Adam Sicinski is a life coach, mind mapper, blogger, visual thinker and doodler. He is the founder of IQmatrix.com where he shares mind maps that explore personal productivity, emotional intelligence, and many other self-development topics that provide a framework on how to live a more optimal life.
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3 Key Points:
- There’s so much more to a mind map than just brainstorming, such as taking notes and memorizing information.
- Always think about the possible consequences of your decisions.
- Be a person of value, and success will find you.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:08] – Adam’s typical day involves mind map development, content creation, and marketing for the website
- [01:17] – He’s a junior kids basketball coach, too
- [02:54] – Adam’s area of expertise is in mind mapping and visual thinking
- [03:19] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Mind maps are known for brainstorming ideas, but they also have other uses like taking notes and memorizing
- [04:34] – Adam uses mind maps as a knowledge management tool and as a dashboard tool
- [06:22] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Adam’s worst entrepreneurial moment was in 2006-2007. He had an ecommerce store and the only passion he had at that time was making money. He dabbled in different ventures, but nothing really worked out. A friend, who had a successful eBay business approached Adam because he wanted to expand. Together, they invested $30K for a state-of-the-art ecommerce website. Apart from eBay, they didn’t have any clue how to run an ecommerce business. The first 6 months went well, but they made no profit. In 18 months, they were $100K in debt
- [10:22] – Be careful with your decisions
- [10:28] – Think about all the possible consequences of what you do
- [11:49] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Adam’s mini ah-ha moment was realizing he was doing things wrong. He realized he needed to stop chasing money and took a job from a friend who owns a student seminar company. Adam created a mind map for that business that blew his friend away. A few months later, his friend was successfully selling Adam’s mind maps online. The ah-ha moment came to Adam to create something similar himself
- [14:43] – “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value” – Albert Einstein
- [16:07] – Keep your eyes open for opportunities
- [16:24] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I have a sister site called IQ Doodle”
- [17:28] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “The lack of belief. Belief and faith in my own ability”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “If you hadn’t succeeded as entrepreneurs at this age _, just resign to the fact that you’re not meant to be an entrepreneur”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I committed myself to become a morning person”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Blinkist
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Back of the Napkin – “it’s about using doodles to help us solve problems”
- [24:18] – Use your failures as feedback
- [25:19] – Connect with Adam on IQMatrix, IQ Doodle, Facebook, and Twitter
- [25:30] – Get FREE mind maps to overcome adversity and failure at IQMatrix.com/Fire
Adam Sicinski: Oh, yeah, I am on fire and ready to go.
JLD: Yes. Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, blogger, visual thinker, and a doodler. He is a founder of IQMatrix.com where he shares mind maps that explore personal productivity, emotional intelligence, and many other self-development topics that provide a framework on how to live a more optimal life. Adam, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Adam Sicinski: My typical day involves working on mind map developments, content creation, and marketing the website. However, many people probably don’t know about me is that I’m also a junior kid’s basketball coach, on a sort of personal side of things. Basketball coaching is another passion of mine. I coach because I love seeing kids develop and grow their basketball skills and abilities.
However, to me, it’s not only about basketball coaching; it’s also about instilling key life lessons into our training sessions. I use basketball as a metaphor for life. I explain to kids that how we are on the basketball court is kind of how we are in real life. What I mean by this is that we kind of handle – how we handle adversity, disappointment, victory, defeat on the basketball court is a reflection of how we handle these things in the real world and how we handle them when we face challenging situations. Do you know what I mean?
JLD: I do, and I’ll tell you what, I was not a good loser when I was growing up in basketball. That was my sport, and I just wasn’t a good loser for any number of reasons. But as an entrepreneur, I’ve come to not only embrace but in a lot of ways love losing because that just shows me, hey, this is what I can learn. This is where I can pivot and adjust, move forward, and finally win.
Adam Sicinski: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s like a basketball game brings a lot of uncertainty, and life brings that uncertainty as well. So, it prepares us for different scenarios, and how we deal with those situations is a good reflection of how we’ll deal in real life sort of situations as well. So, I think it’s a good metaphor, sort of, to work with.
