How to Integrate Work and Life as a Visionary Creative with Jeff Goins

Episode 27 with author of Real Artists Don't Starve

Jeff Goins is the author of four books, including the national best seller, The Art of Work and his latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. He is also a full-time blogger, speaker, and entrepreneur.

Originally from Chicago, Goins graduated from Illinois College and spent the next year on the road with a band. After that, he moved to Nashville to chase a girl and spent the next seven years working at a nonprofit. He now writes and speaks for a living and runs an online business helping writers and creative entrepreneurs chase their dreams.

Jeff’s award-winning blog,, has been visited by over four million people from around the world. His work has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Psychology Today. He and his wife, Ashley, live just outside of Nashville, TN with their son, daughter and dog.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Full Interview Transcript

Andrea: So Jeff Goins, welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

Jeff Goins: Hi, Andrea, it’s good to be here.

Andrea: Well Jeff, recently published his fifth book, is that right?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah. I was right too.

Andrea: Real Artists Don’t Starve – and I’m really looking forward digging into that here in a minute. But let’s get the influencer listening a little context. I’ll tell you that I first stumbled on you, Jeff, when I started diving into podcast about three years ago, when I was just trying to grapple with my own creative life, my own creative self and what to do with that. I found that your podcast the Portfolio Life, which it explores the questions what does the creative life looks like. So Jeff, what does your creative life look like?

Jeff Goins: The term, the Portfolio Life, I found in a book by a guy named Charles Handy. And apparently in the UK, it’s widely known in this term but I never heard before it. So a friend of mine who is a poet, who has an affinity for Japanese culture and also works a fulltime job as a marketing director at a medical company. You know, it’s just a bunch of different things, right? I remember asking him few years ago as my platform was growing, my audience was growing, I was writing books, and I was also helping writers online with online courses. And I felt torn because all of my friends whose success I admired it seemed as if they were about one thing and I felt broken. I was like “Am I the author guy? Am I the speaker guy, or am I like the entrepreneur guy?”

And my friend, his name is Keith said “You could be all those things. You’re living a portfolio life and it’s not for everybody but for those who care about multiple things. You can embrace all those interests and all of those different areas of interest and make each part of the portfolio better, you know.”   “So the fact that I read poetry, I’m interested in Japanese culture influences my day job, and my understanding of marketing influences these hobbies.”

So for me, it really became a question of not being a jack of all trade or becoming a master of some. That’s something I become more and more comfortable with. So I think of Portfolio Life is like an investment portfolio. I have just not invested in one company, I’ve got a bunch of different things that I’m putting my time in, but it’s not everything. So for me, my portfolio is like one part author. I’m always working on a book, promoting a book, or talking about a I’ve recently written that’s really important to me.

I love books. I love reading them. Every book I’ve read has been a gift to me from the author and I am honored to be able to try to give gifts to my own readers but also run a business. So I’m an entrepreneur and I like that. I’m good at that and it’s fun for me. And so I wear the hat of entrepreneur-employer-boss visionary you know for a good amount of time throughout my week. I’m also a speaker and coach. I’m having conversations with people on a fairly regular basis helping them kind of breakthrough to the next level.

And you know, I also wear the hats of dad and husband. And for me, it became very important fairly early on to figure how to manage all of this. I don’t believe in work-life balance but I like what Dan Miller calls it work-life in aggression. How does my work feed my life and how does my life feed my work. And Steven King wrote in his book on writing, “I used to think that life was a support system for art and now, I realized that is the other way around.”

He tells a story about becoming an author and buying this really big desk. That was the time he made this huge, you know, expensive oak desk and he put it in the middle of the room upstairs in his attic which became his writing studio. And he shut the door and outside that door, his kids were growing up without him. He was working on the next novel. He was addicted to a multiple substances and his art had consumed his life. Eventually, he got sober. He got rid of that big desk. He opened up the attic and turned it into like a movie room for his kids, who were now teenagers and he got a smaller desk and moved it into the corner of the room.

I just love kind of that word picture of my work used to dominate my life and everybody around me just had to support me. And then I realized, “No, this isn’t how it supposed to be. Work is supposed to feed the life.” So I opened the door and made my work very interruptible by my family because this is whom I’m doing it for. I remember like I was like “Oh I love that.” And two weeks after reading that, it was a Friday afternoon and my wife was like “Hey, do you wanna take the kids to the zoo.” I was like “I can’t, I have to work.”

If you have a day job, you can’t just say, “I gotta go to the zoo.” But here I was just placing these unnecessary arbitrary boundaries around my life because I was kind of addicted to my work. You know, it made me feel good about myself and that wasn’t why I got into this.

I started writing and started a business so that I can have more freedom doing work that I love but also so that I could provide for my family and spend more time with them. So here I was spending more time on this business than I was for the reason that I was supposed to be doing it for. I think that’s a long way of saying, my portfolio it’s very important that the work fits around the life, not the other way around.

Andrea: Yeah, and you talked about wearing a bunch of different hats, I totally want to get into your book but we’re going to keep going with this for now.

Jeff Goins: Sure, yeah!

Andrea: Is it hard for you to switch hats in the midst of all of these different things that you mentioned including, you know, husband and father? Do you feel like a different person when you have a different hat on or how do you navigate that internally?

Jeff Goins: It’s not hard for me to switch hats because I have a visionary personality. I don’t mean that like a complimentary way like “Hey, look at me I’m the visionary.”   It means I’m always onto the next thing. I’m always imagining the future and struggling to stay in the present.

There’s a book called the Synergist. It’s a business book by Les McKeown and he describes the visionary personality. He basically says, in an organization there are three types of people; visionary, operator, and processor. They’re all kind of in conflict with each other. The visionary says “Let’s go do this. Let’s go climb the mountain.” The operator says “Okay, let’s start marching.” And the processor goes “Hey, what’s our plan. How are we gonna do this?” So one is always going to do work, one is always thinking about the next thing, and the other one is trying to figure out how to build a process around it. And the solution that is the synergist, one who kind of synergistically bridges all these gaps.

So I am the visionary, which means I’m always thinking about the next thing kind of ADD type of personality or I’m just “OK, I’ll do this and let’s do this.” So task switching is easy for me for the most part. I have these friends who would like sit in a locked room and write for eight hours a day and I did that because that’s what I thought a writer was supposed to do. It was actually lonely and depressing and my writing suffered as a result of it.

I am at my peak when I’m juggling a few but not too many things where every day I’m spending sometime doing what Cal Newport calls “deep work,” where I’m spending a couple of hours working on my ideas like “That’s important and I can’t neglect that.” But then another part of my day needs to be spent interacting with people so that I can get feedback on those ideas. Like even this interview was an opportunity for me sort of riff on new ideas and old ideas and work on them and get feedback and see where the conversation goes.

So that’s really important to me going out to lunch with people, talking to my team, friend, whatever, you know, getting that kind of interaction is super important to me. And I used to feel guilty about that like I felt broken. I just realized “This is my personality. I’ve got to be doing a few, but not too many things.”

For me, that breaks down into three activities that I try to compartmentalize. I always need to be doing something to build my craft and to really grow as a writer. I always need to be doing something to build my brand, reaching more people so that, you know, you can continue to grow and I need to be doing something to build my business so that I can get paid so that I can keep doing all the other stuff.

And this kind of this vicious cycle, you build your craft and more people noticed and you build your brand and you build your brand, more people will pay you so you build your business which allows you the freedom to go back to building your craft. So every day, I’m working on all three of those activities in kind of frazzled task-switching kind of way. But I would say, Andrea, that there are these challenges switching from boss/influencer/author to dad or husband.

It’s a weird thing to talk about and the best way I can describe it, you know, with that story. So there’s this documentary about U2, because usually they’re going to this like 200, 300 day tours, right? They’ll be gone from their families for most of the year and gone from home anyway. And then they’ll come back home and Bono will come back home, and it will be a reentry process. It used to be he comes back from tour and when he back to the house, he was miserable and his wife ready to have a divorce.

So what they do now is he comes back to city that he lived in and stays in a hotel for two weeks and then will get together for dinner but then the kids and the wife go home and Bono stays in a hotel. And over the course of two weeks, they spend more and more time together and then eventually gets to come back home. And the reason for this is every night for a year; Bono was standing on stage full of 10,000 people who think he’s a God. They think he’s amazing and to switch from being that a star, where everybody will do literally anything for you to being dad, just dad or the guy who takes the trash out for the family that’s a hard transition to make.

And I don’t say this and like “Oh poor Bono or poor me,” but I know what that feels like psychologically to go from whatever hosting a conference with several hundred people, you know, sending an email to a hundred thousand plus people and getting a lot of really nice thank you notes and then going home and seeing the whole other area of your life, the other part of the portfolio where you know, your wife is going “You didn’t take the trash out,” or “You said you’re going was these dishes and you didn’t do that.” Or “Daddy, can we go play soccer?”

There is this really broken part in me that goes “Wait, don’t you know that I’m important?” I’ve realized that’s not a good voice but I like the very healthy part that Bono does which is life he insisted on. It’s a reentry process. So for me in a very small way, this kind of happens on a daily basis. I used to think that it was this ingenious. Now, I just think that it’s part of the job, like you would never say to a football player, “Why don’t just be yourself out there? Why are you wearing all those pads? And why are you screaming at the top of your lungs pumped full of adrenaline?” You don’t have to be that way at the dinner table. These are different roles, right? And you don’t want whatever the quarterback of Tennessee Titans to act the way that he acts at his job at home, at the dinner table.

So there has to be sort of ramp up period of the performance whatever it is that they’re writing the podcast and then there needs to be kind of a ramp down to reenter this other part of your life. For me, it’s not about balance; it’s about integration, so “How do I be the best dad and the best husband that I can be for my family in a way that also contributes and integrates with being the best writer, best writing coach, and teacher that I can be for my readers and my audience.”

For me, there’s a necessary good tension in those activities. And best way that I know, you know, you asked about sort of switching hats, I think it’s best to think of it sort of as “I’m on one planet all day long and then I get my spaceship and I fly home.” And there’s this reentry process that happens. Reentry is not an easy process, you know, you’re re-entery matters, if you do that the wrong angle, you know, we all remembers from Apollo 13, you could burn up. So having the things that I do at the very beginning of the day to ramp up into work mode and then also having activities that I do at the end of the day to ramp down and go into another mode, super important.

Andrea:   Yes, I totally agree. I think especially for people who are thinking a lot. It can be really, really hard to switch that gear. First of all, let me ask, do you ever find yourself in work mode when you’re with your kids totally distracted and then thinking to yourself “Wait a second, I got to get back. I got to come back to this moment.” I mean, that was something I really struggled with as a mom with little kids.

Before I started writing and doing anything else was that I felt so distracted all of the time because I didn’t have an outlet. You know, I wasn’t doing a podcast. I wasn’t writing. I didn’t have that outlet at a different time a day because I was with my kids 24/7 and that’s one of the things, I think maybe especially for moms, that it would be really nice if I would have taken a little bit more time to be able to get out when I needed to get out in a different setting to be able to use my brain in that different way and then come back to my kids where I could focus. Did you ever find that part very difficult?

Jeff Goins: I do. Yes and the best explanation for this was a book that I read, it’s called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time, by Jeremie Kubicek. The book is just super practical about how to shift up and get into fifth gear which is like a deep, focus, work mode, and then shift down into the more social interactive time and then eventually you know, solo time. It’s the best analogy with anybody struggles with being present wherever you are, I highly recommend the 5Gear by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram. A very short book too.

But here’s the thing like for me, I totally get the outlet thing and my wife is starting a business now, our kids are 5 and 18 months, and she’s always been the more career oriented between the two of us. I never really cared about success you know, We met in college and she’s very career oriented and graduated and had a job lined up because she had already done two or three internships.

I graduated and found a way to live in a house for the summer while I raised money to go, you know, do this music mission trip and skirted around the country playing music for years. So that’s kind of indication of how we do life differently. So we started having kids, you know, she was able to stay home while I was doing the writing stuff. She’s kind of eventually gotten back because I think it was really a good thing for her to have something to do, you know, have an outlet as you said.

For me and maybe this is a thing or maybe not, but for me I realized, I’ve been working all day and I was sort of addicted to that feeling of being important, people wanting things from me. And then I would be in the doldrums of daily life at home where there isn’t an immediate feedback. I write a blog post and people go “Hey good job, you’re smart.” Or you know, even in my job working for nonprofit. I have an idea, I share it with my boss or my team and they go “Good idea.” And your kids are like not impressed with your ideas, right?

Andrea: No.

Jeff Goins: It’s the opposite. It’s your job to say “That’s amazing, great picture! Good job! My son was playing with magnets and he said “Hey, what should I make?” And I said “You should make a shark.” And he made this thing and he’s like “Here look at the shark.” And I was like “Cool!” He goes “Does it really looks like a shark?’ And I could hear like that was an important moment, and he was like “Is it really good?” And I said “Yes, absolutely. It’s amazing, wild and so creative.” That could drain you as a parent.

Here’s the thing that I realized. I’d be sitting on a couch with my kids trying to be present and I would want to check my phone, “Ahh maybe they need something.” And the reality was this, in that moment that time, I felt like work was more interesting than being at home like I was bored and I was finding some way to appease my boredom. Instead of going “Let’s go do something. Let’s make this fun because this is incredible. I need to not be missing because you’re never to be like this again.” Instead I’m going “I’m kind of bored, I wanna get through this so that I’ll go back to doing the things that feel fun to me.”

I realized this is boring because I’m making it boring and I’m maybe a little bit addicted to that feeling of being important. And that book 5 Gears actually helped me and I realized if you’re going like task, task, task, task, all day long and in five minutes later you’re at home. And it’s like relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship; you’re not going to be present there because you haven’t done a good job of ramping up and ramping down from those experiences.

So having some healthy practices to kind of a immersed yourself into whatever your daily activities like even if that’s being a mom, being a dad, going to work, doing whatever; like that’s an activity where you need to be fully present. And then going back home like that’s an activity where you also need to be fully present and thinking of it sort of like entry and reentry that’s really important.

You know, I mentioned Stephen King thing where like his kids walked in where he was working on novel and he stops and he pitched with them and watches a movie. That’s really cool. I tried that, it didn’t work. It was bad for me. It was bad for my kids. It was bad for my wife and my wife, when we can afford it, said “Leave, you need an office.” And I’m really bad at this. I’m easily distracted. I don’t know that would certainly make me feel better that sort of things that I struggled with. I can’t like be in a place where stuff is happening around me and focus.

Andrea: Yes!

Jeff Goins: And so what would happen is I have my office and my home right next to our nursery when our son was a baby, and I’d like creep through there in the middle of the day to get some work done and I’d wake him up. Or I’d be working you know in the office and he’d wake up and I’d be in a podcast interview and something would be going on in the background. I’d be really distracted. Like right now, we’re talking and you know my wife texted me and I was like “Uhh.” OK, you know, it’s very hard for me to focus when other things are going on.

And if you’re at home and my kids would be knocking on the door saying “Daddy,” like they don’t understand I’m working. They just know I was behind that door, right? So what we realized is when, for the most part, like I tried to make myself interrupt the ball and I like to use the flexibility of being self employed. But for the most part when I network, I’m fully present at work because that’s important to me, that’s important to the people that I’m influencing, and it’s also important to our family for financial standpoint and when I’m at home, I’m at home.

When I was working on this thing on the side and it was a bit of a side hassle, I was working early mornings and late at night, because I had to and it was a season and it was necessary. I can’t remember today, six years later, I can’t remember the last time; I opened up my laptop after 5:00 p.m.   And it’s not because I’m a really good guy or because I have great boundaries, it’s because I have said “When I’m work, I’m fully present at work and so I’m all in.” And so at the end of the day there is no more work to do.

I mean, obviously, I could keep going but I’ve done everything that I wanted to do that day because I would force that activity to fit into a certain container, not I think it’s called Parkinson’s law where like whatever amount of time you have, you’ll find work to fill that time.

So I have intentionally decreased the size of the container as an experiment, like “Can I still get the same amount of work done in say 25 hours a week that I was doing in 50 hours a week?” And I found a way to do that, so I go home most days going “Hey, I’m done, I don’t have anything to do. I’d don’t want to be anywhere else but right here. I’m going to be as present as I possibly can be because I gave everything that I had back there, you know, five hours ago.”

That’s been helpful to me. I don’t say it’s perfect. I don’t say that when I’m in a middle of a project or something, my mind doesn’t occasionally wander, but by disciplining myself to be all in right here, right now during the day however much time that is, sometimes it’s four, five, or six hours sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Because I would do it like I would be destructed. I would work on something on the side, take notes, text, phone calls, whatever and I’d go “What did I do?” Like not much, you know, I let a few people know I was available. I didn’t accomplish much from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

When I stopped doing that and spend time with my family more and it’s still. We would do a lot. We would do a lot of fun things and create a lot of memories and so the return on investment of that time of being fully present with my family was so much greater than kind of being busy and kind of doing some work.

Andrea: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard of like Todd Herman, he puts on glasses like he doesn’t need glasses, but he puts on glasses when he’s working.

Jeff Goins: I love that.

Andrea: It’s sort of like a uniform or a persona, really like you’re talking about you’re amping up for the performance. I like that. I think that finding tools and finding a system or a set of practices that you do to ramp up and then ramp down. I mean those are so important. I’ve often thought that somebody who is going away to work like when they come home, I live in Nebraska so where I’m at is a pretty small town it’s not very far from work to home.

And I’ve often thought, you know, somebody who is driving home like why not just go around the block two or three more times to sort of just settle in and be prepared when you walk in the door for family instead of still kind of coming down from that work day or whatever. But yeah, I love all that. It’s really interesting. You talked about a “leaky filter” in your book and you’ve mentioned before “Do I have ADHD” or whatever. Have you heard of the concept of sensitivity like neurological sensitivity?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah.

Andrea: Have you heard of the concept of sensitivity? Eileen Aron has done a lot of research on that. I think that helped me to grapple with all that just realizing that I’m just taking in so much information. I’m a sponge and I have to have a way to get that stuff back out again too, which I think, again is that like creative expression. If you’re taking all of this data, this information, all these ideas, and these experiences and you’re making all these connections in your head, especially if you’re like an intuition person like I believed you’re ENTJ, if I remember.

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah – good job.

Andrea: I know. I know, I’m totally creepy with stuff like that but that internal intuition were constantly like putting all these ideas together in our heads and making these connections and all that building schemes and then it’s like “I gotto get it out somehow.” I’m kind of interested in hearing your take on this, but one of my struggles and especially I used to be that I felt like I had so many different points of reference in my head. All these different ideas, thoughts, and experiences, they were all connected with this. They’re just all just connected.

My struggle was, and still sometimes is, if I want to take one of those out and talk about it, it is very, very difficult because I pulled it out and outcome with a strings of other things and it’s very difficult for me to separate it from everything else unless I’m in a conversation with somebody else. If I’m in conversation then I can meet them right where they’re at with whatever I got. But if I’m trying to create a speech or write something that is totally self-directed, it’s really hard. Do you have any tips or any thoughts about that experience?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, I do relate the quote, it’s a writing quote about I don’t know anything about something until I read what I say, and I think that’s true. I think calling a verbal processor or kind of works. And there are advantages and disadvantages to that book that I mentioned, The Synergist.

Andrea: Yeah.

Jeff Goins: What you’re describing is the visionary personality. It’s somebody has a high threshold for ambiguity, lots of ideas, you can hold two opposing ideas in tension for as long possible. So you have to absolutely pick one of them. On the services, it can look like not being able to make up your mind or being flaky, and you know, there can be some of it if you’re not harnessing it. But there are some advantages to it where you can literally see solutions that other people can’t see because you can navigate the nuance and seeming contradictions of certain situations.

