The Art of Breaking Out with Craig McBreen

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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 PDT

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 PDT

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 PDT

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 PDT

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 PDT

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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