In this, the very first episode of Hack The Entrepreneur, we kick things off in a big way with an amazing guest, Chris Brogan.
Chris Brogan is the world’s leading authority on owning the game you most want to win. His attitude towards finding your focus is infectious and motivating.
Chris is CEO of Owner Media Group, a highly sought after professional speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of eight books and counting, including The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
This first episode is less like a podcast and more like a short, concise, (possibly) life-changing seminar that has the potential to get your wheels turning and your side hustle ideas flowing.
Let’s get into it.
Here’s what the podcast is about:
- The one simple thing that Chris Brogan does to win (and you can simply do too).
- Chris quits a huge project he started and tells us all about why.
- Why willpower is stupid (and how to use goals instead).
- When Chris really wants to be in your brain and why.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
Chris Brogan on Content Strategy and Side Hustles
Welcome to Hack the Entrepreneur, the show which reveals the fears, habits, and inner battles behind big name entrepreneurs, and those on their way to joining them.
Now here is your host, Jon Nastor.
Jon: Welcome to the first ever episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. I am so glad you decided to join us. My name is Jon Nastor but you can call me Jonny. Please give me just 30 seconds of your time and I will tell you what Hack the Entrepreneur can do for you.
Hack the Entrepreneur is a show where we strive to get to the essence of what makes us unique, successful and most importantly, what makes us human. We know that everyone is unique and they have to find their own way to success. But after speaking to entrepreneurs every day as part of my own successful business, I became obsessed with the idea of finding the replicable things successful people do and to trying to find the patterns. Not so you can copy them exactly, but instead absorb it into what you do every day so you can make your own success, and one day help others hack the entrepreneur too.
Now that we’ve got the formalities out of the way let’s get to our first interview.
Chris is the world’s leading authority on owning the game you most want to win. His attitude towards owning your life is infectious and motivating.
Chris is CEO of Owner Media Group, a highly sought after professional speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of eight books and counting, including The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into it and see if we can hack Chris Brogan.
Jon: We have a very, very special guest today. We have none other than Chris Brogan. Welcome to the show Chris.
Chris: Holy cow I’m special. How are you Jon?
Jon: Oh I’m doing excellent. You make everything better.
Chris: Thank You.
Jon: So Chris, let’s get started.
Jon: Can you tell me specifically what you do that you think other people don’t, that is a big contributor to your success?
Chris: I can. I’ll tell you that it’s a very strange thing, and I know it’s a little weird. But I actually do this weird thing called I actually respond to people and talk back to them. When they ask me things, I reply and when they send me an email, I try to reply as soon as I humanly can. I can say that it’s just astounding how many times I get a response like “huh? You wrote back.” I feel like if that’s the entry level, like if that’s how you win then I can crush anybody all day because all my colleagues evidently don’t do that.
Jon: Yeah. It’s amazing. I guess because especially with the internet, we get into this “outsource everything and live a life of complete freedom” mindset. I think you do live a pretty free life, but you respond to people, and I think that goes a long ways.
Chris: You know I have to tell you it’s the craziest thing. I can actually live a free life and respond to people because I can actually hit reply on the beach. I can hit reply in between sets at the gym and magic happens. I can be anywhere with this rectangle of glass in my pocket and I can respond to people. It’s beautiful.
Jon: Does that little rectangle take over your life sometimes?
Chris: No. It can take over our life. I mean Jacqueline and I have this rule that when we are together, we try to keep the glass away from our face for a while. Because we actually want to look at each other’s beautiful eyes. We try to do a no device meals with the kids and whatever, it’s just basically a time where it’s not supposed to happen. You know people all get messed up, Jon. It always blows people’s mind. I wrote about it in The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth and everyone said, “is that a typo?” I schedule my days to only 40%.
Jon: Oh, I love that.
Chris: Well think about that. If your computer was running at a 100% all day, how good would that be? It’s not good. It’s no bueno, as they say in another language.
Jon: Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth I have to tell you this, not just because you’re on this show. It is one of the best books I have ever read, it gives me goose bumps when I read it. I’ve read it two and half times in the last week. Now I actually I have a 20 year old nephew who tries to look up to me and do big things, and he called me the other day. He had this crisis. He doesn’t want to be doing this job he’s doing when he’s 35, like my age and all this stuff. And he says, “how do you do it Jon?” and I say “No, just text me your address.” As soon as I got off the phone I said I have this book for you and you’re going to read this and so he’s going to get your book.
Chris: Thank you. You know what that is. Instead of a velocity page that was a velocity book delivery.
Jon: Oh my goodness. [Laughing]
Chris: How did he even work that in?
