[00:00:13] The Seven Principles of Influence.
[00:06:01] Next in line effect.
[00:08:50] Power of Persuasion.
[00:13:13] Communication strategies for groups.
[00:21:17] The power of “because”.
[00:26:33] The definition of influence.
[00:28:39] Rule for reciprocity.
[00:33:55] Give something to clients first.
[00:39:29] Principles of Persuasion.
[00:43:28] Influence and Consistency.
[00:49:18] Social Proof and Usability.
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Dr. Robert Cialdini is a renowned expert on influence and persuasion. With his extensive research and expertise, he has become a leading authority in understanding the psychology behind human behavior and decision-making. His work has helped businesses and individuals unlock the power of persuasion to achieve greater success.
Tune in and learn from the master himself!
The seven universal principles of influence: Discover the key principles that significantly increase the likelihood of getting a positive response in any persuasive message, such as reciprocation, liking, authority, social proof, scarcity, commitment consistency, and unity.
The power of giving first: Learn how providing value, benefits, and positive attitude to others can create a sense of reciprocity and increase the chances of them saying yes to your requests.
Strategies for effective persuasion: Gain insights into practical techniques like finding genuine similarities, giving compliments, leveraging authority and social proof, highlighting scarcity, and promoting commitment and consistency to enhance your persuasive messaging.
Listen to this episode to delve deeper into the fascinating world of influence and persuasion, and learn how to apply these principles to improve your copywriting, SEO, and marketing strategies. Gain valuable insights from Dr. Robert Cialdini, an expert in the field, and unlock the potential to achieve better results in your business endeavors.
Unleashing the Power of Persuasion: Insights from Dr. Robert Cialdini
In the world of influence and persuasion, few names carry as much weight as Dr. Robert Cialdini. As a renowned expert in the field, Dr. Cialdini has dedicated his career to unraveling the secrets behind human behavior and decision-making. In a recent episode of the Beyond Your WHY Podcast, hosted by Dr. Gary Sanchez, Dr. Cialdini shared valuable insights into the art of persuasion and the seven universal principles of influence. Join us as we delve into the highlights of this episode, exploring the importance of Dr. Cialdini’s work and discovering how you can leverage his expertise to enhance your copywriting and SEO strategies.
Understanding the Seven Universal Principles of Influence
Dr. Cialdini’s extensive research has identified seven universal principles of influence: reciprocation, liking, authority, social proof, scarcity, commitment consistency, and unity. By grasping these principles and integrating them into your messaging, you can significantly increase the likelihood of eliciting a positive response from your target audience.
The Power of Reciprocity: Giving First
One of the major takeaways from the episode is the importance of giving value, benefits, and positive attitude before making a request. Dr. Cialdini emphasizes that by going above and beyond for your audience or customers, you create a sense of reciprocity, leading them to feel obligated to reciprocate your actions.
Strategies for Effective Persuasion
Dr. Cialdini provides actionable strategies for effective persuasion. He highlights the significance of finding genuine similarities and offering genuine compliments to build rapport with your audience. Leveraging authority and social proof can help reduce uncertainty, as people tend to follow the recommendations of experts and the actions of their peers. Additionally, highlighting scarcity and promoting commitment consistency can further enhance the persuasive impact of your message.
The Importance of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Work
Dr. Cialdini’s research and expertise in influence and persuasion have revolutionized our understanding of human behavior. His work has not only influenced the field of psychology but has also made a significant impact on marketing, sales, and business strategies worldwide. Through his groundbreaking book “Influence,” Dr. Cialdini has become a trusted authority, guiding businesses and individuals toward more effective communication and persuasion techniques.
The Beyond Your WHY Podcast episode featuring Dr. Robert Cialdini offers invaluable insights into the power of persuasion. By implementing the seven universal principles of influence and incorporating the strategies shared by Dr. Cialdini, you can enhance your ability to engage and persuade your target audience effectively. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to learn from one of the foremost authorities on influence and persuasion. Unlock the secrets of persuasion, elevate your copywriting and SEO efforts, and start achieving remarkable results in your communications. Tune in to the episode today and unleash the power of persuasion in your endeavors.
About Dr. Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini, a thought leader in the fields of influence and persuasion, has spent his career publishing scientific research on what causes people to say “Yes” to requests. The results of his research, his ensuing articles, and his New York Times bestselling books have led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science.
His 7 Principles of Persuasion have become a cornerstone for any organization serious about increasing its influence
significantly, while doing so ethically.
As a keynote speaker, Dr. Cialdini is renowned for his ability
to translate the science of influence through valuable and
indelible stories that lend themselves to long-term business
His books, including his New York Times Bestselling Influence and Pre-Suasion, have sold more than seven-million copies in 44 languages. As a result, he is frequently regarded as
“The Godfather of Influence”.
The main objective of the prison system is to rehabilitate criminals and integrate them into society. But seeing its current state, mired in cruelty and violence, it may not be serving its purpose well. In this episode, Dr. Gary Sanchez sits down with motivational speaker Andre Norman who shares his inspiring journey from incarceration, getting into Harvard, and working with top leaders at the White House. He talks about seeking better ways to run the US prison system, where he spent years fighting in gang wars and living in a constant threat of violence. Andre opens up about his two years in solitary confinement, detailing how this horrible experience opened his eyes to the contribution he can make in transforming the very system he went through.
Watch the episode here
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Rehabilitating The Prison System With Andre Norman
In this episode, you’re going to meet Andre Norman. He went from gang member to leader of the gangs in the prison systems to going to two years of solitary confinement where he found himself, his formula, and his plan. He ended up getting out, going to Harvard, and working with leaders at The White House and many other organizations. You’re going to find this episode fascinating. I can’twait to share it with you.
We’re going to be talking about the WHY of Better Way, to find a better way and share it. If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator and 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 improvements 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.
In this episode, I have a fascinating guest for you. His name is Andre Norman. He is the number one prison success story in the world. Growing up in Boston, Andre struggled with poverty and illiteracy. After quitting on his dream of being a trumpet player, he turned to the streets eventually finding himself before a judge where he was sentenced to over 100 years in prison. In the first six years, he immersed himself in prison culture, gaining status and recognition within the system. This led to him being placed in solitary confinement for two years.
While in solitary confinement, Andre had an epiphany and realized he had become the king of nowhere. After assessing his current life and the life he wanted to create, with a 1% chance of succeeding, he formulated a plan to go to Harvard and become successful. Over the next eight years, Andre would work twenty hours a day. He taught himself to read. He taught himself the law. He went to anger management and personal development groups.
He was awarded parole and released having served fourteen years. Ninety minutes after obtaining his freedom, Andre made his first speech to a room of young Black men who were in juvenile detention, which is where he once sat. He taught them the three basic principles. The importance of accepting accountability and embracing mentorship, how to create a plan and live with integrity, and how to become a leader and never quit.
For many years, he’s been teaching these principles around the world. Having made stops in over 30 countries and worked with top agencies such as YPO, EO, Genius Network, The White House, Ferguson, Harvard, and London Business School all the while still working on his passion for helping people turn their lives around. He runs the Academy of Hope, a violence reduction prison-based program. Having gone from being hopeless in prison to now running prisons is why Andre Norman is the number one prison success story in the world.
You’ve got to send me that intro. I need a copy of that.
I had a different intro for you, and I decided not to use it because I think this tells a better story. The one I had didn’t go into where you came from. It’s just what you’re doing now, which I didn’t think did you justice.
I appreciate you. Email me a copy. I liked it.
Andre, were you born in Boston?
I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts at Boston City Hospital.
Tell us a little bit about your childhood. What was that like for you? What were you like in high school? Give us a little background on you.
I was born in Boston in 1967. It was a different time and era. All the people weren’t getting along as they do or are supposed to nowadays. It was like segregated communities in the sense of the White folks lived over there, the Black folks lived over there, and the Spanish people lived down there. We never saw the Asian folks. They were only downtown or someplace. You stayed in your bubble. Everybody had a bubble and you lived in it. When you came out of your bubble, people would tell you to get back into your bubble.
Going to school, you think everything is normal. You’re a kid. You don’t know the larger world is going through stuff. I didn’t understand the Vietnam War was going on while I was 2 years old or 3 years old. I didn’t understand a lot of things was going on. Watergate, I knew nothing about it. I never heard about it until I was an adult. The world is moving and I’m just a little kid. My parents and my oldest siblings are growing up understanding what’s going on. I have no clue.
I finally get to sixth grade. I have a little bit more ability. I can move around now. It was like, “Okay, cool.” That’s when I started realizing that I was living in a bubble and that my bubble consisted of the people who lived next door to me or down the street from me. I wasn’t allowed or expected to go beyond my bubble. I started traveling. I love traveling. As a kid in the fifth grade, I hated being boxed into the hood as we call it. I’d go down to the bottom of the hill and get on the bus, and I’d ride the bus from end to end.
After I rode the bus to every stop, there was a trolley. I started riding the trolley end to end at every stop. After I rode the trolley, I jumped on the train. I started riding the train to every stop on the first line. There are four train lines in Boston. I rode them all. I’ve been to every stop on every train line in the City of Boston that it has.
I started looking at the commuter rails and the buses that go to the suburbs. I jump on buses and I go to different communities. I jump off and go explore. People thought I was weird. This was way before GPS. That’s what you did. That was my escape from the city. I’d get on a bus and go somewhere. I get on the train or the trolley and go somewhere. I love this seeing stuff.
When I get to high school, it’s not going well. I’m not athletic or academic. I’m not super cool. I’m in where I’m in and then I fall off. As you see, my trumpet is on the wall behind me. Some friends of mine talked me out of playing the trumpet. They said it’s not cool and you can’t not have friends, so I gave up my trumpet. When I gave up my trumpet, I fell in with all the rest of the people.
The people who are going away that I didn’t want to go, but I ended up going in the street. If you’re not in school, you’re not doing anything productive, you’re going to be in the street. There’s not a lot to that. My street term didn’t last long. As everybody else, you make your little run and you get a car or whatever you get and then you end up in jail.
As a teenager, the one glamour thing that come up in my youth was in eleventh grade. I had failed 9th grade, 10th grade, and 11th grade in almost every class. I went to class late one day, my teacher wouldn’t let me in. I ended up in the auditorium sitting in the back of a presentation around exchange students. I’m sitting in the back. I’m jaded by this point in my life. I’m like, “Why are you talking about kids going to foreign countries? We can’t go anyplace. We’re stuck right here.” I had forgotten that I love to travel. Instead of saying, “This is for me, I just downed it because I was a hater at that time.” The guy called me to the front. He gave me the forms. He said, “Don’t say no to them. Fill out the forms. Make them say no, then you have an argument.”
Long story short, I filled out the forms. I applied and I got the first scholarship of all the kids in the Boston Public Schools because President Reagan wanted Black kids to go on his trips so he eliminated grades. You could not look at grades. You only had to talk to the person in front of you based on potential. In 1984, it was deemed I had the most potential of any kid in the Boston Public Schools system.
I win this scholarship and then my principal finds out. He calls me and the counselor to the office. He’s cussing us both out. Never could I represent their school. I was the worst kid they’d ever seen. He was going on and on. Long story short, when he was done, the man raised his hand. He said, “Three things. One, Andre is going on this trip. Two, it’s not your money, and three, it’s not your decision. Thank you for your time,” and we walked out. When we got in the hallway, he gave me that look like, “I told you. Don’t ever say no to them.”
In the summer of 1984, I went to London, Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam on an exchange student scholarship. It was my thing. I’m traveling. I’m like, “I’m there,” and it was phenomenal. If I’d pick a moment, the seed that was planted that changed my life was I’m in a local pub. I’m seventeen. I used to play video games and you used to put your name up on the high score so I put Dre. When you go on it, it’s all Dre. I’m a video game kid.
In ‘84, the Olympics is going on in LA. Everybody in London, Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam all called me the American. Nobody called me the Black kid, “He’s an American.” I had never in my life been called an American or put into the category of American. It was always like, “The Black kids and them or the White kids.”
What happened is after hearing it so much and I guess at the same time, the Olympics are going on so everybody’s up in arms about their country, I went to the pub and I switched everything from Dre to USA. I started putting the USA up there. I never saw myself as anything but the Black kid from the hood but all those people inundated me with being an American and I embraced it. Years later, that trip that summer helps me see and navigate my life now.
Listening to that, it doesn’t sound like you were a bad kid.
I was an extremely bad kid.
It doesn’t sound like it. From what I’m hearing, it doesn’t sound like you were a troublemaker. It sounds like you were a kid trying to find his way and got an opportunity. What did your friends think at that moment about you getting awarded this scholarship to go overseas?
By the time I got that scholarship, it was the end of my junior year going to my senior year. Half of my friends are already in juvie waiting for me to show up. When I say not a bad kid, not a good kid, there’s no bad or good. It’s who you are around. If you show me the atmosphere that somebody grows up in, I’ll show you what you’re going to get out of that. I’ve seen George W. Bush was president. Do you know what made him be president or prompted him? George Herbert Bush prompted him to be president. We can go back to him saying John Quincy Adams and his son.
You become, to a certain extent, not a guarantee of what’s around you, but George Herbert Bush has one son who was a governor and became president. If your father is a politician, you become a politician. All the Kennedy boys became politicians. You follow in the footsteps. Unless you’re an athlete, you can’t pass that on.
What were your parents like then?
My mom and dad separated when I was in the first grade. I was on my own when it comes to “your dad’s” part. My mom had six kids and is a single mom. She’s trying to raise six of us, feed us, and clothe us. She wouldn’t go on welfare so she’s working on too many jobs account. She was trying to make it work. She was overwhelmed with six kids and refused to sit at home and collect a check every two weeks. My mom went to work every day.
The backend of that is the kids are home by themselves. Since I and my brother were the little ones or the younger two, we needed guidance the most when it wasn’t there. My oldest siblings were on with their lives, whatever degree that looked like. I call it neglect but not willful neglect. It was the byproduct of how we were living. She couldn’t be at work for ten hours and be at home for ten hours. Something had to give.
What was the turning point that got you going in the wrong direction?
The turning point that got me going in the wrong direction was in the sixth grade when the kids told me I was poor. They made fun of me for being a free lunch kid and wearing dirty clothes. I didn’t have anybody to go to. At that moment, my friend came to me and said, “Dre, we can go sell weed in the park after school and make money. We can buy the stuff that we don’t have.”
Had I had a dad in my life, a mentor, or a coach who would have said, “No, Dre, you’re not doing that.” I had no one to turn to and say, “This is my option. Do you have a better option?” My sixth-grade friend who’s as strung out and pained as I am in trying to find a way, his advice seemed like great advice to me. Again, I didn’t have a brother 4 or 5 years older. My older brother was one year older than me. There’s no one I can go to and say, “What do you think about this?”
I went with my logic as an eleven-year-old. At eleven-year-old, if I can make these people stop yelling at me, it sounds like a good thing. I went with it. That was the turning point where someone would’ve said, “Dre, come on. You’re not going to go do this.” I would have not done it but there was nobody there to tell me no. If you’re running through life with no one there to tell you no, that’s a problem because you’re an accident waiting to happen.
There is poverty, rich, wealthy, CEO, or the mayor’s clerk. If you’re governing your life right now and there’s nobody in your life that can tell you no when a bad decision or a bad move comes up or is inappropriate, you don’t have anyone to self-check you, you’re just waiting for the next bad decision to come.
You in sixth grade started selling weed. What happened on that path? Did you get into the juvie system finally?
In sixth grade, I started selling weed. What we’re used to doing to be clear was the older kids would sell weed. My job was to run back and forth to the stash house and bring it to them. I got $30 to $35 a day, which doesn’t sound like a lot of money, except if you’re this dirt-poor with nothing. If you’re a free lunch kid, $35 a day is a lot of money. Back then, a pair of sneakers cost $20, not $200. I got a saying. If you get on the wrong street and walk, at some point, you’re going to hit the end. I got on the street. I enter the street as a drug dealer. I then went to a gun carrier and I went to somebody in fights. It just progressed all the way up.
What was it that finally got you in front of the judge?
What finally got me in front of the judge was a bunch of arm robberies. I used to sell drugs and then I started robbing people who sold drugs because it was so much easy and they had so much money. I went to prison for robbing drug dealers.
They had the cash and you took it. How old were you then?
I was eighteen.
You got sentenced to 100 years in prison.
7 to 10 years, 9 to 10, 9 to 10, 10, 10, 15 to 20, 15 to 20, 3 to 5, 3 to 5, and 5. It’s 105 years. It’s what they gave. I had it 95, and I picked up 2 attempted murder charges inside and got 10 more, which pushed it to 105.
What was it like hearing that when you got sentenced to that amount of time in prison?
By then, you’re in a rhythm. It’s what’s expected. If you’re an honor roll student and in the second semester, they tell you you’ve got an A, you’re like, “Okay, cool.” If you’re flunking out and they tell you you’ve got an F, “Okay, cool.” This is where your path is going so anything that happens on that path isn’t spectacular. Some things are expected from you depending on what you’re doing.
Based on how I was living, nobody was shocked. They said, “Dre is in court again. Dre is going to prison.” “We knew that.” When I got to the prison, all my friends said, “What took you so long? We’ve been waiting for you. We knew you were coming.” It’s like when you get someplace and you’re like, “This would be perfect for Johnny. Where’s he at?” and then Johnny shows up how. We knew he was going to come, “This is your thing.”
My lifestyle was so clear that you knew where I was going to end up. If I didn’t go to prison, it would have been amazing. Also, it was amazing that I went. If LeBron James didn’t become the all-time greatest NBA player next to Michael Jordan, they’d be like, “What happened? He had everything going for him. It was all lined up. He was expected to be there.” I had everything lined up for me to go to prison so I went.
Take us through what it’s like walking from outside of prison into prison.
It was scary. If I had to pick one word, going to State or Federal prison is scary. The first day I went to the county jail, I was scared to death. I fight. I’m tough, but this is a place I don’t know. These are people I don’t know, so I’m scared. You fight through your fears and you win some false hope and you stop being scared, which was the worst thing that happened to me. I won my first fight in the county jail. I’d have been much better off if I’d lost my first fight.
I beat the guy up and people are celebrating me. “I’m good here. They are celebrating me. Let me do that again. I beat up somebody else. They celebrated with me some more. I’m cool now.” I’m getting the affirmation that I can do this versus had I gone in and a guy punched me on my face and knocked the tooth out, I have been like, “I am not going back there no more.” The worst thing that happened to me is I won my first two fights.
I told myself, “I can do this.” When I was scared, that was the greatest time to get me. I saw they had the TV show Scared Straight. It’s not you yelling at me so when I’m in that holding cell, I’m scared to death. My fears are on flame and then I found out, “There is nothing to be scared about it. I can do this.” That was the worst thing that ever happened to me when I realized I had the capacity of doing time in prison. The fear went away and arrogance took over.
Did you go to Federal prison?
I went to the State prison first for ten months. I was so violent and incorrigible that the State prison called the Federal prison and they traded me. They did a prisoner exchange. They said, “We can’t keep him here. He’s too violent.” They were a prisoner exchange and they sent me to the Federal government as a transfer. I was in the Federal government for two and a half years, and I was so out of control there. They called the State back and said, “Give us our people back. You’re getting him back,” and they kicked me out. They sent me back to Massachusetts. That’s when I picked up the two attempted murder charges. They put me back in solitary. I’m thinking I’m winning. You could not tell me I was not winning.
What was going through your mind when you were this super violent guy? Sitting here talking to you right now and hearing your story about going to Paris and all over Europe, I don’t see that in you at all.
You don’t owe me any cigarettes. Owe me a couple of packs of cigarettes and pay late. Seriously, when you get into a system and you morph into what’s in there. You become what’s around you. People say money gives you the chance to be a better or bigger version of yourself, the prison gives you a chance to be another version of yourself. I went in. I was like, “I’ve got to survive. I’ve got to make it. I’ve got to be accepted. I’m going to copy what I see other people are doing.”
The most violent guy has the most control. I’m a control freak so I’m going to do it the way that the most violent guy wins. He’s in charge. I’ll be the most violent guy. It was a rationalization versus anything else. I realized that if I hurt people in prison, then people will respect me. I get the status. I justified it by saying that they’re criminals. I’m not beating up little old ladies at the bus stop. I’m beating up gang members, murderers, rapists, and stickup kids. I’m not out there terrorizing people. Everybody here is a criminal. You all signed up for this. That’s how it goes.
Isn’t there always the next toughest guy coming along? Is there somebody always wanting to challenge you?
One hundred percent. I realized early on this is the better way. People aren’t scared to fight. How many people got in the ring with Mike Tyson knowing they were going to lose? They still got in the ring because they’re not scared of fighting. If Mike Tyson had a knife, how many people would get in the ring with him?
I’d put down the gloves and pick up a knife. I know how to position myself with a no-lose clause. My thing was I’m going to be the most extreme. I’m not going to beat you up. That’s Mike Tyson and you’ll fight him because too many people have fought him. People fought Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman. Nobody’s ever not climbed in a ring even though they won’t get knocked out or not. For me, I realized that even Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman got beaten. They all got beaten.
I’m like, “Let me up the price to fight Andre. There’s a different price. Are you willing to give your life to do combat with me? This isn’t a knockout. Either I die or you die. Those are the stakes.” Very few people, for the most part, nobody wanted to put those stakes on the table. “You fight me, I might knock you out. You get a black eye or a busted lip.” “I’ll go for that.” If you come at me, one of us is dying. If it’s you or if it’s me, one of us got to die. If you won’t do that, keep it moving because I’m not rolling around on the floor with you. I upped it and when I went to that status, nobody wanted to deal with me. They’re like, “He’s playing a whole other game.”
I think I remember you telling a story about when you walk into prison, you’re given a manual of how you’re supposed to act in the prison but then when you walk in with the inmates, you were given a different set of rules.
During my first couple of days at the prison, I went down to the caseworker’s office, and she told me I can get a Forklift degree. I can get my GED. I can get a college degree and all this stuff that I could do while I was in prison. I was like, “I didn’t know this about prison.” “Did you know you can get a GED or a Forklift degree, a college degree, or high school?” I’m like, “This is great.” I went back and I called my mom. I’m like, “Mom, it’s not that bad here. I can get all these degrees and make my life better. When I come home, I’ll be able to do something.” She says, “Great, son.” The next morning, I’m at the gate waiting to go to the school building, and then the homies rolled up on me and said, “Dre, where are you going?” I say, “I’m going to school. I’m about to better my life.”
They’re like, “He got the caseworker’s speech.” I said, “What do you mean?” They said, “Do you see those guys over there? That’s the White guys. When they find out that you’re on your own, they’re going to beat you up and take your stuff and that caseworker is not going to help you. You see those guys over there? That’s a Latino gang. When the White guys are finished, they’re going to run in and beat you up because you’re by yourself and the caseworker’s not going to come help you.”
“Do you see those guys over there? That’s the Black guys from the other side of town. When the White guys and the Spanish guys finished, they can go in and beat you up. When they find out you have nothing, they are going to beat you again for not having nothing, and the caseworker is not going to help you. If you hang out with us, we’ll make sure nobody does anything to you. Nothing will ever happen to you unless it happens to all of us. It’s all of us or you can go by yourself.”
I looked at the White guys, the Spanish guys, the Black guys, and the guys in front of me. I took that little folder they gave me and threw that s*** in the trash. He handed me a knife and I’m on deck. That was my first, “This is how life in prison goes. It’s not how you want it to go.” Your life is in the hands of other criminals. The people who’ve made awful choices throughout their entire lives are now governing your life which is what made me say, “I don’t want these people governing my life. I want to be in charge.”
The only way to be in charge is to raise up to number one, and the only way to raise up to number one is to go down this path of hurting people. It’s because if you don’t get to be number one, then other people will decide your life for you, and I didn’t want that. I can’t wake up every day, “Are they going to rape me now? Are they going to take my TV? Are they going to take my Snickers and my candy bars? What are they going to do to me now?” I can’t wake up every day in fear of something happening to me so I said, “I’m going to take control of the fear. I’d rather be the bully than the bullied in prison.”
You’re the number one guy in prison. You’re the guy. Take us through a day in the life of the number one guy in prison.
My day starts at about 4:35 when I wake up in a single cell, and I sit at the end of my bed. I said, “I control contraband. I control drugs. I control money and commerce.” I wake up every morning. I sit on my bed and I said, “Not who wants to kill me now,” because everybody in the prison technically wants to kill me because they want my job. Who doesn’t want to be Bill Gates? Who doesn’t want Bill Gates checked? Imagine if you can be Bill Gates just by stabbing him.
If that was the case, Bill’s like, “You don’t have to be smarter than me. You don’t have to open up another company that I can buy out. You only have to get close enough to stab me, then you can have my position.” Bill Gates would’ve been out of here a long time ago. It’s the same thing with every other CEO. If all you had to do was get Jeff Bezos and beat him down, then you can get to own Amazon. He wouldn’t be owning Amazon for too much longer.
In prison, if you can beat me down or kill me, you get my position. Every morning at 4:00, I wake up and I say, “Not who wants to but who’s going to try.” I would go through my database of all the variables and things that happened the day before. Everything moves. I’d be like, “It’s going to be Steven.” I’d deduce why Steven, why Johnny, or why Rakeen. I figured it out because if you don’t figure out someone wants to kill you before they do, then you’re dead.
If I figure it out when you get to my cell door that it was you, I’m dead. I am forced to figure it out in advance. I have to look at who came in and what gang are they a part of. Who left? What gang are they a part of? Who’s in solitary? What cell is working? What shift is it? Whose birthday is it? Whose mother died this day? I got to think of every single variable that’s happening in this jail that’s going to impact my life because when I get it wrong, I die.
It’s get-it-right-or-die. There’s no in-between. I wake up every morning at the end of my bed and I come up with, “Who’s it going to be now?” I would go see them first and confront them like, “I think you got a plan to kill me later on this day.” They are like, “What are you talking about?” It’s because I have to figure it out before you figure it out. The funny part is you haven’t figured it out yet because once you figure it out, I lose.
I’ve got to get to you before you figure it out, which was always crazy. I would come to you and give you the rationalization for why he was going to try to kill me. He is like, “That makes a lot of sense, Andre, but I would bring 2 or 3 guys with me who will be ready to murder you. I hate to have to murder you, but it’s you or me.” I would explain to you the scenario that you’re going to be faced with that’s going to bring you to the conclusion of killing me.
I would say to you, “How do you think I should handle this? Should I wait until 12:00 and you roll on me or should I get you ahead at 9:00?” They are like, “Come on, Dre. It’s not like that. I didn’t have that thought yet. You can’t hold me now.” I’m like, “Yes, I can.” I would look at you and make a decision. Do you pose a threat to me? You are standing down now and I believe in it.
In prison, you go by your word. What you say is authentic and real. If you say, “I’m standing down, I’m not going with that plan,” and you double back, it’s not a respectable move. It’s like a cheap shot. If I can get you to stand down and I can believe that you’re going to stand down, I keep moving. If I didn’t, they’ll take you out on a stretcher.
You have to do that every day.
Every morning at 4:00 or 4:30, I’m like, “What happened yesterday? Who came in? Who left? Who got mad? Who teamed up?” You’re a White guy. You’re from whatever part of town and there’s 30 of you. Your cousin just came to the prison and he’s in the other White gang, and it’s 30 of them. Your cousin being a member of the other gang means your two gangs are now going to merge because you have a lynch. You have that hinge to bring you both together. I’m not dealing with 30. I’m dealing with 60 now.
I’m dealing with 60 people because you’ve got that lynchpin. Yesterday, it was just two separate gangs, but because your cousin is a top member of that gang and he just came back, now you two are going to unite. Now I got 60 people I’m dealing with versus 30. Somebody is going to have the bright idea that you should get a larger percentage of what’s going on in the prison because you’re 60, not 30. 30 and 30 get what it gets, but 60 gets more than that. What’s standing in the way of you getting a bigger percentage? Andre. You have your lynch man.
You’re going to have a meeting together at 60. We’ve got way more soldiers. We can make more power moves. We’ve got more for a power move because we have a united front of 60 people. I’ve got to come see you at 9:00 in the morning and be like, “I know your cousin just came. He’s still in new man. He hasn’t got out of new man yet, but when he gets out, he’s going to come to you with this great idea of your two gangs uniting and that you all should get more lion’s share or profit share what’s going on and Andre is the way. It’s two days away but I’m here in advance because I know your cousin and I know you. It is only a matter of time before you all get together.” They are like, “Yeah, it makes sense.” It would make sense to me. “I’m here to have a conversation. How are we going to do this?”
You’ve got to be not only tough. You’ve got to be smart.
Tough only lasts about a week. Tough will get you through the first week because if all you are is tough, they can get you out of the way. You’re going to respond to the first slight or the first thing. You’re going to crash out. We call them crash dummies. Something is going to happen that’s going to make you crash out and then you are no longer a threat. If I want to get rid of you, I’ll send some dude over there to call out your name. You going to beat them up. They’re going to take you off the camp. You’re out here. It’s really easy to get rid of crash dummies. You can’t be tough enough. Tough doesn’t get it. You have to outthink 2,000 people every day.
How did you end up going from the leader of the gang in prison to solitary confinement?
I tried to kill a couple of people. In prison, the status is violence. That’s communication. That’s the currency. Your name is how tough you are and how violent you are. I was trying to be the ultimate guy in prison. Somebody who murdered somebody in prison. It doesn’t matter what you do on the street or how much money you made. It’s what have you done back here.
When you were a kid, what did you do in college? What are you doing out here in the entrepreneurship world? When you are a kid, what did you have in your startup? What are you doing in the entrepreneurship world? That’s how you judge people. When you see NBA players, they say, “How many rings have you got?” They stay clown at Charles Barkley because he doesn’t have rings. That’s always the first joke. “You don’t have any rings, Charles.” He was a great player and an all-time great but he doesn’t have a ring. I always go down to him, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and John Stockton. You get a list of them. Dominique Wilkins doesn’t have rings and it takes them out of the greatest of all times discussion.
You were going to be the best.
I’m going for the top.
I think you said you were good at stabbing but not very good at killing or something like that.
I’m so happy that nobody physically died. If there are skills you’d want to be bad at, killing people should be one of them. I had the heart, the courage, the fortitude, and the will. I had to be on top. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I just was not good at killing people. Lo and behold, my job now is saving people. I’m great at saving people with depression and suicide. If you have Imposter syndrome, I’ll pull you back, but I am really bad. It wasn’t in me. God was like, “That’s not your calling.” Some people will never be super wealthy or whatever because it’s just not for them.
What was it like to go into solitary confinement?
Solitary confinement is the ultimate challenge because you’re in there with yourself. The world is full of distractions. I got an iPhone, a computer, a car outside, books in front of me, books behind me, a trumpet, stuff to do, people to talk to, stores I can go to, and restaurants. You never have to confront yourself.
When was the last time you sat down for an hour in a room with nothing and focused on yourself? “Who am I? Why am I here? Where’s my life at? Am I happy with my life? What are the decisions I made?” I sat there in a cell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I had to confront myself, which is something I had never done before because, in population, you are always going to be distracted by gang fights, some hustling, or some basketball. You can be distracted. There are no distractions in solitary.
For 24 hours, you will face yourself. I’ve watched a lot of people go crazy, crack up, commit suicide, set themselves on fire, or cut up because the reality of who they are was too much to bear. Are you ready to deal with who you are? Do you want to meet who you are? I had somebody say the worst that could happen is at death, you meet the person that you should’ve been. Who are you now and why are you here? When was the last time you asked yourself, “Why are you alive?”
I watched people every day. They go day to day. They find stuff to do. I’m building this house. I’m building this business. There is stuff to do but when was the last time you asked yourself, “Why am I here?” Cut everything else out of the way. I watch people confuse business with purpose, charity with purpose, raising a family with purpose, and all this other stuff like reading books with purpose. What is your purpose?
I sat in a cell and I had to ask myself, “What is my purpose?” I’m in a 10×8 and I’m running like crazy for myself but eventually, the question came back. I was like, “I am not this person I’m pretending to be. I’m not this drug dealer. I’m not a gang leader. I’m not a murderer. I am a criminal, but I’m not these other things. I’m not a bad person. I just made dumb choices and that can change.”
I said, “Who are you? Are you ready to change that?” I came to grips. I sat in his cell for almost two and a half years with one question, “Who are you Andre Norman?” When I finally figured that out, I said, “What’s in the way of Andre Norman being the best version of himself?” I wrote those things down and I started working on those things that were stopping me because it’s a clear distinction. What’s stopping me from being the best version of myself?
I knock those things out and I got to think what I say to people. You never have to give somebody who’s gifted more gifts or more opportunities. You need to take the pain out of their life. The potential wasn’t stopping me from being great. It was a pain in my life. Once I realized who I was and the thing that was stopping me from being great was my personal pain, then I found a way to remove that personal pain.
I went from the basement of a prison, an illiterate ex-gang member, to someone who worked in the White House. Someone that the United Nations calls and asks for global terrorism help. Some countries like Honduras and West Africa call to help with cartels and people dying and child soldiers. I’m the guy that Joe Polish calls if somebody calls him the number one mastermind group in the world with a family issue.
How did I go from the basement of a prison and a nobody to being one of the most sought-after change agents on planet Earth? I finally figured out why I was here and what was stopping me from being that thing. Many people are like, “I got a job. I make money. I got a nice house, a boat, and an insurance package. I’m going with this day to day.”
I’ve seen so many people, my father included, I put my father on that list. My father is 82 years old in an assisted living house in Connecticut and he’s miserable. Do you know why? He’s looking back over his 82 years and he says, “I wasn’t my authentic self. I was who my dad wanted me to be. I was who my mom wanted me to be. I was who my wife wanted me to be. I was who my kids wanted me to be. I was who my friends wanted me to be. I was all these things other people wanted me to be.” He lost himself a long time ago.
