The Art of Breaking Out with Craig McBreen

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My guest today, Andrew Davis, is a bestselling author and sought after keynote speaker. Before he co-founded, built, and sold a successful digital marketing firm, Andrew had quite a list of accomplishments. He produced for NBC’s Today Show, created programming for local television, worked for the Jim Henson Company, and wrote for Charles Kuralt. He has marketed for start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. And more recently, he founded Monumental Shift, the world’s first talent agency for marketing thought leaders.

Andrew and I start off the show by discussing his breakout moment—that instant in time that defined the course of his career. This moment happened in 2008 at a custom publishing conference, where he bombarded the godfather of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi with a zillion questions. Andrew knows how to get attention and he sure got Joe’s attention on that day. Because without having seen Andrew speak in front of a crowd, Joe asked him to speak at an event. This speaking event changed the course of Andrew’s life, and he soon realized that inspiring marketers and entrepreneurs to think differently was something he excelled at and enjoyed. And soon his previous experiences came together to launch a speaking and writing career he previously didn’t think possible.

We then get into the unique way he personally brands himself, including his signature glasses and bow tie. Sometimes people don’t remember his name, but they always remember the bow tie, glasses, and frenetic pace of his speeches. One thing is certain with Andrew Davis—his personal branding is working extremely well.

Next, we discuss his varied experiences—improv troop member, child actor, working for The Muppets—and how that range of experiences has helped him with his career today. Andrew then details how he got a job at the Jim Henson Company. Turns out he wrote and sent a letter every month for three years (that’s 36 letters folks). And those 36 letters got him a 30-minute meeting and a job!  So, I can’t resist telling Andrew exactly why I hate Elmo (it’s based on personal experience).

After that, we transition into how an entrepreneur can take his or her passion for something, put their own unique spin on in, and truly stand out in the marketplace. Andrew’s answer is all about combining your value, personality, and unique experience, formulating a plan, then committing to one thing and delivering it on a regular basis to an audience just waiting for what you have to offer. His advice? Get organized, embrace the journey, and look at it as a quest. The first thing might not be the “thing” but it’s a journey.

We move into something I love, those crucial brand-building steps for someone just starting out. Should they “start with Why?” How can they create a truly unique space in their market? And this just isn’t for solos. Companies should stop talking about how they are different and show the world how they are different. He talks about the Loyalty Loop and his methodology on working to truly differentiate yourself by improving the client experience.

Andrew also has a very fruitful practice of hand writing notes. He not only used hand written notes to get a job with The Muppets, he hit up the one and only Warren Buffet, sending a letter each week with a new revenue idea. He ended up being on the Today Show with Warren and they had a chat about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. The lesson? Little things like writing hand-written notes have amazing power.

Then we get back to where he is now, how he inspires marketers, and his lessons on how a company can best tell a story and through that story improve their business. Here’s one: To get rich, you’ve got to target a niche (an audience underserved in the marketplace). But you have to serve that market and create a content brand.

To wrap up, Andrew gives some great advice for someone wanting to create their own breakout brand. Have a listen. Mr. Davis has quite a bit to teach.

Questions I ask: 

  • How can a professional services firm stand out in the marketplace?
  • Should a solopreneur “start with Why” when branding their business?
  • What was it like meeting Warren Buffet?
  • How can a business effectively use storytelling?
  • How did the media world make you a better content marketer?
  • How did you come up with your great “Meatloaf Journey” presentation?

What you will learn:

  • The importance of old school practices like letter-writing.
  • Why you should view entrepreneurship as a quest (vs a series of career moves)
  • Why I hate Elmo.
  • Why you should challenge all assumptions.
  • Andrew’s spot on the Today Show with Warren Buffet.
  • Andrew’s great advice on creating a Breakout Brand.
  • To get rich, you have to target a niche (an audience underserved in the marketplace).
  • Great ways to add value to your client’s life.
  • You’ll never stand out with commodity content.

Links mentioned in the show:

Want to find out why I started the Art of Breaking Out podcast? Read this.


My guest today, Brett Henley and I start off the show by talking about a new creative mecca that goes by the name of Nashville, TN. I'm really curious about its creative, tech, and food culture, and why so many people I talk to lately seem to be moving there. And Brett has quite a bit to say about this grand old city everyone is moving to.

Brett's story

Here we discuss Brett's own story, what he was like as an introverted kid fully immersed in geek culture, and his honest account of his meandering, sometimes painful, journey.

Brett has a background in digital strategy, so I naturally ask him about that fun world, what led him there, and how he ended up in the creative space. So we talk about his start in digital media around 2006, how he spent a fairly long time in the agency world, which slowly, but surely led to where he is today. This leads to a discussion of the portfolio life and why this is such a great time for those renaissance men and woman with a variety of skills to break out in their own way.

Hey Instigator and Brett's consulting process

We then take a deep dive into branding, including Brett's methodology for bringing a brand to life. We talk about what Brett is doing today, including his property, Hey Instigator. How his new work is centered on creative entrepreneurship and "combining creative services and a gentle kick in the ass." And, based on that statement, I ask him to run through a typical client call and how he addresses a client's biggest challenges. He often starts the process by taking a journalistic approach that is both personal and painfully honest. Brett works with clients to help them articulate their brand by going beyond standard branding "best practices." His approach is not just about their skills, but their personality and how that impacts their business. 

The entrepreneurial struggle and how to be profitably creative.

A recurring theme in this show is the entrepreneurial struggle and one of my favorite topics—combining self-awareness and creativity. So, we talk through this topic and why many in the online realm think there's a magic solution to help them rise from obscurity to notoriety. And why many get stuck playing this comparison game.