JLD: Adam, what’s your area of expertise? I mean you have basketball coach, IQ Matrix, you’re a productivity wiz. Where would you say your specific expertise lies?
Adam Sicinski: I’ve been producing mind maps for probably about eight, nine years now, so I think my probably area – biggest area of expertise is mind mapping and, to a certain extent, visual thinking. I sort of launched into that area a few years back as well. So, visual thinking, mind mapping, they’re the two key areas that I focus on these days.
JLD: What’s something that we don’t know about mind mapping that, as entrepreneurs, we probably should?
Adam Sicinski: From my experience, people usually – when they think about mind maps, they typically mention that they use them for brainstorming ideas; and mind maps are certainly tools for brainstorming ideas and for solving problems. However, mind maps also have many other uses that people probably are not familiar with. For instance, mind maps are fantastic for taking notes and memorizing information, to begin with. I guess the one, main reason why that works so well is that mind map mirrors how we think or how the brain thinks. It mirrors how we make connections and associations in the brain. It essentially helps us put our thoughts on paper, bringing them to life before our eyes in the physical world.
Once there, we can restructure them, reshape them; reimagine our thoughts in unique ways which helps us to gather new insights and ideas. With this in mind, mind maps, I guess, can be useful planning for communicating our ideas, as a presentation tool for setting goals, and for improving our decisions and capturing our ideas. And there’re just so many possibilities. Would you like to know two primary uses that I use mind maps for?
JLD: Well, I feel like I can’t say no, so I guess I’ll say yes.
Adam Sicinski: Okay, Okay. Well, then I’ll share them with you, okay. Well, I typically use mind maps for two – in two ways. So, it’s firstly as a knowledge management tool. So, I use mind maps to help us to – I guess, help me track what I’m learning and researching. This mind map therefore becomes kind of like a central hub of all the knowledge and resources and information I have collected about certain topics. And the second, primary way I use mind maps is as a dashboard tool. So, it’s kind of like a car dashboard where you have everything you need at a glance in front of your eyes to see what’s happening with a car.
So, mind maps are fantastic for this purpose and help me to keep everything sort of in one place. So it’s especially of value when, say, coaching or consulting clients. Keeping an updated mind map dashboard of your interactions with them helps you to see the big picture overview of everything you’ve been working on with them. So, it’s a really fantastic tool for that sort of purpose.
JLD: One thing that I love, Fire Nation, about mind maps specifically is that you’re actually seeing an idea come to life. You’re seeing the birth of an idea then how it progresses to, really, execution stage. And also, a lot of times people kind of get to this idea when they don’t use mind mapping, and they’re like, “Well, how did that get here? I kind of forget because there are so many lefts and rights and twists and turns. How did we actually even get to where we are right now?”
Because maybe you wanna back up a little bit and adjust and move somewhere else, and a mind map gives you that exact roadmap of where you’ve come, where you’ve been. And it just is just visual representation of basically your thoughts and the evolution of your idea on paper. So, I love it for all of those reasons.
And, Adam, you haven’t always been this mind mapping, productivity wiz. Take us back in your entrepreneurial journey to the moment that you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. And, Adam, don’t pull any punches, brother. Tell us that story.
Adam Sicinski: Okay. Well, my worst entrepreneurial moment was back in 2006, 2007. If I just give you a bit of background before we sort of get to that worst part – back then, I was a part in an online, discount, ecommerce store. Back then, I was also all about trying to be rich, so I had real passion. I guess there was no real passion sort of driving me, so the only passion I had was about making money. So, I made choices that hopefully put more money in my pocket. And I dabbled in various entrepreneurial ventures before then, and nothing really ever worked out. But I had – I approached – a friend of mine approached me.
