“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

Today, we sit down with one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and all-round legends, Mike Michalowicz. If you feel like you’re treading water in your career (or simply have lofty goals), or you’re thinking of going down the entrepreneurial route, this is the episode for you.

By his 35th birthday Mike had founded and sold two multi-million-dollar companies. Confident that he had the formula to success, he became a small business angel investor – but then proceeded to lose his entire fortune. Then he started all over again, driven to find better ways to grow healthy, strong companies.

Mike has devoted his life to the research and delivery of innovative, impactful strategies to help business owners succeed. He is the creator of Profit First, which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe to drive profit. He is the creator of Clockwork, a powerful method to make any business run automatically. And his latest, arguably most impactful discovery, is Fix This Next, where he details the strategy businesses can use to determine what to do – and in what order – to ensure healthy, fast, permanent growth (and avoid debilitating distractions).

Mike is a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a business makeover specialist on MSNBC, and author of #1 bestselling books such as Clockwork, Profit First, Surge, The Pumpkin Plan, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, and his new book Fix This Next.

In this interview, we go through:

You’re going to love this one. Let’s Win the Day, with Mike Michalowicz!

James Whittaker:
Mike, thanks for being here. First, I want to start by letting you know that The Pumpkin Plan is the best audiobook I’ve ever heard! Energy and content are both on point, so well done, sir. It must be comforting to know that if all else fails, you at least have a profitable career as a narrator ahead of you!

Mike Michalowicz:
Perhaps, right!? It's funny, when I go to the recording studio, I always stand — and I’m the only person who stands. So, when I arrive, these studios are like, "Here's your seat," and I'm like, "No, I'm sorry," because I get so jacked up.

Well, I went to this one studio, and the narrator before me for his book was a guy named Michael J. Fox, you know that name. I remember coming in, he had just left, and I talked with the producer. I said, "What's it like having Michael J. Fox present?" She goes, "He's a thoroughbred. He wants to be whipped and he'll run faster." I'd read for a while, then I said, "What do you think I am?" She's like, "You're kind of a Clydesdale. You clump along and you get the job done, but we have to do a lot of retakes." So, that's my reading skill.

You work with entrepreneurs, but it seems your work overlaps spousal relationships, professional services, and so many other different areas. Have you found some unexpected results outside of that entrepreneurial audience who you primarily serve?

Yeah. You know, it's funny, I have. It's married couples. I am not a couples counselor by any stretch of the imagination. I have had multiple occasions where couples who are also business partners have reached out and said, "We've reconciled our marriage. We feel stronger." It's interesting how our personal lives and our business lives are locked, and when it's our marital life and our business partner life, it can get to be a real nightmare.

I think it's the systems I teach that simplify the process, but it also simplifies the communication. Partners start speaking eye to eye, and they're not cross-talking. Perhaps that serves marriages. I never expected that, but I do hear that frequently.

Even planting the right seeds and making sure we’re focused each day on the end goal, whether it is a successful marriage or a successful business partnership. Those who go into business with their spouse are usually in for a bumpy ride… I mean, there's maybe two or three times I've seen that actually work successfully. Everyone else just ends up burnt out, on all counts, and the relationship is one of the big sacrifices.

Listen, I can barely be with myself 24 hours a day. That's actually really hard. Being with someone else 24 hours a day? Forget it!

In your books, you challenge the modern-day definition of ‘entrepreneurship’ and state that real entrepreneurs shouldn't be doing most of the work. Instead, it's their job to identify the problems, discover the opportunities, and then build the processes that allows other people and other things to do the work for them. But how do these entrepreneurs recognize that they are on that hamster wheel, and what can they do about it?

If you start seeing yourself doing repetitive tasks, that's the number one indicator. So, if you do something again and again and again, that's an indication that there's, first of all, demand for that task to be replicated, but you, the entrepreneur, need to find a way to outsource it, systematize it, and assign it out – because if you're doing the repetition, that means you are now within the business. An entrepreneur, at least in the early stages, we are that icebreaker. We're going to break into the new space and leave space behind for other people to do the work. But if we keep on turning around, we can't break forward.

Ultimately, too, we need to transition from doing any kind of work, including the icebreaking, and moving our way to designing outcomes. What I mean by this is clear vision, and then considering, almost like a chess board, putting the right people in the right places, the right system in the right places to choreograph them collectively to achieve that outcome. That's the ultimate definition of entrepreneurship: we are not doing the job; we are creating the jobs.

What separates the top entrepreneurs and professionals – the ones who are always onto bigger and better things, making a bigger impact, and appear free in their day to day life – versus your run of the mill entrepreneur / professional who's constantly on the brink of burnout and never seems free?

You know, it seems to be purpose. Purpose in the business. A greater purpose of why we're doing what we're doing. I believe the entrepreneurs who struggle are going after money and thinking, “This is a way to make an income and support my life.” Well, that's a very volatile thing. If this doesn't make enough money, we move on to something else, we get frustrated.

That's the ultimate definition of entrepreneurship: we are not doing the job; we are creating the jobs.

But entrepreneurs who lean into purpose, meaning “This is why I'm on this planet and my business is an amplification or expression of serving that reason,” those people become relentless. I'm not saying relentless in that they're working ridiculous hours necessarily. They may. That's not healthy, in my opinion, but they have a ridiculous commitment to achieving that purpose. They become very thoughtful about it. They look at ways of amplifying it. They look at ways to leverage. That is the drive of purpose.

People with purpose also don’t give up. You know this – overnight successes take 10 or 20 years. A lot of these successes when they come to our purview, when we see it as a consumer, well, they've already been around for 15 years working relentlessly on this purpose. But it's purpose that begets drive and drive begets success.

Yeah, which incorporates mastery and enables you to be resilient and resourceful to acquire everything you need to achieve that mission.

What about passion – where does that come into it? A lot of people hear about ‘passion’ and ‘purpose’, but how are they aligned and how do people go and find these things if they don't already know what their purpose on the world is?

I would say purpose is the beacon and passion is the fuel. So, there is a difference. Purpose is asking ourselves what we’re moving toward. Business owners who don't have purpose are running away, thinking, “I can't handle these struggles” or “I don't want this problem.” They’re running away from that problem. Purpose is we're getting pulled towards something, and you move so much quicker when the magnetic force is pulling you in the same direction. That's what purpose is.

But passion is the fuel. It's the day-in, day-out fuel. If you have a great purpose, but you're not passionate about what you're doing, it becomes a real slog to stick with it.

The key is to find out what gives us joy in the activity.

The key is to find out what gives us joy in the activity. Not all entrepreneurs are cut out to manage people and to choreograph resources and stuff like that. Some entrepreneurs create an amazing idea, but they really should stay as doers. They're really talented at something. Those entrepreneurs, if they're smart, are going to bring in someone who has the talent to do the management of people and so forth. But we have to make sure that we're in a field of passion that gives us excitement on a day-to-day basis. As an entrepreneur, find that for yourself, drive toward that purpose, and you got the one-two punch.

A lot of your work encourages business owners to have a business that runs itself, and I think everyone aspires to that goal. But it might seem impossible for some people who are too deep in the trenches. Where do they start, especially the ones who are concerned about quality control?

Yeah. It's called the ‘I Can Syndrome.’ It's dangerous. I suffered from that from years. I said as an entrepreneur, "I can do this. I can do that." It's true, I can do it, I just do a real shitty job at it. That's the part I didn't add in. So, we can do lots of things, but ‘can do’ and ‘competence’ are two totally different things. First of all, we have to acknowledge that about ourselves, that we're not superheroes. We may have super talents in certain areas, but we can't do everything.

The next thing is to get the muscle of delegation in place. Delegation is where we assign outcomes to people and then hold them accountable to the outcomes. We have to start with the low hanging fruit, stuff that we are repeatedly doing and that there's low risk of assigning someone else. If they really flub it up, how much damage can that really do to your business?

For example, invoicing. That is easy to outsource, and the risk, if they really flub it up, that's recoverable. That can be caught pretty easily. It's actually a low risk. If someone instead of charging $1 charges $10 million by accident, the client will probably figure it out and bring you some awareness there. It is recoverable, but there's certain things that are irrevocable – for example, if they mess something up and it kills the relationship. Those are the things that we have to get a little more sophisticated in our delegation before we start doing it. So, start slow with delegation and then let it grow.

In the last few years, we've heard so much about the importance of starting with your why, but in your new book Fix This Next you talk about the power of what and understanding your what. How do people discover what their ‘what’ is in their business?

In Fix This Next, I did this thing called the business hierarchy of needs. It's a translation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a human needs system as a business needs system. The great distinction is the Maslovian hierarchy of needs, we know what we need instinctually because we have inputs like eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, we get gut instincts. Our gut doesn't work so well in business. We need empirical data. We need the information from our business.

So, I created five levels just like Maslow, but within them, there's five needs at each level. Collectively, I call them the 25 core needs. I found this to be consistent in businesses of any type and industry. What we do is we go through a sequence and we make sure that the base level needs of our business are satisfied, and only when they're adequately satisfied can we elevate high-level needs within our business, just like human needs.

You and I both need to breathe, eat food, drink water. If we're not breathing right now, this interview is done. Even though we're serving a higher-level need right now, if the base is compromised, we go to it. Well, in business, the base is the generation of cash, which comes through sales. If you're not generating cash, your business is suffocating. We got to breathe. We revert to that. But once we have sales in and it's adequate, then the focus is profitability, the retention of cash, because that brings about stability, longevity. You can see in the 2020 crisis, the pandemic, how many businesses were focusing on sales but not profit. They're off the planet now. They're done. So, profit is the next level of needs.

You can see in the 2020 crisis, the pandemic, how many businesses were focusing on sales but not profit. They're off the planet now. They're done.

Once that's satisfied adequately, we move to orchestration of efficiency, which is no dependency on any individual – particularly the owner – like we spoke about earlier. There's impact, that's the creation of transformation. This is where businesses systemically don't do transactions, but transformation. What I mean by systemic transformation, it's not one client saying, "This was an amazing experience." That's when every client says, "This was an amazing experience."

Then the highest-level need in a business is the formation of legacy or permanence. This is where a business is designed to live on beyond the owner. This is where business owners find out that they were really never business owners in the first place. We've been business stewards. We had a responsibility to bring this entity to life, but it's about the entity continuing on for generations, to serve generations regardless of the owner's input.

I'm really happy you brought up retention of cash because I actually read your book Profit First earlier in the year. It's a concept that I feel like is so rare. Why is it that that profit first mentality such a rare thing for businesses when they're starting out?

I think because it's not logical. But the ironic thing is we don't need logic. We need behavior. We humans, we feel that we're very logical, but we're behaviorally based. Traditional accounting tells us a very logical formula. Your sales minus expenses you incur results in profit. So, sales minus expense equals profit.

But I saw a study that just opened my eyes to that formula not working. It was conducted by a US bank which identified that 83% of small businesses globally – small businesses is a company with up to $25 million in revenue – are surviving check by check. They’re in a constant panic, and are not profitable. I'm like, "How come the 250 million people who start a business to achieve wealth, to be financially free, can't figure out the number one reason we started a business?"