The clear problem is that "success" is so subjective, so there is obviously no boiler plate solution. Not to mention, building a successful online platform is really hard, and it's not always about hustling more than the other guy… it's more about finding your unique place and doing things that fit with your style, your temperament, your level of creativity, and built around those you truly want to work with. This leads to a discussion of Maisy Smiths "Rocking the Small Corners" post, and the idea of changing the world in your own little way.

We even discuss social media, but the focus of this show is about what is means to be a creative entrepreneur in this day and age… How does self-awareness fit it? What about visibility vs. simply loving the craft? How does one go from bootstrap to sustainable? And how do we squash those built-in notions that somehow if we are not "making it"—living up to entrepreneurial standard ad hustling at all costs—we are not worth it?

And I ask him at the very end: What does "showing up" mean to you? I love his answer and think the entire interview is well worth the listen, ESPECIALLY if you are a struggling creative entrepreneur.

Questions I ask:

  • How did you find your way into digital strategy?
  • What are your clients' biggest challenges? What is a typical coaching call like?
  • What are habits that keep you on track?
  • What is your Why? What lights you up?
  • What was the major reason for shutting down your podcast?
  • How does one go from bootstrap to sustainable?
  • Can success and self worth fit together?

What you will learn:

  • The painful process of fleshing out a brand that truly represents you. (The best branding processes often have an element of pain.)
  • Why his branding process is like creative therapy.
  • You don't need a massive platform to be successful :)
  • Your body of work is a lifetime process (a marathon).
  • The myth of the overnight sensation.

Links mentioned in the show:

Maisy smith: Rocking the small corners.
Danielle Laport
AJ Leon and Misfit Inc. (Hey dude, we mentioned you… email him or Melissa).
Portfolio life podcast Jeff Goins
Unmistakable Creative podcast Srinivas Rao
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
Brett Henley on Twitter
Bretthenley.com
Hey Instigator Brett's Business

Direct download: Episode_45-_Brett_HenleyPeople_Purpose_and_Profit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:04pm PST

I've been wanting to speak to my guest, John Jantsch, for a long time. This is because I've been working with small businesses for most of my career. And small business marketing is John's sweet spot.

We start the conversation talking about the new hipster haven—Kansas City, MO. Yep, you heard me right.  So of course, we get to talking about John's home town of KC, what's great about the city, and other creative havens popping up around the U.S.

Then we get into John Jantsch's own story.

How he found his way into the marketing world and marketing strategy for small business. We quickly learn that John was and is unemployable—he started setting his own course 28 years ago, mainly working with small businesses. Around 2000 he realized he needed to create a systematic approach to small business marketing done right. And this "system approach" is what really led to the Duct Tape brand. Most small businesses struggle with marketing. They need a simple, effective, and affordable approach like Duct Tape Marketing. So we discuss the genesis of his business and how it has evolved over the years.

Then we dive into building a personal brand as an ultimate source of power.

For me, any branding exercise is about taking ideas (sometimes a mishmash of stuff) and distilling those ideas down to something that effectively communicates to the right people. So, we take a deep dive into John's process of building the kind of brand authority that can attract new business and create more opportunities by speaking to the right people. John says effectively building a rock-solid personal brand all starts with a point of view.

[bctt tweet=""Building personal brand authority is perhaps the most important element of marketing today." "]

We also talk about the importance of the initial brand steps. This is usually called positioning—boiling a company's essence down to a paragraph, maybe even a sentence, or dare I say, one word. We talk about this and John's one word—practical. So we discuss the practical approach of the Duct Tape Marketing system and  how John has expanded on this word in his own branding.

More on personal branding done right and making it online.

Then we expand our branding discussion and talk through developing a point of view.

How do you become that go-to person with a magnetic personal brand? For someone entering the crowded online realm now, how in the world do they become the go-to expert? Rise above the noise? By developing a specific point of view, sticking to it, and truly adding value to someone's life. Turn it into THE way. YOUR way.

John has a framework called The Marketing Hourglass. The concept is really about spending time with the customer after they become a client. We get into the seven stages and why it's important to start with and end in mind by asking yourself the following: How do I want my customers to feel 180 days after a purchase? Always think about the customer experience fist, because a happy customer is your best referral source. This focus on customer loyalty is crucial to your success.

Then we transition to our online bubble, discussing rising stars like John Lee Dumas and Derek Halpern. Which leads to a discussion about the comparison game, John's admiration for John and Derek, and also mention of those who shall not be named, who are not so honest. When it comes to selling the idea of making money online, there are many doing it right (like John and Derek) but many who are not.

So, we naturally talk about the not-so-easy path. The not-so-secret "secret" to John's success. Truth.

Then we get into the art of delegation and how to scale your business. A true entrepreneur asks the following: How can I get someone else to do this? And that is something you must do if you want to grow your business—start offloading everything you can as soon as you can. So, how do you start? Put together a "not-do" list.

John says the key is starting by identifying the high-paying activities. John always takes two full days a week to focus on his business. On these days he doesn't do anything else. For you, this is when you take inventory, think, strategize. Look at your big goals and work to develop a structure for the things you must do to get there. Then start doing them.

We end by talking about the entrepreneurial struggle and habits that keep John on track. Exercise is a big part of his day, as is meditation and writing. John has very structured days. So we talk about all his "best practices" when it comes to keeping up a healthy, productive, and highly-structured routine.

I also ask for his opinion on the live streaming craze (Periscope anyone) and where it's going. A good takeaway from this discussion: When John is advising clients he usually tells them to not look at the next big thing. He asks them the following: Is there a way to enhance your customer experience with these tools? If not, drop it. If so, let's see how. I love that advice and I think you'll love this conversation.