That’s always been surprising to me. Somebody will present a problem and they go “We don’t know what to do here. I don’t know what to do here.” And I go “Really? Just really this?” “Will that will work.” “Yes it will if you do it like this, this and this.” “What about that, I don’t know about that.” “That’s a detail but it’s okay,” like “It’s not an important one.”

The downside is when I have a conversation with my wife, I’ll see stuff like an argument that I don’t necessarily 100% mean, but I’s how I feel in the moment and she remembers all of it. And 30 minutes later, I’ll finally arrive with a thing and I was trying to say, I was like “Oh you know what, this is how I feel about this and I’m sorry about all the other stuff.” She’s “What do you mean you’re sorry about all that stuff? That hurts.”

Andrea: It still came out.

Jeff Goins: Yes, it still came out and I’m responsible for that and you know navigating that is challenging. But I’ve realized that there are some like this is how I made and I can harness this but there are some inherent advantages to being this way. I mean, that book is really interesting you know. He talks about how visionaries, basically, the traits of visionaries are they waffle from one extreme of commitments to another being super over committed to being way under committed.

And I’ll just go “Yeah, I wanna do that. Why am I doing this? Why am I doing a book signing?” “Well, because three months ago you said you wanted to do a bunch of book signing.” “When did the book came out?” And that’s what I’m excited about. And you get bored with the details. You talk to think and I think that’s an interesting way of thinking about it.

When I sit to think in a room, I kind of come up with an idea but then when I talk it out and I share and I get feedback on it that’s when I’m really forced to figure out how this works. You know visionaries also want to own what they’re working on. They don’t want to pursue somebody else’s vision, they want to do their own even if it’s not as good, the fact that they get to own it is important. They don’t like structures to kind of abhor that. Yeah, it can be a challenge, but I’m realizing there are some advantages.

So it’s like helping people that I worked with and people that love me, you know, I can harness these advantages and disadvantages and ways that better serves them. But I can also communicate with them why I am this way. I do like that concept of the leaky filter. I heard of a researcher named, _____ talked about it. And it is this idea that if you’re in hyper focused mood, you are missing other opportunities that come along. And at the same time, you could be so distracted that all of this input is coming and you’re not filtering it. So what I’m not saying is like being in a state of destruction is a good thing, it’s not. That’s no filter at all. It is good to have a filter for your inputs.

I have realized that having a Facebook app in my phone is mostly a horrible idea because it’s so much input all the time and it’s not good for me, it’s so distracting. I would spend hours on it literally doing nothing, “What am I scrolling to see? I don’t know.” And so you’ve got to have a filter but there has to be ways to penetrate. It has to be leaky and all I know is that every great opportunity that’s come my way, pretty much any significant accomplishment I can think of that was an idea that came to me while I was doing something else.

And so being open to opportunities, especially an entrepreneur is very, very important. But I’d say for any kind of creative, being open to inputs while you’re working on something else is super important. Don’t miss those opportunities, but I also think you’ve got to know what to do with it. So for me, my best ideas for my next book come when I’m working on my current book about at 51% mark of the book, right I’m over halfway through. It’s no longer fun. It’s no longer new, now it’s just work.

I mean, it’s kind of fun but it’s not as fan as it was when it was in the first 10% and this could be anything. Now, this is something. I’ve got a show up every day and now I’ve got a deadline and it’s a commitment. So I will get an idea for my next book at that point. The two extremes that I would do, “OK, forget this. Now, I wanna do this, right?” But you’re already finished anything doing that.

Andrea: Exactly.

Jeff Goins: I’m interested in finishing things including work that’s going to make an impact not just teasing the next idea but never completing anything. The other extreme would be “Nope, put your head down. Forget about everything. Shot the door or close out everything and work on this. And the work itself would suffer as a result because I was completely cutting out inputs and I was losing esteem. I was not being stimulated from other ideas.

So what I will do now is that I’ll be working on the book, I’ll get an idea. I’ll read an article. I’ll kind of tease the tangent for a few minutes and I’ll just write it down. I’ll put it in Evernote, I’ll say “Hey, I love you. I will come back.” And you know probably 90% of the time; the idea is not as good as it felt in the moment when I was simply procrastinating.

But here’s the thing, every single book that I’ve written, as you’ve mentioned I’ve written five, except for the first one obviously, but every single, you know that the next four books that idea came to me while in the middle of another book. So I would have missed that idea if I didn’t have a leaky filter and wasn’t allowing some inputs at that time when I was supposed to be hyper focusing on something. So I just let them in, I write it down, and I set them aside and I say, “I’ll come back to you later.”

Andrea: Yeah, yeah that’s so important. Do you find that it’s just more fun to think and it’s harder to finish the book because now it’s the, I don’t know…

Jeff Goins: I think it’s scary to finish. I mean, yeah it’s fun to dream up on new things but there’s also… I don’t know for me, I like committing to things. It’s easy and I’m happy to do that and then as I’m realizing the cost of that commitment, I’m going…like for example, last week I did a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble and I committed to like three months beforehand because I got a schedule and I’ve got do all that.

I wake up Monday morning and I go “Oh crap, I got a book signing today.” That means I got to get shower before my son gets up. I got to iron my shirt because I got to wear something other than a t-shirt. That’s means, I got to do this and I’ve got to get a lunch at this time and that also means that maybe nobody will show up. And I would have wasted an hour and a half of my time. That just would feel embarrassing to me and the bookstore who ordered a hundreds books. They’re going to be mad at me and I’m not really a real author; and people would probably see this on social media. It’s like I find every reason in the world to hide.

And I’m like “Well, you committed to it so here we go, get up.” So I think like how to do that because I didn’t you know, Barnes & Noble would be calling me saying “Where are you?” And I’m just going to not show up. But even though in the middle of the book projects or any kind of projects where you’re holding yourself accountable, it’s so easy to let that fear of finishing, which I think it starts like those voices get really, really loud of like that 51% mark, you are at the top of the hill and the momentum is taking over. There’s no way to escape and you’re going down the hill now.

But all the fears, like you’re on the roller coaster ride like “Wait a minute, this might right at the top.” What your brain is telling you right now is you’re going to die right now and it’s your own fault. And you’re like “What can I do to get out of here right now?” I think most creative projects are that way. You get to a point and you’re afraid of all the bad things that could happen as a result of finishing it and it’s so much easier if you just start the next thing. Because when you’re starting something, you’re not really thinking about of how you’re going to finish it. It’s just exciting.

It reminds me of that scene in Goodwill Hunting where Matt Damon was talking to Robin Williams as his therapist. And Matt Damon says “Well, I met a girl.” And therapist says “Yeah, how was that? And he says “Oh she’s great. She’s amazing.” You know and they went out one day and everything about this girl was perfect. She was awesome and he got to ask her out again. He was like “I don’t think I wanna see her again.” He was like “Why not?” He goes “Right now this girl is perfect and I don’t want to mess that up.”

You know, it’s this question of when I’m starting something, it feels perfect. It feels flawless to me and I don’t want to mess up that purity. In reality, it’s not perfect. It just feels that way. It’s just an idea like ideas don’t change the world, action does. I become less precious about my ideas over the years because the ideas don’t matter, the execution of the ideas is what actually impacts other people’s lives. But yeah, there’s this feel like I could mess this up, whereas right now, to me, it feels perfect and I just want this feeling of novelty to last because it’s really nice.

And going on a first date with somebody, you know, being head over heels is way different than being in your time of marriage and struggling with time this month to go on a date. But what would you rather have; a memory of a wonderful first date, or a lifelong partner?

Andrea: Totally, yeah. OK, so when you are in that moment of trying to decide, you’re not really trying to decide whether or not you’re going to go to Barnes & Noble, but in a sense, you are. In a sense, you’re facing that fear and whatever and I _____ before you want to outrun fear, move fast that it didn’t catch you.

Jeff Goins: Yeah.

Andrea: But besides to your commitment to the fact that you committed, what is it inside of you that makes you say “No, I’m doing this.”

Jeff Goins: Part of it is the fact that it’s public. So if I don’t do it, I’m going to embarrass myself and that’s a big deal to me. It’s not a big deal to everybody but my personality is an entertainer kind of personality, so I’m very interested in achievement, success, and the appearance of success. So there’s _____, or it would have been better that I just hide and let people think I am just an author than do the book signing and nobody show up.

So part of it makes me do it is, what I’m doing and what I try to do with all my work is I’m practicing in public. This is something I talk about in the book and it’s just an important theme that I tried to embody for the past six years. When you practice in public, you’re doing a couple of things and this is like blogging, if you’re a musician, you could be street performing. It’s simply doing your work in some public setting where a few people will see.

On one hand, if you’re a _____ musician, you don’t need to be opening for _____ right away. But you could be booking shows in local bars where 15 and 20, 30 people might see it. And what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to sort to feedback loops so that you could do your work and immediately get feedback on and then improve on it. So blogging for me was this. I was practicing with folks and speaking engagement services.

Podcasting is probably the hardest for me because there are skills that I want to get better. And yes, I could sit in a room by myself and practice, ensuring questions or practice giving a speech or whatever, but I’m actually not going to get as good at the activity unless I’m doing it in some public venue. Or if I fail, there’s a cost to it. And so I bring more of my A-game partly because I’m a verbal processor. I bring more of my A-game when I have to perform, when I have to do it in public.

So practicing in public, I think makes you better, faster, and it also has its beautiful byproduct where if you do your job well eventually, you’ll build an audience. So you don’t have to worry about getting good and then promoting your work and selling it to an audience because they’ve seen you practicing for the past few years and they know how good you’ve gotten and they’ve been following along cheering you the whole way.

And obviously the risk of that is some people may see you in the middle of that going “Well, you’re not that good.” And “That’s true but I’m going to be better tomorrow.” So I think for me what makes me follow through is there are two things. One, you give your word and this like you got to do this. Like my schedule has gotten kind of crazy and I had an appointment this morning at 9 o’clock but I’m not taking my son to school.

So yesterday, my sister reached out to a friend of mine where I’m scheduled a podcast interview with him and say “Hey, we’re doing a reschedule.” And he texted me like “You’re rescheduling me a day before?” And I was like “No, I can’t do that like I will find a way to be there.” There’s just something in me that if I commit to it, good or bad, right or wrong, I’m going to have to do it even if I don’t want to do it.

The other thing I remind myself is “When you are done with this, you feel good, right?” So every book signing and before book signing I’m like “Why am I doing a book signing. I hate book signing. This is stupid, I hate book signing. I’m never doing this. This is horrible.” And then afterwards, I’m like “This is good. I’m glad, I did this. We should more.” And to be honest podcast every week, every Thursday, I do bunch of interviews and every day I go, “Why am I doing this? This isn’t worth my time.” And afterwards I’d say “Hey, this is so good. I’m so glad I took it.” So I think it’s bad if I committed but also I understand that this is the scariest best way for me to get good at the craft that I’ve chosen.

When I was an actor in college, you know, I was acting in stage plays, you know theater, and you feel fear every time. You feel fear every time you’re performing for a live audience. But we do for weeks on them, night after night after night and we had a saying like “If you weren’t nervous something was going to go wrong, like it is good to have nerves. You’re supposed to have nerves, it gives you an edge. It gives your performance an energy. You didn’t want to be necessarily like throwing up, but you wanted to be nervous enough that you’re going to be focused and sharp.

So when I think about this, when I feel fear and anxiety before a book signing and interview, a speaking engagement, any public thing, a book launch, anything that I’m going to do where if it doesn’t go up people going to see it, I want to get out of them. I want to run. I’m afraid and I began to recognize fear, not as a signal that I should stop doing this work but as a sign that I’m on a right road headed to that familiar destination. I’m like “Remember this success that you had?” “Yup!” “Remember feeling fear right before it happened?” “Oh yeah.” And now I feel good and I go “Hey, there you are.” You know, it’s a friend now. It doesn’t look like an enemy.”

Andrea: Sure! I hesitate to do this but I want press in a little bit further on this because I know that you’re a person of faith and I have this feeling that it goes deeper than that, that you not only are wanting to succeed that the fears going to help you succeed at what you’re doing. It kind of get you to this point where you have to be willing to sacrifice the fact that you might fail in front of people in order to serve people.

Jeff Goins: Hmm

Andrea: In other words, you love people more than you fear them.

Jeff Goins: Yeah. I mean, I think I heard _____ say this one and I thought this is out. He was talking about marketing and he was talking about appealing to people’s motives. And as a marketer, you need not to be appealing to people with no blur motives and you know we were talking about nonprofits and his work for nonprofits like “We want to serve the greater good. We want to be at this mission. We want to impact people.” Those are good things but you assume that people are giving to a nonprofit because they want to be a part of that vision.

And sometimes the answer is like they want to give $30 a month to an orphan in Africa because it makes them feel a little bit less guilty about their short circumstances, which sounds horrible, right? And somebody was like “Really?” People aren’t good or not bad, people are mixed, and I think that’s true and I hope that doesn’t sound too cynical. I don’t mean for it to sound cynical, I just know myself and I know that in any situation there’s that angel on the shoulder, the devil on the shoulder.

So yeah, I go into situations and, you know, I do love people. I like being around people but I also like the feeling that I get to help somebody, like I like that feeling. And sometimes it’s an unhealthy thing; it’s a _____ of anything where I need to feel useful. And I’ve realized that in friendships, I start to feel disconnected from a friend or a peer when I feel like I’m no longer able to help them. Like now we’re just friends and healing message of the three is that you are loved of who you are and not what you do.

And I’m like “Yeah, but I should do something, right?” “You need something from me.” It’s kind of like broken unhealthy desire to perform and continue to prove your worth. I think because you’re brought up the faith thing, I love people because I know that I’m loved by God. And I also know that I didn’t really do anything to deserve that love and it’s a humbling feeling. When you are loved in a pure way by anyone or anything and you let yourself feel that love, the next response is to share that love. Not just reciprocate it and love that person back, but to spread the gift.

I mean that’s how I feel. That’s why people get married and the love each other well and then they’re like “We should have kids because we want this to grow.” Yeah, I would say, beyond the success and beyond that, the thing that I have been grappling with over the past couple of years is what does it mean to be successful? And I think this is an idea that we get wrong, particularly we think about influence like legacy is what people say about you after you’re gone.

This is such like an egotistic, like you’re still worried about what would people say about me and I don’t think that what’s true legacy is. I think true legacy is not about people caring on your work in your name or your name being on a building or something or people talking about you. I think true legacy is that the investments that you made in another people over the course of your lifetime then taking that and doing something better and more significant than you could ever do.

When I was in college, I spent two and a half years trying to create and honor code in our college, which is basically a code of conduct regulated by other students, where you know somebody’s cheating or there’s a process for how this is going to be dealt with. I got probably a hundred drafts of this 20-page document doing again and again to get everybody to like it.

And in the last day of school, basically, I am brought this before the faculty and they approved it and then I realized, all they’ve done is approve the document. Now, we have to carry this out. I can’t do the work, like I’m done. I have to leave. And so I had to pass ton on this other guy name Josh who had to actually implement these things and that was just idea. Years later I came back to my old college and I saw this thing called the “Honor Code” in every single classroom, and I was both appealing because I was a part of that and also humbling because it wasn’t just me.

And so to me legacy is about being faithful to whatever gifts you’ve been given, sharing those, investing those in the people’s lives and then knowing that they’re going to carry out that work in ways that will shadow your work. Legacy is not just about what you do, right? It’s about what you leave behind, those can either be at offices, buildings that eventually fall apart and rot and whatever or they can be seeds. I think legacy is about investing in people so that things can grow.

You know, in the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples; He says “You will do even greater things than I will do.” I was like “This is like Jesus.” They’re going to do better things that I will do? I think that’s really interesting and important and it’s true that they did. And that’s what good, healthy leadership and legacy looks like I think. It’s about investing another people, and not because you want them to say nice things about you, but because you love people, hopefully because you know that you yourself are loved and you want to invest on the projects and ideas of other people so that those things can continue without you.

By the way when I went back to college, I saw the “honor code” my name isn’t on there. There’s not like a history book that says Jeff Goins, none of that. If anything, a lot of the credit went to the guy who actually carried it out. And I just realized like in all of our striving to do great things, we all die with a little bit of the music still left in us like that’s by design. We all die right on the edge of the promise land with one more step to take, one more project to do. I think there’s this idea that we’ll be on our deathbeds going “I did all the things that I wanted to do.” That’s not the way this works.

If you did all the things that you want to do, you were thinking too small. You need to have such a big idea, such a big dream. Your calling needs to be something that requires the work of other people generations of other people that carry out. So by the time this thing is done, people have forgotten your name. And if you’re chasing something like that then you’re a part of something really big and important and purposeful.

Andrea: Amen! Alright, thank you so much, Jeff. I could sit here and chat with you all day. But you’ve been so generous with your time.   Thank you so much for sharing your insights and your experience that the influencer listening. I appreciate all that you do.

Jeff Goins: You bet, totally my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Andrea. I love your questions. You’re great on that.

Andrea: Thank you! Well, I hope that you enjoyed that as much as I did. Obviously, I really enjoy just digging in to how people think and the way that they are and what makes them tick and how to navigate this creative life which is why I’m so drawn to just podcast the Portfolio Life. I will link to that in the show notes along with some of the books that he mentioned. Most certainly, above all, his book; Real Artists don’t Starve, Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age.

So pick up your copy of Real Artists don’t Starve. Check out the show notes or list of other resources that we mentioned in the podcast and make your voice matter more!




Do you want to make a great first impression? Know what you’re going to say before someone asks, “What do you do?” Sign up for the Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5 Day Challenge today. (October 23-27, 2017)






How a Killer Elevator Pitch Could Change Everything

Voice Studio 26

4 years ago I was introduced to the concept of an “elevator pitch.” It’s a 20-30 second statement about who you are, what you offer and who you serve. The funny part was that I wrote about 15 elevator pitches for different aspects of who I am and what I could do. The hard part was that I didn’t want to be put into a box because I knew I had a lot to offer, and yet by not making one clear pitch, I was saying that I really didn’t know who I was or what I was all about. How can other people know if they want to work with me if I can’t say what I do or who I am?

A KILLER elevator pitch that intrigues and invites others to get to know you and your business better, but it also helps YOU be able to figure out who you say that you are. What if your answer could be so clear, succinct and powerfully authentic that you magnetize your ideal partners, clients and collaborators? Well, I have something that could help!

Listen to this short episode and then join me for the Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5-Day Challenge. I’ll be offering tips and feedback on your own elevator pitch in a Facebook group for 5 days. By the end of the week you’ll have a better idea of who you say that you are so you can attract the right people to you and your work.

Mentioned in this episode

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Are you ready to create and deliver your Killer Elevator Pitch? I’m excited to offer a FREE “Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5-Day Challenge,”October 23-27th, 2017. In just a few minutes a day we’ll take your boring answer to “what do you do?” to a wow-worthy status. I’ll be in the Facebook group every day to guide you through the process and offer strategic feedback, specific to YOU, so by the end of the week, you’ll be ready to rock your next cocktail party.

Don’t miss this free and easy opportunity to take your self-awareness and personal brand to a whole new level! Sign up today.


3 Reasons a Killer Elevator Pitch Will Make You More Confident

Networking is hard enough as it is. One night you finally get the courage to go to cocktail hour at the conference you’ve been attending for two days. You throw on the outfit that makes you look powerful and interesting. You stand tall in front of the mirror and give yourself a wink, just before leaving your room. You even find someone to meet you there so it’s not so awkward. But just as you press “L” on the elevator wall, your heart sinks, “My elevator pitch sucks! What am I supposed to say I do?!”

Do you find it difficult to answer the “what do you do” question? Most entrepreneurs and multi-passionate people do. They might have an answer that gets them by, but it doesn’t really represent who they are and what they have to offer. In fact, sometimes that “pitch” that’s supposed to draw people in, pushes people away.

Have you settled for a simple statement about your current job, which gives no real hint of who you really are and what you really have to offer? Isn’t it frustrating to be reduced to your job title when you know you are so much more? Sharing your boring response over and over can be crushing.

