane wherever. They paid us regardless. They pay us a monthly fee. If they flew one time, they paid us the same thing. If it was ten times, they paid the same thing. We had this recurring revenue. Revenue is gold. Recurring revenue is diamonds. It’s mailbox money that you’ve got coming in regardless. That was a key. It was a huge part of our success to have that consistent revenue.

It was called RISE. What happened to RISE?

BYW S4 18 | Status Quo
Status Quo: Many people could afford more than first-class flying but couldn’t afford to fly private regularly because it’s just too expensive on your own.


We ended up selling RISE to a company out in California called Surf Air. It was a similar type of company. The two biggest markets in the country were California and Texas. We were in Texas and they were in California, either we were going to go get them or they’re going to come get us. We had to go through those two areas. I worked out that we sold RISE to them in California.

What happened to you? How long ago was this?

That was the 2017 to 2018 timeframe.

What happened to it?

You take a kid whose dad goes to prison and hang a bunch of shame around his neck. He has opted to do what I did, which is, “I’m going to ensure that you never get an edge on me.” I felt like I couldn’t trust anybody. There was a kid in my high school. He was a nice kid. It’s not his fault. I’m not going to mention his name. I remember getting into a fight with him in the locker room after football practice one day. After I thought I got the best of him, he looked at me and said, “At least my dad is going to be there. Your dad is not going to be there for the next two decades.”

At the time, I wondered what everybody thought. No one said that to my face. It was the first time somebody had the courage to say to my face what I thought everybody was saying behind my back. I didn’t know it then. It took me about twenty years to figure it out. I ingested those words as my identity as, “I am a child of a prisoner.” I know that now to not be true. I don’t think I had ever said that. Everything in my body was driven towards making sure no one ever knew that about me.

I was going to create a trophy room so big and grand that if we ever spent time together, we would never get to my most endearing part, which is my side that’s hurt, broken, sad and those things that are inside of me. Look at me. I’m the guy who started, built and sold an airline. Few people can say that. Looking back, I don’t even like planes. Everybody I hired loves planes and what I realized was I was building this thing because it was a killer business in the sense that it brought a ton of accolades.

I sell the business. I’m supposed to be on top of the world. My marriage is in shambles and I’m drinking too much. My kids don’t know me. Quite frankly, I was not the best person. I had to take account of how I treated people. Honestly at that time, in my mind’s eye, there was this giant chessboard, which I placed people according to how I wanted them. I manipulated them in such a way that I needed them to be on my chessboard. I had to recognize that number one, no one is mine to manipulate. We’re all individuals. We have our own agency.

I can’t manipulate anybody. I don’t have the right to do that. Number two, there isn’t some giant cosmic chessboard of which I’m king. I had to realize that the greatest thing God did is make us in his image. The worst thing he did was make us in his image because we all think we’re mini gods. I had to come to this place where I was proud to say, “I picked myself up by my bootstraps, rubbed my dirt on it and made something of it. I’m the American dream.” It’s all the stuff and clichés that you say or hear and then you start to ingest. I had to do some hard work.

I spent a lot of time with people who love me and told me, “You’re a jerk sometimes. You’re not kind. You manipulate and do these things.” Talk about a hangover. You go from up here to down here. You would have to take an account of what are you going to do. The journey I’ve been on the last several years is recognizing that. This book I wrote, The Good Entrepreneur is all about this. The first ten chapters are building the businesses. The last two chapters are what I’m talking about now, which is what happens when you sell away your identity.

There’s no worse deal in the world than to build your identity into your business and then sell it. You wake up the next morning with a bunch of cash and nobody asking for your opinion anymore. That’s a hit to the ego. You’re talking about a why, “What do I do now?” As I started to tell this story that I’m telling you and to my close friends became safe to me and I would tell it to more people. The reaction was almost universally the same. They look over their shoulders a little bit and say, “If you only knew that the headlines do not match what’s going on inside of me. There’s the brokenness, the things I’ve had to do to get to where I am, the relationships and all the things that we all hide.”

There’s no worst deal in the world than building your identity into your business then selling it. You may get a bunch of cash but nobody will ask for your opinion anymore. Click To Tweet

I started to recognize that my vulnerability allowed people to be vulnerable. That seems like it was a deep epiphany for us. For me, Brené Brown is famous for making us know that, “If you want to be vulnerable with somebody and you want someone to be vulnerable with you, you have to be vulnerable with them.” I’ve been on this mission. I’ve recognized how isolated I was as a leader. People said, “You should go get a coach and do this.” I looked at coaches and I was like, “None of them had ever built a business. What are you going to tell me?”

It was so egotistical and prideful. My sin of choice was pride. I realized I was isolated as most leaders are. I come alongside leaders in my vocation now and spend time and sacred moments with them. We laugh, cry, strategize, focus, create clarity and remove static. We get to, “What are you going to go do with your life?” We’ve only got so many days. There are 30,000 days if you’re lucky. At our funeral and obituary, we’re going to name ten of them. What are you doing spending your time now? Who are you affecting regarding that?

What brought you to that? Take us into that moment when you realized something wasn’t right. You sold your business and got all this cash. You’re on top of the world. What was that moment where you said, “I’m not right. This is not right?”

If there’s one thing we know for sure, we have 2,000 years of empirical evidence that says we can be our own worst deceivers as humans. I’ve seen a lot of success in my own life and in building businesses. Aside from the first 30 days, not much of it was fun for me. I’m careful to ask the question not, “What can you do with your life?” but, “What should you be doing with your life?” Should is a very dangerous word. People use it to manipulate people all day long. I can start building and selling an airline.

That’s pretty impressive in a lot of people’s books. That doesn’t mean I should necessarily do that. None of this was easy. It was a white-knuckled grip that my kingdom needed for me to maintain my position. My wife and I have been married for years. My wife and some friends said, “You need to go get some counseling.” We went to marriage counseling. Our therapist said something incredibly wise. She said, “Everybody gets married 2 to 3 times in their lifetime. If you’re lucky, it’s the same person.”

What she was saying is, “You got married when you were babies. What are the chances that each of you is the same and that the negotiations you made early on are the same that you want now?” She gave us permission to renegotiate the terms of our marriage. We did so painfully but successfully. After that marriage counseling, I was part of a group at our church called Celebrate Recovery, which is a twelve-step based recovery program. It’s not specifically for narcotics or alcohol. It’s not AA or NA but it can be. It’s for sin in general.

I was addicted to pride. Pride was my everything. I spent time with this group of men. We confessed things to each other, shared things and got deep. There was a man who was my leader. His name was Richard Hoffman. Richard has since passed away. He’s one of these guys. He was like me. He used to always say, “You remind me of myself, never in doubt and sometimes wrong.” He was a couple of decades older than me. He punched me in the mouth a few times, not literally but figuratively.

He was one of the first people that I respected enough that I could take his punches and learn from them. He shared with me years earlier his story. I won’t go into it. He wrecked his life and spent twenty years trying to fix that. What he said was, “When I wrecked my life many years ago, I looked around and there was no one that I could talk to because everybody in my business, church and neighborhood, everywhere had their lives all put together.” As he saw it, he effectively in the same journey would start to tell his story. Men and women would say, “If you only knew.”

He spent twenty years of his life being this incredibly successful businessman. He was incredibly wealthy. He and his wife built a very successful business. He spent his time walking with people in their lives and creating these sacred moments. I, by the grace of God, spent the last eighteen months of his life on this Earth in his presence where he simultaneously punched me, hugged me, wrestled with me and lifted me up. About a week before his death, I went down to his lakehouse.

