Aaron is, without question, a veteran entrepreneur. Starting his first business at 18, and selling to a Fortune 500 company nine short years later demonstrates Aaron’s passion for success. Unwilling to rest on past success alone, Aaron has started, bought, and sold eight successful companies over the past 36 years. Having a strong desire for personal development has kept Aaron in a weekly mastermind group for more than a decade with Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Abraham, and seven other notable Nashvillians.
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Best Business Book for Goals
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Interviewee: I’m prepared, JLD, let’s do it.
Interviewer: Yes. Aaron is without question, a veteran entrepreneur. Starting his first business at 18 and [inaudible] 00:00:09] Fortune 500 Company nine short years later, demonstrates Aaron’s passion for success. Unwilling to rest on past success alone, Aaron started bought and sold eight successful companies over the past 36 years, having a strong desire for personal development has kept Aaron in a weekly mastermind group for more than a decade with Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Ken Abraham, and seven other notable [inaudible]. Aaron, take a minute, fill in some gaps in that intro, and give us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Interviewee: Well, thanks John. I appreciate you having me on, man. This is awesome. What a privilege it is. You know, you kind of covered it in the bio. I started early at 18, sold out at 27 years old to a Fortune 500 Company. I took a little break in there; I wanted to enjoy things for a while. I found out that wasn’t really the right thing to do; I probably should’ve kept on. I got pretty bored in that process, but quickly went back in business, I spent the next 10 years building another business, and it was very successful.
I had a very devastating car wreck, John, in 2001, where I killed a pedestrian crossing the street, and it really rocked my world; needless to say. We took a break, about five years, kind of got our feet back under us. Went into the construction industry, and really did a great job with that for about eight years. I’m retired at 50 years old, and Dan Miller and Dave Ramsey said, “You can’t sit on the porch, man, and rock yourself to sleep. You’ve got to do something.”
They said, “You need to coach.” And I said, “I’m not coaching anybody, man, I’m done.” And they said, “No way, you can’t do it.” So they encouraged me, and I started coaching. John Lee, now I have View From the Top, and I get to coach entrepreneurs all over the world on a daily basis, lead mastermind groups. Man, I’m having more fun today, John, than I’ve ever had in my eight businesses combined. It is so fun what I’m getting to do. So thanks for allowing me to share.
Interviewer: Well, listen, I know Fire Nation loves you. I mean, Fire Nation, you probably recognize Aaron’s voice. He was on episode 696. He was on episode 780, and here is for a three-peat. Thanks for being you, Aaron, and thanks for being just open, honest, and genuine. I was listening to you recently on SPI, when you got into a little more detail about what happened when you hit that pedestrian, and how you went into that funk, and what got you out of that was being a mastermind, being surrounded by people, having someone say, “Aaron, I know you.
I’ve invested years in you. Get over yourself. You have great things to give to this world. Stop hiding those gifts that you have from other people because they need them, “and that snapped you out of it. You’ve gone on to do so many incredible, great things. I know Fire Nation continues to be inspired by you as they listen to those episodes and just go forward with what you have.
Interviewee: Thank you. I appreciate that. You’re right, we need those people around – we’ve got to have mastermind, and accountability, and people to pick us up when we’re down and encourage us to go forward. So thanks for pointing that out.
Interviewer: You’re the man. So let’s talk about goals, Aaron because, we are bringing you back on for this special 33-day campaign that we’re doing talking all about setting and accomplishing goals as part of this awesome Freedom Journal kickstarter campaign that we have going on. And I knew that you are an awesome person to bring on because you’re so disciplined, you’re so dedicated, and you just understand that power. But I kind of want you to put it in your own words to Fire Nation, why are goals important to you as an entrepreneur?
Interviewee: I’ve been pretty goal-oriented my entire life, since I was 18. I’ve never worked for anybody. I’m 55 now, so you’ve got to be pretty goal-oriented to go out and do it. But there’s some real benefits, John, to having goals, and one of them is, it gives me the ability to focus very specifically. Like, I’ve got to know exactly what it is I want to accomplish. And this allows me to kind of track my progress. If I don’t have the goals, and I’m not specific in nature, I can’t track my progress. One thing it really does for me, though, it eliminates the shiny objects – which we all fight on a daily basis.
You know like, when you’re focused, you have a plan, and when you have a plan, you can reach your goals much easier. And I don’t have to decide “Am I going to do this or that?” I’ve predetermined. I just got back from Chicago with my COO, we spent three days at a hotel there in downtown Chicago, and we planned out specifically every webinar, the blogs, the mastermind groups, the community, what we’re going to be doing – very, very specific. Plus, goals keep you motivated, and it helps kick that ugly procrastination out of the way. And so for me, man, you’ve got to have goals.
Interviewer: I love your consistent use of the word “Focus.” And Aaron, you know my favorite acronym is “Follow One Course Until Success.”