Questions I ask:

  • When did Duct Tape Marketing start?
  • What are the first steps to effectively build a magnetic personal brand?
  • In your own brand positioning you use the word "practical." How have you expanded on this word?
  • For someone entering the online realm now, are their specific practices that will help them rise above the noise?
  • What is your Marketing Hourglass framework?
  • What are habits that keep you on track?
  • What about reinvention and those 40, 50, 60 year olds who want to break out online. People who haven't been in the game and are wanting to jump in. Where do they start?

What you will learn:

  • John's first blog post was in August, 2003
  • All about John's Duct Tape system and consulting network.
  • Great advice on how to scale your business.
  • John takes 2 full days a week to focus on his business and doesn't do anything else.
  • The importance of IDing your priorities and the areas you need to grow.
  • Great advice on how to build a personal brand.

Links mentioned in the show:


My guest, Chris Ducker, is an outsourcing expert. Well that might be an understatement because when it comes to all things virtual staff related, Chris is the go-to guy.

But this podcast is all about something else he's really, really good at—personal branding. In fact there's a little project called Youpreneur that Chris has launched and it has everything to do with rock-solid brand-building.

We start off talking all thinks Philippines, and you'll learn a few fun facts about the people and the country Chris calls home.

Then we discuss his start in the publishing world in London, and his transition to designing an entire sales and marketing funnel for an infomercial business. Turns out that this industry is actually where Mr. Ducker cut his teeth in the world of brand-building, and he learned a ton about corporate branding and identity.

Next, we talk about his mentors—one good, one bad. And how the bad one drove him to get out of a very, very toxic work relationship. This gave him the impetus to bust a major move and transition into the entrepreneurial world, starting in 2006 with the Live to Sell group.

We dive into how the Chris Ducker personal brand has evolved over the years. And why he stopped pulling back and just went ahead being his authentic self. So, he went all-in with his own new platform in 2012. This branding discussion leads to one of my favorite topics—the intersection of passion and knowledge; what this means for others and what it meant for him while developing his story and fleshing out his online brand.

This leads to the topic of what most people do wrong when it comes to brand-building. So we discuss the passion versus a solid business model; success, selling, and the mistakes too many people make. We mention Pat Flynn, and it turns out Pat Flynn's fortuitous—and quickly successful–arrival on the blogging scene was not a fortuitous accident at all. And why "success" almost always comes down to effectively solving a problem. A customer's pain point.

We dive head first into the live streaming phenomenon and I ask Chris to convince me that Periscope—and the live streaming craze in general—is worth my time. He has a very interesting viewpoint on this medium, how it exposes people in its live, unedited format, and how it might shake out over time.

I conclude the show by asking him what showing up means to him. (I think you'll love his answer.)

Questions I ask:

  • How hard was it to whittle down your content to a laser-focused brand?
  • Why do most people fail to gain traction with their online brands?
  • Is Periscope (and the live streaming craze in general) worth it? What does one gain from being on one of these platforms?
  • What does showing up mean to you?
  • What was the process like developing your personal brand—from a design and story perspective?

What you will learn:

  • Filipinos are the world's biggest gin drinkers. No kidding.
  • Chris is a huge Bruce Lee fan.
  • My favorite saying form the interview: Attract the best, repel the rest.
  • Chris's personal logo was done in less than a day.
  • Why cashing in on your passion is never a great model. (Profit trumps passion.) You can't pay the bills with excitement levels. Build it. Market it. Sell it. To as many as you can.
  • Chris thinks the live streaming phenomenon is personal branding gold, if done right.
  • He currently sponsors over 30 children for school.

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Direct download: Episode_43-_Chris_DuckerHow_He_Built_a_Magnetic_Personal_Brand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm PST

ReinventionWorks was conceived when my guest, Hollis Thomases, had to serve jury duty. Yep. In the midst of her own reinvention, and unable to bring any electronic devices to the jury room, she began contemplating her next career move.

After listing a few ideas she had a flash of inspiration: To capture the stories of individuals going through their own reinvention and turn it into something special.

Hollis had built up quite a list of credentials over the years, so why not use her talents as a connector, networker, and storyteller to inspire, teach, and spark reinvention in others?

This kind of sums up her baby, Reinvention works. And today's podcast is all about Hollis, her story, and what she is doing to make her own dent in the universe.

We start off talking about young Hollis, what it was like growing up in Rockland County New York, and a discussion all about her years at Cornell University. We then get into how she started in the social media world, and how her first reinvention happened while she was working as a communications assist for the greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Hollis spent the next 10 years of her career in various jobs in marketing, PR, sales, etc. So we talk through her foray into the digital marketing world, and how a great idea she thought she had, actually led to her pivoting and reinventing her entire business.

Fast forward to what she is doing now—ReinventionWorks. Hollis and I talk about how she came up with the idea, what the platform and program is all about, and the amazing importance of thinking as a reinventionist, no matter your age or situation.

So, when it comes to reinvention, who are we talking about? Well it spans the gamut, from people in financial services now working in women's apparel to rock stars becoming chefs. I turns out Bad Co. bass guitarist Paul Cullen is now a private chef. And Erin Dickens, cofounder of Manhattan Transfer, is now peddling spices, cooking in your kitchen and singing you jazz. (Check out the show notes for both.)

We get into a discussion of what reinvention is, how Hollis is growing ReinventionWorks, and what it means to you…

Questions I ask:

  • How do you define reinvention?
  • How does someone go beyond mere change?
  • Can someone reinvent themselves working for someone else?
  • What habits keep you on track?
  • What are some of the questions you ask for someone wanting to reinvent themselves?
  • What does showing up mean to you?