Jon: How did you work that in? That was good, that was good. Well, ok, work. You said you book it at 40%. How often do you work in a day, how many hours, and how many days a week do you work?
Chris: I work all the days. The only really weird day is on Sunday. My newsletter comes out every Sunday because it’s a hybrid of personal and professional, and I want your time on Sunday. Actually it’s funny because there’s a whole bunch of different pastors, they read me before they go and give their sermon, so they’re always looking for little nuggets they can pull during their sermon. Which makes me very pleased. But the downside is with my kids on the weekend. They already know that Sunday is crap. They are like “ooh, poor dad he’s faced out in the glass.” So it’s like the opposite of what I said in the beginning.
But the whole rest of the week I try to do my meditation practice early, then I read things, and then I go to the gym, and then I start doing business. Rob Hatch coined it something, it’s another product that we have in our company called “work like you’re on vacation.” I was test dummy number one for it and the premise was this: If you ever had to work while you were on vacation, because sometimes that happens, you know the part where the family goes away and you’re the one stuck, still responsible to someone else. You learn how to cram a lot of stuff in short amount of time. Then Rob said one day, “How come I can’t do that when I am home?”
So that’s sort of how I work. I try to work four, five hours as hard as I can and then have the rest of the day free. Lately I’ve been working on this health hobby project at the same time and that’s actually put a lot of hours back on my plate but that’s just because I’m getting used to this new project. It’s been fun.
I can’t say that there’s an optimal time. All I know is that every time I see everybody talking about how they hustle all the time and how they never sleep. I love sleep, sleep is awesome and sleep makes me smart, so keep not sleeping because it lets me beat you.
Jon: [Laughter] And then go on twitter at about eight to eight – thirty and there’s the goodnight moon from Chris Brogan.
Chris: I say the goodnight moon as often as I can. Sometimes I forget. A few times when I’m travelling, I get messages back “You’re up late.” People are watching for it. Weird.
Jon: So your newsletter, if anybody is not on it should get on it. It’s on Chrisbrogan.com and you say it’s your best work. It’s amazing, it’s the only newsletter that I am on at this point. I’ve been on hundreds as we all have, and some of them are just not like yours. Yours is truly just like getting an email from a friend. I’ve done it before, and I know other people have, responded to you with questions about it or comments and there you are at your computer or on your phone and you respond again! Wow, what a connection.
Chris: You know, people said that before and it’s the strangest thing. People say I can’t escape you because they’re like a pic monkey user and they click on my face on the webinar. Evidently I show up places, like there are some businesses that have elevators that show tweets and things in them. I show up with my tweets being quoted. It’s totally weird but I’ll take it. Thanks for the advertising.
Jon: The newsletter. Not to harp on it for too long but it’s amazing, and I see other people now following suit. Sunday morning, the time that all the email gurus in the world told you never to email on Sunday because everybody is just resting. You have a such a nice peaceful one, the email that comes through. “I’m drinking this kind of tea and then… “ How did you come up with that?
Chris: It’s really funny. Advertising Age says I’m one of the top five marketers in the world. I think it’s silly, but that’s what they say. What’s funny about it is that I am in no way a professional marketer. I have zero training. I have less than an intern on how to market professionally. What I am is an amateur social scientist. What I did is I thought it through. What time of day and when would I really want your brain? I want your brain on Sunday, when you’re supposed to be so family oriented but you cannot watch another episode of Spongebob or whatever. You cannot loungingly read the New Yorker for another page or whatever it is you do, your ritual.
When you sneak a look at your phone, that’s who I’m trying to capture. I’m trying to capture the person who is trying to be their family self and just can’t wait because they’re thinking of Monday already, and so that’s why I picked Sunday. Sunday is not magical. I made it magical and now there’s a crap ton of people making Sunday newsletters and I’m thinking, I’m going to pick some other weird thing.
Jon: Let’s go to habits. Can you walk us through the first 30 minutes of your day?
Chris: First 30 minutes ideally vs. what really happens. Ideally, I really try not to look at screens first thing in the morning, because there’s a lot of people who rush right through their inbox. But your inbox is your perfect delivery system to other people’s issues, so the last thing you want to do is start your day with other people’s thoughts, because they are not your priorities. They’re just what you’re going to respond too.