But what if you could have a KILLER elevator pitch that intrigues and invites others to get to know you and your business better? What if your answer could be so clear, succinct and powerfully authentic that you magnetize your ideal partners, clients and collaborators?

If you had a killer elevator pitch and you knew just how to deliver it, you’d have a built in engine that builds momentum in your conversations from the get-go. Here are three reasons why:

1. When you know who you are and what you have to bring to the table, you don’t have to worry about looking weak. Your weaknesses will fade into the background as you draw attention to the magnitude of your strengths.

2. Your killer elevator pitch isn’t about getting yourself to FIT IN to a company, industry or relationship. It’s about clearly stating who you are. When you share it, you’ll attract those who want you and what you have to offer like a magnet.

3. When you deliver a killer elevator pitch in YOUR style, over time you’ll develop more and more confidence in your “voice,” making you more likely to speak up clearly when it’s your time to do so.

Are you ready to create and deliver your Killer Elevator Pitch? I’m excited to offer a FREE “Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5-Day Challenge,” October 23-27th, 2017. In just a few minutes a day we’ll take your boring answer to “what do you do?” to a wow-worthy status. I’ll be in the Facebook group every day to guide you through the process and offer strategic feedback, specific to YOU, so by the end of the week, you’ll be ready to rock your next cocktail party.

Don’t miss this free and easy opportunity to take your self-awareness and personal brand to a whole new level! Sign up today.



How to Use Your Perspective to Help Shift a Global Conversation with Wes Gay

Episode 26

Wes Gay is a writer, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant. He is a StoryBrand Certified Copywriter and Guide, helping businesses clarify their marketing message and strengthen their position in the marketplace. As a regular contributor to, he discovers how millennials change the workplace. He lives with his wife and two young sons in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How to learn from a situation even when you feel pigeon holed in it
  • The not-so-complicated way to bridge any generation or relational gap in your company or life
  • How to use your perspective to help shift a global conversation
  • UNFROZEN book
  • Find a special gift for you from Wes at



Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have Wes Gay on the line. He’s somebody that has actually helped me with my own copy, which means the words that I’m using to try to figure out what it is exactly that I’m trying to say I do. I will talk about that a little bit more later.

Andrea: But Wes, it’s good to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast!

Wes Gay: Thanks, Andrea. I remember, it was five or six months ago when you and I first met and worked together. You already had the ideas for this podcast so it’s been really fun to watch and the last couple of months as it’s grown and you’ve got such great traction and had such great feedback. So I’m really excited for you. I’m glad to be on today.

Andrea: Well, thank you, and I appreciate your voice of influence for me. I always really appreciate that. That’s one of the things that I love about starting the podcast. I don’t know how long this will go. But so far, I’ve pretty much interviewed people that really have had an impact on me. So I’m just really glad that we could connect today. So Wes, why don’t you tell the listeners what exactly you’re up to? What are the different facets of your job, your career right now?

Wes Gay: Sure. So it really breaks down into three lanes, is the best way I can think to describe it. The first one is, and this is actually how Andrea and I met, through an organization called StoryBrand. I’m one of their certified copywriters as well as one of the certified guides. That means I help business owners and leaders and influential folks like Andrea use seven basic principles of storytelling to create a clear message so that they can resonate better with their customers and ultimately grow their business.

I’ve done it with both profit organizations in the billion-dollar range even down to, all the way, including different nonprofits, established ones and ones that have just launched out. So that’s the bulk of what I do, spending a lot of time on the phone or on video calls or helping people work, what exactly is their message? What are they trying to communicate? And how do we do it better so that they can help more people and serve more folks with the good products or services that they offer. So that’s the Lane One.

Lane Two, I am a contributor. I’m one of the paid writers for the Under 30 section, which means I specifically cover millennials. Typically, when I say the word millennials, I can just feel everybody’s eyes rolling. They’re like, “Oh gosh, we’re talking about millennials again.” I just sense it.

But what I specifically talk about is millennials in the workplace, how it’s kind of shifted the nature of workplace culture and benefits. I’ve talked to a lot of really interesting millennials who are leading some really interesting companies and doing great work. So that’s Lane Two.

Lane Three then is speaking. And the reason I separate Lane Three is because sometimes I speak on the marketing and the messaging side. Sometimes I speak on the millennials side. It just depends on who the audience is and what’s they’re asking for. But those are the three lanes or the three primary things that I do really every day.

Andrea: So do you see a connection or what is the connection for you between StoryBrand and the millennial message? Do you have a connection there in your mind?

Wes Gay: Yeah, it is. Rarely do those two lanes overlap. Nobody is really calling me to do StoryBrand for millennials, which is fine because it’s such a hard thing to do, because millennials are the largest generation in history. They’re the most diverse generation in history. So to try to pinpoint them down to any one overarching stereotype is impossible.

Andrea: Nobody wants to be thrown into a box like that.

Wes Gay: No, nobody does.

Andrea: Especially millennials.

Wes Gay: Oh gosh, you’re not kidding. I’m right in the middle of them so I get it. To me, the way it overlaps is StoryBrand is very consumer-focused. So what I’m trying to do is help people use a framework to create a clear message to communicate to their consumers, because that’s how they grow their company. Now, in the Forbes side, what I’m discovering is that companies needed to do a better job, and they’re doing a better job of communicating their story to their employees.

So at the end of the day, it’s two different side of storytelling. It’s an external story. What are we telling the people who we want to buy our product or services? And then it’s also an internal story. What do we want the story of our company to be so that we can engage, specifically millennials, because that’s what I talk about, but it’s also because this is the largest generation in history. It already represents a third of the American workforce. It will represent half of the American workforce in just a few years.

One of the individuals I’ve gone and talked to is the Chief Human Resources officer at Hilton. They have 350,000 employees worldwide. And Hilton projects within the next three years that 75% of the entire workforce will be millennial. That’s unheard of to have that many people… I mean, I’m from public school so I’m a little slow in doing that kind of math. I have to use my calculator.

That’s over 260,000 people who are going to be within a 20-years span and age. So how does Hilton communicate who they are and tell their stories and company in a way that engages and really recruits and retains the top talent so that they can continue to grow their company? So it’s two different sides of the story, one is internal and one is external.

Andrea: Thank you for tying all that altogether.

Wes Gay: You’re welcome.

Andrea: Okay. So I do want to come back to StoryBrand because that’s how I got connected with you in the first place, and I’m definitely a fan. But also part of this podcast, the reason why we’re doing it is because I want people to know that people that are in the space of “I’m doing what I feel called to do based on my gifting,” which is where you’re at right now. How did you get to that point?

Because so many of us grew up thinking that we needed to go to college and then we needed to go get a job. And then we kind of get stuck in this rut of being in maybe a job that doesn’t fit, or that sort of thing. Or maybe we feel a different kind of calling in our lives. So I’m really curious, Wes, what was the switch for you? When did you start moving in this direction?

Wes Gay: The general answer is by accident. I’m not one of these guys who’s like, “Hey, you can take my course to follow me to your dream career path.” I have no any idea what that is. So my journey is pretty simple. My dad has been a worship pastor in Southern Baptist Churches for about 35 years, and he’s still doing it. He’s probably going to step into eternity as soon as the choir special is done one Sunday. That’s probably how he’s going to go. My mom said on Easter Sunday, he looked at his Apple watch after the choir sang and his heart was like 108 or something crazy, because he just gets so excited about that.

So I grew up in that world. I grew up in church. I went to a Christian college. I started working in churches while in college and then after that I spent about 10 or 11 years working in churches and nonprofits in all kinds of roles. But they typically wound up in marketing and communications even though I have a music undergrad degree, which is totally pointless. I’m never going to get paid to do music ever again, but I’m one of those people who has a degree.

So I started, I thought, “Well, this is where I feel I’m good at.” I’ve always known the church world and I’ve always lived in that space. Then when I was in college, I was in a couple of music groups, scholarship groups that performed in churches all over the southeast, really. So we were in some of the biggest churches every weekend.

So that’s the world I was very familiar with and I thought, “Well, I need to go serve the local church.” So I left college, started working for a nonprofit about a year then went and served. Got involved with the local church doing marketing and communications, because that’s just where my mind went and that’s just was my natural bend.

Andrea: How did you know that? How did you know that your mind just went there?

Wes Gay: I just did. Like for me, it was a bit intuitive. And you talk about millennials getting pigeonholed. I got pigeonholed a lot because my dad… we grew up in a small churches, so when I was in like eighth grade, as I say I was voluntold into media ministry because my dad was over that. He’s the music guy. So I started doing the media production stuff in like eighth grade.

And I’ve always been interested. I’m a tech guy. I love gizmos and gadgets and all that stuff. So I always just had a natural bend for it. So what wound up happening a lot is, early on, I got stuck in this media role of production. So like how do you plan a service? How do you make sure the lights are working? Get the sound right, and all this really highly technical stuff that I knew how to do.

But for me it was one of those things that I could do it but I would be exhausted and just completely wiped out when I got done. And it wasn’t interesting day to day. I just dreaded when I had to go do it. I could do it, and I do pretty good at it, I just hated it. So I got pigeonholed in that space and tried to get out.

So one of the ways, I ended up going to another church, eventually, and doing a similar thing – media. Then I kind of took over communications. Because, again, just for whatever reason, my natural kind of bent is towards how do you communicate things. How do you make things clear? I’m not really a fluff guy so when you talk about in the space of copywriting, I’m way more in the direct response space. I’m just not with the fluff. And so we just drive right at it.

So I would notice anytime I would preach or anytime I would lead a marketing meeting or communications meeting, people would always affirm me. But when I would do production, when I would run a video shoot, when I would plan a Sunday service, when I would get graphics done, ,all that kind of stuff, they would always compliment the product.

Andrea: Oh, I like that. It’s a really interesting observation.

Wes Gay: So I realized, like the last church I was at, I was the media guy but we went over a year without a senior pastor. We run about 1500 on Sundays. So like in most the churches, the Sunday after Thanksgiving when nobody is there anyway. So I’m like, “Well, somebody’s gotta preach because we still have to have church. Hey, Wes, you’re here why don’t…” They go “Wes that was a great video,” or, “That looks great,” or, “That XYZ was great. I really appreciate that.”

I started to realize that dichotomy of, okay, the things that people are personally affirming me on or the things that actually energize me, I can do them all day long. Yeah, I’m tired but I’m not drained, and those are two are different things. So once I started to realize that more and more, I thought, well, this is actually what I’m pretty good at. I began to get really comfortable with it and say, you know what? Because I’m good at this, I also am not good at these things, and started to delineate where I’m good and where I’m not.

Andrea: Okay, you were pigeonholed into doing media and what not. Did you ever feel guilt over the fact that you didn’t want to do that? Because I think some people do. I think some people are like, “Oh I’m in this thing. I’m doing this way. I’m doing the right thing. I’m supposed to be here, but I really don’t want to be here, but I should be here because…” And they kind of end up with really a martyr kind of complex, “I shouldn’t enjoy what I’m doing.”

Wes Gay: I never felt that way. I always felt frustrated because, again, I thought I’m doing the things I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, or I feel like I’m taking the steps I’m supposed to take. I’m just making the progress I think I should make. So like in the middle of all that, in January of 2014, I started doing Seminary Online, thinking what if I get a masters degree? That will help me break out of this rut of the media guy and tech boy who everybody thinks all I can contribute is changing batteries on a microphone, or I’m the guy that gets yelled at on Sunday, or beat up Monday morning because the guitar was too loud or whatever.

So I thought, that’s not me at all. I don’t enjoy that. And my personality is not bent to really thrive in that environment. I went to seminary distance degree for two years, and really flew through it. I thought, well, this is the next step. But I just kept getting frustrated. And I would be told by different leadership, “Hey, if you do these things then you can move in the roles that are better fit for you.”

Again, in the comparison trap of 2017 and before with social media, I’d see all these friends of mine, they were doing what they wanted to do. This is exactly what they say it in college that they were going to go do now they’re doing it. So for me, it was more like frustration and annoyance in like, “Why not me?” I didn’t really ever feel guilty about it. I just got annoyed with it.

Which ultimately led to, we had a really… unfortunately, for your listeners who don’t know this, there’s a lot of bad experiences that can happen in churches, and we had a really bad one in the church staff, which put me on an opportunity to take a different path, and say, “Okay, God, where are we going next? What is our next step? Where do we need to go?” That eventually led us to StoryBrand.

I’ve been reading down on Miller’s books for 15 years, or whenever Blue Like Jazz first came out. In fact, when clients do a video call with me now, I’ve actually got two of his books on the shelf behind me. It was pure accident, but I realized that one day when I was on a client call.

But I’ve always been a fan of his work, always been a fan of his writing. I was a big fan of the StoryBrand process when I started hearing about it even when I was on the church staff. Then I went and I thought, you know what? I think this is the next step.

So I took the plunge, made the investment in a copywriter certification and that’s opened up doors I would never even imagine. I mean, sometimes I sit back and go, “This is a little ridiculous because I’m a guy with a church background from the seminary and I got, literally, one of my clients is like $1.4 billion-a-year company, and they’re asking me all kinds of marketing questions. And they’ve got people who have been at some of the top brands on the planet on their marketing team. They’re looking at me like I’m the expert. So I now have to be the expert.

So it’s crazy how it’s… and again, I’m not going to run Facebook ads and say, “Here are seven steps to find your true path for life,” because I don’t know. I’m still kind of in the middle of that myself. But to see how it’s pivoted and even my church experience is a huge asset to me now in the space I’m in. And you know, as you were growing up, when you’re in that space, you’re very much on the frontline, so to speak.

You’re constantly dealing with people, but you’re also serving people and helping people and that’s kind of your bend. So it’s that mindset and mentality that’s so natural for me, because that’s the world I came out of, it’s been a huge asset for me in the marketing space. Whether and regardless of faith background, it’s just the mentality of how you approach and serve.

So one thing I would tell your audience is, if you’re frustrated in where you are now because you don’t really feel like that’s where you’re supposed to be, at least figure out what can you take away from where you are now and what are you learning that can help you in the future. For me, it was how do I interact with and approach and deal and serve my clients? That’s a lot of my perspective on that comes from by background in the church.

Now, could I go back to that one day? Not production, heaven help me. Nobody wants to pay me money to do that anymore. But it’s that mentality and kind of those things that I learned, and all that process that I think really has helped me get to where I am on the journey today.

Andrea: You know, I see a thread and I had a theory before I started this podcast, but I definitely see the thread that people are often drawn to and are able to move down a path toward perhaps their calling after something really difficult happens. A lot of times, it’s that pain point that really moves them and gives them that permission or sets them on that path where they’re like, “No. No. Now, I need to really figure this out.” It sounds like it happened to you too.

Wes Gay: It did. And where I’m at now, I’m only 30, I turned 30 a few months ago, and I said for years, even right out of college, I was serving in a nonprofit that worked with a lot of churches all over the country. And even at 22/23 I thought, you know what? One day, I wanna be able to serve a lot of churches, because I grew up in it. I’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly. I mean, I know all sides of it and I thought, I wanna be in a place… But like most people, I thought, well, I’m not old enough yet. Like the people who are doing that are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I’m 22/23.

So now, I have the opportunity to be of a voice of influence to people who are older than me. But because of my experience already and the things I’ve gone through and the things I’ve kind of watched and observations and some opportunities I’ve been able to have so, already, I’m now able to do that much sooner than I ever thought I would.

So for those of your audience who’s younger, I would say two things. One, don’t discredit where you’re at in your own journey because you can be more influential than you realize. And two, and I was going to say this earlier, everybody gets frustrated in your 20’s. So it’s not a uniquely millennial problem. Everybody who’s ever been in their 20’s have been frustrated about their life and career at some point.

But what I finally realized one day is that, I was about like 25/26. Lord willing, with good health, I’ve probably got 40, 45, or more years of fulltime work in me easy, maybe longer because I don’t know that I could really be fully retired. That sounds miserable and boring to me. So I thought at that point, I have almost double of what I’ve lived so far left in potential working years. So if I don’t hit that job in a year or so that I really want, I’m okay. Like I’ve got 40 or 50 more years to figure this out, so I just need to calm down and just keep pushing forward and then keep taking opportunities where they come.

Andrea: Sounds good advice for yourself.

Wes Gay: Yeah.

Andrea: So Wes, how long ago was it that you went to the StoryBrand workshop? Because I think now we should probably give some context for that and explain even what StoryBrand is.

Wes Gay: Yeah. I went to StoryBrand with what they call the copywriter certification in late October 2016. I didn’t realize that I actually had been a copywriter. I just didn’t realize that’s what I did. The easiest way to define a copywriter was the definition for over a little hundred years ago which says, “You’re a salesman in print.” What that means is you’re trying to write words, write phrases and create a message that will sell somebody on something.

So like in the churches, I was trying to sell people on the ideas that we were talking about, whether in sermons, or I was trying to sell people the idea of coming to our events, or getting involved in our small groups, or whatever it was. I was trying to convince them of something by what I was writing. So I already had that skill set. I just didn’t realize, I didn’t have a way to define it.

So I went to the copywriter workshop because people were going to StoryBrand and saying, “Hey, I now know what my company’s message is. I know how to talk to my customers. I’m just not a good writer. And when I write it, it sounds terrible, so can you help me?” So they created a certification.

StoryBrand, I guess like you said to give a context to that is a workshop created by a guy named Donald Miller. He’s got six or seven, I should know the number. It’s six or seven New York Times Bestselling Books under his belt. He’s been a writer for 15 or 20 years. His stuff is great. In fact, one of my favorite books of all time, and he doesn’t pay me to say this, but one of my favorite books of all time is called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Have you read that one?

Andrea: I haven’t read that one.

Wes Gay: It actually points to the origins of StoryBrand if you read it. It’s fascinating and such a well-written book. It will really change your perspective on a lot of life. I read it seven or eight years ago. But anyway, StoryBrand takes the seven basic principles of storytelling and walks businesses and leaders through it to create a clear message where your customer is the focus of your marketing so that you can tell them that you can communicate how you solve the problems that they face.

So an easy example is think of all these dumb infomercials that are on TV. When they talk about the features and benefits, it’s always about, “Are you frustrated by X? Are you tired of shedding tears when you chop an onion?” Well, yeah I am, actually. “Well, we have the No-Tears Onion Chopper Matic 3000,” and you’re like, “I need the No-Tears Onion Chopper Matic 3000 now because I don’t wanna shed tears when I cut onions, because I shouldn’t have to.” Because they’re now marketing in a way that it says, “This is a problem I have. They understand my problem and they can fix my problem.” That’s when customers engage.

I help companies take their message and turn it into websites and email copy and other marketing collateral they need. Then fast forward to April 2017, I became one of the first StoryBrand certified guides. So I’m one of about 35 folks that StoryBrand has spent about five days in Nashville, Tennessee. StoryBrand has certified us to be able to work as coaches and consultants with people who have either gone through StoryBrand or just familiar with it.

So I’ve got one lady, for example, who’s doing weight loss coaching for busy career women. I’ve got one client that does high-end security camera installs in the southeast. I’ve got clients covering all the spectrum, but what I do is I literally just walk them through these basic principles and we just keep talking about it and try to find and dig into as much as clarity as we can to help them find the message that’s going to resonate best with their audience. Because what I want to do deep down is I want to help good people tell better stories so that they can grow their business and be more generous with the ones around them.

I don’t want to help jerks. I almost helped a jerk a few months ago and didn’t realize it, until about a week ago. I found out the guy he actually hired told me that the guy I thought I was going to work with turned out to be a jerk. I was like, “Well, I’m glad I didn’t work with him because then I’d wasted my time and that wouldn’t have really fulfilled my purpose. I wanna help good people tell better stories so they can grow their business and be more generous with the ones around them.”