That's why I looked at the formula. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, it's right there in the formula." It says profit comes last. In fact, it's in our vernacular. We call it the bottom line or the year end. All these terms say last. It's the behavior of people, humans, when something comes last, it means it's insignificant. So, we're saying profit is insignificant. We delay the consideration. At the end of the year, they have profit, “No, dammit, maybe next year.”

When something comes last, it gets delayed and delayed. So, in Profit First, fundamentally we flipped a formula. It's sales minus profit equals expenses. In practice, what I'm saying is every time revenue comes into your firm, take a predetermined percentage of that money, allocate it toward a profit account, hide the money away, and run your business off the remainder. It's the ‘pay yourself first’ principle applied to business.

What about with early-stage entrepreneurs who feel like they've got their purpose, but they're not comfortable charging what they believe they're worth, or they're not comfortable having the conversation that gets them remunerated for the expertise that they have? What advice do you have for those people who struggle to charge for something that they're inherently good at or something that they want to make a business out of?

First of all, I get it. Secondly, I want to shake them and say, "Are you kidding me!? You have to charge more," because the number one argument you'll get not to increase prices is always from yourself. It's our own head, "I'll lose my customers. What if no one likes me anymore?" Here's the deal. If you raise your prices and you lose customers, it means all they cared was that you were the cheap guy. They want cheap, and who wants someone that wants you because you're cheap? So, they're cheapening you. I'll tell you something else, and this is the big secret. The vast majority of your clients, I guarantee, want you to be profitable.

Now, here's the deal. They don't say, "Hey, can you charge me more?" And they won't say, "Could you rip me off a little bit? I really would like that." But what they will say is, "I want your full attention. When I buy your product or service, I want you delivering the best of yourself. I want your undivided attention. I don't want you worrying about where you're making money and panicking, because then you'll half ass me. So, care for me."

This is the big secret. The vast majority of your clients, I guarantee, want you to be profitable.

The only way you can care for a client, the only way you can give them focus, is if you're not worrying about money. The only way you can do that is if you're sustainably profitable, and the only way you can do that is by increasing your prices. Your clients want you to increase your prices because they want your full undivided attention.

So true. It's interesting, a lot of the concepts you talk about really are flipping that script on the traditional way of thinking.

It really is. A lot of it’s framing, right? It's the old, “Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.” I think Henry Ford said that. If I say I suck at math, I won't do the math practice and I'll suck at it. What if I said I like to find shortcuts in math? I will start repositioning myself. The internal dialogue we have is very important on how we position our business.

You’ve stated previously the importance of being irresistibly magnetic in business to succeed. But what if you're in a fairly traditional job, like an accountant or a lawyer or a financial advisor, what do those professionals do to be different and irresistibly magnetic?

Well, start by breaking the label. As you were saying, accountant, lawyer, oh my God, I start falling asleep myself! The thing is, if I said to you, "Hey, James, I'm a lawyer," the conversation is done. You know what a lawyer is, you know I'm going to sue somebody. The question is, since all lawyers are the same from the customer's perception, it's like, are you cheaper? So, if your label is the same as your competition, the consumer sees you the same, and then you enter the downward price pressure game, which is a dangerous game to be in. It's a race to the bottom. The first step is break the label. Don't be an ‘accountant’, be a ‘profit advisor.’

Now, it's got to speak to your skill set. You better know how to increase people's profit. Don't be a ‘lawyer’, be ‘integrated counsel’, someone that integrates into the culture to write better legal documents. You have to break the label and it has to speak to your service differentiator. If you don't change the label, I don't care how different you are, clients aren't going to see it, because the second you say, you're a lawyer, they're going to say, "I know what you do. Don't tell anything else. Are you cheap?"

In business, no one seems to care as much as the owner. What can business owners do to empower their team to care as much about the day-to-day operations and the results as they do?

It's funny, I'm working on a book, I mean, this won't come out for five or six more years, so we're in deep analytics right now doing this and running tests. I own multiple companies. We're testing on our own companies, but we're testing other companies. Here's the number one discovery we've had: no one cares about the business goals except for the owner.

In my own business years back, I was in the forensics industry doing computer crime investigation. It was very clear… I calculated if we did the right moves, we could have a $10 million year. For me at that point, that had been the biggest business I’d ever had. I came out, I called all my employees together and said, "This is the year," I had the drumroll going, "We're going to do $10 million. Ta-da!" It was crickets.

I'm like, "Why aren't you guys excited!? $10 million!" My trusted confidant, her name was Patty, came up to me and said, "Mike, if we make $10 million, you get a new car, a new house, but why do we care?" That's when I had the realization that the number one concern for every single person is their own concerns. Judy cares about being home on time to be with her family for dinner. Mark cares about saving money to buy his motorcycle. Dave wants to go back to school. And it goes on, and on, and on. Everyone has their own concerns. So, the job of a business owner is to understand the vision and desires that our colleagues have, then organize the path of the business to satisfy their needs as we achieve the journey of our own personal goal. It's called individual goal alignment.

The job of a business owner is to understand the vision and desires that our colleagues have, then organize the path of the business to satisfy their needs as we achieve the journey of our own personal goal.

In our own wall here, we call it the path to intentions. There's a whole wall in our building with everyone's individual dreams. They're little micro dreams, leaving early on Fridays so I can go to baseball games that my son's playing in and stuff like that. We have them pinned up, and we say, "Are we achieving these individual dreams?" Now, the company is not going to buy a house for someone, but it's going to free up the time for them to see a real estate agent. It's going to bring the dream up over and over again and say, "What are you doing to get there?" Because people feel empowered when they achieve their own dreams. We just need to support them and recognize them.

So, the people who aren't even going out of their comfort zone to inquire as to what it is about their team's dreams, they have no one else to blame for their inferior results if they're not getting there?

Correct. When we're like, "We're all fired up. You're making a salary!" we need to recognize that a salary is a means to a living, but it's living that we need to address. The vast majority of businesses, including myself for years, ignore that. Now I'm attuned with that.

I've got a super little company. I have multiple, but this is the hub company where I'm broadcasting from, there's six people. Of the six people, three of us are full-time and the other three are part-time, yet our numbers are consistent with a company of about 20 employees. I'm getting consistently asked and curious about how can we be performing at such a level? But we are so attuned to what every individual wants. We also figured out another thing is match people's talents not to titles. We used to be very title oriented. If you're reception, you've got to answer the phones, do this and light data entry.

We now match talent to the tasks. We have a web like structure. Jenna, one of our colleagues, is extraordinary at writing. She used to be our email manager. Well, she's not our email manager anymore. She writes the emails. We have someone else who’s good at the number crunching and the data set up, but she's also writing articles and blogs now, which is Jenna's passion. Jenna has elevated extraordinarily and represents us better than ever before. Her work output is three times what it was before because she's not in any area of frustration. She's doing what she loves. We try and do it for every employee. The result is we don't have that pyramid structure of an organization. We have a web like structure.

I had Keith Ferrazzi, author of books like Never Eat Alone, on the show a few months ago, and he's been a huge influence on me.

Oh, yeah. I've seen him speak before. He's excellent.

His new book, Leading Without Authority, talks about that concept of co-elevation, where instead of your mission, you actually bring a lot of people into that to make it a shared mission. So, the way that they care about the company and its results is by you interlocking their desires and their dreams with their role at the company. Is that correct?

That's exactly it. You know, I was looking at popular mechanics, I get a little geeky, and they were looking at these things called Doric and Corinthian columns, columns that would support heavy structures made out of marble. They plugged into a supercomputer and said, "How do we make a column of the same material, but with less density and retain the strength? The system went through and it made... it almost describes a web like structure. There was no symmetry to it, it was just this web like structure. The column I think was one-third of the material, but retained the exact strength. That's what we need to do in our business, these web-like structures.

You mentioned before you've got a new book coming out a little bit down the track. You've already got at least six books out that we know about that have been translated into 20+ languages. They're all seriously kick-ass books. I’m curious, what's your process of being able to come up with a concept and figuring out whether there's actually demand for that particular solution that you're providing, as well as being able to get books published at a fairly frequent basis?

I'll do reverse order. I'm writing constantly. I wrote for three hours today already. But I write in parallel, so right now I'm about to submit my manuscript actually in two days for my most current book. I'm also working on a manuscript for my next book, and I'm working on the outline for the book after it. So, I do parallel processing. I think that's a big component. I'm already working on the 2025 to 2028 books right now.

The testing is real simple: I reach out to my readership. The beginning was kind of tough because I didn't have a readership. Now I'm very blessed. I have a readership that's engaged and will respond, and I say, "Hey, where are you struggling now?" And it's the feedback I use from them to pinpoint what subjects are important in the sequence.

Then, going back to the inception of books, I've been an entrepreneur my entire life, and I've had some wonderful successes. I've had some really, really big struggles. It was during the struggling periods I wrote down what I didn't understand about entrepreneurship. I wrote probably about 100 different elements I didn't know. I've distilled it to 25-30 things that I think are important, and so I think ultimately I'll be producing 25-30 books as long as it's in alignment with what people want. That's how I do it.

You're brilliant at taking these seemingly complex tasks and projects and making that something easy where people can essentially put one foot in front of the other. So, thank you very much for all you do and sharing everything here.

Systems are a big part of what you do now. I want to ignore the business side for a moment and focus on you personally in your role as a husband, as a father, or even as a role in your own health. What systems do you have in place? Is there anything that comes to mind that helps you be effective in any of those roles?

Yeah, I think so. I'm very process-oriented, so I wake up at 5:30am every morning, and go through a meditative practice. I write from 6:00am to 7:00am. I call it writing sprints, which I do with other authors. From 7:00am til 8:00am, I hit the gym for either cardio or weights. Then, I’ll eat, take a shower, hang out with my wife for a little bit, and I'm off to work.

I'm walking into my office at 9:00am. It's very ritualized, right? I'll prepare my cup of coffee. What I do is I put these elements of anticipation in, so I'm always looking forward to the next moment because there's a little ritual there of the coffee or sitting down with my wife or working out.

I put these elements of anticipation in, so I'm always looking forward to the next moment.

I workout regularly. I don't like to workout. I just don't miss it. So, at the end, the ritual is a text to an accountability group saying, "Workout done," and a show of my Fitbit results so I can't fake it. I look forward to those moments, and therefore push harder through the activity. That's served me in my personal life, my health and stuff like that.

My wife is also a great guard of time. It's very easy for me to not stop working because I have such a passion for it. She'll say, "All right, you said you're done by 5:00pm. I expect you home at 5:15pm and I have a bottle of wine waiting for you." She also is a great accountability partner, and wine doesn't hurt.

It sounds like so much of this stuff that you've got is around just having an awareness of what helps you perform at your peak, and then being able to create the systems that help facilitate that, even if it's a task you don't particularly enjoy.

I think so. For me, it works very well. I think it's a little bit manic for some people that I'm so process-oriented, but it works for me. I will say this. I've cooled down a little bit as the years have gone on, and have been more present in more moments, and I appreciate that.