I look at people and I worked with some of the wealthiest people on the planet Earth like YPO. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia and Australia. I’ve been all over the planet. I went to Saudi. There was a guy there. He says he’s stressed out. He’s like, “What do I do? I have a son and my son is doing phenomenal. He has everything he wants.” My dad taught me to work hard, save money, and take care of my family. The boom came in Saudi and he became a multi-multimillionaire.
His son has enough money for retirement at nineteen. He says, “How do I motivate a nineteen-year-old who’s a multimillionaire?” He doesn’t have to work for. It’s there. He was lost. I had to go in and help him figure out how to talk to his son about getting him encouraged and getting him on track. I get calls every day like, “Dre, I got this kid, my daughter, my niece, or my whatever,” and they’re damn near suicidal because they can’t figure out their purpose.
It’s not that they didn’t get selected to a team or people don’t want to be their friend. Those things matter when you don’t know who you are. Somebody come out now and say, “Dre, I hate your guts.” “That’s nice. Have a nice day. I hope you’re doing well.” It doesn’t bother me. If you’d said it to me when I was in sixth grade, I’d have had a heart attack. “You have to like me. You can’t not like me.” “You can’t play trumpet because we don’t think it’s cool. “You all have to think it’s cool. If you don’t think it’s cool, I can’t live.”
As the leader, I do leadership development. I don’t do follower training. Helping people be better is what I do. First and foremost, you got to find out who you are and then I’m going to show you how to activate that. If I can go from the basement of a prison to working at The White House, the UN, the London Business School, Genius Network, the War Room, YPO, and EO, I go down the list. I went from the basement of a prison to the top agencies on planet Earth with very little help. What can your readers go to?
I’m assuming they’re living in houses and not trailer parks. I don’t think nobody is reading this in a homeless shelter. They have means and they have access to people like you who have means. It’s not about having, it’s about embracing. What I want to do is help people activate that thing inside of them. They say, “Dre, you got the edge.” I call it my edge training because to take over maximum security prison, it takes an edge and to fight your way back out to that place takes an edge.
To walk into West Africa, Honduras, Ferguson, Missouri, or any other place, I had to walk into Harvard and feel like I belonged there because I did. I walked into The White House. I feel like I belonged there because I did. I embrace my gift. I embrace my edge and I exercise it. That’s it. I’m not the best at everything, but I’m the best at what I’m the best at.
How did you get from solitary confinement to The White House? Take us on that journey.
I became my own first client. I have seen the A-club. I didn’t join that club. I need to be an A-club guy. I came up with a plan that I wanted to go home. First, I had to understand what I didn’t want. People stopped picking what they do want, but they didn’t get rid of what they didn’t want. The first thing I had to do was decide I no longer wanted to be king of the prison. That was the first step. Before I decided I wanted to go to Harvard, I decided I didn’t want to be king of the prison.
I gave up the false hope or the dumb dream then I looked in the mirror and said, “What do I want to be? I’m in prison and I want to be free.” I went to the second step. Most people go to the first step and then stop. “You want to be free. That makes sense but let us help you get free.” Do you know what free is for me? It’s the parking lot. If I hit the parking lot, I’m free. I have no plan beyond the parking lot so I go back to what I was doing before because I’m hitting my max.
I said, “I don’t want to be free because free is only the parking lot. I don’t want it to be just the parking lot. I want to go beyond the parking lot. I said, “Why do I want to go beyond the parking lot?” I want to be successful. Successful people go to college. I said, “I’d go to college.” I picked a school. I called Harvard. I go home. I go to college and be successful. That was the goal.
I looked in the mirror and I said, “What’s inside of me stopping his dream from happening? I’m Black. I can’t read. I’m a gang leader. I’m violent. I have anger issues. I’m saying my family doesn’t support me and I don’t read well. I’m saying I got 105 years in prison.” I made a list of the things that were in the way of me attending Harvard University. First, I went back to school and got my GED. I then went to anger management programs. I went to self-help groups. I taught myself the law because it wasn’t me fighting in the yard that was keeping me in jail. It was me not fighting my case in court.
I taught myself the law and reversed my case on appeal. I kept fighting. I made that list and I worked on that list. Every single day, I put all of my energy and effort into that list and made sure I took that list down and I did. Once I got past the prison part, it took me eight years. I didn’t do it in eight days. It was 8 years of 20 hours a day being committed to the goal of success. You would look at me, “Is this what a successful guy acts like?”
I couldn’t be a tough guy in the daytime and successful at night. I had to be successful all the time starting now. It’s not when I get there. Hold me accountable for what I say I’m going to be now. Many people want to be held accountable after they achieve it. I cut all the corners, cheat other people, and do all this stuff. Don’t stop holding me accountable for being rich until I get the money.
You have to embrace it and embody it on the front end. I embraced and embody being successful on the front end. I walked around that prison like I was a Harvard student. They’re like, “Why are you acting like that man?” I am like, “This is how a Harvard student acts.” “You are never going to Harvard.” When I got there, I had already been there. I didn’t have to overwhelm by Imposter syndrome. I’ve been here for years. It only took me a while to get to the campus.
When I got to the campus, I was there and I was received, that’s another thing. There’s getting in the room and then they’re staying in the room. I got in the room. “He made it to Harvard.” That was the easy part. Not getting kicked out was the hard part. I go and act like a fool, idiot, or a gang leader, they’re kicking me about there. What was the point of going if you’re not going to comport yourself in a way that makes you amenable and wants people to keep you around?
It was eight years of working on one list. A) Who am I? B) Who don’t I want to be? C) What’s stopping me from being the A? It was A, B, C. I’m gone but then the accountability part is I have a lot of accountability coaches, partners, and mentors. It wasn’t only me pulling my boots up. I had a lot of help, but I had to ask for help. I had to accept the help. People in my life tell me no now. You couldn’t tell me no when I was a gang leader. Who are you?
Once I became a student, you could tell me no. You could tell me there’s another way to do it. There’s a better way to do it. I listened and I applied. The way I got from the basement of the prison to Harvard was I embraced who I was supposed to be. I let go of who I didn’t want to be and then became a student of everything it took me to be that thing.
I’m sure people reading this are thinking the same question as I am. You go into solitary confinement as the leader of the gang. In solitary confinement, you become somebody different. Now you come back out, how were you accepted and how were you able to stay out of getting your butt kicked?
This is a question I asked you, folks. If you saw Mike Tyson at the gas station, would you talk s*** to him?
He’s retired though.
He’s still tough.
Exactly. When I retired, I was still Andre Norman. I didn’t become some friendly or soft guy who used to get beat up all the time. What was the best-case scenario for poking at me that you could hope for?
That’s the best-case scenario you can hope for. My reputation gave me a lot of latitude in going forward. I had a couple of guys challenge me, “Dre, why are you going to programs all the time? Why are you in that building all the time? Why are you doing it?” They kept challenging me and I said, “My father and I had a bad relationship. It’s caused me to not believe in myself and to have quitter syndrome. You don’t get all that. You don’t care. I need to go to counseling so I can fix the relationship between me and my dad to make my life better.”
They said, “Dre, you’re the smartest guy in prison. You don’t need to go to counseling.” I said, “I am, but that’s why I’m going because I’m the smartest guy here. I figured it out.” They said, “What’s going on up there?” They started challenging my integrity. I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to counseling no more and there are two things I can talk about. I’m going to let you choose which I talk about. I can either go to counseling and talk about me and my dad not getting along and him letting me down and then it infected my decision making or I can go to you, get my knife, stab you in the face and I can talk about that but either way, I’m going. What do you prefer I talk about? The guy looked at me and he said, “Dre, that’s awful what your dad did to you. You need to go get that fixed.”
I said, “Are you sure because I have no problem talking about you? If you want to be the topic of my conversation when I am in counseling, you can be. I will stab you dead in your face right now. You’re not going to stop me.” I didn’t want to stab him but in prison, you can’t be soft. I got to stand for this. Right now, when I go out to help White kids, people are like, “Dre, why are you helping the White kids? We did dope. We were addicts. We were scum on the Earth. Now, White kids do dope. It’s opioids and they’re victims. It’s a health problem. We did it. We were criminals. White kids do it. Why are you helping the White kids? How are you helping these people? We are in jail for selling weed. Now they all got weed shops. They are not letting any of us out of jail.”
There’s an undercurrent in the community that says, “I can’t help White people because of unjust systems and laws from before.” It’s true. It is been unfair and unjust in a lot of spaces and places. There’s a fifteen-year-old kid in Montana who needed my help. She was a White kid and she was trying to commit suicide. She didn’t protest, vote, slam any doors, or deny any access to housing. She’s just a fifteen-year-old White girl whose life was screwed up.
I flew to Helena, Montana to help that one girl because I wanted her to live. I want everybody to live. I tell all my brothers in comrades and arms, “Do you help kids or do you help Black kids? I help all.” I am always going to be pro-Black. Don’t ever get it twisted like, “Dre is down in the middle.” I’m not down in the middle. I’ll always chant and root for Black people. It’s who I am but I’m a servant for all people. I do not show up because you’re White. I do not show up because you’re Spanish. I do not show up because you’re Asian.
If you call my phone, I’ll show up and I’m going to give you just as much energy because I only know one way to do things all out. If I show up, I don’t have two gears. The people who look like me gear and the people that don’t look like me gear. When I show up, I show up but it took me a while to learn to transition. When I first came home, I worked with Black kids because I was comfortable there and I started working with girls. I got comfortable there. Somebody said, “Dre, some White kids went and helped them because they are White and their parents want to pay you.”
I said, “With White kids, I got no problems.” I went to the White school, they drink, smoke, and got issues too. I didn’t know that. I grew up watching The Brady Bunch and Leave It to Beaver. White kids never had problems. I went to the White school and these kids are cutting up, cutting their wrists, and committing suicide. I was like, “Never again will I judge somebody based on my ignorance.” If you call me, I’ll come but I had to grow to that.
In the beginning, I helped a certain group of people and I grew to where I am now. I have to give the same space for the next person who’s White, Spanish, or Asian, who has to grow to the space of saying, “I’m going to embrace Black people. It’s not normal. They didn’t live next door to me. I have no reference. I’m not expecting that this is the right thing to do.” No, you have to get context. You have to get your hands dirty. You have to have experiences and it’s my job to help folks have those experiences so they can then go back into their own space and place and say, “I met a cool Black guy. I met a straight-up Black guy.” Some people haven’t and they need to meet Andre or whoever is going to be the first guy that lets them know that it’s not everybody.
Let’s talk about Detroit. I know you’ve got something big happening in Detroit.
The plan for Detroit was I’ll go to Detroit and help them with the gun violence. We have a gun violence problem in America. People are shooting people at alarming rates. The deal with this is I’m creating a gun violence solution for America. I started programming in 1999 as a free person. I’ve created all kinds of programs. We help create the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives for George W. Bush. We’ve created Violence Interrupters. I can go on a list of programs we’ve created that are now nationally based.
The Mayor of Detroit and the Deputy Mayor of Detroit want to keep their people alive. That’s every city’s hope. My challenge is to sit down and create a comprehensive gun violence program that’s going to save lives in this country full stop. It’s not dedicated to anyone. Detroit is definitely on the list. I’m there, but we have to do something. As I said, to the people reading this, what is your purpose? My purpose is I solve problems. I can solve small problems. I can solve big problems. I can solve problems that pay me. I can solve problems that keep people alive. Right now, as an American citizen, I still live in the best country on the planet Earth and we have a problem. Am I willing to take your time and extend my energies and gifts to solving this problem?
You and I talked that one day about how similar what you’re planning on doing in Detroit was to the Mayor of Kingstown, the TV show.
I watched the Mayor of Kingstown, and I like this show to a certain extent. They had a show called The Odds. As someone who’s done time, the prison stuff is never going to be 100% authentic to me. I’m quite sure some cops will say, “It’s not like that.” A prisoner or a gang member’s perspective is slightly different but I get it. It’s like that. If I was the Mayor of Kingstown, I’d be more on the gang side than on the police side. It would have the same result. Instead of me being side by side with the police every day, I’d be side by side with the gang members and going to the police versus the other way around but it runs like that in real-time.
How much of the crime and gun violence in Detroit comes from inside the prisons?
I wouldn’t say Detroit. I would say nationwide. People go to jail. They don’t disappear. You go to jail and they have cell phones. They have internet. They have all kinds of access to talk to people in the free world whether it’s a phone, a video visit, a real visit, a radio, or a letter. If I don’t like you, I can tell the gang I came from, “I don’t like him. I need to do X, Y, or Z.”
There is a lot of communication between people who you gave 50 years who have no incentive to send out a positive message versus somebody who’s incentivized to give out positive messages. Part of my program includes the prison system as part of the solution because you can’t act like they’ve disappeared. You have two million people sitting in their prison cells. They’re real and they need to be part of the solution and not left to the sidelines that makes them part of the problem.
When I was a dentist, I had a patient that was homeless for nineteen years. He inherited some money and came in to get his teeth fixed. I asked him one day, “If you were tasked with solving the homeless problem, would you know what to do?” He said, “Yeah, I could solve it in no time flat.” I’ll ask you the same question. If you were tasked with solving the issue of so many people being incarcerated in our prison system, would you know what to do?
One hundred percent. My mother taught me a long time ago, “If you don’t have a solution, keep your mouth shut because they’re going to call you uptown one day. They’re going to put you in that big chair and they’re going to ask you, ‘How do you solve this problem?’” When you can’t do it, they’re going to say, “The best and the brightest of you can’t solve it. We’re going to do it our way.”
I dare them to call me to the State House, the Congress, or wherever. We can fix prisons. It is the fixable solution. It starts with education. Every next criminal, every next school shooter, every next gang member, every next drug addict is sitting in K1, K2, and first grade right now and we’re ignoring them. We’re paying them no attention. We’re cussing them off. Until that 1st grader becomes a 12th grader with a gun, we don’t care.
Until that first grader becomes seventeen years old and homeless, we don’t care. Until that first grader becomes a prostitute, we don’t care. Let’s get them before they make these bad choices. It’s because, in kindergarten, I was the nicest guy in the suit. I wore a suit and tie. I did everything I was supposed to do. As I got older, the world took over. If you say, “Dre, what is your solution for prison?” We have to go back to K1 and K2 and fix it.
The last thing is if people are following you or want to learn more about what you’re doing, participate in what you’re doing, or follow you, what’s the best way for them to do that or get in touch with you?
The best way to get in touch with me is through YouTube. I have a YouTube channel. I have an Instagram channel. I have a TikTok channel. I have a LinkedIn channel. Also, they can always reach out to you. If they’re not sure, they can call you and you can tell them how to reach me but I’m online on social media around the world. My website is AndreNorman.com. If you call me, I’d be helpful. That’s all I can say but don’t tell yourself, “He won’t help me because he’s too busy.” That’s one of the things blocking you from being great. It’s self-talk.
Andre, thank you so much for being here. I was looking forward to this, connecting with you, and hearing more about your story.
Once the people write and you all got to send some comments in, you all got to reply to this man, let him know you want part two, and tell him what you want to talk about. We’ll then come back and do part two because there’s always a better way.
It’s time for our new segment, Guess Their WHY. I want to use Scarface, Alphonse Capone. He was Chicago’s most famous mob boss, and he spent eight months at Eastern State from 1929 to 1930. He was arrested for carrying a concealed deadly weapon. This was Capone’s first prison sentence, and his time spent there was in relative luxury. His cell was on Park Avenue Block. He had fine furniture, oriental rugs, and cabinet radios. What do you think his why is?
I believe that his why was like Andre’s to find a better way. Even though he ended up going to prison, he found a better way to make it bearable and probably even enjoyable to some extent. I believe his why is to find a better way and share it. Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you could do so at WhyInstitute.com. You can use the code, PODCAST50, and discover it at half the price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe. Leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you are tuning into. Thank you so much. I will see you next episode.
Andre Norman is the #1 prison success story in the world. Growing up in Boston, Andre struggled with poverty and illiteracy. After quitting on his dream of being a trumpet player, he turned to the streets. Eventually finding himself before a judge where he was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.
The first six years, he immersed himself in prison culture, gaining status and recognition within the system. This led to him being placed in solitary confinement for two years.
While in solitary Andre had an epiphany and realized he had become the KING of nowhere. After assessing his current life and life, he wanted to create. With a one percent chance of succeeding, he formulated a plan to go to Harvard and become successful.
Over the next 8 years, Andre would work 20 hours a day. He taught himself to read, taught himself the law, went to anger management and personal development groups.
He was awarded parole and released having served 14 years. 90 minutes after obtaining his freedom, Andre made his first speech to a room of young black men who were in juvenile detention, which is where he once sat. He taught them three basic principles. The importance of accepting accountability and embracing mentorship, how to create a plan and live with integrity, and how to become a leader and never quit.
For the last 20 plus years he’s been teaching these principles around the world. Having made stops in over 30 countries and working with top agencies such as YPO, EO, Genius Network, The White House, Ferguson (MO), Harvard, or at London Business School, all the while still working on his passion of helping people turn their lives around.
He currently runs the Academy of Hope, a violence reduction prison based program. Having gone from being hopeless in prison to now running prisons is why Andre Norman is the #1 prison success story in the world.
When you have the WHY of contribute, you always strive to contribute a greater cause, add value and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. Our guest today best exemplifies this kind of WHY. Dave Sanderson was on US Airways Flight 1549, the one that’s called “The Miracle on the Hudson.” He was the last person to get off the plane. Dave emerged from the wreckage that day with a new mission to encourage others to do the right thing. Dave’s is a great story of how he helped others and how he finally had to help himself. You’re going to find it fascinating. Join in the conversation and learn how his WHY of contribute came into play during the incident and how it continues to drive his passion and purpose today.
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The WHY Of Contribute: Discover How To Live Your WHY With Miracle On The Hudson Survivor, Dave Sanderson
In this episode, you’re going to meet Dave Sanderson. He was on US Airways Flight 1549, the one that’s called The Miracle On The Hudson. He was the last person to get off the plane. His story is fascinating on how the water came in and what he did to jump over the seats to get to the back to help everybody else out, and how he had to survive and save himself at the end when there was no more room for him on the plane or in the little boats. It’s a great story of how he helped others and how he finally had to help himself. You’re going to find it fascinating. I can’t wait to share it with you.
We’re going to be talking about the Why of Contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is 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 successes that continue for the greater good of the team. 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 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 a fascinating guest for you. When US Airways Flight 1549, or the Miracle On Hudson ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, Dave Sanderson knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be. As the last passenger off the plane on that fateful day, he was able to use the skills and resources he learned throughout his life to not only survive but help others.
He emerged from the wreckage that day with a new mission to encourage others to do the right thing when faced with a life-changing decision. This profound experience changed his life. Now he travels the globe sharing his inspirational and motivational leadership message to help people make a difference in how they do business and live their lives. Named one of Inc.com‘s Top 100 Leadership Speakers, Dave travels the world to share his inspirational leadership lessons raising over $14.8 million for the American Red Cross. Dave, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be with you.
This is going to be interesting. Your intro told a lot about your story and I want to dive into that. Before we do that, can we go back a little bit in your life and let’s learn a little bit more about you?
I’d love to share a little bit more about how I got to that point. All these moments in your life matter are all make up for that one defining moment. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s go back. Where did you grow up and what were you like in high school?
In high school, I grew up in a place called Winchester, Virginia. Winchester’s at the point, the northernmost point of the South. I was there. I was an athlete. I played all sports. I was one of those athletes that was good at everything, but not great at pretty much anything. I could compete, but I wasn’t standing out between that. I was also the first president of our key club. The only reason I bring that up is if something very significant happened during that time that set me on this pathway of where I’m at nowadays.
Tell us what happened at the key club.
I was asked to be the president of the key club. The only reason I was asked initially was because I tore my knee ligaments up and third football game of the year, I was pretty much out the rest of the year. I’m the gentleman who was starting up came to me because he needed a leader and asked me if I’d do it. I did it. We started with nothing.
One of the things that he did for me is introduced me to people around the city of significance. One of those people happened to be the US Senator who was out of Winchester. His name is Harry Byrd Jr. I got the opportunity to meet a senator when I was a junior in high school, which was very significant because not to see what leadership was like at that level.
With that opened up for me is a couple of different things. Number one, since I was the president of the key club and I got that opportunity, Senator Byrd was holding a fundraiser in Northern Virginia. One of the people he invited was one of my heroes, Senator John Glenn, the first astronaut to orbit the Earth. That was like nirvana for me or an icing on the cake. I got to meet not only a senator, somebody who was not only historic but did something that nobody had ever done before, which gave me an eye-opening experience to, “Anything’s possible.”
As you know his story, he started at NASA when NASA was starting nothing. He was the third one up. That gave me the perspective, “You can touch people and get a hold of people if you do the right thing and work with people to do that.” I’ve never been afraid to talk to people and I’ve had opportunities to meet all these great people because I opened my eyes and was never afraid to approach people.
You graduate from high school and then what happens to you? Where’d you end up?
I went to college at James Madison University. I wanted to play football, but the second practice in, I was a walk-on. I was pretty much nobody. I hurt my knee again and my dad had come to Jesus talk with me, say, “You’re not going to play football. You’re not going to be a pro as you dreamt. You better get an education.” I was in the first International Business major class that Madison offered. As a freshman, they started the International Business discipline. I was one of the first people who graduate outback at James Madison.
What do you go into?
That’s exciting because my goal was to get an international business, and this was during the recession in the early ‘80s. There were no jobs in that era. I went home and my dad gave me 30 days to get a job to be out of the house. One of the great things I learned from my dad is he was a man of his word. When he said something, his promise meant something. In 30 days, Gary, I didn’t have a job. He helped me get my first job, and that was being a second assistant restaurant manager at a place called Howard Johnson. I knew nothing about hotel restaurants, but I was out of the house. He lived up and I lived up to that commitment.
What was it like being a second assistant at Johnson’s?
All of a sudden, you come out of college and you’re feeling pretty good about life. You got this great education and now, you’re working on second and third-shift learning skills that you never think about learning. That turned out the third stop is where I ended up here in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s how I got here.
If I didn’t have that opportunity, if my dad didn’t make me do that, my whole destiny would’ve been changed because what happened for me is I was here. I wasn’t working the 2nd or 3rd shift. I was a low man on the totem pole. We didn’t lock up as you remember Howard Johnson was a 24-hour gig. I was there pretty much into the middle of the night, but there was a gentleman and a lady would come in every night. His name was Bill and her name was Bonnie.
They would come in. He’d go pickup truck and always wore a flannel shirt. What I found out about Bill, we’d come and talk, he’d come in and have his coffee. We’d have his ice cream and we talk. He owned over 80 movie theaters and restaurants in North and South Carolina. He was a multimillionaire back in the early ‘80s. His nickname around Charlotte was the Sam Walton of Charlotte. He was one of those guys, as you never know. He took me under his wing.
It happened to be on December 24th, 1984 when everything changed. He came to the restaurant early that day. He said, “I want to show you what I got my wife for Christmas. It was a brand-new blue Corvette.” I’d never seen a Corvette couldn’t spell and never smelled a Corvette, but it was cool. He threw me the key and said, “Let’s take a ride.” I’m like, “Let’s take a ride up and down Woodlawn Road.” We got in the car and we went up and back.
I said, “Bonnie’s going to dig this. She’s going to love it.” “You need one of these.” I said, “I’m making $13,000 a year. I’m working the second shift.” He goes, “That’s your problem. It’s your mindset. Do you mind if I coach you on how to have a mindset of success?” I had nothing to lose. For the next thirteen years, he took me under his wing. He was teaching me the mindset of success and how he became what he became. He was taking me to places. I was meeting the CEO of Bank of America which then was NCMB Bank, and First Union, and all the people he was running with.
I was on the edge of this, watching how he did it. Fast forward to May 1997, he called me to his office. He said, “I want to share a couple of things with you. 1) I’ve got lung cancer.” Bill smoked a couple of packs of unfiltered cannabis a day. This started back in the ‘20s. It wasn’t shocking, but it was like, “Okay.” He walked over to his desk, pulled out some papers, and sat down next to me. They put them on my lap. I’m like, “What’s going on?” He goes, “This is what I wrote down in 1920. These are the lessons. This is what I wrote.
When I got these lessons back in 1929. I want to give this to you, but you got to promise me something.” I said, “What?” He goes, “Do not let it die with you.” Bill passed away in September 1997, but he gave me these notes that he wrote in 1929, the mindset of what you have to have, what he learned during the roaring ‘20s. If my dad hadn’t lived to that promise, I never would’ve gotten to that opportunity. Now, I made a promise. I had to fulfill that promise.
What were in those notes? Give us some insight into what was written there.
He wrote all these lessons down. One of the lessons I always remember was that I have an alternative vision for the future. What does that mean? He shared with me about that and he took notes when he met Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. He idolized Roosevelt. One of the things he told me and wrote down is Roosevelt was always positive. He always had a vision for a bigger America and how it should be. That’s why leaders come at the right time in comfort countries.
He wrote about the time that he met Ronald Reagan in the early ‘80s. He had the same situation with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was always talking about that shining stick on the hill. He was always positive. One of the things he taught me and one of the lessons was you got to have an alternative vision. You got to look at the bigger picture of how your life could be and what you could do with your life instead of going down a pathway that other people want you to take.
It was a tremendous lesson about faith. One of the things that he shared with me was because we lost a child, a seven-month-old back in 1990. I was messed up a little bit. I wasn’t producing as much as I probably could have. He shared what happened to him. He had a son back in the ‘30s that he got drafted to go to Korea. He said, “I could have stopped it. I had the money to do it. Everybody’s got their responsibility.” His son died in the Army in Korea.
He felt guilt for a long time, but then he realized that, and this is a lesson to think of going from the spiritual side. He said, “The same God that started the world was the same God with my son, the same God with your son. There’s a reason behind it.” That helped me a lot to get my mind around a lot of things. If you have faith, there are reasons behind it. You don’t know why, but you got to have faith that’s going to work out.
These are the kinds of lessons that he was teaching me all these years. That’s why I wrote my book From Turmoil To Triumph. These were the lessons that I got to implement that day on the Hudson River that came right from faith to looking at being able to do the mission and looking at how to be more responsive. That’s a long-winded answer, but that’s an amazing time now it’s my commitment to be able to share what he shared with me with the next generation.
How did Bill learn all of that?
He had a mentor and his mentor came to him in 1917. Bill lived around here in the Charlotte area. His dad was a farmer. As the story goes, as he shared with me, they’d come in to sell their crops because Charlotte was the hub and this guy would come in. He is always in a suit. He would come in and he’d talk. Bill was anxious. Bill loved movies in the early ‘20s but he didn’t have any money. The guy showed him how to get a few pennies together and get his first movie in his first movie house.
All of a sudden, he was learning from this very successful businessman. It got passed down from somebody 1910s to Bill then Bill ultimately was looking for somebody to pass it on to. I happened to be the guy there that he got and I agreed. I told my mom and dad. They were like, “Who is this guy?” I shared with them what happened. They’re like, “If he can offer you one bit of advice, take it on,” but he taught me much more than that.
Did you ever ask Bill why he picked you?
I never asked him why, but he told me a story around why. This came down when he was opening up his first movie theater in South Carolina in the 1930s. He never told me directly but hinted at why. He said that he was going down and it was a long drive to South Carolina. It wasn’t interstate highways. He needed somebody. He needed to hire a manager, somebody to manage that.
One of the bits of advice he got when he was starting his own business was, “Go on your instincts. You can do all the analysis you want but if you go on your instincts more often or not, it’s going to play out.” That gentleman stayed with him through the entire 1960s. He was with him the whole time in the 1960s. If I look back when he said that, told that story, he told me that he had something instinctively connected I don’t know why, but I thought, “I don’t question why, but I happened to be there at the right time. I was a recipient of a gift and that gift’s going to be passed on.”
He passes away in 1997. What happened to the movie theaters?
He’d already passed the movie theaters on. He was pretty much retired. The only reason I found out the backstory, I found out he was at movie theaters is when I started dating my future wife, I had no money. He gave me a couple of movie passes to go to take my girl out to the movies and be a hotshot. I went out. It’s in Queens Park. It is no longer there, but it’s down. It was about 2 miles from the restaurant. I took her there. We got in there to check in.
The guy says, “Tell Mr. Bill, ’Hey.’” I’m like, “What?” I went back and he said, “How was your experience?” “It was great. The guy took care of us.” He goes, “That’s one of my theaters.” That’s when I found out. He sent me to check in on doing what he wants to do. He had passed those on several years before or during that time. He was semi-retired at that point. He was coming to Howard Johnson every night to have coffee and ice cream.
He passes away, gives you his lessons, and then what did you do with them at that point? Take us on your career path.
I was in sales at that point. I was pretty successful and doing well. After this happened, what did I do with him? I put him in a journal and I didn’t look at him. What happened 4 or 5 months later is when I was asked by a gentleman named Tony Robbins to be his assistant head of security. I was on the security team. I had proximity to another master.
I was an assistant, which meant I managed the floor while other people managed other things. About two years later, in 2000 or so, he asked me to be head of security. I’m traveling and supporting Tony directly and the team. I was having these conversations with Tony, getting distinctions on these things that I learned, and getting new distinctions from Tony on some of these things.
For about many years, I was around Tony and then the head of security. I had the opportunity to be around masters. I learned from Bill but Tony taught me proximity’s power. If you’re around people who have influence and know things, that’s power. My dad told me that years ago in different ways. He said, “You don’t have to know everything, but you have to know somebody who does know everything.” He told me that when I was in high school and when I was a kid. It turned out to be true. For the next years, Tony gave me the opportunity to have a doctoral lesson in how to manage your mind especially that played out on January 15, 2009.
Were you working with Tony at the time that you were on that plane?
I was that and working for another company at the same time. I was working hard on both things. Tony was the only person who called me that night after the plane crash. The only thing about Tony, he’s got resources and if he wants to find somebody, he will find somebody. He’s the only one that found me sitting in a hospital recovering. He did a YouTube on that conversation. You go out to YouTube and see it and told a little bit about our conversation. It was very emotional for me. I wasn’t one of his people. I was his guy. That meant a lot to me.
Take us into that flight now that into flight 1549. Where was it going and where did you get on?
I got on in LaGuardia at the end of a three-day business trip. I got done early and changed the flight. I was on the first-class seat on the 5:00 flight, changed to flight 1549 at 2:40. I got seat 15A, 1549 on January 15th. A lot of fifteens going in there. I’ve got numerologist telling me what that means and that’s a whole other discussion, but nothing unusual. The plane was delayed. You have been out of LaGuardia. It was 11 degrees and was snowing. That’s not a big deal. It happens all the time. Nothing unusual about the takeoff. If you’ve ever taken off LaGuardia for folks who haven’t, the runways out into the bay, and then the normal flight pattern is they turn north and they start making their turns. Nothing unusual until about 60 seconds after when you hear a big explosion. That’s what got my attention.
I wasn’t paying attention. I was reading the magazine because I know everything. I’m Mr. Flier. I know everything. All of a sudden, you see fire coming out from needs the left wing like okay but the planes have multiple engines. We’ll go back. We get off the plane. I’m not going to get home early tonight, but no one knew at that moment, including the crew at that exact second it would happen on the left side of the plane where I was at. Also happened on the right side of the plane simultaneously. It knocked both engines out. The birds knocked them out simultaneously. The geese did. Now you have no power.
What did that feel like when you had no power?
It was like you’re gliding. That’s what was startling at first. You hear nothing. It’s quiet. I tell people, “Talk to any passenger. They’ll tell you the same thing.” It was quiet. You hear a pin drop.
People are looking at each other.
That’s where God’s grace entered because no one freaked out. No one was looking around or going crazy. Everybody’s looking around. I was like, “What’s going on?” They started banking. I’m like, “We’re going back to the airport. No big deal.” As he banked, I looked out the window and the skyline of Manhattan was right there. We were a little lower than the highest buildings. I looked out a little further. You see this bridge coming up which turned into the George Washington Bridge. I’ve never seen that bridge before in my life. I said, “Something is going on.”
Every second, things are going on until he says his famous words, “This is your captain. Brace for impact,” then at that point, it’s serious. Something’s going down and it doesn’t look good at this point because now, you’re clearing the George Washington by roughly 400 feet. The bridge is 600 feet up. The plane was 1,000 feet and at that point in descending. He clears about 400 feet and the only thing you see is water.
I’ve never seen a successful plane land in the water. They’re always toppling. That’s the moment there. You got to get your ducks in real pretty quick. You got to get things lined up in every which way pretty quickly and get your game plan together. If you do survive, what are you going to do now? That’s pretty much what happened. After I said my last prayers, I got my head down. I played sports. We always had a game plan. In business, I always had a game plan. My game plan was aisle up out. I kept it saying in my head. If I survived, I at least had to have a play game plan.
What do you mean, “Aisle up out?”
I was in seat 15A get to the aisle, go up in the middle row, and get out. That was my game plan because I wasn’t on the wing, I was four rows behind the wing. I had to go up to get out. One way or another, I had to go up. Aisle up out was my game plan.
The first time he came on the intercom was to tell you to brace. He didn’t tell you what was going on or what was happening. Nothing?
The only time he came on, that’s it. He was very succinct in his communication which was one of the great attributes that happened that day. Not only he, but the crew was very succinct. They kept saying, “Brace,” because they knew that was what was coming up.
What was it like when you hit the water?
It is an extremely hard hit. He estimates he hit between 100 to 120 miles an hour. If you see the hit and I’ve got to do my talk and I show a little video of it and 15A towards the back. The back hit first, which meant the brunt of the hit. It came down then it started right. It started skidding to slow down. It was a very hard hit. Water started coming in immediately because the back of the plane got torn off on the hit. Water starts coming in. Where I was, the water was about ankle to knee deep immediately it was 36-degree water. Back of the plane, it was more like chest-level deep water.
The people in the back of the plane were seat belted in and the water was chest high right off the bat. How long did it take to go from the hit to where you were stopped?
It took approximately 20 to 30 seconds from hit down sliding and totally stopping.
Why do other planes topple and yours didn’t?