I said, “Richard, for all you’ve done over the course of eighteen months, how can I ever thank you? I finally found that thing I was looking for. My life when I was sixteen was irreparably changed or altered.” He said, “Go forth and do this with other people. Be with other people.” I was like, “I don’t know how to do that.” Shortly thereafter, I got involved with a guy named John Townsend. He wrote the book, Boundaries. He has since become a good friend.

I went through his Townsend Leadership Program with a group of ten leaders. Celebrate Recovery was removing my foundation and tearing down all my preconceived notions. TLP or Townsend Leadership Program was framing, building out my house and putting the roof on. I met a guy named Pete Richardson who’s in Boulder, Colorado. My wife and I sat down and said, “Help us create a twenty-year strategic plan for our lives.” We did and documented it. It was a 3-day 72-hour process.

BYW S4 18 | Status Quo
Status Quo: It is not enough to be successful. You have to know how to use your influence to make a difference in the world after achieving that.


It was beautiful. That was the decorations of the house. It was a complete teardown. It’s not like rehab or removing everything and starting fresh. That was the process I went through to go from not much hope at all even though externally everything was going my way to, “I don’t feel like I do these deep and intense moments with my clients.” I come home exhausted. I’m completely engulfed in energy with regards to, “I don’t feel like I work a day in my life.”

Here’s a question for you. I’m sure a lot of the readers are thinking this as well. Would you have been able to do what you did without being who you were? Would you have reached the heights and achievements addiction without pride? If you had the same perspective you have now, would you have created the so-called external success that you did?

The reason that is I hear often from people that have achieved a certain level of success in their lives that what they achieved wasn’t what they thought it was going to be, and they had to change. They changed themselves, tore themselves down and became something that they wanted to be after all. That was after the fact of reaching the levels they got to. Will you ever be an Olympic athlete without complete addiction to that sport?

This is the quest I’m on because there’s a lot of evidence that says, “You can.” I’m doing this in my own way. The work and vocation I do, I feel incredibly successful with. I’m proud of the work I’m doing. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be like, “The New York Times is never going to write another article on me because of the work I’m doing.” There’s a lot of evidence that shows that you can. Conscious Capitalism is an organization I’m a huge fan of and part of. This idea is never less than profits but so much more. Make your money. That’s oxygen-free business.

You’ve got to make a ton of money and go for it. Recognize that there are five different stakeholders in a business. There are employees, customers, investors, communities and vendors. If any one of those gets out of whack in a business then the whole wheel goes off the track. When you can make that work well, you get things like Costco southwest Airlines and The Container Store. They have done studies and said, “It’s 10X certain companies and their 10X growth at S&P 500 over the course of several years.” You can do that.

However, the people we pull up and say the great entrepreneurs like the Elon Musks, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellisons, Travis Kalanicks and Adam Neumanns are unhealthy on a different spectrum with regards to relationships. I appreciate the work. I enjoy WeWork. I love Tesla and my iPhone. I appreciate the work they do. We put these uber-entrepreneurs up into this space and say, “This is who you should be.” We do an injustice because what we say is they are the ones who are doing it.

The reality is Steve Jobs had 20,000 workers. Twenty thousand people were behind him. He was onstage. He had the ideas. We hear all these different stories and they’re all true. Henry Ford had 50,000 people working for him. Larry Ellison has 100,000. The reality is that no one is an island by themselves. To answer your question, it’s real. It’s easier to be a jerk than it is to be good. We often take the shortcut to get to what we want to. That saves time initially and ends up corrupting our legacy long after we’re gone.

I don’t know if you can answer the question. That may not be an answerable question. We have examples of people who have hit the highest level that did it the way they did it and that they thought they had to get there. I wonder if you have any examples in your mind of people that did it the way you would do it now. Is there somebody you can think of that they created the most amazing whatever?

Herb Kelleher, one of the Founders of Southwest Airlines, did that. Herb was this rogue, “I’m crazy. I’m going to start an airline in Texas.” He was a hero of mine in a lot of ways. I met him several times.

He has the same why.

Herb was this way. You go talk to the employees of Southwest Airlines. They are loyal beyond reason. You go to their Halloween party and it’s out of control. They created a culture around an airline or a commodity. An airline is a commodity at the end of the day. They created a culture that makes a difference. Herb Kelleher absolutely did that. You could pull a lot of people. You look at people like William Wilberforce who was in legislation in the UK. He ended slavery and used his power for good.

People often take shortcuts to get what they want. Though it may save time initially, it can corrupt your legacy. Click To Tweet

You can look across the board and see people who did good and successful things, reached the peak of success in their own right and didn’t use other humans. To answer your question like, “Could I go do it again?” I don’t know. Honestly, that’s one of my fears. The question is, “Could you go do that again?” Every entrepreneur who will tell you the truth will say their fear is, “Am I a 1-hit wonder or a 2-hit wonder? Can I go do it again?” We know how much it took from us and how much luck played into our success. I would like to believe that. My vocation is to come around these leaders and say, “Let’s find a different way to do it and go on this journey together.”

I’m seeing your next book coming to life.

What do you see in the journey?

It’s exactly what we talked about. Go do a book on leaders that did it right. They’re ones that you would love to have patterned your life after and ones that you would be proud to go to dinner with and introduce to your kids.

Do I have to put you as a cowriter?

No. It’s all you. I’m just taking what you said and putting it back to you. I could see that as being something very valuable for people that want to do it right.

I like that idea. We need to amplify those voices. Unfortunately, I got to unpack that. I don’t know exactly why but we over-index the voices that don’t do it the “right” way. What I was trying to put forward in this book, The Good Entrepreneur is it’s not good as in successful. The understanding is you’re going to be successful at the hard stop. That’s the bare minimum. What are you doing with your influence after that’s going to make a difference in the world and other people’s lives?

Last question for you, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

I’ll tell you the first one that comes to mind. I think about it regularly. It has allowed me to do what I’m doing. My third book is a book I want to write after that one called Micro-retirement. It’s something my wife and I practice. My wife’s an ER physician. She does two weeks of work. They don’t have time shifts. For the vocation I do, I spend two weeks out of the month. We take two weeks off to do non-revenue-generating work. My wife, who has been a doctor for a long time is learning to play guitar and write songs. She’s got twenty-some songs she’s written. She wants to go on that path.

The book that I published was my output from the time of non-revenue generation. The reason we’re able to do that is a guy named Calvin Howell, who was a mentor of mine who has since passed away and his wife came up with this idea that my wife and I have followed, which is to create a number. He told me this when I was in college, “Pick a number. Make it big and outlandish. When you get there, give everything else away.”

In college, the number I picked was astronomical. I never thought I would reach there. Now, it seems unbelievable by a lot of standards. If I had to pick it now, it would be a completely different number. It’s because we have that number, we’re able to stop and go, “More is not necessarily better.” We’re able to take a pause and create a healthier life for ourselves, our children and our community. For two type-A go-get-them personalities like my wife and I, it’s the appropriate governor we needed.

BYW S4 18 | Status Quo
The Good Entrepreneur: An Insider’s Guide to Building a Principled Business and a Powerful Personal Legacy

The best advice I’ve ever received is, “Pick a number. Make it big and outlandish. When you get there, give everything else out away.” That way, you don’t become a hostage to it. I know several billionaires. I’ll ask them what their number is and the answer is almost universally more. They don’t even know why it’s more. It’s just more. It’s the American way. The reality is we consume things we don’t need. We want more and we don’t even know why we want more. That’s the best advice I’ve ever received.