He had a successful Ebay business, and he wanted to expand it. And he asked me to jump on board, so we could set up an ecommerce store and make millions of dollars. And so I thought, “Okay, fantastic, sounds like a great idea.” So, we actually invested $30,000.00 in a state-of-the-art ecommerce website. It was a, I guess, huge amount to pay for something that people probably get for free these days with Wordpress and everything like that, but we didn’t know any better. I mean, besides the Ebay experience, we had no clue about how to succeed in an online, ecommerce space, and we – but that – it didn’t really stop us from jumping head first into the business.
We leased out a warehouse on 24-month lease, hired very smart, tech-savvy, high school students to work on the back end of website developments and on other areas of the business. We had a packing and shipping crew down on the warehouse floor. And I guess within the first six months of the business, things were progressing along quite well. We were generating strong sales, and the atmosphere was very positive. We had a high turnover, but unfortunately very little – actually, no profits. I would have to say no profits at all. In fact, we were actually losing thousands of dollars per month, and it was just killing the business.
The main reason for this was that we had a high refund rate on several cheap, imported products, and there were all the – all these other reasons as well that kind of snowballed. But the business was kind of, I guess, quickly sort of spiraling into significant debt, but we were still confident we could make it work. And so we maxed out our credit cards, so we just started to pack on all this money onto our credit cards. However, that was only sort of like a temporary Band-Aid solution that really didn’t help us in the long run. Our business model simply wasn’t working; and no matter how much money we invested in the business, things just didn’t go our way.
And within 18 months, the business got into almost $100,000.00 in debt. By that stage, we – I guess we couldn’t afford to hire anyone, so we had to let everyone go, and we were managing the whole business by ourselves, whatever we could do. And during that time, I was also sleeping – now, this is probably the part where I made – I was feeling absolutely miserable. I was sleeping at his parents partly demolished house because they were demolishing their house because they were building a new house. And we could have stayed in there for about two months at that time sort of in – sort of period in between things. I was sleeping on the floor in an empty bedroom on what was like a yoga mat.
We were working 18-hour days, seven days a week, and sometimes we illegally slept at the warehouse because we had no other options. And I guess by that stage, things just got worse by the day. Customers weren’t happy. Suppliers weren’t getting paid. We’re behind on the lease, and we had debt collectors chasing us for money. I kind of felt – I absolutely felt miserable. It was just – I felt hopeless, if you know what I mean. I was – it was the lowest point of my entrepreneurial journey, and I literally felt as though I would end up in jail because we didn’t have the means to pay the money that we owed to everyone. So, it was – yeah, that was my worst entrepreneurial moment.
JLD: And what would you say, Adam, is the lesson that you learned from that that you think our listeners, Fire Nation, can really take away and hopefully not make the same mistakes?
Adam Sicinski: In general, we just have to be careful what kind of decisions we make, what kind of partnerships, who – what kind of people we align with. We have to think about the consequences of everything that we do; and I think, for us, we didn’t really measure or keep track of our financial situation. We’re kind of thinking, “Okay, high turnover. We’re turning over a lot of money, so we’ll eventually make profits, right?” But it didn’t quite work, so I think the biggest thing is just to know your figures and to make smart decisions from that point forward.
JLD: Know your figures, Fire Nation. I brought Michael Michalowicz on this show not too long ago, and he wrote this great book called Profit First. And that’s a book that, really, every entrepreneur needs to get their hands on so they can really understand, 1.) What are the numbers that are running into your business, and 2.) What’re you taking off the table before it all disappears to make sure that you can keep doing what you do?
Because you’re obligated to take some revenue, Fire Nation, so that you can keep doing the thing, pay the bills, put food in your mouth, have shelter, so you’re not living in a half demolished house like Adam was. I mean do all the things that it takes to run a business the right way. So, definitely read Profit First, so you’d know your numbers, know your facts, know the analytics, know those numbers.
Now, Adam, let’s talk about another story. This one’s gonna be one of the greatest aha moments that you’ve had to date. It’s one of your ideas that just really took off. Take us to that moment when you had that idea, but then walk us through exactly how you turned that idea into a success.