My daughter, for example, this is about two months ago, she said, "Hey, I want to go to cross country, my friend can't do it because of the COVID situation. Do you want to go on a 14-day trip with me cross country?" My schedule is booked up so my instinct is “No,” but my knowledge is like, "If your daughter wants to spend a second with you, you better say yes and figure it out." So, I said, "Yes, I'm in. I'm the third wheel guy, I'm in." I had to change everything accordingly. It was the best move of my life, I think, to be with my daughter like that. I am a work in progress, but I'm learning the importance of presence.

Yeah, you can't get that time back with your daughter. You realize that the most important thing is making sure that you're not just spending time with them, but having that presence and that quality time with them.

That's exactly right.

Final question, what's one thing you do to win the day?

It's so obvious. It's exercise and health. There's a big difference. As the day goes on, my energy is building, and people are like, "How do you have so much energy?" I'm like, "I really work at maintaining energy." My output at the end of the day often feels just as strong, if not stronger than it was throughout the rest of the day. I attribute that to religious exercise and rest and recovery, exercise and recovery.

Yeah, absolutely love it. Mike, thanks so much for being on the show!

James, thank you, brother.

Resources / Links Mentioned:

⚡ Mike Michalowicz website.

💰 Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

📙 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini

🧭 Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

🗝️ Apply for The Day Won Mastermind

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

Today, we sit down with one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and all-round legends, Mike Michalowicz. If you feel like you’re treading water in your career (or simply have lofty goals), or you’re thinking of going down the entrepreneurial route, this is the episode for you.

By his 35th birthday Mike had founded and sold two multi-million-dollar companies. Confident that he had the formula to success, he became a small business angel investor – but then proceeded to lose his entire fortune. Then he started all over again, driven to find better ways to grow healthy, strong companies.

Mike has devoted his life to the research and delivery of innovative, impactful strategies to help business owners succeed. He is the creator of Profit First, which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe to drive profit.

Mike is also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a business makeover specialist on MSNBC, and author of #1 bestselling books such as Profit First, The Pumpkin Plan, and new book Fix This Next.

In this interview, we go through:

You’re going to love this one. Let’s Win the Day, with Mike Michalowicz!

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.

Resources / Links Mentioned:

⚡ Mike Michalowicz website.

💰 Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

📙 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini

🧭 Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

🗝️ Apply for The Day Won Mastermind

“I’m in a battle every single day. A war. People who succeed have the burning desire to win, and the persistence to get up and fight every day.”

Brandon T. Adams

Welcome back to Win the Day! If you’re watching this on YouTube, you might notice some changes. We’re not in my regular home studio setup. In fact, we’re in a professional recording studio for the first time ever.

Our guest today has fit a LOT into his 30 years and has a truly eclectic background. Brandon T. Adams grew up in rural Iowa helping out with his father’s packaged ice business. That job taught him the value of hard work and an honest buck, but he didn’t share similar enthusiasm for his academic work. On the brink of flunking out of college, Brandon was given a book that completely changed his trajectory and became the foundation to everything he’s achieved today.

Since that defining moment, Brandon has become a podcaster, speaker, inventor, and business adviser. His work as a crowdfunding expert has raised more than $35 million and led to him working with high profile clients such as Kevin Harrington (from hit TV show Shark Tank), Jeff Hoffman (billionaire founder of Priceline), John Lee Dumas (from award-winning Entrepreneurs on Fire), and the renowned non-profit XPRIZE.

As a serial entrepreneur, Brandon owns a stake in more than a dozen businesses. He’s been featured on the cover of Investors Digest magazine, led one of the largest campaigns for a book in crowdfunding history, and was featured as the youngest cast member in Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, which was the project where we first met.

Most recently, Brandon became the Emmy® Award-winning producer and host of TV show Success in Your City, which you can check out now on Amazon. I am extremely grateful to be featured in a few of those episodes.

Brandon and I immediately got along like a house on fire and he’s now one of my closest friends. And, fun fact, I was actually the officiant at Brandon’s wedding in Nashville where he married his wonderful wife Sam two years ago today!

In this interview, we talk about Brandon's darkest days where he faced depression, loneliness, and bankruptcy. We'll also go through:

Brandon holds nothing back in this interview. If you want both the motivation to succeed and the blueprint on how to do it, this is the episode for you.

For the video interview, click here.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Brandon T. Adams on Facebook

📷 Brandon T. Adams on Instagram

⚡ Brandon T. Adams website

🎙️ We Are Podcast: learn how to make money from your podcast

📙 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🌎 Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker

💚 The Road to Success by Brandon T. Adams and Samantha Rossin

🗝️ Success In Your City (TV show)

🔥 BRAND NEW! Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

– Steve Jobs

I believe we can learn from everyone, and in my line of work, I’m so grateful to have interviewed hundreds of people to learn more about their amazing journeys. If you’ve read my last book Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, you’ll remember that the inspiration in the book came from REAL stories – so you can get a real blueprint to apply in your own life.

That's why I'm so excited about the first official guest we’ve ever had on the show, Michael Fox. I've known Michael for years. He’s a super-successful, extremely well-connected dude, but what I love most about him is how down to earth and humble he is.

Eleven years ago, Michael and his two partners (one being his wife at the time) recognized that the future of retail was in personalization and customization – where shoppers could create the products they wanted rather than buying the generic ones that everybody else bought.

The niche they found was women who wanted to customize their own shoes. I’ve got a wife, a mum, and a sister, and they all love shoes, so this certainly looked like a phenomenal concept from day one.

In 2009, Michael and his two partners launched Shoes of Prey. For the first time, women around the world were able to order shoes online that they had designed themselves. They were manufactured to their specifications, delivered to them quickly, and at a very competitive price.

In the years after, Shoes of Prey raised more than USD $25 million and had partnered with companies including retail giant Nordstrom. Michael was on top of the world.

Then it all came crashing down.

In this interview, we talk about Michael’s rollercoaster entrepreneurial journey that’s taken him from his home country Australia to Asia, America, and Europe, and what lessons he's learned along the way. We’ll also talk about the impact on his personal relationships and what happened that made 2019 – literally the next year after his business collapsed – the best year of his life.

We then get an exclusive insight into Michael’s new business, Fable Food Co, that’s attracting huge attention around the world with its high-quality meat alternative, including from one of the world's most acclaimed chefs, Heston Blumenthal.

There’s so much in this interview: How to start a business; How to raise money; How to be happy; How to respond to criticism; How to dust yourself off from failure; How to partner with the most accomplished people on the planet, and more!

Enjoy 🙂

James Whittaker:
How are you doing in the COVID-19 world!?

Michael Fox:
We’re based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. It's probably one of the best spots in the world if you're going to be isolated somewhere. We live right near the beach, and beaches here have stayed open. So, on the personal and family front, we’re fine.

On the business front, it's disrupted some parts, but it opened up opportunities too. Actually, overall, we've been growing nicely through this whole period. So yeah, I think we're sort of counting our lucky stars—we have been fortunate.

A lot of aspiring entrepreneurs want to know the best way to come up with a new business idea. Do you have a set formula that you follow? Or is it more of an intuition honed after many years in the entrepreneurial world?

The big learning for me – and I didn't do this early on, but I've done it with my current business – is to find what you’re personally deeply, truly passionate about and pursue that. As an example, my last business Shoes of Prey was custom women's shoes. I loved lots of parts of that business, but I was never deeply passionate about women's shoes. Not at all. I loved building a brand, I loved the manufacturing, I loved the supply chain, I loved establishing partnerships and the sales and the retail. All of that I loved. But the actual product, I just wasn't into.

Whereas with my new business, Fable, I'm deeply passionate about the product, the mission, and what we're working on. It makes such a difference. For example, I wake up on a Saturday morning, when I could be doing something else, and the only thing I want to do is read about what's going on in the industry or listen to podcasts relating to food and relating that to what we're doing.

Contrast that to Shoes of Prey – I didn't read fashion magazines in my spare time. And that difference, I can see it playing out in so many ways, such as my deep understanding of the customer (i.e. the value proposition that they're looking for). So I highly recommend starting something in an area that you're deeply passionate about.

Once you've got a new business idea, how important is research to test that concept? And, how early should you do that research?

Early on, I think the most critical thing to do is customer research and determine your business model. You need to understand the value proposition of who you’re targeting and what they want, coupled with an understanding of what business model is most applicable.

With Fable, we've got a meat alternative to slow-cooked meat. It’s like pulled pork and braised beef, but it's made predominately from mushrooms and other plant-based ingredients. Before kicking off this business, I'd been vegetarian for four and a half years, eating all the Beyond burgers and Impossible burgers, and other products on the market, so I had a good personal understanding of the category. I've also talked to everyone around me trying to encourage them to turn vegetarian and hear the feedback that they're giving on why they find it hard, what they miss about meat, and other feedback around the alternatives.

"Find what you’re personally deeply, truly passionate about and pursue that."

Then, I just spend a lot of time exploring and understanding the market, particularly watching people as they shop the meat alternatives. After they selected or not selected something, I go up and talk to them about their decision. All of that research is hugely valuable to the path that we're going down now.

I see that you've been very proactive about seeking that feedback. Contrast that to a lot of entrepreneurs who simply work on an idea themselves because they’re worried someone is going to steal it … and they're certainly not proactive about obtaining feedback.

If you think you've got certain insights and a really big potential idea, it can be a natural concern that you might want to protect that. But, in my experience anyway, when it comes to building businesses, it’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, as Thomas Edison said.

If you've got an idea, there’s probably 1,000 other people who've had the idea. Your success with that idea will come down to how well you execute on it. Therefore, the pros of getting feedback from people early on far outweigh the risk of someone else stealing your idea. Because even if someone steals your idea, are they going to be good at executing? The reality is that most people aren't going to do that – they're not going to leave their existing job to start a new idea. And even if they do, the reality is that it’s tough to start a business, and most businesses don't succeed.

So yeah, I think the benefits of getting the feedback from people early on far outweighs them taking your idea and beating you at it. And if they beat you at it, you’re probably not the best executor in the first place.

True, and that's the world of business, I guess. What about the Shoes of Prey concept – when did you have a feeling that you were onto a winner?

A lot of interesting learnings came out of that journey, which was also 10 years of my life. Pretty early on, we had an idea that this was a concept with really good potential. And I think that was a function of us talking to everyone around us about the idea and asking them, “Would you want to design your own shoes?”

And the overwhelming feedback was, “Yes, that would be amazing!”

Everyone's got this dream of being creative and having some kind of unique fashion item that they've designed and created for themselves to wear. So the response was kind of overwhelming from people that we spoke to.

"If you've got an idea, there’s probably 1,000 other people who've had the idea. Your success with that idea will come down to how well you execute on it."

And so then we ran a test. We setup a basic supply chain and worked with a manufacturing partner in China (just outside Hong Kong) who could produce shoes. And before we built a website or anything, we just used photographs of the different elements of the shoes. We presented that to our friends and said, “Hey, these are normally going to retail for $250. If we sell for half price and you can design using these images, would you want to do it?”

We emailed that out to 100 of our friends, and about 25 of them paid the money to design the shoes with us. We thought that was a pretty good response rate and an indication to us that it had potential.

What about things like minimum order quantities, if you're ordering through Asia – was that a challenge when you were trying to test whether this was a good idea? I can imagine some of them saying, “Yes, we’ll do it – if you produce 50 million units with us!”