Nick, if there are people reading and there are people reading that would love to connect with you, follow you, be coached by you, spend some time with you and create sacred moments with you, how can they get ahold of you?

The easiest way is my website I’m on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. My daughter has got me on TikTok. I’m trying to reach a whole different generation that way. It’s @NickKennedy_IG for Instagram, @NickKennedy_TT for TikTok or @NickKennedy_TW for Twitter. You can follow me out there. I would love to chat with you. You get a lot of this stuff too in the book. I read the book myself on audio. If you like the sound of my voice, you can have me read the book to you personally.

Tell us again the title of your book.

It’s called The Good Entrepreneur: An Insider’s Guide to Building a Principled Business and a Powerful Personal Legacy.

Nick, thank you so much for being here. I enjoyed our conversation. It gave me a lot to think about. I appreciate that.

Gary, thanks for asking people to figure out their why. If we can do this, the world is going to be a better place.


Thank you.

Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you could do so at You can use the code PODCAST50 and discover it at half price. If you loved the Beyond Your WHY show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you’re using. I will see you all.

Important Links:

About Nick Kennedy

BYW S4 18 | Status QuoNick Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and an executive life coach with over 20 years of experience building successful ventures. After accumulating over two million airline miles traveling for work while losing hours of productivity and family time, Nick founded RISE in 2014. A private airline, RISE created a two- sided marketplace that connected busy business executives with private plane operators to redefine travel in order to regain control of wasted time.

Prior to RISE, Nick began his career as a business development manager for EDS. He then went on to build multiple health care–centered businesses. Now as a coach with over four thousand hours of experience for high-powered executives, he helps stuck executives become fully integrated spouses, parents, and businesspeople.

Nick was named a 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded Dallas Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and serves as a Capital Factory mentor and on the boards of several companies. He has been featured in NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, D Magazine, Texas Monthly, Dallas News, and the Dallas Business Journal. Nick splits his time between Texas and Colorado, along with his wife Angela and kids, Will, Sam, and Jane.


When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose

Not knowing who you are will hinder your growth. But when you focus on your purpose, amazing things start to happen. Paul Epstein is the bestselling author of The Power of Playing Offense and the Chief Impact Officer of PurposePoint. A consultancy company focusing on leadership and culture development. Join in the conversation as Paul shares with Dr. Gary Sanchez how knowing his WHY of Contribute brings out the best in him. He believes that the most powerful things you can learn about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different. Tune in!

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

We go beyond talking about your why, helping you discover and live your why. If you are a regular reader, you know that in every episode, we talk about 1 of the 9 whys, and we bring on somebody with that why. You can see how their why has played out in their life. In this episode, we are going to be talking about the Why of Contribute.

If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You do not necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you love to contribute in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish the success that contributes to the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories.

You are off and behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations. I have got a great guest for you. His name is Paul Epstein.

Paul believes there are two types of people in this world, those who play defense and those who play offense. These insights are around purpose, performance, and impact were gathered over a fifteen-year run as a professional sports executive, where Paul successfully steered business teams that executed billion-dollar NFL campaigns, broke Super Bowl revenue records, and generated league-leading sales results for seller dweller NBA clubs.

Paul’s proudest moment was when he was internally known as the Why Coach at the San Francisco 49ers, coaching others to find their why and act on it. Paul has curated the most actionable ways into leader’s playbooks of how he and his team produced this impact in these hypercompetitive environments. He calls it playing offense.

He is the Chief Impact Officer for PurposePoint and the Chief Purpose Advisor for the WHY Institute. Paul is a proud father of PJ, married his best friend on the field of Levi’s Stadium, and has a slight obsession with bacon, just do not make it too crispy. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Epstein. Thanks for being here.

I’m fired up to be here. If you have any bacon, it is going to be an even better conversation.

Tell me about that. I can’t bypass that one. What is the story with the bacon?

I had some early childhood holidays down in Mexico. My mom is a proud Mexican descent, so we would normally cruise down there and spend some time with the grand folks. For my fourth Christmas, I’ve got a box. When they handed it to me, it was shaking and I see a little black wet nose coming out of it. In there are two puppies.

As a youngster, you think this is a normal Christmas. You get animals. You get pets. When the time came around before my fifth Christmas, they said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want a pig.” Of course, I’ve never got the pig. They looked at me like I was crazy and that is only half true but needless to say, I have been a massive fan. As much as I’m a 49ers fan, I am a bacon fan. Those two things have stood, tried, and true.

Paul, tell everybody where you are from. Take us through your journey. You have done some amazing things at a very young age. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school? Let’s start back there.

I mentioned the roots in Mexico. That was very easy to take a four-hour drive because I’m from Los Angeles. My sports career had me visit a ton of different markets and spend years of my life outside of SoCal. The humidity, the cold, and the polar vortex, go West. We are going to come back to that because I have some fun stories about being in Angeleno in cold weather.

I will call myself the little softy there but I was born and raised in LA with my two amazing parents. I was an only child. My dad was an educator. My mom stayed at home to watch me like a hawk. She was one of those parents that were the president of the PTA, the Parent-Teacher Association. That was her way of making sure that I was doing the right thing and getting good grades.

Thank goodness because, A) Having a dad that is an educator, and B) Having a mom that I may not like at the moment but I now am a proud parent of a one-year-old, so we are very new in the journey but I get, see, feel and understand it. It took me three decades to get here. I kept my head on straight. I was an athlete throughout. Football, basketball, and baseball had my stints and I have always loved sports. I’m one of those classics go to the backyard, throw the ball with your pops kind of a guy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
The Power of Playing Offense: A Leader’s Playbook for Personal and Team Transformation –

If you want to talk about childhood, my childhood was amazing. Teenagers were amazing, but then something very tragic happened. This is very important in my story because it all connects to why I do what I do and who I am even now. I went to USC. I was not ready to fly too far away from the nest. I’ve got into some amazing schools but with the parents I have, I had to apply to fifteen schools.

Imagine how many essays that are. It was at Northwestern that I had to write four. Let’s say an average is 2, so 30 essays later, I’m at USC. It was the finals of my freshman year. I’m nineteen years old and I get a call that changed my life forever. It was a call that after decades of my dad struggling through diabetes, he finally had his final day.

It was a moment where instantly you feel you went from a boy to a man. You, as an only child, look at your one-standing parent being my mom. She goes from a parent to a partner. I drive home. It is a 10 to 15-minute drive. In some ways, I still remember like it was yesterday seeing my mom. We will get to my purpose, my why, my values, and how they have changed my life throughout this conversation.

One of the ways that I have been able to pull, reflect and apply a lot of those things in my life is because it all has an origin story, and one of my core values is courage. I’ve got that value of courage because of how I saw my mom that day and the next. She breathed courage into me. The Latin definition of inspire is to breathe life into. She breathed and inspired courage, and it is never left.

I will share a story if you would like at a later point in the conversation about my dad and the way he has been able to impact my life even more after the day he passed than when he was alive. That is the early years through the college years. A couple of years later was when I broke into sports. I’m happy to go there if you would like but I will kick it back to you.

She breathed it into you. What do you mean by that? There are going to be people reading this who are having their own trauma and stuff going on. What was that like?

Oftentimes, when fear or risk is highest, you could think of it on a small level. It is a setback, hurdle or obstacle. There is another level like a global pandemic and maybe a loss that happened, whether a person, place, job, or industry. It is the loss of being able to build a community and hang out with the people you want to hang out with whenever you want, those types of things.