He hit it perfectly. I’ve heard other pilots say the same thing, “One little degree, either toppling into New York City or Newark,” and that’s a bigger disaster than what happens. One degree nose down, you’re going straight to the bottom of the Hudson. One degree back, you’re going backward. He had to hit it perfectly.
How did he know to do that?
He had all those years of his moments, practice, and preparation.
Did you hear the back of the plane rip-off?
No. When we hit, I looked out the window. I saw lights. It was such a hard hit. I went back forward. It was that hard of a hit. It was a very jarring hit. The engine in the back of the plane was gone.
Water starts pouring in right away. Twenty seconds later, you’re stopped. What’s it like inside the plane? What’s going on?
The term I used that night with Katie Couric on CBS was controlled chaos. People were now in their heads. No one was pushing each other and get out of the way. It was moving quickly. People had to move because water is anywhere from the waist to chest level, deep in the back, by knee level deep where were you at, you got to go. You got to start moving. There’s no time to wait. You can’t mess around and think, “Let me get my stuff.” You got to go.
You did go. You did not get out. You were in seat A you said.
15A on the left side.
You were at a window.
I was at a window, four rows behind the left wing.
Was there somebody next to you?
The plane was full.
You had to wait for them to get out for you to then go out. Take us through it. The plane comes to a standstill.
It started going down for about 24 minutes when it was like this. It took about 24 minutes from going from relatively flat to backside in and up. What happened to me is when you know things were moving, it was my time to go. I got to the aisle and I’m like, “Aisle up out,” but then something happened that changed everything. I started hearing my mom talking in my head very quickly. There’s something my mom would tell me when I was a child and all of a sudden, I heard my mom. She passed away in 1997.
“If you do the right thing, God will take care of you.” I heard that and I had to make a decision. The decision I made was I climbed over the seats to go towards the back and see if anybody needed help because I was fine. I know anybody in the back was fine, but I was fine. Instead of going out, I climbed over the seats to get behind it. If things were moving pretty well, I asked if people were moving. There’s nobody standing still.
I got behind the last person and I started making my way out. At that point, you’re about chest-level deep water. The back hit first. the bins had broken open and all the luggage is floating around. It’s dark. This is late afternoon winter in New York. The first light that I saw was on the right side of 10F and I’m like, “I’m out of here.” I got to the door. I started looking out and there was no room on the wing for me and no room on the boat for me.
That’s why it was amazing though. People were already being rescued. That’s why I was inside the plane waist-deep in 36-degree water for about seven minutes, holding onto that lifeboat because the lifeboat was floating out into the river. They were yelling at me to hold on so they could have access to the wing to get out.
When you think about going into a cold plunge, they’re about that. Sitting in there for a minute is excruciating, much less seven minutes. How long can you survive in 36-degree water?
EMTs told me I shouldn’t be around. It usually is no more than 90 seconds. What I’ve heard from other people is, “You get that adrenaline going.” That speeds your metabolism up, which I think is exactly what happened to me. I was like, “Let’s go.” I’m going into that athletic mode. Now I’m into play mode. I think that’s what happened because about seven minutes later is when I felt the plane shift.
I found out later that as one of the tugboats that was a part of the rescue backed out, he hit the front of the plane. When he hit the front of the plane, he shook the plane. I felt water going up my back. I’m like, “I got to get out of here. It’s going down.” That’s where I jumped in to start swimming to the closest boat that I could find at the end of the wing.
It was the longest 15-yard swim of my life because not only was I fully clothed. I’ve already been in 36-degree water for 7 minutes and there’s jet fuel in the water. When we were talking about your eye situation, that’s what happened. That’s why I wear glasses. I found out when I got back. I had jet fuel in my eyes. I got stuck in my eyes. That’s why I had a little hazy perspective that night, but I got there. My mom and dad had given me swimming lessons at the Red Cross when I was a young kid. I made everybody get out of that plane to swim. I had to swim for my life.
They pulled you into one of the boats.
You would think that. I got there and they started yelling at me to, “Climb.” The ferries are about 10 to 12 feet up and then a ladder there. I yelled up, “I can’t,” then I heard my mom talk to me because the word my mom hated most of my life was can’t. If you grew up in my house. You said, “I can’t,” to my mom and she would say, “If you can’t do it, you’re going to do it.” What I realized after she passed away, I talk about worldview a lot. People’s perspective of what’s going on is their worldview. Her worldview is, “If you can’t, you must.” She won’t accept it. I got 1 arm up and 2 men grabbed me and pulled me on one of the ferries. To this day, I don’t know who they are. That’s how I got out.
They pull you up into the boat and then what happens?
You think everything’s cool. I made it, but that’s not what happened. That’s a moment of adrenaline. You go. When you think you’ve made it, you said let it all go out. I equate it to you living out West and then when I spoke in Oregon, I saw these wildfires. I see these firefighters. They’re going in. They come out, they’re sitting on the curb, and they got nothing left. That’s what happened to me.
I was cold. I’ve been in the water now for a tent amount of time and the air temperature is 11 degrees. I could barely breathe. That’s the moment I thought I’m not going to make it. Fortunately, someone was there with a phone. They’re loud. Please let me get my message out. I said, “This is your father. I’ve been in a plane crash.” That’s all I could get out. At least I got the message out that I was alive. That’s how my family found out that I survived.
Did everybody survive or did some not survive?
It’s the only one in aviation history that everybody survived.
You’re sitting on the boat, freezing at an 11-degree temperature. Did they put you in blankets? Did they put you in hot water? What happened to you?
That would’ve been great if all that would’ve happened. None of that happened. They didn’t have any blankets on the boats because the boats were deployed immediately when after the plane crashed into the water. Arthur Imperatore of the New York Waterways set the boats out. Go. They weren’t supplied with all that. I went to the New Jersey side because I went out on the right side of the plane. Those ferries were going to New Jersey. The left side went to New York City. I got there. They put me down on the floor in his triage center and stripped all my clothes off. I’m sitting there in my underwear. I didn’t even know what was going on. My EMT tells me, “I’ll be right back.”
I’m on the floor pretty much naked. A guy walks up to me with a card hand and says, “I need your name and date of birth.” I give it to him and he puts that card around my right ankle and he walked away. I grew up in the ‘70s and there was a show called M*A*S*H. When they tagged your toe, you didn’t make it that’s exactly what I thought. I’m like, “I’m dead.” The movie Ghost is true. I’m watching this whole thing play out. Fortunately, EMT came and took my blood pressure and it was totally out of control. That’s when things started happening for me.
They didn’t give you blankets or anything to keep you warm.
They didn’t have anything.
That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
It’s one of those days that you were challenged at every point. That’s why I tell people, “One of the things I learned from Bill, Tony, and being around these people is it’s all about your mindset. If you can’t control your mind when all this stuff’s hitting around you, you’re not going to have a chance.” That’s why I try to teach these younger people, these young kids who are smarter as a whip but they’re having problems not controlling their mindset with all the COVID and all that other stuff that’s going on. They don’t have the wisdom yet to know that if you have that positive mental attitude and have that mindset, you can survive, and get another shot to play. That’s happening a lot to these kids.
I’ve talked to a lot of these kids and they’re scared because they’ve never had to face adversity. That’s one of the things my parents at least made me do when I was young, face adversity. They made me have consequences for my decisions. I’m a failure at that with my kids. I want my kids to make sure they had a good opportunity. One of the things I would do over if I had this whole thing to do over is I’ll put them in situations where they had to make a decision and they had a consequence. They can know how to make a decision when because everybody’s going to have that life-defining moment.
They ended up getting you to the hospital, hypothermia, and all the rest. How long were you in the hospital?
I was only in the hospital overnight because I want to go home. I shouldn’t have gone home. I was very fortunate that the circumstances played out where I could get home. When I got home, I had made some promises. I go to the doctor and all this and I finally did that. If I look back on this, if you talked to my friend at Palisades Hackensack Medical Center, he would say, “We shouldn’t have released him.” I was in no condition to do anything at that point, but I’m trying to man up and do it and I did.
What are the lessons that you learned from that experience that you now teach about? I know you speak all over the world. What are some of the things that you talk about?
One of the big learnings from that day came from that situation, but probably a couple of weeks after when it clicked in my head. I was in doing a lot of media with a lot of the crew and a lot of the passengers. I was on Good Morning America with other passengers, and the crew, and we got done. We were sitting in the green room talking and stuff. One of the passengers started getting very emotional. It was an emotional outburst. I’m sitting there thinking, “What’s wrong with this guy? We survived the plane crash. We are on national TV and how bad can he get?”
All of a sudden, I found out later that he was going through a divorce and he lost his job. His meaning of the plane crash was devastation. I start thinking, “How many times in my life have I judged somebody quickly before I understood their backstory or a little bit about them? What does that cost me financially, emotionally, and relationship-wise? How many times have we judged somebody quickly and we don’t even want to talk to them?”
That’s what’s going on in this country. We’re judging people immediately. We can’t even have a conversation without getting into an argument. I said, “If I could change that one thing, be less judgmental, how could that help me?” I started doing that and that’s opened up everything in my life where I’m at. I believe what Martin Luther King said, “Judge people by the content of their character.”
That’s the biggest lesson out of this, but one of the things that played out that day is awareness. You got to be aware. You got to understand what’s going on around you. You can’t just let somebody else direct you all the time in your life. You got to stay aware. I wrote about one of the key skills that day played out for me in my blog.
This is the key skillset everybody needs right now. Whether you’re going to look for a new job or looking to be an entrepreneur, it is the skillset set of anticipation. It’s the ability to anticipate what’s going on next and see the bigger picture. I talk about the alternative vision for the future that Bill taught me. You have to anticipate. I realize that there are two skillsets that I coach people on now. If you want something, you better be able to anticipate. If you can help somebody anticipate their next move and help them, it’s your asset.
The second, which played out exactly during the plane crashes, is resourcefulness because you don’t have a lot of resources when you’re in a plane crash but if you can use the resources that you do have then become resourceful. People are looking for people who are resourceful. There’s not a lot of empty money going around and resources are available all over the place. You got to be able to use your skillsets in a way to be an asset to somebody else. It is anticipation and resourcefulness.
Once all of this was over, you were on the TV programs. You didn’t go back to work with Tony or did you?
I did for a couple of years. In fact, late in February, which is about a month and a half after this all happened, he had an event in Secaucus, New Jersey. His assistant called me and said, “You are going to be there.” I’m going through all this stuff. I said, “I’ll be there.” I show up and I wasn’t of much use to him that weekend. We were doing our pre-event get-together. I said, “I want to give you a heads up on something. I’m probably going to have more media here than you will.” He starts laughing.
I knew what was happening. CBS and everybody else were showing up outside because I was there. I was pretty useless to him at that event, but at least I was there for him and he saw me show up. I wanted to show up for him because he showed up for me that night. I talk about loyalty. I’m big on loyalty. You got to have your team’s backs or you’re never going to have any trust whatsoever with him.
I’m surprised Tony didn’t have you come to speak.
I’ve had a couple of things. He’s been very kind to me. You got to remember those are Tony’s events. He pays a lot of money to have those events.
From there, you went on to start speaking, holding events, and teaching. What was that like for you?
Initially, I was doing churches and local events. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was being asked every fifteen minutes to do something. I was trying to work and serve Tony. I wasn’t not serving my family, which was something I looked back on, I would’ve changed. I took the Zig Ziglar approach. I said, “For the first 50 or 75 things I’m going to do, I’m going to do it.” What Tony told me was this, “Speak from your heart. Don’t ever take notes.” I’ve focused on that. A couple of things opened up. One thing that opened up was when I was invited to speak at a fundraiser for the American Red Cross in Charlotte.
They asked me if I would speak. It was a Red Cross month in March a couple of months later. Of course, I was going to do it. They were there for me three times that day. I’m going to do anything I can. I came and all of a sudden, they raised over $100,000 at that event, which got my name out. I was asked to speak to one of their major events in Washington DC which happened to be Supreme Court. I had the opportunity and they raised $6 million that night. All I did was speak. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Supreme Court, but you have to have a justice sponsor you.
You can’t just walk in and say, “I want to do an event.” The justice who was sponsoring that now is Justice Anthony Kennedy. When I got there, I got introduced to him, “Come to my quarters. Give me three minutes about what happened that day.” He took me into his quarters for about 2 or 3 minutes. I share with him a little bit of what I shared with you. He came back out and I got my picture taken on.
I’m like, “I’m with the Supreme Court Justice.” It’s not because I’m the greatest, but because I gave up being judgmental. I said, “I’m here to serve. It’s not about me.” That is what opened up everything for me. That gave me a strong reference for if you come from a serving leadership heart, things will open up for you in your life.
What’s next for you? What’s your plan for what’s coming up?
We’ll go back to Bill’s notes. Back in 2016, when I was writing my book Moments Matter, I found the notes in this credenza. I made a commitment back then. One of my major missions is to teach what he taught me to 1 million people in 10 years. This is my mission Tony always taught me, “Make the big goal and you’ll figure out how to do it. You don’t have to figure out how to do it right now.” It’s taken me a few years to figure out how we’re going to do it.
I got my new book out. I’m running another book for the 15th anniversary. I’ve got my magazine called Moments Matter magazine. I’m sharing information with other people in my magazine. I’ve got a course out teaching certain lessons of this in the course. I’d love to speak because that opens up talking to people one-on-one in Orange group sessions. That’s how we’re doing all because I found them and I made this big goal and all of a sudden, I’ve started to figure it out.
My last question is, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or gotten?
One of the best pieces of advice that I learned, but not in this terminology, I’m rephrasing it, is faith removes hesitation. What does that mean? A bigger belief system is, “Things happen for a reason.” If you have faith, it removes any hesitation in taking action. It’s those people who don’t have faith who get stalled and stifled. They don’t make progress. One of the last things I talk about when you hear me speak is gratitude.
Let’s start with gratitude and grace is fueled by gratitude. My thought process is the more gratitude you give, the more grace you get. The more grace you give, the more faith you have. The more faith you have, the more action you’re going to take to improve somebody else’s life. I talk about this at the end of my talk because I want people to understand, “You can’t have fear with gratitude.” You have gratitude. You’re giving thanks to something bigger. That faith has come inside you and you will have determination, persistence, and perseverance to be able to push through when those times get tough.” What happened to me on January 15th is a reference for that.
You’re about helping and about unleashing other people.
It’s all about becoming a servant leader and helping other people first. Don’t expect anything. My kids are Millennials and Gen Z-ers. Sometimes they expect things first. In fact, I had somebody come to me and all he did is wants. He didn’t offer anything. If I ever speak to a younger me, the piece of advice is, “Give first. Give something of value to somebody first instead of asking.” That’s what Bill did for me. He gave me those tickets. He didn’t have to do all this. It taught me a great lesson. “Buy this gift first. It comes back tenfold in life.”
If people want to follow you, learn from you, hire you, or have you come to speak, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?
The easiest one is to go to my website, DaveSandersonSpeaks.com. You can see all my materials. You can get in touch with me. I’m coming out with new content. I’m committed to coming out with new content every week. If you want to see my new content, I post that on LinkedIn. I get to mention the lessons around anticipation and why it matters. Go to LinkedIn and view good content and some new information from me. If you want to check in, go to DaveSandersonSpeaks.com. I’d be honored to connect with you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I enjoyed knowing your story and am excited that you survived that crazy day, but it’s great to see that you’re giving back much and making an impact in other people’s lives. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for having me. I hope you have a blessed day.
It’s time for our segment, which is Guess Their Why. I’m going to pick Amelia Earhart for this episode. I’m picking her because she and I both spoke at an event. I got to hear her story she’s not related to the original Amelia Earhart. It’s a fascinating story of how that came about. That doesn’t take away from what she completed and what she did on her own. As a college student, she learned to fly a plane and then took on the task of flying around the globe and she did it. You got to see her story and hear her speak sometime because it was well done. Great lessons. I believe that her why is to find a better way and share it.
She was always looking for better ways. When something got stuck, blocked, or wasn’t going to turn out like she thought it would, she would work and find another way. She would find a better way, and everything kept getting better. I believe that Amelia Earhart’s why is to find a better way and share it. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com with the code PODCAST50. If you’ll love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform so that we can bring the why to one billion people in the next many years. Thank you much for reading and I’ll see you in the next episode.
Dave Sanderson is an Inspirational TEDx Speaker, survivor, author, philanthropist, and nationally sought-out leadership speaker.
When US Airways Flight 1549, or ‘The Miracle on the Hudson,’ ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, Dave Sanderson knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be. As the last passenger off the plane on that fateful day, he was able to use the skills and resources he learned throughout his life to not only survive but help others. He emerged from the wreckage that day with a new mission: to encourage others to do the right thing when faced with a life-changing decision.
This profound experience changed his life. Today, he travels the globe sharing his inspirational and motivational leadership messages to help people make a difference in how they do business and live their lives.
Named one of Inc.com’s Top 100 Leadership speakers, Dave travels the world to share his inspirational leadership lessons, raising over $14.8M for the American Red Cross.
If you have the WHY of Contribute, you are all about being a part of a greater cause, even from behind the scenes. This episode’s guest is one who completely embodies this. In fact, she has worked behind many big talents and names in the entertainment industry—Mr. Frank Sinatra, included. Joining us is Jaki Baskow of Baskow Talent, whose 45-year career in Las Vegas placed her as one of the top and preferred vendors at Caesars and The Wynn. She sits down opposite Dr. Gary Sanchez to tell us about her amazing career journey opening her own talent agency. From having lunch with Frank Sinatra to selling her destination management company to helping speakers get booked, Jaki fills us with great stories and advice for inspiration. Through it all, Jaki reminds us of her definition of peak: to wake up loving what you do. Tune in as she shows her WHY, creating an impact in the lives of others.
Watch the episode here
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WHY Of Contribute: Supporting Behind Talents And Speakers With Jaki Baskow
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the Why of Contributing. To contribute to a greater cause, add value and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your WHY, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be the face of the cause, but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and you relish successes that contribute to the greater good of the team. 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 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. In this episode, I’ve got a fascinating guest for you. Her name is Jaki Baskow. She moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1976 to work at a movie studio under the creator of Batman, Bob Crane.
After they lost financing, she was talked into opening her own talent agency and her new company broke a 25-year-long monopoly in the Talent Game. The first commercial Jaki was in charge of casting and made $36,000 in royalties. This caught the eye of Mr. Frank Sinatra. Mr. Sinatra requested a meeting with Jaki because he was helping Marlene Ritchie, who was his opener at the time, acquire an agent.
That was the start of her 45-year career working in Las Vegas, where she is one of the top and preferred vendors at Caesars and The Wynn. Jaki has since produced TV segments, booked stars to take to Italy for the Telegatto and filled seats for the Oscars for many years. She has worked with Stallone, Gene Hackman, Tom Selleck, Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone and so many more. Discovery Channel also featured Jaki in a TV segment on Casino Diaries, where they named her one of the Top Celebrity Star Brokers in the world and named her the Queen of Las Vegas. Jaki, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to finally be here.
I know it’s only taking us a year, but we’re here now.
So much to share, though. A lot to share.
This is exciting. You’re in Vegas now. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school?
Horrible. I don’t even know how I ended up in business. I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. When I was sixteen, my dad owned a bar. He was robbed and killed, so I had a very tragic teenage years. I barely finished high school. My friend Ann’s mother went in and begged them to graduate me. Her dad got me a scholarship for Miami Dade Junior College. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t do anything. I was a mess. I just wanted to invite people over and party.
I went to Miami Dade for two years. I was all about the music because we’d sneak on the campuses at the University of Miami and they had people like James Taylor and people like that. It was amazing. I worked three jobs to keep myself going. I eventually came back to New Jersey. I worked with my mom part-time and I would take buses to New York to try to be an actress.
I wasn’t a very good actress, but I was a good talker. I was seeing somebody cheating on me and we decided to go to the Catskill Mountains and met Bob Kane. My neighbor and I decided to move out to Las Vegas to work for a movie studio. When we got here, there was no movie studio. It was an old electric company building. Bob and a man named Russ Gerstein lost their financing. I had no idea Bob was the creator of Batman. He ended up moving to LA.
I ended up hiring Peter Guber, who bought the project twenty years later as a speaker. We live in a fishbowl. We keep going around. I started my company with $300. I took a job with Telly Savalas and they talked me into opening my talent agency. Somebody gave me an office, a man named Bobby Mars and I couldn’t afford to run my talent agency.
At night, I’d put glasses on and put my hair in a ponytail and go call bingo. On the weekend, I worked at Big Ben’s car lot. When you’re passionate and persistent, you have to do what you have to do to get to that next step. My beautiful career that I’ve had here for many years has enabled me to help others and that’s what life’s about. I hired Shaquille O’Neal and he said something like, “It’s not about how successful you are, how much money you make. It’s about what you do. You want to be known for kindness and giving back to others.” He’s very philanthropic and I was very impressed with him.
Let’s go back for a minute to high school. When you said you barely made it through, was it because of grades or getting in trouble or was it you didn’t have any interest in learning the way they were teaching?
Probably ADD and don’t know it. I could not concentrate unless it was something I wanted to concentrate on. We used to go and dance on a TV show called the Jerry Blavat Show. We went on that show 3 to 4 days a week, then we’d go to dances every night. My whole life was going to dances, and that’s what subconsciously kept me going mentally with all the tragedy I had.
In school, I never was a serious student. I got Ds, Es and Fs. It was not good, but you have to be focused. I have some relatives that went to college and they weren’t focused. If you’re not focused, you can’t concentrate. You have to put your mind on things, but I made it through high school. I went to junior college in a blink of an eye and I ended up in business.
I believe in working when you’re young and learning things. My mom was a bookkeeper for a wholesale meat house. I used to go there and I used to pick up the phone, “Do you need meat this week? Do you need that?” We sold to all the restaurants in New Jersey. She was a bookkeeper also and she did their sales.
I learned how to do bookkeeping and how to sell. I consider myself a great salesperson. You have to be able to sell your company and sell yourself and believe in yourself for other people to believe in you. Education is wonderful and I truly believe in education, but people can’t afford education and in those days, I couldn’t afford education. My mom was working two jobs to support my brother and me. You learn how to work and to do things. I’ve been a waitress, a cashier and a telephone operator. I think I’ve been everything. That enabled me to be successful in my own business and to look after things in my own company. I still love people.
What was Vegas like when you moved? What year was that? What was it like when you moved there?
It was 1976. There were under 200,000 people here. I think the city was not run by who it’s run by now, but everybody knew your name. I’d pull up to the Desert Inn Hotel and I knew Gary, the valet guy. I knew all the valet people at Caesars at that time and it was more personal. To me, it was more personal and I loved it.
People knew you when you walked into the hotel and it’s all about relationships. I’m old school. I’m about relationships, meeting people face to face, and interacting with people because when I have a job, whether a little job or a big one, I try to show up and meet my client and thank them for their business and how important they are to me. Not many people do that these days, as you know.
You opened your talent agency. What was it called?
Baskow Agency. Original, right?
Who was your first client?
My first client was Suzanne Summers. I did a TV show called Jack and the Princess. I didn’t represent her, but it’s a very funny story about the fishbowl. I hired some people to work on that show. I also worked on a David Brenner commercial where I put a guy named Spider in the commercial and he touched the Schmitz beer in the commercial and became interactive with the product.
He made royalties, $36,000, and he went home and told his boss. His boss’s best friend, Julie Rizzo, happened to discover Marlene Rickey at the Aladdin Hotel. She was now opening for Frank Sinatra and she didn’t have an agent. I got a phone call, “The old man wants to meet you.” I called my mother and started crying. I said, “I don’t know who the old man is, but somebody, I think, is trying to steal my company. I’m coming back to New Jersey.” I ended up going to the lunch and he was lovely. I met him and Julie. I became friends with them until the end. I went to his show every single time he was here. He was such a legend and icon in the industry.
Let’s dive into that a little bit. What was it like sitting down to have lunch with Frank Sinatra? Where was it? Do you remember where you had lunch?
Yes, it was a coffee shop at Caesars Palace. He walked in with this Black NBC Peacock jacket. When he turned around, I didn’t know it was him. I didn’t even know who I was having lunch with and Julie came in. He had his glasses and his little one eye. He said, “I hear you’re the new Sue Mengers in town.” I said, “Mr. Sinatra, you can have my company. Who is Sue Mengers?”
Believe it or not, he followed my career. One time we were doing a commercial over at Bally’s, which was the MGM before the fire. We’re in the elevator and Paul Anka gets in the elevator. Frank is talking to me in the elevator and he introduces me. He said, “Who is she?” He said, “She’s an ex-Sue Mengers in town.” Paul Anka was like, “Who was she?” You don’t get in the elevator with Frank Sinatra. It’s usually security guards in the elevator with Frank Sinatra.
It was very interesting. It was a wonderful time to be in business. I started my business with $300 and I built it to a very big company. I had 24 employees a few years ago. We built it to a $20 million company, had some employees that took fifteen employees and about $15 million in business. You then dust yourself off and you build yourself up again. I became another destination management company again then I decided I didn’t want my company, but I don’t want to jump to that. You can ask me more questions and I’ll tell you the climb.
Frank sounds like he was very helpful in the early stages of your business.
I never asked them for anything because I don’t like to ask people. I would rather give, but he walked me into the catering in the office with a man named Jerry Gordon, who was the manager of the hotel at the front desk. He said, “Can you use this kid’s modeling agency? Use this kid’s company. See if you can help her.” I’m like, “Thank you, Mr. Sinatra,” like a little girl. Jerry Gordon and I became friends.
One day, he introduced me and I started doing parties at events. He said, “Can you do parties at events?” I’m like, “Sure.” The first thing I did for them, they asked me if I had a band and I hired a band called Bobby and the Imperials. They asked me if I could bring somebody into a morning meeting. How would I creatively do something fun to open a morning meeting?
I said, “What about Caesar and Cleopatra and one of those leaders with feeding grapes in the mouth?” They didn’t tell me who it was and the next thing I know, the next day, we were on the front page of the news. It was a man named Jackie Presser, the head of the Teamsters. I’m a kid. I was so naive when I moved here. I didn’t know anything. I thought a working girl was a girl that went to work for a living. That was my first job with them.
Jerry introduced me to a man that was a radio host. He was from Italy and his friend was the Johnny Carson of Italy named Mike Bongiorno. He came here and they were going to produce twelve TV shows of somebody winning some contest and coming to Vegas, in the desert, showing them at a hotel. They said, “Can you produce TV shows?” I said, “Sure.” I ended up hiring a guy named Don Jacobs, Mr. Camera, who was second unit camera for Entertainment Tonight. We traveled around and I ended up doing 26 TV shows for them and Engelbert, Lynda Carter and Frank Sinatra, Jr., Ben Vereen and all these people. I went in like I was a magazine show and did these interviews and became friends with everybody.
They said, “Mr. Berlusconi wants to know if you can bring celebrities to Italy.” I said, “Who’s Mr. Berlusconi?” They said, “He’s a man that owns a TV station.” They didn’t tell me he was the Prime Minister of the country. I started bringing celebrities. The first one I brought was Gary Coleman then I brought Michael Douglas over. I brought over Sylvester Stallone then we went to Mr. Berlusconi’s house for dinner and he gave Sylvester Stallone a lot of money for his movies.
I took Kevin Costner and his wife over and ended up helping them with their honeymoon, Tom Selleck, a doll to work with, and Andy Garcia. I ended up doing all these different crazy TV shows, Miss Italia, the Italian Oscars, the Telegattos. It was a blessed time for me. I sent Jennifer Lopez over to the San Remo Music Festival, but I ended up not going to that one.
It’s like, all of a sudden, you’re a kid from New Jersey, not knowing anything, sleeping in the same room as your mom because you barely have money to eat, then you’re living this lavish life. It’s been crazy. I decided to take the lavish life and pay it forward to other people. I’ve been mentoring kids at the university that want to be in the hospitality and entertainment business.
I try to put as many people as I can to work, whether it be a movie, a TV show or an extra. I tell people, “It doesn’t matter about being a celebrity. It’s what you do. If you do one day of your passion. You’ve lived your passion in your life.” I’ve been blessed. I brought some celebrities to Boys and Girls Club for the High Singers in Florida with my friend Cheryl Kagan. I got involved with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
A friend of mine, John Daly, introduced me to John Walsh and to a man named John Arnos. Years later, every year, when we raise money and do these golf tournaments and these events, we find missing kids. It’s every single year around the time we do the event. It’s unbelievable. I work with Make-A-Wish. It’s funny that this is happening now. A friend of mine just came in from New Hampshire. We are purging. We purged 38 bags that we gave to SafeNest and Safe House to people that don’t have anything.
When you think about it, whether you have $5 or $500,000, we save things. We become pack rats and we start with 5 sets of dishes instead of 1 set of dishes. It’s so important to start getting rid of that stuff and getting it to people that don’t have anything like the Ukrainian families that came here. I’m trying to minimalize and give to others because it feels good. It made me feel like I lost weight.
You’ve built your company up over the years and what was it like at its peak? Give us a sense of when you were at the peak of what you were doing, when was that? What was going on? What did that feel like?
I’ll tell you about the peak, but I have to say that every day I wake up and love doing what I do is my peak. I love every day, whether I’m doing something little or small. I would say that my peak, when I was bringing all the celebrities to Italy before COVID, was my most fun. You get to go there. You’re in a different country, it’s wonderful. It’s a lot of fun. My peak, I had a girl that was the president of my company that worked for me. We took my company out of nowhere to a $20 million company.
I was able to buy some of my employees cars and send them to Europe on vacations and give people deposits for houses that had nothing. It was like a dream come true. This stuff doesn’t happen in a lifetime and it was amazing. Unfortunately, she was not amazing. She turned out to be not a good person, but that’s why I was left with the fifteen employees, but you learn in life. When you do so many things for people and people don’t appreciate it, you learn something and I learned a lot because everything is a journey. In my journey, I learned that you can’t buy loyalty, love, loyalty and friendship. It just is. It was a pretty big blow.
It sounds like you were using your success to help others.
If I made money, everybody was making money. I had great parents. My mother taught me never to be selfish. It was funny because my mom lived in a little studio apartment when she got older and assisted living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As I started making a couple of bucks, I’d come back from Italy and I’d buy her a pretty ring. She would turn around and give it to the Russian immigrants that lived in her building.
I buy her beautiful clothes and she’d give them away. She’d rather have a sweat outfit and go to bingo. I love that about her because she was a good person and things didn’t matter. I think all of us get caught up in things and possessions. Sometimes you look around you or your friends with people who don’t have those possessions and realize the only possession we have is family, friends and our health.
When you had the scenario, how long ago was it that she took the fifteen people and left?
Also, $15 million in business. Many years ago. It was not good, but I have an angel over my shoulder. I had what was called a destination management company. We did the parties, the events, the entertainment, the speakers, everything. What happened was I ended up selling my company two years later to a Wall Street guy. His name was Steve Black. He helped take LPL Financial public. He owned my company for a couple of months, then he went back to work for his ex-boss that retired.
He paid me for full on my company and gave me my office building back. It’s a God story. My brother went through a divorce and lost everything. I went and took some of the money and bought him a house in New Jersey. I was so blessed to be able to do this because this stuff doesn’t happen in real life most of the time.
You’re at the top. When she left, took most of your business, then another guy comes along and pays you off in full when he doesn’t even need it and then now you’re back on top.
A wonderful man. What happened was when my president and her son finagled to take my employees, I was doing AT&T events all over the country and Texas Instruments. We were big time. We became a big company and a small pot here. I realized it’s funny because I sold my company to Steve Black and then, like I said, he went back into the financial world, overlooking about 123 companies for his boss and putting teams together.
I’m still in touch with him and his family. I can’t even say enough about him. About two years later, one night, I was on the internet and I decided that I did not want this event planning company anymore. I didn’t want to be the boss. Does that sound crazy? I wanted to service my clients and make sure people were taken care of. When you’re the boss, you’re sitting behind your desk, trapped and taking care of employees and it’s tough.
I ended up selling my company to another destination management company. I’m not going to talk about them. I stayed with them for a few years as president of business development. I kept my speaker’s bureau and talent agency because that’s always been my love and passion, my movies and TV. That’s what I’m doing.
It’s funny because you were asking about some of the first people I worked with. It was Suzanne Somers on Jack and the Princess with her and Bruce Boxleitner. Years later, she’s doing a convention for me and I’m doing little doodling. I came up with the idea for the Suzanne Somers Pajama Line that’s on Home Shopping Network.
Is your favorite thing working with the talent versus doing the destination and doing the events? What has been your favorite thing to do over the years?
Entertainment, the movies, the TV, the talent and the speakers because I think with everybody that you hire, especially with my speakers. You learn something in life. You get a message, inspiring, motivating and you learn more about life. I have a young man named Nick Santonastasso that I hired. Do you know Nick?
He has no arms and no legs and he lives life bigger than anybody that I know. He opens for Tony Robbins. I used him. People were like grabbing onto the wheelchair when they saw him, like, “You changed my life.” At the end of his speech, he did this meditation about taking a deep breath in and letting the little child out that all the things you’re harboring like, “I’m mad at my Mom and Dad. I’m mad at this. I’m mad at that. I’m angry about my ex-wife and my ex-husband.” He was very moving. I can’t even believe some of these people that I’ve found. It’s like your why. How many people don’t know what their why is? Why did I do this? Why am I in business? Why did I stay in that relationship too long? Many answers and so many questions, so I love what you’re doing.
When you look back, what do you attribute? How did you have such success in that industry? What was the secret to going from small to $20 million?
First of all, I was scared. I came out here with $300. My roommate moved to LA. She ended up being the assistant to the director, Sydney Pollack for 30 years. I was here by myself. My mother did not have a dime to give me. My mother, I think she had maybe $3,000 to her name in her bank account. It’s like it’s survival of the fittest. You do what you have to do to survive. That’s why people are like, “You’re calling bingo at night? I’m doing whatever I can to pay my rent.”
