I absolutely love small business.
I don’t know if it’s the independence of being my own boss or which particular aspect of small business it is that draws me most, but there’s something about it. Maybe the nostalgia of the mom and pop shops I grew up around. Comic book stores and arcades, diners with key lime pie and fried pork chops, even the hardware store was fun. All my earliest memories of small businesses were great.
Granted I wasn’t there for the after-hours inventory counts. Nor did I think of them as “small business”. I didn’t know what a small business was.
I know it’s more than a mom and pop shop. It’s a passion. Or madness.
It’s the entrepreneurial spirit. Hustle. Drive.
I’m weird that way, I get it. But it gives people a vehicle to get out on their own and provide a service to their community and even the world with today’s technology.
Small business is a wonderful thing.
When you love something, naturally, you want to see it grow and prosper and that drives me to get out there and teach business owners what I know.
I love serving people. I know that sounds weird, but speaking from a customer service standpoint, I get a little dopamine hit from making sure people feel great when they do business with me. Whether it’s when I was serving and bartending, or whatever job
I was doing, my main concerns were: is it right and are they happy. Everything else was secondary.
One particular sales call I was building rapport with a customer by asking about what he did at his church. He told me he was an encourager.
The look on my face was probably about the same as yours is reading this, because he proceeded to explain, “After the message, and during the invitation if I see somebody who looks like they’re down or having a hard time with something, I go put my arm around them and take my Bible and see if I can be a help to them.” He said, “You know, just love em.”
I said, “Man that’s really cool. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an actual job like that?”
Turns out, it’s a thing. I get to do it.
I get to coach business owners and teach them all sorts of cool sciencey stuff and help them. I get to see people thrive. To the point where one restaurant, in particular, couldn’t handle the dinner rush for several weeks. #humblebrag
How did I get here?
And where is here?
Maybe answering the second question first will make answering the first more concise.
Some would say my life is a success. I do what I love, I have a wonderful relationship with my kids, I live minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Some would say my life is a failure, because I don’t own a car or have shiny things. It sounds petty, but their basis of judgement is materialism.
Here is a place where neither success nor failure are terms by which I gauge my progress. Here is a place where persistence matters more.
Here is not the mountain top of success, but from here, I can see the future.
People like the view from the mountain top, but few want to risk the climb, or continue through the cold, or power through the exhaustion. It’s necessary to get there.
When I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, I became a bit of an adrenaline junky.
Standing on the back of motorcycles and finding other interesting ways of tempting death became a weekly outing. One such addiction was climbing Garden of the Gods without any gear. Just barehanded grit.
I never fell.
There’s something about the option of plummeting to a bouncy painful death that makes you want to reach the top. When missing your goal becomes equivalent to bouncy painful death, it keeps you going. It makes you want to find another way up or around. But not down, Not yet.
Once I reached the summit of whichever formation I happened to be scaling, I would often sit and watch the sky. I might regretfully come down after an hour or so if my friends were with there too, but if not, I’d go find another peak to climb.
That is the entrepreneurial spirit. Exploring, persisting.
Here is not the valley of failure.
One of the most incredible places on earth is San Luis Potosi, Mexico. However, between June and September, the area gets over 14 inches of rain per month. It’s an unforgiving downpour. Unpleasant as that may be, the constant rains feed the streams and rivers that flow through the area and create some of the most incredible waterfalls ever seen. Not only do the rains create beautiful attractions, they also nourish the plethora of fauna. Here we have palm trees, pines and oaks, and there they have mangoes and avocados and guava. I’ve picked lemons that, because of their size and color, could easily be mistaken for oranges. Plantains just growing by the side of the road. It all just grows naturally. The soil is as black as the night sky as deep as you can dig.
One of the more interesting observations I made while in Mexico, was that the fruits and vegetables so plenteous in the valley didn’t grow on the mountains.
This observation has done so much in helping me through hard times.
We like being on the mountain top. It’s beautiful up there. The valley is muddy and hard to traverse. It’s messy down there. But that’s where the growth happens. In the messy places.
I learned another interesting fact while in Mexico. They have bamboo, very similar to the kind that grows in China. Bamboo is an amazing plant capable of astronomical growth. As much as 90 feet in one month. Here’s where the interesting (life-helping) part comes in. Bamboo doesn’t just shoot out of the ground and launch skyward in a day. Or a month, or even a year. Bamboo grows an intricate network of roots for five years before breaking through the surface. It’s the unseen underground growth that allows the stalk to grow so quickly.