Adam Sicinski: Well, I kind of had, sort of, two aha moments. One of them was a mini aha moment. So, that kind of came with the realization that I was doing things all wrong. I realized that I needed to stop chasing the money, and that was a big lesson for me, and instead start following my true passions. So, chasing all – chasing money all these years was very stressful, and it hurt my health. And so I eventually – going back to that sort days of when I was with the ecommerce site – I convinced my partner that we should go our separate ways. And we had a lot of debt upon our shoulders, but I decided that I’m gonna focus on something that I love that’s not money.
And so for a short period of time, I worked for a friend of mine who owned a student seminar company. He – I created a mind map for him that broke down the process of how to cold call schools and – so schools were his clients, and I was cold calling schools just to get them on board with the seminars and that. And he was absolutely blown away by this mind map that I created and asked me if I could create more of these mind maps summarizing English books that students were studying at the time. I thought it was an interesting idea, and I agreed to do it.
A few months later, he was successfully selling these mind maps online, and I was absolutely blown away. I just could not believe it. I never in the world imagined that anyone would want to purchase a mind map; and this, of course, led to my big aha moment. I thought, “What if I could do something similar? What if I could combine my passion for mind mapping and for personal development to create mind maps that could help people improve their life?” And that’s exactly what I did.
I decided to become a life coach, and I got a life coaching accreditation. While at the life coaching institute, I started creating mind maps based on what I was learning and reading, and this helped me to better understand the material, also to use the mind maps as the template to help me coach clients when I started coaching clients. I eventually got these mind maps online, and IQ Matrix was launched in 2009. And over a period of eight years, I’ve created almost 400 self-growth mind maps that I sell through the website. I now earn a passive income, have a flexible schedule, and I’m happier now, I guess, than I’ve ever been along my entrepreneurial journey.
And I guess the thing was that the experience I had with the failing ecommerce store gave me the confidence to pursue another online venture. I learned a lot about the online space during that time, and this provided me with the knowledge I needed to get IQ Matrix off the ground. And I guess without that experience, I probably wouldn’t have gone into this with much confidence, and maybe I wouldn’t have even gone down this path at all.
JLD: Fire Nation, stop chasing the money is another way of saying stop chasing success, but now let me explain. There’s a great quote that changed everything for me. It was a quote by Albert Einstein, and that quote is, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” And that’s what I was doing in my 20s. I was chasing the money. I was chasing success. But then I saw that quote by Albert Einstein, and he was saying, “Hey, try not to become a person of success.” I’m like, “What, why not?” But then he was saying, “Become a person of value,” and it clicked.
And the aha moment happened for me when I said, “Hey, how can I actually not focus on the money, not focus on the success, but focus on the values that I’m giving others?” And that turned into EO Fire, a free daily podcast. Because if you, Fire Nation, are gonna focus on the value you’re providing others, the success will find you. The money will find you. And to Adam’s point, when he was sharing his story, you’ve got to keep your eyes open, Fire Nation. There’s opportunities all around us every single day. And guess what; you should not be creating solutions to every problem that you’re gonna see because that’s not focused.
Your head’s gonna pop off because there’s too many problems out there. But when the right problem presents itself, jump on that opportunity, and just start creating value, and see where it goes. And it might lead to a dead end, and that’s okay. Back out. Keep your eyes open. Keep your ears open, and be ready for that next opportunity. And then when you hit it out of the park, just keep that foot on the gas pedal.
Now, Adam, just one sentence, what do you wanna make sure that our listeners get from your aha moment?
Adam Sicinski: I think the biggest thing is just to – like what you mentioned, I think. Keep your eyes open because there’s opportunities everywhere around us. And if you keep your eyes open – and then you’ve got to, I guess, take those opportunities. You’ve got to go with them and see where it sort of takes you down the track.
JLD: Adam, what are you most excited about right now?