I think the Caesars Palace becoming their party and event planner and doing their entertainment things over there in the day and age when it was blossoming was a big deal for me. I start at no. If I made $1,000 in a day or whatever, it was a lot of money for me in those days. Also, the Italians, I produced thirteen TV shows in a week and made 92,000 profit. It’s unheard of. I bought my first house. I went from an apartment to buying a house. I’m like, “I’m a homeowner.” It’s exciting. Any job is exciting, whether it’s little or big or whatever if you love doing it.
What helped me be successful is I never stopped. I was tenacious. I’m a networker. If I would meet you, I’d say, “Would you like to be in my Speaker’s Bureau?” I would stay in touch with people. On my destination management company up to a couple of years ago, I couldn’t do all of that. I couldn’t concentrate on that because I had to concentrate on ten employees after I lost the 24 employees. I had ten employees left and a lot of them were women.
I’d get these boxes in the mail, they’d be in their office shopping and I’m bringing in the clients and said, “If I didn’t bring in the clients, I wasn’t paying that $92,000 overhead a month.” It’s a lot of money to be a business. As you know, COVID hit and things change. Everything changed in the world after COVID. To me, I see quality in restaurants have changed. I see people don’t want to work. I see people don’t come up and talk to you and they’re not happy. I don’t know. It’s crazy. I always try to make people feel good, whether if I see somebody on the street that’s homeless or whatever. I try to do something for somebody and change their day. Conversation and a smile changes your day.
When I first met you, we were introduced by a mutual friend. When I saw your bio and went to your website, I saw a picture. I don’t want this to come out wrong but I wasn’t expecting somebody as friendly and positive and willing to help as you were because in many situations in your industry, you don’t seem to find that.
Thank you. I got a little crazed after I saw you and we still need to do catch up. I had a girl that worked for me that was my assistant who lost her husband. I lost my assistant of ten years. I’m not technologically savvy on doing this proposal, but you learn very quickly. My general manager, unfortunately, lost her little nine-year-old daughter. You learn that you have to do what you have to do.
I have to tell you that this has been a good experience for me because when you start getting a lot of employees and you have people working for you, it’s like, “Get me this. Get me that.” I learned not to get out of my chair. Does that make sense? I expect everybody to bring me everything. Not in a pompous way because I’m on the phone all the time and doing my thing. Now I find myself more touching and feeling everything that I needed to do. I’m opening every file. I’m closing out I’m more paying attention more to a lot of things which is important.
How many people do you have now working for you?
Is it part-timers from what’d you say, 24?
I have three out-of-office remote salespeople, then I have three people that do coordinating like if I have a job, like tomorrow night, somebody is going to go check in a band for me. Usually, I’ll show up. Tomorrow night I can’t show up, so they’re going to show up and then I have two part-timers in the office. I have more than that the people that come in and out.
That’s a big difference from 24 down to six part-timers or five part-timers.
At my height, I had $172,000 overhead a month. That’s enough to put on 50 pounds and aid you.
How do you determine who you want to work with?
It’s so hard because I like everybody, I do. I try to help everybody and sometimes I get overwhelmed. I have a girl, Kelly, that works with me in my talent department. We know we’re casting a movie or TV show. She does a lot of the electronic submissions that I don’t do. The speakers and the entertainment, I try to interview in person.
My web guy, Steve, I found him and we built a new website. I’m so glad. My old website was dated. I’m marketing now. I have a girl that lives in Israel named Natalie. I forgot about her. What I do is I’ll have flyers made and I’m going to talk to you about it. You’d make a flyer, what is your why? You speak about this at the convention. We started sending out these flyers. I have about 120,000 to 132,000 emails of people who have attended trade shows, companies, meeting planners, event planners and Senate houses.
With constant contact, you can only send like 400 and some a day. She’ll take that flyer and like you’d give me a flyer built-in contact and we send it out. That’s how we let people know about you because out of sight, out of mind. You know that. It’s all about volume and letting people know because I’m sitting here as one Speaker’s Bureau and one talent agency.
If I don’t get those calls, then maybe ten other speaker’s bureaus you work with get those phone calls and somebody’s going to call you for a job. It’s been very interesting and I like it. I have to tell you that I like it. I have an office on Eastern Avenue, a small office and I have an office in my home now. I spend 90% of my time at home working. It’s easy to come down the hall and get on the phone for four hours, and then do my stuff here. I’ll go out and I’ll meet people.
Contrast for us, big 24 employees to small what you’re doing now. How is that different as far as for your clients? How’s that different for your sanity and for the impact that you can make?
I have to say that I love it. With 24 employees, There is a lot of chaos. I had a registration company and a housing company. We booked all the hotel rooms. We were doing all that for Texas Instruments then all of a sudden, the technology goes down. The world is crazy. I found myself working 20 out of 24 hours a day. As much as I loved it and I loved having all the employees. My office building was a house I had renovated on Russell Road. I didn’t live there, but we had 5,000 square feet of little chandeliers and French doors.
It looked like somebody’s house and everybody had their own little space in there. I loved it, but I saw the neighborhood changing there. It’s on the street of the airport here. We were burglarized a couple of times and I was in the building one time. It was scary. You say that you wanted to do it, you did it, you’ve been there and you’ve done it. I like what I’m doing now. I don’t miss having a lot of employees and I don’t miss having all that stress of the overhead and the payroll and everything.
The people that work for me, they’re lovely. They appreciate it. I pay them well, take good care of them, we go out, have fun, go to shows, go to dinners and get to do things for other people. We love doing Make-A-Wish because we get to see a little child’s life changed for a day and we get to do fun things. I would tell people, “I don’t think that bigger is necessarily better.”
It’s always great to grow your company. I won’t ever take that away from it. It would enable me to buy a house, an office building, and do things I always wanted to do. After that’s over, it’s like, what is it? You want to appreciate your life every day. You want to be able to wake up and do things that you want to do and just breathe.
Seems like a lot of people go through that. Start small, build this amazing thing, don’t like it, but they’re in the middle of the rat race, end up with something smaller and more personable and like that a lot more. How has that affected the people that you connect with? Do you still have as many speakers as you had before?
I do. I have more.
How are you able to keep up with all that?
I put them on my Speaker’s Bureau. I’m not in the technology world, even though they’re my biggest clients. I started getting Google AdWords and I had never had them before. I hired this great company in New Jersey that has been marketing me. What’s happening now is if somebody is looking for a certain speaker or a certain type of entertainment, they’re finding me on the internet.
I’m like, “How did you find me?” They’re like, “Google.” I’m like, “I have to ask you what words you were looking for because I’ve never in 45 years used Google AdWords.” I can’t say enough about them. It’s been interesting. Everything is a learning lesson. It’s a journey. Every day is a different journey. I love doing it and I don’t care if it’s in a big way or smaller way.
As I said, we had Shaquille O’Neal and Molly Bloom here. I had a small $2,500 speaker and I love them all because I get to put them all to work. It doesn’t matter how big it is. You put somebody to work and you were able to maybe change one person’s life in that room like you know when you’re speaking. Your whole goal is like, if you touch somebody in that room or touch all those people in your room, it’s like giving you $1 million.
For sure. If I’m a speaker reading this now, because we have a lot of speakers that listen, what do you see as the key to getting booked?
I think it’s all about your subject and your delivery. A lot of people use a moderator because they are not a keynote speaker, but they can speak, but they don’t have a whole platform and their presentation. If somebody was going to do speaking, I would say do something that’s going to interest people. Attract their attention. They want to be engaged now and they’ve seen it all. Your why is brilliant. In fact, I saw something on TV that said, “Why?” Did you see that? It was a commercial on TV.
I was thinking about you. I’m like, “Is that his commercial?” It’s embracing people here in your heart and emotionally. I was talking about Nick Santonastasso. He’s speaking and I had men that were coming up to us crying, like, “I just released. I purged. I did this.” He left them with something memorable, and as Maya Angelou said, “It’s how you leave them feeling.” If you’re going to speak, it doesn’t matter what you’re speaking on, as long as you’re speaking from your heart and you know that you can engage and your audience can relate to you.
Not everybody’s a college graduate. Some of those people are there and have a set fee and a set job, but they’re barely paying their bills and feeding their family and need inspiration. I was one of those people. People work for everything that they have. You can work that hard. I see people that are very wealthy that have lost it. I think that it’s so important to be a real person.
When I’m hiring a speaker, I want to feel what they’re saying. Somebody called me recently to speak on happiness. What makes you happy? I love that. You go in a room and know you’re going to see something positive or educational. Every speaker has something to give and it’s very important that your delivery and you’re touching your audience.
If I’m a speaker and nobody knows me and I’m trying to get booked, how do I go about getting booked? What advice would you give to them?
I would say that you want to go to every speaker’s bureau that you can and get on their bureau. I’m not pompous to say, “Come with me, even though I love you,” because I only get a certain amount of jobs. I say, “If you’re going to be with me not exclusive and you want to work on getting a lot of bookings, make a flyer.” There is a company out of India. They charge like $100 to make these flyers. I’ll have to send you a couple. They’re amazing. It’s a flyer made out of constant contact. It would have your face and maybe you’d have the big Why and the question mark or whatever you put on it and whatever message you’re trying to get to your audience.
I do have a girl, Natalie, in Israel. She sends it out. She’ll start sending it out. We’ve sent out to everybody on our list and we’ll send out now and then I’ll send it down again. Maybe we’ll change it up or we’ll send it. Sometimes we embed an agent-friendly we’ll have you do it. Put an agent-friendly video in there so people can see you and see how you engage with your audience because people want to know that you’ve spoken somewhere and it’s going to be a success when you speak for them.
Having a sizzle reel is important.
Sizzle reel is very important. Professional high res pictures and you can get them without spending a lot of money. If photographers are charging you thousands of dollars for your pictures, call me. I’ll give you names. You don’t need to spend that money. I want people to spend the least amount of money and make as much as you can.
That’s why you’ve been so successful all these years because I can tell you that not every bureau thinks, acts and helps like you do. It’s not the same for everybody. I’m sure you probably already know that.
I do. There are speaker’s bureaus and I will call them. I’ll say, “I’m interested in so-and-so.” Usually, some of them are big speakers. They’re like, “Have your client call me. I want to deal with your client direct.” I’m like, “I’m your client and you will meet my client after you give me. How much are they? Are they available? No, I’m not giving you that information.” It’s very cocky. It’s not a good way to network business because we all should be working together.
I look at my one of my competitors, Jennifer Lear. She and I work together all the time and she used to work for me. Each agency has something to offer. Diane Goodman, who owned Goodman Speakers. Now she’s a speaker’s manager. I called her one day and I said, “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m in love with your website and my website sucks.” She said, “I’d be glad to give you my web guy.”
In fact, she came here and we had lunch. She’s a lovely person. Some of her speakers are on my website. I have her web guy. It’s so important that we mentor each other in this life. A couple of girls called me that opened their little speaker’s bureau and I’m like, “Call me. Do you want to put some of my speakers on your bureau? We can work together.”
I will tell you another important thing is like everybody has a set. Let’s say your rate’s $25,000 or $35,000. A lot of times, people call me and they’ll say, “We only have $10,000 for a speaker.” I will turn around and call a $20,000 speaker and say, “I’ve had three inquiries this month in Vegas for a $20,000 speaker. Would you like me to submit you or no?”
Not that I ever want to insult anybody, but somebody may not have a job for four months. If I’ve made you $30,000 for three jobs. I like to think out of the box. I never want to presume anything. I do not take 25% or 30%. I take 20%. Sometimes if the clients don’t have the budget, I’ll take 10%. To me, it’s not always about the money. It’s about the relationship.
What’s the difference between a speaker bureau and a speaker manager?
The speaker management companies charge you to manage them and to promote them. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from some of my speakers. They’ve said that they pay thousands of a month to have them submit them or represent them. Speakers Bureau should only take a commission from you if we get you a job and after you’ve done the job, we get commissioned.
I’m starting like a regular Speakers Bureau because I’ve been in the entertainment business for so long. It’s like, “I need to know where they’re staying. Is it a five-star hotel? I need to know they’re being picked up at the airport. Is there a coordinator? I need to know they’re going to have a sound check.” I want to set my speakers and entertainers up for success, not failure. A lot of people just cook it and book it. I’m not a cook and book it person. Everybody wants to make money and be in business, but you have to care. That’s why I’m a little bit different.
I want to know that you’re coming here. I’m taking care of you. I had Molly Bloom here. We had 70-mile-an-hour winds. She was like in the air. As I’m texting her, “I hope you’re not upside down. I hope you’re okay.” She’s a wonderful person and a trooper. She came in on those wins. You want to make sure that people are there.
I try to show up at these events. I want to see my speakers if it’s within my power and if I don’t have ten things going on that day. When I go there, I want to make sure that do they have a ride back to their hotel. Have they been fed? Is there food in their green room for them? I know it sounds silly. These are little tiny important things that mean a difference.
The last question for you is, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given or the best piece of advice that you’ve ever given?
A couple. One of my speakers, Dr. Edith Eger, she’s a Holocaust survivor. She told me, “We have to always be survivors, not victims. No matter how bad things get in life, you’re a survivor.” Another friend of mine, Dr. Anne Manning, told me, “The end is in the beginning. What you see in the beginning is always there in the end.” There is my mother who always said, “Be a good person. Don’t base your life on things. Be a good person and give back to others.” That’s how I’ve lived my life. I have a friend of mine, John Arnos. He raises money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He jumped out of an airplane to raise money and he turned 90.
You hang around with some fun people. That’s for sure.
We are all about having a good time.
Always have been.
Yes, I am. I’m looking forward to seeing you when you come back to Vegas.
I’m going to be there.
You’ll call me.
I will call you. I would love to get together if you are around because I’ll be there. I’m speaking with Ashley’s group then I’ll be there for a few more days.
Are you at the M Hotel?
I’m around the corner. I’ll make time, I promise you. You call me.
If there are people that are reading and want to follow you, learn more about you or see more that’s going on in your life, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
My email is Jaki@JakiBaskow.com. Check out our websites, Baskow Talent and Las Vegas Speakers Bureau. We’re always looking for new people and I’m looking for people to mentor. If somebody isn’t a real professional speaker, I will take time and guide them and tell them where they can go to try to look into it. I think it’s important to go to NSA and Toastmasters and all those places where you can learn and people give you positive feedback to help you.
Jaki, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I’m so glad we finally got to do this. I look forward to seeing you soon.
I’ll talk to you soon. Thank you so much for having me on your show.
Jaki moved to Las Vegas, NV in 1976 to work at a movie studio, under the creator of BatMan, Bob Crane. After they lost financing, she was talked into opening her own Talent Agency and her new company broke a 25 year long monopoly in the Talent game.
The first commercial Jaki was in charge of casting made $36,000 in royalties – this caught the eye of Mr. Frank Sinatra! Mr. Sinatra requested a meeting with Jaki because he was helping, Marlene Ricci – whom was his opener at the time, acquire an agent. That was the start of her 45 year career working in Las Vegas, where she is one of the top (and preferred) vendors at Ceasar’s and The Wynn. Jaki has since produced TV segments, booked stars to take to Italy for the Telegatto, and filled sears for the Oscar’s for the last 18 years! She has worked with Stallone, Gene Hackman, Tom Selleck, Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone and so many more!
Discovery Channel also featured Jaki in a tv segment on Casino Diaries where they named her one of the Top Celebrity Star Brokers in the world and named her “Queen of Las Vegas!”
Contribution is the bridge that connects our individual purpose to the greater good, allowing us to create a profound impact on the world. In this episode, we delve into the profound essence of the WHY of Contribute with our special guest, Natalie Ledwell. As a bestselling author, host of the podcast “Not Over, Just Different,” and founder of Mind Movies, Natalie has empowered millions worldwide with her revolutionary personal development company. Today, Natalie discusses how embracing a cause bigger than ourselves allows us to make a meaningful difference and become part of something greater. She highlights the wonderful qualities of people who enjoy winning as a team and shows the pleasure of being the one who keeps everyone united. Natalie also acknowledges the challenge of over-commitment that often accompanies this WHY. She shares her insights on the tendency to say “yes” to every request, risking overwhelm and neglecting personal goals. Finally, Natalie explores the concept of visualization, how to do it, and how to pursue what we visualize. Join us and prepare to expand your life, experience fulfillment, and unleash your power to make a lasting difference in the world.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Revolutionizing Success with the WHY of Contribute – The Power of Natalie Ledwell’s Mind Movies
In this episode, we are going to be talking about the Why of Contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is 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 you relish successes that contribute to the greater good of the team. 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 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. Her name is Natalie Ledwell. She is a bestselling author, host of the podcast, Not Over, Just Different, co-host of the cable TV show, Wake Up, and Founder of Mind Movies, the hugely successful revolutionary online personal development company that has reached over ten million people worldwide.
Now, she has launched her groundbreaking social and emotional learning curriculum entitled Personal Growth Studies into Schools Here in the US, which is designed to empower youth from ages 5 to 18 years to live fulfilling and successful lives with high self-esteem and a vision for a bright future. In October 2018, Natalie traveled to Liberia where she met with government officials and launched personal growth studies in a number of schools, which is now in its second year working with over 1,000 students.
In 2020, Natalie had the immense honor of being knighted by the Orthodox Order of Saint John, a humanitarian group recognizing individuals who are not only doing great work but who have a big vision of the work they want to complete in the world helping others. She has also been awarded one of the top 50 women leaders in Los Angeles. Natalie, welcome to the show.
It sounds like from my bio that is my why. It makes me like a dirty nose, as we say in Australia.
You contribute to a lot of areas but in a very meaningful way. That’s a very impressive bio, and we are going to jump into that here in a little bit. First, Natalie, tell everybody where you are from, where you grew up, and what you were like in high school.
I grew up in a country town in Australia. The town is called Orange. I’m one of eight kids from a big family. I had a fun upbringing in such a big family like that. All the way through school, I was always a top student. I was the star of the athletics team. I was on the debating team. I was in the school plays. I was choreographing the dance numbers and the plays and so forth.
I was an overachiever. I was good at a lot of different things and loved excelling. I loved being in that role. When I think about it, I would champion different causes as well. I remember the high school that I went to, our school uniform, because in Australia we all wear school uniforms, was this black box pleaded heavy tunic that we would have to wear. In summer, it was awful.
I remember starting a petition so we could change our school uniform. I remember also wanting to do one of those school sports. Elective sports were weight training, but it wasn’t available for the girls, only for boys. I was not having that. I started weight training at school for sport, which was interesting because that led to my first career because I ended up leaving school at fifteen.
My parents couldn’t afford to keep me at school to do my high school certificate. I left at the end of year ten. One of my first jobs and careers was working in the fitness industry. I always wanted to be a teacher, and so I became a ropes instructor and trainer. We started managing fitness clubs when I was 21 years old. That led to that.
I left home when I was seventeen. I left my hometown when I was eighteen and moved to Sydney, which was the big city near me. Like I said, I started managing clubs when I was 21 and met my husband around the age of 25, and then we had a whole series of businesses and we are still in business together now.
For those of you that are familiar with the nine whys, Natalie’s why is to contribute to a greater cause. Her how as you are reading is to challenge the status quo and think differently. Not to follow the rules, not to follow the typical and traditional. Her what is to bring solutions that make sense. Her why is to contribute to a greater cost. How she does that is by challenging the status quo, and what she brings are solutions that make sense. We already see that coming out in the way you went through high school. You took on so many things that people needed help with. You challenged how things were being done or said they had to be done, and you came up with better solutions that made sense.
I used to call it my stupid human trick. Now I call it a gift because I can look at something how I created my success or built my business or anything like that, and then be able to structure it in a very teachable way. When I started Mind Movies, I fell into that by accident. A friend approached my husband at the time and I with the idea of creating these little slideshows, affirmations, photos, and music. It’s like a slideshow of a vision board of what you want your future to look like.
At the time, we didn’t know anything about the internet. Glen could hardly turn on a computer. We already had four businesses. It was like, “I don’t know whether we can go into this,” and we are 40 years old. At that age, I’m having to learn how to write emails, set up order responders, edit videos, and all these skills that were outside of my comfort zone.
The gift or what has helped us in that is that we didn’t know what we were doing. We are figuring it out. We didn’t have a preconceived idea of how it should be done. We went, “This is our past business experience. These are some programs that are teaching us how to do this. We are going to do it in a way that we know well or that we will learn.” We were one of the first companies that had a personal development product online that had massive success. Our first launch of Mind Movies in 2008 was during the economic crisis in September of 2008, we did a $700,000 week. We were selling a little $97 product because we are bringing our flavor or our experience to these systems that exist, but we are doing it in a way that no one else has done it before.
Let’s talk about this for a minute. You two were struggling through four other businesses. What kind of business? How did you get into those? Out of school, you got into fitness. Out of that, you got into running gyms. What was the first business that you started?
The first business I had with my husband was a nightclub back in the ’90s. If you think about that nightclub life, that was the epitome of that. It was dance music, 6:00 AM license. It was crazy times. When I was working in fitness, I felt like I was making a difference. I felt like I was doing something positive. I was on stage lecturing club owners from all over Australia on how to systemize their businesses and manage their teams. That was my wheelhouse.
I was 24 years old. We then end the nightclub, and I’m like, “I don’t know if I’m meant to be here. What is this?” I had to wrap my head around it and go, “Everything I learned in this service industry of fitness, I can apply to this service industry of nightclub thing.” We had great success with that. We then went through what I call my beige years, which like a lot of different businesses, coffee franchises, advertising companies, and property development, we were going through the motions.
We were good at business, so it didn’t matter what type of business. Once we had our friend approach us with this idea of setting up the website for Mind Movies and we started getting all these emails from people going, “This is changing my life,” it lit that back up again in me. I’m like, “Now I feel like I’m making a difference again.” I go, “We need to put our effort into this. How do we figure out this internet thing? Let’s do this.” That was that journey into that. I had enough time where I’m like, “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything great,” to, “I feel like I can make a difference again. Let’s make sure we do this.”
That makes a lot more sense. You had these other businesses that were making money and some were not making money, but they weren’t making a difference.
They weren’t fulfilling.
What got you interested in doing your own vision board?
We had seen the movie, The Secret. We had seen it a little while before. We understood the importance of being able to visualize and be able to see and feel what it’s like to be in that future, but then The Secret was on Oprah. We had seen the movie six months before that, and then we are handing out this movie to all our friends and go, “You got to watch this. It’s amazing.” Everyone’s like, “I didn’t get it.” I’m like, “Seriously?”
It was on Oprah. Everyone’s like, “I get it.” I’m like, “Whatever.” Because there were this big wave and people all of a sudden were starting to understand, we were ahead of the curve on the understanding part of it. That’s why when this opportunity came along, even though we had no idea about the internet. The only reason I used a computer is for banking and bookkeeping. I spent no time online.
We understood how amazing an idea this was. Even though the beige years we were going through the motions, there was something that we picked up from every one of those businesses that we applied to Mind Movies so we were ready for it. Sometimes even though I felt like I wasn’t completely happy in those years and felt like I didn’t have any significance, meaning, or fulfillment, it was built so that I was prepared for this particular opportunity when I came along.
You took the concept of a vision board. I have seen the movie The Secret. In fact, John Assaraf was one of my coaches for a while. I’m very familiar with vision boards. You took it and then turned it into something that was a movie. Why was it important that it become a movie?
For a number of reasons. Number one, the affirmations are you being able to sit down and drill deep into what it is that you want your life to look like. It is the way that you are using the words around it, which are important because words carry energy. You are using positive language. You are describing it in the present tense, which makes it easier once you read those affirmations to see it as if it’s happening in your mind. That was important.
Having the visuals meant that if you found it difficult to visualize a future like this, it gave your mind an image to start with and to build on, but the secret source is the music. It’s not just what you see when you visualize, you have to feel the emotions that you will feel when you experience that moment. You could be feeling joy, happiness, gratitude, relief, accomplishment, and whatever that is, but the music helps you to feel that emotion. It helps to get you there.
It is the combination of all three of those things and getting clear about what you want your future to look like. We can all say, “I want to be happy and wealthy,” but what helps you to crystallize that is, “What does wealth mean to me? What does my life look like when I have all the money that I want? When I’m truly happy, what does happiness mean to me? What does my life look like when that’s happening?” I also get people when they are making in Mind Movies go, “Why do you want this? What’s your why here?” For some people, especially people who have a why like me, if your why is something extrinsic outside of you, it motivates you a whole lot more than if it’s something that’s personally for you.
For those that are reading who are not familiar with a vision board, tell them what a vision board is. Maybe we should have probably started there.
You know John Assaraf. That was his part in the movie. A lot of people would cut out photos of the house they’d like to live in, the car that they want to drive, or the vacation they want to go on. When they looked at that board and looked at those pictures, it was easier for them to be able to see themselves on that beach or see themselves driving that car in their mind.
The reason it’s important that we see it in our mind and we are able to visualize this is because thoughts become things. What helps us to become a vibrational or frequency match to what we want are 1) Thoughts, 2) Emotions, and 3) Actions. When we can have this very clear vision in our mind, not necessarily seeing ourselves in a movie, but imagine yourself sitting in the car.
Feel the seat underneath your bum. See your hands on the steering wheel. What’s the logo that’s on the steering wheel? When you put your foot on the accelerator and feel the car take off, when you are creating and utilizing all of your senses as you are in that visualization and then you are feeling the thrill and the excitement of driving a car like that, that’s what you are going to be feeling, and that’s what you will be seeing when you are in that moment.
The more real you can make it, the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference. It thinks it is something that’s happening now. What naturally happens is you start to create these new neural pathways in your brain and all our thoughts travel along these neural pathways. These new neural pathways have thoughts that are in alignment with this reality that the subconscious mind thinks is happening now.
These thoughts automatically positively influence your actions. Now you start to notice more of those cars. You start to take action. You go to a dealer, you sit in the car, you do the math to see whether it’s something that you could afford, and you figure it out. That’s why visualization is most important when it comes to manifesting what it is that we want.
Once you have a vision board, how does that change into a Mind Movie?
The Mind Movie is a step up from that. Now you may use the same images or the same photos that you would use on a vision board, but now you are adding your story and narrative, which is your affirmations, and then you are adding your music. For example, I met my partner during COVID. I had a Mind Movie about the type of person I wanted to make, the things that we do, what our relationship looks like, and how I felt in this relationship. I used a love song for that Mind Movie because that’s the emotion that I want to be feeling when I’m in this relationship.
I met him in August 2020. About three months later that I showed him my Mind Movie, he was like, “First of all, that’s creepy because that is us.” I’m like, “Exactly. I knew exactly what I was looking for.” On our first date, when we walked for an hour because it was COVID, I recognized him straight away. I knew it was him because I was very clear about what it is that I wanted, and that showed up on our first date.
Did he have a mask on at that time?
We were a little bit apart and we were walking outside in the sunshine.
The music plays a completely different role as far as the intensity of it. Is that what it is the music gives you the intensity or it gives you more of a feeling, or how does the music work?
It elicits an emotion. The emotion that you want it to elicit is the one that you are going to feel when you are experiencing that. That’s why I chose a love song for that particular Mind Movie. The Mind Movie that I have around the personal growth studies project is a song called Beautiful by Christina Aguilera.
When you listen to the lyrics of that song, it’s all about, “It doesn’t matter what people say. You are beautiful.” It’s talking about building the self-esteem of children and people. That’s what the program’s all about. I get goosebumps. We don’t even talk about that. That’s a perfect song for that Mind Movie. It’s like, “What’s a song that could be a theme that illustrates that?”
My original Mind Movie back in 2006, when I made my original Mind Movie, was a song called Clocks by Coldplay. It was all about the lyrics. Part of that song is about my part of the cure or if I am part of the disease. Am I making a difference? What am I doing in this world to make a different thing? I can’t hear that song and not be brought to tears because that Mind Movie was the beginning of everything that I have in my life now, which far exceeded anything I could possibly have dreamed of for myself.
Let’s go back to when you guys did your first Mind Movie. You said it was a friend that suggested it or gave you the PowerPoint, music, and whatnot, and then you were able to bring that to ten million people. How the heck did that happen? There are a lot of people reading this that have a great idea but can’t get it to 100 people. Much less ten million.
That was a twelve-year period. Like I said, we went, “How do you do this internet thing? If you have got a great idea like this, how do you get that out into the world?” The first thing we did was buy a program online that taught you how to do this marketing thing. We came across a guy called Frank Kern who lives in San Diego. He’s one of the legends.
He’s good at what he does because we found him online when we were searching. We implemented one idea from that program and made our money back that we paid for the program, which was $2,000, which at the time was a lot of money. He then announced he was doing a live event in San Diego in April 2008. We came across. We went to that event. We got accepted into his mastermind group. Now, we are sponges.
All the friends that we met, they are all internet marketers. We are in this marketing mastermind. We are getting access to Frank. We are meeting all of his mates, which are the Jeff Walkers and all the other big internet marketers as well. We were so intent and so focused. Again, we had a Mind Movie for the launch of our program as well.
It was what that looked like, how many people we were reaching, our monetary goal, and what life looked like on the other side of it. We were very clear about what it is that we wanted. We watched it every single day to keep us on track. We went, “This is a digital product. Let’s figure out how to blow it up,” which we did 6 months in with a $700,000 launch. When we went back to Australia, then we came back the next year. We were getting emails from Jack Canfield, John Assaraf, and Joe Vitale going, “We’d love to work with you guys.” We are like, “Okay.”
It sounds like you did a lot of joint ventures.
That’s how we got started. We got a couple of guys who came in as our JV managers. They reached out to anyone who had a program online or had an email list in the postal development space and a few outside of that. That’s how we got that first launch happening, that great success.
Your first launch earned $700,000 for that. It was $97 per person and has 70,000 people. It is something which is a huge number. How did you go from there to continually adding? Was it more launch-type things or did it happen organically? How did that take place? I know there are people that are reading this that’s in their mind. They are like, “Tell us what you did.”
Not only did we do it. A lot of people mail for us and promote us. We paid them a commission for that. Part of our offer to them is like, “If you mail for us, we will mail for you.” Now we have got this hot new 80,000 list. Our list went from 8,000 to 80,000 in that launch, and now we are all working together. We are collaborating. All boats are rising.
Also, part of that is because a lot of people will give out affiliate prizes. We had no money. Even in the JV managers, we had to promise them a percentage of the launch because we couldn’t pay them upfront. How did these guys believe in us? I don’t know, but we were convincing. Part of the affiliate prize was we are going to do a party because we were thinking, “What are we good at? What can we do that’s not going to cost a lot of money? We will throw a party.” We are good at that. A lot of our affiliates got to meet in person for the first time.
For the longest of years, we would make sure that, at least once a year, we’d all get together. We’d share all the latest stuff that was working for us. We know that in an environment like this, if my stuff is converting and we are getting to reach more people, and you are promoting me and we are serving your people and vice versa, then we all win. Everybody wins, the people that we are serving and each other as well. We were always very open and like, “This is what’s working for me. Make sure that you do that.” It was an amazing way to do business. To be honest with you, we love it to this day, and we still have affiliates that promoted us back in that original launch that we still do business with.
I can imagine that everybody that went through your program and did a Mind Movie saw some results and probably some pretty amazing results. What’s been your favorite story of somebody that you have worked with that has created a Mind Movie and seen it come to life?
We have hundreds of thousands, especially over the years. The ones that I love the most, especially from people who didn’t believe that this was going to work, came in pretty skeptical and went, “I’m going to do this.” It may be a little bit technically challenging and thought that maybe they wouldn’t be able to even create the Mind Movie in the beginning, but they went through that. They watched their Mind Movie. They send me these emails going, “You are not going to believe what happened.” I’m like, “I bet you I do.”
It’s not like they are asking for outrageous things. They are asking for a safe place for them and their family to live. They are asking for an environment where they can write a book or step up and serve in their own way. Those are the ones that make my heart sing because I comprehend the ripple effect of what that looks like, what that is, how when people make their own Mind Movie, and how that influences, not just immediate people around them, but the ripple effect out from that as well. It’s mind-blowing. When I think about ten million people who have made a mind movie and how that’s positively influenced them and the people that they love, that blows my mind.
I remember back when I was creating my vision board with John Assaraf. The hardest thing for me was to figure out what I want. How do you help people figure that out? There’s an unlimited menu of things you could pick. How do you decide, “This is what I want with my life?” Is there a way to narrow it in or focus it in to say, “Maybe it’s what I want a year from now, or maybe it’s what I want a year from now in this area of my life?” How does that work?
People get a little immobilized by that thought because we can manifest anything we want. I do break it down into areas of life. I always remind people, “This is what you want for now. That doesn’t mean that you are not going to create something else down the track. Let’s focus on this for now.” There are a lot of people who go, “I want to have a life where I have got my own business, I’m financially free, and I don’t have to worry about money, but I don’t know what that business is. I have no idea what that could be.” You go, “That’s fine. This is the perfect place to start.”
When I get them to set an intention or to start to make a Mind Movie, I go, “You don’t know what the business is yet, but describe what your life looks like.” “I have an outrageously successful business. I get to help people all over the world. I work a certain amount of hours per day. I own a certain amount of money per month.” This enables me to travel and take my family on vacations and send my kids to college and do all these things. All you need to do is start from there. You feel what it’s like visualizing in your mind. You are waking up when you stop sleeping. You are having an easy morning, then you are doing some work.
What I often do, especially if people want to help others, is I sit because when you are visualizing, I go, “Don’t visualize a ton of different things. Just visualize one moment.” Sometimes that moment could be sitting across from somebody else, they have got tears down their face, they are holding your hand, and they are thanking you because what you taught or gave them or the program or whatever that you have changed their life and it changed the life of their children.
How are you going to feel at that moment? What does that feel like? When you can make that real, what happens is that the emotions and the thoughts that you are sending out are in alignment with that moment. What happens is that things that were going to help you to create that moment in the reality that we are living in now start to naturally gravitate towards you.