Interviewer: Say it with me, brother.
Interviewee: It’s because I hear you say it all the time, it’s indoctrinated in me, John.
Interviewer: I love it so much. And also, the bright, shiny object syndrome, I’m an Army guy, so I’m big on the weapons of mass distraction, and guess what, that will take over your life, Fire Nation, if you don’t have specific goals. And that’s kind of what I do want to move into now, Aaron because with the Freedom Journal, I realized I wouldn’t work for people if they just continued to do the same thing that most people do, which is set random goals, and then never accomplish them. I knew I had to be smart. SMART is an acronym, as well, just like FOCUS, and it stands for “Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Time bound.”
Every goal needs to have these five attributes, Fire Nation. They’re all important, they’re all critical; they’re all part of the recipe to success. But what I want to do with my guest, Aaron, so you now, specifically, if you had to choose one of those letters, one of the SMART letters, and break down why you think it’s important for Fire Nation to focus on that one as they set and accomplish goals.
Interviewee: They’re all equally important quite honestly because, you need all of them, but for me, the “S,” the being specific absolutely is paramount. And I’m not even sure, John Lee, if it’s a goal if you’re not specific. Because to me, like bigger, better, faster, shinier – that’s not a goal. For me, saying, “Hey, I want to make $75,000.00 next year. I want a 3,000 square foot house,” or “I want to encourage three people a day starting January 1st” to me, that’s specific. And if you’re specific, and the more specific you can be, the easier it is to measure your progress.
Interviewer: Could not agree more. That is why it is the first letter, Fire Nation because without it, none of the other ones really make as much sense. But just as Aaron pointed out, the other ones are an absolute necessity for the ingredients for your success setting that SMART goal, so I love it. And Aaron, what I love probably even more than SMART goals is your journey as an entrepreneur, I mean, the 36 years. We’re going to talk about a lot of the ups and the downs on past episodes. And Fire Nation, go check those out.
That’s why for these 33 episodes, I brought on past casts of EOFire because, I want you to be able to go back and hear their story on their first episode of EOFire, where we talk about the worst moment, and the aha moment. But what I want you to do right now, Aaron, is to tell us a story. One where you actually set a goal and accomplished it at some point. So kind of walk us through a specific story where you set and accomplished a goal as an entrepreneur.
Interviewee: Well, John Lee, on the other episodes, we get into a lot of detail about me starting young. And I’ve got to go way back because it was one of the main goals that I established early on.
Interviewee: So when I’m 18 years old, I’m thinking I’m going to go in business, and I go with these two partners, and we go to the bank, and we borrow $150,000.00 – early in the ‘70s, that was a lot of money.
Interviewee: I think about it today, and it’s still a lot of money. And I said, “You know what though, I want to be out of debt completely, in 10 years.” And I’m thinking “I’ll be a staggering 28 years old by then.” And John Lee, we did it in 48 months – just under 48 months. We really tackled that debt. And I could’ve gone about it and done some things differently, but we chose to get out of debt first and foremost, quickly. And some of the ways that we did that, that I’d like to maybe share it specifically so people can do the same thing.
Well, when I started making money, it was very tempting to me to take a lot larger salary. I could’ve gotten a nicer car, I could’ve taken more vacations, we could’ve done all the thrills. But we didn’t. And that’s what’s so important about the reason and the ability that we use to pay off that debt is because we poured the money back into the debt. Every single dollar, over a certain salary. I kept it the same.
And this is what people find really unusual. People don’t do this anymore; they make more money, they increase their lifestyle, they increase their income. We took the same salary for nine years. Robin and I decided, when we got married – we got married two weeks out of high school, so like we’re in the business together. We raised each other almost. But we took the same salary. And we did that, John Lee, with two little girls. Two years after we got married, we had our first child, and then two years later, we had another one. And we still maintained the lifestyle.
And we could’ve done much better: a bigger house, nicer car, more trips; we could’ve done all of those things, but we wanted to do what Dave Ramsey says, we wanted to live today like no one else. So today, when you’re 55, you can live like no one else. And so it’s kind of worked out that way. So we had a very detailed financial statement that we monitored very closely. We looked at it, and I know you’re really big on that, as well.
Interviewer: Big time.
Interviewee: Really pay attention to that. But the best advice I could really give your listeners today is learn quickly how to delay gratification. And if you do that, normally, you will enjoy the outcome much longer. So I would just say for this process for you, learn to put off the gratification to a later date; there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy it.
Interviewer: I love that word – or words, “Delayed gratification.” It’s so critical, Fire Nation. And the more research that I do into entrepreneurship, and to success, and a lot of what I did putting my heart and my soul into the freedom journal, and trying to say “Why are the Aaron Walkers of the world successful whereas, other people are not?” And in identifying those things, these two words kept coming up, “Delayed gratification.” And there’s actually a study that goes into detail. And this study was conducted like somewhat over 60 years ago where they brought in – it was thousands of these kids between the ages of four and 10, and they put – I think it was actually a little bit older, maybe six and 10.