Yeah, we had lots of funny, Lost in Translation conversations on that! We would explain the concept and they’d say, “Oh, yes, we can supply shoes. Minimum order quantity: 10,000.”

And we’re like, “No, we need to order one!

“Oh, you mean 1,000?”

“No, we mean literally one.”

We managed to find some little shoe stores in Hong Kong that did design your own shoes, so our initial manufacturing partner was one of them. It was a small operation, so we were never going to be able to scale with them. But they were happy to partner with us initially and would do one pair at a time. So that's how we started.

The Shoes of Prey journey had a bit of a public ending that was obviously not the outcome that you and your co-founders and the whole team wanted. What were the circumstances when you went from having an amazing business concept to, 10 years later, coming undone?

Basically, we initially did really well in this niche of women who were passionate about designing their own shoes. These were creative women who had a good sense of their own style and design, and they loved the concept. For the first time, they had the ability to design their own shoes. We also did well in some niches like wedding shoes, which is obviously a good market for personalization, as well as small / large and wide / narrow sizes, because we could produce efficiently one at a time; we could service those people who couldn’t normally buy shoes in their size.

"Early on, I think the most critical thing to do is customer research and determine your business model."

So we were doing well in these little niches, and getting really high net promoter scores because in those niches, the customers really, really loved the product. But we were never going to be able to scale in those niches. Then, we went out and did our market research to understand whether the mass market consumer would buy Shoes of Prey shoes.

We could see all these customers coming to our website – we literally had 10,000 customers coming to our website every day, but we had really low conversion rates. And so we started talking to all these customers who were coming and not buying.

What we realized is most of the women coming to our website weren't those niche customers: they were mass market fashion customers. When we talked to them, they said, “Yeah, look, I love the idea of designing my own shoes. That's why I'm coming your website to have a look and spending time on here.”

They told us there were three things that stopped them from buying:

1. “We want a simplified shoe design experience.”

Our initial shoe design experience was targeted to that really creative customer, so it was very freeform. The mass market consumer wanted to be guided through the process and have a simpler process.

2. “We want a shorter turnaround time.”

We had a five-week turnaround time on our shoes, which if you're organizing your wedding shoes, you're doing that more than five weeks in advance. If you’re small / large and wide / narrow sizes, you'll take anything – you don't mind if it's five weeks or more. But if you're a mass market fashion consumer, you're often thinking about a purchase and need delivery within two weeks.

3. “We want cheaper pricing.”

We were charging a 30% premium over the same quality shoes, and the mass market fashion consumer said, “I'm keen to do it, but I don't pay a premium.”

So we looked at those three things and we realized, well, we can execute on those three things – we're just going to need to go out and raise venture capital to do it because we’ll need to build our own shoe factory to get the lead times down and get more efficient to get the unit costs down. At the time we were just working with that little supplier outside of Hong Kong who had two shoe stores, so they weren't scaled up. This was about three years into the journey. And we'd done really well in that time just in those niches. We hadn't raised any venture capital – it was all self-funded, growing out of our own cashflow.

In addition to needing to build our own factory, we also needed to hire more software engineers to simplify the shoe design experience. From all the research we'd done, it revealed this big mass market fashion opportunity, and we needed to cross the chasm from these niche customers over to the mass market.

We spent the next five years executing on building our own shoe factory in China. Manufacturing shoes one at a time is a massive undertaking. So that took us a good five years to open, scale, run efficiently, and we brought the delivery time down from five weeks to, we averaged, 11 days in the last couple of years. And we brought the unit cost down so we could bring our retail prices down. And we built our software engineering team out to about 10 people and simplified the shoe design experience. That whole process took about five years.

The problem for us was we basically built the whole value proposition that the mass market fashion customer had asked for. And we realized it just wasn't resonating. Like, we grew sort of 3-4x over those five years. We grew to maybe $12 million/year in revenue, but we really needed to be at about $30 million/year revenue to breakeven because now we had all the fixed costs associated with the shoe factory and software engineers. So our breakeven point was about $30 million / year.

Based on our customer research, if the mass market customer had responded the way that our research said she would, we should have been at $100 million / year revenue. We were in Nordstrom stores in the US where you could design your own shoes right there, and we were in all the right places for the mass market customer.

Now that we’d built this value proposition, we could watch how our customer behaved on our website and in the Nordstrom stores. What we realized was … we got our research wrong. The mass market customer thinks she wants to customize. So if you ask her, consciously, she thinks she wants to customize shoes. I mean, who wouldn't love the idea of being creative and designing your own shoes? So you ask her, she'll tell you that's what she wants to do, because she thinks she does.

But deep down subconsciously, she doesn't want to do that – she doesn't really have the confidence to do it and she doesn't know if the shoes are going to look any good. Also, she doesn't really have the time to sit there and design the shoes. And so deep down subconsciously, she really just wants a fashion designer brand to tell her what's on trend and what to wear. She wants to see what's popular on Instagram and buy those exact shoes and that brand, which is kind of the antithesis of designing your own shoes.

What she consciously thought she wanted is the opposite to what she actually really wanted. And we had built our whole value proposition and business around the opposite of what she actually really wanted. That's what brought us down.

Was this research that you conducted every few months, or every year? Or was it something that you did comprehensively early on as a one-off and just ran with that assumption?

No, it was constant research. We were running surveys with all these people who were coming to our website and weren't buying. Nordstrom are the biggest retailer of women's shoes in the US, and they invested in the business because their research told them the same thing. We ran focus groups … we did everything. We watched how consumers behaved in different environments.

"What she consciously thought she wanted is the opposite to what she actually really wanted. And we had built our whole value proposition and business around the opposite of what she actually really wanted. That's what brought us down."

We did everything that I think we could have done, except the one thing we didn't do, because we couldn't, was actually watching how female fashion shoppers behave when designing their own shoes. And the reason we couldn't do that is no one had built this before – it didn't exist.

Only once we built the value proposition – and you could go to our website, use the simple design process, order at a good price point, and receive your shoes in 11 days – it was only once we built all of that, we could watch how the customer behaved on the site. And then she wasn't buying. Then we talked to her and delved into why she didn’t buy. That helped us to uncover that the research we’d done and what customers are telling us is actually different to what they really want.

Can you take us into the moment when you realized for the first time that Shoes of Prey and 10 years of your life was irrecoverable – that, no matter what you did, the dream for this particular business was all over?

That's a good, good question. It was probably more like ripping a band-aid off slowly, rather than a single moment, so it's kind of even more painful because of that. Yeah, I mean, it was gradual. As we gradually simplified our shoe design experience, our sales would rise, so the research wasn't completely wrong. But the sales weren't going up anywhere near as much as we'd expected. So we could see that we were making progress, but it just wasn’t the progress we wanted.

We sort of convinced ourselves that it needed all the pieces of the value proposition to work. And I still think that logic made sense – it was just the research was wrong. So even if we simplified the shoe design experience, if our delivery time was still four weeks, yeah, okay, we might get a bit of growth, but we wouldn't get the sort of scaled growth that we were looking for.

Over a few years, we weren’t growing as much as we needed to, but we were growing enough to keep pursuing it and to raise more through venture capital firms. Nordstrom was still on board with us through that.

It was only really when we delivered the whole value proposition and the revenue was less than half of where it needed to be. We were running out of cash in the bank, and we knew it was going to be hard to raise more. So we spoke with our investors and, yeah, it was clear we weren't going to be able to raise more money easily, or even at all in the end. So it wasn't a single moment or conversation, but more like ripping a band-aid off slowly.

Source: Smart Company

I feel like one of the most unsung elements of being an entrepreneur is the mental health battle, the daily roller-coaster that you and I have both seen with various businesses and projects that we've been involved in. How was your mental state at the time when it all started to unravel? Were you feeling down on yourself or on the brink of burnout?

It was definitely tough. I was living in LA. I had some friends over there that I'd made, obviously, but not the kind of friendship groups that you grew up with or family around. I was married, so I had my wife and did have some good friends there, but those kinds of things made it harder.

It was tough. This vision that we'd had … we'd had all this success early on, we'd raised AUD $35 million [USD $25 million] from investors, partnered with Nordstrom. All these exciting things had built up over time and then sort of gradually coming to the realization that this wasn't going to work out. It was hard, you know. There's not even really adjectives to describe it.

What helped me to get through it was reflecting on the fact that we were dealing with women’s shoes and investors’ money. These are important things, but it's not like we're dealing with life and death, you know? It's not like we were a medical company and people were dying because we were failing.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on having my health and my family. My first son was born during this challenging period, which was kind of a revelation that, “Okay, well, Shoes of Prey is going poorly at the moment and my career is in a bit of a shambles, but I've got a healthy son and this is a wonderful life experience.”

Puts it all into perspective?

Yes, exactly. I think that was kind of the big thing that helped me get through. Also, with the benefit of hindsight, I learned that as tough as things can be in the moment, you can get through those things and enjoy yourself on the other side.

Absolutely. And I think a lot of people, myself included, have really enjoyed the posts that you've written, just the reflections on the journey. It's so real. It's so raw. And I think it's really inspiring to people. So, I wanted to quickly bring up a quote that you wrote a year ago [March 2019] when you were reflecting on that Shoes of Prey journey:

“If I ever find myself in a position where I'm attempting to change consumer behavior, I will ensure I've peeled back the layers to truly understand the psychology of my target customer.”

Do you still stand by that? And how can aspiring entrepreneurs’ action that in a practical sense?

Yeah, I definitely still stand by that. And I mean, that just speaks to how we were trying to get consumers to change their behavior by designing shoes rather than ordering preexisting shoes. Our market research failed because we listened to what the customer consciously thought she wanted – and we didn't peel back the layers to understand the deep psychology of what she was thinking and what was driving her to buy shoes. Maybe if we had done that, we might have uncovered that while she said she wanted to design shoes, she didn't really want to. So yeah, I definitely still stand by that learning.

And I think there are two practical ways to deal with that. One is to actually do that deep psychological research if you are trying to change consumer behavior. I would definitely go deeper than we did with Shoes of Prey, if I was doing that again.

The other way to get around that is to not change consumer behavior, and that's the lesson that I've taken with Fable. For example, I've been vegetarian for four and a half years. I've tried to convert everyone around me to being vegetarian. I think I've convinced two people! I caught up with one of them the other day, and they're not vegetarian anymore. So I'm trying to change people to become vegetarian. Either I'm not good at it or it's hard to do. It's probably a bit of both.

I've realized that trying to convince people to eat hemp seed patties, falafel balls, and salad, most people don't want to do that because they still love the taste and texture of meat. The learning for me there is don't try to change their behavior and make them eat hemp seed patties and falafel balls, but give them ‘meat’ – something that has the taste and texture of meat, but just don't make it from animals.

"Our market research failed because we listened to what the customer consciously thought she wanted."

We’re not the only ones doing meat alternatives, and that's the kind of approach that the whole alternative protein industry is taking: don't try to convince people to change their behavior and not eat meat, but to give them meat, and just make it from something different. It means that in all of our product development, our big focus is on making sure that the product has the taste and texture of meat – that's the number one part of the value proposition. And once that's achieved, it means you don't have to change consumer behavior. They can eat the same way, cook the same way; all the dishes they've done before, but just doing it without animals.