In the end, you are leaning into it like, “If it could be a business, what am I good at? What have I done in the past that I have liked? If it could be anything, what do I think I can do?” You then start to research, “What does that look like? How could I do that? Are there courses that teach me?” As you lean into it and take these little steps forward, and you keep seeing yourself at that moment with this person undyingly grateful for how you help them, then things start to fall into place. That’s how it works.
Is there a common theme that you see in Mind Movies? You have seen so many of them now. Is there a trend, theme, or something that you see over and over where you can help people at least get going or get on a road? Then once they have started, then, “You can’t steer a parked car.” You get them going and then you can steer it as they go. Does that how it works?
I normally break it down and go, “Choose a life area, one area of life to focus on.” When I’m teaching, not how to make a Mind Movie, but all the other mechanics of applying the Law of Attraction, releasing your limiting beliefs and working on who you are and how you show up. The common things that come up are wealth creation like, “How do I create more money? How do I create a business or a career that I feel passionate about and feel like is making a difference?”
Health is a big one as well because we have so many people that are suffering from pain, disease, different conditions, and love. They are the main common themes that come through. I know some people are like, “I want everything. I want to love. I want to feel good. I want some money. I want to start a new job.”
It’s like, “Let’s focus on one.” One of the foundations that I teach and how to be in this process of creating what you want in life is you have to be in a high frequency. It is our emotions and our thoughts of the frequency we send out into the universe, and so we want to be in high-frequency emotions.
Those are things like happiness, joy, gratitude, accomplishment, pride, willingness, courage, and those emotions. The more we hang out there, the easier it is for things that we need or things that we don’t realize we need to be attracted to us. If we are focusing on our debt, our pain, or our loneliness, then all we are doing is creating more of that. We need to consciously, purposefully, and intentionally step outside of that and get into that higher frequency.
By higher frequency, do you mean to set your focus or intention on positive things versus negative things?
It is being a state of gratitude. Do things that make you feel good. That could be playing music that helps you dance around the house a little bit. For me, it’s taking Bella out for a walk along the Marina. I will have a convertible. Sometimes it’s driving in the car with a roof down. Now I feel so grateful. The car that I drive here in the US, I could never afford in Australia.
I feel very affluent when I drive that car. Especially if I’m driving up PCH, that’s the road that you see in all the movies. I’m like, “I live here, I drive this car, this is my life, and I get to help these people.” I’m crying with gratitude and noticing all those things. If you can do these little activities throughout the day, then you are getting these little positive injections that are keeping you in that higher frequency.
Let’s talk about this for a minute because there is a lot of confusion and misconception about the Law of Attraction. A lot of people saw the movie The Secret. They got the feeling that, “I don’t need to do anything. I need to sit here and think about something positive and my mailbox going to fill up with chats.” Let’s talk about more of the reality of the Law of Attraction. What have you seen as far as the myths or the misconceptions versus the reality?
There are a couple of things. When I teach how to manifest the Law of Attraction formula for me is, number one, the foundation, which is being a happy place. It is being that high frequency as often as you can. You want to set an intention, which for me is like a line in the sand. I have an out outrageously successful business, whatever that is.
I say it with such conviction that I’m like, “No matter what this thing is going down, this is my intention,” which already is to get things to start moving. I then get clear about what I want, which is when I make my Mind Movie. I think about what it is I want. I think about what life looks like once I have it. I think about why I want to do this. I also think there are any actions or things I need to do and add that to my Mind Movie, and then I also think about how I need to change the way I think.
If our thoughts and emotions are the frequency that we send out, and we want that to be the same frequency as to create what we want, our thoughts have created the reality that we have now. It’s like, “If I’m not happy with my reality now, how do I need to change the way I think?” I become aware of any negative thoughts that come up, any old behavior patterns, and old limiting beliefs.
I go, “I’m going to replace those with these thoughts to remind myself of that.” Also, visualizing. I mentioned before. It is how you want to elicit all of your sensors when you are visualizing. Visualize one moment, one scene, and make it as real as possible. Action is the next one after that. You want to be taking as much consistent action as you can.
Every day, go, “What am I doing now to move forward? What phone calls do I need to make? Do I have to get my website built?” What is it that I need to do? Be conscious of always doing something that’s moving you forward. The last step is the hardest one, which a lot of people with The Secret miss the, “I have to do something to make it happen.” It was in there, but people were so smitten with the, “I just have to think,” and it happens. You have to let it go.
You have to get to a point where you can’t be married to what it’s going to look like when it shows up or how it’s going to happen because when you do that, you are shutting yourself to all these amazing different ways that you could never think of and how this is going to come to fruition. You have also got to not understand but live from a place where you know that everything is happening in divine timing exactly when it’s supposed to.
I’m a very impatient person. This has been a difficult thing for me to master because, like the kids’ program, I have been working on it for years. I was ready before COVID, and then COVID hit. I was like, “Seriously?” Now it’s the perfect time for a program like this. We have got a couple of big school districts in Texas that we are working with now, so it’s divine timing. You have to release that. If we are desperate and we are impatient and frustrated, these are low-frequency emotions. They are not moving us forward. You have got to do all of that and then go, “We will see how it happens,” and be open to the surprise.
You touched on the part that a lot of people missed when they watched the movie, which is you got to do something and you got to take some action. It’s not a matter of sitting under the tree with positive thoughts and waiting for someone to drop some money in your lap. I heard people say that type of stuff, which is possible that could happen, but the odds are that it’s not, and then they are frustrated. “This is a bunch of BS.”
Remember that the trifecta is your thoughts, actions, and emotions. If you have all three of those in alignment with what it is that you want, you can create anything you want.
Let’s talk for a minute then about the kids’ program that you have. Did you get involved with that? How did that happen?
It was a download, an idea that came through to me and one of my meditations. I created a little twelve-lesson program, but I didn’t feel like I was qualified in a voice like, “Who are you? I don’t even have kids. Why am I doing this?” A couple of things happened. I had a colleague of mine who has two Master’s degrees. She’s worked with kids in trauma around the world. She approached me and said, “Come on. Let’s do this together.” I’m like, “Alright.”
I remember seeing a news article about a ten-year-old girl who had committed suicide because she was being bullied, and I’m like, “I know I can make a difference here. I know I can move the needle in this area.” Believe me. A couple of times, I have tried to walk away from this thing. At 40, I’m stepping so far out of my comfort zone. There was no comfort zone when we started Mind Movies. Now I’m doing it all over again. I’m like, “What are you doing?” That’s part of my magnet and who I am. I have been able to attract some incredible people to this project, to school districts in Texas with over 100,000 students that we get to impact, and this is the beginning.
What is the program mostly around?
It’s psychology-based and science-based. We do have things like meditation and yoga, and common things like gratitude, empathy, and self-love. We are also teaching kids how to self-regulate their emotions, tapping into what makes them feel good, setting their own personal standards, figuring out who they are, how they want the world to see them, and how to be part of the community, and understanding what their sense of belonging is in the world in which they are in.
I saw a 60 minutes story before, and there is a part of the challenge because of the pandemic that a lot of kids are facing now. We have eight-year-olds who have a suicide plan. This is outrageous. Part of it is because they don’t know how to control their emotions. They feel like they are alone. They don’t understand their sense of belonging, and they don’t feel good about themselves.
This program addresses all of that. When we talk about bullying and suicide prevention, we don’t specifically go, “We do have a lesson about bullying,” but it’s like, “What causes bullying? Where does that start?” That’s a lot of where we come in. We look at the foundation of where that begins and start to deal or work there. That’s where we work, so we can hopefully be preventative as well.
Last question, what’s the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten or the best piece of advice that you have ever given?
I make a point of surrounding myself with very intelligent people. Someone told me once that, “I want to strive to not be the smartest person in the room.” I am a member of several different masterminds and groups where I don’t feel like I’m the smartest person in the room. Yes, I feel like I can contribute, but if I’m the smartest person, then I’m not learning. That was one of the most memorable pieces of information which I have adopted and that I live my life by. COVID, it’s been an interesting two years, the longest and shortest two years of my life. Because I’m part of these groups, that helped me to get through as well. That would be the piece of information.
Masterminds have been a big part of your success.
Massively, because if I’m stuck, I have a network of people I can go to. If I can get great ideas, I can share different ideas. I can have fantastic collaborations. I’m always in an environment of learning. I don’t ever want to stop learning.
That’s the fun part. If somebody’s reading and they want to get ahold of you, they want to learn more about Mind Movies, and they want to learn more about the program you are doing with kids, what’s the best way for somebody to get ahold of you?
MindMovies.com is the main website. You can access the podcast there. We have got some free Mind Movies you can download there. You can find out all of our programs there as well. If you are interested in having a social-emotional learning curriculum at your school or your child’s school, please go to PersonalGrowthStudies.com. You can email me and connect with me there and we can have a chat and I can send you some information. It will be wonderful. Let’s help support your kids and the teachers.
Natalie, thank you so much for being here. I was looking forward to our conversation. I appreciate you taking the time to be here.
Thank you so much. It is always great chatting with you.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, please go to WhyInstitute.com. You can use the code PODCAST50 to discover your why or your WHY.os at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you are using to read. Thank you so much. I will see you next episode.
Dame Natalie Ledwell is a bestselling author, host of the podcast, Not Over, Just Different, co-host of the cable TV show WAKE UP, and founder of Mind Movies, the hugely successful and revolutionary online Personal Development company that has reached over 10 million people worldwide.
Right now, she has launched her groundbreaking Social and Emotional Learning curriculum entitled, “Personal Growth Studies”, into schools here in the US, which is designed to empower youth from ages 5-18 years to live fulfilling and successful lives with high self-esteem and a vision for a bright future.
In October 2018, Natalie traveled to Liberia, where she met with government officials and launched Personal Growth Studies into a number of schools, which is now in its second year, working with over 1000 students.
In 2020, Natalie had the immense honor of being Knighted by the Orthodox Order of St John, a humanitarian group recognizing individuals who are not only doing great work but who have a big vision of the work they want to complete in the world helping others. And she has also been awarded one of the Top 50 Women Leaders of Los Angeles for 2022.
When it comes to health and nutrition, there are a lot of conflicting theories, practices, and paradigms out there that leave people confused about what the truth really is. With her WHY of Contribute and her HOW of Mastery, Cynthia Thurlow is on a mission to point people to the right direction in their journey to optimal health. Cynthia is a nurse practitioner who has gained popularity for her expertise on the subject of intermittent fasting. She did a TEDx Talk about it which had over 14 million views, and wrote the book Intermittent Fasting Transformation. Join this conversation and learn how Cynthia uses her gifts to make an impact on other people’s lives.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The WHY Of Contribute: Making An Impact On The Lives Of Others Through Health And Nutrition With Cynthia Thurlow
In this episode, I have a great guest, Cynthia Thurlow. She did a TEDx Talk on Intermittent Fasting. Her book is called Intermittent Fasting Transformation. It had over fourteen million views. She is a nurse practitioner but she dives in deep as a nurse practitioner and knows a ton about health, heart and this subject. You’re going to love this interview. Her why is to contribute and her how is mastery so she dives in deep and ultimately, what she brings are better ways. I can’t wait for you to learn from this fascinating interview.
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, adding value and having an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute in a meaningful way.
You love to support others and you relish success that contributes to the greater good of the team. 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 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 a great guest for you. Her name is Cynthia Thurlow. She is a nurse practitioner, author of the bestselling book Intermittent Fasting Transformation, a two times TEDx speaker with her second talk, having more than fourteen million views and the host of the Everyday Wellness Podcast averaging over 150,000 downloads per month.
With many years of experience in health and wellness, Cynthia is a globally recognized expert in intermittent fasting and women’s health. She has been featured on ABC, FOX5, KTLA, CW, Medium, Entrepreneur and The Megyn Kelly Show. Her mission is to educate women on the benefits of intermittent fasting and overall holistic health and wellness so they feel empowered to live their most optimal lives. Cynthia, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I know it’s taken us a bit of time to coordinate our calendars but I’m glad to be here. For the readers, this is what happens with entrepreneurs trying to coordinate calendars. It can be challenging.
Tell everybody where are you. Where are you located? Where did you grow up? Did you grow up where you are now?
I’m a Southern girl. I was born in South Carolina while my father was finishing his doctoral program. I grew up in New Jersey. I then came down to the DC area for undergrad. I went on for more schooling in Baltimore. I’ve been in the mid-Atlantic for most of my adult life. I live in the great state of Virginia. I live in an area that is a little less populated. People are a little friendlier and there’s a lot less traffic. It’s been a nice quality of life-change for us.
Take us back, Cynthia. What were you like in high school?
I was the consummate good girl. I learned very early on that if I got good grades and had nice friends, my parents didn’t pester me too much. I have divorced parents like a lot of the readers. My parents got divorced when I was seven. My parents both got remarried when I was twelve. We moved to a new area. My father prioritized and valued education. Good grades were very important.
My mom did too but my father, I suspect, is on the Asperger’s spectrum. He’s very intellectual and cerebral. When my mom and stepfather got married, we went from a family of 2 kids to 5. The way that I survived all the turmoil of what I was growing up in was to be a good kid. In high school, I was vice president of my class. I was on varsity field hockey. I ran track. I was president of SAD. I was this chronic overachiever. I got good grades. I was probably pretty quiet but I had a very large group of friends and had a lot of fun in high school.
Some of those friends are still my closest girlfriends. High school was more about navigating the kind of trauma that I grew up in and there was a lot that went on there. Knowing that I was not going to go to college in New Jersey, I was going to get as far away as possible just to get out of what I had grown up in. I settled in the DC area and remained there over the last 30-plus years. From my perspective, a lot of us go off to college and come home and that’s fine.
However, for me, it was getting out of what I grew up in and experiencing new people and things. In the college that I ended up going to, I had 1 or 2 people that had gone from my high school for a sports scholarship. From my perspective, I enjoyed going to some places where a lot of other people weren’t there. I was doing something different and unique. That characteristic throughout my life is that I was not always taking the stereotypical path that a lot of my peers were and leaning into what felt intrinsically right for me.
Off to college, what college did you go to?
Originally, I started at George Mason. My parents didn’t have a lot of money back then and I wanted to go to law school. If I couldn’t go to the very expensive private universities in the city, I wanted to go to the school that was closest to DC as possible so that I could apply to law school, which is what I did. After being there for four years, I decided not to go to law school, which was probably the best decision I could have ever made because I don’t like to argue. It wouldn’t make me an ideal attorney.
From my perspective, it was a great place to be outside of DC and experience a different way of thinking. I was a Poli Sci major the first time around. This is back when you had to read the newspaper and there wasn’t the internet. I remember I had The Washington Post delivered to my dorm room every day that I had to read before I went to class because that was the expectation of our professors. Being in the Washington DC area was a great place to be if I was in the Poli Sci realm because there was so much going on.
Poli Sci, law to health and fitness. How does that happen?
For my parents, there’s no terminal degree. You don’t just finish undergrad and it’s done. My parents’ expectations were professional school and graduate school. If I wasn’t going to law school, I worked for two years at a Fortune 500 company, which I hated. While I was doing that, I started taking pre-med classes. I wanted a dog my whole life. I got a rescue dog and that changed everything for me. I thought initially I wanted to become a vet but I found out I’m allergic to cats terribly to the point where I could barely work at a vet office, let alone become a vet.
As I was taking pre-med classes, my cousin who’s like a sister to me was in med school and she said, “Don’t become a physician.” She was like, “You would be better served becoming a nurse practitioner.” I was like, “I don’t want to be a nurse.” That was the first thing I said. She said, “No. This is different.” That shifted my trajectory. At that time, I was volunteering at an HIV and AIDS center in Washington, DC.
The two top places in the United States for HIV and AIDS at that time and probably still are Johns Hopkins and UCSF. I’m an East Coast girl so I applied to Johns Hopkins. It was a dual-degree program. If you’re going to do an advanced practice degree in nursing, you have to have a Bachelor’s in Nursing. I did both an undergrad and a grad school program at Hopkins but when I went there, I got lit up. No doubt that’s what I was meant to be doing.
I kept saying to my parents, “I don’t know if I’m going to be any good at this but something’s telling me this is what I need to be doing.” I picked up and moved to Baltimore. Baltimore back in the 1990s was not nearly as nice as it is now. My parents kept asking, “Are you sure you want to go to school here?” I loved everything about it. I had amazing friends. This is where I was finally surrounded by students that were as serious as I was and were as conscientious. All we did was study and when we weren’t studying, we were doing clinical. When we weren’t doing clinical and studying, we were taking exams. It was very rigorous.
I’m grateful for that experience but from my perspective, that’s what validated, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” The population of patients in Baltimore was very different than in Washington, DC in terms of who was impacted by HIV and AIDS. This was at the height of the crisis. Baltimore had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and the highest rates of heroin use and IV drug abuse. They had some of the worst HIV and AIDS. It was every socioeconomic and social problem you can imagine. Abject poverty that I’d never seen before and multi-generational traumas and abuse.
For me, being a suburban girl my entire life, it was a baptism by fire. However, I will say that intellectually being at Hopkins, everything came together for me. I’m surrounded by people that are like me that want to learn as much as I do, are hungry for information and want to be intellectually challenged. That was the beginning of that next pivot in my life. I was an ER nurse. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
I pivoted into cardiology as an MP and continued that for a long time. I love everything about the heart. At the point that I entered medicine in the late 1990s, this was still when physicians and nurses practiced very differently than they do now. In a lot of ways, as managed care stepped in and started taking power away from providers and putting it in the hands of non-clinicians, I started to see a lot of shifts that have continued over the past many years.
Back then, people practiced a bit more objectively. Whereas now, people practice very defensively. They’re concerned about, “If I don’t do X, Y and Z, I’m going to get sued.” A lot of technology and labs get overused out of that concern. I feel appreciative that I’m able to objectively look back and forth and say, “This is what I saw when I first started practicing. This is all the fun I had.” I stayed in Baltimore until 2003 and then I moved back to Northern Virginia where I met my husband and got engaged. We were in Northern Virginia for the next eighteen years and then relocated to Central Virginia but it’s been a good wild ride.
It sounds like a lot of fun. In 2003, you moved out of Baltimore back to Northern Virginia. Were you back into cardiology practice? What did you do?
I started in Baltimore as a new grad. They had me running a heart failure program that was interesting. I talk about how I beat out people who had experience. Here I was this new grad and stepped into that and loved it because I was mentored by one of the head surgeons and the head of cardiology at that hospital. I learned so much.
It was baptism by fire but when I relocated to Northern Virginia, essentially, I went to work for a hospital again. I oversaw a chest pain ops unit but there was an NP service that we essentially rounded for cardiology patients throughout the hospital. You’re working overnight, which I hadn’t done in a long time. I did that for a few years and once I had my oldest, I then went to work for a cardiology group. I would argue they’re the best cardiology practice in the Washington, DC area. It was an honor to work with them.
This practice is big. They have seven different hospitals that they cover and more than ten offices. I learned both inpatient and outpatient cardiology. Having the ability to work in the outpatient environment, although to an adrenaline junkie, you think you’re not going to get as much excitement. There’s a whole lot more to be said when you make the decision about whether or not someone goes home or someone gets admitted. There was a lot more autonomy. One of the things that I valued about this practice was the NPs functioned very autonomously with supervision because back then, NPs were not autonomous in the state of Virginia. They are now.
We had a lot of support. When we needed it, we had the support. It was never an issue of not having it. You learn a lot because you are functioning at an optimal level. The way NPs are designed to be used in a hospital or an office setting, we were allowed to function at that level. I learned a lot. I’ll be the first person to say that I loved everything about being an NP in that environment.
They were as accommodating as I asked them to be, which I recognized as unusual. I didn’t have to work full-time but when I had kids, they were super accommodating of a lot of different things. I recognize not everyone is that fortunate. That is a point of privilege that I have to say that I didn’t have the average full-time pulling 40, 50 or 60 hours a week that a lot of my colleagues do.
For those that don’t know, NP means what?
It’s Nurse Practitioner. It’s an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nurses depending on what state you live in can write prescriptions, admit patients and set patients up for procedures. In many instances, we were a safety net. If my doc was in the cath lab, I had to deal with emergencies. There’s one hospital I used to work at before they had a cath lab.
If you had to call a chopper in because someone was having an RV infarct or right ventricular infarct, which they can be very sick and ship them to a hospital where they have the ability to have a surgical team and an interventional team available, that’s stressful as you’re panicked making sure you’re not making any mistakes as you’re packaging someone up. Nurse practitioners are a very vital part of the healthcare team.
For the right person, it’s a great way to allow yourself to have a lot of autonomy and intellectual rigor. Also, you don’t have as many calls and you don’t work as many holidays as your physician counterparts, which to me was huge. With young kids, I didn’t want them to grow up knowing just the nanny. I wanted them to know their mom and have their mom be very hands-on.
What’s so valuable about hearing your story is that there are different levels of everything in every field. There are different levels of doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners. Just because I was a nurse practitioner doesn’t do it justice to what you went through and the levels that you took it. Also, the way you went after it and your adrenaline junkie aspect of that. I’m hearing something different than even what I was expecting to hear. You have a book Intermittent Fasting Transformation but in your bio, you talk about being a nurse practitioner.
It’s something I’m very proud of. Nurses are capable of doing amazing things. I sometimes get criticized by other nurses on social media. They’ll tell me, “You don’t talk enough about your nursing background.” I say, “I talk about it all the time.” In many instances, it’s not how I lead anymore. It’s not the only thing that I utilize. It’s those skills I use every day like the ability to connect with others.
We all know what our strengths are and one of my strengths or probably one of my gifts is my ability to connect with people. That’s what allowed me to be a good nurse practitioner and have good interpersonal communication skills but I never downplay the NP part. It’s not the first thing I think about when I’m talking to people and that’s sometimes where people will perhaps misunderstand. I wear many hats. I’m always a wife and a mom but it depends on what I’m doing and what context.
You’re working with the cardiology group. How do you get from there to being involved so heavily with health and women’s health, in particular?
My husband’s very fit. He played lacrosse in college and I’ve always been very physically active. From my perspective, I started seeing patterns in patients. I was an NP in my twenties, you have to remember that. You start to watch patterns with men and women. Where are people getting stuck? Why are patients getting put on more and more medication? What are we doing differently? What are we doing wrong? What do we not have enough time to do?
From my perspective, I was getting less interested in writing prescriptions. Although, when I was at work, I was 100% towing that evidence-based medicine line and stayed very current on research and all of those things. After having a child with life-threatening food allergies, I read a book called The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien, whom I had the honor of interviewing on my podcast. I stayed in contact because I feel so grateful.
I read that book and it changed my life. I started thinking very differently about food and the food industry. In each chapter of that book I read, I was so angry I could barely read the next. That started this pivot of where I started becoming a little less enchanted. I became disenchanted with the medical model because it doesn’t focus on lifestyle choices and we don’t have time to talk to patients about lifestyle choices.
Initially, I was like, “Maybe I’ll get my PhD.” Hopkins was like, “We will work with you. We will help you get your PhD. You should have your PhD. You should be teaching.” As enticing as that was, I was 70 miles away from Baltimore. This is back before the massive push to online classes. I kept thinking, “I’m going to get in my car, drive 70 miles and be in Baltimore.” You can’t be on autopilot as you’re driving through Baltimore and Hopkins is not in the greatest area, although it’s much better than when I was a student there. I’ve got these two little people that are in school. Also, my husband has a lot of international travel. I was like, “I don’t think that’s the right decision.”
I then looked at PhD programs closer to where I was. I’ll never forget this. My oldest son at the time was on his 1st day of 1st grade. Every parent reading this knows how those first days of school are for their kids at that stage. They’re so excited to go to school and you’re so excited for them. You take photos and all these other things. I missed my son’s 1st day of 1st grade because it was the 1st day of this PhD program.
I’ll never forget this. I drove into the city and if anyone knows Washington, DC the traffic’s horrific. I get to my class. I sat in my class and there were a bunch of bean counters. I don’t speak to this disparagingly but people who were in academia already or worked for the Federal government were getting that degree to get a little more money. There were no clinicians. There were no people that were actively practicing that were in that class.
I walked out, called the registrar and said, “I don’t want to do this.” I took 1 class for 1 semester. I went home and said, “Nope, that’s not right.” Someone said, “Maybe do a wellness coaching certification.” I did that and I was like, “Nope, that’s not it.” I read another book called Eat the Yolks. I reached out to that author and said, “Where did you get your training?” She had done a functional nutrition program.
The next day, I signed up for that functional nutrition program and that lit me up. I wanted to talk about food and how food influences health, disease, inflammation and oxidative stress. Down that rabbit hole, I went. I’d never intended to be solely focused on talking to women. Up until the time I left clinical cardiology in 2016, I wasn’t focused solely on women. It’s almost as if the universe gives you this gift.
Most women reading who are in their late 30s or early 40s hit a wall. At some point, in perimenopause, you’re going to hit a wall and nothing had prepared me for it. Not my mom, not my GYN or my girlfriends. Everyone suffers in silence because that’s the traditional allopathic way. I hit a wall and all of a sudden, I woke up exhausted. I had never been weight loss resistant. I was so tired. I felt like I was a shell of myself.
I was like, “I’m not depressed,” but everything I had been doing, my adrenaline-fueled lifestyle of having a demanding job, having young kids and my husband’s traveling. I’m doing a lot of solo parenting. I was doing intense exercise. Probably not enough recovery time and sleep. I hit that wall. That was in 2015 and by 2016, I was like, “I’m not loving what I’m doing occupationally.” I’m married to an engineer. He’s very fiscally responsible and conservative. He was like, “Wait a minute. You’re getting well paid. What do you mean you’re going to leave this job to do what?”
I said, “I know that I’m going to be successful.” He thought I was crazy and that I was having a midlife crisis. I took this massive leap of faith with no business plan or business training, whatsoever. I was right because I’m a very hardworking person but how did I get into the female health thing? I started attracting exactly the person that was struggling with the same things I had.
I had wedged it out. I had figured out that intermittent fasting for me, removing inflammatory foods, not over-exercising, doing more weight training, getting more sleep and managing my stress were all these things that other women needed to help manage. My business became profitable quickly by doing one-on-one work initially. That then expanded into group programs and then wanting to do a TED Talk. I wanted to challenge myself because I’m an introvert.
The rest is history because so many things came out of that but that was in 2016 when I took that massive leap of faith. I’m not exaggerating. If you were to ask my husband if he thinks I had lost my mind, he would say, “Positively, yes,” but I will say that 2019 validated that I had made all the right decisions. It was a few years to the day that this talk went viral. My husband was like, “I think there’s something here for you.”
For those of you who are reading that know the WHY.os, Cynthia’s why is to contribute as we talked about but her how, how she does that is by seeking mastery, diving in deep, looking for the little things and studying at a different level than most people will. Also, looking for the little things that make the big difference and then ultimately, what she brings are better ways to move forward. Her why is to contribute, her how is mastery and her what is a better way. We see that coming through loud and clear. Very few people dive in like what you’ve talked about here. It’s fascinating how you’ve been able to do that but the real turning point you said was 2019, which was your TEDx Talk.
It was before I did that second talk. In 2018, I started submitting applications. I want to share something funny because people ask me all the time, “How did you get your talk to go viral?” Here’s the irony. In 2018, I started the applications. We submitted more than 80 applications and I finally got 1 talk in Toronto, Canada. Someone had backed out at the last minute. They were like, “She has something that’s women’s health focus. We’ll let you do this talk.”
I flew up to Toronto. I did my talk. I came back and was like, “I can do this.” Right around that same time, I was offered a second. For anyone that doesn’t know this and I certainly didn’t before, you can’t do two TED Talks about the same topic. I looked at my husband and said, “What do I know a lot about?” He said, “Intermittent fasting.” I said, “We’re going to write an application for intermittent fasting.” It was that easy.
They wanted me to do a slanted discussion talking about women and it was that easy. However, in February 2019, which is a month before I was supposed to do the second talk, I ended up in the hospital for thirteen days. Part of my mental recovery was saying to myself, “I’m going to get out of this hospital to get home to my children and do this talk.” Being a medical professional, you can appreciate and understand that a ruptured appendix is not benign. I had every complication you can imagine, which is what landed me in the hospital for thirteen days and multiple procedures.
I did that second TED Talk with a ruptured appendix. I was too sick to take it out. They sent me home with a drain. If I think about it, it sounds a little bit strange and crazy but energetically, it was meant to happen. Twenty-seven days after I left the hospital, I did a talk that changed my life. The only intention that I set when I got on that stage was to show my kids I was okay. When people ask, “What did you do to make that talk go viral,” I said, “I fervently believe this. I’m a very spiritual person. I do believe that the universe gave me a choice.” No one would’ve questioned if I didn’t do that talk.
I did that talk purely to show my kids I was okay. Every day, I’m so grateful that I stood on that stage and demonstrated to them that I was okay, even though my brain had not caught up with my body. My body was debilitated. I lost 15 pounds. I was so thin and tired. I said, “I need to do this talk. It’s important.” I went home and said to my kids, “We’re going to have this great summer where I’m going to unplug and take the summer off.”
My business exploded and because it wasn’t expected, my website crashed. My team and I weren’t in a position where we could even manage all the attention that came from that. On a lot of different levels, when the universe wants you to move, it gives you choices. I chose to move. I was like, “I’m taking all this information and I’m going to take a leap of faith and hope it all works out.” The rest is history.
For those who have not seen the TED Talk, what was it about? Give us, if you can, a synopsis of it if that’s possible.
The talk is speaking to women in intermittent fasting and what makes us unique. I start talking about statistics and then talk about the science behind intermittent fasting. As you stated, keeping a talk for twelve minutes is hard. As I was doing my talk, I realized they were very specific. If anyone went over them, then everyone else got their talks delayed. I realized about 3-quarters of the way through that I was 3 minutes behind. I had to jump ahead and this is why it’s so important to prep for your talks because then you can do that. You have the recall to be able to do it.
I talked about fasting, women, statistics, science and a little bit of implementation and left it dangling because I couldn’t get to these other pieces but it was very simple and straightforward. The irony is I get criticized all the time about the fact that I was moving. I don’t normally move that much but I had been sick. You’re trying to dispense all this energy that you’re feeling and just feeling stressed. I always look at it as an opportunity to challenge myself.
You’re on a stage. This is stadium seating so I could see everyone. It wasn’t this benign thing where it’s dark and you can’t see anyone. I could see everyone, the yawners, the people who close their eyes and the people who smile. It’s always a surreal experience, an out-of-body experience if you will. I remind people all the time that when you get things recorded and they’re seen by millions and millions of people, it gives you an opportunity to improve upon your craft or what you do. It was a very concise, succinct explanation of what intermittent vesting is and why women need to do it differently. I didn’t delve into a lot of the intricacies because I don’t have the time.
That was in 2019. What have you learned about intermittent fasting from 2019 to 2023?
I feel like I knew so little compared to 2023 because I’ve written a book and I talk about intermittent fasting almost every single day. They’re on podcasts, summits or all across social media. Especially after writing a book, I understand it at a level. Let’s say I was flying at 30,000 feet back then and now, I can see everything. I’m very vested in the research and what’s coming up. How rigid dogmatism evolves itself. Even into intermittent fasting, how people can get fixated and stuck but I understand it at a much more substantive level.
I thought I understood it and I did but now I understand a whole heck of a lot more. It’s why I look at intermittent fasting as only one component of metabolic health and that’s a continuum of that cardiology perspective. What are the things that we should be doing with the patient population? This is one of many strategies.
For those who are not as familiar with intermittent fasting, what is it?
It’s as simple as saying eating less often. It’s a time in your schedule when you are either abstaining from eating or you are eating. It’s that simple. This is not starvation. This is not new or novel. This dates back to biblical times. It’s in all the major religions. Sometimes, I have to remind people, “Yes, it might be popular in the vernacular but intermittent fasting is our birthright.” Feasting and famine are what allowed us to be here as a species. We’ve gotten so derailed in the United States in terms of meal frequency, what we’re eating and our macros.
This is much more aligned with an ancestral health perspective, which I’m a huge proponent of but also, understanding that what we’re not advocating for is starvation. We are advocating for eating. I like to eat a lot. It’s helping people understand that our bodies run much more optimally if we’re not eating every 2 to 3 hours and eating lots of carbohydrates and not enough protein and too many of the wrong types of fats.
Is it more important what you eat or when you eat? Is that a fair question?
It is a fair question. The most important thing is what we eat. If you eat a standard American diet, which is highly processed, low in fiber, full of rancid seed oils and probably a lot of high fructose corn syrup, we know that it’s not going to be helpful even if you eat it in a little tight window. I would make the argument that when you eat is important. When daylight savings is happening, all of us are probably struggling a little bit. It’s only a difference of an hour but eating when it’s light outside and not eating when it’s dark outside is aligned with the biological rhythms in our body.
The whole chronobiology is an area of research that I find innately interesting. The caveat is understanding when to eat and what to eat are both very important but if I had to pick one if it was only one and not the other, I would say what you eat is the most important thing. Nutrition is the foundation of everything.
Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned by our society that we shouldn’t know how to eat and how to cook food for ourselves. We should be dependent on the processed food industry. That would be to our detriment that it is important to get back to basics and not get misaligned by all of the advertising that the processed food industry does to our detriment.
I watched this video. This guy was going through all the things that we can and cannot eat. It was hilarious because, by the time he was done, there was nothing left that you could eat. Coffee’s good and now, it’s bad. The cheese was good but now, it’s bad. Everything’s good and bad. Even water. By the time you got to the water, you can’t drink water anymore. You got to have bottled water but you can’t have bottled water. It was hilarious. Where do we go to get real information? A few years ago, coffee was bad and then it’s good. I don’t know if it’s good or bad anymore but it’s hard to tell.
There’s a lot of misinformation. It’s always in the context of whom is it coming from. I don’t ever let my ego make this decision for me but if someone’s a reasonable individual, I don’t care what initials are after their name. There have been some vicious fights on social media as of late. With the rigid dogmatism that I see, I always say, “I don’t care what initials are after your name. If you’re a jerk, you’re a jerk.” However, if you have sound reasoning, explain yourself and provide some information, what drives me crazy is there’s anecdotal evidence and then there are randomized controlled trials.