People see the strong, majestic stalks reaching for the sky, not the roots below.
The entrepreneurial spirit is growth.
I didn’t get here in a day. Or a month. It’s been over a year of personal growth and changes just to get here. It’s been rejections and bootstrapping. It’s been creating and remaking. It’s been shedding preconceived notions, particularly the words “failure” and “success”.
Failure has been incorrectly defined as a person who fails. It is also incorrectly defined as an event with an unexpected or unwanted outcome. The ones who define failure as a learning tool are closer to accuracy; but I do not use the term at all. Nor do I use success. These words are too final for me. I am either where I want to be in life, or on the way. “Failure” is a course correction, whereas “success” is just a guidepost.
To put it more simply, we either learn, or know.
Redefining events in my life by these terms has drastically changed my outlook.
Suddenly all the circumstances that I thought were against me became tools or teachable moments. Even suffering the loss of my car and not being able to replace it became a catalyst for my personal fitness and endurance.
That alone has taught me the truth of the adage: strength does not come from what you can do, it comes from doing what you thought you couldn’t.
The entrepreneurial spirit is strength.
Redefining my life without those terms also taught me a valuable lesson on perspective: to look at events as learning opportunities. When these events with less than desirable outcomes occur, I change the emotional label from disappointing to teachable, thus removing any power of depression, and replacing it with an intense desire to know more. Why did it happen this way? How can I change the outcome next time? Asking these questions completely changes the meaning behind the event, and thus my response to it.
Getting “here” has been more of a marathon than a quick jog to career change land.
Just over a year ago, I left what I thought would be the last job I would ever have.
Right out of the box, they provided tools for setting goals in my life, identifying the values that drive me, and some of the best sales and management training a person can get. I loved the job and the people I worked with. And then I had an epiphany. I’m not a sales guy. I don’t like pressuring people into decisions, and certainly don’t like selling a product to someone that they don’t need and can’t afford.
I discovered something else, too. I love teaching. Prior to taking that sales job, I had learned a lot about neuroscience, influence and rapport building, particularly in the area of relationships. After leaving that sales job, I learned a lot of entrepreneurs need help in building and nurturing those relationships to improve their customer experience. This opened a whole new world of opportunity.
I began sharing the science right away. It fascinated me. With what I learned, I could ask a few simple questions and take a person from complete stranger to near intimacy within a relatively short amount of time. It was repeatable. I began experimenting with it, refining it and finally created courses. Material based in science, but works like magic.
I focused on communication and rapport building, and put material together that allows anyone to connect with anyone else on deeply personal levels, and actually understand them better. I used David Snyder’s “three magic questions” and adapted them to a relationship sales approach that focuses more on the relationship and customer values, while increasing close rates. The most fulfilling work, though, has been consolidating the course in customer service. It’s been 25 years in the making.
I remember one particular climbing expedition in Colorado that was in a bit of a horseshoe formation. One side of the horseshoe was at ground level. The other side was about forty feet high. My friend Ivan took the easy way up and walked around. I decided the straight up approach was more fun. They both led to the same place.
About ten or twelve feet from the top (where Ivan was waiting) I reached the base of a V shaped crevice that had opened at the surface. Much to my dismay, it made reaching the top rather difficult. From where I was, I could either go to the right into the crevice, or out to the left around it. The left side of the face had no place for my hand to grasp, but another foot hold about four feet up. The right side became the more logical route, so into the crevice I went.
I wasn’t going back down.
I got myself good and wedged in that crevice when I realized I had no way up there either. The crevice only offered a hand hold about two feet from the top, and no place for my feet. My option now was to reach left handed out from the crevice, find the foothold, and swing out and up, or grow taller.
I was stuck. I could go back down, that wasn’t an issue, but I was just out of arm’s reach from the top, and I wasn’t going to quit. I needed to get unstuck.
I reached out with my left hand, grabbed a rock and began to unstick myself when something hit me in the head. I looked up to see Ivan’s upper half leaning over edge with his hand stretched out for mine. He said with a chuckle, “I thought you could use some help.”
I really did need it. I didn’t want to admit it, but likely wouldn’t have made it without Ivan’s help.
It’s been said that asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve learned that I can do a lot on my own, but way more with the help of others. The entrepreneurial spirit is knowing your limitations, and finding the help to overcome them.