With Shoes of Prey, you were out on a limb so much trying to do this yourselves. Do you feel more comfortable being in a massively growing industry? I mean, you’ve got as much research as you could possibly want to help underpin some of the decisions that you're making to remove some of the guesswork. Although it seems like experience has taught you that even when you have the research, there can be a lot more to the picture?

Definitely, I'm finding the experience much, much easier because of that. There's pros and cons, right? So it means there's other people doing meat alternatives, which I love from a mission perspective because I want to end industrial animal agriculture. If it’s Fable, great but if it’s other people, that’s amazing too.

But from a purely business perspective, putting aside the mission, it means we've got competitors in the space and consumers have a choice of different products. So that's the con of operating in a category that other people are operating in, but the pro is just like you described – there's other people doing it too, so we can learn from each other. I can actually go into the supermarket and watch how consumers shop the alternative protein section. Whereas with Shoes of Prey, there was no other website or nowhere else that you could design your own shoes, so I couldn't watch how consumers did it.

On the Shoes of Prey side, just to round off on that incredible chapter in your life, what was the biggest personal cost to you after 10 years – was it time, money, something else?

There was the financial side. I'd worked for 10 years at well below market salary, and put quite a bit of my own money into the business beforehand. So, I sort of ended that 10 years in my late 30s with not much money to my name, whereas if I'd stayed down the corporate path, I’d been in a different place financially, so that was a cost. Not a cost I would directly attribute to Shoes of Prey, but it was definitely a catalyst.

I was married to one of my co-founders, Jodie, in Shoes of Prey when we first started the business. We divorced partway through the Shoes of Prey journey. We stayed really good friends, stayed good business partners, and still to this day we chat nearly weekly. It wasn't because of Shoes of Prey – we just grew apart in our 20s. But Shoes of Prey was definitely a catalyst. Working and living with the person that you're starting a business with puts all sorts of strains and pressures on a relationship, so that was another big personal cost through it all.

I'd say those are probably the big two.

I feel like marriage has enough strain itself. I can't imagine throwing in the added complexities of raising tens of millions of dollars, moving countries, trying to figure out manufacturing, building an international team, second-guessing your market research, and signing deals with some of the biggest department stores in the world – it's a lot for your relationship.

But I guess it says a lot about the character of each of you when you still are able to maintain a very cordial relationship and both respect and support each other, even as your journeys forked.

Thank you. It was definitely a tough period. It was a mutual decision to separate which I think made it easier, because when it’s one-sided it’s so much harder for couples to stay on good terms. We both wanted to stay friends and actively wanted to keep working together because we were both wanting to make Shoes of Prey a success, so we really kind of did a lot of work to make sure that was okay. We said if we're going to separate, let's make sure the friendship remains and the business partnership remains, so I guess we just focused on that and we were able to achieve it.

After that, you went to Denmark for almost half a year of soul searching, and now you're living on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. After the grind that you had living in LA trying to get all this stuff done, ‘lifestyle’ became such a huge focus for you, as well as general health and well-being.

A few months ago, you wrote that 2019 was the best year of your life, which I bet you would not have expected if you had a crystal ball looking forward. What contributed to 2019 being the best year of your life?

Yeah, I totally wouldn't have expected it! I finished up with Shoes of Prey in the middle of 2018, so that first half of 2018 was pretty horrible – laying off 200 people, shutting down a factory, that kind of 10-year dream ending, telling investors that we can't get them their money back, let alone a return. So yeah, I would not have expected that to play out.

As you touched on, my wife's Danish so went over to Denmark for six months. We kind of had to do that because our second child was born. When I left Shoes of Prey, the visa was attached to Shoes of Prey, so I had 60 days to leave the country [the US]. My wife Katrine was about six months pregnant, nearing the point where you can’t fly anymore. Katrine was not Australian so we wouldn't have had health coverage in Australia to have the baby, so Denmark was the only place we could go to actually have the baby without having to fork out all the costs.

A whole new basket of stresses to add to the mix!

And with a one-and-a-half-year-old, as well! We went to Denmark, but it turned out really well. It was really nice to spend some time with Katrine’s family. For me, it was just a great period to have a reset – I didn't have any pressure to find a job or figure out what I was going to do next. I just knew, okay, there's six months, I can focus on being a dad and just do whatever I feel like doing.

I just ended up reading a lot of books. And because I've been vegetarian for four and a half years, I just ended up reading more about industrial animal agriculture. There were other areas that I was really passionate about and started exploring too like community living and some different areas like that. But I just ended up reading all these different areas that I was passionate about.

Then towards the end of the six months, I started thinking, “Well, there's two or three areas I'm deeply passionate about, is there a business model or something that I could do?” Well, actually, I didn't even want to start a new business. I was thinking that maybe I could work for someone else in in the meat alternative space because it’s a space that's been growing really quickly.

That six months allowed me to explore whatever I wanted to, wherever my intellectual curiosity took me. And I think that helped me to narrow in back to your very first question around finding what my passion was and where I might want to do something. As you touched on, we made the kind of lifestyle decisions. We came back to Australia to live on the Sunshine Coast. I grew up in Brisbane, which is where I know you and the rest of your family. And my extended family is all Brisbane / Sunshine Coast-based. So, with two young kids in tow, we wanted to be back near all of them: grandparents and aunties and uncles.

"That six months allowed me to explore whatever I wanted to, wherever my intellectual curiosity took me."

And it's a much cheaper cost of living on the Sunshine Coast than down in Sydney. We initially planned to go back to Sydney. But to rent a house in Sydney, it's like AUD $1,500 - $2,000 / week [or USD $960 - $1,300 / week] to rent a nice three-bedroom house. We sort of took that budget and looked at what we could get on the Sunshine Coast and we've ended up renting a house literally right on the beach. The beach is 100 meters to my left as I sit here – a little private walk track through the bush and we're on the beach. We’ve got a pool and a giant barbecue perfect for cooking plant-based meat.

Just the lifestyle here is amazing. It’s great being back around family, reconnecting with friends that we grew up with. It's a combination of now doing what I'm really deeply passionate about, the living environment, and then also just the family side – I'm just loving being a dad, and you're having the dad experience too. All that for me has just added up to 2019 being genuinely amazing, just deep personal satisfaction.

Yes, parenting is a wonderful journey. I've always wanted to have kids, but I just never understood the amount of meaning that it creates in your life. You just learn so much about the world from your kids.

In the media, you’re getting a lot of wonderful coverage with Fable, but how do you feel when the largest media outlets in the country still describe you as a ‘failed entrepreneur’ and part of a ‘collapsed company.’ Do you just try and ignore that, or does it motivate you to succeed?

Yeah, it's good, good question. I mean, it's a whole combination of feelings. Like it's definitely a hit to your ego and self-belief. And I think that also contributed to my initial thoughts when I came back to Australia to go work for another company because, literally, the thought of starting another business made me feel ill. My self-confidence was down.

I had a good understanding of why Shoes of Prey failed, but still felt like I'd messed some things up. In your head, we'd messed up that market research and didn't get those insights right, and I was like, “Well, okay, I cannot succeed in business so maybe I'm not made up to being an entrepreneur.” So, it's a mix of those feelings.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

On the flip side, spending the time to deeply reflect on the Shoes of Prey experience helped build my confidence again. We had done a lot of things really well, and if our market research had been right, it would be an amazing business today. I think we got close – we made lots of other mistakes too – but I think we got all the other pieces of the business mostly right. It was just that one insight that we didn't get right. So that sort of brought a bit of confidence back.

"Literally, the thought of starting another business made me feel ill."

Kicking off with Fable, I came back to Australia and wanted to work in the alternative protein space, but there were just no jobs. Everyone in the category was a startup, and there were no jobs in the category. So my decision was either going back to the corporate world or, since there are no jobs in what I’m really passionate about, having to start my own business again.

That's what kind of drove me back to starting a business. Initially, yeah, I really genuinely didn't want to do it. But then once I started, it felt good again being in those early stages. I went back and talked to all of the old Shoes of Prey investors. I had been talking to them all the time anyway, but to talk to them about the idea and they were excited about it. Their feedback was, “Michael, we’ll back you again. If you get this to a place where you're raising money and it could work, we'd love to look at it and back you again.”

When we raised funding in November, it was deeply satisfying to have both Blackbird Ventures and Grock Ventures [personal investment fund of Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes] because they were two large investors in Shoes of Prey and had lost all their money in Shoes of Prey. So that helped on the confidence side and I just found myself loving doing it again.

The media has now been supportive too. Media headlines are designed to drive clicks and advertising revenue. So a headline about Shoes of Prey’s collapse, that's a great sounding headline. That's the almost business industry gossip that people want to read, and I find myself drawn to those kinds of articles too. It's just an innate human psychology. That's the reason journalists want to write those kinds of headlines, and it doesn't change the emotional feeling from it, but at least you can have a logical reflection on it.

But you know, that's life, that's what the media is always going to do. There might be some truth to it, but it doesn't mean you have to buy into it. And it doesn't factor in the future as well.

Source: Business Insider

They’re only taking into consideration one aspect of the past and not factoring in all the assets like the investors you mentioned, and other people you know, and all the learnings you bring to the table.  

But at the same time, you've got that carrot of going back to the corporate world. I feel like a thing for people who have a professional Monday to Friday job, they don't realize how lucky they have it when they can just work five days a week, they can switch their phone off on weekends, they can have a six-figure salary without the stress that an entrepreneur faces when there is no off switch. And, like you said, from the moment you activate that new business idea, it is potentially seven days a week for an indeterminable amount of time.

One hundred percent.

Well, you've got Fable now which is just such an incredible story, obviously still very young in the journey. Can you let us know a bit about Fable: the product, the market, and what you're trying to achieve?

Once I had that realization that like, “Okay, if I want to go into this category, I’ve got to start something myself,” I started thinking through how I would want to do it – what kind of product I'd want to develop and how I'd want to enter the category. And I didn't want to compete head to head with the existing players in the market, like Beyond and Impossible who between them have raised nearly a billion US dollars. There’s plenty of good companies in Europe and some good ones in Australia, too. So I wanted to differentiate and find another gap in the market.

Most of those businesses are doing ground beef and burger patties. So, my first thought was, “Okay, there's plenty of other types of meat out there, or I should try to replicate something else?” And then secondly, “I'm a pretty healthy eater. I shop at my local farmers markets, do a lot of my own cooking, and try to eat a healthy, minimally-processed diet. Would it be possible to create a meat alternative that has really natural, healthy, whole food ingredients?”

It was those two insights that sort of led me to researching more in the space. I obviously don't have a food background so I just started talking to anyone in the food industry who would be willing to listen to me and answer my questions. And that kind of led to the thought of using mushrooms as a base ingredient for a meat alternative. So most meat alternatives are made from textured vegetable protein. It's a protein that is stripped out of a soybean or pea and then it's this high heat, high pressure process to turn it into a texture that's like a minced beef. And then you add different flavors and ingredients. And so most meat alternatives are made from textured vegetable protein.

So I was exploring whether you could make a meat alternative out of mushrooms. Mushrooms are really natural, healthy food that we should be eating more of. And they've kind of got a lot of the umami flavors of meat in them. It's just that the textures are not really meat-like for most mushrooms. So that's what led me to researching mushrooms.