Adam Sicinski: Well, IQ Matrix is a big passion of mine, and I will continue to be – I guess it will continue to be a big focus in the foreseeable future. However, I also have another passion that I’m focused on right now that has to do with doodling and visual thinking. I have a sister site called IQ Doodle. There I take people through a 40-day, how to doodle course where they learn everything they needed to know to start with doodling. So, this is kind of – but it’s not only, I guess, not only about doodling but also about expressing ourselves creatively.
I created the site to help empower people to learn how to think and express their ideas visually. It’s therefore about visual thinking and using visual thinking principles to live a better quality of life. And I’ve created various tools, courses, and resources to help us do just that. And, essentially, I guess that’s what I’m most fired about right now and what the possibilities could be with this in the future.
JLD: Well, Fire Nation, I’m fired up about the lightning round, and you should be too as soon as we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Adam, are you ready to rock the lightning round?
Adam Sicinski: Yes, absolutely. Let’s hit it.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Adam Sicinski: I don’t think there was anything ever really holding me back from becoming an entrepreneur. Since graduating from high school, I have dabbled in various entrepreneurial adventures. However, the problem was that I never stuck to anything for long enough to truly succeed, and I was always blaming my failures on people or circumstances. See, I was – I had always had a business partner. There was always someone there besides me that I could blame for our problems, and I never took responsibility. And when it came down to making the tough decisions, I allowed my business partner to make those choices for me; and that’s essentially, I guess, what was holding back.
It’s only when I decided to go on by myself, to get into this by myself, to fully rely on myself to make the business a success that things started to turn around for me. So, in a sense, what was holding me back from becoming an entrepreneur was a lack of belief – belief and faith in my own ability to take the entrepreneurial plunge on my own terms.
JLD: That’s the worst, Fire Nation, blaming others, blaming circumstances. It’s literally the worst. There’s just no other word for it. If you’re gonna blame others, stick to your corporate America. Stick to your cubicles. Stick to the job that you hate because you’re never gonna make it as an entrepreneur. You have to take 100 percent responsibility for everything that happens no matter how crappy, no matter how much you wanna whine and blame others for it – 100 percent responsibility.
Adam, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Adam Sicinski: It’s a good question because the best advice is probably the worst advice I ever received, but I kind of turned it on its head and used it to my benefit. Back in 2007, my business partner’s father told us that if we hadn’t succeeded as entrepreneurs by this stage that we should resign to the fact that we’re just not meant to be entrepreneurs. He told us to just kind of get a regular job and secure our financial future. I guess this advice by itself, in isolation isn’t bad advice. It’s great to have a full-time job as a security blanket and then run a side hustle.
However, at the time, it just didn’t sit well with me. It made me feel uncomfortable and actually motivated me to prove him wrong. And so I committed myself to do the opposite, to create a business that helped me to generate, at the very least, a full-time income as an entrepreneur. And in the early days of IQ Matrix, things were tough, and I doubted myself at times. But I kept persisting, and I reminded myself what he said, and that kept pushing me forward.
JLD: Fire Nation, if you’re surrounded by family, by friends that are pulling you down or telling you that you just shouldn’t make it – to go back to the safety, they’re just – they’re really just pushing their own doubts, their own fears onto you. That’s why I end every episode by saying, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and you are. And if you’re spending time with Nancy Negatives and Dan Do-Littles and downers, that’s going to be your average too.
So, you need to figure that stuff out. Don’t cut your family out of your life if you love them, but give them less of your focused time because you need to be spending time with people who are gonna bring you up, not tear you down.
Adam, what’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Adam Sicinski: Well, I guess for many years, I never considered myself to be a morning person; and after my high school years were over, I always struggled getting up before 9:00 a.m. And I prefer to stay up sort of late, work late rather than getting up early in the morning. And in the early days of IQ Matrix, I would work until about 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning. I would then sleep until almost midday the very next day. I, of course, thought I was being super productive; but the reality was that at night, I was feeling sluggish, and things were probably taking me twice as long to get done than they should.