Andrea: That’s good. I like your…what do you call that? For me, I would call that a core message, but I mean…

Wes Gay: Yeah. Simon Sinek calls it your ‘why’ or your purpose or your vision, and that’s not something I started with. I think sometimes, we get in this mood of, “If I’m gonna do something, I’ve got to define my purpose from Day 1.” I didn’t. And finally, it was like six, seven months in, I thought, I don’t know that I’ve ever done this. So I sat down one day and started thinking about why do I like doing this so much. Not like the actual work itself but deeper than that. What is it I’m most excited about when I do this every day? And that’s what I came up with.

Andrea: Yeah, I like that a lot. So how does that phrase or that sentence help you? What does it do for you in the way that you approach your business and life?

Wes Gay: So in my business, I want to work with good people. I feel like I’m pretty good at sensing who’s somebody I really want to spend time talking to, because in my work, I spend a lot of time talking to my clients. So I want to have somebody who’s really good at what they do and they’re great people, like they’re somebody I’d want to have lunch with or somebody I’d want to hang out with for a little bit. The old Road Trip Test. Do you want to take a 4 or more hour road trip with them?

And then how do I help them tell a better story. They’ve got a good product, they’ve got a good service, they’ve got a good message, they’ve got a good opportunity but they just need a little help getting across the line. They have it in them, I just need to help them get to where they want to go. When you do that well then you’re able to grow your business, and I tell people all the time, like this is going to sound so basic, boring, whatever. Sometimes people think it sounds bad. But some people think when I say this, they think it’s not good. And really what my job is is to help people make money, period.

And I tell people that sometimes and they’re taken aback, especially people with faith backgrounds. Like it’s not a bad thing to make money, it’s what you do with it is what matters. What I want to do is help people make more money so they can be more generous with those around them, whether it’s generous to their employees, whether it’s generous with their family, generous with their friends, generous with charitable organizations that’s what it is, because that’s what I want in my own life. I want to be able to give more and help those around me more than I could in the past. So if I can grow my business by telling about our story then I can be more generous with those in my life.

Andrea: Yeah, it’s like there’s an immediate goal, which is making more money, but it has a greater purpose in order to be able to be more generous.

Wes Gay: Yeah. And money is not a bad thing. Money just gives you opportunities, opportunities to do good stuff or opportunities to do bad stuff. Money is amoral. It’s just what you do with it is what makes it good or bad.

Andrea: Why do people come to you to work with you about this? I mean, are most of the people that you work with, are they people that have already gone through the StoryBrand program? Now, that you’re a certified guide, you can just teach them the process as well?

Wes Gay: Yeah, so people who I typically work with are somewhat… maybe they’ve gone through the StoryBrand workshop or they’re somewhat familiar with it. So for example, Donald Miller in the StoryBrand process is really well known in the Dave Ramsey circles with the EntreLeadership and all that.

So I work with a few people who are familiar with the StoryBrand but haven’t gone through it. So I kind of walk them through it. I don’t actually teach them the seven principles but I’ll help them create the message they need by just asking them a ton of questions. I mean, I spent two hours on a video call last week with a lawyer in Texas talking about his practice. And I don’t know… all my understanding of the legal industry is when I used to watch Law and Order marathons, so it’s not accurate at all.

But I had to dive into his business, his customers, people he serves, how he grows his business, what his message is, what’s resonates, all the stuff. So now I’m going to create some messaging for him that would then turn into a website. Just about everybody I work with has either gone through StoryBrand or is familiar with it in some way. I’ve decided, and I’ve gotten really comfortable with saying, you know what? I’m just not going to work with people who aren’t familiar with it, because I have to explain to them the value of it.

Andrea: Right, you don’t want to sell it.

Wes Gay: I don’t. And the beauty of it is the StoryBrand has done so much marketing with their podcast and some of the other things, a lot of the kinds of people I want to work with are already familiar with it.

Like Donald Miller talked about StoryBrand in an event in May with a 100,000 people simulcast worldwide. There’s plenty of people in that space who are going to come and need somebody. If they talk to me, that’s probably the kind of person I want to work with because they’re going to be a good person. They’re not going to be like trying to sell… I don’t know. I’m trying to think of something that’s not good. They’re not trying to sell more drugs or not trying to sell you, traffic more guns across the border. Like they’re doing good work and they’ve got good solutions that people need that can help their lives and I can help them do that.

Andrea: That’s exactly the reason why I came to you because I took the StoryBrand course about two years ago now. My husband and I went down to Nashville and we went through the whole thing. At that time, I really was totally and clear about what my message even was. I think that was something that I didn’t realize that I needed to clarify before coming to the process, before coming to the framework. I didn’t even know exactly what my calling was or what I was trying to accomplish. So for the next year and a half…well, I actually used the StoryBrand framework to help me write my book. That was helpful.

Wes Gay: Yeah. Great book, by the way. I read on a plane to LA earlier this year, and that was great.

Andrea: Thank you so much! It really means a lot to me that you took the time to do that. I don’t know why, but I still feel surprised when people say that they’ve read it. Isn’t that funny?

Wes Gay: You should because it’s really good.

Andrea: Thank you. I think it was better because I had gone through this process, because I had an idea of the StoryBrand elements. So I think that that really made a difference. But then it really became a question for me what is it exactly that I’m trying to accomplish here? What is my “why”? What is my core message? And what am I really trying to help people do, and all that sort of thing?

So that’s when I came to you. I had an idea of something. We kind of worked it through. Then I thought we had something and then you came back to me a couple of weeks later and said, “I read your book. I think you need to change things a little bit and focus more on this writing thing.” I was like, oh man, I really appreciated that feedback and just the process and working with you. So thank you for that.

Wes Gay: You’re welcome.

Andrea: So how did you get involved in Forbes? How did you get to the point where you’re actually writing for them?

Wes Gay: So I first heard from Forbes a little over a year ago. I got an email from one of their editors at the Under 30 section and they had just launched the Under 30 section to focus on millennials six months before. So I had written a few pieces for a blog site that’s somewhat popular. The young lady who runs it is pretty influential in the millennial conversation nationally.

So I’d written a few things there. They had seen my work and said, “Hey, would you write a guest post?” And I thought, well, that is the easiest yes of all time. So I did and then I wrote another one, and then it opened to more conversations about being one of their contributors because they were trying to build that section up and were looking for contributors.

So I think I brought a little bit different perspective. I’m not the typical voice in the millennial conversation. Most people who are millennials like me will say, “You know, millennials is the greatest generation ever and old people are dumb and just get out of the way because you messed everything up and we’re just going to fix it all.” Just like “I’m a millennial. Hear me roar,” kind of thing which is complete and utter nonsense.

And then you have the other end of the spectrum who tends to be the older crowd who says, “Well, you bunch of kids just sit down. You’re terrible. You just clean, you just wipe, you just polish your participation trophies and sit down.”

Well, that’s not really true either. We fall more in the middle and so I tend to be a bit of a contrarian voice to a lot of the nonsense that’s out there. I know some of your listeners who are business leaders and business owners and managers and all that. You’ve probably read millions, seemingly, articles about millennials and most of them are just fluff.

Andrea: And what is fluff about them?

Wes Gay: It’s bad data. That’s the biggest one. Everybody has got a study they can cite, but most of the studies, when you actually read them, are incomplete or inaccurate. I read one a few months ago in a really reputable business site. The headline said, “Millennials would delete the phone app instead of SnapChat.” And I thought, well, that’s not true. Let me read it.

So I read the article and the actual data said like a third of millennials 18-24, so college students, use SnapChat more than their phone app. So if they had to delete one or the other, they would delete SnapChat. I thought well, that is completely and utterly misleading. And any leader who just sees that headline thinks they need to go all-in on the SnapChat strategy, for example, to reach millennials when they’re just talking about college students. They’re not talking about those of us who have kids and who’ve had to test drive a minivan.

You know, 50 million millennials in this country are between 27 and 37, so everything that comes with that stage of life going into your 30’s is who the millennials really are, more so than anything else now. And so a lot of it is people I know. It’s just basically is that they’re to get clicks, they’re trying to drive traffic, they’re trying to be the next big thing to something to go viral, and a lot of it is not just true.

When I talk to leaders in companies, what’s said online is not what they believe. It’s also not what they see in their own companies. These are not like Mom & Pop shops of eight people. These are companies of 10, 20, 50, 100, 400,000 people who are telling me this. So when it comes to generational issues, a lot of it is overplayed, a lot of it is nonsense. What we’ve done is we’ve confused what I call these principles of humanities, like everybody struggles with entitlement.

If you go back to the gospels in the Bible, in what had James and John asked Jesus in the last days of His life, “Hey, Jesus, which one of us gets to sit at your right hand?” If that doesn’t reek of entitlement, I don’t what does. A participation trophy for Little League is not entitlement. So that’s part of the problem. I think for too long we’ve had the wrong conversation and nobody is changing the conversation yet, but it’s starting to shift.

I think what we’re seeing in the millennial conversation is people are getting more clear on what they’re actually talking about. They’re realizing a lot of it is nonsense and a lot of it is just really, really unhelpful. I think data is great because a lot of the stuff I write is driven on data, but it’s good data from valid sources. It’s not like Jimmy Dandy’s Jerky Shop saying, “52% of millennials prefer beef jerky.” Well, yeah, he’s trying to sell beef jerky, so of course he’s going to say that.

Some of the most reputable organizations in the world are saying, “Hey, we’ve surveyed tens of thousands of people, here’s the data we’ve come back with.” Okay, that makes sense. So again, I feel like I’m going back to high school, just check your sources. That’s the biggest thing _____ when reading about millennials.

Andrea: Right. That’s really interesting. I think that there are a number of people listening, so the Influencer that’s listening right now is probably somebody who wants to dig into a conversation and wants to see a conversation shift, like you’re talking about wanting to see this millennial conversation shift. How do you see your voice contributing to the shift of that and what kind of advice would you have for other people that are wanting to shift conversations?

Wes Gay: Yeah, I can only speak from my perspective. So my perspective is not that of a millennial living in… and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. So I’m not living in midtown Atlanta in a loft taking Uber everywhere and not owning a car. I live in the suburbs. We have a fenced-in yard. We have a dog. We have two kids. We drive SUVs. So I can only speak from my perspective, So because of where I sit, and I understand it’s an incomplete view, but I also understand in my specific instance, I can speak from where I sit because it is a rapidly expanding perspective for my generation.

So I can start talking about these things and point out things and people go, “Oh, yeah, you’re right.” There is a big difference between older and younger millennials, for example. A lot of older millennials now are parents, so we are different. Half of our phones have apps that are like kids’ books and drawing games and racing games and farm animal games and all that as opposed to the latest social media network that’s out.

So what I’ve done is I have decided, okay, this is where I sit. This is what I see is based on where I live every single day. So because I understand I have that lens, I just start talking to through that lens. What happens is, inevitably, you’re going to attract people who already feel what you’re saying. They just don’t have the way necessarily to say it. You’re giving them the language from your voice, you’re literally putting words in their mouth to help them understand what they’re seeing and the frustrations they have.

I do this thing every now and then on Facebook where I’ll have a statement that says, “Younger millennial” and then some goofy thing that somebody in their early 20’s says. And I’ll say “Older millennial” this is what somebody in their 30’s would say. For example, a younger millennials says, “I have 10 pairs of fake glasses because it helps me with my Instagram image.” An older millennial says, “Hey, did you know Costco now has their own brand of contacts?” Which is what I said about three months ago when I “discovered” Costco had their own brand of contacts, I was really excited how cheap they were.

So I’ve gotten countless messages from people, which started as a joke. I did it almost every week. Where people are engaging with that and they’re resonating with it because it’s helping them process and understand things from their own perspective in a way that they didn’t know how to say it. So I would say, if you’re trying to shift the conversation, I would love to say, first, make sure that conversation is shifting. I have verified my perspective with other people that I respect who are also in this space who say, “Yeah, I do see these trends happening.”

Then also Facebook is the best way on the planet to test those ideas. You don’t have to go on to blog. You don’t have to on to a bunch of content. Start putting some things on your Facebook posts a couple of times a week to kind of share your perspective as you’re trying to shift the conversation and see what conversation happens around your voice and around your perspective and then go from there.

If people are resonating with it, if people are engaging with it, if people are saying, “Yeah, you know, you’re right.” If you’re getting direct messages, private messages that say, “You know what, I really appreciate you saying that because that’s exactly what I felt. I thought I was the only one who felt that way, or I didn’t necessarily know how to say it.” So that’s where I would start. Just start giving little drops of your opinion or your perspective on Facebook and then see how it resonates with people and the more it resonates then see how you can expand that conversation, whether through a blog or a YouTube channel or whatever it is.

Andrea: That’s great advice, because I can definitely attest to the fact that I also, that’s exactly how I got started in, truly, Facebook. It was the exactly same thing. I was like, well, I’m just going to start throwing out some ideas on Facebook and just see how this lands. And start actually putting my voice out there in a way. Even though it was just an experiment, it still was really hard for me. And I don’t know that it is for everybody, but for me it was a little intimidating, because if I put my voice out there, what are people going to think, and that sort of thing. But the more that I had people messaging me and saying things like, “Oh my goodness, I’ve never been able to say it like that but that’s exactly what I was thinking.”

Wes Gay: Yeah, because if you are an Influencer, you’re helping people live better, do better, be better, whatever it is. How are you trying to help them by the problem you solve for yourself or the problems that you can’t solve based on your skills and experience?

Facebook is great way because it’s a community of people that you should know, unless you’ve added friends you don’t know. But it’s people who are going to probably support you. You’re not going to get bombarded with a ton of trolls. And it’s people who are going to be honest and say, “Yeah, that makes total sense,” or “I get it.” The best part is it’s free. You can do it anywhere.

I mean, Facebook is a great testing ground to make sure that your perspective and how… like if you what to shift the conversation, to make sure that that is a conversation that is indeed shifting and you’re going to be one of the ones leading that direction.

Andrea: I like that a lot. Okay, so one last question about the millennial thing. I’ve heard about this generation crossover…

Wes Gay: I’ve heard people call them “cuspers”. My favorite one is people who say like me, born in the ‘80s, we call ourselves Generation Oregon Trail, because we played the game as kids. But I’ve read all that kind of stuff. What it really boils down to is we have played up the generational distinctions a little too much. Again, it goes back to there are certain things that everybody wants because they’re human, but the difference with millennials that nobody has really quantified well is how technology has changed everything, and how the sheer size of the generation has changed everything.

For example, Generation X, there’s like 60 to 65 million people in that generation so the generation out from millennials. Depending who you read, there’s anywhere between 85 and 92 million millennials in the U.S. So literally, you’re talking anywhere from 20 to 32 million people difference between back-to-back generations. All of those people hit the workforce about the same time as with the millennials. So you have these massive waves so problems get magnified, right?

So if you have a light rain in your house, you don’t have any idea you have a roof leak. But when you have a massive thunderstorm, you know really fast when you have a leak. So millennials hit the workplace, it’s more like a thunderstorm because there’s so many at one time. So that’s the numbers game. And then technology has changed everything too. I mean, we know the digital world has changed our lives but what we forget is that we grow up in a middle school, high school, and college with the device that came out 10 years ago called the iPhone and where we said, “Hey, you can tell the world everything that’s going on in your life. Do Facebook and Twitter. They’re still brand new. Nobody will understand it yet. So just live your life.” And we did and we lived out the immaturity of our adolescence before the world. And then it shaped us as a generation in ways that I don’t think anybody has really seen the full impacts yet.

But yeah, I’ve read about generational crossover. Again, I think part of me that’s the cynical side of me says it’s somebody trying to drive clicks and drive traffic. But I do think there’s some validity there because anybody that I’ve talked to who’s over 30 for Forbes, they’ve all been like, “Well, I’m not really sure if I’m a millennial. I just don’t know. I just can’t…” You know, they give me that runaround. Because most of the millennial conversation is about a 23-year-old selling essential oils in a coffee shop, not like 34-year-old marketing director or senior vice president, or whatever.

Andrea: Yeah. It seems like everybody is wanting an answer to why people are the way that they are.

Wes Gay: Good luck!

Andrea: And they’re always looking for something like this generation gap and what not to explain things. Then I think we often then just sort of push away the actual mess of trying to understand the other person. So we just kind of put it in these categories. But if we were to dig down and just ask how are we, like you said, there’s these fundamental things that we want as human beings. And if we can tap into those and speak to those then we’re going to be able to speak to anybody.

Wes Gay: Yeah, if you want to solve the generation problem at your workplace, or with anybody you know that’s of a different generation, spend $10, take them to lunch, and just get to know them. It’s that simple. It really is.

Andrea: Yeah. Oh, that’s good. Well, Wes, thank you so much for taking time to share your story and your expertise with us here today. Where can the Influencers listening find you?

Wes Gay: You can go to my website. It’s And if they go to, that’s for Voice of Influence, I’ll have some more information about StoryBrand and then also a special offer for your listeners as well to help them clarify the message so that they can increase their influence.

Andrea: That’s awesome! Thank you so much for that. And we can find you on Twitter and Facebook, I know.

Wes Gay: Yeah. You can find me on Twitter, it’s just @wesgay. I’m totally unoriginal. And then I’m on Facebook. I think I’m On LinkedIn, I’m Wes Gay. On Instagram, I’m Wes Gay. And I’m not on SnapChat. So there you go.

Andrea: Not on SnapChat. Okay. Perfect.

Wes Gay: I tried it, got tired of it.

Andrea: All right. Well, thank you so much!

Wes Gay: You’re welcome.



How to Monetize Your Expertise for a Portfolio Career

Episode 25 with Dorie Clark on Personal Branding

Dorie Clark is an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, the New York Times described her as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” A frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, she consults and speaks for clients including Google, Microsoft, and the World Bank. You can download her free Entrepreneurial You self-assessment workbook and learn more at

Download your free and simple personal brand strategy guide called

“Focus Your Brand DIY.”

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Andrea: So I want to tell you something before we really get going here to kind of set you and the listeners up why I was so excited to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast. Toward the beginning of this year, in 2017, I was working and developing my podcast concept and I was really struggling to decide on a title, a focus, an audience, and all of that. So that’s when I stumbled on an article written by Dorie Clark in Forbes, and it really spoke to me. And so that day, the very day that I saw that, I actually went to your website. I dove in. I downloaded your 40-page workbook and then when I got your audio version of Stand Out and then spent the rest of the day walking and listening to that book.

Dorie Clark: Wow!

Andrea: Yeah, I really dove in. But I remember watching the tiles on the floor of the mall while I was walking because it was cold. So I remember looking at these tiles and just thinking to myself “What am I gonna do?” And I’m eating up your content and then all of a sudden, you said something that really resonated with me. You said that I could land two different areas of expertise together to come up with a really good standout kind of concept and that’s when it hit me. And so three months later, I started this Voice of Influence podcast combining my expertise as a vocal coach like an actual singing coach and teacher with this idea of communication and personal branding. So I just thank you very much for your influence on the Voice of Influence podcast itself.

Dorie Clark: That is super meta! I really appreciate you sharing that story. That’s awesome! I love your background too because I often will tell people how important it is to get vocal training and you know, it’s so hard and so frustrating sometimes. We all know how important oral communication is as a means of branding yourself and literally getting your ideas. And there are people who just cannot seem to be able to raise their voice to a sufficient level to even be heard in meetings. It’s like the very minimum that a person needs to have this is just literally to be heard and they have not got the diaphragm, breathing thing down. And they’re like “Well, I can’t just do it?” And I’m like “No, you can and you need to freakin’ do something about it now.”

Andrea: Yes, yes! There’s a great clip from Sister Act II or even Sister Act I, it isn’t like the best movie to talk about. But it was such a great clip and there was this kid who was hardly singing at all and then she kind of helped him find his voice and then all of a sudden he just started bursting out and found it. I think that there is something really unique and interesting about each voice.