What you will learn:

  • The importance of pivoting
  • Everything about her reinvention experiment.
  • Reinvention reaches many different age groups.
  • The average life expectancy of a company on the NY stock exchange is 10 years.
  • The importance of intention with reinvention.
  • Internal chatter is the little devil and its usually what stops you from change.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_42Personal_Reinvention_with_Hollis_Thomases.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:04pm PST

My guest, Joe Pulizzi and I start out talking about his home town, Cleveland, Ohio, and  the song Cleveland Rocks by Ian Hunter, Harvey Pekar and other Cleveland luminaries. We talk all things Cleveland and I can't help it. My last visit to Cleveland was over 20 years ago, so I'm a little bit fascinated with this town's turnaround.

And sorry, I know it's March, but I couldn't resist asking Joe about the Cleveland Browns and his opinion of party-boy quarterback, Johnny Manziel. This interview was recorded just before the Superbowl, so football was a topic ;)

Then, at last, we get to marketing and his book Content Inc. So we talk about the little guy (small business owner and solopreneur) and how he can get traction online. We talk about why Joe—a guy who usually focuses on enterprise business—wrote Content Inc. and worked to focus on the little guy. And how he reverse engineered the model of each individual featured in the book. They all went through Joe's Content Inc. six-step model (the six steps are listed at the end of this post).

Joe takes us through his six steps, first emphasizing the importance of finding your sweet spot (and starting with why) and finding a business that feeds your passion. Turns out that Andy Schneider (aka The Chicken Whisperer) has a lot to teach your average small business owner about breaking out online. We discuss how Andy grew this brand through content marketing and Joe describes an easy exercise to help you start to find your sweet spot.

We then talk about developing a brand around a niche (which leads to a discussion on how the heck do you pronounce "niche" anyway?) It turns out that finding a niche within a niche might be the way to go. His strategy is about saying no to certain things and focusing your resources and attention on one area. Most successful brands and media companies started this way.

Next we explore Mark Schaefer's Content Shock message and Joe's thoughts on content saturation as an impediment to breaking out online. Joe makes a case for it being easier to break out today because there are little to no barriers to entry. Joe's lesson: There is more content sure, but if you're focusing on the right niche and pain points, maybe it's easier to break through today.

We dive into a real-world example of Marcus Sheridan and River Pools and Spas (dive in. Ha ha, get it?), the importance of creating an audience first and then being consistent, consistent, consistent, and "building the base" vs. being everywhere.

After that we get into RedBull Media House and what they are doing with their amazing success and its value to Red Bull. Turns out they started with one type of media–a print magazine. If you want to break out, you should start with one type of media as well. This leads to a discussion on the live streaming phenomenon, why this spreads some people so thin, and why it'll never work for you if you don't first find your sweet spot, put your own personal spin on it, build the base and be consistent.

The Chicken Whisperer made it because he started with a very simple base and slowly grew his own little media empire from that.

Next we discuss monetization. Joe reemphasizes the importance of building audience first, and keeping a narrow focus. He even uses the example of John Deer (the largest media company in the farming industry) and how their successes where incremental.

At the end of the interview I ask Joe what a typical day is like for him and how he stays so productive. This includes the importance of goal-setting, daily review of goals, and OUTSOURCING! Review goals, plan, give up control of what you can't handle and… break out.

My final question is about breaking out and what "showing up" means to Joe. You'll love what he has to say about this.

Joe Pulizzi's Six Steps to Content Marketing Domination (The Content Inc. Model).

1. Find your sweet spot
2. Content tilt
3. Building the base
4. Harvest audience
5. Diversification
6. Monetization

Questions I ask:

  • You’re in the enterprise world. Why did you write a book directed at Solopreneurs?
  • Why do most people fail to build and effective online brand?
  • What is the secret to drill down to profitable niche?
  • What mistakes do aspiring entrepreneurs usually make when it comes to developing their online niche?
  • What is a typical day like for Joe Pulizzi? How do you stay so productive?

What you will learn:

  • The big trends for 2016 are… are you ready?… Print and Email ;) Seriously folks.
  • Joe has a goal of writing a book every two years.
  • Even a great content marketing plan often takes 6-9 months to break "radio silence."
  • To go big you have to go small (and specifically answering the hard question—is your venture "niche enough?"
  • The importance of focusing on one content type and one platform to success.
  • The importance of reviewing your goals daily.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_41Joe_Pulizzis_6_Steps_to_Content_Marketing_Domination.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17am PST

In this episode of The Art of Breaking Out, Mars Dorian and I discuss his methods for finding balance in life and work, sparking creativity, and creating better art.

Mars fell in love with comics and visual storytelling at a young age. In fact, his creativity was sparked early in life and he talks about how he discovered his calling as a child. He describes being a fairly introverted kid who could easily escape into his own fantasy world, so he started creating his own comics. His early influences varied, from gaming systems to french comics to Japanese Manga. And his experience grew as he started to travel the world, but he felt lost and confused in his early 20s. We get into a discussion about this period of his life, the fact that the creative path is never easy, and ways to effectively maneuver through it.

We then talk about what transpired to turn things around for him, including his introduction to WordPress and blogging. This included multiple iterations of his online brand and how failure after failure led him to where he is today. We also discuss how his introduction into the world of digital illustration changed his path.

But it's difficult to effectively pursue a successful creative solo practice without rock-solid habits—to boost creativity and maintain momentum. So we delve into mindset, eastern practices, and Mars’s daily routine. We both share a fascination with a Dutch daredevil commonly nicknamed "The Iceman." So the podcast wouldn't be complete without a little discussion of Wim Hof, his antics, and his famous breathing technique.