At the highest level, maybe there is something that is terminal on a medical front. There is something where you lose 1 of the 2 most important people in your life at an age that you are not ready to lose them. I was nineteen. I had this thought in my head that this was supposed to be the end of the world. My dad died and I’m not even twenty years. I not only saw her strength. More importantly, I felt her strength.

When I wanted to crumble, she did not let me. She is the rock star in my life, the rock in my life if you will, so when you ask the question of, “How did she breathe life into me?” it is the same way that I measure people, action. She could have told me, “Stay strong, be strong.” If I saw weakness, if she did not show up strong or say the right things but did not do the right things, I do not know how I would have processed that experience. That is what I mean. Life is about how you show up. If it is not in action, it does not count.

You were at USC. What did you major in and how did you get into the whole sports world?

I was a business guy. Interestingly, in some of the other conversations that we have had, you always talk about the way you were raised. My family always told me growing up, “This kid can talk.” I would not shut up. They said, “You are going to be a lawyer or in sales. There are only two options.” That is not exactly why I’ve got into business school but I knew that I had a passion for not only speaking but more importantly, connecting with people.

I am not the cubicle guy. I am the guy that needs to feel there is a partnership. In my playing offense terminology, I say, “Meet me at the 50.” That is when two people have the same amount of energy and level of resources that they are bringing to the table. You are meeting at the 50 as partners. The way I like to think about it is, “I’m not just going to run through the wall for you. I do not want you to run through the wall for me. Let’s lock arms and run through the wall together.”

That is my philosophy on life, business, and partnership. That is why I’ve got into sales because I saw an opportunity to do that, so I go to school. Business, sales, and marketing were the background. I did not get into sports until a year after. I worked for Philip Morris. Now they are called Altria. For those that do not know, that is the pairing company of Marlboro cigarettes amongst other brands.

I had friends that worked at the company and they recruited me. I was like, “This is pretty badass. I’m 19 to 20 years old working for a Fortune 10 company. I do not even care what the product or service is. Do you know how amazing that is on a resume? That is how we think at a certain point. I’m a summer sales intern. I end up being a recruiting ambassador, meeting those tents in the middle of campus at a career fair.

To inspire is to breathe life into others. Click To Tweet

I’m the guy representing Philip Morris under one of those tents. I’m trying to tell people to join me in this army of Philip Morris folks. It went fine at USC and it was very pleasant in LA, then they sent me to the Bay Area at a school called Berkeley. For those that know the brand of Berkeley, there are some different cats up there. By the way, my wife went there as an undergrad. I’ve got to say, “Go, Bears!” just to stay married. Let me put that out there.

I’m at a Berkeley career fair. As I’m approaching with all of my materials, I see a flock of people that is a couple of hundred feet in front of me. I’m thinking, “What is going on? Is it a protest or what is this?” I creep up and they are right in front of the Philip Morris booth. Within five minutes to the start of the career fair, I had security on both sides of me. People are holding up signs in front of me. There were two signs that I will never forget. One said, “You work for the devil.” Another one said, “You sell cancer.”

You want to talk about putting things in perspective. All of a sudden, that Fortune 10, the brand, and the resume did not matter. You’ve got to think about tribes and values that you stand for, that are attracted to, and what repels you. That moment taught me that there are many superficial reasons to do things in life. Work for the big brand or go for the supermodel but you can’t even have a conversation with them.

There are all these things or places that we engage with for reflecting back on the wrong reasons but you’ve got to go through some life experience for it. That was my Berkeley experience. This is the break into the sport, and then I will kick it back to you. For those sports fans, there is a guy named Mel Kiper. He is a college football draft guru. He is a high-energy guy like the fire, the burn, and all that good stuff.

I’m driving in my Philip Morris van and I’m graduated. It is not too far from that Berkeley Career Fair. I’m on ESPN Radio. All of a sudden, Mel comes on, “Have you ever wanted to work in sports? Have you ever dreamt of working for your favorite MLB and NBA team?” I’m speeding down the road like, “Yes.” His call to action was, “Call 1877-SMWW.” SMWW stands for Sports Management Worldwide. Eight weeks later, I graduated from an online program. The deal was if you are a good student and can turn some heads with the professors, they will plug you into their network. That was my break-in.

They said, “Where do you want to be?” I said, “LA.” They said, “We have an opportunity at the Clippers.” The Clippers, at that time, were Lakers with Kobe and Shaq. Clippers were the redheaded stepchild here from a brand perspective. When I first started with them, ESPN called us the worst brand in sports. Sports Illustrated doubled down a year later and said, “You are the worst franchise in sports history,” so I had to sell that. That is my break into sports.

What was it like working for the Clippers in those days? I remember living out in LA. It was hard to get anybody to go to a Clipper game and it is almost embarrassing to show up at a Clipper game. You do not want to go to that.

Imagine you are entertaining clients. You are trying to paint this facade that it is a sold-out arena, push urgency that they are the last seats in the house, and there are 10,000 open seats around them. You say, “Maybe they are a little late to the game.” That’s what it was like. Here is the reality and this is good advice for life and something that I learned at a very young career stage.

You’ve got to control the controllable. I know it sounds a cliché. We have all heard it but, do you actually do that? There is a very short list of things that both, you either fully control or do not control. The majority of things fall in the middle. I call it the land of influence. Most things in life are gray. You influence them. The things you do not control are things like the weather or the economy if adversity enters your life.

I already shared a few of my stories and will flip the script. What do you control? It is all within you. It is things like your mindset, actions, attitude, and energy level, my actions, my attitudes, my reactions, my energy level, and not the selfish my but the self-awareness my or the perspective my. Working at the Clippers, if you listen to all of the outside noise that is so uncontrollable, whether the media, an annoyed fan or whatever it is, you are going to lose.

I was in a twelve-person recruiting class. I was the only person to make it to the second month on the job because they only wanted the glitz and glamor of getting into sports. I was doing it because I was on a mission to sell as much of the unsellable as possible. I would argue that early in my career, I do not want to work for the market leader. I want to work for the underdog.

What was that like trying to sell the Clippers and how did you eventually sell the Clippers?

I know we will get to the why process in a bit but it is not too different where there is a why and sometimes there is a why under the why. We would always call it single-game buyers. I would call folks that came to a Clipper versus Lakers game because they are locals. You remove a lot of the barriers and objections are out. Lakers’ seats are so tough to get and they are expensive. I’m already winning some of those battles before I even pick up the phone.

I start to understand why they come to games. I know they are Laker games but why and who do you come with? What is that memory and event that you are never going to forget and how have sports been a part of your life? You like coming with your son, daughter or better half. What is the coolest event that you have ever been to? What transpired because of that moment? It’s because of that, it forged a greater relationship.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: Think about values that attract you and you stand for.


I get very deep under the surface and into why they love the game itself, who their favorite players are, and all of these different logistics and details. I say, “What if you could be a handful of rows off the court, which does not exist with the Lakers, and you could have these amazing experiences with your family?” You hear them incremental yes. Let’s get this done. It is almost like they said yes to so many things that were important to them, they forgot that it was Clippers. I sold the NBA, family, and what I could control because I can’t control if the Clippers win games or not.

How did you learn to do that?

I will be humble when I say this. Some of this is a gift. I do know that but that is not all it is. I refuse to answer in a way that, “Some of us are gifted at whatever.” I’m humbled to say I know a lot of great performers, whether professional athletes or folks that are in the entertainment world. They did not get there overnight, and just because of their gifts.