I ended up meeting the two guys who are now my co-founders. Jim Fuller grew up in Texas and started his career as a chef. He grew up on all the slow-cooked meats like pork and braised beef. He worked as a chef for 10 years in Texas and wanted to understand the science behind what he was cooking. so he went and studied agricultural science and chemical engineering. And he majored in mycology in his agricultural science degree, which is mushroom science. Then, he's worked as a mushroom scientist in Australia for the last 12 years.

Talk about a niche!

Yeah, he's got this weird skillset of chef and mushroom scientist in one human being! I've never met anyone else with that combo. And then Chris McLoghlin, he's been in farming most of his career. He co-founded Australia's largest organic mushroom farm, and was also Young Farmer of the Year and Organic Farmer of the Year in Australia in 2018. So, Chris and Jim have got this deep technical expertise in mushrooms, whereas I sort of come at it from the business side of things.

Together, we've developed our first product that replicates those slow-cooked meats that Jim grew up on: pulled pork and braised beef. The value proposition that we focused on in developing a product was:

1. Taste and texture:
It's got to have the taste and texture of meat. It's got to cook like meat.

2. Price:
People are willing to pay a bit of a premium for meat alternatives at the moment, but not too much. And ultimately, if we want to end industrial animal agriculture, we want to produce products that taste as good as meat and are cheaper than meat. If you can do that, you can get even the most avid meat-eater buying meat alternatives rather than meat.

3. Plant-based and healthy:
Our product is two-thirds mushrooms, and the other ingredients are all natural, plant-based ingredients – nothing artificial. It's clean, minimally-processed, and has all the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms – which have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a really healthy ingredient reinforced with a whole bunch of Western science speaking to its health benefits.

That’s the product we created. We launched in December last year in partnership with British chef Heston Blumenthal. We launched at Heston’s restaurant in Melbourne, and Heston is also using the product in The Fat Duck [named world’s best restaurant in 2005 and current three-star Michelin] in London and Perfectionists’ Cafe in London.

Wow. Incredible. Obviously, you've got a phenomenal team with your co-founders, but how did you establish your relationship with one of the most renowned chefs in the history of the world to help you launch this whole new business?

It kind of came from two angles. One, we designed the product for chefs to use. I mean, we designed it to be like a slow-cooked meat. Meat doesn't have a lot of base flavor; it’s what you do with it, the spices and sauces that you add, which turn it into a dish. It's like what makes meat go great with barbecue sauce and curries and Italian pastas, bolognese, ragu, lasagna … things like that. So we designed the product to be a good base ingredient for chefs to use.

We're fortunate that co-founder Jim had gotten to know Heston a couple of years ago in the mushroom world. Heston has been getting into the brain-gut connection and getting into all the health benefits of mushrooms. He and Jim had met through a Thai mushroom professor, at this Thai mushroom professor's son's wedding in Thailand. So they met at this wedding, got on like a house on fire because they both live and breathe food.

It was a real thrill for Jim actually, because Heston was the reason that Jim went and studied chemical engineering and agricultural science. Jim had been working as a chef for 10 years. He’d never met Heston, but was just inspired by him and his scientific understanding of cooking. That's what prompted him to go and study chemical engineering and agricultural science to understand the science behind what he was cooking.

And I think it was even that same trip where Heston and Jim went and visited some mushroom farms for a couple of days. Jim sort of took him around the places that he was working with in Thailand at the time. They established this deep personal connection and then once we developed the Fable products, we took it and showed Heston and he absolutely loved it. He couldn't believe it was made from mushrooms and was super keen to work with it. So that was a real thrill for us. And it's been an amazing reference for when we go and talk to other chefs.

You’ve obviously done a fantastic job raising money with Shoes of Prey and now with Fable. When entrepreneurs reach a point where they feel like they need external funding, how should they go about it, and should they be looking beyond just the money?

There's lots of other capital sources, but I can only really speak to raising money from venture capital firms. The thing that those firms are looking for, particularly in the early stages of a startup is that there is a billion-dollar market opportunity with your business. Market size is very important to them. If you're successful and build a big business, is the market big enough for you to reach a billion dollar plus valuation?

Product market fit with a broad segment of consumers is a big one, as well as the founding team and their background skillsets and drive to make this a success. Are there proof points that they're not going to quit so that you know they’re fully committed to this? Are they deeply passionate about it?

That's where the whole, doing something that you're personally deeply passionate about helps through the fundraising process as well. Those are the main things that they're looking for. And if you can present something to them that meets all of those criteria, they're going to be interested enough to invest.

What about these companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat that are attracting massive amounts of attention? How do you feel about them and the other players that are in the industry?

It's actually great for us. Going back to where we've differentiated, we're replicating a different type of meat to them, with our slow-cooked meat. We're complementary rather than directly competitive with those brands. We've just recently launched into Singapore, pre-COVID. We were starting to get into some restaurants in Singapore, and our distributor over there – who also sells Impossible Foods – was very optimistic. I think Singapore is the best market per capita for Impossible, so it represents a good opportunity for us, too.

Our distributor pitches restaurants by saying, “If Impossible is working well for you with the burgers, clearly you've got demand from consumers for a meat alternative. What about your slow-cooked meat dishes? You might want a meat alternative in there, and that is Fable.” So the sell is we're not competing head to head, and the fact that Impossible will already be in a restaurant makes the sell easier for us.

A second point difference is the customers who are looking for minimally processed foods and want a meat alternative, and we fit that bill nicely.

So it's great for us that those companies are succeeding on a business level. It's also great on a mission level, because they're helping the same customer as us to reduce their meat consumption. They've got all this money behind them to help educate those consumers about great meat alternatives and why they should try them.

And going back to that market research piece, they give me the ability to go into a supermarket or a restaurant and watch how consumers are behaving and shopping these products. I can see and learn firsthand and understand more about where Fable can fit in the market.

Every year it seems that there's more and more awareness around what healthy food is and educating consumers on how to read an ingredient list. For example, in the US, there are companies like LaCroix that make sparkling water. Everyone thinks, “Wow, this is amazing, it only contains natural flavors and no other ingredients!” And then you realize that not all-natural flavors are natural.

And I feel like Fables is in a strong position as time progresses and consumers naturally seek cleaner products and don’t want a whole laundry list of ingredients for something that's supposed to be an alternative to ‘100% beef.’

Exactly. We feel like we sit at hopefully what will be the apex of two really big trends. There’s the meat alternative trend, which is clearly very big. And then there's this whole, as you touched on, this health food trend, and mushrooms are an emerging trend because they’re this crazily healthy food.

In Western countries, we eat 2.3 kilograms, about five pounds, of mushrooms per person per year. In Asia, they eat 13.5 kilograms, about 30 pounds, of mushrooms per person per year. We should be eating a lot more mushrooms, so we see Fable as a way to help people reduce their meat consumption and replace that with mushrooms, which overall are much, much better for you.

Fable taco recipe | Source: Fable Food Co

What an incredible business. Well, what happens if heaven forbid, the stars don't align – could you ever go back to the corporate world after the taste of freedom and excitement?

As you touched on before, there are a lot of attractive benefits to working in the corporate world and only work nine to five with a consistent salary. I would never write it off completely.

When I was coming to the end of my time in Denmark, where I realized there were no jobs in Australia, I did a couple of interviews with recruiters who were looking at corporate jobs. And it was kind of a horrible time because I had this sick feeling no matter what I did – I had a sick feeling about starting another business, and a sick feeling talking to these recruiters about going into the corporate world. But the sick feeling was a little bit less on the entrepreneurial side, so that's where I kind of ended up.

I don't know … if this failed again, maybe it would be too much to try and start a third time. And maybe I would go back to the corporate world, but I don't think I'm particularly built for it. I hope if I ever go back into the corporate world, no one ever listens to this!

We’ll wipe all the data online before you start handing your resume out!

Check out the PODCAST or YOUTUBE version where Michael does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question. What's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Connecting with talented, interesting people who have good perspectives on the world. These are the people who are motivated, who have big visions, and are doing exciting things. Surrounding myself with people like that is just massive from an inspirational perspective and it helps in all sorts of different ways.


I hope you found that interview as powerful as I did! There’s so many actionable steps that Michael spoke about and good lessons for all of us, especially in these uncertain times.

Connect with Michael fox on Twitter, Medium, and LinkedIn, and you can also learn more about Fable Food Co via their website and Instagram.

Remember to get out there and win the day!

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

“Everything you seek to achieve, build a believable plan."

Rob Dyrdek

In episode two of Win the Day, we spoke about how the right plan is far better than the right promise. After all, you can promise yourself anything you like, but you’ll continue to bounce from failure to failure until you’ve got a detailed plan for success. Purposeful action always trumps talk.

Importantly, the right plan encapsulates remedies for just about every adversity and obstacle you’ll face along the way, keeping you resilient, focused, and giving you the best overall chance of success.

As author of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, I was tasked with interviewing an incredible mix of people from all over the world to tell their stories from hopelessness to success. If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice that a bulletproof plan was a common thread. It got:

A bulletproof plan creates relentless action, bringing superhuman levels of resourcefulness and resilience.

One of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed is Rob Dyrdek. Admittedly, I hadn’t really heard of him before the Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy project, but he’s amassed more than 12 million followers on Facebook and Instagram and appears on major television networks around the world every day. As I researched his extraordinary career, I was amazed at his eclectic cache of achievements and wondered what could possibly be left on his bucket list.

Two years ago, I drove to his penthouse office in Beverly Hills for our interview and could immediately feel the energy of the place. The elevator walls were adorned with his ’99 truths of business’ and the windows offered 360-degree views of one of the most glamorous cities on Earth.

Dyrdek greeted me like an old friend. He walked me into his office and, for the next two-and-a-half hours, shared his remarkable philosophy for life, success and business.

I was blown away, not just by how generous he was with his time and how candidly he shared his story with me, but how intelligent and insightful he was—a contrast to how many would perceive him, I’m sure.

It’s safe to say that I’m a fan.

Growing up in Ohio as an ordinary kid, it was a chance encounter that changed Dyrdek’s life forever. It happened at a skateboard tournament, where the 11-year-old followed around one of the pro skaters, Neil Blender, who was walking to his limousine. As Neil opened the door to hop in, Rob blurted out, “Hey, I don’t think there’s enough room for you and that board.”

“You know what? You’re right!” the pro skater replied, handing his board to the young fan.

At the time, Dyrdek had never even been on a skateboard, but this extraordinary course of events taught him one of the universe’s most valuable lessons: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

He became completely enamored with his new craft, practicing for hours on end while harboring dreams of turning pro. Dyrdek eventually moved to California and began shaping the culture of the burgeoning sport, both on the board and as a clothing designer.

But he wasn’t satisfied.

Fearless, he tried his hand at all he could, raking in millions of dollars, but the lofty highs were tempered by deep lows. To restore balance and stay focused on the bigger picture, Dyrdek began reading books like Think and Grow Rich and resumed asking for what he wanted, as he had done as a kid.

“What’s grounded me is the relentless pursuit of growth and having a bigger picture for what I’m meant to accomplish,” Dyrdek told me during our interview. “It’s knowing that these stages are just part of the process, and not a final destination.”