And every time I hear somebody in particular singing, let’s say, but also somebody that may have expertise or message and they’re playing it down or they have this inner projection of their voice instead of really projecting their voice, it just kills me. And I’m like “I hear what could be but you’re just not quite there yet.” I think that’s one of the reasons why I resonate so much with you and your work because I think you really are helping people to find that.

Dorie Clark: Well, thank you. I appreciate it. That’s awesome and definitely it sounds like you’re doing that as well.

Andrea: OK, so before we dive into the book and all that other stuff, I would like to ask you about you. Why don’t you tell us and tell the influencer listening what is it that you do and how did you kind of get to where you are right now?

Dorie Clark: Well, to make a somewhat elaborate story short, these days, I mostly write business books and then travel around and speak and consult and coach around them. And so I started my entrepreneurial career doing marketing strategy consulting mostly for companies. But my work has really shifted over throughout the years to working primarily with individual professionals helping them establish their brand as thought leaders in the market place.

And so my newest book, Entrepreneurial You, is in many ways what I view is the culmination of that which is once you have kind of repositioned yourself into where you want to be, once you have established yourself as being an expert in your field, how do you then make money from it? How do you make it sustainable? How do you actually turn it into a real legitimate career? And so that is what I explored in an Entrepreneurial You.

Andrea: Yeah and you’ve written a trilogy of books now about creating, developing, monetizing a personal brand in this expertise. Why don’t you set us up with what those other books are and what they are about?

Dorie Clark: Yeah, definitely! So my first book is called Reinventing You. It’s kind of the first step, because for a lot of people you’re not necessarily in the place that you want to be professionally. You may have a different aspiration whether that is getting yourself promoted to a different level or maybe changed in companies, maybe changed in careers altogether. And you have to work and try to reposition yourself strategically. So Reinventing You is about how to work that process to get where you want to go.

And then the next step of course is once you’re in the vicinity, once you’re kind of in the right place, you need to really get known in your field. You have to figure out how to establish yourself as being one of the very best in your company or in your business. That is what enables you to come in premium pricing. That’s what enables people to seek you out instead of having to constantly be knocking on people’s doors and asking for business literally or metaphorically, and so that’s what I covered in my second book Stand Out. And then as I mentioned Entrepreneurial You is my newest and that is really how to monetize your expertise and create multiple income streams off your business.

Andrea: And when it comes to personal branding, do you also talk about people who are in a company, maybe they already have a job but they still need to have a personal brand?

Dorie Clark: Yeah for sure. I think this is a really important area because it’s oftentimes a neglected one. People sometimes assumed that if they are not themselves entrepreneurs, they don’t have to worry about personal branding because their company brand will just carry them. And they’re maybe true up to a certain point but it’s getting less and less true, number one – because you’re going to be dealing with clients, with even coworkers who are all around the world. They’re not necessarily going to know you just from being around the office with you.

So they will get to know you by reputation before they ever get to know you as an individual. And so getting cognizant of what your reputation is and whether it reflects what you wanted to be as an important step. The other thing of course, the other unfortunate reality is a lot of times, jobs don’t last forever. And so if you’re relying on your company to do all the thinking about your brand and just handle that for you that may turn out to unfortunately be a little bit misguided at a certain point.

Andrea: I feel like having a personal brand and understanding kind of that going to that process really helps people to kind of define who they are and what they want to be about. I mean, it seems to me that it’s about more than other people’s perception is also about what you want to express and what you want like a purpose, your purpose and your direction you want to take in life. I mean, have you found that with the clients that you worked with and the people that have been impacted by your books?

Dorie Clark: Yeah for sure. I mean, you know the background that I come out of actually is not a business background. I was a philosophy major as an undergrad and my graduate work was in theology. So I’m very preoccupied with questions of meaning and how people figure out who they are and who they want to be in the world, so personal brand is really just the business application of that.

Andrea: Yeah I just think it’s really…it definitely helped me because I’m I’ve also always just been consumed with my own why’s and what I’m doing and what direction going to. When I started to dive into of what is my personal brand, I don’t know if there’s something really intentional about that that made it more of a priority and gave me a clear picture and gave me a clear direction I think.

Dorie Clark: Yeah that’s awesome. That’s all it should be.

Andrea: Yeah. OK what drives you now with your business? What’s your why?

Dorie Clark: Ha ha! We’re just cutting right to the big picture here.

Andrea: Sorry. Well, we’re just talking about meaning, right?

Dorie Clark: Yeah, exactly. Let’s bring it, yeah.

Andrea: We dive. We dive in the Voice of Influence podcast. We dive in!

Dorie Clark: Yeah, we do. Awesome! You know the really what is what is exciting for me is the fact that you know, I think we all know people who are, you know, they’re good at what they do, right? They’re talented. They have so many to contribute. They’re smart and yet, they are not necessarily succeeding the way that they should. And I would argue that in a lot of ways the reason that that is the case is that in the modern era, the ways that people make money are actually very different.

They’ve changed substantially over the past two decades and this is this is what I talked about in Entrepreneurial You but there has been a shift from making money from something directly from something to making money because of something. And the clearest example that I can say of that is that I started my career as a journalist and that’s a pretty simple business model, right? You’re a journalist so you write articles and then you get paid for the articles, boom! That’s the business model that anyone can understand.

But nowadays, the tricky part is that there’s hardly any journalists left, you know, 40% of journalist have lost their jobs in the United States over the past 15 years. I mean, it’s just this wholesale decimation and the market constantly has gotten worse and so publications are paying you a little of a wage to write anything. If you were continuing to try to do the same business model like “Oh, I’ll write an article, I’ll get paid for it.” You’d be in a really bad shape because they would say “No, do it for free.” Or “No, do it for $20.” And you can’t make a living that way.

However, if you are a little bit crafty, if you decide to make money because of something rather than from something, you can actually do much better. And so in my case, I actually still spend a substantial amount of my time writing articles, you know, doing literally the same thing that I started my career doing, except now I don’t get paid for them. But instead of that being a tragedy, that’s actually an opportunity because I have found other ways to monetize around them through speaking and consulting and things like that.

And I am now able to make a lot more money than I would have had I nearly been paid a couple of hundred bucks for an article. So it’s just helping people understand that shift which is not necessarily intuitive. But once you are able to crack the code, it opens up a lot of possibilities and enables good people to really get their voice heard effectively.

Andrea: Yeah, I love in a prologue when you talked about your why for the book and you said “You can be talented and well-regarded but unless you’re very deliberate about the choices you make, you may end up earning little for your efforts.” And then you went on to say “Learning to make money from your expertise is just a different skill set.” I think that that what you offer through this book is so much to the person who does have expertise. But yeah, they feel like a fool when it comes to trying to make money with it other than in an entrepreneurial sense.

Dorie Clark: Yes, yes exactly. It’s really an entirely different skill set and I think a lot of people just don’t realize how different it is and then they get upset at themselves for not necessarily being able to crack the code. They don’t realize that it’s not something you necessarily would know intuitively. You have to study it. You have to learn about it and that’s really what I try to do with Entrepreneurial You is to create a kind of roadmap for people to follow to make that process easier.

Andrea: Definitely! You know, I could have started to deep dive into all of this space a few years ago or just like a couple of years ago. And I’ve heard about most of the people that you wrote about in your book and most of the ways of monetizing but it took a lot of effort from you to even come across these people and those ideas. So the fact that you put them all in one spot is incredibly valuable to somebody like me or somebody who’s just starting out, either one whether we’ve been in it for a while or we’re just starting out to be able to see a big picture of the landscape of what we could do.

And I think that that is also, I don’t know, it’s just really valuable I think to the person that’s struggling. OK, so in chapter I, you set up the reader to realize how important it is to have more than one income stream and you likened it to having a diversified portfolio and I love this comparison. So why don’t you just explain to us what is a portfolio career?

Dorie Clark: Yeah. So a portfolio career is really just kind of a way of thinking about making money from doing a variety of different things. So instead of the kind of old school, here’s a job, this is what you do, period, a portfolio career is somebody who has multiple things going on. I mean, in my case, my version of the portfolio career is making money through writing plus doing business school teaching plus consulting plus coaching plus doing online courses, etc, etc.

But even if someone has a fulltime day job, they can still begin to create a portfolio career for themselves. It’s a thing that I would encourage heartily because it provides more security for yourself and it could just be a thing that you do once a week or once a month. You know, it’s taking on if you have some expertise, taking on a coaching client on the side or maybe it starting to investigate something that’s of interest to you whether that’s crafting on Etsy, or you know tinkering around and trying to figure out how to develop an iPhone app. There’s a lot of different ways you can do that but if you start to be able to create multiple income stream for yourself based on your expertise, it just insulates you again to risk a little bit more and it open you up to new opportunities.

Andrea: Do you want to list some of them?

Dorie Clark: Sure! Yeah, yeah absolutely!

Andrea: So what are some of those income streams that you write about in a book?

Dorie Clark: Yeah. So in writing Entrepreneurial You, of course there’s an infinite number of potential income streams that the people could do so. I certainly didn’t cover them all but I wanted to provide a sense for people about possibilities that they could undertake that don’t require a lot of capital especially. You know, these are not possibilities where you need to go get a loan from the bank or you have to put your life savings into it. These are all things that you can start doing, basically today or tomorrow snap your fingers and if you decide that you want to learn about it and approach it earnestly, you can dive in and do it.

So some examples would be; coaching, consulting, or doing public speaking. You could start to organize events, you know, you won’t necessarily say “Oh yeah immediately rent a stadium and do a 5000-person event.” But you know, for instance last year for the first time, I pulled together a 10-person Mastermind event and I did it in the conference room in my building and you know, it was low expenses and very low key but high value for the participants and something that brought me some money as well. So that was a really great example and a really great possibility.

If they’re interested in online thing, they could start creating an online community or they could for instance work to monetize a podcast like this or a blog. So there’s a wide range of options of what might be of interest to people.

Andrea: Yeah. There was one in particular that really caught my attention and I actually wrote in a column, brilliant, because I’ve heard most people but I hadn’t heard about the Mastermind Talks and that was such a compelling story. Would you mind sharing that because I think that sometimes we just need to think outside the box and realize that you just never know it could be possible?

Dorie Clark: Yeah, definitely. This is a pretty clever example of somebody who really took what might seem to be an impossible situation and turned it into something pretty cool. So there’s a guy names Jason Gaignard who lives in Canada. And a few years ago, Tim Ferriss, the well-known author was releasing his book. I think it was the 4-Hour Chef. Anyway, he was looking to get bulk sales for the book so that it could hit the best seller list. And he put out an email that if someone bought 4000 copies of his book that he would do two free speaking engagements for that person. The cost for this is about $80,000 – very, very expensive.

Jason, number one did not have $80,000 and number two, he didn’t have any idea of where he would have Tim Ferriss speak. It’s not like you run a company and is like “Oh yeah, you know, we have a conference next year, you could speak at our conference.” He had no idea but he saw that opportunity and he said “You know what, this is a great opportunity. I don’t even know what I’m gonna do with it but I can do something amazing with it.”

So he said yes to it. He had about two days to get the money. So hustled around to his friends and finally had a wealthy friend that agreed to loan him the money and then he was about trying to figure out what the heck he would do with it. And so he ultimately stumbled on was that he would create a conference which he ultimately called Mastermind Talks and he realized that he couldn’t afford to have lots of speakers. I mean, it practically broken him just to have Tim Ferris, but he realized Tim Ferris is a popular guy. He’s a guy that a lot of people want to hang out with.

And so he thought “Wait a minute, if I have Tim Ferris, I could probably get lots of other people for free just because they want to hang out with Tim Ferris.” And so he essentially used Tim Ferris as bait and he invited all of Tim Ferris’ friends and they’re like “Yeah sure, I’ll come.” He did like a competition. So it wasn’t totally free, there was a chance. There’s a chance, you know, with all these people who were very expensive speakers that if they were voted the number #1 speaker that they would win I think $30,000. But the vast majority of course didn’t go home with that and ended up speaking for free.

But it was a very clever way of solving a difficult problem. You know, you might say “Well, I don’t have any money for speakers; therefore, I can’t possibly have an event. But Jason looked at those constraints and came up with something very different that no one else would have.

Andrea: Hmm and he didn’t just try to pack a stadium with that either.

Dorie Clark: Yeah that’s right. That was the other really interesting. Instead of going for the maximum quantity of people, he decided that he wanted it to have a very intimate event, which is you know frankly a kind of risky move because it’s always a lot easier to get you know, a bunch of people who pay a $100 or $500 or something as compared to people who would put down $300, $4000, or $5000. But he limited the event so that it became very kind of elite and exclusive feeling and he did phone interviews with the people. He said he returned about $40,000 worth of people’s admission fees because after talking to them on the phone, he decided they weren’t a fit. So he just sent it back.

But he limited it up to a 150 people who would attend this conference and tried to create a stellar experience for everyone. And he told me that that his goal with it is that if you really good job the first time and you record it, you get testimonials so that other people can see how great it is, he said at that point, you really never have to market it again because it essentially markets itself. And so he has repeated the event multiple times, I think they’re on maybe the fourth, the fifth year now and he continues to keep it a very small. He’s constantly reinventing it, doing it in a new location every year but he was really able to create a very powerful brand out of this.

Andrea:   So what would takeaways be for us when we’re thinking about, you know, we can’t think out of the box. But then we hear story like this “Whew, wait a second, there’s so much opportunities out there. It’s limitless.” What kinds of suggestions do you have for us when we’re thinking and trying to be innovative or thinking outside the box in terms of how to monetize something or how to make money with our expertise then?

Dorie Clark: Yeah. Well, I do some teaching around innovation and one of the common frames that they use in terms of how to teach people to think in an innovative fashion is to reframe “we can’t” to “we can if.” And I think that that’s a really useful framing because it is true. Under the present circumstances and under the present assumptions, it maybe a 100% accurate that you cannot do a certain thing but that just kind of lead to passivity. It’s like “Okay, that’s the reality.”

But the truth is people can change their reality all the time and what’s the more interesting question to ask is “we can if” that means what circumstances would have to be changed in order for this to be possible. And if you can figure out which variables need to be tweaked, some of them may prove to be impossible; others may prove to be far more malleable than you might imagine.

And so in the case of Jason, “Well you know we can’t have a conference because can’t afford speakers.” “Well, okay, we can have topnotch speakers if we can find a way other than money to make it valuable for them to come.” What might be more valuable to them than money? “Oh, they all wanna be BFF’s with Tim Ferris. If we can give them Tim Ferris then maybe that would be worth the $10,000 or, $20,000 or $30,000 that they would normally get to them.”

Andrea: So good! I love that advice and one of the income streams that you talked about is this JV partnerships. I think it’s a really interesting concepts and I know that you talked about your own experience with sharing other people’s products with your audience. I’ve been thinking about people who have a lot of charisma, people who may have a lot of connections, but they’re not necessarily wanting to write a book or share their expertise per se, but yet it seems that they would be able to monetize their connections and their gifts in this way by using that JV partnership concept. So would you mind sharing a little bit more about?

Dorie Clark: Yeah absolutely! So JV of course stands for “joint venture” and it’s basically just a wave that you can earn a certain commission by referring people to a product or service that somebody buys. It’s really kind of a win-win situation because when it’s done right, you are sending people to a person that you like and respect. That you would want to recommend regardless and they are getting a client that they otherwise would not have gotten.

And so as a result, this is especially prominent in digital products because of course there’s no marginal cost increase in selling additional ones. If I have an online course, it’s not like it costs me more effort for having a 101 customers as opposed to a 100, because I’ve already made the digital course. So therefore, you can often have a really generous affiliate commissions, usually anywhere from 30% to 50%. It really is great because it’s a new customer for me. It’s money for you and we’re supporting each other.

So the real trick of course though is making sure that it really is symbiotic that you’re promoting somebody that you do in fact respect. And once you make that introduction to your clients, you know that person will treat them right. That they have high-quality products, that the service experience will be good, and that they’re not going bombard somebody with 110,000 emails a day, etc, etc. There’s a lot of adding that goes into the process but if you’re comfortable with that and you can do that, it really can become positive.

Andrea: Yeah, and I would say it’s a probably a win-win. Really, because it’s a win for the client or customer as well because they were introduced to something that they can really benefit from.

Dorie Clark: Yeah, it’s true. I mean definitely hear it from folks all the time that thanked me for introducing them to some author that they were not familiar with before.

Andrea: Uh-hmm, I can definitely attest to that for sure. OK so Entrepreneurial You is not just a list of ideas, and not just a list of stories that back up those ideas. But you also get really practical and you share things specific things like how much to charge for things. Like ideas about where the market is right now. I was thinking in particular about speaking because I’ve gotten that question before too, like what do I charge or how do I know how much to charge?

And I’ve wondered that at times when I was starting too and so I’ve really appreciate that first of all. I just want people to know that they’re going to get a lot more than just some ideas but some really…you got really practical. But why was that important for you to include? How did you decide that you were not going to share ideas but you’re going to get really specific?

Dorie Clark: Well, you know part the process for me of writing Entrepreneurial You really sprang from conversations that I had in the course of developing an online learning program that I worked on last year called the Recognized Expert course. I have built up this really lovely community about a 150 people at this point who have been through the course. In many ways, it’s kind of a learning lab for me because the things that they want to know, the things that they’re curious about are things that I realized a lot of people are.

And so oftentimes, it’s you know some initial questions that might be basic but are really not basic in the sense that they’re not talked about a lot, like how much do you charge for things. There’s a lot of secrecy. I mean, this is something that I wanted to really breakdown in the course of writing Entrepreneurial You. There’s a lot of secrecy in our culture about money and about you know how do you earn money? And how much do you earn and how much do you ask for something?

And I really came to realize that the more things are not talked about, the more it perpetuates inequality because people just do not have good information. And when they don’t have good information, they don’t know what the market value of something is and they’re not able to ask for what they really deserve. And so I figured, the more we can shine some daylight on it, the better off more people will be.

Andrea: Thank you. I think that’s just really helpful. It’s really helpful for me and it’s helpful for other people that are going to read this and say, “Oh man, finally somebody is just saying what they’re charging or saying what I could do.” And that just empowering for sure because I think we stumble on that concept or the actual naming of a price. And it becomes this block that I don’t even know what I can do and so I don’t even know if I can offer it you know. So that’s great.

Dorie Clark: Yeah, thank you. I’m so glad they resonated.

Andrea: Yeah. I also really appreciated your “try this” section of the book where you really breakdown the concepts into these actionable steps for the reader. So thank you for that as well. And I’m also curious, how much of your writing process was sort of designated to coming with these action steps. Did you do it as you went? I mean, as a fellow author, I’m curious. Did you do it as you went or did you do it when you’re done and how much work was that?

Dorie Clark: Yeah. So creating the “try this” section was certainly an important part of the book for me. It was something that I did while I was writing the chapters and it’s something that I became really aware of with my first book, Reinventing You. When I created the first draft of Reinventing You, I did not have a “try this” section and my editor said to me “Hey, we think you should do this you know with sort of pointers for people.” And I was skeptical I’m like “Oh, I don’t know. Do we really need that? Would anybody really use that?” But you know, it was my first book so I did it because they told me to.

And then like in the years since that book has come out, I heard from so many people that that was the part they liked and appreciated the most was having this kind of “try this” bullet points where it was very specific suggestions about what they could do. That I realized “Oh this is not some afterthought. This is actually one of the most important pieces and I just wasn’t clawed into it.” So I took it really seriously in my next book Stand out and then again with Entrepreneurial You. I decided “OK, if people are really using this, I’m gonna put a lot of effort into trying to make them good and make them useful.”

And in fact, I ended up creating a free giveaway which is this 88-question Entrepreneurial You Self-Assessment, which takes all of the questions or almost all of the questions you know the ones that are at the back of each section and chapter and put it into a PDF document where there’s line and space for people to write things out. So you can really use it like a workbook and a way to take these ideas and questions and apply them to your own life. So if any listeners who are interested in that, they can download it for free at

Andrea: Yes, and we’ll definitely include that the show notes because that’s something like I said before that was helpful to me from Stand Out, so yeah. OK, so now I’ve got another question. This isn’t necessarily about Entrepreneurial You; this is going to go back to something that I heard you talked about. I’m not sure where it was that I heard you talked about this. But it really made an impact on me and I think that there are people in the audience who are really message-driven. They might be really talented but they’re not really sure how to choose their topic or how to specialize.