I tell that story because all these things that have happened have been learning experiences. Every disappointment, every setback, every obstacle. They have been catalysts. It is highly unlikely that I would have put these courses together had I not left that sales job. It is just as unlikely that I would be on my way to achieving my fitness goals had I not lost my car.
This dream would not be a reality were it not for the persistence to keep going. It would not be had I not kept exploring. I would not be the person I am today were it not for the network of friends and colleagues, mentors by proxy, nourishing me mentally; and helping me find the strength I need to push through the mess and grow. Nor would I be able to provide help to others, if I had not received it myself.
I hosted my first meetup today.
The grand total in attendance: two. Myself included.
Here's my takeaways.
1) Social media requires engagement.
I have close to 20,000 connections on LinkedIn and my Instagram reach is around the 200,000 mark with hashtags. Hashtags are great for reaching an audience. They don't work so well for actually engaging with people though. That requires vulnerability. People need a reason to engage. As a startup, I have to find out where my clients are challenged, and speak to that pain in a way that resonates with my clients, and provide solutions that they can use. That means I have to meet them where they are, being transparent and real. It means I need to be open enough to understand what they are going through as a business owner. All this means engaging then and asking questions. It's not enough to post an event, I must first discover if the event is needed.
2) The Power of One.
Sometimes we have to go through things alone. Sometimes we have a support group, family and friends who believe in you and in what you're doing. Sometimes that support group is one person. Sometimes, that's all you need. The right person understands your vision. They buy in. They get behind you, support you and help you realize your vision. The one other person that came to the meetup was exactly that type. He understood and wanted to partner with me. He even pointed me in the direction of a business owner who could not only host future meetups, but has been approached by other business owners looking for the solutions I offer.
3) Overcoming "against all odds" means there's odds to be against.
No one can write a story of inspiring, winning and learning without victories to win and lessons to learn. That comes from adversity. Problems, challenges, issues, troubles... whatever you call them... every last one is a chance to move closer to accomplishing your goals or help you make the necessary course corrections. Two of the most powerful mindset shifts I've made have been: a) there's no such thing as failure, or success. I am either where i want to be in life, or on my way there. And b) asking myself, "How can this move me closer to my goals/benefit me or my clients?" as opposed to "Why is this happening to me?"
"This" might just be happening FOR you, not TO you. Once you realize that, things can happen THROUGH you. In other words, you become the catalyst for change. You control your destiny. Not circumstances.
Dear reader, this last takeaway is certainly the most valuable, because the tiniest shifts in thinking can create the greatest changes in your life.
As you become aware of your thinking, and realize you are in total control of your mind, you can easily and automatically begin to make changes for your best good, and understand how important mindset can be in manifesting the life you really want.
This isn't a lesson in the law of attraction, it’s a lesson in the law of attraction, gratitude and mindset.
It’s a place to rest, not quit.
“I can’t get up.”
Those words rang in my head, in a voice that sounded much like my own. I was gasping for air. Heart pounding and desperately thirsty, I laid on the floor of my apartment, searching for the strength to get up.
“I bet if I broke my foot off in your ass you’d get up!”
“No, imaginary drill sergeant. I’d just be tired four feet over there. I can’t get up.”
“Can’t never could do anything, son.” My dad’s voice this time “You can get up, you’re just tired. Laying there is more comfortable.”
He was right. I could get up, but damn, my abs were sore. Laying there was comfortable. I took about a week off from working out, and now I was paying for it. I thought surely cramming the last five days of strength training and cardio into one session would make up for my laziness.
My decision seemed a lot less smart twenty minutes in. I was tired already and my dad’s advice from years ago reminded me that I had only reached that 40% plateau. It’s the first wall we hit. We, from initial enthusiasm and energetic will power, go as fast as possible in the first available direction when the first real obstacle comes up. Bam, face first.
We hit that wall. It stops being exciting. It stops being fun. It’s hard work and it’s tiring and we want to quit.
And that’s exactly where I was: on the floor, attempting to bring my water from across the room by sheer willpower. My telekinesis wasn’t working either.
I’m there in my entrepreneurial journey as well.
That 40% plateau looked different. I was getting things going. Making real progress.
The website, social media, connections, everything. Then I was approached by my friend and long time customer. He offered me a sales position at his dealership. Porsche. I could easily make six figures.
But if I sell my dream, what’s the difference between doing it for six figures or two?