I know for a fact spending fifteen years in sports, countless people have gifts, very few apply them. That is my fundamental belief because I was not the most talented. I believe I was talented. I am too humble to ever say I was the most talented but I had this hard hat mentality. When I say control the controllables and even when I became the sales manager a few years later, I managed the room that I once started in as an entry-level sales guy.

I always told folks when I was recruiting that my job as a hiring manager is to hire the best talent. Do not worry about whether you think you are amazing at sales. That is my judgment to make in this interview process. What I need you to do in our contract is I need three things. I need your work ethic, positivity, and coachability. That’s the lunch pill. Those are the non-negotiables. You give me those three things. I will take care of you for the rest of your career.

That is how I inspired and motivated teams to forget about the noise and the negativity of the market and start focusing on what they truly wanted and that deeper burn, that igniting of passion. I found that when you can understand what is important to other people, it is that Zig Ziglar thing. You help enough people get what they want and life tends to reward you, too.

I do not do that strategically. I do not take score or give with the expectation of getting. I just give. I’m a contributor. I always have been. I didn’t always know that because I did not take this wonderful assessment but reflecting back, that is how I inspired others and that is the same pep talk that I had to have with myself when I was on the front lines in a producing role.

You were in the Clippers for how long and what was the next step?

I was selling for about a year and change, and then I ended up managing the team. That was about a two-year run. In my two years as a Manager, the first year, we finished 28th in revenue. In the second year, we finished second in revenue. How did we do that? The Clippers won no more games in that second year than the first. When you said seller-dwelling MBA clubs when you were introducing me, this is what we are referring to.

How do you take bottom and league revenue to second next to the top? It was a partnership agreement that I figured out. Let me back up. I’m going to give tremendous credit to one of my guys. His name is Eddie. Eddie was the only person in the room that by age was older than me. Technically, he reported to me but I never viewed it that way. I believed that I learned more from Eddie than he could have ever learned from me.

He had already run his own real estate businesses. His family has given him the blessing to come in at a $7 an hour entry-level job with no other benefits and no bonus potential. He got that blessing and ended up being one of the biggest blessings in my life. Six months into that two-year run at the Clippers, Eddie and I go out for a bite. I say, “Eddie, I look around the room and I feel we have got this amazing locker room. There is such good talent. I’m so fired up but the scoreboard does not reflect that. Our sales revenue sucks. What is going on?”

He said, “Paul, what are we doing?” I said, “I do not know. We are hanging out and having lunch.” He goes, “Is it fair to say we are breaking bread?” I said, “Sure.” He hit me. He said, “When was the last time you did this with anybody else on the team?“ It was a very simple, yet profound message that I needed to hear because I basically was managing people the way I was managed, not leading because there is a difference.

I’m not going to claim that early in my sales career, I had amazing coaching or mentorship. I’m not knocking the guys. In the sports industry, there was a little bit of a transactional feel inside the front office. That is how it was. I’m not going to BS about it. You asked how I became a lot of it. I could probably owe 2 people like my parents and 2 others. Sometimes you need to extract life lessons and apply them to your business if you do not have all the right resources in your business roof. That is a reality of life.

Eddie woke me up. Relationships are the secret sauce of life and the currency of business. Trust is one of those things that you need to form within a team. Those sounds are so simple and fundamental but I was blind as an entry-level manager. Thanks to Eddie, I woke up. That is how you go from number 28 to number 2 in revenue. I know the people, the culture, and the leadership game. When I started to realize that that should be put ahead of goals, metrics, key performance indicators, and all this quantitative stuff, that is when the game changed.

Forget about the noise and negativity and focus on igniting your passion. Click To Tweet

Was it about the team or the culture? What made the biggest difference to take you from 28th to 2nd?

We had something called the constitution. It was a whiteboard in the room and this program of sales was called inside sales. It was designed to be 6 to 9 months. Let’s say you were hired on January 1st. That means that between July 1st and September, that is your window of getting promoted if you are a top producer. That is the environment.

Remember those three non-negotiables, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I connected with everybody and I said, “You give me those three things. I do not care how poor your sales performance is because that’s on me. That means I did not see a lack of a gift, talent, skill or ability in the recruiting process. I will own that. You will not be fired for lack of revenue but you will lose your seats if you do not have the work ethic, positivity, and coachability, and not most of the time, all of the time. This is not a 90% Rule. It is a 100% Rule.”

I created a constitution, made it sound very formal and said, “I will hereby,” and I put the three elements of the constitution, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I would write the dates of their 6 to 9-month window next to their name. I would sign it and have them sign it. Let’s say, Susie, I would say, “Susie, you do these three things. In this three-month window, I will not only take care of you then. I will take care of you for the rest of your life.” That is what got people.

I treated them not as an employee or even as a team member but as a family member. That family workaround in business is way too much. Ninety percent of the time, you do coaching and consulting, Gary. Do you go in and you are like, “This does not feel like a family but you all say you are a family.” It is situations like that. Some would say, “Paul, you are overcommitting yourself. Why would you ever put yourself on the line?” I’m like, “How could I not?” It is because I essentially had to become the leader that I never had.

Amazingly, you were able to do that at a young age. You were in your early twenties, right?

Yes, probably at that time mid-ish twenties.

Where did you go next? Keep us going on the journey.

I had to fly away from the nest. The way it works in sports is you either wait for your boss to leave or you’ve got to go external. For me, at this time, you are feeling yourself because you are riding some mojo and you get second in the league in the NBA. I had a lot of opportunities but the one that I ended up landing and that felt right was going out to New Orleans, from Hollywood Boulevard to Bourbon Street, if you will.

That was crazy. Mardi Gras is a real thing. What was even scarier is that it is almost 365 but it was a heck of a time. Here is what I learned in New Orleans. I’m not knocking the folks I was working with. I’m simply saying that a void in my life to that point was, I was still looking for that business leader that I would do anything for. I was still looking for the mentor that I would dedicate my life. I wanted it but I was not going to force it. You can’t force anybody’s leadership style.

I went to New Orleans because I fell in love with my fellow leaders. When I look to my left and right, I’m like, “This is thunder buddies for life. This is awesome.” What made it even more interesting was that eventually, there is a little bit of sadness and tragedy in this story too but it leads to purpose. The NBA team in New Orleans is called the Pelicans but they are called the Hornets at that time. Their Owner, Mr. Shinn, became very ill with cancer. He had to give up the operations of the team, so the late Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, comes in.

He has a group of people, which still exists in the NBA. They are called TMBO, which is Team Marketing & Business Operations. Think of them as the superwomen and supermen of the teams that get promoted to the league. They fly in with capes and fix things, whether it is your sales, marketing, game day or operation.

Whatever gaps you have, they accumulate best practices throughout the league and give you the playbook. In a case like this, because they took stewardship of the franchise, it was not giving us a playbook. They were locking arms and executing with us. If you want to talk about that void I had of working for amazing people with amazing gifts and talents, I stumbled into it by being in New Orleans at the right place at the right time.

Commissioner Stern was a little bit of a bulldog. He studied the books of the franchise and we were the worst. We were the least viable, in economic terms, franchise in the NBA. On the books, there is no team that you would rather own less for finance reasons than the Hornets. He gave us an ultimatum. “Sell 10,000 season tickets, which is the gold standard in the NBA or you are going to lose the franchise.”

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: The three non-negotiables are work ethic, positivity, coachability.