And you talked about one time the difference between, I think it was the difference between being a specialist and being a generalist. Would you explain what the difference is there and I think you said that you’re a generalist, so I would love to hear more about what that looks like for somebody who’s trying to figure this out for themselves?

Dorie Clark: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a lot of cultural pressure in the business world for people to specialize. That’s a kind of standard advice that you almost always get is “Oh, well you need to take a specialty. You’re not just a marketing consultant, you’re a nonprofit social media marketing consultant,” you know or something like that. On one end, that is not a bad advice because if you are very specialized, it becomes immediately clear who your customers are and by extension where you can go to find them.

It’s a lot easier, you say “Oh I’m trying to do social media for nonprofit as you probably go to this and this nonprofit conference and this social media conference and I’ll be good.”

So it is easier in many ways. But the truth is there are some people, and I count myself among them, that just don’t like to operate that way. You know, maybe it’s making by far for ourselves, I don’t know but I never wanted to artificially choose something and then just specialize in that. And so for that situation what I did instead is I essentially decided “Alright, I’m gonna let the market dictate this.”

I think this is actually a pretty good way of doing it because for anything the market almost always knows better than we do about what would be desirable. And so my version was I essentially created a lot of small bets, a lot of sort of small experiments. In my case, these were blog posts, and I would just write about a variety of different topics and see what seem to resonate with people, what’s getting the most views, what’s getting the most shares, or what’s getting the most engagements.

And it happened that an early post that I wrote for the Harvard Business Review called How To Reinvent Your Personal Brand was one that did seem to get a lot of traction and a lot of engagement and HBR noticed and they asked me to expand it into a magazine article and then eventually that turned into my first book, Reinventing You. But it was not something that I consciously picked in a top down fashion. I never said “Oh I’m gonna write a book about reinvention. That’s my strategy.” It was something that arose organically from being one of dozens of different things that I tried.

Andrea: Yeah. I think that advice was so helpful to me I think in particular. But I think it’s a really important thing for anybody to do when they’re trying to figure out what they’re going to be all about, what their focus is, or at least what their brand is and what they’re showing to the world. Because they’re going to end up still bringing all their other expertise into whatever they end up doing, but yeah, I really appreciated that designation. I felt affinity with you in that and it made me feel less alone and less crazy for not knowing what my specialty was going to be, and not wanting to niche down.

Dorie Clark: That’s awesome!

Andrea: Well, Dorie, I’m so grateful to you for your time here today and for this book and for these trilogy of books that you have offered the world. We’ve already mentioned your website but when does Entrepreneurial You come out? I think by the time I publish this episode, it will be out and so where should people going to find it?

Dorie Clark: Yeah. Thank you so much, Andrea. So the new book is Entrepreneurial You. It is officially released October 3rd. People can grab that on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, you know many different independent bookstores. And if they want to get that Entrepreneurial You Self-Assessment that I mentioned for free, they can get that workbook at So I look forward to having a chance to be in touch with folks.

Andrea: Yeah. I just recommend everybody if you haven’t read the other two books just buy all three at the same time and systematically go through them because that’s an education that’s worth the small price of three books.

Dorie Clark: Excellent point, thank you.

Andrea: Way more than that, yes. Well, thank you so much, Dorie, for your voice of influence on the world and for your time with us today.

Dorie Clark: That’s great! Thanks a lot Andrea!



Earn the Right to Be Direct by Connecting First

Episode 24 with Amber Hurdle

Amber Hurdle is a teen mom turned powerhouse businesswoman who has worked with international celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and women in business worldwide. Whether she is empowering female entrepreneurs, teaching them out of the box business strategies, or energizing and educating leadership within an organization, Amber’s straight-shooting “velvet machete” and warm personality never fail to motivate others to strategically up their game in business and in life.

Find the book and all of the amazing bonus resources at

Find Amber’s Bombshell Business Woman podcast here.

If you’re struggling to gain traction with your personal brand, cut through the creative chaos with the free Focus Your Brand DIY guide.

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Andrea: Well hello, Amber Hurdle, and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

Amber Hurdle: Hey Andrea, thanks for having me. I’m very excited to get to chat with your today.

Andrea: Yes, I am too! And I’m really looking forward to diving into your book, your new book. It’s The Bombshell Business Woman book, and I’m really looking forward to that. But before we do that, why don’t you give the influencer listening just a snap shot of who you are and what you’re doing right now?

Amber Hurdle: OK, well I am probably like a lot of your listeners, a very busy woman, because I play a lot of roles in life. Professionally, I’m an ICF certified coach. I do brand consulting, both with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, looking up for brand from the inside out. And also with small businesses more of creating their visual brand or their brand messages or even rebranding so that’s the professional side.

But I’m also a mother. I have two children and a step daughter. My step daughter is married and has two children, who are my grandchildren. My husband and I are very involved. We have lots of friends. I’m one of six kids. And so I’m sure like a lot of the people who are listening, I kind of go full tilt all the time and everybody will tell you like “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Andrea: Yes, I think Bombshell is a perfect word for you and the people that you’re serving. That’s awesome!

Amber Hurdle: Well, the Bombshell phrase, you know, I made that. I redefined that term to be a Bold, Brave Female Entrepreneur because I saw a lot of women out there like me who was just going all the time and running like crazy and yet they still always felt like they weren’t great businesswomen, or they were letting their kids down.

But they always found that one thing, an area that they could pick on themselves and I thought “No, we’re changing that.” Instead of saying “Look at this one thing I can get done today.” Let’s look at all the things that you did to impact your world uniquely. And so yeah, I refined that term and I hope to embody that most days, some days better than others, right?

Andrea: I love your definition of the Bombshell. It’s like somebody that’s got all this energy and passion and drive, and at the same time a very successful maybe even. But at the same time like what did you say was like one of the examples you gave was questioning the paper plates.

Amber Hurdle: Paper plate mom?

Andrea: Yes. OK explain that real quick.

Amber Hurdle: I have found that for those have gotten the privileged copy of the book, they have been emailing me or text messaging me saying “Oh my gosh, I’m a paper plate mom.” And so I just want explain what that is real quick. So you know, you’re a woman, you’re taking care of your family, you’re taking care of your business, or your employees are counting on you. You’re providing this income for your team which then they get to go home and take care of their families and participate in their community.

You are a community participant. You’re a friend to many people and then you go to your kids’ class party for the first time in a while because of course you have to run your business during the day. And you know, Suzy’s mom comes in and she’s got like these cupcakes and it’s like on a three-tier platter and there’s like crystals and there’s the school mascot on it’s all in the school colors and then your kids signed up for the paper plates, like again.

And so in that moment you break down and you’re like “I’m not a good enough mother.” “Look at those cup cakes.” “My kid is going to be scarred for life. I’m gonna have to pay for therapy because I’m a paper plate mom.” And that’s so ridiculous. I mean your kid, I promise and especially with a boy who does not care that they brought the paper plates. Like they’re just happy that you’ve got to show up to their party and probably they’re just happy that they get to have a party and they’re not working on schoolwork and they’re not thinking about the fact that Suzy’s mom brought cupcakes and you brought paper plates.

Get over it. Think about all the amazing things that you’ve been designed to do that you get to do because of your position and because of the zest that you have for life and what did that look like to your children. They get to watch you do that. They get to watch you become be the best person of yourself through you living out these gifts and serving other people. They don’t care about paper plates.

Andrea: Such a good word. You know, it’s so tempting to do that comparison game. And really, it’s not just about comparison because we can compare all we want. The question really is are we judging each other based on our comparisons? And I think that happens a lot where we do judge ourselves or somebody else based on a comparison. And so one of the messages that I heard you talked about a lot is the importance of encouraging each other and being on the same team. Why is that so important for women in particular to have that mindset when it comes to business?

Amber Hurdle: Well, we’re a little bit behind the eight-ball as it is. I mean, statistically, we create a ton of jobs and we have a ton of businesses but unfortunately the men are the ones who are making all the money. And that could be for a variety of reasons. I mean just disparities and access to learning and education to mentorship. You know they’re different things and I was like to point out, I’m not picking on them. These is just we’re here right now and I don’t think there’s any conspiracy that men are trying to hold us down or anything. It’s just historically, we’re behind and we’re just not there yet.

So why, if you’re already in such a small percentage of women who are creating revenue and running a successful business, why would you take that little energy you have to tear somebody else down when you can in turn say “Hey, how can I help you?” Like even if you’re on the same business, what it would look like? For example, I’ve got one Bombshell who might have to many massages booked that week at her saloon and spa.

So she will call her competing spa and say “Hey, do you have any openings? I’d like to send one of my customers over to you so that they can be taken care of?” It’s in that moment that the customer comes first that there’s a camaraderie and a support system between two women who are fighting like crazy to make a way from themselves and their family and there’s no drama associated whatsoever.

They’re not looking at each other like “Oh well, she does the same thing as I do so I’m gonna talk poorly about her and hope that she fails so that I could win.” It’s like “Hey, let’s win-win together. You’re gonna make some money this week. My customers are gonna be taken care of. They’re gonna be more loyal to me because I did that.” Like what’s wrong with that situation? And I think more women need to have that mindset of looking for the abundance and the opportunity instead of like closing their hands in scarcity and looking for ways to just double down and shut people out because of fear.

Andrea: Yeah that’s really good. I know that you do a lot of work outside of targeting or encouraging Bombshell women. I know that you’re working with companies that of course have both men and women working in them and for them. Why did you decide to focus your podcast, I didn’t mention that yet that you have the Bombshell Business Women podcast, and now this book on women, why women?

Amber Hurdle: I have always had a heart for women. Probably, if I had to pinpoint to two areas; one, I was a single mom and you know just going back to my teen mom story, it’s a different experience to be a woman because while I was clawing to just find a way to provide for my daughter, it was all on me. There was nobody there to bail me out. There was no real consequence for other people who should be doing what they’re supposed to be doing but weren’t, and so it all fell on me.

You know, I was asking my mentor and actually the gentleman who wrote the foreword to my book, I asked him the other day when we’re just talking about things, “Did you ever worry if your son forgot his lunch that day or not? Was that a stress for you during the day?” And he was like “Never.”

So I think women put so much more pressure on ourselves to be everything to everybody, whereas a man can kind of compartmentalize a little bit more. I mean, it’s just how we operate differently and I’m speaking in generalities and nobody, you know, email Andrea and say “Amber is being one way or the other.” I’m just saying in general. That’s kind of how things work. So I think there’s just having a perspective of being female, being a teen mom, or being a single mom.

And then the second part is I have worked in higher education and so the gals who were in school would see me and they started reaching out to me just looking for advice and mentorship. And then eventually, when I worked at Cumberland University started the Women’s council for leadership and philanthropy. So I paired professional women in business, I’m talking about high ranking women, with female students who aspire to be in a career like them. And we had events and we had guidance and facilitation of how their mentor-mentee relationships go. Those female students are still in my life and they still stay in touch with me and I get to follow them now.

So I saw firsthand the power of a woman investing in another woman and that forever changed me. So I’ve always continued to have a student that I’ve either you know paid to be an intern or that I’ve taken into my wing to mentor and so many women have done that for me over the years. Now, I just have this huge platform. I can do it in such a greater way than one at a time.

Andrea: So let’s go into a conversation more about voice for a little bit because we actually met in a training about the Fascinate Assessment and I absolutely love the Fascinate Assessment and its ability to take the personality and describe how it’s relate your voice, how you’re expressing yourself through that. What is your Fascinate Archetype and the advantages that make that up?

Amber Hurdle: Well, I am a catalyst, so that is a combination of a primary trigger of passion and a secondary trigger of innovation. When I am communicating with other people or at my highest level of influence, the things that can help me be more powerful in that massaging is by making sincere emotional connections through that passion trigger and through thinking of out-of-the-box strategies through that innovation trigger.

Anybody who knows me would be like “Oh, Amber doesn’t even know where the box is, like she didn’t even know a box was in the equation.” So I feel like it was very spot on. I love that test because it’s not psychologically how we perceived ourselves. It’s a very good assessment of how other people see us at our greatest.

Andrea: So I know that in your book you talked about the fact that you have used this phrase or other people have used the phrase “velvet machete” about your personality. I love it and when I first heard it, I loved it. Please tell us about what it means and what this looks like in your conversations?

Amber Hurdle: Well actually, I was given that term way back in the day when I was a personal trainer for a short stint. And the person who dubbed me the “velvet machete” basically said that I said what needed to be said. I didn’t hold back but I did it from a place of love. It kind of stung a little bit but they knew that it was really because I cared about them and I wanted them to meet their goals. And so as soon as it stung, it kind of like also felt good.

So what that looks like in my coaching or my consulting or even when I’m speaking is I just shoot straight. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. I’m not going to dance around an issue. We’re going to dive right in because that’s the time. Time is money whether that’s small business or big business and we need to find solutions quickly so that we can change the trajectory of whatever problem I got brought in to solve and start making progress.

So I think not all people are for me and that’s okay. And I think that’s one of the things that Sally Hogshead talks about when she’s talking about the Fascination Advantage® Assessment, you have to find your people and my people want that. My people don’t have time for niceties and not that I’m not nice. I hope you can attest to the fact that I’m nice but a lot of people might tear around something. I’m just going to say it and then help whoever it is that I’m helping find the solution and take action towards fixing that problem. I do it out of love.

Andrea: You know, I’m thinking about how really it plays out in the structure of your book, because in chapter I, you kind of described what the Bombshell Business Woman is and say yeah, that’s me. And then you take us back in chapters II and III to your story, your story as a teen mom and the struggles that you had. So you sort of softening not in a manipulative way but to prepare us for the fact that you’re going shoot it straight through the rest of the book.

Amber Hurdle: Right.

Andrea: And I loved it. So you cover such a wide range of topics from your own story to company culture, to branding, and to how to work with vendors. Why did you write this particular book with that particular scope?

Amber Hurdle: Well, I didn’t want to do a deep dive on one topic because what I have found is that my Bombshells need a lot of help in a lot of areas to go from where they are to where they want to go. And let me explain that a little bit. My clients tend to have been in business for three to five years. They typically have at least three employees, oftentimes they can have several employees or subcontractors especially when you think about like a law firm or spa. You know, how many massage therapist and hair stylists and, you know, institutions you might have.

So what happened was they were a part of another person’s company and maybe they found out “You know, I’m really great doing hair and my book of business is full and the only way that I’m ever going to make more money doing this is to open up my own shop and to have other people underneath me.” Or maybe they just want the freedom or maybe they just have always dreamed to being a business center.

And so they left that company and started their own because they were good at their trade but they never really slowed down to lay the foundation of a healthy and successful business. They never really created a company culture. So ultimately, they struggle when they’re trying to market consistently because they can’t communicate those core pieces of their business that are so important to them that is basically left up to interpretation to every graphic designer or website designer or whoever they try to hire to help them.

And so between putting processes into place and teaching how to put together a basic business plan, goal setting, networking, and all these things that maybe they never slowed down to put a plan behind, this book is for them. Now, well I deep dive in the future? That’s left to be seen. Probably so, I definitely know I have a leadership book coming next because I have neglected my corporate clients this year in favor of really deep diving with my Bombshells. But I think you know just to address wide and tell my story first because you cannot compartmentalize business from life.

Your life is the owner of your business and so those things just merged together and we all have stories. You know, yeah I was a teen mom and now I have an amazing life. That’s the short version of it but I’m not special because I did that, like there are so many stories out there. There are so many people who have overcome many things and sometimes people use that to fuel them and to inspire them and even sometimes say like “I’ll show you world.” And other times, people allow that to drag them down or they say, “Well, I could do this if these things weren’t true.”

So I felt like it was important, just kind of part of my velvet machete that I say “OK, let’s keep it real. This is what happened.” And that was a hard story to tell. It’s been a long time since I was a teen mom. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think about you know waking my dad up and telling him because my mom was like “I can’t know when your dad not knowing.” You know and looking my parents in the eye and explaining “Hey, I know I’m in charge of all these things at school and I’m a leader in my high school, but guess what, everything is about to change.”

And you know having to unload that on them and then also to re-experience the love and support that they returned to me. I mean, that was just very overwhelming, so I feel like it gave me a little bit of an opportunity to go back to a place that many Bombshells are right now. And it also gave me the opportunity to say, “So whatever it is that you’ve gone through or you are going through, there is no excuse. Now, let’s get to work. Here’s what you need to do. We have to work through these things. You have to find a therapist. You have to journal. You have to do whatever it is that you need to do.”

And I’m not ashamed to say, I spent seven years in my 20’s in therapy. Seven years, OK? So I didn’t do all this figuring out of life on my own and I still don’t, like I still don’t have everything figured out. It’s a journey, but it’s a journey that I’m willing to accept because I’m not going to let the actions of other people or decisions determine what my future impact on humanity in serving other people in this world is going to be.

Andrea: All right, I love it! If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what it is. I think that one of the things is that you really accomplish in any of us. Accomplish by sharing the story of our struggle especially our struggle starting out is that it turns into a redemptive message when we’re able to do something with it and we’re able to show people that “Yeah, you know what, it doesn’t have to stay like that forever.” Just like what you’re talking about and I find that to be incredibly inspiring and powerful in bringing people out of the woods and having them look around and say, “You know what, I can make a path through this.”

You really did have me, in one page, I cried and then I laughed and then I cried again. In one page and it was the page about you telling you that. All right, so on page 21, I’m going to just quote you “Once you design your plan for your unique business, you’ve done the heavy lifting for good. From there, you can tweak the essentials as your business evolves and grows. Once, you build the foundation, everything else starts to fall into place.”

I think this is a really great point and you’ve already touched on it a little bit, but would you take us deeper into why this is so important to design a plan, to understand your company culture, and brand message and all that from the foundational start of your business?

Amber Hurdle: Well, unless you want to run around like a crazy woman for the rest of your life, you will have to at some point delegate responsibilities and tasks to other people. If you are super clear on who you are as a business, like who you serve, how you do things uniquely then you can teach other people that. So they’re very clear on that. When you know the brand essence that you have, the way that you want people to think about you, the type of experience that you want people to have when they do business with you then your employees can help you communicate that experience and create that experience to your customers and that’s going to help your customer service. And that’s going to help your repeat business and that’s going to help your word of mouth and make your marketing more clear.

And again, I touch on vendors earlier and the most recent episode of my podcast at the time of this recording is my rebrand with Renae Keller Interior Design. And I did get into a lot of these into the show notes because we had to hand off her culture and her brand messaging and her visual brand guide. We started with the graphic designer who helped us create the visual side of things but then we had to hand it off to the videographer. We had to hand it off to the website designer. We had to hand it off to the person who was helping her create marketing materials. We had to hand it off a magazine that she was being featured in all immediately.

So Renae could have started from scratch and explain what her business is all about to all of these people and hopefully set it kind of sort of the same way so that it will have a cohesive and unifying effect. Or she just did all the heavy lifting and she literally hands over all her documents and says “Make this happen.” And they get it because everybody is reading the same song with the same instructions and the same essence. And so falling down helped you enable other people to elevate your brand that it also helps keep your sanity because there’s nothing more frustrating than just trying to take stabs blindfolded at what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.

If you don’t know what goal that you’re moving towards in terms of your company mission or even your annual goals, like in 2017 what are your goals? Well, mine was to publish this book. My publisher said, “Well do you want to be in the October sales catalog?” This is in January that’s probably a bit of stretch “Or do you want it to be in the January catalog?” And I said “Well, at the end of last year, what are my Glamour Goals,” which is the process I teach in The Bombshell Business Woman, “Was that my book would be published in 2017.”