I try to launch by reading my affirmations. I read the things that I want to remember about myself first. I want to look at the owner’s path that I’ve put in front of me, which is what’s my mission, how do I measure that game, and how do I map my actions to that. That’s what I’ve been working through the owner’s path. So then I look at actions that need to be done today that are going to help score in the biggest game that I want to win. Then I try to meditate. When I say try, I mean I’m a crappy meditator. I breathe a lot and then I figure out how to get to the gym. And then sometimes Jacqueline will text at 4:12 am and say “hey, I’m on the way to the gym.” It’ll take me until sevenish before I’m like this time I’m really going to be there. I might have been awake since four, but it takes me a while to move all the way to the actual metal and plates. So I get the metal done.
I then go back and eat breakfast, usually like a shake or something, and then get right into the work. I try to do productivity stuff first, and I try do email right after that. As many times as I tell everybody to start with your email off, I don’t and that’s one of the things I still need to fix.
Jon: Meditation, you’ve mentioned it a couple times now. And right after you say you’re no good at it. Honestly what is meditation supposed to be about, it’s not a competition…
Chris: It’s not a competition, what?
Jon: Well it’s such a personal thing. Even if you can do it for two minutes pretty well, isn’t that kind of a success? So it seems like this is something you’re trying to put into your life. Are you struggling to adapt to it that’s why you keep saying you’re no good at it? What do you struggle with?
Chris: Well, meditation is supposed to be about now and every time you talk about before or after you blew it. I mean Pema Chodron has been meditating by now 50 plus years, but I had listened to an audio once where she said, “I have been meditating for 30 plus years.” She’s that number one nun in Shambhala Buddhism which is the faith that I am, and she said 30 plus years later I am still the worst meditator I know. So I guess I’ve sort of adopted the same mindset. I am almost never right here, right now. But when you get it for a few seconds at a time you go “Yeah” and then you remember something you want to wright in your notebook. It’s tricky but what I’m trying to really work on is “now” because now is what keeps you from staying tangled in the stuff that bothers you.
I always tell people that all the things that you’re carrying around with you, it’s like you’re carrying a backpack around full of barbell plates, then trying to get fit. It’s not going to be easier with all those plates in your bag. If you could leave the plates at home, how much better would everything be? Well that’s what we do with all our mental distraction. That’s what we do when we think about what our mom said to us once, or how our peer treated us, or how the boss couldn’t care less about the project you spend all your time on.
Just say “next.” Just keep going. There’s no benefit in reflecting on it for too long because a lot of times it’s not even accurate feedback you got, so you really have to leave all the feedback on your own plate otherwise you’re messing yourself up.
Jon: Trying to be in the “now”, how does that interact with goals that are in the future, or go with your daily framework that you layout in your book so well?
Chris: You know, I would say that the way I talk about it now, even differently since the book, is that once you’ve really got your mission, you can ask yourself this question ten thousand times a day and that probably isn’t enough. “Does this really match my mission? Does this match my mission?” Someone might say “Hey Chris, can you be a guest on my podcast?” and I’m like “Does this match my mission?”
Chris: I know. This doesn’t match my mission. No, it does. My job is to help owners. You’re an owner. You talk to owners so this does match my mission. So from there, you go right from checking your mission to “how is this to the game? What does this do to my game?” One of the point systems in my game is much more awareness. Being a guest on your podcast gives me a whole new audience that’s your crowd, and they get to say hi to me. There you go. I get some more points. If they tweet me or whatever. If I don’t hear tweets to me, no one listens to your show. We need to make sure that they say “Hey Chris, I heard about you from Jon Nastor,” and that makes me feel better.
Jon: Alright. We heard the man. Let’s go to twitter right now if we could. “@chrisbrogen” And let’s tweet him and let’s say “Hey Chris, I heard you on Hack the Entrepreneur or I heard your from Jon Nastor.” That would make both of us very happy and you can have a conversation with Chris right now.
Chris: “How do I map my actions to my day?” and that’s what you say about goals. So now if you’re going to lose 30 pounds you don’t lose it on the 27th day of the month. You have to lose it every day by not putting snickers in your mouth every day.
So I look for “How does my big goal relate to my daily?” For instance if I want to make a million bucks a year, that’s $84,000 a month that’s $22,000 a week. “What am I doing today to get 1/7 of $22,000?” That’s the goal.
Jon: It makes it understandable, right? Your brain I think consciously and sub-consciously can understand it better that way, rather than just, “I want a million dollars a year!”
Jon: Excellent. Okay so one of our biggest fears as entrepreneurs is being wrong and not knowing the answer to something. Even generally as people. Can you walk us through the correct way to be wrong?
Chris: Oh my gosh! Not via the book. If you’re testing me against the pages of the book it’s not like I have it open okay because I’m going to fail you. But I’m going to tell you here’s the best way to be wrong. It is really hope with all your heart you don’t hurt anybody. When I’m wrong and when I upset Jaqueline or when I’m wrong and it’s crappy to my kids or when I’m wrong and I crash a plane in the ground. That’s not so good.