And they put a marshmallow in front of them and they said, “You can eat this marshmallow right now if you want to. But if you don’t, when I come back, in 10 or 15 minutes, you’re going to get two marshmallows.” Now, only about six to eight per cent of those actual kids were able to “Delay the gratification” and not eat the marshmallow. A lot of kids just chowed it down right away because that’s what they were thinking. “It’s right there. It’s right in front of me. I’m hungry now. I want to eat it.” It was crazy to see like what some of the kids that understood delayed gratification would do.
They would pick up the marshmallow and kind of caress it, and they would smell it. A couple of them pretended to lick it but not really lick it because that would’ve – that would’ve made them not get the second marshmallow. But long story short, 30, 40, 50 years later they followed up with all of these people. And the small percentage, like the six to eight per cent that were able to delay gratification – just that one simple test, Aaron, they had such an obnoxious amount more success in their current life, as far as with jobs, with salaries, with happiness, with kids, and being married, and not divorced. It was just so skewed that there was just a direct correlation to that. Have you ever heard of that study?
Interviewee: Yeah, I have. I’ve actually heard a similar study, just to kind of affirm what you’re saying, they did the same study at Harvard University, and they took 15 per cent of the people that said that they were going to have life goals specifically written down because they did the same scenario, the same exercise with them. They followed them for a 50-year period. At the end of that, the people that had written down their goals specifically, those 15 per cent of the people, their combined net worth was more than the other 85 per cent combined.
Interviewee: So it works. That’s what’s so amazing about your Freedom Journal. That thing is awesome, by the way. I love that.
Interviewer: Well, thank you.
Interviewee: It works. That’s the funny thing. Here’s the thing, I’ve got 37 years of business, there’s no point of me being on here saying “This stuff works” if it doesn’t work. I’ve done eight businesses; we’ve done this methodically, very regimented. It just simply works.
Interviewer: Aaron, your words do me a lot because you know what quality is. You’ve shown that throughout your life being able to build brick and mortar businesses, and now, businesses online, and everything in between. And that is what the Freedom Journal is about. I wanted to just create a beautiful crafted journal. So it’s the faux leather – and you know because, I’m an animal lover, so it is faux leather – gold embossed, gold – it just has all of that. So number one, you can be proud of actually having this on your desk, on your nightstand, out at the coffee shop, wherever it might be.
But number two, you’re actually going to have an accountability partner to write down those goals. Just capitalizing on what Aaron was just talking about actually writing down your goals. There’s a difference between typing something into the cloud that’s going to be up there, and then taking a pen, and putting that pen to paper, and actually physically writing it. Again, it’s just a proven, proven case. And that’s why I knew that with the Freedom Journal, it had to be this physical product.
Interviewee: You know what’s so cool about that, John? The mastermind group I was in for 10 or 12 years invariably, 10 guys would show up, and seven to nine – not every single person every week had a pad in hand with a pen – these guys were hugely successful. They’re making notes constantly, they’re writing down their goals constantly so. What you just said has a lot of value in physically taking a pen, taking that Freedom Journal, writing it down. It’s there, you’ve manually gone through it. It’s an awesome experience, and it makes an indelible impression on yourself when you do that. So good point.
Interviewer: Well, thanks for the kind words about the Freedom Journal, and for just sharing your experience in this incredibly high-level mastermind of what the top per cent of the top percenters are actually doing, and that is writing things down. Now Aaron, I do want to shift this to you, for a second here. I want you to share with fire nation the one thing that has you most fired up today.
Interviewee: You know, we’re working right now on the community, and it’s kind of my tribe. We’re building it up, and we do webinars on Wednesday, and we have a [inaudible] [00:15:06], resources that we share with people, hold each other accountable. I’m really amped up about that. I facilitate a number of mastermind groups, and that is really cool. That’s my passion just facilitating those mastermind groups. So those two things have me more amped up right now, John Lee, than anything; the community and the mastermind groups. Iron Sharpens, Iron Mastermind.
Interviewer: And I know a lot of Fire Nation is taking advantage from the past episodes, just really connecting with you. And again, just one more time, Aaron, what’s the best way that people can find out more about that?
Interviewee: Yeah, they can go to viewfromthetop.com, and they can find out everything they want to know about Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind and the community.
Interviewer: ISI – Iron Sharpens Iron. Now, Fire Nation, we have a lot of awesomeness coming up in the freedom round, but first, we’re going to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Aaron, are you prepared for the freedom round?
Interviewee: I’m ready for the freedom round. Let’s do it.
Interviewer: Why do you feel most entrepreneurs fail to set smart goals?