So I might die trying but let’s make it happen and it did, because next year’s goals are going to be impacted by whether or not this book is published. Last year, starting my podcast was a huge, huge goal because that enabled me to really get even further clear on the content of this book. So everything builds on each other and if you aren’t clear on your foundational elements then like what are you even doing other than going crazy.

Andrea: And probably driving everybody else crazy around you.

Amber Hurdle: Oh yeah, especially your employees, like you want to see an employee quit. And I know not all of your listeners have employees and I certainly have plenty of listeners and people who are in my audience who are thinking about starting a business or it is just them. And so these concepts are transferable.

Again, a lot of my one-on-one clients have employees and so you want to see an employee run the opposite direction from you and your brand and all the time that you’ve invested them in terms of training and all that kind of stuff. They’ll run away if you seem uncertain. Because if they don’t know where they fit into the big picture, they’re going to go find a place where they can make sense of their life.

Andrea: So how do you handle that if you’re a business and maybe you do have a business or you play a leadership role in a business, a major leadership role or some sort of an ownership or management that you know that you probably need to get more clear on some of these foundational elements. But it’s so hard to take time away from, maybe you’re super busy and you don’t even feel like you need it. I mean, why is it important to still put the time and effort into that?

Amber Hurdle: I think it’s an issue of sustainability. You might be busy and that’s typically, you know, my typical client is insanely busy and you know the very first thing that I do with them is map out their calendar for the entire year. We talked about busy season and the lighter season and when realistically you’re going to get stuff done.

But you will never be able to create the margin that you need to have a sane life and to actually next-level your business so you can create even more revenue because now you have space for creativity or to even delegate things to let you operate more as CEO or as the genuine general manager and not as the person who’s going in and delegating and popping in to fix things because nobody really knows the direction and you are personally a required element to keep things going.

And some of us want that in our business like obviously my brand is Amber Hurdle Consulting, so Amber is going to be doing a lot of the work. But if I wasn’t able to hand things off to the team members and the vendors that I have in place for me to able to do only the things that Amber can do, there’s no way. I mean, I would just hang it up. I’ll just sit by the pool every day and be thankful for the bliss life that I have. There’s no way that from a sustainability standpoint, anybody can maintain a level of joy and fulfillment from their work if all they’re ever doing is chasing their tail.

Andrea: Oh yeah and if you’re spending all of your time, if you’re spending so much of your life in that business, in that job then why wouldn’t you want that.

Amber Hurdle: Yeah and I’m just going to say like for real you can miss one episode of The Bachelor to sit down for an hour and work on some of this stuff. And it might take a few months for you to get it done but that time invested is like one minute of planning, saves 10 minutes in execution. I think it’s how that works. And I’m a psycho planner, probably too much sometimes if I was being real. I like to plan and so I understand that’s natural for me and that’s not natural for other people. But find resources like my book or find a time strategy system that works for you. Keep trying until whatever works naturally for you, a system you will actually use. And I talked about time management versus time strategies in my book as well.

I think time management is a misnomer. There’s no way you can manage time. You can only be strategic with the time that you have ahead you. Those are key things that I think in our Snapchat, microwave world, we forget that we can slow down and we can be present with a bigger picture and not just that exact moment and the selfie before us.

Andrea: Well, when it comes to you know, creating this foundation, you make a distinction between company culture and the brand. Would you share with us what distinction is and why it’s important to understand it?

Amber Hurdle:   Absolutely! So your company culture is like the family rules of your business. It’s the essence of who you are and so that would entail things like your company mission, your company vision, so like why are you a company? What do you aspire to be as a company, your value. So again, the family rules. I mean, what’s most important to you? How do you make your decisions? How do you understand how you’re going treat each other? Is that integrity? Is that an example of excellence?

I give examples; I believe American Express who I use to talk about these values and then also your service standards. Do you always expect your team members to smile? Let them know that on the front in, like that shouldn’t be a rule that should just be understood, follow up or have ownership of problems. Those are all service standards that you can establish.

So at that point, you can be consistent with your decision making whether you have to make a hard decision like letting go of an employee. You can point to “Well, you know here’s what we agreed to on the front in when you became a part of this work family. These are the ways that we live here and this is just a non-negotiable and so I’m afraid at this point, we’re gonna have to part ways because I can only have people who are going to live out this culture in my business.”

In the same way, you can praise somebody in front of everybody if that’s something that they enjoy or drop them a note if they’re more of a private person. And say “You know, in this particular situation,

you exemplified this particular value.” Or “I have yet to see anybody uphold this service basic so intentionally.” And so it gives you an opportunity to encourage and edify your employees as well and it also helps you make decisions if it’s just you. If you don’t have any employee, is this opportunity a good one for me?

You know, somebody reached out and they want strategically partner on this particular project, is this fit for me? Will you go back to your culture? Does it fit your vision? Does it fit your mission? Like what’s the expectation is that your customers have of you in your business? Is it going to distract from those things or will it strengthen those? So that’s like your ruler. That’s your company culture.
What do people believe about you? What do potential customers and customers think about you?

So when you think of Apple, what do you think of? They’re very specific of tangible things that we attached to a white apple with a bite out of it. That’s their brand but there’s a huge culture of innovation behind it. And everything that Steve Jobs created in this culture of excellence and you can’t mess with their phones. You can’t change the programming on it because they believe that simplicity is the most important thing and that will create a better end-users experience.

So because of that cultural belief, it then became a part of their brand that some people hate that. They’re like thin Android. I want to be able to do whatever I want to do with my phone. I love open source and so, good. Now, they’ve eliminated those people. They’re appealing to the people who think that elegance is simplicity and they just want their freaking phone to work or their computer to work you know. I mean, it differentiates you.

And then at the top of this business success pyramid that I talked about, you create that culture and you create the business brand that at each individual in your company, whether it’s just you or whether it’s lots of different employees or subcontractors. Everybody has a personal brand too and that’s where I know you’re an expert in. So I’ll leave that to your future episodes. But you know, what the people say about you as an individual and how does that fit into the business brand to strengthen up brand while honoring that culture.

Andrea: Thank you so much for that distinction. I really believe in that idea of understanding who you are so that you can express it accurately and I think it’s so often gets lost. We think we know who we are but can’t really quite articulate it.

Amber Hurdle: Yeah. But that’s why I test like the Fascination Advantage Assessment are so helpful because you know, we’ve lived with ourselves every single day of our entire lives, so it’s hard to see what other people find value in what it is that we do and how we interact with people on a daily basis.

Andrea: OK. So I love the red lipstick analogy in your marketing chapter. I think it’s super powerful and even if you’re a man listening right now, I think that you can get a lot out of this. So what is red lipstick marketing?

Amber Hurdle: OK, so my friends used to tease me that I would not even go out to my mailbox without a pair of big sunglasses on and some bright red lipstick, because I like to be very polished no matter who saw me when. And so I could have been like absolutely no makeup on, but I would put red lipstick on and it gave the illusion that I had pulled myself together. Not so much anymore. You will see me running all over running in Tennessee with a top knot in yoga pants and no makeup on, so like manager hopes if you ever see me _____.

But anyway, back then that matter a little bit more I guess in my 20’s. And so when I was trying to describe this to a one-on-one client a long ago, I told that story because I’m like “You’re over thinking this. Like you don’t have to put a full face and makeup on, just put on some red lipstick and do the one thing that’s gonna create the most amount of impact.” So in today’s world especially, oh my goodness, between these traditional marketing strategies that have been around for forever and then pairing it with new marketing strategies like digital media and content creation.

I mean, we weren’t thinking about producing podcast 10 years ago, like that wasn’t a thing. I mean, it was a thing but not in masses like it is now. You know, I just broke it down to three categories. So you pick just a couple of things out of your active marketing strategies, a couple items out of the passive marketing strategies and a couple items out of the keep-in-touch marketing strategies and then you do those things. And you do them well and you don’t worry about all the other things that you could be doing or everybody says you should be doing on every blog and every social media post that you’ve ever seen. Focus on these things for at least three months. You measure them. That’s very important. Is this working and how is it working?

At the end of that three-month period if it’s working, do more of it and fine tune it and get better at it. Be more strategic in how you’re doing it. And if it’s not working then ditch it and do something different. Or if it’s maybe just a onetime thing then you replace that onetime thing with maybe another flexible thing. But just put on the little red lipstick. Stop trying to like be Kim Kardashian with all of this extra shadowing and contouring and false eyelashes. It doesn’t really add any value to your business. It just keeps you busy in front of the makeup mirror all the time.

Andrea: Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s very impactful. You know, Amber, this is been such a fun discussion and you have given us so much. And yet, we barely dip our toe in all of the information that is in your book. So the influencer listening is dying to buy book now. When does it going to come out?

Amber Hurdle: Well, it launches officially on October 1st, so you can go to and there’s a link to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books A Million or wherever it is that you like to buy your books. And you can preorder it before October 1st. But importantly go back to and then opt-in for the bonuses because for a limited time, I am also giving you a 40-page workbook that goes along with the books so that you can write all your notes and everything that I tell you to do in the book is actually going to also be in a workbook. You don’t have to write any margins in the actual book.

Remind me, Andrea, and I will send you that as well. And then there are 30-day affirmations so you can keep up your Bombshell journey with a daily positive sound bites to set your intention for the day. If you are a Christian or even not a Christian and just want to have some encouragement and something inspirational, there’s a seven-day biblical truths for Christian women in business. A seven-day devotional that are _____, just drawing on verses that have helped me remember like who God made me to be and to keep focused on that instead of beating myself up, like so many of us love to do at times.

And then we also created a book study guide. So there are two options there. If you wanted to do like a onetime meet up with a fellow fempreneurs. We described that to you and give you a facilitator’s guide. Or if you want to do a four-week weekly meet up, maybe you go to a girlfriend’s house, you meet at a coffee shop. Everybody brings their books and talks about how they’re implementing the strategies and you help each other and you mastermind. And really, I would love to see groups of women coming together to work through the Bombshell experience together because that is where the power really lies.

And so we are going to share like all different kinds of things, like what should you serve, or who’s house should be at and then we tell you if somebody’s monopolizing of the conversation, how do you handle that. So nothing has been left uncovered. So there is no reason to hesitate. You know, just go to your local Chamber of Commerce, or if you’re in an online group, you can maybe create a private Facebook group and work through this together. You can meet on Skype or Google Hangouts.

So many different online ways that you can meet in person and not physically be in person to walk through this with your fellow sisters. Women supporting women is probably one of the biggest messages that I have. And if we want to create a powerful financially sustainable business network, we have to start helping each other.

Andrea: Hmmm and all this for the price of one book.

Amber Hurdle: $14.99, I know. I tell people, I’m like “I’m giving away the farm.” This is what I feel called to do and there are not enough of us out there. I mean, there definitely other women speaking to female entrepreneurs. But in comparison to the number of men who are doing it, it’s a very small group. And so I just want to do everything I can to help people who are willing to invest in themselves and be successful.

Andrea: Awesome! OK so go to and get those bonuses, order that book, and order four or five of them because you’re going to need to do this with your friends.

Amber Hurdle: Well, I’ve got little secrets too. I mean, I called them my Bombshell boys. I have men who listen to my podcast. They take my advice. They email me and say “This is what I learned and this is how I fight it,” and they take my Bombshell Business Bootcamp. I mean, this is a book that speaks directly to women but a man can obviously find value in this. And even women or men in leadership and companies because we’re talking about hiring and firing and leadership and all different kinds of things.

Andrea: All right. Well, thank you so much for all of the value and wisdom that you brought to us today.

Amber Hurdle: Thank you, Andrea! I appreciate being a part of this and also for all that you’re doing to your listeners.






Don’t Make this Common Mistake When Looking for Your Passion Voice

Voice Studio 23

In this Voice Studio episode, Andrea contrasts the difference between a passionate voice and a reactionary voice. This is an insight very few people understand but that can make a significant difference in the way you communicate.

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Turn Setbacks into Comebacks with Gus Gustafson

Episode 23

Gus Gustafson says he was raised in ‘Gus’ utopia’! His life had been perfect! He had great parents, great siblings and a great future. He was the biggest, fastest and strongest in his athletic family at his age. He had dreams of being the next Nebraska Cornhusker running back and then on to the NFL! That was his dream. That was his passion as a boy.

Then came a tragedy that Gus had to overcome! He suffered a horrible farm accident at the age of 9. The question was “How would he respond?” Could he turn this setback into a comeback?

His love for life, his passion for people and his determination to make a difference is evident. When you hear Gus share his funny, heart warming, challenging story of his life, you will feel invigorated and encouraged. If you are facing challenges in your life, he will help you gain real perspective and help you move through them.

Gus is not just a speaker, he has started three companies, he bought a company and turned it around and he has spent the last 23 years traveling around North America sharing his passion for people and life! He has faced so many real life challenges and business challenges, and can really engage with any audience.

Fully Armed is the title of his first book and Gus is currently working on a movie based on his life story.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Watch Gus tell his story here!

You can find much more on his YouTube channel.

Is the Pursuit of Justice Worth the Relational Mess?

Voice Studio 22

In this Voice Studio episode, Andrea tackles the question, “Is the pursuit of justice worth the relational mess?”

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Bringing Hope to the Hopeless Around the Globe

Episode 22 with John Cotton Richmond of the Human Trafficking Institute

Are you overwhelmed by the problem of sex trafficking and forced labor in the world? Sometimes it feels like a hopeless reality. What can really be done to make a difference? Well, today I have a leader in the fight against human trafficking and he is on a mission to bring hope to this hopeless situation. Once you hear what he’s done for the fight in the U.S., you’ll see that with people like John at the head of the fight, it just might be possible.

John Cotton Richmond leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.



Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have with me John Cotton Richmond. I am really, really honored to have him on the show today because he is doing some amazing work, and has done some amazing work in the area of human trafficking and justice in general.

Aaron and I met John a couple of years ago at a workshop. I was immediately struck by, not only his authority and competency in this area but, his ability to communicate it very empathetically and truly care about the person that he’s talking to.

John leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

As you can tell, this is going to be a great interview. So let’s dive in.

Andrea: Well, John, welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

John:  Thank you so much! It’s great to be with you Andrea.

Andrea: Why don’t you introduce us to this idea of the Human Trafficking Institute, the human trafficking issue and why this all got started for you?

John: I think that it all starts with the realization that there are at least 20 million people in the world today who have the same problem. They don’t get to make the most basic decisions about their lives. Someone else decides when they wake up, where they work, and even who touches their bodies.   And I think it’s hard to sort of awaken ourselves to this reality that these people are trapped in modern-day slavery, and they’re trapped by a group of individuals who are traffickers, who are trying to profit by exploiting them.

As I began to be confronted with this over 15 years ago, I was in private law practice. My wife and I decided to move to India to help with International Justice Mission’s slavery work there and I got to direct their office and learned about forced labor in the Indian context and see and meet victims, see and meet traffickers and the law enforcement officers that we’re trying to intervene. And I was overwhelmed by the reality of the problem, by the scope of the problem.

And then I shifted to United States Department of Justice where I was a federal prosecutor for over a decade in a specialized human trafficking prosecution unit, and I started working sex trafficking and forced labor cases across the United States. And again, meeting with survivors every day, hearing their stories,


trying to figure out how do we bring their voice to courts so they can speak truths and let the world know what the traffickers have done to them so that we could stop and restrain them.

By doing that, I got to work with the United Nations on the human trafficking protocol and travel around the world training judges, prosecutors, and police. And through that we just begin to see these really predictable patterns and these proven strategies that can work to stop traffickers. And the Human Trafficking Institute was born out of the desire to help criminal justice systems in the developing world grow in their ability to stop traffickers and bring rescue to the victims.

Andrea: Where are you at with this Human Trafficking Institute at this point?

John: Human Trafficking Institute started just over a year and a half ago. I stepped down from the Department of Justice along with Victor Boutros, who was a federal prosecutor with me there and we’d worked cases, like we even tried a case together and Victor co-wrote The Locus Effect with Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission in which he has a ton of experience. And then we added to our team Dave Rogers who’s the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking unit out of their headquarters office. We worked together for years and we’re all in government and we come together with sort of these years of experience.

And the Human Trafficking Institute is actually going in and doing a few simple things. One is helping government establish specialized units so they can actually have people freed up to work these cases and then take them through an academy where they learn not just some sort of two or three days at a hotel conference room with Power Points but they really learn the way adults learn which is by digging into material over an extended period of time. It takes these specialized units through and advanced to county.

And the third thing is embed the inside of those units. Experienced and experts who have done these cases before who have gone to office with the specialized units and worked day in and day out with them as they work on these cases. And then wrapping around that the Human Trafficking Institute is to provide research, writing, and best practices in trying to move the thought leadership in this space towards recognizing ways that we can specifically stop this problem. We really believe that institutionalized systematic slavery can end because we’ve seen it end where it’s been attacked before and that just give us a lot of hope.

Andrea: So what is your role in the different processes that you’re talking about here?

John: Victor and I together had set out the vision for the institute and the different projects we have. And a lot of my works over the last years have been building relationships with government actors in the different countries as well as in the US on bringing people together to think about how we can identify and then use these proven strategies that actually work.

And then I also lead research efforts in terms of the type of work that we’re putting out on understanding the cases here in the United States where justice is going so that we can use these as examples in the developing world when we work with leaders.

Andrea: And I’ve also seen a number of news articles that the Human Trafficking Institute has shared that indicates that you have been at a United Nations, you’ve been at the White House, you’ve been sharing this thought leadership in these various faces what’s that been like?

John: It’s been so inspiring. There really are people of goodwill who wanted to do this work. And so yes at the United Nations, there’s amazing group of people that have been carefully thinking about this issue for a long time. We were very grateful that the White House wanted to call together leaders and just got a briefing and learn about the issue of trafficking. We were happy to participate in that and just share of what’s happening in the field and what’s actually going on the ground.

We’ve also met with prime ministers, attorneys, and generals from different countries and we just hosted two cabinet level, guests from police here in Washington D.C. One thing, Andrea, that is so important is that all of this is driven by people. There are people in government, in places of influence who have a voice on this issue and there are people who are trapped in slavery whose voice is currently being muted.

And the desire is how do we use the voice that is out there from leaders and from the general public as a springboard to un-mute that, to stop the traffickers from actually harming those victims. It’s been a great honor and privilege to have had a career building the relationships that are allowing us to do that.

Andrea: I want to come back to this idea of un-muting voices a little later, but I want to ask you how did you really get involved with human trafficking in the first place? You went to India 15 years ago, you said, and I’m curious why? What brought you to that point where you were ready to go to India and start learning about this?

John: That’s a great question. My wife and I, we’re processing it at the time with our friends and we really felt compelled to go. It was very simple and clear in so many ways. You know, I’ve been practicing law for about four years. We had worked hard and paid off all our school loans, and so we were to taking a fresh look at where do we want to be and what do we want to do. My wife was actually eight months pregnant when we left the United States to move to India.

Our second child was born in India, and she actually never even been in the country before. She went on faith and she went on a belief and a strong, clear compulsion that we could do something to stop slavery. And what was amazing is we had never met a slave before. We had never been involved in this work. I have been doing commercial litigation and employment law but it really sprung from seeing with real clarity the need that exists and then thinking how do we move to a solution. And we’ve been so up close as I began to travel in India and China and different places that there was such a need. There are people who are suffering because they don’t have food or water or shelter and there’s been a natural disaster and those people need aid and we can help them.

But then there’s this whole other set of people whose main problem isn’t that they don’t have food, shelter, or water, their main problem is that an individual is oppressing them and those people aren’t able to get the development aid that is out there. They’re not able to participate in the food program or this child’s fostership program or to go to the educational institutions that are nonprofits funded. They’re trapped.