Certainly, I will tell people as I was writing this book, there’s not a lot of research as one example on women in intermittent fasting unless it’s in lab animals, which the last time I checked, we don’t have the same gestational cycle as humans or as on menopausal obese women. Everything in between was like, “Women’s menstrual cycles are too problematic.” We don’t want to account for it so we’ll do all the research on men, lab animals and obese menopausal women.
Sometimes we have to say, “This is anecdotal evidence. This is my end of 500. This has been my clinical experience working with X, Y and Z. Your question is a good one. There are plenty of people out there who are smart, well-researched and reasonable. Anytime people become rigidly dogmatic, that’s a problem and there’s a lot of that across social media that people say, “Unless you do carnivore, you’re bad. Unless you’re plant-based, you’re bad. Unless you do low-carb keto, you’re bad.”
However, you can say, “Let’s agree to agree that sometimes a little bit of each one of these things may be beneficial.” I was a full carnivore for nine months after being hospitalized. My gut was destroyed because of six weeks of antibiotics, antifungals, long hospitalization and surgery. My body was wrecked but it took nine months. Carnivore for nine months worked well for me. Would I want to do that forever? No, because I like vegetables. For each one of us, entertain the possibility that maybe what we need are a little more variety and a little less rigidity.
You and I met at a fitness health event. There were 500 health practitioners there. I found it fascinating because you had every different type of thinking. You had the carnivore, plant-based, vegan and everything you could think of like the keto group. There were all these different groups of people there. Of the group, one stood out to me from my untrained eye as the healthiest-looking, most fit and most human-looking group. Do you know which group that was?
Tell me. I’m curious as to what your response is.
It was the carnivores. They looked the most healthy and fit. They didn’t look emaciated. They didn’t look like the wind will blow them away. They look like the sprinter versus the marathoner. I don’t know if that’s true or not but that’s what I saw visually. I don’t know what that means but it did seem like they were very healthy looking.
I spoke at an event with Shawn Baker who’s one of the leaders in the carnivore front. He’s very pragmatic, which I love about him. He’s like, “If this works for you.” I always say I’m carnivore-ish. I do have more vegetables and I like vegetables. I can tell you that when I was a full carnivore because I needed to be, I missed Brussels sprouts. I dreamt about Brussels sprouts. I thought about them all the time.
It’s whatever is sustainable. If you feel like you can eat meat for the rest of your life and your blood work looks fine and you’re otherwise healthy, that’s great. However, if you force yourself to be a carnivore, you’re miserable because you want to eat some vegetables or a piece of fruit. Paul Saladino is eating honey and some fruit, which I’m glad to see that he’s expanding beyond, being very rigid about carnivores.
However, it always comes down to, “Can you sustain this?” The same thing that I love about intermittent fasting is most people are like, “This is something I can do for the rest of my life. I feel good doing it. It works for me.” If someone wants to do keto and they love it, that’s great. If you want to do low carb, that’s fantastic. I’m not such a huge fan of doing plant-based because most women that I work with want to lose weight and the carb-to-protein ratios can be of issue.
My team and I hold our breath sometimes when we get questions because we want to be supportive but we’re like, “It’s hard if you don’t eat eggs or any dairy and you’re eating beans and legumes. Although beans and legumes are delicious, yes. If you’re trying to lower your carbohydrate threshold, that can be challenging to get enough protein in.” That’s a whole rabbit hole I want to avoid having a conversation about but I do agree with you. What it comes down to is eating a less processed diet is the key to being healthy and having plenty of energy, having the body composition you want and all those things that people think about.
Do people lose weight on intermittent fasting because they’re only eating less? The reason I say that is I have a family member who is into keto and intermittent fasting. He and his wife look fantastic but they went from eating 3 meals plus snacks a day to not eating at all on Thursdays and eating only 2 meals a day. I said, “That’s a lot less eating you’re doing.” I don’t know how much of it is the keto or not eating very often or eating very much. I wonder what you think.
There are probably several things going on. It could be they were overeating when they were having meals and snacks and eating throughout the day. It could be the upregulation of autophagy. It could be a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress. It could be that maybe in addition to these other lifestyles, they’re sleeping better and their stress is better managed.
There are so many things but when people look at pure calorie restriction versus intermittent fasting, there are different benefits that come about doing intermittent fasting. Autophagy is this waste and recycling process. I interviewed a sleep researcher on the podcast and we were talking about the lymphatic system in the brain and what happens with this. It’s like flushing the toilet in the brain. He was giving this great analogy.
I remind people that when we’re eating less frequently, it allows our bodies to get rid of disease, disordered organelles and mitochondria. It’s a multifactorial reason why they probably are healthier and their body composition has changed. If you do nothing else, stopping snacking can make a huge difference. We go through life as mindless eating. We don’t even realize we’re doing it.
I’ve had a lot of people in group programs doing food diaries. We’re looking at them and all of a sudden, when they have to start writing it down or they’re documenting it, they’re like, “I do eat off my kids’ plates and I’m snacking right before bed. I’m eating before I open up my feeding.” It’s all these little things that ultimately can add up and contribute to weight loss resistance.
What is the best thinking about healthy eating?
I’m fortunate that I have the ability to connect with so many experts in the health and wellness space. It comes down to less processed food and avoiding things like seed oils and high fructose corn syrup. If you can avoid those two things, you’re in a pretty good position. Also, not drinking your calories. That’s important. There’s a lot of fatty coffee and soda.
As an example, my youngest is in a different high school than his brother and he was overseeing a chess competition. This was for volunteer hours and he was told if you bring a big bottle of soda, you’ll get a couple of extra hours of volunteer time. I felt so conflicted because I was like, “Liam, if you look at this bottle of soda, how many servings are in this?” It’s six. Each serving had almost 40 grams of sugar. I said, “It’s probably high fructose corn syrup”. The poor schmuck whom you give that to, if he and his friends drink it, I said, “Do you know what they are doing to their liver?”
He is like, “I don’t want to hear anything about it, Mom. I’m only handing it off. I’m not drinking it.” Not drinking your calories and having more animal-based protein. We know that it’s got a superior amino acid profile. Protein and fiber are very important. Whether or not you tolerate carbohydrates, in general, has a lot to do with your insulin sensitivity. If you’re insulin-resistant, obese and diabetic, fewer carbohydrates.
If you’re insulin sensitive and you’re at the body composition weight you want to be at, you can probably tolerate more unprocessed carbohydrates and healthy fats. If you avoid seed oils and lean into olives, olive oil, MCT oil butter or ghee, those are going to be good options. We make nutrition far too complicated. We get too dogmatic about it. I can tell you what works for me and what’s worked for a lot of my patients but the power of one is undeniable.
I encourage people and it scares people. They’re like, “I’m used to being told what to do.” I’m like, “That’s great. I’m going to suggest that you do a little bit of experimentation, come back to me and tell me how you feel.” For me, it is much more helpful when someone has tried 4 or 5 things and then they find the 1 thing that works well for them. As long as you’re doing those things that I mentioned, you’re navigating things in a pretty good position. Carbohydrates have even been demonized and I have started eating more fruit. I tend to cycle my carbohydrates.
I’m being transparent. I’ve been playing around with more berries. I even will eat a green banana. I’m like, “I feel good when I do it.” Also, I’m insulin sensitive. It’s important to not be rigid with your diet. The no seed oils and no high fructose corn syrup are absolutes. A lot of other things is very individual. Do you tolerate gluten, grains, dairy or sugar? A lot of people are sugar addicts. Do you tolerate alcohol? This is a very triggering topic so I have to navigate it carefully. That’s a very personal decision but I see a lot of people that derail good diets by drinking too much alcohol.
Here’s the last question. Cynthia, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given and that I talk about a lot is through adversity comes opportunity. Irrespective of who you are and where you are in life, understand that our challenges are our greatest gifts. I fervently believe that I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t gone through those challenging times. The universe ripped the rug out underneath me in 2019 and 2020. I am so much stronger emotionally and intellectually from that experience.
It’s what I try to share with my clients, my patients and the people I talk to. Through adversity comes a great opportunity to step into the person that you are meant to be or the person you are destined to be. Instead of looking at it as a glass half-full or half-empty, understand that distinguishing characteristic. If you can do that, you can navigate just about anything.
Cynthia, thank you so much for being here. I know you’re super busy on all kinds of podcasts and shows. Thanks for taking the time to be here. If there are people that are reading that want to follow you, learn more about you and get your book, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
Connect on my website. It’s a one-stop shop. It’s www.CynthiaThurlow.com. You can get access to everyday wellness. One of my favorite things I do in my business is connect with other like-minded healthcare providers. Intermittent Fasting Transformation is my book. You can get that anywhere like on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million. You have the ability to get it from a brick and mortar place. Buy from them. They’ve suffered over the last couple of years of the pandemic.
I am on social media. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Twitter. Be forewarned, I can occasionally be snarky. I have a free Facebook group called Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle/Cynthia Thurlow. It’s men and women. It’s very supportive and anti-drama. I can’t and don’t tolerate drama. It’s a great place to come up with questions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about fasting. We have people that ask all sorts of questions. It blows the mind of my team. They’re like, “I don’t even know how to respond to this. How do you want to respond?” We get lots of great questions but I’d love to connect with your community there as well.
Thank you so much for being here and I’ll be following you.
Thanks so much for having me.
It’s time for our new segment, which is Guess Their Why and I’m going to use the Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has a deep passion for health and wellness, which fueled her to start a national conversation around the childhood obesity epidemic in the country. To drive the movement, Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign, which inspired children to eat healthier and incorporate more exercise into their lives. What do you think Michelle Obama’s why is?
I’ll tell you what I think based on what I’ve seen on television, which is not a lot. I don’t know her personally but I believe that Michelle Obama’s why is to contribute to a greater cause, add value and have an impact on the lives of others, just like Cynthia’s is. She wants to be part of others’ success and use that to uplift kids that are struggling with obesity.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com. You can use the code PODCAST50 to take it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe. Leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you’re using to get to your shows. Thank you so much for reading and I will see you next time.
Cynthia Thurlow is a nurse practitioner, author of the best selling book Intermittent Fasting Transformation, a 2x TEDx speaker, with her second talk having more than 14 million views, and the host of Everyday Wellness podcast, averaging over 150,000 downloads per month.
With over 20 years experience in health and wellness, Cynthia is a globally recognized expert in intermittent fasting and women’s health, and has been featured on ABC, FOX5, KTLA, CW, Medium, Entrepreneur, and The Megyn Kelly Show. Her mission is to educate women on the benefits of intermittent fasting and overall holistic health and wellness, so they feel empowered to live their most optimal lives.
Whether we’re at our highest highs or lowest lows, we can always find lessons that will help not only our journeys but also others. This episode’s guest is especially passionate about extending his success to others, using his experiences to guide entrepreneurs to reach their full potential. Rightly so, because he moves through life with the WHY of Contribute. Joining Dr. Gary Sanchez is David Mansilla, the founder and CEO of ISU Corp, a custom software solutions company with clients ranging from start-ups to multi-million-dollar conglomerates. In this conversation, he shares with us his story from software consultant to starting his own company, bootstrapping, and growing it. David’s success was never without its own challenges, though. He almost went bankrupt multiple times. But this experience taught him the importance of his why. Tune in as David tells us more about the lessons he learned in his journey, not only to find success but also fulfillment.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The WHY Of Contribute: Why Life Is Not About You With David Mansilla
I have a fascinating interview for you. His name is David Mansilla. He owns ISU Corp, which is a high-tech IT company. We don’t talk much about IT. We dive more into his life, which is fascinating, the very high highs and the very low lows, the cycle that he goes through throughout the years, what he learned on that journey of being at the top of the mountain and being at the bottom of the valley, and where he is now. You are going to find it fascinating. There will be a lot of great takeaways for you and things that you can use in your own life. I’m excited for you to hear about David Mansilla.
In this episode, we are going to be talking about the why of contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be the face of the cause, but you want to contribute in a meaningful way.
You love to support others and you relish the success that contributes to the greater good of the team. 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 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 David Mansilla. He is the Founder and CEO of ISU Corp, a custom software solutions company with clients ranging from startups to multimillion-dollar conglomerates like General Electric and Hines. It is located in Canada’s Silicon Valley. ISU Corp increases entrepreneurs’ net profits with exceptional custom software solutions.
They have been granted many awards such as the Best Innovative High-Tech Enterprise Software Company of the Year from Global 100 and ACQ-5’s Game-changer of the Year. David is passionate about inspiring others. A priority in his life is sharing his experiences in hopes of encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to reach their full potential.
David is the host of the Break Free Podcast where he invites a diverse set of guests to bring audiences valuable knowledge on living on their own terms, whether it’s professionally or personally. David is also a number one international bestselling author for his book, Breaking Out of Corporate Jail. David, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
This is going to be great. David, where are you and where are you from?
I live in Toronto, Canada. I have been there for many years. I was born in Guatemala, which is a country in Central America, but South to Mexico. If you position yourself in Central America North border to Mexico on the North.
What was it like for you growing up in Guatemala? How long were you there, and then when did you move out of Guatemala?
I was there for nineteen years. It was a very tough childhood. The country was in the middle of a 36-year-old war. In small countries is where the Cold War was fact. It was capitalism against communism, and thank God capitalism won in Guatemala, but it was a horrible war. The city wasn’t as bad as the countryside, but it wasn’t uncommon to see houses getting bombed with a tank and people getting shot on the streets by different groups, either by the guerrillas or by the army. That’s how I grew up.
I’m living in the US. I can’t even imagine that. How old were you when all of that was going on?
I was born in 1972. The war started in the mid-‘60s. You know the Missile Crisis. When was the Cuban Missile Crisis? That’s when everything got hot in Latin America after that crisis, but I was a baby. My dad used to take me to the school that I was in. It was a Catholic school that was attached to the cathedral, the main church in the whole country, and it’s beside this national palace because it’s a Spanish country.
There is a national square, and then you have the palace on the side, you have the cathedral on the side. You have one of the best Catholic schools in the country, and so I was there. My dad had to come and pick me up at least three times when war broke out in the palace. Under bullets, we have to escape. By then, I was 10 or 11 years old.
How did having a war going on affect your schooling, your childhood, and your ability to have sports? What was it like growing up at that time?
Tough, but you are a kid and your parents tend to shield you from what’s going on. Honestly, if you ask me, I didn’t think I had it that bad until I went back and realized that it was pretty bad. To give you an idea, my older brother died in the war. He was a volunteer firefighter. He saw something he shouldn’t see. He told us about it, and a week later, he disappeared. Since then, he never showed up again. My dad looked for him for years. My dad had good friends in the Army, so they were flying with helicopters all over the country, and we could never find him. It was real.
Did you have sporting events?
It was normal. Like I said, most of the heavy fighting was in the mountains. Sometimes the guerrillas will have little cells that will bring chaos to the city, but that was the exception. Usually, it was in the mountains. That’s what the heavy fighting was.
What were you like in high school? Were you into sports, acting, or computer? What were you like?
Since my brother disappeared, my dad encouraged me to join a military school to become an official in the Army. I went to military school for two years. I wanted to become a firefighter for the army. I didn’t care about the Army. I wanted to become an airplane pilot. That was my desire. My dad took advantage and said, “It’s better to be a trained official than getting killed as your brother got killed with no training.”
I joined the Army for two years, and that gave me amazing skills and incredible insight into discipline. My teenage years were marked by my military training. I thank God for that because I attribute most of my success in life thanks to that discipline. It’s funny. When you come to a country like this like Guatemala, even in this modern age where there is a rule of law and democracy, it has been here for many years.
Schools are more disciplined than North American schools. Kids cannot wear long hair and they have to wear a uniform, and it’s good. I see the difference. If you don’t teach kids discipline, you are getting them a tougher life. When they become adults, their life is ten times tough because they don’t know how to go through something that they don’t want to do, but they have to do. Isn’t life like that?
I agree with you. That’s a good point. You have gotten to see both sides. You graduate from high school in Guatemala. Did you stay in Guatemala or did you leave after that?
While I was in military school, back then, to graduate, you had to pass this crazy typewriting exam, and I could never pass it. I wasn’t fast enough. Every time I did a mistake, I had to start the page all over again. I was so frustrated. By then, my dad had already bought a computer, an Apple IIe, believe it or not. It was an Apple that was text-based without a mouse. People don’t even know that they existed, but my dad had one of those. My uncle was a Senior VP of the computer department for a large bank in the country. At a family gathering, I was explaining how frustrated I was with this typewriter.
My uncle told me to come to his office during the week. I went to his office and he showed me how he was using a text editor in a mainframe computer and how he could make mistakes and push a button and print the letter. I’m like, “This is incredible. I want this.” That was the beginning of me falling in love with Computer Science.
Right after military school, my dad put me in the best computer science school in town, which turned out to be the best Math and Physics school in town, and that’s how I got my first Computer Science degree. As soon as I graduated from that, in that school I met my wife who became my sweetheart. We got married, got a kid, and moved to Canada when I was in my early twenties.
I wanted to continue my schooling. My brother had come to Canada already for his degree in Commerce and Business. It’s funny because I’m in Canadian Technology Triangle, and this is where the best Computer Science universities in the country are. It happens also that our version of Harvard Business School is also in this town. My brother went to that university. I landed there and had three of the best universities in the whole country for Computer Science, so I did my second degree there.
Now, you are done with your Computer Science degree. Now, what happens to you?
I thought I was going to start my own business right after college. I’m like, “I’m going to become a software consultant.” I always fell in love with software automation since I started learning how to write software. In Guatemala, before I came, I was hired to build a payroll system. We are talking about 1988 to 1989. My best friend from university and I wrote a payroll system. They put it in production and they automated it. Running payroll by hand for 300 employees took a week. We made it in four hours. That was the first thing that I did professionally as a computer scientist.
Right after graduating in Canada, I thought I could do my own business. This is 1995 or 1994, the Canadian government saw the internet coming as something new. They had a problem for technologists that were graduating to give them a Canadian-backed loan from one of the banks to promote people to start their own businesses.
I took advantage, I applied, and they gave me a one-year fast-forward MBA paid by the government. After graduating from that program, I got a loan and almost went bankrupt two years after that. I spent the whole loan plus thousands of dollars on my credit card. My wife was sustaining the home. I had two kids back then. I was like, “I have to do something.”
Nobody will trust me with computer software. I turned to creating computers. I started assembling computers. We were doing pretty well until it started to go bad when I had to respect all the warranties. I was making a 5% profit, but then after a year, people will come back, and with one little change, the whole profit will go away, even though I was selling thousands of computers. Little did I know though that my company had a reputation because I had a lot of clients.
One time, a student that was working for me in the summer fell in love with the business and his dad was a very wealthy man. Out of the blue, I wasn’t even thinking of selling. I was thinking of closing. His dad came and said, “I want to buy your business. How much do you want for it?” I gave him the exact amount that I owed. I said, “I just want the government money and I want my credit cards paid off.” I gave him the whole number. He brought his checkbook and says, “Are you sure?” I’m like, “Yes, I’m sure,” and he wrote me the check.
Years later, after I became a businessman, I realized that I sold that business for a fifth of what it was worth just because of the reputation of the client base, but it saved me. It saved me because I was clean and I was able to get a job. It’s funny because I started looking for a job in 1996. It wasn’t easy for a computer scientist yet because the internet was starting up. I remember having to send about 200 to 300 resumes by snail mail. I got five job interviews in three months, and out of those five, I got one job as a computer analyst.
What did a computer analyst do in 1995 or 1996?
I was writing software as a coder. I was writing applications for the Board of Education. I had in charge of 2,000 teachers for the entire school board, and I was writing software automation for them to have classes better instructed. I was also supporting the staff of the school administrations. We had a bunch of schools. I think over 200 schools or something like that. I was writing software for them.
You did that for how long?
I was there for two years. Funny enough, my desire to become a software consultant came through three months after I got my first full-time job. Throughout this whole thing, my older brother became my client. He was the only one that trusted me. He had a chain of stores, and I wrote a point-of-sale system for him. He’s the only one that trusted me, but I left little signs on all his stores that I wrote this software that was running the invoicing.
Three months in, I get a call from a guy in the town nearby. He was building this massive warehouse with a storefront and needed a custom-made point-of-sale system. I had to go back to my director and talk to HR to see if they could change the contract, and they allowed me to work on my business part-time after work. From 5:00 PM forward, I could do whatever I wanted with my own business because it wasn’t competing with what I was doing during the day. I landed that contract, and it lasted for eight years. I was consulting part-time after work for eight years with this large store.
When did you start your own?
From that job, I started moving into larger corporations. The boss of my boss moved to the largest telecommunications company in the country, and I got a job as a leader already. I grew in the corporate lot quickly while maintaining my little tiny consulting gig part-time until finally, I was talking with my wife.
The idea was we were both very cautious about trying out our business again because it was super hard. Those two years were horrible. Horrible in the sense of not having enough money. Talk about being scared of not having enough money to pay the rent for the house the next month. We never wanted to go through that again.
Our plan was that my wife will come back to university. She will get a stable job with benefits, and that will allow me to risk it again. The plan happened, and she graduated in Computer Science. She was a developer too. She got a job as a database analyst for a large company. My kids were a little bit older too, so with that, I decided full-time business in 2005.
What was that business?
ISU Corp. The same one that I have now.
ISU Corp started in 2005, and who was your first client?
That was tough. I was blessed. I didn’t have any clients lined up, but I decided to quit like didn’t care because I knew I could do this. Now I had the business acumen. I knew how to work the corporate ladder and how to play corporate politics. In the beginning, I started looking for a gig, and somebody trusted me with my experience.
They hired me as a single consultant who embedded software for MFP. MFPs are called this large photocopiers that have a computer embedded and you can put on those computers to do multiple things. I wrote software for the Sharp machine. They had thousands of those machines in the corporate connected through the internet already. I was automating their enterprise software. The contract was for two months, and it lasted six months. I started by myself, and in three months, I had two people working for me already in my own business because we grew the contract because I proved to them that I could do it.
Then you kept adding businesses to ISU Corp.
It kept growing and growing. I’m scared to death about the money part. I never spent a penny from the income that I was making. I was building the bank account. I didn’t borrow a penny to open the second business because it went so badly with the loan. I said this is going to be bootstrapped. The $500 that I got to do my own registration in the government back then, that’s how much you pay. I didn’t even hire a lawyer at the beginning.
I went and fill up the funds myself as simple as I could. That $500 was for my consulting gig already. I never raised money anymore. The first year, I never spent a penny. The money was accumulated. It was beautiful because, in six months, I did a whole year’s salary as a Senior Vice President of a large company as consulting firm. I was so scared that we were living with my wife’s salary, but that helped me because I learned how to build a cashflow in the business so that during the downturns, you could leave off the cashflow without having to go and get funding or get a loan or anything like that.
What do you think was the secret to being able to make it this time bootstrapping it versus what you did the first time?
Experience and the support of my lovely wife because she did that first time. The second time, she told me, “You have five years. If in five years you don’t retire me, you have to go get a job.” Exactly in five years, I hired her back, so she came back as a Director of HR with a much less stressful job.
What’s ISU like now? Give us a picture of what it’s like now. How many people do you have working with you? You are outsourcing to different parts of the world and are all over the place now. What’s it like now?
We have 60 full-time senior engineers and expand our network up to 200 to 300 people depending on the client. We do tend to work for larger clients. We call it the SWAT team. We start with a small high-end team that is full-time employees, and then if the company requires us to expand and grow, we have partners where we can grow. That’s how we are in the business, but it hasn’t been easy. I have almost been bankrupt 3 or 4 times. It’s been most of the time when I get to the point of bankruptcy because I get greedy and I lose my why. I love your heart. Once your why is lost, once you just focus on the money or personal gain, that’s the beginning of the end. It took me a while for me to learn that lesson.
Give us an example of what you mean when you lose your why and focus. When was the time that you lost your focus and how that played out for you? That could happen to all of us and any of us could go through that exact same thing. What happened and how did you get out of it?
It’s greed. I had never been a greedy person until that time, but when you see your bank account getting larger and power through money, you want more, and then you start comparing yourself with other entrepreneurs that have more than you and you want to become like them. It becomes all about a money game, and you forget your employees and clients. All you want to do is increase your bank account and get as much money as you can so you could feel better than other people.
For me, it happened from 2009 to 2011. 2009, I was about 8 or 7 people, and from 2009 to 2011, we grew to 110 or 120. It was fast growth. We became an eight-figure company really fast, and my mind became my partner, but I was working sixteen hours a day and I forgot my family. I was traveling overseas every 2 to 3 weeks. It was all money-oriented. I remember going to the bank. Back then, you still had checks. We were depositing $500,000 checks every two weeks or every week and a half. The more money I gathered, the better I felt better than anybody else. Greed gives you ego and gives you false confidence.
I was overworking myself. I was using alcohol to cope with the stress. One day, my heart told my brain, “I don’t want to play this game anymore. You are crazy,” and I had a heart attack. That’s how I woke up out of that. I thank God for that because if that wouldn’t happen, God knows what person I would have been now. Probably my net worth would have been five times as it is now, but I will be a lonely, miserable, and rich person.
Do you know who was my best psychologist? My doctor. I was 39 or 40 years old back then. When she saw me, she was like, “Your hair is falling off.” I had patches of hair, falling hair all over my head. I had bruises on my tongue from distress. She said, “You are killing yourself. What is it worth the money if you are not going to have the health to enjoy it or your family to enjoy it? I can give you these pills, these opioids. They will allow you to cope with the stress so you can keep the same lifestyle, but my advice is to change your lifestyle. You could get addicted within three months if you have these pills.”
That was like a cold shower. I felt like God gave me a cold shower saying, “What are you doing with your life? You are killing yourself.” The next week, I apologized to my wife and kids. I haven’t seen them for two years. I took a plane to Atlanta where my partner was and told him I went out and left 95% of the business to him. I left everything. I told him, “I need to go out. You take everything.”
I was left with five employees again, and 95% of my income was gone like this. Felix is my VP of Operations and one of my best friends. He’s my best friend. I told him, “I need to take a break. I need to reconcile with my wife. I will leave you the business. I know that we don’t have enough income to sustain even the five people that we are. We cannot even pay the rent, but we are smart people. We can all get jobs if we go under.”
I told my wife, “Get me out of Canada to a place as far as you can find and make sure the kids come with us.” She took these kids out of school and we went to Thailand for a month. It was the first time I didn’t have any plans to come back until I got healed. The doctor also told me to follow a sport that allowed me to breathe because I was having panic attacks all the time. The one panic attack is the one that gave me a heart attack. I was talking on the highway for three hours. I saw helicopters bringing people from three accidents on the ice storm. That’s when I realized I was killing myself for nothing. The panic attack became a heart attack. I decided to learn how to scuba dive.
After you are working sixteen hours a day, it’s all intensive. You cannot stay watching the palm trees. I went there. I got the blessing from my wife and got into a scuba diving course. Thank God it was May, so it was a very low season in Thailand. My diving instructor only had me as a student. He gave me 3 courses in 1. I was diving five times a day. I was living at 7:00 AM coming back at 6:00 PM every day for two weeks. It was beautiful because I learned how to breathe. I learned how to control my panic attacks through breathwork. I took the pills for a week and I never took them again. It was beautiful.
I never checked my email during that month. When I felt a little bit better, when I felt like, “I was monitored by my kids and my wife,” then I said, “It’s time to go back home.” I turned on my computer. I had thousands of emails. All I did was sort emails by name and noticed that one of my old friends was emailing me 150 times.
I finally phoned him. I was in Bali, Indonesia, because we were moving. He said, “What’s up? I got this VP of IT from this company and they are going nowhere. We have lost millions of dollars on this software project. I know you can help me.” To make the lost story short, I talked to the CEO the next day and signed a $1 million contract with this lady two days later. When I landed in Canada, we had a business again. It is just like that.
How were you able then to not overwork or not get back into the sustained rat race, or did you get back into the same place?
I didn’t. My learning didn’t finish then. Me selling that $1 million contract, even though it was nothing to do with me, it was God giving me another opportunity. I evaluated my business partner, client, and employees. Everybody was at fault. I was the good guy. The contract lasted about a year and a half. I was able to gather other contracts, but I kept working the same hours. After six months, I started abusing alcohol again.
I never became an alcoholic. Thank God because I don’t have an addicted personality, but I was drinking a bottle of wine a day. One glass of wine after dinner became a bottle. I didn’t have problems with my heart anymore because it wasn’t as bad as before. By December 2012, I looked at myself in the mirror and I was 40 pounds overweight. I was losing my hair again.
Not normal hair loss from age. I had holes in my scalp. It was a self-wake-up. It’s like, “Again? What are you doing?” I remember December 27th, 2012, I decided to quit drinking and to quit what I was doing. I quit my own job. I called Felix again, “You are not going to see me for one year. I need to fix myself again. This time I know what to do, but I know I can discipline myself.”
I joined a gym membership on January 6th, 2013, the first day of the gym. I joined a three-month transformation program with Kris Gethin, a famous online trainer. I went from 200 pounds to 159. Again, the discipline. I discipline myself to do the exercise. It was supposed to be one hour a day. I was doing four hours a day at the gym all-in.
I’m eating super clean seven meals a day. I couldn’t transform my body, but most importantly, I was transforming my soul. My mind and my emotions were getting transformed. I started to listen to spiritual leaders online and also to business leaders. Instead of working sixteen hours a day, I was working ten hours a week. I was still working.
Also, I joined the leadership course. I realized that I wasn’t a good leader. The business was 110. It went back to 5 or 6 people, then I grew to 20 people with that big contract, and then back to 5 people again. I realized that I was attracting the people that I was, a greedy self-pity person. I changed myself. I got the leadership course and changed my life. It was incredible.
2013 was a year of change. It was the only year that I lost money in the business after eighteen years, and it was okay. I needed to lose that money to recover. 2014 came, and I changed the business to a lifestyle business. I divorced myself from greed. I wanted to focus on culture. That’s what changed everything. I focused on my people. “How do I add value to my employees so that they add value to my clients?” I read every book I could on culture and I dedicated myself to my family. I also read The 4-Hour Workweek book. I never went back to working sixteen hours a day. I was working maybe 20 to 25 hours a week. That happened from 2014 to 2017. I repeated that trip five years in a row.
I will take my kids out of school in January and will come back in April and May after the winter was over. It was beautiful. I didn’t make a lot of money. All I wanted is to grow the business 5% per year because I knew that if you don’t grow, you shrink. I was growing 15% to 20% per year. I stopped selling and marketing. It was word of mouth.
The company kept growing, and I was having this beautiful lifestyle business, but there was a problem. After five years in 2017, I got bored. My kids grew out of the house. They went to university. We talked with my wife again. “Either we retire fully or we grow the business.” She told me that, and I said, “I don’t know how to grow the business. The last time I tried, I almost died literally.”
That’s when I joined Vistage. That was the first business group that I joined. I had a business coach, and now it was more systematic. I started growing and growing again just to fall into the same trap in 2021. Isn’t it crazy? In this case, 2021, it was the pandemic too. The business has been very stable growing systematically.
I never lost the part of the culture and adding value to my clients. That’s been great, but what I lost is focusing on everybody else. I started to focus on myself again. I started feeling myself better than everybody else, especially when my net worth grew after eight figures. I’m like, “I’m this millionaire. Very few people get to this number,” and I started getting egocentric again.
I kept my culture beautiful and my clients delighted, but I became my own God. The ones who suffered were my wife and my kids the most. 2022 wasn’t a financially ruined year. I made a lot of money, but I was spiritually ruined to the point that I almost lose what I love the most, which is my family, but I woke up again.
What a rollercoaster ride. We all go on it. All of us, the ups and downs, but you have had some real big highs and some real big lows. Your wife probably almost doesn’t want you to have success.
She realizes that the money was what made me proud again, but we are believers. We were believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. I move away from my faith for all those years from 2020 to 2022. To give an idea, I joined a new age cult, and we start with loving everybody with multiple gods down to doing witchcraft and using pendulums to detect your future and stupid superstitions like the horoscope, for example.
After being a computer scientist with two degrees and having done all this, I fell into that stupidity. My wife should have let me go like ten times over, but she’s so lovely. What she did is she started praying for me. Her mom and my kids started praying for me and her whole network. I had at least 100 people praying for me. I woke up one day and realized that what I was doing was wrong. I asked for forgiveness.
We split for two months last 2022 and thought it was over, but I came back to my faith. I came back to God. I repented again. 2023 has been beautiful. It’s been a year of healing and recovery. It’s funny because we decided to read the Bible again, which is one of the things that I stopped doing for many years, and God gave us Psalm 23. January 1st, we opened the Bible and we got Psalm 23. We read it and it’s like, “This is our song. I have it in my heart.”
It’s a very famous song because it talks about, “The Lord is my shepherd. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He takes me to calm waters. He straightens my ways. Even though I walk in through the shadows of the valley of death, I will fear no evil because you are with me.” It’s beautiful, and it’s been our theme the whole year. Now we are on this beautiful path where all we want to do is give back and give an example of what happened to us.
I’m so blessed that the business keeps running. Thanks to the networks that I belong to like strategic coach Dan Sullivan. In the last few years, I already made the business to the point that it’s a self-managing company now, which allows me to run other businesses. I have been blessed to have multiple businesses that I can run, but I don’t do it for the money anymore. My wife makes sure I keep humble. No more pride.
One thing happened. The miracle in all this is realizing that I had ADHD. I had ADHD since I was a kid, and in November, I got diagnosed by three different doctors. When that happened, then everything made sense. My extreme behavior, my compulsive behavior of excessive business traveling, and my success too. It’s a superpower if you use it the right way, but if you don’t know that you have it, you can also use that to become proud and arrogant and to destroy your family, which is what I was doing in the end.
How did knowing you had ADHD help you?