A lot of the unhappiness and frustration in our own lives stems from the contradiction between where we are now and where we think we should be, but Dyrdek reminds us that there’s lessons to be learnt in every situation and that your current circumstances never have to be your final destination. Trust the process.

Being crystal clear on what he wanted gave Dyrdek the fuel and inspiration to keep moving forward, even after his athletic shelf life was expiring. “As I’ve continued to level-up, I stop and decide what the answer is, and then build my life backwards from there,” Dyrdek noted.

That level-up came in the form of an unlikely career in entertainment, where he controls the full gamut: producing and hosting television shows, planning their distribution, and showcasing brands. To turbocharge promotion, he took the reins (quite literally in this case)—putting his body on the line and setting 21 Guinness World Records.

However, for all his success, Dyrdek’s crowning glory is the Dyrdek Machine, a venture capital company that invests in exciting startups with high growth potential. Aside from fulfilling the 99 truths that adorn the elevator well of his penthouse office in Beverly Hills, the people who most catch his attention are those who embody two simple attributes: zest for life and a bulletproof plan.

Many would argue that Rob Dyrdek has no right to be a major player in the entertainment world. After all, how many former skateboarders—or professional athletes in general—can you name who forged careers at that level of success after calling time on their sporting pursuits?

Despite what the haters say, being dedicated to a detailed growth plan has been the foundation of Dyrdek’s long-term success and why it would be unwise to bet against anything he does. Today, he owns companies in seemingly every industry, from virtual reality and luxury goods to clothing and plant-based foods.

To maintain harmony in his life, the 44-year-old focuses on three things: working on ventures he believes in, committing to mastery of the business world, and creating a platform of love for his young family. It’s this life plan—what he calls his ‘rhythm of existence playbook’—that maintains Dyrdek’s infinite well of energy and is what he regards as his greatest accomplishment:

“It’s creating your entire universe about you being at your best, living with energy each day, and just being happy. That’s the ultimate freedom. I have a clear vision for literally everything in my life and I think about it every day.”

Interestingly, Rob Dyrdek reads Think and Grow Rich every year because he recognizes that each time you read it, and have more life experience to bring, you don’t notice something new in the book—you notice something new in yourself:

“The foundational principles of achievement, you can only digest based off experience. When you begin to manifest based off applying these principles, and you begin to hone that, you read it [Think and Grow Rich] again and it’s like, “Wow, this really is what I’m doing!” I think self-help books should be read every year just to remind yourself. There’s no way to fully apply something that complex until you’ve had achievements to help you believe it.”

To conclude, let’s revisit his quote at the top of this newsletter: “Everything you seek to achieve, build a believable plan.” Think about the most important goals in your life and make sure you’ve prepared detailed plans to make them a reality. (Unsure of how to do that? Watch this issue’s video episode.)

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

PS – You can learn more about Rob Dyrdek’s story, and many others, in Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, available now on audiobook, ebook and hardcover.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

None of us are immune to change—it is one of the great constants of life, alongside death and taxes. As people age, they often become set in their ways and increasingly resist challenge. Some start to feel old at 18, others at 80—there is no consensus. Regardless, if allowed to fester, this mindset erodes even the brightest and most enthusiastic among us.

For those worried about the future, I have some good news: age is the one number that doesn’t matter.

Fear of old age can be seen when people begin to renounce their abilities as age increases. You have probably heard someone, whether a parent, grandparent or even yourself, blame their age for not participating in an activity. Knowing what we know about the power of the mind, perhaps welcoming a new milestone—such as retiring from a career, selling a business, or celebrating a birthday—would be better viewed as an opportunity to seek new challenges or grander goals.

Those who feel increasingly despondent as their age ticks over use it to justify staying within their ever-shrinking comfort zone, but countless studies have proven that keeping the mind and body active considerably increases not only longevity but quality of life, too.

For example, Johanna Quaas is a regular competitor on the amateur gymnastics circuit in Germany. The 92-year-old continues to dazzle spectators with her strength, dexterity and mobility, performing somersaults, headstands and cartwheels at will. On the connection between body and mind, Quaas believes, “If you are fit, it is easier to master life.”

Similarly, after the sudden death of his wife, Englishman Thomas Lackey (below) decided to walk along the wing of an airplane to raise money for cancer charities. Full of vigor after his first effort, Lackey continued his wing-walking career well into his nineties, breaking numerous world records—including standing atop a prop plane for 40 minutes, despite being 94 and wheelchair-bound—and raising $2 million dollars for charity.

French woman Jeanne Louise Calment, the longest living human on record, continued to enjoy cycling beyond her 100th birthday. She eventually passed away aged 122. And just last month, 91-year-old John Carter made the news for his love of doing backflips off the high diving board.

Quaas, Lackey, Calment and Carter did not listen when people told them they couldn’t do something. Instead, they viewed their age, wisdom and experience as a blessing, warding off fear with prompt and decisive action.

In the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.” Those who repeatedly tell themselves they’re too old are the ones who actually are.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

PS – Join my VIP community AND get a free bonus from Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy (instant download).

Examples of people who enjoyed success later in life and against the odds

Mobile phone salesman Paul Potts was 36 when he auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent. His unorthodox music choice and everyman image struck an instant chord with the public, paving the way for his debut album to reach #1 in 13 countries. His first audition has since accumulated more than 177 million views on YouTube.

I just wandered on and did my thing, treated it like it was the last performance I’d ever do—which, had it gone badly, could have been the case.” – Paul Potts

Fashion designer Vera Wang only became an independent bridal wear designer at 40. Today, she is regarded as one of the world’s leading fashion designers, having made gowns for Michelle Obama, Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton and amassing a personal fortune of $630 million.

Don’t be afraid to take time to learn. It’s good to work for other people. I worked for others for 20 years. They paid me to learn.” – Vera Wang 

American businesswoman Robin Chase was 40 when, on a break from work to be with her children, she decided to launch a car-sharing company. In 2013, Zipcar was bought by Avis for USD $500 million in cash. Chase was even listed among the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine.

You have to recognize failure whenever it happens and look it straight on. When the evidence says that you’re wrong, you have to be willing to relinquish even your most deeply held beliefs.” – Robin Chase

American comic book writer Stan Lee was 41 when he published Spider-Man for the first time, which is now regarded as the gold standard in the modern superhero genre; today, Spider-Man films boast more than $5 billion in box office receipts. Lee recently passed away aged 95, but continued to be heavily involved in the publishing and film industries until his last days, even appearing in 2018 film Venom.

With great power comes great responsibility.” – Stan Lee

Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his big break until 43, when he appeared in the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever. Today, Jackson has appeared in more than 100 films and is ranked as the highest all-time box office star, averaging more than $70 million per film and totaling more than $12 billion at the box office.

The best advice that was given to me was that I had to be 10 times smarter, braver and more polite to be equal. So I did.” – Samuel L. Jackson

American innovator ­Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T, changing the automotive world forever. He successfully sued The Chicago Tribune for $1 million after they printed a story labeling him “ignorant” despite his enormous success and willingness to improve the conditions and wages of his workers.

My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” – Henry Ford

Clothing manufacturer Jack Weil was 45 when he launched classic western brand Rockmount Ranch Wear. He maintained the CEO position until he passed away aged 107 as the oldest working CEO in the United States.

The west is not a place. It’s a state of mind.” – Jack Weil

Stand-up comedian and voice artist Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when caught his big break on The Ed Sullivan Show, more than three decades after he first started performing stand-up. That one performance, as a last-minute replacement for another act, became a surprise hit and catapulted the aspiring entertainer to industry legend.

My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.” – Rodney Dangerfield

Susan Boyle was 47 when she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent as a tribute to her mother. A rousing performance led to enormous popularity, and her album became the UK’s bestselling debut of all time, catapulting her to superstardom.

There are enough people in the world who are going to write you off. You don’t need to do that to yourself.” – Susan Boyle

Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando was 48 when he invented instant noodles. His most famous product, Cup Noodles, sparked global demand. Ando passed away in 2007 at the age of 96, while his products have surpassed more than 100 billion servings.

Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.” – Momofuku Ando

Charles Darwin wasn’t always regarded for his views on evolution. In fact, his first career path was physician, but he switched when he realized he couldn’t stomach the sight of blood. At 50, he published On the Origin of Species, which—despite its contradictory views with the scientific community at the time—is now considered the foundation of evolutionary biology.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin 

Chef Julia Child was 50 before writing her first cookbook, which brought French cuisine to the American public. Until passing away in 2004 aged 91, Child was regarded as a culinary pioneer with an acclaimed career as a celebrity chef, author and television personality. She was also a recipient of both the French Legion of Honor and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

NASA researcher Jack Cover was 50 when he invented the Taser stun gun. As a non-lethal weapon for law enforcement, the device is credited with saving more than 100,000 lives and is in use with more than 15,000 law enforcement and military agencies around the world.

Let me figure out something better than shooting people.” – Jack Cover

Practicing attorneys Tim and Nina Zagat were both 51 when they published their first collection of restaurant reviews. Starting out as a guide to New York restaurants based on opinions of friends, the Zagat brand quickly became a full-time business rather than a hobby. In 2011, the company was bought by Google for $151 million.

People are looking for different things at different times, and we empowered them to make their own decisions—to make choices that were the right ones for them.” – Nina Zagat

Milkshake salesman Ray Kroc was 53 when he partnered with the owners of McDonald’s, buying the company from them six years later. Kroc revolutionized the restaurant industry and passed away with a net worth of $600 million.

It’s better to be green and growing than ripe and rotting.” – Ray Kroc

Economics professor Taikichiro Mori was 55 when he quit to become a real estate investor. In 1992, the Japanese businessman was listed as the wealthiest person on the planet, with a net worth of USD $13 billion (double that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates).

I guess I am called the world’s richest man, but that doesn’t necessarily do anything for me.” – Taikichiro Mori

American restaurateur Harland Sanders was 62 when he franchised the first Kentucky Fried Chicken, modelled after the food served at his popular Kentucky service station. The company rapidly expanded and in 1964, aged 73, Sanders sold it for $2 million ($16 million in today’s dollars), becoming a salaried brand ambassador.

There’s no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.” – Harland Sanders

After losing everything in the 1929 stock market crash, former teacher Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when her first Little House book was published, inspired by her childhood adventures. They soon became literary classics, and the basis for TV show Little House on the Prairie, selling more than 60 million copies in more than 100 countries.

Home is the nicest word there is.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder 

After arthritis made embroidering difficult, former housekeeper Anna Robertson was 78 when she first began painting. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman presented “Grandma Moses” with an award for outstanding accomplishment to art. She died in 1961, aged 101, and was memorialized by President John F. Kennedy.

Life is what we make it. Always has been, always will be.” – Grandma Moses

In 2013, Yuichiro Miura, at 80 years old, became the oldest person to climb Mt Everest. Incredibly, the Japanese alpinist has also skied down the highest mountain on all seven continents and was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest.

It’s important to have a dream, no matter how old you are.” – Yuichiro Miura

Former pilot Gladys Burrill was 86 when she ran a marathon for the first time. Nicknamed the “Gladyator”, Burrill was recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest female marathon finisher after completing the Honolulu Marathon in 9:53, aged 92.