We had a buckle down. Thankfully, we had a lot of support but it was a scary proposition because if I could be real with you and everybody reading, the South is a football part of the country. Basketball was an afterthought. I can take it at the Clippers. I love you. I hate you. I can have those conversations. What I can’t do anything about is apathy.

What do you do when somebody does not care? I can’t make you care. If you do not care about basketball, how do I inspire you to join this movement that is going to save the franchise? What if you do not care about that franchise? We went back to the drawing board. We said, “If they do not care about basketball, what do they care about?”

For those that are either in New Orleans, from New Orleans or have been in New Orleans, Nolans as they say, you know that people are passionate. They have pride, whether it is the jazz, the food, the drinks, or the parades, they love themselves some knowledge. That is what they love. There is a tremendous amount of identity, whereas where I’m from, LA, there are not a lot of identities. There are a lot of transplants, a melting pot or whatever but not the best identity. Identity lives in New Orleans.

We captured that magic and said, “Let’s build a case around what it would mean if we lost the franchise and how it would be the scarlet letter on the identity of your city.” We started this campaign called “I’m In.” We pulled in all these influencers from the World’s Top Chefs and politicians, people that call New Orleans home. We said, “Host events in your home because that is authentic. Pull people into your living rooms. Invite them in and rally them to be in. If they are in, here are the benefits to the city that you care so much about.“

We made it bigger than basketball. That was my first lesson about organizational purpose. Even if you do not love the product or service, if you love the purpose, why you do what you do, and you feel you are a part of something bigger than yourself, whether as an employee or as a customer, the power of purpose is real. Thankfully, there is a happy ending to the story. We’ve got to the number without purpose. I 100% know we do not even come close.

You were there for a couple of years. Where did you go next?

I was in Sacramento Kings, and that was my quick one-year-ish stop. There was an NBA lockout. I was in charge of company culture during an NBA lockout. I do not think anything in life is impossible but that is pretty close to it because your livelihood is taken away. I can laugh about it but that was a tough chapter. My next up is New York and we will go there in a second. Remember that relationship lesson from Eddie.

In New Orleans, I befriended in a very human and authentic way, not because I wanted them to take care of me. I fell in love with that NBA crew that I referenced earlier. Some lifelong friendships organically came out of it. How did I end up in Sacramento? One of those NBA folks was helping the Kings and said, “Paul, can you come help?”

How did I end up in New York? The same guy said, “I’m with an agency, Legends, owned by Yankees and Cowboys. We are based in New York. We’ve got some clubs out. There is a little soccer, football, baseball. We would love to plugin. Do you want to join us?” “I do.” I was not following the place. I was following the people because I finally found my people. I found folks that I could align with on a deeper level, bigger than a career. I genuinely felt we synced.

That is what led me to New York. It was not that I ran away from the Sacramento adversity. We were throwing paper airplanes in an office, which for somebody that wants to contribute and make an impact, throwing paper airplanes, while it sounds fun, gets old after about a day. You want to go back and make a difference in the world. That is what took me to New York and how I’ve got into the sports consulting space. That is what led me to the NFL League Office where I ran a national sales campaign.

We ended up breaking an all-time revenue record for that game, which was a tremendous accomplishment. My heart was always in football. I loved all these pit stops in the NBA but I always wished that I could get into that granddaddy of them, the NFL. My agency had some connects at the NFL League Office. I’ve got to have strategy sessions with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was a tremendous experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.

You went into the NFL League. Did you end up with the 49ers?

Yes. You will notice the trend here. I say this from a very humble place but out of fifteen years, I will give you two stats and they are almost oxymorons of each other. For anybody reading, if you are a sports fan, let’s say you root for the “fill in the blank” team for fifteen years, what are the odds that they are going to make the playoffs?

You would say 1/3 of the time, 1/2 of the time or 2/3 of the time. You are not going to be it every year but you are also going to make it sometimes. I worked fifteen years in sports. The teams I worked for made it to the playoffs once, 1 out of 15 years. Here is the second step. Out of the fifteen years, we hit goal 14 out of 15 times. This is not necessarily your job on the line but more about, this is how you get rewarded, recognized and how your career grows.

If you love why you do what you do, you’ll feel you're a part of something bigger than yourself. Click To Tweet

Imagine you are consistently achieving success. We break a revenue record in the NFL. The Super Bowl was a project. It was full-time at the moment but it was a nine-month sprint. My agency was brought in. I was the point guard and the leader of that national sales campaign. There were 50 people spread throughout the country but I was the only person with boots on the ground in headquarters in 345 Park Ave.

We did the impossible and it turned a lot of heads. One of those heads was then the COO, now President of the San Francisco 49ers, Al Guido, who is a dear friend and an amazing leader. Al comes calling and says, “How would you like to come back to Cali? We are opening up Levi stadium.” Essentially, they created a role for me. They were doing well. They were on pace but they wanted to level it up. I had some relationships in common with Al. He believed in me through the people that he referenced. All of a sudden, I’ve got out of the polar vortex world and I made it back to California.

What was your position with the 49ers and what was that working for them?

It was the best job I have ever had, the best place I have ever worked, and the best leaders I have ever worked with and for. Had I not found my why? I would hope that I would still be at the 49ers. It was like a family to me. The magic question is, “Why would you ever leave a place that you describe like that?” My role was Head of Sales and Biz Dev.

Think of 70,000 people in the stadium. The sales team is responsible for putting the butts in the seats. Who calls Levi’s to eventually become Levi’s Stadium and all those corporate sponsors? Who sells all those luxury boxes and the premium hospitality? You need a sales team. There is a lot of outbound effort that needs to happen to monetize what this sport is.

Do not get me wrong. There is a lot of incoming interest as well. To close the gap, fill the place, and maximize revenue, that is where the sales team comes in. It is not because sports can’t sell themselves but if you price it aggressively, you are going to need some muscle for that. We were the muscle. My role there was to recreate what was an old revenue model of, “You have ten games and maybe we have some concerts and a soccer match here and there.”

At 365, we light up the building 20 times and the other 345 are dark, AKA you do not make money versus our president and our owner wanted to monetize it year-round. To do that, from things having restaurants on-site, to stay stadium tours year-round, to private banquet events, Facebook did a holiday party for 20,000 people in the stadium. There were weddings. One might have been mine, full disclosure. We had weddings at Levi’s Stadium. You are not going to believe this, Gary. It was her idea, not mine.

You married, right?

I did. I converted to a Raider fan. That is even better.

It is not easy.

That was my role there. It was awesome. There was a retreat in year 3 of 4 of my journey with the 49ers that eventually led to my Jerry Maguire leap from them.

It seems like being in a great spot is going to take something big for you to want to leave. What happened?

What happened is, in August 2016, there was a two-day offsite retreat that changed my life. I found my why. It was led by Simon Sinek. I know you know him and you have been very kind about your relationship with him and his team. They led the experience. This was after he had done a keynote. The message of why was permeating throughout the organization, even ahead of that.

A small group of us got offsite and tapped into our why. We all walk away with a why statement and identifying our core values. I knew that something special had happened. I did not know what was going to come and what was going to follow but I knew that life was different. Fast forward, I get back in the office. I’m radiating this extra level of energy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different.

Folks are like, “What was in the punch? What did you drink at that retreat? Paul, you have already got too much juice. You are at another level. You are at a ten. We need you at a two.” That is how I shot out of a cannon back into the front office. I shared what happened at the retreat, and that was the end of that conversation.