When I’m wrong and I have to close down a project that I’ve been working on, I have to apologize to everyone that it didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. Then I have to feel bad about that. But then I can learn and the best way to be wrong is to really learn.
What did I learn? What’s good? What’s bad? What can I really take from it? The only way that wrong ends up being bad is if you learn absolutely nothing. If you fail at something, remember that we have to re-language failure to be an outcome you didn’t expect.
Jon: Wait. Let’s hear that again.
Chris: The only way that wrong ends up being bad is if you learn absolutely nothing. If you fail at something, remember that we have to re-language failure to be an outcome you didn’t expect.
Jon: And that’s THE HACK!
Chris: You know what I mean? So I’ll tell you one from me. Owner Magazine. You’re the second podcast to ever hear about this and Owner Magazine is being shut down Mid-August of 2014, because after 10 months it really just wasn’t showing the growth in the revenue I needed it to show. It’s a good magazine, great authors, I had great great….
Jon: You did. You really did.
Chris: But, you know, it just wasn’t working and I had to work harder and harder. My authors are very busy and they don’t get paid, so it’s just for exposure. For some people who have a smaller audience this sounds like a huge number, but it’s a really small number given the amount of talent that was there, but we’re between 40 and 60 thousand uniques a month. But chrisbrogen.com is 200,000 uniques a month Anything normal like TechCrunch or whatever, they’re millions a month.
I was so small it was just not worth my time and business to do it, so I had to kill it. I got to tell you, it’s a story because I learned a lot. I learned how difficult it is to corral a lot of people into a project and I learned that it wasn’t a money-maker for me. Because, if I talk to owners of companies to sponsor the magazine, they get it. If I talk to the marketing manager, it doesn’t fit their excel spreadsheet, so they don’t want to work with me. I learned that, so it’s good to know.
Jon: Can we talk about this a little bit more? This is interesting because as a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you go into projects, you start things, and you’re constantly told to just push through, push through, and push through, because success could just be on the other side.
What is that feeling you get that tells you, no, this is what it’s going to be, and that we should stop?
Chris: Yeah, I mean this is really hard. Seth Godin wrote a great book. The Dip is such a great book that almost nobody read and the people who read it didn’t really quite grab it. A dip is basically, is this a tiny bump in the road, or is this a cul de sac. The people who could figure that out, the world is so much better for them.
This is a cul de sac, you can go no further. But you can’t do that in a month or two, you need at least three months on anything on the planet to know if it’s working. I mean I’ve seen people jump on a diet and in one week say “I can’t do this diet, It’s not working.” It’s like a week! There’s nothing in your metabolism that knows anything about that. You put a velocity page in place and somebody goes “what’s that doing to help my sales?” and you’re like “dude, its Tuesday we just put it in Monday.”
People expect weird magic because of instant gratification. Nothing worth it happens immediately. So you have to have a certain amount of time.
The other problem is, there’s a lot of time when somebody else would say “Man I cannot figure it out, this spaceship is not working. I got his spaceship I’ve been working on a few years nothing is working.” Someone will walk over and say, “That’s a boat.” And you’re like “Oh?”
Sometime you have to recognize you’re nowhere near the goal, and I think the real nugget to think about it is how you can evaluate it. The other thing is that.
One last really important point about that Jon. A lot of times people would say “Man this GPS is broken, this GPS just doesn’t work.” And I say, “Oh, what coordinates did you plug in?” And they say, “What?”
If you don’t say where you want to go, how do you know you’re not there? That’s the problem.
Jon: Yeah, that’s one of the problems yes. [Laughing] Okay, so we’ve now figured out how you stop a project and why. As someone who starts an insane amount of projects it seems, can you explain that feeling you get or that spark when a project comes across, or you hear of something and you just feel like “Yes, we have to do this.”
Chris: Oh no, I’m not that smart. That really gives me a lot of credit that you should not give me, Jon. What happens with me is I go “that seems cool” and there’s not really any correlation between that and real life. It just is. I will try a lot of things.
But now that question that I ask before I say yes to it is, “Does this work with my mission? Is this tied to the owner’s path that I’ve laid down in front of me?” If the answer is no, then I say no.
That’ a new experience for me and what has brought that to life is that I really have to serve the community that has given me the opportunity to serve them. So it does not benefit me or anybody to go chase the other fly balls.
Mary Kay Ash, the woman who founded Mary Kay Cosmetics, a very popular network marketing company, she said a gazillion years ago, “You can’t chase two rabbits and catch either one, it just doesn’t work that way. You’ve just got to catch the one rabbit.” And I’m so into it.