Just get out there and walk or run. I like walking because you can stop and smell the roses, but it’s a rarity that I stop.” – Gladys Burrill

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Edison

Welcome to 2019!

I hope you enjoyed the holiday season, and congratulations to all those who were also able to craft a detailed plan to attack the next 12 months. In case you missed it, I posted a short video about finishing the year strong.

Coming into the new year, let’s think about the three different types of people:

Dominant performers in every industry, whether CEOs or athletes, are experts at making a habit of appearing in that first category.

A US News & World Report revealed that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. Just six weeks after they were set! You can probably tell that those people are the ones who make it into the second of the above categories, which is better than third because at least they’ve enjoyed some progress.

But, clearly, there’s huge room for growth.

Regardless of where you’re at now, the GOOD news is that even if you didn’t get around to creating a detailed plan for 2019, you can still do it! Here is the best way to get started.

Iconic media announcer Earl Nightingale once said: “Most people tiptoe through life waiting to make it safely to death.”

Read that again.

Now, close your eyes and imagine what the perfect destination in ALL areas of your life looks like—a broad definition of success. Then, through your actions, show what comforts you’re willing to sacrifice—such as partying with friends, watching television and pressing the ‘snooze’ button—to make that perfect destination a reality.

Napoleon Hill, the most renowned personal development author in history, had a knack for converting lessons from the world’s most accomplished people into something that could be understood and applied by anyone. Here is one of my favorite Hill quotes—think about it in the context of what you want to achieve in 2019:

“Having a definite plan for your life greatly simplifies the process of making the hundreds of daily decisions that affect ultimate success.”

With your unique and comprehensive definition of success imprinted on your mind, you just need to ask yourself a simple question whenever you’re faced with a decision: Will this help me achieve my goals? If the answer is “No”, opt for a more productive task or set a timer so you can properly manage your time and energy flow.

Once you’re crystal clear on where you want to go, you’re able to intuitively make the right decisions. Better yet, as each day progress, they become a habit.

The best performers in any field know this and advance to greater success. Accordingly, those who fail either have no plan or a weak plan to obtain what they want, and therefore make poor decisions. When you understand that drifting is the primary cause of failure, you’ll be able to recognize it in the fortunes of almost everyone in your life.

In fact, I recommend you create an actual calendar note for ‘Monday, 11th February’ so when it pops up you’re reminded of the day when most others have quit. That’s your motivation to go extra hard.

Sometimes, life throws challenges our way that require us to revise our plans or create new ones entirely. But we must never lose sight of our dreams, nor accept temporary failure as permanent defeat. Jim Rohn, one of my biggest influences, famously said: “Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

Dare to dream as big as you can, then turn those dreams into vivid goals, then detailed plans—and, finally, daily actions. Through that simple process, the same dream that is retained as fantasy for others is delivered as reality to you.

Wishing you every success and happiness in 2019. Together, let’s make this the best year yet.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
‘The Greatest Lessons and Best Quotes from Napoleon Hill'

“There are no bargains at the counter of success. You must pay the price—in advance and in full.”

Dr Dennis Kimbro

Eyes on the Prize

In a world of instant gratification, the most important lesson for younger generations is understanding that there is no such thing as something for nothing. Unfortunately, the swelling digital parade often distracts us from our own goals by providing short-term comfort and mindless entertainment.

Those growing up today have access to everything their parents had, and thanks to the internet also have unlimited access to any information they could possibly desire—mostly for free and instantly available with the click of a finger.

Clearly, we have far more power than we could ever imagine to make our lives as happy and successful as we want, but these advancements have created the “I want it now” mentality, which promotes:

In today’s digital landscape, companies have become experts at providing an illusion that their audience is participating in life. Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, revealed an insight into the company’s initial objective when he recently stated: “The thought process was: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” As like, share and comment buttons appear on everything we see, our attention is increasingly trapped, and we become chemically dependent on the pleasurable feelings it arouses.

The human brain is a supercomputer that creates a reality from our repeated thoughts and actions. If we procrastinate, the brain will make it easier for us to procrastinate in the future. Just as readily, if we have vivid goals that we affirm and work on daily, the brain will make it easier for those goals to be achieved.

At the end of each day, you probably feel busy … but busy doing what? A busy day, extrapolated over time, should help inch us closer to our goals.

Back on Track

To get yourself back on track, take a few minutes each night to audit your effectiveness by writing down:

  1. Your three biggest achievements from that day
  2. What you could’ve done to make the day better
  3. Three things you will accomplish the next day

After a few days, this will give you a very clear indicator of whether you’re trending in the right direction.

Then, restore turbo-productivity by making sure you:

Put Yourself First

Today’s generations have the brightest opportunity in history to live with purpose and positively impact the world. Prepare a wishlist for the universe, and relentlessly pursue your potential as your highest priority.

All good things take time, and everything worth doing is worthy of your best effort. Once you have paid the price—in advance and in full—success will be yours.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation.”

Margaret Wheatley

Early on in my career I made the decision to get good at networking. Whether it was striking up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator, trying to be memorable at events, or adding value to people far higher up the pecking order, I wanted to forge a meaningful relationship based on emitting a vibrant energy, an organic connection and unconditionally adding value.

This decision, along with being committed to simple and consistent action, has been the cornerstone to every success I have achieved to this point.

Being your natural self is an important part of building relationships. When it happens as organically as possible, authenticity reigns, time is saved and value increases tenfold. I’ve seen too many networking ‘experts’ say that the solution is to start at the finish line, where you spend big money to attend events, enthusiastically ‘appear’ (rather than meaningfully engage), and dish out business cards like ninja stars.

Remember, extraordinary achievement only comes with a strong foundation. A few meaningful connections are far more valuable than exchanging 500+ business cards.

Here is a five-step system to take your networking skills to the next level. This process can be followed by anyone and I absolutely guarantee it will have an enormous impact on your life.

1. Build your knowledge

True mastery in any field—including networking—only comes from ridiculous amounts of purposeful practice. Before diving headfirst into the deep end, work on your stroke. Here are the three best networking books I have encountered:

Grab a notepad and spend one hour each day reading these books, until you’ve finished all three, being sure to jot down ideas and inspiration as it comes to mind. When you’re finished, keep increasing your knowledge with podcasts like Build Your Network by Travis Chappell.

I guarantee you will 10x your networking results from this first step alone.

2. Get clear on your definition of success.

Retain a laser-like focus by being crystal clear on your objective, i.e. what you actually want to achieve from networking. Perhaps it’s to:

It could be anything. Once you have a clear objective, you can work on crafting an elevator pitch that gets people excited about wanting to help you achieve it. The result? A sizzling first impression.

Just remember the cardinal rule of networking is to focus on other people’s interests before your own. As Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” 

3. Invest in your personal brand.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is scrimping on their personal brand. Tidy up your social accounts and your personal website, and get some good quality business cards that:

In the world of Squarespace/Wix and Fiverr/Upwork, there’s no reason not to have at least a reasonably professional online presence, irrespective of where you’re at in your career.

In reference to creating a killer website for his brand new (at the time) School of Greatness podcast, Lewis Howes told me, “The website needed to look professional if I was to attract high level people to appear on the show. If it looked amateur, I would only attract amateurs.” Invest in your personal brand.

4. Get out there.

At this stage you should be fired up and ready to go, like Usain Bolt on the starting blocks! Test out your skills in every interaction you have, whether at a coffee shop, the dog park, in a business meeting—everywhere. The aim is to quickly establish rapport and get comfortable communicating with authenticity. Carry an air of confidence, trying to draw out a smile from others. If you’ve done step one, you’ll know that you need to be:

Find a list of conferences/events that are in your industry. If possible, connect with a few people beforehand who might be attending—you can easily find them via an industry FB page, the event’s FB page or posting to your own network. Having some conversations locked in can help you warm up and feel more confident than fronting it blind. Make sure you look professional, but natural and authentic.

When you start to meet people of interest, and have offered value to them, ask them to suggest 1-2 people you absolutely need to connect with at the event. When they offer some names, ask for an introduction. The original lifestyle entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once outlined his networking strategy as: “Go narrow. Go long.” A deep, trusted relationship with a few people is exponentially more powerful than a surface-level acquaintance with many.

Experience is an essential part of mastering your craft, and remember that you’ve already done most of the hard work, so excitedly get out there and get your “sea legs”.

5. Keep in touch.

Continue to offer value without the expectation of anything in return—perhaps it’s an article that might interest them, an introduction to someone you know, or a brief catch up to hear more about their journey and how you can help.

Down the track, start hosting your own mastermind catch ups to really turbocharge your network. Never underestimate how valuable a core team of enthusiastic supporters can be on every aspect of your life.


Remember, networking is not event-specific—it is an “all the time” skill. Judge success on the number of real relationships you’ve made and invest in them long term, rather than risk burning them for short term gain.

Follow this simple formula and see how quickly your impact is amplified. After all, your network is your net worth.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”

Warren Buffett

Two things make sensational news headlines more quickly and prominently than anything else: first, trouble in financial markets, which impact people’s investments and retirement savings; and second, the prospect of war.

As news outlets splash doomsday headlines as boldly as they can, many buy into the hype, acting as willing participants in spreading fear to anyone who will listen — and the poverty consciousness grows like a weed.

But not everyone buys into the hysteria. Some remain focused on what they want to achieve, ignoring what is out of their control, and in doing so can stumble across opportunities that others only dream of.

During the US Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, interest rates were raised to curb inflation and numerous financial institutions sought deregulation to enable them to innovate—their very survival depended on it. As financial companies struggled, bank stock prices were hammered, including the stock of Wells Fargo, which plummeted almost 50%.

One investor, Warren Buffett—who was then in his fifties, and known for his keen sense of rationality—decided to investigate the intrinsic value of these companies himself, rather than reacting to everyone else’s fear.

At the time, Wells Fargo’s market capitalization was around $2.9 billion. Through his research Buffett concluded that the company would not only survive the crisis and return to its former but might one day even surpass it. Buffett backed his judgment and bought a significant stake in the renowned US bank.

His analysis and instincts were correct. Today, Wells Fargo boasts a market capitalization of more than $270 billion, giving Buffett a return of over 9,000%on his investment.

In a 2004 letter to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, the legendary investor offered an insight into how he feels about how most people think: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

With each downturn, recession or financial crisis, Buffett does not throw up his hands in despair or cower under his desk. Rather, he views it as an opportunity to consolidate his wealth, buying deeply undervalued companies and setting up operational efficiencies and synergies that lead to enormous returns over time.

Those who are well advanced on the path to self-mastery, like Warren Buffett, are NOT extraordinary people. Instead, they consistently and purposefully apply a proven formula of simple actions that lead to extraordinary achievement over time—starting with getting crystal clear on what they want.

While others drift with whatever gust comes their way, winners use their calm, focused minds to identify and take advantage of opportunities to achieve their goals faster.

On 30 August, Buffett turns 88. Happy birthday to one of the greats of our time.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

PS – With USD $30+ billion donated, Warren Buffett is also regarded as the second greatest philanthropist of all time.


Famous quotes by Warren Buffett

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