And so how do we move in to solving that problem. We really feel like it was quite simple. There were lots of lawyers that wanted to work at my law firm. They were really smart and their resumes would flood in, but there wasn’t a whole lot of lawyers that wanted to go and say “We wanna be a part of changing this system. We wanna be a part of liberating individuals in restraining perpetrators.”

And so we thought “Let’s give that a shot.” And so it went and honestly, we built vision, we built strategy, and we built our understanding of the issue after we started. It all wasn’t clear. It was sort of like you start with a limited amount of information and as you go it becomes more clear.

Andrea: So you had this desire to change the world in a different kind of way. There’s such a tendency for people I think to get comfortable and stay where they’re at and a fear of adventure or moving fast where they are in order to be able to do some things significant. What was it about the two of you, you and your wife that made you willing, desiring to do that?

John: I think it was a couple of things. One was this understanding of the status quo not existing that there’s nothing stays the same. I think our desire to not venture out or the desire to not start something new is because we’re worried that it may not work out or that we may lose the safety security or comfort we’re currently experiencing. And the truth is it may not work out, so the risk is real in launching, in going forward. But the lie is that the status quo is real as well. There’s nothing really stays the same. If I don’t take the risk, I’m not guaranteed to have my current status quo remains. Everything is always changing.

The number one running back in the NFL this year is guaranteed not to be the number one running back in the NFL 10 years from now. Life changes: car accidents happen, unemployment, jobs shift, everything is a risk. And so once you realized that “I can’t really keep the status quo, I can’t, in the sense have an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and just hold it and expect it to stay the same. I can either enjoy the tasty treat or I can end up with a mess all over my hands,” right? The reality that if we’re not moving forward, we’re going to deteriorate. And I think that launching forward to do something really stands from the idea that we’re risking far less than we really think we are.

The other thing that motivated us, honestly was our faith, we were motivated by a really clear vision for what could be and by the sense that if I was stuck in slavery, if someone was trapping me or my family, I would want people to go and stop them. I want people to come for me. I want people to love me in a demonstrated way, not just by wearing the right color ribbon on the appropriate awareness day, but I want someone to make my pain stop. And if that’s true for me, I bet it’s true for those 20 million who are currently trapped. And believing that people have value really is a fundamental philosophical pivot point that allows us to confront evil.

Andrea: So you came back and you started working for the justice department at that point, right?

John: I sure did.

Andrea: And you started working with victims, talking to traffickers; what do you bring to those conversations? What did you get out of these conversations?

John: Oh I got so much. But what I brought honestly was time and availability. I’m going to make myself available and I’m going to spend a lot of time with the victims and hear their stories and allow them to tell their story at their pace. So it’s not rush in “Just give me all the facts.” If you ask someone to open up about some of the most traumatic abuse that they’ve ever experienced, it’s going to require a relationship. It’s going to require time of moving forward slowly to help them feel like they’re in a position where they can tell the truth they don’t want to share initially.

And with traffickers, it’s very much the same. It’s coming in and listening to their stories and hearing where they’re coming from and how they approach their crime, what they thought about and how they profit it. And understanding the crime from their perspective, add so much value as we try to stop others from committing it. But I learned a great deal about evil and trafficking and abuse from all of these conversations and then my job was to try to bring empathy.

Try to understand the situations that we could create for juries who are sitting in judgment in these cases and create empathy within them for what the victims have experienced and help them understand kind of how non-violent coercion works. How manipulation really works, how the traffickers was able to solve quickly sometimes to get the upper hand and control someone when it just doesn’t make sense to the averaged person. And so I think creating empathy for people is a real pathway for truth to be shared.

Andrea: At what point did you start thinking there’s another step beyond this one for me and my work in this particular realm and you have this friend, Victor, at what point did you guys start to dream of this Human Trafficking Institute?

John: It was in the last few years that I was at the Department of Justice. The first seven or so years was me just learning how to be an effective prosecutor and working these cases kind one after the other. In the last half of my time where I began travelling a lot internationally and I saw what we were doing to educate and help empower criminal justice systems around the world. We would go into these two or three days seminars or weeklong seminars and then we come back and work our cases and I saw very little changing. It just didn’t seem to have an impact the way we wanted it to and I worried that there was a lot of busyness but there wasn’t a lot of progress.

So we just begun to think “How could we impact this in a more substantial way?” About that time, we were ruling out a new program at the Department of Justice to improve the federal approach to prosecuting human trafficking cases and they were called the ACTeams. And the director of the Human Trafficking Prosecution unit at DOJ pioneered this and I was lucky enough to work with her. We developed the advanced curriculum and we basically created specialized units of federal agents from the FBI and Homeland Security and federal prosecutor counterpart in the region.

We took those groups to an advanced human trafficking course that I got to produce in developing and delivering. And then I would get on the plane fly to those districts and we would work cases together, either I would be on the ground doing the case with them or just advising and helping shepherd those cases and we saw dramatic results, Andrea. In two years, we had six districts that were selected. There are 94 total prosecutorial districts in the United States, six of them agreed to participate. We took them through this and create specialized unit, have significant academylike training and then we have people working cases within day in and day out.

And when we did that, we saw a 114% increase in two years in the number of traffickers charge in those six districts. The other districts saw a 12% increase. So they still improved some but the difference between a 12% increase and a 114% is tremendous. And what’s most amazing is that those six districts which represent about 5% of all the districts in America were responsible for over half of all the human trafficking convictions in those two years. 56% of all the human trafficking convictions came from those six districts alone.

And so we were like “Wow, this system really works.” And we realized there is nothing like that in the developing world where right now trafficking is exploding. Traffickers feel absolutely no risk that any law enforcement agency is going to come in and restrain them and stop them from making money by harming others. And so where traffickers seeing no risk where you are actually more likely to get struck by lightning than prosecuted for openly owning a slave, traffickers just operate with impunity. They can do whatever they want. So we thought, “we want to change that calculus. We do not want traffickers operating with impunity. We want them to feel a very real risk to engaging in their crime and we want to do it in a way that honors and values the victims at every stage of the process.”

Andrea: Wow, so at that point you guys started thinking about how do we do this? How do we turn this into a global effort?

John: Exactly!

Andrea: And how did you choose the model?

John: So we’re not for-profit organization. And we chose that I think because we wanted to work with government throughout the world. We wanted to work with the government here in the United States. And to that effectively, we thought the nonprofit model was far better than a for-profit structure. It would allow us to engage a whole community of people in this process as partners with us.

And so we are building a small army of individuals that are passionate about this issue and they want to make a difference. They’re tired of just people constantly telling them stories about injustice and then they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to engage or how to really make a difference. There’s a lot of passion about ending human trafficking but there’s not a lot of clear structured plans about how to make that happen.

I think we just get fatigued sometimes. We experience in a very real way compassion fatigue or awareness fatigue. We feel like, “stop just making me aware and to know more stories in the sense of another 13-year old girl in a moon by brothel. Stop making me aware and making me feel like I don’t have a place to go with my awareness.” We want people to feel that there is hope because we can draw near pain if we have hope. It’s really hard to draw near the pain and have compassion if you think nothing could be done.

But I think what is animating about this is that we not left just to deal with the consequences, just to mitigate the outcomes of traffickers. So it’s not like a natural disaster where we don’t know how to stop earthquakes. So when earthquakes happen to the country, we all rush in with food and water and shelter and try to help out.

Unlike earthquakes, human trafficking is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It’s not a weather pattern. It’s not like a tsunami or typhoon or a hurricane, it’s a choice that an individual is making, and it’s a crime and we know how to stop crime. It’s just question of are we going to do the things necessary that we know where to stop this criminal activity that is trapped in 20 million people.

Andrea: The hope that you talked about, part of it comes from this idea that we’re not victims to the idea that it’s just going to keep happening and we don’t have any control over but there is something that we can do.

John: Absolutely, and I think where there’s hope we can come up with a plan. And when we can clearly identify what the problem is and we believe that a solution is possible, we can figure this out. I think the hard part is that you see a problem, even clearly see a problem but if you think “there’s nothing I can do,” it’s not really going to make a difference. And that causes people to give up and move on to another structure or another project.

I think that people trapped in slavery are worth our consorted intentional efforts over a long period of time, or what Eugene Peterson called “A long obedience in the same direction.” Like if we have longevity in this space and we are willing to commit ourselves, we can see massive change in the next few decades.

Andrea: I’ve also heard you say before that slavery have been around forever and it’s only recent phenomena that we begin to really realize that this is wrong. Could you talk about that?

John: Absolutely! This is one of the reasons for hope. So for most of human history, slavery has been legal. It’s been on every continent, in every culture from the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Romans, and the Greeks and all over. It’s been enshrined in our own US constitution. Slavery has been assumed as something that is always there and it’s been supported even by people of faith. It wasn’t until about 250 years ago that countries began to say “Wait, we think slavery is wrong.” Not that it needs to be regulated or the impacts of it needs to be minimized but just that it is illegal and what is stunning is most of human history, thousands and thousands of years, slavery has been legal. In the last 250, we’ve seen every country in the world pass a law that says slavery is illegal.

That is why in its major pivot point, historically where at least now we have the laws that say, slavery is wrong. Now, we need to take those protections of law that are written on parchment and extend them down to the people they were intended to protect. Now we have a delivery system challenge. How do we get the legal protections that say every human being has intrinsic value and should not be owned all the way to the people that need those protections?

That’s what we get to be about. I think the historic part of that is inspiring because it shares with us that this is doable, where there’s a special place in history that there’s never been a better time to fight human trafficking. As our friend, Gary Haugen has said “It’s not a question of whether trafficking would be defeated, it’s whether this generation will be a part of sweeping it into the dustbin of history.” And I just find that concept motivating and inspiring and it makes me want to move forward.

Andrea: Oh yeah, definitely. Somebody like me who isn’t on the frontline of this is thinking about this problem and feeling guilty, feeling stuck in my own inability to make much of a difference. What kinds of things can I do to help, you know, aside from giving money to organizations such as yours, what else can I do?

John: I think there are a number of things that can be done. One is to get informed about it because there’s human trafficking happening in the United States, in Western Europe but it’s exploding throughout the world. We’ll begin the process of understanding how the problem looks and what it’s like. There’s a lot of myths about human trafficking, a lot of misunderstandings about it and so kind of deconstructing those is a fantastic use of time because it means that we’re going to be able to detect it and we’re going to be better able to understand the scope of it and what strategies would work. So getting people informed really matters.

The second thing that you can do is think about how their talents could be employed in this fight. I think a lot of people think “Well, I’m not an FBI agent and I’m not a prosecutor, how do I get involved?” Or “Maybe, I’m not a trauma certified counselor or how do I help individuals.” But the reality is if you’re a web designer or you’re an accountant, all of these skills sets need to be employed in this fight.

We need forensic accountants. We need all sorts of people who can communicate the vision clearly, who can tell the stories and who can honor these survivors. And so I think thinking through and inventory of our own skills and talents and then beginning to explore “How do I get involved?” Or “How do I encourage young people to go become FBI agents. How do I encourage young people to go and engage as a career these big, hairy global issues and take them on.” So I think that is something that individuals could do.

I think individuals can also find organizations and there are so many good ones out there who are active in this fight and come alongside and learn from them. You mentioned earlier that there’s a group of people that have been joining us as justice partners where there’s sort of a monthly communication about what’s happening around the world with trafficking. There are many organizations out there that they could connect with the local and global and I think that matters.

The other thing that I think people can do is develop a culture of justice in their own lives and in their own communities on issues that are far ranging not just limited to human trafficking. And what I mean by that is that pursuing justice, seeking justice can become a habit. When I was studying philosophy in college and when I was learning about these things, people would bend themselves into pretzels trying to understand what is justice and it’s so unhelpful.

But oh yes, justice is quite simple. Justice is making wrong things right. It seems something wrong and working to make it right; big things, little things, local things, or global things. And I think if people want to develop culture of justice, they start making wrong things right in their community. They’re identified on their street, on their neighborhood, on their school system, or on their companies and they see problems and start working to make them right. And as we build a culture of justice on the local level in the little things in our lives, we build the muscle and create a platform that allows us to seek justice and make the wrong things right on the big picture global level including trafficking in persons.

Andrea: I love this. There are a couple things that come up as questions for me as you’re talking about seeking justice in our own personal spaces. And one of those is that I see a lot of people struggling to know what to do with- recently this issue in Charlottesville, the event that took place in Charlottesville with white supremacy- and there’s a lot of angst and confusion about how to approach the subject.

And for this one thing, I might be against this other things that matters to me too and there’s so much confusion it seems about when to speak out and not to speak out, when to do something about it, and when not to. Do you have anything to say to this confusion that we feel and conflict that we feel about things that might in some ways feel wrong but then another aspect of it feels wrong too, so we’re not sure how to deal with that?

John: I would say where there is that conflict, move towards it. We move towards that conflict because it’s going help us clarify where we’re at. And I think we have to be able to embrace nuance, that there are different positions or different thoughts even within ourselves. But I think the other thing to move forward is really clearly and boldly identifying what is wrong and identifying what is right and then speaking to that. And I think that oftentimes, we don’t want it in their end because we don’t want to even admit to ourselves sometimes that these are paragraphs answers in a Twitter sort of world, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

John: These things aren’t solved with 140 characters, it takes more information and more new ones but once we process it, I think worth understanding in our own hearts that we want to move towards love. We want to move towards good and I think we go there full esteem ahead. We want to see the problems of the world and we want to bring hope by the truckload, I mean just lots of it. And where there is pain and there’s suffering, we want to push that away and resolve it.

I think that sometimes, we over complicate things. I think sometimes, we want to access that everyone on the team that there’s white hats and black hats out there, good guys and bad guys, and the reality is there’s a lot of us who are just gray hats. We’re messed up and we need to move for its clarity and truth and we’re going to address the issues in our own hearts and address these issues in our culture.

Andrea: I find that for myself it was difficult… You know, couple of years maybe when I was still trying to figure out what do I do with this voice of mine. It was difficult for me to want to identify my voice with any particular issue because I was afraid of being thrown into a box, categorical box and then I would only have a voice with those people in that particular box. So religious, political, whatever it might be but usually a combination of those two things, how do we have a voice of justice to sort of transcends these boxes so that we can actually have dialogue that’s going to move things forward?

John: Hmmm that’s a great question. I would love to learn from you as you maneuver through that. I believe that if we’re going to develop expertise, if we’re going to develop experience in a space, we have to dive in and get into the deep end of whatever pool that we’re going to swim in and figure it out and develop mastery. And so I would, in some ways, tell people don’t worry about getting in the box. Go deep into an issue. Work over the long term and really become good at it. But then find that principles that make it work because the principles out there that are going to really allow you to do well at a specific thing are going to have general impact and applicability across the board. In a sense, they’re going to work in lots to different boxes.

So the real principal behind the idea of trafficking is that people has value and that we should go love other people in a demonstrated way that we can go and actually change systems to benefit people. Well, those same principles applied to lots of things. People have value. We should go address and meet the needs in other spheres and in other topical areas. So I think diving in deep is worth because I think it builds expertise, it builds credibility, and you can have a greater impact on a specific thing, but then find those threads that are common to all and they’re always there. Speaking up close to encourage others in this big, big fight to go and seek justice around the globe.

Andrea: Yeah. You’ve mentioned before this idea of different hats that we see people wearing, these teams that we feel like we’re on and I guess that was sort of the same thing as this box that I’m picturing. But I think we’re looking for identity, wanting to identify ourselves with something that’s bigger than ourselves. And it’s tempting to have it be a pat or box rather than a principle because principles seem to be a little bit more messy. If you’re in a box, you know what the rules are and you just follow these particular set of beliefs or things that we’re supposed to do or to be and to talk about. But if you focus on a principle then you have to kind of wrestle with every issue that comes up based on that principle. It’s just more complicated it seems.

John: Right. I mean, every relationship is complicated and messy and unstructured and these principles of joy, hope, love, and truth that are going to win the day. And so I think that the great joy of life is getting in that mess of all of these principles and figuring them out in midst of all these wonderful relationships and seeing them grow and flourish. When you think about that who would want a tidy little wife inside a small box? It would be much more fun to live out our days pursuing something bigger and more joyful than that.

Andrea: Yes. And I love that you can bring the philosophical side of things but also you’re taking massive action. I don’t know, when we talk about peace, joy, love these sorts of things, it feels a little you know heady and not practical but you’re making it very practical.

John: It is in the practice. It’s in the day to day kind of ordinary moments where I think these ideas are really refined and shaped. And I think that people do want to see practical actions. People want to have concrete plans that they can take and things that they can do and they’re there. If there’s a destination that we want to get to, we can find a path to get there and it’s just going to be a question of are we going to do the hard work of finding that path or creating that path and I think it’s worth it.

Andrea: I do too. I really also appreciate the fact these threads that you said run throughout other things. They really reached to a personal level as well and so I’m curious how you and your wife’s values about the importance of human life and dignity and voice, how these things reached into your own home?

John: Hmmm. You know, it has a huge influence. In fact, the way we parent to our kids and the way we think about our marriage and the way we think about finding trafficking are so inextricably intertwined and I don’t know which feeds the other. They very much go together and our kids have lived this life with us as we have been working on these cases and travelling the world and obviously their time growing up in India has had a big impact on them.

But I think it comes in some really clear ways. We have a group of kind of family rules that apply to every phase of our lives and they really shaped how we think about each other in our marriage but they also impact how we think about work. And so like one of them is that people are more important than stuff. So we have a choice to make and it could be reduced down to whether we’re choosing people or stuff. We should almost always choose people.

And so when we think about what shall we do on this next case, how do we approach this? What’s the cause of it going to be? There’s a person at risk there and we’re going to out that person who’s a victim ahead of stuff or material interests. We also applies that at my kids when they were learning as toddlers to share, building that friendship is more important than who’s playing with that toy. Or it applies as we plan out, now that we have adolescence and two kids and high school, like how we’re dealing with the demands of their schedules and thinking about how we value people at each turn.

And so I think that these ideas of making wrong things right and honoring individuals as well as respecting systems and authority and thinking about innovation or how we want to refocused on getting things done more than the forms that we’re building. Each one of these ideas is just another step towards integration and flourishing and that’s what we want to be about. So we’re really happy to be engaged in this journey both as in the messy parts of resolving conflicts at home and loving each other well. Or the messy parts of resolving conflict at work and loving our team well but also loving survivors well and trying to demonstrate what real love looks like to traffickers.

Andrea: It’s beautiful! So what’s the future for the Human Trafficking Institute and how can we get involved or support you?

John:   Right now, we’re in the process of working with agreements with a couple of countries that are interested in building out specialized units and having them trained and having _____ and really trying to end the impunity that traffickers enjoy. So we’re very excited over the next few years to see the results that can come in the individuals that will be free but also how deterrence and ending impunity can be reflected.

We got a group of amazing law students who are joining us in the next few weeks at Douglass Fellows and Dr. Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist who went on after he had gained his freedom and taught himself to read and write. He ended up being; I think most people don’t realize this, the chief law enforcement officer for the District of Columbia. He was a United States Marshals and he had just this amazing life. In his honor and with his family’s initiatives, with their participation, we formed the Douglass Fellowship and we got some law students who are going to be Douglass Fellows this year doing research and writing and helping us build out these practices.

I’m excited that new process and we’re excited about that new process and we’re excited for people and your listeners to join in this movement. They can join us as justice partners on our website and connect to a monthly community that is thinking about this in finding new ways and innovative ways to tackle this problem. And we’re excited for what’s going to come over the few years. We got a great lean team that we’re building. We’re developing the model that we think can have the greatest impact.

Andrea: I love it. I love every bit of it. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we sign off?

John: I’m just so grateful for you, Andrea, and for letting your voice into all this and encouraging people to have the influence in the communities that they’re engaged in. I think that as more and more people stepped forward and say they want to be a part of making wrong things right, the world is going to continue to become a better place.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for your time here today, John. I really appreciate the way that you’re using your voice in the world.

John: Thanks Andrea! I’m glad to be with you!