Then Mars and I discuss how many people have a go at online success but never truly break out, often because they don't do enough and give in too early. Mars details his many online iterations, his many failures (sometimes failing abysmally), and why these experiences were so key to his breaking out. And how every single failure helped him learn, adapt, sharpen his approach, and move on to new opportunities. It turns out all these events crystallized over the years into something quite special. We talk through this evolution and his current foray into the self-publishing world and novel writing.

I think you'll love this discussion on creativity, health, and entrepreneurship.

Questions I ask:

  • When did you turn your own creative soup as true entrepreneur?
  • What does storytelling mean to you?
  • Why did you start writing novels?
  • Who were your greatest creative influences early on?
  • What daily practices started to turn it around for you?

What you will learn:

  • The true impact of mental and physical health on the creative process.
  • A moment early in his life when he discovered his calling (it involves ice cream).
  • How his experiences traveling the globe shaped his signature style.
  • The impact of growing up with creative parents.
  • Great lessons on creativity and self-sufficiency.
  • The importance of a daily practice to keep your mind and body sound.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_40-_Mars_Dorian_on_Creativity_Health_and_Entrepreneurship.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34am PST

My guest, Carol Lynn Rivera, has been in the digital marketing space for over a decade. She and her husband, Ralph run several businesses, including Rahvalor Interactive and Web.Search.Social. She's a writer, podcaster, and marketer.

We start out discussing the weather (I know, how boring). And I ask her if a little New Jersey chutzpah gives her an advantage. Silly question I know, but Carol Lynn has a rapid fire—and very pragmatic—approach to marketing that I think you'll love.

We discuss business first. Basically what type of work is involved with Rahvalor and Web.Search.Social. Carol Lynn explains why they started to blog as a lead generation source, and why it took a full year to find their first lead—it takes time to learn about your audience, how to speak to them, and build an online property that caters to their specific needs. And why any business needs to think about who they want to work with and build content that addresses their questions, hangups, confusions, etc. When Carol Lynn and Ralph started to write about this stuff they truly gained traction.

But it doesn't take long before we dive into a discussion about getting sucked into the social media vortex (a topic I love). Including a detailed discussion around the live streaming craze… Periscope anyone? Which leads to the topic of how many people in the online space undermine themselves because they assume that someone else has the answer; e.g. a "3 things you need to know to get leads and make you rich guy" is not a good "guru" to follow.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs get lost chasing a formula for success—a blueprint that promises fans, customers, and riches. In real life things usually don't work this way, this is not how businesses thrive, and we sometimes forget there is and offline world! So, if you are serving customers it's important to make offline contacts first, then take them  into your online world. So, Carol Lynn and I are in full agreement when it comes to old school practices like sitting down and having a cup of coffee with someone to discuss life and business. We also talk about the networking group she and Ralph belong to, BNI.

This conversation leads to my favorite phrase from the interview. Carol Lynn explains why the internet has become THE MAGICAL UNICORN. You know, the belief that if someone has a sales funnel, their business will thrive. They will grow rich and soon be running their empire from some tropical beach. Well, most of us know that it's never that simple, but we all need a reminder.

Carol Lynn and her husband Ralph have multiple businesses, so we talk about the tools they are using to manage their businesses and their time, and how this has resulted in a software product. Which naturally leads into the topic of blogging, it's effectiveness in this world of content shock. The importance of repurposing content and effectively working with multiple platforms to stand out.

We talk about SEO and what small businesses and solopreneurs should focus on when it comes to the topic of SEO, and some practices that will help them.

Finally we talk about the dreaded F-word, her opinion on not censoring yourself, and  the importance of simply being yourself online. And we of course get back to one of my top questions: "Can you create and ideal life and business?"

Finally, I learn all about Fred. If you want to know who the hell Fred is, you'll have to listen to the show...

Questions I ask:

  • How did you find your first real lead after a year in business?
  • Do you have to niche down to be a successful entrepreneur in the online space?
  • What are the very first steps to help someone find their ideal customer?
  • What is a typical day like for you? How do you eliminate all the physical and mental distractions to get things done?
  • Is blogging dead?
  • How frequently do you post? And how do you measure the effectiveness of your posts?
  • Can you create an ideal life and business?
  • Who is Fred and how did that get started?

What you will learn:

  • Why Carol Lynn and I believe copy is the best way to begin any branding project.
  • The importance of streamlining, delegating, and creating a "not do" list.
  • When people say they want a website, they don't want a website, they want customers.
  • Why the one-stop-shop marketing model doesn't work any more.
  • Why there is no best plan for self promotion and lead generation.
  • Why you should go offline to build client relationships.

Links mentioned in the show:


My guest, Marcus Sheridan, is often referred to as the "Pool Guy." because he helped his pool company, River Pools and Spas, survive the 2008 economic crisis through a mix of determination, the magic of long-tail keywords, and the power of content marketing done right. As he states on his website, his business started by accident. This not only helped launch a new career, it completely changed his life.

His hard work also turned River Pools and Spas into the most trafficked swimming pool site on this big blue marble of ours. The site now averages over 500,000 visitors a month.

Marcus defines his Why as wanting to help people become the greatest teachers and communicators they can be, so that it will impact their personal and professional lives. He excels at helping businesses communicate in a digital world by helping them better understand the digital consumer. So, we naturally spend a bit of time discussing the art of communication, story, and other interesting topics around this, like the importance and skill of disarming people.