The next day, one person that I shared it with came up to me on the side and said, “Paul, that thing you did at the retreat, do you think you could coach me through the same process?“ The next day, another person. 1, 2, 5, 10 to nearly 50 led, and all water-cooler buzz that started on the business side eventually made its way to the football side of the organization. That is how I became known as the Why Coach of the San Francisco 49ers. It was a passion project that I was paying the gift of purpose forward. I found why. It felt like a special thing and I could not contain it to keep it inside of me.

That is very much my story as well. Did you get to work with many of the players?

Toward the tail end of that 50, yes. It started almost exclusively on the business side because those are the folks who I knew best and was around with every day. It happened in the offseason but we’ve got into the season and they were around. We share a cafeteria. If you ask what the number one thing I miss about sports is, I miss the freaking 49ers player cafeteria. It is a tremendous place.

When you share a cafeteria, you are going to be sitting at the table with the who’s who of the NFL and the 49ers. You drum up some relationships. I do not say it lightly but there was a water-cooler buzz. There was, “This guy has got a little bit of the potion. This guy can get you to your why. I was probably having 2 to 3 hours of sit-downs and that is about the time it was taking me to get them from start to finish. At 6:00 AM, we were showing up, in the evenings, and on weekends. This is a side hustle.

This was not a part of the day job but what is interesting is that HR caught wind of it. I get a cryptic email that you never want from HR. They say into the head of the HR’s office. I’m like, “Is this my last day? What is going on?” It is quite the opposite. They said, “Paul, we heard through the grapevine what you are doing. We think it is phenomenal and tremendous. What are your thoughts on integrating it into the recruiting or onboarding process here at the 49ers?”

I’m not a list guy. I do not know if that is a top 5 or top 10 but if you could say the proudest moments in life, that has got to be close to the top. It was having that resonates deeply in a community I cared so much about, they saw the value in it, and they wanted the why to become a part of the fabric of the company.

You are at an amazing team and culture. You love everybody there. You are getting to do what you want to do, and then you leave.

Part of the challenge of finding your Why is when it inspires you, it becomes an obsession, and you almost need to follow it. Forget almost. In my case, I had to follow it. I felt called to do this work. I then started to do internal introspection. My why is the start of it. That has my North Star elements and what gets me out of bed.

The parts I was able to apply more actively in my life on Monday morning were my core values. My core values, in no particular order, are belief, growth, authenticity, impact, and courage. Those are my five core values. I started to assess how I made decisions in life. Am I being congruent with those values in my why? Am I aligned? Is how I show up connected to what I believe and to who I am? Is there alignment there? When I train this, those are the three layers of our identity from the inside out, who we are, what we stand for, and how we show up. Are those connected?

If you are not in alignment, you are not being true to your purpose and you are not living your why. When I gave myself that stress test, I realized that I was not living true to my purpose. I was doing a good job, not a great job. I had some gaps. I started to tear through the muscle. I still order to implement. I found that when you apply one value, it can help you overcome a deficiency in another area. I leveraged my value of courage to make tough decisions.

When I was afraid and knew there was a risk, I’m like, “Paul, are you a man of courage or not?” I would almost have that locker room talk with myself. When I was like, “Express courage.” It helped me make other decisions. I told myself, “Paul, think of something you said you would never do but maybe you would reconsider.”

One of those things was going back to school. The school was fine. I took high school seriously because of my folks. College was a party, I passed and did not see the need. In business and sports, you do not need the three letters, MBA. In some industries, you need it. In that one, you do not. I tore through the muscle and I committed to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. They had a Los Angeles cohort satellite program.

It was this perfect, once a month. I had no anticipation of leaving sports at the time but here is what it led to. This is the lineage and here is how I want to connect to the audience here. When you follow your why, these inexplicable connections start to happen. You reflect back and say, “If A) Did not happen, B) Does not happen, then C) Does not happen.”

When you stay true to your purpose, amazing things happen. Click To Tweet

You do not know that if you forecast forward. You need to take action. If you are being true to your purpose and letting your why to be your operating system, in this case, that is when the amazing things happen. I went back to school. The best ROI on the school was not in the classroom. For the first time in my life, I had an executive coach.

I remembered going back to my sports days. I always wanted that leader. Sometimes it is different when they work in your industry. What if they know your boss better than you? It is a weird thing but an executive coach is an executive coach. They are neutral, unbiased, and just there to serve you, with no outside agenda. Her name was Sue Ann. I talk about her tremendously in my book, The Power of Playing Offense. She was a life changer.

Sue Ann said, “Paul, I know what you do. You are the Head of Sales for the 49ers. What do you love and hate about it? What do you tolerate?” I answered all three, and she said, “Go deeper on that love bucket.” I said, “I love the people side of the business. I love building a culture, rallying a team, motivating, inspiring, and coaching.” She said, “On a good day, what percentage of your time do you do that?” I started to slouch in my chair because I knew I would not love the answer. I plus it up.

The truth was probably 10%. I told her 20%, so I would feel better about myself. She said, “Paul, if I was to wave a wand and you become your boss, does that number 20% go up, down or sideways?” I said, “More strategy, fewer people, so down.” She said, “What about your boss’s boss?” I said, “The same.” This was the question. She said, “What are you after?”

It is so simple, Gary. There is nothing magical about the question, “What are you after?” Shame on me that I had never thought about that. My NFL boss told me, and apparently, I did not listen. He said, “In life, the easiest thing to do is to stay on the treadmill you are on.” He told me that, and it did not register but now I can connect the dots and say, “That was tremendous advice.” That is where she was bringing me.

The easy thing to do was stay on the treadmill I was on. As I realized how I felt about my day-to-day, I loved the industry and the organization. I fell out of love with what I did every day. That is the juice and the fuel. Mentally, as I processed the answer to that question, I knew I was going to leave. It took about 2 to 3 months to make the call because I had to figure out what I was going to do and where I was going to go. I knew mentally that I had to follow my calling and passion. I based it on a value, which is impact. That is my number one value by far. I asked myself, “Can I create more effect inside the walls of this industry or beyond?” When I framed it like that, it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made.

Tell everybody a little bit about PurposePoint.

That is a new partnership and a new family for me. I will give a quick backstory. I was in sports until the end of 2017. I joined the same company that helped and facilitate Simon’s team, and facilitate my why discovery at the 49ers. I joined that Leadership Institute and spent 2018 and 2019 with him. I treated it like a leadership laboratory. I was such a geek of the space, the people side of the business. I just fell in love and wanted a stress test. It is the things that I thought to be true after fifteen years in sports. Are they industry-agnostic?

It became an experiment for me. I’m coaching C-Suite at one of the top airlines and I’m coaching Navy SEALs. I’m in these environments I never would have been in had I stayed in sports. It is exercising my core values of growth and belief. How much do I believe in what I do? All of these core values are this wonderful melting pot.

I’ve got to fully express them over a two-year journey with this Leadership Institute. That took me to 2019. I started to realize this ecosystem of thought leadership. It is one that you are and it is one that I’m in. A lot of your coaches are in as well. I thought, “What if I could permanently change industries from the sports industry to the leadership development industry to the people industry? How does that feel to me?

It started to excite me more by the day. I started to think about the how. How do I execute this? I know the why behind the spirit, mission, calling, and cause. How do I want to show up and what differentiates me? I’ve got to wrestle with that. I said, “What do I do? How do I express this?” The answer and the one gap I had was my old company was not massively into keynote speaking, and I love keynote speaking. I have been doing it since I was in sports.

If there are 5,000 people I speak to and 50 ways to talk to you after, those 50 people prove to you that there is impact. They prove to you that it was the right message at the right time and they were transformed. You feel like, “What if they pay this forward?” How tremendous of a scalable impact of genuine, compassionate reasons do you have?