Interviewee: Yeah, I think first of all, it’s really hard work, quite honestly, if you really think about it. It takes a lot of effort and energy to sit down and go through this exercise. And second of all, I think people doubt themselves. And I think in order for you to achieve your goals, you must first believe in yourself.
Interviewer: What’s the most important action entrepreneurs can take once they’ve set that goal?
Interviewee: Well, you’ve got to execute your plan daily, and you’ve got to be wise enough to pivot when necessary.
Interviewer: And that’s why we have the daily and the nightly writing down, and that’s why we have the quarterly reviews, Fire Nation, every 25 days, you look back over those 25 days and say, “Hey, do I need to pivot? Do I need to adjust? What am I struggling with? What are my strengths?” What’s the one action, Aaron, that you take daily, that brings you closer to your current goals?
Interviewee: You know, I’m really deliberate about doing random acts of kindness for people, whether it be family or colleagues. We look for ways to edify others, to empower them, to encourage them. And when you set your focus on adding value rather than making the sale, you invariably accomplish your own goals much faster.
Interviewer: Can I share a couple of quick stories that proves that point for you?
Interviewer: I got the pleasure to meet Aaron in person at a conference a little while ago. And I just had a pretty garlic-ly lunch – so there was a lot of garlic on my mouth and my breath. And I ran into Aaron and I said, “Man, this guy is obviously chewing on some gum, or has a mint or something because his breath is amazing.” I said, “Aaron, can I have a mint because my breath smells terrible, and you said, “Absolutely” and you ended up giving me the rest of the actual mint pack that you had. And then, sure enough, a week later, I get a delivery to my door with like 50 packs of mints, which I still have ‘til this day – thank you, very much.
And then, at the most recent podcast movement conference, right before I went up on stage to keynote, Aaron pulls me aside and gives me a mint and says, “Best of luck, brother.” And that’s just you, speaking the truth, man, and delivering on what you believe in.
Interviewee: I appreciate it, man. It was fun. I didn’t know – I was going to ask you if you needed some more, I’m going to see you in a couple of weeks, I think. So I thought, “Maybe I need to send him some more.”
Interviewer: That’s so funny.
Interviewee: I’m glad you still have a few packs.”
Interviewer: We still got some. How important is accountability when setting goals?
Interviewee: Well, I read that question, and I thought about it, and I said, “It’s not important, at all when you’re setting the goals. It’s only important if you want to accomplish it.” And I think it’s pretty important. I wouldn’t say that it’s imperative like for everyone, but for most entrepreneurs, it will keep you on your task much longer, and let you accomplish your goals. So I’d say accountability is huge.
Interviewer: Now Aaron, you’ve already said incredibly kind things about the Freedom Journal, so thank you for that. So besides the Freedom Journal, is there a book that you’ve read over your life that you think would help Fire Nation in their journey of setting and accomplishing goals?
Interviewee: Yeah, Charles Duhigg wrote a great book called “The Power of Habit,” and it’s a must read. It helps you break old habits, and implement new ones.
Interviewer: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audios, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at EOFire.book.com. “The Power of Habit” is actually one that I listened to during a 10K run downtown San Diego, so I know that that is a great audio book for sure. And of course, the Freedom Journal is available in audio form, too. Now Aaron, this is the last question of the freedom round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one.
You still have all of the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What goal would you set on day one, and what actions would you take on the next seven days to accomplish said goal?
Interviewee: Well John Lee, day one, for me, it’d be pretty easy for me. I would find out who the top three decision makers are in that community, and I would invite each one of them to lunch individually using my $500.00. And my goal would be to befriend each one of those guys, learn more about them, the lay of the land. I would find out exactly what was going on in that community. And if they said, “No,” I would spend the next five or six days implementing that procedure over and over because, for me, “No” just means “No” for today, and tomorrow is a new day, and will repeat the invitation until they say “Yes.” I’m pretty persistent.
And so I would get around the decision makers because we’re the average of the five people that we’re always around, and I want to be around the decision makers.
Interviewer: Aaron, I want to end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Interviewee: I’ll just say two things. The two mantras I was raised with, one is “Can’t couldn’t do it, and could did it all.” And the second one is, “Fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure.” If you do those two things, man, you’ll accomplish your goals hands down. You can reach me at viewfromthetop.com every way to find me is there, and I would love to interact with you. So feel free to reach out.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, Aaron just shared. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with AW and JLD today, so keep up the heat. And head over to EOFire.com, type “Aaron” in the search bar. All three of the episodes he’s done on EOFire will be there. Must listens across the board. And of course, his link to viewfromthetop.com will be there. Or go directly, viewfromthetop.com. If a mastermind is something that you really think you want to be a part of, Iron Sharpens Iron is a great one to look into.
And Aaron, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that, brother, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Interviewee: Thanks, John.
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