And we talk about what he knows best—inbound and content marketing. Our conversation goes a bit deeper into his history and values, what it was like growing up in rural Virginia, and the importance of family life.

We get into the story of how he found his way to public speaking and first developed his unique and engaging style of speaking. The catalyst was actually an event while he was serving as a missionary in the country of Chile.

After you listen to Marcus one thing clearly stands out—his ability to tell a great story. Also, his enthusiasm is infectious. He lives and breathes his Sales Lion brand, and his power-infused message comes through loud and clear when he's in front of a crowd or on a podcast like The Art of Breaking Out. I loved talking with him and I think you’ll love this show.

Questions I ask:

  • How did you learn your storytelling ability?
  • How can your "they ask, you answer" philosophy work for a solopreneur?
  • Have you ever been tempted to move to a bigger media market?
  • What is your Why? What truly lights you up?

Things you will learn:

  • Marcus's surprising reveal (he's an introvert) and loves to work in solitude.
  • The very first time he gave a speech and what happened (it's not not what you think). And what brought him out.
  • Marcus was a Mormon missionary.
  • The amazing importance of deciding early on who, exactly you want to work with.
  • His middle school dance analogy that has everything to do with business.
  • His popular "they ask, you answer" philosophy.
  • Why Ford Motor Company should apply the "They Ask, you answer philosophy"
  • The importance of listing 5-10 or more reasons why someone would NOT want to work with you

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: Episode_38-Marcus_Sheridan_on_The_Art_of_Communication.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:18am PST

My guest, Amy Harrison, is a copywriter, content consultant, and public speaker. Her expertise is teaching entrepreneurs how to get past boilerplate content and write engaging copy that speaks to your customers.

She runs Copyblogger's Hit Publish podcast, produces the unique AmyTV, and conducts live training sessions around the world on how to write with influence.

Amy's message is that business owners, employees, and solopreneurs have the potential to write copy that attracts, persuades, and converts readers into customers. And, if you're trying to break out in the online space, her formulas might be just what you need.

As a trained TV and film screenwriter Amy knows how to use humor in marketing. And we get into a detailed discussion about comedians—what they bring, how they operate, and how important their creativity and methodologies are to what you want to do.

She believes your business deserves to be heard, that your content should tell a story that keeps prospects interested and most importantly, turns them into paying customers

Amy has run workshops in over 20 countries. She is funny, creative, and she has plenty to teach you about copy done right. So don't miss this one…

Questions I ask:

  • What are the first steps to get beyond boilerplate and effectively liven up your content?
  • Can you explain what "beating the blank stare" means?
  • What does it take to produce one episode of AmyTV?
  • What is the best way for a business owner to define their position when crafting copy?
  • How do you effectively use humor in your successful workshops?
  • What does showing up mean to you?
  • How can a solopreneur apply humor in his or her storytelling?
  • What are "butterfly moments" and how important are they are to writing great copy?

Things you will learn:

  • A simple exercise to help make your content more interesting.
  • Why you need to be consciously aligned with your positioning.
  • The importance of thinking as your customer, visualizing a one-to-one setting when you write your copy.
  • Details on Amy's "butterfly moments" and what they mean to writing great copy.
  • Great tips on effectively speaking to your ideal client.
  • Why we both think comedians are the best creative instigators.
  • Why branding should always start with copy.

Links mentioned in the show:


My guest, Amy Morin, is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, and college psychology instructor. She is also the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, a bestselling book that started with a viral blog post of the same title in 2013.

In episode 36 of The Art of Breaking Out, we discuss mental strength and how individuals can be more resilient. We also get into the story behind her book.

Amy originally wrote “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” November of 2013, as an article. But a piece she never imagined would go viral did. Her message was soon everywhere and the list was within a short period of time was on Forbes.com. To this day it's still one of Forbes most read articles, with views in the millions.

Her message about mental strength is deeply personal, because it was actually a letter Amy wrote to herself during a period when she had to stay strong. Within a three year time frame, Amy had lost her mother, husband, and father-in-law.

Her list of 13 goes way beyond a daily practice of good habits. It's more like a manifesto instructing us how to get rid of the bad habits that hold us back from breaking out in our own way. Life can be overwhelming for sure, but Amy's list of 13 is a guidepost for overcoming life’s inevitable challenges. Mental toughness takes hard work and dedication, but everyone can do it, and that's Amy's message in a nutshell.

Questions I ask

  • You've gone on so many adventures to honor your husband. Which is your favorite?
  • What really lights you up?
  • What is your best advice to someone who is giving away their power to others?
  • What do you think about the pervasive self-improvement message that you should work towards happiness?
  • How have you dealt with your skyrocketing success?
  • Are you and introvert or extrovert?
  • What are you goals for the near future?

Things you will learn

  • The first rule of her book (about not wallowing in self pity) is why she started the book
  • The adventures she's gone on to honor her husband's birthday
  • Why physical and mental health goals should always come before business goals.
  • Her goal-setting practices
  • The difference between and internal and external locus of control.

Links mentioned in the show

Direct download: Episode_36Amy_Morin13_Things_Mentally_Strong_People_Dont_Do.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46am PST

My guest, Stephanie Sammons, excels at helping businesses and solopreneurs grow their digital influence, impact, and income to attract, win, and keep clients in the digital age.

Stephanie is a digital marketing strategist who knows the ins and outs of content marketing. She is also extremely well versed in the world of LinkedIn, and the author of the new book titled Linked to Influence.

In today's episode, Stephanie and I discuss social media and content marketing done right, but we also get into her story—from 15 years in the corporate financial services world to her current business, which is all about helping small business and professional services entrepreneurs build online influence and become more profitable in the process.