Jon: So this is something that you figured out recently?
Chris: You know what, it’s one of these things. You can buy really expensive business training. I think in 2011, I lost about $400,000 of my own dollars. That, by the way, makes it sound like I have lots of money. I didn’t. I just lost $400,000.
I learned a lot, so I basically bought an MBA and I learned stuff every single day. I learned all the time, and so the last few months has been a great deal. I learned two big things.
This goes back to Buddhism, interestingly enough. I’ve learned I can work on untangling and deal with fear. That’s a huge, huge thing to work on which they don’t teach in business books.
The second is if I can untangle from ego. I never think of myself as ego because I am as humble as a Canadian. I’m trying to think of a joke. It’s how do you get 30 Canadians out of a pool late at night at a party? You say, “Excuse me could you get out of the pool please?”
Chris: I think I’m really, really humble and so I didn’t think much about my ego. But I have a horrendous ego. I have all kinds of things. I think I know the best way and I’ve been shown that’s not true may times in the last few weeks.
If you can learn from that, if you can stop being a chest thumper for a while then you can really grow and you can be much stronger. It is painful work to accept, you come out cooler and stronger on the other side, so I’m totally down with it.
Jon: Nice. Very nice, very nice. I need to change this up a little bit and hopefully you’ll be cool talking about this but. Let’s talk about depression and the way it can affect your business and maybe not even diagnosed clinical depression necessarily.
Just when something comes up. You said in your book you have “stop, reset” to overcome obstacles, which I think is amazing. Then the other day, I think it was two days ago, on Facebook you posted four things went terrible in your business today, or you got bad news about them. Last year or the year before, you would have been out for a couple days and that doesn’t happen anymore.
Can you tell me specifically what you did the other day to work through this and not get dragged down by that news?
Chris: I would say that one of the things that I’ve been working on really hard is, I’ve been working really hard on making sure that I turn my mood into what I want it to be. I try really hard to accept anything that thumps me and move forward.
Any time something bad happens now I just burst the phrase “Use it!” into my head. That means use that feeling I’m feeling right now that is a bad feeling, and use it to make me stronger or better or whatever.
So I think that the way that that’s working for me it’s helping me, because it’s allowing me to turn a lot of that negative energy into something that I can do something with. So if I feel like one of my biggest emotional triggers is money, like if I feel that I am not providing enough, I feel like I’m not a great person.
That’s one of those moment I feel like “aw, bad guy.” So if I can turn that around and do something different then that’s where it gets exciting for me. The other thing is that I don’t allow excuses anymore. So even if I’m depressed, I keep working, because there are no excuses allowed.
I know that sounds a lot easier than it really is but nope it’s super, super, super easy. You can do it. Unless you’re in full on chemical depression mode, and you and I can’t say what that is, somebody else needs to say that for us.
A lot of times, the depression we are feeling is something we’ve just got to shake ourselves from. The world needs us. We don’t have the time.
Jon: That’s awesome. That’s truly awesome Chris. Well this has been amazing. I have one last question that I’m actually really excited to ask you because your book has done things to me and probably will continue to do so in years to come.
I’ve read all your books, but in this one, you’ve hit your groove, at least to me. You’ve hit my groove I should say.
Is there one book that comes back into your life, business or otherwise? That you use to ground yourself, or just maybe to do that stop reset, so every six months or every year you just pick it up and scan it or read it fully?
Chris: Oh, there’s a few. I really love Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and I know that’s like a million, billion years old, but that’s one of the best books ever. I would say that that one really helps.
The other one is Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson. There’s just really a lot of practical stuff to do and I think overtime, all I’m looking for is practical advice. The rest of it just makes me insane.
Jon: Awesome. Well Chris, I just want to thank you so much for this, this has been truly great and I hope you keep on doing what you’re doing because it’s inspiring a lot of people, myself included.
Chris: Well, please help all of these people. Keep hacking them, that’s very important.
Jon: Cool. Thanks Chris.
Chris: All right.
Jon: Well, that is it. That is our first interview with Hack the Entrepreneur, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, because Chris is kind of a mad genius. So if you haven’t, please go to twitter right now @chrisbrogan, and just say hey. Say you heard him on Hack the Entrepreneur.
He would love to hear from you and he is a genius. Have a conversion with him now, he always seems to be around and always willing to help.
Until our next episode thank you so much. This has been a lot fun. Please stop by the website www.hacktheentrepreneur.com. There are great show notes there. I’ll link to everything Chris has ever done that I can find, and until then let’s keep hacking the entrepreneur.