And I realized what was happening eventually; and through trial and error, I eventually committed myself to becoming a morning person and developed a morning routine that now includes exercise, reading, and visualization – those three in particular. And I guess today, I get up at 6:00 a.m., which is maybe not as early as many other entrepreneurs, but early enough for me to get a heck of a lot accomplished before midday when normally I would still be sleeping. So, I think it’s a good thing, and Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning, was something – was a book that really inspired me to make that habit stick.
JLD: Fire Nation, the circadian rhythm is a real thing. It just is. All the studies show that our bodies want to start shutting down by, the latest, 10:00 p.m., and they want to start cranking back up at 6:00 a.m. I mean we’re down with the moon, and we’re up with the sun. I mean that’s how it happens. For people that are like, “John, I’m just a night person.” I’m like, “If you say you are, then you’re a night person, but wake up at 4:00 a.m., or – let’s be realistic – wake up at 5:00 a.m. for the next 40 days, and tell me what time you’re going to sleep at night now.”
You’re probably going to bed a lot earlier, and you’re probably waking up a lot more refreshed because you’re getting some legit seven, eight hours of sleep. Make it happen.
Share an internet resource, Adam, that you think Fire Nation could benefit from.
Adam Sicinski: The internet resource I would like to recommend is Blinkist. It is Blinkist.com. I absolutely love reading books, and I’m all about collecting as much knowledge as I possibly can, especially for my mind map developments. However, I don’t always find the time to read books, and this is where Blinkist kind of comes into the picture. Blinkist summarizes top business and self-help books in about 15 to 20 minute chunks.
They can take key insights and ideas from each book and organize the information into easily digestible sections they call “blinks.” And these are key actionable ideas and takeaways that add the most value toward understanding each book. I guess it’s kind of similar to what I do using mind maps, except I don’t summarize books but rather specific topics into a mind map format. Blinkist does it using texts and audio without the sort of mind map format. So, yeah, I think it’s a fantastic tool, and especially for the entrepreneur who’s a little bit short on time and hungry for knowledge.
JLD: Well, you’ve mentioned Miracle Morning, but you obviously read a lot, so give us one book you think Fire Nation should be reading.
Adam Sicinski: The book I would like to recommend is The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. The book is about how to use doodles to help us communicate more effectively with other people, but it’s only – it’s also about, I guess, very much about communication. It’s also about using doodles to help us solve problems, to think more effectively about our life, our business, and our circumstances. And it’s about using visual thinking principles to optimize how we think and interact with others. So, I very highly recommend it and any of Dan Roam’s books – because he’s got quite a series of books about these sort of topics – are highly recommended.
JLD: Adam, we’ll set today on fire, brother, with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Adam Sicinski: My parting piece of guidance is to reinterpret our failures as feedback. I failed over and over again over a period of many years. And those failures didn’t feel good, but each of them taught me valuable lessons that eventually led me to what I’m doing today. There’s a lot about my journey that we hadn’t discussed today, about how all those experiences helped me gain the knowledge, the insight, the understanding required to make course corrections along the way that led me to this moment.
All my failures provide feedback about what to do and also about what not to do, and – that I use to help me make better decisions moving forward. Things – Steve Jobs once said that – something along the lines of – that you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust in the process and have faith that no matter how many failures you experience, that as long as you keep learning, growing, and adapting, that everything will make since years down the track.
And the best way to connect with me is IQMatrix.com, IQDoodle.com. They’re my two main websites, and you can also look me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so forth. I’ll be more than happy to connect there, and I also have a gift for Fire Nation. And so if your listeners visit IQMatrix.com/Fire, you can download several mind maps that will help them to overcome adversity and failure. These mind maps will provide your listeners with the key insights and the framework they can use to tackle problems in more optimal ways.
JLD: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with Adam Sicinski and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Adam in the search bar. His show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links – you name it, it’s there. And, of course, check out IQMatrix.com/Fire for that nice little gift from Adam.
And, Adam, 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.
Adam Sicinski: Thanks, JLD. It was a pleasure.
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