We talk about balance (she calls it the opposite of perfection), what success truly means for the modern day entrepreneur, and Stephanie's own reinvention.

She believes that a healthy brain, healthy body, and healthy business all have to come together to achieve true success. I do too and it's why I had her on the show.

Questions I ask:

  • Are you still a singer songwriter? And how has that helped your online ventures?
  • What are some effective initial steps to effectively network on LinkedIn?
  • Why has the digital marketing community ignored LinkedIn in for so long?
  • What are effective strategies for using LinkedIn's publishing platform, LinkedIn Pulse?
  • Is the future of work about combining a variety of skills in new and interesting ways?

Things you will learn

  • Stephanie is a singer-songwriter and recording musician. And her 25 year old Gibson Hummingbird is her instrument of choice.
  • How Stephanie reinvented her career
  • She has a daily yoga practice that helped spark her reinvention and change her life.
  • The importance of hiring a coach for help.
  • Initial strategies for utilizing LinkedIn.
  • At 5'4", she was a point guard on her college basketball team.
  • She is a Certified Financial Planner with experience managing $1M+ investment portfolios.
  • The amazing value of LinkedIn's massive database

Links mentioned in the show:


I’ve read about 2,489 articles on one question that drives me crazy: How do you turn your passion into a business?

Yep. That question drives me nuts.

Why do I hate this question?

1. It leads to an exercise in futility.
Finding your sole passion and turning it into a business is a outlook that impedes more than helps, because...

2. It assumes there is only one passion for you.
Nobody has just one passion. Okay, there are exceptions (there always are), but chances are this isn't you.

3. It's constraining.
You convince yourself you need to discover your big thing and you waste your time in this search.

I think, instead of plodding uphill in this futile passion rush, simply ask yourself this…

What do I truly want?

Then follow up with a second question..

Why has "it" not happened?

I don't think it's a stretch to say that most often your "what I want" answer is about freedom. The reason things haven't happened is because your dreaming and not doing.

So the big question to ask is… How do I define MY freedom? This is unique to you, of course. Only you can define your way, but it IS the one big question.

Today's podcast is my riff on the ever popular "find your passion" argument.

Be sure to subscribe to my bi-weekly Art of Breaking Out updates and listen on iTunes to make sure you never miss an episode.

Direct download: A_Question_That_Might_Change_Your_Life.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:22am PST

My guest today is Ayse (Aishé) Birsel. She's an award-winning designer, teacher, speaker and author of Design the Life You Love. We spend most of this interview discussing the book, but we also get into Ayse's journey, design practice, and creative process.

Her book, Design The Life You Love, is an illustrative workbook crafted for those looking to reinvent themselves… to break out.

If you go through her process, you start to truly think through your past, have more awareness of your present, and most importantly, you start building the raw material you need to design the life you love.

In a nutshell, Ayse's book is one that teaches you to assess your life, toss out the undesirable elements of it, and add in the things that light you up.

Her creative presence is always there, telling you—in a fun, illustrative fashion—to be the architect of your own vision. To look forward, seek something more, but do it in a pragmatic way. In other words, it's a very creative and inspirational book. But it is also practical with a unique and effective approach to laying out the life you want to live.

There is also a bit of motivation thrown in… Ayse suggests that living a life true to your values will never happen by sitting still and dreaming. You must detail what you wish for and aspire to, map out those desires, and take actionable baby steps to see achieve those goals.

So, we go into great detail about the book and the workshops the book is built upon. And we discuss her workshops—how and why she started the classes, how intimidating those initial steps were, and how they led to the book.

We discuss in detail some of her main sections—deconstruction, point of view, reconstruction and expression. I personally love her heroes exercise and our discussion of the importance of metaphor—for your life today and for a life you imagine. And actress Greta Gerwig's baseball analogy…

"Whenever I have trouble writing, I think about the pace of baseball. It’s slow. You strike out a lot, even if you’re great. It’s mostly individual, but when you have to work together, it must be perfect. My desktop picture is of the Red Sox during the World Series. They aren’t winning; they’re just grinding out another play. This, for me, is very helpful to have in my mind while writing."

You know me and the power of incremental baby steps to change. So I naturally love this quote. And I'm pretty certain you'll love what Ayse has to say, especially if you're at a crossroads, are looking to reinvent yourself, or simply want to a personal brand that truly reflects what you are all about.

Questions I Ask:

  • What sparked you to write Design the Life you Love?
  • How long was the planning to writing process? How many iterations were there? And how painful was the process?
  • How does a non-designer learn to think like a designer?
  • You write about constraints in your book. Can you talk about typical constraints and what that means to someone looking for major life change
  • What do you think about the "Do what you love and the rest will follow" message?
  • What habits keep your creative engine running?
  • What role do values play in the process of design and reinvention?
  • When your life goes out of whack, what do you do to bring yourself back?
  • What new things have you discovered about yourself through this process?
  • What is your first bit of advice for someone looking to change their life?

What You Will Learn:

  • She designed the world's most comfortable toilet seat (and is affectionately known as the Toilet Queen).
  • The concept of Money never figures into her student's reconstruction maps.
  • How learning to think like a designer can profoundly change your life.
  • Doing what you love is only one little criteria for designing a life you love.
  • The Amazing power of warming up with playful illustration.
  • Values are what sustain you through designing the life you love.
  • We get into a discussion of her Chicken Soup analogy to deconstruction, reconstruction.
  • If you can make constraints live together, you can create uncommon value. And this is when breakthroughs happen.
  • For most of her students, it only takes 2 pages to deconstruct their life!
  • Deconstruction—seeing your life as building blocks–can be a powerful way to map out your life.
  • Ayse's friend Casey Gerald told her that when he was a kid and people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d say, “Myself!”