That’s what got used to wake me up. I was so blessed. I had one of the best psychoanalysts in the country. Listen to this. This guy has been practicing psychoanalysis for 40 years. He is a doctor in psychology with clinical psychology with a specialization in analytical psychology, brain functions, and neurotransmitters. He took me in. I was his last patient. He’s the one that told me, “You are heavy on ADHD,” and he had ADHD. That’s why he became a psychologist. He gave me all the strategies to live life in a beautiful way. He’s the one that told me how to bring my wife back.
When I was away for two months, he was the one that told me, “Do you know about the three horsemen of the apocalypse of the marriage?” I’m like, “No. What’s that?” “You blame, you defend, and you hide. If you keep doing those three things, you will never get your wife back. Stop that.” The minute that I stopped that, my wife was able to talk to me and I was able to understand. He gave me strategies to deal with the condition that I have, and then he passed away. I started seeing him in September. My breakthrough was in November. He passed away in January. Isn’t that crazy?
What’s next for you? You got back with your wife and then you guys continued with ISU. Were you continuing to build it, or are you trying to keep it? What’s next on your agenda?
We have a five-year plan to sell it or give it to our employees. We created this plan where we gave shares to everybody. For everybody who has been in the company for over two years and deserves it, they got shares. The idea is either we tire our people or we give them the company and they keep growing it. It was a five-year plan. We want to grow in a way that we can hit $100 million. It is not about the money anymore at all. Most of those profits will go back to helping others in need, and I’m not that involved anymore. I spend my time doing the Break Free Podcast and writing. I’m on my third book now. I open a brand-new podcast called Leaders in Tech.
What I’m doing is I’m acknowledging the leaders that are helping companies grow by multiples. I’m making this world a better place, but nobody’s talking about them. Nobody’s talking about the CTO, CIO, and VP of technology and how they are impacting businesses. I’m going to be talking with senior VPs of Nokia and Disney. I have a senior VP of big hospitals like Bishop Hospital in Orlando. It’s fun. My whole life now is giving back and sharing my story. If I can save somebody a couple of years of deep pain, it makes my life worth it. That’s my why now. It’s giving back and raising the flag of ADHD and how to manage it for your own good.
For those that are reading that know more about the WHY.os. Your why is contribute to a greater cause. How you do that is by finding the right way to get results, and what you ultimately bring is a trusting relationship. I’m curious about how did that work for you when you weren’t being “trustworthy” to your people, family, and kids. How did that work and play out for you in your own head?
When you are on your game and you are helping people by finding the right way to get results and being that trusted source, being that one that they can count on, you are on your game. Things are great for you. When you went down the ADHD route, and you started doing things that didn’t allow them to trust you and didn’t allow them to look up to you, how did that play out for you?
Horrible because I changed my why in the wrong way. This is the common denominator. If you look at the pattern in my life, everything became about me. Everything started to fall off. It’s funny because it doesn’t matter how much success you gain in life. If you are doing it for yourself, you will never be completely fulfilled. You always stay empty.
I remember reaching the next million dollars and thinking, “Now I’m going to be happy,” and then it just became another number on a computer. You don’t even see the money. You have it invested. Maybe we have a real estate portfolio, and it’s beautiful. It gives you a beautiful passive income, but at the end of the day, if you are doing it for yourself and your own comfort and you don’t think of others, you never get fulfilled.
When I was doing it for my people, I wanted to get my people in a better position in the world. When I focused on them having the right feelings and producing the right emotions and the right attitudes, when I saw the benefits that I was giving my clients with the software I was building for them, and when I only thought about them and how I can benefit them and how I can grow their own profits, it’s beautiful, and then you get fulfilled.
The funny part is that when you do that, you get more. It’s inevitable. You know the Law of Gravity. There is another law that says what you give is what you receive, and it doesn’t matter what you give. You will always get it back like a boomerang, and you get it back increased. When you give greed, you receive greed and increase in greed. You receive horrible people and stress.
When you mean that you want your client to prosper in what you are doing for them, then you prosper with them. When you mean that your own employees are growing their careers and they have more time for their families and have a better lifestyle because of you, you get a better lifestyle. It’s incredible, but that’s how it works and then you get fulfillment.
There is no worst failure than being filthy rich and being empty in your heart because there is no money, success, or fame in the world that can fill that. That can only be filled by God, and he does it by you serving others unconditionally, by you thinking of others, and by you making this world a better place. If you read the Bible, what Jesus said is to take care of the poor. Take care of the homeless, widows, orphans, and drug addicts. Take care of them unconditionally. Start doing that and see how your life changes around. It’s beautiful.
You have hit both sides of it. You have been on the top and you have been on the bottom so you get to see both, and that’s a big part of your story. I had no idea when we were going to have you on the show that this is the direction we were going to go. I thought we were going to be talking about software. I’m glad we got to learn more and go deeper with you because it’s super valuable. It’s way more valuable than anything you could have taught us about software. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
My pleasure. I live for this now. Whenever I can add value, if there is one person that reads this show and avoids making their own choice in their life and they get joy and peace, that’s what we are looking for. We are looking for sustainable joy and peace, not necessarily avoiding suffering. Suffering and pain are unavoidable because you live in a world where anybody can crash in front of your car for a mistake that you didn’t expect and then you are going to be in the hospital probably.
What I have learned is that you can keep your joy and your peace regardless of what’s going on in your life, and that’s what I’m experiencing now finally. 2022 was horrible. I woke up from this terrible cult that I was in. I woke up in July. That’s when my eyes got up, and when I did research, I didn’t even know what New Age was. Unfortunately, I did a lot of psychedelics and stuff like that. That’s what they do and those rituals. I developed acute pancreatitis. I developed anemia because I never ingested drugs before in my life. It was all psychedelic, and they are so popular now, all that stuff. If you start doing that without a prescription or without a clinical doctor prescribing you that stuff, you start doing it for spiritual reasons. I got lost, but now I’m here, like the story of the prodigal son.
If there are people that are reading and they want to follow you, they want to hear more from you, they want to see what you are up to, and they want to learn more about ISU Corp, what’s the best way for somebody to get in touch with you?
You can go to DavidMansilla.com. All my podcasts are there. They can read my story and buy my book. My life story that is there until 2014. This new stuff is another book, but they can also go to ISUCorp.ca if they want our services. We are growing exponentially. We are hiring people now, especially now that I have everything in place.
If you want to run a software project where you are going to be considered top your need first, not our need, come to us. Believe that our last project is our best project, and it’s the only project that matters. My last client finds new clients because they get delighted with us and they are going to get my employees, which are delighted with us because they have a beautiful lifestyle too. Everybody wins.
Last question. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given or the best piece of advice you have ever given?
Life is not about you. It seems the opposite, but it’s not. When you make life about you, you lose your life, but when you give your life away, you gain it. It’s contradictory, isn’t it? If you think about it, if you don’t make your life about you, life happens, and it happens beautifully. It’s not about us.
I had a gentleman on the show who was a gastroenterologist. He was a doctor, and his life was so much about his two daughters that he has. When they grew up and left, he felt lost and said something similar to what you were talking about. He said he meditated for three days. He was lost. He has your same why. It occurred to him during that time. He said, “The joy is in the giving. That’s where you get your joy. It’s not in all the stuff I have. It’s in the giving that you receive joy.”
What money gives you is comfort, and comfort is nice. Don’t get me wrong. Going on a private plane, sure it’s first-class and nice, but that doesn’t make you happier or fulfill you. It gives you little moments of comfort, but if you are willing to live without that comfort and you are willing to focus on helping somebody else, the level of hardship that you can sustain grows so much that nothing touches you.
I feel almost like I have a shield right now where the enemy can throw any darts that he wants and it’s going to melt away. The level of suffering that I was able to sustain and that got me out of is so deep. When you go to hell and you get rescued from hell, nothing scares you anymore. I’m not afraid anymore. I don’t have anxiety anymore.
I call them demons, all those psychological problems. A demon is a thought that torments you because it gives you bad emotions and you cannot do anything to stop it. That’s why people get addicted. White people get addicted. They are not getting addicted because they are bad people. They are in so much pain from their suffering, from these tormenting thoughts that they take something that numbs their brain and their body to get some relief.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing your story. It is totally fascinating. I’m fascinated with it. I appreciate you being here and spending time with us. I’m sure we are going to be in touch with each other.
Thank you so much. Anytime.
It’s time for our new segment, Guess Their Why. I want to talk about Oprah Winfrey. All of you know Oprah Winfrey. She is very famous. She’s had the network, the TV show, she’s written lots of books, and she’s given away lots of different things, but what do you think Oprah’s why is? I often use her in different presentations that I have.
If you go back in her life, she had somebody very close to her break her trust. We see this very often with people with the why of trust that it has happened. I believe that Oprah Winfrey’s why is to create relationships based upon trust, to be that trusted source, and to be the one that others can count on. If you can count on her and she can count on you, the sky is the limit. If you break her trust, you are not going to recover from that one.
I believe Oprah’s why is to be the trusted source, the why of trust. What do you think? You can write it on whatever platform you are reading to. Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com with the code, PODCAST50. You can discover your why or your WHY.os at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you are using to read our show. Thank you so much. I will see you in the next episode.
David is the founder and CEO of multiple businesses. Most prominent among them is his longest-running company, ISU Corp. ISU is a custom software solutions company with clients ranging from start-ups to multi-million-dollar conglomerates like General Electric and Heinz. Located in Canada’s Silicon Valley, ISU Corp increases entrepreneurs’ net profits with exceptional custom software solutions.
We have been granted awards like the “Best Innovative High-Tech Enterprise Software Company of the Year” from Global 100, and ACQ5’s “Game Changer of the Year” to attest to our excellence. Most recently, ISU Corp has been chosen as a recipient of the Canadian Business Excellence Award for the fifth year in a row as a recognition of our outstanding company culture and effective process (2018-2022).
David Mansilla is passionate about inspiring others. A priority in his life is sharing his experiences in hopes of encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to reach their full potential. David is the host of The Break Free Podcast, where he invites a diverse set of guests to bring audiences valuable knowledge on living life on their own terms, whether it’s professionally or personally.
David is also a #1 international bestselling author for his book, Breaking Out of Corporate Jail. David’s trials and tribulations will deliver valuable insight into how to leave your corporate job and how to navigate your own business once you take the leap.
No one is born to be a salesperson or a leader. They learn to become one. And isn’t it heartening to know that you have the power to be great? In this episode, our guest believes that the only way you can out earn someone is to outlearn them. Putting that philosophy to work, he shows his WHY of Better Way through business coaching with ActionCOACH. Dr. Gary Sanchez sits down with its founder and owner, Brad Sugars. Brad shares with us his amazing career journey that taught him lessons on the power of education and coaching. He also talks about the franchise model of his business, why it works, and why he finds it better in keeping ActionCOACH relevant, top of mind, and state of the art. Join this episode to learn more about Brad and why he thinks business is a profitable enterprise that works without you.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How Education Helps You Become A Great Business Owner With Brad Sugars
For this episode, I have Brad Sugars on the show. He is the Founder and Owner of ActionCOACH. They have 1,000 coaches around the world. They’re franchise owners. He’s going to talk about why he picked that model. He’s going to talk about many of the businesses that he owns and how he uses that experience to continually improve and find better ways to keep ActionCOACH relevant, keep it top of mind, and keep it where it’s state of the art. He writes books on this. He studies it. I was fascinated because I didn’t know how much expertise he has. He is going to dive into it during this interview. You’re going to love it. I can’t wait for you to read it.
We’re going to be talking about the WHY of Better Way to find a better way and share it. 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 a great guest for you. He is internationally known as one of the most influential entrepreneurs. Brad Sugars is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and the number one business coach in the world. Over the course of his 30-year career as an entrepreneur, Brad has become the CEO of nine-plus companies and is the owner of the multimillion-dollar franchise ActionCOACH.
As a husband and father of five, Brad is equally as passionate about his family as he is about business. That’s why Brad is a strong advocate for building a business that works without you so you can spend more time doing what matters to you. Over the years of starting, scaling, and selling many businesses, Brad has earned his fair share of scars. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy road, but if you can learn from those who have come before you, it becomes a lot easier than going at it alone. That’s why Brad has created 90 Days to Revolutionize Your Life. It’s 30 minutes a day for 90 days teaching you his 30-year experience in investing, business, and life. Brad, welcome to the show.
I like your intros. They’re fantastic.
That was a mouthful, but an amazing mouthful. I loved it. Let’s do this. Where are you? Tell everybody where you’re located.
Home for me is Las Vegas, Nevada. I am Australian by birth. I married a Boston girl, so I ended up in the only city in America fun enough for an Aussie to live in. That’s the way I explain it.
I was thinking about that as I know you have an accent. Are there a lot of Aussies in Las Vegas?
There are. The hospitality industry and the casino industry are very big in Australia. There are a lot of professionals from that sphere that move here, about 600 families all up.
Take us back to what you were like. What was Brad Sugars like in high school, and where was that?
High school for me was in Australia. They were two different high schools, in fact. It was in Adelaide, South Australia, and Brisbane, Queensland. My high school that I finished at Sunnybank State High, we always joked that if you survived high school, you didn’t graduate. It was a big school. It had a lot of kids. For me, high school was pretty easy. Being a student was pretty easy.
I’m auditory by nature. In those days, the school was mostly auditorily taught, and that made it pretty easy for me to learn. Most of what I was like in high school is I tell my kids I was a bit of a nerd. I always loved that Bill Gates quote, “Be nice to us nerds. You’ll probably end up working for us.” That was me. I loved getting good grades. I loved doing well, but always also had part-time jobs or part-time things. I was always trying to make money here and there.
At age thirteen, I remember getting in trouble. We moved from Darwin to Adelaide. I’m going to age myself and maybe you. The cool thing was Levi’s 501® jeans. Do you remember that phase in the world? My mom didn’t understand cool. She understood what we could afford, and that was corduroy jeans from Kmart. I remember when I got into a fight with a kid at school blaming those jeans. It was the noise that they make as you walk. I remember at age thirteen deciding I would always have enough money to do whatever I wanted. I would never be in a position to not have something that I needed again. I went to work for doing things. I was doing whatever I could to make some money to make sure I had 501s at the time.
That’s awesome. Were you into sports?
Sports and boy scouts. They were the two things. In Australia, I played cricket and rugby under Australian rules. I eventually moved into volleyball. Volleyball and beach volleyball became my sport. Also, as a young man, boy scouts was a big thing. It was camping, hiking, and doing all those sorts of survivalist stuff. I enjoyed those things.
You graduate from high school. Were you off to school after that?
Yes. I studied to become an accountant at the Queensland University of Technology. I wanted to be a lawyer but didn’t get the grades to get into law school, so I got stuck with accounting. That’s what my dad did, so I was like, “That’s what I’ll do.” It was luckily a great grounding for being an entrepreneur later in life, understanding the numbers.
I do not see, based on your WHY.os, which WHY being Better Way, HOW being Simplify, and WHAT being Contribute, accounting being a good place for you.
I didn’t last in accounting very long. In fact, I never once had a job as an accountant. I interviewed a couple of new accountants. I’m not going to be an accountant.
Let’s think about this for a second. Had you chosen and been an accountant, how long do you think you could have done it?
I could have done it for my entire life, but I would’ve done it differently than most. That’s the thing. An innovator is an innovator. It doesn’t matter whether you are innovating in accounting, marketing, sales, or boy scouts. If you’re an innovator, you’re an innovator. If you want to make stuff better, you’re going to do it no matter what. If I was in the accounting field, I would’ve found a better way. I might’ve ended up in accounting software and done what the Xero guys have done.
That’s the thing. We sometimes fall into a field or a business and we didn’t plan to ever be in that industry. I never woke up one day and said, “Do you know what I want to do? I want to write business books. That’s what I want to do. I want to be a teacher of business. I want to buy companies, build them, and sell them.” There was no dream of doing that. It’s not like I want to be a firefighter-type thing. I fell into this.
Someone said to me that one of the biggest challenges you have in life is finding where you fit in and finding that place where it’s natural for you. Finding your calling was the word he used. It’s important that once you find your calling, you realize that it is your calling and then go for it. This is why I love what you do. A lot of people spend so much time trying to find their purpose in life, not realizing that they probably are already somehow on that purpose. It’s a matter of recognizing it.
It’s the old saying Buckminster Fuller used to teach us that the Bumblebee never knows its true purpose. It never knows its real job is to pollinate the world but it still gets on with its job-type thing. Sometimes, your calling is given to you. A friend of mine has a young son with autism. His calling was given to him. He didn’t ask for that calling. He didn’t request it, but that was his calling. As a man who represents parents with autism all around, sometimes, you are given your calling. You don’t get a choice in it.
I love that. Let’s go back to when you got out of school. You decided on accounting because your dad was an accountant, and then what happened to you? That’s not where you are.
I went part-time in college about halfway through because I wanted to work. I wanted to do stuff and make money. I went into sales. I tried sales. I was selling, advertising, and all sorts of different things. I tried announcing. I tried being a DJ. I enjoyed being a DJ. I tried radio announcing. I was like, “Good times and classic, it is 4VO. You are in Charleville.” That was the station I worked in one summer in West Queensland, Charleville. I was the guy that shut the station off at 12:00 AM. That’s how small our town was. We turned the station off.
I tried a bunch of different things. I got into a bunch of different businesses, everything from pizza manufacturing to wholesale and beauty salons, and started teaching. I was lucky enough to work with a gentleman by the name of Paul Dunn. Paul is still a legend in the business development world. He runs a very large charity out of Singapore called B1G1 or Buy1Give1. It is phenomenal work he is doing with his partner Masami. I learned from Paul about the whole business development world, the whole area, and that sort of thing. I was running a business and thought, “How do I learn this stuff?” Paul was phenomenal.
From there, I developed the Yearn to Learn. In fact, I was sixteen when I first met Jim Rohn when I developed the Yearn to Learn. I was lucky enough to have won the Rotary Youth Leadership Award in my area. The Rotary Club sent us away for a weeklong training on how to be successful. I came back to town, saw this thing about this guy Jim Rohn, and thought, “I’m sixteen. I might as well go.”
It was $595. I didn’t have that money. I called up, and the guy that answered the phone probably gave me a great lesson. I said, “I don’t have that $595. I’m sixteen. Is there a student price, a scholarship price, or something like that?” He says, “There’s not. You’ll make as much learning by getting the money to get here as you will by getting here.” I had to find a way to find $600 as a sixteen-year-old kid. I sold one of my bicycles that we bought, painted, and done up. My brother and I used to pull our bikes apart a lot, fix them, paint them, and stuff.
I got there and got to do it. That Yearn to Learn is still with me. I don’t get in a car without an audiobook playing. I don’t go for a walk or a run without an audiobook of some sort. I have great earphones that I can swim. I love swimming laps to keep fit. I put the headphones on and they play the book as I’m swimming laps.
When you say you got the teaching bug or you got to teach, what do you mean by that? What kind of teaching were you?
You’ve heard of him because he became pretty famous, Robert Kiyosaki. He and Sharon Lechter wrote the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. Sharon is still a great friend. She’s gone on to become the number one bestselling author in the history of non-fiction books on finance and stuff. Robert brought me to Hawaii to teach. We met when I was 20 or 21, I can’t remember exactly, in Sydney.
I went down to take Robert’s course on how to present from the stage. At one point during the activity, they’d bring all the guys in. You all have to wear your best suits. I was twenty. I didn’t have a best suit. I had a suit. It was a little bit big and stuff. They stood you around the room and said to all the women in the room, “Go and stand in front of the guy that you would take home to mom, and then stand in front of the guy you’d take home but not to mom.” They then said, “Stand in front of the guy if you had a $100 million a year business that you would want to run that business.”
There was one woman in the room who did have a $100 million-a-year business. She stood in front of me with a whole bunch of other women. It was all these guys that look like me with all the gray heads, no heads. I was a 20-year-old kid or 21, I can’t remember which. Robert pulls me aside, puts me up on stage, and says, “These are the things. If you don’t hurry up, this guy’s coming for you.” Me being the smart ass that I was at that stage in life, I said, “When I finish, Robert, I’m coming after you,” and he laughed. There you go. Here we are.
Is he still alive?
Yes. He’s still out teaching and still doing stuff.
All the ladies lined up in front of you. What happened after that? You can’t leave us there.
That’s when Rob invited me to speak. He asked me to teach because I’d helped one of his promoters in Melbourne and one in Brisbane with the sales and marketing of his events. I tripled their sales by teaching them certain marketing techniques and certain sales techniques. He invited me to speak to all of his promoters. If you teach 50-odd seminar promoters how to increase their business, amazingly enough, they want to put you on stage and teach their customer base. I fell in love with teaching. About a year later from there, I invented ActionCOACH. When you’re on stage teaching, a lot of people are asking you the question, “How do I do that? Can you teach me that? Can you help us with that sort of thing?”
I’m probably a bit of a slow learner. After 100 people asked me to help them with it, I finally said, “Maybe I should start a business doing that.” At the time, I had photocopy shops that I was running. It wasn’t in my mindset to do that as a business. I was still doing speeches and things here. ActionCOACH will be 30 years old this August 2023.
Something popped into my head there. What do you see as the value in learning how to speak? I have a friend of mine that owns commercial real estate in New Mexico. It’s probably the biggest one there. We were talking one day and he said, “The turning point in me going from being one of the many to being one of the few was when I learned how to speak.”
Whether it’s speaking or one-to-one communication, how you communicate is so massively important in leadership, sales, and marketing. In any form of a business transaction, there’s going to be communication. What being a speaker allows you to do is to move to leverage. It means instead of motivating one person at a time, I can motivate thousands at a time. It means instead of educating one person at a time, I can educate tens of thousands, but so does all my books. I write all these books and things. I can educate millions at a time. I can educate them while I’m sleeping. We produce podcasts and YouTube. All of that helps educate people while they’re speaking.
Someone taught me many moons ago that if you’re making money while you’re asleep, that’s wealth. That always caught my mindset of, “How do I create things?” Buckminster Fuller said, “You create models and artifacts.” That’s why every time I teach, it is based on a model. I have the 5 Ways to Multiply Your Profits, 6 Keys to a Winning Team, and 9 Steps to Systematizing a Business. I create models.
The reason I create a model is that it’s easy to teach and easy to learn. There’s no hidden agenda behind it type of thing. Artifacts mean videos, podcasts, books, training courses, and franchises. You create those because then you leave something behind and it’s not dependent upon you. Most people when it comes to their own success in life, it’s dependent upon them and only them.
If we look at some of the best examples of translating great skill into great fortunes, the number one that comes to mind is Shaquille O’Neill. Shaq goes from being a guy that created good money by being a basketball player but all the time studying to end up with a doctorate. Here he is, possibly one of the largest owners of food-based franchises in the United States. He puts his face on the ring cameras and takes a shareholding. He puts his face in front of Papa Johns and becomes a shareholder. It is those sorts of things. You’ve got to take your best skill and turn it into lifelong income, not just a one-off.
Who taught you how to get on stage? Was that Robert Kiyosaki? Who taught you how to get on stage, how to present, how to pull the audience’s attention, and how to take them on a journey?
That was the first part of it. From there, I kept studying the art form and watching. One of the great things for me is I get to speak on a lot of stages around the world. I get up there and have Gary Sanchez go in front of me. I sit there, watch, and go, “That’s a good strategy. I like that strategy.” It is by watching all of the great speakers and seeing how they do it. Success leaves clues is not a new statement. If you’re unwilling to study someone who’s successful in your industry, don’t complain. The old joke of, “Don’t complain to me about the results you didn’t get for the work you didn’t do,” is still alive and well.
You talk about Jim Rohn. One of my favorite things that he talks about is setting a goal for what you become in order to achieve it. That’s what I hear you saying.
I reverse that even and say, “The moment you set a goal, it is not possible for you to achieve it.” When I was sixteen, I met Jim Rohn. From him, I set a goal of retiring at age 25. It was a financial retirement because retirement’s not a function of age. It’s a function of finances. When I set that goal, my buddy, Leon, who lived around the corner on Pompadour Street, his dad sat us both down and told us how that was not possible. I told Leon and he told his dad that we’re going to retire at 25. His dad was an engineer in the city, so he knew exactly what that looked like.
The thing was Leon’s dad was right. Sixteen-year-old Brad could not financially retire, but I was willing to learn and grow into that goal. That’s where my formula is with dream-goal-learn-plan-act. You got to have dreams because without dreams, and W. Somerset Maugham said it best, nothing if not at first a dream. It’s not something, but nothing if not at first a dream.
Dreams become goals. Dreams are 10 to 20 years out. You have no idea how they’re going to be achieved or if they’re going to be achieved. Goals are like that from tomorrow to five years type of thing. The most important goal is the daily goal, in my opinion, then it is a weekly goal, and the monthly. Having a five-year goal is irrelevant if you don’t have daily goals. Daily goals make you achieve your weekly goals, which makes you achieve your monthlies, quarterlies, annuals, etc.
From your goals, then you have to determine your learning plan. If I set a goal to double my revenue, I’ve got to go and study ten books on how to double my revenue. I’ve got to go and study ten companies that did double their revenue. I’ve got to go and study ten people that have taught how to double their revenue. It could be podcasts or books. You name it, I’ve got to study that.
From that study, I then write the plan. I set a goal to run a marathon. If I go and get no new knowledge and write a plan on how to run a marathon, I’m not going to be that successful at it. If I set a goal to get a marathon, I got to join a running club. I’ve got to read books on it. I’ve got to read and study. I got to listen to podcasts. I got to study people who’ve run marathons, learn how, create a marathon plan, create a training plan, and all that stuff. That’s where people are unwilling to do the learning work.
The learning work of success or learning work is the hardest work because it involves growth. It involves personal growth. It involves personal knowledge acquisition. The crazy thing is, and Jim Rohn said this in a roundabout way, “I guarantee you if you read a book a week for ten years, you will achieve the life you want.” If I said to someone, “You got to read a book a week for ten years or you got to work a job where what you do is shovel poop for ten years,” people are like, “I might shovel poop for ten years. That seems easier.” It’s crazy to me. I always say if you want to out-earn me, you got to outlearn me. Learn becomes before earn.
Step one was dream. Step two was goal. Step three was plan.
It is learn then plan.
There are four steps?
The fifth is act, so take action. If you build that dream, the dream’s got to be turned into a step-by-step goal at some point. The goals have got to be turned into a learning plan at some point. When I meet someone who wants to do better at business and they want to increase their sales, they make a statement like, “I’m no good at sales.” I’m like, “How many sales training courses have you attended?” They’re like, “None.” I’m like, “How many sales books have you read?” They’re like, “None.”
I’m like, “How do you know you’re bad at sales?” They’re like, “I tried it once and I was really bad at it.” I’m like, “You tried something you had no training in and you are bad at it.” They’re like, “That makes sense.” If you’ve had no training in playing golf, you’re going to be bad at golf. We expect to be good at certain things because it’s like, “You’re born a salesman.” No one’s born a salesperson. You learn to be a salesman. No one’s born a leader. You learn to be a leader.
I remember I was 20 or 21 and running my own business. I went to my dad and said, “I can’t get good people.” He looked me dead in the eye and says, “You get the people you deserve.” I’m like, “What?” He said, “You’re an average manager running an average company. The highest caliber person that wants to work for you is average. If you want great people to work for you, you better run a great company, become a great leader or a great manager, and then you can attract great people.” I’m like, “Thanks.” You can see where I got my motivational streak from, can’t you?
Exactly. It sounds like learning is such a big part of continual learning. I bet you see that over and over in the clients that you worked with as well as the coaches you work with.
My coaches generally are learners because that’s the nature of the person that wants to be a coach if that makes sense. For our clients, in a lot of cases, the reason they are where they are is they’ve given up learning or they never even took up learning after high school-type thing. They learned how to be a great hairdresser, not a great business owner. They learned how to be a great plumber, not a business leader or a business owner-type thing.
What I say we do at ActionCOACH is help people become great business owners. My definition of a business is a commercial profitable enterprise that works without you. If you have to be there, it’s not a business. It’s a job and you work for the idiot. Let’s be clear about that. When I first started in business, and you hear it a lot with the old hustle and grind, I thought my job as a business owner was to be the hardest working one in the room. I wore it as a badge of honor, like, “I worked six days a week. I worked sixteen-hour days. I even sleep in my office. That’s how hard I work.”
Little did I realize how stupid that was because me working that hard covered up all the problems in my business. It covered up that the sales systems weren’t that good. Rather than building a business that worked without me, I built a business that if I left, it died. I built a trap. I didn’t build a business. I built self-employment. There is a big difference between the two.
That’s where a lot of the business owners that come to us as ActionCOACH, we sit down with them and explain to them, “Your job is to finish your business. Your job is to build it so that it can work so you don’t have to. Your job’s to build an asset that is saleable, not to build something that means you have to work 60 to 80 hours a week.” Richard Branson used one of my quotes one time. It was this quote that said, “Entrepreneurs are the crazy people that will work 80 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week for someone else.”
There’s that badge of honor that we misplace or put towards that like it’s a gift for us to work so hard. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to work my rear end off, so I get that. I’m sure there are a lot of people that are there as well that are reading this.
It’s where I started because that’s all I knew. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that my job was to create an asset, something that ran without me. Here we are. If the business still was based on me, the most we could probably do was tens of millions. Doing hundreds of millions a year is because it’s not based on me. It’s based on my team and based on what they do and how they do things.
How do you get a business owner from the mindset of, “If it’s going to happen, it’s up to me,” to, “It’s going to be up to we. I’m the smallest part of it.”
It’s gradual. It’s step-by-step. The old, “No one can do it as good as me,” and, “You can’t get good people,” all of that stuff has to shift. We’ve got to teach them to let go. That also means there’s a lot of skillset development in that person. When you’re a self-employed business owner, especially if you’re a solopreneur, every job’s yours. Sales is yours. Marketing is yours. You make the sale and do the work. You’re in that seesaw level.
Eventually, you move up to manager. You get on that merry-go-round of you employ the people and think they’re going to make your job easier when, in fact, in the beginning, they make your job a lot harder. That’s because you don’t have systems. You don’t have recruiting systems. You don’t have training systems. You don’t have proper planning systems, cashflow systems, and all of those things that we need to develop. The building of a business owner is teaching that knowledge.
As a business owner, you’ve got to become a great business owner. I then take that one step further and teach people to be investors and then entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur doesn’t own one business. They own many. The millionaire wants to be the CEO of one business. Billionaires want CEOs to run their companies for them. I don’t want to be CEO. I like chairman. I like the title of chairman. I love being chairman. I meet them once a month. I give them all of the things to get done and the way they go.
In fact, most of my CEOs are so strong. I’ve coached them to be strong CEOs. Most of them come to me with all the things that need doing and ask me 1 or 2 questions for advice. I then sound out about 2 or 3 things that I’m noticing and they say, “We need to look at that,” and off they go. I run 11 companies 2 days a week, and I build content on the other day of the week. I work three-day weeks because that’s what I like. I have five kids.
Let’s talk for a minute about ActionCOACH. That started many years ago. How did that start? Why did that start? Take us on the path that you’ve taken ActionCOACH on.
It started back with that story of Rob Kiyosaki when people kept asking me to speak. People were, from there, asking me to help them. I said, “I don’t have the time. I’m running my own thing. I’m doing these speeches. If you call me every week, I’ll coach you through whatever I can.” That was it. I didn’t even charge them for it in the beginning. I didn’t know. Eventually, I built a team around that. We were one of the first-ever white-collar franchises in the world because we wanted to expand fast. At the time, there were only two other white-collar franchises, ERA or Expense Reduction Analysts and a tax franchise group. We evolved across the world pretty quickly with that.
Our franchise has grown to the point where most of our franchise partners around the world have large teams of people delivering the coaching and the education. All business owners are part of our educational membership program. We find a lot of business owners who need the knowledge. They’re willing to do the work. They just need someone to give them that extra bit of knowledge as to how they do that.
When I turned 50, it was COVID. What are you going to do? I built a TV studio. I went into my TV studio and did 30 days for 30 minutes a day on everything I knew on how to grow a business, and then another 30 days on everything I knew about success principles and the theories of success and life. I then did another 30 minutes a day for 30 days on wealth and how to invest and stuff. It was like, “I got nothing else to do. I might as well go and teach everything I know and put it down.” I get messages probably every other day on Facebook or Instagram from someone that says, “We sold our company for this, and this happened. We want to thank you for everything you taught us back then.” That’s the exciting part for me.
Why did you pick the franchise model?
When you look at business, the strategy of a business or the business model is usually flawed for most business people. The strategy of a business has to have four things. 2 of them are business models and 2 of them are industry. The two business model ones are leverage and scalability. There must be leverage. My definition of leverage is to do the work once and get paid forever. In every layer of the business, there must be leverage. If you get a customer once, you keep them forever.
Everything you do has to be about the long-term, not about one-offs. I would never go into a pool-building business, but I would invest in a pool maintenance business-type thing. If you get a customer, keep them for life type of thing. The most expensive thing in business is getting a customer. The most costly thing in business is losing a customer. Repeat business equals profit is what I teach all of my team around the world. If you got repeat business, you got profit. No repeat business, no profit. It is pretty simple that way.
The second part is scalability. My definition of scale is that the next sale costs less and is easier. Franchise number one was a lot of work and a lot of money to get it up in development. Franchise number 1,000 has cost me a lot less and is a lot easier to sell than franchise number one. As we get bigger, it gets easier and less work, not more work.
Back in the day, and I’ve sold out of it since, we had a rental business renting out fridges, freezers, TVs, and white and brown goods or stainless steel goods. If you looked at it, the first refrigerator we rented out took a lot of work. Number 100 is less work, less cost. Number 1,000 is less work, less cost. Number, 10,000 is way less work, way less cost. It’s all about that.
There are only eleven types of business models that have both leverage and scale. Franchising is one of those. Another is the rental business. When you look at that model, you must pick a model that has leverage and scale. You then look at the other two segments of strategy, and this is all in Pulling Profits Out of a Hat. The other two are marketability and opportunity size. Marketability means that the market already buys the product. It sells itself.