I couldn’t take the position. I turned down the opportunity of a lifetime. I told my friend “No” because I don’t like doing sales. I’d rather teach. And I’d rather teach the science behind relationships and how business owners can use it to turn prospects into brand ambassadors. And I’d rather teach it to the guys at Porsche.
That’s when I hit the wall. When he told me Porsche doesn’t usually bring in outside consultants, it was a disappointment to say the least. It seemed as though everything else had come to a halt so fast, I could almost hear the cyber-screech. My web developer had to take some weeks off. My fiverr was doing nothing. Very little engagement in social media, and none of it was turning sales.
I remember running on two different occasions.
My first, as a junior in high school. I was a fat kid, but loved soccer and felt reasonably comfortable enough in my athletic ability to try out for the JV team. The first requirement seemed obvious enough, make sure we could run. One and a half miles, in thirteen minutes.
It was only six laps. My undeveloped mind did not yet understand the idea of pacing oneself, or the importance of stretching, warming up — any of the normal, pre-run activities. My brain understood two things: racing, and impressing coach LeVine.
Ready, set, and gone. I took off like a rocket. I ran as fast as I possibly could, and two thirds of the way around the track I realized I couldn’t breathe very well. And my legs hurt, bad. Like, they don’t want to do this anymore. Neither did my lungs. My everything hurt. I had to finish, though. I was first.
“No, no you’re not finishing.” my legs said.
“Yeah we’re done too”, “I’m out”, “we’re done”…my body said no. That was a dumb idea and we’re not doing it anymore. As I sputtered across the starting line, I ran off to the side, found Coach LeVine and said, “Coach, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea.”
And I walked off the field.
My second running memory was formed in a battalion run at the end of basic training.
The battalion commander thought it would be a good idea to take the lot of us on a six mile run in the cool December evening weather Missouri has to offer. (Read cold.
Not the regular cold that comes when it snows, but the kind of dismal, wet cold that only comes from running six miles in an accordion like fashion through the back of Fort Leonard Wood.)
My friend Robie was in my platoon and happened to be behind me in the run. We were almost finished, but had another mile and a half or so left when he felt done. We were in formation, battalion formation. There would be no end to the proverbial shit storm that would be rained upon us from literally every drill sergeant in the battalion if we broke formation. It wasn’t an option. It was a considerable challenge given the nature of several hundred soldiers running “together”. Cadence calling helped, but only so much for Echo Company, third platoon, the near end of the formation. Only fourth platoon, their drill sergeant, our drill sergeant, Top, the XO, CO, and of course our BCO were behind us.
I told Robie to hold onto my jacket and not let go. Just keep pace for one more step. He did, and we made it in.
I relate these two experiences because they demonstrate the vast difference in results between quitting when we hit that wall, and merely resting. Or in this latter instance, pacing oneself.
When I tried out for JV soccer, I was excited and inexperienced. I hit that wall fast. It hurt and I quit.
In the Army, I was better trained, properly warmed up, fed and equipped. I had a standard to uphold and people depending on me. As well as consequences and people I did not want to disappoint. When I hit that wall in the Army, I powered through it. I got my second wind. It didn’t hurt because I didn’t quit.
Had I not quit in high school, but rather conserved my energy and slowed to a more reasonable pace, I would’ve made the soccer team instead of embarrassing myself.
I didn’t realize what the 40% plateau was.
I should’ve slowed down, dug down and found that strength to keep going. I didn’t know how. The Army taught me the mission comes first. My platoon taught me the team comes first. My friend taught me others come first.
All these come before me, and it gave me the drive to keep going. Being properly trained, fed and motivated gave me the ability to keep going. Despite being tired.
In business, especially starting a project, it’s important to be properly prepared and paced in order to power through. We will hit obstacles. will get tired. It will stop being fun, and become hard work. But people depend on you. Your company’s mission depends on you. Your “success" depends on you.
My personal plateau will not stop me. I will not quit because things aren’t going according to plan. I am prepared and equipped to change the plan. It’s time to climb.
This is the time to dig in, remember the why, develop the how, and go after the whats which will benefit the most. Time to find the whos that are depending on me and help where they hurt.
Because I’m not done yet. I have sixty percent left before I’m truly exhausted. That’s if i don’t refuel along the way. Self care is another topic for another day. Today is the day to keep going. To take an honest inventory of where I am, and what I need to get where I want.
originally posted on medium.com Apr 23, 2019