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Direct download: Episode_33How_to_Design_the_Life_You_Love_with_Ayse_Birsel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:58pm PST

My guest today, Natalie Sisson, likes to call herself the Suitcase Entrepreneur because, since leaving her home of New Zealand in 2006, she has travelled the world, lived out of a suitcase, and run a successful—multiple six-figure—online business that allows her the freedom she loves. And it's this freedom she teaches others to do. In fact she is I’m on a mission to help 1,000,000+ entrepreneurs create true freedom in life by 2020.

Her amazing success and these lofty goals are why I wanted to get Natalie on the show.

We start talking about her varied background, her amazing competitive streak, and how and where she started in the corporate world. And why her early corporate experience turned her onto the entrepreneurial world.

We also discuss why earlier this year, Natalie dropped everything and came back home to Wellington, New Zealand to be with her family. Yes, the Suitcase Entrepreneur now has a home base in New Zealand after traveling for years out of a suitcase. We get into what it means for Natalie, her brand, and her audience.

You know that I love branding done right, and we get into the basics of brand-building, including a brief discussion of Simon Sinek's Start with Why. In fact, we discuss the importance of finding your Why and how crucial it is to creating a breakout brand. But we also get into focusing on your Why not—the reason why you are not achieving what you want to in your personal and professional life. Not letting life just happen to you.

Natalie is also focused on a big, bold project called the Right to Freedom Initiative. A social enterprise built to allow individuals to recognize where they fit on the Global Freedom Scale, and what they can do to improve this for themselves and others. She wants to do the first global study on freedom, and w get deep into this.

Fact: a freedom-based life doesn’t always have to mean traveling the world. It's more about pursuing the freedom to make choices that feed your soul. If you want to I set your own rules, do your own thing, and build a brand that both feeds your soul and leads to success, you'll love what Natalie has to say.

Questions I Ask:

  • How different is life going to be for you now that you are in Wellington permanently?
  • What kind of advice would you give a budding blogger looking to start online, especially regarding branding?
  • If someone wants more freedom in life and business, what are the first actionable items to get them on the right track?
  • You offer a ton of products and services. Of all the things you do, is there any one thing that stands out as the most lucrative for you?
  • How did your Right to Freedom Initiative start? What are your big goals with this project?
  • What is "showing up" to you?
  • Is the future of work about mixing a variety of skills in new and interesting ways?

What You'll Learn:

  • How to build a brand that clearly represents what you do, why you do it, speaks to the right people, and moves the needle in your business.
  • The importance of joining a mastermind group.
  • One of the biggest problems solopreneurs have is going it alone and not surrounding themselves with like-minded business people.
  • The benefits of buying experiences over stuff
  • All about her special "big ass" project.
  • The importance of being a leading learner.
  • The amazing value of sitting down for 20 minutes and writing out your ideal day.

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Direct download: Episode_32Natalie_SissonHow_to_Build_a_Freedom-Based_Life_and_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:59pm PST

My guest, author, investor, and innovation expert, Whitney Johnson, is a trained classical pianist. And when she moved to New York City years ago, she didn't go there to play at one of New York's iconic music halls. No, she moved to make it on Wall Street.

Whitney is best known for her work driving corporate innovation through personal disruption. And in this show, we get into her amazing story—how she ended up in NYC as a music major, fell in love with Wall Street, then went from secretary, to equity analyst to working with the "Warren Buffett of Mexico," Carlos Slim. It's a rich and varied path that has led to such a unique career.

Whitney is best known for her work on driving corporate innovation through personal disruption. We get into her amazing story—how she ended up in NYC as a music major, fell in love with Wall Street, got a job as a secretary to equity analyst to working with the "Warren Buffett of Mexico," Carlos Slim. It's a diverse background that led to such a unique career.

Whitney and I discuss the details of how she transitioned to something entirely different around 2005. After working in midtown Manhattan for over a decade, and at the top of her game, she decided it was time to quit. Her friends thought she had lost her mind, but this shift would lead to bigger and better things. She wrote her critically acclaimed book Dare. Dream. Do, started teaching others how to dare to dream, and sparked major changes leading to her current focus.

Whitney has received widespread recognition for her thinking and was inducted into Management Thinkers50 in 2015, and was named one of Fortune’s 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter in 2014. She co-founded the popular Forty Women Over Forty to Watch, is formerly the co-founder of Rose Park Advisors alongside Clayton Christensen, and is a fellow at the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.

You'll love our conversation on a topic I love—innovation and change through personal disruption.

Questions I Ask:

  • What are the main lessons your learned early in life?
  • What is competitive risk? What is market risk? And, what do both mean to you as a solopreneur?
  • Do you think the future of work ins about combining a variety of skills in new an interesting ways?
  • What do most people do wrong when it comes to execution and getting things done. Most people don't value what they do best.
  • What is David Blakey's story and how did he change his life?
  • How do you structure your day and break up your disciplines?

What You'll Learn

  • How she went, from classical pianist, to banking analyst, to personal disruption expert.
  • All about personal disruption
  • How important dreaming is to growing, in life and in business.
  • The importance of getting "buy in" with your ideas.
  • Pillars like planning to fail, plan not to plan, etc.
  • What are some of the initial steps you would advise someone to take if they are not happy with their career?
  • The things we are most passionate about are not necessarily the things we should pursue in business.

Links mentioned in the show:

Clayton Christensen
James Altucher
Brene Brown
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Always, Always, Always Show Up
WhitneyJohnson.com
Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream
Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work


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