Keynoting was this portal for a contribution for me. That is when I bet on myself. I do not have a great crystal ball because I started my own live event/speaking company in January of 2020. It was a fantastic two and a half months but everything that has happened since March of 2020 while it was certainly not easy in the beginning, I will not sugarcoat it.

I probably am not an author if I did not have months in quarantine or would not have been a proud member of PurposePoint. The way PurposePoint came to me was when I started my own company. It almost reminds me of the WHY Institute’s mantra of getting clear and playing bigger. I thought about it like, “Is there a bigger, faster, stronger version of Purpose Labs out there?” I met them in 2021 and they became PurposePoint. I’m Chief Impact Officer. Again, that core value, my number one value is impact. I’m there to make a difference. This is a beautiful message. It is why I was so drawn to it, why I was drawn to them as people, and equally as important, their mission.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you come from a place of abundance, you’re happy to help however you can.


Every company starts with a point of purpose. They invite people to join them on the journey. As the journey evolves, you start to create a process, measure performance, and eventually, calculate profits. There are a lot of Ps going on. I have seen that over time. The further away you get from that foundation, there is a drift away from that origin and purpose point. You start to care more about performance, profit, and process more than the people and the purpose. Those other three Ps are critical. They are necessary. Otherwise, there is no business to run but the order matters, and the harmony amongst all those Ps matters.

Most companies we see are over-flexing the performance, profit, and process. They are neglecting the people and the purpose. The outcome is you have this thing called a global pandemic, and voila, there is a Great Resignation. Why? It is because people fell out of touch with their why and purpose. They had a time-out forced by the world to look within themselves. I think of the Great Resignation as the Great Awakening. When I heard PurposePoint speak about this awakening, it drew me in and I decided to join a bigger, faster, and stronger tribe. That is why we are here.

I would love to finish with one last question for you because you have taken us on the journey. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, a lot of lessons you have learned, a lot of places you have been things, and things you have done. What is the best piece of advice you have ever given or gotten?

This one is going to hit close to home because it is right up the alley of what you are preaching every day. The best piece of advice that I have given is because I was not told this and it led to a lot of angst and maybe not loving the early stages of my career, even though it was very fun. It is because I was over-focused on the What.

I was solely focused on what I was doing. They would bring in trainers to try to help you how to do it but nobody ever told me to focus on why I do what I do. They never asked me questions about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become. I was playing the doing game when there was a sequence to it. Doing is great but you must first know who you are being, who you are, and why.

Those two are the most powerful things you can know about yourself. The how, whether through a five-minute discovery or life experience, if you are passionate about something, you will figure out the how but you’ve got to first be a believer in the why, and the what you do becomes so much more of a blue ocean.

I used to think I had this singular purpose in life. If I do not do X, it puts so much pressure on you, and you feel like you have this one North Star. That is BS. I can do 20, 30 or 50 different things I should not because of bandwidth but I can. That was an empowering feeling. I’ve got my freedom back when I started to apply my why and live on purpose. That is what perspective I would share with everybody.

What is next for Paul? I know you are going to be doing some great stuff with us. We are looking forward to that. Let’s talk for a minute about that.

WHY Institute and Paul Epstein are meeting at the 50 to touch and inspire a billion lives. That is what’s next. The part I feel the most excited about is I’m in the earliest stages of writing my second book, which is called On Purpose. The big question I’m trying to tackle is, “Are you living your life on purpose or is life just happening to you?” My process, my how, and the system I will introduce in this playbook are when you can align your head to your heart to your hands, that is when you are living on purpose.

I have been ideating this thing that I’m calling the Triple H Equation, Head plus Heart equals Hands. If you are going to take action, make sure that your mindset and your heart are onboard because otherwise, you will fall out of purpose. You will still live but in six months, you wonder, “Why am I no longer fulfilled? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I not have a deeper burn?”

Maybe there is a self-limiting belief that is preventing you from taking action. That is the point. It is the green, yellow, red light philosophy. The Head is in, the heart is in, green light. If only 1 of the 2 is in, yellow light, then proceed with caution. If it is 0 for 2, your head and your heart are out, stop. That is a red light. This book is about living on purpose. The flip side is, it is to get people to stop running red lights in their life.

There is a company I’m going to introduce you to. That sparked something in me. I want to connect you with a girl named Liz Ellis because she was the CEO of a big production company, and she changed her position to Chief Heart Officer. It is right up your alley. She said, “I’m going to put somebody else as the CEO because I can find people to do the thinking or the head part. We do not have anybody to do the heart part, and that is my specialty. If we have got lots of hands and brains, we need the heart.” It is fascinating. You will love it.

That is the beauty of these types of conversations. We are all connecting and expanding our tribe. I would have never known a Chief Heart Officer if it was not for this conversation. When you are living your calling, and everything is coming from not only the heart but the head, and you are taking purposeful action, that is what life is all about.

If people want to get ahold of you, Paul, what is the best way for them to connect with you? How do they follow you and learn from you? What would be the best way to communicate with you?

The most powerful things you can know about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. Click To Tweet is the best way. That is the home of all things. As far as, not only where to find me but I’m somebody that I get intimate with the folks in my community, in the sense of it is me engaging and responding because that is a core value of mine. There is no pedestal here to me. I mean everything I have shared already but if you ask me why am I writing the second book, it is to democratize purpose because we all deserve to be in that space. Find me at Paul Epstein Speaks and shoot me a note. Follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram at @PaulEpsteinSpeaks. You can find me very easily and know that it is 100% me connecting with you to meet you at the 50.

Paul, thank you so much for being here. I loved our conversation, more listening for me, which is exactly what I wanted, so you did awesome.

Thanks, Gary. I’m fired up for the journey ahead.

It is going to be fun. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you.

It is time for our last segment, which is Guess Their Why. Since we talk sports, I want to use Aaron Rodgers. He is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He is one of the most successful. He has won MVP awards and is also very controversial. He had that whole thing around the COVID being immunized versus having the vaccine. I would love to know what do you think Aaron Rodgers’s why is?

I have a really good sense. I happened to listen to him a little bit more. He has been on different podcasts and various television shows. I believe that Aaron Rodgers’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. He is not somebody that wants to follow the rules and draw inside the lines. He wants to do it his way. He has his whole life. He has got his little man bun now. He didn’t talk about following traditional medicine. He wanted to do it his own way and get “immunized.”

If you have been reading the show and you love what you are reading, please give us a review on whatever platform you are using and bring this to more people. Our goal is to impact one billion people in the next five years. The show is going a long way toward doing that. I look forward to having you on the next episode. Thank you so much for reading.

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About Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your PurposePaul Epstein became the go-to fixer for NBA teams, NFL franchises, and league executive offices because he’s mastered the come-from-behind win. He recognizes that victory comes from the inside, and requires an All-In culture empowered by a growth mindset and a belief that we all have unlimited potential – when we double down on our strengths, gifts, talents, and passions.

Today, people and organizations everywhere are struggling. Maybe you’ve lost sight of the fuel that motivates, inspires, and pushes you forward— or maybe you never found it. It’s purpose, and the feeling of leading with purpose is more thrilling than you can imagine.

Maybe your lack of purpose is manifesting in terms of traditional achievement— you’ve fallen behind in sales, your culture is a mess, or your growth has stalled out. Maybe you just can’t seem to turn your vision and goals into momentum and purpose. You know the What, but you just can’t seem to find the Why.