I have a commercial cleaning business. Why? It’s simple. If you have an office, a gym, a store, or something, you know it needs cleaning. You don’t have any say in whether it gets cleaned. All you have a say in is who cleans it and how often type thing. You have to get it. You have a budget for it. All we have to do is convince you to buy from us, not to convince you to buy. That’s the marketability side of it.
The opportunity side of it is how big the marketplace for that is. Unfortunately, a lot of people go into business. They might live in a small town and there are twenty restaurants. If the entire annual spend is $10 million in 20 restaurants, the average one’s going to be doing $500,000. You can’t survive on that sort of thing. You’ve got to look at it. That’s why geographically, you sit back and see it.
I find a business that is a great little business in one city, one town, one state, or maybe even one country. I say, “This business here in Melbourne, Australia, should be everywhere in the world.” We had a property management company we built and sold. It was based in Houston, Texas, in one location. We built it up across Texas. We’re about to go to the rest of America. We had a Silicon Valley company come along and want to offer Silicon Valley multiples. We said yes.
Listening to you riff about this, it’s fascinating how much thinking you’ve done versus doing. Do you set up a time every day or every week periodically? How do you do your thinking unless this is what you learned from somebody else?
There are three ways. Number one, I write books. I wrote a book called Raise Your Hand Marketing because the way marketing has shifted around the world. I’ve spent the last few years studying the shift in marketing because it’s so different than it was back when I first started in marketing. The tools are different. The market is different. The way we do it is different. When I’m writing that book, what I have to do is work out, “What is my formulaic methodology? How do I do that?” What Raise Your Hand is all about is how I offer something that gets a prospective buyer to say, “I’m interested.”
I do eBooks, downloads, podcasts, webinars, and so many different things. I have billboards that offer my book for free if you’re a business owner. They raise their hand and say, “I’m that book.” What does that mean? It’s, “I’m a business owner who’s interested in growing my business.” That is a great prospective customer for us.
We do one where we interview business owners. We say to them, “We’d like to interview you for our business spotlight series on how you grow your business.” If they say no, we know they’re not interested in growing their business. If they say yes, we know they’re interested in being publicized and growing their business, so we interview them. At the end of it, they ask us, “How does this business coaching thing work?” We do a lot of Raise Your Hand and stuff on that sort of thing.
The second thing that I do to learn it is teaching. I put on seminars, webinars, or that sort of thing. I find to teach, I have to think through more to be able to state how I do it. The third is I create a model. I mentioned this one, which is from Pulling Profits Out of a Hat. In that, it’s the five circles of discipline. What are the five circles that create exponential growth? If you’ve got all five of these circles working, you get exponential growth or you don’t get exponential growth.
Those are the three things that I don’t put aside specific time for it. If I was to add a fourth, it’s I buy companies and I do stuff. This isn’t, “Let me sit and postulate in my university office and teach what I think.” This is, “We bought a marketing agency in London last year. It’s scaling at a rate of about 30% quarter on quarter.” We’re sitting there going, “What things do we have to confront in our businesses?”
I’m getting my partner in our catering business and we’re going to a new solid site. He’s asking all the questions about leasing, and I’m having to go, “How long has it been since I did a lease? My CFO does all the leases these days.” You got to think back. Being a mentor to people makes you think more than being a student.
If people are reading this and they’re not familiar with ActionCOACH, tell them a little bit more about ActionCOACH.
It is very simply put. Business ownership is the loneliest job in the world. Owners struggle with either team, time, or money. They’re either struggling with people, working too many hours, or money, or a combination of all 3 or 2 of those sorts of things. What we do is work with those business people to help them become better business owners. We coach them, educate them, and put them into a community of other business owners because we want to get rid of that loneliness factor.
I always found as a young man being a business owner, I couldn’t talk to anyone about my business problems. My friends didn’t understand. They didn’t own a business. My family wasn’t business people. I couldn’t talk to my banker. In fact, I’d probably try and hide everything from my banker. By building that community and that education and giving them the accountability of coaching, we find that builds the results for those people.
No matter what size of business you are in, we have a program for you. We coach the top fortune companies in their executive and their CEO coaching programs. We work with the smallest brand-new startups and young Millennial that are very excited about the business and who have an idea and want to get the education for it. We’ve built programs to go from one end of the spectrum to the other to help the entrepreneur and C-level executive to take the business to where they need it to be.
This is the last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
I’ll do both if I can.
The best piece of advice I was ever given was from Jim Rohn. It was, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. Never wish life were easier. Wish that you were better. If you get better, life gets easier.” It’s the same as sales. If you get better at sales, it gets easier. If you get better at marketing, it gets easier. The flip of that is from me. The best piece of advice I can give anyone is your job in life is to be the best version of yourself. It’s not an average version of you. It’s an okay or a just-get-by version of you. How do you be the best dad, best friend, brother, sister, parent, or leader? How do you be the best version and show up as the best version of yourself? That comes with the theory of creating the best version of you too.
I love it. For people that are reading, if they want to follow you, learn from you, join ActionCOACH, become part of ActionCOACH, or hire an action coach, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?
Go to ActionCOACH.com or BradSugars.com. Go to any of those. If you hit any form of social media or that little thing called Google, you’ll find us anywhere. I don’t try and hide. I’ve even got a Pinterest and a TikTok account. I don’t dance. Interestingly enough, my number one TikToks are me writing out handwritten quotes on a note, putting it to speed, and then leaving the meme of the quotes. Whenever I explain anything on TikTok, I write it out. I do it as a video writing it out. In my Five Ways to Multiply a Business, I handwrite it and away it goes.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time and spending it with us. I appreciate it. I look forward to staying in touch.
I love being on the show. I love what you’re doing. For anyone reading for the first time, make sure you subscribe to this thing.
It’s time for our last segment, Guess Their WHY. We’re going to pick Betty White. I wonder how many of you know who Betty White is. If you’re in the 40-plus crowd, you probably know for sure who Betty White is. She’s been around forever. She passed away in her 90s. It seems like she was going to live forever. She was always doing things differently. She was always pushing the limits. She was always reinventing herself. She was always a lot of fun. Sometimes, she would show up serious. Sometimes, she would show up as wacky in a certain way. I’m going to say that Betty White’s WHY is to challenge the status quo and think differently. What about you? What do you think her WHY is?
Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your WHY, you can do so at WHYInstitute.com. You can use the code PODCAST50 to discover your why at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you’re using to tune in to the show. Thank you so much. I will see you next time. Have a great week.
Internationally known as one of the most influential entrepreneurs, Brad Sugars is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and the #1 business coach in the world. Over the course of his 30-year career as an entrepreneur, Brad has become the CEO of 9+ companies and is the owner of the multi- million-dollar franchise ActionCOACH®.
As a husband and father of five, Brad is equally as passionate about his family as he is about business. That’s why, Brad is a strong advocate for building a business that works without you – so you can spend more time doing what really matters to you. Over the years of starting, scaling and selling many businesses, Brad has earned his fair share of scars.
Being an entrepreneur is not an easy road. But if you can learn from those who have gone before you, it becomes a lot easier than going at it alone. That’s why Brad has created 90 Days To Revolutionize Your Life – It’s 30 minutes a day for 90 days, teaching you his 30 years experience on investing, business and life.
There are just so many things written about marketing that it becomes even more complicated to figure out how best to do it. Great thing that this episode’s guest has the WHY of Make Sense, and he is driven to solve complex situations, especially in marketing. Join Dr. Gary Sanchez as he interviews Michael Fishman, a growth advisor to founders, leader of Consumer Health Summit, and a strategic angel investor. Here, Michael lets us in on how he helps companies with their marketing as well as build their brands through the right message. He wades through the complexities and shares the most important word you need to know in marketing. Hint: it’s not the word “free.” Full of insights on business and psychology, Michael gives us a show full of wisdom to add to our tool belt. Don’t miss out on them by tuning in to this conversation!
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Build Your Brand With The Right Messaging And Marketing With Michael Fishman
This is a great episode you’re going to love. I get to interview Michael Fishman. He is a marketing strategist. You will find him fascinating. He helped companies like Bulletproof, Athletic Greens, Thrive Market, The DNA Company, BrainTap, and Prevention Magazine to build their brands through the right messaging. His specialty is messaging. In this episode, he shares with us how he does that and the most important word that you need to know in marketing. It’s not the word free. You will see what it is in this episode. I have seven pages of notes from listening to Michael Fishman. You’re going to love it. Let me know what you think. Enjoy this episode.
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the Why of Make Sense to make sense of things, especially if they’re complex and complicated. If this is your why, then you are driven to solve problems and resolve challenging or complex situations. You have an uncanny ability to take in lots of data and information. You tend to observe situations and circumstances around you and then sort through them quickly to create solutions that are sensible and easy to implement.
Often you are viewed as an expert because of your unique ability to find solutions quickly. You also have a gift for articulating solutions and summarizing them in understandable language. You believe that many people are stuck and that if they could make sense of their situation, they could develop simple solutions and move forward. In essence, you help people get unstuck and move forward.
I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Michael Fishman. He’s a growth advisor to founders, the leader of the Consumer Health Summit founder community and a strategic Angel investor. From his early twenties after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Biology from Binghamton University, he knew that helping companies that help people to feel better, perform better, and live longer would be the focus of his professional life. This is his purpose to advise founders for whom the currency of success is impact, with valuation and financial awards, a natural by-product.
For many years, he has been a leading advisor to founders on marketing, positioning, and accelerated customer-centric business growth, helping to grow businesses, many from inception such as Bulletproof, Athletic Greens, Thrive Market, The DNA Company, Suggestic, BrainTap and Rodale Prevention and Men’s Health publishing brands, as well as many of the leading personal brands who serve large online customer communities. Michael, welcome to the show.
I’m honored to be here, Gary. Thanks for the honor.
This is going to be fun. There was a lot more to your bio that we’re going to get into because it was about a page and a half long, but I would rather have us talk about it than read about it. Michael, tell everybody where are you at. What town are you in?
I’m in Paradise Valley, Arizona, which is adjacent to Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Let’s go back to your life. Let’s start with when you were younger. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school?
I grew up in Queens, which is part of New York City. In high school, I was insecure, shy, tentative, and cautious. I had a bunch of friends but not the cool kids. I was on the tennis team. That was a passion. That sums it up.
You played tennis. Were you much of a problem solver at that time? Did your close friends come to you and ask you to help them with different things that they were dealing with?
I don’t think so. I started to develop a sense of self and the ability to be introspective and to learn what was residing within my heart, my soul and my range of capabilities came early in my college years. I had a few friends in high school. I could see the beginning or the germination of that part of me, but it certainly wasn’t well-developed nor did it have a lot of self-expression.
When you were young, let’s say 5 to 10 years old, was there a time when you had to grow up fast and solve problems that might be coming that a typical kid didn’t have to deal with?
I think so. I don’t know how well I solved them with your prowess and training. Some of what I experienced, I turned against myself or located or experienced some feelings of insufficiency. My dad is still on the planet. He wasn’t physically hurtful but he was very loud and scary. I learned at around that time to sense people’s physiology, their faces, their voices and all the nuances of how people show up.
I was looking for danger signs, which is something, as you can appreciate, that I still have a sensitivity for. There were some survival skills there handled very poorly or not at all. Every child has something. What I experienced wasn’t tragic but at the same time, it was consistent and hurtful in many ways, and something to dive into and explore later on.
That’s what’s common about people that have the why of make sense. That’s why I asked you that. For those of you that are reading, I didn’t pull that question out of nowhere. It’s very common for somebody good at solving problems and figuring things out quickly. At a very young age, they had to do that. Oftentimes, it was a situation like what you’re talking about where a parent was a challenge in one way or another.
When they come home, you’ve got to quickly figure out, “What’s happening? Are they having an issue or not? What do I have to do? Whom do I have to protect?” It’s all that stuff. The reason I asked you that is that oftentimes, that then translates into how they are in middle school and high school, but you were saying that maybe in high school, that hadn’t come out quite as much yet until you got to college.
It’s interesting because in middle school, I was quite talkative. I was always academically quite strong. In my house, you had to be. That was the focus of everything. I would get very high marks academically and then I would get a U for Unsatisfactory Conduct. There was a talkative and garrulous side to me that was consistent in middle school. It felt like it surfaced in middle school around the time of puberty but then in high school, I went back underground because it resided within me. It wasn’t like I was editing it or containing it. I closed it and threw out the key. It’s that kind of survival tactic.
My mom in high school at 15 or 16 noticed me getting frustrated, tense, or angry. She would see me grip my teeth and stuff those emotions, whatever they were because there was no space to say them. There was no safety or space to express it so I would bury it. I’m always committed to allowing to be open and allowing for that healthy self-expression and not being loud and not disproportionate expressions of anger but allowing myself to feel and to say what I’m feeling in an effective way.
You graduate from high school. You went off to college. Where did you go to college?
Binghamton University, which is one of the state universities in New York.
What was that experience like for you?
That was a great experience. That was my first taste of what we could call freedom being on my own, living in the dorms for two years and then in a rented house in my junior and senior years and making friends, a few of whom I still have. I went to university at seventeen and a half. That was fantastic. At that time, I considered myself to be sensitive, which was a euphemism for a victim.
That was when I began to go inward, feel and express inside of a frame of locating myself as the victim of my childhood and situations. Instead, I later learned to be the effect to be at cause, and also to not interpret or assign different aspects of insufficiency to myself as an outcome of things that had happened. There’s what happened and then there’s the story you tell yourself about what happened. That’s very familiar to you. I later learned about the facts, the story we attached to the facts, and the power of the collapsing of the two.
I was always a science student. I was a decent writer in English and so forth, but science seemed to be the natural affinity for me like biology and chemistry. Nobody pushed me there. It was always the focus even in high school. That’s where I did any specialty work that I could. One of the summers during my undergraduate years, I studied at Cornell’s Marine Laboratory, which is about 10 miles out in the ocean off of Maine. That was my academic major but I took as many electives as I could in Shakespeare, jazz history, writing, and other sorts of things. That appealed to me very naturally because I have a right-brain and left-brain bridge in many respects. Art, design, creativity, writing, and music light me up big time.
You graduate from college and then off to your career. What was your first job out of college?
My first job was working in a number of record companies. During my university years in addition to my academic work, I was involved with the radio station. I was on the air for four years with a regular show of jazz programming. I worked for a number of record labels in New York. I was writing record reviews and interviewing musicians for several different music magazines at that time. That lasted about a year.
If I knew then what I knew now about perseverance and stamina, I would have stayed in that field. I certainly have no regrets but when I was 22 and the music business looked even then quite precarious, I pivoted and did something else, which led to where I am, which was to take an entry-level job in a marketing agency in New York.
You’re off to New York from there. What marketing firm was that? Was that one of the larger ones or an entry-level all the way around?
It was a very small marketing. This is pre-internet. This is in the early ’80s in direct response marketing and principally direct mail, which is in many respects a more sophisticated science than internet marketing because of the cost of physical mail. When you mail millions of pieces, you have to know you’re not going to get hurt. This was a firm in the mailing list business that was in a commodity mindset. There wasn’t a lot of thinking going on there. I didn’t have any mentors there but I found my way into marketing by realizing all on my own. It was hidden in plain sight. It was right there to see.
I saw it. It’s understanding what people will do when presented with a piece of mail or an ad online. What is that mechanism? What is that interface? What do the eyes do? What does the brain do? What is that person aware of? What are they not aware of? It’s all the conscious and unconscious dynamics of that moment when that piece of mail comes out of the mailbox at that time. The psychology and the dynamics of that were fascinating to me. When I dove into it on my own, self-taught, it enabled me to develop a reliable predictive power to understand what audiences would respond to what offers. That was the beginning of my work in the marketing world.
What do you mean by what audiences will respond to?
As an example, there are still magazines around although they’re not quite as robust as they used to be. When we open up a copy of Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, or whatever your readers are enjoying, there are ads in the magazine. That’s ad revenue to that publisher. Companies pay money to put ads in magazines. In a very similar way, companies can pay for that same media. Let’s say Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, or whoever. Other advertisers, instead of taking an ad in the pages of the magazine, can mail it to that readership and go direct to their mailbox.
As an example, one of my early clients was Prevention Magazine. It’s still a flagship product in the category. One of my first assignments was helping them to locate new prospect lists to mail and offer for Prevention Magazine. There were many lists of people that were reading other health publications. It stands to reason. If they’re reading this other newsletter on health, they have an interest in health. They might say yes to Prevention but the other thing that I came to realize also is that, unlike a lot of things we could mention like birdwatching, quilting, or woodworking, those are niches.
If you want to sell something in those categories, you need to find people who do it because you’re not going to convince anybody to start by asking them to read your magazine but we all are going to deal with health at some point. You can start taking good care of yourself in your 20s, 30s, and 40s to prevent all the stuff that could happen later or maybe you’re 60, 70, or 80 and you have certain health challenges. Either way, I was able to show them even in my early twenties. I thought, “Health isn’t a niche. Health is everybody sooner or later.” We can mail to other kinds of lists other than lists having anything to do with health.
We know that the people on that list are the same set of characteristics that read Prevention. Let’s say they’re women in their 60s or 70s. Let’s say they have been known to purchase something through the mail before, which is an important behavioral precedent. I was able with a high degree of accuracy to help them grow their business and ultimately grew a $400 million book business behind the Prevention flagship brand by understanding, A.) Health is not a niche and B.) What other kinds of prospect lists can we mail to or promote that will say yes in numbers as robust as mailing a list of people known to be reading about their health?
You figured out a better way by thinking outside the box to come up with something that’s going to work better.
They had a number of limiting beliefs. The most suffocating of which was that they had to locate people who had previously expressed an interest or shown an interest in their health. To me, that was unnecessary because I surmised that everybody deals with their health sooner. If you’re in your 30s, for the most part, you’re preventing things. If you’re in your 60s, 70s, or 80, you may have a challenge of 1 or more kinds. That one realization doesn’t mean I’m brilliant. I just noticed what they hadn’t noticed.
Once you did that for Prevention Magazine, did you stay at the same firm? Did you go to another firm or start your firm? What happened to you next?
I was at that firm for another year or two and then I moved over to another competing marketing firm. I was there for about twenty years before going out on my own a couple of years into the internet in the early 2000s. Amazon got cooking in ’97 or ’98 as a benchmark. In the early 2000s, I left the firm that I had been with for a little over twenty years and have been on my own since then.
At that time, I migrated over to eCommerce as well. The tactics and the specifics of the internet are very different from the tactics, specifics, and dynamics of offline marketing but the psychology is the throughline. As long as human beings are constituted the way we are, psychology will always be the constant that we can look at and rely on to communicate clearly, compassionately, and effectively.
What are some of the things that you’ve learned about psychology that are similar to offline and online marketing? Give us an example.
Every field has its lingo and jargon. No matter what field you might be in, there’s the tribal language and the language that the practitioners know. Newcomers are more than likely less fluent. As an example, I have a couple of guidelines for clear and compassionate communication, meaning not being nice to people but speaking in a way that they can understand and appreciate the value of what’s being said. One is to be not easily understood but impossible to misunderstand, which is a huge difference.
Another one is you want your prospects to understand you. You also want them to feel understood by you. It’s a big difference. The way that happens is they can understand you if they understand the words that you use to describe your business or the way you can help them. They feel understood by you when you use the words that they would use.
If you use a lot of words they never use, let’s say the phrase optimal wellness, there’s not a human being that ever went to a doctor and said they wanted optimal wellness but brands use the term all the time because it’s generally used in a desire to sound smart or legitimate to prove something. People might understand what optimal wellness means. They could understand you if you say that but they don’t feel understood by you because you don’t speak the same language.
If you say, “We’re going to help you feel so much better,” I get what that means and that’s how I would say it too. We’re connected because we linguistically are a match. Here’s another aspect of this. When we put words in front of people that they understand but don’t use, there’s a break that can understand you but they don’t feel understood by you because you’re not speaking the same language.
The other piece is if you put a word in front of them that they do not know. They don’t know what the word means. They don’t blame you or the brand that used that word. They blame themselves because that brand gave them a piece of evidence that day to confirm their feelings of insufficiency around their intelligence. If you use a word they don’t know at all, they don’t blame you. They blame themselves. They leave. They’re gone. We can all appreciate that any reminder of our feelings of insufficiency around intelligence and any experience that we’re not smart enough for is not a good feeling. No one would hang out for that.
These are some of the dynamics of language and being clear and compassionate that either engage people where they identify the relevance to them of what is being promised. The prefrontal cortex identifies relevance. The amygdala is where the fight or flight response generates. It tells that human animal, “You’re safe here.” The front of the brain and the back of the brain both give a green light and that brand, coach or person online has earned the right of the next few moments of that person’s life to say a little more but it requires the marriage of a green light in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
It’s relevant. The animal experiences safety. A rattlesnake and a typeface can both be dangerous to the brain. Danger is danger. Consciously, we know a rattlesnake can hurt us. A picture on a website or a typeface can’t hurt us but there still is the amygdala with the fight or flight response to contend with. People don’t sit around conscious of that. They leave websites.
I hear you using the word feel an awful lot. That’s maybe not what is typically talked about or thought about when we’re talking about marketing. A lot of people are like, “How do you get them to take action? How do you get them to buy? Let’s get them to buy.” You talk a lot about feelings. Why is that?
Thanks for noticing. I hadn’t noticed. Most businesses are online or at least have an online component. Whether you’re serving 100 clients or millions of clients, I see that business, not as your property, is a dialogue between the brand or the individual and each person that comes to that web platform. In a relationship, there are feelings of safety, relevance, hospitality, compassion and kindness.
Part of it is feelings because you can ask people, “We got the supplement on time. It helped your headaches. You got it on time. It did what it was supposed to do. How do you feel about the relationship with this business? Did you feel that they took good care of you? Were things happening for you? Were things happening to you? Was there service? Was there hospitality? Did you feel honored throughout that process?”
That’s what creates the continuation and ultimately the longevity of relationships. I would suggest it’s how people feel about it. Even if they don’t sit around thinking about it or say it that way, that’s what’s required. “I feel this is valuable. This product helped me.” I love the question. Thank you for noticing. A lot of the continuation of business relationships is either with consumers or professional relationships in a coach and a client or a lawyer and a client. If we look, people stay in those relationships or don’t because of how they feel.
People care how you make them feel. I don’t think that most people notice that or pay attention to it. I’m sure that I don’t enough because it’s not in the forefront as you’re talking about. It sounds like there are certain questions that you ask before a piece were to go out, publicized or put out to the market. There are certain criteria that it has to pass before. I need your blessing on this, Michael. Are there certain things that it needs to pass to get by you?
I haven’t touched a piece of direct mail in many years. Everything I do is eCommerce but still, the answer is yes. Here’s a very interesting thing. No matter what the offering is, it could be coaching, a health product, a fitness product, legal services, or house cleaning. The special point of differentiation is what I call the flag on the moon. You go to the moon and put your flag down. You’re the only one there. It’s just you. What is your flag on the moon? What is your point of differentiation that makes you special, unique, different, better, or whatever that point of superiority or something in the marketplace that’s different, new, and more effective?
However, if you articulate that point of differentiation in a way that still sounds like all the noise out there, you become dismissible because the newness and the innovation in what you’re describing get missed. The voice of your brand or the board the voice of what you’re saying even as a professional sounds like the rest of the clutter and noise that’s out there. Not only is it important to express the point of differentiation but to say it in a way that stands out and doesn’t sound like the whole chorus that’s out there. You can be different but still, be dismissible if you sound like everybody else. I’m always looking for the point of differentiation. Does it stand out in its category by having contrast to all those voices that are out there that sound similar?
What I heard you say was you need to have a point of differentiation said differently.
You said it better than I did. Thank you.
You said that but I wrote it down. I don’t know if you said that but it’s interesting. It’s a point of differentiation said differently. Would you have an example that you can think of? I’m catching you off guard but is there an example of one that you can think of or a company that was struggling before in standing out and differentiating themselves and then they went through and worked with you and you created a different way to differentiate them?
We’re working with a company in what we call the ready-to-drink space, meaning you can go to Whole Foods and buy a can or a beverage. This uses the ingredient kava, which is a plant product. It’s not a recreational product. All it does is have a relatively minor calming effect. The language we’re working with at the moment is, “Connect at your best.”
You can connect at your worst by consuming all kinds of other things. It’s the contrast to doing anything at your worst, intoxicated, messed up in some way or even disproportionately angry. Connect at your best. It tracks the origins of the product in the South Pacific, what it’s known for and some of its connections to spirituality, at least in terms of its origins from where it comes from.
That’s one example. I have so many. I’m advising a doctor in Florida who treats men. The message there is, “Be your absolute best again.” Any man 40 or 50 at least can point to something even minor, “I used to be stronger. I used to have more stamina,” or whatever it might be. Be your absolute best again. Another great example is no longer in use but it worked and measurably performed for many years for women’s hormones. As we have all heard and hopefully not experienced, when women’s hormones are in dysregulation, there’s a lot of physical and emotional discomfort for her and many times the people around her. This tagline was, “For women, at home in your body, at last.”
For a lot of women in that position, their body feels like an opponent, almost like enemy territory. The words, “At home in your body,” are soothing. “At home in your body, at last.” What did the two words ‘At Last’ mean? They’re acknowledging all the years of frustration, pain, and discomfort when the problem was not handled. Those two words ‘At Last’ are a huge acknowledgment of the months or even years when the problem wasn’t effectively addressed.
I’ll say one last thing if I can about that. A lot of marketers or people in marketing will tell you, “The most powerful word in marketing is free.” I know all about this. I grew up in free in direct response but starting things with free creates an expectation ongoing in that relationship. People have an expectation for more free, discounts and this sort of thing.
Not only individuals but brands have a soul. Brands have a voice. For me, the most important, effective, and powerful word in marketing is ‘Let’s’ because it immediately indicates a partnership, “Even if I never meet you, and I read your blog, or I buy your online course, let’s get you healthy again. Let’s get you all the success you ever wanted. Let’s have your relationship be happier.” Anytime someone sees ‘Let’s’ without thinking about it, they know that we’re going to do it together, “Let’s go skiing. Let’s go to the movies.” There’s togetherness and partnership. It immediately takes away from that person that they were in it alone.
When did you realize how powerful ‘Let’s’ is?
I don’t use it every day, but it’s always one of my number one favorite words. I don’t put it everywhere that I go as an advisor. I’m going to say it’s easily a decade. I was working with a woman who’s a founder of a health coach training program. This line is no longer in use either but it was extremely met and measurably productive. Her field or area is nutrition, fitness, and weight loss. The line that we came up with was, “Let’s discover what you’re really hungry for.” Really was in italics, indicating it’s not food.
It’s love, affirmation, and safety. Love, affirmation, and safety pretty much cover it. Acknowledgment. As you can appreciate, those don’t sound like the stuff you run into all day long in those categories. You can’t look away. Once you hit that line if it’s relevant to you, there’s a pattern disruption. You’re not scrolling or swiping. All of that frenetic energy stops because it pierced your heart and soul.
I’ve got six pages of notes that I’ve had since we started.
I’m very flattered. I hope they’re yours to use.
Thank you. How do you go about helping someone discover, develop, create, manifest or whatever word you use for their tagline?
I’m very grateful for the question. It’s a very important question because most coaches, advisors, professionals and brands either sit in a boardroom or go to the Bahamas for three days and brainstorm it on a whiteboard. It’s all well-intended. I’m not knocking it. There’s a better way. Others will pay an agency a lot of money to say, “Please tell me who I am.” In my experience, because I always work with a scoreboard, I want the measurability that what I’m doing is performing mathematically and financially.
I don’t believe taglines are composed. When they’re clever or kitschy or when they sound like they came from a boardroom, they don’t. There’s plenty that came from a boardroom that is out there working but by and large, especially since every company has a voice and a soul, I would suggest taglines are at their most powerful and penetrating to the heart and soul of the reader if they’re not composed so much as they are revealed.
If it was you, Gary, I would say it lives inside you. In the next few hours or the next day or two, we’re going to locate it like an archaeological dig. You brush away the sand and the pebbles and then you find the gleaming jewel that was buried in the sand. I’ve done this probably 40 or 50 times in recent years. This isn’t the gospel truth. A fly on the wall would not see this but it’s a way to hold the process. We’re not composing it. We’re revealing it because it’s a deep inquiry into the heart and soul of the founder and why she or he is doing what they’re doing. There’s always a reason. I used the word feel quite a bit. I work with people on their taglines.
When I go through this process, let’s say I’m with someone and I hear a woman use the word freedom in a period of a few minutes. I’ll say, “I want to acknowledge. I’ve heard the word freedom a number of times in the last few minutes. What does freedom mean to you?” What does Feel mean to me? I’ll say, “What does freedom mean to you?” It’s partly hearing that word and noticing the pattern. It’s partly noticing their physiology. Are they joyous or somber? Are they crying? What do I see on their face that’s connected to the words that are coming out of their mouth, especially when there’s a pattern? I’ll say, “What does the word freedom mean to you?” We will go down that path.
I’m always listening and watching for patterns. Usually, the tagline will come out of the person’s mouth. They don’t even know it. They’re in a flow state. They’re speaking. All of a sudden, I’ll say, “What did you say? Say that again.” A lot of times, lightning hits the room. It’s done because it got revealed. It’s a promise to the world. It’s very clearly articulated. It passes every test some of which I shared. It passes every test you could throw at it. It originated in the heart and soul of a human being with a purpose. That’s why it lands so powerfully with the reader. How it reached the eyes and/or ears of the prospect connects as deeply as it originated.
It’s interesting because where we started is almost where we’re finishing. As a kid, you were put in a position of trying to figure out, “What’s going on here? What do I notice? What are the little things I’m picking up on to try to figure out what’s happening here? What are we trying to say here?” That’s what you’ve done your whole life. You’ve got systems and processes for it but you were doing it as a little kid.
Thank you for noticing that. I had not put those together. I’m very grateful for your observation. Thank you.
We do our why our whole life. It’s why I would choose you and what makes you special. For those of you that are reading, Michael’s why is to make sense of the complex and challenging. He does that by challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box, thinking differently, and pushing limits. Ultimately, what he brings is that trusting relationship where others can count on him. Michael, we’re running out of time so I want to make sure that you get an opportunity. If they’re saying, “I want to work with him. I want to follow him and see what he’s doing,” what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you? What kind of people would you like to get in touch with you?
I typically coach and advise founders not limited to but principally in wellness, fitness, or personal development on messaging, positioning, and business growth with some of the tools and things we have discussed. I’m advising a woman who in turn coaches executives and other people who get in front of other people on media and speaking skills. I’m advising an eCommerce site and golf apparel. They’re way up. If anybody feels an affinity for this work, I would invite you to reach out.
You don’t need to be in wellness, fitness, or personal development. If you’re on purpose and you’re passionate about what you do, it is a calling for you, and the currency of success for you is impact, I would be honored to talk to you. Please know that. My DMs are open on both Instagram and Twitter if you’re on either of those platforms. Most people have one or the other or both. That would be best.
Michael, thank you so much for being here. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I have seven pages of notes. You got me thinking differently. The little things or the choice of a word is so powerful that I’ve got to think more about it so that it’s on purpose versus not clear.
Thank you, Gary. I’m honored about this visit, for this conversation, and to have made a difference if I have. I point out things that are hidden in plain sight. Thank you for this honor. I enjoyed it.
It’s time for our new segment, Guess the Why. I’m going to pick Snoop Dogg. I don’t know a ton about Snoop Dogg. He’s a rapper. He has stayed relevant for a long time. He’s in a lot of commercials still. He’s well-liked by a lot of people. He doesn’t seem like he’s a big troublemaker or that he’s caught up in being a gangster and all that stuff, but that’s just my impression. I’m not sure. If I had to go with what Snoop Dogg’s why is, I’m going to go with contribute. It seems like he wants to help, be part of it, and help other people do better as well. It’s not only about him.
That’s my impression, and I may be wrong. I would love to hear what you think Snoop Dogg’s why is. Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you can go to WhyInstitute.com with the code, PODCAST50. Discover your why at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe below and leave a review and rating on whatever platform that you’re using because that will help get us to more people. I enjoy bringing the why and the WHY.os to the world so that we can have a bigger impact and help one billion people live their life on purpose. Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you next time.
Leader of Consumer Health Summit founder community
Strategic angel investor
From my early 20’s, after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Biology from Binghamton University, I knew that helping companies who help people to feel better, perform better, and live longer would be the focus of my professional life. This is my purpose, to advise founders for whom the currency of success is impact, with valuation and financial rewards a natural by-product.
For over 30 years, I’ve been a leading advisor to founders on marketing, positioning and accelerated, customer-centric business growth, helping to grow businesses, many from inception, such as Bulletproof, Athletic Greens, Thrive Market, The DNA Company, Suggestic, BrainTap, and Rodale (Prevention and Men’s Health publishing brands) as well as many of the leading personal brands who serve large online customer communities.
Harnessing insights into psychology and linguistics, many my own, that enable compassionate communication and committed customer engagement has been my passion and a significant lens through which I view business growth.
Along these lines, how the founder’s origin story and personal work on their trauma history might impact their abilities to lead, articulate and craft work culture, and pivot their model when necessary, are strongly considered.
Also, I created the Consumer Health Summit founder community in 1994 as a private, invitation-only group for leading and early-stage founders who operate customer-centric businesses with both purpose and prowess. I’ve been leading the community and curating the participants and faculty at this annual gathering ever since. Business categories include fitness, supplements,
food/beverage, apps, wearables, health tech, home diagnostic testing, and others.
Members include founders of Bulletproof, Thrive Market, Oura Ring, ChiliPad, The Spa Dr., Jigsaw Health, Microbiome Labs, Upgrade Labs, Equi.Life, and The DNA Company. Revered faculty include partners from Mayfield Fund and Rothschild and Co., as well as psychology academics from Stanford and Harvard universities.
As a speaker, I share how the founder’s origin story, clear messaging, customer care and work culture combine to take companies from merely good to the admired best at what they do.